Staff Picks: Music
Washed Out's last album Within and Without was a breezy collection of melodic and tuneful songs bathed in a heavy coat of synthesizers, subtle jabs of electronica and the ocassional sample. Their newest record doesn't deviate much from that template so if you enjoy music that is unpreteniously simple in form, that is beautifully overgrown, whisper-soft and sensual, and that sounds like "daytime psychedelia", this is your band and album.
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
If you’re a fan of early 70’s Soul music, you’ll want to get your hands on a couple of albums recently added to our R&B category. Having grown up a kid in the 1970’s, I definitely have a sweet spot for the beautifully crafted songs of groups and solo artists like The Manhattans, Marvin Gaye, The Delfonics, The Chi-Lites, Jackson 5, and The Spinners to name only a few. Check out the following:
The Manhattans, Sweet Talking Soul: 1965-1990
Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia
The Delfonics, Adrian Presents the Delfonics
The Delfonics, La-la Means I Love You
The Chi-Lites, The Ultimate Chi-Lites
Sweet Talking Soul, 1965-1990
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.
I have a new favorite little song ditty. The original is called Call Me Maybe and is recorded by a Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen. I have never heard of this singer, my daughter told me about her. The song I heard and really really liked and have played several times is a spoof of this song. Toledo Lucas County Public Library did a spoof music rendition of this song and posted it on YouTube. They called it Read it Maybe and it is posted by JL Jones. In this rendition The Toledo Lucas County Public Library wants you to try a book and read it (maybe). They let you know the staff can suggest a book, and that if you have a hard time getting to the library physically that they have e-books. They show a print copy of a book and then the Nook version. They use a ton of children in the video. I found it a refreshing and a pleasing way to hear about what they have to offer. It applies to all libraries so give it a listen and then try Kalamazoo Public Library.
BTW one way I think we are better than Toledo Lucas is that they say scan the barcode and we have RFID so all you have to do is wave the book over the pad, you don’t have to try and line up the red line with the barcode. If you are checking out tens of books, and we encourage you to do so, our investment in RFID will save you time on check out and on returns. If you return a book to the central library you could slide it through our computerized book drop and it will automatically and instantaneously check in your book by reading the RFID tag as it slides down the chute. But Toledo Lucas Library has an aquarium and that is cool too.
Read It Maybe
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