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Staff Picks: Music


It's been a rough year for losing musical greats. The inimitable Prince left behind a huge legacy that won't quickly be forgotten. Access his classic songs via your Hoopla account.


By now, you've likely heard the buzz about the new Broadway musical, Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, Ron Chernow and the Roots. The New York Times called it a "multiethnic hip hop romp about 18th century politics" and it is funny, sad, and full of beautiful lyrics and melodies. I've been listening to it on repeat for weeks now and like all the best musicals, the songs are making me laugh and cry. And multiple times, I've been inspired to look up some historical facts. With the cast members performing at the White House earlier this month and a national tour just announced, we're sure to keep hearing more and more about Hamilton for years to come. So check out the cd or download the album on the library's Hoopla digital service.  Get yourself ready for that glorious day when Hamilton finally comes to the Midwest and we can see this work of art for ourselves!

Freegal Album Spotlight--The Final Cut

By the time The Final Cut was released in 1983, Pink Floyd had essentially become a one man band. The album is widely thought of as a self absorbed, anti-war concept album that was written by bassist Roger Waters, who at the time, was railing against The Falkland Islands War, President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Singer/Guitarist David Gilmore only sings on one track and keyboardist Rick Wright doesn’t play on the album. Waters would leave the band officially two years later. Not as popular as their previous mega hit The Wall, the record still features some solid tracks like Your Possible Pasts, The Gunner’s Dream and The Final Cut. Login to your Freegal account and stream the album or download five tracks a week.

Fun Home: A New Broadway Musical

I first learned there was a musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, when a co-worker went to see the show on Broadway. I was instantly intrigued (and envious.) Soon after, Fun Home (the musical) received five Tony awards, including Best Musical.

I’ve long been a fan of Bechdel, since first discovering her Dykes to Watch out for series decades ago. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic chronicled her early family life and explored especially her relationship with her father. Bechdel, an out lesbian immersed in an artistic profession, drew many comparisons and contrasts between herself and her father, a closeted gay man, whose primary artistic expression was renovating the family home. She titled it Fun Home after the family’s nickname for their house, which also served as the local funeral home. It’s an insightful and mostly somber story.

Fun Home, the musical, adapts the story for Broadway. While it incorporates the key events and insights portrayed in the graphic novel, there’s more humor and lightness woven in. Songs like “Ring of Keys” and “Changing my Major” are both funny and poignant. They capture younger Alison’s growing sense and acceptance, of herself first as a butch girl and later as a lesbian. “Welcome to our House on Maple Avenue” indicates how much the family revolves around their father’s autocratic personality. The CD includes a lot of spoken lines, making it fairly easy to follow the story line, even if you haven’t read the book.

There’s a local note to this blog, too. The book and lyrics were written by Lisa Kron, a K-College graduate, who has returned to Kalamazoo periodically to share her dramatic talent. Kron was awarded two Tony awards for Fun Home.

Freegal Artist in Spotlight--Hall & Oates

Over the course of the next year, staff will be drawing attention to classic albums, songs and the musicians who made them that are available for library users to download or stream through the Sony Music Catalog, aka Freegal

The very first major concert that I attended was seeing the mega-duo Hall & Oates at Wing Stadium almost 34 years ago. The year was 1982 and I was ten years old. Apparently I was incredibly gullible because my parents were able to convince me that we were attending a hockey game even as we entered the building and walked by the kiosks selling H&O t-shirts. Finally it hit my daft little brain that my favorite rock band was playing that night and that my parents were evil for pulling a fast one on me. Just kidding, they’re great people. H&O were one of the most successful duos from the late 1970’s through to 1985. Hit after hit on the Top 40 chart, no other group has so successfully mixed rock, pop and soul music together. Stream or download (5 per week) most of their classic tunes like Private Eyes, I Can’t Go For That, Sara Smile One On One, Maneater, and Kiss On My List through Freegal.

2016 Grammy Nominations

Here are some of the prominent albums and performers from 2015 that have been nominated for a Grammy Award:

Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly

The Weekend's Beauty Behind the Madness

Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color

Little Big Town's Pain Killer

Tame Impala's Currents

Chris Stapleton's The Traveller

Taylor Swift's 1989

Barry Manilow's My Dream Duets

Muse's Drones



So Familiar

Lately, I’ve been enjoying So Familiar, this great collaborative effort—their second, after Love Has Come For You (2013)—from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Talk about easy-listening! Brickell’s smooth voice accompanied by instrumental arrangements featuring Martin on banjo, produces a sound that is both relaxing and upbeat. 

One of my favorites is the tender “I Have You,” where Martin trades in his banjo for some vocals. Too sweet.

The Soundtrack to My Youth

I wouldn’t exactly characterize my parents as having a particularly “cool” record collection during my childhood years but one of the first albums that I can recall having an affinity for was the holiday classic Gene Autry Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Every December, this album along with the equally resonant A Charlie Brown Christmas sticks out as the soundtrack to my childhood memories of the holiday season. Both titles are Hoopla-available for those looking to stream some festive cheer.

Leon Bridges

If you enjoy the retro sounds of 1960’s soul and rhythm and blues that artists like Alabama Shakes, Raphael Saadiq, Amy Winehouse, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have kept alive and fresh, check out the debut album by the young singer Leon Bridges, a guy that you can bet has listened to a few Motown and Sam Cooke records over the years.

Stream or Download via Freegal

Freegal is your access to free downloaded music from the Sony Music catalog. A streaming option has now been added to their catalog. Download 5 of your favorite songs each week or listen to a full album by streaming (5 hours/week). Visit our Download page on the KPL site for more information and helpful links to our other digital services.

One of the most buzzed about jazz albums of the year is Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975, the Bootleg Series Volume 4. Our compact disc copy will be here soon but if you don't want to wait, stream this extraordinary portrait of one of jazz's most important innovators which includes performances with legendary collaborators John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Julien "Cannonball" Adderley.