Archives

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1983

[Duran Duran - Seven and the Ragged Tiger]

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.

The 1983 Favorite Edition list is not terribly cosmopolitan. And why should it? I would have been 11 years old at the time, and pre-teens, even precocious ones, aren’t renowned for sophistication.

  1. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
  2. Clannad, Magical Ring
  3. U2, Live Under a Blood Red Sky
  4. David Bowie, Let’s Dance
  5. Duran Duran, Seven and the Ragged Tiger
  6. R.E.M., Murmur
  7. Huey Lewis and the News, Sports
  8. The Police, Synchronicity
  9. 10,000 Maniacs, Secrets of the I Ching
  10. The Waitresses, Bruiseology

Other favorites from the year:

  • Toto, IV
  • Culture Club, Colour By Numbers
  • Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes
  • Cyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual
  • The Pointer Sisters, Break Out

MTV was the big driver of music in this era, but I wouldn’t have known it because my parents refused to subscribe to cable. The household wouldn’t welcome cable TV till well after I had moved out after college … in 1997.

So my exposure to music in 1983 was limited to American Bandstand and Solid Gold. For a short while, a syndicated TV show called Prime Time Videos aired on broadcast affiliates, but it would not last.

I was still heavily into Pac-Man, even though my parents refused to welcome a game console or computer into the house. It’s a wonder how I’ve made computer programming my career.

So if this list seems particularly safe, it’s a reflection of the limited avenues of consumption. It’s probably why I have such a voracious appetite now.

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

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1986

[Nakamori Akina - Fushigi]

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.

In 2008, my collection tapered off with releases before 1987. I went so far as to call 1986 an uninteresting year. I’ve since had time to explore the year in greater depth.

  1. The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence
  2. Janet Jackson, Control
  3. Soundtrack, Megazone 23 Song Collection
  4. Paul Simon, Graceland
  5. XTC, Skylarking
  6. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead
  7. Prince & the Revolution, Parade
  8. Nakamori Akina, Fushigi
  9. Duran Duran, Notorious
  10. Club Nouveau, Life, Love and Pain

Other favorites from the year:

  • Anita Baker, Rapture
  • Bananarama, True Confessions
  • Fishbone, In Your Face
  • Run DMC, Raising Hell
  • Peter Gabriel, So
  • John Adams, Harmonielehre
  • Enya, Enya
  • Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.
  • R.E.M., Lifes Rich Pageant
  • Pet Shop Boys, Please
  • Kronos Quartet, Music of Sculthorpe, Sallinen, Glass, Nancarrow, Hendrix
  • The Human League, Crash

If you told Younger Me that Older Me would like So and Raising Hell, Younger Me would wretch. At the time, Run DMC and Peter Gabriel were so ubiquitous, I felt I would never need to hear “Walk This Way” or “Sledgehamer” for the rest of my life.

One advantage of growing older is no longer caring about looking at all fashionable.

Younger Me would have been puzzled by the inclusion of Dwight Yoakam on the extended list, to which Older Me would have to tell Younger Me to wait 9 years.

Younger Me: Oh, I was wondering whether I should get that Human League album. Is it really that good?
Older Me: Yeah, but I don’t think you’d quite appreciate it at your station in life. Wait a few years.
Younger Me: Really? How many?
Older Me: 30.

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

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1987

[Sonic Youth - Sister]

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 go on and on about how much I love 1987 that I should just shut up and let the list speak for itself. Unsurprisingly, the Favorite 10 hasn’t changed, saved one correction.

  1. U2, The Joshua Tree
  2. Sting, … Nothing Like the Sun
  3. 10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe
  4. Sinéad O’Connor, The Lion and the Cobra
  5. Bulgarian State TV & Radio Women’s Choir, Le Mystère de Voix Bulgares
  6. John Adams, The Chairman Dances
  7. Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera
  8. Wendy & Lisa, Wendy & Lisa
  9. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction
  10. R.E.M., Document

Other favorites from the year:

  • Kronos Quartet, White Man Sleeps
  • Depeche Mode, Music for the Masses
  • Dolly Parton / Linda Ronstadt / Emmylou Harris, Trio
  • The Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense!
  • Swing Out Sister, It’s Better to Travel
  • Hiroshima, Go
  • The Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come
  • Eurythmics, Savage
  • INXS, Kick
  • Sonic Youth, Sister
  • The Dukes of the Stratosphear, Psonic Psunspot
  • Dead Can Dance, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
  • Icehouse, Man of Colours
  • In Tua Nua, Vaudeville
  • Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock

I originally listed the cast recording of Into the Woods in the Favorite 10, but I discovered it was actually released in 1988.

