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: 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: 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: 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.

music mondays: what’s coming in 2014

I started writing a post about Columbus band Old Hundred, but decided to stop midway and wait until they release their new album. That decision inspired this post about albums coming in 2014!

Locals:

Old Hundred is releasing a new record that I am eagerly anticipating. A music monday post will be dedicated to them once the album is available for listening.

Maria Levitov is a Columbus singer-songwriter whose music I was just introduced to. She has an album release show this Thursday, for $5, or free if you preordered the album. Check out this video for her single “Brother”:

Allyse Huey, who I’ve written about before, is releasing her first EP this June. (Now you have to release it in June, Allyse, LOL.)

Nationals:

There’s so much hip hop coming out this year: Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and of course, the HIGHLY ANTICIPATED NEW ALBUM FROM OUTKAST.

Frank Ocean is picking the mic back up to deliver a follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange. If I were Frank Ocean, I think it’d be really easy and tempting to leave Channel Orange as my one studio album and let my solo career be remembered for that. Glad he wants to keep pursuing his solo career.

Grimes is releasing her fourth album this year. I know that Grimes is not for everyone, but I’m a fan. I’m excited to see what kind of stuff she’s doing now. I recently learned that Grimes is a Dolly Parton fan, which surprised me, but makes me like her even more. In case you forgot what Grimes is about:

Robyn. Fun fact about Robyn. For my 5th grade music class talent show, I sang along to Robyn’s “Show Me Love”. Which means that I was too chicken to just sing by myself (because I can’t actually sing) but Robyn will always hold a special place in my heart. Looking forward to some more solid pop music from her.

Solange is putting out her third album some time this year. She moved to New Orleans in 2013 for her music (as she said), so I’m hoping there will be some good jazz and blues elements in her new stuff. Her video for “Losing You” remains one of my favorites.

Nickel Creek. Rumors have been circulating that Nickel Creek reunited to make another album, due out this spring. Nickel Creek was the first bluegrass/folk band that I fell in love with, so I hope the rumors are true.

Looks like 2014 might just be able to follow up the great year in music that was 2013.

Update:

I forgot to add Lost in the Trees. LITT’s third full album comes out next month, and I’m pretty interested by the changes they’ve made. This album doesn’t have the heavy strings presence that has been a major element in LITT’s sound, not to mention one of my favorite parts of this band. Like others, they are moving to a more electronic sound with this new album. For a sneak peak, check out this episode of All Songs Considered from a couple weeks ago, which features one of the new tracks.

the undocumented favorite albums of 2013

Better late than never, right?

Everyone has already put out their Best of 2013 lists, and while I’m not doing that exactly, I did want to mention a few albums that I didn’t write about in 2013.

In no particular order:

London Grammar – If You Wait 

The synth-pop extraordinaires. I was a little late to this album, but am totally in love with it. I unashamedly love pop music, but top forty pop is so lacking lately, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, “Wrecking Ball” is actually a really good pop song, but because the video is now seared into my brain, I just can’t vibe with it. Anyway, for the past few years I’ve found myself moving further toward the synth end of pop. London Grammar is a British trio made of Hannah Reid, Dot Major, and Dan Rothman. If we lived in England we could call them a trip hop group, but sadly we don’t and I don’t think anyone in America uses that term.

London Grammar creates this powerful ambient sound that grows incredibly with Hannah Reid’s raspy, brooding voice. The biggest thing this album has for me is balance. It has the slow build and quietness of the xx, but the strength and complexity of Reid’s voice lifts the whole album to another level. A few favorite tracks (though I love the whole album):

  • “Strong” showcases LG’s balancing act, especially as the lyrics mention the tensions of being caught in the middle.
  • Sights” is a perfect soundtrack for winter as Reid sings, “keeping your strength when it gets dark at night”.
  • “Wasting My Young Years” is the kind of song where you go, Damn, I’m glad no one wrote this about me.
  • “Metal and Dust” does a great job exhibiting this group’s instrumentation.

And finally, Hannah Reid crushing this cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.

Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone 

The country soulstress. I realize this isn’t a country album, strictly speaking, but it’s pretty country for me. That said, I am a big Valerie June fan. There are some parts where the album gets too country for me (“Tennessee Time”) but overall I really enjoy the whole thing. Dan Auerbach co-produced the record and co-wrote some of the songs. (Sidebar: are The Black Keys over? I wouldn’t mind if Dan Auerbach just keeps producing solid records.)

