Staff Picks: the Music Edition

One of the best things about working in a library is that you can never complain about the lack of new discoveries. Whether it’s an interesting reference question that takes you down a rabbit hole into a topic you’d never thought much about, or chatting with your colleagues about their likes and dislikes, you’re bound to learn something. For that reason, I love talking to people about their favorite music. I enjoy listening to new things, but have to admit I can get stuck in a rut listening only to music that is familiar. So, I decided to reach out to some of my colleagues to ask about their favorite music for the benefit of our dear blog readers.

Carol

Walk the Moon – Walk the Moon (RCA Records)
My husband and I may quite possibly be the oldest people to rock out at their concerts, but Walk the Moon has been my absolute favorite for the last three years. At a WTM concert in 2013 I had a girl tell me, “OMG You know all the words to the songs!” When they were here in March I had an injured foot, so guys, I apologize for having to literally sit the concert out. I swear Kevin was staring holes into my forehead like, “Girl, get moving!” But it allowed me to snap this photo.

Walk the Moon in Seattle

Best known for the oft-played Anna Sun, these four happy-go-lucky guys from Cincinnati are up for an MTV Music Video Award for Shut Up and Dance from their new album Talking is Hard. If you like upbeat rock with fast keyboards and killer guitar riffs, you will love WTM.

Some others that evoke similar upbeat happy feelings with catchy lyrics you’ll be singing in your sleep:
St. Lucia (song: All Eyes on You)
Misterwives (song: Reflections)
Passion Pit (song: Lifted Up)
Big Data (song: The Business of Emotion)
The Paper Towns soundtrack (song: My Type by Saint Motel)

Ron

The Cramps album coverThe Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us (A & M Records) is perhaps one of the most innovative rock albums created since the beginning of time and space. Lead singer Lux Interior was a true 50s-style rockabilly crooner emoting over guitar leads from a slightly alternabilly universe, as well as distant buzzsaw chords borrowed from nightmarish experiments. Drums are simple, sounding as if any fill might end with the entire kit falling over. And lush reverb envelops it all. Some label them garage or punk, others as the creators of psychobilly. Labels aside, they are forgers of new territory whilst maintaining solid roots in traditional rock and roll. I recommend their cover of Little Willie John’s Fever as an eye-opening, mind-imploding aural extravaganza.

Kate

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Aftermath Records). Just when everyone thought Eminem was washed up, he surprised everyone and dropped this great album. I’ve been heard to say it’s to Eminem what Ray of Light was for Madonna. It doesn’t matter if he never issues anything better; this album solidifies Eminem’s place as one of the very few Kings (with a capital “K”) of hip-hop. Please note: Eminem’s subject matter and content remains socially irresponsible and potentially offensive.

Minor Threat album coverMinor Threat – Complete Discography (Dischord). 1983’s Out of Step is a landmark punk album and all of its songs are included in this collection. In Minor Threat’s short career they didn’t have much opportunity to create a bad song; every song here evokes the time when the gritty east-coast punk sound was just emerging.

X – Los Angeles (Rhino Entertainment). Thanks to The Doors’ Ray Manzarek’s interest in the band, this album sports a high production value that might have seemed contradictory to a seminal west-coast punk album, if it weren’t for X’s inimitable and distinct style and sound. This would be on my deserted island list for sure.

The Antlers album coverThe Antlers – Familiars (Anti-). Most agree Familiars is an intentional follow-up to the soul-crushing but gorgeous death-themed Hospice, and that’s a compliment of the highest order. The Antlers can take you to the deepest depths but their sharp wit and lovely arrangements won’t leave you there for too long. I recommend listening with headphones in order to catch all of the musical and lyrical subtleties.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright (Matador). For me, this record was a happy accidental discovery; I plucked it off of a library display on a whim, and I was immensely rewarded. Described as “Chamber Pop,” the album is rich with raw LGBTQ themes that feel so relevant at this moment in history. As it happens, this album was partially recorded in Everett.

Arcade Fire album coverArcade Fire – Funeral (Merge Records). If you haven’t heard it before, stop what you are doing and immediately go listen to Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut release. It includes (what arguably became) the band’s anthem, “Wake Up”, a song that sparked an entire musical genre’s obsession with large-group vocal harmonizing. This also makes my deserted island list.

Richard

vietcongViet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar). If it wasn’t for Lisa’s recommendation, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this dynamite Canadian four piece group. Their sound is post-punk with a little bit of synth and a lot of angst thrown in. Each song inhabits that great space between carrying a tune and totally falling apart. Plus how can you not love a band with a song titled “Pointless Experience”?

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote). Be forewarned, this is heavily crafted electronic music with nary a guitar lick in sight. With strong vocals, great hooks and extreme precision their music flirts with going over the top, but the lyrics keep it grounded in the world of break ups and existential ennui. A new album, Every Open Eye, will be coming out in September.

Me (Lisa)

I’ll keep this short since I already spend a lot of time talking about my musical tastes.

Daft Punk – Homework (Virgin) Long before the robot helmets and sold-out massive festival events, there were two gangly French dudes making amazing house and techno in a field somewhere in Wisconsin. Not long after Daft Punk’s first North American appearance at Further 1996, they released their bombshell debut album, Homework. For the first time in the US, tracks that we’d only heard at underground parties were getting a ton of play on mainstream radio channels, and videos in heavy rotation on MTV. Almost 20 years later, I can throw this album on and still want to dance.

