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Patrick, Lakewood Library

One of my favorite albums of 2013 was recorded at the bottom of a well on the same three-track used to record the first 13th Floor Elevators songs. The tapes were buried in New Zealand for 30 years, thrown in a lake, dried on top of a space heater, then released as an album. I don't think any of that is actually true, but Unknown Mortal Orchestra's II always sounds like it's traveled great time and distance. The sounds are instantly familiar, but never derivative. This is more difficult than it sounds with some of psychedelia's cliches pretty well entrenched in a lot of the past decade's garden-variety indie pop.


As with all great records, the more I listen to it, the more I'm immersed in its atmosphere, unable to stop humming the hooks, and reminded that some of the best pop music draws unapologetically on other sources to create something unique. This is the perfect record for a claustrophobic Colorado winter and its sometimes surreal periods of thaw ("Swim and Sleep Like a Shark" is right up there with George Harrison at his most melancholic), and almost every song on the album is a different point of departure. When I'm not wearing out II, these are some of the records it's sent me back to:

T-Rex: Electric Warrior - Singer Ruban Nielson often channels Marc Bolan pretty convincingly, albeit in a more lo-fi mode. "So Good at Being in Trouble" has more than a few things in common with "Cosmic Dancer." "No Need for a Leader" wouldn't be out of place alongside a track like "Jeepster."

The Clientele: Suburban Light - The Clientele's early output hits the perfect equilibrium between songwriting and sonics. The intentionally reverb-drenched sound of these early singles makes the songs sound timeless, like forgotten Donovan or Nuggets-era one-offs blaring out of a transistor radio.

Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information - Otis gives these songs a sense of huge scale, despite the fact that much of it was recorded at home with him playing all of the instruments. It's worth a listen not only for the endlessly soloing guitars of the famous "Strawberry Letter 23," but also for some truly weird experiments with an early drum machine.   

Jean-Michel Jarre: Oxygene - I enjoy "Dawn," a brief synthesizer piece towards the end of II, more than I should, perhaps because I have a soft spot for the self-indulgence the instrument has encouraged in everyone from Genesis to Daft Punk. Jarre was one of the best at making moody pieces that take themselves a little too seriously, a vein that's still mined pretty heavily by the likes of Daniel Lopatin. In this case, it comes at just the right time and sticks around just long enough to set the stage for the standout "Faded in the Morning."

Ty Segall: Goodbye Bread - Garage Rock. Plain and simple. And as on many of UMO's more upbeat tracks, Ty Segall's band get as much out of the formula as they can. "My head explodes"could be a description of the sublime, or a just a mission statement.

Joanna, Standley Lake Library

Do you ever have days that leave you feeling as if you've been run over by a train? You know the best remedy for that? Exercise! You know what makes that even better? Music! And where's a great place to try out new music? The library! 

I love it when the lyrics or the beat can put a spring back in my step and help me combat those stress chemicals. Here are a few songs from my current playlist that restores me to a semblance of "I'm okay and the world is okay."

"Born this way" by Lady Gaga, from Born this Way

"Don't hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you're set"

"Don't Bring me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra, from All Over the World

"Daddy I'm fine" by Sinéad O'Connor, from Faith and Courage

"I'm going away to London
I got myself a big fat plan
I'm gonna be a singer in a rock 'n' roll band
And I'm gonna change everything I can"

"Private Conversation" by Lyle Lovett, from The Road to Ensenada

"And the moral of this story
Is I guess it's easier said than done
To look at what you've been through
And to see what you've become"

"Keep on singin' my song" by Christina Aguilera, from Stripped

"They can say all they wanna say about me
But I'm gonna carry on
I'm gonna keep on singing my song"

"Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO, from Sorry for Party Rocking

"Perfect" by Pink, from Greatest Hits -- So Far!

"They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
We change ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that? Why do I do that?"


Sean, Standley Lake Library

Have you heard of the Digital Public Library of America? It's a non-profit organization that's taking historical works and archives from several state libraries and cultural organizations and making them available to patrons from all over the world. Part library, part museum, the Digital Public Library of America offers over 2.4 million free resources, has incredible exhibitions of art, photographs and manuscripts, and includes collections from the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives.

Their website launched just the other day, and it's a great place to go for anyone interested in exploring our history and shared heritage. The wealth of information it conveys is suitable for students at all levels, and contains fascinating insights into thousands of topics. Of course, you don't have to be doing research to enjoy the DPLA! You can think of their site as the ultimate highbrow timewaster! (And come on, you were probably getting tired of playing Pacman, right)?

