Thanksgiving Playlist, that’s what’s cookin’!

November 15, 2012

Here are some tunes to listen to while you prepare your Thanksgiving feast!

Cornbread and Butterbeans/ Carolina Chocolate Drops

Genuine Negro Jig is perfectly recorded, balanced between the best sound this century can deliver and the rustic, throwback feel of an old-time string band in action at a picnic, dance or rent party in the ’30s. That’s the accomplishment here. The next step, if the Carolina Chocolate Drops are willing to go there, is to stretch things from being a great facsimile to being a natural extension of an ongoing tradition. That’s when revival changes into evolution.-allmusic.com

Roll Plymouth Rock/ Beach Boys

Quibbles aside, everything about this package is richly detailed, immensely pleasing, and overall a wonderful experience. All of the CD editions include copious bonus tracks, such as nine minutes of a cappella vocals (“SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage”), whose beauty and fragility will help listeners realize that the Beach Boys obsessed just as much over their vocalizing as their music. Deluxe editions add essays from several angles, reminiscences from those who were there, and original artwork and photos from the period. True, no one will ever know what effect a SMiLE release in spring 1967 would have had on music or pop culture, and with the music so circular and the lyrics so obtuse, it’s likely that SMiLE would have become merely a curio of psychedelic excess rather than a work that transformed culture. But regardless, it shows Brian Wilson’s mastery of pure studio sonics and his ability to not only create distinctive pop music, but give it great beauty as well. Those qualities have inspired musicians for decades, and it’s clear they will continue to do so.-allmusic.com

Home/ Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

“Hot and heavy pumpkin pie… Ain’t nothing please me more you,” Edward and his Magnetic Zeros profess. This song has all the charm in the world, and sounds like something the settlers would have sung while caravanning along the Oregon Trail. Formed in 2007 by Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert, the mammoth 11-piece outfit embraces “the Summer of Love” with enough period beards, fonts, and Eastern mysticism to launch a thousand “Magical Mystery Tours,” but despite all of the analog equipment and peacenik grandstanding, standout tracks like “Home,” “Desert Song,” and the aforementioned “40 Day Dream” sweep you up in their grandeur like a patchouli tornado and dare you to take your clothes off and jump in the lake with them.-allmusic.com

Thankful/ Caveman

What do an indie rock quartet and a professional wrestler have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a groaner, but rather a genuine inquiry about what inspired Brooklyn band Caveman to reference WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware with the title of their full-length debut, Coco Beware. No immediate connections emerge upon listening, but the moods and textures of the record prove every bit as colorful as the pugilist namesake’s costumes and novelty parrot. Combining the sparkling majesty of later-era Animal Collective and the lush experimentation of TV on the Radio with the warm yearning of the Shins, Caveman cover an ambitious territory in the album’s ten-track, 36-minute run, balancing potentially conflicting elements like four-part harmonies, tribal drums, trickling keyboard, hazy guitars, and a lyrical focus on friendship and growth. Summer fades into fall with the moody, Talking Heads-meets mantra mashup “Thankful,” enveloping the mysterious refrain “Thankful all my friends with remorse” in shimmering guitar and propulsive conga drumming.-allmusic.com

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving/ Vince Guaraldi

Combining the whimsical yet elegant compositions of Vince Guaraldi and the mellow, restrained playing of George Winston, Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi is a mostly happy marriage of the composer’s and performer’s styles. On much of the album, Winston tends to tone down the breeziness of Guaraldi’s performances, opting for a gentler, reflective approach that sparkles on “Skating” and “Young Man’s Fancy,” but tends to make “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Treat Street” sound a bit washed out. However, sprightly renditions of “The Masked Marvel,” “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown,” “Peppermint Patty,” and “Eight Five Five” more than make up for the occasional lag and spotlight Winston’s virtuoso piano playing. Though it’s not necessarily intended as a best-of Vince Guaraldi collection, Linus & Lucy could certainly be used as one; however, it’s Winston’s distinctive style that makes it one of the best solo piano new age albums of the ’90s.-allmusic.com

Making Pies/ Patty Griffin

While 1,000 Kisses finds Griffin blending covers in with her own compositions for the first time, she proves to be a first-rate interpretive singer (her version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car” actually improves on “the Boss”‘ original), and her own songs are splendid, especially the moving widow’s lament “Making Pies” and the moody lead-off track “Rain.” And regardless of who wrote the material, Griffin’s voice — a tower of strength capable of expressing remarkable emotional vulnerability — remains a wonder to behold. 1,000 Kisses finds Patty Griffin at the top of her game, and one can only hope we don’t have to wait four years for the follow-up.-allmusic.com

Thanksgiving filter/ Drive-By Truckers

The Drive-By Truckers are a band that likes to do things the old-fashioned way. They proudly proclaim that they record their music “on glorious two-inch analog tape,” they still think in terms of albums with two (or four) sides, and their sound is firmly rooted in the traditions of Southern rock and the blues. They also hark back to a time when rock bands made an album every year followed by a tour, and if the DBTs haven’t quite held firm to that schedule, since they broke through with Southern Rock Opera in 2001, they’ve managed to release six studio albums, a live CD/DVD, another DVD-only live set, and a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, all while keeping up a demanding touring schedule. Any band that busy is likely to believe it deserves a rest every once in a while, and in a sense, 2011’s Go-Go Boots feels a little bit like a working vacation.-allmusic.com

