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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1990

[Uncle Tupelo - No Depression]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

1990 has always felt more like 1989 v.2.0 than 1990 v.1.0. It was clearly the start of a pivot that wouldn’t really end till 1992, but the ’80s held its grip on that first year of the decade (if you’re using a 0-based system.)

  1. Kronos Quartet, Black Angels
  2. Robin Holcomb, Robin Holcomb
  3. John Zorn / Naked City, Naked City
  4. Midnight Oil, Blue Sky Mining
  5. Sonic Youth, Goo
  6. The Waitresses, Best of the Waitresses
  7. Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Akira Original Soundtrack
  8. Madonna, I’m Breathless
  9. The Sundays, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
  10. Living Colour, Time’s Up

Other favorites from the year:

  • Duran Duran, Liberty
  • Depeche Mode, Violator
  • Deee-Lite, World Clique
  • Enigma, MCMXC a.D.
  • Meredith Monk, Book of Days
  • Joan Tower, Silver Ladders / Island Prelude / Music for Cello and Orchestra / Sequoia
  • Uncle Tupelo, No Depression
  • Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual
  • Fugazi, Repeater
  • Information Society, Hack
  • Björk, Gling-Gló
  • Wendy and Lisa, Eroica
  • Lisa Stansfield, Affection
  • Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

1990-me would have protested the inclusion of Uncle Tupelo on this list. 1995-me would have had to slap some sense into him.

1990-me would have also questioned the addition of Lisa Stansfield, and 2008-me would have had to confront him about how he secretly loved “All Around the World.”

1990-me would have also wondered why 2008-me didn’t include Jane’s Addiction the first time around. 2008-me would have shrugged.

I would like to think 2008-me relished introducing 1990-me to Fugazi. 1990-me would not have been prepared for them, however.

All of us are still wondering how I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got manages to stay on the list.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1995

[Tracy Chapman - New Beginning]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

I had trouble coming up with a Favorite 10 of 1995, so I left it at nine. I’ve since had time to fill the remaining spot with an album I shouldn’t have let go.

  1. Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
  2. The Klezmatics, Jews with Horns
  3. John Zorn/Masada, Hei
  4. Värttinä, Aitara
  5. Björk, Post
  6. Enya, The Memory of Trees
  7. Kronos Quartet, Performs Philip Glass
  8. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
  9. Tears for Fears, Raoul and the Kings of Spain
  10. Tracy Chapman, New Beginning

Other favorites from the year:

  • Prince, The Gold Experience
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars, Industry
  • Janet Jackson, Design of a Decade, 1986-1996
  • Fugazi, Red Medicine
  • Radiohead, The Bends
  • Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Brainbloodvolume
  • John Zorn, Elegy and Kristallnacht

A year-end list at the time would have included Tracy Chapman, but New Beginning got cut in purge before the original list was compiled. It took the discovery of her second album, Crossroads, for me to revisit New Beginning and realizing what a mistake I’d made.

The Gold Experience is a surprising entry in the extended list. The era when Prince was known by the Love Symbol was a creatively fraught time, so it overshadows just how good The Gold Experience is.

I’ve attempted to explore Radiohead in the past few years to understand my general ambivalence to them. So far, The Bends is the only album I really like, which is of course an obvious choice. Modern classical musicians all seem to love them, which surprises me. Café Tacuba does far more interesting work.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1997

[Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

1998 and 1999 were probably the most productive years of the ’90s. 1997 slightly less so. That said, there isn’t much change from the original list, a few shuffles aside.

  1. Cocco, Bougainvillia
  2. Duran Duran, Medazzaland
  3. The Old ’97s, Too Far to Care
  4. Björk, Homogeneic
  5. 10,000 Maniacs, Love Among the Ruins
  6. Soundtrack, The Simpsons: Songs in the Key of Springfield
  7. Molotov, ¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?
  8. Bill Frisell, Nashville
  9. Pizzicato Five, Happy End of the World
  10. Prodigy, Fat of the Land

Other favorites from the year:

  • Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope
  • China Digs, Looking for George …
  • John Taylor, Feelings are Good and Other Lies
  • Jack Ingram, Livin’ and Dyin’
  • Kronos Quartet, Early Music (Lachrymæ Antiquæ)
  • 8 1/2 Souvenirs, Souvonica
  • Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out
  • Missy Elliott, Supa Dupa Fly
  • David Bowie, Earthling

I wouldn’t rediscover The Velvet Rope till 2014. I disliked its predecessor, janet., but I was also disappointed Janet didn’t switch up her theme. I’ve come to realize The Velvet Rope was the album I wished janet. would have been.

