Staff Picks: Spring Edition

This week we like…

Even though the sky outside the Murfie Ops Room window is grey today, over the last week it has been impossible to deny that another Wisconsin winter can soon be safely put into the books. Aside from flip-flops, barbecue, and sometimes a rain jacket, the only thing necessary to celebrate the season of Spring properly is some sunshine music. This week we bring you four albums that we think will complement the warm, breezy days to which we have been looking forward.

Beck: “Midnite Vultures”

One of the greatest musical moments of 1999 was the awesome video to Beck’s “Sexx Laws,” off his album “Midnite Vultures.” Featuring broom guitars, a banjo-playing zebra, and Kenny G surrounded by football players, the video and song encapsulate everything that is great about a Spring day: bright colors, humor, and funky, funky horns.

Jimmy Cliff: “In Concert – The Best of Jimmy Cliff”

HTML tutorialReleased in 1976, this live set from reggae rocker Jimmy Cliff includes performances of some of his music from the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come, in which Cliff also starred. The film’s title track is the standout here, along with the uplifting “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” and the more thoughtful “Many Rivers to Cross,” a perfect song for April Showers.

Sly and the Family Stone: “Greatest Hits”

HTML tutorialQuite possibly the most triumphant, blazingly joyful warm-weather music of all time. Released in 1970, and including singles from the albums “Stand!,” “Life,” and “Dance to the Music,” this record smiles at you through the speakers. Standout tracks include “Everyday People” (video) and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (video). Truly a classic.

The Beach Boys: “Pet Sounds”

Not much needs to be said about this one. The band who brings you eternal sunshine.

Staff Picks: April Fools

This week we like…Music that makes us laugh

It’s that time of year again…that’s right, the special day where we tell our friends we won the lottery or slip ex-lax into the boss’ coffee. In the spirit of this holiday, we are here with four selections from the Murfie vault that make us laugh. All these albums and more are available for sale or trade on (and that’s no joke).

Wesley Willis: “Greatest Hits”

HTML tutorialChicago-based musician and visual artist Wesley Willis gained a massive cult following in the 90s with a prodigious output of bizarre, humorously obscene music. Despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia, Willis enjoyed a career spanning more than fifty albums. This Greatest Hits collection contains the classic Willis tracks “Rock N’ Roll McDonald’s” and “I Wupped Batman’s Ass.”

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: “Come Poop With Me”

HTML tutorialIn 1997, Saturday Night Live comedian and animator Robert Smigel debuted his “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Building a following by berating celebrities and the general public, “Triumph” has leveled his low-brow wit at targets including Star Wars fans, presidential candidates, French Canadians, and Eminem.

Weird Al Yankovic: “Running with Scissors”

HTML tutorialIn 1976, Southern California radio personality Dr. Demento played a demo called “Belvedere Cruising” by 16-year-old Al Yankovic. In the thirty-five years since, “Weird Al” Yankovic has released twelve studio albums featuring parodies of popular songs of the time, as well as touring all over the globe and writing and directing the hilarious film UHF. “Running with Scissors” contains parodies of Don McLean’s “American Pie” (“The Saga Begins”) and Puff Daddy’s “It’s All About the Benjamins” (“It’s All About the Pentiums”).

Die Gerd Show: “Die Show mit Gerd und Pferd”

HTML tutorialDie Gerd Show was a comedy program broadcast on Germany’s Eins Live (WDR). It gained popularity for its host’s spot-on impressions of then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, as well as “Weird Al” Yankovic-style parodies of contemporary German pop hits. This album also contains a bizarre cameo by Murfie lead programmer and amateur German-language stand-up comedian, Phillip Crawford…April Fools!

Staff Picks: Electronica

This week we like…Electronica

To honor the launch of our new digital music download function, this week’s Staff Picks is dedicated to the best of our Electronica collection.  Like Murfie, all of these albums are a surprising mix of digital and analog, and all are excellent. 

Thievery Corporation: “The Richest Man in Babylon”

HTML tutorialThis Washington, D.C.-based DJ duo draws on reggae, dub, middle eastern, and bossa nova influences and distills them into a suave, psychedelic electro-lounge sound.  “The Richest Man in Babylon” was produced with the help of a cadre of international singers and session musicians, and includes songs in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Persian.

Morcheeba: “The Big Calm”

Morcheeba was started in the mid-90s in Britain by brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey and vocalist Skye Edwards.  After establishing a modish, trip-hop aesthetic with their first album, “Who Can You Trust,” the group expanded on their Rhodes-based, downtempo sound with the release of “The Big Calm,” a more sunny, pop-influenced album.  This album includes the single “The Sea,” which saw minor success on radio and television.

