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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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Looking ahead: January-March 2015

[Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love]

Barely two weeks into 2015, and the release schedule for the rest of the first quarter looks incredibly busy. Some of them are Musicwhore.org favorites, and others ought to be.

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love, Jan. 20

NPR First Listen has featured No Cities to Love in this week before the album’s release, and damn if it doesn’t sound like Sleater-Kinney never went away.

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World, Jan. 20

It’s probably too much to ask for this album to be the best R.E.M. has recorded since splitting up.

Exposé, Exposure (Deluxe Edition), Jan. 20

For an ’80s radio pop album, Exposure is pretty enduring. A deluxe edition, though, means endless remixes of the album’s four hit singles.

Kate Pierson, Guitars and Microphones, Feb. 17

Cindy Wilson’s absence was sorely felt on the B-52’s Good Stuff, the follow-up to the massive hit Cosmic Thing. So it’ll be interesting to hear how Kate Pierson sounds without the rest of the band around her.

Gang of Four, What Happens Next, Feb. 24

That’s the question with only Andy Gill as the only remaining original member of the band.

Shiina Ringo, “Shijou no Jinsei”, Feb. 25

Post-Tokyo Jihen Shiina Ringo has been sparse with new music, but with a new single arriving barely three months after an album, does this mean the drought has ended?

Madonna, Rebel Heart, March 10

I’m so past hoping this album is anywhere within league of Like a Prayer, Ray of Light or, heck, even Bedtime Stories. MDNA was just plain forgettable.

Inventions, Maze of Woods, March 17

Now, that’s a quick turn-around.

Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi, March 31

Chris Walla is no longer with the band and consequently no longer at the producer’s desk. Codes and Keys is the closest Death Cab has reached to the sublimity of The Photo Album or Transatlanticism since signing to a major label. So this album is pretty much make-or-break.

Björk, Vulnicura, March 2015

The most interesting aspect of this announcement, for me, is the silence from Nonesuch Records regarding its release.

Vinyl reissues

Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand, Jan. 27

On my list of Albums I Want Reissued on Vinyl, Bee Thousand resides in the upper echelon. Previous entries on said list included The Woods by Sleater-Kinney, The Photo Album by Death Cab for Cutie, the self-titled Metallica album and Floating Into the Night by Julee Cruise. All these titles appeared in 2014.

Sigur Rós, Ágætus Byrjun, Feb. 17

I’m also holding out hope for a Takk … reissue.

LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, ABBOT KINNEY, Feb. 18

All of LOVE PSYCHEDELICO’s albums are getting a vinyl reissue to coincide with a pair of retrospectives coming out the same day. ABBOT KINNEY, however, is the duo’s best.

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