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.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
The Klezmatics, Jews with Horns
John Zorn/Masada, Hei
Enya, The Memory of Trees
Kronos Quartet, Performs Philip Glass
Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
Tears for Fears, Raoul and the Kings of Spain
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.
So many gay male artists are releasing new music this summer, it makes me wonder why they all didn’t put everything out in June. But muses can’t be rushed. Nor marketing plans.
Steve Grand, Not the End of Me, July 6
I listen to a lot of really serious music. I need Steve Grand to stop me from being too melancholy.
Luciano Berio, Sinfonia (Roomful of Teeth, Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot), July 20
I went to the Saturday performance of this piece on the recommendation of my music theory professor.
Jake Shears, Jake Shears, Aug. 10
I’ve never really cottoned to Scissor Sisters, even though they seem to be in my wheelhouse.
Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You for Today, Aug. 17
The first two albums of Death Cab’s major label of phase made me wonder if they would follow R.E.M.’s downward creative trajectory in a similar fashion, but Codes and Keys and Kintsugi actually stemmed that tide. I’m not encouraged by the band’s comparison of this new album to Narrow Stairs, however.
Julee Cruise, Three Demos, Aug. 17
I loved Floating Into the Night, so I’m curious to hear these early drafts. A reissue of The Voice of Love also arrives the same day.
Troye Sivan, Bloom, Aug. 31
I was nowhere near the target market for Blue Neighborhood, but I liked it anyway.
Craig Armstrong, Sun on You, Sept. 7
Craig Armstrong is known more for his film scores, mostly because few of his studio albums get US releases. Here’s hoping a streaming release makes up for that drought.
Renée Fleming, Broadway, Sept. 7
A Broadway album? With Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Tell Me on a Sunday”? And a song from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music that isn’t “Send in the Clowns”? OK, Renée Fleming, I’ll bite.
Prince, Piano and a Microphone 1983, Sept. 14
Sure, I’m curious enough to check out this set of demos, but what I’d like to know is when the vinyl reissue campaign will get to the Love Symbol album.
U2, Achtung Baby, July 27
U2, Zooropa, July 27
Zooropa is an odd album in the U2 canon, recorded in a spontaneous rush with experiments that work (“Numb”) and some that fail (“Lemon”). Despite a lavish repackaging, Achtung Baby had not yet been reissued in stand-alone black vinyl.
2017 marked the largest year-over-year increase in my CD collection, and the biggest recipient of that largesse is the Lifelong Thrift Shop.
I crunched the numbers, and the store provided 168 of the 458 items bought in 2017. At an average of $0.73 per CD and $1.46 per record, I contributed more than $130 to Lifelong coffers. I wouldn’t have made a charitable payroll deduction that large.
The Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale is another source for discount music, and I parted with $75 of my cash to them.
Essentially, weekly visits to the thrift shop has crowded out my interest in new releases. That, and being old.
Art of Noise, In Visible Silence: This album started my fascination with the Art of Noise and, more importantly, introduced me to the term musique concrète. It was the weirdest album I encountered in my tween years, and it primed me to discover Kronos Quartet.
Wendy and Lisa, Eroica: A woefully underrated album.
k.d. lang, Ingenue: The MTV Unplugged bonus material didn’t seem like much of an enhancement on paper till you actually listen to it
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead: The demos don’t stray too far from what eventually appeared on record, but it’s nice to hear how these tracks evolved.
Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain: I have to admit I was more enamored of the Eroica reissue, despite the bonus material in this special edition.
Deee-Lite, World Clique: I’m usually not a fan of remixes, but the bonus disc on this special edition actually worked.
Moondog, Moondog: I had been curious about Moondog for a long time, and the Record Store Day reissue of his self-titled Columbia debut was a good excuse to fill in a gap finally.
Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs: Yes, you can find this album at Lifelong for $1, but I still like it. And it’s on vinyl to boot!
