Landfill Harmonic: Orchestra Recycled

Just when it seems that we need some good news the most, this will warm your heart. Yesterday, NPR blogger Anastasia Tsioulcas caught my attention with a post about the Landfill Harmonic: An Orchestra Built from Trash. Through the efforts of a music instructor and a local craftsman, a group of hardworking kids in Paraguay have formed an orchestra using instruments made with materials gathered from beneath their very feet – literally.

The village of Cateura is a slum built on top of a landfill, where many of the locals make their living by collecting and reselling garbage. In a town where “a violin costs more than a house,” a group of students have formed an orchestra and are learning to play music. Orchestra director Favio Chavez works with a local craftsman who fashions violins, violas, flutes, trumpets and guitars out of discarded trash; oil drums, tin cans, spoons, bottle caps, you name it. Now this might sound like the makings of a bad circus band (no offense against circus music) but the result is nothing short of breathtaking.

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The group is currently documenting their work in a yet-to-be released film; a short trailer for it was posted a month ago on YouTube and has already collected nearly half-a-million views. The film opens with a quote from Chavez, saying “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” In addition to the video, the group has set up a Facebook page to help spread the word about the orchestra.

In a world where we generate a ton of solid waste per capita every fifteen months (and that’s just in America) while school budgets get slashed beyond recognition, it’s refreshing to see what can be accomplished if the will is there.

Here’s an extended version of their story. It’s fascinating, watch it…

Book

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra
landfill-harmonic-160
http://www.facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie

A 21st Century Crooner

Richard Hawley is one of those singer songwriters that after hearing a couple of his songs, you wonder why he’s not a bigger name in the music world (he’s British, so that may explain it). After a brief stint playing guitar for Britpop hit makers Pulp in the late nineties, he set off on a solo career, culminating in seven excellent albums of wistful pop ballads soaked in lyrical reflection and reverb. Hawley’s voice is his greatest asset. He croons a bit like a throwback torch singer, sad and road weary, almost a kind of British Sinatra but with less swagger and more working class grit. His old school, rockabilly look is also suggestive of the influence of Elvis. His newest album, a bit of a sonic departure from previous albums, is less intimate and feels as though his ambient songs of forlorn pining have given way to a louder, more rock and roll Hawley.

Music

Truelove's Gutter
EMM694172C

Ravi Shankar (April 7, 1920 - December 11, 2012)

Master musician and composer Ravi Shankar died yesterday at the age of 92. The iconic sitar player achieved worldwide fame during his long musical career, but remained a humble and dedicated student of music throughout his long life. Remember the life and music of Ravi Shankar through these KPL titles:

Ravi Shankar in portrait – DVD 

The Very Best of Ravi Shankar – CD

Rare and Glorious – CD

Chants of India - CD

Raga @ fast track - CD

My Music, My Life by Ravi Shankar

 

Music

Rare and glorious
KOM906924C

Bargains from the Basement: Ragtime

When They All Played Ragtime: The True Story of an American Music was first published in 1950, it quickly became heralded as “the bible of ragtime” for its (then) insightful examination of an overlooked and all-but-forgotten American art form. While the book’s inevitable flaws have been the subject of controversy for decades since, authors Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis succeeded in creating a groundbreaking initial study of the origins of ragtime music. The scholarly work of writers like Edward A. Berlin and others have since attempted to correct many of the inaccuracies and set straight the resulting misconceptions, yet They All Played… remains a vital resource for information about what Blesh calls “the first genuinely American music [and] in reality a milestone in musical history.” Thanks to the Friends, I was able to add a nice clean copy of the updated and expanded 1966 third edition to my own reference library.


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Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

They All Played Ragtime
they-all-played-ragtime-160
/friends/bookstore/

Best of 2012 - The Mixtape

I love the annual “Best of 2012” lists. As a huge music fan, I pour over these lists and compare what I picked up over the year to what is actually on the list. KPL staff have been posting our lists each of the past few years and I hope you have had a chance to check out my favorite CDs (The list only contains CDs in KPL’s collection.) In my opinion, 2012 was an incredible year for music! What impressed me the most is that one-third of the list contained debut albums. Below is a “mixtape” of my favorite tracks from each album on the list.

“The Way We Move” by Langhorne Slim

“Hold On” by Alabama Shakes

“Pretty Girl From Michigan” by The Avett Brothers

“Clear Eye Clouded Mind” by Nada Surf

“The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3” by The Decemberists

“Sixteen Saltines” byJack White

“Mountain Sound” by Of Monsters and Men

“Flapper Girl” by The Lumineers

“North Side Gal” by JD McPherson

“Emmylou” by First Aid Kit

“Lost Without You” by Rhett Miller

“Duquesne Whistle” by Bob Dylan

“Here in the Deadlights” by Brendan Benson

“Lakeside View Apartments Suite” by The Mountain Goats

“Take A Walk” by Passion Pit

Book

langhorne slim and the law
langhorne-slim
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Cat Power: Sun

If you haven’t given this a spin because somebody mentioned a synthesizer, you are missing out. Sun is the ninth studio album from Cat Power, and for fans it has been a long six years since The Greatest, her last album of original work. Sun is definitely unique musically, but it is still every bit Cat Power. In many ways it feels lighter, but doesn’t lack any of the depth fans have come to expect. More than anything it is one of those albums that will sneak up on you, so you have to give it the chance.

Book

Cat Power “Sun”
cat-power-sun-cover
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Meet the Wailin' Jennys

We have a great music collection here at KPL.  There are so many wonderful singers and musicians that don't may not make it onto the radio but whose music is fantastic.  Time and again, I stumble upon a new group one way or another and happily discover KPL has their CD available for me to check out.  One group that I have really appreciated the last few years and have introduced my family to is a folk group called the Wailin' Jennys.  The first time my mom heard one of their CDs she asked me who they group was.  I told her it was the Wailin' Jennys to which she replied, "But…who is Waylon Jennings singing with?"  I explained that it was "wailin'" as in "cryin'" and the plural of the name Jenny…though none of the members are named Jenny. 

