Presidental Playlist…And the Winner is Obama

November 7, 2012

Here is a playlist created on spinner.com and the AOL Music staff that was aimed at listeners to inspire voting yesterday. Here is the winning playlist:

Baby I Need Your Lovin’/ Four Tops

This song’s charm and classic Motown sound matches Barack’s easy-going personality and the emphasis in the lyrics on “Got to have all your lovin” is the perfect metaphor for the fact that every vote really does count! — Caitlin White, AOL Music Editorial Assistant

Another One Bites the Dust/ Queen

Obama successfully won the presidency when he campaigned against Republican John McCain in 2008. While he accepted his victory gracefully, we can’t help but wonder if he’s already prepping for another win, this time against Romney. We can just hear him now: “Are you ready? Are you ready for this?” — Maggie Malach, AOL Music Intern

Rockin’ in the Free World/ Neil Young

President Obama should surely appreciate that Young — a big supporter of the administration — wrote it as a critique of George Bush Sr. and his perceived failings of the poor. More importantly, Barack should get amped up by the indisputable fact that it’s one of the greatest rock anthems of all time. — Dan Reilly, Editor of Spinner

Tub Thumping/ Chumbawumba

In Chumbawumba’s UK homeland, “tubthumper” means politician and this 1997 tune’s indelible chorus certainly applies to Obama right about now: “I get knocked, down but I get up again/You’re never gonna keep me down.” The lyrics about drinking whiskey, lager, vodka and cider — not to mention the band’s anarcho-punk politics regarding income inequality, war, feminism, gay rights and community activism – also mark this as the ultimate anti-Romney tune. One strike against it, admittedly, is that “Tubthumping” was Chumbawumba’s only hit — but on the other hand, it’s never gone away. — Josh Ostroff, Editor of Spinner Canada

Keep the Faith/ Bon Jovi

With all of the criticism that’s been hurled his way in the last year, this 1992 gem from the arena rock heroes would serve great as an anthem for the Obama campaign. — Carlos Ramirez, Editor of Noisecreep

Encore/ Jay-Z

As President Obama and celebrity supporter Jay-Z continue to sing each other’s praises, it’s only appropriate that the president have a Jay-Z classic on his debate pump-up playlist. “Encore”seems like the natural choice for the man who’s ready to give his encore performance as a second-term president. — Contessa Gayles, AOL Music Associate Editor

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Back to School Playlist

September 17, 2012

It’s always easier to do your homework while listening to some tunes, right? Here are a few suggestions….

Campus/ Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend started generating buzz in 2006 — not long after they formed — but their self-titled debut album didn’t arrive until early 2008. Vampire Weekend also has just a handful of songs that haven’t been floating around the ‘Net, which may disappoint the kind of people who like to post “First!” on message boards. This doesn’t make those songs any less charming, however — in fact, the band has spent the last year and a half making them even more charming, perfecting the culture collision of indie-, chamber-, and Afro-pop they call “Upper West Side Soweto” by making that unique hybrid of sounds feel completely effortless. “Campus” is another standout, with lines like “I see you walking across the campus…how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?” throwing listeners into college life no matter what their age.- All Music Guide

Rock ‘N Roll High School/ Ramones

Considering that the Ramones did desire mainstream success and that they had a deep love for early-’60s pop/rock, it’s not surprising that they decided to shake loose the constrictions of their style by making an unabashed pop album, yet it was odd that Phil Spector produced End of the Century, because his painstaking working methods seemingly clashed with the Ramones’ instinctual approach. However, the Ramones were always more clever than they appeared, so the matching actually worked better than it could have. Spector’s detailed production helped bring “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” to life, yet it also kept some of the punkier numbers in check. Even so, End of the Century is more enjoyable than its predecessor, since the record has stronger material, and in retrospect, it’s one of their better records of the ’80s.

