Music For A Lifetime

django-reinhardtThe year: Nineteen-eighty-something. The place: Bellingham. Our protagonist is a handsome young man finishing his studies in music whilst working in the college library. A mile or more from his modest roach-infested home sits the Bellingham Public Library, a bastion of free knowledge. Much to the delight of our hero, the building sports an eclectic vinyl record collection (an ancient form of music media, similar to 8-track tapes) ranging from field recordings of chain gangs to sea chanties of the Hebrides. It is here that he first discovers the music of Django Reinhardt and Bob Wills. And here’s the twist: I was that young man!

It’s true.

Bob WillsSome 30 years later, I still listen to Django Reinhardt and Bob Wills on a semi-daily basis. It’s amazing what an impact these library holdings made on my existence. Throw in Charles Mingus’s Fables of Faubus and Haitian Fight Song and we’ve captured significant musical influences to my later life.

At that time in library collection management, I would wager that audio selection was made to provide people with access to music they’d never find anywhere else (this was before everything imaginable was issued on CD) rather than to provide popular music for listening pleasure. And for me, this was perfect! I loved the Folkways releases of underwater Christmas carols and chants of the Irkutskian mud men. Although I might be misremembering those titles.

When I moved to Everett in 1987, the audio holdings were very similar to those in Bellingham. Perfect! And within a couple of years, a few CDs even joined the collection! It was around this time that music selection processes changed to some extent. Perhaps influenced by the initial lack of offerings on CD, perhaps reflecting a change in library philosophy, popular music entered the library in a big way.

But where I’m going with this ramble is: Bellingham Public Library has influenced my life for over 30 years! I’m so grateful that I was exposed to music that I otherwise did not have access to (no internet, no Pandora, no iTunes, etc). And here at Everett Public Library we try to provide a diverse collection of music that will keep you grateful for the next 30 years.

Wild and woolyOur latest venture is the Local Music collection which currently consists of over 70 titles from a variety of time periods. A good place to start exploring this new collection is the CD Wild and Wooly, a compilation of northwest music stretching from the 50s to the present. Many of its performers might not be familiar names, but they’ve all been essential to the growth of local music. And one of the most important bands found on this album is The Wailers, teenagers (well, they were in the 50s) hailing from Tacoma.

In 1959 The Wailers released the instrumental single Tall Cool One which went on to chart at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other local bands such as the Dave Lewis Trio, The Frantics, The Ventures and The Viceroys (all featured on Wild and Wooly) also focused on instrumentals, joining in The Wailers’ success with hit recordings and sold-out performances. The Wailers’ momentum led to recording an album (The Fabulous Wailers), appearing on American Bandstand and touring the east coast. But there’s no place like home and after returning to the northwest the band started its own record label, Etiquette (which later helped launch The Sonics), and made a ground-breaking recording of Louie, Louie.

And this is just scratching the surface (vinyl humor!) of the amazing Wild and Wooly. Check this one out! Perhaps you’ll find a band or two to put into your life’s playlist for the next 30 years. And stay tuned for more posts on Northwest music.

I Used to Be Cool

duran-duran-1981

It’s official. I’m no longer cool. Admittedly, my coolness peaked a long time ago (we are talking the late 80s to early 90s) and it is true that my coolness may have been just in my head. That hasn’t kept me from clinging to the illusion of coolness for decades, however. The latest example of my extreme distance for all that is hip and happening (see I don’t even know what term to use) recently came in an unexpected area. The Dewey 780s range to be exact.

This year I’ve been ordering the musician and band biographies. As the year has progressed, I’ve been excited to be able to order books about bands, artists, and musical movements that I’ve always thought of as cool. Sadly as these books have come in, I’ve begun to realize that many are retrospectives with an emphasis on how great the band/artist/movement used to be and their importance to music history. Clearly I can no longer think I’m hip because I like New Order.

Even so, all of these books are a lot of fun and well worth your reading time, no matter what your position on the coolness spectrum.

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Mellencamp: American Troubadour by David Masciotra
Even if you aren’t from the Midwest and grew up in a big town, John Mellencamp’s music and career is worth looking into. Sure he had that whole weird name change thing as he was starting out, but that was the music company’s fault, man. This biography sets out to reassess and appreciate a musical talent that is often overlooked.

