Music Blog

Bernie Krause and Music of the Natural World

NOISE, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.

~ Ambrose Bierce, in Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Plaza Voices: It's a Small World After All

Still from video of "let it Go" in 25 languages

Did you know there are about 6,500 languages spoken in the world today? The new movie Frozen has been translated into 41 of these languages, and this amazing video shows singers performing the hit "Let it Go" in 25 of them.

Don’t Leave Me This Way: The Rebirth of Soul

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

While the heyday of soul may be fifty years in the past with the likes of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson, a new swell of artists influenced by these early pioneers is rising and moving audiences around the country. Marked by strong frontmen and women, these folks have moves and energy straight from a James Brown playbook and backing bands that have licks of their own. Be prepared to have your soul stirred and, if you’re like me, end up with a goofy, strained grimace on your face and an air mic primed for lip syncing.

Lake Street Dive

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.

My Top Five Favorite Beatles Albums

The Beatles

50 years after the historic airing of The Beatles playing live on the Ed Sullivan show, Beatlemania may not make young girls scream and faint anymore, but many listeners continue to hold their music near and dear to their hearts. 

Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written about The Beatles. I have read a mere fraction of what is available. Some paint the lads from Liverpool in holy light, while others darken the lingering shadows and tell a more sinister tale. While not all music lovers love The Beatles, most respect their profound effect on the musical landscape that continues to evolve and annoy parents to this day.

To honor my favorite band, I would like to share my top five favorite Beatles albums!

5. Help!

Free Bi-Weekly Music Download - Buffalo Gals by Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger - Buffalo Gals

Every two weeks, free tracks from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and Classical Music Library are offered.
This week (the week of January 28, 2014) the Smithsonian Folkways Recording is Pete Seeger's Buffalo Gals in honor of Pete Seeger's passing at age 94 on Monday, January 27, 2014.

Pete Seeger's life, music, and legacy encapsulate nearly a century of American history and culture. He has immersed himself in folk music and used it, like Johnny Appleseed, to "plant the seeds of a better tomorrow in the homes across our land." The songs in this collection of 139 American Favorite Ballads narrate tales of ordinary people and their extraordinary deeds, and show Pete at the crossroads of the past and the future putting his own stamp on America's folk song heritage while bequeathing it to generations to come.

Best Music of 2013 - Critics have spoken...now have your say!

Best Albums of 2013

With 2013 coming to a close, the “best of” music lists have been pouring in the past few months. Best albums, best cover songs, best tracks, best photos, best music appearances on television - the possibilities are endless and critics never seem to tire of list-making.

Here is a round-up from some of the more influential sources:

A Midwinter Night's Dream

A Midwinter Night's Dream

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.

Foreverly

Foreverly

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.

Jazz Highlight

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.

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