New Music Picks for February

Tetsuo & Young album coverWe get a lot of great new music in every week at the EPL, so sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I got the chance to peek through the latest stack of new arrivals down in the cataloging department and wanted to give you a preview of what’s about to hit the shelves.

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (Atlantic) This release has a spring feel to it. For the most part comprised of laid-back, jazzy, atmospheric beats, the production mainly takes a back seat to Lupe’s thought-provoking wordplay. The tone of the tracks takes a turn near the end of the album, when the sound and content becomes a bit darker and harder; the change isn’t a bad one, but it almost feels like the tracks were added on from a different project.

Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors (KIDinaKorner/Interscope) The second studio release from Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors provides the listener with a poppy, more rock-driven sound than their earlier work. That being said, the album is a lively mashup of different sounds and influences, from electronic to world music to R&B.

The Pale Emperor album coverMarilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (Hell, Etc.) Iconic industrial metal act Marilyn Manson returns with a different sound to critical acclaim. The band’s new material fuses electronic and industrial elements with a predominantly bluesy backbone. Manson’s lyrics and subject matter still flirt with religion, war, violence, and mythology, continuing the tradition of courting controversy with some listeners. The overall effect is a dark but pretty catchy album that strays away from the more niche industrial/goth sound of earlier releases.

Future Islands – Singles (4AD) Singles feels like a synthpop trip to the beach, with an airy, sunny, slightly melodramatic vibe to the melodies and vocals. I could see throwing this album on some rainy afternoon for an impromptu new wave dance party in my kitchen.

These albums will be available for checkout soon, so place your holds now at www.epls.org.

Best of 2014: Audiovisual

We end our Best of 2014 list with all things vision and sound. Enjoy our staff selected list of the best in film and music for the year.

Film & Television

F1

Cutie and the Boxer
Artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara have been in a challenging marriage for 40 years. For starters, Noriko states she is not Ushio’s assistant, while Ushio claims she is.

It’s fascinating to watch these artists create. The scenes of Ushio boxing his canvases with dripping gloves contrast nicely with Noriko’s careful drawing style. -Elizabeth

Guardians of the Galaxy
Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.

Even if you know nothing about the comic books (I certainly didn’t) you’ll be cheering on our anti-hero outlaws as they band together to save the universe. Almost stealing the show from our actors: the retro soundtrack (aka Awesome Mix Vol. 1) -Carol

In a World
An unsuccessful vocal coach competes against her arrogant father in the movie trailer voice-over business.

Starring in and directing her first movie, Lake Bell delivers a quirky, sophisticated, personal, and compulsively watchable comedy that champions the underdog. It’s also nice that funnymen Demetri Martin and Ken Marino are given a chance to act. -Alan

F2

The Spectacular Now
While Aimee dreams of the future, Sutter lives in the now, and yet somehow, they’re drawn together. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth.

An authentic portrait of teen life and family relationships tempered with humor, relatable characters, and a nice edge. A smart, wise film that made me want to seek out the director’s “Smashed.” -Alan

The White Queen
Love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder in one of the most turbulent times in English history highlight Philippa Gregory novels set in 1464 and adapted for TV…all through 3 women who scheme and seduce their way to the throne.

For fans of Game of Thrones and British period pieces and those wonderful costumes. It’s also thrilling to witness the deceptions, plot twists and treacheries all to get and keep the throne. -Linda

Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season One.
Jake Peralta is a Brooklyn detective with a gift for closing cases and little respect for authority. When no-nonsense commanding officer Raymond Holt joins the 99th precinct with something to prove, the two go head-to-head.

Starring both comedians and serious actors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is guaranteed to make you laugh. Seriously: I bet a friend she’d laugh and she did! I’ve discovered I think like Rosa and dress like Gina, but follow the rules like Amy and speak like Jake! -Carol

Music

M1Indie Cindy | The Pixies
Although not as blisteringly sonically dense as the Pixies of old, Indie Cindy brings about a new chapter for the band. They’re still not in a happy, friendly, hug-filled place, just perhaps 3 inches closer.

Not many bands can create delight out of pain. -Ron

Kudos to You! | Presidents of the United States of America
Quirky rockers return with more songs of everyday life. Energetic as always, distinctive yet fresh, rocking, clever, silly. Perfect.

There ain’t nobody like them. Such simple ideas but never tiresome. Most of all, fun! -Ron

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music | Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson’s sophomore album. While the album’s sound feels like it was made in 2014, it has more in common with Merle Haggard than Florida Georgia Line.

