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

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WBER’s DJ Kelsey Ladies of Rock Playlist

June 6, 2012

Kelsey went with the female-lead theme on this playlist. Some new, some old, but all the ladies run the show!

I found you/ Alabama Shakes

Pitched somewhere between the retro-purist vibe of Sharon Jonesand the nervy revivalism of Jack White, Alabama Shakes possesses a curious character: they’re rooted in the past but it’s clear they’ve learned their moves musicians removed some three or four generations from the source. Instead of playing like refractions from a hall of mirrors, Alabama Shakes’ 2012 debut Boys & Girls emphasizes how American roots music is now grounded in the ’60s notion of blues & soul, all filtered through the prism of ’70s classic rock. And it’s not just that Heath Fogg tears great, gnarled riffs out of his guitar while the rhythm section of Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson hit the downbeat with a brutal force — lead singer Brittany Howard phrases like a rock singer, playing up vocal affections with glee, ratcheting up the drama by laying hard into her elongated phrases.- All Music Guide

Be Easy/Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones, the big-voiced lead singer of the Dap-Kings — a band that recently began making its name known outside those enthusiasts of the Daptone label and the reaches of the soul community thanks to appearances with Amy Winehouse and work for Mark Ronson, including a version of Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” — is no music-world neophyte. 100 Days, 100 Nights is just her third full-length with the Dap-Kings, but Jones has been singing on and off since the 1970s, without much of a break until she began working with her current label. Meaning, she’s certainly paid her dues, and she has enough life experience behind her voice to make the words she sings sound that much truer. – All Music Guide

Eat the music/ Kate Bush

The album is a continuation of Bush’s multi-layered and multiple musical pursuits and interests. If not her strongest work — a number of songs sound okay without being particularly stellar, especially given Bush’s past heights — Red Shoes is still an enjoyable listen with a number of diversions. Opening song “Rubberband Girl” is actually one of her strongest singles in years, a big and punchy song served well with a horn section, though slightly let down by the stiff percussion. “Eat the Music,” another smart choice for a single, mixes calypso and other Caribbean musical touches with a great, classically Kate Bush lyric mixing up sexuality, romance, and various earthy food-based metaphors. – All Music Guide

Dirty Paws/ Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men’s 2012 full-length debut, My Head is an Animal, features more of the Icelandic band’s acoustic-driven alt-rock featured on their 2011 EP Into the Woods. Showcasing the dual singer/guitarist/songwriters Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttirand and Ragnar Pórhalsson, the album also displays the six-piece ensemble’s grand and anthemic style with a bent toward passionate folk-rock uplift and more layered, introspective moments. In that sense, the band brings to mind the work of such similarly inclined contemporaries as Arcade Fire, Angus & Julia Stone and Mumford & Sons. – All Music Guide

The Re-Arranger/ Mates of State

Giving a record a title like Re-Arrange Us might imply some kind of shift in sound or approach but on Mates of State album of that title, there is nothing of the sort taking place. In fact, the album continues along the path the band has plotted out over their last couple releases with more piano and less organ, a glossy, slick feel that’s radio ready and super-hooky tunes that are both sing-along friendly and emotionally powerful. “Help Help,” with its ’80s synths and fuzzed organ; “My Only Offer,” with a majestic piano part and beautiful vocals from Kori Gardner; and the positively exuberant “Jigsaw” are the kind of songs indie rock bands would kill for. Gardnerand Jason Hammelare becoming adept at creating big, shiny records with a real-life heart beating beneath. -All Music Guide

Us/ Regina Spektor

Maybe it’s just the preponderance of piano in her music, but Regina Spektor sounds more like a traditional singer/songwriter (in the best sense of that phrase) than her anti-folk contemporaries. A few of Soviet Kitsch’s songs, like “Poor Little Rich Boy,” concentrate on the childlike, mischievous side of Spektor’s sound that puts her in the love-it-or-hate-it category for some listeners. Still, Spektor is an engaging performer throughout the album, and despite her arty quirks, she’s never pretentious. She originally self-released Soviet Kitsch nearly two years before Sire released it, so it’ll be interesting to hear what she does next. -All Music Guide