The group started when the trio came together for a onetime evening performance at a guitar shop in Canada.  They were such a success they joined forces and have been producing great music since.  The group members are Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody, and Heather Masse, each of which comes with a distinct training and sound.  We have three of their CDs at the library:  their first CD 40 Days, Firecracker, and Bright Morning Stars which came out in 2011.  I also recently discovered that the library owns The Garden  by band member Ruth Moody.  I checked this CD out as well and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have favorite songs that I find myself listening to over and over and over again on each CD.  You get an idea of the Wailin' Jennys tight harmony in their first song on 40 Days, their debut CD, titled One Voice.  This CD also has a great cover of Neil Young's Old Man and my very favorite Wailin' Jennys song Ten Mile Stilts.  I find Starlight and Apocalypse Lullaby on Firecracker hauntingly beautiful.  Their style seems a little jazzier for Bright Morning Stars.  Mona Louise and Cherry Blossom Love get stuck in my head very easily and after listening to them I find myself tapping my toes and singing them in my head for hours.  As for Ruth Moody's CD, I like every song…a lot.  On this week after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the wonderful CD collection we have at KPL and the great music I have listened to because of it.

Music

40 Days
10470112

Bargains from the Basement: Margaritaville

The cover of Jimmy Buffett’s Meet Me in Margaritaville says it’s “the ultimate collection.” I’m not sure if that’s true or not (he’s already had a “greatest hits” collection, a boxed set, and a slew of live albums), but it’s a decent representation of his work nonetheless, including nearly a full disc’s worth of new (2003) recordings – what he calls “a new coat of paint on some old favorites.” It’s cold and snowing outside (I’m pretending it’s not). Still, the Friends Bookstore was packed to the rafters with happy (and thrifty) “Black Friday” shoppers who were wisely taking advantage of the annual gift book sale. So I guess that makes Meet Me... a worthwhile collection for days just like this, when a good book and a trip to Margaritaville is in order. Thanks, Friends.


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Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Meet Me in Margaritaville
jimmy-buffett-margaritaville-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Part 6

While the evolution of popular music is (and has been) a continual process, several distinct time periods stand out as important milestones; the ragtime era and the advent of early jazz, for example. Gunther Schuller’s monumental studies of the development of jazz are regarded as masterworks. The first volume, Early Jazz, was first published in 1968 and was heralded by The New York Times as “definitive.... A remarkable book by any standard... unparalleled in the literature of jazz.”

My Friends Find this week was volume two of Schuller’s remarkable journey, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz 1930-1945, an era that I admittedly know relatively little about (though I’m most anxious to learn). Written two decades after the first volume, The Swing Era explores the lives and musical significance of the many great bandleaders of the time; Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and the great soloists; Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young. This was a fantastic find that I can’t wait to read. 


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
9780195071405
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Part 5

I have this weird passion for obscure, offbeat Christmas recordings. Bing Crosby and Paul McCartney are all well and good, but how about Jimi Hendrix playing “Little Drummer Boy?” Well, at least you’re on the right track. Or how about Robert Fripp doing “Silent Night” ala Frippertronics (yes, I mean the old school red flexi disc)? You’re getting there. Or… how about The Residents’ original “Santa Dog” single?? Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. The weirder, the better.

But truth be known, the lighter new agey type of ambient instrumental holiday stuff… you know, solo guitar, solo piano, acoustic ensembles… is one of my many guilty pleasures (don’t tell anybody, ok?). I have lots, but there’s always room for more. So that’s where this week’s Friends Finds come in. Of just that sort, I managed to grab a fresh copy of Ottmar Liebert’s Poet & Angels (1990) on Higher Octave. And what would the acoustic holidays be without the stuff on Windham Hill(?), so I snagged a couple of seasonal samplers that I didn’t have… A Winter Solstice Reunion (1998) with all the label regulars… Will Ackerman, Darol Anger, Liz Story, etc.; and Winter Wonderland (1999), a more mainstream but still likeable compilation with David Arkenstone, Alex de Grassi, Tuck & Patti, and others. At a buck apiece, I couldn’t go wrong.

And just to satisfy my need for “the road less traveled,” I also grabbed a copy of the Roches’ We Three Kings (1994) on Rykodisc. (Actually, it’s not weird at all… the Roche sisters are amazing.) And the best part is, there are plenty more where those came from (in fact, there’s a whole cart full!). So stock up, the holidays are coming!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
winter-wonderland-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/

The Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Smashing Anymore

When a friend recently told me that he had some free tickets to see The Smashing Pumpkins at the Palace of Auburn Hills and asked if I wanted to go, my first response was "meh."  I love going to concerts, don't get me wrong, but I'm not a big fan of arena shows.  I'm more of a small-to-midsized venue kind of guy; I frequent the Orbit Room and the Intersection in Grand Rapids, for example.  Frankly, there aren't a lot of artists for whom I'm willing to make the long hike to Detroit or Chicago.  And while the Pumpkins were a band I enjoyed during my high school and college years, they haven't exactly done anything that I've cared about for a long, long time.  But my wife convinced me that it would be a fun night, so I acquiesced, and we went with my buddy to see the show.

Now, I'm the kind of guy who has more fun at concerts if I know the music, so I checked out their recent set lists online and discovered that they were starting their recent shows by playing their new album, Oceania, in its entirety from start to finish, followed by selections from the rest of their canon.  I hadn't heard anything off the new album apart from first single "The Celestials."  But not wanting to sit through an hour-and-a-half of music that I wasn't familiar with, I checked out Oceania from this very institution, and set about listening to it repeatedly over the next two days leading up to the concert.

I went in with low expectations; Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness were quintessential 90s masterpieces, but I never got much out of 1998's Adore or 2000's Machina/The Machines of God.  And following those releases, years of clashing egos, infighting, rotating membership, and the overall decline of sales ended up tearing the band apart.  And had that been the end of the chapter, the Pumpkins would have probably been remembered fondly as a band that burned bright and hot and quickly-one that left its mark on music history.  But front man (and driving creative force) Billy Corgan, a notoriously temperamental and grandiose personality, spent the next decade making it hard to love the Pumpkins.  He'd swear off the band and then reform with different members; he'd verbally attack old band mates in the press; he be dismissive of his audience in interviews; he even swore off making albums ever again, having declared it a "dead" format (he claims Oceania is merely a chunk of a planned 44-song cycle that is to be released as individual singles over a span of many years).  It became hard for a fan to separate the Pumpkins name with the megalomania of Corgan.  Much of this could have been forgiven if, say, any of the music that had trickled out over the years had been engrossing.