Portishead: “Portishead”

HTML tutorialAnother British electronica group, Portishead displays a considerably darker and less polished sound than the other offerings here.  Their 1997 self-titled album was released after three years of media aversion, and spawned several highly regarded singles.  The video for one of these singles, “Only You,” was produced by Chris Cunningham, and remains one of the most haunting music videos of the 1990s.

Daft Punk: “Homework”

“Homework” is the debut album of French duo Daft Punk, and easily the liveliest of the albums presented here.  Mixing influences ranging from 80’s Disco to Detroit and Chicago House culture to FM radio compression algorithms, this album is a squiggly, bouncing, thumping ode to electronic dance music.

Staff Picks: Soundtracks

This week we like…Soundtracks

In honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, we at Murfie decided to dedicate this week’s staff picks to the film and TV soundtracks that have made their way across our desks recently.  Some are old, some are new, but all have been hand-selected for the enjoyment of you, the Murfieist.

Jacques Loussier/Ennio Morricone: “Dark of the Sun/Guns for San Sebastian”

Dark SunDark of the Sun is a violent adventure film from 1968 set in the Congo, with a score by French pianist Jacques Loussier.  Several tracks from Loussier’s soundtrack were later re-used in the film Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino, a confirmed fan of the original film.  Also included is the score to The Guns for San Sebastian, a Spaghetti Western also from 1968 that starred Charles Bronson and Anthony Quinn.  This score was composed by Ennio Morricone, easily one of the most influential popular composers of his time, and remembered mostly for his scores to several of director Sergio Leone’s best Spaghetti Westerns, including A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Dust Brothers: “Fight Club”

David Fincher’s 1999 adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club suffered from one of the worst marketing campaigns in history, and was one of the most critically reviled films that year.  However, after its release to DVD, it quickly became an established cult hit due to its striking cinematography, gleefully dark performances, and of course its playful and haunting soundtrack by The Dust Brothers, known for their revolutionary work with the Beastie Boys and Beck.

Bernard Herrmann: “Taxi Driver”

Taxi DriverMartin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver, a violent tale of the isolation and paranoia of city life in America, was dedicated to Bernard Herrmann, whose score for the film was his last.  Herrmann was well known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, having scored Pyscho and Vertigo, and is also responsible for the unmistakable theme to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone television series.  Herrmann’s score for Taxi Driver is jarring and evocative, and “Diary of a Taxi Driver” features Robert DeNiro’s iconic opening voiceover.

Air: “The Virgin Suicides”

Sofia Coppola’s 1999 adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel The Virgin Suicides is a haunting exercise in both dark melodrama and understated 1970s period style.  The French electronic duo Air supplied a fantastic soundtrack for this film, one which contributed to both the surreality of the film and the palatability of its dark subject matter.  The soundtrack revolves around the bittersweet single “Playground Love,” featuring vocals by Gordon Tracks, and is capable of standing by itself as an album of nostalgic, dreamy electronic grooves.

Staff Picks: Underground Hip Hop

This week we like…Underground Hip Hop

Introducing a new weekly (let’s hope!) section. While working in the Murfie ingest room, we sometimes come across CDs our customers have sent in that we know and love – and think you should know too.  So we’ve decided to begin posting some of our favorites, to help get the word out about what we’re up to here and to give those of you who already know first crack at some of the best music to come through the Murfie vault.  This week has brought in a lot of excellent underground hip hop, and I’ve chosen four of my personal favorites.

The Gravediggaz: “Six Feet Deep”

Gravediggaz Six Feet DeepAfter the huge success of Wu-Tang Clan’s debut, “Enter the 36 Chambers,” producer/MC RZA teamed up with Prince Paul and brought us Gravediggaz, a grimy, goofy album of horror-movie themed hip hop.

Sway & King Tech Present: “The Wake-Up Show Freestyles Vol. 7”

Wake Up Show FreestylesThe Wake-Up Show is a nationally syndicated hip hop radio show hosted by Sway & King Tech, perhaps best known for being the vehicle which brought a young Eminem to the attention of Dr. Dre.  This volume of Wake-Up Show Freestyles includes drops from Common, Raekwon, Dead Prez, and Chicago freestyle phenomenon Juice.

Okayplayer: “Truenotes Vol. 1”

OkayPlayerRoots drummer Amir “Questlove” Thompson founded Okayplayer in 1987 as an informal musical community, and it has since evolved into a tastemaking online platform for some of the best underground hip-hop artists both here and internationally.  This Okayplayer sponsored mixtape includes exclusive tracks from Little Brother, The Roots, Jean Grae, Rjd2, and Blackalicious, many of which are not available elsewhere.

Various Artists: “High School High Soundtrack”

High School HighThis may seem like a strange choice, but the soundtrack to this 1996 Jon Lovitz vehicle is full of standout tracks from the Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, Grand Puba, and Lil’ Kim.  My personal favorite, however, is a bizarrely awesome R&B cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by a little-known group called The Braids.