I wouldn’t classify myself a “country music” listener (especially if you include anything produced after the 1970s), but this album stands out from almost everything else I’ve heard this year. -Zac

M2

Rockabilly Riot! : All Original | Brian Setzer
35 years later, Setzer is still cranking out authentic, exciting rockabilly, songs destined to be the classics of the future.

Virtuoso guitar, classic riffs, outstanding originals. How can he do so much with so few chords? -Ron

Tribal | Imelda May
Imelda May is rockabilly’s premier female singer,and her latest album has been eagerly anticipated. It is more contemplative than earlier stuff, slower paced, but still features Imelda’s knockout voice.

Imelda Imelda Imelda. -Ron

Kid’s Music: Old and New Favorites

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I’ve been listening to children’s music ever since my children were little and my son turns thirty this week! Back then, we loved Raffi, Disney songs and Pete Seeger. Children’s music has come a very long way in recent years. I know because now I listen to music with my granddaughters and the children in story times at the library. I also purchase the children’s music CD’s for the library. It’s important to know which artists can pass both the kid’s and adult’s quality tests. By this I mean that young children will listen to the latest Disney songs (FROZEN) for ever, but you may not want that in your home or life. Here are some artists which I listen to alone. By myself. Willingly.

indexQM6GB4RGMy absolute favorite children’s recording artist is the fabulous Elizabeth Mitchell. Her compact disc You Are My Little Bird is so wonderful that you can just leave it in your CD player because it is primarily acoustic and purposefully low-key, which allows the melodies of her songs to shine through. Mitchell’s singing is elegant, unforced, and a thoroughly natural pleasure to listen to.

seedElizabeth Mitchell has been lending her lovely voice to folk-leaning indie rock for years, and in recent years she’s been displaying the same intelligence and playful joie de vivre on a handful of recordings for children. Her album Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie collects recordings of Mitchell’s interpretations of the legendary folksinger’s songs.  What a pleasure!

nancyNancy Stewart is a children’s singer-songwriter based in Seattle and be sure to check out her fabulous website. This website is dedicated to providing FREE songs, resources and information for teachers, parents, librarians, and home schooling families. You can download her music onto a CD or just click and play. I get so many wonderful tunes from Nancy and you could too.

index (2)I asked my fellow children’s librarians who their favorite musicians are and one loves the Laurie Berkner Band. I do too!  It doesn’t get much better than the Best of the Laurie Berkner Band which features twenty tracks taken from her first five albums. It’s bouncy and fun. The production and performances are top notch which makes it music for all ages.

indexT4OJMRVKJim Gill is the favorite children’s music artist for two of our librarians. He is a nationally acclaimed author and musician who has received five separate awards from the American Library Association. Studies have shown that there are many connections between music, play and literacy. This is wonderfully playful music for the little ones in your life.

indexX12JJSPSSome of my favorite CD’s are from Putumayo Kids. This world music label is dedicated to providing high-quality music played by traditional and contemporary artists. You must listen to Hawaiian Playground if you’re making a trip to the islands or just want to pretend by listening to the song “Come to Hawaii”. Just try to get the tune of the “Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai” out of your head.

indexB8E1SJGCLikewise, check out Cowboy Playground if you’re driving to Idaho or Montana or any other horsey place out west. You’ll love singing along with “Back in the Saddle Again”, “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Happy Trails.”  It was perfect for my cowboy storytime.

indexH51ZRUETAnd who can resist Reggae Playground? This is an outstanding album for children and moreover an entirely enjoyable album for adults also. There are excellent performances all through this upbeat offering which does not dumb-down music for children. Everett Public Library has no less than 28 Putumayo Kids CD’s, so there’s sure to be one to your liking in the bunch.

index (3)Caspar Babypants has a new CD of Beatles music for children and it’s marvelous!  He’s also coming to the Main Branch of the Everett Public Library on Wednesday, December 10th at 10:30 AM. Be sure to come to the auditorium to hear this acclaimed local children’s musician and author present his signature mix of catchy lyrics and bouncy beats. Families with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers will especially enjoy this performance. After the show, be sure to take home some of these fabulous children’s music CD’s. Rock on!

Band Books Week

Just last night I was thinking how indescribably important music is to me. I started playing organ at age 4, then guitar, viola, trumpet, French horn, mandolin. And along the way I began composing and studied this in college for some 12 years. I’ve played in various rock bands since the early 80’s, currently play in two. Music is the thing that keeps me going. So imagine my joy to hear about an entire week celebrating books about bands:  Band Book Week. Here are but a few of the titles available at Everett Public Library. Bands 1-3 Motley Crüe: The Dirt
Cockroaches, rats, piles of beer cans, Tommy Lee and the boys, alcohol, drugs, music and girls. Everything one could want in a heavy metal band biography.

