Christmas Music for Grinches

Ok, I’ll admit it: I am a Grinch. Christmas is my least favorite holiday. Why do I despise Christmas? Well, one reason is the music. Most Christmas music is cheesy commercial schlock that gets stuck in your head and torments you for days on end. Worst of all, starting on Black Friday, it is virtually inescapable every time you step into a store or public place. Having worked in retail for 4+ years, I know how soul-killing it can be to hear the monotonous strains of “The Little Drummer Boy” for the fifth time in an hour. Thankfully, I have also discovered some Christmas albums that don’t make me want to plug my ears with wax until January 1st. Check ‘em out, fellow Grinches! Continue reading “Christmas Music for Grinches”

Music + Books = Delightful Synergy

Music and reading are subjects that, separately, many people are passionately enthusiastic about.  transatlanticism_cover_thumbBut what about great music-book pairings for those of us who love them both?  A way to soundtrack our reading, if you will.  For my own personal love match, there is something about the Death Cab for Cutie album Transatlanticism that I feel goes perfectly with the novel A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami, even if I can’t describe exactly why.  How about you?  Do you ever feel like a band, or an album, perfectly ties in to and accentuates the reading of a particular work?  To get you brainstorming, here are some books that use music to help tell their stories.

In Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, music and pop culture critic Greil Marcus uses The Sex Pistols’ album Never mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols to tell the history of the 20th century, tying the punk movement to other cultural revolts such as the Dadaists and the May 1968 French student uprising.  It is impossible to read even the introduction without an intense need to hear the songs described.

Nick Hornby, an English author, has two books that feature music heavily.  In High Fidelity (you may remember the movie with John Cusack), his narrator is obsessed with music and music matters, and structures his life by it, endlessly composing top-five lists (top five Elvis Costello songs; top five albums) as he works at a record store and tries to overcome a breakup.  This is a book that begs for a playlist to accompany it.  Another of Hornby’s books, Songbook, is an enthusiastic description of his thirty-one favorite songs, and comes with its own mix CD of eleven of the song, so you don’t have to do the legwork.

33 1/3 is a series of short books written by journalists, musicians, and fans image of stack of 33.3 books courtesy of jgarber on flickrthat focus on specific albums.  The range here is terrific: you can read an oral history of the Magnetic Fields triple album 69 Love Songs as told by participants, fans, and imitators in LD Beghtol’s 69 Love Songs: A Field Guide (and for those who like pictures, check out graphic renditions of the album at this blog); hear about Colin Meloy’s teenage discovery of the band The Replacements in Let It Be; and in Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste Carl Wilson makes a year-long, good faith effort to love Celine Dion, asking along the way why we love the albums we do.  Those are just three of the twelve books we own in this series.

Read & Listen: White Bicycles

The first in an occasional series in which we pair reviews of music criticism/history books with a list of accompanying albums for your reading and listening pleasure.

READ: Walking off the baseball field of his Connecticut prep school one evening in the late 1950s, Joe Boyd heard the strains of the most recent Fats Domino single and was struck by the sudden realization that he wanted to be a record producer. This epiphany led Boyd down a long and twisting career path in which he discovered some of the most gifted musicians of the 1960s and helped create ground-breaking music that still enthralls listeners today. In White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Boyd gives a clear-eyed and captivating account of his experiences making music in this tumultuous decade on both sides of the Atlantic. Want to know what really happened when Dylan went electric at Newport in 1965? Or experience the sounds, smells & sights of swinging psychedelic London at its peak in 1967? Perhaps you’re curious about what it was like that day in the studio when Richard Thompson met Nick Drake. Read this book and find the answers to these questions, plus the story of the Blues & Gospel Caravan’s triumphant tour of Europe in 1964, the Incredible String Band’s adventures in Scientology, Pink Floyd’s rapid ascent from the London underground to the pop Continue reading “Read & Listen: White Bicycles”

On the hunt for the latest CD by your favorite band?

Are you a visual learner? Hoping to find that hot new movie or CD at Seattle Public Library but not sure how to search the catalog? We are experimenting – Let’s us know what you think. Just click to start the video. And then start power searching the SPL Catalog .