Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recommended TV: Hannibal

News came out this week that this is the last season of Hannibal (at least on NBC). It's cancellation should not be seen as failure though, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Hannibal is the most beautiful and stunning television show airing right now, if not ever. This is a bold statement and it seems impossible if you are familiar with the books or previous movies. Beauty is not a word one would associate with a show about a cannibalistic serial killer. But, even at its most gruesome, it is so artful. Bryan Fuller, the show-runner, created the other shows Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Wonderfalls.

Season one has a crime-of-the-week plot structure. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) helps the FBI catch killers because he can "see" inside their minds based on the crime scenes. This ability disrupts his own mental state to the point that he needs help. Enter Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Season two has a different structure, which is driven more by Will's narrative and his changing relationship with Hannibal and the rest of his colleagues at the FBI. Season three began earlier this month and you're able to watch the aired episodes online. So far, this season is following Hannibal's narrative-- he's calling the shots. 
So, on to why this show is special: it's a feast for the senses. The dialogue is not wasted and often carries a double meaning; the imagery is significant and dream-like (or hallucinogenic); the sets and color palette are lovely and intentional; the lighting moody; and the food styling is so exquisite its enough to make you want to join in on the meals, even though you know you don't really want to. The cinematography is so perfect, its a wonder that you're only watching a network TV show and not a feature film. Now the disclaimer: this show is not for everyone. It is intense, disturbing, and shocking at times-- the crime scenes can be a lot to take. I would also recommend refraining from snacking while watching.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mind Your Own Biscuits and Life Will Be Gravy...and Other Words of Wisdom from Kacey Musgraves

Find it in the catalog!
Music fans everywhere have been waiting anxiously for the release of Kacey Musgraves' sophomore album Pageant Material. Me being me, I pre-ordered my copy and received it in the mail the day before it was released. Score.

Her debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park, included the hits "Follow Your Arrow" and "Merry Go 'Round". Her vocals are honest and effortless; Musgraves quickly made it clear that she's not an oversinger, but instead a killer songwriter. Alongside co-writers Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark and Luke Laird, Musgraves produced an album so relatable that it's been in my stereo since its release date in March 2013. Lyrics like "If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore / if you don't save yourself for marriage you're a whore-able person" had listeners hooked from track one.

This time around, Musgraves upped the ante. Tracks like "Dime Store Cowgirl", "Pageant Material",  and "Family is Family" draw on her small-town past. The title track is an anomaly of sorts where Musgraves tells listeners just why she's not considered 'pageant material'. She sings:
 "I ain't pageant material / 
I'm always higher than my hair / 
And it ain't that I don't care about world peace / 
But I don't see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage /
I ain't exactly Ms. Congenial /
Sometimes I talk before I think, I try to fake it but I can't /
I'd rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain't"

Musgraves' music possesses an honest quality that's clearly lacking in a lot of the hits we hear coming out of Nashville today. In a recent interview with Fader, she was quoted saying, "The more country that my music gets, the less it fits into the country world today. It's almost like there needs to be two genres, modern country" At its core, Pageant Material is about how you can never quite escape small-town struggles with family, neighbors, and old flames no matter how big a break you get. 

Chart Flashback: June 15, 1985

Once again, to go along with our summer reading theme Read to the Rhythm, we're taking a look at popular summer songs. Let's rewind back to the summer of 1985. Several artists included in the top 20 singles chart are still going strong today, while others have disappeared and I had trouble tracking down any kind of album availability for them (Mary Jane Girls? Limahl?).

Click on the album title to place a hold or click on the song links to download the songs from Freegal (you may download 3 songs per week with your FRVPLD library card):

1. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" -- Tears for Fears
Songs from the Big Chair

2. "Heaven" -- Bryan Adams

3. "Axel F." (from Beverly Hills Cop) -- Harold Faltermeyer
80's Gold

4. "Suddenly" -- Billy Ocean
Greatest Hits

5. "Things Can Only Get Better" -- Howard Jones
The Best of Howard Jones, 1983-93

