New Wave/Post-Punk Redux

Good news for those still arguing over whether New Order is a better band than their previous incarnation, Joy Division, or if David Byrne of Talking Heads ever did go corporate: the new wave/post-punk sound is alive and well in this millennium. As evidenced by the popularity of Franz Ferdinand's latest record, Tonight, and The Killers continuing to sell out arena shows and summer festivals, the synth-driven, lo-fi tones of many bands from the late '70s/early '80s are proving to be increasingly influential on the direction of rock music in the coming decade.

So does this mean it's safe to blast some XTC and Gang of Four at your next party without fearing everyone will laugh at you and leave? Guess that depends on your audience, but chances are if your iPod shuffles to "Blue Monday" after playing Passion Pit's "The Reeling," few will notice that the former came out in 1983, and the latter in 2009. Now, whether you want to look like you're post-punk in 1982 at said party, that decision is entirely up to you.

Take Me Back to the Moors

Although it's unreasonable to judge every book-to-film adaptation against the first iteration of a title, when it comes to Wuthering Heights it's nearly impossible to cast out of mind William Wyler's 1939 version, especially Laurence Olivier's stormy yet affable portrayal of Heathcliff, and the Hollywood-ization of the novel's morose ending. In these two regards does PBS' 2009 rendition of Wuthering Heights most severely contrast Wyler's version.

Tom Hardy's Heathcliff is one of the darkest and most menacing screen incarnations of the character, with outstanding scenes when he's intimidating young Catherine in front of the hapless Hareton and exacting his revenge against Cathy, Edgar, and Hindley in the latter half of the film.

Running nearly 2.5 hours in length, few scenes from the novel are entirely absent, though the plot sequence has been changed, and Lockwood's character has been cut.

Thankfully, the harrowing ending of the novel is kept intact, catharsis and all. Decidedly a PBS Masterpiece presentation in its staginess, the acting is nevertheless sharp, carrying the story and its characters gracefully over the moors once again.

Following the crowds to Nora Roberts

Just for fun, I typed Nora Roberts into our catalog--245 hits. More than Stephen King! Wow, I thought, maybe I will read one of these in our Summer Reading Game. Then, for more fun, I searched J.D. Robb, the name under which Roberts writes police procedurals. Whoa, another 72 hits! Clearly Roberts is beyond prolific, and you can learn (lots) more about this bestselling phenom in Lauren Collins’ wonderful profile in the June 22 New Yorker. As many as 27 Nora Roberts books are sold every minute, the article suggests.

I Heard it on NPR

What was that song on NPR? I'd know it if I heard it again! If you've ever been frustrated by that conversation, now you're in luck, for National Public Radio has begun releasing the music collection series, I Heard it on NPR, and the AADL owns several of these diverse box sets. Fill your house with the voices of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and others on these long, hot summer nights with Ladies Jazz It Up. Or for those looking for music from around the globe, check out One World Many Voices, featuring the Algerian folk-pop of Souad Massi and the Brazilian rhythms of Caetano Veloso, among others. Other sets in this collection include alternative country artists in Down to the Roots, stellar jazz standards in Jazz for Blue Nights, and premier singer-songwriters in Singers, Songs, and Sessions.

Dark Was the Night

Compilation albums usually add up to one of two things: disposable cover songs from big name artists, or hit-or-miss tracks from artists on an adored small label, say Sub Pop or Drive Thru Records. The label makes money, the bands get heard, the buyer remorses. Bucking this trend, the Red Hot Organization made Dark Was the Night, a compilation so good that it needs two discs to hold all the great tunes. With album-worthy original material from the likes of The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, and My Morning Jacket, this compilation has done everything right -- credible bands, great songs, and exclusive tracklisting.

Even the cover songs are intriguing. Antony Hegarty sings a pre-Freewheelin' Bob Dylan folk-tune, I Was Young When I Left Home, and Jose Gonzalez taps his '60s folk hero, singing Nick Drake's Cello Song. One of the AADL's hottest CDs right now, jump on the hold list for Dark Was the Night today.

