Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Music Year: 1978

The Onion AV Club’s ongoing series My Music Year is a fairly straightforward concept ("In My Favorite Music Year, A.V. Club music writers choose the years that speak to them most deeply, however fresh in memory or far in the past."), but it's given me a lot to think about. While I’m intrigued by the idea of highlighting a particular year in music that has personal resonance, I'm having trouble committing to a specific year. It seems like every year has its riches and its dross, and I can't help feeling that to choose one year is to overlook another. As a means of bypassing this indecisiveness, I have decided to review my birth-year. I'm not sure how I hit on the idea, but I'm excited about exploring the year I was born for hints at my musical sensibilities. How much of the music released the year I was born would end up being a part of my life in one way or another? We shall see.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Album Obsessions

While I almost always have a pile of albums in my "to listen to" bin, lately, I've been a bit overloaded.  At one point, I had 20 albums I was working on.  Thankfully, there were a lot of really great albums to be found in bunch.  Here are the albums that stood out and are still a part of my play list: 

Forget by Twin Shadow.
Find it in the catalog! 

Forget pretty much won me over from the first notes of the opening track, "Tyrant Destroyer."  Between the catchy synth riffs and George Lewis Jr.'s Morrissey-esque croon, this album highlights the absolutely best elements of 80s New Wave music.  The tone is bittersweet and nostalgic, making it great late night listening. 

Tracks on repeat: "Tyrant Destroyer," "At My Heels," "Slow," and closer "Forget."

Tell Me by Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Find it in the catalog!

This album was recommended to me by fellow Media Corner blogger, Jason, and it was produced by my favorite gingerbeard guitarist, Dan Auerbach (from the Black Keys); so naturally it was required listening. Tell Me is less folksy than her debut, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (which I also like quite bit). There is some excellent guitar work on this album and poppy sounding synth on songs like "Grown Man" and "Nervous Lonely Night."Lyrically, this album is quite dark, though somewhat relatable. 

Tracks on repeat:  "Grown Man" stood out the most to me on first listen.  It's catchy, though I find the lyrics mildly creepy.  The last three songs ("Tell Me," "Run Myself into the Ground," and "Sleepless") are also favorites of mine.

James Blake by James Blake.
Find in the catalog! 

I checked out this album for the shallowest of reasons... James Blake is adorable in a nerdy, British way (it's totally the floppy hair!).    Also, the video for his cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love" was awesome.   This album definitely blew me away.  Thanks in part to his soulful (albeit heavily processed) vocals, reminiscent of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Blake presents a uniquely emotional take on electronic music. 

Tracks on Repeat:  "I Never Learned to Share,"  "To Care (Like You)," "I Mind," and "Measurements."

Phosphene Dream by Black Angels.
Find it in the catalog!

I guessed from the head spinning cover and the name that this band would probably be some kind of 60s garage rock band in the vein of the Black Keys and Black Mountain.  I was right, but man, this album rocks!  Phosphene Dream is a dark, gritty psychedelic ride that would be at home on a Nuggets compilation (if it was not made 40 years too late).

Tracks on repeat:  "Bad Vibrations," "River of Blood," and "Telephone."

21 by Adele.
Find it in the catalog!

Sure, I have a few Amy Winehouse songs in my iTunes, but I've never been huge into the British retro-soul genre.  But everyone loves Adele.  She puts a modern spin on soul and her songs occasionally have very witty and sassy lines.  Also, as an enthusiast of heartbreak songs, it's hard to pass up a break album this good!

Tracks on repeat:  "Rolling in Deep," "Turning Tables," "Set Fire to Rain," and "One and Only."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Record Collection Crushes: Geeky Musical Benchmarks

Paul Schneider rocks on!
Anyone who has ever been to a concert knows that just because someone likes your favorite band, it doesn't mean they aren't totally annoying.  That being said, as a music geek, it's hard not be impressed when someone has a really killer record collection or iTunes Library.

So what makes someone's record collection crushworthy?  Usually its the weird stuff that you like that you think no one else does.  As a suburban teenager, my bar was pretty low.  If someone had heard of (and liked) Radiohead, I thought they were pretty awesome.  Now, as a jaded twenty-something who knows a lot of people with similar taste, I'm much pickier ("You like LCD Soundsystem, yeah, so does EVERYONE...").   

Earlier, I did a post on musical dealbreakers; bands and artists so heinous, they are potential relationship-enders.  These musical benchmarks are the opposite; bands and artists so supremely awesome, that if someone liked them, you'd respect them a little more for it. Overall, this list was much trickier to compile than the dealbreakers.  They are not necessarily my favorite bands (Note: no LCD Soundsystem, no Black Keys), just the ones that seem obscure and rocking enough to earn my musical admiration.  Below are my picks:

Jonathan Richman and/ or the Modern LoversFind him in the catalog!

