It’s time we turn this list around. Instead of tracking the favorite new releases of 2018, I’ll start with my favorite catalog discoveries. The vast majority of my listening these days is old music that’s new to me, so let’s pretend no longer I have a read on anything current.
- Patti Smith, Horses: PJ Harvey sure owes a lot to Patti Smith. The first time I played Horses, there were moments I thought I was listening to Polly Jean. This album confounded me, thus forcing me to play it multiple times, each time engaging me more than the last. Smith has been described as the godmother of punk, and I half expected a proto-Sleater-Kinney. Nah, man. That’s not it at all.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?: Maybe it’s because of Emmylou Harris and Kronos Quartet that made this album feel instantly familiar, or maybe its influence extends as far as the arm of Sauron.
- Roxy Music, Avalon: Smooth
- Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: This shit is dark.
- Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark: Without some schooling in Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, I wouldn’t have understood how ground-breaking this album is. Otherwise, the cheap imitations it spawned would have been my only reference.
- Fugazi, The Argument: I didn’t think anything could top 13 Songs or Repeater, but this album comes damn close.
- Dwight Yoakam, Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.: Honky-tonk AF
- Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5: Even after 15 years, this split EP holds together well.
- Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: This is the album I wished The ArchAndroid was. I still think she hasn’t yet recorded her Shousou Strip.
- Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, Landfall: I found myself engaged in this album more than I expected.
- Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: Shiina Ringo is one of the best songwriters, because the strength of her writing cuts through even the most ordinary interpretation of her songs.
- Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly, Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music: It’s an improbable concept album based on transcriptions of Balinese gamelan music by English composer Colin McPhee. In execution, it’s a stronger concept than the Planetarium album Muhly did with Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister.
- Steve Grand, not the end of me: Grand has gone through some serious shit since his debut album, and this sprawling sophomore effort lays it all out.
- Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi: Check out the rhythmic modulation on “Chikai”. She does some amazing obfuscation with the downbeat.
- Igor Stravinsky, Chant Funèbre / La Sacre Du Printemps: It seems Funeral Song didn’t really answer the question of how Stravinsky bridged his Scriabin-influenced early work with the Firebird and all that came after.
- Tracey Thorn, Record: Tracey Thorn returns to the dancefloor, thank deities.
Tags: andrew kenny, benjamin gibbard, bruce springsteen, dwight yoakam, favorite edition, fugazi, igor stravinsky, janelle monae, jimi hendrix, joni mitchell, kronos quartet, laurie anderson, nico muhly, patti smith, roxy music, steve grand, thomas bartlett, tracey thorn, utada hikaru, various artists
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.
Sonic Boom turns 30 years old in 2018, so all CDs are 30 percent off for the entire month of July. These entries are going to get long.
- John Coltrane, Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album
- Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi
- A Tribe Called Quest, People’s Instinctive Movement and the Path of Rhythm
- Brian Eno, Another Green World
- Brian Eno, Before and After Science
- Brian Eno, Discreet Music
- David Bowie, Let’s Dance (Remastered)
- David Bowie, Scary Monsters
- Emmylou Harris, Cimarron (Remastered)
- Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
- Run-DMC, Raising Hell
- Simple Minds, Once Upon a Time (Deluxe Edition)
- The Pogues, Rum Sodomy and the Lash
- Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
- George Antheil, Ballet Mecanique / Jazz Symphony / Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
- The Smiths, Rank
- Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Deluxe Edition)
Tags: george antheil, guns n' roses, purchase log, the pogues, the smiths, utada hikaru
I started a new job on May 21, and I’m still getting adjusted to a new routine. I’m not ready to say the hiatus has ended just yet, but I can say new entries should resume before the end of summer. Till then, here’s a preview of upcoming releases.
Emmylou Harris, Ballad of Sally Rose (Deluxe Edition), June 1
I have listened to a lot of Emmylou Harris, and I can say this album is my least favorite. But its underdog status makes me curious about what didn’t make the album. Also, the current CD pressings sound awful, and I hope the remastering rectifies that.
Clannad, Turas 1980, June 8
This live album contains songs never recorded in the studio by the band.
Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi, June 27
In retrospect, Fantôme was something of a downer. The singles preceding the release of Hatsukoi indicate a bouncier direction. Utada comes full circle title-wise — hatsukoi is the Japanese translation of “first love”.
Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Deluxe Edition), June 29
This album hadn’t already received a deluxe edition treatment? I’m not shelling out for anything more than the 2-disc edition.
Leo IMAI, V L P, July 11
I really enjoyed Film Scum, and it’s too bad the full album was only available at his live shows. I look forward to this album nonetheless.
Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Plays the Art of Noise, June 22
This album receives a physical release in the UK and a digital release in the US. I was impatient and got the Japanese release last year, and Dudley employs some real studio wizardry to interpret the Art of Noise acoustically.
Fishbone, The Reality of My Surroundings, July 13
Trips to Goodwill have allowed me to rediscover this band.
Tags: anne dudley, clannad, emmylou harris, fishbone, guns n' roses, leo imai, looking ahead, utada hikaru
When you can find a second-hand vinyl copy of Suzanne Vega’s Solitutde Standing for $1, does the world really need a reissue that costs $30? Same goes for the soundtrack to Top Gun — was it really such a cultural watershed?
Vinyl reissues make up just a sliver of recorded music sales, but it’s the only sector experiencing rapid growth. So if Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em by MC Hammer can get a reissue, then nothing should stop the following titles from showing up on wax. From what I can tell, none of these titles have ever been issued on vinyl.
Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy
The stars aligned for Fastball on this album, but tensions in the band prevented them from capitalizing on that momentum. It still holds up well after nearly 20 years.
