Music for Grandparents Day

Most of us here at Murfie have been lucky enough to spend time with our Grandparents (and some of our Great-Grandparents as well!). Music is something that can easily be tied to memories, and musical memories of our Grandparents are some of the best ones.

In honor of Grandparents Day, Sunday, Sept. 7th, here are some albums that remind us of Grandma and Grandpa!

Lawrence WelkMatt: Lawrence Welk – 22 Big Band Favorites  – “My grandparents were married during the Great Depression, so the big band music of that era, up and through World War II, was always their favorite. Dancing to big band music was one of their favorite activities. When visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house as kids, my brother and I were forced to watch the Lawrence Welk show that aired on public television. WeJohnny Cash would reluctantly sit through the show—accordion solos and all—and rejoice when the show ended. In spite of my disdain for the TV show, big band music, particularly that by Lawrence Welk and his band, now bring back fond memories of my Grandparents.”

Andrew: Johnny Cash – 16 Biggest Hits “I was not at all shocked to discover one day that my grandmother owned no fewer than three copies of Johnny Cash’s 16 Biggest Hits.”

The BeatlesKayla: The Beatles – 1 “My grandpa always told a story about when The Beatles visited Milwaukee. He said that everyone lined the street to watch the fab four drive by, and when they passed my grandpa, grandma, and their young children, they slowed down and complimented their beautiful family. My grandma would always say ‘Oh, Bruce!’ whenever she caught him telling me stories like that, so I’m not exactly sure if it’s true, but I like to think it is. :) The TransporterI got my grandpa this Beatles 1 compilation, and I’ll never forget showing him how to put the CD in the player, turn it on, and press play. He immediately recognized and started singing along with the song ‘Love Me Do.'”

Steve: The Transporter (Original Motion Picture Score) “Once upon a time, I was visiting my Grandma in California and she asked me if I would like to watch her favorite movie. I was all prepared for something out of the black and white era, when she99020-large proceeded to pull ‘Transporter 3’ up on DVR.”

Jeff: Elmo & Patsy – Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer “This is terrible, but the only song I can think of is ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.'”

Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler - Neck and NeckPete: Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler – Neck and Neck “My grandpa loves this album. I remember buying the CD for his birthday and he told me recently that he still plays it.”

Happy Grandparents Day from the crew at Murfie! Show Grandma and Grandpa lots of love!

Photo credit: “Child pushing grandmother on plastic tricycle” by Catherine Scott-Matti.

Musical Memories of Dad

Kayla: Father’s Day weekend is here, and many of us are taking time to say “thank you” to the guy who showed us so much about life. If your dad is anything like mine, he’s a huge music lover. I remember sitting on the couch with Dad, watching Pop Up Video on VH1 for hours, singing along to “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, and “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.

RHCPMy dad tells a funny story about the first time I ever spoke a “complete sentence” in front of him. He said we were in our usual couch spot, watching Pop Up Video, when I turned to him and said, “Maybe the Wed Hot Chiwi Peppews will come on!”. (I’m from Wisconsin, but for some reason I spoke with a weird New-York-sounding accent when I was little.) My Dad said that he was so surprised and amazed to hear my first real phrase be about RHCP.

A lot of us have musical memories like these, whether your dad likes classic rock, funk, or classical composers. I asked the Murfie staff to share some musical memories they have of their dads, along with particular albums that come to mind. I hope you enjoy!

Beach BoysJohn: “Any album by The Beach Boys reminds me of my pops. I remember the ride home from daycare when I was little always seemed to include a Beach Boys tape. A lot of those songs are on Endless Summer.”

Blood, Sweat & TearsJeff:Blood, Sweat & Tears is one of my dad’s favorite bands and he plays them all the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone else who likes this band.”

Prime PrineAndrew: “This CD [Prime Prine] never left my Dad’s ’94 Plymouth Voyager. It was a staple on all of our family vacations.”

Jagged Little PillSteve: “My dad use to listen to Jagged Little Pill in the car when we lived in Oregon in ~96′. He would turn down the music when she drops F-bombs to protect my young and impressionable ears”

Kingston TrioMarc: “There was very little music in my house growing up. Radio was almost always talk stations with NPR classical in the car on Sunday mornings. However, I do remember many car rides back from Sunday church with The Kingston Trio in the tape deck, and, with the amazing technology of bi-directional tape decks, on infinite repeat.”

