Nobody talks about desert island discs any more.
In fact, a whole generation of readers might find the premise a bit preposterous — a list of 10 albums with which you would want to be stranded on a desert island. You had to suspend belief that you had an infinite electrical supply and a working playback device.
Then music escaped its physical confines, and iPods allowed people to carry entire music collections with them, which today’s subscription services dwarf in terms of supply.
But the desert island disc list still makes for a good thought exercise — in this era of abundance, what would you do in a moment of scarcity? What 10 albums feel as comfortable and reliable as that old jacket or blanket?
I think it’s only in the last decade that my list has finalized.
Duran Duran, Rio
As a teenager, my desert island disc list would have probably included Duran Duran in most slots. While I would hate to leave behind The Wedding Album, Rio is pretty much the go-to album for any Duranie.
Kronos Quartet, Black Angels
The Quartet for Strings No. 8 by Dmitri Shostakovich would be my desert island classical piece — I never tire hearing it. This album introduced me to the piece, and the title work has also become essential repertoire for me.
John Zorn, Naked City
I imagine there will be many frustrating days living on a desert island, and this album would help greatly to cope with those days.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
Growing up in Hawaii meant automatically dismissing country music. Emmylou Harris introduced me to the better stuff.
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I was introduced to this album in 2009, right around the time it was starting to get difficult to find something new to move me. So yeah, I was surprised myself.
NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT
Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana
I feel a bit self-conscious over the fact three Japanese titles show up on this list, but given the number of really good albums that clustered around 1999-2004, it’s was tough keeping SUPERCAR, AJICO and fra-foa off the list, let alone the two Shiina Ringo albums that preceded Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana.
Robin Holcomb, Robin Holcomb
This album reminds me that pop songwriting doesn’t always need to be sweet.
U2, The Joshua Tree
To be honest, this album usually fights for its spot on the list with In Tua Nua’s The Long Acre.
Tags: cocco, duran duran, emmylou harris, favorite edition, john zorn, kronos quartet, naked city, neutral milk hotel, number girl, robin holcomb, shiina ringo, u2
I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.
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.
Tags: concert edition, depeche mode, emerson string quartet, harry partch, jack quartet, janet jackson, japan nite, jason isbell, john zorn, kronos quartet, low, midnight oil, mono, sam amidon, seattle symphony, the revolution, university of washington
In 1987, I turned 15 years old, an age when music discovery exerted its strongest pull. The same Spotify analysis that charted music tastes over time claims most teen-agers highly identify with popular titles. Had the same study been done when I was a teen, I probably would have been an outlier point.
Kronos Quartet, Black Angels
The first Kronos Quartet album I purchased was Winter Was Hard, and it was something of a Reader’s Digest for modern classical music. Then Black Angels followed, and it exploded my perception of what music could be.
John Zorn, Naked City
I was a pissed-off teen for a lot of reasons, most of them mundane. But it gave me drive to find music that would alienate everyone around me, and the howls of Yamantaka Eye and John Zorn fit the bill nicely.
In Tua Nua, The Long Acre
This album introduced me to the idea that popularity is not the same thing as merit. I couldn’t find a filler track anywhere on this album, and the confrontational “The Innocent and the Honest Ones” mirrored my own dissatisfaction with being raised in a monotheistic culture. It should have been a hit, but mostly, you’ll find it in the 99 cent bins.
U2, The Joshua Tree
U2 had to score a number one album in order for radio stations in Hawaii to pay attention. I knew about the band beforehand but hadn’t taken the plunge till I saw the video for “With or Without You.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of flack for his signature hit tunes, but for a young burgeoning composer, his scores are incredibly instructional. I’ve yet to encounter another pop writer who can make a hook out of an atonal melody.
The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence
Before I learned about Kronos Quartet, John Zorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber, I encountered the Art of Noise. I would later learn (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! had some bonafide songcraft, but its follow-up, In Visible Silence, essentially jettisoned all that.
Arcadia, So Red the Rose
Of the two Duran Duran splinter projects from 1985, Arcadia hews closest to the parent band and engenders the most sentiment from long-time fans.
Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George
Sunday in the Park with George arrived at time in my life when I was just starting to learn about modern classical music. I looked to Lloyd Webber to bridge my interests in classical and pop musics, and I turned to Sondheim to go further into modernism.
Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
I loved Eurythmics singles, but their albums tended to have quite a bit of filler. Sweet Dreams is the deserved obvious choice, but Savage and In the Garden deserve some props.
Duran Duran, Rio
This tops my Desert Island Disc list, so of course, it’s going to be here.
Wendy Carlos, TRON Original Soundtrack
I listened to this soundtrack to death because I loved the computer graphics of the movie. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered how rich Carlos’ harmonic language was. This soundtrack pretty much planted the seed that would be nourished by the Art of Nosie, Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and classical music after 1900.
Tags: andrew lloyd webber, arcadia, duran duran, eurythmics, in tua nua, john zorn, kronos quartet, music discovery, stephen sondheim, the art of noise, u2, wendy carlos
The moment I announced I’m taking a break, a whole bunch of new releases appear on the schedule. I’d be remiss not to preview them.
Royal Wood, Ghost Light, Jan. 27
Ghost Light was released in Canada back in April 2016, but an international release had to wait till now. The cover for this edition — Wood in silhouette — matches the title, but I prefer the Canadian cover because Wood looks hotter in a t-shirt.
