About Lisa

Lisa is a Northwest Historian at the Everett Public Library. To find out what she is reading, check out her GoodReads feed at http://www.goodreads.com/LisaLab

Listen Up! February New Music

Blackstar Cover Art

For those of you not looking for another Bowie reflection/review, TL;DR, skip to the list at the bottom. For those of you who are into it, read on.

January was a tough time for many music fans, with the loss of some pretty legendary names. For me, it was the death of David Bowie that hit hardest. I can’t claim to have been a Bowie superfan, but his music was ever-present in my youth, and became the soundtrack to a lot of great memories as I grew into adulthood. Beyond liking the music Bowie created, I was even more fascinated by his ability to constantly reinvent himself, turning life into performance art. Nothing exposes the depth of this artistry better than the way he orchestrated his final months, turning his death into a powerful statement on 21st Century privacy, lifelong creativity, and going on your own terms.

The result of this period was Blackstar (officially ), David Bowie’s final album, released on the artist’s 69th birthday, just two days before his death. I will never forget the shock I felt upon hearing of Bowie’s death just days after celebrating this latest release. What a surreal experience it was to go back and re-listen to the album within the confines of a completely different context. Lyrics took on haunting new meanings; music videos became more somber and stirring. The Thin White Duke was saying goodbye; we just weren’t listening.

This album would have been a great listen without the backstory, but knowing all the details and the way they were carefully crafted and presented just makes Blackstar the stuff of legend. It made me think a long while about my own mortality and wonder how I would choose to confront it: with careful plans and aggressive strides to make sure I left my loved ones with something lasting and memorable, or with fear and denial until my final moments. David Bowie’s last act showed us that it was possible to die with courage, dignity, and a flair for the dramatic. As he so eloquently said from the stage on his 50th birthday “I have no idea where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you” – I’m sure that even after his death, the legacy of David Bowie will continue to intrigue and entertain us for years to come.

That’s the long story of one of my new arrival picks, so I’ll just give you a list of brief highlights for the rest. Place your holds now! In the case of Blackstar, it might be a little bit, but it’s worth the wait.

Blackbird cover imageMiloš Karadaglić – Blackbird: The Beatles Album (Mercury Classics) – love the Beatles? Like classical guitar? This is the album for you.

Outskirts Cover ImageShemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love (Alligator Records) – A fiery, driving mix of blues, rock, and soul. It’s the type of album you want to listen to on repeat.

For One to Love CoverCecile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love (Mack Avenue Records) – Delightful follow up to Salvant’s 2013 Grammy-nominated album, WomanChild. This 26-year-old jazz virtuoso has a phenomenal voice and a load of creativity.

Image from wondem.bandcamp.com

Image from wondem.bandcamp.com

Dexter Story – Wondem (Soundway) – For listeners looking to try a little of everything, look no further. Story effortlessly blends funk, jazz, soul, and traditional East African instrumentation and vocals to create vibrant and hypnotic soundscapes.

Cool Uncle CoverCool Uncle – Cool Uncle (Fresh Young Minds) – What happens when smooth jazz icon Bobby Caldwell gets together with Grammy-winning producer Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson)? Well they make beautiful music, of course, and they have a great time doing it. This is largely a pop/funk/RnB record, with playful nods towards the worlds of smooth jazz and even yacht rock. It may sound borderline cheesy, but it’s the kind of cheese you could fall in love with. It’s great to see people with this level of talent having fun with their craft.

Listen up! January New Music

gun outfit cover

Happy New Year, followers! This one is going to be short but sweet since it’s made up of music that came in late in December, after my last post. Here are some albums that I particularly enjoyed:

Gun Outfit – Dream All Over (Paradise of Bachelors) – Down-tempo indie rock with heavy country, folk, and psych rock influences. You’re got sitars mixing with slide guitars, but somehow it works. The vibe and vocals sort of remind me of Stereolab with a twang.

yacht cover artYacht – I Thought the Future Would be Cooler (Downtown Records) – Upbeat, poppy, and a little edgy. Sci-fi parody songs take the listener through the future we were promised, and hints at the shortcomings of the present we inhabit.