The extended list is shorter than the one for 1988, but I’ve actually added fewer titles from 1987 since the original list was compiled. I think I also like these albums more intensely because I had discovered them at the time, and they’ve made a lasting impression.

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

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1988

[The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues]

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 discovered so much music in 1987 that at the time, I thought 1988 was a dud by comparison. Over the years, I’ve discovered that is not the case. The Favorite 10 doesn’t change from the original list, but look at that expanded list.

  1. In Tua Nua, The Long Acre
  2. Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust
  3. Kronos Quartet, Winter Was Hard
  4. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good
  5. Enya, Watermark
  6. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  7. Living Colour, Vivid
  8. Duran Duran, Big Thing
  9. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  10. The Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba

Other favorites from the year:

  • Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
  • John Adams, Nixon in China
  • Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Savvy Show Stoppers
  • Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
  • Sarah McLachlan, Touch
  • Erasure, The Innocents
  • Sade, Stronger Than Pride
  • The Pogues, If I Should Fall from Grace with God
  • The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues
  • The Godfathers, Birth, School, Work, Death
  • Camouflage, Voices & Images
  • Ambitious Lovers, Greed
  • Iron Path, Iron Path
  • Toni Childs, Union
  • R.E.M., Green
  • Throwing Muses, House Tornado
  • Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton
  • Information Society, Information Society
  • Ofra Haza, Shaday
  • The Smiths, Rank
  • Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams

I guess I really limited the expanded list 10 years ago so I wouldn’t have to do so much writing. The Pogues, the Waterboys, the Godfathers, Ambitious Lovers, Ofra Haza, the Smiths and Lucinda Williams would not have appeared on that list — I’ve discovered those albums only in the last 6 years.

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

Favorite Edition Rewind: 1991

[Slint - Spiderland]

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’m not sure other music writers would agree that 1998 is an important year in music for the ’90s. 1991 saw Guns N’ Roses cap the era of hair metal and Nirvana usher the unfortunately-named alternative rock. But it didn’t have Neutral Milk Hotel.

  1. Smashing Pumpkins, Gish
  2. Nirvana, Nevermind
  3. R.E.M., Out of Time
  4. U2, Achtung Baby
  5. Throwing Muses, The Real Ramona
  6. Soundtrack, Bubblegum Crisis Vocal Collection, Vol. 1
  7. Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion II
  8. Enya, Shepherd Moons
  9. Lou Harrison, Music of Lou Harrison
  10. Elliott Carter, Music of Elliott Carter

Other favorites from the year:

  • Pearl Jam, Ten
  • Igor Stravinsky, Le Sacre du Printemps/Symphony in Three Movements (Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic Orchestra)
  • Mazzy Star, She Hangs Brightly
  • Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger
  • Bill Frisell, Where in the World?
  • Fishbone, The Reality of My Surroundings
  • Metallica, Metallica
  • Kronos Quartet, Lutoslawski: String Quartet
  • Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  • Hamada Mari, Tomorrow
  • Electronic, Electronic
  • Slint, Spiderland
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
  • Painkiller, Guts of a Virgin
  • Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle

Slint and My Bloody Valentine are additions 2004-me would have made. 1991-me would have side-eyed 2004-me.

And he would have scoffed at 2018-me for including Black Sheep, after emitting a gasp at seeing Fishbone on the list at all.

He would have begrudgingly nodded at the additions of Metallica and Hamada Mari, and he would have been curious about Electronic. And he would have gone out and found Painkiller the first chance he got.

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

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

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

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)

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

Favorite Edition 2017 Stragglers

[Anne Dudley - Plays the Art of Noise]

It was bound to happen — an influx of Christmas gift money allows me to explore more albums after the year-end post goes online. None of these albums would knock off anything in the final list, but they’re definitely worthy of some belated consideration.

Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Plays the Art of Noise

Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik rebooted the post-Trevor Horn version of the Art of Noise to reissue In Visible Silence. In the midst of it, Dudley released her own interpretations of Art of Noise tracks using mostly piano and percussion with some clever arrangements. The album was released in Japan, and the band hinted it would eventually see a US/UK release. I was not patient, and I think Art of Noise fans are missing out.

Dudley strips away the obfuscating aspects of the original Art of Noise tracks to bring out their musicality. On “Legs”, the croaking bass line turns into clusters that lose none of the original’s percussiveness. Added bonus: she covers the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Onitsuka Chihiro, Tiny Screams

I actually listened to Tiny Screams when it came out (via the Evil Sharing Networks) and vowed to get my own copy when the Christmas money came. The more I listened to it, the more I favored it over Cocco’s four-disc live extravaganza. The barebones arrangements of the original recordings somehow get stripped even further and become more intense (“BORDERLINE”).

R.E.M., Automatic for the People (Deluxe Edition)

I’ve already gone on record about my ambivalence toward Automatic for the People. I wasn’t inclined to get the deluxe edition of the album till I heard its companion live disc playing in-store at Easy Street Music. The playlist mixes just the correct amount of new material with familiar, throwing in a surprise on occasion. If anything, I’ve played the live disc — R.E.M.’s only concert in 1992 to promote the album — more times than I have the remastered album.

Leo Imai, Film Music EP

OK, I need to follow Leo Imai on some sort of social media site. Last I paid attention, Imai released his third solo album, Made from Nothing, in 2013. Since then, he formed another group, Metafive, and now he’s released an album of film music. The Film Music EP is available in the US through online services, but the full Film Music album is available only at live shows.

Imai has grown bolder as a writer. The four instrumentals on Film Music EP refract the influence of his KIMONOS bandmate Mukai Shuutoku, but “Videotape” shows Imai can be catchy when he wants to be.

Tags: , , , , ,

20 Years of Gay: Soundtrack to a Journey

“How did you know you were gay?”

No one has really asked me this question, and from what I gather, I’m supposed to turn this question around and ask the (presumably heterosexual) asker, “How did you know you were straight?”

But my answer to the question would be pretty easy to track through the music I was listening to at the cusp of adolescence. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the I gravitated toward bands with handsome singers — your Simon Le Bons, your Huey Lewises, your Stings, your Bruce Springsteens.

I didn’t connect the growing fascination I had for these pop idols with the orientation my sexuality would eventually align because the curriculum of my Catholic education was clear — I was fated to develop an attraction to women because any alternative would be unacceptable.

So I used music as a cover. Yes, I dug the songs, but they weren’t the only draw.

Exhibit A: Sting, “Love is the Seventh Wave”

[Sting - Love Is the Seventh Wave] The back cover of this single had Sting posing without a shirt, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. My household toed the homophobic line because my parents were devoutly Catholic and my brother and sisters weren’t old enough to come to their conclusions. So I would sneak peeks at this image surreptitiously, not exploring why I was so powerfully drawn to it.

Technically, my brother owned that 7-inch single, and he called dibs on Sting in our Sibling Rivalry Collection Race. My hormones would not be denied, and I wrestled Sting from his monopoly. I dubbed his Sting albums to cassette without his permission, and I played “Russians” at my first piano recital.

The Dream of the Blue Turtles and … Nothing Like the Sun are awesome albums in their own right, but I could count on the music press to include a few pictures of Sting stripped to the waist.

Exhibit B: Midnight Oil, Blue Sky Mining

I didn’t actually like Midnight Oil when a pair of friends subjected me to Diesel and Dust in the car as we drove around town. But I eventually adjusted to Peter Garrett’s warble, and the songcraft of the album won me over.

One of the friends who introduced me to Midnight Oil would be the first person with whom I’d fall in love. I remember one night dropping him off at his house after a night out and driving back, mumbling to myself that I loved him. I can’t remember another time when I felt both solace and burden in a single thought.

Blue Sky Mining followed Diesel and Dust two years later, by which time my feelings for my friend made senior year in high school a slog. I listened to the album day in and day out because I had to escape into something that linked me to him. And I could use my growing interest in college rock as another cover.

