Listen Up! June/July New Music Arrivals

Album Art Collage

I took a little break last month, so I’ve got a lot of new arrivals to recommend. Place your holds now and start exploring!

Joseph Bertolozzi – Tower Music (Innova) – Lively but minimalist (if that’s at all possible). This almost comes off as born-digital electronic music, even though the sounds were all produced using one very large analog instrument: the Eiffel Tower. I would love to hear the remixes that could be made from these pieces.

Boulevards – Groove (Captured Tracks) – Funk with a side of hip hop. Fans of Prince and Rick James will be into this.

Musiq Soulchild – Life on Earth (My Block; Entertainment One U.S.) – Dance floor friendly soul, RnB, and smooth slow jams.

uKanDanz –Awo (Buda Musique) –  Hailing from Addis Ababa and Lyon, uKanDanz classifies themselves as “Ethiopian Crunch Music.” What that means is that listeners are treated to a thoroughly satisfying mashup of metal and hard rock guitar riffs and power chords; a blues and jazz horn section; and amazing vocals that expressively wail, croon, and keen.

Debo Band – Ere Gobez (FPE Records) – Bluesy, jazzy, sultry, a little funky – almost torch songs, but with Ethiopian pop overtones.

Case/Lang/Veirs (ANTI-) – Dreamy, beautiful, and engaging vocals, with a bit of twang. Melancholy, moving, powerful, harmonious.

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper – Everything’s Beautiful (Columbia: Legacy) – A re-imagining of Davis’s catalog with the help of a star-studded lineup of jazz, hip-hop, and RnB collaborators.

Garbage – Strange Little Birds (Stunvolume) – In their 10th studio album, Shirley Manson and the band return to their roots by drawing on their musical influences, as well as the sounds that made them a hit in their 1995 self-titled debut. Strange Little Birds has a decidedly nostalgic feel, but is by no means stale.

William Bell – This is Where I Live (Fantasy) -Classic southern soul and RnB with a little bit of rock and roll mixed in.

Imarhan – Imarhan (City Slang) – Traditional Tuareg and pan-African ballads blended with rock and funk rhythms and a healthy love of bass.

Maxwell – Black Summers’ Night (Columbia) – In a long-awaited return 7 years in the making, this album is full of funky, smooth, even jazzy elements with some stand-out drum work.

A-Wa – Habib Galbi (S-Curve Records) – Three sisters with a love for electronic music, reggae, and Yemenite women’s chants. Sound like an odd mix? Only if you’re not into dancing, fun, and on-point harmonizing.

Whitney – Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian) – Upbeat, bright, rock album with distinctive vocals. This debut is chock-full of short but polished tracks that show the well-honed skills of duo Max Kakacek (Smith Westerns) and Julien Ehrlich (Unknown Mortal Orchestra).

Ólafur Arnalds – LateNightTales (Night Time Stories Ltd.) – Down-tempo, ambient, beautiful dreamscapes. Some trip hop beats interspersed. Fans of Bjork, Prefuse 73, and Sigur Rós would probably be into it. ‘Icelandic’ would be the best adjective to describe this one.

Listen Up! May New Music

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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.

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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! April New Music

Tropix Cover

Warming temperatures must have me in the mood to dance, because this month’s picks have a lot of electronic, rock, hip-hop and world offerings. Place your holds now at epls.org.

Junior Boys – Big Black Coat (City Slang) – beautifully-sparse with hints of Detroit techno or classic Kraftwerk krautrock. Big Black Coat is dancy, synthy, and even a little bit sensual.

Hidden City CoverThe Cult – Hidden City (Cooking Vinyl) – no nonsense guitar-driven rock. This album has some 90s alternative undertones, but definitely not in a bad way. I find this release nostalgic, though I am new to The Cult (a discovery that only took me 10 albums).

Seth Bogart CoverSeth Bogart – Seth Bogart (Burger Records) – If you’re looking for a pop/rock release that sounds like it was made on an old Casio, you’ve come to the right place. Seth Bogart is infectiously poppy with a throwback 80s sound. With a judicious use of the auto-tune, his self-titled release is cheesy but fun.

Adore Life CoverSavages – Adore Life (Matador Records) – Loud, gritty, and full of love in all its realities. Adore Life is a solid rock album that brings to mind the likes of Joan Jett, The Pixies, and Fugazi. I really appreciated the progression of the album; it has the ability to rip things apart and then slow everything down with a lyrical and melodious groove.

Hella Personal CoverOpen Mike Eagle + Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival – Emcee Open Mike Eagle likes to refer to his style as ‘Art rap,’ coming out with a blending of beats, funk, soul, alt rock, nerdy film samples, and much more. Thought provoking lyrics mixed with a hearty dose of self-deprecating humor make the messages hit home harder, giving the listener much food for thought.

Are you Serious coverAndrew Bird – Are You Serious (Loma Vista Recordings) – Lots of mellow yet complex jams. Heaps of fuzz and feedback gives Are You Serious a bit of a vintage feel with tropical overtones.

Céu – Tropix – Bright, smooth, funky, with a strong electronic music influence. This feels like bossa nova in space, with a little bit of a dub vibe. Céu moves freely through an array of musical influences to create an excellent album to dance or just chill to.

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

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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.

Listen up! January New Music

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Happy New Year, followers! This one is going to be short but sweet since it’s made up of music that came in late in December, after my last post. Here are some albums that I particularly enjoyed:

Gun Outfit – Dream All Over (Paradise of Bachelors) – Down-tempo indie rock with heavy country, folk, and psych rock influences. You’re got sitars mixing with slide guitars, but somehow it works. The vibe and vocals sort of remind me of Stereolab with a twang.

yacht cover artYacht – I Thought the Future Would be Cooler (Downtown Records) – Upbeat, poppy, and a little edgy. Sci-fi parody songs take the listener through the future we were promised, and hints at the shortcomings of the present we inhabit.

Angie Stone cover artAngie Stone – Dream (Shanachie; Conjunction Entertainment; Top Notch Music) – Veteran RnB songstress Angie Stone is back with her seventh studio release. Listeners are treated to Stone’s well-honed vocal stylings, which are given plenty of room to breathe with minimal production. This is a wonderful album for a lazy Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and a leisurely breakfast.

Rival Consoles art

Image from Pitchfork.com

Rival Consoles – Howl (Erased Tapes Records) – A minimal, driving, constantly-evolving blend of techno and electro, yet somehow this album feels a bit like rock. Ryan Lee West doesn’t limit himself to the current computer arsenal of electronic music production, but plays freely with guitars, cellos, film projectors, and analog synths. The resulting sound is complex and intriguing.

Place your holds now!