Thankful/ Josh Groban

Vocalist Josh Groban delivers his first Christmas themed album with 2007’s Noel.  Once again produced by longtime “man behind the curtain” David Foster, the album features more of Groban’s  dewy, supple vocals set to Foster’s cinematic orchestrations. As per the holiday theme, these are primarily classic tunes of the season including such chestnuts as “Silent Night,” “Ave Maria,” and, of course, “The Christmas Song.” However, also included are a few lesser-known traditional songs as “Panis Angelicus” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Similarly, while most of the productions here should appeal to longtime fans of Groban’s particular classical-crossover sound, some cuts like soft rock inflected “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and the Celtic folk leaning “Little Drummer Boy” do expand upon the Groban/Foster palette in a pleasing way. Notably, also showcased here are guest appearances by country superstar Faith Hill, R&B stalwart Brian McKnight, and perennial holiday backing band the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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Cry it Out…Or Don’t: Break-Up Songs to Get Down To

October 22, 2012

Break-Up song playlist from WBER DJ Kelsey…

Breakin’ Up/ Rilo Kiley

If More Adventurous gave the group’s game plan away in its title, so does Under the Blacklight, for if this album is anything, it’s a sleazy crawl through L.A. nightlife, teaming with sex and tattered dreams, all illuminated by a dingy black light. So, it’s a conceptual album — which ain’t the same thing as a concept album, since there is no story here to tie it together — and to signify the sex Jenny Lewis sings about incessantly on this record, Rilo Kiley have decided to ditch most of their indie pretensions and hazy country leanings in favor of layers of ironic new wave disco and spacy flourishes pulled straight out of mid-’80s college rock.-allmusic.com

Foundations/ Kate Nash

On a first listen to Kate Nash’s debut Made of Bricks, it’s easy to hear the similarities to her contemporaries  (Lily Allen, the Streets, Amy Winehouse) and influences (Björk, Robbie Williams). Her most popular songs are both intimate and confrontational, using brief portraits and slang-conversational vocals to illustrate the larger issues going on — the dinner party that exposes a crumbling relationship on “Foundations” or the futility of using “Mouthwash” as a defense against feelings of low self-worth. The music is explosive and sample-driven, but with plenty of ties to contemporary pop, such as the frequent piano runs and occasional chamber brass or woodwinds. Spend time with this album, however, and Nash is revealed as much more than the sum of her parts. She’s an excellent songwriter who illustrates her tales of romantic woe and inadequacies with grace and many subtleties.-allmusic.com

Walk on Me/ Ben Kweller

Enthusiasm is what singer/songwriter Ben Kweller brings to his work. Ramones-like perennial goofy-teenager attitude and lack of antipathy are his golden attributes, and the combination of his keen songwriting sense makes Kweller a pop powerhouse. Following his self-released demo, Freak Out It’s Ben Kweller, and the following EP, Kweller spreads out with more pop songs and sounds on this full-length studio album. Underscoring the songwriting skill he’s been working at since age eight, he plays acoustic, folk-rock, alternative, power pop, and straight-ahead rock of the course of 11 songs. His lyrics are consistently heart-sung, but they aren’t lite — he’s got weight and bite, too. “Walk on Me” and “How It Should Be (Sha Sha),” though power pop through and through, are pure Kweller — bright, witty, fun, sweet diaries of hard-to-grapple-with feelings translated into two-to-three-minute bursts of self-empowered joy.- allmusic.com

Soft Shock/ Yeah Yeahs Yeahs

The album’s first three songs are a blitz of bliss, especially “Zero,” which kicks things off with blatantly fake beats, revved-up synth arpeggios, and O’s command to “get your leather on.” Radiating joy and confidence, she and the rest of the band couldn’t be further from Show Your Bones’ introspection as the song climbs to ecstatic heights. “Heads Will Roll” shows just how ably the Yeah Yeah Yeahs blend their rock firepower with dance surroundings, as Zinner’s prickly guitars get equal time with spooky synth strings and O makes “you are chrome” sound like the coolest compliment ever. Meanwhile, “Soft Shock”‘s dreamy, almost naïve-sounding electronics make O’s vocals — which are much less affected than ever before — feel even more natural and vulnerable. Elsewhere, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and producers David Sitek and Nick Launay find other ways to shake things up, from the disco kiss chase of “Dragon Queen,” which features Sitek’s fellow TV on the Radio member Tunde Adebimpe on backing vocals, to “Shame and Fortune,” which pares down the band’s tough, sexy rock to its most vital essence and provides Chase and  Zinner with a showcase not found anywhere else on the album.- allmusic.com

My man is a mean man/ Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Following up her excellent 2002 debut, Sharon Jones stays true to the formula she laid down on her early releases and Dap Dippin’ by presenting another session of full-force funk that pays homage to the genre’s glory years without coming off as contrived. The deep funk revival continues with Jones belting out commanding vocal performances that are uncompromisingly forceful yet full of rich, soulful emotion. It’s a session worthy of being found in any beat-miner’s record collection and any funk enthusiast’s basket of obscurities and rarities. Her cover of “This Land Is Your Land” is equally as impressive, as she somehow takes the song from being an American folk standard and turns it into a full-on sonic explosion. Fans of her earlier work will no doubt find great joy in this follow-up, and those seeking Jones out for the first time certainly will not be disappointed in what they find.-allmusic.com

