Music for Your Workout

Nothing calls for the right music quite like an intense workout. Here are three of my picks to help get you through it!

Daft Punk Random Access MemoriesDaft Punk
Random Access Memories

Daft Punk is known to always deliver a surprise, and their latest work is no exception. The surprises began when one of the world’s best-know and best-loved Electronic Dance Music artists released an album that was much more ’70s/’80s pop, rock and disco  than it was EDM. As the opening track states, this album is a breath of fresh air; a work that announced its mission was to “Give Life Back to Music”.

The overall production quality of this album is absolutely superb; Daft Punk cut no corners on creating their latest statement. Although their music and instrumentals are fantastic, the real standout is their collaborations with artists they admire. Rather than pigeonholing themselves by working only with a certain type of artist, Daft Punk collaborates with artists young and old, spanning numerous genres, to create a truly well-rounded and interesting product. From Nile Rodgers’ and Pharrell’s turns in “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky” to vocals by famed house DJ Todd Edwards, Daft Punk proves themselves open to a range of influences.

Although the first half of the album gets off to a strong start with tracks like “Giorgio”, Random Access Memories comes alive in its second half. Cuts like “Touch” and “Contact” remind you why Daft Punk stole our hearts in the first place. “Get Lucky” may have been blaring through your speakers all year, but I promise: there’s workout gold–and musical gold–to be found in spades here.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Beyond”, “Touch”

Nas IllmaticNas
Illmatic

In 1994, 20-year-old Nas released an album that garnered very little attention. Fast forward 20 years (can you believe it?), and the up-and-coming rapper who wasn’t old enough to buy a beer is now one of hip-hop’s greatest stars. In those 20 years, Illmatic has become massively acclaimed; it is without a doubt one of the greatest (if not the greatest, but I’m showing my bias) rap albums ever released, and is a welcome counterpart to any workout.

This album is Nas’ homage to the Bridge, the housing projects where he was raised. True to its influence, it brought hip-hope back to New York in the days after West Coast star Dr. Dre released The Chronic. Most importantly, however, it casts Nas as a street poet, the voice of a generation. He narrates his story in a simple but thoughtful way, letting us in on the difficulties of life without losing hope. Nas is a storyteller: with each song’s end comes an unanswered question that leaves you waiting for the next.

My only complaint about this album is its brevity; less than 40 minutes feels like nowhere near long enough. You’ll find yourself on a run, inspired by each and every track, only to have the music end by around mile five. When I’m out running, though, I don’t skip to the next album. I just repeat it. This one’s that good.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “N.Y. State of Mind”, “The World is Yours”

David Guetta Nothing But the BeatDavid Guetta
Nothing But the Beat

You probably know David Guetta as the guy who brought techno sound to the records of everyone from Rihanna to Usher. There’s nothing more workout-inspiring than some guilty-pleasure Top 40 music, and Guetta is the mastermind behind many of today’s top hits. This album, however, proves that he’s not just the man behind the scenes–he’s created tracks that will take you from a run to a night out and back again.

Guetta does a great job of blending genres together to create an effortlessly smooth final product. His signature house-music inspired techno beats somehow fuse together with hip-hop and R&B, creating an irresistible mix of workout-worth sound. This album is nothing groundbreaking, but you can’t deny Guetta’s influence: from Will.i.am to Nicki Minaj to Usher, Nothing But the Beat boasts a star-studded turnout of collaborations.

Where Guetta shines brightest is bringing an artist into his or her element. Whether it’s lending a romantic club beat to crooner Usher or a pulsing, fast-paced rhyme to Nicki Minaj, he knows how to draw artists out and make them shine. That’s what makes this album memorable–Guetta has taken household names and helped them make their best a little bit better.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Titanium”, “Turn Me On”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


Sounds Like New York: The Best of the Empire State

This week, we’re heading east. Check out our reviews of three of the best albums by New York artists!

