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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: 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: 1993

[Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)]

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.

Instead of providing an extended list for 1993, I rag on a number of critical favorites from the year. I’ve mellowed out about Björk’s Debut and U2’s Zooropa, but Siamese Dream and janet. are still overrated.

  1. Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
  2. Bill Frisell, Have a Little Faith
  3. John Zorn / Naked City, Absinthe
  4. Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band, Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band
  5. Spiny Norman, Crust
  6. The Love Gods, Hujja Hujja Fishla
  7. Michael Nyman, The Piano
  8. Wayne Horvitz / Pigpen, Halfrack
  9. Clannad, Banba
  10. Emerson Sting Quartet, American Originals: Ives / Barber String Quartets

Other favorites from the year:

  • Kate Bush, The Red Shoes
  • Emmylou Harris, Cowgirl’s Prayer
  • Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
  • Cypress Hill, Black Sunday
  • Digable Planets, Reachin’
  • U2, Zooropa
  • Julee Cruise, The Voice of Love
  • Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales

This time, I’m providing an extended list, and it demonstrates where I was as a listener and where I am.

That Favorite 10 is stuffed to the gills with some really avant-garde titles, the kind put together by a young person trying to be more cosmopolitan than his peers.

The extended list includes music that would have been ignored by the person who compiled the Favorite 10.

My younger self would have scoffed at my older present self for deigning to include hip-hop, and my older self would tell my younger self to examine what social pressures may be coming to bear for his opposition.

Younger self would complain about how hip-hop culture is fetishized by his ethnic cohorts, which older self would acknowledge but caution against succumbing to the racial dynamics of the country.

Younger self would have no idea what older self would be talking about, since younger self hadn’t yet moved to he Mainland US to see these dynamics in action.

All that to say maybe I’ve been resistant to hip-hop because the music that most appeals to me is made predominantly by upper middle class white men.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1994

[Soundtrack - Interview with a Vampire]

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 original list from 1994 didn’t even include an extended list. That’s how austere the selections from the year were.

  1. Talitha Mackenzie, Solas
  2. Freedy Johnston, This Perfect World
  3. Wayne Horvitz/Pigpen, V as in Victim
  4. Harry Connick, Jr., She
  5. Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand
  6. Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart
  7. Kronos Quartet, Night Prayers
  8. Jayne Cortez and the Firespitters, Cheerful & Optimistic
  9. John Zorn/Masada, Alef
  10. Madonna, Bedtime Stories

Other favorites from the year:

  • Prince, The Black Album
  • Blur, Parklife
  • Pizzicato Five, Made in USA
  • Shudder to Think, Pony Express Record
  • Elliott Goldenthal, Interview with a Vampire

At the time of its limited release, I was actually very curious about The Black Album. Part of it was all the hype surrounding its initial aborted release, but I was still mostly ambivalent about Prince to pass on it. Its underdog status among Prince’s work makes me like it just a bit more.

A top 10 list I would have compiled in 1994 would have listed the Interview with a Vampire soundtrack. It’s actually a really good score. It’s too bad the movie sucked eggs. I watched twice — the first time to evaluate its faithfulness to the novel (somewhat), the second to evaluate it as a film (awful). The only thing that mars the soundtrack is the unfortunate cover of Sympathy for the Devil by Guns N’ Roses.

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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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Purchase log, 2018-10-23

[Jason Isbell and 400 Unit - Live from the Ryman]

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.

New releases

CD
  • Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Live from the Ryman

Catalog

CD
  • Benjamin Britten, String Quartets 2 & 3 / Sinfonietta (Amadeus Quartet, Vienna Octet)
  • Cyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual
  • Hot Hot Heat, Make Up the Breakdown
  • John Zorn, The String Quartets
  • Kahimi Karie, The Best of Trattoria Years Plus VCD
  • Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels, Live 1973
  • Simon and Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence
  • Talking Heads, Little Creatures
  • Various Artists, Trojan Reggae
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 (John Eliot Gardiner; English Baroque Soloists)
Vinyl
  • Boris, Pink
  • Icicle Works, Icicle Works
  • Frida, Something’s Going On
  • Painkiller, Guts of a Virgin
  • Robert Palmer, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Kylie Minogue, Fever

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Favorite Edition: Desert Island

[Duran Duran - Rio]

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.

Cocco, Bougainvillia
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.

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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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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1980s)

[The Art of Noise - In Visible Silence]

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.

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Looking ahead: January 2017-March 2017

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?

Vinyl

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.

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