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.
Anthony De Mare, Pianos and Vocals (Music of Meredith Monk and John Cage)
Given how well De Mare sequenced the pieces on this album, I bet recitals featuring these works would have been amazing.
Easterhouse, Waiting for the Redbird
Contenders is the album that has remained in print, but Waiting for the Redbird appealed to me more as it played on the turntable.
Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson
The Janet we know today began with Control, and it’s the furthest Miss Jackson will go in live performances. Of the two albums that preceded it, this self-titled debut has the better songs.
Justin Timberlake, Futuresex / LoveSounds
I think I reacted more to the production of this album than to the actual songs.
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
I didn’t find Golden Hour terribly impressive, but I didn’t want to dismiss Kacey Musgraves out of hand. So I picked up Same Trailer Different Park when I found it at the thrift store. That’s when I understood.
I didn’t realize just how much Kalapana’s first album dominated radio broadcast in Hawaii during the 1970s. I picked up a vinyl copy of the album on a whim, having grown up with the name but not necessarily the music. It turns out I heard them a lot when I was still too young to care about building a music collection.
I’ve been fascinated by the third mode of limited transposition since we covered them in a music theory class I took in 2017. The Turangalîla Symphony is one of those works you’re told to know, even if takes you a while to get around to listening to it. The 2-disc vinyl edition of this recording includes Toru Takemitsu’s November Steps, which gets dropped on subsequent CD reissues.
My prior exposure to Big Country, I’m sorry to say, was when Girl Talk mashed up “In a Big Country” with “Whoomp! (There It Is)”. I rather like how Scottish this album is without being crossover about it.
eX-Girl, “The crown of Dr. Keroninstan”
The vinyl reissue of Kero! Kero! Kero! prompted Kirilola to bring eX-Girl back from Planet Kero. I have to admit some degree of envy when the band announced its return to SXSW.
I grew up listening to some really awful Hawaiian music, pumped mostly into elevators and department stores. I picked up this self-titled debut at the thrift store, curious to see why it gets such breathless accolades in Hawaii media. I’m hoping someone emerges as the Astor Piazzola for Hawaiian music, and Hapa has so far come closest.
Robert Palmer, Pressure Drop
Palmer continues the funk workout of Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, augmenting it with explorations into other genres, notably the reggae of the title track.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out
It’s unfortunate when a single track from an album overshadows the rest of it. For the longest time, I’ve avoided Time Out because of “Take Five.” How silly of me. “Blue Rondo a la Turk” is damn awesome.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz
It’s not the nuclear blast of Fever to Tell, but it’s still a good listen.
I bought this album back in high school, before I had any inkling of how to listen to jazz. I didn’t understand it and sold it for cash. Now that I’ve had rudimentary schooling in jazz, I picked it up again at the library book sale. I get it now.
Johnny Cash, American Recordings
I remember the accolades heaped upon this album at the time of its release, but I hadn’t gotten into country music yet. So I had no interest in Johnny Cash. Now that I know more about his life and music, I see what all the fuss was about.
This album was listed in the book 1,000 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I found a copy of it at the thrift store. I liked it enough.
PJ Harvey, Rid of Me
To Bring You My Love gets the highest praise among PJ Harvey’s albums, but I couldn’t get into it. I much prefer Rid of Me.
Pop Will Eat Itself, This Is the Day … This Is the Hour … This Is This!
This album got good reviews in all the magazines I read as a teenager, but I hesitated on getting it. I would eventually find a ratty vinyl copy selling for cheap decades later. Teenaged self should have been the one to take that plunge.
Sly and the Family Stone, Stand!
Too many tracks on this album have been licensed to sell products, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to diminish them. Or maybe we’re just more chill about music licensing these days.
Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club
I totally forgot that “Wordy Rappinghood” was a Tom Tom Club track. I dug that track so much as a kid, I annoyed everyone around me by singing it.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album)
The meticulousness this covers album takes in reproducing the originals is ridiculous and admirable.