Earthling is the very first album by David Bowie I’ve ever owned. I actually liked it at the time, but I didn’t love it. So it got cut during a collection purge. My recent deep dive into the his work made me revisit Earthling, and as unlikely as an EDM Bowie album might sound, he makes it work.

Sleater-Kinney and Missy Eliott are retroactive additions to the list. I didn’t explore their works until recently.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2007

[The Dead Betties - Nightmare Sequence]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

The further we get from the present day, the more we’ll find retroactive changes to the Favorite Edition lists. The 2007 list sees a lot of shifting in the Favorite 10, and a number of retroactive additions.

  1. Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
  2. UA, Golden green
  3. The Dead Betties, Nightmare Sequence
  4. Björk, Volta
  5. unkie, the Price of Fame
  6. Nico Muhly, Speaks Volumes
  7. Stephen Sondheim, Company (2006 Cast Recording)
  8. Once, Music from the Motion Picture
  9. Sasagawa Miwa, Mayoi Naku
  10. Tokyo Jihen, Goraku (Variety)

Other favorites from the year:

  • Synapse/Elliott Cole, The Oracle Hysterical
  • Tommy heavenly6, Heavy Starry Heavenly
  • Kawai Kenji, Seirei no Moribito
  • Office, A Night at the Ritz
  • M.I.A., Kala
  • The National, Boxer
  • Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
  • Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch

The cast recording for 2006 production of Company gets a retroactive boost, missing the Favorite 10 the first time out. A PBS broadcast of the revival directed by John Doyle went a long way in raising its ranking.

I didn’t discover the Dead Betties till a year and some change after the release of Nightmare Sequence, and it would have shot up to the Favorite 10 had I known about it. The album doesn’t lose its punch more than a decade on.

Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars and Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist fall of the list entirely. I think those albums earned their place on the Favorite 10 because I was not paying attention to what was happening in 2007, if the expanded list is any indication.

I’m not sure I actually like The National, but I remember catching the band’s appearance on Live from the Artists Den and thinking Matt Berninger was a tall drink of water. Boxer is rather fine album, nonetheless.

I would not have picked up Band of Horses without Renée Fleming. I get them mixed up with the Band of Heathens and Band of Skulls.

I didn’t actually like Sirens of the Ditch the first time I listened to it. I was just starting to explore Jason Isbell’s work after hearing Southeastern, and I wanted everything to sound like it. I had no context about his work with Drive-By Truckers. Sirens of the Ditch is closer to his work with the Truckers than his more recent albums, and that understanding goes a long way to building appreciation for his solo debut.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2015

[Gaytheist / Rabbits - Gay*Bits]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

2015 started strong with the return of Sleater-Kinney, and it stayed strong all the way through the release of the Hamilton cast recording. That said, the list goes through quite a number of changes, consolidating some stragglers and bouncing a few titles off.

  1. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical
  2. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  3. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
  4. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
  5. Torche, Restarter
  6. Björk, Vulnicura
  7. Deebs and Jarell Perry, Shift
  8. Steve Grand, All-American Boy
  9. Janet Jackson, Unbreakable
  10. Gaytheist/Rabbits, Gay*Bits

Other favorites from the year:

  • Software Giant, We Are Overcome
  • Miguel, Wildheart
  • Madonna, Rebel Heart
  • Duran Duran, Paper Gods
  • Enya, Dark Sky Island
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness
  • Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  • ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Wonder Future
  • Andrew Norman, Play
  • Troye Sivan, Blue Neighborhood

The Favorite 10 sees one title switched out — Gaytheist and Rabbit’s split EP for Miguel’s Wildheart. Father John Misty, Takaakira Goto, Seattle Symphony and Kronos Quartet make way for Andrew Norman, Troye Sivan and Software Giant.

Eight years into 2010s, 2015 is so far turning out to be my favorite year for the decade. The hierarchy of the list gives a false sense of preference — some of the albums outside of the Favorite 10 got as much play time as those at the top of the list.

Duran Duran and Enya could have occupied spots in the Favorite 10 if the field weren’t so crowded.

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Looking ahead: October-November 2017

[The Smiths - The Queen is Dead (Deluxe Edition)]

A lot of big releases have been announced for fall, but few of them have much interest for me. I like you, Taylor Swift, but I accept I’m not your target market.