Kay, Golden Library

We all know music influences our moods and energy. Here is some of my favorite music to bring about a calm and relaxed mood. This music is perfect for the end of the day or, perhaps for yoga or meditation.

Music for Healing and Unwinding by Steven Halpern - Halpern has been creating this kind of music since 1975 and this 2005 CD was my introduction to his music. The library has many more by this musician.

Dakshina by Deva Premal - This is beautiful hypnotic and meditative vocal music.

Through a Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion by Lisa Spector - This also works great for humans. These classical pieces are beautifully arranged for on a single piano.

Self-Healing with Sound and Music by Dr. Andrew Weil with music by Kimba Arem - If you’re interested in the ideas behind healing music, check out this audiobook. This two CD set includes one of Dr. Weil speaking about the healing effects of music and one of music composed by classically trained Kimba Arem using a variety of instruments.

Looking for more like this? Try searching the library for Music for Relaxation.

What are some of your favorites?

Sunshine, Columbine Library

Alternative Country, also known as Alt-Country, is a loosely defined sub-genre of country which can combine any of the following: country, rock, rockabilly, bluegrass, folk rock, and punk.  If you want to learn more about Alternative Country listen to these CDs:

Sean, Standley Lake Library

Oh, Lou Lou!

So have you heard the travesty that is Lou Reed’s latest work, Lulu? Using Metallica as his backing band, Reed has created what many critics are calling the single worst album ever made. You can decide for yourself by getting the CD through the library, but please don’t retaliate afterward by doing something rash like petitioning to cut off our funding.

It’s definitely a strange collaboration, foreshadowed by a notorious live performance of “Sweet Jane” in 2009. Who in the world could listen to this and think, “Wow, Metallica and Lou Reed sound great together!” Only a pairing of Snoop Dogg and Kenny Rogers rapping Christmas songs while the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blares away in the background might be worse (though TSO can make almost anything sound classy).

The Lou Reed/Mettalica train wreck aside, I love it when different musicians team up in odd ways to produce something unexpected and jaw-dropping without being unlistenable. JCPL happens to have a few of my favorites:

Raising Sand  – Rock god Robert Plant meets bluegrass fiddler Alison Krauss. This is a warm, rich album that caught everyone off-guard.

Seeking Major Tom  – Captain Kirk covers a lot of famous songs with a host of equally famous artists, including Brad Paisley and Peter Frampton.

Distant Relatives  – Rap meets Reggae as Nas works with Damian Marley on an album concerned with the well-being of Africa.

Duets - Lots of artists produce duet CDs, but I think this is one of the cooler ones, as opera star Pavoratti hooks up with everyone from Eric Clapton to Frank Sinatra to Lionel Ritchie while covering opera and pop rock standards.

Turtleneck and Chain - SNL’s Andy Samberg’s hilarious band is back with a ton of weird collaborations with celebrities, including director John Waters, Beck and Michael Bolton.

Emily, Columbine Library

For most of us, the closest we'll ever get to living like a rock star is reading a musician's biography or memoir.  The library has a great selection of the most entertaining, shocking, and inspiring stories you'll want to check out!  Tell us about your favorites.

Kathleen, Lakewood Library


The recent reissue of the first Bikini Kill EP has got me thinking again about the band and the lasting influence of the Riot Grrrl movement. Sara Marcus' Girls to the Front: the true story of the riot grrrl revolution is the perfect companion to the reissue, along with these essentials from Riot Grrrl's past and future.

The Scream - Siouxsie and the Banshees: One of many figures often pointed to as an early model for Riot Grrrl, Siouxsie defied categorization. Even her cover of the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" is in a class by itself.

Blood and Guts in High School - Kathy Acker: The story goes that Kathleen Hannah talked herself into an interview with Acker, who told her to start a band. 

Who Took the Bomp?: Le Tigre on Tour - This DVD captures Hannah's post-Bikini Kill synth punk project at the height of its powers.

Dig Me Out - Sleater Kinney: Corinne Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17 formed Sleater Kinney in 1994. The addition of drummer Janet Weiss on this 1997 album added a heaviness that made them one of the best live bands around for the rest of their career. 

Wild Flag - Wild Flag: Features Brownstein, Weiss and Mary Timony of Autoclave. Memorable hooks, guitar freak-outs, huge John-Bonham-esque drums, and solid songwriting to boot. One of my favorites of 2011.

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