Listen Up! Fall New Music Arrivals

"Listen Up!" in dark pink text, written over a blurry black and yellow background with a design that looks like a half moon.

Fall into some new music at the EPL (I’m sorry – that was terrible). The seasons are changing, and so should your playlist. Place your holds now:

Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power (Soul Jazz Records) – Funk, jazz, poetry: this compilation showcases an awesome variety. This was compiled to accompany an exhibition at the Tate Modern of Black art from the 1960s. While comprised of funk, soul, jazz, and spoken word, fans of hip hop and electronic music can also appreciate this album as a history lesson in the roots of many modern genres.

Twista – Crook County (GMG Entertainment) – The Chicago artist with arguably the fastest flow in hip-hop is back with his tenth studio release. Twista seeks to tackle the corruption rife in his home city and explore the conflict between old-school hip hop and new. Not all of the tracks feature Twista’s blisteringly-fast rhymes, but his unique style will leave you tongue-tied on more than a few occasions if you’re ambitious enough to try to rap along.

Nine Inch Nails- Add Violence (Capitol) – A short sampling of what NIN has been working on during their long silence. I loved what they had to offer, but found it a little funny that they made it a little longer by adding a fairly unnecessary 4 minutes of static on the last track. I generally love what Trent Reznor does, but that seemed to be stretching it a little.

Lo’Jo – Fonetiq Flowers (Real World Records) – A playful blend of musical styles from French folk and Romani music to hip hop and languorous torch songs. An eclectic array of instruments build a mood that is dramatic, mysterious, and worldly.

Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy (Columbia) – Switching gears from abrasive and controversial to a more introspective vibe, Flower Boy delves into the changes that have come into Tyler the Creator’s life as he’s grown up in the public eye. From empty sexual encounters to seeking partnership, Tyler’s lyrics reflect the anxiety, confusion, and isolation he’s often felt during the course of his career. This release seems like a leap into a maturation of sound, with even the production taking on a tighter, more focused feel.

King Krule – The Ooz (True Panther Sounds) – An intriguing, avant-garde mix of jazz, rock, hip hop, electronic, and spoken word. One of the many music-making monikers of British artist Archy Marshall, King Krule’s sound manages to be both beautiful and a bit disturbing at the same time. Each track flows with a sense of unease – that there is something hidden to discover that could either be wonderful or horrible (or somehow both?).

Doing Our Thing: More Soul From Jamdown 1970-1982 (Cree Records) – A rich collection of early reggae covers of U.S. soul and disco cuts. Compiled by reggae historian Steve Barrow, this track list reads like a who’s who of Jamaica’s musical pioneers and showcases the mass appeal of the cover tradition in reggae music.

Jupiter & Okwess – Kin Sonic (Glitterbeat Records) – Congolese rhythm, instrumentation, and vocals smash together with Western rock and RnB culture to produce something energetic and unique. Hard to pin down because Kinshasa born/German-raised bandleader Jean-Pierre Bokondji’s influences are many, listeners find elements of ska, hip hop, disco, soul, funk, reggae, rock, Congolese rumba, and so much more. Extra flavor comes from guest appearances by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Bad Seeds‘ Warren Ellis and Massive Attack‘s Robert del Naja.

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – Echo in the Valley (Rounder) – This album is just exploding with bright sounds and melody. The partnership of Fleck and Washburn, between their skilled banjo playing and her elevating vocals, is hard to rival. This is a joyous, warm, and welcoming collection of songs that seems to give its all from first to last note.

William Patrick Corgan – Ogilala (BMG Rights Management) – The former front man of The Smashing Pumpkins is back with a new solo endeavor and a more adult-sounding iteration of his name. What hasn’t changed is the signature sound of Corgan’s acoustic songwriting with its gentle, melodic instrumentation and sing-song lyrics, which as the artist admits are more often than not composed to sound poetic than to bear much meaning. This pick is more one of nostalgia than anything for me. It’s an easy listen, with WPC’s skills stripped down to where he shines. One majorly disappointing note to this release is the inappropriate faux Native American theme with its misspelled title and the cover art featuring bad dime-store feather headdresses. Haven’t we moved past that sort of disrespectful kitsch? Corgan has not been known for his tact and sensitivity over the years, so I can’t say this comes as a huge surprise.