Jonas Brothers: A Big Buddy Book
Embarrassed to admit that you’re still in love with Kevin, Joe, and Nick? Well my friend, you are not alone. This book is aimed at the younger crowd but will certainly satisfy those more mature Jonas fans as well. The pages are Burnin’ Up with interesting tidbits, so read it Tonight. No need to be Paranoid, just wait A Little Bit Longer and the Jonas juggernaut will come to you!

Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys
Is there anyone who doesn’t love the Beach Boys? No, there is not. This book looks at 50 songs by the seminal California surfer band. As well as the band’s history, its influence on current artists and culture is examined.

Bands 4-6 The Experience: Jimi Hendrix at Mason’s Yard
In Seattle we claim him as our own. No one else has ever played guitar like Jimi, probably no one ever will. Here we find photos from 1967 of Jimi and the lads at the height of their experience, perhaps the finest ever taken. This book is worth a look for any fan.

I and I: Bob Marley
Poems and paintings bring Bob Marley’s biography to life in this children’s book. Some of the Jamaican terminology might prove incomprehensible, but this beautiful book is well worth a look.

The Clash
At the front of the punk rock movement, and then careening around a hairpin turn to create London Calling, considered by many one of the greatest rock albums ever. While many punk groups demonstrated little intelligence or creativity, the Clash brought reggae into their first album, featured thoughtful lyrics, and crafted clever and enjoyable songs. This book is created by the band and includes materials previously unavailable for publication. If you don’t know The Clash, take advantage of this chance to meet them. Bands 7-9U2 by U2
Whenever I think of U2, I recall a Ben Stiller skit where he portrayed Bono saying, “I’m not actually a god, I just play one on TV.” And while the band has become a frequent target of parody, there is no denying their impressive success. I discovered the lads with their first album, Boys, and this remains my favorite, but the remainder of their catalogue reads like a world’s greatest hits list. So read about their origins and rise to fame, praise them, mock them and perhaps learn, like Bono, to be a god.

Hey Ho Let’s Go: The Story of the Ramones
Much to my eternal surprise, this former underground American punk band has grown to be an American icon. Their songs are frequently heard on television commercials and myriad bands imitate their style and cover their songs. This is the no-holds-barred story of the Ramones, filled with bad decisions, in-fighting, drugs, and bad health. Gabba gabba hey, read this one today!

Radiohead and Philosophy:  Fitter Happier More Deductive
I have to admit, Radiohead came into their own sometime after I stopped listening to new bands on a regular basis. So I’ve never thoroughly absorbed their oeuvre. However, I know them to be a creative, innovative band. This heavy-hitting book looks at the influence of big-time philosophers on the band.

Yes indeed, I do love music, so…. What? What do you mean it’s not really Band Books Week? I gotta check this out, dear Reader. I’ll get back to you.

Return of the Grateful Undead

We’ve all seen the sad and scary headlines:

NOW PLAYING AT THE EMERALD QUEEN CASINO, *FILL IN A ONE-HIT-WONDER FROM 20 YEARS AGO*!

Then again, perhaps it isn’t a sad situation; after all, the musicians are doing what they love and making a living at it. But all too often, ahem, mature bands don’t have much gas left in the proverbial tank and their performances, well, tank.

Even scarier is the band that you loved oh-so-many-years-ago coming out with a new album. This is seldom a happy experience. Talents wane, song selection weakens and the rivers of time leave former superstars in stagnant, putrid tributaries.

The reason for this tirade is that a surprising number of bands I listened to 20-30 years ago are now touring and/or making new albums. My automatic reaction upon hearing this is a violent shudder. But much to my surprise, I am discovering some excellent albums being made by these old-timers (i.e. my peers).

OMD EnglishOne case in point is English Electric by synth-pop pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I came to know OMD in 1980 with the release of their second album, Organisation. It contains perhaps their best known song, Enola Gay, a catchy foot tapper about dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. I was struck by the song’s beauty, the bittersweet lyrics, and the metamorphosis of a grim topic into a happy dance song. The remainder of the album is highly atmospheric, what some might think of as soundtrack material. As their career progressed, OMD’s music became less ethereal and more dance-oriented and I kind of stopped paying attention.

So now it’s 2014, I discover that OMD released a new album in 2010 called History of Modern, I give it a listen (expecting the worst) and I’m sorta blown away. English Electric continues in the same positive vein. OMD is one band that after a long layoff sounds as good as, or better than, ever.