Post-PunkWire, Gang of Four, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.

Elephant 6 bandsNeutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, etc.

Madvillain, Madlib, and MF Doom.  

Any blues music from the Fat Possum LabelR.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford.  Fat Possum's indie stuff is cool too!

Smart, Literate NYC Indie RockersThe Walkmen, The National, etc.

Okay music geeks, what additions (or subtractions) would you make to the list?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Library scenes on film and TV

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New Directions members get their glee on in the stacks.

In honor of National Library Week, I compiled more library scenes to add to last year's list. I think my favorite fictional library enthusiasts are Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls), Brick Heck (The Middle), Jesse St. James (Glee), and the characters on Community.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Find it in the catalog!
Belle is imprisoned in the Beast's castle after offering herself to be held captive in place of her ailing father. Seeing the way Belle misses her home and how lonely she is, the Beast shows her his lavish library, and tells her that she has her pick from the thousands of volumes.

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Before search boxes, you had to search card catalog drawers.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Find it in the catalog!
After Paul (George Peppard) and Holly (Audrey Hepburn) enter the library she asks him, "What is this place?" Yes, Holly Golightly has never been inside a library. Paul explains how each card is either a book or an author (what about subjects, Paul?). They look under his last name, Varjack, to find the card with his book, Nine Lives. They have to bring the card to one librarian and then wait until their number is called at a different desk. The librarian helping them at that desk is uninterested in the fact that Paul wrote the book. Holly informs her, "It's Varjack, Paul in person!" The librarian is quite annoyed with them, tells them to be quiet, and becomes upset when Holly encourages Paul to sign the library's copy of his book. That provides Holly's cue to go: "I don't think this place is half as nice as Tiffany's."

Community (2009-present)
Season 1: Find it in the catalog!
Jeff (Joel McHale), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Annie (Alison Brie), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Troy (Donald Glover), Abed (Danny Pudi) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) form a Spanish study group and every episode is set at least partially in the library, since that is their meeting place. I wanted to highlight a recent season 2 episode, because it demonstrates why Abed and Troy are among my favorite characters on TV and also have one of the best friendships on TV, in addition to the fact that the episode involves a librarian-centric plotline.
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If only the librarian would notice them...

Season 2, episode 15: "Early 21st Century Romanticism"
Best friends Troy and Abed both want to ask the same librarian to the Valentine's Dance. They watch her from their study room and hope that if they're too loud she'll shush them, so they yell, "BOOKS!" and then pretend to sleep when she actually does look in their direction. When they finally do approach her, they suggest that she hang out at the dance with both of them, so she can get to know them before she makes her choice.
Troy: Why does being a librarian make her even hotter?
Abed: They're keepers of knowledge. She holds the answers to all of our questions, like "Will you marry me?" and "Why are there still libraries?"

Eastbound & Down (2009-present)
Season 1: Find it in the catalog!
Former baseball pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) now teaches gym at a junior high school, where his high school girlfriend April (Katy Mixon) also teaches. In a season 1 episode, he goes to talk to her in the library, where two girls get into a fight. Powers breaks them apart and yells, "If you're gonna fight, do it in a parking lot somewhere, not in a library, surrounded by books!"

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Season 2: Find it in the catalog!
Season 2, episode 15: "Lost and Found"
Rory's (Alexis Bledel) boyfriend, Dean (Jared Padelecki), can hardly hide his boredom as he sits next to two piles of books she has already selected to buy from the library's Buy a Book! fundraiser. After over two hours of perusing the sale, Rory is still going strong and has yet to look at the astronomy section.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Da Mystery of Chessboxin

You may not immediately associate the acclaimed hip-hop collective known as The Wu-Tang Clan with the tiny pieces of colorful plastic known as Legos. But, it's high time something was done about that. The anthemic track "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" comes from Wu-Tang Clan's justly lauded 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). And here we have a clever little accompanying video, featuring all the synchronized sword-play and allegorical chess maneuvers you could wish for. Don't expect the slick polish of Michel Gondry's award-winning video for The White Stripes' "Fell in Love With a Girl". What you've got here is relatively low-tech stop-motion animation that nicely manages to capture the humor and menace of the original track. The highlight for me is the hilariously glowering Lego-man that denotes ODB. Green overalls! I also like the inclusion of several blank-faced figures (around the 2-minute and 2-minutes-30-second mark) which seem to correspond with the original album cover. I commend the Wu-Tang aficionado who put this video together, whoever he or she may be. I'm guessing it was done by a particularly industrious and inspired intern at Wu-Tang international headquarters, located in central Shaolin.