6. "Sussudio" -- Phil Collins
No Jacket Required

7. "In My House" -- The Mary Jane Girls

8. "Everything She Wants" -- Wham!
Make It Big

9. "Angel" -- Madonna
Like a Virgin

10. "Walking on Sunshine" -- Katrina and the Waves
Katrina and the Waves

11. "Raspberry Beret" -- Prince
The Hits 2

12. "A View to a Kill" -- Duran Duran
The Best of Bond -- James Bond

13. "The Search is Over" -- Survivor
Vital Signs

14. "Smuggler's Blues" -- Glenn Fry

15. "Fresh" -- Kool and the Gang
Celebration: The Best of Kool and the Gang

16. "Would I Lie to You?" -- Eurythmics
Be Yourself Tonight

17. "Never Ending Story" -- Limahl
Living in Oblivion: The '80s Greatest Hits Vol. 2

18. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" -- Simple Minds
The Best of Simple Minds

19. "Voices Carry" -- 'Til Tuesday
Coming Up Close: A Retrospective

20. "You Give Good Love" -- Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston

Source: Billboard Magazine Archive

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Recommended Watch: About Time

About Time (2013).
Find it in the catalog!
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, and Lydia Wilson.
Directed by Richard Curtis. 

Based off of the trailers for the film, I had literally no interest in seeing this movie.  It looked like another generic Nicholas Sparks-lite romantic movie where Rachel McAdams falls in love with yet another time traveler.  However, after I watched, I realized my first impression of the film was actually quite wrong.

The film isn't really centered all that much on the romance between adorably dorky Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) and bookish Mary (Rachel McAdams).  Instead, it's a coming of age story about Tim's journey from a 21-year-old man-boy who lives with his parents into a fully formed adult. Lucky for him, he has the added bonus of being able to travel back in time and (maybe) fix his mistakes... or cause new ones. 

About Time begins on Tim's 21st birthday, when his dad (played by the ever awesome Bill Nighy) breaks the news to Tim that all the men in their family can travel back in time.  The way they accomplish time travel is incredibly geeky and low-tech!: just go into a dark place (like cupboard) and ball your hands in fist and concentrate and voila.  They can travel back in time, but not the future.  Also, going back in time can have consequences for the future.  Tim decides to use his new-found power for world peace... Just kidding, he decides to use it to get a girlfriend.

His first prospect is his sister's pretty friend Charlotte (the near-ubiquitous Margot Robbie), who comes to stay with their family over the summer.  However, Tim quickly learns that no amount of time travel can win her heart.  He has much better success with Mary, who he meets on a literal blind date.  Unfortunately for him, he accidentally mucks up the relationship by traveling back in time before he met her.  But thankfully the movie doesn't dwell too much on his attempts to win her back. In fact their relationship is refreshingly devoid of rom-com cliques, and they instead pretty much act like two adults who love and respect for each other.  

Tim's relationships with his family are also central to this movie's plot.  Tim's sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) starts out a bit flighty, but winds up having some serious problems as an adult.  Tim naturally wants to help his sister out, and even attempts to use time travel, but discovers that "fixing" his sister's problem can't happen without complications.  One of my favorite relationships in the movie is between Tim and his dad.  Tim's dad is his mentor and confidant, and they have a very close father-son relationship that includes some serious ping-pong matches.  Gleeson and Nighy have great chemistry together.  And their relationship is key to one of the toughest decisions Tim has to make in the film.

About Time is a delightful movie about family, love, and the tough decisions one has to make growing up.  It's a funny film throughout, though parts of it are quite touching, and the ending totally made me cry (I'm not proud).  Highly recommend for fans of Bill Nighy or Richard Curtis's debut Love Actually.  Also the soundtrack is pretty incredible, including essential tracks from Nick Cave and Arvo Pärt.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chart Flashback: June 6, 1998

Since our summer reading theme is Read to the Rhythm, I thought it would be cool to do a bunch of posts in the next couple months looking back at popular songs of summers past. Let's rewind back to the summer of 1998. Brandy and Monica's duet, "The Boy is Mine," topped Billboard's Hot 100 Singles during the week of June 6, and was probably stuck in your head for the rest of that summer. For the most part, R&B artists dominated the rest of the top 20... including the original line-up of Destiny's Child! Plus, Will Smith continued to juggle his acting and rapping careers, and showed off his dance moves in the video for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" (triple threat!).

