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.


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.


Sounds Like New Jersey: The Best of the Garden State

Last time, we brought you the best albums Colorado has to offer. This time, let’s head east to check out the best of the Garden State. Here are reviews of three albums by Jersey natives!

Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run

After two low-budget albums, The Boss released his third, Born to Run, with a superstar budget and big aspirations. Before this album, Springsteen was mostly propelled by local love and word of mouth; Born to Run was a make-or-break shot at the big leagues.

It couldn’t be more successful at this mission—Born to Run is a superb album that cemented Springsteen’s status as someone who would make his mark on rock & roll. Each track is full of both drama and familiar themes of American life. The songs are familiar stories, told in a new way that’s an unprecedented level of exciting and meaningful.

Most important, though, is that The Boss just makes music that’s what rock should be. Each track is filled with incredible instrumentals: harmonicas, pianos, organs, great guitar lines and fantastic chords—and it’s all tied together by an unshakable spirit and energy. Born to Run is an exhilarating listening experience.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Born to Run”, “Thunder Road”, “Backstreets”

Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Turns out 1998 was one amazing year for hip hop: between Outkast’s Aquemini, Talib Kweli and Mos Def’s Black Star, and Lauryn Hill, it was truly a year to remember. Even in a year of standouts, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill raised the bar. Hill’s hip-hop foundation with gospel, soul, reggae and funk layered on top made it the stellar album that won a record five Grammy Awards.

Hill’s music truly sounds like poetry, which, given its subject matter, is definitely appropriate. The album takes on the issue of love in many manifestations, ranging from deep happiness on tracks like “Nothing Even Matters” to sadness on “I Used to Love Him”. Rapper Nas described the album’s style as “the soul of Roberta Flack, the passion of Bob Marley, the essence of Aretha Franklin all wrapped up in one thing”.

What’s best about this album is that Hill created her own sound. Rather than trying to emulate existing hip-hop, she forged her own path—a brand new style. This album feels like a new artist—and genre—is born.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Doo Wop”, “Superstar”

Bon Jovi
Slippery When Wet

It’s impossible to talk about New Jersey without mentioning Jon Bon Jovi and crew. Listening to this album reminds you of every party you’ve been at when “Livin’ on a Prayer” comes on, and suddenly you’re singing along. This band has a way of sticking in your mind.

Bon Jovi may love his lyrical clichés, but there’s no denying how much fun this music is. In its best moments, like “Livin on a Prayer” or “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Slippery When Wet creates a melodic frenzy. The album introduces an appealing fusion of pop, rock and metal that brought hair metal onto the mainstream radio. Despite its metal influences, however, this album is most true to pop.

“It’s alright if you have a good time”, Bon Jovi sang on “Let it Rock”, and that’s the theme of this album: it’s an accessible, middle-of-the-road approach to rock that deviated from other hard-edged ‘80s music and created an appealing, carefree alternative that ultimately became an ‘80s soundtrack.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”

These albums currently range from $1 to $4 on Murfie. Grab ’em now!

Valentine’s Day: Light vs. Dark Music

Ah yes, the hoopla and ceremony of St. Valentine’s Day. (Wait, that’s today?) I’m just itching to include some sort of wry remark here, but let’s face it, it’s just too easy, and overdone, to hate on lil ole Cupid. So let’s skip that part, and fast forward to the part where we talk about your music playlist for today. Allow me to suggest a few records. Some are light and bright, some dark and dusky; take your pick depending on how you’re feelin’ today. (That is, are you in a lovely mood or moody love?)

If you dig one of the albums, don’t thank me…thank the fine folks at Murfie for their expertise.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (Jason)

The Essential Floyd Cramer (Philip)

You Think It’s Like This but Really It’s Like This (Eileen)

Blood on the Tracks (Steve)

She Wants Revenge (Will)

Last Wave Rockers (Keith)

Abbey Road (Tom)

These Hopeful Machines (Evan)

Cool Music: To Impress Your Friends

Most of the ingestors who work at Murfie have some sort of musical background – or at least some small obsession with music. There’s one set of speakers to go around the ingest room, and thanks to booming business (YAY!), at any given time there could be as many as six ingestors. Which means 12 hands and 12 ears fighting for the right to the speakers.

There’s no doubt that everyone has their own preference in music. In a room full of music junkies, you’re hoping to win over your fellow comrades with your superior musical taste – with the ultimate goal of claiming speaker duty. Who doesn’t wanna be “that guy?” The one that is always playing the best music.

If you think about it, there is quite a lot of pressure in many situations where musical pickings can win you friends or foes. Take road trips for example. You’re driving. Your friend has your iPod. You tell them to put on your “Fun Times” playlist. Cuz it’s the bomb. And then soaring over your dashboard is Bonnie Rait’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

“Oh…ha…ha…that’s funny…that must have been an accidental add…from my…um…sister…ha…ha…” When in reality, one too many times you’ve driven home in broad day light belting this song at the top of your lungs while tears collect in your cup holders.