Various Artists, PAUSE ~STRAIGHTENER Tribute Album~, Oct. 18

I haven’t listened to STRAIGHTENER in years, but I can get behind a tribute album that includes ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, THE BACK HORN, 9mm Parabellum Bullet and the pillows.

The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 20

I’ll settle for the 2-disc edition with the demos and b-sides. I’m not enough of a fan for the super deluxe edition with a concert recording and a DVD.

Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All, Nov. 3

Please, please be the album In the Lonely Hour could have been.

Björk, Utopia, Nov. 24

I love Björk, but her albums aren’t ones you play for casual listening.

Cindy Wilson, Changes, Dec. 1

Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson have released solo albums, and Cindy Wilson completes the triumvirate. Honestly? I’m kind of curious what a Keith Strickland solo album would sound like.

U2, Songs of Experience, Dec. 1

I’m a U2 fan, but even I thought pushing Songs of Innocence into my iTunes library was intrusive. I ended up liking the album, but it ranks alongside How to Build an Atomic Bomb and All That You Can Leave Behind in the middle tier of U2’s output. I will listen to this new album regardless. I may even purchase it.

Vinyl

Missy Elliott, Under Construction, Nov. 10

I already grabbed an original pressing of this album a while back, but I’m glad to see it getting a reissue.

SUPERCAR, Three Out Change, Oct. 25
SUPERCAR, JUMP UP, Dec. 20
SUPERCAR, Futurama, Dec. 20

Vinyl reissues for the band’s 20th anniversary. 20 years? Really? I’ve already placed an order for Futurama.

 

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Looking ahead: January-April 2016

[Henryk Górecki - Symphony No. 4]

Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4, The Tansman Episodes, Jan. 22

First announced for a release in September 2015, then October, this posthumous symphony finally arrives. I bet the hold up was coordinating with the vinyl release of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3.

Conrad Keely, Original Machines, Jan. 22

Part of me is always skeptical about solo projects, but the two tracks previewed by Superball Music on YouTube has me optimistic about this album.

 Santigold, 99 Cents, Feb. 26

Does anyone else get the sense that the anticipation for this album has been a bit tepid? Her label doesn’t seem to be pouring much effort in getting the word out.

Royal Wood, Ghost Light, April 22

I hope the creative momentum Royal Wood started with The Burning Bright continues with this next release.

Vinyl

Björk, Vulnicura Strings, Jan. 8

I still can’t figure out if I like Vulnicura Strings over Vulnicura.

Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3, Jan. 22

In anticipation of this release, I listened to Górecki’s previous symphonies. The Third definitely deserves its chart-topping status, but the symphonies leading up to it are far more demanding.

Sonic Youth, Goo, Jan. 26

I actually found a used copy of this album on vinyl selling for a not-exorbitant price, but if I didn’t, I would be picking it up.

Original Soundtrack, High Fidelity, Jan. 29

This release is regular black vinyl. I do see the Record Store Day orange vinyl pressing about town, though.

NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT, Jan. 29

NUMBER GIRL, SAPPUKEI, Jan. 29

NUMBER GIRL, NUM-HEAVYMETTALIC, Jan. 29

My brother’s Amazon Japan gift certificate arrives just in time.

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Favorite Edition 2015: Year final

[Lin-Manuel Miranda - Hamilton]

I didn’t think a comeback this year could top the return of Sleater-Kinney, but I was mistaken. I didn’t realize how much I had missed Janet Jackson till she returned, and Enya quenched a drought of a similar length (7 years.) Even Madonna turned in work that’s some of her best in a while. I also learned the awful term “PBR&B”, which describes the kind of R&B music to which I seem to be drawn.

  1. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical: The last time the score of a musical had me riveted to my stereo was The Phantom of the Opera. Not only is the story of Hamilton thrilling to follow, but the hip-hop score is jaw-dropping. Policy debates as rap battles? Maybe that should happen in real life.
  2. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Just about every year-end list will include this album near the top. And I don’t even listen that much hip-hop.
  3. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
  4. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free: It’s always great to see an artist with a breakthrough album follow up with something just as strong.
  5. Torche, Restarter
  6. Björk, Vulnicura: So now the question is which do you prefer: Vulnicura or Vulnicura Strings?
  7. Deebs and Jarell Perry, Shift: I like how Jarell Perry keeps pushes the borders of what R&B can do. He’s got great company with Shaprece, Santigold, Miguel and Frank Ocean, WHEREVER THE HELL HE IS.
  8. Steve Grand, All-American Boy: I still don’t understand why people call him a country artist. He sounds nothing like Sturgill Simpson.
  9. Janet Jackson, Unbreakable: Janet returns with her most sonically diverse album since The Velvet Rope.
  10. Miguel, Wildheart: He bragged about being better than Frank Ocean, and I hate to say it, but I think there’s something behind that bravado.