That’s It, I quit, I’m movin’ on/ Sam Cooke

This set is near essential to fans of Sam Cooke, despite the fact that it contains none of his gospel recordings for Specialty Records or any of the work from the final year of his career (owned by ABKCO Records). Scattered every few minutes across this four-disc collection are reminders of just how far ahead of all existing musical forms Cooke was, creating sounds that stretched the definitions of song genres as they were understood and created completely new categories. Indeed, he was so successful that it’s easy to underestimate the impact and importance of many of his early triumphs. “You Send Me,” which opens this set, may seem today like the safest, tamest pop music, but in 1957 it was a genre-bending single, a new kind of R&B/pop music hybrid and one that quietly shook the foundations of the music business when it hit number one.-allmusic.com

There’s no home for you here/ The White Stripes

Chip-on-the-shoulder anthems like the breathtaking opener, “Seven Nation Army,” which is driven by Meg White’s explosively minimal drumming, and “The Hardest Button to Button,” in which Jack White snarls “Now we’re a family!” — one of the best oblique threats since Black Francis sneered “It’s educational!” all those years ago — deliver some of the fiercest blues-punk of the White Stripes’ career. “There’s No Home for You Here” sets a girl’s walking papers to a melody reminiscent of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” (though the result is more sequel than rehash), driving the point home with a wall of layered, Queen-ly harmonies and piercing guitars, while the inspired version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” goes from plaintive to angry in just over a minute, though the charging guitars at the end sound perversely triumphant. At its bruised heart, Elephant portrays love as a power struggle, with chivalry and innocence usually losing out to the power of seduction.-allmusic.com

In the way/ Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco has earned her rep as the most independent of artists. She records for her own label, and as a result says and does pretty much as she pleases. Di Franco has also shown a willingness to experiment, mixing genres and styles, and Evolve is clearly an important link in her continued evolution. Piano, horns, and guitar mix and merge on “Promised Land,” offering a bluesy blend of progressive folk, while a heavy backbeat informs the funky “In My Way.” The arrangements are much busier than the “girl with an acoustic guitar” sound of her earliest efforts, but they’re never crowded. In fact, DiFranco’s such a dynamic singer, at turns soulful and, when angry, in the listener’s face, that the heavier arrangements serve her well. The arrangements and solid production, however, aren’t enough to save the material. As with 2001’s Revelling: Reckoning, Evolve lacks consistency and finally seems meandering. “Icarus”‘ foreboding melody line drags at a dawdling pace, stopping and starting again, and finally, going nowhere. The worst excess is “Serpentine.” It takes three minutes for the vocal to start, and seven more for Di Franco to catalog everything that isn’t right in the Promised Land. -allmusic.com

Excuse Me, I Think I’ve Got a Heartache/ Cake

There are virtually no liner notes nor any indication of what year the songs were recorded, or in the case of the B-sides, what the A-side was, which is an unforgivable omission for a historical overview of this type. Everything screams quickie, from the haphazard track sequencing, to the lack of information in the pamphlet and the lackluster graphics. If this is indeed made for die-hard Cake fans, and who else would even pick it up? It’s a shoddy, short set that doesn’t show respect for the group’s dedicated followers, of whom there are many. A full ten minutes of the album’s already meager running time is dedicated to two versions of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” with the opening one a studio recording, and the unlisted final cut a live performance. While both are interesting angles on a song that appears to be outside even Cake’s eclectic scope, they are similar enough that the repetition only pads the disc’s slim contents. -allmusic.com

Winter Winds/ Mumford & Sons

English folk outfit Mumford & Sons’ full-length debut owes more than a cursory nod to bands like the Waterboys, the Pogues, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. The group’s heady blend of biblical imagery, pastoral introspection, and raucous, pub-soaked heartache may be earnest to a fault, but when the wildly imperfect Sigh No More is firing on all cylinders, as is the case with stand-out cuts like “The Cave,” “Winter Winds,” and “Little Lion Man,” it’s hard not to get swept up in the rapture. Like their London underground folk scene contemporaries Noah & the Whale, Johnny Flynn, and Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons’ take on British folk is far from traditional. There’s a deep vein of 21st century Americana that runs through the album, suggesting a healthy diet of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Blitzen Trapper and Marah.-allmusic.com

Breakin’ the chains of love/ Fitz & the Tantrums

Pickin’ Up the Pieces finds this L.A.-based sextet breaking out big time within the soul revival underground, though for a band that plays heavily on their D.I.Y. cred — as their press materials frequently note, this album was primarily recorded in lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick’s  living room — these songs find them playing to the polished and poppier end of the R&B spectrum. Principle songwriter Fitzpatrick and Tantrums’ arranger James King (who also plays sax) lean to the more refined sounds of classic-era Motown. This is soul from the upscale night spot rather than the juke joint, but it’s a club that’s well worth the cover charge; Fitzpatrick is a significantly better than the average blue-eyed soul crooner, his vocal partner Noelle Scaggs is good enough that one wishes she got more space in the spotlight, and under King’s direction, the band cuts an impressive groove without cluttering up the arrangements or depending too strongly on their influences to convincingly conjure the sound of the classic era of soul.-allmusic.com

