The weather’s turning better – finally – the frigid temperatures kept me hibernating in bed going through all the seasons of Desperate Housewives and Downton Abbey. Because he temperatures reached an almost-tropical 50 degrees (balmy for February), I set out to do some book/music shopping. I went to the Brown Elephant in Boystown today – I got there very late – an hour before the shop closes, and made my way to the CD section.
I say section, but really it’s a few book cases filled with CD’s. Because it was nearing 6:00pm, the CDs were in a bit of a mess. A gentleman was browsing through the CDs, sitting on a wheeled office chair. I see this guy a lot when I go there. He’s very friendly and chatty with anyone who wanders over to the CDs. He saw me and started to ask me what kind of music I like and what are my favorite artists. I couldn’t answer honestly because as my iPod can attest, my taste runs everywhere. I told him so, and he laughingly concurred. We both then agreed that the great thing about looking through CDs at the Brown Elephant is chancing upon a great find.
I also went to Reckless later. I love going to that place – especially to look at the new releases – I found a few there, too – I didn’t stay as long as I normally do because I had my partner with me, and I didn’t want to bore him too much. The cool thing was the store had the Talking Heads playing – the music was just fantastic – funky and dancey.
Anyways, as always – click on the title to visit the product’s page on amazon.com if you’d like to buy it. Also, shop at the Brown Elephant because the proceeds go to a just cause.
Alma Caribena/Caribbean Soul by Gloria Estefan – I was a bigger fan of Gloria Estefan’s in the late 80s, but kind of lost touch with her music for a little bit. I’m starting to rediscover her now. I like her Latin pop music better; this is her third Spanish-language album. This album covers not only Estefan’s Cuban roots, but goes over other Latin American countries and sounds. I understand that fans of her dance pop stuff won’t find much to like about Alma Caribena but she always sounds more authentic and soulful when she sings in Spanish (similarly to how Celine Dion sounds less ridiculous and bombastic in her native French).
“Heaven’s What I Feel” – Maxi-Single by Gloria Estefan – remember maxi-singles? This song is from Estefan’s gloria! album – a 1998 album that was devoted solely to dance music. “Heaven’s What I Feel” is probably her best dance songs – sounds a lot like Jennifer Lopez’s “Waiting for Tonight.” There are some hot remixes, as well as a medley of her biggest dance hits remixed together into one song. gloria! is probably my favorite Estefan album and wished she devoted her career to dance pop (including Spanish-language dance music).
The Hits by Lemar – Lemar was a winner of Fame Academy, an American Idol-type reality show in the UK. I’m a collector of British R&B music – like Soul II Soul, Loose Ends or Beverley Knight. Lemar’s a great pop singer with some good songs, including a cool ballad “Lullaby” from the Sex and the City soundtrack. He’s got a great, fun urban-pop sound with a great voice (if not terribly distinct).
Music and Lyrics (Music from the Motion Picture) by Hugh Grant, various artists – This is the soundtrack from a romantic comedy Hugh Grant starred in with Drew Barrymore. Grant played a former New Wave pop singer who works as a songwriter. The songs that Grant performs are incredibly uncanny reproductions of the kind of stuff Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and New Order did (and Grant’s voice worked very well with this genre).
Lyrical Gangsta by Ini Kamoze – Ini Kamoze is a legendary dancehall artist who had a huge crossover hit with “Here Comes the Hotstepper” the theme from Robert Altman’s comedy about the fashion industry, Pret-a-Porter. This is the follow record to capitalize on the success of Kamoze’s hit single. I enjoy dancehall music (despite much of the homophobia surrounding it).
The Sweetest Days by Vanessa Williams – I love this CD by Vanessa Williams – it’s my favorite of her’s. It has some great pop songs, and the title song is a lovely (if cliched) ballad that sounds a lot like her huge hit “Save the Best for Last.” The CD I have is scratched up, so I was happy to find a replacement at Howard Brown, where I only bought if for like a dollar. I don’t remember that my scratched copy of this album included “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, but it’s included at the end of the CD. There’s a curious little song in the middle of the CD that is dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald.
Relax by Das Racist – This is an awesome pop-rap band that tests boundaries of the genre. The feeling you get listening to it is like having 3 talented kids having a laugh. The songs seem a bit silly and light, but the production’s pretty foward-thinking and the fun, cheeky attitude is great.
Jamaican Funk – Canadian Style by Michie Mee and L.A. Luv – I have to be honest, I got this because I like collecting CDs by female MCs and I am interested in multicultural/black diaspora – and this reggae duo is apparently from Canada, which is kinda interesting. Plus on the CD cover, she looks like Pepa from Salt-n-Pepa. And the CD was only a buck.
Popular Favorites 1976-1992/Sand in the Vaseline – I was aware of Talking Heads – mainly because of “Psycho Killers” but was more familiar with the solo/collaborative work of David Byrne and Brian Eno as well as the Tom Tom Club, a side project Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz had in the 80s that produced some great white-soul and blue-eyed funk. I was listening to Talking Heads while shopping at Reckless and loved what I heard so I got the compilation as a sampler of what the band produced during its time in the spotlight.
Hex: The Complete First Season – Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will like this British supernatural drama about a young, beautiful girl named Cassie (Christina Cole), who is a descendent of a witch. Cassie is a new student at a tony boarding school, and runs up against the popular mean girls at the school. Her best friend, punk iconclast, Thelma (Jemima Rooper) knows of her secret. A prestar Michael Fassbinder is an evil demon who must mate with Cassie. This is a great horror/fantasy drama with moments of comedy and poignancy. Cole is good, but it’s Rooper and Fassbinder that are the real stars – he’s devlishly frightening, and she’s a punky presence. Sadly, this show only lasted two seasons, but it was engrossing and entertaining while it lasted. Stay tuned for a full review (I already saw the show on BBC America).
The Best American Series: The Best American Essays 2000 by Alan Lightman, ed. I got this because I’m a teacher and thought this would be a great resource for me to find essays for my students to read and evaluate. I only recognize two writers in this compilation: Jamaica Kincaid (whose book Lucy I read in an excellent literature course with Natasha Barnes) and Andrew Sullivan. I’m in love with The Best American Series, and have some travel stories, mysteries, magazine essays, music writing and film writing.
A Prairie Home Companion: The Screenplay of the Major Motion Picture by Garrison Keillor. I loved the film based on Keillor’s show on NPR. The movie was lovely, sad, funny – it also boasts great performances by Meryl Streep, Virginia Madsen, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Maya Rudolph, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, George C. Reilly, and Keillor himself. It’s the tale of what happens when Keillor’s show airs its last show – and how his performers aren’t preparted emotionally to deal with the end of the program. It’s an allegory of the slow death of radio.
Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S. by Beppe Severgnini. I love travel narratives, but always have read American or British writers and their perspectives: this one, translated by Giles Watson, is told from the perspective of an Italian visiting the U.S. Compared to Bill Bryson, the blurbs on this book trumpet it as a comic tour de force, so I picked it up.