In June 2019, I took the plunge back into music retail by volunteering at the Lifelong Thrift Store. This immediate access to the store’s CD stock has reshaped my listening habits. I bring back so many discs from my visits to the store, it’s rare that I’ll listen to something more than once. It makes finding new favorites a challenge.
Hans Abrahamsen, Schnee: Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I was so fascinated by it, I had to own a recording.
Ali Wong, Baby Cobra: I heard Baby Cobra was a really good comedy special, but I didn’t realize Wong had filmed the special in Seattle. And I’ve known about Wong back when Chelsea Lately was on the air. I could have seen this show live, dammit.
Easterhouse, Waiting for the Redbird: The classic rock station in Honolulu back in the late ’80s would play an occasional “modern rock” track. I may have caught Easterhouse’s “Come Out Fighting” once on that station, but it was enough to make me curious about the band — a curiosity I would not explore till more than 30 years later.
Kalapana, Kalapana: I didn’t realize how pervasive this album was on Hawaii pop radio when I was growing up. I was 3 years old when this album was released, but it would continue to dominate the airwaves as I grew more aware of my surroundings.
Infomatik, Technologies: Sometimes, the Internet does forget.
My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything: I missed out on the 2018 vinyl reissue of this album, so I settled for a bootleg pressing.
Robert Palmer, Secrets: This album was the pivot between the blue-eyed funk of Palmer’s early work and his embrace of a more new wave sound. It’s also one of his finest.
Rick Springfield, Tao: I’m a sucker for albums that forgo gaps and fades between tracks.
Boston, Boston: This album is against what punk music rebelled, but I like it anyway.
Roberta Flack, First Take: Stop underrating Roberta Flack!
This year was pretty slim on reissues. To be honest, I haven’t gotten through Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing: I can’t believe this album isn’t a towering classic of ’80s new wave. Cherry Pop thankfully gives it the deluxe treatment it deserves
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop: The Matt Wallace mix of Don’t Tell a Soul is ahead of its time. The drier sound would not become fashionable till after 1991, but heard today, Dead Man’s Pop feels contemporary.
Janet Jackson, Control: The Remixes: I didn’t realize how much I loved the mixes featured in Janet’s videos.
Loveless casts a big enough shadow over My Bloody Valentine’s work that it made me hesitant to explore the remainder of the band’s catalog, lest it fail to live up. That is not the case with Isn’t Anything, and I regret not ordering the remastered vinyl when I picked up Loveless a year ago.
Rick Springfield, Tao
A five-disc bargain box set of Rick Springfield albums got a discount on Amazon Prime Day, and I fully succumbed to FOMO when I bought it. I’ve always liked “Celebrate the Youth”, but it turns out Tao is Springfield’s most ambitious album of his 80s work. If you must own a second Springfield album — the first being Working Class Dog — Tao would be the one.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku
I hate to admit it, but … I’ve listened to the four studio albums of NUMBER GIRL enough times to want more variety from the live albums. Still, NUMBER GIRL is that rare band where their live albums are hotter than their studio work.
Janet Jackson, Control: The Remixes
I didn’t realize how much I prefer the remixed version of “Let’s Wait a While” till I heard it on this reissued compilation. I’m also reminded of how awesome “The Pleasure Principle” is.
Missy Elliott, Da Real World
I’ve read a number of lukewarm reviews for this album, and compared the work preceding and following it, I could see how it might seem not up-to-snuff. But that’s not saying much. It’s still a solid album and light years ahead of The Cookbook.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing (Revised Expanded Edition)
I’m not sure how this album has been relegated to the vinyl dollar bin. It’s damn awesome and ripe for rediscovery.
Band of Susans, The Word and the Flesh
I remember reading about Band of Susans in Pulse! magazine and wondering if I would ever encounter any of their albums out in the wild. It took 30 years, but it happened.
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.
Anthony De Mare, Pianos and Vocals (Music of Meredith Monk and John Cage)
Given how well De Mare sequenced the pieces on this album, I bet recitals featuring these works would have been amazing.
