Staff Picks: That’s What She Said #2

It’s been too long. Far too long. And so, the conditions are perfect for a new Staff Picks. Even better, it’s a That’s What She Said. Who doesn’t like one of those? And who doesn’t like the music taste of a Murfie staffer?

Ms. Alyssa, you’re up to bat!

Little Bit ~ Wounded Rhymes – Lykke Li
Have you ever heard this lady? Yes? *High five* No? Get on it. There are two albums here. I tried really hard to just pick one. Too difficult. It’s a tie! Get ’em both. Wounded Rhymes is the newer of the two, and has plenty of strong suites. I’ll say though, that Little Bit, with only four tracks, really packs a punch. Depending on the track, Li’s voice goes from forceful to sleepy, and it always seems to float in just the right way over everything else. Throughout both of these albums, she’s direct and thoughtful and most everything in-between.

Treats – Sleigh Bells
Sleigh Bells is comprised of one man – Derek E. Miller, former guitarist for hardcore band Poison the Well – and one woman – Alexis Krauss, once part of a short-lived teen pop group. While the combination of their musical backgrounds might seem like a train wreck, upon hearing the album, you’ll understand the beauty of this pairing. Krauss’s sweet-voiced vocals over the top of Miller’s power chords and gritty guitar: it works. The album moves effortlessly through myriad genres, from metal to punk to electronic to pop. The sound is big without being too big. “Rill Rill” is hands down my favorite track off the album. So much so that it took me awhile to get around to the rest of the songs, where I discovered that “Tell ‘Em” is a close second.

w h o k i l l – tUnE-yArDs
At first I was like, whoa. There’s a lot going on here. And then I settled into it. Eventually I got over the stylization of their name as well. (Come on – I can’t help it. My BA and MA in English make me real snotty like that.) Lo-fi is the name of the game with this music project put forth by Merrill Garbus. The album is lovely and easily listened to all the way through. Though I almost always forget to address the actual song content, I’ll say that the lyrics are worth noting as well. Plenty of food for thought within the layers of sound.

Staff Picks: Operation Splitsville

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

A bad breakup. We’ve all been there. The kind of split that involves tears, beer, and an inflated sense of self-importance. The kind where a change of clothes loses its meaning. The kind whose only cure is a good breakup song. So, what’s your drug, er album of choice?

So, who’s takin’ on the challenge, Ethan Hunt style, this week? Drum roll, please…it’s…staffers Alyssa, Will, and Leah!

Alyssa picks All Day – Girl Talk
“The best way to get over a bad breakup is with some bold dance moves and profuse booty shakin’. Start here.”

Will picks Dude Ranch – Blink-182
“I’ll let the lyrics do the talking.”
Pathetic – “There’s no more waiting and sure no more wasting. I’ve done all I can but she still wants to be left alone.”
Dammit – “And it’s happened once again. I’ll turn to a friend. Someone that understands, sees through the master plan. Well I guess this is growing up.”
Apple Shampoo – “It isn’t exciting reciting the stories. Of kind words turned hurting when routine get boring…The start was something good. But some good things must end.”
Josie – “I know that everything’s gonna be fine.”
I’m Sorry – “And I know it hurts. But you’re just getting older. And I know you’ll win. You’ll do it once again.”

Leah picks The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most – Dashboard Confessional
“Raw emotion. Chris Carrabba’s lyrics may border on the clichéd and melodramatic, but if you’re in the midst of a breakup, it feels like he’s perfectly articulating each awful feeling you have. The best pick for curling up in bed and bawling your eyes out.”

Staff Picks: That’s What She Said

Yippee! We got some more kick-butt albums for you to try out. But you don’t have to take my word for it. These picks are compliments of Alyssa, and she sells each one, hard. (Hard enough to consider a career as a car salesman?…you be the judge.)

Pickin’ Up The Pieces – Fitz and The Tantrums
First, don’t hate – forgive them for the fact that their song was used on a Desperate Housewives promo. Second, be warned – this album is addicting. Don’t look for a deeper meaning in the lyrics (aside from some purposeful angst over unrequited love and heartbreak), but definitely look for a really good time. Your calves will hurt from tapping your toes and before you know it, your palms will too, because try as you may, you won’t be able to suppress the urge to drum them on whatever surface is nearest: desk, steering wheel, thighs. Solid album with plenty of handclaps and tambourine.

Mariachi El Bronx (II) – Mariachi El Bronx
Everything changes when you realize that these guys are a punk band (The Bronx) that moonlights as a mariachi band. (Seriously.) Even if you’re lukewarm (or downright frozen) about mariachi music, give this a whirl. Some parts of the album remind me of Los Lobos’ earlier music (à la Kiko), and that’s no crime. Although, Mariachi El Bronx tends to have more variety genre-wise as they move quite fluently from straight-up norteno to bolero to acoustic ballads. The entire album is solid and my initial hesitation at the word “mariachi” melted away as each track passed. Folks, I’m into it. Quite possibly my most favorite find of the year so far.

Road to Ensenada – Lyle Lovett
Is it because I’ve seen this guy in concert twice within three weeks and that he puts on an incredible live show? Maybe. But probably it’s more so that Lyle Lovett knows what the hell time it is. If I had a better music vocabulary, I would describe how incredible of a songwriter he is and what exactly he does with his guitar and how the simplicity of the drums, his voice and a guitar make you want to cry, laugh and dance all in one fell swoop. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, stop wasting time and just listen to this album.