Paul Simon GracelandPaul Simon
Graceland

Simply put: this album is one of my absolute favorites of all time, and it should be on your list as well. As a solo artist, Simon is like a musical archaeologist, digging up influences from styles of music ranging from blues to salsa to reggae. Graceland represents his move even further away from the pop-rock mainstream charts he topped as part of Simon & Garfunkel. It’s heavily influenced by both South African music and culture, exploring both new sounds and new political statements.

Rather that simply merging African influence with traditional Western sounds, this album commits: Nine of its eleven songs contain elements of mbaqanga, or South African pop music. Much of the recording was done in Johannesberg, and the songs truly soak up the local sound. They also absorb the local politics; Simon’s collaborations with local musicians inherently address controversial issues like apartheid. On the standout track “Homeless”, harmonies by vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo suggest the possibility of peaceful resolution.

The title track, one of Simon’s greatest songs, best represents the album’s attitude. Although the song’s narrator is running from a broken relationship, he runs towards what he believes to be a place of happiness and redemption. Simon is unafraid to examine the dark sides of people and societies, but remains hopeful that there is always light to be found.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Graceland”, “Homeless”

Jay-Z Reasonable DoubtJay-Z
Reasonable Doubt

Although this album was rap legend’s Jay-Z’s first and lowest selling, he himself calls it his best album to date. I’d have to agree: This album is a classic that belongs on the top shelf of any rap lover’s collection. It’s a mastery of execution-—smoothly delivered, easy to listen to, and filled with top-notch collaborations and quick, clever wordplay. In a genre that’s all about delivery, few have mastered the craft as well as Jay-Z does here.

What separates this album from the hundreds of other rap albums released in the ’90s? Jay-Z’s steady flow, witty lyrics, and confident delivery that put him on the map. Although it certainly contains tried-and-true themes of crime tales and street stories, his charisma is all his own. His humor and presence on each track make him a relatable figure who can sell to Middle America as well as he can to his native Brooklyn neighborhoods. This album establishes Jay not only as a rapper, but as a storyteller.

Another highlight on this album is the fantastic array of collaborations that blends in seamlessly. On highlight “Brooklyn’s Finest”, Jay-Z raps along with New York legend Notorious B.I.G. in a track that allows them to work together as equals, but also suggests subtle competition between the two for the song’s title. It seems only fitting that one of rap’s all-time greats would lend a hand on the debut of one of modern music’s most recognizable figures.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “Politics as Usual”

MI0000832128The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico

Velvet Underground vocalist and guitarist Lou Reed‘s death last fall brought this album back into heavy rotation in my collection. It was a reminder of how influential this band has really been: Despite the fact that this album only sold 30,000 copies when it was released, British musician Brian Eno famously said that “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band”. Despite its initial commercial flop, this album has gone on to become one of the most influential of its generation.

This record is, in a word, fearless: In an era most noted for the Summer of Love, it combined lyrics about drug addiction and despair with pounding force and throbbing basslines. Despite its bold statement, it still contains surprising diversity. It moves from the smooth and stripped-down R&B sounds of “There She Goes Again” to the tough punk rock of “Waiting for the Man” without skipping a beat. Although the album’s controversial lyrics have ultimately gained it the most attention (and notoriety), they’re matched by a solid music backing that is equally unique and compelling.

What’s most fascinating is listening to this album after hearing decades of rock and roll develop from the late 1960s onward. After just a few songs in, it’s easy to see that nearly every brand of rock owes credit to this album.  From punk to new wave and everything in between, nearly everything in the rock genre has been influenced by the Velvet Underground’s sound.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “There She Goes Again”, “Sunday Morning”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (May 21st-27th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

300492-large5/21- On this day in 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released the single “Ohio” in reaction to the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings during which unarmed college students were shot by members of the Ohio National Guard.

2174-large5/22- On this day in 1965, The Beatles reached No.1 on the US singles chart with their track “Ticket to Ride”. The song was the group’s eighth No.1 hit. It was also used in the Beatles’ second film Help! and was a part of the film’s soundtrack.

