Play this album next to Janet Jackson’s Control, and you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they were born in the same era. Sam Sparro evokes the R&B sound of the 80s with such affection it makes me nostalgic for a style of music against which I actively rebelled at the time.
The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette
I picked this album up at the thrift shop solely on the reputation of providing the name for Japanese garage rock band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. And I don’t really like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. But I do like this album quite a lot.
Jay Som, Anak Ko
I heard this album playing at Sonic Boom around the time of its release. I had intended to listen to it in full on a streaming service when I got home. That never happened. Nearly a year later, I snagged a copy at the thrift shop.
Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
This album probably came to symbolize what sucked about disco, but I don’t think it’s been given its due credit. There is some fine writing on this album, and its commercial success shouldn’t be a knock against it.
The Studio One compilations planted a notion that maybe I didn’t hate reggae music after all. My coworkers at Waterloo Records would play these compilations, and I would find myself liking what I heard. Dawn Penn’s “No No No” left a particular impression, but many years would pass before I learned the song’s title. The only reggae music I heard growing up was sifted through a Hawaiian music filter, and I didn’t like it.
Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1
OK, fellow gays, I understand why you all love Robyn now.
The Faint, Danse Macabre
I stocked so many copies of this album during my Waterloo shifts, I got sick of it, having never heard a single note. If it’s that popular, it had to suck, right? Maybe in my more judgmental days …
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
I was living in New York City at the time this album was released. That season, Kronos performed twice at Alice Tully Hall. Most of the pieces on those programs would eventually make their way to the Night Prayers album. So I was a bit disappointed they didn’t end up on Short Stories.
I sat a few seats away from Osvaldo Golijov at one of those concerts. He stood up when Kronos acknowledged him after starting the concert with a premiere of his work. I congratulated him as he passed me on the way out to intermission.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
I had adjusted to life in New York City. I had a rough bout of homesickness the preceding autumn, which I found disappointing because I had waited what felt like an eternity to escape Hawaii.
But I wasn’t totally at ease. I still was in denial about being gay, and I hadn’t learned how to be comfortable with solitude. I did lay the groundwork for what would eventually pivot me away from music and into journalism by writing for the campus newspaper. I had also started to enjoy reading fiction, which was handy because that winter was actually rough.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
I bought the album on release day, so same answer as above. I’m pretty sure I took a crosstown bus from Hunter College to the Tower Records at Lincoln Center, which had an entire floor dedicated to classical music.
What do you think of it now?
I do not like Short Stories.
Up to that point, Kronos crafted their albums well, threading diverse pieces into a thematic whole. Short Stories felt like a compilation with uninteresting B-sides.
Perhaps the lack of a thread was the point of the album. I just remember feeling impatience with a number of longer pieces on the album.
If I were to rank Kronos’ Nonesuch albums, Short Stories would anchor it.