Arachnophonia: Adele “21”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Diego (class of 2021) and features English singer-songwriter Adele’s 2011 studio album 21. Thanks, Diego!

Adele

21

Valentine’s Day was this month, and with that there are usually two types of people, those who have reason to celebrate the holiday, and those who celebrate the day afterwards, when all the candy is marked 50 percent off at the store. That being said, I think we can all agree on the fact that there is music that can be listened to in order to enjoy the holiday to its finest. It is hard to call out a certain artist for making love songs, as there are a lot, a lot, A LOT of love songs that have been made throughout history, just like there are a lot for us lonely people as well. However, without any regret, we can take a look at Adele for the sake of love/breakup songs. Specifically, we can look at 21, one of her most famous albums to date.

Released in 2011, 21 was a way for Adele to tell her story about an unsuccessful relationship that she experienced. Having released 19 just two years prior, Adele had already begun to build a very devoted fan base that rushed to pre-order and buy her album. Little did anyone know that this would be one of the best sold albums in history. The album itself was widely praised both by professional critics and the general population. It peaked at number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and had singles that remained on the US album charts for 24 weeks. 21 ended up becoming the bestselling album of both 2011 and 2012.

Adele 21

Moving on to the songs on the album, as you listen to some of the songs, you notice that she seems to go through all of the themes everyone attributes to after a breakup, from anger to loneliness, regrets, and finally the acceptance of what has happened. For example, the song “Rumor Has It” is in response to all the rumors that surrounded the breakup of Adele and her partner at the time. “Rolling in the Deep” was written to insult Adele’s ex-lover for making negative remarks about her after the break-up. As a whole, her entire album tells different aspects of Adele’s relationship, and its subsequent failure. While it does give off a solemn vibe, the album as a whole makes it sound like the opening of a new door in Adele’s life, and after taking the hard road of coping with the breakup, and the fallout from it, she is ready to move on to someone new. The song “Someone Like You” is one of the last songs in the album, a song which Adele describes as one that made her feel free and liberated.

I had to write it to feel OK with myself and OK with the two years I spent with him. And when I did it, I felt so freed.

And that’s what this album is about! It is about being able to make it past a breakup and coming out stronger because of it, it is about learning to forgive those who have hurt you, and it is about cherishing what you have before it’s gone. Adele’s 21 isn’t just for those who have gone through a bitter breakup, or those who miss what they once had, but instead it’s a reminder that there is a such thing as happiness out there, and maybe you already have it, or maybe it’s out there looking for you.

Adele - Rolling in the Deep music video still

Arachnophonia: Death Cab For Cutie “Transatlanticism”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Cole (class of 2021) and features Transatlanticism the fourth studio album by indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie originally released in 2003. Thanks, Cole!

Death Cab For Cutie

Transatlanticism

Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism

“So this is the New Year
And I don’t feel any different”

So begins Death Cab for Cutie’s 2003 album Transatlanticism, and so too begins another calendar year. I mentioned this record in my previous Arachnophonia post, so I found it fitting to further detail it for my first submission of 2018. Written entirely by front man Ben Gibbard and recorded at the same time as The Postal Service’s Give Up, Transatlanticism offers a darker and more personal rumination on love than the synth-pop optimism of Gibbard’s collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello. Whereas Give Up dwells on relationships past, it ultimately is a celebration of those experiences. Transatlanticism is principally about the distances from others–physical and otherwise – that prevent us from being happy. It condemns, rather than celebrates, past failures.

Gibbard’s obsession with destructive distance is evident from the first moments of the album, and indeed the record’s name itself. The aforementioned intro track “The New Year” finds him mocking the inane celebration of the New Year’s holiday. Eventually, the song drops its cynical façade and ends with an honest rumination about the first type of distance addressed in the album – geographic:

“I wish the world was flat like the old days
Then I could travel just by folding a map
No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways
There’d be no distance that can hold us back”

Gibbard has become disillusioned about the “magic” of the New Year. Rather than celebrating with his friends the progression of time, he chooses instead to lament about “the old days” when the world was flat, senselessly believing that this would somehow allow him to be closer to his estranged lover.