The Bad in each other/ Feist

With Metals, Feist responds to the surprise success of 2007’s  The Reminder with a whisper, not a bang. She treads lightly through a series of disjointed torch songs and smoky pop/rock numbers, singing most of the songs in a soft, gauzy alto, as though she’s afraid of waking some sort of slumbering beast. Whenever the tempo picks up, so does Feist’s desire to keep things weird, with songs like “A Commotion” pitting pizzicato strings against a half-chanted, half-shouted refrain performed by an army of male singers. But Metals does its best work at a slower speed, where Feist can stretch her vocals across fingerplucked guitar arpeggios and piano chords like cotton. “Cicadas and Gulls,” with its simple melodies and pastoral ambience, rides the same summer breeze as Iron & Wine, and “Anti-Pioneer” breaks down the blues into its sparsest parts, retaining little more than a sparse drumbeat and guitar until the second half, where strings briefly swoon into the picture like an Ennio Morricone movie soundtrack.-allmusic.com

Tymps (the sick in the head song)/ Fiona Apple

Extraordinary Machine sounds like a brighter, streamlined version of When the Pawn, lacking the idiosyncratic arrangement and instrumentation of that record, yet retaining the artiness of the songs themselves. Like her second record, this album is not immediate; it takes time for the songs to sink in, to let the melodies unfold, and decode her laborious words (she still has the unfortunate tendency to overwrite: “A voice once stentorian is now again/Meek and muffled”). Unlike theBrion-produced sessions, peeling away the layers on Extraordinary Machine is not hard work, since it not only has a welcoming veneer, but there are plenty of things that capture the imagination upon first listen — the pulsating piano on “Get Him Back,” the moodiness of “O’ Sailor,” the coiled bluesy “Better Version of Me,” the quiet intensity of the breakup saga “Window,” the insistent chorus on “Please Please Please” — which gives listeners a reason to return and invest time in the album. -allmusic.com

The Right Type/ Chromeo

Business Casual has the typically synth-suave electro-funk jams, like “Hot Mess” and “Night by Night,” featuring Gemayel’s talkbox mastery over strobe-lit four-on-the-floor beats that are right in step with “Tenderoni” and “Needy Girl.” As the album progresses, though, Macklovitch and Gemayel dig deeper into crates for cheesy inspiration, and you can hear glimmers of Rockwell, Lionel Richie, Oran Juice, and even The Kids from Fame TV series. “The Right Type” seems custom-made for a montage, and the snappy “Grow Up” could be the theme from a sitcom. Elsewhere, Solange Knowles does her best Whitney/ Mariah impression for “When the Night Falls,” and “J’ai Claqué la Porte,” with its Casio fills and fingerpicked acoustic, is sung entirely in French and features Dave One at his most smirkingly romantic. [The Deluxe Edition of  Business Casual features several remixes of “Night by Night” and “Don’t Turn the Lights On.”-allmusic.com


Library Patron Playlist Request 10.02.12

October 6, 2012

Hi Colleen,

Thank you for requesting a personalized playlist! Based on your musical preferences, here is a selection of titles you might enjoy. All of the albums listed are available for checkout from the library’s collection.

I and love and you/ Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers have expanded their reach since 2000, adding elements of pop and hillbilly country-rock to a bluegrass foundation, and they carry on that tradition with I and Love and You, whose songs introduce a new emphasis on piano and nuanced arrangements. Working with a major label’s budget allows the group to add small flourishes — a cello line here, a keyboard crescendo there — but the resulting music is hardly grand, focusing on textures rather than volume. Scott and Seth Avett share vocals throughout the album, delivering their lyrics in a speak-sing cadence that, at its best, sounds both tuneful and conversational. Given the opportunities presented here — the ability to add strings, organs, and harmonium to the mix — the two devote more time to slower songs, which display those sonic details better. The result is an intimate, poignant album, laced with rich production that often takes as much spotlight as the songwriting itself.- allmusic.com

Vaporize/ Broken Bells

James Mercer and Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) want their project Broken Bells to be seen, and heard, as an honest-to-goodness band, not a side-project dalliance. It’s a little tricky to do that when first listening to their self-titled debut album, since they’re such well-known and distinctive talents: Mercer crafted singularly bittersweet indie pop with the Shins, while Burton brought the Beatles and Jay-Z together on The Grey Album and went on to shape sounds for equally omnivorous artists like Beck and Gorillaz. Mercer’s songwriting skills and Danger Mouse’s production mastery sound like a potent combo, and they are, when the pair balances its ambitions and respective strengths. They work hard — maybe too hard — at avoiding their previous sounds. Mercer’s vocals and melodies will almost certainly evoke the Shins to some degree or another, but he and Burton steer clear of the bright pop that countered that band’s gloomier moments in favor of winding melodies and mellow atmospheres.-allmusic.com

