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Looking ahead, June-July 2019

[John Luther Adams - Become Desert]

MONO, Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Anniversary Edition), June 14

I’m not usually a sucker for fancy packaging, but the limited edition vinyl reissue looks gorgeous. Also, this album really is MONO’s best.

John Luther Adams, Become Desert (Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot), June 14

I’m not sure a recording will capture the surprise when a men’s chorus emerges from the texture of the orchestra — behind you. Perhaps in surround sound?

Renée Fleming, Lieder, June 14

An album of Brahms, Schumann and Mahler. I’ll pass.

The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing (Expanded Edition), June 28

It took a while for me to warm up to the B-52’s rougher early work because my first exposure to the band was the slick and polished Cosmic Thing.

Torche, Admission, July 12

I have three of the band’s four albums, which gives me enough familiarity with their work to look forward this upcoming release.

The Flaming Lips, King’s Mouth, July 19

Oh, so this was an actual new album? When I spotted it on Record Store Day, I assumed it was another one of their oddball projects.

NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku, July 24

A new live album! Or rather, raiding the archive to capitalize on the reunion.

Vinyl

Midnight Oil, Armistice Day: Live at the Domain Sydney, June 14

Oh, man, was I ever glad to catch Midnight Oil live on The Great Circle tour.

Solange, When I Get Home, late June

Solage’s Blonde to the Endless that was A Seat at the Table. How’s that for a difficult analogy?

Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart, July 5

I’m surprised this album hadn’t been reissued on vinyl before now. Could we get a repress of Walking Wounded too?

NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT, Aug. 7
NUMBER GIRL, SAPPUKEI, Aug. 7
NUMBER GIRL, NUM-HEAVYMETALLIC, Aug. 7

The Jet Set Records vinyl reissues in 2015 were pretty much sold out before they hit the stores, so jump on these pre-orders if you want to hear NUMBER GIRL in glorious analog.

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Favorite Edition 2018 Year Final

[Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!]

Last year, new releases made up 7 percent of my music purchases. This year, that number ticks up to … 8 percent. For a while there, I didn’t know if I would find enough titles to make a Favorite 10, but I did.

  1. Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: When you visit multiple record stores and ask what is playing, you probably ought to buy that album if the answer is the same at each store.
  2. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I also liked the Emotion Picture that accompanied the release of this album.
  3. Christine and the Queens, Chris: Those dance moves!
  4. Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: I didn’t realize the cover of “Sid to Hakuchuumu” was by MIKA, the singer “discovered” by Perez Hilton. MIKA’s circumspection about his sexuality drew a lot of attention and some controversy. I checked out his music as a result of the brouhaha and found little that was remarkable. That said, he nails the French interpretation of this very Ringo track.
  5. Steve Grand, Not the End of Me: I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I hear a bit of Matt Alber’s swoon on some of the quieter moments on this album.
  6. Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson, Landfall: Take all the swagger and posturing out of hip-hop, and it would probably sound a lot like Laurie Anderson.
  7. Seattle Symphony with Roomful of Teeth, Berio: Sinfonia: This piece was awesome to hear live.
  8. Nico Muhly & Thomas Bartlett, Peter Pears: Ceremonial Balinese Music: Oddly enough, I found a recording of Colin McPhee performing his gamelan transcriptions with Benjamin Britten, and I kind of wish Muhly and Bartlett had also done the unpublished scores.
  9. Yore, EP1: Recent press seems to obscure the fact Yore released music under his own name, so we’ll stick with that preference and just mention this EP finds him moving in a direction more akin to Cocteau Twins or even Utada Hikaru.
  10. Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi:Her sound has gotten darker since her comeback.

Other favorites from the year:

  • John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once
  • Leo Imai, VLP
  • Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!
  • Craig Armstrong, Sun on You
  • Tracey Thorn, Record
  • Renee Fleming, Broadway
  • Igor Stravisnky, Chant Funebre / Le Sacre du Printemps
  • Eponymous 4, Travis

OK, I’m being a bit cheeky including my own album, Travis, on this list. I finished recording it in 2016, so I’d been sitting on it for more than a year. In all that time, I’ve not gotten sick of hearing it day in and day out, and when I compare it with other albums I’ve recorded, it sounds like a proper, professional work.

So yeah, I think my album is one of the best to be released in 2018. You can check it out at the Eponymous 4 Bandcamp store.

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Purchase log, 2018-11-20

[Hajime Chitose - Hajime Uta]

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

CD
  • Hajime Chitose, Hajime Uta ~Hajime Chitose Amami Shimauta-shuu~
  • Midnight Oil, Armistice Day: Live at the Domain, Sydney

Catalog

CD
  • ABC, Absolutely
  • Brooklyn Rider, Spontaneous Symbols
  • Dead Can Dance, Spleen and Ideal
  • Franz Josef Hadyn, String Quartets, Op. 20 “Sun”, 1-3 (Kodály Quartet)
  • Franz Josef Hadyn, String Quartets, Op. 20 “Sun”, 4-6 (Kodály Quartet)
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor, F# A# ∞
  • Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah
  • The Notwist, Neon Golden
  • The Rustavi Choir, Georgian Voices
Vinyl
  • Olivia Newton-John, Physical
  • Renée Fleming, Dark Hope
  • The Pointer Sisters, Break Out

Reissues

CD
  • Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense! (Deluxe Edition)
  • Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy (Deluxe Edition)
Vinyl
  • Eurythmics, Peace
  • Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy (Deluxe Edition)

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2010

[TOUMING MAGAZINE - Our Soul Music]

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.

