It’s nice to see international artists make their catalogs available through streaming services. I don’t think I’ve had to go to the Evil Sharing Networks for active Japanese artists in a while. I haven’t really followed LOVE PSYCHEDELICO lately, but at least now, I can listen to this new album on release day.
Björk, Fossora, Sept. 30
The singles released ahead of this album seem to indicate Björk has gone back to the kind of beats she was making on Volta. I’m digging this low winds sound.
Darren Hayes, Homosexual, Oct. 7
I like the frankness of this album title.
easy life, MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE, Oct. 7
OK, I admit I got into this band because of the skeletons commercial for Kia. I’m ignoring the singles and waiting for release day to listen to the new material. I’m still enjoying the previous album, life’s a beach, way too much right now.
Robin Holcomb, One Way or Another, Vol. 1, Oct. 14
The last time Robin Holcomb recorded a singer-songwriter album was 20 years ago with her final Nonesuch album, The Big Time. This new album is just her and a piano.
Royal Wood, What Tomorrow Brings, Nov. 4
I can’t say I got into Royal Wood’s previous album, but the singles he’s released ahead of this album sound vastly different from what he’s done before. He’s gotten into beats and synths but in a way that enhances folk singer croon.
Luke Evans, A Song for You, Nov. 4
Luke Evans had some interesting song choices on his debut album. This follow-up doesn’t have many songs I immediately recognize, but given that he covers R.E.M., Donny Hathaway, Simon and Garfunkel and a traditional song in Welsh, he makes another set of bold choices. This album also contains two new songs Evans co-wrote.
Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion I (Deluxe Edition), Nov. 25 Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion II (Deluxe Edition), Nov. 25
Really, Use Your Illusion II is the album worth exploring, but I’m willing to throw in Use Your Illusion I out of due diligence.
Caitlin Cary, While You Weren’t Looking, Sept. 30
Any interest I had in Whiskeytown is all about Caitlin Cary and not one whit about Ryan Adams.
Beyoncé, RENAISSANCE, Oct. 7
I’m no acolyte of Beyoncé by any stretch of the imagination, but the queerness of this album is unmistakable.
Duran Duran, Medazzaland, Oct. 14
A loss of momentum on the heels of the highly successful The Wedding Album fated this album to obscurity. At the time, I thought the brilliance of this album would win out and prove the ambivalent mainstream audience wrong. I’m not so sure anymore. This album is so fiercely original that it may have been greeted with hostility than with a collective meh. A quarter century later, we get to revisit this album.
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Planet Folks, Oct. 26
How much did I not get into AKFG’s previous album Hometown? I didn’t bother to snap up the vinyl pressing before it went out of print. Planet Folks is not as good as World World World or Landmark, but I like it enough to place a preorder for this vinyl release.
Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now, Nov. 11 Duran Duran, Astronaut, Nov. 11 Duran Duran, Red Carpet Massacre, Nov. 11
In addition to CD reissues back in August, three albums from Duran Duran’s third decade get vinyl reissues under the RSD Essentials series. I’m sorry to see Pop Trash not included in this set. It’s better than Astronaut and Red Carpet Massacre but still not really the band’s best. To be honest, any album in this set other than All You Need Is Now is really stretching the “essentials” descriptor.
Duran Duran, FUTURE PAST (Complete Deluxe Edition), Nov. 25
The original vinyl release of FUTURE PAST had fewer tracks than the CD, so this reissue includes additional tracks and the non-album single “Five Years”, which is a David Bowie cover.
BONNIE PINK, Blue Jam, Nov. 3 BONNIE PINK, Heaven’s Kitchen, Nov. 3 BONNIE PINK, evil and flowers, Nov. 3 UA, Are U Romantic?, Nov. 3 Hajime Chitose, “Wadatsumi no Ki”, Dec. 3 Quruli, “WORLD’S END SUPERNOVA”, Dec. 3
To confuse matters, Japan has it’s own commercial holiday to celebrate vinyl called Record Day, which is not to be confused with Record Store Day Japan, the spring event with its own set of domestic reissues. Unlike RSD, Record Day doesn’t restrict availability to brick and mortar stores. The main event happens Nov. 3, with a spillover day on Dec. 3. I’m skipping the BONNIE PINK reissues, but I’ve already pre-ordered UA, Hajime Chitose and Quruli.
I can’t say I expected much from 2021 given how Generation X has turned out to be such dumb fucks, but I didn’t anticipate those expectations should have been lower. If the current trajectory holds, 2022 can already go fuck itself.
