music mondays: record store day

I will begin this post with an assessment (fine, judgment, whatever) of The types of buyers you may observe on Record Store Day:

Old dudes who are still kinda cool.
Probably bought: Phish New Years Eve 1995

Old dudes who live in basements and are hella creepy.
Probably bought: Metallica

Scene kids.
Probably bought: The White Stripes and secretly bought that Twenty Pilots album shaped like Ohio.

Clueless girl.
Probably Definitely bought: T Swift 1989 (I wanted to grab this from her hands and just say “NO. GO HOME.”)

Mid 30s single friends who are mostly concerned with where brunch will be later.
Probably bought: Built to Spill. The hip friend may have picked up Run The Jewels. The non-hip friend secretly bought Mumford and Sons.

Late 20s girl who came alone and is trying to discreetly eat a donut in line (AKA me)
Definitely bought: Otis Redding’s 50th Anniversary edition of Otis Blue, Ryan Adams 7 inch, and in a last minute decision, Dolly Parton’s bluegrass album.

rsdI’ve participated in Record Store Day in the past, but this was the first year I ended up waiting in a line, unexpectedly. I wanted Otis Blue and had plans at 10am, so decided I’d go to Spoonful Records in downtown Columbus before that. I knew Spoonful was having a food truck and giving away some stuff, but honestly, I didn’t expect the line around the corner that I found myself in at 9am. I (correctly) assumed they wouldn’t have many copies of Otis Blue (3, I think) and wanted to make sure I got one. Most likely, the three records I did buy would have been there on Sunday, but, it’s about the day, right?

The RSD anniversary edition of Otis Blue includes both mono and stereo LPs, and a replica-style 45 featuring “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “I’m Depending on You.” It rang in at $45, but because Otis and I have history, I shelled out. And I have no regrets. I heard the opening brass on “Ole Man Trouble” and knew I’d bought something special.

I don’t think I was born in the wrong decade in terms of musical taste. Because, while I love soul and Motown, I also love synth pop and hip hop, and in 2015, I get to have it all. But, what Record Store Day often does is give me a glimpse into what it was like to anticipate a new LP coming out–going down to your local record store and hoping they hadn’t sold out already. MP3s make everything instant, and we lose some of the magic when we don’t have to break the plastic seal on a new record. Vinyl might be a trend for some, but for the rest of us, it’s classic, and we’ll keep buying if you keep pressing.

music mondays: breakfast in fur

This Breakfast In Fur album came out at just the right time. I’d been searching for some dreamy pop to listen to and found myself simply returning to Teen Dream because #beachhouseforever. But also because I wasn’t finding anything new. Enter Breakfast in Fur’s first LP, Flyaway Garden.

bir

I came across them while browsing for new releases, so well done, internet. The album is pretty short, coming in under 40 minutes, but it’s the perfect pick-me-up for this mood-killing cold we’ve had in Columbus. Flyaway Garden opens with “Shape,” a toe-tapping track about holding on to a feeling and moment. But the music is smarter than the lyrics may sound. The layers build up into a well-crafted tumult of head-bobbing sounds.

Unless you’re really into flutes, I will suggest you skip “Lifter,” but “Setting Stone” is another standout track from the album. The song features band founder Dan Wolfe on vocals. He took a vocal backseat on most of the album, but his bristly voice works perfectly over the slightly frantic sound of “Setting Stone.”

You guys might be aware of my inherited love for Neil Young (thanks dad) and BiF does a trippy and strange cover of “Cripple Creek Ferry.” I doubt my dad would enjoy the cover, but I am interested to know why they picked that track to cover, and of course can’t resist the dreaminess of their version.

Thank you, Breakfast in Fur, for making me feel like one day it will be warmer than 10 degrees outside. The album is on iTunes and streaming on spotify.

music mondays: 2014 favorites

As my friend Jackie pointed out, I’ve been a bit of a negligent writer recently. But since it’s still January, I don’t think it’s too late to wrap up what I was listening to in 2014. So, here is some of my favorite music from last year that I didn’t write about yet.

2014 was a year for many people to find their voice. In particular, women started to speak out against the injustices and violence committed against them. Alynda Lee Segarra has been making music with her band Hurray for the Riff Raff for a few years now, but 2014’s Small Town Heroes was the band’s major label debut. My favorite track, and the one I think was most relevant in 2014, is “The Body Electric.” Segarra has been quoted as saying she wrote the song in response to the 2012 Delhi gang rape that resulted in the death of the woman. This song is Segarra’s version of (or response to) the classic murder ballads she became so tired of hearing. It doesn’t need much explanation.

