In the modern age of music, we're saturated with options of what to listen to and how to listen to it. Finding really great music can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, so it's exciting when truly stellar groups like Lake Street Dive burst onto the scene, all genuine talent and earned fame like old times.
Although they were discovered through a Youtube video performance of "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5, the band originally formed in a jazz music conservatory, and they have the skills to prove it. But rather than use their superpowers to get pigeonholed in the world of jazz for jazz fans, they've decided to take it to the streets and play highly accessible, yet wildly interesting music. It comes off like a secret ingredient in a tasty dish.
It can be challenging to find holiday music that isn't merely cheery, kitschy, or weirdly dark, leading many including myself to steer clear of it (while enjoying when certain renditions come up on the radio). Of course, it's hard to go wrong with jazz, but sometimes a person needs variety. This album just might fit the ticket.
Canadian musician and self-made record label owner Loreena McKennitt, best known for her 1997 song "The Mummer's Dance," has continued to produce great things, including this unique and wonderful collection of traditional old world holiday music, Midwinter Night's Dream (2008). It sometimes sounds as if it could be the original soundtrack to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, such as what you might imagine the elves of Mirkwood or the hobbits to play on rustic instruments during feasts.
What do you get when you put a pop-punk singer and a jazz singer in a studio? A totally stellar old-style country album, as it turns out. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and jazz singer Norah Jones have teamed up to thoroughly surprise the world. Definitely didn't see this coming.
In the late 50s, the Hardy-Boys-esque Everly Brothers debuted with alternately upbeat and somber country music that would influence later iterations of rock, though the duo's heyday would only last until the mid-late 60s. The world is about to rediscover their music through the star power of Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones on their brand new album, Foreverly, which consists of revamped and reclothed covers of the Everly Brothers.
Have you ever gone on a wild goose chase to get an album that's hard to find but you don't know why because it's so good? That's what I had to do to own Take it from the Top by the Bob James Trio. How I heard it in the first place was by browsing the shelves at my Denver Public Library branch.
One day, I had decided to discover new music by pulling CDs at random from our jazz shelves to check out, starting with the A's. The first major stand-out I came across was Take it from the Top (2004). In hindsight, I'm rather proud that we have it. Although the group is named after Bob James the pianist, James Genus (bass) and Billy Kilson (drums) make it what it is for me. It's difficult to surpass the crisp sound of a trio consisting of these three instruments.
Fans of A Perfect Circle (the early-2000s-heyday band fronted by Maynard James Keenan of Tool) who haven't kept up with the former members may be interested to know that The Entrance Band is what famous girl bassist Paz Lenchantin has been up to ever since. It's good to see she's still rocking--perhaps like never before--joined by psychedelic indie frontman Guy Blakeslee and exceptional drummer Derek James.
The trio began to form around 2002-2003 and has remained fairly low key, blessing small venues in the Chicago, Baltimore, and L.A. areas with their extraordinary blend of talents at live shows. Thinking massively outside the box and excelling at it, these gigs have served as their rehearsals.
Music geeks won't want to miss this inspiring documentary of musical legendry made by Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) detailing the history of the little music recording studio that could, California's Sound City.
Yes, it's true, it turns out Dave Grohl can make movies, too, and this debut is exceptional. Utilizing studio footage and interview commentary from many of the greatest rock musicians of our time, the film brings to life a golden era of music that is in many ways becoming a thing of the past. Although a strong message is presented about authenticity and the human element in music, the film decisively stops short of being preachy or tiresomely adherent to a bygone past.
You're welcome to interpret that as the library giving out some, but it's also the title of the newest creation by Medeski Martin & Wood. Comprised of a collection of recordings from their all-acoustic tour in 2007, it manages to simultaneously surprise and maintain a level of consistency that fans expect.
MMW has been around since 1991 and, like most jazz groups, has a complex history deeply intertwined in collaboration with other musicians. Members John Medeski--piano and keyboard, Billy Martin--drums, and Chris Wood--bass, have each dabbled in many projects over the years individually, and together combine a host of talents and backgrounds. Speaking of jazz, you can think of MMW as that, but such a wide variety of other genres go into it that maybe the most accurate moniker would be experimento-jazz-funk-jam-band.
Southern rock can be likened to a tree with many branches and even more roots. Tapping deep into the ground, it draws nourishment from blues, country, soul, folk, and a whole lot of other genres, all tangled together. The up-and-coming group Blackberry Smoke is the real thing, and their brand new album, The Whippoorwill, is distilled Southern goodness.
Channeling the heyday of Lynyrd Skynyrd before the plane crash that killed three band members and a crew member in 1977, BBS captures that essence with a sound that has the power to transport listeners straight to Jacksonville. With edge, humorous storytelling, and skilled musicianship, they put together songs rich with a sense of place and time. See for yourself in this recent performance of "Everybody Knows She's Mine":
If music was like sports, the Flobots might be Denver's home team. This socially conscious hip hop band is a major local community player, and they have both an upcoming album and a couple of concerts happening in the very near future.
No song by the Flobots is unremarkable, but listeners less familiar may remember them by their first major hit from the 2005 album Fight With Tools, "Handlebars," which captivated minds and gained the group international recognition.
Maybe it's her background as a child immigrant from the former Soviet Union to America in the late '80s that informs her fascinating lyrics, but as for Regina Spektor's interesting musical compositions and gemlike vocals, it's got to be raw talent. Get on the library's hold list sooner rather than later for her new album hot off the press, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.
After recently coming across Spektor's performances of the songs "Small Town Moon" and "Ballad of a Politician" from this album, aired on the Colbert Report, I immediately regretted having previously put off listening to her music.