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Staff Picks: Music

Four Favorite Releases of 2016 (so far)

The year is almost a third over and the music has been phenomenal! As we enter the warm summer months here are four great CDs that can be played at maximum volume while enjoying the sun.

Welcome the Worms by Bleached – One part Go-Go’s, one part punk and one part pure fun this LA based trio’s sophomore release is already in my Top 10 of 2016. The lead track, “Keep On Keepin’ On” is a short punchy tune that forces your hand for the volume control. If you are a fan of the West Coast punk sound, then you will love Bleached.

You Know Who You Are by Nada Surf – Can we finally stop calling this band a “one-hit wonder”? The eighth studio release from the New York based Nada Surf is pure power pop perfection. Not many bands can produce such smart and sonically superior tracks like ‘Cold to See Clear” or “Gold Sounds.” It is time for you to skip their “Popular” song check out the new album.

99 Cents by Santigold – Santigold is another great artist making innovative music without getting enough credit. Her newest release is an amazing blend of hip-hop, dance and Caribbean influences. The track “Can’t Get Enough of Myself (feat. B.C.)” is the best kind of earworm. It nestles into your entire body and elicits lots of body movement.

We Can Do Anything by Violent Femmes – The acoustic punk stylings of one of the most beloved bands of the 1980’s are back in full force. The Femmes must have heard my musical wishes because they crafted an album that is both a nod to their past and filled with some reaches into the future. The standout tracks are “Memory” and “Issues.” This record makes me so happy.

Song of the Day--I'm In Love (yes I am)

The world needs more Billy Stewart in it so...


Phife Dog- 1970-2016

Legendary MC Phife Dog from the seminal late 1980's hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest passed away today. He and his fellow rap partner Q-Tip were the group's primary members. Some of their hits included Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It and We Got (Jazz) Bugg'n Out. The New York Times has his obiturary and video of Can I Kick It here.

Gen X Hip Hop Classics

As a proud member of Generation X, I generally have warm and fuzzy feelings about the music of my teenage and college-era years. In the late 1980’s, hip hop was just starting to hit its evolutionary stride with a broadening audience that was hip (pun intended) to its growing cultural impact. In short, it was becoming “mainstream” and reaching the inquisitive ears of kids through television shows like Yo MTV Raps and BET. If you are looking to revisit or discover anew some of the records that shaped the genre’s growth from little known NYC musical subculture to pop culture supremacy, head over to Hoopla and stream classic albums from artists like Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, The Jungle Brothers, LL Cool J., MC Lyte, Too Short, Eric B. and Rakim, and The Beastie Boys.


Freegal Artist Spotlight--Earth, Wind & Fire

A few weeks ago, the music world lost one of the legends of R&B in Maurice White. White was a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, a 1970's group that was as comfortable in crafting heartfelt ballads as they were in funking up the dance floor with their smooth, falsetto-driven jams. Today's artists owe a tremendous debt to the standard that EWF set. Login into your Freegal account and stream or download individual songs from albums like:

The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire

That's the Way of the World

The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Volume 1

And many more of their classic albums   

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



Albums of the Year--Rolling Stone Magazine

Rolling Stone Magazine's newest issue is their end of year review of the top rock, pop and r&b albums of the year. What was hot in 2015? Well, here you go...

  1. Kendrick Lamar--To Pimp a Butterfly
  2. Adele--25
  3. Drake--If You're Reading This It's Too Late
  4. D'Angelo and the Vanguard--Black Messiah
  5. The Weekend--Beauty Behind the Madness
  6. Courtney Barnett--Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  7. Jason Isbell--Something More Than Free
  8. Various Artists--Hamilton: Original Broadway Case Recording
  9. The Arcs--Yours, Dreamily
  10. Blur--The Magic Whip
  11. Sleater-Kinney--No Cities to Love
  12. Lana Del Rey--Honeymoon
  13. Tame Impala--Currents
  14. Wilco--Star Wars
  15. Father John Misty--I Love You, Honeybear

My Top Five of 2015

It’s the end of the year so it’s time again to list my personal top five albums of the year. Compared to last year, 2015 was very strong filled with some amazing female performers, a soulful duo, smart lyrics and a poppy Australian band.

5. Tuxedo by Tuxedo – This super soul duo of Michigan’s own Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One produced my favorite funk/soul album of the year. Listening to this one reminded me of roller-skating on a hot summer night in the 1980’s. 

4. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett – I always approach any artist labeled “the next Dylan” with much trepidation. I am so happy I set my fears aside with this Australian-born singer-songwriter debut record. Barnett’s smart and poetic lyrics shine brightly against a straight up rock sound. 

3. Glitterbug by The Wombats – Released in the spring, this album has consistently stayed with me all year. I will crank up the volume when I hear the band’s distinct poppy electric beats. The best tracks, “Your Body Is A Weapon,” “Greek Tragedy’” and “This Is Not A Party,” are sweet treats that I have been indulging on all year.

2. Poison Season by Destroyer – Dan Bejar of Destroyer has released his masterpiece! In Poison Season, Bejar has taken some of the best aspects of his previous work and used them to craft a record that evokes both British pop, street rock and jazz. The entire record needs to be listened to in one sitting to be to appreciate the majesty of it all. 

1. No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney – This will be the third time I blog about this album in 2015, so how could it not be my choice for the absolute best of the year? Every track is enjoyable. I would not be surprised if it ended up on my All-Time Favorites list someday. 

Please check out the other eight album releases from 2015 that I considered most excellent!

A Contender for Best Album of the Year

Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly is likely to end up on many critics' best-of lists. Since the album’s release, it has been universally praised for its genre-expanding results and deconstructionist approach, mashing together a wild mixture of R&B-tinged hip hop, Beat poetry, and social protest. It can sound a little busy in parts but when it comes together as in the hit song King Kunta, Lamar has tossed the envelop aside, giving listeners something original rather than simply pushing it forward.

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.