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Music

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Happy Birthday Billie!

If Billie Holliday were still alive she would have turned 100 on April 7. Sadly underappreciated in her lifetime, she died at age 44, chained to a hospital bed facing drug charges, with only $1,000 to her name. She worked with legends, was named "Lady Day" by tenor saxophonist Lester Young, had a brief stint with Count Basie, and competed with Elle Fitzgerald for popular attention (and they later became friends). She is without a doubt one of the very top vocalists to have ever lived and changed the way music was performed and appreciated.

Hozier by Hozier

As children my sister and I were subjected to thousands of hours of folk music at the hands of our mother. The phonograph was always on and she wasn't playing the Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary.  She played real folk music.  Lots of it Irish. At the time we didn't think too much about it because it had always been the background music of our lives but as we got older it was obvious how much that music influenced our grown up tastes.  Which brings me to Hozier.  I wouldn't exactly call him a folk singer but, really, he is.

Classics by She & Him

If you haven’t been listening to She & Him, a collaboration between indie darling Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward, you’ve been missing out. This is their 5th album together and consists of, unsurprisingly, covers of 13 classic songs, recorded live and accompanied by an orchestra. While I would have liked to hear a little more of M. Ward’s vocals, the covers were fun and refreshing and still managed to retain their original charm.

Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen / Polyphony

If you enjoy listening to choral music and have never heard this recording, please borrow it right away. This music is drenched in emotion but never maudlin; it’s modern (composed in the 1990s) but sounds like renaissance and classical music; it’s lush and sonorous but also precise and carefully crafted. Lauridsen is one of the most performed contemporary choral composers in America but for some reason I had never heard of him.

Trilogy by The Weeknd

There are many things that just feel so right about The Weeknd. Maybe it’s the forlorn echoing, resounding bass and the falsetto register of Abel Tesfaye. Simply put, The Weeknd’s songs are dark, moody and lustful. Sometimes reminiscent of Michael Jackson, Prince, or Massive Attack with contemporary equals such as Frank Ocean or Drake, the Weeknd‘s Trilogy is a remastered release of his first mixtapes that contain some of his very best work.

What it is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967-1977)

If you've ever appreciated George Clinton's desire to make your funk un-cut, this is 5+ hours of bliss "bound to take the average overthinking funk freak to new levels of nerd-dom" (allmusic.com). This is 91 tracks from ten years of classic funk from the archives of Warner Bros., Atlantic, Reprise, Atco, and smaller labels like Cotillion, Curtom, Alston, and Jonie.

AM by Arctic Monkeys

This album is everything danceable rock should be, full of lanky riffs, fantastic lyrics and lead singer Alex Turner’s crooning. Tracks “R U Mine?”, “Snap Out of It” and “One for the Road” have catchy beats and that will stay in your head for hours. The drum build up of “Do I Wanna Know?” is so simple and momentous, that when the main riff creeps in, you just can’t help but jam along with the slow, wonderful drag of it. If you’re feeling like a good pick me up, and a little late night rock (for anytime of the day), this is for you.

Live at My Father's Place by John McLaughlin

One of my favorite concert experiences in the past couple years was getting to see John McLaughlin play with his new band. He has returned to the electric jazz fusion that I first came to love him for. While the library hasn't acquired the recording of the the show I saw yet (but I'm so excited it was recorded and released already - look for it on Spotify - McLaughlin live in Boston), I did just find this amazing gem that was released in August of 2014.

Redeemer of Souls by Judas Priest

If you've been hankering for old school metal look no further than this fine new offering from Judas Priest. Putting this cd on is like stepping into a time machine in the very best way. Awesome song titles like Metalizer and Halls of Valhalla, and my personal favorite Dragonaught signal exactly what you're in for. Songs about fires in the sky, black hell, ghosts, revenge and "on that two wheeler from hell on the wind" the Redeemer of Souls. The band rocks hard and Rob Halford can still scream with the conviction of a tween at a One Direction concert.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

Get in the holiday spirit with one of my favorite holiday-themed albums of all time. The perfect balance of melancholic nostalgia, tight jazz improvisation, and plenty of space to think about falling snow. I get tired pretty quickly listening to the songs that sprout like weeds this time of year, but I've never grown tired of this album. I picked up the sheet music a few years ago and try and bang out some of the parts on my piano at home. I like both the original numbers (Christmas time is here, Skating) as well as the arrangements of familiar tunes (esp.

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