Staff Picks: Operation Bad Day

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Let’s say you’ve just had the worst day of your life. The mad, not sad, kinda Bad Day. The punch-a-hole-in-the-wall kinda Bad Day. What’s the go-to album you’d put on to feed, or vanquish, that anger?

So, who’s takin’ on the challenge, Ethan Hunt style, this week? Drum roll, please…it’s…staffers Tyler, Victor, and Leah!

Tyler picks 8 Mile: Soundtrack – Eminem, Various Artists
“What better artist to relate your anger to than Eminem? Enough said.”

Victor picks Blackout – Dropkick Murphys
“If I’m having a ready-to-throw-my-fist kind of day, there’s nothing like an entire album about drinking and fighting. Blackout will definitely feed the mood, but only so I can get it all out of my system.”

Leah picks Pink Moon – Nick Drake
“There’s something incredibly de-stressing and calming about this album. The hushed, warm, intimate quality of Nick’s voice combined with his gorgeous acoustic guitar work and simple lyrics seem to put things in perspective. Slows the world down and gives you time to just reflect – and let go of your anger.”

Staff Picks: That’s What He Said

Staffer Mitch (that’s his proper name ;-), per usual, gives us some fantastic albums, with excellent commentary, to check out. Don’t wait! – get ’em while they’re still hot + fresh.

Game Theory – The Roots
One of the best hip hop albums to come out in the last decade. A perfect balance of The Roots’ grimy aesthetic and top-notch songwriting. This record transcends genre, creating a sonic experience that is a true piece of art. From the furiously energetic “Don’t Feel Right” to the deeply personal, hauntingly beautiful “Clock with No Hands,” Game Theory is an incredible record from an incredible band.

Blur – Blur
For those who aren’t dedicated fans, Blur is defined by “Song 2”: the WOO-HOO! song. Though it was turned into a mindless party anthem through commercial placement, and written off as such, it resides on one of the most brilliant rock albums released during the 90s. While the observational Britpop of their previous album Parklife bleeds over into this record, it’s balanced out by a huge diversity of sounds reflecting punk rock, country, hip hop, and even calliope, and somehow retains cohesiveness and narrative.

Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By – Lovage
Dan the Automator is the producer behind a number of excellent (and unusual) hip-hop concept projects, including Deltron 3030 and the first album from Gorillaz. On this record, he teams up with Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles, crafting a collection of sultry male/female duets over laid-back, almost Gainsbourgesque beats. Other contributors on this album include turntable virtuoso Kid Koala, producer Prince Paul, Blur’s Damon Albarn, and even Afrika Bambaataa.

Staff Picks: Operation Hermit

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

You’re laying low this weekend. You’ve already nixed all invitations to dinner parties, debutante balls, and charity events. Your social calendar is at a zero. You think – just because I prefer to stay home for a few days doesn’t make me a hermit…right? Right. Now that you’ve steeled yourself for a low-key weekend, what album would you put on to enjoy the solitary life?

So, who’s takin’ on the challenge, Ethan Hunt style, this week? Drum roll, please…it’s…staffers Tynan, Tyler, and Victor!

Tynan picks So Sudden – The Hush Sound
“Perfect for a quiet weekend. It’s full of great tracks that make it the perfect record to have on repeat for a few days. Not so mellow as to put you to sleep, also not a banger that’s going to distract you from whatever you’re doing on your weekend hiatus.”

Tyler picks The Clarence Greenwood Recordings – Citizen Cope
“A definite go-to album. Can’t go wrong with tracks like ‘Son’s Gonna Rise,’ ‘Bullet and a Target,’ and ‘Sideways.’ The album has a mixture of easy listening and up-beat alternative rock with a hint of reggae that’ll definitely keep you entertained.”

Victor picks Ten – Pearl Jam
“Much of the album is about loneliness and isolation (actually, just about all of it is, one way or another), but I didn’t even choose it for that reason. It’s just a great record to listen to from start to finish – and to reflect on the early 90s and all the things I wish I had been old enough to enjoy.”

Staff Picks: Operation Road Trip

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

You’ve inexplicably agreed to road trip it somewhere hot and dusty with a friend you only semi-like. It’ll be a grueling, straight-shot, 1500-mile journey. Pit stops not allowed. Only emergencies. Unless you come prepared with some killer music, you’ll be gnawing on PBJs and slurping lukewarm Gatorade to a soundtrack of prattle, dull background noise, and I Spy. The pressure is SO on: if you’re going to survive this trip, what three albums do you have to bring along?

So, who’s takin’ on the challenge, Ethan Hunt style, this week? Drum roll, please…it’s…staffer Alyssa! Ok, now let’s see how this edition* of Mission: (Im)Possible went. Alyssa picks:

Parliament’s Greatest Hits – Parliament
“In that car ride, I’d definitely want to get funked up.”

The Very Best of Aretha Franklin – Aretha Franklin
“She’s Aretha. And I love her.”

Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump – De La Soul
“Posdnuos, Dave, and Maseo make any trip interesting – I can’t listen to this album enough, and it’s one of those rare ones where I never skip a song.”

*Look for brand spanking new Staff Picks every week. New situations…new staffers…GOOD TIMES. It’s pretty much a win-win for y’all: music + the people behind Murfie. :-)