Warning: Video Contains Explicit Lyrics and LEGO Weapons

Courtesy of Flavorwire

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mars from Neptune

The cult hit Veronica Mars has made it to our shelves at Dundee and a couple of us Media Cornerists really dig this show. It is a fabulous blend of high school drama, mystery, and wit with a dash of class and racial commentary. When we first meet  Veronica (Kristen Bell), she is beginning junior year at Neptune High. A year prior, her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried), was murdered and things for her and her family have since gone downhill. Her father loses his job as the sheriff, her mother abandons the family, and having once enjoyed popularity, she is now an outcast (the irony is that she's actually the coolest chick in school). In flashback sequences throughout the season you see how things used to be. As Veronica tries to solve Lilly's murder, she makes money on the side by solving other, smaller mysteries or crimes, usually for fellow classmates.

The relationships Veronica shares with the other characters are complicated. Since most people in her life have disappointed her, she becomes a bit of a rebel; she defies her peers and authority figures alike. She does reluctantly befriend the new kid in school, Wallace (Percy Daggs III), after helping him out of a jam. Since he doesn't know of her past downfall in social standings at Neptune High, he's a great candidate for friendship. She still carries a torch for her rich ex-boyfriend (and brother to the deceased Lilly) Duncan (Teddy Dunn). Ex-friend Logan (Jason Dohring) hates Veronica and the feeling is mutual, at least for a while. She's friendly with the local teen gangster Weevil (Francis Capra), but mainly because they use each others connections or expertise to get out of trouble. The one relationship that is still truly solid is that with her father. Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) is, basically, the perfect dad. He's caring, funny, and trusting for the most part. I cannot think of another example on television that portrays such a connected father-daughter relationship.

Once you watch season one, you'll be hooked.
Seasons 1-3
Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Movies playing in April at the Dundee Library

Life As We Know It (PG-13)
Wednesday, April 6 at 6 PM
Starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel

Megamind (PG)
Saturday, April 9 at 2 PM
Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, and Tina Fey.

Cool Hand Luke (not rated)
Wednesday, April 20 at 6 PM
Catch a Classic at the Library: Paul Newman Films
Paul Newman received a Best Actor nomination for his performance as Luke in this 1967 film. George Kennedy received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Dragline.

All movies are shown in the downstairs Meeting Room. The Meeting Room opens thirty minutes prior to showtime. Free popcorn and refreshments are always served. Children under age nine must be accompanied by an adult. If you would like to receive monthly email reminders about the movies screening at the library, email Danielle at dpacini [at] dundeelibrary [dot] info. Hope to see you at the movies!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Warning Sign of Things to Come: Musical Dealbreakers

"A while back, Dick, Barry and I agreed that what really matters is WHAT you like, not what you ARE like.  Books, records, movies, these things matter..."- Rob Gordon (John Cusack), High Fidelity (2000)

Paul Schneider can listen to whatever he wants.
Look, I'm not shallow.  I don't care what kind of music a guy likes, as long as he looks exactly like Paul Schneider...or has a beautiful soul.   But seriously, I can't say that I've ever dumped someone over their musical taste.  Of course, I've never dated a Nickelback fan either.  In general, having good taste in music is a big plus, but questionable taste isn't that big of a negative.  Breaking up with someone over music is a little extreme, sort of like dumping someone because they have poor taste in soda or because of that hideous shirt they always wear.  There are probably much bigger dealbreakers in the long run than you having to tolerate listening to the Ben Folds Five once in a while.

That being said, really, really horrible taste could be a warning sign of incompatibility.  What kind of person would unironcially listen to Billy Ray Cyrus or Foreigner in this day and age?  Were they raised in a cave?  Do they have an 80s haircut and/or wear acid wash jeans? The horror, the horror.  Likewise, if your significant other's CD collection consists entirely of bands that haven't been cool since the 90s, you have to wonder if something traumatic happened to make them stop listening to new things?  Or think Limp Bizkit was cool in the first place?  Nor do you ever, ever want to utter this phrase if you are older than 12, "This is my boyfriend, Nick...he's a juggalo."

Anyway, below is a list of different musical styles and bands decided on by our Media Corner panel of experts to be borderline dealbreakers.  We wouldn't sneak out of the bathroom window on a date if you admitted to liking one of these bands (unless you were wearing killer clown makeup), but we would probably choke on our soup a little bit.