375787-large5/23- On this day in 1970, Paul McCartney‘s debut solo album McCartney began a three-week run atop the US album chart. Apart from a few vocal contributions by Linda McCartney, McCartney performed and recorded the entire album as a solo project.

101405-large5/24- On this day in 1974, jazz legend, bandleader, composer and pianist Duke Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia at age 75. Ellington’s career spanned over 50 years; he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1966, and the United States Mint launched a new coin featuring his face in 2009.

32093-large5/25– On this day in 1968, Simon and Garfunkel‘s fourth studio album Bookends became the duo’s second US No.1 hit. The album was a breakthrough for the pair, launching them to superstar status. It contained their No.1 hit single “Mrs. Robinson”, which went on to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

12589-large5/26- On this day in 1990, the top five positions on the US singles chart were held by female artists for the first time. Madonna was at No.1 with “Vogue”, members of Heart were at No.2, Sinead O’Connor at No.3, Wilson Phillips at No.4, and Janet Jackson at No. 5.

114141-large5/27- On this day in 1977, The Sex Pistols‘ single “God Save the Queen” was released in the United Kingdom. Although the track sold over 200,000 copies in one week and peaked at No.2 on the UK charts, it was banned by TV, radio, and stores because of its controversial lyrics.

Pick up these pieces of music history in our CD marketplace! Every album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, and lossless formats FLAC and ALAC. :-)

This Week in Music History (May 15th-21st)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

Rolling Stones - Black and Blue5/15- On this day in 1976, The Rolling Stones hit No.1 on the US album chart with Black and Blue. The album was the band’s sixth No. 1 hit, and its first featuring Ronnie Wood as the replacement for guitarist Mick Taylor.

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds5/16- On this day in 1966, The Beach Boys released their now-iconic eleventh studio album Pet SoundsThe album is considered their masterpiece and one of the most influential records ever released. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it No.2 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

7872-large5/17- On this day in 1975, Elton John released his ninth studio album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. It became the first album to debut at No.1 on the US pop charts, and stayed there for seven weeks. It was eventually certified 3x platinum.

5820-large5/18- On this day in 2011, John Lennon‘s handwritten lyrics for The Beatles‘ 1967 hit “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” sold for $237,132 at auction in Beverly Hills, California. Although popular speculation held that the song was written about drug LSD, Lennon insisted that the song was inspired by a picture Lennon’s son Julian had drawn of a classmate named Lucy Vodden.

11051-large5/19- On this day in 1973, Stevie Wonder went to No. 1 on the US singles chart with his track “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. The song, which was his third US No.1, won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

5943-large5/20- On this day in 1966, John Entwistle and Keith Moon of The Who were running late to a gig and unable to arrive at the venue on time. Bandmates Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey enlisted the help of a bass player and drummer from a local band in order to play the set. The replacements played until Entwistle and Moon arrived in the middle of the set.

12936-large5/21- On this day in 2011, Adele reached No.1 on the US singles chart with “Rolling in the Deep” from 21, her second studio album. The song was the Billboard Year End Hot 100 Number One Single of 2011 and received three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video. 

Find these music history gems in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


Mom-Approved Modern Music for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can often mean a trip back home to spend the day with a certain woman who raised you. I love a good family tradition (and I love my mom even more), but let’s face it: A day of listening to music released circa your mom’s high school years can get a little, well… old. Here are three suggestions to bring your mom into the 21st century, music-wise, this Mother’s Day. Take them for a spin this Sunday—they’re guaranteed to not contain too many lyrics that will make family listening time uncomfortable. (Author’s Note: All albums have been successfully test-driven by my mom.)

MI0003392585Channel Orange
Frank Ocean

This 2012 record was the beginning of something big: Frank Ocean is one of the most incredibly talented singers and songwriters of our time. This record is packed full of the stuff of legends: One-of-a-kind lyrics, an ambitious sound, and a sizable helping of passion and philosophy. Ocean is a storyteller, and his stories highlight the best and the worst of what it’s like to be alive.

