DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Mar 1 2016

Adele 25 Review

by Arthur G

Four years ago, Adele’s cathartic and solid album 21 erupted onto a totally unprepared music scene like a belting volcano, drowning her contemporaries in the sheer majesty of her voice and the strength of her plaintive lyricism. Riding the Contemporary R&B wave, this blue-eyed soul singer swept the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, netting a record-tying six awards, including Artist of the Year.  However, instead of following-up immediately on her phenomenal success, Adele took a three-year hiatus from the music biz, breaking only to compose the Academy Award-winning “Skyfall” for the eponymous 2012 James Bond film.  The drought finally ended with the release of the breathtaking “Hello” in late October.  The reaction was overwhelming, with the song practically lionized by the music industry as the official music video racked up over 400,000,000 views on YouTube in less than a month.  So with all this outpouring of praise and anticipation, does the final product live up to the hype surrounding it?  Well, yes and no: yes, in that the vocals and sincerity are as superb as one would expect from Adele, but it often sounds indistinguishable from previous efforts. The promise of cap-stoning her musical Bildungsroman never quite materializes in most of the tracks.

The lead single “Hello,” of course, needs no introduction. It sets the tone of the album and ultimately stands out as its most powerful song.  This classic ballad drips with regret over a failed relationship, appearing to all the world as the mature follow up to her signature “Somebody Like You.”  But beyond its poignant message is Adele’s commanding vocal range, stretching across multiple cords, all in tune with the piano’s melodic rise and fall.  “Hello” is that rare song with the power to carry an entire album on its own, and if everything else in 25 had been sub-par, it would be worth getting the album just to hear this searching ode in its full, uninterrupted glory.

Still, while the musicianship on the album is a testament to Adele’s continuing maturity as an artist, its content still sounds like more of the same.  Tracks like “Send My Love,” with its upbeat, almost popish rhythms, and the somber, reflective “When We Were Young” hit all of the right notes – and heartstrings – but will undoubtedly feel very familiar to anyone with even a passing familiarity of her corpus.  This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as Adele’s stratospheric vocals are nearly immune to anything mediocre.  But with the glimmer of lyrical maturity hinted in “Hello,” I’d hoped that the British songwriter would show a bit more inventiveness, especially with an array of talent as diverse as Bruno Mars, Paul Epworth, and Danger Mouse all contributing to the production.  “A Million Years Ago” is probably the most original track on the record – a calm, Spanish guitar lamentation, punctuated by Adele’s piercing voice at certain emotional peaks, that reminisces on the price of fame and its effect on those who knew her.  Otherwise, 25 is a retread over the same territory forged by 21, and while a few songs like “River Lea” and “Water Under the Bridge” stand out, respectively, for their striking imagery and retro 80s tempo, there’s nothing fundamentally adventurous here, and only the most attentive fans will spot the subtle differences between the two albums.

That shouldn’t stop anyone from giving 25 their full attention, though.  Adele is without doubt a once-in-a-generation talent, and while those looking for the much-vaulted maturity this album promised may leave disappointed, fans of this modern siren’s soulful wails of lost love will definitely find reasons to celebrate.

If you’re interested in Adele or any similar musicians we harbor here at DCPL, check out some of the hits below:

Adele – 19 and 21 are both wonderful albums, and well worth a listening even after her latest offering.

Amy Winehouse – Adele’s sister in the blue-eyed soul family, she had a rawer, more earthy voice that was tragically short cut, but still left a few gems like Back to Black and Frank.

Florence + the Machine – Though more ethereal and baroque than either of the preceding ladies, her music belts with the same maturity and range.  Definite must-haves are Lungs and Ceremonials.



Apr 6 2015

The Saddest Voice

by Hope L


When I was a gullible little girl of about 7 or 8, my three older brothers would tell me that there were hundreds of people singing background in those songs we were listening to, and that’s why they sounded that way. I smile today because I totally believed my brothers. Sure, an occasional backup singer was used, but in actuality it was Karen and Richard Carpenter singing all those great songs. The magic sound was created by her producer-brother Richard, who also helped to write many of the songs they sung.

