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Favorite Edition 2023 Year Final

[SYML - The Day My Father Died]

Two things prevented me from really exploring new releases of 2023: working on my own music and discovering the work of Brian Fennell, id est SYML.

My iPod Touch has a playlist of unreleased Observant Records tracks that at one point lasted 2 hours. I have an EP, a reissue and a number of singles ready to unleash over the next two years. So I’ve been working in my own monkey house for a while, which means I’m probably losing perspective on how good this work may be.

Back in 2019, SYML released his debut album and showed up on a number of my social media feeds. My reaction: Oh, he’s cute. When he showed up again in 2023, I decided to listen to The Day My Father Died. I’ve since gone back and listened to his back catalog and also the albums he recorded with the band Barcelona.

So it’s just been me and Brian Fennell for most of 2023.

SYML, The Day My Father Died

When I first put The Day My Father Died on the half-year list, I hadn’t yet explored SYML’s self-titled debut. Now that I have, I actually like that album a bit more, but it didn’t stop The Day My Father Died from consistently getting multiple plays on my media players. Fennell has a great voice, and he’s a great songwriter. But his songs are so well-suited for his voice, it’s hard to imagine someone else covering his work. Still, it makes for some engrossing listening.

Kelela, Raven

My first play of the album was underwhelming, but I gave it another few spins, and before I knew it, the album had seeped into my consciousness. Nothing on this album stands out as a chart-topper, but in its entirety, Raven has a seductive quietude.

Eluvium, (whirring Marvels in) Consensus Reality

Eluvium albums tend to be more meditative, but this one goes for epic gestures. And it’s a welcome change.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes

Jason Isbell is similar to Emmylou Harris in how they both don’t really make bad albums. But Weathervanes made me rethink just how much I liked the albums preceding it. Both The Nashville Sound and Reunions had reached the year-end favorite list, but Weathervanes has an emotional core about as raw and vulnerable as Southeastern, his breakthrough album that turned 10 in 2023. It’s probably his best album since Southeastern.

Everything But the Girl, Fuse

Do I like this album more than Walking Wounded, Amplified Heart or Temperamental? No. But Ben and Tracey reuniting is just the balm we need for the start of the 2020s.

Kesha, Gag Order

I love it when pop stars have genuine axes to grind, and Kesha comes out swinging.

Soundtrack, BLEACH: THE BLOOD WARFARE I

BLEACH: Thousand Year Blood War is the only scripted television show I watch, and I have been enjoying the conclusion of the BLEACH storyline immensely. A lot of the music on the soundtrack is familiar to anyone who’s watched the show for any length of time, but the stakes raised in the story means the score has to rise to the occasion. So real orchestra players come in where synthesizers held court, and Sagisu Shiro’s score gets more intense as a result.

Danish String Quartet, Prism V

Over the course of five albums, Danish String Quartet explored the connections between Beethoven and Bach on composers that came centuries in their wake. In this final edition, the quartet pairs Beethoven’s Op. 135 quartet with a quartet by Anton Webern written before Arnold Schoenberg’s influence would take a strong hold. As such, the Webern link to Beethoven and Bach is clearer than the ones the Danish drew with Bela Bartok, Dmitri Shostakovich or Alfred Schnittke.

Vagaon, Sorry I Haven’t Called

If you liked Vagabon’s self-titled album , this album doesn’t disappoint. Lætitia Tamko occupies that nebulous space between pop and indie rock navigated by the likes of Solange, Jamila Woods and Sampha (the latter who also released albums in 2023.)

The Drums, Jonny

The singles preceding this album’s release were some of Jonathan Pierce’s catchiest, and the rest of the album is no slouch. Plus, the album cover is quite … honest. I like it.

More favorites:

  • Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS: I’m not the target audience for Rodrigo’s lyrics, but man she sure gives us olds that big rock sound.
  • NUMBER GIRL, Mujo no Hi: Yes, “Toumei Shoujou” shows up four times on this live set, and yes, each iteration sounds as vital as the one before it.
  • Troye Sivan, Something to Give Each Other: I like the cover of this album too.
  • Jamila Woods, Water Made Us: Did you like Legacy! Legacy!? This one is good too.
  • Queens of the Stone Age, In Times New Roman …: Recommended if you like … Like Clockwork.

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Favorite edition 2023: Year Half

[Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Weathervanes]

Half way through the year, and I have to admit the favorite list isn’t looking too solid for the last six slots. I definitely like albums by SYML, Kelala, Eluvium and Jason Isbell. I like the first album by Everything But the Girl in 24 years, but it’s not my favorite of theirs. The remaining slots are up for grabs, although Kesha’s album has enough rawness to hold onto its spot.