That Phone/ Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

This self-titled set is very polished — from cover photo to last note, it’s designed to scale the Billboard charts — yet it offers a representative showcase of the band’s strengths. And while it doesn’t come off as spontaneously as their live gigs, it’s not supposed to. The glammed-up Nocturnals are still a tough, few-frills rock band, and despite his pedigree, Batson  — who co-wrote six of 13 songs with Potter here — gets that. The mid-tempo numbers — the soul-drenched “That Phone” and the blazing “Only Love,” with its infectious bass line and distorted guitars — work to fine effect. In sum, this the most representative outing from Grace Potter & the Nocturnals to date, and displays, however slickly, a heady quotient of strut, crackle, and groove. – All Music Guide

Graveyard/ 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 finger plucked guitar arpeggios and piano chords like cotton. – All Music Guide

Oh!/ Sleater Kinney

Having consolidated their strengths with All Hands on the Bad One, Sleater Kinney revived the ambition of The Hot Rockon their sixth album, One Beat. John Goodmanson gives the group its cleanest-sounding production to date, which brings out all the new trappings in the ever more sophisticated arrangements. Carrie Brownstein’s vocals can be a bit precious at times, and the pointed 9/11 observations make the occasional feminist sloganeering sound like nothing the group hasn’t done better elsewhere. But if you’re already on board with their idiosyncrasies, One Beat is another triumph from a band that seems to produce them with startling regularity. -All Music Guide

King of the World/ First Aid Kit

Described as the Swedish answer to the Pieces, sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg,aka First Aid Kit,blend autumnal folk and wistful ’60s Americana, and have gathered a pretty illustrious following since their cover version of Fleet Foxes’  “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” became a YouTube hit back in 2008. The medieval-tinged opening title track and the infectious hand claps and mariachi horns on “King of the World,” the latter of which features guest appearances from Conor Oberstand the Felice Brothers, are convincing forays into rousing nu-folk, while it’s impossible not to be charmed by the low-key dreaminess of “In the Hearts of Men” and the campfire singalong of “This Old Routine,” both of which bear the hallmarks of the long Scandinavian dark winters.-All Music Guide

Soft Shock/ Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Never content to stay in one musical place for very long, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs take their restlessness to the limit on It’s Blitz!– and wind up making some of their most contented-sounding songs. As if to prove one more time that they’re not just the architects of New York’s early-2000s rock renaissance, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase strip away the guitars and explosive dynamics of their early work even more thoroughly here than they did on Show Your Bones.  The serenity in It’s Blitz’s ballads feels worlds apart from Show Your Bones in a much less obvious way than the album’s outbursts. But between the violently happy songs and the softer ones, this is some of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most balanced and cohesive music.-All Music Guide

Only if for a night/ Florence + the Machine

2011’s Ceremonials, which found Florence + the Machine expanding on their already expansive sound, helped to further propel the ghostly Brit into the spotlight, and on MTV Unplugged, she’s come full circle, allowing fans a peek into the bombast while providing the aging, acoustic show with a little defibrillation. Mid-tempo tracks like “Only If for a Night,” “No Light, No Light,” and “What the Water Gave Me,” the latter of which finds Florence Welch in full control of the room by the song’s second half, are soulful, spooky, and bold, allowing room for both Welch and her machine to strut their stuff without sounding like a murder of caged crows.-All Music Guide

Silver Lining/ Rilo Kiley

Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley’s 2007 major-label debut, is surely designed as the Los Angeles quartet’s entry into the big leagues, the album that makes them cross over to a mass audience — or perhaps it’s just meant to make their now de facto leader, Jenny Lewis, cross over, since it plays as a sequel to her 2006 solo stab, Rabbit Fur Coat, as much as it plays as the successor to 2004’s More Adventurous, putting the former child right out front, bathing in the spotlight. Lewis, sings lead, confirming that he’s now firmly in a subservient role to his former paramour, who dominates this record the way Natalie Merchant used to rule 10,000 Maniacs, leaving the impression that the band is now merely her support group. -All Music Guide