Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Truth Hurts (Especially when Adele is Singing it)

Reserve 25 in the catalog today
~Adele's third studio album, 25, was released on Friday, so I've only had the chance to listen to it like 8063 times~ 

Adele released her first album, 19, in 2008 after graduating from the BRIT School for Performing Arts & technology. She wrote most of the material for her debut album on her own and named the album for the age at which she did so. She kept the theme going when she released her sophomore album 21 in 2011. The album is deeply autobiographical, exploring the different stages of heartbreak from anger and bitterness to acceptance and eventual forgiveness. Adele is a vocal powerhouse and 21 is one of my absolute favorite albums to be released to this day. 

The wildly anticipated third release delivers what all Adele fans want — big vocals, ballads (heartbroken and otherwise) and the classic soundscape, culled from vintage pop and soul music. Technically, Adele has already made this album two times over. She's swept us off our feet before: stirred our souls so powerfully that 25 is not collectively as game-changing as some might have wanted it to be. It is, however, still a collection of beautifully crafted songs that evoke emotion unlike anything else I've heard this year. “Hello”, the opening track, picks up the heartbreak theme of 21 which documented a tumultuous breakup in her personal life. The new single echoes the reflective mood of the album’s [21] closing track, the piano ballad-turned-anthem “Someone Like You”. The album itself is a collection of torch songs, filled with longing for lost love and mourning for her own faded innocence. The second track, titled "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)", was produced by Max Martin and as a result the song has a very Taylor Swift-esque feel to it. "Send My Love" is more of an upbeat sendoff than anything else. "River Lea" is by far the most powerful song on the album; Adele finds herself filled with self-doubt, apologizing to a future lover for some uncommitted sin. 

The most standout aspect of the album as a whole isn't so much Adele's voice (which is just as phenomenal as always despite recent vocal cord surgery) as it is her delivery. There aren't many artists in the music industry today that convey emotion the way she does. She's authentic. My favorite tracks off 25 resonate strongly with my current situation: "Water Under the Bridge", "Love in the Dark", and "All I Ask". Clearly I'm stuck in one of those post-love ruts at the moment. Of course, after another 10,000 listens and once a little more time has passed, my favorite tracks are bound to change.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Recommended Listen: In Colour by Jamie xx

I was excited for this album to be released in June, if only to tide me over to the next release from The xx-- the group Jamie xx is a member-- but I've come to love it on it's own merit. While this CD isn't nearly as stark or moody as The xx albums, this should still please existing fans and perhaps gain some new ones due to his expanding repertoire. Three tracks feature vocalist Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, both members of the xx. So, even though this is a solo album, he's still got one foot planted in the group. The track that diverts the most is the hip-hop and dance-hall inspired I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times), featuring Popcaan and Young Thug.

What makes this album different from previous efforts is that it's not as cohesive from track to track. It's more diverse: this disc oscillates between house and more-laid back compositions and the aforementioned hip hop/dancehall track. You can dance, or just plain relax to this disc, which isn't true of all electronic albums. My standouts include Sleep SoundObvsHold TightThe Rest is Noise, and Girls, which is my favorite of the pack. This is a definite step forward for Jamie.

In Colour by Jamie xx
Find it in the catalog

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Admit It: You're obsessed with "Hotline Bling"

Via Pitchfork

Unless you live under a rock (or are Meek Mill or like…my 90 year old grandmother) you know all the lyrics to Drake’s smash hit “Hotline Bling” and you love every second of it. It was hard to admit at first, I know, but now you own it. You live to get in your car every morning on your way to work and scream “YOU USED TO CALL ME ON MY CELL PHONE” at the poor people taking your coffee order at Dunkin’ Donuts. Or maybe that’s just me? Anyway, here’s a list of songs with essentially the same message to help you get over your obsession with “Hotline Bling”. 

"It Is What It Is" by Kacey Musgraves

I know what you're thinking and yes, I do write a lot about Kacey Musgraves, but that's only because I know good music when I hear it. "It Is What It Is" is the closing track off Kacey's first album Same Trailer, Different Park. This song is both the best and saddest ode to friends with benefits that you'll ever hear. Most Drizzy-esque lyrics:
"But I ain't got no one sleeping with me /
And you ain't got nowhere that you need to be /
Maybe I love you /
Or maybe I'm just kinda bored"  

 Florence Welch has built a career on other peoples' heartbreak. This track, off her third studio album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, has a call-and-response chorus about waiting by the phone that would make Smokey Robinson proud. Most Drake reminiscent lyrics: 
"Now it's one more boy and it's one more lie / 
(Holding on for your call) /
Taking the pills just to pass the time /
(I can never say no)"

Modern romance (at least according to Aziz Ansari) is essentially not knowing if you're actually dating a person or instead just "hanging out" with them on a fairly regular basis. And if that's not confusing enough, these non-relationships usually end when one person decides they've found someone who is more interesting to text. Cam's single "Half Broke Heart", which has yet to be released on a major record label, explores what comes after the fallout. She sings: 
"Upfront no strings /
Sure fun till it unravels /
Won't see me cry / 
But I might kinda wanna call you tonight"  

Grace Potter has been leading The Nocturnals through the murky water that is pop-rock for years now. Her first solo album titled Midnight dropped earlier this year; "Empty Heart" is the one track off the album that Drake himself could have written. Proof:  
"I cry when you do, I cry when you don't /
Why won't you tell me what you want with me /
One day we're together then we're apart /
Why won't you let me fill up your empty heart" 

So, there you have it. Drake may be the king of emotion, but there's plenty of artists out there who can help us conquer the epidemic that is "Hotline Bling". Enjoy.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fall Movie Preview 2015: Read It Before You See It

So I guess the film industry is officially out of ideas? Here's a list of books you can read before they hit the silver screen this season.  