Comfort Music

In times of stress and tribulation, some turn to comfort food. But I find my comfort in music. A single song can change the course of my day for the better. And so today I share with you my Post-Holiday Guide to Comfort Music.

bixOld-timey jazz is one of my go-to genres when seeking comfort. As a former trumpet player I admire the brilliance of Bix Beiderbecke (pronounced Bick Spiderbeck), an extremely influential musician whose heyday was in the 1920s. Bix, as I call him because it’s easier to type, played in a variety of dance bands during his short career (he died at age 28) and left a legacy that persists 100 years later. For your comfort, I recommend Bix Beiderbecke Volume 1, Singin’ the Blues.

bobwillsWestern swing is another source of succor for me, and so I turn to the king of Western swing, Bob Wills. Picture old-time country (you know, the good stuff) combined with big band, except the solos are played on traditional country instruments, and the musical language leans more towards country with a slight nod to jazz… Well, it’s a wonderful hybrid. And for your comfort, try Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys: 1935-1947.

yourhitparadeSpeaking of the 1940s (notice the clever segue), I do love me the purdy songs from those post-war years. Your Hit Parade, The Late ‘40s features fantastic jazz and pop from that golden age. Listening to those tunes I can just picture the yuge tube radio in my neatly trimmed suburban home, slipper-clad feet on the ottoman, wisps of fruity smoke climbing eagerly towards the heavens. Sarah Vaughn interprets Black Coffee as only she can, Tommy Dorsey delivers The Huckle-Buck. Comfort for all.

thompsonFor beautiful Celtic/folk/folk rock/rock, there is none better than Richard Thompson. One of the greatest guitarists ever, Thompson is also a superb songwriter and a most excellent singer. Walking On A Wire (1968 – 2009) is a nice career retrospective, albeit nearly 10 years behind now, ranging from early folksy work with Fairport Convention to more recent rockers like my personal favorite, Bathsheba Smiles. His music is intricacy veiled in the guise of simplicity, complicated guitar paired with delicate melodies, tunes that will stick with you for days. Listening to this man’s music is indeed a comfort.

buzzcocksMoving on to music from my college days, Buzzcocks are a British punk band that started in the late 70s, and 40 years later they’re still going at it! Singles Going Steady is a compilation of their early hits from the 70s and 80s. Unlike what you might think punk is, the songs are catchy pop gems, generally not political, often steeped in teenage experiences, and most assuredly wielding a hard edge. So many good memories, much comfort provided.

ecAnd as the sun sets on today’s music-of-comfort we turn to the best of them all, Elvis Costello. I was first introduced to his music at a high school dance, saw him at my first rock concert, have performed his songs and stolen his dry cleaning (well, not really). Stylistically, this guy is all over the place, from country to jazz to power pop to acoustic rock and everywhere inbetween. His first album, My Aim Is True, remains in my heavy rotation even after 41 years. Songs like Welcome to the Working Week, Alison and Mystery Dance are perfect pop masterpieces. Check him out and you too will receive comfort.

We all need comfort at times and music is an amazing healer. Check out some of these titles, or look into your own favorite genres to find nourishment for the soul. Oh, and let me know if you find my dry cleaning.

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.

Listen Up! May New Music

Album cover collage

Here are my quick picks for new music arrivals from late April and early May. Place your holds now!

Mayer Hawthorne – Man About Town – Soul and RnB with a real 70s dusties feel to it. Lots of harmonizing and falsetto vocals bring smooth slow jams to life.

Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger – Wonderfully grungy garage rock with a ton of reverb.

Mexrrissey – No Manchester – A bit mariachi, a little bit rock and roll – all Morrissey. This album is just awesome.

Bibio – A Mineral Love – Mostly down-tempo rock, with some dancy tracks mixed in.

Primal Scream – Chaosmosis – an electro/alt rock fusion that reminds me a little bit of 90s British alternative acts like the Verve or Charlatans UK.

Flatbush Zombies – 3001: A Laced Odyssey – Moody, thought-provoking hip-hop with a flair for the absurd and dark humor.

Tanita Tikaram – Closer to the People – Soulful, raw, deep and emotional. This is a sensual and sophisticated blend of bluegrass, folk, blues, and even jazz.

Albul cover collage

La Santa Cecilia –Buenaventura – A fusion of Latin jazz, rock, Mexican folk music, rockabilly, and more. Toe-tapping tracks are full of guitars, horns, accordion, and gusty bluesy vocals in Spanish and English.

Låpsley – Long Way Home – Dramatic, ethereal, deep, and dancy – a wonderful debut on XL Recordings from this 19-year-old British synth-pop singer and musician.

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid – This is the kind of hip-hop album that you’ll listen to a hundred times and probably notice something different each time. Intricate, powerful rhymes do acrobatics with the English language, making the listener sit up and take notice.