And Karen Carpenter had the saddest voice ever. She would have been 65 this past March 2. When I listen to her songs, especially hits like Rainy Days and Mondays, Say Goodbye to Love, For All We Know, and Solitaire, I still marvel at her beautiful voice and the sadness it evokes.

Karen Carpenter was an outstanding singer, but few people know that she was also an exceptional drummer. And by all accounts, she had a kooky sense of humor and a host of friends, not to mention fans, whom she touched during her short life. (She died of heart failure at age 32 on February 4, 1983.) Her voice graced at least a dozen albums, and she, together with her brother Richard, won two Grammy Awards and earned millions of dollars during a time when their squeaky clean image was the antithesis of what was considered “cool” or even “popular music.”

According to The Carpenters: The Untold Story, an Authorized Biography by Ray Coleman, Karen was “hiding” by playing behind the drums while singing in the early days of the act. It then became apparent that her powerhouse voice demanded that she be the star on stage, front and center. (We have a few music CDs by the Carpenters at DCPL, including the album Singles 1969-1981.)

This YouTube clip shows Karen in a variety of early performances behind her drums.

Unfortunately, though, Karen Carpenter will be remembered first and foremost for her death and the introduction it gave the world to a disease called anorexia nervosa. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Other eating disorders include bulimia nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

But  for me, when I hear the Carpenters’ music,  I think  iconic  70’s music–just begging for me to sing along.


Jun 17 2013

ShareReads: Finishing the Hat

by Ken M

sharereads_intro_2013 If I could choose to be any Broadway composer of the 20th century, my choice would be Stephen Sondheim. While I love the music of Richard Rodgers, Fritz Loewe and any theater work Leonard Bernstein created for the stage, I’ve always felt that Sondheim’s art stands in a class by itself.

I recently reacquainted myself with his work by way of two recent books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made A Hat. I think these are the closest we’ll get to an autobiography or memoir from the man himself. In these books, he shares the wealth of knowledge gained in more than fifty years of writing for the stage. Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat takes you from the early show Saturday Night through 1981’s Merrily We Roll Along. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on West Side Story, which gives you the real dirt on who wrote what in the collaboration with Leonard Bernstein. I’m a big fan of Sweeney Todd, and I learned lots of new trivia from this chapter. I was surprised to find that Sondheim was always displeased by the last few lines of the Act 1 closing number, A Little Priest. He says he got it right, belatedly, for the movie version starring Johnny Depp. (By the way, if you only know that version, you really should see the television adaptation of the stage musical starring George Hearn and the marvelous, original Mrs. Lovett, Angela Landsbury.)

Look, I Made A Hat contains some of the shows I got to know first, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. I’ve played for high school productions of the latter twice, so I was fascinated to learn that cast input solved a particular problem for Lapine and Sondheim. I won’t tell you what that was – you should read this to find out. You also get the full explanation of the creation of his most recent work, last named Road Show. This one had a particularly difficult evolution, and he effectively guides you through the complicated maze of what stayed, what went, and what was completely rewritten. In fact, both books contain lots of cut lyrics, observations and musings, as well as reproductions of neat documents like handwritten drafts with lots of discarded ideas. You’ll also learn why rhyme and precision are so important to him.

While the words are wonderful, his music is equally exquisite. Hearing makes the reading even more fun, and you can enjoy cast and tribute albums from the DCPL collection to enhance your reading. I do hope you spend a little time with Sondheim this summer, and I really must go now. I have a meat pie in the oven…

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Apr 8 2013

The Art of The Album Booklet

by Jnai W

This past Saturday was just an ordinary weekend spent working at Decatur Library. I was downstairs checking in patron returns when my eye happened upon Fiona Apple’s latest album, the brilliant The Idler Wheel… This is an album I recently purchased from iTunes without hearing any singles from or having to know anything about because, hey, it’s Fiona Apple so I knew it would be remarkable. I downloaded the deluxe edition of this album which included the LP, three video clips of Ms. Apple’s live performance at SXSW, and a digital booklet featuring liner notes, artwork and lyrics to the songs.