We’re going to be friends/ White Stripes

The White Stripes turn down the volume, allowing a brief respite from the stomping roots rock that dominates much of the duo’s outstanding third album, White Blood Cells, with the sweet acoustic ballad “We’re Going to Be Friends.” Armed only with an acoustic guitar, picking out a lilting chord progression and accompanied only by a soft time-keeping tape, Jack White takes a nostalgic look back at the innocence of school days with a surprisingly sensitive vocal as he expertly paints impressions of days past with deft economy, “Fall is here, hear the yell/Back to school, ring the bell/Brand new shoes, walking blues/Climb the fence, books and pens/I can tell we’re gonna be friends.” White beautifully captures the gentle excitement of making a new friend and of sharing the simple joys of discovery that are the essence of growing and ultimately become memories that make a lasting impression. The last verse expresses the feeling perfectly, as he softly quips, “Tonight I’ll dream while I’m in bed/When silly thoughts go through my head/About the bugs and alphabet/And when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet/That you and I will walk together again/’Cause I can tell we are gonna to be friends/Yeah, I can tell we’re are gonna be friends.”-All Music Guide

Kids/ Childish Gambino

In the time before this wonderful album named Camp existed, the “actors who rap” proposition would have been all red flags. Brian Austin Green, Mr. T., Joaquin Phoenix, and many others are on the “cons” list, while the “pros” would have been Drake (barely counts, unless Degrassi: The Next Generation was your thing) and maybe AVN award-winner Dirt Nasty. These were the horrible odds Community star and comedy writer Donald Glover was up against when he took the Internet’s Wu-Tang Name Generator to heart and became rapper Childish Gambino, but anyone who right-clicked on one of his 2010/2011 mixtapes can tell you, he beat those odds, and with Camp, indie rap fans won the Lotto.- All Music Guide

We rule the school/ Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian’s first album, Tigermilk, was initially pressed in a quantity of 1,000 on their own label, Electric Honey Recordings. The record was intended to be the end result of Stuart Murdoch’s music business school course, but it became an unexpected word-of-mouth sensation in England, and the LP quickly disappeared from shops. As a result, once the group’s second album, If You’re Feeling Sinister, became a hit, there were no copies of Tigermilk available for newly converted fans and it remained unheard by the majority of the group’s audience. Those who have heard it say it is quite similar stylistically to If You’re Feeling Sinister and the songs match that record’s high standard. Tigermilk was re-released in 1999 to the delight of the often cultish fans of Belle & Sebastian.

I love college/ Asher Roth

Sold as hip-hop’s Great White Dope, rapper Asher Roth (“The King of the Blumpkin”) came on the scene with the great “I Love College,” an infectious slacker anthem as simple as “I love college, I love drinkin’, I love women” and with a “Chug! Chug! Chug!” chant in the middle. A hilarious 18-minute freestyle on Tim Westwood’s radio show made him all the more lovable, but Asleep in the Bread Isle is an everyday suburban rap album, if there is such a thing. The promising “Fallin'” pulls the rudder up at the last moment, making one believe the rapper could have made a knockout debut if the meteoric rise of “I Love College” hadn’t hurried things along. -All Music Guide

Alphabet Lost and Found/ They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants have always had a flair for educational songs. More than a decade after its release, the refrain of “Why Does the Sun Shine” (“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas/A gigantic nuclear furnace”) still has a pesky way of lodging itself in the brain. And, as the band’s wonderful first children’s album, No!, demonstrated, They Might Be Giants’ music speaks to kids in a way that few other bands’ work can; they never sound like they’re talking (or singing) down to their smaller fans. Here Come the ABCs makes the most of the band’s ability to teach and reach children, and more than delivers on its promise to “learn ABCs the fun way!” This is still a They Might Be Giants album, though, and the band’s catchy melodies and smart wordplay haven’t been dumbed down. “Flying V,” with its charming, Vince Guaraldi-like pianos and images of migrating geese and electric guitars, is another of John Linnell’s seemingly effortless but brilliant songs, and “C Is for Conifers” offers an extra-credit lesson in botany as well as the alphabet.-All Music Guide