2010 was a solid year in music, led by strong showings from Shiina Ringo and Cocco. So this version of the Favorite Edition list doesn’t stray much from the original.

  1. Tokyo Jihen, Sports
  2. Cocco, Emerald
  3. Renée Fleming, Dark Hope
  4. LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, ABBOT KINNEY
  5. Res, Black.Girls.Rock!
  6. Royal Wood, The Waiting
  7. KIMONOS, Kimonos
  8. ACO, devil’s hands
  9. The Drums, The Drums
  10. Oriental Love Ring, In This World

Other favorites from the year:

  • Jónsi, Go
  • LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
  • Sade, Soldier of Love
  • Friday Night Lights, Original Television Soundtrack, Vol. 2
  • TOUMING MAGAZINE, Our Soul Music

I was always a bit ambivalent about ranking LCD Soundsystem over Sade, so the late discovery of The Drums banished both from the Favorite 10.

I’ve been waiting for an album by Oriental Love Ring for more than 30 years, so learning it happened — albeit two years after it was released — meant something had to give. And it fell to Jónsi.

The final retroactive addition to the list is the debut album by TOUMING MAGAZINE. I try not to translate foreign language album titles, but since my traditional Chinese is non-existent, it’s safest to give a correct English title than a mangled transliterated one.

Google Translate says 我們的靈魂樂 is pronounced “Wǒmen de línghún lè”. The band says the title is Our Soul Music.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2017

[Sampha - Process]

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.

Do I have new favorites? Which ones have fallen out of favor? This time around, we’ll cover a greater span of time from as recently as last year, all the way to 1978!

We start with last year’s list.

This most recent decade won’t see much in the way of significant revisions, as I explore deeper into catalog releases than following new artists. Wouldn’t it be odd if I discover new artists from 2017 five years from now? Probably not.

  1. Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome
  2. Royal Wood, Ghost Light
  3. RADWIMPS, Your name.
  4. Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
  5. Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain
  6. Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs
  7. Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon
  8. Eluvium, Shuffle Drone
  9. Sampha, Process
  10. Living Colour, Shade

Other favorites from the year:

  • Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Plays the Art of Noise
  • David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanac
  • Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
  • Leo Imai, Film Scum EP
  • Renée Fleming, Distant Light
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kuukoukyoku~
  • Brandon Stansell, Slow Down
  • Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium

Jason Isbell’s previous two albums ranked high on the Favorite Edition lists of 2013 and 2015, but The Nashville Sound had a tenuous grip on its position in the 2017 list. The late discovery of Sampha and Eluvium gave Isbell the final nudge.

Anne Dudley took up Eluvium’s vacated spot, nearly knocking Living Colour off.

Brandon Stansell makes his first appearance on the list. Stansell performed at the Concert for Love and Acceptance, hosted by Ty Herndon. Like Herndon, Stansell is a country artist, although he’s starting his career out of the closet.

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Purchase log, 2018-09-11

[Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette]

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.

The KEXP Record Fair was on Saturday. I hadn’t known till the clerk at Jive Time asked me if I had gone.

New releases

CD
  • Jake Shears, Jake Shears
  • Renée Fleming, Broadway
Vinyl
  • Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!

Catalog

CD
  • Culture Club, Colour By Numbers (remastered)
  • Grace Jones, Warm Leatherette
  • Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller (Special Edition)
  • Missy Elliott, Supa Dupa Fly
  • UA, 11 (Deluxe Edition)
  • UA, AMETORA (Deluxe Edition)
  • UA, turbo (Deluxe Edition)
Vinyl
  • Dead or Alive, Sophisticated Boom Boom
  • Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, Oh My God!
  • Franz Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin (Deitrich Fischer-Dieskau)
  • Janet Jackson, Dream Street
  • Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
  • Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night (original pressing promo)
  • Public Enemy, Yo! Bum Rush the Show

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Favorite Edition 2017 Year Final

[Living Colour - Shade]

2017 was a rather active year in music, but when it came to new releases, I opted to leave a lot of stuff on the shelf. A decade ago, new albums by Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear would have been breathlessly awaited. I don’t get the sense either had much staying power beyond their release dates.

As a result, I ended up purchasing a total of 34 new titles, approximately 7 percent of my total buying activity. The remaining purchases? Catalog and reissues. This list, in other words, comes from a small pool of albums.

