Archives

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1996

[Café Tacuba - Avalancha de Exitos]

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.

1996 was my final year in college, a year before I would earn the kind of disposable income that would go into building a music collection. While the Favorite 10 of 1996 remains mostly unchanged, the extended list includes many more discoveries I couldn’t afford to hear at the time.

  1. Soundtrack, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet
  2. Värttinä, Kokko
  3. Soundtrack, Robotech Perfect Collection
  4. Asylum Street Spankers, Spanks for the Memories
  5. Various Composers, Gay American Composers
  6. Original Cast Recording, Rent
  7. Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar
  8. Everything But the Girl, Walking Wounded
  9. Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs
  10. Robin Holcomb, Little Three

Other favorites from the year:

  • Midnight Oil, Breathe
  • Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser
  • Emmylou Harris, Portraits
  • Kronos Quartet, Howl USA
  • UA, 11
  • Yen Town Band, Montage
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, On Avery Island
  • Aphex Twin, Richard D. James Album
  • Weezer, Pinkerton
  • Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor
  • Clannad, Lore
  • Café Tacuba, Avalancha de Exitos

I could actually add more titles from Wilco, Helmet, Gillian Welch, DJ Shadow and Amuro Namie to the extended list, but I haven’t lived with them as long as the ones I’ve already added.

I owned the Richard D. James album at one point. It was a promo from the student newspaper, but I was such a neophyte with EDM that I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. As it turns out nobody could really make heads or tails of it.

The original extended list didn’t include Lore because it had already fallen victim to a collection purge. I rediscovered the album after the death of Padraig Duggan.

Avalancha de Exitos was the first album by Café Tacuba I would encounter, but I wouldn’t purchase it till many years later. I borrowed it from a friend and liked it. But I stayed away from it because it’s a cover album of music of which I had no reference.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1998

[Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea]

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.

As much as I loved the ’80s, I can’t say the ’90s holds as much sentiment. I feel more affinity for the Aughts than I do the ’90s. That said, 1998 has proven to be rich with favorites, and I would consider it the pinnacle year in the decade. This list has gone through extensive revision from the original.

  1. Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
  2. Madonna, Ray of Light
  3. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
  4. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  5. Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy
  6. Patty Griffin, Flaming Red
  7. SUPERCAR, Three Out Change
  8. Various Artists, For the Masses: A Tribute to Depeche Mode
  9. Bruce Robison, Wrapped
  10. Cocco, Kumuiuta

Other favorites from the year:

  • Shakira, ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
  • Wendy and Lisa, Girl Bros.
  • Midnight Oil, Redneck Wonderland
  • 8 1/2 Souvenirs, Happy Feet
  • UA, Ametora
  • Kronos Quartet, Alfred Schnittke: The Complete String Quartets
  • the brilliant green, the brilliant green
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars, Music for Airports
  • Craig Armstrong, The Space Between Us
  • Julieta Venegas, Aquí
  • Aterciopelados, Caribe Atómico
  • Macha, Macha
  • Idlewild, Hope Is Important
  • Pansy Division, Absurd Pop Song Romance
  • Orgy, Candyass

A number of titles that held positions in the Favorite 10 switched places with ones in the extended list.

I didn’t give Fastball much credit 10 years ago because the album had been all over Austin at the time of its release. I got caught up in that hype, then dismissed it as such later. I was wrong. All the Pain Money Can Buy needs to be in the Favorite 10.

For the Masses actually turned me into a Depeche Mode fan. Some of the covers on the tribute album rival the originals. In the case of “Shake the Disease” and “Everything Counts”, they straight up improve them.

Madonna dominated the top position of this list for 10 years before Neutral Milk Hotel nudged her down a notch. SUPERCAR makes another revisionist ranking, pushing 8 1/2 Souvenirs off.

Idlewild makes an appearance with a debut album that’s at times bratty and tuneful. It’s a mess compared to its follow-up, 1000 Broken Windows. But it’s a riveting mess.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1990s)

[Talitha Mackenzie - Solas]

An analysis of Spotify data in 2015 quantified how listeners stray from popular titles as they age. I don’t know if the music I listened to in my 20s could have ever been called “popular”, but compared to the excitement of discovery in the ’80s, the ’90s were bit of a let-down.

Grunge was conflated to represent all forms of post-punk music, and the major label gold rush to find the next Nirvana eventually dead-ended into Nickelback. In response, I took up Celtic music, downtown New York jazz, modern classical music, Japanese indie rock and country music.

I was at sea.

Shiina Ringo, Shousou Strip

Sure, the loud guitars, infectious melodies and epic production could have won me over, but it was the conclusion of “Gibusu” where the effects go utterly bugfuck that convinced me Shiina Ringo was a keeper.

NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT

I may have eventually found my way to Sonic Youth and Pixies by some other means, but it was NUMBER GIRL that was my gateway to old school punk.

Madonna, Ray of Light

This album arrived when I was exploring the gay bars in Austin after I moved away from home. I still like this album. I cannot say the same for gay bars or Austin.

Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Like probably most people who love this album to death, I didn’t discover it till about many, many years after it was released. But it has enough of a late-’90s patina to evoke that period.

Cocco, Bougainvillia

The few articles about Cocco translated into English I found on the Internet at the time seemed to credit her for paving the way for Utada Hikaru and Shiina Ringo, and we should all be thankful for that.

Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians (Nonesuch)

I wouldn’t encounter this 1996 Nonesuch recording till it was compiled in a 2005 boxed set. Philip Glass was waning as my favorite minimalist, and this recording pretty much catapulted Reich to the top.

Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball

The only people in Hawaii who listened to country music lived on the military bases. But a interview promo disc of Emmylou Harris talking about Wrecking Ball got me interested in the album. It made my move to Austin, Texas two years later slightly more plausible.

Talitha Mackenzie, Solas

As much I loved Clannad and Enya, Talitha Mackenzie drew the connections between Scottish waulking songs and hip-hop, Bulgarian folk music and techno.

Duran Duran, The Wedding Album

It was great seeing people getting back into Duran Duran, but I don’t think my love for this album would have been reinforced without the aid of the Tiger Mailing List, the first Internet community in which I participated.

Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

Nevermind would have been the easy choice, but I would have never picked up the seminal Nirvana album if Butch Vig hadn’t worked with Smashing Pumpkins on Gish beforehand.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Concert Edition 2015

[Duran Duran, Washington State Fair, Sept. 23, 2015]

Concert reviews were always something I wanted to write for this site, but I never drummed up the gumption to jot down my thoughts about shows after I attend them. In reality, I didn’t want shows to become means to an end, in the same way album purchases had become source for reviews.

Still, I go to a lot of concerts, and it feels awkward not mentioning them at least once.

So I’m going to do a year-end overview of all the shows I’ve attended in the past year.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,