All posts by Greg Bueno

Four Questions: Kronos Quartet, Short Stories

[Kronos Quartet - Short Stories]

Artist

Kronos Quartet

Title

Short Stories

Original Release Date

March 9, 1993

Purchase Date

March 9, 1993

What is the memory you most associate with this title?

I was living in New York City at the time this album was released. That season, Kronos performed twice at Alice Tully Hall. Most of the pieces on those programs would eventually make their way to the Night Prayers album. So I was a bit disappointed they didn’t end up on Short Stories.

I sat a few seats away from Osvaldo Golijov at one of those concerts. He stood up when Kronos acknowledged him after starting the concert with a premiere of his work. I congratulated him as he passed me on the way out to intermission.

What was happening in your life when it was released?

I had adjusted to life in New York City. I had a rough bout of homesickness the preceding autumn, which I found disappointing because I had waited what felt like an eternity to escape Hawaii.

But I wasn’t totally at ease. I still was in denial about being gay, and I hadn’t learned how to be comfortable with solitude. I did lay the groundwork for what would eventually pivot me away from music and into journalism by writing for the campus newspaper. I had also started to enjoy reading fiction, which was handy because that winter was actually rough.

What was happening in your life when you bought it?

I bought the album on release day, so same answer as above. I’m pretty sure I took a crosstown bus from Hunter College to the Tower Records at Lincoln Center, which had an entire floor dedicated to classical music.

What do you think of it now?

I do not like Short Stories.

Up to that point, Kronos crafted their albums well, threading diverse pieces into a thematic whole. Short Stories felt like a compilation with uninteresting B-sides.

Perhaps the lack of a thread was the point of the album. I just remember feeling impatience with a number of longer pieces on the album.

If I were to rank Kronos’ Nonesuch albums, Short Stories would anchor it.

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Purchase log, 2020-02-18

[Freedy Johnston - This Perfect World]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CD
  • BABYMETAL, Metal Galaxy
  • Bronski Beat, The Age of Consent
  • Eluvium, Talk Amongst the Trees
  • Gossip, Movement
  • MC Solaar, Prose Combat
  • Philip Glass, Solo Piano
  • Solange, Sol-Angel and the Handley St. Dreams
  • The Alarm, Strength
  • The Album Leaf, In a Safe Place
  • The Faint, Danse Macabre
Vinyl
  • Freedy Johnston, This Perfect World
  • Roberta Flack, First Take
Files
  • Andrew Norman, Sustain (Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel)

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Looking ahead, March-May 2020

[Tokyo Jihen - News]

I usually wait until concrete release dates are announced before listing an album in these previews, but in the last few days, a number of artists have made announcements worth noting.

Tokyo Jihen, News, April 8

I didn’t think I would miss Tokyo Jihen, but I realized I did when their reunion was announced.

Gaytheist, How Long Have I Been on Fire, April 10

I like Gaytheist, but I don’t follow them as closely as I do other bands. So it’s an automated announcement from Bandcamp that informed me of this release.

Roberta Flack, First Take (Deluxe Edition), April 10

Roberta Flack’s debut album turns 50. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was No. 1 on the week I was born.

Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow the Rules, April 24

When was the last time Rufus Wainwright did a rock album? Right around the time I moved to Seattle in 2012.

Sam Smith, To Die For, May 1

I enjoyed The Thrill of It All more than The Lonely Hour, so I’m hoping this next album continues that trajectory.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Reunions, May 15

The Nashville Sound was good, but it didn’t monopolize my attention the way Southeastern or Something More than Free did. So my anticipation for this album is a bit on the cool side.

Midnight Oil, The Markarrata Project, Summer 2020
Midnight Oil, TBD, Late 2020

I think I’m more excited over another tour than I am about the new album and EP. At the same time, things are so fucked up that Midnight Oil is the right band for these times.

Janet Jackson, Black Diamond, TBD

Aside from the title, details are scant about the next Janet album, but she’s already announced a tour.

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Purchase log, 2020-02-11

[Various Artists - Studio One Rockers]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CD
  • Dub Specialist, Studio One Dub
  • Huey Lewis and the News, Fore!
  • Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1
  • Roger Sessions / John Harbison, Sessions: Symphony No. 2 / Harbison: Symphony No. 2, Oboe Concerto (San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt)
  • Sun Ra, Space is the Place
  • Soundtrack, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
  • Various Artists, Studio One Rockers
  • Various Artists, Studio One Soul
Vinyl
  • KC and the Sunshine Band, Part 3
  • Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
  • Run-D.M.C., Run-D.M.C.
  • Starship, Knee Deep in the Hoopla

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The Ones that Nearly Got Away: The Ordinaries, One

[The Ordinaires - One]

The Ordinaires’ One should have been an album I held dear.

