I've been having fun this summer bringing home CDs from the library this summer. Right now, I have the 2-disc Very Best of Elvis Costello, the Queen two-fer (Classic and Greatest Hits), Under the Covers Vol. 1 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs and They Might Be Giants' The Spine.
Earlier this summer, I brought home Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 (I used to have it on cassette but never got around upgrading it to CD until now), the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack, Guns 'n Roses Greatest Hits (again, finally getting around to upgrading cassettes), the Essential Janis Joplin and Wyclef Jean's Carnival II (which immediately went into heavy rotation- I love this album). And late in the spring, I got both Maroon 5 albums.
I just got back from the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and was blown away by a few acts -- two of them local, strangely enough. Wissahickon Chicken Shack is a terrific honky-tonk combo, much too twangy for Kathy but hitting exactly the right notes for me. And some songs, like "Queen of the World," are just wonderful wispy pop.
Then there's Slo-Mo featuring Mic Wrecka, a hip-hop/dance band that I honestly was surprised were at the fest, but boy was I glad they were. They had one set, on Sunday, and they were really the highlight of the day for me.
Another highlight was Caravan of Thieves, a gypsy acoustic swing band with a great, dark sense of humor, the guts to do a wonderful cover of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and the talent to pull it off.
The Decemberists played, offering a powerful rendition of their new album, The Hazards of Love, from start to finish -- and then following it up with a few other tunes, including the haunting "Eli, the Barrow Boy."
And there there's Iron and Wine. In this case, Sam Beam played alone on the large folk festival stage, just filling it up with his voice, his guitar, and the longing and emptiness he conveys with them. I'd never heard his song The Trapeze Swinger before Saturday night, but I'm not likely to forget it.
I picked up Wolfmother's new album today (MP3 download). If you liked their last album you should definitely dig this as well. They added two new musicians since the last album, but they still retain their sound. Amazon has the deluxe version for the same price as the regular one, $9.49. It has like four more songs.
Plus, I am going to the Wolfmother concert on Thursday. Should be fun.
Back in the ‘80s I had a pretty good handle on new music. I didn’t like most of it, but I was at least familiar with it. After college I kept up via Rolling Stone until I let my subscription lapse. In the ‘90s I learned about new groups mostly through tribute albums. Now I rely on record reviews in mainstream media but perhaps the best source is NPR. That’s where I learned about Pink Martini. I’m listening to their newest album right now. They remind me a bit of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
There was a time I bought a new CD every week, but that was while I was accumulating my life’s soundtrack. These days I buy new music far less frequently, although I have bought five new albums in the past two weeks: Bob Dylan, Harry Connick, Pink Martini, Kiss and Sting. Two of those were Christmas albums. I’m not even a Christian, but I have a bigger collection of Christmas music than anyone I know. I used to buy at least one disc a year, but my selection had to be unique or unusual in some way. I haven’t really bought much holiday music the past several seasons, but this year I bought two: Bob Dylan’s and Sting’s. One is unique and one is unusual. Guess which is which :P
I bought four new albums in October and November, all of which are incredibly awesome and have been in heavy rotation: Matthew Sweets and Susanna Hoffs: Under the Covers Vol. 2 (featuring songs from the '70s), Rob Thomas' Cradlesong, U2's No Line on the Horizon and the greatest hits album for George Harrison Let It Roll. All four come highly recommended from yours truly.
Also, I've been having fun with a not-quite random mix. I finally gave up on using RealPlayer as my primary player for listening to music while on the computer. Too many glitches. But I kind of missed the way it would scramble songs into an unplanned mix. So I found a way to listen to songs on iTunes without using the shuffle feature (which checks all of the unchecked selections). I sorted everything alphabetically by song instead of album or artist. Suddenly, I've got a fun mix of different artists. For example, yesterday I listened to a mix that included the "Run Lola Run" soundtrack, the Killers, Matthew Sweet, They Might Be Giants, The Beatles and Kris Kristofferson. The day before it was Johnny Cash, Louis Prima, the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Artie Shaw and the Temptations. And today has been Ella Fitzgerald, the Black Crowes, Weezer, Bruce Springsteen and George Harrison. Great fun.