Angie Stone cover artAngie Stone – Dream (Shanachie; Conjunction Entertainment; Top Notch Music) – Veteran RnB songstress Angie Stone is back with her seventh studio release. Listeners are treated to Stone’s well-honed vocal stylings, which are given plenty of room to breathe with minimal production. This is a wonderful album for a lazy Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and a leisurely breakfast.

Rival Consoles art

Image from Pitchfork.com

Rival Consoles – Howl (Erased Tapes Records) – A minimal, driving, constantly-evolving blend of techno and electro, yet somehow this album feels a bit like rock. Ryan Lee West doesn’t limit himself to the current computer arsenal of electronic music production, but plays freely with guitars, cellos, film projectors, and analog synths. The resulting sound is complex and intriguing.

Place your holds now!

Listen Up! December Wrap-up and New Music Arrivals

Petite Noir Cover

December is here and I’m catching my breath. It’s been a long busy year at the library, and I’ve had a blast working with our music collection. It’s been amazing to see how the unique character of our community influences the music that passes through our doors. Our users help determine what makes it to our shelves via donations, purchase requests, or simply checking certain items out more than others so we know what they like.

Some casual observations: Rock, Country, Latin, and Christian music do a booming business. Hip-hop and Electronic acts are steadily gaining in popularity; there are rarely any purchase requests (hint hint), but the stuff that’s been added goes out quickly and those shelves can look completely ransacked at times. People around here love reggae and Hawaiian music (I think all the rain makes people long for warm sandy beaches). Everett also can’t seem to get enough holiday music – the carts have been out since just past Halloween because people kept asking about them.

One issue that I’ve noticed is that some genres are becoming more difficult to purchase due to changes in technology. Within the Indie, Electronic, and Hip-hop communities, many artists are choosing to go digital-only, or to scrap the use of CDs for throwback media, such as vinyl records and cassette tapes (I’m waiting on the 8-track and wax cylinder revivals). This came into play while working on developing the Local Music collection, because many bands only had digital releases of their albums. The digital-only trend is also a big hurdle for libraries when it comes to adding music from international artists making music in developing countries. Digital releases are far cheaper to produce, market, and distribute, so they’re a natural fit for musicians who are working with a tight budget. There are online services available that allow libraries to loan digital music. They wouldn’t do much to remedy this issue, however, since they mainly provide pre-selected packages of albums from major labels. Hopefully this is something that will change in the near future, because there’s a lot of great music out there that we’d love to share with our users.

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings to Everett. We’re a vibrant city with a lot of creative people and a thriving musical scene. You can help be a part of that growth: if you hear of a great new act, local or otherwise, drop our reference librarians a line and we’ll see what we can do. Now on to those December picks (I’ll keep it short!).

Empress Of CoverEmpress Of – Me (Terrible Records) – A lively combination of dance, pop, and rock, very reminiscent of Bjork’s early material. Lorely Rodriguez’s voice somehow manages to be strong and ethereal almost in the same breath. Her lyrics are deeply personal and rich in storytelling, flitting through scenes of a failed romance while making you want to dance away her angst.

Petite Noir – La Vie Est Belle (Domino Recording Company) – Bright, beautiful, and insanely catchy. Yannick Ilunga calls his sound Noirwave, and you can definitely see his New Wave influences winding through, track by track. In the end, the album really defies description. New wave, hip hop, electronic, or rock, plus subtle hints of Ilunga’s Congolese and Angolan musical roots – each element fuses together into a satisfyingly-complex new sound.

