Category: Music

Record Review: Jackson Browne

By , September 19, 2014

Running on Empty
by Jackson Browne

Earlier this week the Americana Music Festival payed tribute to the poet laureate of Rock, & Roll, honoring Jackson Browne with the “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award. Previous recipients include Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Joan Baez.

Mr. Browne is a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), Nukefree.org, and the Success Through the Arts Foundation, which provides educational opportunities for students in South Los Angeles. He is also a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and was the fourth recipient of the John Steinbeck Award.

Now that we have covered the awards, let’s get to the music. The first time, the heartbreak, the deluge, the dreamers, the dancers, you know the early good ones. Then there came the pop ones, the political wake-up calls, the yearning and learning and finally the return to love. None of Jackson Browne’s albums from the past 40 years better reflects the spirit of Nashville than the 1977 release, Running on Empty. Sure, we all remember the load out, the roadies, Rosie, the falsetto, but “phone calls long distance” now knocks us to our knees. The return visit is better than you remember and you may find the listen more than just familiar.

Standing in the Breach is set for release on October 7th.

There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more but they didn’t show your spirit quite as true…Jackson Browne

-laurie

The importance of Songstress Kate Bush

By , August 14, 2014

I’ve never met hip hop artist/record producer Big Boi, but I happen to know he and I have at least one thing in common: a love of England’s fierce songstress Kate Bush.  On August 26th, Kate will kick off 22 nights in residence at London’s Eventim, Apollo Hammersmith at a concert event she’s calling “Before the Dawn.”  Tickets sold out in mere minutes.  It has been 35 years since Kate’s first and only tour.  If you’ve never listened to Kate Bush, trust me (and Big Boi) when I tell you she is an artist to cherish.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a singer/songwriter with more passion, insight, bravery, and total commitment to her art.

Kate grew up in the English countryside listening to her older brother’s prog rock records, playing the piano, organ, & violin,  and voraciously reading the classics.  When she recorded her first demo in her teens, Pink Floyd Guitarist Dave Gilmour was one of the first to acknowledge her unique talent.  He acted as an executive producer and guest musician on several of her albums.

Kate’s lyrics have always been inspired by literature and film.  Her first album The Kick Inside included the sweeping and wondrous anti-pop hit song Wuthering Heights, helping create a whole new generation of Bronte fans.  Her second album Lionheart features a song called Hammer Horror, a straight-up shout-out to Hammer Films.

Kate’s album The Sensual World is considered by many fans and critics alike to be her best.  The title track is loosely based on James Joyce’s Molly Bloom soliloquy from Ulysses (loosely based because Joyce’s estate refused to grant permission.)  This is an album filled with lust, love, and life.

Kate’s influence can be heard in the likes of such varied  artists as Bjork, Tori Amos, The Wild Beasts, Joanna Newsome, and Florence and the Machine.  Her songs are often covered by other performers. Beyonce’s little sis Solange Knowles performed  Kate’s song Cloudbusting during her set at the 2014 Coachella Music Festival.

I expect the excitement surrounding Kate’s 22 night concert series will bring her yet another generation of admirers.  Big Boi and I will keep doing our part to sing her praises.  Give Kate Bush a listen, and just try to resist her powerful charms!

 

Music review: Bob Mould – Life and Times

By , July 29, 2014

 Bob Mould – Life and times

A tremendous, thoughtful, tuneful, just over 36 minute work by Bob Mould – full of bittersweet, longing and often melodic tunes.  I find myself letting it immediately play over in the car as the music washes over me in a comforting way during a somewhat stressful time.

Of course for those of you who remember or dug the mid ’80s independent force Husker Du provided – along with the Minutemen from San Pedro, Minneapolis’ Replacements and the Meat Puppets in their Heyday will know Bob once fronted (and thankfully didn’t blow out his vocal chords!) that seminal band.  Then went on to form Sugar (Copper Blue a highwater mark) and has since put out several generally very impressive recordings.

This one has great songs from the beginning with the title track followed by “The Breach” - a great opening one-two.  I find myself really enjoying snippets of lyrics and the overall, forward blasting yet melodic feel of this recording throughout.  “Mile Marker 17″ is another  gem as is the memorable “I’m Sorry, Baby, You Can’t Stand in my Light Any More”.  The credits: Bob Mould, vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, keyboards, programming; with Jon Wurster, drums. (and very good drumming I might add).  Mr. Mould’s guitar playing is stellar and instantly recognizable as being “his sound” throughout this recording. Great indeed.

Bob has written an autobiography a couple years after this was released (in 2009) and has dealt with a lot of painful issues including the loss of his father and addresses some personal demons here so it’s an emotionally charged album for sure.   The past and present is refracted  through a prism of reality, reconciliation and the need to move forward again. Many well thought out lyrics abound when you can get them…

Also available through Hoopla so check it out or stream it; you won’t regret it.

-Phil

Music review: Sara Evans

By , July 8, 2014

Slow Me Down
By Sara Evans

Back in the day – oh way way back In the Year 2000 - I was a Sara Evans fan. I think I listened to her Born to Fly album 9 bazillion camillion times – which is a lot. Then she had all that drama surrounding her dirty divorce and other court battles, and I kinda wrote her off as “one of those musicians” who get buried by a batch of bad press and let their personal lives swallow their careers.

So when her latest album came out this year, my first thought was “she’s still recording?” I thought Evans had just married her football player and was happy to drift into oblivion. But I’m so glad she didn’t because this album is so good. It’s Born to Fly good. Just as I’ve been sitting here listening to it while I write, I’ve heard my favorite track -”Put My Heart Down”- like, 5 times.

If you’re interested, and you should be, we have the CD you can check out, or you can download/stream it from freegal. It’s less than 40 minutes long and worth checking out one day when you’re bored at work. I will say that it’s not super country, but more like what Shania Twain would be recording if she weren’t spending her days partying at Caesar’s in Vegas. It’s more poptastic (not to be confused with Popmatic). Evans may have named her album Slow Me Down, but it’s anything but slow. (Plus, the first single “Slow Me Down” came out on my birthday! It’s a sign.) Take a listen, but you better stretch your toes first, because they will want to be tappin’.

Happy listening…

:) Amanda

A Book and Some Tunes Girls Like

By , April 22, 2014

Record Collecting for Girls
By Courtney Smith

Ok, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to five albums for the rest of your life, what would they be? Or list the Top 10 Rock Songs with Flute (hello, Jethro Tull)? Anyone who has seen High Fidelity or spent 5 minutes in a real record store has either played this game or heard it played – usually by boys. Author Courtney Smith used to work at MTV, and she thinks girls should get to play too. So pick your favorite category: Where Have All the Girls Bands Gone?, Making Out with Romeo and Juliet, or The Smiths Syndrome. Hmm…I think I’ll take Rock N Roll Consorts for $200, Alex.

At the end of each section, Smith has assembled her own topic specific playlist and they span quite a few diverse genres. This book is as fun for exploring her playlists as it is for reading. In the spirit of Record Collecting for Girls, I put together my Top 5 Guilty Pleasures of Right Now (they may change in five minutes). You can listen to all of these courtesy of NPL – some in CD form, some from freegal. Here they are, in no particular order:

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes (freegal)
When I was little, I used to think this song was “Privatize. We’re watching you.” Think about it…

Phil Collins – Sussudio
To this day, I still have no idea what this song is about. It’s a catchy tune though. O oh.

Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA
You can thank Pitch Perfect for this one.

Lady Gaga – Do What You Want
I hate the message of this song, but it’s very peppy.

Cake – The Distance (freegal)
I love the singer’s deadpan delivery. It’s like he’s reading the Nightly News.

Think I’m geeky? Think you can do better? Ok, Mr. or Ms. Smarty-Music Pants, post your Top Five Guilty Pleasures in the comments and see what the world thinks.

Why should we listen to new (or old) music? Because it’s there.

Happy Collecting…

:) Amanda

Music Faceoff: Lea Michelle vs. Karmin

By , April 8, 2014

Battle of the March 2014 Releases
Lea Michelle’s Louder vs. Karmin’s Pulses

It’s a nail bitter folks. Who is going get your weekly freegal downloads? Will it be the latest release from the Glee diva? Or will the underdog hip-hopster steal the glory? What would P Diddy tell Barbra Streisand to do? Let’s go to the chart shall we?

Ok, so the chart, while fun, was absolutely no help. I guess you’ll just have to download them both from freegal and have your own sonic duel. If you’re feeling more introspective and schmoopy, Lea would be a better bet. I’ll save a Kleenex for you. If you just wanna dance, definitely rock the Karmin – my head’s bobbing with you right now.

Happy downloading…isn’t freegal awesome?

:) Amanda

Oh PS…you can listen to both albums by streaming them on freegal before downloading anything if my highly non scientific chart didn’t help you decide either.

Big Ears Festival Wrap-Up

By , April 4, 2014
This past weekend, fans of experimental music gathered for the third ever Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, myself included.  Rolling Stone has called it “the most ambitious and avant-gard festival to emerge in America in more than a decade.”   Its first year in 2009, offered a diverse line-up of rock, electronic, ambient, noise, and minimalist composers and performers.  After a more commercially driven follow-up, it took a long 3-year hiatus.  When asked why they kept festival fans waiting for so long, its founder Ashley Capps replied that they were waiting for this year’s lineup:
Headlining the festival was Steve “Kind-of-a-big-deal” Reich. While many of Reich’s pieces were performed throughout the 3-day festival, his presence provided more of a focal point.