Fixin’ to die/ G. Love

Fixin’ to Die isn’t the first G. Love album billed without Special Sauce, but this one really stands apart from the rest of his discography.  With lots of high lonesome backing vocals and prominent banjo, this actually feels like a country album most of the time. It’s almost entirely acoustic, too. We don’t even hear an electric guitar until track eight, where Luther Dickenson offers up some tasty George Harrison-esque slide. It’s this track and “Walk On” that most resemble Special Sauce, and they almost feel out of place here. Most of the album is far more intimate and introspective, and it’s easy to see that most of these tunes wouldn’t fit into the standard party/feel-good ethos of most Special Sauce tunes, but the production and playing of the Avett Bothers really make it work. After 15 years or so, it’s pretty interesting to hear G. Love in such a different context.-allmusic.com

There’s no secrets this year/ Silversun Pickups

Silversun Pickups had a bit of a breakthrough with 2009’s Swoon. Moody and fuzzed-out singles like “Substitution” and “Panic Switch” drew new listeners to the band’s particular brand of melodic and rhythmically infectious guitar-based rock. They even garnered a Best New Artist nod at the Grammy Awards despite having already developed a cult following after debuting with their 2005 EP, Pikul. -allmusic.com

Both Hands/ Ani DiFranco

Canon is a document to be sure, a “best of,” but it’s also a testament to something else: that through the biz and media trends, from riot grrrl to the rise of the ’90s and 2000s troops of female singer/songwriters who come and go, DiFranco is always here, has been present, and has not paying attention to the machinations of such things. She’s on a path, and the music here offers that it’s a wildly divergent one sometimes, but it is unquestionably hers, and she doesn’t let go of anything she collects — until she’s ready to, that is, and even then you can see the traces of her own scratch marks all over that thing: fascination, Eros, agape, heartbreak, betrayal, love, violence, celebration, and anger both righteous and petty (she discovers these things herself, it’s not a critical judgment). Or maybe, she simply weaves them all into her own quilt, thread by thread, to be identified and grabbed when needed most. Her street smarts remain intact after nearly two decades of being in the public eye and she has created a place for herself without owing a debt to anyone. Forget the stories and interviews: it’s all in the music on Canon.-allmusic.com

Autorock/ Mogwai

Possibly the most accessible yet sophisticated album Mogwai has released, Mr. Beast strips away most of the electronic embellishment of their recent work in favor of a back-to-basics sound that returns to and expands on the approach they pioneered on Young Team. Mr. Beast is also a surprisingly spontaneous-sounding album — in the best possible sense, its freshness makes it feel like a recorded practice session and also helps give relatively delicate pieces like “Team Handed” the same amount of impact that heavy, searing tracks like the closer, “We’re No Here,” have. Interestingly, more of Mr. Beast tends toward the former kind of song than the latter; “Friend of the Night,” “Emergency Trap,” and the glorious, slow-burning album opener, “Auto-Rock,” give the album an unusually refined, even elegant feel that is underscored by the prominent use of piano and lap steel in the arrangements. -allmusic.com

This tornado love you/ Neko Case

There are few voices as haunting as Case’s alto, and she flaunts her vocal chops over a number of semi-ballads, from the cinematic “Prison Girls” (a country-noir love letter to someone with “long shadows and gunpowder eyes”) to the sparse title track. She does a surprise duet with chirping birds during “Polar Nettles” — a result of the pastoral recording sessions, which took place in a barn — before tackling a cover of Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth,” whose title very well may be the album’s mission statement. There’s still room to tackle love from the perspective of different characters — a man in “Vengeance Is Sleeping,” a disbeliever in “The Next Time You Say Forever,” a smitten wind vortex in “This Tornado Loves You” — but nature remains at the forefront of Middle Cyclone, whose 14 songs conclude with a half-hour field recording of noisy crickets and frogs. Moody and engaging throughout, Cyclone is another tour de force from Neko case.-allmusic.com

Postcard from 1952/ Explosions in the sky

Like their home state of Texas, Explosions in the Sky are all about wide-open spaces, preferring to leave the landscape as it is rather than trying to fill every last bit of empty space just for the sake of doing so. It’s this aesthetic that sets the band apart from the busier bands in post-rock and, really, rock in general. More so than some of their earlier albums, Take care, take care, take care can’t be skimmed or rushed, but instead requires the listener to let it unfold on its own terms, giving it time to flower and bloom when it’s ready. While this may not make it the most immediately exciting album of Explosions in the Sky’s career, it easily stands to be one of their most rewarding.-allmusic.com

Ain’t no rest for the wicked/ Cage the Elephant

The more things change in rock, the more they inevitably stay the same — and in the case of Cage the Elephant, that’s a good thing. Actually, it’s a very good thing. Cage the Elephant didn’t exist until 2005, but as this self-titled album demonstrates, their ability to be influenced by alternative rock and classic rock simultaneously is a definite plus. Drawing on influences from different eras, this Kentucky-based band has an appealing sound that combines a strong appreciation of the Rolling Stones with elements of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, hip-hop, and punk. This isn’t full-fledged R&B, but it is certainly funky by rock standards — and that funkiness serves Cage the Elephant well on bluesy, gritty, infectious offerings like “Free Love,” “Back Stabbin’ Betty,” and the single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.”- allmusic.com