Sleater-Kinney, Live in Paris, Jan. 27
I’m still kicking myself for missing the band’s three-night run in Seattle.
Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome, Feb. 1
I haven’t paid much attention to Onitsuka Chihiro since her lackluster cover album FAMOUS MICROPHONE. So it was a surprise to find out she’s on yet another new label, and she released an independent album with a band in 2014.
Deee-Lite, World Clique (Deluxe Edition), March 3
Yeah, it’s about time this album got the reissue treatment.
George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition), March 3
I’ll deal with George Michael’s untimely death in a future entry. I didn’t pick up this album till after I heard the news, and I can understand both the initial underwhelming reception and its subsequent critical acclaim.
Cocco, 20 Shuunen Request Best + Rare Track, March 21
What? I’ve been listening to Cocco for 20 years now?
The Old 97s, Too Far to Care, Jan. 13
When I first started buying up vinyl in 2013, I considered getting the reissue of Too Far to Care. I decided against it because I wanted to track down titles preceding the CD era first. By the time I was ready to get it, all the copies had been snatched up. I snagged a used copy two weeks before I saw Music on Vinyl would reissue the original album without the bonus tracks. *sigh*
MONO, Under the Pipal Tree, Jan. 20
I don’t think MONO really topped this debut album till Hymn to the Immortal Wind.
Madonna, The Immaculate Collection (Colored Vinyl), Jan. 24
Am I really going to drop cash on a compilation where I have most of the tracks on other vinyl releases? Evidently.
Eurythmics, Greatest Hits, Jan. 27
I still have all the Eurythmics albums I bought back in the ’80s. I only had to flesh out my collection with In the Garden and We Too Are One.
Madonna, Confessions on the Dance Floor, Jan. 31
This album was really welcome after a pair of back-to-back disappointments with Music and American Life.
Eluvium, Copia, Feb. 3
I would be so on board with a reissue of An Accidental Memory in Case of Death.
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Feb. 10
Let’s see if this release date sticks. I think it’ll have been nearly a year since this reissue popped up on the schedule.
John Zorn, Spy Vs. Spy: Music of Ornette Coleman, March 3
I found an original Nonesuch pressing of this album many months back, but it’s a definite recommendation for anyone who loves Naked City.
Tags: cocco, deee-lite, duran duran, eluvium, eurythmics, george michael, john zorn, looking ahead, madonna, mono, onitsuka chihiro, royal wood, sleater-kinney, the old 97s
The Favorite Edition 2016 list will be published next week, and if it’s any indication, the release schedule for the rest of the year will probably not be terribly impressive.
James Blake, The Colour in Anything, July 1
Blake dropped this album many weeks back, and I’ve listened to it enough times to make me question whether I would really want to own a physical copy of it. Does it really need to have 17 tracks and be more than an hour long? A lot of interesting things happening on the album, and as many things that induce sleep.
YEN TOWN BAND, diverse journey, July 20
I wonder what prompted YEN TOWN BAND to reunite after 19 years. The band is actually fictional — CHARA played the role of Glico in the film Swallowtail, in which she led a group called YEN TOWN BAND. MONTAGE is probably one of my favorite CHARA-related albums.
Faith No More, We Care a Lot (Deluxe Edition), Aug. 19
I’m hoping a reissue of Introduce Yourself becomes an eventual reality.
Blood Orange, Freetown Sound, Aug. 19
I think Dev Hynes is responsible for softening my decades-long dim view of Michael Jackson.
Cocco, Adan Ballet, Aug. 24
Cocco has added stage and screen to her résumé as author and singer. So it’s no surprise the gaps between albums have gotten longer in the last few years. That makes Adan Ballet remarkable for coming out a year and 2 months since Plan C.
De La Soul, And the Anonymous Nobody, Aug. 26
I haven’t gotten through that backlog of De La Soul albums the trio offered for giving them my e-mail address.
Dead Can Dance, Dead Can Dance, July 8
Dead Can Dance, Spleen and Ideal, July 8
Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth, July 8
I can haz Aion and Spiritchaser reissued on vinyl?
Madonna, Like a Prayer, July 12
Second-hand copies of the self-titled album, Like a Virgin and True Blue can be found for reasonable prices. Like a Prayer, on the other hand, is a bit harder to find, which makes it probably the only recent reissue worth getting.
XTC, Skylarking (Deluxe Edition), July 12
XTC, English Settlement (Deluxe Edition), July 12
Andy Partridge’s reissue label APE House is not messing around with these reissues, and the prices for them reflect that.
Sonic Youth, Murray Street, July 15
The release date for this reissue is a moving target. I imagine it will show up the next time I write this round-up.
Prince, Sign O the Times, Aug. 23
Prince, Lovesexy, Oct. 18
Prince, Graffiti Bridge, Nov. 22
Prince, Love Symbol Album, Dec. 13
I know I want to get the Love Symbol Album on vinyl. I’m partial to getting Lovesexy if I don’t find a used copy before then. I’m on the fence about Sign O the Times and Graffiti Bridge. And I’m disappointed The Black Album reissue was canceled.
John Zorn, Naked City, Aug. 26
I won’t tell you how much I spent on an original pressing of this album. So if you want it on vinyl, place your pre-order now!
Tags: blood orange, chara, cocco, de la soul, dead can dance, faith no more, james blake, john zorn, looking ahead, madonna, naked city, prince, sonic youth, xtc, yen town band