Archives

Looking ahead, March-May 2020

[Tokyo Jihen - News]

I usually wait until concrete release dates are announced before listing an album in these previews, but in the last few days, a number of artists have made announcements worth noting.

Tokyo Jihen, News, April 8

I didn’t think I would miss Tokyo Jihen, but I realized I did when their reunion was announced.

Gaytheist, How Long Have I Been on Fire, April 10

I like Gaytheist, but I don’t follow them as closely as I do other bands. So it’s an automated announcement from Bandcamp that informed me of this release.

Roberta Flack, First Take (Deluxe Edition), April 10

Roberta Flack’s debut album turns 50. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was No. 1 on the week I was born.

Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow the Rules, April 24

When was the last time Rufus Wainwright did a rock album? Right around the time I moved to Seattle in 2012.

Sam Smith, To Die For, May 1

I enjoyed The Thrill of It All more than In the Lonely Hour, so I’m hoping this next album continues that trajectory.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Reunions, May 15

The Nashville Sound was good, but it didn’t monopolize my attention the way Southeastern or Something More than Free did. So my anticipation for this album is a bit on the cool side.

Midnight Oil, The Markarrata Project, Summer 2020
Midnight Oil, TBD, Late 2020

I think I’m more excited over another tour than I am about the new album and EP. At the same time, things are so fucked up that Midnight Oil is the right band for these times.

Janet Jackson, Black Diamond, TBD

Aside from the title, details are scant about the next Janet album, but she’s already announced a tour.

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Purchase log, 2020-02-04

[Black Sabbath - Paranoid]

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
  • Ben Watt, Storm Damage

Catalog

CD
  • Band of Susans, Hope Against Hope
  • Dirty Three, Whatever You Love, You Are
  • Matsuda Seiko, area62
  • Ponga, Psychological
  • Soundtrack, This Is Spinal Tap
Vinyl
  • Black Sabbath, Paranoia
Blu Ray
  • Shiina Ringo, Electric Mole
  • Tokyo Jihen, Ultra C

Reissues

CD
  • Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi

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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 Rewind: 2006

[BORIS - PINK]

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.

At the time, SLOTH LOVE CHUNKS edged Utada Hikaru for the top spot of 2006, but Ultra Blue has proven far more durable. This list has gone through quite a number of changes.

  1. Utada Hikaru, Ultra Blue
  2. SLOTH LOVE CHUNKS, Shikakui Vision
  3. VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE, Waiting for My Food
  4. Furukawa Miki, Mirrors
  5. Tokyo Jihen, Otona (Adult)
  6. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
  7. Boris, Pink
  8. The Roots, Game Theory
  9. Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Neruda Songs
  10. Nick Lachey, What’s Left of Me

Other favorites of the year:

  • ACO, mask
  • J Dilla, Donuts
  • Hajime Chitose, Hanadairo
  • Now It’s Overhead, Dark Light Days
  • Envy, Insomniac Doze
  • The Gossip, Standing in the Way of Control
  • ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Fan Club

I’ve known about Boris for as long as I’ve been following Japanese music, but I never made time for them until I picked up Pink at Goodwill for $2. Well, hell …

I wouldn’t have listened to the Roots or J Dilla at the time. Hip-hop had diversified to have its own underground, and that was just so much history that I wasn’t willing to unpack. I’ve only started exploring hip-hop with any seriousness in the last year.

Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson was quite the late discovery. I didn’t pick up Neruda Songs till 2008, but it quickly became a favorite, dislodging Ex-Boyfriends completely off the list.

When I was first introduced to ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, I dismissed them as “eastern youth lite”. The joke was on me — I don’t even own an eastern youth album anymore, and I’ve purchased ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION on vinyl.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2007

[The Dead Betties - Nightmare Sequence]

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 further we get from the present day, the more we’ll find retroactive changes to the Favorite Edition lists. The 2007 list sees a lot of shifting in the Favorite 10, and a number of retroactive additions.

  1. Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
  2. UA, Golden green
  3. The Dead Betties, Nightmare Sequence
  4. Björk, Volta
  5. unkie, the Price of Fame
  6. Nico Muhly, Speaks Volumes
  7. Stephen Sondheim, Company (2006 Cast Recording)
  8. Once, Music from the Motion Picture
  9. Sasagawa Miwa, Mayoi Naku
  10. Tokyo Jihen, Goraku (Variety)

Other favorites from the year:

  • Synapse/Elliott Cole, The Oracle Hysterical
  • Tommy heavenly6, Heavy Starry Heavenly
  • Kawai Kenji, Seirei no Moribito
  • Office, A Night at the Ritz
  • M.I.A., Kala
  • The National, Boxer
  • Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
  • Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch

The cast recording for 2006 production of Company gets a retroactive boost, missing the Favorite 10 the first time out. A PBS broadcast of the revival directed by John Doyle went a long way in raising its ranking.

I didn’t discover the Dead Betties till a year and some change after the release of Nightmare Sequence, and it would have shot up to the Favorite 10 had I known about it. The album doesn’t lose its punch more than a decade on.

Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars and Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist fall of the list entirely. I think those albums earned their place on the Favorite 10 because I was not paying attention to what was happening in 2007, if the expanded list is any indication.

I’m not sure I actually like The National, but I remember catching the band’s appearance on Live from the Artists Den and thinking Matt Berninger was a tall drink of water. Boxer is rather fine album, nonetheless.

I would not have picked up Band of Horses without Renée Fleming. I get them mixed up with the Band of Heathens and Band of Skulls.

