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Favorite Edition 2018: Year half

[Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer]

It’s time we turn this list around. Instead of tracking the favorite new releases of 2018, I’ll start with my favorite catalog discoveries. The vast majority of my listening these days is old music that’s new to me, so let’s pretend no longer I have a read on anything current.

Catalog

  • Patti Smith, Horses: PJ Harvey sure owes a lot to Patti Smith. The first time I played Horses, there were moments I thought I was listening to Polly Jean. This album confounded me, thus forcing me to play it multiple times, each time engaging me more than the last. Smith has been described as the godmother of punk, and I half expected a proto-Sleater-Kinney. Nah, man. That’s not it at all.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?: Maybe it’s because of Emmylou Harris and Kronos Quartet that made this album feel instantly familiar, or maybe its influence extends as far as the arm of Sauron.
  • Roxy Music, Avalon: Smooth
  • Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: This shit is dark.
  • Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark: Without some schooling in Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, I wouldn’t have understood how ground-breaking this album is. Otherwise, the cheap imitations it spawned would have been my only reference.
  • Fugazi, The Argument: I didn’t think anything could top 13 Songs or Repeater, but this album comes damn close.
  • Dwight Yoakam, Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.: Honky-tonk AF
  • Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5: Even after 15 years, this split EP holds together well.

New Releases

  • Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: This is the album I wished The ArchAndroid was. I still think she hasn’t yet recorded her Shousou Strip.
  • Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, Landfall: I found myself engaged in this album more than I expected.
  • Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: Shiina Ringo is one of the best songwriters, because the strength of her writing cuts through even the most ordinary interpretation of her songs.
  • Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly, Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music: It’s an improbable concept album based on transcriptions of Balinese gamelan music by English composer Colin McPhee. In execution, it’s a stronger concept than the Planetarium album Muhly did with Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister.
  • Steve Grand, not the end of me: Grand has gone through some serious shit since his debut album, and this sprawling sophomore effort lays it all out.
  • Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi: Check out the rhythmic modulation on “Chikai”. She does some amazing obfuscation with the downbeat.
  • Igor Stravinsky, Chant Funèbre / La Sacre Du Printemps: It seems Funeral Song didn’t really answer the question of how Stravinsky bridged his Scriabin-influenced early work with the Firebird and all that came after.
  • Tracey Thorn, Record: Tracey Thorn returns to the dancefloor, thank deities.

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Thrift Store Find: Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark

[Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark]

My education in Joni Mitchell has been spotty.

I’ve read about her in numerous rock magazines during high school, and on more than a few occasions, Blue would be played on the in-store system at Waterloo Records during a shift. Máire Brennan of Clannad introduced me to “Big Yellow Taxi”, which Janet Jackson would sample to great effect.

But it wasn’t until I picked up Court and Spark at the Friends of the Seattle Library Book Sale that I made the connection with “Help Me”. I didn’t realize Joni Mitchell had recorded that song.

Even now, “Help Me” is indelibly tied in my head with one particular radio station in Honolulu — KSSK, or K-59. In the ’70s, KSSK (590 AM) was the top-rated station in Honolulu with a playlist that featured all the big hits of the day.

In the ’80s, car stereos improved, and FM stations gained popularity. KQMQ (93.1 FM) captured mindshare among young people, but my mom stubbornly refused to let us listen to it. She preferred the traffic and news reports KSSK provided, and since she was behind the wheel, that information would be important for drive time.

But oh my GOD, KSSK didn’t update their playlist as the decade switched over from the 70s to the 80s. They were still playing music that was considered absolutely square by my siblings and me. Duran Duran, Madonna and Huey Lewis were doing wonderful things with synthesizers. Why did we have to be subjected to this easy listening junk from Carole King, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell??

“Help Me” stood for everything that was wrong with KSSK’s playlist. It was that jazzy, inoffensive, reliably adult kind of music that was automatically branded “boring” by anyone under 20.

Maybe the station might play a Sheena Easton single or some pre-Thriller Michael Jackson, but Prince was verboten. And good luck catching any Eurythmics. Otherwise, it was the Eagles, baby.