The library’s copy of this CD was locked and ready to be placed on Decatur’s holds pickup shelf for one very lucky patron with discerning musical taste (You’ll love it, Patron-I-Don’t-Know! Trust me!). But I had to open it to see the booklet. Yeah, iTunes provided a digital booklet but to me nothing beats the simplicity, the tangibility of holding an album booklet in hand and carefully pouring over it. In this case, I scanned the booklet to read the production credits and the lyrics. Then, of course, I put the booklet back in its rightful place and got back to work.

That little booklet reading break served two purposes: 1) to clarify a lyric I’d been mishearing in the song “Jonathan” (“just tolerate my little fist/ tugging on your forest-chest”…oh, that’s what she’s saying) and 2) to remind me of why the digital-music experience will never completely replace a physical album in hand. At least, it doesn’t for me anyway.

Since Saturday I’ve been rifling through my CD collection making sure all of my album booklets were in their proper places. But also I’ve grown slightly regretful about digital music purchases I’ve made in the past. While I enjoy the convenience of being instantly able to obtain an album with the swipe of a finger and the confirmation of one’s Apple ID, the listening experience of a new album still seems a bit lacking without a fresh booklet to peel open and images to scan over as you absorb this new addition to your music collection.

There are several books in the Library that touch on how we music-lovers experience an album. Here are a couple that you may enjoy:

The Perfect Thing: How The iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness by Steven Levy:  With the advent of the iPhone and the iPad, the sweet little gadget that started it all, the iPod, seems a bit quaint in comparison. Still, author Steven Levy’s insightful and engaging 2007 book is a great read on the creation, the success and the cultural impact of the iPod.

100 Best Album Covers by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell:  Storm Thorgerson is the acclaimed designer of several classic album covers including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. I feel it only fair to mention this as folks may wonder what makes him an authority on the best album covers ever. This is still a cool book that offers fascinating back story on the creation of many well-loved album covers.  Of course, lists like this are subjective but they make for fun debate.

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Nov 5 2012

Remember That I Love Kimya Dawson

by Jnai W

In preparing this blog post I’ve turned to my go-to source for inspiration: my iTunes library. There are certain artists whose music gets me in a great frame of mind for writing and thinking creatively. There’s Norah Jones, whose charming voice,  superlative musicianship and simple, elegant songwriting are always inspiring and soothing. There’s Marie Digby, an artist who became a YouTube sensation with sweet, acoustic covers of pop hits by the likes of Britney Spears and Rihanna (Digby’s full-length album Unfold is lovely and worth a listen).

But today I’ve click-wheeled over to another of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters,  Kimya Dawson. She’s an artist who keeps a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. I fell in love with her music like many folks did—by watching the film Juno and downloading, buying or borrowing that film’s wonderful soundtrack, featuring solo songs and songs from her work in The Moldy Peaches. Her voice is earnest to the point of being childlike, her guitar-playing is folksy and unadorned and her lyrics are honest, open and plain-spoken with the occasional well-placed eff-bomb to drive home a point (her song “Loose Lips”, with her eviscerating anti-war message is a great example).

Usually when I reach for the Kimya Dawson albums, I lean towards her 2006 album Remember That I Love You. Today, however (perhaps in fit of thumb-clumsiness) I happen upon her 2008 album Alphabutt. Many reviews and articles about this album refer to it as a children’s record and I suppose it is (even though my iTunes library categorizes it as folk). It boasts a lot of incredibly creative, kid-friendly tunes like “Little Monster Babies”, “Bobby-O” and its title tune, a scatological masterpiece. But there is also the gently passionate and political “Sunbeams and Some Beans” which ends in a profound yet down to-earth flurry of lyrics that I’d like to quote right now: “if you only have one bean and you meet someone with no bean/ you should give them half your bean/ ‘cuz you will be less hungry if you eat just half a bean/ than if you eat a whole bean in front of somebody with no beans”.