New Order by Kevin Cummins
This collection of over a hundred photographs of the band, from their formation in 1980 to their initial breakup in 1993, is a fun and admittedly nostalgic trip. Come for the cool haircuts and skinny ties, stay for the really great music.

The History of Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll by Bob Mersereau
I know Canada doesn’t scream cool for many, but when I was growing up in Northern Wisconsin their music was definitely an influence. This book will give you all the details on the rock history of our brothers to the north. Not to make you jealous, but back in the day I saw Corey Hart live in Kaukauna. Wait, that doesn’t sound impressive…

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Let’s go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light
A film, an album, and a cultural phenomenon, Purple Rain continues to cast a long shadow on the cultural landscape. This book will tell you how the diminutive legend from Minneapolis got his unique sound and vision to the masses.

Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists by Lori Majewski
A collection of recent interviews with member of the more influential New Wave bands including The Smiths, Tears for Fears, Adam Ant, Echo and the Bunnymen, Devo, New Order, The Thompson Twins, INXS and many more. Sounds like a great retro MTV music video mix list as well.

The Big Book of Hair Metal by Martin Popoff
I’ll admit I tended to look down at ‘hair bands’ back in the day. But does that mean I can’t hum along with several Motley Crue, Ratt, Bon Jovi and even Poison songs? Absolutely not. This well researched and entertaining look at a colorful and well moussed musical phenomenon just might increase my appreciation.

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Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol
I lot of factors make Billy Idol who he is: The snarl, the fist pump, the spiky blond hair, the amazing fact that he is still alive. This autobiography tells of his life’s highs and lows with a characteristically unapologetic and in your face attitude. Would you expect anything else? Would you?!

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
This memoir from Kim Gordon, a founding member of Sonic Youth, is more than a simple history of the band she was a part of for so many years. Instead it is a memoir of her upbringing in Southern California, the gritty 1980s New York music scene, her marriage, motherhood and everything in between. A good read even if you aren’t into their music. Though, why wouldn’t you be?

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello
You will have to wait until the fall to get your hands on this memoir from Mr. Costello but it is sure to be worth the wait. Always unconventional and ever-changing, it should be a kick to get his thoughts on all the great music he has created over the years. To prepare for the book’s release and to better appreciate the man and his music, check out fellow blogger Ron’s appropriately titled post The One and Only Elvis.

While my musical tastes are clearly no longer cool, there is one silver lining. As all these great books point out, the music created in my heyday has clearly influenced the new music coming out today. Luckily I can follow Lisa’s excellent new music blog posts to find out which new bands might appeal to me. Viet Cong, the band not the political movement, rocks! Now if they would only put on some skinny ties and a little eyeliner.

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.

Bang Your Head With The Sonics

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“The Seattle of the 1980s, in which Nirvana came to life, was a rainy city of lakes, rusty bridges, and more than a few disaffected . . . teenagers. . . . Jimi Hendrix had grown up in the city in the 1950s but had to go to London to get noticed, and not much happened of note musically in Seattle until Nirvana formed in 1987. . . .”

~ Encyclopoedia Britannica

Wrong.

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Recently at EPL we introduced a Local Music CD collection, and in the months to come I’ll be blogging about music in the Northwest from the 50s to the present (as well as cleaning up my cats’ litter box with pages from the Encyclopoedia Britannica). Suffice to say, music has been a happening thing in Seattle and its environs for many decades, from the days of back-alley jazz clubs to the current national success of groups such as The Presidents of the United States of America and Modest Mouse.

The birth of NW rock and roll was greatly influenced by touring R&B acts like James Brown and his Fabulous Flames. The NW circuit became a popular destination for such acts, and the teens who went on to form bands frequented these shows. This R&B influence combined with raw, energetic, and loose musicianship formed that early Seattle sound. Garage rock at its best.

The Sonics, a group of Tacoma teenagers, best exemplified the sound with screaming lyrics and drum fills approaching the speed of sound. Many of their songs were covers, but delivered with a shiny new reckless abandon. And their originals: The Witch (1964), Psycho (1965), and Strychnine (1965) among others, sound as fresh today as they did 50 years ago. Seriously. Word from the bird.

