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Best of Patron Requests: Music (March 2012 Edition)
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 the catalog.
El Duque de la Bachata by Joan Soriano
FIND OF THE MONTH!!! If you live in New York City, you've heard Bachata whether you know it or not. It's fun, it's tropical, and it often has a sound of a certain kind of longing. Well, this is by far the best I've ever heard! Like many types of music these days, the original appeal of Bachata can get lost in all that fancy production work. There is some great Bachata out there to be sure, some of it even heavily produced; but few strip away all the well-intentioned "sound engineering" so well as El Duque. This music was born on the streets of poor neighborhoods, and in the rural countrysides of the Dominican Republic, far from any music production facilities. Soriano conveys a desire to stay true to those roots, to let the music stand on its own merits because music is not "engineered" in some room behind a mixing board. It is "engineered" by humans who sing and play instruments. This one hasn't arrived yet, but I'll race you to the hold queue! Here they are featured on one of my favorite new music sources, NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts: (PREVIEW)
White Lunar by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
I'm familiar with Nick Cave, a founding member of the post-punk, goth rock band, the Birthday Party. That band was brilliant! They did whatever they wanted, experimenting and pushing boundaries and hitting on sounds and textures other bands had missed, much to the delight of their dedicated fans. Cave went on to form Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, yet another outfit that seemed to produce music outside of any formula. But it was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Cave has been churning out some pretty incredible soundtrack music with writing partner Warren Ellis. I've seen some of the movies and didn't even notice! Such is the curse of good soundtrack music: it's never meant to call attention to itself. In fact, when done right, when it properly enhances the evocative qualities of the film, it might be downright invisible! That is why CD soundtracks can make for interesting listening — it isolates the often wonderful music and allows it to take center stage. After spending time with this collection, I want to hear it all! I want to see every movie! I want to pay closer attention; not allow the music to be so purposefully invisible and realize just how responsible the music of a film is in drawing us into the story. But this music doesn't need any film to be evocative; it does it all on its own. (PREVIEW)
Montserrat Figueras, a Catalan soprano who specialized in early music, is considered by many to be the undisputed priestess of the genre. May she rest in peace. Secondly, El Cant de la Sibil (or, the Song of Sibil) has been performed uninterruptedly in parts of Italy and Spain since Medieval Times (except a couple of decades in the 16th century, due to the Council of Trent). It is included in UNESCO's Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Here we have the Mallorcan and the Valencian versions, sung and orchestrated to exquisite perfection! If you are a lover of early music, or are unfamiliar and curious to discover more about it, I urge you to get this recording. But don't blame me if you wind up falling to your knees and begging for forgiveness, trembling for fear your soul will be lost at the end of days. It's that good.
Mother of God, pray for us,
You, the Mother of sinners,
May the sentence be merciful,
May Paradise be open to us.
You, who listen to everything,
Pray to God with all devotion,
With all your heart and fervour,
That we should be saved. (PREVIEW)
Fair Warning by Van Halen
I usually try to highlight things that are under the radar. Popular stuff just doesn't always need more advertising, and Van Halen, having recently re-united with hard rock's quintessential front man David Lee Roth, needs no additional hype. So go right ahead and sue me for this one! The flamboyant and charismatic Roth never let us forget that rock and roll was and is about having fun. If you take yourself too seriously all the time, you'll miss the point. And Eddie Van Halen?! The dude must have slept with that guitar. You'd have to to own your playing like that; and he really does play like he knows he could burn circles around any other guitarist in his sleep. When you get that good you can turn all your attention to, well, rockin' out. This is a great album! (PREVIEW)
...For the Whole World to See by Death
Where did this band come from and why did I not know about them? Oh, I see, Detroit; formed in 1971. This album was recorded in 1973 and released in 2009. You read it right — blame the record companies! Death was told to change its name and refused. This reminds me of Thin Lizzy at their best. Call it proto-punk if you must, but really, it's just straight ahead rock and roll. Definitely a solid album. (PREVIEW)
Dome by Johannes Enders
Now this is under the radar! It's some sort of mix of minimalism, free-form jazz, and a dieter's portion of electronics, yet atmospheric enough to warrant recording in a church in Bavaria. Organs, flutes, trumpets, saxophones, and warbly bass clarinets take turns floating over and above tastefully minimal percussion. Modern jazz, for me, always sits so close to sounding overly academic, crossing the line into, shall we say, unenjoyability. This album completely escapes that! It creates something that has a life of its own, never pointing back toward the virtuosity of the players. And every track takes a unique direction while fitting perfectly within the aesthetic of the whole album. But above being highly enjoyable, this recording is, put simply, interesting. (PREVIEW)
Mikal Cronin's self-titled debut
Cronin delivers on the jangly, retro-hippy, windows down-road trip, "garage-damaged guitar-pop." Did I jam enough adjectives in there? But of course what really makes this album is not the style, though that works very well to bring out the elements. What makes this album is that Cronin just writes catchy, cool, and enjoyable songs. Pick this up for your next road trip. (PREVIEW)
Warriors of Ice by Voivod
Remember when punk rock was a reaction against the all-consuming and oppressive machine known as "The Establishment"? When rock and rollers, sick of being co-opted by record companies, manipulated into a commodity, and dumbed down so as not to be overly offensive, would instead choose to put out their own albums, record in their garages, use artwork drawn by their friends, press up a 1,000 copies with scraped-together money, and rely on word-of-mouth distribution channels? This was before "punk" bands had major label record deals, charged $70 a ticket, had teams of stylists, were invited to play at the Grammys, and spawned Musicals on Broadway. Well, some people call Voivod heavy metal, but I think they come straight out of that anti-establishment punk tradition. This album was recorded live in 2009, decades after they took up the torch of punk. But if you ask me, they took the stage simply to remind us that if you're making some corporate suit money, you are not punk. (PREVIEW)
Fantasias for the Viols by Henry Purcell (with Jordi Savall)
Purcell is a musical genius on par with Bach. There, I said it! In addition, another interesting parallel exists between these pieces and Bach's Cello Suites: neither were widely known in their artists' lifetimes. Both were written more for contrapuntal study than for performance, and both were rediscovered almost by accident centuries later. Did these pieces sound like nothing more than musical exercises in the time of the Baroque? Did we need the Bombastic tensions of the Romantic Era to allow us to fully embrace the simple beauty of these pieces? It is easy to hear, centuries later, the undeniable influence of the Renaissance flowing through the harmonies, the continuity in the evolution of musical styles. Savall is a virtuoso of the Viola da Gamba, and, like his fellow Catalonian Montserrat Figueras (see above), loves early music so much that he has dedicated his life to bringing it to the world. Give this a listen, and you'll see why. (PREVIEW)
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex
I tried getting through this month with no electronic music. I realize its fans are legion, but I consider it a guilty pleasure, because all my friends just think I'm weird for listening to it. I recently shared some favorite tracks with a friend who said, "I'd rather stick burning needles in my eyes than be subjected to more than 40 seconds of this music." Lord knows it's not for everybody. If you're into this sort of thing, you probably already know about this album. If not, it's actually pretty cool and over-the-top. And is that Jonsi on this preview track? I'll have to look into it. Enjoy! (PREVIEW)