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Favorite Edition Decade 2010-2019

[Tokyo Jihen - Sports]

The new decade doesn’t start till the end of of 2020, if you use the modified Julian calendar upon which scientists and the Naval Observatory rely. Pop culture writers are not scientists. Would you consider U2’s debut album a product of the ‘70s? Boy was released in 1980, and it would seem odd to lump it in the decade that gave us disco.

So even though science tells us the albums of 2020 should be counted in this review of the decade, we’ll save them for next decade. Besides, we didn’t give 2010 that accommodation last decade.

  1. Tokyo Jihen, Sports: This album was a true band effort with songwriting duties spread among members rather than falling entirely on Shiina Ringo’s shoulders. But you couldn’t tell. Tokyo Jihen finally felt like an independent unit here and not just a backing band.
  2. Jason Isbell, Southeastern: The stark cover with Isbell gazing directly at the camera only hints at the vulnerability contained within the album’s 12 tracks.
  3. Jarell Perry, Simple Things: I knew about neo-soul, but until I ran across Solange, Frank Ocean and Jarell Perry, I didn’t know the genre had formed its own underground. Sometimes, Perry is a beat or two away from falling into the orbit of Björk. Oddly enough, he reminds me a lot of Utada Hikaru.
  4. Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury: Simpson owned this decade. He started out sounding like a traditionalist, but by decade’s end, he created a body of work incomparable even to itself. All of his albums should be on this list, but I’m choosing his most confounding.
  5. Solange, A Seat at the Table: You may have Beyoncé.
  6. Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: I wish I could sing along with this album, but these lyrics … hot damn!
  7. John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot): When your award-winning commission inspires Taylor Swift to donate to your organization …
  8. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: The Pulitzer Prize should have gone to this album.
  9. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: The Phantom of the Opera was the last time I was riveted to a cast recording.
  10. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I’ve always felt Monáe had a Muzai Moratorium or Shouso Strip inside her. This album comes closest.
  11. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: It’s like the decade preceding this album’s release had melted away.
  12. Eponymous 4, Travis: Yeah, I’m putting my own damn album on this list. I can listen to it without cringing or second guessing it. It almost feels like someone better than myself had made it.
  13. Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All: Similar to Monáe, I feel Sam Smith has an I Am a Bird Now or a Homogenic in them, waiting to bust out. This album is a step in that direction.
  14. D’angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: I got pregnant listening to this album, and I’m not even a woman.
  15. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE: Become Ocean.

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Favorite Edition 2019 Year Final

[Sturgill Simpson - Sound and Fury]

I’m old enough now that I can no longer be mistaken for someone remotely connected to the zeitgeist. A phrase I would often employ was, “I know of them, but I’ve not heard from them.” These days, the first part of that phrase is a stretch.

That said, I’m surprised by the number of R&B titles that have crept into my playlist rotation. I’m still a rockist at heart, but rock is loosening its grip on my attention.

  1. Sturgill Simpson, Sound & Fury: How was Sturgill Simpson ever going to top A Sailor’s Guide to Earth? He didn’t. He veered so drastically in a different direction that the albums can’t be compared. None of his albums can be compared to each other.
  2. Torche, Admission: Torche can be found under the metal section of most music stores, but when I play their albums, I hear post-rock.
  3. Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): It’s a karaoke album, but a painstakingly created one.
  4. Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tall order to compile eight centuries of music into a single program.
  5. John Luther Adams, Become Desert: It was also stirring to hear this piece live.
  6. Cocco, Star Shank: We hear hints of clouds covering the sunniness of Cocco’s later work.
  7. BBMAK, Powerstation: I will not lie — I’ve anticipating this album for most of the year, and I do not care who knows.
  8. Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: This album is a glorious mess.
  9. Solange, When I Get Home: Similar to Sound and Fury, this album is confounding and fascinating at the same time. There’s nothing on here that matches the tunefulness of A Seat at the Table, and it would be too disruptive to the album’s flow if there were.
  10. Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: “Basquiat” was playing on the in-store system at Sonic Boom, and it pretty much clinched my decision to get this album.

Other favorites of the year:

  • Kim Gordon, No Home Record
  • Michael Kiwanuka, KIWANUKA
  • James Blake, Assume Form
  • Sassyblack, Ancient Mahogany Gold
  • Anderson .Paak, Ventura
  • NUMBER GIRL, Kaiden no Kioku
  • The Drums, Brutalism
  • Ty Herndon, Got It Covered

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Purchase log, 2019-11-19

[Everything But the Girl - Walking Wounded]

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
  • Angel Olsen, All Mirrors
  • Shiina Ringo, Newton no Ringo ~Hajimete no Best Han~
Vinyl
  • Sturgill Simpson, “The Dead Don’t Die”