Musically, this album is a mishmash in the best possible way. It fuses influences from decades past (think ’70s funk sounds and ’90s hip-hop) with a new and thoroughly modern groove, including truly awesome use of quiet electronic percussion. There’s also heavy soul influence here–moments on this album suggest flashbacks to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. I rarely listen to R&B, but I sure would if it all sounded like this. The songs have tight verses that hit you with incredible impact. The sheer force of emotion on this album hits you hard, creating a soundtrack for those who have lived, loved–and most of all, lost.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Bad Religion”, “Pyramids”

MI0003341793Blunderbuss
Jack White

Up until now, Jack White has been part of a group, whether alongside Meg White of The White Stripes or the rest of The Raconteurs. On this album, however, he’s the star: Not only is this a great solo record, it also holds its own among White’s incredible discography as part of a band. White’s reflections on life and love might tear you apart, but you’ll manage to enjoy every moment of the gut-wrenching process.

For White, going solo means that all his crazy musical ideas and influences find a home. This album contains traces of everything from old-school R&B all the way through modern country music. From his cover of Little Willie John‘s 1960 hit “I’m Shakin” to his use of fiddles and mandolins on “Blunderbuss”, a lot of ground is covered here. Jack White isn’t an easy man to figure out-—nor does he want to be: despite track after track lamenting the heartbreak of love, his female backup chorus includes his ex-wife Karen Elson. A few listens of this album, however, leave you with the impression that Jack White does his best work when he’s a little shrouded in mystery.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Love Interruption”, “Sixteen Saltines”

MI0002921033Brothers
The Black Keys

For a group with such a stellar big-band sound, it’s hard to believe that The Black Keys are a two-man show. This album comes after both members took some time away from their main band, trying their hand at other projects. It was a well-needed break: This album is their best release in years, cementing their own unique sound and their position atop the blues-rock food chain. This is nothing incredibly new or different, but that’s why I love them: Consistency is key with a group that constantly delivers music that just sounds like a good time.

This album very successfully plays around with a variety of styles, incorporating everything from up-tempo beats on “Howlin’ For You” to quiet, haunting harpsichord on “Too Afraid to Love You”. My personal favorite addition, however, is vocalist Dan Auerbach’s incorporation of falsetto, For a band that’s made a name with its bluesy sound, a falsetto was certainly a surprise (and a welcome one at that). He nails the sound on tracks like “Everlasting Light”, bringing a much-needed new edge into the mix. For longtime fans like myself, this album set a new standard for the band, turning classic bluesy sounds into something fresh and creative.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Everlasting Light”, “Howlin’ For You”

Staff Picks: Ally’s Folk Picks

Up until recently, I definitely did not consider myself a fan of folk music—I barely could name a folk artist, and never thought to add folk music to my listening rotation. In the last few months, however, I’ve become hooked on folk as a new soundtrack to car rides, homework sessions, and everything in between. Here are a few of my newfound favorites.

The Head and the Heart - Let's Be StillThe Head and the Heart
Let’s Be Still

The Head and the Heart’s sophomore album has solved the problems of the bands overly fast-paced debut, slowing it down to allow for more thoughtful songwriting and lusher instrumentation. The melodies here are beautiful and complex, incorporating violin, banjo, piano and guitars into a smooth and mellow sound. Combined with singers Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell’s vocals, the album is the perfect combination of soulful and lighthearted.