Patty Griffin, Flaming Red
You need look no further than Silver Bell to hear how well Flaming Red would sound on vinyl. Griffin doesn’t usually indulge her rock side, but like the title of this album, she burns when she does.
Freedy Johnston, This Perfect World
This album was in constant rotation on my player back in 1994, and I didn’t care if it storm up the charts. It didn’t, so the likelihood for a reissue are slim.
Hajime Chitose, Hainumikaze
I’ve so far not been impressed by vinyl pressings of domestic Japanese albums. The market is still driven mostly by CDs, so Japanese labels don’t put much care into the sound of vinyl releases. In my fantasy world where they did, I would so want to hear Hajime Chitose’s voice on vinyl.
Onitsuka Chihiro, INSOMNIA
All the ballads on this album should make remastering it for vinyl not insurmountable. Right?
Hem, Rabbit Songs
I’m surprised the only album in Hem’s discography available on vinyl is Departures and Farewells. I would have thought Rabbit Songs had been reissued a long time ago.
Utada Hikaru, Ultra Blue
The last Utada album to be issued on vinyl was DEEP RIVER.
Duran Duran, Medazzaland
The masters for Duran Duran’s most underrated album is owned by the band, so the fate of a vinyl reissue is entirely up to them. Nick Rhodes has mentioned he would love to see it happen.
Tags: duran duran, fastball, freedy johnston, hajime chitose, hem, onitsuka chihiro, patty griffin, utada hikaru, vinyl collecting
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.
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.
Tags: ajico, and you will know us by the trail of dead, asian kung-fu generation, explosions in the sky, fra-foa, hatakeyama miyuki, molotov, music discovery, shiina ringo, sigur ros, tokyo jihen, utada hikaru
What a spiteful year 2016 has turned out to be. I won’t hazard how subsequent years may turn out with the impending leadership change in Washington, D.C., but for now, 2016 has just been a veritable shitstorm.
In terms of music, 2016 has been lackluster. I encountered a lot of albums that were likable but very few I could really love. In a few instances, some of my favorite bands turned out some of their most interesting music in their careers, but I couldn’t muster excitement for them.
- Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth: Sturgill Simpson played a two-hour set with no encore at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle in November. He spent the first hour performing songs from his previous album. Then he spent the next hour playing A Sailor’s Guide to Earth from start to finish with a whole lot of room for jamming. That’s something a composer would do.
- Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4: Insistent.
- MONO, Requiem for Hell Of the two albums MONO released in 2014, Rays of Darkness was my favorite. I didn’t imagine the ideas on that album could be exploded.
- Solange, A Seat at the Table: Solange not only out-Lemonaded Beyoncé, she also out-Blonded Frank Ocean.
- Shaprece, COALS: Björk, if she were black.
- Drive By Truckers, American Band: I’ve known about Drive By Truckers for years, but I finally took the plunge with this album. So that’s who took up the Uncle Tupelo mantle.
- Cocco, Adan Ballet: This album won’t dislodge Rapunzel or Bougainvillia as a fan favorite, but it’s some of the best work she’s done since Sangrose.
- Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle: This pairing of Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin looks unlikely on paper, but intuitively, you could tell the universe was ready for it.
- Utada Hikaru, Fantôme: I’m beginning to realize Utada Hikaru was PBR&B before Solange started hanging out with Dirty Projectors.
- Ty Herndon, House on Fire: It’s tough not to read some autobiography into this album, the first Ty Herndon released after revealing he’s gay. It’s also tough not to get swept up in the confidence and energy pouring out of the speakers.
Other notable albums:
- Eluvium, False Readings On
- Santigold, 99 Cents
- Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness
- Blood Orange, Freetown Sound
- AHOHNI, HOPELESSNESS
- Pixies, Head Carrier
- Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
- John Adams, Scheherazade.2
- De La Soul, and the Anonymous Nobody
Tags: cocco, drive-by truckers, favorite edition, henryk gorecki, mono, shaprece, shawn colvin, solange, steve earle, sturgill simpson, ty herndon, utada hikaru
UA released a new album earlier this year. Cocco will release her next album in a few weeks. Utada Hikaru is on the release schedule for September. Would it be too much to ask for Shiina Ringo to drop some news about new album as well?
The Bad Plus, It’s Hard, Aug. 26
Covers have always been a special treat from the Bad Plus, and this album marks the second time the trio dedicates an entire album to other people’s music. Or third if you consider The Rite of Spring a “cover”.
Jack Ingram, Midnight Hotel, Aug. 26
First, Jack Ingram was a part of a new generation of country rebels that included the brothers Charlie and Bruce Robison. Then at some point, he traded in the rebellion for a spot at the top of the country charts. Now he’s back to his indie roots.
Eluvium, False Readings On, Sept. 2
I’m still looking forward to a new album, despite not warming up to the last two albums.
Pansy Division, Quite Contrary, Sept. 9
Pansy Division isn’t the first punk band with gay members, but they managed to go further than most, opening for Green Day and Rancid during the ’90s. New albums from the band are few and far between these days.
Utada Hikaru, Fantôme, Sep. 28
When Utada Hikaru announced she was taking a break from pop music, I figured she was making good on her promise to retire early. So her return is a welcome surprise.
Pixies, Head Carrier, Sept. 30
Well, maybe they worked out the kinks since Indie Cindy …
Madonna, Bedtime Stories, Aug. 16
Madonna, Ray of Light, Sept. 13
A 2013 European reissue of Ray of Light might still be floating around online merchants for a not-so-exorbitant price, so the real treat is the reissue of Bedtime Stories.
Tags: eluvium, jack ingram, looking ahead, madonna, pansy division, pixies, the bad plus, utada hikaru