Charles Bradley – Changes – Classic soul with a real Motown vibe to it, and some funk and Gospel undertones.

Older releases, new to the EPL:

Siriusmo- Mosaik – Electro with German undertones; at times bizarre, but pretty catchy. Avant-garde with a lot of analog synths. This was an older title but a patron request, so we happily filled it.

Passenger – All the Little Lights – Irish Folk with a rowdy sense of humor. A little funny, a little dirty, and a lot of heart.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love – fuzzy feedback, funky, spacy, rock and roll with an electronic feel – hints of RnB.

Listen Up! March New Music

Album Cover Collage

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover this month, so let’s get right to it! Place your holds now for these great new arrivals.

Sun City Girls – Torch of the Mystics (Abduction Records) – Mostly instrumental rock, with a a bit of a surf rock influence. The overall feel is surreal, like a circus side show with David Lynch directing from the center ring. Warps and distortions, misheard lyrics, chants in other languages or maybe just gibberish, chicken noises, raggas, and odd pitch changes. It’s a little unsettling but that’s the beauty of it. Added bonus: this is a local band.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra – Dee Dee’s Feathers (Okeh; Sony Music Entertainment) – Strutting, smoldering, romancing, dreaming – full of sound and energy. Bridgewater’s homage to the Crescent City’s past, present, and future captures the heart and soul of New Orleans jazz.

Jeff Buckley – You and I (Legacy) – This release doesn’t have a ton of new material to offer to the devoted fans of Jeff Buckley; most of the songs are featured in one form or another on some of his live releases (Sin-e and Olympia). That being said, it’s a beautifully-produced album that shares the richness of his voice and emotion with new and old fans alike.

Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow (Sub Pop) – Dark and brooding alt rock that reminds me a little of Depeche mode. If you’re a fan of syths, krautrock and lyrics with strong political overtones, this is the album for you.

Anderson Paak – Malibu (Obe; Empire) – Lyrical, jazzy, a little rock and roll, and extremely chill. The album’s smooth vocals are at times reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield. Paak draws from many musical styles – funk, rock, jazz, house, hip hop, and beyond. I spent a lot of time dancing in my desk chair previewing this one.

Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn: Something About April II (Linear Labs, LLC) – This album is a bit of a soul, rnb, and funk fusion that sounds a little like Stereolab at times. Beautiful vocals, and dreamy, mysterious instrumental tracks that would make awesome beats to rhyme over.

Moodymann – DJ-Kicks (K7 Records) – Down-tempo, jazzy, funky, with a mixed salad of beats and rhymes. This is an excellent mix CD to throw on to decompress during a Friday night happy hour, or while chatting with friends.

Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation (Heavenly Recordings) – Night Beats possess a raw sound that is reminiscent of the garage bands of the 60s. This Seattle-based trio lays on the reverb and bombards the listener with the kind of frenetic energy that you’d hope to find at only the finest of dive bars.

Listen Up! 2016 Grammy Winners

grammy collage

Votes have been cast, the red carpet has been strutted, and the results have been revealed: the 2016 Grammy Award winners are here! You may be familiar with many of the awardees, but there are other names that perhaps are still to be discovered. Here’s a short list of the best of the best; we have a carousel of even more winners currently in the EPL collection on our catalog site. If you don’t see a title you’re looking for in our catalog, check back because we’ve made some additional purchases (though some titles are not available because they are only out as digital releases). Place your holds now! Many are checked out, but amazingly some are currently in.

Angélique Kidjo – Sings (SLC LLC) – World-renowned Beninese-born vocalist Angélique Kidjo returns to the Grammy stage once again for her third award in the World Music category (she’s been nominated several times). We loved her bold, dreamy, festive, and orchestral sound when the album debuted at the EPL in April. Hopefully many new listeners will discover it due to its latest success.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath Entertainment) – Hip-hop MC Kendrick Lamar was the biggest winner of the night, taking home five awards though missing the coveted Album of the Year and song of the year titles (hard to believe after earning 11 nominations!). Not a surprising result for an album that has so much to offer. It’s definitely not one to be missed. More about To Pimp a Butterfly can also be found in our April picks post.

Mavis Staples – Your Good Fortune (Anti) – This album was the product of a collaboration between two generations of Anti artists: the legendary Mavis Staples and rapidly-rising star, Son Little. Hard work and unbridled creativity paid off because one of the resulting tracks, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” was declared the Best American Roots Performance. The rest of the album provides an equally-gratifying listen.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah (RCA Records) – Clearly his 14-year recording hiatus was fruitful, because veteran R&B singer D’Angelo used the time to write some amazing material. Track “Really Love” received a nomination for record of the year, and won the Grammy for Best R&B Song. Black Messiah as a whole won the award for Best R&B Album.