Be true to your school/ Beach Boys

The Beach Boys had two minor single hits — “California Dreamin'” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll To The Rescue” — back on Capitol Records in 1986, and to mark their 25th anniversary, the label assembled this two-record set, adding the new songs to yet another selection of old songs.-All Music Guide


DJ Kelsey’s British Playlist in Honor of the Olympics

July 27, 2012

WBER’s DJ Kelsey has put together a playlist of songs by British artists to celebrate the 2012 London Olympics that begin today!

Got To Get You Into My Life/ The Beatles

All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles  began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. It wasn’t just Lennon and McCartney, either — Harrison staked out his own dark territory with the tightly wound, cynical rocker “Taxman”; the jaunty yet dissonant “I Want to Tell You”; and “Love You To,” George’s first and best foray into Indian music. Such explorations were bold, yet they were eclipsed by Lennon’s trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record, or it may be that all of it holds together perfectly. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve.- All Music Guide

Naive/ The Kooks

The Kooks arrived fully formed in 2006, for their debut sounds like the work of a band well into its career: the confidence with which the foursome from Brighton play and the abandon with which Luke Pritchard sings; the witty songcraft and deft arrangements; the drama and fervor they unleash from the very first notes and carry through to the end. They display maturity but also play with the fervor of kids and project a wide-eyed charm that is very endearing. On most of Inside In/Inside Out, the band sounds like a more energetic Thrills or a looser Sam Roberts Band, maybe even a less severe Arctic Monkeys at times.- All Music Guide

Bad Thing/ Arctic Monkeys

Breathless praise is a time-honored tradition in British pop music, but even so, the whole brouhaha surrounding the 2006 debut of the Arctic Monkeys bordered on the absurd. It wasn’t enough for the Arctic Monkeys to be the best new band of 2006; they had to be the saviors of rock & roll. Lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner had to be the best songwriter since Noel Gallagher or perhaps even Paul Weller, and their debut,  Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, at first was hailed as one of the most important albums of the decade, and then, just months after its release, NME called it one of the Top Five British albums ever. Some may call it striking when the iron is hot, cashing in while there’s still interest, but Favourite Worst Nightmare is the opposite of opportunism: it’s the vibrant, thrilling sound of a band coming into its own. – All Music Guide

LDN/ Lilly Allen

Like most British pop, Lily Allen’s debut album, Alright, Still,overflows with impeccably shiny, creative productions. However, Allen attempts to set herself apart from the likes of Rachel Stevens, Natasha Stevens, Natasha Bedingfield, and Girls Aloud with a cheeky, (mostly) amusing vindictive streak in her lyrics that belies the sugarcoated sounds around them. You know exactly what she means when she says her ex is “not big whatsoever” on “Not Big”; later, she revels in being the one that got away on “Shame for You.” And “LDN” is a glorious summer confection, even if “it’s all lies” underneath the Lord Kitchener sample and “sun is in the sky” chorus. – All Music Guide

Honky Tonk Women/ Rolling Stones

“Honky Tonk Women” was the last and one of the greatest of the Rolling Stones’ classic 1960s singles, reaching number one in 1969. Most Rolling Stones classics are based around a primal blues-rock riff, and in “Honky Tonk Women,” there could have been several: the clipped circular one at the beginning of the song, the responsive ones that echo Mick Jagger’s vocal through the verses, or the ones played by a combination of guitars and horns in the instrumental break. Also crucial to the musical greatness of the track was Charlie Watts’ funky, no-frills drumbeats, which lead off the song and ricochet throughout the song with great authority but absolutely no bombast. Although “Honky Tonk Women” is rock & roll, there’s a lot of country and blues influence, perhaps even more country than blues.-All Music Guide

