Listen Up! Winter New Music Arrivals

Mosaic of barely visible album covers in a tile formation of 3 x 3. Nine total squares. Superimposed over the album covers are the words "Listen Up!" in a deep red color.

Load up your holds list for all your New Year’s gatherings (or to provide a soundtrack as you have some alone time to recover from all that socializing) – it’s time for the final new music arrival round-up of 2017:

Lucinda Williams – This Sweet Old World (Highway 20 Records) – Twangy, mournful, and full of life’s hard-learned lessons. Williams revisits some of her back catalog, giving a new worn-in and worldly interpretation to some of her earlier works.

Moses Sumney – Aromanticism (Jagjaguwar) – Swoony, ethereal, loungy, and full of eclectic instrumentation with hints of electronic production. Sumney has the kind of falsetto that made me fall in love with Jeff Buckley. For an album that revolves around the rejection of romantic love, I find that kind of funny.

Lindstrøm – It’s Alright Between Us As It Is (Smalltown Supersound/Feedelity) – Bright, poppy, dance-floor-friendly house music with strong cosmic disco overtones.

Porter Ray –  Watercolor (Sub Pop Records) – Seattle rapper Porter Ray’s Sub Pop debut gives a very intimate look into his tumultuous life. Watercolor’s lyrics dive heavily into the artist’s processing of the murder of his brother, Aaron. The tracks have a dreamy, often ominous feel to the production with a blending of current and throwback styles.

Dale Crover – The Fickle Finger of Fate (Joyful Noise Recordings) – After 30 years with the Melvins and early work with Nirvana, drummer Dale Crover aims his skills at a solo project. The album at times can feel a bit disjointed as Crover jumps from style to style – gritty and driving, acoustic and meandering, or even slowly-unwinding noise-rock. If you’re not looking for an album to take you on a journey this shouldn’t be too much of an issue; the ground that’s covered here is covered well.

Simo – Rise & Shine (Provogue) – Simo ventures a little out of their blues rock comfort zone into the uncharted waters of funk, soul, and psychedelia. The resulting fusion leaves the listener with a solid album to jam to at home and promises heat on the stage when touring with this material.

Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (Kemado Records, Inc.) – With a title that is a homage to the turbulent life of an outsider musician who was once groomed to give The Beatles a run for their money, Ariel Pink’s latest seems steeped in references to his musical influences. The album has a whimsical though dark feel to it, somewhere between psych-pop and new wave.

Margo Price – All American Made (Third Man Records) – Price comes out swinging with “Don’t Say It,” a rowdy rollicking jam and one way or another she doesn’t let up. This is an album that pulls no punches; it’s a stripped down look at life in America through the eyes of a woman raised in rural America. While this listens like a classic country album, from start to finish it also has the feel of a collection of folk-inspired protest songs that would make Woody, Pete, Joan, or Buffy proud.

Talib Kweli – Radio Silence  (Javotti Media) – In his 8th studio album, Kweli brings you the kind of consistent, compelling music hip-hop fans have come to expect from him. As always, socially conscious lyrics are backed by beats of intricately-woven soul samples studded with collabs and cameos.

John Maus – Screen Memories  (Ribbon Music) – Ever the craftsman, Maus spent the six-year span between albums essentially trying to hand-create electronic music from wires to vinyl, going so far as to build his own modular synth. While he said that the experiment was largely a disappointment, as his creation didn’t sound wildly different from commercially produced equipment, his output on Screen Memories doesn’t let the listener down in any way. This similarity may have more to do with the fact that he’s carefully honed his sound over time, rather than any failings in his synth construction. It’s a nice complement to his older work, showcasing his brooding deep vocals and moody synth-pop aesthetic.

Sly 5th Avenue – The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre – This album brings me endless joy. It’s like the thrill of recognizing a favorite song in the QFC Muzak, but far funkier and infinitely more enjoyable. I think any fan of sample-driven music would appreciate what Sly 5th Avenue has accomplished here; it feels like an album just waiting to be remixed, sampled, and molded into new creations.

Ibeyi – Ash (Xl Recordings) – A powerful second album from Ibeyi. This eclectic offering of musical styles defies generification, blending vocal harmonies, minimal electronic production, hints of jazz, hip-hop, soul, and occasional flurries of West African and Yoruba percussive styles. The duo of twin sisters use their songwriting to address some of the violence they have faced as women of color in France, though this is less an album of protest than one of solidarity and strength with others engaged in similar struggles.

Julien Baker – Turn out the Lights (Matador Records) – Soft, slow builds with radiant finishes. Baker’s storytelling skills shine within the musical landscapes she painstakingly crafts.  Heartrendingly soft and beautiful, her often mournful vocals deliver what feels like a deeply personal collection of songs.

