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.

Arachnophonia: Simon & Garfunkel “Bookends”

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, Aly (class of 2018) and features Simon & Garfunkel’s fourth studio album released in 1968, Bookends. Thanks, Aly!

Simon & Garfunkel

Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends

I was re-shelving CDs recently while working a slow evening shift at the music library when I came across a Simon and Garfunkel CD. It immediately brought me back to a few years ago, when I went through a “phase” of folk rock, listening to the iconic duo, as well as a few other legends such as Cat Stevens. I then browsed our collection of Simon and Garfunkel selections, and soon discovered that the library offers almost their entire discography.

My all-time favorite album of theirs is Bookends. In my opinion, the 1968 album was released right in the “sweet spot” of Simon and Garfunkel’s musical career. It featured the quirky, iconic single we all know love, “Mrs. Robinson“, from the 1967 movie The Graduate. Some more of the duo’s greatest hits would come later, such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water“, arguably their best-known song. (Fun fact: “The Boxer” would also come in their following album, and Mumford and Sons has a great modern cover of this piece.)

The Graduate soundtrack

My personal favorite off the album is “Old Friends“, which sounds the best when listened to immediately before the closing theme of the album, “Bookends“, since the two songs seamlessly flow into each other. Appropriately, the album starts and ends with this theme, featuring simple harmonies and rich major-7 acoustic runs that could lull you into a peaceful relaxation.

Arachnophonia: The Postal Service “Give Up”

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 a 2003 album of the American indie rock supergroup The Postal Service. Thanks, Cole!

The Postal Service

Give Up

The Postal Service - Give Up

The only album ever released by early 2000’s indie pop/electronica supergroup The Postal Service, Give Up remains a staple of indie music and a testament to musical collaboration. The Postal Service consisted of electronic artist Jimmy Tamborello (also known as Dntel) and Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard, featuring additional vocals provided by Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis and Seattle-based indie rocker Jen Wood. Work on the album began in late 2001, and was accomplished by Tamborello and Gibbard sending CDs of the project back and forth through the mail (hence the band’s name) for just under a year. The Postal Service was always considered to be a side project by its members – during production Gibbard was also working on Death Cab for Cutie’s greatest album to date: Transatlanticism – which is why the collaboration’s quality and subsequent success are so profound. Give Up was released on February 19, 2003 through Sub Pop records, receiving near-universal praise and peaking at 45 on the US Billboard 200. The group toured in support of the album from April to August of the same year.

Gibbard and Tamborella

Gibbard and Tamborella circa 2003

While Give Up enjoyed moderate success in and around the year of 2003, it truly took on a second life once the group’s members returned to their primary acts. The album received platinum certification (signifying 1,000,000 units sold) in 2012, nearly a decade after its release. It was the second-ever release by Sub Pop (and currently is still their second-best selling effort) to achieve the status, coming after Nirvana’s 1989 album Bleach.

Many people believe Give Up to be Ben Gibbard’s greatest work, which only further salts the wound of The Postal Service being an entirely temporary and long gone affair. The Death Cab for Cutie front man’s voice arguably fits Tamborella’s 80’s inspired synths better than the four piece rock instrumentation of his main band. Lyrically too, Gibbard seems to have peaked with the intensely autobiographical songs featured on this album. One of my personal favorite excerpts from the first track, “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” follows:

It seems so out of context
In this gaudy apartment complex.
A stranger with your door key
Explaining that “I’m just visiting”.
I am finally seeing
That I was the one worth leaving.

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Or this excerpt from “Nothing Better,” in which Ben Gibbard trades verses with Jen Wood, together playing their role as a feuding couple. This verse arrives just as Gibbard’s character has just pleaded with his lover to stay with him. Wood’s response follows:

I feel I must interject here
You’re getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself
With these revisions and gaps in history
So let me help you remember
I’ve made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear
Prepared a lecture
On why I have to leave

While judging from those two excerpts it may appear that Give Up is entirely ruminations on doomed relationships, thematically a lot of ground is covered, including friendship, memories, and happy relationships. In fact, the most popular song off of the album, “Such Great Heights,” opens with:

I am thinking it’s a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when
We kiss they’re perfectly aligned

The album’s impressive persistence post-release prompted The Postal Service to release a 10th anniversary edition of Give Up in 2013, accompanied by a supporting tour. Despite rumors of a second album in the works, Ben Gibbard announced in early August of that year that the group’s performance in Chicago on August 5th would be their last ever, and the group has since formally disbanded. Although saddened by the destruction of all prospect of a sophomore effort from The Postal Service, I can’t help but feel the ‘one-and-done’ nature of Give Up has helped elevate it into a mythical status within indie rock. It will forever be a personal favorite.