So it was to my surprise that, after a few listens, Oceania grew on me (the album is pronounced "oh-see-AN-ee-ya, not "o-SHUN-ee-ya" or how "ya'll pronounce it up here" as Corgan scolded at the show; I'm not entirely certain what Corgan meant by "up here," considering Detroit is not that much farther north latitudinally than his hometown of Chicago).  There are several standout songs, my favorites being "Panopticon," "My Love Is Winter," "Pinwheels," and "Glissandra."  The song titles and lyrics may be pretentious, but the music is energetic and, at times, ethereal.  It's easily the Pumpkins' most cohesive and satisfying effort since the late 90s.  And while Corgan seems to remain as frustrating and self-indulgent as ever, if he keeps creating music like he's done with Oceania, perhaps he can also make The Smashing Pumpkins relevant again.

Music

Oceania
10723246

Bargains from the Basement: Week 4

This week’s Friends Find was yet another tasty pair of audio CDs… this time from Little Feat. One of my biggest regrets (a nicer way of saying screw-up) was that I never saw Little Feat while Lowell George was alive. I had my chance when they played in Grand Rapids in 1978, but (for whatever reason) I missed that opportunity. Sad. Nonetheless, Feat have amassed an impressive body of recorded work—both with Lowell during the 1970s and during the band’s current “era” beginning in the 1990s—so there’s plenty of good listening available to help make up for my awful misfortune (feel sorry for me yet? …didn’t think so… ah, but such is life).

Anyway, the first find is Ripe Tomatos, a two disc compilation culled from rare live recordings made at both ends of Feat’s journey. Recently unearthed recordings from way back in ’71 and ’72, sweet acoustic performances two decades later, and more— two-and-a-half hours of ripe tomato-y bliss. The second set, Chinese Work Songs, was Feat’s first studio recording of the new millennium—thirty years after the first Little Feat record. (The liner notes tell us, “…it wasn’t made in china, it was recorded at a few places, but china ain’t one of them…”) Compositions penned by Robbie Robertson (The Band), Billy Payne, Paul Barrère, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Bob Dylan, and others are given the treatment as only this band can. Both sets are worthy and welcome additions to the li'l ol’ collection. Feats (and Friends) don’t fail me now.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Little Feat
little-feat-covers-160
/friends/bookstore/

Grizzly Bear's Shields

The Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear began as a throwaway creative project for singer/guitarist Ed Droste who simply wanted to provide a name to his home recordings and musical tinkering. By 2004, a full fledge touring band had emerged, garnering positive reviews and fans alike. Combining electronic ambience with catchy and melodic folk pop that echoes a wide net of influences and sounds, their newest album Shields, is their most mature and complicated work to date. Songs are reverb-filled with everything but the kitchen sink layering of synthesizers, piano, banjo, acoustic/electric guitar, distorted drums and coupled with dreamy, hypnotic vocals. Arty noise as filtered through infectious pop songs would be an apt description of Grizzly Bear’s sonic vision. Stand out tracks include Sleeping Ute, Half Gate and Yet Again.

Music

Shields
10004055

 


The Comeback Album of 2012

Even the most diehard music aficionados probably couldn’t tell you who Bill Fay was up until a month ago (I certainly couldn’t), before he and his music began to pop up in places like Mojo Magazine and NPR. Fay is a British singer-songwriter who comes from a long and storied list of forgotten or historically marginalized musicians whose little known work grew out of the legitimating influence of the artist appreciation network. This is how it works: the cult legend finds a famous rock-star like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (Tweedy has covered Fay’s songs in the past) to provide you a song of his own that you can cover (Jesus Etc.) and duet with him on your long awaited, comeback album. Your street cred will blow up and your Youtube hits will soar because of everyone wanting to go back in time (or at least to the internet) to listen to all of those great songs that you wrote that everyone had originally forsaken at the time of their release.

Fay’s early 70’s albums sound eerily like a melodic fusion of Dylan (if he played piano) and Wilco’s more plaintive tunes. They tend to be somewhat downbeat and often echo the sound of a lost but brilliant soul trying to stay true to his art while the music industry closes its door on his vision. Fay’s new album Life is People is worth a listen and has a much more upbeat vibe to it than his brooding material from long ago. Here is Fay's heartbreaking rendition of the Wilco song.

Book

Life is people
bill-fay-cover
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Bargains from the Basement: Week 3

Some recording artists are perfectly at home in the studio, while others are best known for their work on the concert stage. The Dave Matthews Band it seems is both. This week’s fortunate Friends Find is another sweet pair… two double live sets from the Dave Matthews Band, both recorded during the band’s 2010 summer tour. Live in New York City finds the band at Citi Field in Flushing, NY, on July 17th, while the other documents the final show of the tour two months later on September 18th at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field. Both are superbly recorded and the performances are exceptional. 5 hours of great music for six bucks… how could I go wrong? It’s good to have Friends!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dave Matthews Band
dmb-live-160
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Week 2

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells toured and recorded together for decades, but this week’s edition of Friends Finds consists of two separate recordings by these blues legends. Recorded in 2001 at the age of 65, Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea is fresh and raw, arguably one of the most immediate recording he’s made thus far. (Now 76, he’s still at it.) Its uncluttered North Mississippi sound places Guy’s guitar right up front where it belongs. Guy himself says, “That’s the way music was before it got too much tech and too many people.” Amen.

