Music review: HanDover

By , January 30, 2012

by Skinny Puppy

Industrial pioneers Skinny Puppy are my Beatles. Don’t let the lame genre tag throw you off. There is a lot more musicality than you might expect on SP’s third post-reunion album. Digital recording (not to mention years of experience) have cleaned up the band’s sound. They’ve kicked a lot of drugs, ground through a lot of pain, and recorded a lot of records:

“Ashas” sample

Many critics say the kindler, gentler, unthroat-throttled moments are the best of the reformed SP. Songs like “Ashas” and “Wavy” have me agreeing with them for the first time. It has taken twenty years but Ogre is finally comfortable with his own voice. The distortion has mostly been dropped from Cevin Key’s synth and drum treatments so his wizardry, once hidden, can shine through.

“Wavy” sample

What it sounds like the band is phoning in are the noisy parts. They can’t rip the top off it anymore, and sadly, the songs attempting to be the wildest are the mildest. It’s funny how life is.


Music Review: The Civil Wars

By , January 28, 2012

Barton Hollow
By The Civil Wars

Well, I told you I’d be back with more music…so…um…ta dah! :)

I was a little late to the party on this one seeing as how February 1st marks the one year anniversary of this album’s release. But better late than never, right? Again, some sad news to report – no Barton Hollow on freegal (boo). But, your handy dandy little giant library comes through in the end, and you can check out the CD and hear all these great tunes (yeah!).

The first time I listened to Barton Hollow I thought it would make a good soundtrack for Grey’s Anatomy. (Apparently great minds think alike, because their signature song “Poison and Wine” was used in a episode of the McDreamy Doctor Drama.) I liked it ok, but kinda dismissed it because the music seemed overly schmoopy (which is also how I feel about the TV show).

Then I sat down and really listened to the lyrics and man did the whole album open up. It’s still a little melancholy, but each song tells such a great story. This group is a true duo – both members sing (unlike Sugarland who is basically Jennifer Nettles and that other guy). John Paul White is the country heart of this pair, while Joy Williams brings the pop and the crossover appeal. If you like Nickel Creek, you need to check out The Civil Wars.

John Paul and Joy were nominated for the upcoming Grammy awards in  Best Country Duo/Group Performance with “Barton Hollow.” Tune in to CBS on February 12 and see if they can take home the prize.

(NPL GRAMMY BATTLE: Adele vs. The Civil Wars. There isn’t an official category for this, but I would say “Rolling in the Deep” is a better song than “Barton Hollow”, but as a whole album, Barton Hollow beats 21. Yeah - they’re that good.)

Happy listening…
:) Amanda

PS I’m not the only one who thinks this stuff is good – so get your hold placed today!

Book review: The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings

By , January 26, 2012

The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings
By Charlotte Perkins Gilman   

Who was Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

You may remember reading Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wall-Paper in high school. The author wrote that in 1887, while suffering from postpartum depression she was “prescribed the now infamous “rest cure” which mandated that she have but two hours of intellectual stimulation per day, have her child with her at all times and never pick up a pen or paintbrush for as long as she lived. Just months after beginning the “rest cure,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman had a nervous breakdown.” It was that breakdown that became the basis for The Yellow Wall-Paper.

The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings is well done. Gilman’s writing style is sharp and clever and her pioneering feminist stories are still relevant today.


- Karen


Music review: King of Limbs by Radiohead

By , January 23, 2012

King of Limbs by Radiohead

Like a subtle peach – watermelon – blue fade at dusk highlighting a complex network of bare winter tree branches in the distant foreground – the music here is  multifaceted work featuring many hues.
I do admit I was a bit slow on the uptake to recognize Radiohead’s general brilliance around the time OK Computer was being lauded, but since Kid A I’ve enjoyed every release they’ve graced us with (and went back and absorbed the great deluxe edition of The Bends).
This one is slight at about 37 minutes and I often cycle right through and back to the dynamic, loop filled, hypnotic first track “Bloom” while in my car. The music floats, mesmerizes and intrigues with multiple drum patterns, keyboard layers, haunting (mainly indistinguishable) vocals and some seriously heavy bass (especially on the ultra heavy trance/funk-house 4th track, “Lotus Flower”).
I find this a generally absorbing, complex work of electronica based music.  Like many reviewers have said it does reward multiple listens (Now when does that triggered electro-trumpet break come in? I know I heard it before…)
As usual, great stuff from Radiohead!


Music Review: Bruno Mars

By , January 21, 2012

Doo-wops & Hooligans
Bruno Mars

I’m kinda in a new music phase right now, partially because our upcoming podcast discusses The Grammy Awards (stay tuned). One of the nominees for this year’s trophies is Bruno Mars. Sorry guys, he’s not on freegal (sigh), but the library does have his latest release so you can at least listen to his music.

Mr. Mars (who I believe has a cousin named Veronica*) sounds a little bit like the love child of Jason Mraz and some ska band. Especially with “The Lazy Song.” His music isn’t overly profound; it’s just nice pop-cultury goodness. 

My favorite track is “Grenade” more because I like the video, I think, even though the song will stay with you. What’s not to like about a guy dragging an upright piano through traffic? Also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but the second track “Just the Way You Are” was on Glee (yeah!).

So check out Doo-wops & Hooligans, then tune into the Grammy’s on February 12th to see if he can topple the ever mighty Adele. (I really like Bruno but I think I’m gonna put my money on Adele for the big win.)

Happy listening…
:) Amanda

* Veronica Mars is only Bruno’s fictitious cousin, because…well…she lives in TV land.

The Pulphead Playlist

By , January 18, 2012

Pulphead: Essays

So, you’ve probably heard about Pulphead, the much-talked-of essay collection by Louisville native John Jeremiah Sullivan which showed up on many of last year’s Top Ten lists.  Sullivan brings an intelligent Southern sensibility to an eclectic assortment of topics: he discusses Christian rock festivals, Axl Rose, 19th century botanists, and Tennessee cave painting with equal authority.

Among the essays are several about music, all of which make you want to immediately hear the artists he’s discussing.  He says things like, “Anyone with an interest in American culture should find a way to hear this record,” or spends several paragraphs analyzing Axl’s “Devil Woman” voice (you know, the one at the end of “Sweet Child of Mine”).

To that end, here’s the accompaniment you’ll need to fully appreciate Pulphead:

 Essay: Upon This Rock
Back to the Rock
by Petra 



 Essay: Michael

The Essential Michael Jackson




 Essay: The Final Comeback of Axl Rose

Appetite for Destruction




 Essay: Unknown Bards
American Primitive, vol. 2: Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939)



Essay: Unknown Bards

Anthology of American Folk Music




Essay: The Last Wailer






Music Review: Pistol Annies

By , January 14, 2012

Hell on Heels
Pistol Annies

Not too long ago I was reading one of those end of the year lists and it mentioned this band who I’d heard about but hadn’t heard. Since I’ve been a fan of Miranda Lambert since her Nashville Star days, this was definately something I wanted to check out.

Luckily for me, Ran is on Sony and so are the Pistol Annies.  And what does that mean, boys and girls? That’s right…it’s on Freegal! Yeah! There are 10 tracks on this debut, so in just two short weeks you could be enjoying all the Pistol Annies fun.

Not since the Trio of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris has traditional country music sounded so good. (I suppose I should mention those chicks from Dixie, seeing as how they were a trio as well, but their music was so much more modern that it’s kinda like comparing apples and maniacs.)

Pistol Annies is made up of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley. Their music is pretty hard core country, but they’ve fancied it up a bit for us. Think Gretchen Wilson minus half the party plus a lacy dress – and a shotgun.

The album clocks at a very radio-friendly 30 minutes. If you only pick one, download the title track – it’ll have you tapping your boots in no time. With a free download, what do you have to lose?

Happy listening…
:) Amanda

Book Review: Beauty Queens

By , January 13, 2012

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray

A group of teen beauty queens are stranded on a mysterious island after their plane crashes on the way to the Miss Teen Dreams Pageant, an event sponsored by the equally mysterious Corporation. Miles from home and with only a dwindling supply of lip gloss, the girls learn how to survive, live together as a community, take down terrorists, and finally ask whose Teen Dreams are they fulfilling–theirs or the Corporation’s?

Hilarious commercial breaks,courtesy of the Corporation itself, give the story the ambience of so-called reality TV. Bray’s humor is at once light and dark, and always on target. This isn’t just a book for teenage girls.
- AJ

Book review: The Night Circus

By , January 12, 2012

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning” and with that opening line you are swept into Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. This book has been described as “marvelous,” “a love story on a grand scale,” “an enchanting read” and something that “you will not want to leave.”  It’s all true. I was on the waiting list for two months…..was it worth it?? Absolutely.   I was completely enthralled by Morgenstern’s sleek circus world and her descriptive language allows the story to be played out like watching a movie unfold.

If you enjoyed the movie The Illusionist with Edward Norton or The Prestige with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, both stories of rivalry, love and illusionists set in Victorian times then you will love The Night Circus.

Come to the Main library on the evening of January 26th and wear your red rêveur scarf for what promises to be an enchanting evening with the book’s author Erin Morgenstern. The reception will start at 6:15pm followed by the author discussing her book.


- Karen

New York Review Books Classics

By , January 11, 2012

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read more this year, let me suggest that you do a catalog search for New York Review Books Classics. What will come up is a diverse and wonderful series of books whose only common denominator is that they have been rescued from oblivion and re-issued in lovely trade paperback editions. The bizarre (and addictive) thing about this series is that no matter what I’ve chosen, it’s as if someone has handpicked the book especially for me.

Wish Her Safe at Home
by Stephen Benatar

The interior life of an unreliable narrator. (1982)


The Dud Avocado
by Elaine Dundy

The madcap adventures of a young American expat in Paris in the 1950′s. (1958)


by Caroline Blackwood

A widow is preyed upon by a wheelchair-bound con man, with surprising results. (1984)


Hons and Rebels
by Jessica Mitford

The autobiography of the hilarious, rebellious, adventurous Mitford sister (not Nancy). (1960)


by John Edward Williams

Reminded me of Richard Yates’ stories of suburban angst and marital discord, with some Midwestern Booth Tarkington thrown in. (1965)



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