There is always the distinction between what we listen to in public, and what we listen to in private. Unless you are one of our ingestors, Tynan, who proudly admitted that when he has a hold of the speakers, he plays Lady Gaga or Beyonce. And when he is alone? He just plays Beyonce. Tynan often loses his speaker privileges in the ingest room.

Victor and I are other classical cases of musical insecurity. On the rare occasion that Victor is alone working a midnight shift, you can hear him passionately singing The Phantom of the Opera (Broadway Edition) from 3 floors down. Sorry Vic, busted. But during his day time shifts when everyone else is around, he opts for Foo Fighters’ “Wasting Light.”

When I want to impress my colleagues with my well rounded musical taste, I put on Jay-Z’s The Black Album. Let’s be real here. Who doesn’t love Jay-Z? But if someone were to ever peer over my shoulder at my Pandora station when my headphones are in…they would find Jason Aldean Radio. Closet country music lover. Right here.

To each his own when the headphones are in! That is about all I can say to that. But in case you find yourself in a social situation that requires good jams, here is a number of albums that will probably win you the question, “What are we listening to? It’s awesome.”

13 albums to play so people think you are cool:

  1. Ratatat – Classics
  2.  Jay-Z – The Black Album (Biased perhaps, but that doesn’t change the magnitude of greatness that is this album.)
  3. Styx – Greatest Hits (Long live this album. Every generation can and should appreciate The Styx.)
  4. Miike Snow – Miike Snow
  5. Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind (Although no one may ask you “Who is this?” there is no doubt that your peers will go crazy the second “Semi-Charmed Life” comes on.)
  6. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
  7. The Cults – The Cults
  8. Otis Redding – The Very Best of Otis Redding (Your friends will like Otis Redding if they like smiling.)
  9. The Black Keys – Brothers
  10. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (She has been plastered over the media scene in the last couple of years, but have you actually listened to her music? It’s fantastic. RIP, you goddess of talent.)
  11. Sublime – Sublime  (Playing this album says something about your ability to “be chill” – a desirable quality when trying to win friends over.)
  12. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
  13. Glitch Mob – Drink The Sea (Two options with a Glitch Mob album: your friends will either be concerned about the life path that led you to listen to such music or they will become equally addicted. It’s well worth the risk.)

Dueling Discs, Vol. 1: Frat Rock 70s vs Frat Rock 80s

Yes, you read that correctly. Frat Rock. What the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series is to radio friendly pop hits, the “Frat Rock” franchise is to songs my dad did some serious broing out to (if that’s what they even called it back then). Lucky for you, in this inaugural installment of Dueling Discs, the “Frat Rock” albums from the 70s and 80s will do battle, giving you a better idea of which decade Belushied better.

Let’s start this clash with a breakdown of the track list from Frat Rock: The 70s. The album hits you in the face with frat by “Takin’ Care of Business” (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) and then shows you just how few shits it gives about the administration by “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” (Brownsville Station). Despite their improper use of the gerund, both of these tracks suggest that the 70s bro was a badass who laughed in the face of education, leaving plenty of time to be free, free as a bird. You guessed it; “Free Bird” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) makes an appearance on the album. At a whopping 9:08, this track is by far the…second longest track on the disc, topped by “Do You Feel Like We Do” (Peter Frampton). The length of these tracks surely means they were used as background music during late night hours at the frat, bringing new meaning to being a fan of Skynyrd or Frampton.

“Hey bro, heard you were singing with the talk box last night, awww yeeeaaa…”

Rounding out a solid lineup of tunes, none other than the live version of “Lola” by The Kinks adds that sensitive side to the album that every frat boy yearns to posses (in order to win the heart of his sorority crush of course). In total, Frat Rock: The 70s scores well on the Bromometer at 7 out of 10.

Next up we’ll take a look at Frat Rock: The 80s to see if more hair makes for a better brand of bro. The track that stands out immediately on the 80’s edition of Frat Rock is “Our House” (Madness). There aren’t many things more frat-tastic than sitting on your porch yelling at a gaggle of passing rival bros “This is our House… in the middle of our street… that isn’t technically ours; it actually belongs to a bunch of rich dudes.” Other highlights on the album include “Hot Hot Hot” by Buster Poindexter (just look at him, that guy is frat) and “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone. Both of these songs could still get a rise out of a party, crafting a conga line or a late night sing along. Finally, “Whip It” by Devo gives this album some much-needed kinkiness. But will it be enough to top the brotastic lineup of songs from Frat Rock: The 70s???

Nope. This album comes in at a 6.5 on the Bromometer, making it the runner-up in this first ever Dueling Discs post. Confratulations to Frat Rock: The 70s on its big win! Those bros sure knew how to jive.