On the other hand, if we rewind back some three-and-a-half decades before Sweet Tea, we find the late Junior Wells and his band introducing their blend of blues and R&B to enthusiastic (and for the first time, predominantly white) audiences. Recorded just months after his debut, Hoodoo Man Blues, and released in 2010, Live in Boston 1966 is as authentic a piece of Chicago blues history as you’ll find. At a mere buck apiece, I snapped up both of these gems without hesitation.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series the KPL equivalent of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells
guy-wells-covers-160
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Week 1

Richie Furay’s 2006 release, The Heartbeat of Love, was this week’s worthwhile find at the Friends Bookstore. Ten tunes written by Richie and Scott Sellen, plus two old Poco standbys, performed with help from a bunch of familiar friends; Timothy B. Schmidt, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Sam Bush, Stephen Stills, and others. No new musical territory here; just a worthwhile batch of nicely executed Southern California country rock tunes. If you ever spin the likes of Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, or Loggins & Messina, this would fit right in. And it even came packaged in a nifty hardbound mini-book – definitely a worthwhile find!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series the KPL equivalent of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Heartbeat of Love
heartbeat-of-love-cover-160
http://www.richiefuray.com/album/heartbeat-of-love/

Dive Into Oshin

If you love a good, bright melody like I do, check out the band Diiv’s new album titled Oshin. The vocals and lyrics are intentionally opaque and buried below the shimmering mix of reverb-doused guitar. This allows for the blossoming of these glistening, dream pop songs to unfold and unfold they do with hypnotic success. Oshin will be on my end of year list of the best music of 2012. Sounds Like: Real Estate, The Cure, War on Drugs, and Tristeza.

Music

Oshin
10735982

Add These Albums to Your Best of 2012 List

Father John Misty is the musical moniker of Josh Tillman, the former drummer of Seattle band Fleet Foxes. Like his former band of bearded Pacific Northwest naturalists, Father John knows how to construct moody melodies and textured folk rock that may sound akin to his former band’s harmony-rich folk pop but listen with a more attentive ear and the tracks on Fear Fun tend to stir up a playful tone that sounds lived in, messy and altogether more quarrelsome with its darker vision than the earnestness that permeates the music of Fleet Foxes. Check him out on a recent appearance on the Letterman Show. 

Cat Power’s newest release Sun (release date of September 4th) feels much more produced than her previous work. There is a synth-heavy reliance on arrangements that compliment her fantastic voice and minimalist approach to songwriting. Fans of her album Moon Pix will appreciate the several songs that reflect that album’s economical approach to melody and rhythm.

Music

Fear Fun
10724680

 


Back to the Future of Music

Many consider music today completely derivative of the past. Artists are not creating anything that is truly unique. I totally disagree. Check out these artists who have produced unique spins on classic styles. All of the CDS are debut efforts and do not require a Flux Capacitor.

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes – Lead singer Brittany Howard’s voice is packed with the perfect combination of soul and rock that will immediately knock you out of your chair. She is backed by an amazing band and together they are reintroducing new listeners to the unique power of good old fashion rock straight from the southern swamps. Best tracks: Hold On, I Found You, Hang Loose, I Ain’t the Same, Heavy Chevy

My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men – This six-piece band from Iceland formed just to enter a national battle of the bands competition in 2010. The band’s sound is huge and monstrous – lush harmonies, surging guitars and one big horn all come together attack your senses. It is folk-rock that comes at you full on. Best tracks: Little Talks, Dirty Paws, Mountain Sound, Slow and Steady

Signs & Signifiers by JD McPherson – Does this guy own a time machine? I have been looking for days at old Rock n’ Roll photos from the 50’s to see if I could find him in the background. McPherson is a former punk rocker turned rockabilly is bopping out music similar to Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. He used vintage equipment and microphones on his debut to take you on a trip to the past. Best tracks: North Side Gal, Fire Bug, B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R., Scandalous

Book

Signs & Signifiers
jd-mcpherson-cover-160
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Dymaxion Mothership has Landed

This is an ambitious aural excursion that you really owe it to yourself to experience. But be warned, this isn’t your typical singer-songwriter verse-chorus-verse stuff. Bill Caskey’s Dymaxion Mothership takes the listener on a complex journey across a lush audio landscape that ranges from contemplative voice and piano to full-on multi-instrumental madness. Some parts are complex and challenging, while other bits are… well… as Buddy Guy once put it, “so funky you can smell it.” Tempo changes are around every corner and the production is superb. Bill’s lyrics are chock full of quirky wit and introspective wordsmanship, creatively weaving imaginative tales of love and life; dreams, a small town in the summertime, and dogs chasing dragonflies. The overall result is a carefully crafted musical journey that’s anything but ordinary.

“My doggie like to chase dem dinosaurs
She plays for sport even though she never scores
Barn swallows hunting bugs in the springtime
She jumps up and tries to utilize her hang time
Barn swallows slip and glide
Doggie tongue hangin’ out the side…”

Musical similarities? Sure, some of the obvious influences creep in here and there… “Hey Alligator” has an undeniable Steeler’s Wheel feel about it (remember those guys?), “Biggest Heart” could have been on Wally De Backer’s (Gotye) last album, and echoes of old school Steely Dan linger throughout… but the final outcome is all of these things… and yet none of them actually. Dymaxion Mothership is an intensely rich and remarkably satisfying original musical experience. Climb aboard the Mothership… it’s an outing you don’t want to miss.

In case you didn’t know (shame on you!), The Relations (including Bill Caskey) put on a July concert at Central Library featuring material from Dymaxion Mothership. The concert is now up in its entirety on KPL’s YouTube channel and our Concert Archives page.

Book

Dymaxion Mothership
dymaxion-mothership-160

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First World Problems

If you do one thing this Wednesday night, that thing should be coming to see The Relations play the KPL Concert Series at 7 p.m. at the Central Library. But if by chance to have the ability to split yourself in two and be in two places at once, be aware that the Rave City Place 14 Theater will be one of the select theaters nationwide to screen Shut Up And Play The Hits a documentary and concert film about LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Garden.

