The New York Public Library's Office of Central Collection Development fields dozens of requests to purchase new material from our patrons each month. It is a great way to enrich our collections and cover lesser-known titles and areas of interest. This list is a monthly compilation of my own personal favorite patron requests for music. I hope you will check out some of the great music that library users have suggested we acquire!
Provided are some great preview tracks for each. Just click on the titles to be taken to BiblioCommons, the Library's catalog.
This year-end list leans almost exclusively to releases of 2011. And as I like to ponder all concepts of the divine during the holidays, you may find some of that coming through in my reviews. God help us!
Six Suites for Solo Cello by J.S. Bach, performed by Winona Zelenka.
FIND OF THE MONTH!
Honestly, outside of the Casals interpretations, I've never had the need for any other. I've tried, believe me, but they always just sent me running back to Pablo. It was he, after all, who had rescued the pieces from obscurity when, as a child, he found a beaten up old copy of the pieces in a thrift shop (no manuscript exists of these pieces); he who had practiced the pieces every day for decades before recording them; and he who had declared Bach "the supreme genius of music" and that music itself was God's way of communicating beauty to the human heart. But as much as I love every crackle and hiss of those early-era recordings, I wanted to find a newer interpretation of these pieces just to fully enjoy the transparency of more modern recording techniques. But what can I do when every interpretation I hear is immediately judged on the grounds of how it measures up to Casals? Well, patiently wait for the right one to come along I suppose. And now it has! In truth, Zelenka's interpretations are not far off from Casals. They have a similar dynamic range, similarly impressive organic phrasing, and similar wonderfully subtle variances of tempo between phrases. Though no one can beat Casals to the punch of a good double-stop, several have tried too hard to do so. Zelenka chooses to tone down the drama, not only at the double stops but throughout, which surprisingly adds a tangible flow and cohesion to the pieces as a whole, giving them softer edges. It works so beautifully! I have never before heard an interpretation of these pieces noticeably different from Casals, yet so artistic and enjoyable in their own right. This is indeed God's way of communicating beauty to the human heart. (PREVIEW)
Mazes by Moon Duo.
Moon Duo is Krautrock for the new century. Each song chugs along with such confidence, it just sounds like it's always been playing. I want to be in a car with my friends, between semesters, driving across the country to cities where we know people and can stay for free, eating out of cans we stole from our parents' pantries (I will never eat creamed corn again!), listening to this record with the windows rolled down. (PREVIEW)
The Music Scene by Blockhead.
Wait, did I already use the adjective "chug"? Oh man! OK then, how about trip-hop? Fringe beat? Groove train? Put together by New York's own Blockhead, it's got some out there samples, but it's all put together to make your head bob. Very catchy! And this video's going to massage your mind too. (PREVIEW)
Danger by The Lijadu Sisters.
This is a re-issue of an album put out by Nigerian twin sisters in 1976. It is in the Afrobeat tradition, which already combines elements of traditional African music with the more American sounds of jazz and funk; but this recording goes a little further in its borrowing from funk... and even disco! (PREVIEW)
Slave Ambient by The War On Drugs.
It's like being reminded of something, something vague, but you can't remember exactly what. It's more driving music... I've got to get me a car! (PREVIEW)
Bloodline by Tardy Brothers.
Hey remember when Jesus of Nazareth said "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never gave suck.' Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us;' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
Well, these guys add distorted power chords and a few guitar solos to cut through 2,000 years of religious dogma and cultural drift; but the message, dear friends, is the same. Weep for yourselves and for your children! (PREVIEW)
What A Pleasure by Beach Fossils.
Whew — just in time! The Beach Fossils come along to rescue us from all that weeping in fear that the Tardy Brothers brought on. With their dreamy reverb and laid-back clang (I will swear right here and now, without even searching, that that guitar is a Fender Telecaster!), they remind me of a slightly more psychedelic, early R.E.M. You know... before whats-his-name got all holier-than-thou. It is a reminder that art can still be about making something beautiful, and beautifully simple. (PREVIEW)
Walk of Shame by Nikki Lane.
What?! OK, somebody is kidding me. This record came out in 2011. Recall the early 1970s, when country music was crossing over into the main stream? Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, and Altman's Nashville? Well Nikki Lane does, and she miraculously pulls it off. I personally like a lot of country from that era, and if someone played this song without me knowing any better, I would have dated it to around 1973. (PREVIEW)
This May Be My Last Time Singing by Various.
Subtitled "Raw African-American Gospel on 45rpm 1957-1982," you can imagine the diversity you get on a collection that spans that much time. There are some surprises on here (like, is there a drum machine on this one?), but every track is really great. If somebody knows a church nearby that sounds like this, please let me know and I'll start going. It would make my parents very happy. (PREVIEW)
Glimmer by Jacaszek.
Michel Jacaszek is a Polish electroacoustic musician who combines traditional instrumentation with digitally evolving crackles and dust to evoke the first day of creation. The day God separated the land from the waters (or was that the second day?) ... or if you prefer, the day nature itself brought forth out of the primordial ooze the first breaths of organic life. It is haunting and foggy, dark and mysterious... like when the apostle Paul said, "for now we see through a glass, darkly." This is the audio equivalent of that. (PREVIEW)
Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never.
This is just some strange, ambient, electronic soundscapes... probably what robots listen to on their days off. (PREVIEW)
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves by John Maus.
Gary Newman wishes he sounded like this! Maus has the same heavy use of synthesizers, but manages to somehow sound much larger and epic, projecting his voice to the lonely edges of the universe. (PREVIEW)
TUNE IN NEXT MONTH!