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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (2000s)

[Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana]

I balked when Barsuk Records released a 10-year anniversary edition of Give Up by the Postal Service. Yes, add 10 to 2003 and you get 2013. But 2003 didn’t seem so distant from 2013, as 2003 did from 1993.

That’s the thing about getting older — there’s more past to remember. In 1987, I had barely any memory of 1977. In 1997, I had only 1987 as a clear reference. Only in 2007 did 1987 start to feel distant. And now I’m shocked to think 1997 — the year I moved away from home — is pretty far chronologically from where I am today.

So yeah, 2007 still feels like yesterday, although 2002 does feel more like history.

Tokyo Jihen, Sports

Shiina Ringo’s albums from earlier in the decade saw her batting a hundred, but with Tokyo Jihen, it took a few albums before the band came into its own.

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Century of Self

Source Tags and Codes was the obvious choice to include on this list, but recent spins of the album revealed a number of dead spots. Lost Songs wouldn’t show up till the next decade, which leaves The Century of Self next in line on my list of favorite … Trail of Dead albums.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World

At first, I dismissed ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION as a watered-down version of Eastern Youth. Then World World World came out, and I became a convert.

Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

It took a while for me to warm up to The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, but All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone had a clarity that hooked me for good.

Utada Hikaru, ULTRA BLUE

Utada Hikaru’s US debut Exodus went too far to rub out the alt-rock influence in her music, so it was refreshing to hear it come roaring back on ULTRA BLUE.

Sigur Rós, Takk …

I was unfamiliar with Sigur Rós when this album was released, so I asked a friend of mine to describe their albums to me. He told me to imagine a cold, flat icy land, and that was Ágætis byrjun. Then he told me to picture 1,000 angels appearing in bursts of blinding light. That was Takk …

Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana

I’m convinced if this album had been released in the US, indie rock fans would have abandoned their Flaming Lips albums.

Molotov, Dance Dense and Denso

US promoters tried and failed to conflate Latin American rap-rock bands as epitomizing Latin alternative rock. Molotov stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they shared more with Café Tacvba and Aterciopelados than with Puya or Control Machete.

Hatakeyama Miyuki, Diving into your mind

The year I started working for Waterloo Records was the year Norah Jones made a splash with her debut album. I wasn’t convinced, mostly because I had spent weeks listening to Hatakeyama Miyuki instead.

AJICO, Fukamidori

UA and Asai Kenichi came together for only one album, but boy is it a keeper. UA had found success on the Oricon charts before this collaboration, but afterward, she embraced a more challenging sound.

fra-foa, Chuu no Fuchi

Every time I put this album on, I feel the need to fuck shit up. It’s that intense.

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Concert Edition 2016

[Sturgill Simpson, Paramount Theatre, Nov. 11, 2016]

Sturgill Simpson posted a photo of the crowd at his Seattle show on Nov. 11, 2016. I was standing pretty close to the stage, and sure enough, I spotted myself in the pic. His show capped yet another active year of concerts, which included a trip to Portland and two weeks of modern American symphonic music.

Sō Percussion, Jan. 31, 2016

Like Kronos Quartet before it, Sō Percussion commissions original works that often push technological boundaries as much as musical ones. The first time I saw Sō in Austin, the quartet performed Dan Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley, which required performers to use old game console controllers to manipulate a Bach keyboard piece.

For this concert, Bryce Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings features the Chordstick, a custom instrument that combines a hammered dulcimer with an electric guitar.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Feb. 5

The big piece performed at this concert of mid-20th Century New York City composers was Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman. 2016 would eventually find Seattle Symphony programming four Feldman pieces in various concerts. Crowd reaction, of course, ranged from the usual restlessness to outright departure.

Seattle Symphony, Berio: Sinfonia, Feb. 6

I hadn’t planned on attending this concert till my music theory professor devoted an entire class on the piece. The fact Roomful of Teeth performed with the symphony was another incentive.

Kronos Quartet, Feb. 20

Sorry, the live performance of Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 did not convince me to pick up the DVD, but it’s always nice to hear Franghiz Ali-Zade’s Mugam Sayagi.

Ty Herndon, Feb. 25

It was a sparse crowd at El Corazon, and Herndon played a stripped down set of his hits. He also previewed “If You” and mentioned his new album would be out in May. House of Fire arrived in September, albeit with a larger promotional splash.

Jeremy Denk, March 18

The Goldberg Variations and Ligeti Etudes in a single night. Yeah, it was a good concert.

John Adams, Scheherezade.2, March 19

Oh wow, did Leila Josefowicz bring her A-game. I picked up the Nonesuch recording of this work when it was released because it’s an amazing display of athleticism. I think I like this work more than Adams’ first Violin Concerto.

Stephen Sondheim, Assassins, Feb. 26

As much of a Stephen Sondheim fan that I am, I’ve so far only seen two of his works on stage. Honolulu Community Theatre did Sunday in the Park with George back in the early ’90s. ACT Theatre did Assassins. That’s a show that will test your startle response.

Rhye, Apr. 21

Seattle Theatre Group scheduled Rhye and Courtney Barnett for the same night, and I wanted to see both of them equally. I ended up going to Rhye because Barnett’s show sold out. Despite illness, Milosh sounded awesome.

Santigold, May 14

I couldn’t decide who I wanted to see more — Santigold or the SG1 Dancers. It turned out I loved them both.

Seattle Symphony, Beethoven and Gershwin, June 11

A scheduling conflict prevented me from attending the first [untitled] concert of the season, so I traded the ticket for a program of Beethoven and Gershwin works. The evening started with the Seattle premiere of Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour, which the crowd seemed surprised to enjoy.

