Letters 05-18-2015

Will History Repeat Itself? What large patterns or trends can guide our ideas about the next century? We can look at the history of Easter Island as a warning about the dangers of a future crisis.

Applauding Michigan’s Renewable Standards Recently, state legislators introduced dueling initiatives that would impact the state’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) expiring at the end of the year very differently.

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Kristi Kates - August 4th, 2008
Paul Weller - 22 Dreams - Yep Roc
Legendary former The Jam frontman Weller reappears with his ninth solo album, a concept set retaining much of his signature sound but still proving that he’s as modern a musician as he ever was. Of course, you’ll get Weller’s soulful Brit-pop-rock mix, complete with edgy guitars and artistic song structures; but there’s plenty of experimentation here, too, including collaborations with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher (“Echoes Round the Sun”) and ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon. And there’s no lack of hit hooks, either - just take a listen to “All I Wanna Do...,” “Night Lights,” “Have You Made Up Your Mind,” and the title track, and you’ll quickly remember why Weller was and is a groundbreaker.

Takka Takka - Migration - EJ Records
Kicking off - or, rather, striding away - with its echoey and appropriately jungle-like lead track, “Monkey Forest Road,” Takka Takka’s latest, as produced by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Sean Greenhalgh, is both ambient and poppy, with singer Gabriel Levine’s slightly rough tones skating nicely on top of the set’s sample-ridden, trance-like backdrops. It’s great background music, and that’s definitely not an insult - pleasant enough to listen to over and over again, it may not be a sharp, listen-to-me-right-now sort of album, but rather one that really is meant for repeated listens, whether you’re having a dinner party or doing the dishes, especially standouts “Everybody Say,” “One Foot in a Well,” and the opener.

Neil Halstead - Oh! Mighty Engine - Brushfire
Produced by Halstead himself along with co-producer Robert Carranza, the singer-songwriter’s sophomore set on Jack Johnson’s label fits in quite well with the folky, chill feel that Johnson and crew prefer. Full of pensive, quirky, and carefully-arranged numbers that sometimes veer into humor and just as often turn into cryptic poems, Halstead seems to have slowly and good-naturedly constructed these songs, an approach that’s obvious as each track unfolds. Although it’s mostly guitar, other seasonings are sprinkled in; mandolin on “Witless or Wise” and pretty keyboards on “Always the Good.” It’s a set that grows in appeal with time, which is probably just how he intended it to be.

Nomo - Ghost Rock - Ubiquity
This skilled collective recalls a lot of genres at the same time, and somehow makes sense of it all within the structure of their own compositions. Bebop, African music (both Fela and Seun Kuti spring to mind), a little Motown, and even a little funk all make appearances in different songs, anchored by Nomo’s distinctive horn arrangements and tattered-live sound. “Rings” throws those horns in with tinkling, burbling keys, while “Three Shades” gets soopah-jazzy and echoes the melody an octave apart on separate instruments; “Round the Way” has an old school, arrhythmic feel, and the title track, with its slightly country-Western sound, gallops along briskly as if being chased.
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