Car Seat Headrest coverCar Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (Matador Records) – After releasing an impressive 15 albums on the indie music selling site Bandcamp, former solo-artist Will Toledo and his band have come out with their first album on the legendary Matador Records. Did I mention that he managed all this before turning 23? Bright, airy, and guitar-driven, I expect to hear more wonderful things from this band in their 2016 release, Teens of Denial.

Future Shock – Secret Weapon EP (Future Shock) – Continuing on the new wave tip, this mysteriously-masked Seattle Duo calls their sound Afro New Wave. With production by RayGun and lyrics by The Doctor, this EP comes across sounding like David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and Duran Duran got together and laid down some tracks. From start to finish the Secret Weapon EP is a solid album that leaves you looking for more.

Protomartyr CoverProtomartyr – Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) Dark, brooding, driving post-punk. This album sounds like a grey winter day – perfect for your winter angst.

Roots Manuva – Bleeds (Big Dada) U.K. hip-hop pioneer returns with his first release in nearly four years. Stripped-down, tight production showcases the kind of political lyricism I’ve come to expect from Roots Manuva.

Basement Jaxx – Junto Remixed (Pias America) A full roster of clubby, dancefloor-ready tracks. The vibe of this release is about 50/50 house and techno, but there’s a little flirtation with footwork in there. Overall it’s a really versatile collection of remixes.

Place your holds now, and see you in the new year!

Listen Up! New Music Arrivals for November

Pentatonix

Fall in love with some of our latest arrivals (see what I did there?).

Pentatonix – Pentatonix (RCA Records) – Sometimes you have to take the word of an enthusiastic teenager to find new music. When one teen patron saw this disc on my desk for review she was so excited that I couldn’t resist giving it a listen. This album is fun and a bit amazing, considering it’s all acapella. Beats are made via vocals, beatboxing, and body percussion, so there were many moments where I had to turn things way up to realize I wasn’t listening to something mechanically produced. Aside from the ‘wow, how did they do that?’ factor, the tracks are refreshingly upbeat and dangerously prone to becoming ear-worms.

City and ColourCity and Colour – If I Should Go Before You (Dine Alone Music) – Sometimes an album shows up when you most need it; that was the case with this one. It came across my desk after a busy, stressful morning, and this set the mellow vibe I needed to get through the afternoon. I think fans of Jeff Buckley and You Me & Apollo would like this release. Think low-key rock with a great vocalist and dreamy guitar jams.

Melanie MartinezMelanie Martinez – Crybaby (Atlantic) – Super-saccharine pop melodies with fun, often eye-brow-raising lyrics. Martinez confronts listeners like a foul-mouthed Lesley Gore. It’s a catchy collection of bubblegum that strays from the usual themes of boys and partying for more challenging subject matter such as modern beauty standards, sexual consent, and mental illness. Sounds like an odd combination? It is, but that’s what makes it stand out.

Andra DayAndra Day – Cheers to the Fall (Warner Bros./Buskin) – Day possesses a beautiful, powerful voice that fills up the room with neo-soul melodies. Her style has hints of doo-wop, soul, and mo-town, with a throwback sound similar to Nikki Jean, Amy Winehouse, and Adele.

Dornik Cover ImageDornik – Dornik (PMR Records) – This self-titled debut album is packed with a full lineup of beautifully-produced slowjams and RnB cuts. Dornik seems to possess the kind of musical perfectionism that helped rocket Michael Jackson and Prince to critical acclaim. His sound is airy, jazzy, and immensely enjoyable.

Banda do Mar Cover ImageBanda do Mar – Banda do Mar – These Latin Grammy nominees have a great ‘bossa nova meets surf rock’ sound. Check them out if you’re in the mood to kick back to some smooth vocals and sleepy melodies.

Daptone IIVarious – Daptone Gold Volume II – A deeply satisfying compilation of hits and deep RnB cuts from Daptone.

Place your holds now!

Listen Up! New Music Arrivals for October

Black Violin Cover

Grab some hot new albums to warm up your fall nights. These are my top new arrivals for October: place your holds now!