Summer Music Festivals Invade the Midwest

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For many music fans, summer is all about the outdoor music festivals, where dozens of your favorite bands rock out under the sun while you're surrounded by thousands of your best friends (well, maybe). Within driving distance of southeast Michigan are three of the country's largest music festivals: Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and Lollapalooza. Here's a festival breakdown with links to the AADL catalog holdings for the headlining artists.

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, from June 11-14, is held in Manchester, TN, and features the most robust lineup of artists. Phish reunites for 2 shows, and Beastie Boys and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band also headline on various nights.

Rothbury Festival returns for its second year, running from July 2-5 in Rothbury, MI, and boasts a mission with its music, as it's "dedicated to running as close to a zero-waste event as possible." For the folk-roots audience, The Dead, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson headline.

Finally, Lollapalooza, the longest tenured of these three festivals, goes from August 7-9 in Chicago, IL, with a much harder edge to its sound as Tool, The Killers, and Depeche Mode headline this year.

Then She Found Me


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Recently I saddled down to watch the Oscar and Emmy award winning Helen Hunt's 2007 triumph Then She Found Me. Then She Found Me, a film whose screenplay was co-written, directed, starred and produced by Hunt, depicts the story of April Epner, a 39 year old schoolteacher whose main ambition in life to is have a child of her own. April's hopes are put on hold on the day that her husband Ben (Matthew Broderick) leaves her. However, that same day she meets Frank (Colin Firth), the father of one of her students. Also, April's birth mother, a TV personality, played by (Bette Midler), enters her life and turns things upside down. This is a great film with superb performances by all leading actors especially Helen Hunt, Bette Midler and Colin Firth.

Thank You for Being a Friend

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Beatrice "Bea" Arthur passed away a few days ago, on April 25. Arthur was the star of two highly-acclaimed comedy shows, Maude and Golden Girls. AADL owns many discs of The Golden Girls, so why not celebrate her life by watching a few episodes?

DVD Genre Spotlight: Film Noir

Literally meaning 'black film', film noir is a niche genre of mostly 1940s-1950s Hollywood movies typified by their antihero male protagonists and mercurial femme fatales. Absent are the Capra-esque feel good tales of hope; rather, these films center on murderous plots and deceptive individuals acting out of self-interest and roiling in dirty money. Seedy characters derived from pulp magazines thrive in the urban underbelly settings, and private eyes like Philip Marlowe toe the line between the cops and the gangsters.

Classic performances from this genre include Humphrey Bogart's turn as Marlowe in The Big Sleep, and Orson Welles as the titular character in Sir Carol Reed's magnum opus, The Third Man. The AADL now has a DVD section devoted entirely to film noir for more great browsing choices at all of our locations.

The Michigan Theater is showcasing a film noir every Monday in April, with Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon, Body Heat, and Chinatown, but if you can't make these screenings the AADL owns copies of all of these films.

Nina Simone Compilation Reveals Depth of Catalog

It's a voice that sounds ages old, a deep undulation from an ancient bayou. Her songs are stories at once universal, yet deeply personal. When Nina Simone (1933-2003) tells you, "my back is strong / strong enough to take the pain / inflicted again and again," in the touchstone track Four Women (click this link to hear the song now), it is with tremendous, unarticulated context -- a single page out of a volume on America's penchant for violence -- that gives her words the power to silence a room, to make you stop for a moment and admire the depth of expression that this artist wields.

Last year, RCA/Legacy released To Be Free, a 3-CD compilation of Simone's work, which best serves as an introduction to the singer's unparalleled musical style. For the seasoned fans of her music, this album also contains live recordings from club shows during the late 60s and a 23-minute DVD of a television special she did in 1970.

Because her delivery is both deep and piercing, and her musical style blends folk, soul, jazz, and blues on nearly every recorded track, Simone has few contemporaries; that said, newcomer indie artist Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons has a strikingly similar, fault-line shaking vibrato, and Andrew Bird -- who plays the Michigan Theater tonight -- often crosses genre lines in his music. Check out all of these artists from the AADL's extensive music collection today.

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