Honorable mention goes to …

  • Madonna, Rebel Heart
  • Duran Duran, Paper Gods: Duran Duran tends to misstep after hitting a home run, but that’s not the case here.
  • Enya, Dark Sky Island: You know what you’re getting with Enya. On a few tracks, she does seem to be dipping a tentative toe into more pop styles, by which I mean less Bach.
  • Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit: Barnett crams a lot of imagery in her songs, but they make for great stories.
  • ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Wonder Future: When ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION take time with their albums, it really pays off.
  • Kronos Quartet, Tundra Songs: No, this isn’t an international crossover album. If anything, it’s some of the most challenging music the quartet has recorded in a while.
  • Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot, Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 / Varese: Ameriques: This album is something of a souvenir for me because I attended this concert, but the live recording of Ameriques would be reason enough to pick it up.
  • Takaakira “Taka” Goto, Classical Punk and Echoes Under Beauty: I didn’t think this album would be very distinct from MONO, but it’s quite a change for Taka and still recognizably him.
  • Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: This album will also appear on a lot of year-end lists, but it didn’t grab me as much as everything else on the list.

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Looking ahead: November 2015

[Enya - Dark Sky Island]

No sooner did I bemoan the lack of November releases that I found myself adding a whole bunch of November releases to my wish list.

Enya, Dark Sky Island, Nov. 20

Enya usually takes about 3 to 5 years to turn around new albums, so the 7-year gap between 2008’s And Winter Came and Dark Sky Island is her longest stretch. The announcement was pretty sudden, and I certainly wouldn’t have learned about it had I not visited her official site on a total whim.

Björk, Vulnicura Strings, Nov. 27

Vulnicura has a pretty secure spot on the year-end Favorite Edition list, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Vulnicura Strings dislodges its predecessor from that spot.

Vinyl

Inventions, Blanket Waves, Nov. 13

Inventions is certainly turning out to be a prolific project for Matthew Cooper and Mark Smith. This 10-inch vinyl EP is the second release from the pair this year.

Nirvana, Nirvana, Nov. 13

The 2002 self-titled compilation gets reissued on Blu-Ray audio and vinyl.

Delays

Dolly Parton / Linda Ronstadt / Emmylou Harris, Complete Trio Collection

Early reports indicated this compilation would be released on Oct. 16, but then it fell off the release schedule with no indication of a new date.

Frank Ocean, Boys Don’t Cry

Frank Ocean hinted at a July release for his second album, and then, he fell off the face of the planet. He canceled some scheduled appearances, and July has long passed.

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Favorite Edition 2015: Half year

[Björk - Vulnicura]

2015 is turning out to be one of those years where the really good albums suck so much oxygen out of the rest of the release schedule that it’s tough to put together even a speculative list.

That’s a long-winded way to say Sleater-Kinney’s return has pretty much overshadowed everyone else.

  • Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: Sleater-Kinney left at the height of their career, and a 10-year hiatus did nothing to dim that achievement.
  • Björk, Vulnicura: I like Björk best when she’s more beat-oriented because her more introspective work tends to meander. This album is too wrenching to mess around.
  • Madonna, Rebel Heart: I would agree this album is Madge’s best since Ray of Light mostly because it’s head and shoulders above the last few meandering discs she put out, Confessions on the Dancefloor not withstanding.
  • Steve Grand, All American Boy: The rockist in me should rally against everything about this album, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
  • Takaakira “Taka” Goto, Classical Punk and Echoes Under the Beauty: The decidedly non-orchestral direction of MONO’s Rays of Darkness was a welcome direction that I feared this album would be a relapse. It’s not.
  • Kronos Quartet, Tundra Songs: I was bracing myself for more international crossover, but this album is some pretty adventurous and spellbinding music.
  • Torche, Restarter: I liked Harmonicraft, but Gaytheist’s Stealth Beats was more my speed. Then Torche recorded this album.
  • Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, The Traveling Kind: I hate to say this, but this album is what you would expect from artists with the calibers of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Old Yellow Moon, though, kind of exceeded that.

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