Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas classics at the Dundee Library

This time of year many people enjoy watching their favorite Christmas movies: It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Home Alone, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street, just to name a few. Over the next week we are showing a couple Christmas classics that maybe you forgot about (or aren't as familiar with) and are sure to put you in the holiday mood:

Prancer (1989)
Saturday, December 19 at 2 p.m.

This '80s classic stars Rebecca Harrell, Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Michael Constantine, Rutanya Alda, and a pre-Jurassic Park Ariana Richards. A little girl finds a wounded reindeer in the woods and believes it is Prancer. Her efforts to nurse it back to health so she can return it to Santa bring about wonderful changes in the lives of everyone- her father, their neighbor, a grouchy vet, a department store Santa and the people of the town.

Remember the Night (1940)
Tuesday, December 22 at 6 p.m.

This is one of four films that Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray starred in together. Both funny and dramatic, Remember the Night is one of my Christmas favorites. Stanwyck plays Lee Leander, a woman who shoplifts a bracelet and goes to trial for her crime in New York. Because the trial is occurring so close to Christmas, the prosecuting attorney, John Sargeant (Fred MacMurray), gets the trial postponed until after the holidays. He feels bad that Lee will spend Christmas in jail, and posts her bail. When he finds out Lee's hometown is not far from his childhood home in Indiana, he offers to drive her home for Christmas. She ends up spending Christmas with John's family, and gets to participate in their Christmas and New Year's traditions, including a good old-fashioned barn dance. Stanwyck and MacMurray have wonderful chemistry together, and the supporting cast is terrific as well. You may recognize Belulah Bondi from It's a Wonderful Life, or Sterling Holloway from his voice work on Winnie the Pooh or The Jungle Book.

Love Barbara Stanwyck and want more Christmas movie recommendations? Try Christmas in Connecticut for a fun screwball comedy, or Meet John Doe for another film that combines comedy with more dramatic elements.

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.

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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Don't Miss ... Begin Again

Begin Again was a bit of a sleeper last summer. It's not a super-hero or action franchise flick with lots of money behind it, but it did star Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and Adam Levin (from Maroon 5 fame) round out the supporting cast.

Knightley plays a songwriter who moves to New York with her rock-star boyfriend (Levine). She isn't interested in the limelight, just the art. He is interested in the limelight and their relationship suffers. One evening she's performing one of her songs at a club and Ruffalo's character, a down-and-out music executive, likes what he hears. They embark on creating an album on their terms as outcasts of the music industry machine. Knightley performs the songs herself - and she does an excellent job. I appreciated that the movie didn't go for the obvious here - I don't want to spoil the film by explaining this further, but let me just say it was refreshing to see a friendship blossom. Begin Again is a light film, but it still has something to say.

It's from the director of Once, John Carney, so if you enjoyed that, you'll probably appreciate this one too. If you're a music fan in general you'll find something to appreciate here as well. There's a scene where Knightley and Ruffalo share an iPod and listen to music together while roaming New York City. Perfection.

Monday, January 26, 2015

And the Academy Award Goes To...

via Pixshark

I like to pretend I'm cultured, so Oscar nominations are a big deal for me. I always make a point to try and see all of the films nominated for Best Picture before the show airs. Here are my predictions for some of the most anticipated categories.

Best Picture                                                  

“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”

Boyhood was filmed over a span of twelve years and honestly moved me. If there has ever been a movie that's made me feel nostalgic (and I rarely use that word), then this is it. Ellar Coltrane and
Lorelei Linklater do an outstanding job as siblings navigating childhood and the perils of their mother's [Patricia Arquette] many failed relationships. Boyhood is available for checkout at both the Dundee Library and Randall Oaks Branch.

Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Redmayne pulled off one of the most extraordinary transformations of the year when he appeared as renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The up-and-coming actor spent months studying Hawking's life in order to prepare for the role he was chosen for without even having to audition. To say his hard work paid off would be an understatement. You can catch a free screening of The Theory of Everything at the Dundee Library on March 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm. No registration is required.    

Actress in a Leading Role
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Moore's performance in Still Alice resonates with both heartbreak and humanity. Unfolding in incremental passages, and shot through with piercing detail, it is the sad, beautifully realized story of a victim of early-onset Alzheimer's and how the disease changes a life and the lives of the loved ones and colleagues around her.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

J.K. Simmons is excellent no matter what role he takes on, really. His versatility is what makes him so valuable in Hollywood- starring in films as heartwarming as Juno and as biting as Up in the Air. In Whiplash, he takes on a more villainous role as a teacher at a cut-throat music conservatory. Simmons is best known for his appearances in Farmers Insurance commercials, and now he's the front-runner in the race for best supporting actor. 

Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

Arquette did a simply outstanding job as Mason and Samantha's mother in Boyhood. The movie could just as easily be titled Motherhood.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Linklater spent 12 years of his life filming Boyhood. That in itself is Oscar-worthy.

Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”
***"The Lego Movie" was not nominated and therefore I refuse to predict a winner***

 Everything is awesome. Enough said.

via Forbes