Odonis Odonis – No Pop (Felte Records) – Dark, minimal, almost elemental industrial music. No Pop is pretty much right on the nose with the title. This album kind of recreates the feel of early Nine Inch Nails for me. You get an overwhelming sense of a world falling apart, and the desolation that will surely follow the collapse.

Greta Van Fleet – From the Fires (Republic Records) – Short but sweet: if you like Led Zeppelin, you’ll probably find something of interest here.

Best of 2017: Videos and Music

We finish up our list of the Best of 2017 with our recommendations from the audiovisual world. Enjoy these video and music titles that tickled our fancy in 2017. And remember to check out the full listing of the Best of 2017 on the Library Newsletter.

Video

Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie

Two overly imaginative pranksters, George and Harold, hypnotize their principal so that he thinks he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

Tra-la-laaa! The funniest of kids’ book series leaps to the screen! The adaptation is visually and thematically faithful, and quite hilarious. If naively crude humor is your thing, this is your movie.  –Alan

Paterson

Paterson is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. His daily routine: driving his route, observing the city and overhearing fragments of conversation; writing poetry in a notebook; drinking one beer at his bar. And he loves his wife.

Paterson is a celebration of life. The creative impulses of the title character and his wife rest in us all. Jarmusch’s style delights in the minutiae as well. A love story of man, his wife, art, city, and humanity in general. Utterly satisfying.  –Alan

Moana

A young girl sails across the ocean to return the Heart of Te Fiti and save her island.

I loved Moana because it showed that girls do not have to wait around for someone to rescue them. The musical numbers were amazing and heart-wrenching. Moana also told the story of a young girl following her heart.  –Feylin

Moonlight

A young black man struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

This surprise best picture winner at the Academy Awards deserves all accolades and more. With sensitivity and sumptuous style, director Barry Jenkins explores issues of race, gender, class, and the difficult business of maturing.  –-Alan

La La Land

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.

Ignore the haters, La La Land‘s blend of hyper expressive routines (for when emotion becomes too big for mere words) and follow-your-dream plotline is not only a perfect merging of form and content, but also absolutely exhilarating.  –Alan

Gimme Danger

An in-depth look at the legendary punk band, The Stooges.

Jim Jarmusch doesn’t usually make documentaries, and there’s never been a good film on the band that started punk. So while this is not a perfect film, it’s a long-overdue tribute to one of the greats, by a master filmmaker.  –Alan

The Eagle Huntress

A 13yr old Mongolian girl becomes the first female Golden Eagle huntress following 12 generations of male relatives before her.

A truly amazing and gorgeous documentary of the strong and brave Aisholpan, the 13yr old daughter in a family who have hunted small mammals using golden eagles for many generations. She is remarkable as the first female to become a huntress among her people.  –Margaret

Chasing Shadows

Follow professional photographer Geoff Sims as he tracks and photographs solar eclipses.

I can’t say it compares to the “real deal” like many experienced this past summer, but for those of us who missed it or didn’t snag a photo, this film could be the next best thing.  –Zac

Fire at Sea

Set on the once peaceful Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean youthful innocence is portrayed through the life of an average 12 year old boy, while just off its coast African refugee’s in overcrowded boats float under a scorching sun awaiting their fate.

This documentary’s stark contrast was thought provoking and gave me a greater empathy for the refugee crisis.  –Margo

Music

Last Place by Grandaddy

Lo-fi analog synth-fuzz space group returns after a ten year hiatus with gorgeous tunes of protest and despair.

Jason Lytle plays and produces the entirety of Last Place, and alongside his plaintive vocals, creates such sonic beauty and complexity that lines like “I just moved here, and / I don’t want to live here anymore” go down easy.  –Alan 

Lifer by MercyMe

Lifer, by MercyMe, is a variety of upbeat songs, like “Lifer” and “Happy Dance” mixed with hauntingly beautiful songs such as “Hello Beautiful” and “Ghost,” and the hit song “Even If.”

The tempo, harmonies, and affirming lyrics had me playing this CD over and over.  –Margo

Sleep Well Beast by The National

This is The National’s seventh album and it is one of their best. The songs touch on the challenges of existence in our daily lives and how we endure.

The lyrics, the sounds and the voice of lead singer Matt Berninger draw me to this album again and again.  –Serena

Northern Passages by The Sadies

Recorded in a home basement in Toronto over the winter of 2015, the familiar surroundings and lack of distractions resulted in an album with a consistent feel from the Sadies. Kurt Vile also makes an appearance.

