Play this album next to Janet Jackson’s Control, and you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they were born in the same era. Sam Sparro evokes the R&B sound of the 80s with such affection it makes me nostalgic for a style of music against which I actively rebelled at the time.
The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette
I picked this album up at the thrift shop solely on the reputation of providing the name for Japanese garage rock band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. And I don’t really like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. But I do like this album quite a lot.
Jay Som, Anak Ko
I heard this album playing at Sonic Boom around the time of its release. I had intended to listen to it in full on a streaming service when I got home. That never happened. Nearly a year later, I snagged a copy at the thrift shop.
Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
This album probably came to symbolize what sucked about disco, but I don’t think it’s been given its due credit. There is some fine writing on this album, and its commercial success shouldn’t be a knock against it.
The Studio One compilations planted a notion that maybe I didn’t hate reggae music after all. My coworkers at Waterloo Records would play these compilations, and I would find myself liking what I heard. Dawn Penn’s “No No No” left a particular impression, but many years would pass before I learned the song’s title. The only reggae music I heard growing up was sifted through a Hawaiian music filter, and I didn’t like it.
Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1
OK, fellow gays, I understand why you all love Robyn now.
The Faint, Danse Macabre
I stocked so many copies of this album during my Waterloo shifts, I got sick of it, having never heard a single note. If it’s that popular, it had to suck, right? Maybe in my more judgmental days …
I spent years filing The Dismemberment Plan’s albums at Waterloo Records, and I don’t think I ever listened to their music. So I picked up Change at the thrift store purely out of curiosity. Listening to this album transported me back to those record store days in the early 2000s.
The Ordinaires, One
I owned this album on cassette, and I actually liked it at the time. The only problem was I liked a lot of other albums at the same time a bit more. In a crunch for cash, I sold it. But the band’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” has haunted me ever since. So I picked it up on vinyl at the Northwest Record Show, then eventually on CD.
Anton Bruckner, Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Staatskapel Dresden, Eugene Jochum)
I had an unofficial goal of collecting Bruckner symphonies on my visits to thrift shops until this budget boxed set showed up at Lifelong. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! I learned about Bruckner in college, but I didn’t feel compelled to explore his work because of a joke: he wrote nine symphonies at one time, or one symphony nine times.
Soundtrack, Death Note
I’ve been dragging my feet on getting this soundtrack for nearly a decade now, but what finally spurred me to take action was a vinyl reissue from Tiger Lab.
Gary Numan, The Pleasure Principle
I bugged my mom to buy me the 7-inch single of “Cars” when I was 8 years old, but by the time I started collecting on my own 5 years later, Gary Numan felt like ancient history. The Pleasure Principle has grown in stature since then, so it was high time I followed up on that single purchase.
Clipse, Lord Willin’
Yeah, I went through a Neptunes phase in the early 2000s, but this album slipped through my grasp. 2002 was a fruitful year in music, so it faced a lot of competition.
Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Now that everyone else has published their best of 2019 lists, I get to play catch up with everything I’ve been ignoring. So far, only Billie Eilish has managed to punch through.
Peter Gabriel, Us
I probably wouldn’t have come around to this album if I hadn’t run across Secret World Live first. Us got middling reviews, but I find it hits more than it misses.
Soundtrack, Les Miserables ( Original French Concept Album)
I was never as much a fan of Les Misérables, compared to its contemporaries by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. The music wasn’t as tuneful as Lloyd Webber or as complex as Sondheim. I did appreciate the production when I saw it in New York City in 1993.
Fast forward 25+ years later, and I happened across a recording of the original French concept album, stashed with the London cast recording. After hearing it in French, the music makes so much more sense. The melodies are fashioned for French, and while the English translation captures the main plot points, it doesn’t flow the way it does in the original language.
I propose future productions of Les Misérables have supertitles in translation but remains sung in French.
Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030
I’ve picked up Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s two Elektra albums this past year, but neither prepared me for the opera that is Deltron 3030.
Band of Susans, Love Agenda
I’m not sure why a world that could accommodate My Bloody Valentine and Ride could not also fit in Band of Susans. Perhaps it’s because they hewed closer to Sonic Youth than to the shoegazers. Love Agenda has the distinction of having Page Hamilton as a full-time member before he left to form Helmet.
Conlon Nancarrow, Complete Studies for Player Piano
In the past two years, I managed to acquire all four volumes of Nancarrow’s Complete Studies for Player Piano on the 1750 Arch label, half of them in the past month. The sheer impossibility of these pieces makes listening to them a joyous occasion. At least one of these studies sound like 8-bit video game effects.
