My Beautiful Dark Twisted Kanye Blog

The Rolling Stones. Guns 'n' Roses. U2. Radiohead. These bands were known as the biggest recording artists in the world at one point in their careers. And they each went for the epic album. The magnum opus. The record that their label told them not to do, under any circumstances. Sometimes it worked. Other times it flopped. Remember Exile on Main Street? How about Chinese Democracy? It can be about timing, but mostly it's about quality. This year, it's Kanye West's shot with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Why is this album 'epic'? A few things to consider: the songs average six minutes apiece. Twenty-nine guest stars lend their talents over thirteen tracks. Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, indie darling, was personally flown to Oahu (where recording took place) to contribute backing vocals. There are six alternate covers. One former President mentioned an incident with West in his recent memoirs just before the album release. A 35-minute short film has already been released for the track, Runaway. Finally -- and most decisively -- listen to it for yourself. It's definitely out there.

Lyrically, the album touches on more topics than a UN summit, albeit one hosted by a sardonic megalomaniac. And I mean that in a good way. Sonically, West samples the likes of King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Aphex Twin, and Gil-Scott Heron, and his signature production lifts these songs into the stratosphere. You can almost see a manic Kanye running from recording booth to production studio to tweak the beats and layer the vocals. Epic? Oh, indeed.

Teen Stuff: "I Am Number Four"

Pittacus Lore's sci-fi thriller, I Am Number Four, is best tagged as Alex Rider meets The Hunger Games, as readers tail 15-year-old John Smith, one of nine refugees from Planet Lorien who is hiding on Earth from the merciless Mogadorians. Aiming to wipe out the super-powered teens one number at a time, the Mogadorians have killed three of the Loriens already, and John is Number Four.

John plans to hide out in the rural town of Paradise, Ohio, with his guardian, Henri, and blend in as an average high school student. But several challenges, including a burgeoning love interest, a particularly sinister bully, and Number Four’s own growing powers are rapidly making him a marked target.

I Am Number Four is the first novel in the planned six-book series, "The Lorien Legacies." A film version is already in production for a 2011 release, with producers Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay behind the action, and hotly buzzing actor Alex Pettyfer in the lead role.

62nd Primetime Emmy Awards

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The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards aired on Sunday, August 29th on NBC and highlighted the best of the best in primetime television. Why not take the time to watch a few of the primetime TV series' nominees and winners?
The most anticipated categories include Outstanding Comedy, Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Reality Competition Program.

Outstanding Comedy nominees were ABC's Modern Family, Showtime's Nurse Jackie, NBC's 30 Rock and The Office, HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm and FOX's Glee. Modern Family won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series marking the show's first win and nomination in the category.

Outstanding Drama nominees were AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, CBS's The Good Wife, HBO's True Blood, Showtime's Dexter and ABC's Lost. Mad Men won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for its' third year in a row.

The Outstanding Reality Competition Program category was introduced in 2003. This year's nominees included Bravo's Top Chef, CBS's The Amazing Race, FOX's American Idol, ABC's Dancing with the Stars and Lifetime's Project Runway. Top Chef won the award in this category for the first time and defeated The Amazing Race which has dominated and won the award every year since the inception of this category.

Good Listening: Speaking of Faith

One of my favorite podcasts is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett from American Public Media. Next month the show's name becomes "Krista Tippett on Being" -- and it sounds like Krista has more good shows planned. This summer, my favorite was her interview with Shane Claiborne, a 30-something social activist you can read about in Esquire magazine accessible in General Reference Center Gold.

Melody Non-Pareil

On a cold January night in Koln, Germany, 1975, jazz pianist Keith Jarrett sat alone on stage before a baby grand piano, with a rapt audience filling the Koln Opera House seats. Non-classical music had rarely been played within the Opera House's utilitarian walls, but this wasn't the only ground-breaking the pianist would accomplish this evening. What became The Koln Concert was the beginning of something much greater.

Jazz-rock fusion had taken over the jazz scene in the '70s after the success of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and the popular Weather Report albums. Jarrett himself was a part of Miles' fusion bands, but after leaving the band, he began forging a new sound, which was more closely tied to the acoustic and melodic roots of jazz, and this concert signaled the re-birth of that sound. Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, and other contemporary jazz performers owe much to Jarrett's return to melody to allow for their success.

Jarrett entered this performance with a few chord progressions in mind, but everything else was improvised. You can hear him playing one melody, then reshaping it, inverting it, and refining it into a line so beautiful you'd swear he spent years writing it. The styles he mines here flow from swing to pop to bebop so effortlessly that it's as much an homage to jazz as it is an original piece.