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman: OK, I ended up with two copies of this album on vinyl because I hadn’t anticipated I could get the Ryman special edition when I visited Nashville in August 2017.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Symphonic Suite AKIRA: The sequencing of the album had to change to accommodate the limitation of vinyl, but that doesn’t work against it.
Nakamori Akina, Fushigi: I have a number of middling Nakamori Akina albums,
so out of curiosity, I did a search for what’s considered her best work. I wasn’t expecting an album that actually gets nods by the American indie music press. It puts to rest who I like better in the Akina vs. Seiko debate.
The Streets, Original Pirate Material: I so dug “Geezers Need Excitement”, I used it as part of an assignment for an ear training/sight singing class I’m taking.
New York Dolls, New York Dolls: I picked this album up from Lifelong Thrift Shop purely on reputation, and I didn’t expect how prescient it was.
Loretta Lynn, Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind): Don’t let the country weepies fool you — this album is all about how women have to be strong because men are just no good.
Perfume, GAME: It took nearly a decade for me to discover the sublimity of “Polyrhythm.”
The Roots, Game Theory: I want to call this album punk AF.
Low, Things We Lost in the Fire: I’m not sure how much further I want to explore the Low catalog.
Midnight Oil, Head Injuries: For the American Midnight Oil fan who wants to reach back into the Australian catalog, this album is where to start.
Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: Similarly, I’m not sure how much further I want to explore Mingus after hearing this work. I feel everything else would pale by comparison.
Weezer, Pinkerton: This album is the one to own if you can’t stand Weezer fans.
I don’t think I’d mind Weezer if it weren’t for the fans.
Back in 2008, I wrote a series of entries detailing my favorite albums from various decades. For the longest time, I held an incredibly dim view of 1992. Compared the years preceding and following, 1992 felt like a creative malaise had spread throughout the music industry.
Bands that used to be underground found themselves to be popular, and under this newfound, wide-scale scrutiny, some of them cracked.
Or so I thought.
I had only turned 20 years old, an age when the dopamine hit from discovering new music left a neophyte intoxicated. I wanted every album to matter, and the ones that didn’t received a harsh judgment.
Twenty-five years later, I’ve got more of an education on where 1992 fit in the larger scheme of things, and of course, I got it wrong. This old entry details all the ways I got it wrong. So let’s make it right.
Here’s a revised list of the Favorite Edition 1992.
Wayne Horvitz/The President, Miracle Mile
Máire Brennan, Máire
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 (Dawn Upshaw, David Zinman, London Sinfonietta)
k.d. lang, Ingenue
Sade, Love Deluxe
En Vogue, Funky Divas
Prince and the New Power Generation, 0(+> (Love Symbol Album)
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman
Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa
Robin Holcomb, Rockabye
The Sugarcubes, Stick Around for Joy
Faith No More, Angel Dust
Sonic Youth, Dirty
The original list stopped at five items, with a longer list of albums accompanied by explanations for why they weren’t favorites. In some cases, I’ve completely changed my mind.
At the time, Love Deluxe was such a drastic turn for Sade that I thought something went wrong. It would take another 18 years for Love Deluxe to reveal itself as the start of a new creative era, one marked by extreme pauses between albums. This early ’90s album shares more with its successors in 2000 and 2010 than it did with 1988’s Stronger than Pride.
I also got a chance to revisit Ingenue after the entry was written, and it’s place on the favorite list is well anchored.
Other albums would not have appeared on the list at the time it was written. Prince was unexplored territory for me in 2008, so I wouldn’t have even thought to include the Love Symbol album. En Vogue wouldn’t have gotten past my raging rock snobbery.
The rest of the albums on the list could have only been included after much research. Dirty makes a lot more sense if a Sonic Youth novice also considers Sister and EVOL. At the Ryman would not make sense to someone who’s only exposure to Emmylou Harris was Wrecking Ball.
Even after posting a preview of June, more titles were announced as May wore on. Seriously, labels, why are you all putting all this stuff out in one month? You got 12 from which to choose.