Arachnophonia: Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”

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 library worker, Diego (class of 2021) and features the 2013 album Random Access Memories by the French electronic music duo Daft Punk. Thanks, Diego!

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

We’re in that “intra-holiday” moment right now. Halloween has passed so it’s a little late to play Halloween themed songs like “Thriller” and “The Monster Mash” (Do people still listen to “The Monster Mash“?), but it is still too early to play Christmas music. Or at least it should be…
So what do you listen to when there isn’t a specific theme to follow? Sometimes people get too bored of the stuff that continuously plays on the radio. I, for one, don’t even listen to the radio anymore, I just stumble into songs I like. Sometimes a newer song will play while I’m at the gym and I really enjoy that artist, such as The Weeknd, sometimes I will listen to older music and wish that certain artists were still active, such as Daft Punk, but sometimes that newer song will throw you back to the older artists, whether it is by having a similar style, or by actually featuring the artists, as seen with The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk in both “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming,” (which is currently my favorite song to listen to). Now granted, Daft Punk is by no means an old band. They debuted in 1994 and have released quite a few popular albums throughout the 2000s. However, they are one of those bands that releases something and then goes back to hide itself in obscurity for a few years.

Daft Punk - Get Lucky

In the spring of 2013 Daft Punk announced an upcoming album titled Random Access Memories and subsequently released “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams before the album was set to release. The song became one of the year’s biggest hits, enough to the point where you could not avoid it. I remember thinking that it was obnoxious at the time and that Daft Punk was some mediocre band without any true artistic ability. I was wrong. Even if you didn’t really like “Get Lucky,” there is still an entire album that came with the song.

Different from their previous albums, Daft Punk had artists brought in to help with the recording of the songs in Random Access Memories instead of using a large amount of electronic instruments. In fact, the electronics were limited to drum machines, vintage vocoders (like voice synthesizers, but vintage!), and a custom synthesizer. As such the majority of the songs in have other feature artists such as Pharrell Williams and Julian Casablancas. Throughout the album there is such variety that just because you may not like one song it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will dislike all of them. Do you want a song that sounds sad and gets you in your feels? Listen to “The Game of Love” or “Instant Crush”. Want to listen to a song that sounds like it belongs in a stores that sells both jazz instruments and surfboards? Listen to “Fragments of Time”. Maybe you want a song that just makes you want to dance, then listen to “Doin’ It Right”, “Get Lucky”, or “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Regardless of what you’re looking for, from dancing to relaxing, there is at least one song in this album that is right for you. With rumors of Daft Punk potentially releasing something soon, along with their collaboration with The Weeknd, this may be the perfect time to pick them as your new band to explore.

Arachnophonia: “The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait”

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 library worker, Eve (class of 2020) and features a 2012 Bob Dylan biography. Thanks, Eve!

The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait by Daniel Mark Epstein

The Ballad of Bob Dylan

I associate Bob Dylan with family; I grew up hearing my Dad play Dylan recordings and listening to my older brother singing classics such as “Blowin’ in the Wind“. This summer, my love of Bob Dylan was rekindled when I lived in Utah, as songs such as “Tangled up in Blue” and “Shelter from the Storm” were the perfect soundtrack for road trips with friends. In addition to loving Dylan’s music, I am interested in him as a counterculture icon, political figure and individual, and particularly want to learn more about his role in the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War.

Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival 1965

Bob Dylan “goes electric” and inspires controversy at the Newport Folk Festival 1965

As such, I am excited to explore The Ballad of Bob Dylan, a biography written by Daniel Mark Epstein. The book uses four formative concerts to examine Dylan’s rise to fame, his shift from folk to rock music, and more personal aspects of his life and character. It includes interviews with those close to the singer-songwriter such as Nora Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, as well as lyrics from Dylan songs and poems. While there are many biographies about this “voice of a generation”, The Ballad of Bob Dylan is accessible and comprehensive, allowing it to be the perfect read for a budding Dylan fan.

Arachnophonia : The Life Aquatic soundtrack

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 library worker, Gabi (class of 2020) and features the soundtrack album for the 2004 film The Life Aquatic. Thanks, Gabi!

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou soundtrack
Mark Mothersbaugh, Seu Jorge, et al

Life Aquatic soundtrack

What makes a film great? Some may say an Oscar-worthy performance by a lead actor, or the presentation of aesthetically pleasing cinematography. For me, although both of these are important, what really makes a movie stand out is music. Whether it’s the soundtrack, the score, or both, the ability to perfectly match a song to a scene is impressive. It can bring the emotions I’m feeling while watching up to another level.

Life Aquatic still

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, directed by Wes Anderson, is a comedy-drama about an oceanographer played by Bill Murray. This film is an excellent example of one that uses a unique background of music to enhance its tone, which is whimsical and quirky.

Let me tell you about my boat

Mark Mothersbaugh, a former member of the pop group DEVO and a frequent Anderson collaborator, is the composer of the film’s score. Five of Mothersbaugh’s instrumental tracks appear on the official soundtrack, including “Let Me Tell You About my Boat”, which accompanies one of the most famous scenes in the film: Steve Zissou breaking the fourth wall by directly introducing himself to the audience.

Mark Mothersbaugh

Mark Mothersbaugh

The coolest part about this soundtrack is that it features five covers of some of David Bowie’s best songs… in Portuguese. The movie itself showcases Seu Jorge performing a variety of Bowie covers including “Rebel Rebel”, “Starman” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”. Jorge plays one of Steve Zissou’s crew members in the movie, and sings the songs with a red beanie on his head and an acoustic guitar in his hands. These covers do not only provide a fresh take on several well-known classic rock songs, but also give the film unforgettable character.

Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge in the film

Seu Jorge’s work in The Life Aquatic was so memorable that, 13 years after the film’s initial release, he is currently on tour performing the covers as an homage to the late David Bowie.

Arachnophonia: Macklemore “The Heist”

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 library worker Claire (class of 2020), and features hip hop artist Macklemore’s debut album The Heist. Thanks, Claire!

Macklemore
The Heist (2012)

Macklemore - The Heist

Few other hip-hop albums besides The Heist touch on such a variety of political and social issues. While most people will remember songs such as the catchy and silly “Thrift Shop,” I argue that most other songs on the album have had a much greater impact on Macklemore’s listeners and the country as a whole.

Macklemore - Thrift Shop

I can remember sitting at my dining room table in middle school, listening to this album while doing homework. At the time, I don’t think I was aware of many of the controversial and powerful statements Macklemore was making.

Macklemore - "Same Love"

In “Same Love,” Macklemore sends a clear message that he believes in equal rights for all, and specifically, gay rights. In the song, Macklemore raps: “Whatever god you believe in, we come from the same one/ Strip away the fear, underneath it’s all the same love/ about time that we raised up.” In this line, Macklemore not only expresses personal support for gay marriage, but also calls upon his fans to join him in supporting gay rights.

Macklemore - "Wings"

In “Wings,” Macklemore addresses his concerns regarding capitalism and the sacrifices which Americans will make for name brands. When explaining his obsession with Nike and Adidas shoes throughout his youth, he explains how one of his friend’s brothers was shot while he was being robbed of his name brand apparel. Macklemore raps: “Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo/Nike Air Flight, book bag was so dope/ And then my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his fours/ Whoa.” Macklemore explains a culture of obsessing over trends and conforming to social pressures in order to fit in, even from an early age. In the song, he grapples between wanting to conform to this culture in order to be “cool,” but also criticizes how he allowed these name brands to define his identity for so long.

