Staff Picks: Music
Every year on January 1st, I start to think about my “Best of…” list that I will be compiling throughout the year. This year is heavily tilted towards music and movies. I’m sure my recommended reading list will grow as the weather grows colder. Here is my ever-expanding list of favorite albums and a few singles that have been released this year.
- Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Self Titled
- Rhye, Woman
- Caitlin Rose, The Stand-In
- Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
- My Bloody Valentine, mbv
- Smith Westerns, Soft Will
- Eleanore Friedberger, Personal Record
- Washed Out, Paracosm
- Porcelain Raft, Permanent Signal
- Relapse by Chvrches
- Where Are We Now by David Bowie
- Just Make It Stop by Low
- Man by Neko Case
- Life Is Hard by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
The third album from the Chicago indie rock band Smith Westerns is a decent collection of very catchy, wistful rock and roll that accentuates their obvious taste for British groups like The Beatles, T-Rex, The Smiths, and Pink Floyd. There is no shortage of big, meaty hooks and gorgeous, synthed out melodies to go around on their newest long player, Soft Will.
The 1980’s produced a plethora of really, terrible music and yet as much musical detritus as should rightly ring the rim of the dustbin of history, there were groups that were visionary and prescient and whose work continues to sound fresh, new and vital today. One such album that if you knew nothing of it, would never guess that it was released in 1987 is the third Love and Rockets’ long player Earth, Sun, Moon. This was not the sound of MilliVanilli or Huey Lewis and the News. Forming out of the ashes of Post-Punk/Goth pioneers Bauhaus, Love and Rockets’ hard to categorize album flows effortlessly through 13 wonderful songs that range from noisy rockers to lyrical folk songs and everything in between. Of course, the haircuts haven't held up as well as the tunes.
Earth, Sun, Moon
Big Star, like many cult bands, only emerged from obscurity to be heralded as power pop innovators years after they had broken up. On the eve of a new documentary that chronicles their short but influential career, find out what the hype is all about by checking out their beautiful mixture of soul, pop, and rock.
Keep and eye on the sky
I wasn’t a huge fan of Vampire Weekend before the release of their third album but I have to admit, I think they’ve hit on something special with their newest, Modern Vampires of the City. Their music is still as erudite and as catchy as ever, but where their early output came across as precious and affected, the new tunes exhibit an abundance of creative skill, lyrical depth and narrative complexity. One of the best albums of 2013, get your ears on it.
Modern Vampires of the city
Yep, she's done it again. Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces has released her sophmore album Personal Record and it's as great as her 2011 debut Last Summer. Friedberger composes quirky, idiosynchratic lyrics that blend seemlessly with her equally unique and recognizable voice. The music is smart, immaculately recorded pop-rock that is both innovative and endlessly catchy. Pick it up and crank it loud.
To me, listening to an Iron and Wine album has always felt a little like being alone on a back porch with Sam Beam while he tells you secrets. How do you make that sound better? Just add horns. Ghost on Ghost, his fifth studio album, has not lost that intimate quality, but it has gained interesting musical complexity. The depth is still mainly in the vocals, but there is more to enjoy in the spaces in between. If you are a little bit folk, a little bit funk, and dig a good jazz solo, then you are likely to really enjoy this release.
Ghost on Ghost
In 2001 the way the world listens to music changed when Apple introduced the iPod. Two years later, the iTunes Store opened for business offering owners of iPods a virtual place to purchase music. Over the past ten years billions of songs have been downloaded to the many Apple iOS devices. Some would argue that iTunes has destroyed the idea of a “traditional” album, but others claim that more people listen to different music because it is easier to access music. No matter how you feel, it is hard to deny that iTunes is the “King of all Media Delivery Systems.”
I was curious to find out what the most played song was in the iTunes libraries of the staff at KPL. The answers not only provided me with insight on the listening habits of staff, but also inspired me to seek out the stuff in the library.
The most played song in my iTunes library is Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” from his 1991 album, Girlfriend. When I think about why this particular song is on top of the list, I recall the summer when both my daughters requested to listen to it multiple times. They liked to roll down the windows and sing along to infectious tune. My guess is the top tracks from other staff have a similar story.
• “Too Late” by Shoes, Karl Knack, Audio Visual
•“Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys, Anne Herrington, Law Library
• “Plasticities” by Andrew Bird, Susan Lindemann, Facilities Management
• “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth, Michael Cockrell, Adult Services
•“Feels Like Home” by Edwina Hayes, Jill Lansky, Teen Services
• “Gobbledigook” by Sigur Ros, Rick Hale, Patron Services
•“Baby Girl” by Sugarland, Andrea Vernola, Youth Services
• “Dirty Little Secret” by All-American Rejects, Wendy Hand, IT
• “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson, Angela Fortin, Oshtemo
• “Myth” by Beach House, Ryan Gage, Audio Visual
Fans of The Raveonettes, The Smith Westerns, Night Moves, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Suede, and Arcade Fire will find something in the cliché-bloated anthem rock of the band The Guards and their newest long player, In Guards We Trust. There’s nothing particular inspiring about this record given it treads over familiar ground with its thick use of dense, multi-track vocals and heavy coats of reverb that does well to cover the rather innocuous nature of the songwriting, but then again, if you’re only looking for a couple of good songs to bob your head to while heading to the beach this summer, give it a try.
In Guards We Trust
Two of today’s best musical young guns that have delivered strong albums this year are Jake Bugg and Caitlin Rose. They don’t shy away from their influences but they don’t let those who paved the musical highway for them subsume their individual voices either. Gritty and fashionable enough for the with-it crowd and accessible enough for those who have an Oasis or Taylor Swift album in their collection, these two will hopefully be in it for the long haul. Bugg has been compared to Dylan (who hasn’t?) but his brand of neo-folk has as many roots in Brit Pop. Sure, he evokes both Dylan and Donovan from time to time but he makes it work because of his lyrical earnestness and the sheer catchiness of the tunes. Rose also wrote the album that Swift only can dream that she had created. These are confidently written songs sung by a fresh voice who no doubt has listened to a few Jayhawks albums over the years. Check them both out!