Further on, numerous songs wrestle with an entirely different form of distance – temporal. In “We Looked Like Giants,” the second to last track of the album, Gibbard reminisces over the novelty of first love.

“I’ve become what I always hated when I was with you then
We looked like giants in the back of my grey subcompact
Fumbling to make contact as the others slept inside”

He notes the irony of how much he’s changed in the days since his high school affair and views the entire experience with an acute awareness of their naïveté. Unlike most other songs from Transatlanticism, Gibbard doesn’t pine for anything here. “We Looked Like Giants” reminisces but doesn’t dwell. It examines an old flame for what it was, not what it might have been, and in doing so provides the closest thing to a sense of closure found on the album.

Contrarily, “Title and Registration” recounts a personal experience of Ben Gibbard, stumbling across pictures of an ex-lover he “tried to forget” while searching for a legal document in the glove compartment of his car. He reminisces about this love lost thus:

“There’s no blame
For how our love did slowly fade
And now that it’s gone
It’s like it wasn’t there at all
And here I rest
Where disappointment and regret collide
Lying awake at night”

Gibbard takes an intriguing stance in this verse, first asserting that there’s “no blame” for the end of the relationship, but still expresses “disappointment and regret.” He takes issue not with the ending of the affair, but with how both parties allowed their love to extinguish with whimper. It’s only now, since distance has developed from the ending of the relationship, that Gibbard is tormented by his failure.

The final form of distance addressed in Transatlanticism, and indeed the most crucial, is emotional. As suggested in “Title and Registration,” Gibbard’s deepest wounds are delivered not by betrayal, but the slow division that sedates love into apathy. In “Expo ’86,” he critiques the very pursuit of love itself:

“Sometimes I think this cycle never ends
We slide from top to bottom then we turn and climb again
And it seems by the time that I have figured what it’s worth
The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse
But if I move my place in line, I’ll lose
And I have waited, the anticipation’s got me glued
I am waiting for something to go wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve”

Like Sisyphus eternally rolling his boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back once he’s reached the top, Ben Gibbard feels trapped in a never-ending cycle of relationships. He desperately wants more than anything to just finish. This fixation with repetition prevents him from truly engaging in any meaningful way. Instead, he’s just “waiting for something to go wrong.”

Death Cab For Cutie

This dissociation from romantic endeavors is what drives Gibbard in “Tiny Vessels.” Here, he confesses to his emotional detachment, painting himself in a selfish and potentially even misogynistic light:

“So one last touch, and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful
But you don’t mean a thing to me”

Heartbreak after heartbreak has driven Gibbard from seeking passionate love to purely physical stimulation – the very transformation he despises. While “Tiny Vessels” proves to be a moral recession, it exists to embolden the revelation of the next song, the title track “Transatlanticism.”

Just shy of eight minutes long, “Transatlanticism” stands as the focal point of the album. In many ways it proves to be antithetical to every other song on the record. Rather than a cynical dismissing of past relationships, the title track is a heartbreakingly honest plea for true love. While the song is literally about a man being separated from his lover by the birth of the Atlantic Ocean, in truth it details the death of a relationship at the hands of a widening emotional disconnect.

“Most people were overjoyed
They took to their boats
I thought it less like a lake
And more like a moat”

Gibbard makes use of all three forms of distance – physical, temporal, and emotional, – and in doing so, produces the most genuine and stunning track of the album. Unlike “Title and Registration,” in “Transatlanticism” the speaker hasn’t resigned to simply regret the death of his relationship, because a fragment of it still remains. Rather than accept the slow death, he fights tooth and nail to preserve the love that’s slipping through his fingers. The song crescendos with a simple refrain – “I need you so much closer” – repeated twelve times, and then finally climaxes with the outro:

“So come on, come on
So come on, come on
So come on, come on
So come on, come on”

In my personal opinion, this is Ben Gibbard at his absolute best. Sparse, honest, and absolutely agonizing.

