Here Comes the Sun: A Playlist for Your Seasonal Affective Disorder

February 9, 2013

Are you suffering from the winter blues?  WBER DJ Kelsey has provided this playlist to help fight those blues!

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Sun is Shining/ Bob Marley

It’s pretty tough to have the blues when listening to this music, with these lyrics:
Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet
To the rescue, here i am
Want you to know, y’all, where i stand

We’ll lift our heads and give jah praises (repeat)
Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet
To the rescue, here i am
Want you to know just if you can
Where i stand, no, no, no, no, where i stand
Sun is shining, sun is shining

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Good Day Sunshine/ Beatles

“Good Day Sunshine,” as its title portends, radiates optimism and good vibes, even by the high standards the Beatles themselves set in those categories throughout their career. How many days like that in “Good Day Sunshine” do most people experience in their everyday lives? Well, they’re not everyday occurrences, if people are honest with themselves. But on those occasions when they do arrive — one of the first fine days of spring, just after you’ve fallen in love or started a vacation — “Good Day Sunshine” is an appropriate soundtrack. Principal composer Paul McCartney was to agree that the good-time mid-’60s hits of the Lovin’ Spoonful, such as “Daydream,” were an influence upon “Good Day Sunshine,” although “Good Day Sunshine” isn’t as folk-rock-based as the Lovin’ Spoonful’s records were. The track’s corn-eared hook is its frequent chorus, when the Beatles come together for some of their most uplifting harmonies.-allmusic.com

Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes

Rise to the Sun/ Alabama Shakes

Pitched somewhere between the retro-purist vibe of Sharon Jones and 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.-allmusic.com

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In the Sun/ She & Him

It’s hard to be ambivalent about Zooey Deschanel.  She’s a polarizing personality, one whose deadpan movie roles and big Bambi eyes are either charming or too cute for their own good. The same can be said for She & Him, a soft rock duo that features Deschanel doing what she does best as a film star: acting utterly adorable alongside a quiet, talented male character. Her co-star in this case is M. Ward, who produces the band’s second album and frames Deschanel’s voice with a Spector-sized pile of instruments. Those who already take issue with Zooey’s acting will almost surely pick this record apart — it’s too reminiscent of her cutesy turns in movies like (500) Days of Summer to change many minds — but for fans of retro pop (and Deschanel in general), Volume 2 is a gem.-all music.com

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She’s only Happy in the Sun/ Ben Harper

Ben Harper is a musical preacher of sorts, never one to be shy in speaking his mind about social conformity. Diamonds on the Inside marks Harper’s fifth studio effort and this time he’s emotionally in touch with what makes his heart burst. This is a passionate album, no doubt. His signature Weissenborn guitar joins him once more and Harper’s classic groovy funk is heavy; however, Harper adds worldbeat to his musical plank. From the Marley-esque vibe of “With My Own Two Hands” to the African soundscapes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo on “Picture of Jesus,” Harper’s purist presentation is smooth. “When It’s Good” gives a little country blues twang, while “Touch From You Lust” is a sexy haze of writhing riffs.-allmusic.com

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Sun It Rises/ Fleet Foxes

Despite drawing from so many sources, there’s a striking purity to Fleet Foxes’ sound. Robin Pecknold’s voice is warm and sweet, with just enough grit to make phrases like “premonition of my death” sound genuine, and the band’s harmonies sound natural, and stunning, whether they’re on their own or supported by acoustic guitars or the full, plugged-in band. Even when the songs aren’t as brilliant as Fleet Foxes’ highlights, the band still sounds alluring, as on the lush interlude “Heard Them Stirring.” Throughout the album, the band sounds wise beyond its years, so it’s not really that surprising that Fleet Foxes is such a satisfying, self-assured debut.-allmusic.com

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Sunshine of Your Love/ Cream

“Sunshine of Your Love” was Cream’s most famous and popular recording, making #5 in 1968. If Cream, the band, were one of the ultimate intersections between hard rock, pop, and psychedelia, “Sunshine of Your Love” was one of its ultimate examples of such a hybrid. The big hook of “Sunshine of Your Love” is a grinding, instantly memorable hard rock riff, stuttering between two notes before hellishly descending for a few more, then rising in an upward squiggle. That riff continues throughout the verses, only changing in that it sometimes changes keys. Jack Bruce’s lead vocal is charged with operatic angst without becoming overbearing, a difficult balancing act to be sure, but one that he deftly maintains. The verses are broken up by an equally memorable chorus-bridge, a circular three-chord pattern in which the rhythms become tenser, mirroring the lyric’s growing anticipation and waiting for the sunshine of his lover’s love.-allmusic.com