I haven’t listened to radio since the ’80s, but I assume if I were to tune into KSSK right now, the playlist would still be stuck in the ’70s, and “Help Me” would be right there.

Of course, now I listen to “Help Me” with terrific fondness, and 30 years of music education has given me a far deeper appreciation of Court and Spark. When I didn’t have John Coltrane and Charles Mingus as a point of reference, the album would have remained square to me. Instead, I understand why Court and Spark is a big deal. Mitchell retains her folk sound, but she makes it swing.

At some point, I’ll revisit Blue, but right now, Court and Spark is my go-to Joni Mitchell album.

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Purchase log, 2018-06-19

[NUMBER GIRL - Shibuya ROCKTRANSFORMED Joutai]

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.

Catalog

CD
  • Black Flag, Damaged
  • D’Angelo, Voodoo
  • GLAY, pure soul
  • Joni Mitchell, Blue
  • Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road
  • The Human League, Crash
Vinyl
  • Joni Mitchell, Blue
  • Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns
  • Sade, Lovers Rock
  • Sade, Soldier of Love
Blu Ray
  • NUMBER GIRL, Shibuya ROCKTRANSFORMED Joutai
  • NUMBER GIRL, Kirorku Eizou LIVE 1999-2002

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Purchase log, 2018-05-22

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.

Catalog

CD
  • Aphex Twin, Syro
  • Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch
  • Lucinda Williams, Essence
  • Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • The Tallis Scholars, The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin
  • The Wrens, The Meadowlands
  • William Byrd, Missa in Tempore Paschali (Chanticleer)
  • William Byrd / Thomas Tallis, Choral Works (St. John’s College Choir, Cambridge, George Guest)
Vinyl
  • Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark
  • Györgi Ligeti, Streichquartett No. 1 / Streichquartett No. 2 (Arditti Quartet)

 

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Purchase log, 2018-03-20

[Roxy Music - Avalon]

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.

This past weekend was the annual Big Book Sale by the Friends of the Seattle Public Library, so I should have enough music to last me for weeks, right? Right.

Catalog

CDs
  • Anita Baker, Giving You the Best That I Got
  • Beastie Boys, Check Your Head
  • Victor Borge, Live(!)
  • Glenn Branca, Symphony No. 2: Peak of the Sacred
  • Cameo, Word Up!
  • Capercaillie, Secret People
  • John Coltrane, Giant Steps
  • John Coltrane, Meditations
  • John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
  • John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
  • Eazy-E, Eazy-Duz-It
  • Bill Evans Trio, Waltz for Debby
  • Fugazi, End Hits
  • Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree
  • Guns N’ Roses, G N’ R Lies
  • Heart, Bad Animals
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?
  • Ketsumeshi, Ketsunopolis 4
  • LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out
  • Milt Jackson and John Coltrane, Bags and Trane
  • Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark
  • Morrissey, The Best of Morrissey
  • Mother Love Bone, Mother Love Bone
  • Nirvana, Incesticide
  • Robert Palmer, Clues
  • Prince, Musicology
  • R.E.M., Dead Letter Office
  • Radiohead, The Bends
  • Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
  • Einojuhani Rautvaara, Symphony No. 7: Angel of Light / Annunciations
  • Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus
  • Roxy Music, Avalon (Remastered)
  • Soundgarden, Ultramega OK
  • Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
  • They Might Be Giants, Flood
  • TLC, Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip
  • Värttinä, Seleniko
  • Soundtrack, Pride and Prejudice
DVD
  • Tokyo Jihen, Dynamite Out

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Purchase log, 2018-03-06

[My Bloody Valentine - Loveless]

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

Vinyl
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Koukuukyoku~

Catalog

CDs
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Song and Dance (Original Cast Live)
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
  • Jeff Buckley, Grace
  • Freedy Johnston, Right Between the Promises
  • Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
  • My Bloody Valentine, m b v
  • Robert Palmer, Addictions, Vol. 1
  • Ride, Nowhere
  • R.E.M., And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years (Deluxe Edition)
  • Roxy Music, Roxy Music
  • Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger
  • Texas, Mother’s Heaven
  • Texas, Southside

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Annie Lennox, Diva
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (2018 Remaster)

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