The Good brothers have been cranking out Byrds-tinged garage alt-country rock for over 20 years in backing Neko Case, Jon Langford, and others, but this solo recording is the pure magic of their live performance captured. True lightning in a bottle!  –Alan

Robyn Hitchcock by Robyn Hitchcock

Masterful psychedelic pop/rock gems from the master himself.

Infectious, clever, catchy and amusing.  –Ron

Dreamcar by Dreamcar

80s New Wave synth pop from the present!

It’s nice to see synth pop making a comeback.  –Ron

Life Is Good by Flogging Molly

Celtic punk at its best.

Nice combination of aggressive and catchy music.  –Ron

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.

Listen Up! Summer Music Wrap-Up

Collage of nine album covers, faded so that they are not as legible. All are covered with the words "Listen Up!" Listen is written in turquoise and up is written in black.

School is back in session and we’re hurtling towards Labor Day; it must be the end of the summer. We’ve had a very busy season for adding new music to our collections here at the Everett Public Library. Hopefully you can find something from these hot picks to provide the soundtrack to your last few BBQs. Place your holds now!

Sza – Ctrl (Top Dawg Entertainment) – Ethereal RnB with acoustic overtones and a little hip hop flavor sprinkled over the top. This album has a lot to offer, and is worth all the buzz it’s been getting.

Cody ChesnuTT – My Love Divine Degree (Handwritten Records) – After taking time out from a successful early music career to raise a family, ChesnuTT is back with an album that sounds like he hasn’t missed a day. His neo-soul sound remains as passionate and eclectic as ever, but there’s a mellowing and deepening of his subject matter that seems to reflect the lessons he’s learned from fatherhood.

Ozomatli – Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica (Cleopatra Records) – Sunny Spanish-language reggae. It’s a delightful fusion of sounds that exudes a summer vibe.

TLC – TLC (852 Musiq) – I feel like this is one for the fans. T-Boz and Chili tap into the classically-unique TLC formula to produce an album that brings the listener back to the neon days of Hypercolor shirts and BK kicks. This isn’t to say that this release sounds dated; TLC feels timeless. Bittersweet is the absence of Left Eye, though the album and its liner notes play homage to her memory.

A. Coltrane-TuriyasangitanandaThe Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda  (Luaka Bop) – Recorded in the 80s and 90s in Alice Coltrane’s ashram in Southern California, this compilation pulls highlights from four tapes that were only released in a very limited fashion to members. At the root of these recordings are Hindu devotionals and Indian meditative instrumentals, but Coltrane’s diverse musical background infuses and remixes these traditional elements with jazz, Southern Baptist organ playing, and powerful gospel-inspired vocal styling. The end result is a very moving fusion of a variety of continents and cultures.

Slowdive – Slowdive (Dead Oceans) – Returning after a hiatus that spanned two decades, Slowdive came back with an elemental hit that feels as natural as if they never took a pause. This eponymous dream pop album feels sweet, soothing, and fairly reserved.

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited) – At times Harris gets dangerously close to over-doing the autotune, a particular pet peeve of mine, but the funkiness of the tracks more than make up for it. I guess that should be expected, given the title. On the whole, this is a light, poppy, star-studded roster of dance-floor-friendly tracks that provided a bit of fuel for many a summer club night.

Offa Rex – The Queen of Hearts (Nonesuch Records) – Ballady folk, with a little psychedelic rock in the mix. The overall sound is very earthy and eclectic.

Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: vs. the Jealous Machines / Born on a Gangster Star (Sub Pop) – Fans of this Seattle duo got more than they could ask for this summer with this set of companion albums, simultaneously released on the iconic Sub Pop label. The sound throughout is jazzy, avant garde, free-form hip-hop, with brooding minimal production. Both releases share a common theme, following space traveler Quazars as he tries to survive in Amurderca on the dystopian planet of Gangster Star. Through this sci-fi lens the lyrics explore the perils of the Black experience in the United States.

Nu:Logic – Somewhere Between the Light (Hospital Records) – Jazzy, atmospheric drum and bass rollers.

Terrence Parker – GOD Loves Detroit (Planet E) –  Parker’s latest LP combines factors that are clearly of utmost importance to his life: techno and his religious faith. The result is a fusion of techno, gospel-style vocals, Chicago house groove, classic stabbing piano chords, and a little bit of east coast garage to pick up the tempo. Parker said that these tracks were inspired by the ongoing redemption story of the City of Detroit. Once viewed largely as an object of ridicule, within the past decade the city has begun to see a rebirth in many ways. I

Bokanté –Strange Circles (Ground Up Music) – Mix of Delta and West African blues with a 90s RnB sound reminiscent of En Vogue and their contemporaries. Powerful vocals with a variety of individual vocalists taking turns to show all they have to offer, all backed by some ripping guitar riffs and dancy production.