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Brighter Than Sunshine/ Aqualung

Using the nom de rock Aqualung, singer/songwriter Matt Hales merges material from his two U.K. discs on Strange and Beautiful, his appealing U.S. debut. Vocally reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Hales’ musical approach will likely win converts from fans of the aforementioned. The title track, which gained significant attention after it was used in a U.K Volkswagen commercial, is a compelling piano ballad with enough experimental touches to put it in the company of Coldplay and Keane, but there are equally good offerings like “Brighter Than Sunshine” and “Left Behind.” With the former, Hales finds love by surprise (“I didn’t believe in destiny”) with a Beatles’ ballad pace, but it’s not all optimism. Devotion turns to devastation on “Falling Out of Love,” a jazzy number with a heartfelt delivery. On rare occasion, the material feels sluggish (as with “Tongue-Tied”) but by and large, Aqualung’s U.S. entry is a breath of fresh air.-allmusic.com

albu

Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine In/ Fifth Dimension

Easily the most ambitious and successful record by the 5th Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” was originally the musical centerpiece of the monumentally popular Broadway rock musical Hair. Like the stage play, the lyrics illustrate the possibilities of a generation, coupled with references to universal love and astrological references. Musically, it’s a multi-part, full-blown suite that tested the boundaries of Top 40 radio. The 5th’s version went to number one in the spring of 1969, and it was one of the last gasps of the ’60s-positive legacy that was, unfortunately, to fade away with the horrors of the Charles Manson murders and the Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert just months later. Opening with a beautiful, avant-garde, psychedelic fragment, the song immediately shifts into a combination of soul, pop, and rock, with an added taste of Broadway spice. The chorus is an uplifting, pop/rock movement, culminating in a dizzying choral pattern, not unlike “McArthur Park.” A funky, gospel/rock pattern emerges during the “Let the Sunshine In” section. This is a perfect bedrock for Billy Davis Jr.’s spontaneous gospel wailing, which, incredibly, was laid down in one take. The song is continually used in ’60s documentaries, as well as period films.-allmusic.com

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Bird of the summer/ A Fine Frenzy

What a difference two years can make. Alison Sudol introduced herself as a piano-playing pixie on 2007’s One Cell in the Sea, stuffing her debut album with lilting vocals and fairy tale lyrics. Although that combination spawned several upbeat songs, ballads proved to be Sudol’s bread and butter, and she soon found herself saddled with the unfortunate task of re-creating the album’s intimacy in a live concert setting. Two years after Sea’s release, Sudol returns with a second record, having taken a lesson from the road and fine-tuned her music accordingly. There are still several ballads here, particularly during the album’s latter half, but Sudol knows that faster tunes work better in concert, where both the band and the audience can share in the same catharsis. Accordingly, Bomb in the Birdcage is a lively piece of work, with songs that take flight and arrangements that couch her vocals in tasteful heaps of strings, harmonies, and piano.-allmusic.com


The Joys and Annoyances of Being in Love-a DJ Kelsey Playlist

October 2, 2012

Into the Mystic/ Van Morrison

“Into the Mystic” was originally released as the last song on side one of Van Morrison’s third album, Moondance, in February 1970. Moondance, issued 15 months after its predecessor, Astral Weeks, was a very different record for Morrison. Astral Weeks had been dominated by meditations on his youth in Belfast, Northern Island, with an unusual musical mélange that combined elements of folk, blues, jazz, and classical music, played by session musicians. By the time of Astral Weeks, Morrison had moved from New York City to rural Woodstock, NY, and organized his own backup band, which played on Moondance. The new album was imbued with the bucolic pleasures he had recently enjoyed, as well as his domestic harmony with wife Janet Planet. The exception was the ethereal “Into the Mystic,” the only song on the album that might have fit on Astral Weeks. The song has an easy groove, beginning with acoustic guitar and including isolated horn and string charts, as Morrison evokes a sailor’s pledge to come home from the sea to his lover and “rock [her] gypsy soul.”- All Music Guide

Be Mine/ Alabama Shakes

Pitched somewhere between the retro-purist vibe of Sharon Jones and 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. Unlike White or his Great Lakes cousins the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes aren’t entirely enamored with what they can re-create in the studio — they’re too attached to the power of a live performance, making them an ideal candidate for a T-Bone Burnett or Joe Henry production somewhere down the road — but they bear no special allegiance to the didactic needs of retro-rock.- All Music Guide

