Archives

Looking ahead, October-November 2019

[Shiina Ringo - Newton no Ringo]

Kim Gordon, No Home Record, Oct. 11

Kim Gordon’s music career spans numerous decades, but only now does she release a solo album. Of course I’m curious.

The Police, Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings, Nov. 8

I bought a used copy of Message in a Box, so I really don’t need this set. I want it, but I don’t need it.

Shiina Ringo, Newton no Ringo ~Hajimete no Best Ban~, Nov. 13

Many popular Japanese artists release multiple career-spanning retrospectives. Shiina Ringo releases her first after 20 years.

Sam Amidon, Fatal Flower Garden EP, Nov. 15

Billed as “A Tribute to Harry Smith,” this 4-track, 7-inch EP features Amidon performing songs from Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.

Clannad, In a Lifetime Anthology, March 13, 2020

No details have emerged yet of this career-spanning compilation, but the Brennans embark on a farewell tour to support it. They will be missed.

Vinyl

Everything But the Girl, Walking Wounded, Nov. 8

Yes, please. Thank you.

Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi, Dec. 11

Rule of thumb for Shiina Ringo vinyl releases: place a pre-order because they will be gone.

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Purchase log picks, June 2019

[Frida - Something's Going On]

Amanda Shires, To the Sunset

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.

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Favorite Edition 2019 Year Half

[Jamila Woods - Legacy! Legacy!]

One of these years, I’m not going to have a big enough pool from which to draw a mid-year Favorite Edition list. This year got close.

  • Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): The big criticism of this cover album is the slavish reproduction of the originals, as if Weezer did nothing to inject its own personality in these songs. The studio geek in me, however, marvels at such a feat. It may be a karaoke exercise, but it’s a painstaking one, not unlike art students reproducing the masters.
  • Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tricky proposition to distill seven centuries of music in a single program, but Denk takes an admirable stab at it. I have no objections to his choices.
  • James Blake, Assume Form: Blake’s previous album was lengthy and not terribly engaging. He rights the ship on this one.
  • John Luther Adams, Become Desert: Where Become Ocean explored the Seattle Symphony’s lower and middle registers, Become Desert hovers almost exclusively in the upper ends.
  • Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: Shiina’s first three albums looms large over the rest of her work, Tokyo Jihen included. Sandokushi is a fascinating mess — lots of seemingly disparate songs threaded together as a single program. It’s jarring but coherent, and probably the best summation of her style thus far.
  • Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: Like Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake, Legacy! Legacy! was playing on a record store sound system and made me stop to find out who is Jamila Woods.
  • Solange, When I Get Home: There are no obvious singles on this album, which is fine because it’s not intended to be a singles album.
  • Madonna, Madame X: A quotation of Tchaikovsky’s signature work could have backfired, but when the Nutcracker interrupts “Dark Ballet,” it doesn’t feel forced. The singles preceding the release of Madame X didn’t hint at this kind of creative stretch.
  • The Drums, Brutalism: Jonny Pierce tones down the Joy Division influence and brings forth the beats.

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Purchase log, 2019-06-18

[Shiina Ringo - MoRA]

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
  • John Luther Adams, Become Desert
  • Madonna, Madame X
Vinyl
  • James Blake, Assume Form
  • Midnight Oil, Armistice Day: Live at the Domain Sydney

Catalog

CD
  • Bruce Springsteen, Tracks
  • Chuck Prophet, No Other Love
  • Hank III, Risin’ Outlaw
  • InfoMatik, Identify
  • John Coltrane, Live in Seattle
  • Kid Koala, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Lounge Lizards, Voice of Chunk
  • Shiina Ringo, MoRA
  • Stephen Sondheim, Follies
  • Whitney Houston, I’m Your Baby Tonight
  • Soundtrack, Captive
Vinyl
  • Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus
  • Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger

Reissues

CD
  • Marvin Gaye, You’re the Man
  • MONO, Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Anniversary Edition)
Vinyl
  • Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense!