Black Violin – Stereotypes (Classical Crossover) an engaging fusion of classical, hip-hop, funk, and RnB. Thought-provoking lyrics are layered over a rich tapestry of classical arrangements, driven ever forward by an ebb and flow of hip-hop beats. Playful instrumental tracks make the closet dancer in me want to find a choreographer to start planning some routines. This album has so much to offer such a wide spectrum of listeners that I can’t help but love it

Girlpool CoverGirlpool – Before The World Was Big (Wichita Recordings) Rocker duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad prove that less is more in their latest release. Before the World was Big manages to be bright, airy, and delightfully ragged around the edges: part punk, part folk. All of this is accomplished with a guitar, bass, and sans drums. Girlpool reminds me just a bit of some of The Breeders’ later material: simple and wonderful.

Apollo Saturday Night CoverVarious – Apollo Saturday Night/Saturday Night at the Uptown (Real Gone Music) This collection is absolutely packed full of classic soul hits from the 1960s. I love the raw energy of the live performances, amped up a notch because you can hear the young crowd wildly screaming and singing along to their favorites. It’s so easy to close your eyes and imagine how much fun it must have been to be on the dance floor at one of these shows.

Julio Bashmore CoverJulio Bashmore – Knockin’ Boots (Sony Music Entertainment) for long-term veterans of the electronic music scene, house music never went away; for the general public there’s a revival of sorts going on right now. Julio Bashmore is one of the happy byproducts of this renewed interest. This album isn’t another rehashing of well-worn stylistic elements to pander to old-school purists;  it pulls from a wide range of electronic music genres to create tracks that are a fresh look at the synthy Warehouse-style house music of the 80s.

Arcs Cover ImageThe Arcs – Yours, Dreamily (Nonesuch Records) A smooth, blues-rock and RnB album that’s hard to pin down. Yours Dreamily is an apt title for the vibe. It meanders its way through psychedelic and trip-hop bursts from track to track, always with gritty reverb-soaked overtones to punch things up a notch.

End of Summer New Music Arrivals

The Internet coverSummer was a busy time for new releases and filling some gaps in our collection in regards to older material. Thanks to some excellent requests and donations from the public, we’ve added many Hip-Hop, RnB, Punk, Electronic, and Metal titles that we hope you’ll enjoy. If there was something you couldn’t find in the past, take another look because it may be on our shelves now; if not, reach out and make a request – we do our best to fill them because we want the collection to reflect the unique tastes of our community.

OK, that housekeeping aside, here are some highlights from last month’s new arrivals. The fall release schedule looks pretty exciting as well, so I’m looking forward to more goodies to come.

Four TetFour Tet – Morning/Evening (Text Records: Temporary Residence) – This album is laid out more like a cassette tape of a live PA than an album. Instead of the usual 10-15 songs, this release is divided into two long tracks. The first ‘side’ is a peppy, psychedelic dance party with Indian vibes. The second side was more downtempo and ambient to reflect the ‘night’ theme of the track. I appreciate this interesting take on the LP that seems to be an homage to the genre’s roots in live performance of electronic tracks on synths and drum machines.

Dj Rashad CoverDJ Rashad – Double Cup (Hyperdub)– For those who are not familiar with Footwork, it’s a genre of dance music that originated in Chicago. Tracks are fast and complex – meant to showcase a dancer’s skills as they improvise and adapt to the quickly-changing sonic landscape. One of the biggest names in the genre was the late DJ Rashad; this was his last album released before his untimely passing. In a genre that can be fast-paced and aggressive, Rashad’s sound often took a more atmospheric path, with heavy RnB, jazz, techno, hip-hop, house, and old-school jungle overtones. While these tracks are made to be mixed into DJ sets, Double Cup is a good stand-alone listen from start to finish; showcasing the talent that was lost too soon.