I didn’t actually like Sirens of the Ditch the first time I listened to it. I was just starting to explore Jason Isbell’s work after hearing Southeastern, and I wanted everything to sound like it. I had no context about his work with Drive-By Truckers. Sirens of the Ditch is closer to his work with the Truckers than his more recent albums, and that understanding goes a long way to building appreciation for his solo debut.

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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: 2012

[Cody ChesnuTT - Landing on a Hundred]

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.

What I find most remarkable about the 2012 list is the number of albums listed under honorable mentions. The revised list has culled a lot of those titles. I probably listed so many because I didn’t feel passionate enough about any of them.

  1. Solange, True
  2. Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe
  3. Jeremy Denk, Ligeti/Beethoven
  4. … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Lost Songs
  5. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  6. Cody Chesnutt, Landing on a Hundred
  7. ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Landmark
  8. ZAZEN BOYS, Stories
  9. Tokyo Jihen, Shinyawaku
  10. Duran Duran, A Diamond in the Mind

Other favorites from the year:

  • Scissor Sisters, Magic Hour
  • Roomful of Teeth, Roomful of Teeth
  • Gossip, A Joyful Noise
  • Tokyo Jihen, Tokyo Collection
  • TOUMING MAGAZINE, TOUMING MAGAZINE FOREVER
  • OBLIVION DUST, 9 Gates of Bipolar
  • Gaytheist, Stealth Beats

Cody ChesnuTT dislodges Scissor Sisters from the original list, and Frank Ocean jumps up a few spots. Otherwise, there are no remarkable changes.

If anything, 2012 has turned out to be something of a dud year. When I review my purchases in subsequent years, 2012 releases are scant, and most of the albums I bought that year only garner no more than a 3-star rating.

 

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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

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (2000s)

[Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana]

I balked when Barsuk Records released a 10-year anniversary edition of Give Up by the Postal Service. Yes, add 10 to 2003 and you get 2013. But 2003 didn’t seem so distant from 2013, as 2003 did from 1993.

That’s the thing about getting older — there’s more past to remember. In 1987, I had barely any memory of 1977. In 1997, I had only 1987 as a clear reference. Only in 2007 did 1987 start to feel distant. And now I’m shocked to think 1997 — the year I moved away from home — is pretty far chronologically from where I am today.

So yeah, 2007 still feels like yesterday, although 2002 does feel more like history.

Tokyo Jihen, Sports

Shiina Ringo’s albums from earlier in the decade saw her batting a hundred, but with Tokyo Jihen, it took a few albums before the band came into its own.

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Century of Self

Source Tags and Codes was the obvious choice to include on this list, but recent spins of the album revealed a number of dead spots. Lost Songs wouldn’t show up till the next decade, which leaves The Century of Self next in line on my list of favorite … Trail of Dead albums.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World

At first, I dismissed ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION as a watered-down version of Eastern Youth. Then World World World came out, and I became a convert.

Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

It took a while for me to warm up to The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, but All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone had a clarity that hooked me for good.

Utada Hikaru, ULTRA BLUE

Utada Hikaru’s US debut Exodus went too far to rub out the alt-rock influence in her music, so it was refreshing to hear it come roaring back on ULTRA BLUE.

Sigur Rós, Takk …

I was unfamiliar with Sigur Rós when this album was released, so I asked a friend of mine to describe their albums to me. He told me to imagine a cold, flat icy land, and that was Ágætis byrjun. Then he told me to picture 1,000 angels appearing in bursts of blinding light. That was Takk …

Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana

I’m convinced if this album had been released in the US, indie rock fans would have abandoned their Flaming Lips albums.

Molotov, Dance Dense and Denso

US promoters tried and failed to conflate Latin American rap-rock bands as epitomizing Latin alternative rock. Molotov stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they shared more with Café Tacvba and Aterciopelados than with Puya or Control Machete.

Hatakeyama Miyuki, Diving into your mind

The year I started working for Waterloo Records was the year Norah Jones made a splash with her debut album. I wasn’t convinced, mostly because I had spent weeks listening to Hatakeyama Miyuki instead.

AJICO, Fukamidori

UA and Asai Kenichi came together for only one album, but boy is it a keeper. UA had found success on the Oricon charts before this collaboration, but afterward, she embraced a more challenging sound.

fra-foa, Chuu no Fuchi

Every time I put this album on, I feel the need to fuck shit up. It’s that intense.

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Favorite Edition 2010-2014

[Jason Isbell - Southeastern]

We’re half way into the second decade of the 2000s, and I haven’t seen much punditry on what albums have been emblematic of the decade. It’s probably because listening habits have moved on from albums even if the release cycle hasn’t.

My friend will be disappointed to learn I consider 2010 the start of the decade, so I’ll restrict my list to its first five years with 2010 included (i.e. 2010-2014.)

  1. Jason Isbell, Southeastern: “Songs That She Sang in the Shower” and “Elephant” pretty much sold me on this album, and everything else was just seduction.
  2. Tokyo Jihen, Sports: Shiina Ringo loosened her writing monopoly with the band, which then internalized her style to produce its best album.
  3. Jarell Perry, Simple Things: Part of me thinks this album is actually better than Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE.
  4. John Luther Adams, Become Ocean: Does what it says on the tin very, very beautifully
  5. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE: WHERE YOU AT FRANK??
  6. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: So many of my friends lost their shit when this album was released that I had to hear it for myself.
  7. Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe: I love her music, but damn, her videos are disturbing.
  8. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds of Country Music: What happens to country music when it ingests hallucinogens.
  9. Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now: Thank you, Mark Ronson, for bringing Duran Duran back to itself.
  10. Kuriyama Chiaki, CIRCUS: Getting Shiina Ringo to write a few tracks is a sure way for Japanese actresses to grab my attention.

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