Catalog

CD
  • A.A. Bondy, American Hearts
  • Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline
  • Book of Love, Book of Love
  • Boston, Third Stage
  • Bruce Springsteen, Live / 1975-85
  • Chris Butler, The Museum of Me, Vol. 1
  • Del tha Funkee Homosapien, I Wish My Brother George Was Here
  • Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue
  • Hiroshima, Third Generation
  • Janis Joplin, Pearl
  • Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On (Deluxe Edition)
  • Megadeth, Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?
  • Outkast, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik
  • Radiohead, Pablo Honey
  • Ready for the World, Ready for the World
  • Slayer, Reign In Blood
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle
  • The Westerlies, Wish the Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz
Vinyl
  • Carole King, Tapestry
  • Metallica, … And Justice for All
  • Rodney Crowell, Diamonds and Dirt

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Everything But the Girl, Walking Wounded

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Purchase log picks, October 2019

[Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury]

Sturgill Simpson, Sound & Fury

Like Patti Smith’s Horses, Sound & Fury confounded me. I put the album on repeat, and each listen only heightened my confusion and fascination. Was this My Bloody Valentine reborn as a southern rock band? Was it ZZ Top making the electroclash album it should never, ever record? In the end, it’s just Sturgill Simpson applying his work ethic to fucking with our minds.

Cocco, Star Shank

I don’t think I’ve heard Cocco scream with the kind of abandon she does on this album. It’s almost uncharacteristic now that she’s let a lot more sunshine into her music.

BBMAK, Powerstation

I didn’t realize how much I missed BBMAK till they announced their reunion, and this album does not disappoint.

The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop

Don’t Tell a Soul was the first Replacements album I ever bought, so I find the over-produced, slick sound comforting. That said, I really dig this original mix by Matt Wallace. Thing is, it would have totally tanked in 1989. Maybe in 1993, it would have made more sense. But not in 1989.

Kim Gordon, No Home Record

Do we really need to pay attention to any other former member of Sonic Youth?

Ali Wong, Baby Cobra

I signed up for Netflix to watch the Sound & Fury anime. I might keep my subscription to watch Baby Cobra.

Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express

Kraftwerk strikes me as a band I ought to like, but so far, this album is the only one to connect.

Prince, Dirty Mind

I didn’t think I would like anything Prince recorded before 1999. I think I rather like this more than 1999.

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Purchase log, 2019-10-08

[Cocco - Star Shank]

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
  • Cocco, Star Shank
Vinyl
  • Sturgill Simpson, Sound & Fury

Catalog

CD
  • Balligomingo, Beneath the Surface
  • Butthole Surfers, Electriclarryland
  • David Del Tredici, In Memory of a Summer Day
  • Iron Maiden, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
  • Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast
  • Justin Timberlake, The 20 / 20 Experience
  • Meredith Monk, Volcano Songs
  • New Order, Movement
  • Ride, Going Blank Again
  • Saint Etienne, Foxbase Alpha
  • Suzanne Vega, Solitude Standing
  • The Dead Milkmen, Soul Rotation
  • The Ocean Blue, Beneath the Rhythm and Sound
  • The Ocean Blue, Cerulean
  • The Roots, The Tipping Point
  • Thelonious Monk, Underground
Vinyl
  • Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express

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Purchase log, 2019-10-01

[The Replacements - Dead Man's Pop]

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
  • Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury

Catalog

CD
  • Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • Dolly Parton, Jolene / My Tennessee Mountain Home
  • Dr. Dre, 2001
  • Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis
  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Imperial Bedroom
  • Goldfrapp, Black Cherry
  • Gossip, Music for Men
  • Prince, Dirty Mind
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • Scissor Sisters, Night Work
  • The B-52’s, Funplex
  • Tracey Ullman, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places

Reissues

CD
  • The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop
Vinyl
  • Pinback, Summer in Abaddon

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Looking ahead: September-October 2019

[BBMAK - Powerstation]

John Coltrane, Blue World, Sept. 27

Unlike 2018’s Both Directions at Once, this album is not so much lost as unreleased. Coltrane recorded a soundtrack for the film Le chat dans le sac, but most of the sessions were not used in the final cut.

Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury, Sept. 27

Judging by the first single, I don’t think this album can be called “country.” The fact it will be accompanied by an anime film is about as far from country as anyone gets.

BBMAK, Powerstation, Oct. 11

Finally! A date! Albeit for the digital release. I don’t need an autographed copy of the CD, which is available for pre-order on the band’s site. I’m hoping a normal, vanilla pre-order will be available. Soon.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Oct. 18

I remember when I was really getting into Southeastern, I tried listening to Isbell’s previous albums. At the time, I didn’t really warm up to Sirens in the Ditch or the self-titled album with 400 Unit. I think enough time has passed since then to revisit what I passed over. Also arriving on the same date is Here We Rest. Both albums have been remixed and remastered.

Michael Kiwanuka, Kiwanuka, Oct. 27

I picked up Michael Kiwanuka’s debut, Home Again, from Goodwill for $1.99. I liked it enough to pick up Love & Hate at full price.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2014

[Huck Hodge - Life Is Endless Like Our Field of Vision]

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 2014 list has already gone through one revision, and this version expands it slightly.