That’s What’s Up/ Edward Sharpe &The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros wear the whole communal free-living throwback hippie jamboree persona to the point where they dip into goofy character sketches and threaten to detract completely from some pretty catchy songs. The album opens strongly, with the undeniably catchy pair of tunes “Man on Fire” and “That’s What’s Up,” both rising to hand-clapping summits of old-fashioned Southern revival and jug band jubilation. Lead vocalist Jade Castrinos reprises her role trading verses with Ebert on these songs and later takes center stage on the electrified “Fiya Wata.” Castrinos’ contributions feel spirited and from the gut, whether they’re put on or not. -All Music Guide

Hot Knife/ Fiona Apple

Much of the charm of Apple’s music isn’t decoding what it all means but learning its internal clockwork, letting the songs take root, so the love songs (“Jonathan”) seem sweeter, the braggadocio (“Hot Knife”) funnier, the pathos (“Valentine,” “Regret”) and paranoia (“Werewolf”) feeling fathomless. Once the startling Spartan surfaces of The Idler Wheel become familiar, similarities to her three previous albums are apparent — she takes certain jazzy strides that hark back to Tidal, there’s a rigorous dexterity reminiscent of  When the Pawn — but what’s new is an unwavering determination and cohesion. Nothing is wasted, either in the composition or arrangement, and this lean confidence binds The Idler Wheel. Stripped of all her carnivalesque accouterments, Fiona Apple remains as rich and compelling as she ever was, perhaps even more so.- All Music Guide

In the Colors/ Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals

His lyrics are uplifting, full of determination and hope. This is underscored by the next number, “In the Colors,” which bleeds Southern soul and a killer reggae bass line bubbling underneath. The theme of hope is right there, propping the first track by underscoring in poetic terms the true, just, and beautiful. “Fool for a Lonesome Train,” a backwoods country-rock tune, is maybe the strongest cut on the set; its high lonesome sound is borne out not just in the grain of Harper’s vocal but by the band’s unobtrusive yet utterly engaging support. The lyrics are there; they have the wild and restless in them but it takes a group effort to make restraint an art, underscoring the blood and sinew in Harper’s words. That’s not to say there are no “rockers” on the set. “Needed You Tonight” comes right out of the shouting gospel and electric blues with electric guitars blazing; it alternates its dynamic between that vibe and sweet soul. “Having Wings” is a gorgeous follow-up, with acoustic piano and electric guitars flowing under Harper’s voice.-All Music Guide

Wedding Song/ Anais Mitchell, feat. Justin Vernon

Hadestown retells the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in an America of hard times economically, socially, and politically. Hadestown’s narrative, like the myth, steeps itself in ambiguities more than dead certainties. It moves past dualities of good and evil, life and death, hope and despair, while examining how commonly held beliefs about class reinforce poverty, how our desire for security is complicit in giving away our freedoms, and what real generosity in love actually is. This 57-minute work goes by in a flash. Artfully conceived, articulated, and produced, Hadestown raises Mitchell’s creative bar exponentially: there isn’t anything else remotely like it.- All Music Guide

Northern Sky/ Nick Drake

Compiled by Nick Drake’s producer, Joe Boyd, Way to Blue features a selection of 16 tracks from all three Drake studio albums and the Time of No Reply collection. Of course the music is excellent, but Drake’s albums stand so well on their own that this collection of piecemeal offerings doesn’t quite work as the best way to experience his distinctively haunting brand of folk-rock. Though a good starting point, ultimately it will only whet your appetite for the highly recommended, four-disc Fruit Tree box, which contains his complete catalog.- All Music Guide

This Orient/ Foals

Total Life Forever is considerably more subdued than its predecessor, lacking much of the uptempo thump found on Antidotes. In its place is a mellower, more spacious sound. While this new sound is still danceable, it’s far more refined than the angular post-punk riffing that fans might be expecting. Right from the beginning, the album-opening, “Blue Blood” makes it clear that Foals are taking a different, more patient approach to songwriting, letting the song build and build on itself as it methodically works itself into a frenzy before leaving the way it came in. Because of the changes here, fans of the early, pre-Antidotes singles may find Total Life Forever to be too restrained, lacking the youthful vigor of their debut. Where some see restraint, others may very well see refinement, and those who appreciated Antidotes’ more spacy passages will find that Foals’ reinvention of their sound is a calculated risk that definitely pays off.- All Music Guide