This band masters the art of creating ballads that are heartfelt, not sappy, and it shows. Highlights like “Cruel” showcase the band’s excellent songwriting, which lends itself perfectly to their newly quiet and pensive sound. The result is a new kind of folk music—thoroughly modern, not lost or stuck in decades past—that seems to have real staying power. The Head and The Heart have discovered what works for them, and they’ll withstand any shifts in what’s popular in music. This album ultimately plays like a plea to just take a moment, be still and listen—the rest will work itself out in time, after all.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cruel”, “Homecoming Heroes”

Indigo Girls - Indigo GirlsIndigo Girls
Indigo Girls

The Indigo Girls are everything a musical pair should be: they certainly collaborate, but their differences in style ultimately create a stronger and more interesting final product. This album at times has a split personality, moving from the upbeat, bouncy “Closer to Fine” (one of my personal favorite songs) towards brooding tracks like “Blood and Fire” that ruminate on topics like love and faith. Although the songs reflect each member’s individual personality, they nevertheless compliment each other seamlessly.

This album is raw and powerful—it feels almost unedited at times, but in a wonderful way. The tracks capture their passion and let their personalities and opinions shine through, never asking them to keep anything in check. The power that surges through these songs, however, suggests a musical duo whose talent will take them far. Combined with their truly poetic songwriting, the Indigo Girls create a commanding musical presence that captures attention and demands that you really listen to every last word they have to say.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Closer to Fine”, “Secure Yourself”
> Check out this Murfie Podcast that we recorded with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls!

Joan Baez - Diamonds and RustJoan Baez
Diamonds and Rust

Although previous installments of Baez’s work centered around her anti-Vietnam war activism, Diamonds and Rust brings her back to her soulful, yet commercial, roots. The album is flush with outstanding music influences, including contemporary jazz greats like Larry Carlton and covers of legends the likes of Stevie Wonder. Although Biaz shines on cover tracks, original songs like “Children and All that Jazz” reveal a new style that’s personal and extremely appealing.

The real hero of this album, however, is the title track “Diamonds and Rust”, arguably Biaz’s finest achievement as a singer/songwriter. Written about her relationship with Bob Dylan, the track reminisces about what once was in a way that is intensely intimate.  Her most popular track ever, the song is a folk classic and a whole new standard for the soul-baring love song category. The sheer power of “Diamonds and Rust” combined with the album’s other shining moments makes this album the best of Baez.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Diamonds and Rust”, “Winds of the Old Days”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


The Top 5 Most-Wished-For Albums on Murfie

Pinky the Murfie Genie comes bearing some important knowledge: Out of all the album wishes on Murfie, there are five albums that are wished for the most. With so many people wishing for them, Pinky is wondering who will grab them first.

#5. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

Year: 1977

Genre: Pop/Rock

Allmusic Review: “Rumours is the kind of album that transcends its origins and reputation, entering the realm of legend—it’s an album that simply exists outside of criticism and outside of its time, even if it thoroughly captures its era.”

 #4. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Year: 1973

Genre: Pop/Rock

Allmusic Review: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia. It’s dense with detail, but leisurely paced, creating its own dark, haunting world.”

 #3. Dr. Dre – The Chronic

Dr. Dre - The Chronic

Year: 1992

Genre: Rap

Allmusic Review: “What’s impressive is that Dre crafts tighter singles than his inspiration, George Clinton—he’s just as effortlessly funky, and he has a better feel for a hook, a knack that improbably landed gangsta rap on the pop charts. But none of The Chronic’s legions of imitators were as rich in personality, and that’s due in large part to Dre’s monumental discovery, Snoop Doggy Dog.”

#2. Nirvana – Nevermind

Nirvana - Nevermind

Year: 1991

Genre: Pop/Rock

Allmusic Review: “…but no matter how much anguish there is on Nevermind, it’s bracing because [Kurt Cobain] exorcizes those demons through his evocative wordplay and mangled screams—and because the band has a tremendous, unbridled power that transcends the pain, turning into pure catharsis.”

#1. Adele – 21

Adele - 21
Year: 2011

Genre: Pop/Rock

Allmusic Review: “…the best thing the album does is to showcase Adele’s titanic vocal ability, which—more than a few times on 21—is simply spine-tingling.”

 

 

 

It’s time to make your wishes a reality! Head to our music marketplace and pick up these gems—each CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in your choice of format: mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)