October: a month for apple picking, crunching leaves underfoot, cider donuts... and new music picks from all of us at CRB! Here's what we're listening to this month when we're off the clock.
José van Dam -- Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre
It's Spook-tober, and a good time to turn to some really cool, spooky music! This piece is famous as a violin work, but originally it was written as a highspeed, tongue-twisty song. I love this version by the incomparable José van Dam, and I highly recommend reading along with the words while you listen to get the full experience.
José González -- Leaf Off / The Cave
A couple of weeks ago my partner was listening to some music while we were making dinner and it was driving me nuts – the voice sounded so familiar but I’d never heard of the artist. Some sleuthing and we discovered that José González was heavily featured in an album one of my friends from college used to listen to all the time. I hadn’t listened to Zero 7’s “The Garden” in years, but González’s voice clearly stuck with me. Since that night I’ve had González on repeat, particularly the album “Vestiges and Claws.” It’s peppy yet meditative, it draws you in, and has really strong autumnal road trip vibes.
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Original Cast -- Pandemonium
I'm a musical theater nut, and in my opinion, there is no more finely crafted musical than "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." (I actually love it so much, I've performed in the show twice - and I hope to do so again!) In this era of plague, political unrest, and eating boiled spaghetti 7+ times a week (wait is that just me?), I'd argue that no song captures the collective 2020 experience as perfectly as "Life is Pandemonium." Whenever I'm feeling low, listening to disgruntled middle schoolers complain about dumb words in a spelling bee ("telephone?!??") always buoys my spirits.
New Queen's Hall Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth -- Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
I love October, the month that kicks off "cozy." And it's my birthday and wedding anniversary month, so I indulge myself with my favorite 20th century composer's music on one of my most cherished CDs: Vaughan Williams with the New Queens Hall Orchestra, and conductor Barry Wordsworth. I bought this in 1994 and in all my apartment and house moves since, I put it in my purse so the movers didn't lose it. If you don't know Vaughan Williams's music, this is a great introduction. I can't pick which of the 6 tracks is my favorite, but you can file each of them under "Gorgeous."
The Drunk Monkeys -- Atlantis
Now, I’m not the biggest Fall guy, but there is one thing I look forward to every year (other than football). The season in Boston brings a strange Pavlovian, bittersweet feeling: the start of a school year and moving away from lifelong friends, but a lively sense of new chapters about to begin (yes, even when school was years ago). It’s a complex sentiment to describe – maybe the Germans have a word for it. The most concisely I can really explain it is with the Boston-rooted and alternative rock authorities The Drunk Monkeys. Throughout their 2018 album, lyricist and frontman Joe Froeber brings you into these little vignette worlds of what it’s like to be a twenty-something figuring yourself out in Boston – and to me, that precise feeling of “Fall is here, let’s see what happens this year.”
Django Reinhardt -- Minor Swing
Guitarist Django Reinhardt was cool even before cool was a thing. Oh, maybe cool was already a thing back in 1937 when he recorded “Minor Swing” in Paris with violinist Stéphane Grappelli and the Quintette du Hot Club de France – and maybe it’s always been a thing, but he surely had it. And this tune is a great example of it. “Minor Swing” makes me think of my Dad, who used to love the “chug, chug, chug” of the rhythm guitar in the bands of that era (I would love to time-travel back there if I had a chance). Now does this mean my Dad was cool? I never would have admitted it, but…maybe so!
The Oh Hellos -- Boreas
My favorite band released new music for the first time in two years last month. I was beside myself -- not just because of the surprise album drop, but also because the title track is perfect, and perfect specifically for this year. Somehow, with their poetic lyricism and folk-y instrumentals, The Oh Hellos captured the interminable cycle of 2020's panic and monotony in a way that feels hopeful, not depressing.
David Byrne -- Don't Fence Me in
Last week I was privileged to be the Q&A interviewer for Rob Kapilow’s What Makes It Great, presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston in our Fraser Performance Studio. The subject was songs by Cole Porter, which, in preparation, sent me headlong back into those amazing, jewel-like, meaning-laden songs. Ella Fitzgerald’s recording is legendary, probably a desert island disc. But I also love the totally bonkers 1990 AIDS research benefit album Red Hot + Blue, which includes this addictive “Don’t Fence Me In” for the ages by David Byrne.
Listen to the full playlist: