Sweet New Arrivals: A Menagerie of Music

Hey all you people, hey all you people, hey all you people won’t you listen to me???

I know you may be getting all excited for Chance the Rapper tonight (this blogger’s on the VIP list) but we’ve also got some great news at the music library. This week has brought our best set of Sweet New Arrivals since last semester’s finals week breakthrough.

Because of such an influx of great jams, I’ve decided not to focus on one but rather write blurbs about my five favorites. The rest are great too, I just don’t have as much to say about them. Shouts out to T. Rex, Devo, Queen, Swans and Gavin Bryars. Here come the winners!

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Talking Heads- Remain In Light (1980)

My favorite ’80s band, the Talking Heads were one of the most unique of the whole new wave crop. On their first three albums, they perfected a nervy style of futurist-primitive post-punk, which crystallized on 1979’s Fear Of Music. After that paranoid, twitchy album, which brought the band to the realization of their vision, what were they to do? Well, they made this, their best album. Their third collaboration with producer Brian Eno, Remain In Light combines their original dancey impulses with a heavy Fela Kuti influence for a set of brilliant songs, consisting of slyly pretty chord progressions tucked into wiry guitar and taut grooves, over which idiosyncratic frontman David Byrne was free to rant and scream and philosophize at will. Best songs are album-opener “Born Under Punches” and the ubiquitous hit/mission statement “Once In A Lifetime.” Same as it ever was.

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Joanna Newsom- Ys (2006)

This is an album on its way to being considered a modern classic. Joanna Newsom is a harp-playing sprite who sings over virtuosic finger-picked patterns with her peculiar, mewling voice to create a strange and wonderful brand of folk. Her first album, 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender, was a collection of excellent tunelets, but Ys found an expansion into renaissance fair freak folk epics, bursting with emotion, beautiful melodies and Newsom’s bookish, hyper-poetic lyrics. Songwriting veteran Van Dyke Parks supports the wandering songs with a Greek chorus of orchestral arrangement. Joanna would go on to expand her sound even more with 2010’s triple-album Have One On Me, but Ys is a collection of five songs that are a perfect expression¬† of her art.

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The Knife- Shaking The Habitual (2013)

Following the album that brought them massive critical and commercial recognition, 2006’s dark and bristling Silent Shout, Swedish electro-poppers the Knife waited seven years to release this deranged album. It takes the latent tension of Silent Shout and blows it up into a gigantic artistic statement that vacillates between relentless, percussive grooves (like best song “Full of Fire,” a motorik juggernaut) and experimental minimalism (such as the 18-minute recording of boiler room feedback “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized”). Over the jagged soundscapes, singer Karin Dreijer Andersson’s voice is warped all over the place with electronics as she sings of crushing the status quo. This is an album of extremes, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes unlistenable, but always pushing the envelope.

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Beyonce- Beyonce (2013)

This album was quietly released at the end of 2013, without any promotion or singles preceding it, but its aftershocks will likely rattle through our pop culture landscape for years to come. It finds Beyonce leaving the classic pop sound of her last album, 2011’s 4, for a stark, hard-edged sound custom-fitted to suit the current rap landscape. On this album Beyonce capitalizes on the cult-worship that many Americans treat her with, comfortably filling her throne as Queen B with an absurd amount of swag and a host of one-liners (“I woke up like this,” “Surfboardt”) that are already becoming part of the vernacular.

and last but DEFINITELY not least…

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours (1977)

What to say about this album except I can’t believe we didn’t have it already. This album, a product of tumultuous love triangles and pentagons in the band and their psychological ramifications, is one of the most perfect sets of pop songs to be found on a single album. Each member of the band brings their best, from Lindsay Buckingham’s gorgeous pastoral “Never Going Back Again” to Christine McVie’s sultry “You Make Loving Fun.” The true star of the show, however, is Stevie Nicks, whose brooding energy and timeless country voice contribute to my two favorite songs here, the ethereal “Dreams” and album-closer, the cocaine-dusted desert trek of “Gold Dust Woman.” This album was the most rational-yet-emotional treatment of ’70s excess, and turned out to be one of the best albums of the decade.

Well, what are you waiting for? Come get ’em!

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