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Purchase log, 2019-06-04

[Eluvium - Pianoworks]

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
  • Eluvium, Pianoworks
  • Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi

Catalog

CD
  • Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire / The Book of Hanging Gardens (Jan DeGaetani)
  • Bill Laswell, Invisible Design II
  • David Del Tredici, I Hear an Army / Night Conjure-Verse / Syzygy / Scherzo
  • David Del Tredici, Steps / Haddock’s Eyes
  • Guided By Voices, Mag Earwhig!
  • Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Facing Future
  • MONO and World’s End Girlfriend, Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
  • Olivier Messiaen, Turangalîla Symphony (Toronto Symphony, Seiji Ozawa)
  • Robert Palmer, Double Fun
  • The Highwaymen, Highwayman
  • Soundtrack, Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?
Vinyl
  • Anthony Braxton, Anthony Braxton with Robert Schumann String Quartet
  • Charles Mingus, Pithecanthropus Erectus
  • Dolly Parton, Best of Dolly Parton
  • Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • Ornette Coleman, Dancing in Your Head
  • Skeleton Key, Obtainium

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Nakamori Akina, Cross My Palm

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Looking ahead, May-June 2019

[Shiina Ringo - Sandokushi]

Sting, My Songs, May 24

I had high but cautious hope for 57th and 9th. That will learn me.

Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi, May 27

This album adds six new tracks to the seven already released in various downloads and singles. Does anyone else get the sense Ringo-chan is phoning it in? I would think a 20-year anniversary would warrant a big reissue campaign in addition to a new album.

Eluvium, Piano Works, May 31

The deluxe edition vinyl release of this new album of piano works includes a sheet music book of Eluvium’s keyboard works.

Madonna, Madame X, June 14

Rebel Heart turned out better than I expected, but that seems to be the exception than the rule in recent years.

Prince, Originals, June 21

This compilation brings together demos of songs Prince wrote for other singers. I wonder if in the distant future we’ll hear The Family with Prince’s vocals.

Sigur Rós, Ágætis byrjun (Deluxe Edition), June 21

I like Sigur Rós, and Ágætis byrjun is a fine album. I’m not sure I love it enough for 4-CDs or 7-LPs.

Vinyl

James Blake, Assume Form, May 31

I hesitated on getting James Blake’s latest album till I found an unopened copy at the thrift store for $3. It’s turned out to be one of the better releases of 2019.

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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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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1999

[SUPERCAR - JUMP UP]

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.

Here’s my matrix of the most important years in music for the last 4 decades:

  • 2010s: 2015 (so far)
  • 2000s: 2002
  • 1990s: 1998
  • 1980: 1987

The years adjacent to the ones listed are also pretty pivotal, which is the case for 1999. The list doesn’t change much, but a lot of great music came out that year.

  1. NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT
  2. Shiina Ringo, Muzai Moratorium
  3. Utada Hikaru, First Love
  4. ACO, absolute ego
  5. Nina Hynes, Creation
  6. SUPERCAR, Jump Up
  7. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
  8. Port of Notes, Complain Too Much
  9. Mandy Barnett, I’ve Got a Right to Cry
  10. The Kiss Offs, Goodbye Private Life

Other favorites from the year:

  • L’Arc~en~Ciel, ray
  • Jordan Knight, Jordan Knight
  • eX-Girl, Kero! Kero! Kero!
  • NUMBER GIRL, DESTRUCTION BABY
  • OBLIVION DUST, Reborn
  • UA, turbo
  • Moby, Play
  • Maná, MTV Unplugged
  • Dr.StrangeLove, Twin Suns
  • The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • Fantastic Plastic Machine, Luxury
  • Asylum Street Spankers, Hot Lunch
  • Café Tacuba, Revés/Yo Soy

A retrospective addition of SUPERCAR bumps L’arc~en~Ciel to the extended list. Futurama was the first SUPERCAR album I owned, and I liked it so much, I was hesitant to explore the band’s early work, out of fear it wouldn’t live up.

As it turns out, Futurama was the last of SUPERCAR’s great albums. The first two albums are classics in their own right. I’ve yet to dig into Ookeah! and Ooyeah!