Starry Eyed/ Ellie Goulding

It shouldn’t surprise any Ellie Golding fan to know that the British songstress wrote music for the likes of Gabriella Cilmi  and Diana Vickers before issuing this full-length debut. That’s because Golding’s sound doesn’t stretch far from other teen Brit-pop artists of 2010, who are more likely to pull back and dig deep on a record than indulge in the froth of Girls Aloud or Sugababes. Golding finds a balance between both camps on Lights. Ultimately, Golding’s debut album is something of relevance; it lacks the dramatic crash and bang of Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, but is certainly a more restrained, compelling listen than the debut records by Pixie Lott and Little Boots, two artists whose electronic dance-pop is echoed here. – All Music Guide

Under Cover of Darkness/ The Strokes

When the Strokesreturned from their lengthy post-First Impressions of Earth hiatus with Angles, they’d been apart almost as long as they’d been together. While they were gone, they cast a long shadow: upstarts like the Postelles and Neon Trees borrowed more than a few pages from their stylebook, and even established acts like Phoenix used the band’s strummy guitar pop for their own devices. During that time, the members of the Strokes pursued side projects that were more or less engaging, but it felt like the band still had unfinished business; though First Impressions was ambitious, it didn’t feel like a final statement. For that matter, neither does Angles, which arrived just a few months shy of their classic debut Is This It’s tenth anniversary. Clocking in at a svelte 34 minutes, it’s as short as the band’s early albums, but Angles is a different beast. Somehow, the Strokes sound more retro here than they did before, with slick production coating everything in a new wave sheen.-All Music Guide

Coffee and TV/ Blur

Blur’s penitence for Brit-pop continues with the aptly named 13, which deals with star-crossed situations like personal and professional breakups with Damon Albarn’s  longtime girlfriend, Justine Frischmann of Elasta, and the group’s longtime producer, Stephen Street. Building on Blur’s un-pop experiments, the group’s ambitions to expand their musical and emotional horizons result in a half-baked baker’s dozen of songs, featuring some of their most creative peaks and self-indulgent valleys. – All Music Guide

Flux/ Bloc Party

The album begins with two of Bloc Party’s angriest, most experimental songs, which revisit the beat-heavy territory of  A Weekend in the City’s “Prayer” with even more charged results. “Ares” is a modern-day war chant, with seething processed guitar lines fueled by huge pummeling drums, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the big beat heyday of the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. – All Music Guide

Ask/ The Smiths

For many Smiths fans, Rank is as close as they will get to a live performance from Morrissey, Johnny Marr, and company. Recorded live at The National Ballroom in London in October of 1986, roughly six months before they disbanded altogether, these 14 songs capture the Smiths performing in full-on rock-star mode. Though Grant Showbiz’s production and engineering work consistently places Morrissey’s voice too loud in respect to the rest of the band, the performance is suitably epic, hit-packed, and engrossing. Morrissey is in fine form, randomly trilling and squawking throughout, providing enough cocky banter and personality that the fact that he’s nearly out of breath for half the performance doesn’t put a damper on the festivities. – All Music Guide

Stylo/ Gorillaz

Gorillaz began as a lark but turned serious once it became Damon Albarn’s primary creative outlet following the slow dissolve of Blur. Delivered five years after the delicate whimsical melancholy of 2005’s Demon Days, Plastic Beach is an explicit sequel to its predecessor, its story line roughly picking up in the dystopian future where the last album left off, its music offering a grand, big-budget expansion of Demon Days, spinning off its cameo-crammed blueprint. Plastic Beach is the first  Gorillaz album to play like a soundtrack to a cartoon — which isn’t entirely a bad thing, because as Albarn grows as a composer, he’s a master of subtly shifting moods and intricately threaded allusions, often creating richly detailed collages that are miniature marvels.- All Music Guide

Pumkin Soup/ 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. Nash has plenty of maturation to do as a songwriter and performer, but she shows considerable promise on this debut. -All Music Guide