The Internet – Ego Death (Odd Future) – Whether you want to call this neo-soul or just soul, that’s up to you – new or old, this release has plenty of soul to go around. Tracks are a little on the electronic side, with jazzy, funky, harmonizing, dreamy melodies. Singer-songwriter Syd tha Kyd packs this album full of fun and sometimes blush-worthy lyrics taking you through the turmoil of love and sex, like the inner monologue of a turbulent relationship.

Grace Potter coverGrace Potter – Midnight (Hollywood Records) – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals front woman steps out in her first solo release, delving into the oft-maligned world of “pop rock.” This album provides nothing of depth, which is actually its strength. What’s inside is a collection of poppy, sometimes gritty tunes that at times reminds me of an 80s movie soundtrack. Think workout montage before the big day/match/dance meets Britney Spears slightly improved by a rock-and-roll makeover. You might dance, you may break a sweat, and your mood just might improve a little. Still not getting it? Place a hold and find out what I’m talking about.

Lower Dens coverLower Dens – Escape From Evil (Ribbon Music) – Classified as ‘dream pop,’ a genre I’m not familiar with, but who can keep up? I enjoy this album’s throwback sound, which makes me think a little of the Cure and the Talking Heads. This is a synthy, smooth, laid back album with very minimal vocals and a lot of groove. Great for a rainy evening at home as we dip into fall weather.

Sean Davis Jr. CoverSean Davis Jr. – Universes (Ninja Tune) – Another electronic mashup of styles. Downtempo rhythms with a strong funk undercurrent. Minimal vocals, and a bit of sass. There’s a bonus disc of beats that may or may not be of interest to you; kind of atmospheric puttering around, but enjoyable. It’s a Ninja Tune release – it’s hard to go wrong!

Hopefully something here tickles your fancy – place your holds now!

Staff Picks: the Music Edition

One of the best things about working in a library is that you can never complain about the lack of new discoveries. Whether it’s an interesting reference question that takes you down a rabbit hole into a topic you’d never thought much about, or chatting with your colleagues about their likes and dislikes, you’re bound to learn something. For that reason, I love talking to people about their favorite music. I enjoy listening to new things, but have to admit I can get stuck in a rut listening only to music that is familiar. So, I decided to reach out to some of my colleagues to ask about their favorite music for the benefit of our dear blog readers.

Carol

Walk the Moon – Walk the Moon (RCA Records)
My husband and I may quite possibly be the oldest people to rock out at their concerts, but Walk the Moon has been my absolute favorite for the last three years. At a WTM concert in 2013 I had a girl tell me, “OMG You know all the words to the songs!” When they were here in March I had an injured foot, so guys, I apologize for having to literally sit the concert out. I swear Kevin was staring holes into my forehead like, “Girl, get moving!” But it allowed me to snap this photo.

Walk the Moon in Seattle

Best known for the oft-played Anna Sun, these four happy-go-lucky guys from Cincinnati are up for an MTV Music Video Award for Shut Up and Dance from their new album Talking is Hard. If you like upbeat rock with fast keyboards and killer guitar riffs, you will love WTM.

Some others that evoke similar upbeat happy feelings with catchy lyrics you’ll be singing in your sleep:
St. Lucia (song: All Eyes on You)
Misterwives (song: Reflections)
Passion Pit (song: Lifted Up)
Big Data (song: The Business of Emotion)
The Paper Towns soundtrack (song: My Type by Saint Motel)

Ron

The Cramps album coverThe Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us (A & M Records) is perhaps one of the most innovative rock albums created since the beginning of time and space. Lead singer Lux Interior was a true 50s-style rockabilly crooner emoting over guitar leads from a slightly alternabilly universe, as well as distant buzzsaw chords borrowed from nightmarish experiments. Drums are simple, sounding as if any fill might end with the entire kit falling over. And lush reverb envelops it all. Some label them garage or punk, others as the creators of psychobilly. Labels aside, they are forgers of new territory whilst maintaining solid roots in traditional rock and roll. I recommend their cover of Little Willie John’s Fever as an eye-opening, mind-imploding aural extravaganza.