Laurel Halo – Dust (Hyperdub) – at times very minimal and glitchy, with discordant, bright vocals. There’s a little bit of a jazz feel to this album, with heavy use of horns.

Listen Up! July New Music Arrivals

Image showing nine different album covers in a tile-like formation. Album covers are faded out, and there is text superimposed over them that reads "Listen Up! July New Music Arrivals"

Here’s your short list of what’s been pouring through the doors at the Everett Public Library. Place your holds now, and pick up some new tunes to keep your summer moving.

Soulwax – From Deewee (PIAS America) – Infectious, dance-floor-friendly electro full of rich layers. Soulwax accomplishes the delicate balance of maintaining their tried and true sound, honed over two decades, without sounding kitschy and dated.

Faith Evans & Notorious B.I.G. – The King & I (Rhino Records) – Many people have mixed feelings about posthumous ‘collaborations.’ They can seem like a cash grab, and the departed musician’s artistic intentions and vision can never truly be represented. Regardless of these criticisms, this album is worth a listen. The interview clips of Biggie are of interest and Evans as a vocalist is a powerhouse who is clearly pouring love and affection into this project.

Somi – Petite Afrique (Okeh)– Gorgeous vocals, bright melodies, jazzy drumming, and an afrobeat undertone. Somi explores the African-American experience living in Harlem, as well as those of African immigrants blending cultures in the New York City melting pot.

Paramore – After Laughter (Fueled by Ramen) – The latest from Paramore kind of reminds me of classic Sugarcubes with loud vocals, cheery new wave instrumentation, and jarringly-contradictory lyrics, full of angst and anger.

Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs) – Melodic, dancy, mysterious, and playful. I’ve seen this described as “folktronica,” and I think this fits the album nicely. Molina effortlessly merges synths and folk melodies to support a loose narrative based on the Argentinian and Uruguayan myth of the “luz mala” or evil light.

Saint Etienne – Home Counties (Heavenly Recordings) – Upbeat indie rock with lots of harmony and a sense of place very strongly tied to the commuter areas surrounding London. This eclectic album features some dance-floor tracks and sometimes even a little 60s go-go feel.

Harry Styles – Harry Styles (Erskine/Columbia Records)– This is Styles’s debut solo album after leaving the boy band juggernaut that was One Direction. I almost hate to mention his past work in the boy band genre because that may drive some people away from this record. In reality, Styles achieves a beautiful, melancholy mix of tracks that rocks when it needs to. His sound is a little folky with a tendency towards ballads; very minimal but satisfying.

Mali Music – The Transition of Mali (RCA) – Soul, RnB, and little hip hop mixed in. Mali Music has a smooth, sensual sound, with rich, multi-layered vocals. You can’t pin this very versatile album down to one genre; it switches from beats and samples to classical piano melodies and strings.

Roger Waters – Is this the Life we really want? (Columbia) – A moody, gritty, raw offering from the Pink Floyd frontman. Waters remains an unflinchingly critical analyst of modern society and popular culture.

Ani Di Franco – Binary (Righteous Babe Records) – The words that this album brings to mind for me could sound unflattering to someone who may not have ‘come of age’ with Ani playing in the background: comforting, no surprises, reliable. Ani Di Franco is an artist who, while always exploring collaborations with a very wide range of musicians from different styles, has created a signature sound that is unmistakably hers. Binary showcases her unique blend of folk, funk, and rock that lulls you into a groove while at the same time excoriating the shortcomings of the world we live in.

The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Anymore (New West Records) – Real-life sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers return from a dark period of court battles and bankruptcy to release their third album. Their hard-luck story and abundant musical talent attracted the interest of Brandi Carlile, who produced this latest offering. The result showcases the sister’s songwriting prowess and beautiful ability to harmonize in a mix of sleepy, soulful country and bluegrass sounds.

Little Cub – Still life (Domino) – Socially critical lyrics over a satisfying electro soundtrack? What’s not to love? The analog synth work on this debut album brings to mind the well-honed sounds of New Order or Depeche Mode in their prime.

Ifriqiyya Electrique – Rûwâhîne (Glitterbeat Records) – This album is really hard to define – the closest I can pin it to is tribal industrial music. François Cambuzat and Gianna Greco have teamed up with a group of Tunisian Banga ceremonial musicians to blend their traditional trance dancing chants with grinding guitar riffs and bass-heavy production. The end result is a bit ominous and absolutely mesmerizing.