Frankie Knuckles cover imageDefected Presents House Masters: Frankie Knuckles (Defected Records) Another trip down electronic music memory lane. For anyone interested in the roots of today’s EDM, this retrospective of the late, great Frankie Knuckles is an absolute must. Take a trip back to the Warehouse days of Chicago, when house music was brand new, and had yet to become a global music phenomena that spawned countless genres of dance music.

Place your holds and listen along with us. For the next couple weeks different staff members will be maintaining a ‘staff picks’ music display at the main library. Keep your eyes peeled for more great recommendations there.

My Love of Pandora

Pandora. Most may recognize this name from Greek mythology:

Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology, taken from the myth of Pandora’s creation in Hesiod’s Works and Days. The “box” was actually a large jar (pithos) given to Pandora (“all-gifted”, “all-giving”), which contained all the evils of the world. Today, the phrase “to open Pandora’s box” means to perform an action that may seem small or innocuous, but that turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.

Thanks Wikipedia!

Today, dear reader, I’m going to refer a lot to Pandora, but I’ll actually be talking about the streaming Internet radio service. Just like its mythological roots, this Pandora can open a whole new world of listening possibilities. Over time, as you indicate which songs you love (and hate) you can actually cultivate a personalized radio station tailored just to you.

Walk the MoonMy favorite method for discovering new music is to build a station around my current musical obsession. Recently I discovered Walk the Moon. This Cincinnati group has taken my world by storm. I love everything about their music: the energy, the lyrics, and just the way the songs make me feel when I listen to them. The music is upbeat and cheers me up, and the lyrics are so catchy I can’t stop singing. Songs like “Jenny” and “I Can Lift a Car” can be heard at any given moment in my home. But “Shiver, Shiver” has risen to epic status in my mind. Play it any time and I’m guaranteed to dance. Although I’m not nearly as good as the friend-of-the-band who gets his groove on in the music video, I can’t possibly give him a run for his money.

So I created a Walk the Moon station on Pandora and came up with some great new favorites, as well as re-discovering some old ones. Pandora has some sort of mystical algorithm (aka magic) that selects music based on the similar characteristics of the group or style you started out with. Without further ado, here are some of the best artists I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) as a result of my Pandoric adventures.

EmpireDiscoveryTemperTrap

Empire of the Sun: These guys from Australia have exactly one album we can get our hands on here in the States. From 2008, Walking on a Dream feels like a total throwback to 80s era new wave synth. And it is. But it’s also highly addicting. The album title is appropriately named: if I had to choose a soundtrack for my dreams, it would be this. If you get a chance to listen to this album, take a moment (not while driving, please) to close your eyes and see where your imagination takes you–you won’t be disappointed. Unless you were driving, in which case I wash my hands of you.

Discovery: This is another group I’d never heard of before Pandora. Granted, I cataloged their album LP back in 2009, but I didn’t need to listen to it. Finding out that your library owns the entire album of the incredible song you just heard on Pandora is comparable to how Charlie felt when he found the golden ticket that would open the door to Willy Wonka’s factory. The two guys who make up Discovery, Rostam from Vampire Weekend and Wes from Ra Ra Riot, had already captured my heart through their more well-known bands. This little side project of theirs has me humming throughout the day.

Temper Trap: I kinda sorta had heard a song of theirs on AltNation (SirusXM satellite radio channel 36 for those not in-the-know). I also kinda-sorta took advantage of the fact that I work for the library to beg and plead for the music selector to purchase their older stuff, which I actually think is more fun than the newer songs. It worked, and I have been spreading the word about Temper Trap ever since. Temper Trap is another Australian group that is informing the whole sound of indie rock worldwide. While their eponymous 2012 album features an emotionally satisfying “Trembling Hands,” 2009’s Conditions sizzles with hits like “Sweet Disposition,” “Love Lost,” and my personal favorite, “Fader.” In fact, I say if you give “Fader” a listen you’ll become a fan.

FosterThePeopleFoster the People: Like most people, I first heard about this LA group a couple of years back when they started receiving big name music award nominations from the likes of Billboard, Grammy, and MTV. “Pumped Up Kicks” has got to be their most well-known song. Me being me, however, I am hooked on the lesser-known “Call It What You Want” and “Houdini.” It’s super-difficult to classify these guys as just one style of music. “Call It What You Want,” for instance, has many elements found in disco, of all things. But Foster the People know what they’re doing and so I am content to sit back and let them take me on a musical journey.

The Postal Service / Death Cab for Cutie / Ben Gibbard: Ben Gibbard is a musical genius. If you listen to any of his projects, including his solo effort, you’ll probably not notice anything too outstanding or obviously revolutionary. But that’s why he’s so good. He and his various band mates create songs that are a bit subliminal in their genius. The melodies and lyrics enter through your ears and into the ear canal. Before you know what’s hit you they’ve entered your soul and you’re forever changed. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but sometimes the most incredible artists of all just keep it on the down-low. And that’s fine by me.

PostalServiceDeathCabGibbard

So there you have it. Yet another reason why you should definitely pay attention when the world changes around you. Had Pandora passed me by, I would never have gotten such a wealth of new music infused into my life.

Thanks, Pandora!

Carol