Halloween Party Playlist

October 11, 2012

Planning a Halloween Party and need some tunes? Here you go…enjoy!

Scarecrow/ Beck

 Ever since his thrilling 1994 debut with Mellow Gold, each new Beck album was a genuine pop cultural event, since it was never clear which direction he would follow. Kicking off his career as equal parts noise-prankster, indie folkster, alt-rocker, and ironic rapper, he’s gone to extremes, veering between garishly ironic party music to brooding heartbroken Baroque pop, and this unpredictability is a large part of his charm, since each album was distinct from the one before. That remains true with Guero, his eighth album (sixth if you don’t count 1994’s Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot in the Grave, (which some don’t), but the surprising thing here is that it sounds for all the world like a good, straight-ahead, garden-variety Beck album, which is something he’d never delivered prior to this 2005 release. In many ways, Guero is deliberately designed as a classicist Beck album, a return to the sound and aesthetic of his 1996 masterwork, Odelay.-allmusic.com

Convinced of the Hex/ Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips wilder side is unleashed on Embryonic’s 18 tracks, and the band sounds more off-the-cuff than it has in years — some tracks are barely longer than snippets, others are rangy epics, and it all holds together so organically that listeners might wonder just how much these songs were edited. Musically, Embryonic is the least polite The Flaming Lipshave been in nearly two decades, mixing in-the-red drums, blobby, dubby bass, squelchy wah-wah guitars, and sparkling keyboards into a swirl of sounds that are strangely liquid and abrasive at the same time. Occasionally, the band uses noise in an almost ugly way, as on “Convinced of the Hex,” which scrapes eardrums with static and distortion before falling into a loose but driving Krautrock groove that adds to the song’s tribal pull (complete with growling and wailing in the background).-allmusic.com

The Ghost of You Lingers/ Spoon

Spoon works with their widest array of sounds yet. Everything from kotos to chamberlains to horns straight out of Motown are fair game on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but they’re used so deftly and judiciously that they never feel like window dressing. As on Gimme Fiction, the band maps out Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s territory within the first three tracks. “Don’t Make Me a Target” is a sleek yet gritty prologue designed to draw listeners in like Fiction’s “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” and its seductive pull only heightens the impact of “The Ghost of You Lingers.” All pounding pianos and fleeting, fragmented verses, the song initially feels like it’s all buildup and no release, but this insistent yet incomplete feeling is what makes it haunting and brilliant: its circling thoughts and echoes upon echoes feel like you’re chasing the song — or its subject — to no avail. Even if “The Ghost of You Lingers” almost perversely avoids hooks, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”‘s homage to blue-eyed soul delivers them in abundance.-allmusic.com

They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!/ Sufjan Stevens

Stevens has done his research, with references to everyone from Abe Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the ghost of Carl Sandburg to John Wayne Gacy — the latter provides one the song cycle’s most affecting moments. The lush (yet still distinctly lo-fi) indie pop melodies draw as much from classic rock as they do progressive folk. “Jacksonville,” with its four-chord banjo lurch, mines “Old Man”-era Neil Young, disco strings dance around “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!,” while the rousing pre-finale “The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders” is pure Peanuts-infused Vince Guaraldi as filtered through the ambiguous kaleidoscope of Danielson Famile spiritualism. -allmusic.com

Bodysnatchers/ Radiohead

In Rainbows, as a title, implies a sense of comfort and delightfulness. Symbolically, rainbows are more likely to be associated with kittens and warm blankets than the grim and glum circumstances Radiohead is known for soundtracking. There’s a slight, if expected, twist at play. The band is more than familiar with the unpleasant moods associated with colors like red, green, and blue — all of which, of course, are colors within a rainbow — all of which are present, and even mentioned, during the album. On a couple levels, then, In Rainbows is not any less fitting as a Radiohead album title than “Myxomatosis” is as a Radiohead song title. Despite references to “going off the rails,” hitting “the bottom,” getting “picked over by the worms,” being “dead from the neck up,” and feeling “trapped” (twice), along with Radiohead Wordplay Deluxe Home Edition pieces like “comatose” and “nightmare” — in the same song! double score! — the one aspect of the album that becomes increasingly perceptible with each listen is how romantic it feels, albeit in the way that one might find the bioport scenes in David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ to be extremely hot and somewhat unsettling.-allmusic.com