The beauty of Kimya Dawson is that she’s brilliant in speaking to the child in every adult and, as in Alphabutt, she gives a nod to the adult in every child. I could write a blue streak about some of my favorite works of hers—”My Mom”, with Dawson confronting her mother’s harrowing battle with cancer and the existentially astute “I Like Giants”—but I’d rather you click here for a great tune from Dawson’s 2011 album Thunder Thighs (doesn’t look like the Library has this album but it’s wonderful).

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Jul 8 2010

Magical Wizardry Tour

by Fran W

The Decatur Library auditorium will be host to five touring wizard rock bands on Monday, July 19th.  The free concert starts at 5:30pm and is appropriate for ages 13 and up.  Click here for the event listing in the library’s online calendar.

What is wizard rock?  Wizard rock, or “wrock,” is music based on or inspired by the Harry Potter books, and there’s more of it than you might think.  Wizrocklopedia, a site devoted to all things related to wizard rock, lists hundreds of Potter-themed bands.  Nearly every character (as well as many inanimate objects) in the Harry Potter universe has a band named in their honor, and many bands sing their songs from the perspective of their chosen character.

Wizard rock bands demonstrate their passion for reading through their songs, and they inspire others to think about books  in new and exciting ways.

We love what wizard rock has done to promote reading and literacy, and we’re proud to host the ROFLCOPTOUR, featuring  5 of the wrockingest bands in the movement:


Kristina Horner and Luke Conard met each other through their respective wizard rock bands three years ago. After a while, they decided to take one step outside the Harry Potter genre and expanded their music repertoire to include a myriad of other nerdy topics.  They have released two full length albums and a handful of successful music videos on YouTube.

The Whomping Willows

The Whomping Willows is the solo project of singer/songwriter Matt Maggiacomo. Combining an offbeat sense of humor with light political commentary and catchy melodies, Matt has written five full-length albums and two EPs (loosely) from the perspective of the violent tree at Hogwarts.

The Moaning Myrtles

Lauren Fairweather and Nina Jankowicz, also known as The Moaning Myrtles, have been having the time of their afterlives writing and performing music from everyone’s favorite whiny bathroom ghost’s perspective since 2005. They are known for their piano-heavy songs with catchy harmonies, but the Myrtles occasionally take the form of a solo guitarist.

Justin Finch-Fletchley

Justin Finch-Fletchley performs music from the perspective of a classmate who witnessed most of the events Harry, Ron, and Hermione experienced. Justin combines wit and insight along with an unbridled amount of passion and energy to bring eager wizard rock fans their dose of catchy sing-along acoustic rock music.

The Parselmouths

Kristina Horner and Eia Waltzer are The Parselmouths, a wizard rock band that take the Hogwarts
experience from the perspective of spoiled, popular rich girls. Their girlband has been writing and performing folky, upbeat, slightly ‘evil’ songs since 2004 and have played shows in a plethora of venues all over the country.

For more about the history and creation of Harry Potter fandom, check out Melissa Anelli’s Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon.  You’ll find a few of the touring bands mentioned in the “Rocking at Hogwarts” chapter!