Car and DriverJason: “My parents almost always had music on in the car, and on Sundays they would play ‘oldies’ on 101.5 FM in Madison for a few hours in the morning (this was before the 24/7 Oldies stations). My dad was in a band in the 60’s and was into a wide-range of music from that era, but this album [Car & Driver] has a lot of his favorites.”

Richard ThompsonMatt W: “My father was very particular about the music we had playing in the car when we went to see relatives. Depending on the relative we were visiting it would either be Richard Thompson or Wagner.”

James: “It was Pop’s duty to clean the house every Saturday while Mom worked; he needed to look after us kids as well, but he never really considered that a chore. Two things would usually accompany his cleaning: records and a cocktail. The drink was usually either a 7&7 or a CC&7, and while the records would rotate through whatever Colombia House had sent that month, he would always find his way back to AbraxasAbraxas or Steppenwolf Live. Whenever I hear ‘Oye Como Va’ or ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ it brings me right back to those golden Saturdays – and I am reminded of MY first drink, as a 5 or 6 year old. I had just come in from playing outside, parched, and saw his cocktail on the kitchen table. I mistook it for an inexplicably unattended, but probably refreshing, lemon-lime soda; the condensation glistening in the soft Steppenwolf Liveafternoon light, taunting my thirst, begging me gulp some down. Now, Pop was watching from around the corner as all this was happening, and as witness he loved to tell this story. At that point in the tale he would pantomime my reaction (sometimes with an added spit take for the extra funny) and double over in uproarious laughter – he said he could never forget the look of disgust and shock on my face after I lowered the glass from my lips, but unfortunately he could never remember whether it was a 7&7 or a CC&7.”

LegendPete: “My Dad loved music, and Frank Sinatra was without doubt his favorite artist of all time. I remember as a kid sitting for hours with my older brother flicking through his vinyl record collection—he had a lot of Beatles 45 EP’s too. One album I remember him asking us to buy him for his birthday during the mid 80’s was Legend. Whenever I hear the song ‘One Love’ or see this album sleeve, it always reminds me of my Dad.”

Chet BakerLena: “My dad consistently listened to show High Standards with Jonathan Schwartz and the Real Jazz channel on Sirius. Just hearing the name Wynton Marsalis reminds me of him. I think my dad has a soft spot for Chet Baker, and so do I—it’s hard not to once you start listening.”

Smash MouthLeah: “My dad has always been a blast to drive around with, since he loves to play all sorts of music at full volume in his car. During my childhood, his picks centered on rockers like ZZ Top, Spin Doctors, and Nirvana, but as I aged, his tastes progressed to everything from Rage Against the Machine, to The Used (yes, really), to The Shins, to a fantastic Argentine accordian player named Chango Spasiuk. However, the fact that my dad will to this day still randomly chant that main distorted guitar riff from Smash Mouth‘s ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ (‘ehh-EH-eh-EH-EH’) made this an easy choice amongst all of his favorites for jammin’ out.”

Happy Father’s Day from the Murfie crew! :-)

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.


Last Call: Your Murfie Week in Review


Sunday 5/25: In the Marketplace – We refreshed our Staff Picks Cool Collection.

Monday 5:26: Memorial Day! Our staff spent the day relaxin’. :-)

Tuesday 5/27: In the Press – The Isthmus wrote an article and Madison Startups wrote an article about the launch of the Yahara Music Library, an awesome local music streaming project that Murfie is part of.

Wednesday 5/28: On the Blog – Ally gave us our weekly dose of music history for May 28th-June 3rd.

Thursday 5/29: In the Marketplace – A ton of albums were added to our Summerfest Cool Collection, showcasing the greta range of talent coming to Milwaukee this summer.

Friday 5/30: On the Blog – We reviewed  the classic compilation “Legend” by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Share the article or retweet one of our #FreeFriday tweets for a chance to win your own copy! In the Press – Madison Magazine wrote a story covering the Yahara Music Library.


 

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.


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.