It was a discovery I made reading Pulse magazine, and the band’s press name-dropped a bunch of rock bands and classical composers — two things that would shape my development as a wannabe musician.

But it faced stiff competition. Naked City and Kronos Quartet monopolized my attention, and I wanted the dopamine hits I got from Winter Was Hard and the self-titled Naked City debut to repeat with every subsequent discovery.

The Ordinaires came close. The first few times I listened to this album, I liked it. It had its skronky moments and its pretty moments. Oddly enough, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” would capture my affection, despite a growing distaste for Led Zeppelin.

But it didn’t survive a purge for cash. I decided I couldn’t really keep the tape — yes, I bought it on cassette — if I liked only one song. One was weird, but not weird enough. So I let it go.

In the 30 years that would follow, I would find myself missing that cover of “Kashmir”, but the moment would pass too quickly for me to act on it.

Then at the Northwest Record Show in November 2019, I found it on vinyl selling for $2.

Reacquainting myself with this album allows me to rag on my younger self for letting something valuable slip away. Well, valuable to me, otherwise I would have been charged far more than $2 to reacquire it.

The Ordinaires positioned themselves as less weird downtown New Yorkers. They may have hung out with the noisers and no wavers, but they were a bit more tuneful than that.

One smoothes over the jump-cut eclecticism of Naked City and tones down the noise. It’s a gateway album to a far stranger realm of music.

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Purchase log, 2020-02-04

[Black Sabbath - Paranoid]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

CD
  • Ben Watt, Storm Damage

Catalog

CD
  • Band of Susans, Hope Against Hope
  • Dirty Three, Whatever You Love, You Are
  • Matsuda Seiko, area62
  • Ponga, Psychological
  • Soundtrack, This Is Spinal Tap
Vinyl
  • Black Sabbath, Paranoia
Blu Ray
  • Shiina Ringo, Electric Mole
  • Tokyo Jihen, Ultra C

Reissues

CD
  • Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi

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Rewind: Rage Against the Machine, Renegades

[Rage Against the Machine - Renegades]

Oh, shit — the racism in this 20-year-old old review of Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades is barely contained. At the time I wrote it, I hadn’t been exposed to much hip-hop, so I took uninformed digs at the genre.

I have to cringe at the scare quote dis of Cypress Hill. My ignorant mid-20s ass would be surprised to learn I would eventually own the group’s first three albums.

And what the fuck is up with calling Afrika Bambaata’s drum machines “cheesy”? There were no other types of drum machines at the time!

See? Ignorant.

Perhaps the most egregiously racist comment in that review was the suggestion that Zach de la Rocha do something other than rap. Yes, he could be a very good punk singer, but he’s renowned for his flow. The value judgment underpinning the remark was just uncalled for.

I try to be self-deprecating these days about having rockiest tendencies, but boy did I take it seriously 20 years ago. It’s appalling how seriously I took it.

Now that I own some Cypress Hill, Devo, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Minor Threat albums, I can tell I downloaded the source material for Renegades and did some half-assed A/B comparisons. I had zero appreciation for the creative license Rage took with this cover album.

Back then, I was trying to meet a self-imposed publishing schedule, and sometimes, you end up with a turd.

That review was definitely filler, and I knew I had no expertise to tackle it. But I gave it a shot anyway.

As Adam Savage said often on Mythbusters, failure is always an option.

Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.

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Purchase log picks, January 2020

[The Dismemberment Plan - Change]

The Dismemberment Plan, Change

I spent years filing The Dismemberment Plan’s albums at Waterloo Records, and I don’t think I ever listened to their music. So I picked up Change at the thrift store purely out of curiosity. Listening to this album transported me back to those record store days in the early 2000s.

The Ordinaires, One

I owned this album on cassette, and I actually liked it at the time. The only problem was I liked a lot of other albums at the same time a bit more. In a crunch for cash, I sold it. But the band’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” has haunted me ever since. So I picked it up on vinyl at the Northwest Record Show, then eventually on CD.

Anton Bruckner, Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Staatskapel Dresden, Eugene Jochum)

I had an unofficial goal of collecting Bruckner symphonies on my visits to thrift shops until this budget boxed set showed up at Lifelong. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! I learned about Bruckner in college, but I didn’t feel compelled to explore his work because of a joke: he wrote nine symphonies at one time, or one symphony nine times.

