Tag Archives: music

Joanne by Lady Gaga (2016)

joanneI have not been able to stop listening to Lady Gaga’s newest album Joanne. The album is named in tribute to her long-deceased Aunt Joanne, who passed away at the age of 19 and Gaga never had a chance to meet.

Gaga’s previous albums are much more glam/dance/pop and Joanne is a refreshingly stripped-down showcase of Gaga’s incredible vocal and musical talents.  There is a lot of variety on Joanne – it’s a little bit country, a whole lot of rock, and at times has Latin and Motown influences.

A few of my favorite tracks include: “A-YO” (a party tune that’s just plain fun);  “Joanne” (a heartbreaking acoustic ballad written to her late aunt);  “Hey Girl” (a funky duet with Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine); “John Wayne” (a crowd-pleasing guitar-heavy anthem); “Just Another Day” (perhaps a tribute to the late David Bowie or the Beatles); and “Million Reasons” (a beautiful catchy ballad that you won’t want to stop playing on repeat).  All the songs on this album truly showcase Lady Gaga’s absolutely stunning vocals and her incredible range as an artist.

If you don’t want to wait for the CD, stream it instantly via Hoopla!

Emotion (2015) & Emotion: Side B (2016) by Carly Rae Jepsen

emotionYou might not know any of Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs other than “Call Me Maybe,” but this girl is anything but a one-hit wonder. Jepsen is the Canadian Pop Queen and her 2015 album, E-MO-TION will have you bobbing your head and dancing in your seat to a mix of modern pop and 80s synth sounds. Some of the best songs to check out on this album are “Run Away with Me,” “Boy Problems,” and “L.A. Hallucinations.”

sidebIn 2016, Jepsen released Side B, which is an 8-track of songs that didn’t make it onto the original E-MO-TION collection. What counts as a B Side for Jepsen would be a smash hit on an A Side for anyone else. Even for a small collection of cut songs, Side B is creating a lot of buzz, both critically and among fans. My favorite songs here are “Higher,” “The One,” and “Body Language.”

Want to lift your mood a little? Watch the music video below for Jepsen’s “I Really Like You,” featuring special guest, Tom Hanks! Afterwards, you can check out E-MO-TION on CD or check out both albums instantly through Hoopla.

What We Live For by American Authors (2016)

5a7092e49e8fe81c0acce9e4525147bd-600x600x1As a huge fan of the 2014 single “Best Day of My Life,” I was excited to discover American Authors’ sophomore effort. What We Live For is an upbeat, feel good alternative pop/rock album. Especially catchy are the songs “Go Big or Go Home” and “Nothing Better.” Give it a listen to lift your mood. For fans of OneRepublic and Fun.

Good news: listen instantly on Hoopla (or check out the CD).

This Is What the Truth Feels Like by Gwen Stefani (2016)

gwenstefaniGwen Stefani has had quite the year. After a much publicized divorce from Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Stefani was on the edge of a breakdown. Much like the breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom (No Doubt – 1995), This Is What the Truth Feels Like takes a familiar tone and reflects what Stefani has been through.

The lead single “Used to Love You” gives listeners Stefani’s true emotion, showing her pain of the love she lost—but the album is not full of anger and disappointment. The album sheds light on Gwen’s newfound love with fellow The Voice coach Blake Shelton with other singles “Make Me Like You” and “Misery.” This album is a fresh breath of air from the insecurities she has displayed in previous albums about Rossdale. It is definitely worth the listen.

This Is The Truth Feels Like is Gwen’s first solo album to hit #1 on the Billboard top 200 charts. Get the CD in the library or download the album instantly on Hoopla.