Perhaps no other living composer has influenced the direction of both classical and popular forms of music.  Reich was one of first musicians to experiment with sampling, which he claims to have discovered by accident. For more on Reich’s use of sampling, check out his introduction to the book Sound unbound : Sampling Digital Music and Culture

Among the host of musicians influenced by Reich is the band Radiohead, specifically guitarist Jonny Greenwood who both performed at and attended the festival.  Greenwood began his music career studying viola at Oxford, but dropped out to become a rocker.  In recent years he has returned to the classical world, scoring films like There Will Be Blood and The Master.  While these scores hearken back to earlier composers, Reich’s influence on Greenwood, I find, is more evident on recent Radiohead releases (see: In Rainbows).  Greenwood paid homage to this influence at Big Ears with a performance of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint on electric guitar.

Reich returned the complement by arranging a suite of Radiohead music, titled Radio Rewrite, also performed at Big Ears by an ensemble of strings and pianos.  In his talk with festival-goers, the great composer seemed, at times, dismissive of the popular forms of music he has helped create.  My question, left unanswered, was what had led him to single out Radiohead for the distinct honor?  For me, Radiohead served as an introduction to more experimental music.  Did this homage validate the musical depths of the band, or was Reich just trying to appeal to folks like me?

Other Big Ears Performers found at your library:

Music of Steve Reich

Buke and Gase excellent, and accessible jangly pop

John Cale : a major songwriting force of Velvet Underground, etc.

Dawn of Midi : jazz instrumentation evoking electronic composition

Glenn Kotche : drummer from Wilco’s recording of Reich’s “Clapping

Bryce Dessner : from the band The National

Tim Hecker

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth

John Adams’ Shaker Loops

Book review: Five Flavors of Dumb

By , March 25, 2014

Five Flavors of Dumb
By Antony John

I used to work in the music industry. It’s a pretty tough business, and I must admit that I was not enough of a balla or shot calla to really hustle up fame and fortune. Silly me – I thought it was all about great music (feel free to insert appropriate scoffing in the comments).

But that was what I liked most about this book. Our main gal Piper, band manager extraordinaire, was able to push her band, Dumb, through the glass ceiling of dreaming about music to actually having a shot at something beyond bar gigs and college tours. This feat was even more impressive because Piper is moderately to severely deaf. She simply had the gift to seek out opportunities and then make them  happen. Sometimes with disastrous results, yes – but hey, in the music business no press is bad press, right? (example: Miley Cyrus).

I also think the author did a great job of building authentic and relatable characters. I wanted to be friends with the members of Dumb. Except maybe Josh, but every band needs some kind of ego maniac at some point in their careers. In addition, I must mention that it was fun to read a book written by someone in ma-ma-ma-my generation for the next generation (this is a young adult book after all). Oasis who? Nirvana what?

My delusions aside, the music industry is at its best when great music coincides with a strong vehicle for promotion – think Hendrix or Clapton. And it’s up to the pink-haired Pipers of the world to make sure this great music gets heard.

Happy reading…or listening to Wonderwall…or whatever…

:) Amanda

Book review: Wild tales : a rock & roll life by Graham Nash

By , March 20, 2014

Wild Tales: a rock & roll life
by Graham Nash
Those of you who came of age in the sixties and seventies will want to rearrange your calendars Friday to make sure you don’t miss the Nashville Public Library appearance of Graham Nash. The book signing is Friday, March 21st at noon.

Few individuals have had such an influence on the musical direction of a generation as Mr. Nash. Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice, first in 1997 with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and again in 2010 with the Hollies.

He is currently touring to share tales from his memoir, Wild tales : a rock & roll life. The Nashville Public Library collection is rich in materials penned and created by Graham Nash; music spanning five decades, a photography collection, concert performances, politics, work with Musicians United for Safe Energy, celebrating songwriters.  The list goes on and on and wonderfully on.

Graham Nash at the Nashville Public Library event details.

“You know, every year has been fantastic for me, I’m still here, I’m still alive and it’s been fantastic” Graham Nash

-laurie

Music review: GIRL

By , March 11, 2014

GIRL
By Pharrell Williams

Ok. It’s been out for a week. How many times have you listened to this album? Wait…what!?! You haven’t downloaded it from freegal yet? And you don’t even know if you want to? (I’m shaking my head in shock and amazement.)

Well, just in case there’s any doubt, let me present the five best reasons you need to download this album ASAP:

5) Your friends, neighbors, children, children’s friends, & random strangers off the street will think you are almost as cool as Pharrell if you have your car windows down (once the weather finally gets warm) and his tunes cranked up.

4) You can stream the whole album right now, just by logging into freegal. Plus it’s only 10 tracks long, so it will only take you two weeks to get the whole thing once you realize how much you have to have it.

3) Cameos by Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Miley, and Daft Punk.

2) Pharrell always brings the best grooves for practicing those embarrassing schnazy dance moves. Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…

And the number one reason for downloading what could potentially be the best album of the year:

1) It’s free. Hello? What are you waiting for?

If I haven’t sold you on the genius that is Pharrell, I’m sure we can find some Barry Manilow to download instead. *shrug*

Happy listening…

:) Amanda

 

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