This Record Store Day Black Friday reissue captures U2 at its most youthful. Not a hint of the slickness that would become their hallmark can be found on these three early tracks. The deluxe edition of Boy included U2-3 as bonus material.
Shiina Ringo, Newton no Ringo ~Hajimete no Best Han~
Oh, it’s just a compilation with a bunch of bonus tracks. Surely, it just rehashes what we’ve heard over the last 20 years? Not so fast. A number of early tracks have been remixed in a way that actually brings new character to what Shiina calls her youthful works. As for the new songs? Well, if you’re not a fan of the most recent albums, these tracks aren’t going to dissuade you.
Michael Kiwanuka, KIWANUKA
I picked up Michael Kiwanuka’s debut album from the thrift store and was immediately impressed. I sought out his second album and didn’t warm up to it as much. That planted some hesitancy on picking up this latest album, which turned out to be unfounded. This album takes Kiwanuka in a new direction.
LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
I really dig the “Drunk Girls” video, but I can’t say I remember much about This Is Happening. The band’s debut, Sound of Silver, is often touted as their best work, so I gave it a chance when I spotted it in the thrift shop. Conventional wisdom turns out to be correct.
Leila Josefowicz, Solos
I picked this album up because of the Ysaÿe Sonata No. 3 for solo violin. It’s a monstrous piece.
Yvonne Elliman, Rising Sun
Yvonne Elliman will be known as a disco singer, but after her run as Mary Magdalene in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar, she tried her hand at a more conventional folk-rock sound. As with Love Me, Rising Sun demonstrates how underrated Elliman is.
Peter Moon Band, Cane Fire!
Back in college, I tried to explore Hawaiian music, but my rockist bias against the genre would be difficult to overcome. Still, I picked up Cane Fire! on the recommendation of people more versed in the genre than I was, and … I was still too much of a snob to give it fair shake. Three decades have tempered that snobbery, and it turns out Cane Fire! really stands out.
Like Patti Smith’s Horses, Sound & Fury confounded me. I put the album on repeat, and each listen only heightened my confusion and fascination. Was this My Bloody Valentine reborn as a southern rock band? Was it ZZ Top making the electroclash album it should never, ever record? In the end, it’s just Sturgill Simpson applying his work ethic to fucking with our minds.
Cocco, Star Shank
I don’t think I’ve heard Cocco scream with the kind of abandon she does on this album. It’s almost uncharacteristic now that she’s let a lot more sunshine into her music.
I didn’t realize how much I missed BBMAK till they announced their reunion, and this album does not disappoint.
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop
Don’t Tell a Soul was the first Replacements album I ever bought, so I find the over-produced, slick sound comforting. That said, I really dig this original mix by Matt Wallace. Thing is, it would have totally tanked in 1989. Maybe in 1993, it would have made more sense. But not in 1989.
Kim Gordon, No Home Record
Do we really need to pay attention to any other former member of Sonic Youth?
Ali Wong, Baby Cobra
I signed up for Netflix to watch the Sound & Fury anime. I might keep my subscription to watch Baby Cobra.
Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express
Kraftwerk strikes me as a band I ought to like, but so far, this album is the only one to connect.
Prince, Dirty Mind
I didn’t think I would like anything Prince recorded before 1999. I think I rather like this more than 1999.
This album is one of those extremely rare, regional finds that will either be selling for $0.50 at a thrift store or $30 on Discogs.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
When this album was first released, my record store co-workers liked it enough to recommend it. Kanye had already gone headlong into celebrity insufferability by then, and I passed. It was that endorsement that prompted me to pick this album up at the thrift store. What I like best is the lack of raps, and thus, the lack of posturing. It’s also restrained, something refreshingly unbecoming of an artist with the size of Kanye’s ego.
The Bad Rackets, Full On Blown Apart
This album is the intersection of garage rock and punk that my Waterloo Records co-workers would play to death. It’s been about 15 years since, so I’m not so severe in my reaction to this kind of music. I’ve also met the band’s drummer, and he’s hotter than a straight guy has any business being.
Art of Noise, Re-works of Art of Noise
At the time of its release, I wasn’t interested in live tracks, which is half of this compilation EP. I was wrong to be so dismissive. Art of Noise had to adapt to a live setting, giving these tracks new facets the studio versions don’t capture. “Hammersmith to Tokyo and Back” is worth the price of the EP alone.