I’ve only added Moby, The Roots and Fantastic Plastic Machine to the extended list, but albums by Wilco, Rage Against the Machine, Built to Spill and Mos Def could have made it on there. I just wanted to avoid the kind of crowding we saw in 2002 and 2003.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2000

[Tomosaka Rie - Shoujo Robot]

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 flabbergasted by the idea that, as of this writing, the year 2000 is nearly 20 years ago. As much as I lionize the music I heard in high school, the music of my late 20s has been incredibly influential, perhaps professionally as well as personally. Thus, we don’t see much change from the original list.

  1. Shiina Ringo, Shouso Strip
  2. Cocco, Rapunzel
  3. NUMBER GIRL, SAPPUKEI
  4. SUPERCAR, Futurama
  5. eX-Girl, Big When Far, Small When Close
  6. Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One
  7. Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows
  8. FEED, Make Every Stardust Shimmer!
  9. Tomosaka Rie, “Shoujo Robot”
  10. Sade, Lovers Rock

Other favorites from the year:

  • Do As Infinity, Break of Dawn
  • Yaida Hitomi, daiya-monde
  • PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
  • OBLIVION DUST, Butterfly Head
  • At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command
  • L’Arc~en~Ciel, REAL
  • Bonnie Pink, Let Go
  • MISSILE GIRL SCOOT, Fiesta!
  • Smashing Pumpkins, MACHINA/The Machine of God
  • m-flo, Planet Shining
  • Juanes, Fíate Bien
  • Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl
  • U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind
  • La Ley, Uno
  • Sinéad O’Connor, Faith and Courage
  • Soundtrack, High Fidelity
  • BBMak, Sooner or Later

At the time of its release, I was just glad All That You Can’t Leave Behind was not a continuation of Pop. The recent vinyl reissue of the album, unfortunately, reveals its shortcomings. Thus, it loses its original ranking in the Favorite 10.

Plot twist: I panned 2004’s How to Build an Atomic Bomb, but that album has endured far better than All That You Can’t Leave Behind. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Idlewild’s 1000 Broken Windows takes the spot vacated by U2.

Do As Infinity probably could have held onto its place in the Favorite 10 on the strength of “Raven” alone. At the time, most J-Pop I had encountered relied heavily on keyboards and drum machines, so a karaoke-ready band with crunchy guitars felt novel to me.

I can’t say I love Break of Dawn as much now. It’s rare that singles displace albums for the Favorite 10, but all three tracks on “Shoujo Robot” hint at an awesome album I wish Shiina Ringo and Tomosaka Rie recorded.

The extended list is really just all the titles that could have legitimately competed for that bottom spot on the Favorite 10.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2003

[The Wrens - The Meadowlands]

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.

Back in February, I argued 2002 was an important year in music of the 2000s. 2003 is no slouch in that regard either. The list from that year sees no major changes.

  1. Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana
  2. ACO, Irony
  3. Molotov, Dance and Dense Denso
  4. Café Tacuba, Cuatro Caminos
  5. ART-SCHOOL, LOVE/HATE
  6. Sasagawa Miwa, Jijitsu
  7. bloodthirsty butchers, Kouya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers
  8. Bonnie Pink, Present
  9. downy, untitled third album
  10. Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place

Other favorites from the year:

  • Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
  • Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism
  • Bleach, Bleach
  • The Postal Service, Give Up
  • NUMBER GIRL, Sapporo OMOIDE IN MY HEAD Joutai
  • Onitsuka Chihiro, Sugar High
  • Original Cast Recording, Avenue Q
  • Emmylou Harris, Stumble Into Grace
  • NIRGILIS, Tennis
  • Rufus Wainwright, Want One
  • Hayashi Asuca, Saki
  • Caitlin Cary, I’m Staying Out
  • The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas
  • DJ Krush, Shinsou ~Message from the Depth~
  • Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5
  • The Wrens, The Meadowlands
  • Longwave, The Strangest Things

The only change is switching out Explosions in the Sky for Outkast, and the extended list adds the Wrens and Longwave.

I was working at Waterloo Records in 2003, and legitimate download services hadn’t gotten off the ground yet to stem the tide of rampant file sharing. So I was discovering a lot of great music through word of mouth and on the job.

While I’ve added a number of 2003 titles to my collection in the following years, few have edged their way into this already crowded field.

So I guess I’m pretty set where 2003 is concerned.

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