I’m going to ruffle some feathers by not claiming Run the Jewels 2 as my favorite hip hop of 2014, but I do what I want. Scotland’s Young Fathers provided my windows down summer driving music. They also shocked a lot of people by winning the Mercury Prize, beating FKA Twigs and others. Young Fathers is a three-person group, and while all the members are Scottish, one was born in Liberia and another has Nigerian parents, which gives their music an interesting edge. In a way, I think Young Fathers could be a good “gateway to hip hop” group. They are so heavily influenced by rock, trip hop, and world music, it’d be easy to find something you like. “Low” was my favorite track from their album, Dead.

Like many others, I spent the way-too-fucking-cold February and March of 2014 listening to Angel Olsen‘s Burn Your Fire for No Witness on repeat. Too hard to pick a favorite, so just watch this whole set.

It was a bummer when Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon decided to be a dick to The War on Drugs last year, but Benji was still one of my favorite albums of 2014. Yes, that Benji. benjiKozelek claims he wanted to give a lighthearted title to his album because it was so dark and sad and pretty much all about death. Nice try, Mark. You may be predisposed to like the opening track, Carissa, if you’re from Ohio, but it remains an incredibly relatable, albeit dark, song.

So now I have to give love to The War on Drugs. Not only did they put out one of my favorite albums of 2014, they also were one of my favorite live shows. Lost in the Dream has this awesome 70s/80s dad rock sound that I found so welcome in 2014. If you weren’t having solo dance parties to “Red Eyes,” you’re a dummy.

For my full list of favorite music from 2014, check out my spotify playlist. Happy listening.

music mondays: skip t. swift and listen to these women

Apparently 29 year old married men are having countdown parties for Taylor Swift’s new album, and I cannot sit idly by. So I have finally returned to music mondays to offer some alternatives to 1989.

I have been meaning to write about Lowell for a few weeks now, but finally got the extra motivation I needed, thanks T. Swift! Lowell’s (Elizabeth Lowell Boland) debut album, We Loved Her Dearly, came out in September and I’ve been swimming in its beats since then. In a world where you can barely escape “Shake It Off” for more than 24 hours, it’s refreshing to have seriously good pop music that’s also about something.

lowell

The quick backstory on Lowell is that she was briefly a stripper before quitting to pursue music. Her song “I Killed Sara V” (her stripper name) is about leaving that self behind. It starts out a haunting, pretty track, then moves into a deceptively more upbeat confessional. I realize a 6 minute track isn’t the best intro, so maybe skip that one initially.

Her love anthem “LGBT” champions all forms of relationships and calls out everyone for their biases and discrimination. “I Love You Money” is my favorite to crank up and sing along to while driving, even though it’s a little weird to shout about loving money. But, the song is actually about Lowell kicking out a customer at a strip club.

Lowell’s debut has its highs and lows, but overall it’s a fun album that displays range and cohesiveness, the balance of pop sugar and human depth.

My second recommendation as an alternative to Taylor Swift is Jessie Ware’s sophomore release, Tough Love. You’ll have to switch your mindset a bit, as Jessie is really more an R&B artist than a pop singer, in my mind. But thank God for someone still making R&B in 2014, amirite?? Tough Love isn’t as solid an album as Devotion, but it’s definitely no sophomore slump.

The obvious stand-out is “Say You Love Me”, co-written with Ed Sheeran, but it’s actually not my favorite track. “Keep On Lying” has this unusual sound, with a beat that almost sounds like muzak, but it works. The song I keep returning to is “You & I (Forever)”. It’s a pretty classic R&B/pop song, but when the alternative is “All About That Bass”, I have no problems with classic.

Both albums are available on spotify. Happy listening!

music mondays: jenny lewis

Like many fans of Jenny Lewis, I’ve admired her for awhile. I listened to Rilo Kiley back in high school and college, then only sort of paid attention to Jenny and Johnny. Her last solo album came out in 2008, so The Voyager is a welcome treat for her fans. Admittedly, I’m predisposed to like (love?) this album. It was produced by Ryan Adams, the single “Just One of the Guys” is a collab with Beck, and her rainbow suit is fucking rad.

jenny

Lewis really succeeds as a storyteller on The Voyager. She takes us on a journey as she sings about break-ups, adulthood, romantic mistakes, and even saying goodbye to her dying and once estranged father.

The star-studded and hilarious music video for “Just One of the Guys” masks the darker and somber tone of the track. Lewis sings, “When I look at myself all I can see / I’m just another lady without a baby”, a sentiment I’m sure many of my single friends have felt as our newsfeeds fill up with more and more photos of babies.

The album’s title and closing track is another that really shines. The backing vocals are provided by First Aid Kit (who also have a great new album out) and really help to fill out the song. I would love to see a Jenny Lewis + First Aid Kit tour.

