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! April Music New Arrivals

Here’s my quick take on what’s new and exciting in the EPL’s music collection. Place your holds now!

Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness (Midheaven/Revolver USA) –sometimes life can be a little hectic; you need the ability to sit back and enjoy simplicity. Singer/songwriter Julie Byrne seems to have crafted this album understanding that need for balance. Not Even Happiness provides a very atmospheric mix of instrumentals, warm vocals, and even some well-placed silent breaks, to create just the right tone to showcase her dreamy, poetic lyrics.

Vagabon – Infinite Worlds (Father/Daughter Records) – harmonious, folky indie rock with a lot of slow builds and powerful breaks. This deceptively simple backing leaves singer Lætitia Tamko with full possession of your attention to deliver her thought-provoking vocals. Taking into account her immigrant origins (she came to the US as a teen from Cameroon) Tamko’s work feels very urgent as she tackles concepts of belonging, community, relationships, and the search for common ground.

Depeche Mode – Spirit (Columbia) – I feel like this album comes under the heading of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (sorry, grammar!).’ Depeche Mode have developed a signature sound over their long career and at this point in the game there isn’t much need to deviate. In Spirit they tackle many of the key issues we face today as a global community with their own unique style. For long-term fans and new, there’s not much here that will disappoint. This album feels familiar and comfortable more than new and exciting, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press (Ivy League Records/Sub Pop Records) – light, upbeat, driving, and full of variety. With essentially three lead singers/guitarists a band like this has endless options. While RBCF may sound a bit like a seasoned act with vaguely 80s roots, this is only their second album since bursting on the scene in Melbourne in 2015.

Hurry for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO Records)– Alynda Lee Segarra has cultivated a very laid back folk rock sound, which she makes captivating with her smoky raw vocals. In an interesting twist, this is a concept album broken into two parts: alter-ego street kid Navita struggles with oppressive city life and decides to visit a witch to seek release. In act 2 she wakes under the witch’s spell, far in the future, and must learn to live in a very new world where everything she knew has disappeared.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Matador) – While this album still has a solid footing in the indie rock style that has driven Spoon for over 20 years, there is a fair amount of synth dabbling that leans the overall feel towards the realm of poppy electronic music. At times the album feels a little scattered, possibly the side-product of the band exploring new sounds and expanding their range.

The Kernal – Light Country (Single Lock Records) – kind of what it says on the tin: light country. It’s a little country, a little classic rock, maybe a bit of folk and gospel. Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of current country music, but this album showcases the aspects of the genre that have always appealed to me: the shared rural Southern musical roots that underlie so much of America’s current musical landscape.

Tinariwen – Elwan (Anti-) – bluesy with a West African flair. All language barriers aside, it’s hard to miss the deep and moody beauty of the vocals. Lots of groove, but all very understated – the simplicity is its strength. Each layer of sound or lyric seems perfectly, carefully placed to add to the progression of the track.

Newish Arrivals You May Have Missed!:

Various – Everett Sounds Volume 1  (Live in Everett) – this much-needed compilation was brought to you by Live in Everett. Check out a sampling of the local flavor that has been contributing to a very vibrant and growing Everett music scene. These albums have been checked out steadily since we got them in-house, so you’ll need to place a hold to snag a copy.

Number Girl – School Girl Distortional Addict (Toshiba EMI Lmtd.) – A solid garage band/punk rock release in Japanese – what’s not to love? Fans of the Pixies and Stooges might want to give this a listen.

Listen Up! Spring New Music Arrivals

It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to highlight some of our new music, so let’s quickly get you all up to speed. Some of these releases are from the last part of 2016, but I wanted to make sure our readers didn’t miss out! Place your holds now:

The XX – I See You – an energizing blend of RnB and rock that brings a lot of emotion to the table. Each track is packed with layers of sound that build as the album progresses. The XX really doesn’t leave the listener wanting for much on this album.

Childish Gambino – Awaken my Love – gritty funk that’s infectious. At times this album runs the risk of feeling like a nostalgic throwback, but the strength of the lyrics and vocals carry it though. At times a slow burn, and at others a furious, grinding work of dystopian sci-fi soul, Awaken my Love  covers a lot of ground.

Bob Moses – Days Gone By – a low key fusion of rock and dance music that hints at blues roots and dark smoky back room dance floors. This debut album is a deviation from the duo’s live act, which tends to have more of a DJ set feel, and develops each track as a stand-alone statement.

