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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1986

[Nakamori Akina - Fushigi]

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.

In 2008, my collection tapered off with releases before 1987. I went so far as to call 1986 an uninteresting year. I’ve since had time to explore the year in greater depth.

  1. The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence
  2. Janet Jackson, Control
  3. Soundtrack, Megazone 23 Song Collection
  4. Paul Simon, Graceland
  5. XTC, Skylarking
  6. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead
  7. Prince & the Revolution, Parade
  8. Nakamori Akina, Fushigi
  9. Duran Duran, Notorious
  10. Club Nouveau, Life, Love and Pain

Other favorites from the year:

  • Anita Baker, Rapture
  • Bananarama, True Confessions
  • Fishbone, In Your Face
  • Run DMC, Raising Hell
  • Peter Gabriel, So
  • John Adams, Harmonielehre
  • Enya, Enya
  • Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.
  • R.E.M., Lifes Rich Pageant
  • Pet Shop Boys, Please
  • Kronos Quartet, Music of Sculthorpe, Sallinen, Glass, Nancarrow, Hendrix
  • The Human League, Crash

If you told Younger Me that Older Me would like So and Raising Hell, Younger Me would wretch. At the time, Run DMC and Peter Gabriel were so ubiquitous, I felt I would never need to hear “Walk This Way” or “Sledgehamer” for the rest of my life.

One advantage of growing older is no longer caring about looking at all fashionable.

Younger Me would have been puzzled by the inclusion of Dwight Yoakam on the extended list, to which Older Me would have to tell Younger Me to wait 9 years.

Younger Me: Oh, I was wondering whether I should get that Human League album. Is it really that good?
Older Me: Yeah, but I don’t think you’d quite appreciate it at your station in life. Wait a few years.
Younger Me: Really? How many?
Older Me: 30.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1989

[De La Soul - 3 Feet And and Rising]

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.

It shouldn’t be a surprise the largest expansion in my collection focuses on the late 1980s, i.e. my high school years. The Favorite 10 list from these years won’t see much change, as 1989 demonstrates, but the expanded lists risk becoming ridiculously long.

  1. The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing
  2. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie
  3. Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night
  4. Faith No More, The Real Thing
  5. Steve Reich, Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint
  6. Fugazi, 13 Songs
  7. Emmylou Harris, Bluebird
  8. Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love
  9. Madonna, Like a Prayer
  10. Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation 1814

Other favorites from the year:

  • The Replacements, Don’t Tell a Soul
  • Hoodoo Gurus, Magnum Cum Louder
  • All About Eve, Scarlet and Other Stories
  • XTC, Oranges and Lemons
  • De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising
  • Nirvana, Bleach
  • Pixies, Doolittle
  • Wayne Horvitz / The President, Bring Yr Camera
  • John Zorn, Spy Vs. Spy
  • Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, Le Mystère de Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2
  • Nakamori Akina, CRUISE
  • Depeche Mode, 101

Fugazi displaces The Replacements, who made a shot for the charts by cleaning up their sound.

I saw this ad in Pulse magazine and scoffed at it:

[I came in for U2. I came out with De La Soul]

Today, I nod my head and say, “Yeah, that’s about right.” But it took 30 years before I had enough life experience to understand how breathtaking 3 Feet High and Rising is.

Nevermind introduced me to Nirvana like the rest of the world, but I prefer Bleach.

The events in Nakamori Akina’s life at the time CRUISE was released overshadowed the maturity of the album. It’s not ground-breaking the way Fushigi is, but it’s an album that could have only been recorded after it.

I saw Depeche Mode in concert in 2017, and 101 ruined my experience of it. I had been listening to 101 in the weeks leading up to the concert, and understandably, the band stacked the set list more toward recent work than “the hits”.

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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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Purchase log, 2018-09-11

[Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette]

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.

The KEXP Record Fair was on Saturday. I hadn’t known till the clerk at Jive Time asked me if I had gone.

