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  • Dave K. 4:00 pm on 2017/12/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , reputation, , Taylor Swift,   

    Great Gifts for Vinyl Fans 

    As we roll into December and close out 2017 (can you believe it?), Barnes & Noble welcomes a bunch of awesome new records into our Vinyl Store! We’ve got new hotness from Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, Green Day, Sam Smith, and Beck, plus the soundtrack to the film Baby Driver. Best of all, we’re offering a great holiday deal on a Crosley turntable system so you (or the budding vinyl aficionado in your life) will have something to play all these records on. Whether you’re buying gifts for yourself or the special people in your life, we have what you need to keep spinning wax into 2018.

    Crosley T150
    Before you go spoiling your friends and family (and yourself) with so many great records, you’ll want to make sure everyone involved can actually listen to them. That’s where the Crosley T150 comes in. Sold exclusively through Barnes & Noble, the T150 is a complete turntable system that comes with 30-watt stereo speakers. If you’ve already got speakers you like (most vinyl junkies do), don’t worry; the Crosley’s RCA inputs are compatible with most audio systems. And should you feel the need to go digital, the Crosley has a Bluetooth receiver built right in. Whether you’re trying to get someone else started on vinyl or upgrading your own system, you can’t go wrong with the Crosley T150.

    reputation, by Taylor Swift
    Fans of Taylor Swift’s 1989 are going to love reputation, since it picks up where that album left off musically. Not only that, it’s an evolution of Swift’s synthpop sound—rather than drawing from 1980s aesthetics a second time, these songs are more brash and modern, and could even be called industrial pop. Just as Swift’s image became more sophisticated, songs like “Call It What You Want,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” and “Delicate” are more ambitious in both lyrical content and composition. Swift also collaborates with Future and Ed Sheeran on “End Game,” and proves to be a much better rapper than anyone, including her fans, would expect. We’ve got it on December 8, a full week before anyone else, so lock in those preorders now.

    From a Room Volume 2, by Chris Stapleton
    The second part of Chris Stapleton’s new record, From a Room Volume 2 comes out a few months after Volume 1. If you have any country music fans on your holiday gift lists this year, this album is perfect. Stapleton’s approach to country music is tuneful and unpretentious, with great vocal harmonies and folk-inspired arrangements that aren’t crowded with pop embellishments. His cover of Kevin Welch’s “Millionaire” is a standout example of Stapleton’s talents (it was one of the lead singles for a reason), as is “Scarecrow in the Garden.” And just in case you’re curious about the album’s name, Stapleton is honoring Nashville’s RCA Studio A, where it was recorded.

    God’s Favorite Band, by Green Day
    This greatest-hits album, named in reference to a joke Stephen Colbert made when the band performed on his show, shows that Green Day is as irreverent as ever. The tracklist draws from all of Green Day’s studio albums as of press time, with the exception of their debut album 39/Smooth and their ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! records from 2012. As one might expect, Dookie and American Idiot provide the most songs, all of which are great selections. While there’s only one song here from Insomniac, it’s the most memorable from that album (“Brain Stew”), and Nimrod is well-represented by “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” As a bonus, previously unreleased song “Back in the USA” is included here too.

    The Thrill of It All, by Sam Smith
    Sam Smith, who found fame in 2014 with his hit single “Stay With Me,” spent most of 2016 working on new material, and released his second album, The Thrill of It All, in November. Sam worked with classical crossover group Clean Bandit and Timbaland for this record, with the latter producing Smith’s second single, “Pray,” inspired by the singer’s experience with the War Child charity. “Pray” is an awesome song, by the way, with plenty of gospel heft stabilizing Smith’s voice. The album’s other single, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” will make you miss your ex-, even if you don’t have one.

    Baby Driver OST
    Very few films are as soundtrack-dependent as 2017’s Baby Driver; much of the character action is specifically choreographed along with the music. So it’s no surprise that the official Baby Driver soundtrack is so well curated. It’s a mix of guaranteed crowd-pleasers—the Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat,” Queen’s “Brighton Rock,” the Beach Boys’ “Let’s Go Away for a While”—and some deeper cuts, like Dave Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance.” Not only is this soundtrack a good starting education in the arcs of American pop music (covering soul, jazz, and rock), there’s some hidden wit in the individual song placement. T. Rex’s “Debora” is followed by Beck’s “Debra,” for example.

    Colors, by Beck
    Beck’s music is so timeless that it’s easy to forget how long he’s been around—Colors is his 13th studio album. Thanks to his touring schedule, it took four years to write and record Colors, and he and producer Greg Kurstin play most of the instruments. How Beck sustained that level of energy for so long is anyone’s guess, but this record is the most fun music he’s released in years. The central melody of “Wow” is a potent earworm, and “Dear Life” is as bouncy as the hipster lounge funk that made him famous in the first place. Similarly, “Up All Night” was made for the dance floor, and is a sign that Beck is still having fun with his music.

    The post Great Gifts for Vinyl Fans appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 5:33 pm on 2015/06/23 Permalink
    Tags: alice cooper, , Dr. Dre, , sounds of summer, , Taylor Swift, the b-52s, , the breeders, the eagles,   

    Vinyl LPs to Help You Celebrate Summer 

    Summer’s here! Finally! Like Fourth of July fireworks, summer may not last for long, but it sure is magical while it’s happening. And nothing enhances warm weather and sunshine like the music on these albums, which ranges from exuberant to laid-back to hypnotic. Bonus: when the cold, dreary winter comes back around, these albums will help you recapture the magic of July and August.