Tycho –Epoch – very laid back down tempo electronic music. Totally instrumental with no vocals, but a very bright vibe. I could see this being a great album to practice yoga to (it picks up the pace now and then, so maybe Vinyasa!), or get your read on.

Lera Lynn – Resistor – dark, melancholy, and mysterious. Down tempo rock with haunting vocals. This title may be a little bit older, but it’s a welcome addition to our collections.

Ty Segall – Ty Segall – this album is a powerhouse mix of Segall’s many musical interests. You can feel the solid garage-punk roots that underpin his stylistic wanderings, that can range from acoustic to glam rock, to metal in a matter of minutes.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Backlash – a solid mix of garage rock, soul, blues, funk with a heavy horn section and screaming hot vocals.

Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy – rising to the challenge of making a supergroup gel, Melvins members Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover team up with Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes and her colleague Omar Rodríguez-López of Mars Volta and At the Drive In fame. Combining established musicians with such strong, established personal styles is often a very difficult feat, but Crystal Fairy strikes a balance that lets each player amplify the best that the others have to offer.  The result: a gritty, anxious, driving playlist that has a lot on offer.

Kehlani – SweetSexySavage – this album feels like a declaration of triumph. It’s clear from the unflinching lyrics that RnB singer Kehlani Parrish went through a great many struggles before arriving at this new artistic high. Kehlani pays obvious homage to musical heroines, such as TLC, but she manages to do so in a way that remains distinctly her own style. Strong vocal talent coupled with tight production makes this an infectious listen.

Ibibio Sound Machine – Uyai – part dance music part world, it’s hard to remain unmoved by the eclectic rhythms of this album. The overall sound is a captivating mix of Nigerian brass, techno, African jazz, rock, and so much more. Uyai, meaning “beauty” in Ibibio, is very much a feminist album, tackling topics of women’s liberation and the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, many of whom are still missing. Listeners can journey through a musical landscape that is often frenetic, sometimes remarkably tranquil, but always beautifully harmonious.

Music Review: 100 Years Ago Tomorrow

100 Years Ago Tomorrow Cover Art

Last year the Everett Public Library undertook a project to re-frame the conversation about the series of events that had become known as the Everett Massacre. It was the 100th anniversary of the most notorious chapter in Everett’s history, and there was a desire on all parts to move away from the usual recitation of ‘who shot first?’ speculations. Early on, members of a variety of historical organizations and City offices gathered together to brainstorm how to best approach the topic, and one name was repeatedly put forth: Jason Webley.

Jason, a hometown favorite known for his eclectic and often political mix of folk, punk, and alternative music, had recently captivated local audiences with his Margaret project. For those unfortunate enough to have missed that one, it was a night of music, and later a book, that was inspired by the chance discovery of a scrapbook in a dumpster in San Francisco. By all accounts, Jason Webley not only created music that night, he made magic out of local history; his rare talent seemed to be a natural fit to tell the story of the Everett Massacre.

As Jason freely admits, he had some reservations about undertaking the project, but thankfully for all he changed his mind. From there, he was able to assemble a remarkably-talented team of musicians and artists and began working with them on his concept. At least this is the part of the story most people know from his telling. What I think gets lost, but is incredibly important, is the amount of time and effort Jason himself spent poring over sources related to the Everett Massacre. Jason was a regular in the Northwest History Room, spending hours talking with David Dilgard and peppering him with questions. His curiosity about the topic was passionate, and seemingly unquenchable; you could tell that when he undertook a project it consumed him until it was completed. Emails requesting clarifications or more resources arrived at all times of the day, and from all over the globe (Jason seems to constantly be traveling). There was such a strong desire on the part of Jason, and by extension the other artists, to get everything just right that you couldn’t help but be incredibly excited to see the final result.

Needless to say, the final product met and exceeded expectations. You could feel the audience ‘getting it.’ All the nuances about what is an extremely complicated series of events. All the tragedy, and all the missed opportunities to avoid disaster. All the harm done in oversimplifying how we see historical figures, even those that can be clearly painted as villains. Hauntingly, the show also made easy ties to current events that were unfolding in November of 2016; the same fear, animosity, and sense of mistrust that inflamed passions in 1916 seemed to be permeating the political climate 100 years later. The audience was rapt and quick to respond. At the end of the night the overwhelming question was: did anyone record this?