Since its release, Transatlanticism has been near-universally accepted as Death Cab for Cutie’s greatest work, and a seminal album of indie rock. While the band’s fan base consistently ridicules them for their more recent, upbeat outputs (fans often ironically lament how they want Ben Gibbard to be miserable again), Gibbard himself remains realistic about the band’s necessity for evolution. In a 2015 interview with Medium, Gibbard offered this:

“I cannot be the 25-year-old who wrote Transatlanticism as much as the fan can’t be the 19-year-old college student going through a break-up again.”

So I implore you, while you have the opportunity to be that 19-or-20-or-however-old-college-student-going-through-a-break-up-or-whatever-else, listen to Transatlanticism and be it.

Death Cab For Cutie

Arachnophonia: Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Colin (class of 2021) and features Bridge Over Troubled Water a classic Simon & Garfunkel album first released in January 1970. Thanks, Colin!

Simon & Garfunkel

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water is Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album and widely regarded as their best work. Bridge Over Troubled Water hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 in March 1970 and remained there for 10 weeks, sold over 8 million records in the United States, and also earned a Grammy award for Album of the Year in 1971.

Bridge Over Troubled Water is described as the duo’s “‘most effortless album and their most ambitious.’” The album is an eclectic mix of multiple genres, such as rock, jazz, R&B, and gospel, which formed a unique “individual” sound that was met with both acclaim and criticism. Riding the enormous success of their previous album, Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel established themselves as one of the greatest rock duos in the world at the time, before splitting up shortly after the album’s release.

Baby Driver / The Boxer 45

The album has two notable songs that I particularly like and recommend. “The Boxer” is a folk rock selection, and is a narrative, first-person lament that outlines the character of a boxer. The song describes the singer’s struggle to overcome poverty and loneliness, before crafting the boxer character as a metaphor for his life, exhibited in the lyrics “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.” “The Boxer” was popularized in the instrumental world due to Drum Corps International’s premier corps, the Bluecoats, and their 2008 production entitled “The Knockout,” in which the corps plays and sings excerpts of “The Boxer.” The Bluecoats’s interpretation of the song is widely recognized as one of the most popular segments of any DCI show in history, and is frequently performed by the corps while they tour over the summer.

The second song I recommend is entitled “Baby Driver.” This song played no part in the naming of 2017’s hit movie Baby Driver, but it was featured in the film. The song features an upbeat, rock vibe that sounds quite similar to The Beach Boys, and “Baby Driver” is sure to stick in your head hours after listening to it.

New CDs added in December!

New CDs for December 2017

Concertos and Chamber Music

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Tangere
Danish String Quartet – Thomas Ades, Per Nørgard, Hans Abrahamsen
Danish String Quartet – Last Leaf

Danish String Quartet - Woodworks

Danish String Quartet – Wood Works
Anthony de Mare – Liaisons : Re-imagining Sondheim from the Piano
Francois Devienne – Flute Concertos Nos. 1-4
Francois Devienne – Flute Conteros Nos. 5-8

 D.C. Hall's New Concert & Quadrille Band

D.C. Hall’s New Concert & Quadrille Band – Grand Concert!: Vocal and Instrumental Music Heard in 19th Century America
Beth Levin – Bright Cirle / Schubert, Brahms, Del Tredici
Beth Levin – Personae / Chopin, Eliasson, Schumann

Beth Levin - Personae

Jazz

Rez Abbasi – Unfiltered Universe
Miles Davis & Bill Evans – Complete Studio & Live Masters
Kyle Eastwood – In Transit

Miles Davis and Bill Evans

Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs

Pretty Yende – Dreams

Pretty Yende - Dreams

Sacred Vocal Music

St. Hildegard Von Bingen – Hildegard Von Bingen: The Complete Edition – Sequentia

Hildegard Complete

Gospel Music

Various Artists – Feel Good! : 40 Years of Life Changing Music

Feel Good

Pop, Blues, Rap and Rock Music

Talib Kweli- Radio Silence
Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black

Talib Kweli - Radio Silence

World Music

Abelardo Barroso – Cha Cha Cha – Albelardo Barroso with Orquestra Sensacion
Buena Vista Social Club – Lost and Found
Various Artists – Anthology of Classic Cuban Music

Anthology of Classic Cuban Music

Band Music

United States Marine Band – Arioso

Mavis Staples - If all I was was black

Arachnophonia: Sam Smith “In The Lonely Hour”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Mary (class of 2018) and features the debut 2014 album In The Lonely Hour by British singer Sam Smith.
Thanks, Mary!