  1. Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome
  2. Royal Wood, Ghost Light
  3. RADWIMPS, Your name.
  4. Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
  5. Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain
  6. Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs
  7. Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon
  8. Living Colour, Shade
  9. Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
  10. Renée Fleming, Distant Light

Sam Smith and Living Colour are the big changes from the mid-year listThe Thrill of It All isn’t as weird as I hoped it could be, but it’s a more appealing album than Smith’s debut.

Shade is the perfect soundtrack for the frustration of living under the current administration. Pre-release press mention the blues as a springboard for the album, but really, Living Colour transform the blues in ways that are nigh unrecognizable.

Other favorites from the year:

  • Eluvium, Shuffle Drone: I hate both the repeat and shuffle buttons on my playback mechanisms. That said, Matthew Cooper deserves mad props for creating an album that puts both buttons to excellent use.
  • Sampha, Process: I admit I didn’t listen to this album till a few weeks ago, once it started showing up on year-end favorite lists.
  • David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanack: My long-simmering discovery of Gillian Welch will have to wait for another entry, but it’s the reason David Rawlings shows up here.
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kuukoukyoku~: Part of me misses the rocking Ringo-chan of the early 2000s, but then hearing these songs side-by-side with the artists who recorded them first deepens my appreciation for her.
  • Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium: It helps to have heard this album with a laser light show.
  • The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts: Jonny Pierce takes over the show.
  • Cocco, Cocco 20 Shuunen Kinen Special Live at Nippon Budokan ~Ichi no Kan x Ni no Kan~: The live performances don’t stray too far from what’s heard in the studio, but Cocco’s voice doesn’t seem to have aged a bit.
  • Duran Duran, Thanksgiving Live at Pleasure Island: If you’re a fan of the seriously-underrated Medazzaland, this live album is a must-have.

 

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Favorite Edition 2017 Year Half

[Onitsuka Chihiro - Syndrome]

I usually publish this entry at the start of July. Unfortunately, all the releases in which I’m most interested came out in June, and I didn’t want to make hasty judgements. So I held off till I had a few weeks to live with these latecomers.

Labels, why did you all wait till the middle of the year? Couldn’t you have spread some of this joy over the previous  6 months?

  • Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome: This album really recaptures the sound and mood of her debut album.
  • Royal Wood, Ghost Light: This album was released in 2016 but limited to Canada. So I’m calling it a 2017 album because of its worldwide release in January. The Burning Bright is so far Wood’s best album, but Ghost Light isn’t a slump for a follow-up.
  • Renée Fleming, Distant Light: I’m not sure Fleming’s sound suits Samuel Barber’s Knoxville 1915, but the orchestral arrangements of Björk songs works really well.
  • RADWIMPS, Kimi no Na wa: I’m pretty much throwing this soundtrack on the list because the movie was amazing, and it’s impossible to hear “Katawaredoki” without tearing up. (You just have to watch the movie to understand.) The English version of the songs came out really well.
  • Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain: Amidon does some strange things with traditional material, but this time around he writes his own songs and lets his jazz side out a bit more.
  • Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs: Kronos takes a back seat to the singers — who include Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens and Natalie Merchant — but these arrangements of mostly traditional songs are far from genteel.
  • Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound: Isbell is the kind of songwriter whose music continues to play in your head after it’s finished on the player.
  • Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon: Oh, it’s loud!
  • Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium: I don’t know if this album needs to be 75 minutes long, but it’s a fascinating listen nonetheless.

 

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Looking ahead, December 2016-January 2017

[Renée Fleming - Distant Light]

It’s probably way too early to start anticipating 2017 first quarter releases, but I’ve already placed a few orders for next month.

The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody, Jan. 13, 2017

I lost track of the Flaming Lips right around 2009’s Embryonic. I don’t even think I checked out The Terror, which would have been an appropriate title for 2016.

Renée Fleming, Distant Light, Jan. 20, 2017

As probably the only indie rock fan who genuinely liked Dark Hope, I’m totally on board with Renée Fleming performing Björk. I’m hoping she uses her alto range.

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir, March 3, 2017

Nonesuch has already started posting excerpts from this album, and I keep wondering when someone is going to make a jukebox musical out of Stephin Merritt songs. I don’t think Merritt is necessarily the best interpreter of his songs, but since other singers haven’t yet taken up his music, it’s not a hypothesis I can prove.

Vinyl

Quruli, Sayonara Stranger, Dec. 28, 2016
Quruli, Zukan, Dec. 28, 2016
Quruli, TEAM ROCK, Jan. 25, 2017
Quruli, THE WORLD IS MINE, Jan. 25, 2017

For Quruli’s 20th anniversary, HMV is reissuing the band’s albums on vinyl. I’ve already placed orders for TEAM ROCK and THE WORLD IS MINE. At the time, I gave Antenna a good review, but I’ve changed my mind since then. Zukan and Sayonara Stranger are also important titles to own, but they’re not priorities for me personally.

The Killers, Hot Fuss, Jan. 13, 2017

This reissue has been delayed multiple times since May 2016. What?

Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Jan. 13, 2017

I’m still skeptical about this reissue, since it too has bounced around the release schedule for nearly a year now.

 

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