More of This/ Vetiver

Tight Knit is Vetiver’s slickest, tightest record so far. From the opening ballad “Rolling Sea” onward, Andy Cabic and crew make music that can only be called easy listening. Not the kind you hear in a dentist’s office, but the kind of music that makes no demands on you as a listener and just wraps you in cottony coziness. Apart from the peppy, perfect for a soda pop commercial “Everyday” and the almost rocking in a lazy bar band way “More of This,” the record is perfectly constructed for lazy days and hazy nights. It takes skill to create a record filled with so little energy and drive, and again, that’s not a criticism though it probably sounds like it should be.- All Music Guide

One Match/ Sarah Harmer

Harmer’s winning blend of country, folk, and indie pop is propelled, in part, by her even, expressive tenor, which comes off as a well-maintained bridge between Suzanne Vega and Leslie Feist. Likable and accessible, it would be easy to write her off as just another capable singer/songwriter in an industry stuffed to the rafters with capable singer/songwriters, were it not for her ability to take a simple melody and turn it into something special. Oh Little Fire is filled with those moments, whether it’s the delayed “t” at the end of the word light on the driving single “Captive,” the damp, dirt-road pacing of “Washington,” or the way she and Case wrap their voices around “Silverado” like two sisters on the back of covered wagon. It’s a subtle record to be sure, but one that rewards those who are willing to take the time to let it enter the bloodstream.-All Music Guide

Hold You In My Arms/ Ray LaMontagne

The best songs on Trouble, the debut release from songwriter Ray LaMontagne, draw on deep wells of emotion, and with LaMontagne’s sandpapery voice, which recalls a gruffer, more sedate version of Tim Buckley or an American version of Van Morrison, they seem to belie his years. The title tune, “Trouble,” is an instant classic, sparse and maudlin (in the best sense), and songs like “Narrow Escape,” a ragged, episodic waltz, are equally impressive, with careful, cinematic lyrics that tell believable stories of wounded-hearted refugees on the hard road of life and love. Most of the tracks fall into a midtempo shuffle rhythm, so the words have to carry a lot in order to avert a sort of dull sameness, and when it works, it works big, and when it doesn’t, well, LaMontagne is so serious and sincere about his craft that you tend to forgive him instantly.- All Music Guide

Heartbeats/ José González

Don’t let the name fool you; singer/songwriter José González is a Swedish-born and -raised son of Argentine parents. His debut album, Veneer, is a striking collection of hushed and autumnal indie pop bedroom songs that reside on the hi-fi end of the lo-fi spectrum. González is definitely a member of the “quiet is the new loud” school as founded by Elliott Smith and the Kings of Convenience. Veneer is about as intimate as they come; it sounds like he is sitting right on the end of your bed singing just for you. At times, González is a little more forceful than most of his schoolmates, often working himself into a tightly spinning ball of emotion (as on the driving “Lovestain” and the bluesy “Hints”). At these moments his voice is reminiscent of Mark Kozelek, only without the wild flights of pretension. Mostly though, he is content to cruise along on mellow vocals double-tracked behind gently plucked and strummed acoustic guitars. The beautiful “Heartbeats,” “Deadweight on Velveteen,” and the gently rollicking “Stay in the Shade” are the high watermarks of a remarkably focused and promising debut. González is a welcome addition to the q-school of indie pop.- All Music Guide

I Will Follow You Into the Dark/ Death Cab for Cutie

Thematically, Plans is the Death Cab for Cutie suitable for graduate students, world-weary and wiser from their experiences, realizing they can no longer be love-starved 20-somethings without a clue yet hopelessly cursed to face the same issues. And there’s merit to be had in acknowledging that maturity, for even blink-182 figured out their age and released their “serious” album. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it’s this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion.- All Music Guide


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


WBER DJ Kelsey’s Playlist

May 22, 2012

Let’s get the ball rolling with our first playlist. This is not a patron requested playlist but one that you may be interested in none-the-less.  Kelsey is a great resource that patrons will benefit from when looking for something interesting and eclectic in the alternative music genre.

