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: 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: 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: 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: inside llewyn davis

Inside_Llewyn_Davis_Poster

The Coen brothers’ new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, isn’t out yet, but the soundtrack is currently streaming online. I’ve been excited for both the film and soundtrack for a few months now, so am happy to finally have one. Maybe it’s poor film etiquette to listen to the soundtrack so thoroughly before actually watching the movie, but. I don’t care.

I’m sure it doesn’t count for much to call myself a Coen fan, and I admit I haven’t seen all their films, but I’ve seen enough to expect good things. And as a folk music (and JT) lover, the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis had me hooked immediately.

Some great things about the album:

  • Multiple features of the Punch Brothers (I’ve loved Chris Thile since I was 14)
  • It reminds me that I once liked Marcus Mumford
  • JT singing like a man with a beard and falsetto would sing
  • Adam Driver (AKA Hannah Horvath‘s crazy bf) “singing” about outer space with JT and Oscar Isaac

It speaks so loudly of the Coen brothers’ talent that they can make films in which the soundtrack and score act as another character (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and others in which the absence of any soundtrack or score (No Country For Old Men) serves as a vital plot device. Obviously T-Bone Burnett plays a huge role in the musical side of these films, but the Coens have to create the initial idea and environment in which music can grow to feature so largely in a film.

Another reason to love this soundtrack: Oscar Isaac is just such a treat. He sings “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”, the album opener, with this folksy earnestness that I love. Isaac plays Llewyn Davis, a singer-songwriter making his way through the 60s NYC folk music scene. I doubt the Coens would have, but thank God they didn’t cast a lead actor without any singing talent. (Despite not seeing the movie yet, I know it would be less enjoyable with lip-syncing.) Isaac went to Juilliard and was the lead guitarist (and sang vocals) for the band The Blinking Underdogs.

Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t out until December 20. For now, I’ll settle for the soundtrack.

music mondays: allyse huey, aka adubz

This week’s Music Monday is a shameless plug for my friend, songwriter and musician Allyse Huey (formerly known as ADubz).

Allyse and I were roommates for a long time until she decided she’d rather live with a boy. Lame. But I’ve been able to see her growth as a musician firsthand and am so proud of her. The rest of our roommates and I have teased Allyse for having so many hobbies over the years, but music has always been the one that sticks. She used to scoff at my musical tastes, but I think after making her a mixtape of mostly folk music a few years back, she saw the light. And now’s she’s a songwriter in her own right.

Allyse has become very involved with the Columbus Songwriters Association and has been playing open mics and other local shows for the last year or two (I need a fact checker). In college, we used to beg Allyse to play some songs for us, but she typically did not oblige us. I love to see her get up on a stage now, fearlessly performing songs that she has written. I’m so impressed by her gift to write both lyrics and music.

Take a look at her website, facebook page, and soundcloud to hear some songs. My favorites are “Stay” and “Vultures Will Circle”, but also check out “The Vineyard” and “Pool of Dreams” for Allyse’s killer whistling skills, of which I’ve always been jealous. She’s recorded everything herself so far, but will be recording with a sound engineer this week, yay!

Allyse will be playing this Wednesday night at The Tree Bar.

music mondays: a great day for pop music

haimAlright guys. Here’s the deal. I’m in love. With HAIM. Their album, Days Are Gone, came out today and you should go buy it right now. But let me confess something before we go on. When I first heard their single, Forever, I liked it but was a little put off. I just thought it sounded too much like a Gloria Estefan song, or some other old pop song, but I could never nail it down.

I have since realized the error of my ways. HAIM is like gloriously, awesomely updated 80s and 90s pop music. I have missed good pop music since approximately 2002, when Justified came out (but we will get to that later). Now, HAIM isn’t definitively a pop group. According to Wikipedia, they are a ROCK BAND. I would call them pop-rock. But if you read any reviews of them, you’ll be sure to notice the frequent comparisons to 80s era Fleetwood Mac, or The Bangles, or some good 90s R&B. THOSE ARE ALL THINGS I LOVE. So naturally, I found myself enamored with HAIM.

The group is made of three sisters from LA and a drummer. Fun fact: baby Haim and I share the same birthday (different years). Their parents formed a family band when the girls were still in school. How awesome is that? And their band was called Rockinhaim, hilarious. Anyway, these girls have been playing music together for a long time and it shows.

So, I’ve been listening to their EP, eagerly awaiting the release of Days Are Gone, and the day is finally here. NPR has been streaming the album, so if you aren’t willing to drop $7.99 at iTunes, go take a listen. I really love this whole album, but if I have to pick some favorites, Honey & I is way up there. It’s like Vampire Weekend meets Wilson Phillips in the best way. The album closer, Running If You Call My Name, is also one of my favs. It’s more atmospheric and I think shows the reach that their sound has.

Okay, shift gears a bit. The other good news for pop music is today’s release of The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but I do like Take Back the Night, and trust that in the reign of terror Miley has on pop music, JT will always be better. He definitely has a case of “artists make better art when they’re sad” (don’t even try to tell me Cry Me A River isn’t one of the best pop songs ever), but he’s still the current king. And also, JT + Timbaland forever.

Addendum: After listening to all of part 2, I’m really disappointed in it. This is a great example of the failed double album. As a friend of mine put it, part 2 just feels thrown together. Instead of wasting energy trying to put out two albums, he should have put everything into making one really solid album. The songs on part 2 don’t even work together. Some are really clearly pop tracks, like Not A Bad Thing (which I actually don’t hate), others are hip-hop infused and some are heavier, like Only When I Walk Away (which I do hate). And then. AND THEN THERE IS THIS COUNTRY SONG IN THE MIDDLE. Don’t be fooled, Drink You Away may not sound completely like a country track, but bro, it is. I mean, it’s called Drink You Away. I was also really hoping for shorter tracks on part 2, I don’t know what the fascination is with 8 minute pop songs. COMMENCE CRYING OVER THE END OF JT’S POP CAREER.

Nah, I still got your back, JT, but I expect more from you.