The scenes in the film that show the end of the final show in which members of the audience and band are standing around in a wierd kind of dispair absolutely reek of first world problems to me (see minute 1:50 in the trailer), but I did love LCD Soundsystem and will want to see the film when it comes to the library's collection after it is released on DVD. So come see local live music at KPL from The Relations on Wednesday night...the movie theater would probably be freezing cold anyway, and those seats are not THAT comfortable, and popcorn costs so much...

 

 

Music

Sound of Silver
EMM394422C

The Jersey Sound

Frankie Valli and the Four (4) Seasons made their mark on the popular music charts in the early 1960’s, combining heavily orchestrated melodies with doo-wop vocal harmonies. With his broad vocal range and unmistakable pipes, Valli helped the group score hit after hit, including such pop standards (aka “oldies”) as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Dawn (Go Away), Ronnie, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, and Working My Way Back To You. Recent interest in the group has come about recently due to the success of the Broadway production of Jersey Boys. Check out Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons: The Definitive Pop Collection for an introduction to their timeless hits.

Music

Frankie Valli and the 4 seasons
WEM411022C

45 at 45: Respect

Otis Redding wrote it, but Aretha Franklin owned it – “Respect”, one of the biggest radio and jukebox sensations of 1967, topped both Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R’n’B charts mid-year, reigning supreme on the latter for almost two months. The track cemented the Detroit native’s standing as the “Queen of Soul”, proving its potency as both a civil rights anthem and a dance floor phenomenon.

The Big O’s original Stax version, framed simply as a lover’s question, is a classic in its own right. Pleading being one of Redding’s strongest suits as a vocalist, it’s only natural that his request for “respect when I come home” is less demanding than begging, a “need” that he’s “gotta, gotta have”, never sounding sure that he’s going to get satisfaction as the track fades.

Aretha’s having none of that in her updated NYC arrangement, featuring infectious girl-group vocal support from her sisters Carolyn and Erma, as well as a sweet King Curtis sax break. Standing the nature of the lyric on its head, her assertion that “what you want, baby, I got it” is shouted out with absolute confidence. Adding a lyric not found in Redding’s version, Franklin drives the point home by spelling out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, in case it wasn’t clear, adding “find out what it means to me” as an emphatic imperative. The lover’s question has become a statement of purpose, writ large enough to put not just one person on notice, but any and every person within earshot.

"Respect”’s cultural resonance was immediate and lasting. The song’s refrains of “sock it to me” and “TCB” became all-American catch phrases overnight. In addition to earning numerous awards and consistently high rankings on critics’ “greatest songs” lists, it was among the first 25 recordings to be included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2002. A signature song of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and Aretha’s storied career, “Respect” deserves all its accolades, truly getting what it’s after play after play.

Music

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
WEM193423C

Master of My Make-Believe

Santigold's music straddles genres--punk, hip-hop, pop, new wave--it's all there.  Her influences range from Devo to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti to James Brown.  She's collaborated with Kanye West and Lykke Li, the Beastie Boys, and Mark Ronson among others.  Her style is hard to define, but she's just so darn cool.  After waiting four years since her last album, 2008's Santogold, which I listened to nearly nonstop for months, I'm pleased to finally hear her second album Master of My Make-Believe Like her first album, Master of my Make-Believe is a genre-blending, layered work of art that you can dance to.  My favorite tracks include the single "Disparate Youth" and the first track "Go," a collaboration with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O that will make you bob your head.  Listen to it at least twice--the more you hear it, the more you'll discover.   

Music

Master of My Make-Believe
10718426

 


Songs of Summer

Do you have a list of songs that simply remind you of summer or that you dust off from their Winter hibernation to crank out on your car stereo or I-pod? I like to have a couple of compact disc mixes in my car that feature some of my go-to tracks as I trek to the lake or head to the backyard cookout. What are your favorite summertime anthems?

Pavement's Cut Your Hair

The Faces' Ooh La La

The Chi-lites' Oh Girl

Michael Jackson's I Wanna Be Where You Are

The Descendents' Silly Girl

Big Star's Thirteen

Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amor

Seals and Croft's Summer Breeze

Wilco's She's a Jar

Best Coast's Our Deal

Neil Young's Out on the Weekend

Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over

Hall and Oates' Kiss on My List

Santo and Johnny's Blue Moon, Teardrop and Sleepwalking

Music

Summerteeth
10174692

   


No 45 at 45: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

In the spring of 1967, rock and roll’s primary medium was the 45 RPM single. On the first of June, the Beatles changed all that with the highly anticipated release of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. Though no contemporary single releases were culled from the album, its songs were given heavy AM radio airplay, at a time when FM stations were few, far between, and “underground”. Through the airwaves, those songs – including “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, “When I’m Sixty-four”, and “With a Little Help From my Friends” - burrowed their way into the collective memories of all who recall those heady first days of the “summer of love”.

Touted as rock’s first “concept” LP (though I’d give that nod to the Flamingos’ 1959 magnum opus, Flamingo Serenade), the record is presented as a concert program, featuring the imaginary band for which the album’s named. The program encompasses all varieties of music – take in the symphonic grandeur of “She’s Leaving Home”, the loopy circus march of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, and the Indian classicism of “Within You Without You”, among them. The band begins and ends the program with its own theme, leaving the audience with the mind-altering encore that is “A Day in the Life”. The broad stylistic brush with which the Beatles (and producer George Martin) crafted the LP may be the reason it received near-unanimous praise from “serious” music critics who’d previously disdained rock and roll’s perceived juvenilia. This critical success ensured the band even greater listenership, and ushered in the era when “rock and roll” morphed into “rock”.

Even without a 45 release (or due to the lack of one?), the LP sold strongly, placing it at number one on the Billboard 200 LP chart for 15 weeks in a row. The album it knocked out of the top slot - the Monkees' Headquarters – also contained no 45 sides. Though the “Prefab Four”’s third LP was recorded without the benefit of backing tracks crafted by session men - in partial response to charges against the band's phoniness - its intimate construct was no match for the epic studio production ascribed to the Beatles’ alter-egos.