Beth Ditto, Fake Sugar, June 16
I was sad to see Gossip split up, but it did feel like the group had gone as far as it could.
Wendy and Lisa, Eroica (Deluxe Edition), June 16
I was wondering when a deluxe edition of this album would appear. Even Fruit at the Bottom got a deluxe treatment.
Onitsuka Chihiro, Tiny Screams, June 21
Onitsuka Chihiro has released a number of live DVDs, but Tiny Screams is her first live album.
Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (Deluxe Edition), June 23
Of course, I’ll be getting this reissue, but the deluxe edition on my wish list is Parade.
Radiohead, OK Computer OKNOTOK, June 23
I picked this album up for $1 at the Seattle Public Library Book Sale back in March 2017 in an attempt to understand its appeal. I’ve encountered OK Computer over the years, but it has never left enough of an impression with me to warrant its unadulterated praise.
TLC, TLC, June 30
How is it I own every TLC album except Ooooh, On the TLC Tip!?
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, Love Your Love, July 5
It’s been four years since Delico released an album, but the duo has never seen the need to rush.
k.d. lang, Ingenue (25th Anniversary Edition), July 14 (Vinyl, Aug. 18)
File under: The one album you would own of an artist if you bought nothing else from that artist.
Arcade Fire, Everything Now, July 28
I ended up at an Arcade Fire concert because I wanted to see Explosions in the Sky. It was one of the best live shows I’ve seen. But the only album I really own is Funeral.
Anne Dudley, Plays the Art of Noise, TBD (US/UK, out now in Japan)
Art of Noise was always so coy about who did what, but in those early years, I had inkling Anne Dudley brought in the music, while everyone else brought in the noise. Later interviews would confirm that was exactly the case.
The Cranberries, Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, June 16
The soundtrack to romantic comedy movie trailers.
Helmet, Meantime, June 23
I remember reading about the bidding war to sign Helmet to a major label deal. I bought the album out of curiosity and wondered how Interscope was going to recoup its advance.
Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Elite Hotel, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Luxury Liner, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl, July 5
Did you miss out on the Record Store Day boxed set, Queen of the Silver Dollar? It looks like the box is being broken out into individual releases. Or you can find fairly decent used copies of these albums for a bargain.
Soundtrack, Pride and Prejudice, July 7
The soundtrack to the film with Keira Knightley is actually pretty good, but like everything else about Pride and Prejudice, it’s not as good as the BBC mini-series.
Beyoncé, Lemonade, July 28
Unofficial pressings of this album have been in local record shops for a while now.
It’s half way through the year, and I’ve listed all but three of the new releases I own this year.
That’s 13 albums from 2016.
So while I can technically create a favorite 10 albums of the year so far, that doesn’t actually mean I feel very strongly about most of this list.
Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth: Simpson aimed to make this album his What’s Goin’ On, and he pretty much hits it.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4: Don’t expect a sequel to Górecki’s chart-topping Symphony No. 3. This work goes back to the modernist style he forged on his second symphony.
Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle This pairing is counterintuitive but kind of inevitable, and it works.
ANOHNI, HOPELESSNESS: ANOHNI trades in the chamber pop of Antony and the Johnsons for an aggressive electronic sound, something she’s already done before with Björk.
Santigold, 99 Cents: Santigold goes for a sunnier sound on this album, and while it may not be as fascinating as her previous albums, they’re tuneful as hell nonetheless.
Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness: After the predictability of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, The Wilderness is a definite zag to its predecessor’s zig. It’s probably the most adventurous Explosions album to date.
Ben Watt, Fever Dream: Watt builds upon the post-Everything but the Girl vibe of Hendra with a stronger set of songs.
Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Górecki’s 3rd Symphony: I should hate the idea of a post-rock interpretation of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, but I don’t. I like what Stetson does here.
UA, JaPo: Nope, UA hasn’t returned to her pop roots, but she does provide enough hooks to temper her more avant-garde tendencies.
Prince, HITnRUN Phase Two: Recommended if you like classic Prince.