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.

Rich(ard) and (not) famous

 According to unimpeachable sources one of the most frequently asked questions of any library’s adult services desk is, “Who was the fifth Beatle?

As Sherlock Holmes might say, “The answer is George Martin, my dear Watson, George Martin.”  Sturdy companion Watson might reply, “But Holmes, I was certain that Billy Preston was the culprit.”

Holmes, inhaling sharply, retorts, “Egad Watson, I never thought to hear such folderol from your lips. I will concede Stuart Sutcliffe as a far-fetched possibility, but never this!”

That’s how it goes in my mind at any rate.

Perhaps this bit of common knowledge is not so common. Let’s start over.

While everybody’s heard of Paul McCartney, very few unimpeachable people of any importance know the name of the British guitarist who is sometimes referred to as the John Mayall of folk rock. His name is Richard Thompson, his career spans five decades (so far), and his songwriting and guitaristing, while bringing him neither fame nor fortune, make him one of the most talented musicians of his lifetime.

Thompson’s influences flit from genre to genre like intoxicated honeybees sampling from a rainbow panoply of flowers. In “The Calvary Cross,” for example, you can hear his guitar imitating the drone and chanter of bagpipes. Rotate 142° to experience the boogie woogie piano feel of Jerry Lee Lewis steamrolling a traditional British melody in “Cooksferry Queen.” And execute a quarter turn to hear 1960s hard-edged rock coalesce with British folk music in “Roll Over Vaughan Williams.” Thompson’s lyrics, often exquisitely beautiful, tend to unfold dark tales of bitterness and longing.

A most excellent starting point for experiencing the amazing art of Richard Thompson is found in the career-spanning collection Walking on a Wire (1968-2009). And if, upon finding your curiosity piqued, you would like to delve deeper into his music, the library has a wide selection of his offerings.

So what have we learned today? It’s elementary, my dear readers.

Firstly, not everything we “know” to be true is actually true. Conversely, some things we do not know are very important indeed. So introduce yourself to the music of Richard Thompson. Then there will be one less important thing you do not know.