Exhibit C: R.E.M., “Country Feedback”

My friend went to the Mainland for college, and I stayed in Honolulu. During my first semester, I would play Out of Time by R.E.M. every morning, and the track that summed up my depression was “Country Feedback”. The track is slow and quiet, but Michael Stipe tosses out the phrase “fuck off” at the midpoint of the song with conviction. I was pissed off at having a broken heart but also sad by the implications of who broke it.

Exhibit D: Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing

[Haruki Murakmi - Hear the Wind Sing] No, Hear the Wind Sing is not an album. It’s a novel. A Haruki Murakami novel, to be exact.

But it was a novel that served as the basis for an electronic song I wrote hoping to convince a guy I had a crush on to sing it. He couldn’t find the time to do it.

It had been a year since I returned from New York City, and I still wasn’t ready to accept the obvious direction of my sexual orientation. So something like writing a song hoping to get a guy I liked to sing it was just a totally rational thing for someone in my state of mind to do.

It took another 13 years before I transposed it to my own range, recorded it and sang it myself with much assistance by pitch-correction software.

Exhibit E: Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball

Emmylou Harris’ label directed its press efforts for her 1995 album Wrecking Ball to colleges and independent music outlets instead of country radio because it was her “weird album”. I snagged a promo of the album and fell in love with it.

The arrival of Wrecking Ball happened at the same time I wrote articles about National Coming Out Day, which resulted in my own. The two events are indelibly entwined. But I can’t think of a better album to serve as a soundtrack for that change.

It’s a dark, brooding album but also beautiful. I was still intimidated by the process of coming out, so I can’t say I look back on it as bright and joyous. I had a lot of work to do introspectively, and Wrecking Ball reflected that.

The album pretty much transformed Harris’ career, reaching a new audience as the old one moved on. It was certainly my pivot point as well.

Tags: , , , , ,

The ones that nearly got away: R.E.M., Automatic for the People

[R.E.M. - Automatic for the People]

Automatic for the People marked the decline of my interest in R.E.M.

I’d been peripherally aware of the band since at least 1985, but it wasn’t until the local classic rock station put “Stand” on rotation that I was formally introduced.

I had recently become acquainted with 10,000 Maniacs at around the same time, and the music press made quite a deal of the relationship between Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe.

Green wasn’t the best introduction to the band, but Side A of the album set me on a course to play catch-up with R.E.M.’s indie work. By the time Out of Time arrived three years later, I was already well acquainted with MurmurDocument and Lifes Rich Pageant.

Out of Time was the soundtrack to my morning bus commute to the University of Hawaii, monopolizing my Walkman for months on end. At the time, I considered the album perfection. Everything seemed to be in balance — bright tracks (“Shiny Happy People”) offsetting darker tracks (“Country Feedback”), Mike Mills’ voice contrasting with Michael Stipe’s, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s adding a feminine touch the band was sorely lacking.

I was hopeful R.E.M. would always record albums this great.

Automatic for the People followed immediately afterward, and Rolling Stone magazine gave it a five-star review. The press leading up to the album’s release was breathless, and I bought into the hype.

I headed to the record store on release day and snagged my copy. I gave it every chance to burrow deep into my consciousness the way its predecessor did. It didn’t.

Months later, Bill Frisell and Duran Duran each released albums that fulfilled the jones I had hoped Automatic for the People would fill. I eventually concluded I was duped. It’s not a bad album, but it wasn’t five-star material.

Automatic for the People would not survive a purge for cash, and it went on my list overrated albums alongside Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got by Sinéad O’Connor.

The first pressing of the CD was housed in a jewel case with a translucent yellow tray. Back in November 2014, I ran across a used copy of Automatic for the People in excellent condition with the yellow tray. And it was selling for $1.

So I picked it up and gave it another spin. Would age and wisdom alter my opinion of the album?

Not really.

It’s not as awful as I thought it was, and taking a 20-year break from the ubiquity of “Everybody Hurts” certainly helps soften my previously sharp opinion.

It still hasn’t been dislodged from the overrated list, but it was a good first lesson in skepticism. Being a fan of a band doesn’t mean blind worship for everything they do.

Tags: ,