  1. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  2. John Luther Adams, Become Ocean
  3. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds of Country Music
  4. Royal Wood, The Burning Bright
  5. The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring
  6. Meredith Monk, Piano Songs
  7. Inventions, Inventions
  8. MONO, Rays of Darkness
  9. Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kouwankyoku~
  10. BADBADNOTGOOD, III

Other favorites from the year:

  • Juanes, Loco de Amor
  • The Drums, Encyclopedia
  • Cocco, Plan C
  • Shaprece, Molting EP
  • Huck Hodge, Life Is Endless Like Our Field of Vision
  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • Sam Amidon, Lily-O
  • U2, Songs of Innocence

The year started with Juanes topping the list. He’s now been bumped off the Favorite 10 in favor of BADBADNOTGOOD. Despite that change, the Favorite 10 is pretty solid. The remaining list, however, has expanded to include The Drums and Taylor Swift.

You read that right.

I’ve been curious about 1989 for a while, but I felt no desire to stream it. Yet, a thrift store copy selling for $2 was more incentive to check it out. I wonder why that is? I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

The Drums’ Encyclopedia didn’t start out as a favorite, but when I stopped expecting it to be a carbon copy of the self-titled debut, its strengths became apparent. That said, it’s really a strange album.

The last addition to the list is an album by Huck Hodge, a University of Washington music composition professor from whom I took a number of classes. I actually heard most of this album in class, so it made sense to own a copy of it.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2016

[Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth]

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 2016 list has actually undergone a revision, so this list consolidates the two entries, with some slight changes.

  1. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
  2. Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4
  3. MONO, Requiem for Hell
  4. Solange, A Seat at the Table
  5. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service
  6. Perfume, COSMIC EXPLORER
  7. Drive By Truckers, American Band
  8. Shaprece, COALS
  9. Cocco, Adan Ballet
  10. Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle

Other favorites from the year:

  • Utada Hikaru, Fantôme
  • Ty Herndon, House on Fire
  • Eluvium, False Readings On
  • Santigold, 99 Cents
  • Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness
  • Blood Orange, Freetown Sound
  • Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
  • John Adams, Scheherazade.2

The 10 favorites remain the same, while Utada Hikaru and Ty Herndon get bumped down. ANONHI, Pixies and De La Soul get bumped off completely.

I included Pixies because Head Carrier was an improvement over Indie Cindy, but it wasn’t stellar enough to hold onto its position. Albums by ANONHI and De La Sol were good, but over time, they couldn’t hold onto to their status as favorites.

As I mentioned before, lists from this decade probably won’t see much shifting, as my focus continues to move to exploring catalog. Most of the 2016 releases I bought after the year had passed were vinyl issues.

A Bruce Springsteen compilation accompanying the release of his autobiography did set me on a course to explore his earlier albums.

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (2010s)

[Jarell Perry - Simple Things]

This month, I turn 45 years old. The music that influenced me as a teen-ager is being reissued in 30th anniversary deluxe editions. The turn of the 20th century is roughly four years away from being 20 years behind us. I’m five years away from 50.

In 2016, I wrote about the various twists and turns my listening habits took over the course of four decades. Now, I’m pinpointing specific albums that mark each decade for me, starting with the current one.

The pop culture identity of a decade doesn’t really establish itself till two years into it, and my age puts me at such a distance from that zeitgeist that I have no clue what this decade means. Or perhaps the culture has moved on from rallying around music, streaming services allowing us to explore everything conforming to our highly-optimized filter bubbles.

I wonder if this list will even grow much beyond this year.

Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

I see A Sailor’s Guide to Earth as something of a cap to the Obama era of progress. Even after signing to a major label, the fiercely independent Simpson crafted a thoroughly-composed work. It can’t be sliced up into singles, or the architecture of the album would crumble. Would this kind album flourished under the current leadership in Washington, D.C.? I doubt it.

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

So far, 2015 has been the creative pinnacle of this decade. Sleater-Kinney ushered it in with an album that barely acknowledged the decade-long gap from its predecessor, and Jason Isbell, Kendrick Lamar and Lin-Manuel Miranda followed in their wake. Madonna, Janet Jackson and Enya even showed up with some of their best work in years.

John Luther Adams, Become Ocean

I haven’t mentioned that I’ve been taking music theory courses at the University of Washington, where I work. Seattle Symphony reconnected me with classical music, and the orchestra’s advocacy of new music inspired me to fill in the gaps of my undergraduate classical training.

Jarell Perry, Simple Things

I didn’t know PBR&B was a thing till I tried to figure out just what Jarell Perry, Solange, Shaprece and the Weeknd were doing with R&B. Hip-hop has its underground tract, and evidently, so does R&B. Of course, PBR&B is a terrible term.

Jason Isbell, Southeastern

You’re not supposed to judge media by their cover art, but it’s hard not to sense something pretty intense in Isbell’s gaze on the cover of Southeastern. I don’t know if I would have listened to this album otherwise.

Kuriyama Chiaki, CIRCUS

Kuriyama Chiaki could have gotten someone like Perfume producer Nakata Yasutaka to fashion a hit-making album, but she tossed her hat into a ring that included Shiina Ringo and Asai Kenichi. I discovered she played Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill, Vol. 1 only after I listened to the album.

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