I spent years filing The Dismemberment Plan’s albums at Waterloo Records, and I don’t think I ever listened to their music. So I picked up Change at the thrift store purely out of curiosity. Listening to this album transported me back to those record store days in the early 2000s.
The Ordinaires, One
I owned this album on cassette, and I actually liked it at the time. The only problem was I liked a lot of other albums at the same time a bit more. In a crunch for cash, I sold it. But the band’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” has haunted me ever since. So I picked it up on vinyl at the Northwest Record Show, then eventually on CD.
Anton Bruckner, Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Staatskapel Dresden, Eugene Jochum)
I had an unofficial goal of collecting Bruckner symphonies on my visits to thrift shops until this budget boxed set showed up at Lifelong. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! I learned about Bruckner in college, but I didn’t feel compelled to explore his work because of a joke: he wrote nine symphonies at one time, or one symphony nine times.
Soundtrack, Death Note
I’ve been dragging my feet on getting this soundtrack for nearly a decade now, but what finally spurred me to take action was a vinyl reissue from Tiger Lab.
Gary Numan, The Pleasure Principle
I bugged my mom to buy me the 7-inch single of “Cars” when I was 8 years old, but by the time I started collecting on my own 5 years later, Gary Numan felt like ancient history. The Pleasure Principle has grown in stature since then, so it was high time I followed up on that single purchase.
Clipse, Lord Willin’
Yeah, I went through a Neptunes phase in the early 2000s, but this album slipped through my grasp. 2002 was a fruitful year in music, so it faced a lot of competition.
Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Now that everyone else has published their best of 2019 lists, I get to play catch up with everything I’ve been ignoring. So far, only Billie Eilish has managed to punch through.
Peter Gabriel, Us
I probably wouldn’t have come around to this album if I hadn’t run across Secret World Live first. Us got middling reviews, but I find it hits more than it misses.
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
I remember playing this album on my computer CD-ROM drive instead of my stereo and hearing what would have been lush strings strangled through cheap, tinny computer speakers. It was the lowest point in the 14 years I spent in Austin. Even lower than losing my job two years later. Why was I playing this album on cheap speakers? Because my apartment had been burglarized.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
In February 1998, I had been living in Austin nine months, and I wasn’t having an easy time of it. I had a distracting crush on a co-worker, who was leaving the office. I was working a night shift and didn’t have much of a social life. And I was discovering that I really hated gay bars.
I was keeping an online journal at the time, which I now keep under authentication. Around that time, I had wanted to contribute to a Duran Duran tribute album, but I didn’t have the equipment to make a decent recording, nor did I know anyone who could sing it. It would be another 7 years before I could record it properly.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
Someone broke into my apartment, stole my music equipment, stereo and a bunch of cassette tape cases. They had hit a neighbor’s apartment a few doors down about two weeks earlier, and that spurred me to get renter’s insurance.
The insult to injury in this ordeal was the fact those cassette tape cases didn’t have anything of commercial worth — just the masters of my 4-track demos. I had years of music in those cases, but just one cassette tape survived. It was in my car at the time of the burglary.
At the time, it felt catastrophic to lose so much creative work. I even broke down and cried in the office when the magnitude of the loss hit me.
The insurance settlement covered the cost of the music gear in terms of its current value, not its depreciation. That meant I could purchase entirely new gear for the price I had paid in 1991.
What I eventually discovered was that I was limiting myself creatively with outdated gear. I started to lose the desire to make music because what was in my head didn’t match what I was actually creating.
Since then, I’ve built a home studio and have kept it reasonably up to date. I also never live on a first floor apartment any more.
What do you think of it now?
This album monopolized my attention at the time I bought it, and that’s why I was listening to it on cheap, tinny speakers. Just because I didn’t have my stereo didn’t mean I was going to sit in a silent apartment.
Armstrong did the film score for Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and The Space Between Us included an orchestral version of Des’ree’s “Kissing You.” I dug the mix of electronic beats and strings, and I’ll admit to ripping off a bit of that sound for one of my own tracks.
But I think the melancholy of the album suited my frame of mind at the time. I really wasn’t enjoying life all that much, and I let the sadness of the music wash over me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Solange, A Seat at the Table: You may have Beyoncé.
Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: I wish I could sing along with this album, but these lyrics … hot damn!
John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot): When your award-winning commission inspires Taylor Swift to donate to your organization …
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: The Pulitzer Prize should have gone to this album.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton:The Phantom of the Opera was the last time I was riveted to a cast recording.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I’ve always felt Monáe had a Muzai Moratorium or Shouso Strip inside her. This album comes closest.
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: It’s like the decade preceding this album’s release had melted away.
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.
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.
D’angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: I got pregnant listening to this album, and I’m not even a woman.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories, Jan. 17
When Trail of Dead announced they would take a hiatus after releasing their ninth album, it felt like the right time. They’d been at it for 20 years, and they sure deserved the break. Their return is also nicely timed — I have to say I’ve missed them.
Ben Watt, Storm Damage, Jan. 31
I’m still somewhat surprised Ben Watt has spent his post-Everything But the Girl solo career thus far being a troubadour.
Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi (Deluxe Edition), Jan. 31
I came around to this album quite late, but I’m glad to see it get some deluxe treatment.
CHARA+YUKI, echo, Feb. 14
The closest thing we’ll get to a MEAN MACHINE reunion.
Onitsuka Chihiro, REQUIEM AND SILENCE, Feb. 20
Onitsuka Chihiro commemorates the 20th anniversary of her debut with yet another compilation, this one spanning three major labels.
Sam Sparro, Boombox Eternal, Feb. 21
If the pre-release single “Everything” reflects the remainder of the album, I’m on board.
Clannad, In a Lifetime Anthology, March 13
I probably don’t need this anthology given the depth of my Clannad collection, but I wait eagerly for news of US dates on their farewell tour.
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, 20th Anniversary Box, March 25
Another band celebrating their 20th anniversary is LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. The 20th Anniversary Box compiles 4 CDs of singles, a Blu Ray or DVD of the duo’s acoustic tour, an LP of acoustic recordings and a score book. I’m tempted by the score book alone. The singles collection will also be sold separately (COMPLETE SINGLES 2000-2019), and the acoustic recordings will be released on vinyl (TWO OF US Acoustic Recording Session at VICTOR STUDIO 302.)
A series of events at the start of the year derailed my publishing schedule, and I had pretty much written off 2019 by the summer.
I usually write a few entries in one sitting, then dole them out over the course of a month. At my peak productivity, I stockpiled enough to last two months.
I lost that momentum and couldn’t get it back. Sometimes, I would come up with a story idea, only to realize I’d already written it. Other times, I felt restricted by the tag line of this blog: Music and memory. What if the memories keep rehashing the same story?
When I changed the focus of this site 5 years ago, I thought my days of discovering new music was behind me. What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of music from the past still unfamiliar to me.
So in 2020, I plan to tweak the focus of the site. I don’t know yet what that entails, but I know I want it to reflect my listening habits today.
If the Purchase Log entries of the past year have shown, I’ve done a lot of exploring, and I have a lot more to do.