Gold Guns Girls/ Metric

Metric’s third full-length album, Fantasies, is a glossy, slick, and so-clean-you-could-eat-off-it slice of modern rock that may scare off some of the band’s early fans due to the unrepentant commercial nature of the album. Anyone who isn’t repelled by the band’s professionalism and ambition to sound perfect will find it to be quite enjoyable. That Metric title a song “Stadium Love” gives you a clue to the ambition of the band. There’s nothing small or careful about Fantasies — it’s a full-on bid for pop glory and it’s a smashing success.- allmusic.com


New Music Playlist

July 25, 2012

Lots of great new recorded music available in the Arts Division this summer! Here’s a sampling:

Sixteen Saltines/Jack White

Jack White leaves such an indelible stamp on any project he touches that a solo album from him almost seems unnecessary: nobody has ever told him what to do. He’s a rock & roll auteur, bending other artists to fit his will, leading bands even when he’s purportedly no more than a drummer, always enjoying dictating the fashion by placing restrictions on himself. And so it is on Blunderbuss, his first official solo album, arriving five years after the White Stripes’ last but seeming much sooner given White’s constant flurry of activity with the Raconteurs, Dead Weather, Third Man Records, and countless productions. -All Music Guide

Bloody Mary (nerve endings)/ Silversun Pickups

Building upon Silversun Pickup’s Swoon’s layered melodicism and once again showcasing lead singer/songwriter Brian Aubert’s  knack for evocative, introspective lyrics and fiery, multi-dubbed guitar parts, Neck of the Woods is an even more infectious and nuanced affair. In that sense, not much has really changed for the band since 2009.  Slow-burning lead single “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings),” with its atmospheric soundscape backdrop via keyboardist Joe Lester, and the driving, grungy “Mean Spirits” are, as with all of the cuts on Neck of the Woods, perfect pop songs that still make room for Aubert’s raging and cinematic guitar parts. – All Music Guide

No Reflection/ Marilyn Manson

The eighth-studio album from alt-rock firebrand Marilyn Manson, Born Villain is the follow-up to the band’s 2009 effort The High End of Low. Described as having a heavier sound than its predecessor, this is also purported to be a concept album of sorts, in the vein of similar works by longtime Manson influence David Bowie. As Manson parted ways with Interscope Records in 2009, he was set to release Born Villain via his own imprint Hell, as well as his new parent label, Cooking Vinyl. A promotional film in support of the album directed by actor Shia LaBeouf premiered in Los Angeles in 2011. Included on Born Villain is the lead-off single “No Reflection.” – All Music Guide

We are Young/ Glee: The Music- The Graduation

One of Glee‘s biggest (perhaps only) concessions to the realities of being a high-school student was the graduation of several cast members entering their final year at William McKinley High School at the end of the show’s third season; many shows starring teen characters put off that fateful moment when high school ends for as long as possible. As with many later albums in the Glee series, the cast’s performances are decent but somewhat bland, as are the song choices, although fun.’s “We Are Young” and the New Radicals’  “You Get What You Give” are too quirky to have all their personality removed by Glee’s gloss. – All Music Guide

Changing of the guards /The Gaslight Anthem

Designed as a celebration for Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary, Chimes of Freedom is the mother of all tribute albums: a four-disc salute to Bob Dylan that runs some 76 songs performed by singers from all corners of the globe. From the very start of his career, Dylan saw his songs covered by all manners of artists, ranging from colleagues and peers to longhair rock bands, easy listening outfits, and weirdos like William Shatner, so the absurd abundance of Chimes of Freedom in a way fits into the grand pattern of history: his songs were always up for grabs, they’ve survived terrible misguided covers, they’ve been performed with loving faith, they’ve been reinvented once and again. – All Music Guide

Do to Me/ Trombone Shorty

New Orleans’ Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews knows the music biz inside out. Hounded for years by friends and music business types to jump into the game, he understood the lessons of his lineage elders: too many had been been ripped off and discarded. He took his time, assembling, rehearsing, and touring Orleans Avenue, a band steeped in brass band history, jazz improv, funk, soul, rock, and hip hop. He finally signed to Verve Forecast and released Backatown in April of 2010. Entering at number one on the jazz charts, it stayed there for nine straight weeks, and was in the Top Ten for over six months. For True hits while Backatown is climbing again. Chock-full of cameos — in the manner of modern hip-hop recordings — it is an extension of Backatown but not necessarily in sound. – All Music Guide

High Tide or Low Tide/ Jack John feat. Ben Harper

This is the most overt display of deference onJack Johnson & Friends: The Best of Kokua Festival but it’s hardly the only moment where Johnson is clearly the Big Kahuna. Eddie Vedder stops by, along with many other rockers and guitar strummers of all stripes, and there is a sense of communal good times that’s palpable and often ingratiating, even to those who don’t quite cotton to Johnson’s notion of surf-n-sun good times. Even here, where he is quite clearly the ringleader, Johnson remains an affable but not forceful presence on record: Jackson Brown, Eddie Vedder, Willie Nelson, even Dave Matthews and Ben Harper, all easily overpower him. – All Music Guide

 

Hypno music/ Danny Elfman

The cult classic supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows has a rich musical history, including the show’s Grammy-nominated “Quentin’s Theme,” part of Robert Cobert’s groundbreaking score, which remains one of the best-selling TV soundtracks. While Tim Burton’s 2012 film adaptation of the series was much more intentionally campy, Danny Elfman’s score remains more or less true to the original’s gothic grandeur while adding his own distinctive touches. Elfman also nods to Cobert’s score with tracks such as “Hypno Music” and “Deadly Handshake,” which boasts a melody that recalls the original Dark Shadows theme song, replete with suspenseful vibraphone and murky, lingering woodwinds. – All Music Guide


Summer of Love Playlist

July 10, 2012

This month we have a “Summer of Love” book and CD display in the Arts Division and thought it would be fun to put together a playlist with the same theme…and as always, all selections are available to check out or place on hold at your Rochester and Monroe County Library. I can just smell the patchouli!

