I would not have been interested in remixes when Control came out, but I bet I’ve heard them without realizing I have.
Re-Flex, Politics of Dancing (Deluxe Edition), July 26
The title track alone is probably worth the price of the entire album. It’s a collection of reliably-80s synth pop, heavy on the beats and big on melody. I found this album on CD at the thrift store, and I’m actually heartened to see it reissued.
Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold, Aug. 16
I don’t even listen to St. Vincent, and I was excited to hear she was producing the new Sleater-Kinney album. Is that weird?
Ty Herndon, Got It Covered, Aug. 23
Herndon had already teased this album, posting short videos on Instagram of the recording process. He’s already changed the gender references on his big hit, “What Mattered Most.” I’m hoping he doesn’t stop there.
Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley: Sun Rings, Aug. 30
It’s a Terry Riley anniversary year! So of course Kronos commemorates it with a release of a piece they’ve performed in concert for at least a decade.
BBMak, Powerstation, late August
OK, guys, you’ve announced a title and a track list. What about an actual release date?? Part of me wished this album was a track-by-track cover of The Power Station, i.e. the Duran Duran site project with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson of Chic.
Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation, July 26 Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope, July 26
I already have an original pressing of Rhythm Nation, but the length of the album doesn’t allow it to fit well on a single disc. So I would welcome a double LP with improved sound.
The Velvet Rope is Janet’s most underrated album and deserves more attention.
I gave this album a cursory preview when it first appeared in mid-2018, but I didn’t follow up till now. Shires’ husband, Jason Isbell, sang the album’s praises, and he’s right — To the Sunset is ambitious.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert
I went to the Saturday world premiere of this work in 2017, so it was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list.
Frida, Something’s Going On
This album would be akin to Janet Jackson’s Control in the way Frida distances herself from ABBA.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi
No, this album won’t dislodge Shiina’s first three albums off the pedestal, but it’s her most diverse since Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, and Shiina on an off-day is still many leagues interesting than most artists at their apex.
Soundtrack, Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?
My experience with anime can be divided in two: before “Do You Remember Love?” and after “Do You Remember Love?” I will always treasure Robotech for introducing me to Japanese animation, but that show really did butcher the source material.
Madonna, Madame X
The singles preceding Madame X‘s release did not do the album justice. It’s a far more ambitious work than the singles let on.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing
The Politics of Dancing is a reliably 80s synth album, but that title track is an unshakable earworm. Cherry Red in the UK is giving it an expanded reissue in July 2019.
Roger Daltery, Under a Raging Moon
This album is steeped in the ’80s, which is probably why it appeals to me so much.
One of these years, I’m not going to have a big enough pool from which to draw a mid-year Favorite Edition list. This year got close.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): The big criticism of this cover album is the slavish reproduction of the originals, as if Weezer did nothing to inject its own personality in these songs. The studio geek in me, however, marvels at such a feat. It may be a karaoke exercise, but it’s a painstaking one, not unlike art students reproducing the masters.
Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tricky proposition to distill seven centuries of music in a single program, but Denk takes an admirable stab at it. I have no objections to his choices.
James Blake, Assume Form: Blake’s previous album was lengthy and not terribly engaging. He rights the ship on this one.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert: Where Become Ocean explored the Seattle Symphony’s lower and middle registers, Become Desert hovers almost exclusively in the upper ends.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: Shiina’s first three albums looms large over the rest of her work, Tokyo Jihen included. Sandokushi is a fascinating mess — lots of seemingly disparate songs threaded together as a single program. It’s jarring but coherent, and probably the best summation of her style thus far.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: Like Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake, Legacy! Legacy! was playing on a record store sound system and made me stop to find out who is Jamila Woods.
Solange, When I Get Home: There are no obvious singles on this album, which is fine because it’s not intended to be a singles album.
Madonna, Madame X: A quotation of Tchaikovsky’s signature work could have backfired, but when the Nutcracker interrupts “Dark Ballet,” it doesn’t feel forced. The singles preceding the release of Madame X didn’t hint at this kind of creative stretch.
The Drums, Brutalism: Jonny Pierce tones down the Joy Division influence and brings forth the beats.
Here’s a case where I really didn’t know what I was giving up when I let it go.
In high school, my perception of jazz was shaped by the repertoire we played in jazz band, the bulk of which stemmed from the music’s early era. We played your Glenn Miller, a bit of washed-over Duke Ellington, something Stan Kenton-ish and even a Spyro Gyra cover.
But my music program wasn’t sophisticated enough to introduce anything like John Coltrane or Miles Davis, so Ornette Coleman was completely off the radar.
At the end of my high school career, I encountered the intersection of modern classical music and jazz known as “downtown New York”. I didn’t understand the traditions from which either came at that point, but I loved the noise it produced.
Before there were online streaming services, there was the music press, and back then, I would read about all kinds of interesting music more than I would actually hear it. That meant taking some leaps for faith based on something somebody wrote in a magazine.
I took that leap with John Zorn and Kronos Quartet, and I liked where I ended up. I took that same leap with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and Crazy People Music didn’t last long in my collection.
The press around the album, as I remember it, described the album as forward-thinking and ground-breaking. It went as far as winning a Grammy Award. I went into Crazy People Music thinking it would be another Naked City.
It sounded pretty standard, which was to say it didn’t stray too far from the kind of jazz pieces we played in band. The heads on Crazy People Music maybe sounded a bit off-kilter, but they sounded nothing like what I could find on Kronos’ Winter Was Hard or White Man Sleeps.
For an album called Crazy People Music, it didn’t sound, well, crazy enough. I played through my cassette copy of the album perhaps once, then went straight back to my Nonesuch albums.
I picked up a CD copy of the album at the Friends of the Seattle Library book sale, about 28 years after I first encountered it. By then, I had learned how to listen to jazz, and I had a better sense of history about the music than I did in high school.
I like it way more now.
And within the confines of Marsalis’ idiom, the album actually does have its moments of craziness. I first went into the album thinking it would structurally crazy. Rather, the crazy stems from the performances themselves. There are some hot takes on this record.
But I think what I missed the most about Crazy People Music is the cover. The quartet looks like they’re having a blast, but it’s a fun rooted in mania. The back cover of the album jumbles the text in a manner where you can’t tell which is up. Fishbone employed a similar effect on the cover of In Your Face.