Yes, we all know that bandcamp kicks ass. But can you get Kate Bush’s discography from bandcamp? No, you cannot. But you can get it at the library, among any number of bandcamp expatriates, 20th century juggernauts of yore, or otherwise anything you can get your grubby little hands on. And best of all, it’s free to borrow CDs – of which you can typically find a solid variety.
After over a year of neglect, last week I made my first voyage in a while to my library’s CD section and got busy digging. It had been so long, I had to find the shelves containing the music all over again because they were relocated. However, it had also been so long that there were plenty of new CDs on display, and though there’s certainly better ways out there to get music, I’m reminded why it’s still worth it to give the library a look.
Basically what I’m doing this week is sharing my first impressions from what I checked out. My finds were pretty hit-or-miss, as is usually the case, but there’s a certain fun in not knowing what you’ll find or take home, grabbing music you’ve never heard or heard of with no expectations, and occasionally bumping into that album you were planning on getting elsewhere but decided to check out since it was there anyway. Here are the (partial) results:
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 – Norrington
I came in with a thirst for classical music, but unfortunately Symphonies 4 & 5 aren’t attending the quench – a few seemingly harmless scratches turned out to render the CD a skipping, stuttering fiasco that can’t be listened to.
Bela Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra/Dance Suit
I wound up preferring Leonard Bernstein’s take on Concerto for Orchestra/Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta – the latter’s 3rd part, “Adagio”, moves along too quickly to achieve the hypnotic feel of Bernstein’s version, (featured in The Shining), for one thing –but what I haven’t heard, “Dance Suit” and “Divertimento”, are certainly nice to be able to hear, even if I’m sure Bernstein could do them more justice.
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is Wiser…
In spite of being a bit burnt out on this particular brand of singer-songwriter (and most likely not realizing at the time), I grabbed a few albums of it anyway. Of the three, this one was the most relevant to my current music diet. The songwriting is excellent, rarely travelling to where I could predict it would, and Apple’s minimal take on the piano is odd and weirdly unsettling in all the right ways.
Henryk Gorecki – Misere
This a capella choir is gorgeous and grand. Huge walls of vocals put you right in the cathedral and surround you with a deeply soothing spiritual embrace of “Lord Our God – Lord Have Mercy on Us”.
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
My experience in southern rap is borderline virginal, but being a fan of El-P and knowing he produced this particularly talked-about record, I figured it would serve as good an entryway as any. Though I prefer more mellow, jazzed-out rap, this album is refreshingly high-energy and all at once new. Will take some time to grow on me, however.
Natalie Merchant – Leave Your Sleep
The first of two albums by Natalie Merchant I snagged. Tigerlily was already not my cup of tea, but this double album, nestled in a hardcover book that makes up the album case, turned out to be the most boring of the pair. Sometimes you gamble and lose.
Natalie Merchant – Tigerlily
Opener “San Andreas Fault” was a great song, but Tigerlily wound up being a one-trick pony for me – basically, “San Andreas Fault” was enough: I wasn’t interested or invested in her sound enough to care to finish the album. As far as contemporary folk goes though, you can certainly do worse.
Sophie Milman – Take Love Easy
On the other hand, I’m a sucker for this stuff – sultry vocal jazz. Maybe I’m just a sucker for music that sounds great at night, or that cocktail cabaret shit. I’ve certainly waded through my share of ungratifying dregs in pursuit of this, but I’m happy to say that Take Love Easy is not one of them.
The Weeknd – Kiss Land
I knew before I checked this out that it was probably going to disappoint me, what with House of Balloons being one of my favorite R&B albums and reviews generally being less favorable anyway, so I can’t say I’m particularly devastated that Kiss Land is simply a good album, and nothing more. A greater focus on vocals doesn’t do much for me, and the surreal feel of his 2011 mixtapes is noticeably absent.