The album is broken into three parts: Part I, Part II, and encore. Throughout, you can hear Jarrett humming along with the melodies as he invents them, vocally expressing his excitement amidst a line, and pounding out the rhythms on the frame of the piano, all of which add to the sheer joy of this recording. As the bestselling solo jazz recording of all time, this is no secret, but for those who haven't heard it yet, it's an amazing experience. And it's one of my favorite album covers.

Happy Birthday Bono!

Today is the birthday of Paul David Hewson, better known as U2's Bono. Bono is also well known for his humanitarian work, which has spanned causes from world hunger to AIDS to internet access (along with many others).

In honor of Bono's birthday, I have put together a small and hopefully helpful list of items for those of us who would prefer to avoid U2, Bono, and those annoying sunglasses.

If you're looking for something slightly less repetitive than U2, the AADL has a cd of just footstep noises! Actually, we have TWO! They're part of the BBC Sound Effects Library, of which the AADL has about 45 discs. Two of those are just livestock noises, another album I'd be happy to listen to before U2!

Afraid Bono might sneak up on you and try to get you to celebrate with him today? Look to James Watson (of Watson and Crick, describers of the structure of DNA) and his Avoid Boring People and other lessons from a life in science. Library Journal calls it "surprisingly wry, witty, and instructional."

But what if Bono catches you off guard? Hand him our copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting. For the price of free (assuming Bono returns it!), this is an investment you shouldn't pass up.

Finally, if you just can't escape the persistent sounds of Bono echoing through the streets and alleyways of your neighborhood, you may need Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise to help you understand your rights. What rights do you have to insist that your neighbor turn down the stereo? Can exposure to Bono be considered a danger to children? Who pays to repair your fence if your neighbor's copy of The Joshua Tree falls on it? If you have questions like these, this book may help!BonoBono

Mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato has died

Giulietta SimionatoGiulietta Simionato

Italian mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato died at the age of 99 died today, a week before her 100th birthday.

Simionato sang in operas such as Aida, Falstaff, and Adriana Lecouvreur.

She worked with other greats like Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, and was featured in an Italian documentary, Il Bacio di Tosca, about retired opera singers.

According to an article on Yahoo! News, "In its tribute, [Milan opera house] La Scala praised her 'expansive, balanced, emotional and recognizable' voice as well as her personal character."

What is The Future of Journalism?

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At this National Library Week Director's Program on Mon., April 12 at 7 PM at the Downtown Library, three nationally-known journalists will discuss the future of their field in this era of rapid change. This panel discussion features Franklyn Cater, senior producer at NPR's All Things Considered; Wayne Drehs, three-time Emmy Award-winning sportswriter for ESPN.com and Kyle Poplin, who helped launch Bluffton Today, an interactive, hyper-local newspaper. Cosponsored by Michigan Radio.

The Best Best of Fela Kuti

Allow me a moment to expound on the music of one Fela Kuti. This is Afrobeat par excellence, with endless grooves so dank they even make the drum kit sweat. The horn section cuts harder than Louis vs. Schmeling, playing lines so funky they could make Maceo Parker do the electric boogaloo. If James Brown had Kuti's rhythm section, he wouldn't have been the hardest working man in show business; he'd simply have laid back and worked on his head nod while they shook the worldwide tours. A caution to those throwing on a Kuti record who are afraid to dance until the sun rubs the dawn from its eyes: you might not make it through the work day. Some might say they've heard the finest in smoldering jazz/funk fusion whenever Hugh Masekela's "Grazin' in the Grass" comes on, but prepare to have this notion rectified when Fela Kuti's "Lady" drops in. Fela Kuti? Oh, indeed.

AAFF Announces Special Programs

The 48th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival is just a few weeks away, making this a perfect time to prime yourself for the experimental and avant-garde films awaiting you from March 23-28 at the Festival. A great way to search the AADL catalog for groundbreaking explorations on DVD is to enter the keywords "experimental films" on the Catalog page.

The AAFF recently announced several special programs for this year, including Naomi Uman's personal documentaries, "Ukranian Time Machine," and Daniel Barrow's combination of overhead lamp projection with video and music, "Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry," about a garbage man who wants to create a detailed phone book with the personal history of each member of his community.

For the less daring fans of short film, the Michigan Theater is showing the Oscar Nominated Short Films this Friday. If you can't make this screening, check out the AADL's collection of short film Oscar hopefuls from the last few years.

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