Check It Out Category: Music

Music: French Fries and Champagne by The Hot Sardines

The Hot Sardines French Fries and Champagne album coverThe Hot Sardines’ third album French Fries + Champagne is aptly titled. Catchy lyrics, swinging brass, and uplifting beats gives this album all of the accessibility of french fries and all of the bubbliness of champagne. This mix of jazz, blues, and big band also features a new arrangement of “Running Wild” from the film Some Like it Hot by Marilyn Monroe, the song “When I Get Low, I Get High” and “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma played as a tango.

A strength of this album is The Hot Sardines’ versatility. As a result, checking it out can act as an excuse to host a dinner party and dance around or a reason to relax and be wrapped in the warm gritty romantic sounds.


Movies and TV: Sound of Noise

Sound of Noise DVD coverCall this the Drums of Anarchy. A group of brilliant percussionists conspire to unleash a masterpiece of performance art on an unsuspecting public. “Music for One City and Six Drummers” is comprised of four movements, each carried out as a comic caper in a different venue. First, they invade a hospital operating theater, then a bank. Taking the space hostage, they create carefully-coordinated rhythms using whatever is at hand, be it a paper shredder, a bulldozer, or a celebrity patient, and then exit in a quick getaway. Their hallmark at each scene is an old-school metronome, and the inspector assigned to bring order to their chaos is taunted over and over again.

A Swedish film entry (and prizewinner) at multiple festivals, Sound of Noise is audacious fun to the beat of a shockingly unique set of drums.

Staff Pick: True Sadness by The Avett Brothers

Picture of JennyThe Avett Brothers’ newly released album True Sadness shows off the continued evolution of the band’s blended sound of indie rock and folk. While the band of four address the natural sadness experienced throughout life, there is more upbeat rhythms and hope than the album title may suggest!

Favorite song: “Ain’t No Man”
Favorite lyric: “Call the Smithsonian I made a discovery, life ain’t forever and lunch isn’t free.”  (from “Smithsonian”)

Also available on Hoopla for instant check out with a MPPL card.




Staff Pick: The Time by The Time (a side project by Prince)

Picture of JohnRumor has it that The Time’s eponymous debut album is effectively a Prince solo side project:  written, produced and performed by the legendarily prolific artist, with Morris Day’s vocals the only other contribution.  True or false, this slice of outstanding pop-funk can easily stand alongside the Purple One’s Dirty Mind/Controversy-era peak.

New Music Spotlight: Salt as Wolves by Jeffrey Foucalt

Salt as Wolves album coverJeffrey Foucalt intertwines country and blues in his newest album, Salt as Wolves. The twelve songs are all sung by Foucalt and his even-toned voice, which mixed with repetitive lyrics culminates into a soothing exploration of life, death, and relationships. This 2015 album feels like the listener is stepping into a one way conversation, as Foucalt’s songs address various people and moments in his life: his mom in regards to their relationship falling apart, his friend on a death, and even the listener to say, “everything is going to work out.”

Music- Three Ways to Start Listening to Hip Hop Using Hamilton: An American Musical

Jay-Z The Blueprint album coverThe Blueprint by Jay-Z
HamiltonHamilton: An American Musical
The Original Broadway Cast Recording
Notorious BIG Life After Death album coverLife After Death by Notorious B.I.G.



Like the hit musical Hamilton and want to listen to more hip-hop, but not sure where to start? Here are three different methods you can try to find hip hop artists or styles you might like! Just a reminder, like all music hip hop is a diverse genre and albums, artists, and songs mentioned below will have varying mature content.

1. Listen to the artists the characters were inspired by.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of Hamilton, was reading the biography that inspired the musical, Alexander Hamilton, he was quick to draw parallels between the men and women involved in the formation of our country and hip hop artists. Below is a taste of those parallels:

George Washington is…. a mix between Common (formerly known as Common Sense) and John Legend.