Tears Dry On Their Own/ Amy Winehouse

The story of  Back to Black is one in which celebrity and the potential of commercial success threaten to ruin Amy Winehouse, since the same insouciance and playfulness that made her sound so special when she debuted could easily have been whitewashed right out of existence for this breakout record. (That fact may help to explain why fans were so scared by press allegations that Winehouse had deliberately lost weight in order to present a slimmer appearance.) Although Back to Black does see her deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B, all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren. – All Music Guide

Fit But You Know It/ The Streets

Mike Skinner has a problem, and from the sound of it, it’s life-threatening. Skinner’s urban British youth persona is even more fully drawn than before, and this time he delivers a complete narrative in LP form, with characters, conflicts, themes, and post-modern resolution on the closer. Skinner drives these tracks with a mere skeleton of productions and delivers some cruelly off-key harmonies on the choruses; only the single, a rockabilly buster named “Fit but You Know It,” makes any attempt to connect the dots from beats to melody to production. Confronting doubts about his seriousness and squashing whispers about his talent, Skinner has made a sophomore record that expands on what distinguishes the Streets from any other act in music. -All Music Guide


Rap Playlist

June 15, 2012

Here are some songs from rap artists that the library has acquired recently.

Talking to Myself/ Chiddy Bang

Electro-loving, hip-hop crew Chiddy Bang are skipping the intro and celebrating success, busting out clever, almost-Outkast party numbers like “Ray Charles” or bleeping chip-tunes style on the very Atari “Baby Roulette.” These playful diversions seem like second album stuff, plus “Mind Your Manners” isn’t that “Opposite of Adults”-type calling card single that made their 2010 Preview EP so necessary, but the second-line tunes and deep tracks have grown in strength with the wistful soul-searcher “Talking to Myself” becoming a surprise key highlight. – All Music Guide

Black Crowns/ Tyga

Cool ruler Tygasurprises with the slow and royal “Black Crowns,” a majestically soaring number that lasts over five minutes, one of which is given to a heartfelt answering machine message from mom. Growth since his previous effort is obvious, both for the good (writing skills) and an arguable definition of bad (Penthouse Forum might even balk at some of the aggressive sex talk here), meaning Careless World is a case of happening label meeting able artist, so just let the expensive tape roll and leave it to the audience to sort out. In this case, it’s well worth it.- All Music Guide

Drown/ Ja Rule

“Drown” feels like misplaced sober talk, even with great lines like “Please help me/I tested positive for being a sh*t.” Strange to gravitate toward the party and crossover numbers on an album that aims to be honest over all else, but with a little effort from the listener, PIL2can be rearranged into something much more sensible, maximizing the impact of the dark numbers. Of course, anyone who’s had a regretful relative, friend, or associate hauled away by the cops knows that unfinished feeling, and that PIL2  is much more than Ja Rule rushing to state his case before the doors slam is way above admirable.- All Music Guide

Tom Edison/ Diggy

“Tom Edison” presents the thrilling, not chilling, sound of a riot going on in advanced science class, and if “The Reign” is the usual starry-eyed, half-tempo closer these teen-aimed, pop-rap albums offer, Diggy’s hard push to make it sound distinctive is more attractive than your crinkled nose and jaded opinion. Kid-tested and parent-approved, this well-done debut makes hating on Diggy as ridiculous as it sounds.-All Music Guide

Roman Holiday/ Nicki Minaj

Vaudeville-hop opener “Roman Holiday” where the rapper/singer adds performance artist to the list by doing a British constable impression over knotty electro. A handful of equally inspired numbers that come from this angle of gangsta-girl-in- a-post-wonky-pop-world add to the excitement, and with RedOne and a batch of other innovative producers providing a kaleidoscope of beats, the first half of the album is an amusement park for production lovers. – All Music Guide