Here’s how 2023 is shaping up so far:

  • SYML, The Day My Father Died: Brian Fennell has a gorgeous voice, and this album feels singular to that voice.
  • Kelela, Raven: This album needs a few listens before it burrows deep.
  • Eluvium, (whirring Marvels in) Consensus Reality: Probably the most epic album in the Eluvium discography.
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes: This could be Isbell’s best album since Southeastern. It’s raw.
  • Everything But the Girl, Fuse: Welcome back, Ben and Tracey.
  • Kesha, Gag Order: Drag them, girl.
  • Sufjan Stevens / Timo Andres / Conor Hanick, Reflections: I saw a number of reviews complaining about the fact this album is essentially modern classical music. Which, of course, is a selling point for me.
  • Danish String Quartet, Prism V: I wish the Danish had chosen a more modern Webern work in the way they had with Schnittke and Shostakovich, but it’s an impeccable pairing with Beethoven and Bach nonetheless.
  • Queens of the Stone Age, In Times New Roman…: This album actually reminds me a lot of … Like Clockwork, with which I also recently caught up.

Catalog

  • Thomas Frank, “Burn the Sails”: Thomas Frank is a productivity YouTuber, but this first foray into singing is really impressive.
  • Sudan Archives, Natural Brown Prom Queen: I overlooked this album in 2022.
  • Queens of the Stone Age, … Like Clockwork: I remember this album getting good reviews around the time it came out.
  • Luscious Jackson, Electric Honey: I reviewed this album back in 1999 but let it go for cash. I’m glad it’s back in the collection
  • Nena, ? (Fragezeichen): A number of tracks on this album served as a foundation for the multilingual album 99 Luftballons.
  • System of a Down, Toxicity: This band is pretty operatic, no?
  • Daryl Hall and John Oates, Private Eyes: There are way too many hits on this album for it not to be enjoyable.
  • Rosanne Cash, King’s Record Shop: This album holds up pretty well.

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Purchase log, 2023-06-27

[Jim Brickman - Picture This]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

CD
  • Hüsker Dü, Tonite Longhorn
  • The Donnas, Early Singles 1995-1999
Vinyl
  • Everything but the Girl, Fuse
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes

Catalog

CD
  • Audioslave, Audioslave
  • Guided By Voices, Do the Collapse
  • Jim Brickman, Picture This
Vinyl
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Live from the Ryman

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Purchase log, 2023-04-25

[Carlos Ponce - Carlos Ponce]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

CD
  • Everything But the Girl, Fuse
Vinyl
  • Amanda Shires, Live from Columbia Studio A
  • Hüsker Dü, Tonite Longhorn
  • Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, The Sound Emporium EP
  • Taylor Swift, folklore: the long pond studio session

Catalog

CD
  • Carlos Ponce, Carlos Ponce
  • Maná, ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños?
  • Moya Brennan, Two Horizons
Vinyl
  • Anderson .Paak, Venice
  • Outkast, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
  • Radiohead, OK Computer

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Craig Armstrong, As If to Nothing
  • Duran Duran, Rio Carnival
  • M, “Pop Muzik”
  • Nena, 99 Luftballons (40th Anniversary EP)
  • The Donnas, Early Singles 1995-1999
  • The Magnetic Fields, I
  • Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club (Expanded Edition)
  • TV Mania, Bored with Prozac and the Internet?
  • Wilco, Crosseyed Strangers: An Alternate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Purchase log, 2022-10-25

[Hajime Chitose - Shima Kyora Umui]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

CD
  • Taylor Swift, Midnights

Catalog

CD
  • Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath
  • Brodsky Quartet, Brodsky Unlimited
  • Brothers Johnston, Greatest Hits
  • Club Nisei, Japanese Music of Hawaii
  • Hajime Chitose, Shima Kyora Umui
  • Sarah Brightman, The Songs that Got Away
  • Tim McGraw, Everywhere
Vinyl
  • Everything But the Girl, Love Not Money
  • Prefab Sprout, Two Wheels Good
  • RJD2, Deadringer
  • Queen, The Game
  • We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Going to User It, “What’s the Point (The Boisterous One)”

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Kylie Minogue, Impossible Princess