Valerie June does a great job at blending many genres: blues, folk, jazz, rock, it’s all in there. And it works. It’s gonna be hard to choose only a few tracks to highlight, but here we go:

  • “Workin’ Woman Blues” is the opening track and one of my favorites. It might be because June’s lyrics feel familiar (as a working woman), but it could also just be that I fucking love when those horns come in. (Sorry for swearing. Watching Weeds and The Wire simultaneously makes me feel like a badass combination drug dealer/gangster/self destructive cop who says fuck a lot.) The music video is kinda lame, in my opinion, but don’t fault the song.
  • “Somebody To Love” is a beautiful song to break your heart.
  • “You Can’t Be Told” shows off June’s gritty, deep-down-in-your-soul sound.
  • “Pushin’ Against A Stone” is the title track, and opens with this in-your-face guitar reverb.
  • “Shotgun” is a haunting ballad that features June slaying on slide guitar. That live version isn’t great quality, but I think it’s worth seeing her perform this one.

In the year of Yeezus, I say this album has real swagger.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

The indie rock band has proven its worth. Not only did I have fun listening to this album, I was impressed by it. Ezra Koenig showed us he could write lyrics with depth that were littered with spiritual questions. Plus he wrote that hilarious review of Drake. Some favorites:

  • “Everlasting Arms” – This song is deceptive. It’s packaged in upbeat, poppy sounds, but the subject matter is a serious consideration of serving a master (God) and that master’s benevolence. The chorus, “Hold me in your everlasting arms” is a pretty obvious play on the hymn “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”. Then there’s the line, “I hummed the Dies Irae as you played the Hallelujah”. The Dies Irae is a centuries old hymn about Judgment Day. Make of that what you will.
  • “Finger Back” is sort of a throwback track to me; it has that old VW sound a la “A-Punk”. And yet it still features the new contemplative Ezra Koenig as he recounts a story of an Orthodox girl who falls in love with a falafel shop employee, who we assume is not Orthodox. The Internet will suggest the employee is of Arab descent, and this song is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (because, you know, the first two stanzas are obviously about torture and fighting) buuuuuut I’m not signing my name on that yet.

Overall, really enjoyed this album and applaud this band’s growth.

Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady

I was playing this album at my Halloween party and some of my friends were all, “This is weird, what is this.” So I was all, “IT’S JANELLE MONÁE, AND IT IS WEIRD AND AWESOME.” Janelle Monáe is a post-modern pop, R&B, soul sensation. My favorite track:

  • “Dance Apocalyptic” is a great example of why Monáe succeeds at being both weird and awesome. I often lament the fact that I live in a time when dancing = grinding and dance music = badly remixed pop songs. Even though the tempo is fast when compared to Motown, “Dance Apocalyptic” brings a Motown feel to the 21st Century, especially when Monáe sings, “Smash smash, bang bang / Don’t stop / Chalangalangalang”. The album version doesn’t have the apocalypse news break that the video features, but there’s an extra dose of weird for you.

My one complaint about this album is the interludes. Never been a big fan of them, and this album is already pretty long without adding three interludes. But overall, what a fun album.

Here’s hoping 2014 can be an even better year in music.

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.

so I asked Stephen Thompson a question.

Stephen Thompson (of NPR Music and the AV Club) runs this column on NPR called The Good Listener. In the column, he answers questions that people send in, ranging from How do I name my band? to How do I learn to love country music?

So I recently sent in a question about set lengths for live shows. And Stephen answered! My email was a little long, so they shortened it on the blog site (and made some edits, what’s the deal guys?). Here’s what I originally asked:

I’ve got a two-parter question for Stephen Thompson’s The Good Listener column. 1. How long do you think a set should be for a headlining band on tour? 2. Should a band always play their “hits” at a live show?
I go to a decent amount of shows, and lately have been surprised by the shortness of sets. This week I saw Franz Ferdinand, and they were awesome. Their set started around 9 and was over by 10:30. I know it takes a lot of energy to rock out, but it surprised me that they were done so early. They also didn’t play “Right Action”. I wasn’t too bugged by that because I like other tracks more (which they played), but did think it was strange for a band to skip their current single.
Recently I won tickets to see Ani DiFranco. She also put on a great show, but played an even shorter set, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Since I got my tickets for free, I couldn’t be too upset about the length. But, I did think if I’d paid $30 plus Ticketmaster fees and was a long-standing fan, I might have been a little ticked she didn’t play longer. Especially since she has such a huge discography to work with.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long a band should play, but is there a magic set length? Should you get a longer set if the show is more expensive? I’ll keep going to live shows, and will always pay to see a band I really like, but I hope shorter sets don’t become commonplace.

Stephen pretty much said, “It depends.” I knew I was asking a question that likely wouldn’t receive a definitive answer, but it’s nice to hear perspective from someone who’s been writing about music for awhile. And I was mostly just excited to get a response. Here’s the link to the post.

The thing about the two shows I listed in my email is, I actually won both those tickets. I’m really not complaining about the length of either because I’m not a crazy big-time fan of FF or Ani, but was more just surprised by what seemed to be a trend in shorter sets. I wrote about Ani’s show a few weeks ago.

So what do you guys think? Have you dropped a lot of money for a show and been disappointed with the length and/or song selection? Can a concert be too long or too short? (I say yes to both.) Do you have an ideal length?