The group released Here Are the Sonics in 1965, Boom in 1966 and (strangely titled for a third album) Introducing the Sonics also in 1966. And that was pretty much it.  Band members drifted their separate ways, occasionally getting together for reunions. And the band’s name, without any of the original members, kept going into the 80s.

So people lived their lives, sold insurance, raised kids, painted houses, what have you, and FIFTY YEARS LATER!!! (2015) the band released another album, This Is The Sonics. So we got musicians in their late 60s and 70s playing in a band known for its hard-driving, aggressive sound. And it’s their best album yet! No one can rock harder than The Sonics do on This Is The Sonics. Check it out. Spin it. Spin it again. Be amazed that vocalist Jerry Roslie, age 71, sings the best hard rocking garage vocals you will ever in your life hear. Stare into the distance in wonder at the slammin’ guitar riffs, up-in-your-business bass lines, and Einstein-defying drumming.

That’s it, babies. Listen! Glory in the heritage of Northwest music, which is also contemporary Northwest music, which is really way confusing…  Just listen.

Music Swap Wrap Up

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Trying something new at work can bring a mix of emotions: excitement and anticipation when people start responding to it, and fear and anxiety that something might go wrong. Over the last couple months I experienced a lot of these things as I worked towards our July music swap. I’m happy to say that the result was mostly positive, though there were some downsides that resulted in a very valuable learning experience.

First the pros, since everyone likes a happy story. As soon as I started planning this event, my excellent co-workers were quick to rally to offer their assistance. Equally invaluable was the friendly willingness of two bands, Fauna Shade and Crater Lakes, who agreed to play my weird little event for free, even providing all their own equipment. As the event approached, our swap items were a little sparse until I received a call from Julie Muhlstein asking for all the details; her wonderful piece was what we needed to open the floodgates, and a variety of music poured in. On the day of the event we were visited by around 60 people who rummaged through the swap bins, enjoyed the bands, and walked out happily toting some new music. We even had some neighbors hanging out their windows and deck doors to watch, which was fun to see.

Now the cons. We were loud and we caught some of our neighbors unaware. Though I had reached out to the residents at Library Place and posted flyers around town, I had failed to find a sure-fire way to give a heads up to our neighbors to the north. This led to a few disrupted afternoons and unhappy phone calls. To those folks who were upset by the noise our concert generated, my sincere apology – I am truly sorry. I learned an invaluable lesson about outdoor acoustics and neighbor-friendly volume which will be applied to any future events I might organize. I also learned about how gracious people can be when you listen to their feedback and take it to heart. Thank you for being understanding.

On the whole, I’m happy I was able to try something new at the library. It was a lot of fun to see how willing friends, colleagues, and neighbors were to come together to make something different happen. Thanks to everyone who participated in a variety of ways.

On a semi-related note, here are my quick picks for July music new arrivals – place your holds now:

Hiatus KaiyoteHiatus Kaiyote – Choose your Weapon (Flying Buddha) – This is hands down my favorite album of the year thus far. From start to finish it’s a joyride of blended styles: RnB, Soul, Drum and Bass, Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, and much more. It’s really impossible to sum up – you just have to trust me and give it a listen.

BilalBilal – In Another Life (Entertainment One Music) – A solid soul album with a little funk. Though Bilal is an established artist in his own right, you can appreciate the influence artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder have had on his music. This isn’t to say that Bilal is imitating anyone – his style is refreshingly original.

Fuzz Skating Polly – Fuzz Steilacoom (Chap Stereo Records) – Gritty, growling, totally punk rock. This album is loud and fun. A simple description for a pretty straight-forward album. It’s worth a listen.

 

 

 

What’s Old is New: Swap Your Music

SwapFlyerDoes your music collection need some refreshing? Tired of listening to the same old tunes? Just feel like listening to some great live music? Well we have just the free event for you!

On July 11th at the Main Library we will be hosting a music swap featuring a live set by Everett’s own Fauna Shade. While you don’t have to be participating in the swap to attend the show, we highly recommend taking advantage; it’s a fun, free, green way to get some new music in your life.

To participate, bring your gently-used CDs, vinyl, or cassette tapes to one of our drop-off dates. In exchange, you’ll be given color-coded tickets that can be used on the day of the swap to ‘buy’ the swapped albums of your choice (so if you trade in CDs, you’ll be going home with other CDs). We ask that you only bring original albums, so that means nothing that has been copied, dubbed, or burned. We’ve already had our first drop-off weekend, but the remaining dates are as follows:

June 20-21st at the Evergreen Branch – ask for Zac

July 5th at the Main Library – ask for Lisa

On the day of the swap (Saturday, July 11th) we’re hoping for good weather, because that means we can enjoy hunting for just the right album and listening to live tunes out on our lovely west balcony. If things happen to be a bit soggier outside, no worries – we’ve got our historic basement auditorium booked and ready to rock.

Confused? That’s not a problem. Just hit me up at 425.257.8005 or llabovitch@everettwa.gov if you have any questions about the swap and how it works.

Not able to make the swap but still interested in getting some new music? Here are my quick picks of new music arrivals at the library. Place your holds now!

Shamir CoverShamir – Ratchet (XL Recordings) = dancey, sassy, fun, intelligent, with a sense of humor. It definitely lives up to all the hype it’s been getting.

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE (Sub Pop) = chillout mix of electronic, r&b, hip hop, with a heavy dose of synths. Smooth and poetic.

Special Request coverSpecial Request – Soul Music (Houndstooth) = this one’s for all the oldschool ravers, bringing back the Amen break with a slight twist. Some great remixes as well.

Jamie XX – In Colour (Young Turks/XL Recordings) = deep, melodious, sample-heavy, and hard to define. Jamie XX spans many different styles or electronic and pop music.

Indigo Girls coverIndigo Girls – One Lost Day (Vanguard) = all the melodious and emotional storytelling you’ve come to expect from the band. It’s a great listen from start to finish with a creative array of sounds.

May New Music – Local Sounds

Local Music CollectionAs Carol announced earlier on our blog, the Everett Public Library recently launched a new local music collection, aptly named “Local.” You can now find Local sections at both library locations, and there’s even a special display right now by the check out desk of the Main Library. In preparation for Local, we reached out to local bands to fill out our collection. We’ve received an enthusiastic response so far (keep ’em coming! libref@everettwa.gov to get in touch with our music selector), so I wanted to highlight some new arrivals. All of these performers were at the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival over the weekend; hopefully you had a chance to check some of them out (place your holds!):

Fauna Shade coverFauna Shade – Baton Rouge (Swoon Records) – Hailing from Everett, these hometown boys have been getting some great press lately on their new release. It’s easy to hear why. Excellently-timed, this album sounds like summer: languid, gravelly-sweet vocals, bright guitar melodies with a hint of reverb. It feels like a spacey beach listen to be enjoyed on Jetty Island.

Mts. & Tunnels coverMts. & Tunnels – For a Day or a Lifetime (Mts. & Tunnels) – Originating in Thrasher’s Corner (an exceptionally cool sounding area of Bothell), Mts. & Tunnels provides the soundtrack for an afternoon spent on the porch with a book, lemonade, or a bucket of beers if that’s your style. Sleepy vocals come together in lovely harmony, punctuated by the occasional colorful burst of a horn section. This album could appeal to a range of listeners from fans of country, folk, or rock.

Preacher's Wife coverPreacher’s Wife – To Learn the Land and Live (Preacher’s Wife) Another band native to Everett, Preacher’s Wife is self-described as Dream Folk – a label I both love and agree with. Listeners are treated to long melodic jams, dreamy harmonies, and a country twang. This is a bright, sunny listen, chock full of heart. For more about the band and their latest release, check out the great write-up they received in the Herald.

Shark the Herald coverShark the Herald – This is That… and That is for You (Soniphone Records) One last Everett act to round things out – they just recently celebrated their latest album’s release at The Cannery. If you’re a fan of epic guitar jams, bluesy vocals, classic rock overtones, and general rocking out, this just might be the album for you. It’s hard to pigeonhole Shark the Herald to any one sound because this album is fun and versatile. I’ll leave it to the listener to decide where this fits into their catalog.