The new decade doesn’t start till the end of of 2020, if you use the modified Julian calendar upon which scientists and the Naval Observatory rely. Pop culture writers are not scientists. Would you consider U2’s debut album a product of the ‘70s? Boy was released in 1980, and it would seem odd to lump it in the decade that gave us disco.
So even though science tells us the albums of 2020 should be counted in this review of the decade, we’ll save them for next decade. Besides, we didn’t give 2010 that accommodation last decade.
Tokyo Jihen, Sports: This album was a true band effort with songwriting duties spread among members rather than falling entirely on Shiina Ringo’s shoulders. But you couldn’t tell. Tokyo Jihen finally felt like an independent unit here and not just a backing band.
Jason Isbell, Southeastern: The stark cover with Isbell gazing directly at the camera only hints at the vulnerability contained within the album’s 12 tracks.
Jarell Perry, Simple Things: I knew about neo-soul, but until I ran across Solange, Frank Ocean and Jarell Perry, I didn’t know the genre had formed its own underground. Sometimes, Perry is a beat or two away from falling into the orbit of Björk. Oddly enough, he reminds me a lot of Utada Hikaru.
Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury: Simpson owned this decade. He started out sounding like a traditionalist, but by decade’s end, he created a body of work incomparable even to itself. All of his albums should be on this list, but I’m choosing his most confounding.
Solange, A Seat at the Table: You may have Beyoncé.
Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: I wish I could sing along with this album, but these lyrics … hot damn!
John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot): When your award-winning commission inspires Taylor Swift to donate to your organization …
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: The Pulitzer Prize should have gone to this album.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton:The Phantom of the Opera was the last time I was riveted to a cast recording.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I’ve always felt Monáe had a Muzai Moratorium or Shouso Strip inside her. This album comes closest.
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: It’s like the decade preceding this album’s release had melted away.
Eponymous 4, Travis: Yeah, I’m putting my own damn album on this list. I can listen to it without cringing or second guessing it. It almost feels like someone better than myself had made it.
Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All: Similar to Monáe, I feel Sam Smith has an I Am a Bird Now or a Homogenic in them, waiting to bust out. This album is a step in that direction.
D’angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: I got pregnant listening to this album, and I’m not even a woman.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories, Jan. 17
When Trail of Dead announced they would take a hiatus after releasing their ninth album, it felt like the right time. They’d been at it for 20 years, and they sure deserved the break. Their return is also nicely timed — I have to say I’ve missed them.
Ben Watt, Storm Damage, Jan. 31
I’m still somewhat surprised Ben Watt has spent his post-Everything But the Girl solo career thus far being a troubadour.
Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi (Deluxe Edition), Jan. 31
I came around to this album quite late, but I’m glad to see it get some deluxe treatment.
CHARA+YUKI, echo, Feb. 14
The closest thing we’ll get to a MEAN MACHINE reunion.
Onitsuka Chihiro, REQUIEM AND SILENCE, Feb. 20
Onitsuka Chihiro commemorates the 20th anniversary of her debut with yet another compilation, this one spanning three major labels.
Sam Sparro, Boombox Eternal, Feb. 21
If the pre-release single “Everything” reflects the remainder of the album, I’m on board.
Clannad, In a Lifetime Anthology, March 13
I probably don’t need this anthology given the depth of my Clannad collection, but I wait eagerly for news of US dates on their farewell tour.
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, 20th Anniversary Box, March 25
Another band celebrating their 20th anniversary is LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. The 20th Anniversary Box compiles 4 CDs of singles, a Blu Ray or DVD of the duo’s acoustic tour, an LP of acoustic recordings and a score book. I’m tempted by the score book alone. The singles collection will also be sold separately (COMPLETE SINGLES 2000-2019), and the acoustic recordings will be released on vinyl (TWO OF US Acoustic Recording Session at VICTOR STUDIO 302.)
A series of events at the start of the year derailed my publishing schedule, and I had pretty much written off 2019 by the summer.
I usually write a few entries in one sitting, then dole them out over the course of a month. At my peak productivity, I stockpiled enough to last two months.
I lost that momentum and couldn’t get it back. Sometimes, I would come up with a story idea, only to realize I’d already written it. Other times, I felt restricted by the tag line of this blog: Music and memory. What if the memories keep rehashing the same story?
When I changed the focus of this site 5 years ago, I thought my days of discovering new music was behind me. What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of music from the past still unfamiliar to me.
So in 2020, I plan to tweak the focus of the site. I don’t know yet what that entails, but I know I want it to reflect my listening habits today.
If the Purchase Log entries of the past year have shown, I’ve done a lot of exploring, and I have a lot more to do.