Well, as it turns out, yes and no. At the time, some video of the event was uploaded to YouTube, but nobody had made a professional recording. Thankfully, due to the high-level of interest, Jason and his colleagues decided to meet up and record their pieces in studio and to produce the album via an Indiegogo campaign. The project was fully funded, with all proceeds going to the ACLU. I’m happy to say that we now have a handful of copies available for check out so that those who were there could relive the event, and those who missed it can take part in their own way. Listeners to this powerful collection of history and protest in musical form will not be disappointed. Place your holds now!

For a preview, and a little behind the story information about the project, check out Jason Webley’s intro video for the project.

Listen Up! December New Music Arrivals

As we wind down the year it seems like my top pics have turned fairly low key. Pick up one of these new arrivals and take a little breather. Place your holds now.

Cover from Ro James's album EldoradoRo James – Eldorado – A soulful RnB offering full of lush sound. While James has a bit of an old school dusties feel to his music, he avoids sounding like a carbon copy by bringing his own updated style.

Album cover image from Jim James's Eternally EvenJim James – Eternally Even – Jim James’s (My Morning Jacket) solo offering is a psychedelic indie rock album with a touch of the blues and a heavy dose of instrumental tracks. Simple sultry vocals with an air of mystery, punctuated with some upbeat organ riffs.

Album cover for Warpaint's Heads UpWarpaint – Heads Up – Labeled ‘dream rock’ for a reason, Heads Up makes a great companion to a good book or a late night drive. It’s just engaging enough to enliven you, but doesn’t rock hard enough to distract you from the task at hand. This might seem like odd criteria for liking an album, but I’m one of those people who is very picky about my reading music; it needs to be interesting, but not so lively that it distract me.

Martha Wainwright – Goodnight City – Bluesy folk-rock that really showcases Wainwright’s very versatile voice and vocal skills. Goodnight City draws from a lot of musical styles, mixing synths and horns with the more-traditional guitar, drums, and bass accompaniment of the genre.

Album cover for Tanya Tagaq's RetributionTanya Tagaq – Retribution – This is one of those albums that can be a music selector’s and cataloger’s nightmare; it’s virtually impossible to pick one genre for it to live in on the shelf. Retribution is a surreal mix of rock and traditional Inuk throat singing, with a healthy dose of electronic music influence mixed in. At times hard-hitting, and at others very dreamy, it provides a very unique listening experience.

Enjoy the rest of 2016 – I’m looking forward to bringing you more great music in the New Year!

Listen Up! New Fall Music Arrivals

Collage of album covers

KT Tunstall – KIN (Caroline Records) – acoustic-guitar-driven power-pop. A little folky, very laid back.

Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat (Rounder) –  blues, funk, and a heavy horn section act as your guides through what sounds like one heck of a breakup.

Charlie Hunter – Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth (Ground Up) – irresistible instrumental blues with NOLA-style jazz brass accompaniment.

Skye & Ross – Skye & Ross (Fly Agaric Records; Cooking Vinyl Limited) –  Skye & Ross is a side project of British trip-hop legends, Morecheeba.  It should be no surprise then that this album is packed with ethereal, sensual, downtempo. jazz, rock, soul, and trip-hop goodness. This seems to be classified as an electronic release everywhere, probably because of the band’s lineage but to me it listens more like a very low-key indie rock album.

Madeleine Peyroux – Secular Hymns (Impulse!) – beautiful vocal jazz with blues, folk, and swing undertones.

Amanda Shires – My Piece of Land (BMG Rights Management) – soft, gentle country music with a touch of folk.

Gallant – Ology (Mind of a Genius Records; Warner Bros. Records)  – smooth and loungy RnB that makes you want to get up and dance.

Jamie Lidell – Building a Beginning (Jajulin) – Lidell departs from his electronic music roots to produce a smooth and soulful RnB record. Listeners can catch a strong Stevie Wonder influence in his sound, but it doesn’t go as far as parroting.

Pretenders – Alone (BMG Rights Management) – at times sultry, at others, gritty. This driving 10th release from frontwoman Crissie Hynde is apologetically irreverent and brutally honest.

Saint Motel – saintmotelevision (Elektra Records) – eclectic alternative rock. A strong gospel influence and an upbeat horn section give this release a lot of energy and depth.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Sea of Noise (Records) – a solid neo-soul album with lots of groove. Thought-provoking lyrics explore the issues of racial violence, political turmoil, and the everyday struggles of faith and love.

Older Titles, Newly Added

Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997 (Strut Records) – Anyone interested in the history of house music needs to give this collection a listen. It’s like a musical time machine to Chicago in the 1980s.