Sugar Magnolia/ Grateful Dead

A companion piece to the luminous Workingman’s Dead, American Beautyis an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead’s return to their musical roots. Sporting a more full-bodied and intricate sound than its predecessor thanks to the addition of subtle electric textures, the record is also more representative of the group as a collective unit, allowing for stunning contributions from Phil Lesh (the poignant opener, “Box of Rain”) and Bob Weir (“Sugar Magnolia”); at the top of his game as well is Jerry Garcia, who delivers the superb “Friend of the Devil,” “Candyman,” and “Ripple.” Climaxing with the perennial “Truckin’,” American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece — never again would they be so musically focused or so emotionally direct.-All Music Guide

Somebody to love/ Jefferson Airplane

The second album by Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow was a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia, and it hit — literally — like a shot heard round the world; where the later efforts from bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and especially,  the Charlatans, were initially not too much more than cult successes, Surrealistic Pillow rode the pop charts for most of 1967, soaring into that rarefied Top Five region occupied by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on, to which few American rock acts apart from the Byrds had been able to lay claim since 1964. And decades later the album still comes off as strong as any of those artists’ best work.- All Music Guide

I-Feel-like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag/ Country Joe & the Fish

Country Joe & the Fish are well represented on this 19-track compilation that traces their development from a politically-oriented folk/jug band ensemble to a politically oriented rock and soul band. Most of the material comes from 1967, the band’s high-water mark, and the centerpiece is the still-cutting “I-Feel-like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag.”- All Music Guide

Summertime/ Janis Joplin

Cheap Thrills, the major-label debut of Janis Joplin, was one of the most eagerly anticipated, and one of the most successful, albums of 1968.Joplin and her band Big Brother & the Holding Company had earned extensive press notice ever since they played the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, but for a year after that their only recorded work was a poorly produced, self-titled album that they’d done early in their history for Mainstream Records; and it took the band and the best legal minds at Columbia Records seven months to extricate them from their Mainstream contract, so that they could sign with Columbia. Heard today,Cheap Thrills is a musical time capsule and remains a showcase for one of rock’s most distinctive singers.-All Music Guide

California dreamin’/ The Mamas & The Papas

With the lengthy title of Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival,this 1971 release was recorded at the event held at Monterey, CA, between June 16-18 in 1967. Listen to the band cook on “California Dreamin'” and John Phillips belt it out with Mama Cass countering his moves. As credible as any garage rock group churning out “Pushin’ Too Hard” and hoping for stardom, these stars shine perhaps because the performance is somewhat ragged. Who wants a clone of the studio stuff anyway? -All Music Guide

The wind cries Mary/ The Jimi Hendrix Experience

One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era. On Are you Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix synthesized various elements of the cutting edge of 1967 rock into music that sounded both futuristic and rooted in the best traditions of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It wouldn’t have meant much, however, without his excellent material, whether psychedelic frenzy (“Foxey Lady,” “Manic Depression,” “Purple Haze”), instrumental freak-out jams (“Third Stone From the Sun”), blues (“Red House,” “Hey Joe”), or tender, poetic compositions (“The Wind Cries Mary”) that demonstrated the breadth of his songwriting talents.- All Music Guide

Suite: Judy blue eyes/ Crosby, Still & Nash

CSN was the trio’s last fully realized album, and also the last recording on which the three principals handled all the vocal parts without the sweetening of additional voices. It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work. -All Music Guide

 

Groovin’ is easy/ The Electric Flag

A sumptuous, four-CD box set with all the deluxe trimmings celebrating the grandaddy of all outdoor rock concerts. With legendary performances by Otis Redding, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Byrds, and Paul Butterfieldall taken from the mobile-unit multi-track masters (not to mention an album-sized booklet that’ll knock your eyes out), this box evokes a sound and an era the way few (if any) retrospectives of like material ever do. Important music from a turning point in rock’s history.- All Music Guide

I’ll feel a whole lot better/ The Byrds

One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. From the first peals of Jim McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker, “Feel a Whole Lot Better” bears all the trademarks of the Byrds’ trailblazing blend of folk and rock, but it also has the distinction of being the first tune written by a member of the band to make a dent in the marketplace. While the group’s first two hits, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want to Do,” had been penned by Bob Dylan, and their biggest single, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” was adapted from a passage in the book of Ecclesiastes by Pete Seeger, “Feel a Whole Lot Better” was written by Gene Clark, who would prove to be the strongest songwriter in the group during his short tenure with the band. – All Music Guide