Soundtrack, Death Note

I’ve been dragging my feet on getting this soundtrack for nearly a decade now, but what finally spurred me to take action was a vinyl reissue from Tiger Lab.

Gary Numan, The Pleasure Principle

I bugged my mom to buy me the 7-inch single of “Cars” when I was 8 years old, but by the time I started collecting on my own 5 years later, Gary Numan felt like ancient history. The Pleasure Principle has grown in stature since then, so it was high time I followed up on that single purchase.

Clipse, Lord Willin’

Yeah, I went through a Neptunes phase in the early 2000s, but this album slipped through my grasp. 2002 was a fruitful year in music, so it faced a lot of competition.

Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

Now that everyone else has published their best of 2019 lists, I get to play catch up with everything I’ve been ignoring. So far, only Billie Eilish has managed to punch through.

Peter Gabriel, Us

I probably wouldn’t have come around to this album if I hadn’t run across Secret World Live first. Us got middling reviews, but I find it hits more than it misses.

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Purchase log, 2020-01-28

[Change - The Glow of Love]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CD
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Song and Dance: The Songs (Original Broadway Cast)
  • Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Cee-Lo Green, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections
  • Michael Jackson, Bad (Special Edition)
  • Musical Youth, Anthology
  • Olivier Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time (Tashi)
  • Philip Glass, North Star
  • Rage Against the Machine, Renegades
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff, Preludes (Complete) (Alexis Weissenberg)
  • The Flaming Lips, Fight Test
  • World Saxophone Quartet, Dances and Ballads
  • Soundtrack, Friday Night Lights
  • Soundtrack, Kill Bill, Vol. 1
  • Soundtrack, Strictly Ballroom
Vinyl
  • Change, The Glow of Love
  • Lounge Lizards, No Pain for Cakes
  • William Orbit, Strange Cargo

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Four questions: Craig Armstrong, The Space Between Us

[Craig Armstrong - The Space Between Us]

Artist

Craig Armstrong

Title

The Space Between Us

Original Release Date

Feb. 24, 1998

Purchase Date

Approximately June 1998

What is the memory you most associate with this title?

I remember playing this album on my computer CD-ROM drive instead of my stereo and hearing what would have been lush strings strangled through cheap, tinny computer speakers. It was the lowest point in the 14 years I spent in Austin. Even lower than losing my job two years later. Why was I playing this album on cheap speakers? Because my apartment had been burglarized.

What was happening in your life when it was released?

In February 1998, I had been living in Austin nine months, and I wasn’t having an easy time of it. I had a distracting crush on a co-worker, who was leaving the office. I was working a night shift and didn’t have much of a social life. And I was discovering that I really hated gay bars.

I was keeping an online journal at the time, which I now keep under authentication. Around that time, I had wanted to contribute to a Duran Duran tribute album, but I didn’t have the equipment to make a decent recording, nor did I know anyone who could sing it. It would be another 7 years before I could record it properly.

What was happening in your life when you bought it?

Someone broke into my apartment, stole my music equipment, stereo and a bunch of cassette tape cases. They had hit a neighbor’s apartment a few doors down about two weeks earlier, and that spurred me to get renter’s insurance.

The insult to injury in this ordeal was the fact those cassette tape cases didn’t have anything of commercial worth — just the masters of my 4-track demos. I had years of music in those cases, but just one cassette tape survived. It was in my car at the time of the burglary.

At the time, it felt catastrophic to lose so much creative work. I even broke down and cried in the office when the magnitude of the loss hit me.

The insurance settlement covered the cost of the music gear in terms of its current value, not its depreciation. That meant I could purchase entirely new gear for the price I had paid in 1991.

What I eventually discovered was that I was limiting myself creatively with outdated gear. I started to lose the desire to make music because what was in my head didn’t match what I was actually creating.

Since then, I’ve built a home studio and have kept it reasonably up to date. I also never live on a first floor apartment any more.

What do you think of it now?

This album monopolized my attention at the time I bought it, and that’s why I was listening to it on cheap, tinny speakers. Just because I didn’t have my stereo didn’t mean I was going to sit in a silent apartment.

Armstrong did the film score for Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and The Space Between Us included an orchestral version of Des’ree’s “Kissing You.” I dug the mix of electronic beats and strings, and I’ll admit to ripping off a bit of that sound for one of my own tracks.

But I think the melancholy of the album suited my frame of mind at the time. I really wasn’t enjoying life all that much, and I let the sadness of the music wash over me.

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