Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A nifty way to avoid library fines and two very different types of music

Kate Bush's 2005 album Aerial

Public libraries’ e-books

A selection of fine-free reading (Screenshot: Chicago Public Library)

Everybody I tell about this—and I’ve become something of an evangelist/annoyance on this matter—is surprised, so I guess there are still some people left for me to convert. Did you know that most public libraries allow you to check e-books out on your Kindle (or other device), and that they automagically disappear when they’re due and don’t incur any fines? That last part is crucial to somebody like me, who is (likely) blacklisted in five (really) different library systems in two states. I spent $70 five years ago on a Kindle that doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but it also doesn’t weigh more than my index finger, so I couldn’t be happier with it. I use it almost exclusively to borrow from the Chicago Public Library, to whom I would owe a lot more than $70 in late fees without this feature. I maintain an extensive wish list, and I use the holds feature to notify me when books are available. And then, after 21 days, the book disappears without costing me a cent. (Protip: If you need more time, turn off wi-fi before your due date. As soon as you switch wi-fi back on, the book will disappear from your device.) [Laura M. Browning]

Bagad music

A bagad is what they call a Breton pipe band. They play a type of blaring martial music with lots of bagpipe drones and pounding drums, recognizably Celtic, but without the misty-eyed sentimental aura. There are dozens of these bands around Brittany, the French peninsula that juts out into the English Channel and the Bay Of Biscay, where they’re a fixture of festivals and parades. (The French Navy has its own, Bagad De Lann-Bihoué.) Lately I’ve developed a little bit of an obsession with them, even if the music all kind of sounds the same. Actually, I’m pretty sure the bagad scene figured this out a while ago; the repertoire of loud, repetitive bagpipe marching music by people whose ancestors ran away from Great Britain is limited, so some degree of fusion is necessary. Bagad Kemper, which hails from Quimper and dominates the annual bagad championships, record Balkan and klezmer music in addition to their pan-Celtic material. Bagad Men Ha Tan, which comes from nearby Quimperlé, have collaborated with jazz bassist Henri Texier and with Senegalese drummer Doudou N’Diaye Rose; one of their recordings with the latter is very effectively used as the end-credits music for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Kate Bush, “An Endless Sky Of Honey”

When people talk about Kate Bush, the conversation generally centers on her 1980s output, and that’s with good reason. But just as exciting to me is some of her more recent work, like the 2005 double album Aerial. The latter half of this record in particular contains a work that for me ranks alongside masterpieces like Hounds Of Love. “An Endless Sky Of Honey” is a nine-part movement that traces the arc of an entire summer day, from one sunrise to the next, in 42 minutes. It is a blissful meditation on the beauty of everyday life spent with the ones we love. It’s an invitation—“Oh, won’t you come with us?”—to revel in the fact that “all the time / the light is changing.” Between the narrative effect of voice-overs (including Bush’s own son) and the suffusion of birdsong throughout, it’s characteristically dramatic (not coincidentally, Bush adapted it to stage for her 2014 concert series). The songs tend to be loose and take their time, leaving plenty of space for talkative bass lines, synth swells, and piano fills to dance around one another. A highlight for me is the pivotal “Sunset” (around 13:30), to which all earlier themes seem to lead. The song’s rich, mid-tempo melodies—reflecting the sky’s shifting saturation of color as it transitions toward night—build to a rapturous, flamenco-guitar-driven choral refrain that breaks just before dusk sets in. It is as good as a Kate Bush song gets. [Kelsey J. Waite]


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