Sgt. Pepper regularly tops “best albums of the ‘60’s” or “best albums of all-time” lists, if not always ranking at the top of Beatles’ fans' LP lists. (My own fave is Revolver.) Peter Blake’s legendary LP cover has inspired homage and parody countless times. Celebrations of (and attacks on) the LP can be found in numerous books, articles, and blog posts. What really counts is the music included. If you haven’t yet discovered Sgt. Pepper for yourself, check it out… it may become the soundtrack to your own “new summer of love”.

Music

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
EMM241928C

Flannel Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

My friend Chad is as fanatical about music as I am, and he and I recently began a tradition where every time we meet, we bring an album from our own collection that we think the other person should give a listen.  Then the next time we're together we talk about what we heard, how we felt about it, and exchange a new CD.  [EDITOR'S NOTE: If you were born in the last decade or so, a "CD" or "compact disc" is something on which old people bought music before the Internet made purchasing tangible objects uncool.]  Swapping music allows us to introduce each other to certain artists or albums that might be of interest to the other, and sometimes it offers insight into our own personal experiences.  Often it sparks great discussions about particular eras of music, as it did recently when we each began trying to assemble a list of the best albums of the 1990s.  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you recently learned what a "compact disc" is, then you'll probably need to know that the "1990s" was a decade that happened a reeeeally long time ago.  Just Google "Hammer pants."]

The 90s was a big decade for Chad and I - it's when we "came of age."  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  "Coming of age" means the period of time during which a person matures from being a child into young adult.  Often this involves going off into the woods with your childhood friends to find a dead body and poke it with a stick.]  It was the halcyon days of Gen-X, witness to the birth of grunge, and it introduced to the world to the term "alternative" as a genre (which very quickly became a misnomer).   Music is a crucial part of both our lives, and while I don't have a completed list to show - I'm still working on it - I thought I'd reveal some of the albums that will be making my list.  Perhaps if any of them are ones with which you're not familiar, you could check them out, give 'em a few spins, and let me know what you think.

To start, you can't talk about the 90s without mentioning the highly influential artists who shaped the grunge and alternative scenes.  Of course the poster boys for grunge were Nirvana; Nevermind will definitely hold a high spot on my list, and In Utero will probably be on there somewhere as well.  Pearl Jam were also alt-rock trailblazers; Ten will likely rank higher than its name and Vs. will probably crack the top twenty.  Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream will be highly ranked; Chad's also fond of Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness.  Live's Throwing Copper is a classic, as is Stone Temple Pilots' Purple.  I have a hard time choosing whether I like Alice in Chains' Facelift or Dirt more.

Other popular rock albums that are likely to make my best-of list are Radiohead's OK Computer, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, Blues Traveler's Four, U2's Achtung Baby, Collective Soul's Dosage, and the Indigo Girls' Rites of PassageJeff Buckley's Grace blows my mind every time I hear it.  On the heavier side, there's Metallica's self-titled "black" album, Megadeth's Rust in Peace, Queensryche's Empire, and Monster Magnet's Powertrip.

Some of my favorite artists had their best albums in the 90s.  Tori Amos gave us Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink; Our Lady Peace put out Naveed and Clumsy; Toad the Wet Sprocket had Fear and Dulcinea.  Let's not forget the Counting Crows, who had the one-two punch of August and Everything After and Recovering the Satellites.  I can't even begin to figure out how to rank the Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets.  And, of course, giving them all competition for a top slot is the genius that is Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral.

There are plenty more I haven't mentioned, but if you're not familiar with any of them, I suggest checking them out.  They will be a good starting point for either a trip down memory lane or a music history lesson-depending on whether or not you're from the generation that was born attached to a smartphone.  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you don't know what a "smartphone" is, chances are you've wandered away from the home and the nurses are worried sick because you're overdue for your medicine.  How on Earth did you figure out how to use this computer?]  Meanwhile, please use the comments section below to share some of your favorite albums from the 90s.  Chad and I are always looking for exciting music to discuss.

 

Music

Nevermind
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Licensed to Celebrate

When Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer at the age of 47 on May 4, I immediately remembered when I first heard the band’s breakthrough release Licensed to Ill. I was working at a small town record store in a commuter town just outside of Detroit and it was standard practice for record companies to send music for in store promotion. When I unboxed that week’s offerings, I was immediately drawn not only to the iconic image of an airplane, but also the band’s name. Immediately I tore off the shrink wrap and dropped the needle on the vinyl. Until that moment I had no interest in rap or hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys’ rhymes instantly stole away my 15 year-old disdain for this style of music. MCA’s gruff atypical rap style on the record specifically drew me into Licensed to Ill. When he raps “That hypocrite smokes two packs a day…” on “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” MCA was letting me know that he sympathized with the mixed messages adults often dispense. There is really not a weak track on this record and for years the cassette was a constant companion as I traversed the hell that was adolescence. “Paul Revere,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Girls” were all played at high volumes that year. After hearing of Yauch’s death I celebrated his contribution to both music and my teen years by driving down Westnedge Ave., “Brass Monkey” blasting from my car.

Book

Beastie Boys
adam-yauch-4672-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=beastie+boys&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

The Blooming of Beach House

The two-piece band from Baltimore, Beach House, just gets better and better with each new album. Their newest release (May), the hypnotic Bloom, possesses a poise and astuteness that builds upon their previous work but that now also exhibits a fully realized sound of their own without any trace of trepidation or pandering. The songs on Bloom are sweetly coated with a luster of shimmering reverb, beautiful melodies and thoughtfully crafted lyrics that shift from the abstract image to the wistful. Beach House’s sonic pallet mixes the indulgence of despair and sadness with heartening melodies that allow for songs to flower from a place of murky, melancholic stasis to an enchanted dreamland of  unique splendor. Fans of the Cocteau Twins, The Cure, and My Bloody Valentine will appreciate Bloom’s woozy exquisiteness. Check out the entire album for a limited time at NPR.org or reserve it now through the KPL catalog. Author Search: Beach House.

Music

Bloom
10719804

Bright Lights

I stumbled upon Gary Clark Jr., and his new EP Bright Lights, by chance one night, in the midst of viewing clips from one of the recent Crossroads guitar festivals (hosted by Eric Clapton). In all honesty, I’m not easily impressed by most young blues and blues-rock guitarists. They have a nasty habit of sounding very rehashed and generic to me, lacking authenticity and individuality in their sound. Gary, however, blew me over immediately with all the right vibes.

