Monthly Archives: July 2014

Meta: The Great WordPress Migration made the leap to WordPress back in 2012, but a number of sister sites, which are no longer updated, remained on Ye Olde Movable Typpe system.

Well, version 6 of Movable Type did away with its open source license, which means support for old installations will one day bid adieu.

So I migrated those sites to WordPress, including the behemoth Archive. I haven’t updated the artist directory that hooks into the old blog since 2005, so I accrued quite a lot of technical debt.

I had intended to update this new iteration of weekly, but I got sucked into bringing the old site up to speed. That meant spending a number of weeks learning how to create a custom WordPress plugin and updating the database itself to correct some rookie schema design mistakes.

So now the Archive is back. I have no plans to do anything with, and my TV watching habits have pretty much disqualified me from authoring a site called

The second iteration of this site is also still available.



My brother’s albums: Xanadu, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

[Xanadu - Original Soundtrack]

I’ve mentioned before how sibling rivalry affected my earliest days of music collecting. If one of us (out of four) claimed an artist first, we had dibs on everything that artist made. It was so territorial, no one was allowed to touch anything owned by another sibling.

At first, it started out as a four-way arms race, but my sisters eventually dropped out. Collecting just wasn’t their thing. That left my brother and me.

Occasionally, something would come along that put those border resolves to a test. In 1980, it would be the soundtrack to the movie Xanadu.

The album had something for everyone. Side A housed the wholesome pop of Olivia Newton-John, while Side B offered a modicum of rock respectability with the Electric Light Orchestra. The singles were ubiquitous, and they only fired our desire to see the movie.

My parents, however, disliked movie theaters, and in the days before video rentals, the alternative was to wait a year for network TV to air it.

My brother managed to snag the Xanadu soundtrack before any of us could lay claim, and yeah, my 8-year-old self was appropriately annoyed by the coup.

On those occasions when my brother deemed us worthy to listen to the album in his presence, I remember liking the ELO side better than the ONJ side. “The Fall” was the first hint of my fondness for darker material.

Also, I was too young to appreciate the genre-splicing in “Dancin'”. What’s with this jazz thing? Why is some dude interrupting Olivia? And why does Gene Kelley have to end Side A?

The movie eventually showed up on network television — my parents were also too cheap to subscribe to cable — and it was … OK. Still not sophisticated enough to detect bad screenplay writing, I found the movie fun, if a bit dragging.

Xanadu eventually became a distant memory as soon as Duran Duran entered my life.

In fact, I didn’t really think about it till I thumbed through a bin of newly-arrived used vinyl records at Silver Platters in SODO. For less than the price of a fancy beverage at Starbucks, I could possess an album snatched from my young hands by my quick-acting brother.

So I bought it.

A week later, Xanadu popped up on the cable listings. I couldn’t even sit through 30 seconds of that dialogue before I switched back to a marathon of Outrageous Acts of Science.

But the album itself? Surprisingly durable.

“Dancin'” is now one of my favorite tracks, although the rock half of the song doesn’t sound as aggressive as I originally perceived. “Suspended in Time” and “The Fall” could have been contenders as singles themselves.

The CD itself turned out to be cheaper than grabbing it on eMusic, so I bought that as well. If there’s one disappointment, it’s the exclusion of the b-sides, “Drum Dreams” and “Fool Country”. Surely the spacious capacity of a compact disc would allow their inclusion?

Of course, the territoriality of sibling rivalry is silly in retrospect, but without it, I probably wouldn’t have forged an identity with my own tastes. And honestly, I probably wouldn’t have deigned to make this kind of purchase before my 40s.

It’s still cool to discover things about this music I was too young to know was even there.


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Favorite Edition 2014: Year Half

[Juanes - Loco de Amor]

Just because this site is no longer review-driven doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening to newer releases, and no music writer worth her salt can resist the compulsion to make lists.

The first half of the Favorite Edition 2014 are the titles I anticipate will keep some sort of ranking by year’s end. The second half of the list is up for grabs.

  1. Juanes, Loco de Amor: This album could very well be Juanes’ best. The writing is some of his catchiest since La Vida es … Un Ratico, and producer Steve Lillywhite gives him a big arena sound. (It’s there in the drums.) Loco de Amor finds Juanes rejuvenated after the lackluster P.A.R.C.E.
  2. The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring: I’ve been waiting for this album since a video of The Bad Plus performing the seminal Stravinsky ballet hit the Internet many years back. Similar to the trio’s reworking of Ligeti etudes, The Bad Plus rely on their virtuosity to give The Rite of Spring a fairly faithful reading.
  3. Royal Wood, The Burning Bright: I wasn’t very impressed with Royal Wood’s hitmaking album, We Were Born to Glory, and neither was he. So Wood retreated to Ireland, where he crafted The Burning Bright, an album steeped in heartache and cautious optimism.
  4. [Shiina Ringo - Gyakuyunyuu]Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kouwankyoku~: I had to listen to this album three times before I could orient myself to what was happening. Gyakuyunyuu is billed as a “self-cover album,” featuring songs Shiina contributed to other artists. I was half-expecting another Utaite Myouri, but instead, I got her strangest and most baffling solo album to date. The stylistic whiplash makes the album something of a hot but fascinating mess.
  5. Meredith Monk, Piano Songs: Double Edge recorded Monk’s Phantom Waltz back in 1992, and I’ve always wondered if there was more from where that came from. This album answers that question.
  6. Molotov, Agua Maldita: The blistering anger of Molotov’s previous decade has evolved into something much more tuneful.
  7. Inventions, Inventions: My first listen of Inventions’ self-titled album left no impression at all, but an extended coding session made me realize this album is actually quite compelling. I would put the Eluvium/Exploisions in the Sky ratio at around 60/40, though.
  8. [Sam Smith - In the Lonely Hour]Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour: Sam Smith does indeed possess an incredible set of pipes. What he has yet to acquire is an adventurousness on the level of James Blake. This debut is appealing, but like Janelle Monae, Smith has potential that is not yet tapped.
  9. Ben Watt, Hendra: Do you miss Everything But the Girl? Hendra, Watt’s first solo album in a number of decades, picks up where Amplified Heart left off before Everything But the Girl ventured into electronic dance music.

And a few more favorites …

  • [Last Exit - Iron Path]Favorite reissue: Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball (Deluxe Edition)
  • Favorite catalog discovery: Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi
  • Favorite vinyl find: Last Exit, Iron Path
  • Favorite late discover from 2013: Jason Isbell, Southeastern

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