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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1985

[The Outfield - Play Deep]

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.

This list is the last of the original years covered in my previous survey. The Favorite 10 hasn’t changed, but the extended list has gotten longer.

  1. Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair
  2. Sting, The Dream of the Blue Turtles
  3. Arcadia, So Red the Rose
  4. ABC, How to Be a Zillionaire!
  5. 10,000 Manaics, The Wishing Chair
  6. Clannad, Macalla
  7. Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
  8. Soundtrack, Macross Song Collection
  9. Midnight Oil, Red Sails in the Sunset
  10. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem

Other favorites from the year::

  • Camper Van Beethoven, Telephone Free Landslide Victory
  • Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
  • Hiroshima, Another Place
  • The Pogues, Rum Sodomy and the Lash
  • Simple Minds, Once Upon a Time
  • Sade, Promise
  • Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • The Replacements, Tim
  • The Outfield, Play Deep
  • INXS, Listen Like Thieves
  • Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force
  • The Power Station, The Power Station
  • The Family, The Family
  • Prince and the Revolution, Around the World in a Day

Younger Me would approve of most of this list.

He would have gasped at the inclusion of Prince, considering the Sibling Rivalry Collection Race was at its height, and this kind of intrusion would be accompanied by a drubbing.

And he would groaned at the inclusion of The Outfield. Older Me would then advise him to wait 20 years before a real appreciation could begin.

I capped this survey at 1985 because my collection before that year wasn’t extensive enough for much punditry. Weekly visits to thrift shops in the last three years have allowed me to fill in enough gaps to keep going till 1978.

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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.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1993

[Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)]

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.

Instead of providing an extended list for 1993, I rag on a number of critical favorites from the year. I’ve mellowed out about Björk’s Debut and U2’s Zooropa, but Siamese Dream and janet. are still overrated.

  1. Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
  2. Bill Frisell, Have a Little Faith
  3. John Zorn / Naked City, Absinthe
  4. Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band, Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band
  5. Spiny Norman, Crust
  6. The Love Gods, Hujja Hujja Fishla
  7. Michael Nyman, The Piano
  8. Wayne Horvitz / Pigpen, Halfrack
  9. Clannad, Banba
  10. Emerson Sting Quartet, American Originals: Ives / Barber String Quartets

Other favorites from the year:

  • Kate Bush, The Red Shoes
  • Emmylou Harris, Cowgirl’s Prayer
  • Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
  • Cypress Hill, Black Sunday
  • Digable Planets, Reachin’
  • U2, Zooropa
  • Julee Cruise, The Voice of Love
  • Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales

This time, I’m providing an extended list, and it demonstrates where I was as a listener and where I am.

That Favorite 10 is stuffed to the gills with some really avant-garde titles, the kind put together by a young person trying to be more cosmopolitan than his peers.

The extended list includes music that would have been ignored by the person who compiled the Favorite 10.

My younger self would have scoffed at my older present self for deigning to include hip-hop, and my older self would tell my younger self to examine what social pressures may be coming to bear for his opposition.

Younger self would complain about how hip-hop culture is fetishized by his ethnic cohorts, which older self would acknowledge but caution against succumbing to the racial dynamics of the country.

Younger self would have no idea what older self would be talking about, since younger self hadn’t yet moved to he Mainland US to see these dynamics in action.

All that to say maybe I’ve been resistant to hip-hop because the music that most appeals to me is made predominantly by upper middle class white men.

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Looking ahead: September-October 2016

[John Adams - Scheherezade.2]

Well, Frank Ocean finally dropped his much anticipated album Blonde. I think the fall 2016 release schedule can get drunk and go home now.

John Adams, Scheherezade.2, Sept. 30

John Adams brought Scheherezade.2 to the Seattle Symphony last season. Leila Josefowicz must have dropped some mean gauntlet for Adams to create a work of such athleticism. I’m not sure if I absorbed enough of the piece in the concert hall because that was a lot of music.

Steve Reich, The ECM Recordings, Sept. 30

From what I can tell on Amazon, this reissue of Steve Reich’s albums on ECM won’t split the movements of each work into individual tracks. That would seem to be an important oversight to correct on a reissue.

MONO, Requiem for Hell, Oct. 14, 2016

Reports indicate the orchestras are on their way back on this album.

Nico Muhly and Tietur, Confessions, Oct. 21

Songs inspired by YouTube comments performed by a Baroque ensemble — if anyone can make this premise work, it’s Nico Muhly.

Shaprece, COALS, Oct. 28

Shaprece’s performance with Seattle Symphony was riveting, and I’ve been looking forward to this album since.

Ty Herndon, House on Fire, Nov. 11

Ty Herndon announced this album was to be released back in May when he performed in Seattle back in February, but now it looks like he has some label interest. No date has been specified for the release. UPDATE, 09/11/2016: Herndon announced a release date of Nov. 11, 2016, with pre-orders starting on Oct. 11, i.e. National Coming Out Day.

Vinyl

Angelo Badalamanti, Music from Twin Peaks, Sept. 9

I can’t hear that descending/ascending bass line without picturing the dancing little man.

Madonna, Something to Remember, Sept. 13

Ray of Light seems to have dropped off the release schedule for now with Something to Remember taking its place.

Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl, Sept. 23

Like Wrecking Ball before it, Red Dirt Girl was a pivotal album for Emmylou Harris, marking her transition from interpreter to songwriter.

Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa, Sept. 23

I’m hoping this release is the first in a series of Kronos Quartet vinyl reissues because I’m not yet in the financial straits to track down the European pressing of Black Angels.

Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Sept. 23

This reissue was actually listed for a March release, which came and went without notice. Then it popped back up for September.

Sting, The Studio Collection, Sept. 30

Brand New Day and Sacred Love make their first appearance on vinyl, but the only album I’m really interested in is Ten Summoner’s Tales, a European release of which I can still snag online.

Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet, Dracula, Oct. 28

In time for Halloween!

 

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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.

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