Sam Smith

In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith -  In the Lonely Hour

I chose Sam Smith’s album titled In the Lonely Hour because he is one of my favorite artists, and one of the songs in this album called “I’m Not the Only One” was the first music of Sam Smith that I was introduced to. I actually found out about Sam Smith’s music a lot later than everyone else because my friend recommended his music to me in the winter of 2014 although this album came out in May. I fell in love with Sam Smith’s music the minute I listened to this song because I loved the unique blend of classic soul, gospel choruses and acoustic instruments which made his music both soft and powerful at the same time. One of my few hobbies is to drive around and listen to music which I especially enjoy doing at night, and Sam Smith is definitely my go-to music on a chilly, wintry night. From this album, “Stay With Me” “Lay Me Down” and “Latch (Acoustic)” are also all my favorites. As the weather is gradually getting colder in Richmond as well, if you are stressed for any reason and are looking for a way to just relax and listen to good music, I recommend this album. It will be a good de-stressing moment.

Sam Smith Stay With Me Video SNL

Arachnophonia : Jean Sibelius “Symphony No. 5, op. 82 in Eb major”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Janis (class of 2021) and features Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ 5th Symphony, which was originally composed in 1915. Thanks, Janis!

Jean Sibelius

Symphony No. 5 in Eb Major

Sibelius Symphony No. 5

“It is as if God Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to find out what was the original pattern.” – Jean Sibelius in a 1915 personal diary entry during the composition of his 5th Symphony

Several weeks ago I visited New York for the weekend, and I got to do something I had been dreaming of since I was a kid– seeing the New York Philharmonic live. (Special shout out to student rush tickets for making this possible). I was especially excited because the Philharmonic would be paying tribute to one of my favorite composers, Jean Sibelius. My excitement only grew as I realized they would be playing Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E-Flat Major, one of his most iconic and one of my personal favorite works by Sibelius.

Jean Sibelius 1913

Composer Jean Sibelius in 1913 *

The symphony was inspired by a flight of swans witnessed by Sibelius in his later years; as he aged, his compositions became increasingly inspired by the connection between the earth and music.

Swans in flight

The ethereal opening of Symphony No. 5 reflects the quiet spirituality Sibelius found in nature, describing it as “…God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.” The symphony itself is divided into three movements, with a slow opening that evokes the sunrise and culminating in 6 separated chords; the finale itself was intended to transform the call of swans at sunrise into music. It is remarkably triumphant, dramatic, and transcendent. As Jeff Counts says in a review of Symphony No. 5, “Just like the absolutely transcendent sounds of the “swan hymn” in the finale, Sibelius was merely acknowledging his fortunate ability to gather the mysterious world around him into music. As an experience, Sibelius 5 is neither modern nor quaint, only lasting.”

* fi:Daniel Nyblin (1856–1923) – What We Hear in Music, Anne S. Faulkner, Victor Talking Machine Co., 1913.
Composer Jean Sibelius

New CDs added in November!

New CDs for November 2017

Concertos and Chamber Music

Jane Antonia Cornish – Into Silence
Steve Reich – Steve Reich / Third Coast Percussion Quartet

Steve Reich  & Third Coast Percussion Quartet

Jazz

Mike Stern – Trip
Katie Thiroux – Off Beat

Katie Thiroux - Off Beat

Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs

Gustav Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde
Thomas Meglioranza and Reiko Uchida – The Good Song

Thomas Meglioranza - The Good Song

Choral Music

Communaute de Taize – Songs & Prayers from Taize

Taize - Songs  and Prayers

Pop, Blues and Rock Music

Dori Freeman – Dori Freeman
Dori Freeman – Letters Never Read
Eilen Jewell – Down Hearted Blues

Dori Freeman - Letters Never Read

Ozomatli – Non-Stop: Mexico Jamaica
Jah Wobble – Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart without Judgement
Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart – Everything Is Nothing

Ozomatli - Non-stop

Electronic Music

Laraaji – Day of Radiance

Laraaji - Day of Radiance

Arachnophonia: Beck “Morning Phase”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Colin (class of 2021) and features the Grammy award winning ninth studio album by Beck. Thanks, Colin!