Make the Road by Walking/ Menahan Street Band
It’s kind of difficult to describe what kind of music the Menahan Street Band make, although the ten tracks (there’s also an unlisted 11th track) presented on this debut album share a certain pleasant, easy, and sunny vibe. All are unhurried instrumentals, and while it’s tempting to call this stuff soul, it isn’t that exactly. There’s a jazz feel here, too, but it isn’t exactly soul-jazz, either, and then there’s a certain intangible Jamaican dub feel to how things are mixed, but one can’t really call it dub, and while things get lightly funky now and then, it isn’t funk.-All Music Guide
Chinoiserie/ Medeski, Martin & Wood
Here, the MMW direction and loyalties become very clear; they’re possessed and driven by the fatback funk and instruments of an earlier generation. John Medeski becomes one of the wave of keyboardists in the ’90s who started dragging wonderful old Wurlitzer electric pianos, Hohner clavinets, Hammond organs, wah-wah pedals, and other devices out of the mothballs, and used them almost as quasi-percussion instruments at times. Chris Wood remains resolutely on standup bass, playing with a great feeling for Billy Martin’s supremely funky drumming. -All Music Guide
Human Qualities/ 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. 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. -All Music Guide
Hoppípolla/ Sigur Ros
Named in part after a sister of one of the bandmembers, Reykjavik, Iceland’s Sigur Rós (Victory Rose) was formed by guitarist and vocalist Jon Thor Birgisson (who later went by the name Jónsi), bassist Georg Holm, and drummer Agust. Formed in early 1994 while the members were teenagers, the trio’s first recorded song earned them a deal with Iceland’s Bad Taste label. Svefn-G-Englar, their first release to be distributed outside of their native country, was hailed as NME’s Single of the Week during September of 1999, launching a press hype steamroller in the U.K. and — to a lesser extent — in the U.S.-All Music Guide
First Tube/ Phish
Their rootsiest and most organic effort to date, Farmhouse is also their most fully developed — these are complete, concise songs and not simply outlines for extended jams, boasting a beauty and intimacy which expands the group’s scope even as it serves notice of a new found pop accessibility. The opening title cut, a gorgeously rustic country-pop ballad, immediately establishes Farmhouse’s muted, relaxed tone, and despite the occasional detour like the sunny funk workout “Gotta Jibboo” or the closing instrumental jam “First Tube,” by and large the set opts against kitchen-sink eclecticism in favor of an evocatively pastoral uniformity. -All Music Guide
Om Nashi Me/ Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
“40 Day Dream,” the Motown-infused, OutKast-inspired, heavily orchestrated “Beatlesque” soul jam that opens Up from Below, serves as a pretty good litmus test for what follows. Listeners who are put off by the robe-wearing Polyphonic Spree’s cultish glazed-eye self-help anthems or cringe when they hear the Mamas & the Papas’ “Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon” would be advised to get off the magic bus early, as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros have crafted a love letter to Laurel Canyon and all of its quasi-mystic juju that is as infuriatingly contrived and retro as it is forward-thinking and majestic. -All Music Guide
Chicken Strut/ The Meters
Rhino’s Funkify Your Life: The Meters Anthology was the first truly comprehensive and widely available CD retrospective of the groundbreaking New Orleans funk band’s work. These two chronologically arranged discs run down virtually every important track the band recorded under its own name, finally allowing a more general audience to hear why the Meters had earned such a stellar reputation among die-hard funk collectors and sample-minded hip-hoppers. There’s more flash in this music, including plenty of nimble-fingered unison passages demonstrating that the band can be as tight as they are loose. It’s more proof that the Meters were the most telepathic funk ensemble this side of the J.B.’s.-All Music Guide
Paris Sunrise #7/ Ben Harper And The Innocent Criminals
“Heart of Matters” gets back to back-porch soul before giving way to a Weissenborn guitar solo on “Paris Sunrise #7,” before closing with the lone acoustic guitar and vocal ballad on the title cut. The set could have gone out on one of the more uptempo tunes after the instrumental, but it’s a small complaint in this mix.  This is a very informal-sounding record, and one that feels comfortable in showing its unvarnished side, its seams. – All Music Guide
Black Mud/ The Black Keys
Retreating from the hazy Danger Mouse-fueled pot dream of Attack & Release, the Black Keys headed down to the legendary Muscle Shoals, recording their third album on their own and dubbing it Brothers. The studio, not to mention the artwork patterned after such disregarded Chess psychedelic-era relics as This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album, are good indications that the tough blues band of the Black Keys earliest records is back, but the group hasn’t forgotten what they’ve learned in their inwardly psychedelic mid-period. -All Music Guide

Origin of Man/ The Budos Band

This Brooklyn-based instrumental collective combines slow-burn Afro-beat rhythms with a ’70s soul-jazz aesthetic, the latter sound well-known by those already familiar with the Daptone label’s other releases. The retro, almost blaxploitation soundtrack groove pushes the predominantly Afro style into American soul territory. They call it “Afro-soul,” which neatly sums up the style but doesn’t entirely do it justice; only hearing it does. Horns and horn charts dominate, which, because these sessions were recorded live in the studio, exude a spark and swing that are somewhat ominous yet hypnotically contagious.-All Music Guide