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Jan 13 2010

Divas at DCPL

by Jnai W

I happen to love all kinds of music but more than anything else I love The Divas. You know the types: singing sensations who have been blessed with extraordinary musical talent, undeniable charisma and, in a few cases, possible delusions of grandeur (even though, in truth, such singers are grand). Thanks to the Library, I’ve been able to “discover” the amazing singers of previous  generations (I hate to say of past generations because, to me, that implies that their impact has somehow diminished with time). I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon my favorite Divas of all time:

The Greatest Star/DivaBarbra Streisand: I had been wholly unfamiliar with Barbra Streisand’s work until a few years ago.  The first record I’d ever heard of hers was The Movie Album featuring the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” (one of my favorite songs of all time). I remember being in awe of the power, clarity and beauty of her voice, thinking I wanna hear every song this woman has ever sung! I haven’t yet, but I figured I should start with a greatest hits compilation (The Essential Barbra Streisand is a great place to start for the uninitiated). It also occurred to me to read up on the Brooklyn-born legend so I’ve picked up a fascinating book about her, Barbra: The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen.  It’s a captivating, fast-paced read that, if any of it is to be believed, casts Streisand as the Diva of all Divas; a woman of magnificent talent, unfettered ambition and enormous ego (but what’s a diva without an ego?).

Diva SupremeDiana Ross: I’ve always loved the Supremes, probably a little more than I’d enjoyed Diana Ross’ solo work but she’s another unabashed Diva. DCPL has lots of music by Diana Ross, as a Supreme (we have this great box set, covered in magenta velvet, that I really like) and as a soloist. Also for fans of unauthorized biographies, such as myself, J. Randy Taraborrelli has written a fun, action-packed tome about this diva.

Over The Rainbow DivaJudy Garland: I’ve been a fan of Judy Garland since seeing her in The Wizard of Oz as a youngster. Her voice is an instrument of heartbreaking beauty; rich and soaring with its distinctive vibrato . The Library also has lots of music and several books about the magnificent Ms. Garland.

Material DivaMadonna: Arguably, Madonna can’t exactly hold a candle (vocally, at least) to the aforementioned Divas, even though she’s delivered many of the seminal pop classics of the late 20th century. But she is remarkable in her ability to re-imagine and reinvent herself with the times.  She’s also got several tell-all books devoted to her mythic and perhaps even cutthroat journey to the top, including one by her brother Christopher Ciccone.

I Will Always Love This DivaDolly Parton: I’ve always admired Dolly Parton as a talented, ambitious and shrewd performer, businesswoman and artist. Also, she happens to be one of my all-time favorite songwriters, having penned such classics as “Coat of Many Colors,” “Joshua” and “I Will Always Love You” (which has been covered by another Diva, Whitney Houston). Her way with words and her one of a kind, crystalline voice (not to mention her country-girl-made-good sense of style) put her into a class all by herself.

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Jul 1 2009

Your Library of Summer Sounds

by Jnai W

In Memory of Michael Jackson 1958-2009 (that was weird to write...)

In Memory of Michael Jackson 1958-2009 (that was weird to write...)

The Library offers all sorts of great summertime diversions including public use computers,  programs, book discussions and children’s activities–in addition to its vast collection of great books. Heck, the Library even offers a cool and welcoming respite from the blazing summer sun. But I, for one, continue to be amazed and excited by the eclectic and ever-expanding collection of great music here at DCPL.

Here are some of my favorite finds in the  “Wow, I didn’t know we had this!” category:

The Best of Eric B. and Rakim: The Millenium Collection:  Hip-Hop Hooray!I’ve noticed that the Library is steadily expanding its hip-hop repertoire (but rest easy, parents, the selections are still, for the most part, in the PG-13 arena).  As a kid, I missed out on alot of the quote-unquote “old skool rap” (my mom wasn’t having any of it!) so it’s great to explore some of the seminal artists of this musical genre.  Some of my favorite cuts include “Paid In Full”,  “I Ain’t No Joke”  and “Microphone Fiend”.

808’s and Heartbreak by Kanye West: Say what you will about a rapper who’s considered egotistical, even by hip hop standards, but he’s always been able to support his boasts with cutting-edge, exciting music. The Auto-Tuned warbling (tedious in other artists but somehow Mr.West makes it work)! The introspective lyrics! The taiko drums! This is my favorite Kanye album to date. Prime cuts: “Love Lockdown”, “Say You Will”  “Welcome to Heartbreak” and “Heartless”.