I’m having a love/hate relationship with “She’s Not Me”. I like the track overall, but something in the melody kept reminding me of some other song. Eventually I realized it was the terrible song “Cruisin” from the equally terrible Gwyneth Paltrow movie Duets. Ach. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but I can’t help what my ears hear.

Overall, really enjoying these new tracks from Jenny Lewis. I hope she keeps making music for a long time. The Voyager is out tomorrow.

music mondays: chet faker and some first listens

Chet Faker‘s first full album, Built on Glass, came out last week. You probably know him for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, a crowd favorite for sure.

Faker is an electronic musician with a soulful side. If you didn’t guess, his performance name is an homage to jazz musician, Chet Baker.

“1998” is my favorite track on this album.

It’s got this great beat that makes me want to dance every time I listen. After the opening verse, he repeats the same verse for about 5 minutes (they cut down for the video apparently). Some of you might find that annoying. But, if you think of Chet Faker as an electronic musician first, it makes sense that he may be less focused on lyrical content. That said, I’m sure most people can relate to his lament:

We used to be friends
We used to be inner circle
I don’t understand
What have I become to you
Take my good word
Turn it backwards
Turn your back on me
Is it absurd
For me to hurt
When everything else is fading

“To Me” is another favorite that gets more soulful. This isn’t an album with a ton of depth, but it’s got some good beats and has been fun to listen to.

NPR Music just opened up the gauntlet recently with the number of First Listens it released. You guys know I’m not generally a country music fan, but I got mad love for Dolly Parton. “Jolene” is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. Basically, Dolly can do no wrong. She’s got a pretty wide variety on Blue Smoke, too. Covers, classics, and new stuff that leans to the pop country sound of today.

I was really excited to see Lykke Li’s new album, I Never Listen, up on First Listen. I heard “No Rest For The Wicked” a couple weeks ago, and liked it immediately.

Wounded Rhymes was such a dark, powerful, slightly scandalous album, and I really enjoyed it, but am looking forward to this more familiar sound from Lykke Li. “Gunshot” is an early favorite. It has this great 80s sound that catches you off guard.

Nikki Nack, the third album from tUnE-yArDs, is out there too. I haven’t listened too closely yet to Merrill Garbus’s latest, but I expect weird, poptastic tracks with worldly influences.

Lastly, I haven’t made it to Lighght, the newest from Kishi Bashi, at all yet, but look forward to giving it a listen. If you like strings, I recommend you do as well.

Happy listening.

Update: Chet Faker was on World Cafe on April 30. I always enjoy hearing an artist talk about their music firsthand, so take a listen.

music mondays: spring sounds

IT’S FINALLY STARTING TO FEEL LIKE SPRING. I still had to scrape my windshield this morning, but it’s currently 62° and I WILL NOT be wearing a coat this evening. Take that, Mother Nature.

When spring finally starts to truly emerge, I always want something light and fun to listen to. Cue the folk pop tracks.

NPR has been streaming Nickel Creek‘s new album, so I’ve been getting my fill before it actually comes out. Really enjoying it, but I’ll save most of the Nickel Creek reviewing for after I see them in May (!!!). “Destination” is an early favorite, as well as their cover of “Hayloft”.

Mountain Man is this super folksy female trio. I’ve listened to them in the past and saw them a few years ago when they were touring with Feist as her backup singers. They wore these kinda crazy-looking long, drapey dresses and did weird hand dancing. But I liked them. So when I heard that one of the girls, Amelia, had teamed up with electronic producer, Nicholas Sanborn, I was pretty interested. Together they are Sylvan Esso and I’ve been playing these two songs on repeat lately:

The Columbus-based band Saintseneca seems perched to reach some significant indie attention levels. I’m happy to see them do well, having caught various stages of their growth. I wasn’t a big fan of Saintseneca when I first heard them four years ago. I really wanted to like them, but their sound wasn’t as dynamic then and their songs all seemed to merge together (in the bad way). NPR is also streaming their new album, Dark Arc, out tomorrow. Check out “Happy Alone”:

This last group isn’t a folk band, but they’re still providing a great soundtrack as spring tries to get sprung. A few weeks ago, I starred one of St. Paul and the Broken Bones‘s songs on a SXSW playlist, without really paying attention to who the group was. Then, as I was driving into work one morning, I heard an interview with the lead singer, Paul Janeway, and snippets of a few more tracks. I was hooked. These guys are from Alabama and make soul music that feeds my Motown-loving ears.

“Call Me” was the first song I heard.

“Broken Bones and Pocket Change” is a great example of what this band can do.

There aren’t any good videos of it, but “It’s Midnight” is a short, soulful track, and one of my favorites. St. Paul will be crooning away tomorrow night at Skully’s. I was really looking forward to seeing them at Rumba, knowing it would be an intimate show with a packed house (and cheaper beer). They quickly sold out tickets then moved the show to Skully’s to accommodate. Good for the band, a little sad for me.

Happy listening and happier spring!

 

music mondays: songs of late

GUYS, IT’S 8PM AND NOT PITCH BLACK OUT. Let’s just rejoice in that quickly before moving on.

So I haven’t written in awhile, mostly because I moved recently and have been getting settled. But also because I wasn’t listening to anything I was overly excited about. But it’s time to get back into the swing of it, so here we go.

I’ve been listening to two albums on repeat lately. The first is Beck’s Morning Phase. I’ve always liked Beck, but never gave him a ton of attention in the past. That said, when an artist puts out an album after a significant period without one, I’m interested. (I know Beck released the sheet music in 2012, but that’s not a full studio album.) So I listened and liked it immediately.

It had been 6 years since Beck released his last album, Modern Guilt. During the hiatus, he had a serious back injury that prohibited him from playing guitar. Morning Phase isn’t a masterpiece 6 years in the making, or an epic redefining of an artist. But, it’s a really good, solid album.

By far, my favorite track is “Blue Moon”. The selfish, snobby part of me doesn’t want to admit that the first single from this album is my favorite, but it just is. I love when a song can trick you like “Blue Moon” does. If I’d listened to an instrumental version initially, I wouldn’t expect the sad, lonely lyrics. But it turns out to be a rather melancholy song. This balancing act of light, easy sounds with somber lyrics hooked me. Not to mention I’ll never say no to a steel guitar. Here’s the track:

The second album I’ve been listening to on repeat is Agnes Obel’s Aventine. This album came out in September, so I’m late to it, but just happy not to miss it. Obel is a Danish musician who makes beautiful music. “Dorian” is a lovely, haunting song, and my favorite track. Here’s a live version for you:

I don’t know if it’s just the Danish connection, but as I listen to this album I keep thinking she should do the score/soundtrack for a Lars von Trier film. Can’t you just picture his stirring storytelling accompanied by her looming sound?

music mondays: wedding playlists

Recently, a friend asked me to help her make a playlist for her wedding. I obliged, but don’t you bridezillas get any ideas I’M NOT HELPING ALL YOU BITCHES. So, since Monday afternoons might actually drag longer than Friday afternoons at cubelife, I started working on her playlist. And to be honest, it’s probably going to end up being very close to the playlist I would make for my own wedding. So I thought this could be a nice spin on Music Monday.

Here we go. Meaghan’s ideal(ish) wedding playlist, broken down by category:

Motown: JUST GIVE ME ALL THE MOTOWN.

Wedding classics: GIVE ME NONE OF THESE. I’m talking “Shout”, “RESPECT”, “I Hope You Dance”, that other terrible country song that every father and daughter think is “their song”. NO.

Group dance songs: HARD PASS. Okay, the only one I am willing to accept is the “Cupid Shuffle”, because you at least get to walk it out. For the inexperienced, here is a hilarious how-to video.

Slow jamz: I definitely support some slow songs at weddings, but have gone solo to enough to know how awkward it is to slowly backpedal off the dance floor and head to the bar. So slow songs will be limited to approximately 10%. And they will all be Boyz II Men.

Pop standards: MJ, Justified-era JT, Whitney, Mariah all the way.

New(ish?) pop: The likes of Robyn, Beyonce, Haim. Or whoever is New, Not Shitty pop at the time. I currently think Icona Pop’s “I Love It” is an excellent wedding song. At the wedding of one of my favorite and most kindred friends, after the wedding party was introduced, the DJ called everyone to the dance floor to get the party started right off the bat. I loved that. We danced like mad for a song, then sat back down to eat, but it certainly set the stage for the rest of the night.

Hip hop: Hip hop is kinda tough. Do you get all the edited versions of explicit songs? Just let it ride? In any case, there will be Jay-Z playing if I’m ever destined for marriage.

Indie: Like hip hop, indie stuff can be hard when it comes to weddings. These are the tracks that your family won’t know and your hip friends will love. I don’t think every song played at a wedding ought to be known by everyone. So go on and play that Fleet Foxes song that got you through a summer, or the weird French pop folk song that your college roommates always played at the end of a party.

Family/Nostalgic: I grew up on Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Neil Young, and Jackson Browne. If the older folks have to struggle though Jay-Z, Gen Y can handle some tried-and-true classics. Weddings are about families, two families coming together to make a new one, so why not honor your folks for 3 minutes.

And don’t even think about playing any country music.

This is still a work in progress, but if you want to check out the playlist, here it is: Since it is actually for a friend, none of those family songs are in, and I’ve yet to add many (any?) slow ones. So really, if you’re throwing a party this weekend, there you go.