Several songs in the lineup were definitely inescapable during 1998, from "You're Still the One" by Shania Twain to "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden to "All My Life" by K-Ci and JoJo, which was recently used in one of the final episodes of Parks and Recreation. The inclusion of both "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" from the Backstreet Boys and "I Want You Back" from 'N Sync on the charts was just the start of the battle for best boy band, which would play out on MTV's TRL throughout the late '90s and early '00s; you liked one or the other, not both ('N Sync for me).

Click on the album title to place a hold or click on the song links to download the songs from Freegal (you may download 3 songs per week with your FRVPLD library card):

1. "The Boy is Mine" - Brandy & Monica
Never S-A-Y Never by Brandy & The Boy is Mine by Monica

2. "Too Close" - Next
Rated Next

3. "You're Still the One" - Shania Twain
Greatest Hits

4. "My All" - Mariah Carey
The Essential Mariah Carey

5. "I Get Lonely" - Janet Jackson featuring Blackstreet
The Velvet Rope

6. "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" - Backstreet Boys
The Hits: Chapter One

7. "The Arms of the One Who Loves You" - Xscape
Traces of My Lipstick

8. "All My Life" - K-Ci & JoJo
All My Life: Their Greatest Hits

9. "Truly Madly Deeply" - Savage Garden
Savage Garden

10. "It's All About Me" - Mya & Sisqo

11. "Sex and Candy" - Marcy Playground
Marcy Playground

12. "Body Bumpin' Yippie-Yi-Yo" - Public Announcement
All Work, No Play

13. "Let's Ride" - Montell Jordan featuring Master P & Silkk the Shocker
Let's Ride

14. "Adia" - Sarah McLachlan

15. "I Want You Back" - 'N Sync
'N Sync

16. "Frozen" - Madonna
Ray of Light

17. "Turn it Up (Remix)/Fire it Up" - Busta Rhymes
Total Devastation: The Best of Busta Rhymes

18. "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" - Will Smith
Big Willie Style

19. "No, No, No" - Destiny's Child
Destiny's Child

20. "I Got the Hook Up!" - Master P featuring Sons of Funk
I Got the Hook Up Soundtrack

Source: Billboard Magazine Archive

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Reading: Read to the Rhythm!

Today is the first day of our district-wide and all ages summer reading program, Read to the Rhythm. The goal is for everyone to read every day. Books, magazines, newspapers, online blogs and articles, eBooks, reading aloud to someone else, and audiobooks all count! You will earn prizes for each week you complete, plus a book at the very end for finishing the program. All finishers will also be entered into prize drawings for gift cards from local businesses. Plus, fill out Recommended Read entries to be entered into weekly drawings for $10 gift cards.

Guess the song in a jar!

Each Monday at the Information Desk we will put out a new song with its lyrics cut into pieces and taped inside a jar. Write down your guess and the following Monday we will pull a winner from the correct entries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Recently Released Album Obsessions

Here are some newly released albums at the library that are definitely worth listening to:

Vestiges and Claws by Jose Gonzalez
Find it in the catalog!
Regular fans of the Swedish/ Argentinian guitarist Jose Gonzalez will not be disappointed by his latest effort which has been eight years in the making.  The album features his signature distinctive brand of spare, gloomy folk music (a favorite of mine) that he showcased on his two previous albums, Veneer and In Our Nature.  However, this time out he has more complicated musical arrangements (featuring flute and cello) and a slightly more upbeat worldview.
Repeat tracks:  "Forest," "Let It Carry You," and "Open Book."

Kintsugi by Death Cab for Cutie
Find it in the catalog!
This latest release from indie rock band Death Cab is a duel break up album.  Not only is it the first album since lead singer Ben Gibbard's divorce from Zooey Deschanel, it also marks guitarist Chris Walla's departure from the band.  Loss haunts this album, and it's got some pretty great heartbreak tracks on it including "You've Haunted Me All My Life" and "Binary Sea." The music, however, remains relativity upbeat and poppy.  Chris Walla's distinctive guitar style is always a big draw on Death Cab albums, and Kintsugi is no exception.  His presence will be missed in the band (at least by me).
Repeat Tracks:  "Little Wanderer," "Everything's a Ceiling," and "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)."