Anything Tori Amos:  It seems someone in Collection Management has a taste for Tori Amos. As a teen I found her work a bit esoteric but I’m definitely rediscovering the flame-haired chanteuse. Right now I’m tucking into her 2005 album The Beekeeper.  I’m enjoying the tracks “Parasol” and “Sweet The Sting” so far.  The Library is a great place for really learning more about an artist that fascinates you. But if Amos is already your cup of tea you may want to delve into some of DCPLs Tori-centric literature including her fascinating memoir Tori Amos: Piece By Piece (co-authored by Ann Powers) and Comic Book Tattoo, a collection of graphic novel works based on Amos’ songs.

Leonard Cohen: Live in London: Some cheesy manager ran off with Cohen’s earnings so he has come back to work. Sorry for his loss but it is indeed his fans’ gain. Here’s another artist I’ve been turned on to since I’ve been here at the Library. For people who love writers who happen to sing  look no further than this album. I’d tell you how I like it but since it’s brand new I have to wait in the request queue like everyone else. But you can check out the Library’s other Cohen albums until your turn with Live In London comes around.

I could do this all day long. Literally, I get goosebumpy thinking of all the wonderful music you can find at the Library. Thank you, DCPL, for being awesome!

P.S: If you know anyone who doesn’t remember how awesome Michael Jackson was (and who isn’t still a little heartbroken by his passing) please  direct them to these Jackson classics.


Dec 29 2008

Making Music and Not With Plastic

by Amanda L

Have you ever wanted to play an instrument? While I waited for Rock Band 2 to arrive with my plastic instruments, I thought of where I have gone to learn to play my real instruments. I have always wanted to play the drums, but whomever I live with refuses my pleas to learn! I have decided the plastic drum will have to suffice.

I have always turned to the Library and the variety of resources they have to learn the basics of every instrument I have ever wanted to play. The picture on the left shows a sampling of some of the musical instruments that I own and have learned to play. Here is a sampling of material that the Library has to help you learn how to play your instrument of choice.

For the Piano, the Library has several books and DVDs/Videos. Here are two commonly asked about items:

Play the Piano Today

Complete Idiots Guide to Playing the Piano

For the Violin, we have a few books:

Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching

The Mastery of the Bow

For the Guitar, we have several books and Video/DVDS. Here are two items often requested:

Learning Guitar for Dummies

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Guitars

For the Harmonica, we have a DVD:

Anyone Can Play the Harmonica: A Beginners Guide

Once you have begun mastering your new instrument, you might be interested in some music to play. The Library has a few songbooks in the collection. Check out these two for starters:

Acoustic Guitar Songs for Dummies

The great family songbook: a treasury of favorite folk songs, popular tunes, children’s melodies, international songs, hymns, holiday jingles, and more: for piano and guitar

Looking for other instruments? In our catalog, under keyword searching, try Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. This publishing company produces many instructional DVDs for learning a variety of instruments.

Still can’t find anything? Try a keyword search for the specific instrument and instructional. If we have anything, it should come up. Looking for more music? We are in the process of ordering more song books, so check back in a bit.

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Oct 20 2008

Musical Bookings

by Amanda L

The Decatur branch has an ongoing program called Musical Bookings. The Friends of the Decatur Library provide the money for this program. Over the years, many people who have attended have heard a wide variety of music. They are always held on a Thursday night from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

This Thursday, October 23rd  is our next program. It will feature the  group Peavine Creek. They play old-time music for contra dancing and square dancing and were featured on the “Mountain Music and Medicine” show aired on Georgia Public Television in March 2008.

To check out additional upcoming bookings, please check out our calendar under events, musical.  While you are waiting for our next booking, enjoy the video that someone made while attending the performance of the band Recess Monkey.