New releases

CD
  • Jake Shears, Jake Shears
  • Renée Fleming, Broadway
Vinyl
  • Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!

Catalog

CD
  • Culture Club, Colour By Numbers (remastered)
  • Grace Jones, Warm Leatherette
  • Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller (Special Edition)
  • Missy Elliott, Supa Dupa Fly
  • UA, 11 (Deluxe Edition)
  • UA, AMETORA (Deluxe Edition)
  • UA, turbo (Deluxe Edition)
Vinyl
  • Dead or Alive, Sophisticated Boom Boom
  • Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, Oh My God!
  • Franz Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin (Deitrich Fischer-Dieskau)
  • Janet Jackson, Dream Street
  • Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
  • Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night (original pressing promo)
  • Public Enemy, Yo! Bum Rush the Show

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Concert Edition 2017

[Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27, 2017]

I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.

Except concerts.

That would be Janet Jackson pictured with this entry.

JACK Quartet, Meany Hall, Jan. 10

I ran into my music theory TA at this concert, and we both we a bit meh about the program. JACK is a great quartet, but I honestly can’t remember much beyond the Morton Feldman piece which opened the concert.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Benaroya Hall, Jan. 27

The [untitled] series introduces me to a lot of new music of which I never follow up after hearing it. I still love going to these concerts, though.

University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble, John Zorn: Cobra, Meany Hall, March 1

I’ve known about Cobra for years, but this performance was the first I’ve attended. Recordings can’t do this piece justice. It must be experienced live to understand it.

Seattle Symphony, Aaron Jay Kernis: Violin Concerto, Benaroya Hall, March 18

Violinist James Ihnes has a lot of creative capital in Seattle as director of the seasonal chamber music festival, so I think the audience was willing to give Kernis’ concerto a chance. The piece and the performance went over well.

Japan Nite Tour, Chop Suey, March 22

Damn, had it been five years since I’ve attended a Japan Nite concert?

Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, April 21

There’s no way I would miss an Emerson concert with Shostakovich or Bartok on the program.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], Benaroya Hall, April 28

A program centered around Andy Warhol concluded with a “popera”, which actually was far more engaging that I expected.

University of Washington Harry Partch Ensemble, Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, Meany Hall, May 6

UW has a number of Harry Partch’s custom instruments, which were put to use in a production of Oedipus. Without the visual element, they pretty much sound like gamelan.

Midnight Oil, Moore Theatre, May 31

Yeah, definitely my favorite show of the year. The set list covered the entire span of their career, and just about everything I wanted to hear live I did.

Low + MONO, Neptune Theatre, June 16

I’ve known about Low for a long time — mostly through the band’s cover of “Africa” by Toto — but I was never curious enough to seek them out. I was duly impressed, even if I don’t think I’ll own anything other than Things We Lost in the Fire. MONO, of course, brought it.

The Revolution, Showbox, July 15

The band crafted the set list incredibly well. It started off with some obscure but recognizable stuff, but the second half kicked off the favorites. And everyone left pleased.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Paramount Theatre, Sept. 12

Jason Isbell delivered a flawless performance as usual. The audience, though, was weird. It was a Tuesday night, and the Seattle Freeze was in full force, with half the audience sitting and the other half standing.

Sam Amidon, Fremont Abbey, Sept. 22

If nothing else, you really must go to a Sam Amidon show just to hear him talk between songs.

Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27

I held onto my ticket after two cancellations, and I was glad I did. No opening act. Just Janet dishing out hit after hit in an epic DJ mix, only live.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Benaroya Hall, Oct. 13

I think this concert was the first where only one piece on the program was entirely unfamiliar to me. It’s always nice to hear Steve Reich’s Different Trains live.

Depeche Mode, Key Arena, Oct. 21

I think Depeche Mode 101 ruined this concert for me. I hadn’t really followed the band since the early aughts, and much of the set list drew from more recent albums.