Coming into Los Angeles/Arlo Guthrie

It’s almost impossible to regard the soundtrack albums for the Michael Wadleigh documentary Woodstock, simply as music, apart from the event that inspired them or what that event has come to represent. The inclusion of “Coming Into Los Angeles” on the Woodstock (1970) feature film documentary made it one of Arlo Guthrie’s most memorable works. The sheer novelty and anti-authoritarian stance are key components in this 1960s counter-cultural anthem. Deeper still and even more resonant is the bold political and social statement that Guthrie makes in this folk-rocker. – All Music Guide


Rochester Summer Music Scene Playlist

June 19, 2012

The city of Rochester comes alive with music every summer with some great events that showcase a variety of bands and artists that are as diverse as the community. The 16th annual Party In The Park kicks off every Thursday evening from 5-10 PM  for ten weeks starting on June 7 through August 9 at the Riverside Festival Site on the corner of Court Street and Exchange Boulevard across from the Blue Cross Arena. All concerts are FREE! The Big Rib BBQ & Blues Fest starts Thursday July 12 and continues through Sunday July 15: lunch, dinner and live music! Highland Bowl concert highlights include Wilco and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Here’s a sampling…

I might/ Wilco

The Whole Love is the work of a band that’s stylistically up for anything, from the edgy dissonance of “The Art of Almost” and the moody contemplation of “Black Moon,” to the ragged but spirited pop of “I Might” and the cocky rock & roll strut of “Standing O,” but more so than anything the band has done since Being There, The Whole Love sounds like Wilco are having fun with their musical shape shifting.- All Music Guide

My Body/ Young the Giant

The West Coast jazz-evoking album jacket of Young the Giant’s self-titled debut doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of the California quintet’s breezy modern rock sound, but it does complement it quite nicely. Here’s a band signed to a heavy metal label, whose music is anything but, and which actually excels through recurring shows of subtlety, not force. That’s not to say Young the Giantdon’t know how to rock; tracks like “My Body,” “Garands,” and “St. Walker” plug the guitars in and crank them up to that “tough but hooky” sweet spot inhabited by the Kings of Leon and sometimes even My Morning Jacket. -All Music Guide

Boom Boom/ Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

The Dirty Birds navigate every twist and turn Sister Sparrow throws their way (or is it the other way around?) with ease. Check it out: here we have some smoky big-smile reggae (“Boom Boom”, “Vices” – Blondie lives!); over here we find 70s-vintage bluesrock reminiscent of J. Geils on a hot night (Arleigh’s harp-blowing brother Jackson channels Magic Dick on “Quicksand”); and over here we find a few things that just can’t be labeled so easily (the tango-on-acid of “Baby From Space”, for instance), but are fun nonetheless. And through it all are woven threads of sexy funk. Bottom line: this album is just plain fun. – Jambands.com

Pockets/ Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

This one is about as straight-up as roots reggae gets: one-drop and rockers rhythms, socially conscious lyrics, and dubwise production flourishes are all in evidence here, and if the politics get a bit ham-handed sometimes, the grooves are relentless and powerful. Highlights include the excellent one-drop anthem “All Night Music” and a fine sufferer’s number titled “Pockets,” and the slow, thick rockers groove of “World War” is also excellent. – All Music Guide

Paper Boy/ Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers come up with combustible jazz-rock arrangements revealing the influence of Steely Dan (notably on “Paperboy”) and Brian Wilson (“Michael Raphael”), used to support sometimes bizarrely humorous lyrics, as signaled by the opening song, “The Black Rats of London.” Old-time Hornsby fans who fell away over the years might want to give this one a listen; it’s closer to his singer/songwriter self than he’s been in many years. -All Music Guide

It’s 2 A.M./ Shemekia Copeland

Copeland continues to prove herself as one of the strongest young talents in the blues on this disc. While the material itself isn’t as strong as that on her stellar first album, she still invests her all in tunes like the blasting “Not Tonight” and the romantic “Love Scene.”-All Music Guide

American Slang/ The Gaslight Anthem

With their hearts on their sleeves and their feet planted firmly in the garden state, The Gaslight Anthem’s third album, American Slang, plays out like an offering to Springsteen, the patron saint of heartland rock. The feeling on this album is considerably more relaxed. All of the punk rock tension and urgency have been replaced by a more patient and heartfelt mood. This change of pace really gives the listener the ability to sit back and take in the scenery on their musical Rust Belt road trip, making for a more moody, understated experience.- All Music Guide

Let Them Knock/ Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Because soul music — and this isn’t neo-soul, or contemporary R&B, but straight-up Stax and Motown brassy soul — is so much more than the actual lyrics themselves; it’s about the inflection and emotion that the vocalist is able to exude, and Jones proves herself to be master of that, moving from coy to romantic to defiant easily and believably. The magic and power of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings: their ability to convey passion and pain, regret and celebration, found in the arrangements and the tail ends of notes, in the rhythms and phrasing, and it is exactly that which makes 100 Days, 100 Nights such an excellent release. -All Music Guide

Lost in a Crowd/ Rusted Root

Rusted Root’s debut album is an agreeable collection of post-hippie folk/rock. Drawing from The Grateful Dead, Phish and Graceland-era Paul Simon in equal measures, the band can certainly work a low-key groove, spinning out solos and singsong melodies at well. They haven’t perfected their songwriting yet — many of the songs sound underdeveloped — but their music sounds mature and hints at their potential.-All Music Guide