Mikami reset her post-fra-foa solo career in 2018 with a second debut album, confidently titled I AM Ready! This album looks like a continuation of its predecessor’s brighter sound.
Kronos Quartet, Long Time Passing, Oct. 9
Subtitled “Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger”, this album looks like a follow-up to 2017’s Folk Songs, with fewer Nonesuch label mates collaborating.
Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 9
This album didn’t take off in the same manner as Songs from the Big Chair, but I liked it nonetheless. The 4-disc super deluxe edition is tempting, but I’m fine with the 2-disc version. I don’t need the vinyl reissue because I bought it the first time around.
Sam Amidon, Sam Amidon, Oct. 23
Amidon returns to mostly traditional material on this self-titled album, described as “the fullest realization to date of his artistic vision.”
Mr. Bungle, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, Oct. 30
Mr. Bungle goes back in time to re-record their first demo tape.
U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Deluxe Edition), Oct, 30
I really liked this album when it came out, mostly because Pop was insufferable. I revisited it with the vinyl reissue and found it doesn’t age well. I will probably still get some version of this deluxe edition.
Duran Duran featuring Andy Wicket, Dreaming of Your Cars: 1979 Demos Pt. 2, Oct. 30
The first set of demos with Andy Wickett on vocals featured embryonic versions of what would become Duran Duran canon. On this follow-up, “Tel Aviv” is the only recognizable title, which doesn’t mean it sounds remotely familiar. Colored vinyl is already available for order, but a CD release is slated for October.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball, Oct. 16
The deluxe edition of Wrecking Ball was released during Record Store Day. This reissue serves up just the album and is available as part of Rhino’s Rocktober series.
Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live, Nov. 6
I couldn’t make the leap of following Paula Cole’s solo career, but her backing vocals on this live album is the real highlight
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.
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 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)
Kronos Quartet with Mahsa and Marjan Vadat, Placeless, March 22
This album is already available on streaming services, which means I’ve had a chance to listen to it. Unfortunately for Kronos and the Vadats, the new Solange album has also monopolized my attention.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 (Beth Gibbons, Krzysztov Penderecki, Polish National Radio Symphony), March 29
I don’t know about this one. Portished has never been a band I could internalize, and while I like Górecki’s third symphony, its reputation has become a bit outsize. I’m wondering how Penderecki got roped into it.
Emerson String Quartet and Evgeny Kissin, The New York Concert, April 12
The works on this program are tamer than what I normally pursue, but I like both the Emerson and Kissin.
Björk, Vespertine: A Pop Album as an Opera (Nationaltheater Mannheim), April 12
I’m willing to give this one a chance, if only because Vespertine is one of the few Björk albums I no longer own. I couldn’t get into it when it came out, so I welcome a chance to hear it in another context.
Jack Ingram, Ridin’ High … Again, April 26
I’ve been wondering what’s up with Jack Ingram. I stopped following him when he decided to make friends with country radio, but he left that behind at the end of his Big Machine contract. His 2016 album, Midnight Motel, is breezy and off-the-cuff, so I’m curious to hear what’s next.
NUMBER GIRL, OMOIDE IN MY HEAD 1 ~BEST & B-SIDES~, May 1
More time has passed since NUMBER GIRL’s break-up than the band was ever together, and a large portion of the band’s discography is out of print. So on the heels of their reunion tour, this collection of singles and b-sides gets reissued for a generation who missed out the first time.
Last year, new releases made up 7 percent of my music purchases. This year, that number ticks up to … 8 percent. For a while there, I didn’t know if I would find enough titles to make a Favorite 10, but I did.
Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: When you visit multiple record stores and ask what is playing, you probably ought to buy that album if the answer is the same at each store.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I also liked the Emotion Picture that accompanied the release of this album.
Christine and the Queens, Chris: Those dance moves!
Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: I didn’t realize the cover of “Sid to Hakuchuumu” was by MIKA, the singer “discovered” by Perez Hilton. MIKA’s circumspection about his sexuality drew a lot of attention and some controversy. I checked out his music as a result of the brouhaha and found little that was remarkable. That said, he nails the French interpretation of this very Ringo track.
Steve Grand, Not the End of Me: I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I hear a bit of Matt Alber’s swoon on some of the quieter moments on this album.
Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson, Landfall: Take all the swagger and posturing out of hip-hop, and it would probably sound a lot like Laurie Anderson.
Seattle Symphony with Roomful of Teeth, Berio: Sinfonia: This piece was awesome to hear live.
Nico Muhly & Thomas Bartlett, Peter Pears: Ceremonial Balinese Music: Oddly enough, I found a recording of Colin McPhee performing his gamelan transcriptions with Benjamin Britten, and I kind of wish Muhly and Bartlett had also done the unpublished scores.
Yore, EP1: Recent press seems to obscure the fact Yore released music under his own name, so we’ll stick with that preference and just mention this EP finds him moving in a direction more akin to Cocteau Twins or even Utada Hikaru.
Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi:Her sound has gotten darker since her comeback.
Other favorites from the year:
John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once
Leo Imai, VLP
Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!
Craig Armstrong, Sun on You
Tracey Thorn, Record
Renee Fleming, Broadway
Igor Stravisnky, Chant Funebre / Le Sacre du Printemps
Eponymous 4, Travis
OK, I’m being a bit cheeky including my own album, Travis, on this list. I finished recording it in 2016, so I’d been sitting on it for more than a year. In all that time, I’ve not gotten sick of hearing it day in and day out, and when I compare it with other albums I’ve recorded, it sounds like a proper, professional work.
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.