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.)
- 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.
- Tokyo Jihen, Sports: Shiina Ringo loosened her writing monopoly with the band, which then internalized her style to produce its best album.
- Jarell Perry, Simple Things: Part of me thinks this album is actually better than Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE.
- John Luther Adams, Become Ocean: Does what it says on the tin very, very beautifully
- Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE: WHERE YOU AT FRANK??
- 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.
- Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe: I love her music, but damn, her videos are disturbing.
- Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds of Country Music: What happens to country music when it ingests hallucinogens.
- Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now: Thank you, Mark Ronson, for bringing Duran Duran back to itself.
- Kuriyama Chiaki, CIRCUS: Getting Shiina Ringo to write a few tracks is a sure way for Japanese actresses to grab my attention.
Tags: d'angelo, duran duran, favorite edition, frank ocean, jarell perry, jason isbell, john luther adams, kuriyama chiaki, santigold, sturgill simpson, tokyo jihen
I didn’t think a comeback this year could top the return of Sleater-Kinney, but I was mistaken. I didn’t realize how much I had missed Janet Jackson till she returned, and Enya quenched a drought of a similar length (7 years.) Even Madonna turned in work that’s some of her best in a while. I also learned the awful term “PBR&B”, which describes the kind of R&B music to which I seem to be drawn.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical: The last time the score of a musical had me riveted to my stereo was The Phantom of the Opera. Not only is the story of Hamilton thrilling to follow, but the hip-hop score is jaw-dropping. Policy debates as rap battles? Maybe that should happen in real life.
- Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Just about every year-end list will include this album near the top. And I don’t even listen that much hip-hop.
- Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
- Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free: It’s always great to see an artist with a breakthrough album follow up with something just as strong.
- Torche, Restarter
- Björk, Vulnicura: So now the question is which do you prefer: Vulnicura or Vulnicura Strings?
- Deebs and Jarell Perry, Shift: I like how Jarell Perry keeps pushes the borders of what R&B can do. He’s got great company with Shaprece, Santigold, Miguel and Frank Ocean, WHEREVER THE HELL HE IS.
- Steve Grand, All-American Boy: I still don’t understand why people call him a country artist. He sounds nothing like Sturgill Simpson.
- Janet Jackson, Unbreakable: Janet returns with her most sonically diverse album since The Velvet Rope.
- Miguel, Wildheart: He bragged about being better than Frank Ocean, and I hate to say it, but I think there’s something behind that bravado.
Honorable mention goes to …
- Madonna, Rebel Heart
- Duran Duran, Paper Gods: Duran Duran tends to misstep after hitting a home run, but that’s not the case here.
- Enya, Dark Sky Island: You know what you’re getting with Enya. On a few tracks, she does seem to be dipping a tentative toe into more pop styles, by which I mean less Bach.
- Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit: Barnett crams a lot of imagery in her songs, but they make for great stories.
- ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Wonder Future: When ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION take time with their albums, it really pays off.
- Kronos Quartet, Tundra Songs: No, this isn’t an international crossover album. If anything, it’s some of the most challenging music the quartet has recorded in a while.
- Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot, Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 / Varese: Ameriques: This album is something of a souvenir for me because I attended this concert, but the live recording of Ameriques would be reason enough to pick it up.
- Takaakira “Taka” Goto, Classical Punk and Echoes Under Beauty: I didn’t think this album would be very distinct from MONO, but it’s quite a change for Taka and still recognizably him.
- Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: This album will also appear on a lot of year-end lists, but it didn’t grab me as much as everything else on the list.
Tags: bjork, deebs, favorite edition, janet jackson, jarell perry, jason isbell, kendrick lamar, lin-manuel miranda, miguel, sleater-kinney, steve grand, torche
Concert reviews were always something I wanted to write for this site, but I never drummed up the gumption to jot down my thoughts about shows after I attend them. In reality, I didn’t want shows to become means to an end, in the same way album purchases had become source for reviews.
Still, I go to a lot of concerts, and it feels awkward not mentioning them at least once.
So I’m going to do a year-end overview of all the shows I’ve attended in the past year.
Continue reading »
Tags: arvo part, bang on a can, catalyst quartet, concert edition, danish quartet, duran duran, emerson string quartet, emmylou harris, jason isbell, john adams, mono, neutral milk hotel, rodney crowell, seattle symphony, sturgill simpson, wayne horvitz
If one album epitomized the end of the Sibling Rivalry Collection Race between my brother and me, it’s this one.
I bought this album on cassette tape because the band’s name intrigued me: We Are Going to Eat You. I had no way to know whether the band’s only album, Everywhen, would be a gem or dud. It was 1990, and the idea of “listening stations” had only just begun to take hold.
So I took the plunge and got the album on faith. It was … actually pretty decent.
But it had stiff competition with other releases that year. Kronos Quartet’s Black Angels, Sonic Youth’s Goo, Midnight Oil’s Blue Sky Mining — these albums nearly shut out everything else spinning in my Walkman.
Everywhen was a solid college rock album with proper English post-punk guitars and a woman singer with shades of Nico in her voice. Nothing on the album screamed radio hit — not even on college radio — but give it enough spins, and the tunes could sink in.
My brother, in a fit of exploration, listened to this tape, then went out and bought the CD.
The move surprised me.
I thought Everywhen was good, not great, but I didn’t think something so obviously alt-rock would fit in his collection of Hawaiian pop and classic rock. He liked the album more than I did.
That pretty much ended the Sibling Rivalry Collection Race, and it wouldn’t be the last time our tastes would intersect and influence each other.
Our collections are still very distinctive — mine in the deeper end of weird, his firmly planted in pop.
But I sent him a CD with some Bonnie Pink tracks, and he would go on to buy up her entire catalog. He introduced me to Utada Hikaru, while it took time for him to warm up to Shiina Ringo.
My copy of Everywhen disappeared with my cassette collection back in 2002. Of course, nothing really disappears on the Internet, and a simple web search led me back to the album.
When I was 18 years old, I wanted all my music discoveries to change my life. Everywhen didn’t do that, and I let it go. These days, I’m not chasing after that dopamine high, and if an album is something I can enjoy every time I put it on, I keep it.
In the case of Everywhen, I’ve actually welcomed it back.
Tags: my brother's albums, sibling rivalry collection race, we are going to eat you