Spotlight: Jazz Vocalists–Some New Recordings

straightnochaserThe Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern  by Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap (2015)

Tony Bennett and pianist Charlap give the gold medal treatment to some lesser known songs by Jerome Kern such as “Yesterdays” and “I’m Old Fashioned.” Bennett’s voice has aged, but he still has a way with a song and he allows Charlap to occasionally take center stage. A piano and the great Bennett is all it takes to deliver.

macfarlane2No One Ever Tells You by Seth MacFarlane (2015)

MacFarlane’s love for Sinatra comes across in his delivery of these standards. MacFarlane’s style is perhaps too idolizing of Sinatra. His rendition of “Only the Lonely” seems modeled exactly to Sinatra’s phrasing. But MacFarlane, although not revolutionary, sings with a smooth, articulate voice that lands pleasantly on the ear.

foronetoloveFor One to Love by Cecile McLorin Salvant (2015)

Salvant delivers a mixture of original songs and standards with a definite jazz style. She makes the standards her own while still honoring the music and understanding the lyric. In this outing, besides her original compositions, Salvant sings some musical hits including “The Stepsister’s Lament” from Cinderella and “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.

Spotlight: Acapella

After watching Pitch Perfect, a hilarious comedy about dueling college acapella groups, I started exploring more recent music in this style.

straightnochaserThe New Old Fashioned by Straight No Chaser (2015)

The group’s fifth album includes their unique take on some of today’s biggest hits: I particularly enjoyed “All About that Bass (No Tenors)” and “Shut Up and Dance.” They also feature mashups of popular songs, but the best track is “The Movie Medley,” which features the soundtracks and hilarious commentary about famous movies including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump. Also available on Hoopla.

pentatonixPentatonix  by Pentatonix (2015)

In their most recent studio album, Pentatonix moves from covering popular hits to releasing all original material. Pentatonix is a catchy mix of upbeat songs that will tempt you to sing and dance along with the group. Particularly enjoyable is “Sing.”

And did you know? You can check out Pentatonix as Team Canada in Pitch Perfect 2.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I don’t mention the soundtracks to both Pitch Perfect (especially “Bellas Finals” featuring a mashup of six songs) and its sequel Pitch Perfect 2 (look for “Anyway You Want It” performed by five groups). Also available on Hoopla.

Rare Bird Alert by Steve Martin (2011)

rarebirdAlthough this isn’t a new album, it’s possible that many people haven’t heart of it. And since it’s one of my favorites, I felt an obligation to shine a light on it. Rare Bird Alert is a modern bluegrass album by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. What’s that you ask, “Steve Martin of SNL and Pink Panther fame?” Why yes. For fans of Martin, this is good news, since his comedic chops do shine through here, but true bluegrass enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook this album.

Rare Bird Alert includes purely instrumental songs like “The Great Remember,” soothing and meandering, and “Northern Island,” featuring banjo-picking at lightning speed. On some tracks Martin takes the lead on vocals, and on others the Rangers get the honor. Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks make guest appearances.

I love the range of this album, its humor, and the contrasts created. The hilarious break-up song “Jubilation Day” is lively, and although funny, is also a bona fide bluegrass song, a musical treat. Mellow songs like “More Bad Weather On the Way,” always makes me feel like I’m rowing along a river on a sunny day, and “Women Like To Slow Dance” is actually a fast-paced song fit for dancing a jig! While most of the songs are not comedy-album material, the nonsensical “King Tut” is the most likely to make you laugh out loud. “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…”

Spotlight: Melody Gardot

melodygardotI just discovered Melody Gardot while searching for singers similar to Diana Krall. I recommend her music for vocal jazz enthusiasts who enjoy a little pop and blues. Gardot has an intriguing backstory that may well have informed her style. Lovely orchestration accents the romantic, lyrically wonderful albums.

Some of my favorite songs: “Impossible Love” evokes a French café ambiance, “Goodbye” demonstrates her sensuous chanteuse quality, “Your Heart is as Black as the Night” has a sultry, bluesy vibe, and the vocal style of “So We Meet Again My Heartache” just gives me goosebumps. Don’t miss her delightful version of “Over the Rainbow.”

Check out her albums today: The Absence (2012) and My One and Only Thrill (2009).