5 Star/ Yo Gotti

Gotti’s membership in the gangster elite is validated as Rick Ross shows up on the grinding “Harder,” and when “Cases” delivers the back-in-court blues with a slowed-down 2 Unlimited sample, this recently crowned Don proves he’s clever enough to deserve it. Tack his two-year-old single “5 Star” to the end in its remix version and the album is scatter-shot to its last breath, but the thrill of watching this hood star threaten to supernova is a real high, one that comes with no life-ruining side effects or any chance of Sosa’s men storming your mansion.- All Music Guide

Going No Where/ Obie Trice

Be it busting the Gucci heads for their lightweight threads (“Petty”) or declaring his comeback over an Eminem beat (“Going No Where”), rapper Obie Trice never falters on Bottoms Up, his first release since leaving Em’s major-label imprint, Shady. If it weren’t for all the respectful “thanks to my Shady family” talk during the Dr. Dre-produced intro, you’d never know he was off the label, as this long-delayed effort retains the polish and punch of a major-label release, and with Eminem also offering a verse on the great stuttering and stopping reggae-hop track “Richard,” it’s like 2003 all over again.- All Music Guide

Fire Fly/ Childish Gambino

Nerdy wonders and insightful laughs are the reasons you want to visit Camp Gambino, but you’ll stay for the lush, surprisingly large production from Donald Glover and Ludwig Göransson, along with the thrill of untangling it all for hours on end, separating the incredibly cool moments from the touching ones and figuring out how this “actor who raps” packaged it all sensibly in a concept album about summer camp that doubles as his showcase debut. Try it and be stunned or submit to it and be satiated; Camp is like the Drake, Cudi,and Kweli camps all offered their best, but it’s really just Gloverand his overwhelming bundle of talent, taking indie hip-hop to new levels after spending the day working alongside Chevy Chase. Remarkable. – All Music Guide

Gold/ Common

The best moments are bathed in a warm radiance that fosters a comforting, uplifting mood — intensified by hooks from James Fauntleroy II and samples of the Impressions, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Graham Central Station, and gospel Kenny Loggins — that recalls 2005’s Be. “Gold” is particularly vivid, where he crams a post-birth visit from “three wise men,” trips to France and Sybaris (rhymed with syphilis), and references to Hot Tub Time Machine and “Stan.” However, the content isn’t exclusively cerebral, uplifting, and/or surreal. – All Music Guide

Say It With Me/ Chris Brown

By the time F.A.M.E. was released in March 2011, the album’s variety of styles was already known. A total of five songs, including the slinking pop-R&B of “Deuces,” had hit various singles charts. On the earnest ballad “Up to You,” the Michael Jackson/SWV- sampling “She Ain’t You,” and the remorseful “All Back” (written and produced by Timothy Brown, one to watch), Brown plays to his strength as a boyish, romantic pop-R&B singer, while “Say It with Me” shows that he can handle harder grooves that are more R&B than pop. This all makes F.A.M.E. the equal of Forever, if not slightly better, and it hints that Brown’sbest is yet to come. – All Music Guide


Reese’s High School Graduation Party Playlist- Part 1

May 31, 2012

Roosevelt Reese is not only one of Central Library’s best security staff, he also has his own Custom Entertainment and DJ Service, R & R Music. We’re helping Reese put together a playlist request for a high school graduation party. This mix is made up of R & B, rap and dance music.

Electric Slide

Cotton Eye Joe

C’mon n’ ride it (the train) / Quad City D.J.’s

Gasolina/ Daddy Yankee

Glamorous/ Fergie

Baby (feat. Ludacris)/ Justin Bieber

 I want you back & ABC/ Jackson Five

P.Y.T. (pretty young thing)/ Michael Jackson

OMG (feat. Will.i.am)/ Usher

Headlines/ Drake

Dynomite (going postal)/ Rhymefest

Pon de replay/Rihanna

Your love is my drug/ Ke$ha

Starships/ Nicki Minaj

I got you (I feel good)/ James Brown

Just fine/ Mary J. Blige