Black Mass (September 18)
If Johnny Depp alone isn't reason enough to see Black Mass, then...well, he is. Depp will play the notorious Boston gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger in this film adaption of the exhaustively researched book of the same name. Movie critics are falling all over themselves to proclaim Black Mass the first true Oscar contender this year. The film also stars Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, and Adam Scott.  

The Martian (October 2)
Matt Damon is returning to outer space this fall. He played a small role in last year's Interstellar where he unsuccessfully attempted to take down Matthew McConaughey on an icy planet unfit for human life (yes, it was just as weird as it sounds). This time around, however, Damon will play the lead role as an astronaut who is forced to survive alone on Mars after a fierce storm sends his crew back to Earth. Hopefully this space odyssey will prove less stressful than Sandra Bullock's 2013 solo journey through the universe. I had to leave the theater before Gravity had even ended due to an anxiety attack. Great job, Alfonso Cuarón!  

Mockingjay - Part 2 (November 20)
Everybody and their brother has seen Mockingjay - Part 1 and the rest of The Hunger Games trilogy, so there's no doubt in my mind that you already have plans to purchase your kids' tickets for the midnight premier of Mockingjay - Part 2. And if you don't you're like the meanest parent ever. But seriously, this series has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. Katniss Everdeen and her badass, arrow slinging self has taken on the role of hero to fans all over the world. And why shouldn't she? After all, not just anyone could win the Hunger Games. Twice.  Get it, girl! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer 2015: Rain, Cheap Beer, and Post-Concert Depression

I think I've spent more money this season on concert tickets and overpriced Bud Light than I have on...well, anything ever. And being the generous person that I am I've decided to relive some of the magical moments I spent drowning in the rain, surrounded by scantily-clad teenagers here, on this library blog, with you. Enjoy. 
*Disclaimer: the majority of the shows I attended this summer fall under the genre of 'country'. Surprise! 

via Tumblr

Lana Del Rey
May 30, 2015
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Tinley Park, IL

I have to admit I am a fan of Lana's music, although I won't go as far as to say she's my queen. Seriously guys, what's up with that? Del Rey kicked off her Endless Summer Tour in early May with special guest Courtney Love...which was odd to say the least. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to witness that spectacle as Grimes was the opener on Del Rey's Chicago stop. I had no idea who Grimes was before the show and I still don't have a clue today. It was 40 degrees and pouring rain yet every concertgoer around me was wearing high-waisted shorts and a flower crown. I was unimpressed with Del Rey's performance; she whined her way through a couple of tracks off her most recent record Ultraviolence while mostly ignoring her second (and my favorite) album Paradise. And when she finally got around to performing "Summertime Sadness" I was in the bathroom. That was the first and the last time I see LDR in concert. She's all yours, hipsters! 

Zac Brown Band
June 28, 2015
Milwaukee, WI

I traveled to the faraway land of Wisconsin to witness Zac Brown and his 10 piece ensemble throw down on the main stage at Milwaukee's annual Summerfest. The most impressive part of any ZBB show is the sheer amount of fiddle they're able to incorporate into modern country music; their cover of "Devil Went Down to Georgia" is reason enough to shell out the money to see these guys play live. They have an incredible energy that allows them to play lesser-known material to a crowd that really only wants to hear "Chicken Fried" on a two hour loop. The band took a big risk releasing their latest album Jekyll + Hyde this year. It has a much less traditional sound than their fans are used to, but it ultimately opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the band. You can place a hold on the album here.

July 10, 2015
Windy City Smokeout 
Chicago, IL 

I've reviewed Kacey's material here before and I really just can't say enough good things about her. Musgrave's onstage persona is just as you'd expect it to be. She speaks the truth and nothing but the truth and she's damn proud of her Texas roots. And ladies, her style is ON POINT. Not only did she play a bunch of her own songs, but she also covered some classic country hits like Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough" which confused a lot of the preteens around me. She's returning to Chicago in September to play a set at Farm Aid alongside Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp (just to name a few).  

via Tumblr

Taylor Swift
July 18 & 19, 2015
Soldier Field
Chicago, IL

Swift is without a doubt America's Sweetheart--donating thousands to a young fan diagnosed with cancer, sending personalized Christmas gifts to girls all over the world, spending hours interacting with her fans on Tumblr--and she recently kicked off her latest world tour in support of her album 1989. I've been a fan of Taylor since the very beginning; I saw her perform for free on the lawn outside of Soldier Field way before she was ever big enough to sell out the stadium two nights in a row. Her new album is unlike anything she's done in the past and she played the entirety of it for 60,000 Chicago fans. Twice. She left behind the acoustic guitar and the melodramatic lyrics this time around to show her fans that she's more than just a boy-crazy wannabe. She's the real deal. She's a bonafide pop star.

So, when all is said and done, I've seen some pretty bangin' shows this summer. Despite the weather (Illinois...amirite?!) and the hundreds of dollars I spent on booze instead of bills, I'll call it a success.  

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.