Seattle Symphony, Tuning Up!, June 17-July 2

After years of attending SXSW, I decided I was going to stay away from Bumbershoot. Then Seattle Symphony announced a two-week summer festival of American modern works, and I couldn’t part with my money fast enough. The clerks at David and Co. thought I was a performer because I was there for every concert. George Perle, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe — I was definitely the target market for this festival.

Matt Alber, June 26

A bout of pneumonia prevented me from seeing Matt Alber in 2014, so his show in June was a nice way to participate in at least one gay pride event this year.

Explosions in the Sky, Sept. 2

I thought it was odd Explosions in the Sky announced a whole bunch of Pacific Northwest dates without including Seattle, so I opted to travel down to Portland and catch them at the wonderful Crystal Ballroom. The day after I bought my ticket, the band announced its Bumbershoot date. Bullet dodged.

Sigur Rós, Sept. 20

The last time Sigur Rós performed in Seattle was in 2012, and the show sold out by the time I could access the Seattle Theatre Group site. This time, I got into the pre-sale. The amazing light show was equal parts Einstein on the Beach and TRON.

Seattle Symphony, Prokofiev and Beethoven, Sept. 24

For this concert, the symphony premiered a piece by Gabriel Prokofiev and included The Love of Three Oranges by his grandfather, Sergei. It had been so long since I listened to Three Oranges that I anticipated Peter and the Wolf instead.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Oct. 28

I’m not as versed in the works of Witold Lutoslawski, but then who is?

Sturgill Simpson, Nov. 11

Sturgill Simpson doesn’t do encores, and why should he when he plays two hours straight? That show pretty much made me wonder why I’m still going to rock concerts in my mid-40s. How could Simpson have the endurance to do those shows for six months, when just watching him exhausted me?

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Favorite Edition 2016 Year Half

[Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth]

It’s half way through the year, and I’ve listed all but three of the new releases I own this year.

That’s 13 albums from 2016.

So while I can technically create a favorite 10 albums of the year so far, that doesn’t actually mean I feel very strongly about most of this list.

  • Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth: Simpson aimed to make this album his What’s Goin’ On, and he pretty much hits it.
  • Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4: Don’t expect a sequel to Górecki’s chart-topping Symphony No. 3. This work goes back to the modernist style he forged on his second symphony.
  • Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle This pairing is counterintuitive but kind of inevitable, and it works.
  • ANOHNI, HOPELESSNESS: ANOHNI trades in the chamber pop of Antony and the Johnsons for an aggressive electronic sound, something she’s already done before with Björk.
  • Santigold, 99 Cents: Santigold goes for a sunnier sound on this album, and while it may not be as fascinating as her previous albums, they’re tuneful as hell nonetheless.
  • Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness: After the predictability of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, The Wilderness is a definite zag to its predecessor’s zig. It’s probably the most adventurous Explosions album to date.
  • Ben Watt, Fever Dream: Watt builds upon the post-Everything but the Girl vibe of Hendra with a stronger set of songs.
  • Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Górecki’s 3rd Symphony: I should hate the idea of a post-rock interpretation of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, but I don’t. I like what Stetson does here.
  • UA, JaPo: Nope, UA hasn’t returned to her pop roots, but she does provide enough hooks to temper her more avant-garde tendencies.
  • Prince, HITnRUN Phase Two: Recommended if you like classic Prince.

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Looking Ahead: March-May 2016

[Explosions in the Sky - The Wilderness]

My first reaction as I compiled this entry was, “Yay! Some of my favorite artists are releasing new music!” My second reaction was, “Why are they all waiting till April?”

Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness, April 1

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care tread familiar territory and felt a bit worn out. The preceding single from this new album, “Disintegration Anxiety”, sounds like the band is aiming for a new sound. I hope it’s a successful effort.

Duran Duran, Girls on Film – 1979 Demo, April 1

Andy Wickett offers a CD-R of the 1979 Duran Duran demo, but it looks like he’s licensed it to Cleopatra for a proper reissue.

Ben Watt, Fever Dream, April 8

I find it fascinating how Ben Watt has spent years building his DJ creds, but his solo work so far has nothing to do with the club.

Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth, April 15

Sturgill Simpson + concept album via Marvin Gaye = Take my money, please!

Rufus Wainwright, Take All My Loves: Nine Shakespeare Sonnets, April 22

I put more stock in Rufus Wainwright’s classical creds than any other pop star because his first effort in the genre was a full-blown opera.

UA, JaPo, May 11

I wondered where UA has been. She deserved a long break after more than a decade of releasing albums year after year. But which UA are we going to get — the adventurer or the tunesmith?

Ty Herndon, TBD, May 15

At the end of his El Corazón acoustic set back in Feb. 2016, Ty Herndon announced his new album would arrive on May 15, his first since coming out in 2014.

Vinyl

Sade, The Best of Sade, March 11

I already have the first three Sade albums on vinyl, and this compilation pretty much covers those albums. I don’t really need this record, but … I want it.

Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose, March 18

Has it really been more than a decade since Loretta Lynn did that whole thing with Jack White?

Janet Jackson, Unbreakable, April 1

I imagine all the clogged up record pressing plants prevented this album from being released at the same time as the CD.

Sonic Youth, Sister, April 8

Gradus ad Daydream Nation.

Patty Griffin, 1000 Kisses, April 15

This reissue will do nicely till Flaming Red gets somewhere on the release schedule.

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