Hercules Mulligan is… inspired by Busta Rhymes

Hamilton is… modeled after Rakim, Big Pun, and Eminem

2. Listen to some of the inspirations for the songs.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has stated that the musical is a love story to hip hop. There are way more homages payed to hip hop songs (and other musicals) than what is listed below, but to start you off:

“My Shot” has a tribute to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back to Cali”

“Ten Duel Commandments” has a similar structure as Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ten Crack Commandments”

The opening to “Cabinet Battle #1” references Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and contains parts of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash

“Meet Me Inside” has some of the same pieces as DMX’s “Party Up in Here (Up in Here)” (if you don’t hear it right away, keep listening!)

“Cabinet Battle #2” alludes to Notorious B.I.G’s “Juicy (It’s All Good).”

3. Listen to other albums that have storytelling elements to them.

One of the appealing aspects of the Hamilton album is that listeners will get a whole story about Alexander Hamilton. While albums below may not all have the same storytelling chronology as the musical, they do tell stories either in the individual songs or by being a part of a larger narrative.

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly album cover To Pump a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Scarface Deeply Rooted album cover Deeply Rooted by Scarface



In the Heights album cover In the Heights  (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Outkast Atliens album cover ATLiens by Outkast


Have a suggestion of your own? Email us at to let us know!


Lin-Manuel Miranda’s commentary on his lyrics
Mental Floss’ “20 Things You Might Have Not Known About ‘Hamilton'”
Podcast interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda on Another Round

Staff Picks: Duets II by Tony Bennett

Picture of DonnaListen to the sound recording Duets II by Tony Bennett for an auditory treat. This talented artist has joined with 17 popular vocalists and musicians for a wonderful album. Hear Norah Jones, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Willie Nelson and several others. Try Duets, also, by Tony Bennett for more great listening pleasure.

Music: Italian Music for Your Ferrante Fever

Ferrante Fever Header Image

Have you found yourself being overtaken by Ferrante Fever?

Give yourself a soundtrack as you read the popular book series set in Naples, Italy by Elena Ferrante. The books begin in 1950 following two best friends when they’re in elementary school and as they age.

The Best of Jimmy Roselli album cover The Best of Jimmy Roselli

Italian-American singer Jimmy Roselli began his career in the early 1960s. He was known to sing classic songs from Naples, described as “singing in perfect Neapolitan dialect.” This more relaxed album starts out with “Mala Femmena,” which is considered to be his signature song.




Serenade a Mario Lanza album coverSerenade: A Mario Lanza Songbook

With some songs sung in Italian and others in English, this compilation sung by Mario Lanza moves from upbeat and whimsical to more leisurely-paced romantic sweeping melodies. An orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra’s cousin, Ray Sinatra provides a sweeping foundation for most of the tracks.




guiseppe di stefano album cover

Giuseppe di Stefano Neapolitan Songs

Di Stefano takes his operatic tenor to Neapolitan songs in this collection of classics, all sung in Italian. Di Stefano began his singing career in the 1940s and would have been popular while the fictional characters Elena and Lila were growing up.

Music: Hamilton and Other Sung-Through Broadway Musicals

Hamilton CD coverThere is no denying that Hamilton: An American Musical  is a cultural phenomenon. Tickets are sold out for the foreseeable future, and any skepticism about a hip-hop spotlight of founding father Alexander Hamilton appealing to mass audiences has been successfully shouted down. Why the national passion for a show most haven’t seen with their own eyes?

One factor is that it is a “sung-through” musical, with little dialogue other than the lyrics, which means that simply hearing the cast album provides a close experience of the show. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Tony Award-winning creator Lin-Manuel Miranda explained that his own lifelong love of Broadway started with listening to his parents’ collection of cast albums, and he wanted to offer a similar thrill for Hamilton. Sample for yourself via CD or Hoopla streaming, or spark a similar fandom with a different sung-through musical.

Click here for a list of sung-through musical Broadway cast recordings at MPPL.