What is the memory you most associate with this title?
I jumped on the bandwagon of shopping for music on the Internet really early. How early? Amazon hadn’t even launched when I was sending checks to complete strangers on the rec.music.marketplace group on USENET.
CD Connection had a TELNET interface where you could buy albums at warehouse prices. Interstate taxation hadn’t yet become an issue, although the markup to ship to Hawaii was obscene.
As terrific as Tower Records was, they couldn’t fit everything in the store, and they couldn’t cater to someone with tastes as esoteric as mine.
I bought Halfrack on the Internet, most likely from CD Connection. I knew it would take Tower weeks, if not months, to stock it, so I cut out the middle man and got it myself.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
In May 1993, I was preparing to move back to Honolulu after spending two semesters in New York City on the National Student Exchange Program.
This program allowed students to attend another university in the country while paying either the in-state tuition of the host school, or the in-state tuition of the visitor’s school.
I had wanted to go to the Mainland for college like a number of my high school friends, but my family couldn’t afford it. My parents’ combined income put us out of reach of financial aid, unless I opted to take out loans, which my mom insisted not happen.
I didn’t appreciate the gesture at the time, but I’m glad for it now. I have no student debt, and I’m sure I would be in a worse financial position now had I saddle myself with it.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
The Internet wasn’t just the World Wide Web. Before the web gave the internet a graphical user interface, there were mailing lists, newsgroups, talk daemons and IRC.
And I was exploring anything music-related through these command-line interfaces. I sold and bought CDs on USENET. I developed friendships with people I would never meet through a shared love of Duran Duran. I chatted with high school friends if the finger command revealed they were online many time zones away.
I also started to shift my academic focus away from music and onto journalism. I wrote a few reviews for the Hunter College newspaper when I lived in New York, and I liked the experience so much, I kept writing for the paper at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The seeds of this web site were pretty much being sown right around the time I picked up this album.
What do you think of it now?
I have to admit I didn’t listen to Halfrack as much as I could have at the time. V as in Victim followed shortly afterward and quickly monopolized my listening time.
Halfrack set the tone for what would follow, including moments of tenderness next to controlled chaos. At five tracks, it whetted the appetite for more, and even 25+ year later, it’s an astonishing piece of work to behold.
The influence of Naked City is inescapable, which means it will always be a perpetual favorite.
Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Sonic Youth, Confusion Is Sex / Kill Yr. Idols
I’ve read a number of record guides, and very few of them recommend this album. They are wrong. Confusion Is Sex is probably the closest Sonic Youth has gotten to its modern classical roots, and I like it a lot.
On Facebook, I posted this controversial stance: Duffy > Adele. Maybe I like Rockferry because it’s not piped into every restaurant and waiting room.
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
I scored when I found a copy of this album with a DVD of the video for “Hurt” at the thrift store. Then I heard the rest of it, and … wow.
This album entered the Favorite Edition list on pretty much the first listen.
Various Artists, Living In Oblivion, Vol. 1
I had a copy of this album, but the booklet got water damaged in a refrigerator leak. So I gave it away. Welcome back.
Washed Out, Within and Without
Part of me wishes the cover of the album were homoerotic, but the music on it is great.
Anderson .Paak, Ventura
I’ve heard of Anderson .Paak but not from Anderson .Paak, so a $2 copy of this album at Goodwill, unopened, seemed like a low-risk way to find out who he is. I’m impressed.
I would not have been interested in remixes when Control came out, but I bet I’ve heard them without realizing I have.
Re-Flex, Politics of Dancing (Deluxe Edition), July 26
The title track alone is probably worth the price of the entire album. It’s a collection of reliably-80s synth pop, heavy on the beats and big on melody. I found this album on CD at the thrift store, and I’m actually heartened to see it reissued.
Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold, Aug. 16
I don’t even listen to St. Vincent, and I was excited to hear she was producing the new Sleater-Kinney album. Is that weird?
Ty Herndon, Got It Covered, Aug. 23
Herndon had already teased this album, posting short videos on Instagram of the recording process. He’s already changed the gender references on his big hit, “What Mattered Most.” I’m hoping he doesn’t stop there.
Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley: Sun Rings, Aug. 30
It’s a Terry Riley anniversary year! So of course Kronos commemorates it with a release of a piece they’ve performed in concert for at least a decade.
BBMak, Powerstation, late August
OK, guys, you’ve announced a title and a track list. What about an actual release date?? Part of me wished this album was a track-by-track cover of The Power Station, i.e. the Duran Duran site project with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson of Chic.
Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation, July 26 Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope, July 26
I already have an original pressing of Rhythm Nation, but the length of the album doesn’t allow it to fit well on a single disc. So I would welcome a double LP with improved sound.
The Velvet Rope is Janet’s most underrated album and deserves more attention.
I gave this album a cursory preview when it first appeared in mid-2018, but I didn’t follow up till now. Shires’ husband, Jason Isbell, sang the album’s praises, and he’s right — To the Sunset is ambitious.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert
I went to the Saturday world premiere of this work in 2018, so it was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list.
Frida, Something’s Going On
This album would be akin to Janet Jackson’s Control in the way Frida distances herself from ABBA.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi
No, this album won’t dislodge Shiina’s first three albums off the pedestal, but it’s her most diverse since Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, and Shiina on an off-day is still many leagues interesting than most artists at their apex.
Soundtrack, Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?
My experience with anime can be divided in two: before “Do You Remember Love?” and after “Do You Remember Love?” I will always treasure Robotech for introducing me to Japanese animation, but that show really did butcher the source material.
Madonna, Madame X
The singles preceding Madame X‘s release did not do the album justice. It’s a far more ambitious work than the singles let on.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing
The Politics of Dancing is a reliably 80s synth album, but that title track is an unshakable earworm. Cherry Red in the UK is giving it an expanded reissue in July 2019.
Roger Daltery, Under a Raging Moon
This album is steeped in the ’80s, which is probably why it appeals to me so much.