Adam Ant coversAdam and the Ants (or Adam Ant after he dropped the backing band) had a bunch of catchy hits in the early and mid-80s. His seemingly final album, Wonderful, was released in 1995. But 2013 saw the release of Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter. This new album is not as strong as his best work, but for someone who is nearly 60 and has lead a difficult life (being bi-polar and dealing with the effects of medications), his voice is still strong as ever. In Adam’s case, perhaps it’s just nice to see him still trying in the face of adversity.

Pixies coversThe Pixies came on the scene in 1986 with a vengeance, oft-screamed vocals and wild-fuzz guitar intermixed with lovely pure pop ditties. The group stayed together until 1993 with their final album coming in 1991. Although they regrouped in 2004, the band did not release another album until this month, Indie Cindy. It’s a bit kinder and gentler than the Pixies of old, but this is all relative as they still deliver a bundle of whopping hard-edged fun.

Other artists to look for

The Cars broke up in 1988 and reformed in 2010. They released Move Like This in 2011, which went to #7 on the Billboard charts. If you like early Cars albums, you should like this one as well.

JoaCars coversJoan Jett, although never taking a break from performing, had not released an album in seven years until delivering Unvarnished in 2013. This is hard-rocking music, a return to form for Joan and the Blackhearts.

Kate Jett coversKate Bush has continued to release albums over the years, but her last (and only) tour was in 1979. She is finally returning to touring in 2014.

Bush covers

Other new releases that will be appearing in the EPL collection soon:

Devo somethingSomething for Everybody (2010) by Devo. Their first album since 1990 shows a return to this band’s golden days.

 

 

 

Presidents KudosKudos to You! (2014) by The Presidents of the United States of America, their first album since 2008.

 

 

And yet even more new releases worth pursuing:

Ultravox brilliantBrilliant (2012) by Ultravox, their first release since 1994.

 

 

 

 

Magazine NoNo Thyself (2011) by Magazine. This brilliant release is their first since 1981!

 

 

 

Pulp Rock

Once upon a time various musical genres – blues, country, honkytonk, western swing and others – amalgamated into an exciting new sound called rock and roll. The music was edgy, full of vim and vigor, and never boring. As time moved on, corporate lackeys watered down the rock and roll to appeal to a wider fan base and generate taller stacks of money. Later still, rock evolved into a highly orchestrated, squeaky clean entity, in the process losing its edge and becoming, dare I say, boring. Until roughly 1975 when bands such as The Ramones re-introduced the idea of some mates getting together, picking up instruments, throwing together a few chords, and creating exciting sonic art.

However, today’s blog is about pulp fiction. So place your seats in a reclined position as we journey from music, through a metaphorical slipstream, and ultimately land in the works of John D. MacDonald.

Rocket to RussiaThe Ramones, Richard Hell, Dead Boys and others emerged, in great contrast to the highly-produced sounds of Yes and ELP. Gone was the boredom of album-oriented-rock. A new frenzy of emotion leapt from these bands’ ineptitudes, and it became apparent that a satisfying thrill could be obtained listening to music filled with uncertainty; uncertainty if the band would land together on beat one, if the bass player would actually make it through a run, if the blazing guitarist would manage to finish his solo before the vocalist came back in. This was excitement! Disaster might rear its head at any moment, and this created a riveting listening experience.

Exit music, enter literature. There was a time when pulp authors would pump out prose at an alarming rate. The result was similar to my beloved rock and roll: a disaster lay lurking behind every corner. Due to the speed with which they worked, quality within a single book could vary significantly. When prose was bad it was quite bad, but when it was good it was amazing.

And this takes us to John D. MacDonald. He wrote thrillers, what one might loosely think of as private detective stories, often set in Florida, often featuring Travis McGee, a salvage consultant who finds missing things for money. McGee’s character is quite different from the typical private eye, although the morose life-view which permeates the PI genre is an integral part of his persona. What sets MacDonald’s stories apart are, mixed among the mundane and sometimes poorly-written prose, stunning observations presented in vivid wordsmithery.

So rather than reviewing titles or describing plots, I leave you with excerpts that reveal the essence of MacDonald’s writing style.