Beck

Morning Phase

Beck - Morning Phase

Released in 2014, Beck’s Morning Phase was a highly anticipated album after years of rumors surrounding its creation, and after news struck that Beck had signed with the incredibly famous Capitol Records. Morning Phase has been noted to sound very similar to Beck’s previous album, Sea Change, as both offer a melancholy and detached sound that Beck feared would drag on listeners’ ears. However, Morning Phase found itself to be widely regarded as Beck’s finest work, and the album earned the coveted Album of the Year Award at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

Beck

Morning Phase is essentially a commentary on what is black and white in the world, and what one should do when the world seems to be crumbling down. The album offers bright guitar playing, beautiful orchestral arrangements, layered vocals, and masterful percussion, all which culminate in each song to create a grand experience that meet many critics’ praise. Particularly interesting on this album is the song “Wave,” which features many of the elements previously stated of the album, and is a wonderful piece to listen to when one just needs to chill out.

Arachnophonia: Anita Baker “Giving You The Best That I Got”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Nancy (class of 2018) and features a classic 1988 album from R&B singer Anita Baker. Thanks, Nancy!

Anita Baker

Giving You The Best That I Got

Anita Baker -  Giving You The Best That I Got

Anita Baker is a soulful jazz, gospel, and R&B songstress from Ohio. Growing up in a household with musically inclined individuals, there was always a song being played. The most frequent artist I heard on a daily basis was Ms. Anita Baker. Her smooth and rich contralto voice eluded love and romance. She has had many classic love songs, but one of my favorites is “Giving You the Best That I Got” from her 1988 album of the same name. The song is about two people who have unconditional love for one another. It is sung in a rhythmic way and as you listen closely you can find different contextual expressions she adds to this piece. She paints one vivid picture of what love should really be not only in this song, but in all of her albums. Anita Baker has inspired my own original music and the way I structure my songs. Listening to her music soothes my soul and makes me reminisce on childhood memories.

Anita Baker - Giving You The Best That I Got (single)

Arachnophonia : “The Goat Rodeo Sessions”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Duncan (class of 2018) and features a 2011 bluegrass/chamber music release by cellist Yo Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin player Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan called The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Thanks, Duncan!

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

When one listens to any firmly cemented genre for any recognizable period of time, one starts to notice how entrenched many genre conventions are. Perhaps the most accessible (if not clichéd) example is modern Top 40, where conventions such as the infamous “millennial whoop” are near inescapable. While it can be frustrating when artists (of any genre) trudge down well-worn paths, it allows us to, by comparison, truly appreciate the artists who embrace traditions and conventions across boundaries of genre.

Goat Rodeo live

If one musical project can serve as an example of such artistic ambition, it is The Goat Rodeo Sessions by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Hopefully anyone reading this post recognizes at least one of these names, but for those who don’t, these four musicians are among the most acclaimed in their genres. Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the world’s most famous cellist, having recorded more than 90 albums and having been awarded 18 Grammy Awards. Stuart Duncan is a world class bluegrass musician (he plays fiddle on this particular project) who has won 4 Grammy Awards and has been named the Academy of Country Music’s Fiddle Player of the Year 4 times. Edgar Meyer is a bassist and composer of multiple styles who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002. Rounding out the group is mandolinist, Chris Thile, an unrivaled genre-hopper who has been awarded 5 Grammy Awards and a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship.

Goat Rodeo performers

The Goat Rodeo Sessions is a breathtaking crossover effort between two genres which, at first glance, are incongruous: classical and bluegrass. As a product of “bluegrass country” who has since pursued a study of classical music, I view this album as a unique opportunity to both indulge in nostalgia and embrace a marvel of musical progressivism. By drawing from two genres which are firmly rooted in tradition, these musicians push forward by pulling from the past and seemingly have a blast doing so. I wish I could put into words just how impressive this project is, both technically and intellectually, but I am not confident in my ability to adequately do so. For that reason, all I can do is vehemently recommend this incomparable piece of art. Enjoy.