Yola Carter – Orphan Offering EP (Carter Records) – Loads of twang and folky strings, backing raw and powerful vocals. Carter’s ballads can swing from sleepy to soulful at a moment’s notice. This album is a bit of a late arrival, having been released at the end of 2016, but it’s well worth the listen.

Listen Up! May New Music

Collage of album covers with "listen up" written over them

Spring is flying by, and it appears that May is giving us a sneak preview of summer as a makeup gift for all the rain we had over the last few months. The timing is just right, because we just received a batch of new releases that would make a great soundtrack for a night of grilling, hanging out on the deck, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Place your holds now, and check out the latest at the EPL:

Les Amazones d’Afrique – Republique Amazone (Real World Records, 2017) – Les Amazones are an all-star collective of West African songstresses who have united to create music about feminism and gender equality. Each vocalist brings her own unique style to the table, creating a very satisfying mix of rock, trip-hop, dub, blues, electronic, jazz, West African pop, and traditional music. The overall effect is a very dance-floor-friendly approach to protest music.

Feist – Pleasure (Interscope Records, 2017) – This is an album that covers a lot of ground with ease: at times blues rock with very subtle country undertones and others grinding and almost punk. The pace of the album seems very laid back but deliberate; each track follows its own timeline, building to just the right level of complexity to perfectly complement the vocals. I appreciate the contradictions: gritty and lovely – soft vocals and loud riffs. There’s something about the production, imperfect with the pop and hiss of an old mix tape, that makes it feel very intimate.

Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman (Capitol Records, 2017) –  Mary J. Blige brings us a classic breakup album with all the anger, pain, strength, and redemption that you’d expect from such a legendary artist going through some pretty intense pain. Cameos by Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Missy Elliott, and Kaytranada only enrich an already strong offering. As in all her music, Blige shares her struggles through her art and uses the medium to pull herself through life’s trials – in Strength it appears she is, once again, emerging from the test on top.

Wale – Shine (Atlantic Urban, 2017) – a deceptively upbeat release with a summer feel, but behind each track lies a little bit of darkness. Wale seems to be emerging from a period of struggle both with other artists and with himself. The arrival of his newborn daughter seems to be a strong driving force for this change and also a reoccurring theme in his music.

Perfume Genius –No Shape (Matador, 2017) – Mike Hadreas’s latest release is an ecstatic celebration of love. Following similar LGBTQ themes from his previous albums, he delves into the facets of his relationship with musical collaborator and long-time partner, Alan Wyffels. No Shape is a collection of dreamy, dramatic recordings, full of bright highs and turbulent lows that explode with layer upon layer of sound.

Brother Ali – All the Beauty in This Whole Life (Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2017) – Veteran Minneapolis MC Brother Ali revisits an old collaborator, Atmosphere producer Ant, for an expansive new collection of beats and rhymes. All the Beauty in This Whole Life touches on familiar themes for Ali, mixing politics, religion, family, race relations, and the artist’s experiences exploring the world all backed by relatively sparse but soulful production.

Jay Som – Everybody Works (Polyvinyl Record Co., 2017) – I have to admit that Jay Som was a bit of an unknown to me. I’d purchased her unofficial debut, Turn Into, last year when her Bandcamp upload of assorted tracks was re-released by Polyvinyl, but it didn’t really register with me. When I first previewed Everybody Works I needed to do a little more research, because I felt like I’d just run into someone I should know – the album had a polished feel of a veteran rocker, full of confidence and sophistication. To my delight, I learned that this was the first ‘official’ release of 22-year-old Melina Duterte – recorded in her bedroom studio and full of the promise of lovely music yet to come. Everybody Works has kind of a soft, sleepy vibe, occasionally amplified by interludes that feel a little bit like 90s alt rock. There’s a lot of depth and variety to Jay Som’s sound, offering a little something for everyone. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

Juanes – Mis Planes Son Amarte (Universal Music Latino, 2017) – Readers of this blog may have noticed that I have a soft spot for albums that tell a story – Mis Planes is no exception. In his latest release, Juanes embarks on an audiovisual saga of love and outer space. Follow along as a Colombian astronaut searches for true love; you have the option of just listening to the CD or popping in the bonus disc to enjoy the videos that go with each track. Juanes’s sound is heavily influenced by the traditional music of his native Guasca region of Colombia but it also features layers of different sounds: a little surf rock, a little electronic music, crooner vocals to pull on your heartstrings, and even a little reggae and reggaeton. Pop this in if you’re looking for something with a very tropical, romantic feel to it.

Happy listening, and enjoy the sunshine!

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.