I skipped this album when it was released. All the pre-release press described Monster in terms that didn’t hold much appeal to me. I didn’t share everyone’s breathless acclaim for Automatic for the People, so I approached Monster with a level of skepticism that stopped me from listening to the album for 25 years. How foolish.
The Cult, Sonic Temple
I read about this album in a lot of magazines back in high school, but I never made the plunge. I like how it’s not quite heavy metal.
Loveless casts a big enough shadow over My Bloody Valentine’s work that it made me hesitant to explore the remainder of the band’s catalog, lest it fail to live up. That is not the case with Isn’t Anything, and I regret not ordering the remastered vinyl when I picked up Loveless a year ago.
Rick Springfield, Tao
A five-disc bargain box set of Rick Springfield albums got a discount on Amazon Prime Day, and I fully succumbed to FOMO when I bought it. I’ve always liked “Celebrate the Youth”, but it turns out Tao is Springfield’s most ambitious album of his 80s work. If you must own a second Springfield album — the first being Working Class Dog — Tao would be the one.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku
I hate to admit it, but … I’ve listened to the four studio albums of NUMBER GIRL enough times to want more variety from the live albums. Still, NUMBER GIRL is that rare band where their live albums are hotter than their studio work.
Janet Jackson, Control: The Remixes
I didn’t realize how much I prefer the remixed version of “Let’s Wait a While” till I heard it on this reissued compilation. I’m also reminded of how awesome “The Pleasure Principle” is.
Missy Elliott, Da Real World
I’ve read a number of lukewarm reviews for this album, and compared the work preceding and following it, I could see how it might seem not up-to-snuff. But that’s not saying much. It’s still a solid album and light years ahead of The Cookbook.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing (Revised Expanded Edition)
I’m not sure how this album has been relegated to the vinyl dollar bin. It’s damn awesome and ripe for rediscovery.
Band of Susans, The Word and the Flesh
I remember reading about Band of Susans in Pulse! magazine and wondering if I would ever encounter any of their albums out in the wild. It took 30 years, but it happened.
Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Sonic Youth, Confusion Is Sex / Kill Yr. Idols
I’ve read a number of record guides, and very few of them recommend this album. They are wrong. Confusion Is Sex is probably the closest Sonic Youth has gotten to its modern classical roots, and I like it a lot.
On Facebook, I posted this controversial stance: Duffy > Adele. Maybe I like Rockferry because it’s not piped into every restaurant and waiting room.
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
I scored when I found a copy of this album with a DVD of the video for “Hurt” at the thrift store. Then I heard the rest of it, and … wow.
This album entered the Favorite Edition list on pretty much the first listen.
Various Artists, Living In Oblivion, Vol. 1
I had a copy of this album, but the booklet got water damaged in a refrigerator leak. So I gave it away. Welcome back.
Washed Out, Within and Without
Part of me wishes the cover of the album were homoerotic, but the music on it is great.
Anderson .Paak, Ventura
I’ve heard of Anderson .Paak but not from Anderson .Paak, so a $2 copy of this album at Goodwill, unopened, seemed like a low-risk way to find out who he is. I’m impressed.
I gave this album a cursory preview when it first appeared in mid-2018, but I didn’t follow up till now. Shires’ husband, Jason Isbell, sang the album’s praises, and he’s right — To the Sunset is ambitious.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert
I went to the Saturday world premiere of this work in 2018, so it was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list.
Frida, Something’s Going On
This album would be akin to Janet Jackson’s Control in the way Frida distances herself from ABBA.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi
No, this album won’t dislodge Shiina’s first three albums off the pedestal, but it’s her most diverse since Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, and Shiina on an off-day is still many leagues interesting than most artists at their apex.
Soundtrack, Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?
My experience with anime can be divided in two: before “Do You Remember Love?” and after “Do You Remember Love?” I will always treasure Robotech for introducing me to Japanese animation, but that show really did butcher the source material.
Madonna, Madame X
The singles preceding Madame X‘s release did not do the album justice. It’s a far more ambitious work than the singles let on.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing
The Politics of Dancing is a reliably 80s synth album, but that title track is an unshakable earworm. Cherry Red in the UK is giving it an expanded reissue in July 2019.
Roger Daltery, Under a Raging Moon
This album is steeped in the ’80s, which is probably why it appeals to me so much.