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Purchase log, 2022-09-27

[Missing Persons - Spring Session M]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CD
  • Built to Spill, You in Reverse
  • Chara, Strange Fruit
  • clipping., CLPPNG
  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Concerto Grosso / Symbolon / Concerto For Trumpet And 5 Players / Double Quartet For Strings
  • Everything but the Girl, Adapt or Die: 10 Years of Remixes
  • Kylie Minogue, Kiss Me Once
  • Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear
  • Missing Persons, Spring Session M
  • The Lilac Time, & Love for All
  • The Roots, Rising Down
  • Tim McGraw, Not a Moment Too Soon
Vinyl
  • Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique
  • R.E.M., Chronic Town EP
  • Whiskeytown, Strangers Almanac

Reissues

CD
  • Duran Duran, Pop Trash
  • Duran Duran, Red Carpet Massacre

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Purchase log, 2022-04-26

[Bell Biv Devoe - Poison]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

Vinyl
  • Electronic, Remixes 1989-1992
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Altered Reels

Catalog

CD
  • Giya Kancheli, Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 (Jansug Kakhidze, Tsibilsi Symphony Orchestra)
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: Concertos for Piano and Orchestra Nos. 1-5 and 7
  • Glenn Gould, Consort of Musicke by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: English Suites, BMV 806-811
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: French Suites, BMV 812-817 / Overture in French Style, BMV 831
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: Goldberg Variations, BMV 988
  • Glenn Goud, Gould / Shostakovich / Poulenc
  • Glenn Gould, Gould Plays and Conducts Wagner
  • Glenn Gould, Live in Leningrad
  • Glenn Gould, Live in Salzburg and Moscow
  • Glenn Gould, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. I
  • Glenn Gould, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. II
  • Glenn Gould, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Op. 78 and Op. 106
  • Glenn Gould, Handel: Suites for Harpsichord / Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier II
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: Toccatas, BMV 910-916
  • Glenn Gould, Bach: Two- and Three-Part Inventions
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferan Towers
  • Glenn Gould, Gould Meets Menuhin
  • MC Solaar, Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo
  • Paul Hindemith, Mathis der Maler / Symphonic Metamorphoses (Karl Anton Rickenbacher, Bamberger Symphony)
  • Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
  • Thelonious Monk, The Complete Blue Note Recordings
  • The Donnas, Get Skintight
  • The Pretenders, Pretenders II
Vinyl
  • Norah Jones, Come Away with Me
  • Outkast, Aquemini

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Bel Biv Devoe, Poison
  • Childish Gambino, Kauai
  • Dillinger Escape Plan, Dissociation
  • Everlast, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
  • Everything But the Girl, Night and Day
  • Handsome Boy Modeling School, So … How’s Your Girl?
  • James Blake, Covers
  • Maria Callas, Pure
  • Melanie C, Northern Star
  • U2, A Celebration

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Purchase log, 2021-11-02

[The Cars - The Cars]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CD
  • Aretha Franklin, Aretha (1986)
  • Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  • Madonna, I’m Going to Tell You a Secret
  • Philip Glass, Music in Fifths / Two Pages (Bang on a Can All-Stars)
  • Starship, Knee Deep in the Hoopla
  • The Cars, The Cars
  • Soundtrack, My Neighbor Totoro
Vinyl
  • Everything But the Girl, The Language of Life
  • Paul Young, The Secret of Association
  • Torche, Harmonicraft

Reissues

CD
  • Spice Girls, Spice (Deluxe Edition)

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Purchase log, 2020-05-26

[Perfume Genius - Set My Heart on Fire Immediately]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New releases

CD
  • Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Reunions
  • Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  • Timo Andres / Jeremy Denk / Brad Mehldau / Randy Newman, I Still Play

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Everything But the Girl, Temperamental

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Looking ahead, May-July 2020

Washington State is under a stay-at-home order till May 4, which means I’m not going to be shopping for music at a local record store till then — assuming the order doesn’t get extended.

Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, May 15

Prior to No Shape, I’ve been ambivalent about Perfume Genius. I would hear excerpts of previous albums and not feel much compulsion to listen to more. I picked up No Shape from the thrift store mostly because it had garnered a lot of acclaim. And I liked it enough to look forward to this next release.

Various Artists, I Still Play, May 22

Bob Hurwitz retired as president of Nonesuch in 2017, and for his send-off, a number of artists wrote piano works for him. The title piece, written by John Adams, was Hurwitz’s reply when someone asked him if he still plays piano.

Inventions, Continous Portrait, July 10

Matthew Cooper of Eluvium and Mark Smith of Explosions in the Sky reunite for their first new album since 2015.

Rescheduled

  • Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow the Rules, July 10
  • Sam Smith, TBD (formerly titled To Die For), Fall 2020

Vinyl

Everything But the Girl, Temperamental, May 8

I like this album enough to want this vinyl reissue, but I didn’t like it enough to get the deluxe edition a few years back.

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