Only 4U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records 1992-2012 (Strut Records) – Get in that musical time machine to Chicago and fast forward 10 years. This collection picks up on the Chicago sound from where the Hardcore Traxx collection leaves off.

Listen Up! The Donations Edition

Collage of Album Covers

Readers who don’t work in the library with me might be totally unaware of the fact that we’re in the middle of doing an absolutely massive renovation of our non-public work areas. As a result, a lot of our ordering of new materials was slowed down or put on hold while our amazing technical services team (the folks who make sure our constant stream of new arrivals make it from the mail to the shelf and are easy to find in the catalog) were relocated to other areas around the library.

So, when library life hands you lemons, the best thing to do is attack the side projects for which you’ve desperately needed more time.

It’s a little known fact that the library receives a fair amount of donations from the public (HT to blogger and music podcaster Ron for sending a huge amount of great donations my way!). Some of these donations are used in our ongoing book/CD/DVD sales at both locations, but others do make it into our collections. Donations are a great way to fill gaps in our collection among older titles; sometimes we’re replacing existing copies that have become worn out, or missing copies that weren’t returned. Other times they’re titles we probably should have had all along but somehow it just never happened. Donations also give us a glimpse into what our library users like to listen to at home, which is helpful when considering future purchases.

Here’s just a small sample of some of the older titles that were recently added through heroic cataloging efforts by my colleague Carol. Many were checked out immediately, so it’s been great seeing them already making listeners happy. Place your holds now!

Meat Loaf – Bat out of Hell II
Eels – Beautiful Freak
Etta James – Etta James
The Police – Ghost in the Machine
ZZ Top – Greatest Hits
Dusty Springfield – The Very Best of Dusty Springfield
Social Distortion – White Light White Heat White Trash
Paul Simon – The Rhythm of the Saints
Various Artists – Pulp Fiction: Music from the Motion Picture
PJ Harvey – 4-Track Demos
Alicia Keys – As I am
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
Less Than Jake – “Hello Rockview”
Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm
Dance Hall Crashers – Honey I’m Homely
The Breeders – Last Splash
The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Revolting Cocks – Beers, Steers & Queers
Peter, Paul, and Mary – No Easy Walk to Freedom
Stereolab – Serene Velocity
Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor
NOFX – So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes
Dolly Parton – Dolly: The Best There Is
Fats Domino – Fats Domino Live
Cheap Trick – Greatest Hits
Bob Marley – Legend
Dropkick Murphys – The Warrior’s Code
Bob Dylan – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

Listen Up! August New Music Arrivals

New Music Arrivals Collage

August seems to be the month for the rowdy and the thought-provoking; most of my picks this month deliver some pretty strong messages. Get involved – place your holds now!

Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room (Sony Music Entertainment) – A strong follow-up to Mvula’s highly-acclaimed debut, Sing to the Moon. Enjoy rich vocals backed by a delightful mix of orchestral accompaniment, neo-soul rhythms, and a range of powerfully-moving songwriting.

Anohni – Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) – Down-tempo alt rock/electronic pop with strong political themes. Vocals that shift from dreamlike to a hypnotic drone at times, even lilting.

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate (Interscope) –  First and foremost a soul album, but with hints of rock, blues, gospel, and even a kind of classic rock feel at times. Very beautiful, grand, and political. I loved this album.

Audion –Alpha (The Ghostly International Company; !k7 Records) – The kind of club-friendly techno you’ve come to expect from Matthew Dear’s more driving and gritty alter ego.

Fantasia – The Definition Of… (RCA Records) – RnB with a little bit of rock, soul, and electronic influence. This is a great pick for anyone looking to dance around to some great harmonizing with the occasional dose of humor. It has a throwback feel that makes me think of a lot of early 90s RnB.

Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) – Gritty, beautiful, and packed with raw emotion. Mitski Miyawaki explores love, loss, anxiety, and depression in her 5th wonderfully-complex and vibrant indie rock offering.

White Lung – Paradise (Domino Recording Co.) – Vancouver punk trio dips a toe into new songwriting territory in their 4th release. The album remains unflinchingly confrontational and provocative, but they have embraced a hint of new pop sensibility that makes this release perhaps a little more accessible to a wider audience without much compromise.

Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat (Anti) – A deeply-satisfying mix of funk, rock, electronic, RnB, jazz, and hip hop styles that explores how women of color move through today’s social landscape.