Kate

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Aftermath Records). Just when everyone thought Eminem was washed up, he surprised everyone and dropped this great album. I’ve been heard to say it’s to Eminem what Ray of Light was for Madonna. It doesn’t matter if he never issues anything better; this album solidifies Eminem’s place as one of the very few Kings (with a capital “K”) of hip-hop. Please note: Eminem’s subject matter and content remains socially irresponsible and potentially offensive.

Minor Threat album coverMinor Threat – Complete Discography (Dischord). 1983’s Out of Step is a landmark punk album and all of its songs are included in this collection. In Minor Threat’s short career they didn’t have much opportunity to create a bad song; every song here evokes the time when the gritty east-coast punk sound was just emerging.

X – Los Angeles (Rhino Entertainment). Thanks to The Doors’ Ray Manzarek’s interest in the band, this album sports a high production value that might have seemed contradictory to a seminal west-coast punk album, if it weren’t for X’s inimitable and distinct style and sound. This would be on my deserted island list for sure.

The Antlers album coverThe Antlers – Familiars (Anti-). Most agree Familiars is an intentional follow-up to the soul-crushing but gorgeous death-themed Hospice, and that’s a compliment of the highest order. The Antlers can take you to the deepest depths but their sharp wit and lovely arrangements won’t leave you there for too long. I recommend listening with headphones in order to catch all of the musical and lyrical subtleties.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright (Matador). For me, this record was a happy accidental discovery; I plucked it off of a library display on a whim, and I was immensely rewarded. Described as “Chamber Pop,” the album is rich with raw LGBTQ themes that feel so relevant at this moment in history. As it happens, this album was partially recorded in Everett.

Arcade Fire album coverArcade Fire – Funeral (Merge Records). If you haven’t heard it before, stop what you are doing and immediately go listen to Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut release. It includes (what arguably became) the band’s anthem, “Wake Up”, a song that sparked an entire musical genre’s obsession with large-group vocal harmonizing. This also makes my deserted island list.

Richard

vietcongViet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar). If it wasn’t for Lisa’s recommendation, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this dynamite Canadian four piece group. Their sound is post-punk with a little bit of synth and a lot of angst thrown in. Each song inhabits that great space between carrying a tune and totally falling apart. Plus how can you not love a band with a song titled “Pointless Experience”?

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote). Be forewarned, this is heavily crafted electronic music with nary a guitar lick in sight. With strong vocals, great hooks and extreme precision their music flirts with going over the top, but the lyrics keep it grounded in the world of break ups and existential ennui. A new album, Every Open Eye, will be coming out in September.

Me (Lisa)

I’ll keep this short since I already spend a lot of time talking about my musical tastes.

Daft Punk – Homework (Virgin) Long before the robot helmets and sold-out massive festival events, there were two gangly French dudes making amazing house and techno in a field somewhere in Wisconsin. Not long after Daft Punk’s first North American appearance at Further 1996, they released their bombshell debut album, Homework. For the first time in the US, tracks that we’d only heard at underground parties were getting a ton of play on mainstream radio channels, and videos in heavy rotation on MTV. Almost 20 years later, I can throw this album on and still want to dance.

Frankie Knuckles cover imageDefected Presents House Masters: Frankie Knuckles (Defected Records) Another trip down electronic music memory lane. For anyone interested in the roots of today’s EDM, this retrospective of the late, great Frankie Knuckles is an absolute must. Take a trip back to the Warehouse days of Chicago, when house music was brand new, and had yet to become a global music phenomena that spawned countless genres of dance music.

Place your holds and listen along with us. For the next couple weeks different staff members will be maintaining a ‘staff picks’ music display at the main library. Keep your eyes peeled for more great recommendations there.