  • “We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody threw the girl off the bridge.” – from Darker Than Amber
  • “Good old Meyer. He can put a fly into any kind of ointment, a mouse in every birthday cake, a cloud over every picnic. Not out of spite. Not out of contrition or messianic zeal. But out of a happy, single-minded pursuit of truth. He is not to blame that the truth seems to have the smell of decay and an acrid taste these days. He points out that forty thousand particles per cubic centimeter of air over Miami is now called a clear day. He is not complaining about particulate matter. He is merely bemused by the change in standards.” – from The Scarlet Ruse
  • “It is strange how a man, totally naked, feels a little more vulnerable. It seems to be a distraction, an extra area to guard. Cloth is not armor, yet that symbolic protection makes one feel at once a little more logical and competent. Doubtless the hermit crab is filled the strange anxieties during those few moments when, having outgrown one borrowed shell, he locates another and, having sized it carefully with his claws, extracts himself from the old home and inserts himself into the new. The very first evidence of clothing in prehistory is the breechcloth for the male.” – from The Scarlet Ruse
  • “The only thing that prisons demonstrably cure is heterosexuality.” – from The Long Lavender Look
  • “He had detected a certain sensitivity, a capacity for imagination, in the girl in New York. But the years and the roads, the bars and the cars and the beds and the bottles—they all have flinty edges, and they are the cruel upholstery in the dark tunnel down which the soul rolls and tumbles until no more abrasion is possible, until the ultimate hardness is achieved. So here she sat, having achieved the bland defensive heartiness of a ten–dollar whore.” – from Slam the Big Door

coversSo climb aboard the non-stop express to MacDonald’s melancholic, intoxicating world. And while you’re there, give Rocket to Russia a spin.

Family Albums

Image of blogger's mother, Judy, as a little girl in cowgirl attireJanuary 25th marks one year since we unexpectedly lost Mom to a heart attack. The news of her death brought on a series of trips back to Chicago to help my family go through her things and tie up loose ends. In the quiet hours of the night, generally my time because I’m a bit of an insomniac, I went through her CD collection. I added nearly everything to my iTunes because I’d never be able to lug it all back on the plane. Nevertheless, I’d decided I wanted to get to know a side of Mom I never really knew.

In our house, Mom’s music was always dominated by my music, my brother’s or Dad’s; he’d never been able to handle yodeling folk singers or wailing female vocalists, so she mostly listened to them in private. My brother and I, being teens, always hijacked the car radio, so that venue was out-of-bounds too. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener when I started ‘letting’ Mom control the radio when I became an adult, and got to know a bit more about what she liked. Here’s a selection of what I found in her collection – new-found loves from an old one.

Cover image for Joan Baez Bowery SongsJoan Baez
Enter Public Enemy Number One from my childhood. There were always Joan Baez jokes in the house, yet I never got to hear her and what the fuss was all about. Despite all that, she was one of Mom’s favorite singers. One of the best memories I have of the last couple years with Mom was taking her to a Joan Baez concert and seeing her sing along with every single song – a whole catalog I’d never heard before. It must be genetic, because now I love her too.

Buffy Sainte-Marie
Public Enemy Number Two. I’ve made up for lost time with Buffy. I’m completely drawn in by her raw emotion and powerful subject matter.

Cover image from Carole King TapestryCarole King
Bluesy, uplifting, and such an incredible voice. King is the kind of vocalist I’m a little surprised I didn’t come to all on my own.

Aaliyah
Mom discovered Aaliyah through her fervent love for Jackie Chan. After seeing the 2000 film Romeo Must Die, in which Chan co-starred with Aaliyah, Mom went out and bought all the Aaliyah she could find. Other than liking my Fugees and Lauryn Hill albums, this was about as far as Mom got into hip hop and RNB.

Cover image from The Wailers Burnin'Bob Marley
Aside from owning a copy of Legend, which seemed to be standard issue for college students, I never paid much attention to Bob Marley. Mom, on the other hand, loved him. It was a running joke that I had stolen one or more of Mom’s Marley albums because she’d always misplace them. My copies of Bjork, Beastie Boys, Beck, and Fugazi albums tended to mysteriously wind up in her CD booklets, but that’s neither here nor there. I still maintain my innocence in the matter of wandering Bob Marley, though I’ve been enjoying the albums I added to my iTunes.

Cover image from Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl BalladsWoody Guthrie
Twangy hobo ballads and stirring protest songs: they fit right into my new life out West. It’s nice to see how these songs follow the narrative of the region I chose to move to, and make me think of Mom’s past as a student activist.

These are just a sample of the wealth of new music I inherited from Mom. It’s been reassuring to quickly feel a connection with the artists that Mom listened to in her free time. Even if these artists weren’t a presence in my childhood, there is something there that is deeper than familiarity – somehow these artists are family.