Easterhouse, Waiting for the Redbird
Contenders is the album that has remained in print, but Waiting for the Redbird appealed to me more as it played on the turntable.
Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson
The Janet we know today began with Control, and it’s the furthest Miss Jackson will go in live performances. Of the two albums that preceded it, this self-titled debut has the better songs.
Justin Timberlake, Futuresex / LoveSounds
I think I reacted more to the production of this album than to the actual songs.
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
I didn’t find Golden Hour terribly impressive, but I didn’t want to dismiss Kacey Musgraves out of hand. So I picked up Same Trailer Different Park when I found it at the thrift store. That’s when I understood.
I didn’t realize just how much Kalapana’s first album dominated radio broadcast in Hawaii during the 1970s. I picked up a vinyl copy of the album on a whim, having grown up with the name but not necessarily the music. It turns out I heard them a lot when I was still too young to care about building a music collection.
I’ve been fascinated by the third mode of limited transposition since we covered them in a music theory class I took in 2017. The Turangalîla Symphony is one of those works you’re told to know, even if takes you a while to get around to listening to it. The 2-disc vinyl edition of this recording includes Toru Takemitsu’s November Steps, which gets dropped on subsequent CD reissues.
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.
I traveled to Austin for the record convention this past weekend. I didn’t find much of what I wanted, but I did find a lot of what I didn’t know I wanted. This list includes purchases at Waterloo Records and End of an Ear.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!
Kronos Quartet with Masha and Marjan Vadat, Placeless
a-ha, Hunting High and Low
Bill Frisell, Before We Were Born
Dwight Yoakam, Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room
Grizzly Bear, Shields
Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
Joy Division, Closer
Robert Palmer, Pride
Robert Palmer, Some People Can Do What They Like
Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time
Tomita, The Planets
Witold Lutoslawski, Symphonies / Concertos / Vocal and Choral Works
Branford Marsalis Quartet, Crazy People Music
Everything But the Girl, Everything But the Girl
Franz Josef Haydn, Streichquartette, op. 20, 2 & 4 (Quarteto Esterhazy)
Giovanni Palestrina, Pope Marcellus Mass / Stabat Mater / Three Motets (Pro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner)
Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson
Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar
Megadeth, So Far … So Good … So What!
Olivier Messiaen, La Nativité du Seigneur (Jennifer Bate)
A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
In 2008, my collection tapered off with releases before 1987. I went so far as to call 1986 an uninteresting year. I’ve since had time to explore the year in greater depth.
The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence
Janet Jackson, Control
Soundtrack, Megazone 23 Song Collection
Paul Simon, Graceland
The Smiths, The Queen is Dead
Prince & the Revolution, Parade
Nakamori Akina, Fushigi
Duran Duran, Notorious
Club Nouveau, Life, Love and Pain
Other favorites from the year:
Anita Baker, Rapture
Bananarama, True Confessions
Fishbone, In Your Face
Run DMC, Raising Hell
Peter Gabriel, So
John Adams, Harmonielehre
Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.
R.E.M., Lifes Rich Pageant
Pet Shop Boys, Please
Kronos Quartet, Music of Sculthorpe, Sallinen, Glass, Nancarrow, Hendrix
The Human League, Crash
If you told Younger Me that Older Me would like So and Raising Hell, Younger Me would wretch. At the time, Run DMC and Peter Gabriel were so ubiquitous, I felt I would never need to hear “Walk This Way” or “Sledgehamer” for the rest of my life.
One advantage of growing older is no longer caring about looking at all fashionable.
Younger Me would have been puzzled by the inclusion of Dwight Yoakam on the extended list, to which Older Me would have to tell Younger Me to wait 9 years.
Younger Me: Oh, I was wondering whether I should get that Human League album. Is it really that good? Older Me: Yeah, but I don’t think you’d quite appreciate it at your station in life. Wait a few years. Younger Me: Really? How many? Older Me: 30.