Cecile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love (Mack Avenue Records) – Salvant’s third release and second Grammy nomination netted her the award for the Best Jazz Vocal Album. On a far smaller stage, this album was recently featured on our February new music arrivals blog. It’s a delightful listen.

Hamilton: original Broadway cast recording (Atlantic Recording Corporation) – Even if you’re not into musical theater, you’d be hard-pressed to have not heard all the buzz about Hamilton at this point. Ticket sales have been through the roof, and album sales have followed. It’s no surprise that the original cast recording took home this year’s award for Best Musical Theater Album. The production goes on tour in 2017, so hopefully we’ll all have the chance to see Hamilton live in the near(ish) future; in the meantime you can at least enjoy this CD.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO Records) – I’m not going to lie, this one is another personal favorite of mine. I knew when I wound up in the double-digits in the EPL holds queue to get my first listen that it was going to be something special. I wasn’t disappointed, and Sound & Color has remained in heavy rotation in my car ever since. Apparently the powers that be agreed, and Alabama Shakes got to take home Grammys for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Alternative Music Album.

All of these and more can be found at epls.org – happy listening!

Listen Up! February New Music

Blackstar Cover Art

For those of you not looking for another Bowie reflection/review, TL;DR, skip to the list at the bottom. For those of you who are into it, read on.

January was a tough time for many music fans, with the loss of some pretty legendary names. For me, it was the death of David Bowie that hit hardest. I can’t claim to have been a Bowie superfan, but his music was ever-present in my youth, and became the soundtrack to a lot of great memories as I grew into adulthood. Beyond liking the music Bowie created, I was even more fascinated by his ability to constantly reinvent himself, turning life into performance art. Nothing exposes the depth of this artistry better than the way he orchestrated his final months, turning his death into a powerful statement on 21st Century privacy, lifelong creativity, and going on your own terms.

The result of this period was Blackstar (officially ), David Bowie’s final album, released on the artist’s 69th birthday, just two days before his death. I will never forget the shock I felt upon hearing of Bowie’s death just days after celebrating this latest release. What a surreal experience it was to go back and re-listen to the album within the confines of a completely different context. Lyrics took on haunting new meanings; music videos became more somber and stirring. The Thin White Duke was saying goodbye; we just weren’t listening.

This album would have been a great listen without the backstory, but knowing all the details and the way they were carefully crafted and presented just makes Blackstar the stuff of legend. It made me think a long while about my own mortality and wonder how I would choose to confront it: with careful plans and aggressive strides to make sure I left my loved ones with something lasting and memorable, or with fear and denial until my final moments. David Bowie’s last act showed us that it was possible to die with courage, dignity, and a flair for the dramatic. As he so eloquently said from the stage on his 50th birthday “I have no idea where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you” – I’m sure that even after his death, the legacy of David Bowie will continue to intrigue and entertain us for years to come.

That’s the long story of one of my new arrival picks, so I’ll just give you a list of brief highlights for the rest. Place your holds now! In the case of Blackstar, it might be a little bit, but it’s worth the wait.

Blackbird cover imageMiloš Karadaglić – Blackbird: The Beatles Album (Mercury Classics) – love the Beatles? Like classical guitar? This is the album for you.

Outskirts Cover ImageShemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love (Alligator Records) – A fiery, driving mix of blues, rock, and soul. It’s the type of album you want to listen to on repeat.

For One to Love CoverCecile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love (Mack Avenue Records) – Delightful follow up to Salvant’s 2013 Grammy-nominated album, WomanChild. This 26-year-old jazz virtuoso has a phenomenal voice and a load of creativity.

Image from wondem.bandcamp.com

Image from wondem.bandcamp.com

Dexter Story – Wondem (Soundway) – For listeners looking to try a little of everything, look no further. Story effortlessly blends funk, jazz, soul, and traditional East African instrumentation and vocals to create vibrant and hypnotic soundscapes.

Cool Uncle CoverCool Uncle – Cool Uncle (Fresh Young Minds) – What happens when smooth jazz icon Bobby Caldwell gets together with Grammy-winning producer Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson)? Well they make beautiful music, of course, and they have a great time doing it. This is largely a pop/funk/RnB record, with playful nods towards the worlds of smooth jazz and even yacht rock. It may sound borderline cheesy, but it’s the kind of cheese you could fall in love with. It’s great to see people with this level of talent having fun with their craft.