Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Sara Bareilles, Once Upon Another Time EP

Two years after the release of her third and strongest full-length album, Kaleidoscope Heart, Sara Bareilles has come out with five-song EP Once Upon Another Time.  It was produced by her friend Ben Folds.  The first thing I noticed was that she has been working on her vocals, most evident on the first two tracks: more of a belting-it-out, R&B style.  She certainly has the vocal capacity to pull it off, but that's a direction I did not anticipate.

Of making an EP as her next move, Sara explains to American Songwriter, "I knew I wanted to take some time off between my records and I wanted my fans to have some new music to tide them over.  An EP is especially great because there's less pressure than with a record, so it's a good place to explore and play creatively without feeling like it will define my next career move."  She goes on to say that "I wouldn't say this EP has a very concrete thread running through it.  It's really about picking a collection of songs that I loved."

The title track, which is the opener, is largely a cappella.  Sara notes that it "is really about loss of your childhood and letting go of your past, and that's a part of my life right now, a journey I feel like I'm on.  It felt befitting to name the album that."  "Stay" also showcases her vocals.

"Lie to Me" is a lively track, both in in its instrumentation (including strings) and lyrics:  "Run your mouth/I bet I can catch it/You sound just like a Judas."  Sara says of the song, "I actually write kind of mean lyrics, but usually wrapped up in a sunny song.  For awhile I was having fun with that juxtaposition, but 'Lie to Me' is a bit more direct.  It sounds like what it means.  It's experimentation, finding new ways to express what I was trying to say."

"Sweet As Whole" unleashes her cheeky, foul-mouthed side.  It recalls Cee Lo Green's "F*** You," which Sara loves and sings on tour:  "I wish I wrote that song.  I just think it's so ballsy, and brash, and I absolutely love it.  It's awesome."

"Bright Lights and Cityscapes" is a ballad that is right on par with her best ones such as "City" and "Gravity."  She describes it as "a very emotional performance.  When I listen back to that vocal take, I don't hear my best singing and I get self-conscious about that.  But Ben was adamant about getting a take that had a lot of emotion, and he was right:  I was sitting in the piano room crying while singing, and he's the one who made me keep that on the record."  That was a good move, because this is the Sara that resonates most with me and likely many others as well.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Nuggets from the CLA conference

I attended the Connecticut Library Association conference for the first time on May 7th and 8th.  It was held in Groton.  In the past I've been to conferences for the New Hampshire and Massachusetts Library Associations.  Nuggets:

With the right leadership and creativity, your program attendance can increase substantially, even in the face of cut funding.

Holding programs in a series is a good way to generate excitement.

Incorporate programs that bring in a harder-to-reach demographic:  gardening and fishing programs can draw middle-aged men, and a program on how to win at blackjack can reach a younger male demographic.

Evaluation and assessment are buzzwords relating to both programming (things that may have worked in the past may not be working anymore) and interlibrary loan (how much is happening in this area?).

The Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative is independent of the American Library Association's RUSA-STARS, the interlibrary loan subgroup.  The Initiative has developed a useful checklist of best practices in interlibrary loan.

Everyday leadership means putting yourself in challenging situations; gaining fellowship (one's title is not enough); and is a conscious action.  It also connotes conducting daily interactions with consistency and integrity.

Start asking questions like the head of an organization.  Be a generalist; know it all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Jack White, Blunderbuss

Jack White's first solo album comes a little over a year after the announced breakup of The White Stripes, his best known band.  He subsequently cut two albums apiece with very different projects The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.  It was expected that White would strike out on his own, but he was reluctant to do so.  In fact, Blunderbuss came into being rather accidentally after RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan) didn't show up for a studio session and White used the time to develop his own material.  Blunderbuss hit the Billboard charts at #1, a first for White.

The best track may be "Hypocritical Kiss," with rollicking piano and lyrics like "I want names of the people that we know that are falling for this" and "You would sell your own mother out/And then betray your dead brother with another hypocritical kiss."  The album includes one cover, a Little Willie John song, "I'm Shakin'," with a spirited chorus of female backup singers.

Blunderbuss channels the sound of The White Stripes more than that of his other groups.  A likely reason is that The White Stripes was more his brainchild than either of the other, more populous bands were.  Still, the sound of Blunderbuss is more rock and roll and less garage band than the music of The White Stripes.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars