Bang Your Head With The Sonics

Album collage

“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

swap

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.

Locally Grown Music

For years we’ve heard a lot of noise from the music industry about the death of CDs and other physical media, and how downloadable media has doomed the CD and vinyl pressing business. Guess what? Much like the rumors of the obsolescence of libraries, this is patently untrue.

Happily this is amazingly awesome news for library users like you. Don’t want to commit to purchasing an album by an artist you haven’t yet heard? Can’t spare the cash to order in a CD you are dying to hear? The library must be your BFF and, if not, we’re looking to change that.

localmusicStarting like, right now, I’m knee-deep in relabeling and reorganizing a small but mighty subsection of our music collection. And our music buyer? She’s been doing her utmost, tirelessly contacting local bands and artists and gathering as many CDs as she can for this collection. By the time you read this there should be a choice selection of CDs by bands local to the Puget Sound area, finally grouped together and just waiting for you to discover them.

For those of you in a local band, now would be the time to let us know you’ve got an album that you’d like to see in our collection. That can be done by shooting an email to libref@everettwa.gov with your band name, contact info, and, if possible, a link to where we can hear and order your music online.

We’re naming our brainchild Local, and we’re adding some names you’ve heard (Hey Marseilles!) and some you may have not yet had the pleasure of hearing (Jason Webley). The bulk of these CDs will be available just in time for Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, another Everett brainchild that we think has achieved gifted genius status.

And as we look toward the future? Well, we’re going to keep growing this amazingly diverse and charming collection. And a little birdie told me that summer may bring some big news for local bands collaborating with us bibliophiles here at the library. Stay tuned, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.

April New Music Picks

Peru Bravo coverSpring has been a busy time for new releases and reissues. We’ve been keeping busy with great patron requests and staff discoveries alike. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the new arrival highlights from this month. Place your holds now!

Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul, & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade (Tiger’s Milk Records). Basically what it says on the tin: almost an hour of awesomely funky psychedelic rock. My favorite track on the CD by far is the Jeriko cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” Dim the lights, don some paisley and velvet (or velvet paisley if you can manage), and have yourselves a dance party.

sings-kidjo2Angélique Kidjo Sings (SLC LLC). This album is a delightful fusion of Kidjo’s bold and distinctive vocals with a full orchestral backing. Listeners journey through a rich musical landscape that can be dramatic, dreamy, or festively dancy depending on the track.

Pimp a Butterfly coverKendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath Entertainment). Jazz, hip-hop, funk, spoken word, slam poetry – an entire spectrum of art forms are covered. At times thought-provoking and at others just entertaining; To Pimp a Butterfly is packed full of powerful tracks and is sure to become a classic.

Viet Cong CoverViet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar). A solid post-punk release that grabs you from the first track and holds your attention all the way through the epic 11-minute long final cut, “Death.”

War on Women – War on Women (Bridge Nine) Loud, gritty, hardcore punk with a healthy dose of righteous feminist fury.

2ne1 crush cover2NE1 – Crush (YG Entertainment) K-Pop girl group 2NE1 blends hip-hop, reggae, RnB, and EDM to come up with a great mix of dancefloor-friendly tracks and slowjams.

The Skints FM coverThe Skints – FM (Easy Star Records) Laid out like a day at a London pirate radio station, the Skints make good use of their ska, reggae, ragga, hip hop, dub, and grime roots. FM proudly represents the musical melting pot that thrives on the underground airwaves of the UK.

March New Music: a Horse of a Different Color Edition

Photo from wikipedia.

Photo from wikipedia.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite scenes in The Wizard of Oz was when Dorothy, wide-eyed and full of wonder, was pulled through Emerald City by the Horse of a Different Color. Not one to bow its shaggy mane to conventional horse ways, this amazing beast would periodically change its color to various vibrant shades to suit its fancy. I see a similarity between Dorothy’s rainbow-hued guide and some of the music we purchase for the library. While it is in the librarian’s nature to try to classify the things she buys in order to make them more findable for our users, sometimes that task feels impossible. We are constantly working on the language we use to make sure that we keep up with changes in music and literature, but it can often be hard to be as accurate as we’d like to be and still remain organized. So this month, I wanted to highlight some of our latest Arrivals of a Different Color to pique your interest. They may defy our ability to apply just one golden label, and might not be placed where you’d expect them (not for lack of trying!), but that doesn’t make them any harder to enjoy. Be sure to place your holds now!

tracker cover imageMark Knopfler – Tracker (Verve). Knopfler, of Dire Straits fame, has returned with his ninth solo album. While this will be placed in the Rock section, it could easily appeal to fans of old-school country, Irish folk music, jazz, and bluegrass. I like to think of this one as sea shanties and ballads for the urban cowboy.

Tego Calderón – El Que Sabe, Sabehttp://wpac.epls.org/polaris/search/title.aspx?ctx=1.1033.0.0.7&cn=550071 (Universal Music Latin Entertainment). El Que Sabe will wind up in our Latin Pop section, but listeners will find a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, bomba, and more. While the overall tone is dark but dancy, there are a couple lighter, more laid-back cuts. ‘La Media’ was a standout track for me; it reminded me of mid-90s hip-hop, to be enjoyed in the sun.

Just Kids Cover ImageMat Kearney – Just Kids (Republic Records). Also bound for our Rock section, Just Kids speaks to a few different interests. At first blush this sounds almost like a Coldplay album, but then Kearney starts rhyming, a little like Macklemore, but with vaguely Christian Contemporary lyrics. Did I mention he has bluegrass overtones but also likes to play around with synths? Christian folk-hop? Sounds about right, and it works.

Panda Bear Cover ImagePanda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino Recording Co.). If we were going to indulge in smaller musical genre sections at the library, I’d place this in ‘chillwave’ – basically synthpop’s grandbaby – but I do not want our catalogers to start hating me. For simplicity’s sake, this album rocks out, so it belongs under that heading. Panda Bear’s sound is psychedelic, synth-driven, and sample heavy, but layered over with vocal harmonies that have often been compared to the Beach Boys.

For those of you who would like some less-complicated notable new arrivals, I also really enjoyed these two:

One-derful Cover ImageVarious Performers – The One-derful! Collection (Secret Stash Records). An outstanding collection of soul and funk classics recorded at One-derful! in Chicago between 1962 and 1971. I can’t recommend this compilation enough. It’s the first of six that will be released over the next few years.

Vestiges and Claws Cover ImageJosé González – Vestiges & Claws (Mute). Straight-up, no-nonsense indie-folk music. This is a really enjoyable album, with beautiful guitar melodies, intriguing lyrics, and dreamy vocals.