The sound is something like a swirl of R&B meets Hendrix, with even a little bit of Hip-Hop flair thrown in occasionally for good measure. The riffs also aren’t afraid to dance into the territory of Midwest rock bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. The man and his music have some serious “swag”; there’s no denying that. It’s the kind of sound that just oozes with credibility and legitimacy.

Gary’s clearly not trying to be anyone other than himself, and it shows. As a result, I’ve come to realize that Gary is now one of my favorite electric guitarists in the “young-gun”, 40 and under age bracket (one of my bandmates being my other main favorite, but I’m going to just say he doesn’t count…for now).

In short: Gary's definitely worth checking out if you're into something unique, soulful, and all types of awesome!

Book

The bright lights EP
gary-clark-ep-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=gary+clark{AU}+AND+bright+lights{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Sleigh Bells

The Sleigh Bells have a very simplistic, musical formula: borrow heavily from the metal school of big, catchy guitar riffs (see: Slayer), loop in some heavy, pre-recorded beats and synthesizers for a rhythmic foundation, and finish things off with a not-as-good-as-Karen O vocalist, who goes back in forth between cooing and singing and you have their first two albums (Treats and Reign of Terror). I suspect that a third record of similar songs constructed with this formula will likely lose its short-term, hipster fizz but for now, if you’re looking for catchy, vacuous, Summertime anthems that meet today's zeitgeist requirements, then check out this buzzed about two-piece from Brooklyn. Best song—End of the Line.

Music

Reign of terror
RMM500502C

Night of The Hunter

It was the Library & Information Sciences that set me on the path to becoming a massive fan of the progressive metal band Mastodon.  While I was getting my graduate degree, I did an audiovisual purchasing project that involved selecting and budgeting for materials that would be desirable to add to a library’s collection based on such factors as expected demographical popularity, cultural significance, and critical acclaim.  This involved a lot of research and reading of reviews for recent movies and music, and one of the items that kept popping up on my radar was an album called Crack the Skye by the aforementioned sludge rockers.  Feedback for the release was phenomenal, and it was carrying an impressively high average score at critical aggregator site Metacritic.  So when I saw the CD at Target for ten bucks, I snapped it up, figuring my metal-loving ears would investigate the buzz for themselves.

And love it I did.  Skye is a concept album with seven songs, a couple of which run over ten minutes, and its story has something to do with astral projection, wormholes, Tsarist Russia, and a paraplegic who ends up in the body of Rasputin—exactly the kind of bizarrely ridiculous plot that makes prog rock so wonderfully enjoyable.  I was hooked from the very first opening track, “Oblivion,” through the last note of the last song called “The Last Baron.”  I had heard one or two songs of Mastodon’s before—I think an older single called “Colony of Birchmen” was on Rock Band—but from what I could tell, Skye represented a leap forward in maturity, accessibility, and ambition.  The songwriting was intricate, the guitar work masterful, and each song was a uniquely memorable piece of the overall puzzle.

Mastodon followed up Skye with last year’s The Hunter, an album that I listed as one of the best albums of 2011 right here on KPL’s website.  I’ve been listening to it consistently since it came out, and the more time I spend with it, the more I’m convinced it’s one of the best metal albums in a decade.  The sound is more stripped down than on previous releases and the songwriting is more nuanced.  There’s not a moment of filler on the album, as each track has a distinct ferocity, powerful lyrics, and a rich hook.  My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Mastodon perform at the Intersection in Grand Rapids this past Saturday night where they played all but one track off the album.  They blew the roof off the place and I was a happy, happy headbanger.

So if you’re a metal fan (or like your alternative rock on the heavy side), check out The Hunter and Crack the Skye.  I’m starting to work my way through their older material now—and loving every minute of it!

Music

The Hunter
WEM956204C

45 at 45: A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

The Monkees’ first chart hit featuring Davy Jones as lead singer, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, was also the last of its kind. Featuring no musical input from any of the band members other than its vocalist’s, the single’s pre-fabricated nature was at odds with the group’s growing interest in having more creative input, as writers and musicians, on their own recordings.

Assembled in 1966 to star in a TV series about the fictional exploits of a struggling rock combo, the Monkees were considered actors first and foremost, despite their musical credentials. Music biz veteran Don Kirshner provided the music for the first season’s episodes and related record releases. Working under his supervision, Brill Building tunesmiths crafted pop confections honed to perfection in the recording studio by a who’s who of ace session musicians. With few exceptions, the Monkees’ only contributions to these tracks – distinctly appealing as they are – were their vocal tracks.

The formula proved so successful, demand for live appearances by the band grew, and the fictional band found themselves becoming an active performing unit by the start of the new year. Prepared to record their songs as their own instrumental accompanists, the band was surprised to discover that Kirshner had released his production of the Neil Diamond-penned “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” as a 45 without their permission. This move led to Kirshner’s dismissal as musical supervisor of the Monkees project, and paved the way for the band’s first recordings on their own.

This behind-the-scenes drama went unnoticed at the time, and Monkees fans sent the single up the charts by mid-spring of 1967. While the band’s next recordings didn’t abandon the sunshine pop sounds that helped establish them, a wider range of styles and experimentation would begin to appear on their records, especially once their TV series ended after its second season. Pre-fab or homegrown, the consistency of the band’s recordings defines a true “Monkees sound”, and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” is one of its best examples.

Music

I'm a Believer and Other Hits
WEM387525C

This is not a Music review.

I was thrilled to finally check out the newest CD from electronic music legend Thomas Dolby, A Map of the Floating City, but not because I wanted to hear his new music. The reason was the album cover because it was designed by local artist and award-winning comic creator, Paul Sizer. Dolby could not have selected a better designer than Sizer to create a cover that conveyed his feeling of a “dystopian vision of the 1940s that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently.” Sizer has a strong history of crafting books like Little White Mouse and Moped Army, with bleak futures that contain strong characters not only struggling for survival, but also fighting for what is right. His “steampunk” style of art works extremely well with Dolby’s theme for the CD. It will remind you classic pulp fiction that Sizer has expertly updated for today’s fan. Paul can now add awesome album cover designer to his resume. I will now go listen to the CD.