    Last Splash, by The Breeders
    Released in August 1993, Last Splash sounds like the end of the summer: still fun, but a little bittersweet. The Breeders was supposed to be a small side project for Pixies bassist Kim Deal, but they ended up finding the success that the Pixies never did. Every song on Last Splash is a noisy smirk, with just enough pop sensibility and vocal harmonies to cut through the grunge. “Cannonball” illustrates this balance perfectly, and was also the album’s biggest hit. “Saints,” “SOS,” (which sampled for the Prodigy song “Firestarter”) and the quirky “Drivin’ On 9” are three other standouts. If there’s still a restless teenage mallrat buried somewhere inside you, this album will bring it out.

    School’s Out, by Alice Cooper
    Nothing says summer like the last day of school, and Alice Cooper wrote the definitive track about the bliss of that day. It’s also one of his best songs, although this isn’t a one-song album by any means. From the opening track to the last note, School’s Out is the soundtrack to the kind of all-night rager you throw to celebrate three months of freedom. It’s the wild, uninhibited side of summer vacation, best captured by tracks like the aforementioned title track, the fabulously raw “Public Animal #9,” and “Gutter Cat vs The Jets,” which appropriates part of a song from West Side Story.

    Surfer’s Choice, by Dick Dale
    Surf music is inextricably linked to summer for obvious reasons—sunshine, sandy beaches, big waves—and Dick Dale is that genre’s unrivaled master. Mixing the Lebanese music he heard as a child with his own interpretation of the sound of rolling waves, Surfer’s Choice singlehandedly introduced middle America to surf guitar upon its release in 1962. The album starts with “Surf Beat,” which pairs Dale’s trademark double-picking with simple-but-catchy horn riffs, and hits its high points with “Misirlou Twist” (an early version of his most popular song) and “Surfin’ Drums.”

    The Chronic, by Dr. Dre
    It’s hard to believe that this album was released in December, because the rolling basslines, melodic synthesizers, and almost hypnotic groove were made for hot, humid days when you have no plans beyond staying in the air conditioning and listening to records. It’s also one of the best rap albums of all time, and signaled hip-hop’s ascent in pop culture; after The Chronic, rock ‘n roll was no longer the default option for widely-accessible pop music. For all its charm and mellow production, the album’s lyrics pull no punches (and throw a lot of them), but even the most explicit songs are saved by Snoop Dogg’s laid-back delivery. “Nuthin’ But A G-Thang” and “Let Me Ride” are great examples of this.

    Exodus, by Bob Marley
    Recorded in London, where Marley was recovering after surviving an assassination attempt in Jamaica, and released in June 1977, Exodus blends his traditional reggae sound with soul, funk, and even traces of British rock, creating a laid-back vibe that’s ideal for relaxing outdoors with friends, preferably with something on the grill. Exodus was a departure from what reggae typically sounded like in the 1970s, but it also propelled Marley to international stardom, so clearly he was onto something. Marley’s smooth vocals provide a charming vessel for his earnest, straightforward appeals for political and social change on the first half of this record, and are pitch perfect for the sex and faith-focused songs on the second half.

    The B-52s, by the B-52s
    New wave’s upbeat sound and cheerful aesthetics are often associated with summertime, and the B-52s exemplify the genre better than most, if not all, of their contemporaries. Described in 1979 as “the world’s best party band,” their self-titled debut album makes a strong case for that superlative. The band’s bouncy rhythms and trademark call-and-response vocals really shine on “52 Girls” and the delightfully weird “Rock Lobster,” which has since become one of their most enduring songs. This is the album you put on for a dance party in a rented beach house where everyone’s having too much fun to care if they look weird.

    Pet Sounds, by the Beach Boys
    Talking about the Beach Boys in a collection of summer albums is almost cheating, because they’re America’s perennial summer band. Still, we’d be fools not to mention Pet Sounds, the band’s most ambitious record and a testament to the idea that, yes, pop music can be art. Using experimental arrangements and unorthodox instrumentation (for rock music, anyway), Brian Wilson painstakingly assembled an album that is at once psychedelic and baroque, and very different from the band’s accepted sound up to that point. If you’ve ever taken on a huge summer project and actually finished it, despite all odds, Pet Sounds should be your jam.

    Hotel California, by the Eagles
    Once known as a hard rock band, the Eagles fully incorporated the country and folk-rock elements they’re best known for today on Hotel California. It was also their first album with guitarist Joe Walsh, whose considerable skills made their sound fit the arenas and stadiums they would end up playing. This album includes some of the band’s most popular songs: “New Kid In Town,” “Life In the Fast Lane,” and, of course, “Hotel California.” The easygoing tempo and bright, calm guitar melodies make this a natural pick for summer albums—plus it’s a nostalgic pick, since your dad probably listened to it on repeat every time it was his turn to drive on family beach trips.

    1989, by Taylor Swift
    If Pet Sounds is the summer album that recognizes the impermanence of youth, 1989 is one that recognizes, and celebrates, its own youth. Named for Taylor Swift’s birth year, and for the 1980s influence throughout the album, 1989 is her first real pop album, as opposed to the country sound of her previous efforts; “Shake It Off” ignited the internet’s sudden love affair with her, and songs like “Style” and “Blank Space” justify it. Swift claims Madonna, Annie Lennox, and Fine Young Cannibals as influences for this album, and you can definitely hear echoes of all three, but they don’t impede Swift’s reach for a timeless sound.

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