Macklemore

Finally, Macklemore addresses the issue of addiction most clearly in his song “Starting Over.” Macklemore recounts his experiences with alcoholism in particular, and his fluctuations between sobriety and use. However, the message of this song is not one of shame or blame, but instead paints a picture of hope; hope that recovery is possible and that sobriety is attainable. Since the release of The Heist, Macklemore has launched multiple national campaigns (even producing a documentary on addiction which features President Obama) which attempt to destigmatize addiction and stop the cycle of addiction in American society.

Macklemore - Heist tour 2012

Macklemore performing in Toronto during The Heist Tour on 28 November, 2012. By Drew of The Come Up Show (Flickr) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecomeupshow/8228257996, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24401827

You would be hard-pressed to find a hip-hop artist that addressed such a wide variety of relatable issues in one album. While listening to it from start to finish, The Heist encourages us reflect about tough and controversial issues while also giving listeners an opportunity to smile and enjoy themselves in some of his fast-paced, feel-good songs.

Arachnophonia: Simon & Garfunkel “The Columbia Studio Recordings, 1964-1970”

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 library worker Emma (class of 2021). Her selection is part of a multi-disc CD set of works by American folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Thanks, Emma!

Simon and Garfunkel

The Columbia Studio Recordings, 1964-1970

My CD of choice (from this set): Simon and Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence

I love modern music and radio pop just as much as the next person, but sometimes its nice to listen to things that don’t have auto tuning or heavy bass constantly blaring in the background. Simon and Garfunkel have special place in my heart because I can remember as a little girl hearing my dad play their songs in the car, and my sister singing along. Of course, I wanted to be “cool” like my older sister, so I would dance and act as if I knew exactly what the lyrics were saying. However, as I grew up and develop a better appreciation for good music, I realized just how good these songs are.

Some of my favorite songs off the set are “Cecilia” (I’m a little biased considering Cecilia is my middle name), “Mrs. Robinson,” and “The Boxer.” They are each so different, but so powerful. Their music has a way of making you want to dance around your room and sing like no one is listening, but a lot of songs also evoke a certain poetry and emotion that show just how talented these men were/are at writing and producing music. Although some of the songs deal with serious topics, the way they are written is beautiful, but they’re easy to listen to and they’re very catchy.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop listening to this album, because it’s timeless. Songs on the radio today come and go, but the music of past generations will never get old.

Arachnophonia: Black Noise

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 Joanna Love, PhD, Assistant Professor of Music in the UR Music Department. Thanks, Joanna!

Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America by Tricia Rose

Black Noise

Tricia Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America is a foundational piece of scholarship on hip hop culture. Written in the mid-1990s, it explores the complex economic, social, and cultural origins of hip hop. It also discusses the social and cultural implications of its many facets and prominent features, including rapping, DJing, B Boying/breaking, signifying, scratching, and sampling. Anyone interested in learning more about this genre should definitely read this book.

Arachnophonia: Daft Punk “Discovery”

Editor’s Note: Our music review column “Spider Sounds” has had a name change and will now be known as “Arachnophonia”. The name has changed, but the idea remains the same — members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items from 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 comes courtesy of Music Library student worker Olivia (class of 2019), and features the Discovery, the second studio album by French electronic music duo Daft Punk. Thanks, Olivia!

Daft Punk

Discovery

Daft Punk - Discovery album art

Daft Punk have established themselves as legends in the realm of dance music since their 1996 debut album, Homework. They gained popularity quickly with their funky mix of French house music and mixing punk, funk, disco and rock elements.

In 2001, they released their album Discovery, in my opinion the best of their work. The songs “One More Time” and “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” have remained hits since their release, with music fans everywhere able to sing and dance along.

Single for "Harder Better Faster Stronger"

Kanye West’s use of “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” in his song “Stronger” only increased the duo’s popularity and widespread listening population.

Promotional material for "Discovery" (2001)

What is so great about Daft Punk is their ability to appeal to almost every type of music listener, spanning the separation of many different genres. Also intriguing and interesting is their rare appearance in interviews, television and photos with their robot helmets off, inspiring a sense of mystery and awe in these house music legends.