Book

A Map of the Floating City
a-map-of-the-floating-city-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=a+map+of+the+floating+city+AND+thomas+dolby{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR 

Outlaw Country’s First Hippy-Cowboy

There’s a lot to dislike about the 1970’s including bell bottoms, a gas shortage, and poorly managed sideburns to name but a few but musically speaking, the radio has never been as varied as it was during this decade that saw the birth of punk, progressive rock, disco, Philly soul, funk, and a slew of fantastic singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Nick Drake, Harry Nilsson, Billy Joel, Carol King and Elton John. One of the least recognized legends of the Nashville music scene of the early seventies was Mickey Newbury, whose contributions to Outlaw Country is well documented on Drag City’s recently released An American Trilogy. Like Townes Van Zandt, Newbury’s fans have mostly been fellow musicians who revere his beautifully crafted songs. Those who sing his praise include Will Oldham, Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle. Known as the first “Hippy-Cowboy”, Newbury bucked the Nashville music establishment by doing things his way. He found little commercial success for his recording of the seventies but critics have long praised his touching ballads and lyrical writing. Those who have sung and recorded Mickey Newbury penned songs include Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Roy Orbison, David Allan Coe, Willie Nelson and many more.

Music

An American Trilogy
DCT548522C

Blues Time - “In Session”

For anyone interested in hearing some real quality electric blues, In Session deserves NOT to be missed! The rare studio jam between legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and his influential mentor (and just as legendary) Albert King is all-around great stuff. The playing is top-notch and the men seem to really work well off of each other’s energy and enthusiasm.

There’s definitely a reason why Albert was Stevie’s blues idol. As any fan of Albert King knows, he commands a song with a presence on guitar truly unmatched. There have been several true “Kings” of electric blues, but perhaps only one that could stand on a stage, bend a single note, and blow the whole crowd away; that is the legacy and awesomeness of Albert.

Music

In Session
UMM314238C

The Paris Sisters

The Paris Sisters were the first girl group that Phil Spector produced (1961-62) prior to his working with more well known groups like The Ronettes. This collection is a real treat for those who love Spector-produced albums and those strings-heavy, pop songs about boyfriends, heartache and falling in love for the first time. The album culls together for the first time, all of the A and B-side singles from this influential group that with the help of  the eccentric Spector and his talent for production, kick started the Wall of Sound style that became Spector’s trademark during the early 1960’s.

Music

The Paris Sisters: Complete Phil Spector Sessions
UMM675726C

A Mix, Circa 2003

Last month one of my closest friends and I met up in Chicago. She drove down from Minneapolis, bringing with her a mix cd I’d made during our first year of college. We’ve been friends since third grade and hadn’t spent much time apart before heading off for college, so going to schools approximately 1000 miles apart was an adjustment. The mix is a collection of our favorite songs from junior high and high school. After listening to the mix while driving around Chicago, I wish I’d included some of our favorite songs from elementary school, which probably would’ve been mostly Boyz II Men and show tunes. We were pretty big fans of Bette Midler.

Here is a selection of songs from that mix:

April Fools” – Rufus Wainwright

Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” – Broken Social Scene

Stay Where You Are” – Sleater-Kinney

2:45AM” – Elliott Smith

Electioneering” – Radiohead

Midnight A Go-Go” – Beat Happening

Never is a Promise” – Fiona Apple

Teen Age Riot” – Sonic Youth

Legal Man” – Belle and Sebastian

Finale” – Bikini Kill

Music

Elliott Smith Either Or
REY026925C


A Good Place to Start is with Beginners

I just love the sedate, retro vibe of the soundtrack to the oddball film Beginners; the Mike Mills directed roman a clef about his relationship with his widowed father. Old blues and jazz from the 1920’s (Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Hoagy Carmichael, and Josephine Baker) are prominently featured as well as a French horn driven suite by J.S. Bach. Interfiled between the throwback gems are several touching, original scores by Dave Palmer and Roger Niell. The back and forth tone of the film, from light hearted to melancholic, are sensibly reflected in this quirky collection. Oh, and by the way, check out the movie. It appears on our Best of 2011 list.

Movie

Beginners [sound recording] : the original motion picture soundtrack
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Old Ideas

Fans of Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen are anxiously awaiting the release of Leonard’s new release, Old Ideas, his 12th studio album and his first since 2004. With a career that spans more than four decades and fresh from almost three years of relentless touring, Cohen (now 77) presents a new body of work that is as introspective and intensely sweet as anything he’s done to date. Somewhat reminiscent of recordings by the late John Campbell, the album’s dark bluesy feel and Cohen’s deep-throated growl puts this release in a class with recent works by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan—dark, sure, but reassuringly soothing and warm.

Old Ideas is scheduled for release on January 31st, so reserve your copy now. Can’t wait to hear it? NPR lets you listen to Old Ideas in its entirety right now! Go give it a listen. Sometimes, Old Ideas are some of the best ideas.

Music

Old Ideas
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Fruit Bats(2)

My first exposure to the music of the Fruit Bats was from watching the movie Our Idiot Brother. Lead singer Eric D. Johnson’s fresh rendition of the hammy Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree led me to their record Tripper. Textured folk rock melded to catchy, Beatlesesque melodies (see: The Shins) is what the Bats bring to the table. There’s nothing particularly pioneering about Tripper, nothing that will blow your mind, but sometimes you’re not always going to be in the mood for creative complexity and artistic innovation. Sometimes you just want a catchy jam to get stuck in your head. For other groups who aren’t necessarily re-inventing the musical wheel but who continue to make smart, appealing records worthy of your I-Pod, see: The War on Drugs, Real Estate, Dr. Dog, Vetiver, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Here's one of the best tracks from Tripper and a stylistic nod to 1980's videos.

Music

Tripper
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