Magnolia Electric Co. by Songs: Ohia
Find it in the catalog!
Didn't It Rain by Songs: Ohia.
Find it in the catalog!
These two deluxe edition album reissues represent the finest work of the late musician Jason Molina.  For those unfamiliar with Molina, check out fellow Media blogger Jason's tribute to the singer. Songs: Ohia has sort of an alt-country sound that can achingly haunting at times (especially the back half of Didn't It Rain) or hard rocking (like the first half of Magnolia Electric Co.).  Molina's singing voice is deep and rich, and one of my favorite things elements of these albums is his vocals. If you haven't listened to Molina before, definitely check out both these LPs!  For hardcore fans, there are additional discs with demos and outtakes for each record.
Repeat Tracks:  I love all three of the last songs on Didn't It Rain: "Blue Factory Flame," "Two Blue Lights, and "Blue Chicago Moon."  Off Magnolia Electric Co., my favorites are: "Farewell Transmission," "Almost Good Enough," and "Just Be Simple."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Audio Obsession: The xx

British band, the xx, have two beautiful albums to their name. At the Library we have their debut album, titled the xx. They exemplify indie-rock with an atmospheric, dance beat bent - there are no extraneous notes to be found on the albums. The beauty of the xx is that you can listen to them repeatedly and find different songs to like each time, and you can play them as background music or listen attentively. Basically, they're all-purpose listening.

One quality that sets the xx apart are the vocals. The vocal duties alternate between two members, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Sometimes the two alternate on the same track with clever calls and answers. Neither is a perfect singer, but both have a haunting quality to their voice.

The xx are also masters of the electronic crescendo (listen to Reunion, from Coexist). I can't think of another band of the top of my head that is this skillful at creating tension in songs that are so stark (if you can think of another band, let me know in the comments).

I would encourage you to listen to either disc, and eagerly await their next.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spotlight: Lindi Ortega and Other Fierce Women of the Folk Music Industry

Lindi Ortega is a badass, bird loving, Toronto native. She signed with Last Gang Records in 2011 after spending nearly a decade as an independent artist. Ortega has since taken Nashville by storm; her latest record Tin Star broke the status quo. She puts a spin on old-fashioned heartbreak that listeners just can't find on the radio these days. Plus, Ortega recently organized a benefit concert for the World Parrot Refuge where she featured other artists local to Toronto. Pretty cool, right?

Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff has become the voice of the millennial generation after hopping a freight train from her home in New York City to New Orleans at the age of 17. Segarra, now 28, formed HFTRR after picking up a banjo and honing her songwriting skills. The band released their first album on a major label, Small Town Heroes, last year. The album itself is a representation of the evolution of folk music. Tracks "Crash on the Highway" and "End of the Line" have familiar names though, and there's a reason for that. According to a 2014 interview Segarra had with NPR, "I try to go about being very obvious about my inspirations. It's kind of a brave move on our part to say, this is obviously taken from an older form of music." HFTRR's music is old school meets new school and sometimes wildly political. "The Body Electric" is perhaps the most in-your-face track on Small Town Heroes which tackles more than a century of murder ballads in folk music.

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray met in elementary school in a suburb of Atlanta and had formed a musical duo by high school. The differences in their songwriting and vocal ranges only serve to compliment one another; the duo is fantastic live. Better known as the Indigo Girls, Saliers and Ray caught music lovers' attention in 1989 with the release of their biggest hit to date "Closer to Fine". Since then, the girls have released 13 studio albums with another due out this June. Saliers and Ray are activists as well as musicians. They started an environmental justice organization together with Winona LaDuke called Honor the Earth, through which they've supported both environmental and social justice campaigns. Both Saliers and Ray identify as gay and their advocacy for the LGBT community is evident in many of their songs.  

Joy Williams began her career in the music industry as a solo artist with Reunion Records before joining the iconic Civil Wars in 2009. She released three contemporary Christian albums between 2001 and 2005, all of which earned her a great deal of success. She only met John Paul White at a songwriting camp in Nashville after deciding that her musical direction had changed since leaving Reunion. Together, Williams and White recorded two full-length, folk-heavy albums. Barton Hollow won two well-deserved Grammys and followup The Civil Wars was highly praised by critics and fans alike. The Civil Wars have since gone their separate ways, but Williams has resumed her career as a solo artist. Her album Venus is due out this summer. You can listen to the first single, “Woman (Oh Mama)” here. Side note: Joy Williams tweeted me one time. It was awesome.