At least we got a new ABBA album out of the deal.
ABBA, Voyage: When Frida sang the opening notes of “I Still Have Faith in You,” I hadn’t realized how starved I was to hear that voice, those voices. Voyage also pulls off the remarkable feat of picking up exactly where the band left off in 1982, practically ignoring the musical developments that came in the wake of ABBA’s hiatus. It makes sense for the virtual live show. Why let 2022 intrude on 1982? It’s also remarkable how the band’s lyrics are darker than I remember. But I was 8 years old the first time I was an ABBA fan, so a lot of that subtext would have been lost on me.
Duran Duran, FUTURE PAST: ABBA shows how you can take the past into the present. Duran Duran takes the future into the past. Duran Duran has always tried to run parallel with the contemporary, but on some albums, they skew too heavy on relevancy. (I’m looking at you, Red Carpet Massacre.) With FUTURE PAST, Duran Duran embraces its past self, grounding all the experience of a 4-decade career into the fundamentals that make their signature sound.
Deafheaven, Infinite Granite: Yes, I’m far more into post-rock than heavy metal, so the fact this album embrace more of the former and less of the latter does not disappoint me in the least. Toward the end of the album, we do get treated to the scream vocals.
sungazer, Perihelion: Adam Neely is correct when he says recorded music has been too de-valued to be a reliable income source. As much as I love this sungazer album, I’m not going to complain if the next one takes years to arrive, if it ever does.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I don’t think I’ve spun an Utada Hikaru song this much since “Be My Last”. I also love that all the remixes of “Beautiful World” are distinctive enough to withstand repeated listening.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert: Glad to hear it’s lost no longer.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1: There’s a melodic turn at the end of the chorus on “Happily Unhappy” that pretty much encapsulates the longevity of Jam and Lewis. Volume 2 reportedly includes the pair’s biggest collaborator, Janet.
MONO, Pilgrimage of the Soul: I seem to like every other MONO album since Hymn to the Immortal World. Couldn’t get into For My Parents …, The Last Dawn or Now Here Nowhere, but I’m all about Requiem for Hell, Rays of Darkness and this album.
Helmet, Live and Rare: I have only the first three Helmet albums in my collection, but this live album makes me wish I had seen them live.
FINNEAS, Optimist: Sorry, Billie.
Some other favorites from the past year:
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Q: Will sex, God, and titties continue to be a part of the Yo! Majesty brand? A: Anything less is uncivilized. It’s time to be free.
Lil Nas X, MONTERO: Given the amount of time I spend in thrift shops, I have a bias against streaming-only releases. For the price Columbia is charging for downloads, I may as well wait for a physical release. I like this album, but downloading FLAC files from Bandcamp is the closest I’ll consider owning a digital release. I’m old that way.
Perfume, Polygon Wave: Yeah, this was really a maxi single. But I couldn’t stop playing this one either.
CZARFACE / MF DOOM, Super What?: To be honest, I don’t own very many MF DOOM albums, but man, that was a 2020 loss that affected me more than I expected.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: This album is good, but I have a sense that it could have been phenomenal with a few more tweaks.
Duran Duran makes it a point to make each album sound distinctive, but that’s often meant the band would run away from the fundamentals which made them famous. FUTURE PAST, as the title indicates, finds the band embracing its past while still facing forward. Generations of bands in their wake is proof enough they were onto something enduring.
Adam Neely said his goal was to be the Neil deGrasse Tyson of music theory education, and I say, he already is. But he can also write. If you had to file Perihelion in a section of a record store, jazz would be as a good a fit as any, but it wouldn’t be a complete descriptor of what Neely and drummer Shawn Crowder do.
Sugababes, One Touch (Deluxe Edition)
One Touch has grown on me over the last year, and the previously unreleased demos on this deluxe edition would have fit well on the album proper. I didn’t even mind the remixes on the second disc.
Spandau Ballet, True
I picked up this album on vinyl a long time ago, but I hadn’t really listened to it since. So I gave it a few plays on Spotify and grew to like it enough to want it on CD.
ZARD, BEST ~Request Memorial~
ZARD has always existed on the periphery of my Japanese music fandom. I had a sense they would be too mainstream J-Pop for me. This compilation showed up in the thrift store, and yes, it’s quite mainstream J-pop but not cloyingly so.
I couldn’t really get into Billie Eilish’s second album, but I really like the one her brother made.