Kronos Quartet, Federal Way Performing Arts Center, Nov. 4

Kronos has a way of upending expectations. Just when you think you’ve seen them do something new, some composer has them attach bowstring to a plastic toy.

 

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The ones that nearly got away: Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

[Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope]

Count me as one of the folks with a ticket to a future Janet Jackson concert. She rescheduled her January 2016 date in Seattle to July before postponing the tour entirely. I intend to hold onto my ticket just to see how long I can keep it on my refrigerator door.

I was a pretty solid Janet fan till All for You, when it felt like she was spinning her wheels creatively. I stood by her during the Super Bowl incident in 2004, but I couldn’t justify sinking cash into Damita Jo. I didn’t get back on board till Discipline in 2008, at which point the major labels dropped her.

So when Unbreakable turned out to be awesome enough to crack the Favorite Edition 2015 list, I went back to her post-Rhythm Nation 1814 work to see if my opinion had changed. I still have a dim view of janet., but The Velvet Rope has turned out to be a durable and underrated album.

The hype machine went into overdrive in 1993 with janet. but I wasn’t convinced. It was sprawling mess, and the supposed influence of what was called “electronica” — now just called EDM — didn’t amount to much.

The Velvet Rope, on the other hand, gave the ideas of its predecessor some much-needed editing. The smooth ’90s sound got darker, as did the subject matter. “What About” has a fury that outstrips “Black Cat”, while “Together Again” is the bounciest tune about loss.

The Velvet Rope was released after I moved to Austin, Texas. I hung out at gay bars at the time, trying to figure out what I could get out of them. (Not much, as it turned out.) “Together Again” could be heard night after night, alongside whatever single the Spice Girls had out at that time.

When money got tight, I decided I didn’t need much from Janet except for Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, so The Velvet Rope got an eviction notice. Discipline is holding up OK, but The Velvet Rope has turned out to be better than I remember it.

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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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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: August-October 2015

[The Replacements - The Twin/Tone Years]

During the summer, everyone is touring, or gearing up for the fall release schedule. So there’s not much to seek out over the next few months. I do find it surprising that news about fall releases has been pretty scant.

Shiina Ringo, “Nagaku Mijikai Matsuri / Kamisama, Hotokesama”, Aug. 5

Is another album on the way? This single would be the third Ringo-chan has released since her last studio album, Hi Izuru Tokoro.

The Replacements, The Twin/Tone Years, Aug. 11

The Rhino-era albums have already undergone the vinyl reissue treatment, and the exorbitant prices for the Twin/Tone albums on the collector’s market certainly demonstrate a demand. So this set has been a long time coming.

Georg Holm, Orri Páll Dýrason, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Kjartan Holm, Circe, Aug. 28 (digital), Sept. 11 (physical)

Two members of Sigur Rós, plus the band’s touring guitarist team up with composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson for a soundtrack to a BBC documentary.

Everything But the Girl, Walking Wounded (Deluxe Edition), Sept. 11

The Salvo label in the UK finishes a reissue campaign of Everything But the Girl’s studio albums with Walking Wounded and Temperamental. I’m sticking with just Walking Wounded because Temperamental doesn’t age very well.

Duran Duran, Paper Gods, Sept. 11

All You Need Is Now restored my faith in the band after a long time meandering in the wild during the W. Bush era. The lead-off single from Paper Gods has enough Nile Rodgers to cue some Notorious nostalgia. The artwork, though, is the laziest I’ve seen on a Duran Duran album. Even Red Carpet Massacre showed more effort.

Janet Jackson, Unbreakable, Oct. 2

I didn’t realize how much I missed Janet till she announced her return. I have no idea what seven years has done for her music, and I kind of don’t care.

Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4, Oct. 16

Górecki passed away before he could complete his fourth symphony, but a piano score with detailed annotations allowed his son Mikolaj to orchestrate it. Nonesuch is going ballers with this release by also reissuing the Symphony No. 3 on vinyl and compiling a box set of Górecki’s works recorded by the label. Let’s just call Oct. 16 Górecki Day.

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