Halloween/ Matt Pond PA

 Several Arrows Later, Matt Pond PA’s fifth album in five years, is another strong, emotionally charged, and melodically pleasing outing that just could be their best yet. It is packed with hooks, fine performances by the group, and tender and expressive vocals from Mr.Pond himself. The only thing it is lacking is the one or two songs that cause you to bolt upright in stunned appreciation; instead, the record flows past like a gentle river of melancholy and world-weary beauty. The songs have a subtle blend of styles (the classic chamber pop of ’60s bands like the Kinks and the Zombies, the poppy side of emo, the insistent and epic feel of early post-punk/alt-rock groups like the Cure and New Order, and the gentle indie rock of groups like Yo La Tengo and Red House Painters) with plenty of strings, pedal steel, vibes, and piano to cushion the ache of Matt Pond’s vocals and lyrics. Songs like the loping “Brooklyn Stars,” “Halloween,” “Several Arrows Later,” and “Devil in the Water” are Matt Pond PA at their finest, intimate yet somehow epic with a heart-on-sleeve approach that is tempered by the restraint of the music.-allmusic.com

Perhaps vampires is a bit strong but…/Arctic Monkeys

Breathless, hyperbolic praise was piled upon the Arctic Monkeys and their debut album, Whatever people say I am, that’s what I am not, an instant phenomenon without peer. Within the course of a year, the band rose from the ranks of an Internet phenomenon to the biggest band in the U.K., all on the strength of early demos circulated on the web as MP3s. Those demos built the band a rabid fan base before the Monkeys had released a record, even before they played more than a handful of gigs. In effect, the group performed a complete run around the industry, avoiding conventional routes toward stardom, which paid off in spades. When Whatever people say I am hit the streets in January 2006, it sold a gob-smacking 118,501 copies within its first week of release, which not only made it the fastest-selling U.K. debut ever, but sold more than the rest of the Top 20 combined — a remarkable achievement by any measure.-allmusic.com

Halloween/Dead Kennedys

The very concept of a “greatest hits” collection from San Francisco punk legends the Dead Kennedys’ fits right in with the group’s penchant for establishment parody, but the irony is that Manifesto’s 12-track Milking the Sacred Cow is the perfect primer for young punks in training and a satisfying shot of politically charged jet fuel for longtime fans. This CD provides a satisfying crack in the jaw, even if it’s missing fan favorites like “Terminal Preppie,” “Trust Your Mechanic,” and “Chemical Warfare.” Honor students should pick up Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Frankenchrist and Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death, but those looking for a quick fix or a cheat will find no better teat to affix their snarl to than this.-allmusic.com

This is Halloween/ Marilyn Manson

Danny Elfman, who has scored many of Tim Burton’s imaginative films (Edward Scissorhands, his two Batman films, etc.), is a perfect musical partner for the somewhat macabre director, and never more so than here, where, in fact, Elfman gets not only to write the music but to play the part of the main character. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated movie musical about the abduction of Christmas by the denizens of Halloween land, and Elfman sings the part of Jack, the Pumpkin King. The score is in his usual lush but threatening style (Kurt Weill is his biggest influence), but the highlight is Elfman’s singing. Even in his rock band Oingo Boingo (now merely Boingo), Elfman doesn’t get to sing like this. Granted, the soundtrack album inevitably lacks the film’s outlandish visuals, but it tells the story on its own, and one is better able to appreciate Elfman’s outstanding performance.-allmusic.com

Lullaby/ The Cure

The Cure could be found in a mix of holding pattern and seemingly constant activity in 2011, with an irregular series of world-wide performances of the band’s first three albums and a slew of guest appearances and one-offs by Robert Smith on his own and with other performers standing in for either new or reissued albums. But there was also a one-off headlining performance at the Bestival in the U.K. that summer, resulting in the band’s first official live album since the Show and Paris releases of 1993. Feeling more like a souvenir than anything else, it’s above all a portrait of a band that has the knack of handling a career-spanning catalog down cold, something with both positive and negative sides to it. On the one hand, besides a thankfully clear mix that feels like a brisk soundboard recording, there’s the treat of hearing a then-unique quartet lineup of Smith, Simon Gallup and Jason Cooper matched with the then-recently returned Roger O’Donnell adding keyboards for the first time in some years.-allmusic.com

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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