Swing Out Sister, Blue Mood, Breakout and Beyond: The Early Years, Aug. 12
This 8-disc boxed set covers Swing Out Sister’s first three albums, supplementing them with B-sides, remixes and a live album. I like two of the three albums from that era — It’s Better to Travel and Kaleidoscope World — so I’m curious but not entirely tempted.
R.E.M., Chronic Town EP, Aug. 19
This 40th anniversary edition would be the first time the Chronic Town EP is released as its own separate CD. It was previously released as part of Dead Letter Office, a compilation of B-sides and rare tracks. I have to admit I didn’t find Dead Letter Office compelling, save for the Chronic Town tracks. So I welcome this reissue.
Madonna, Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, Aug. 19
Madonna returns to Warner Bros., bringing along the albums she recorded during her time away from the label. This compilation of remixes marks the new business arrangement.
Blondie, Against the Odds: 1974-1982, Aug. 26
Blondie has always struck me as a band for which I am the target market, but I own only Parallel Lines and The Best of Blondie. This boxed set includes all six studio albums, plus a few extra discs of rarities. I’ve been on a boxed set kick lately, so … sure why not?
Santigold, Spirituals, Sept. 9
Santigold releases her first full album since 99 Cents, which was released in 2016, and I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions, a mixed tape released in 2018. It’s also the first release of her own label, Little Jerk Records.
Death Cab for Cutie, Asphalt Meadows, Sept. 16
I passed on Death Cab’s previous album, Thank You for Today. Given the band’s Pacific Northwest roots, they’re still something of a big deal in the area, but I do find myself reacting to this album news similar to a non-Duranie learning about a new Duran Duran album.
Steve Reich, Runner / Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, Sept. 30
Runner would be the second Steve Reich release on Nonesuch in 2022. I can’t say Reich / Richter really grabbed my attention. Nonesuch hinted that a boxed set similar to John Adams’ Collected Works is in the works for Reich.
Charlie Puth, CHARLIE, Oct. 7
I still can’t believe a Subway commercial got me into Charlie Puth.
Christine and the Queens, Redcar les adorables etoiles, Oct. 28
TIL the translation of this album title is “Redcar the adorable star”, and Redcar is an alter ego of Christine.
David Bowie, Earthlng, Aug. 12
I hadn’t yet done a deep dive into the works of David Bowie when this album was reissued for Record Store Day. So yes, I missed out. But I bided my time. For a figure as large as Bowie, these things don’t stay out of print forever.
Moby, Everything Is Wrong, Aug. 12
Moby is reissuing a number of early albums on colored vinyl, and while I like Everything Is Wrong, I’m more of a fan of Animal Rights. So I was a bit surprised to see Animal Rights was left out. Then I visited Moby’s online store and discovered it still sold the 2016 reissue of Animal Rights. Yeah, I ordered it. And yeah, I’m probably going to pick this one up as well.
… And You Will Us Know By the Trail of Dead, IX, Sept. 9
Music on Vinyl reissues are always hit or miss when it comes to availability in the US.
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
Spring break 1996. A number of college friends and I traveled to Moloka`i for the weekend. Having lived most of my life up till that point in highly urbanized Honolulu, I never imagined a place where every destination could be described in the singular — not a grocery store but the grocery store.
We rented a pair of cars, and I couldn’t abide by the radio. So we went to the record store, where I picked cassette tapes of Sade’s Diamond Life and Madonna’s Bedtime Stories. I liked Bedtime Stories enough to get it on CD when we got back to Honolulu.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
A year had passed since I returned from a college exchange program in New York City, and I could feel my focus slowly changing from music to journalism.
I was contributing more to the college newspaper, and I felt the music program was changing in a way I didn’t like. A beloved composition teacher had retired, and one of his replacements hadn’t yet developed the skill of letting students find their own voice, even if they were floundering. It was such an encounter that steered me away from composition a number of years after I graduated from college.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
I was features editor of the college newspaper, which made me realize I was too dictatorial for management. I’ve avoided taking on leadership positions in my career since then.
On this trip, I smoked marijuana for the first time. I also had my first same-sex kiss — with a straight guy. With his girlfriend supervising. It was a good trip.
What do you think of it now?
Bedtime Stories is definitely one of the albums you should own if you’re a very casual Madonna listener.
She faltered a bit with Erotica, between a disastrous appearance on David Letterman and a controversial photo book that seems to have been forgotten. One of the photos from Sex popped up as an Internet meme, misattributing a naked Madonna as Marilyn Monroe.
Madonna recalibrated with Bedtime Stories, focusing more on a smoother R&B sound and even enlisting Björk to contribute the title track.
I gave this album a cursory preview when it first appeared in mid-2018, but I didn’t follow up till now. Shires’ husband, Jason Isbell, sang the album’s praises, and he’s right — To the Sunset is ambitious.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert
I went to the Saturday world premiere of this work in 2018, so it was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list.
Frida, Something’s Going On
This album would be akin to Janet Jackson’s Control in the way Frida distances herself from ABBA.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi
No, this album won’t dislodge Shiina’s first three albums off the pedestal, but it’s her most diverse since Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, and Shiina on an off-day is still many leagues interesting than most artists at their apex.
Soundtrack, Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu Ka?
My experience with anime can be divided in two: before “Do You Remember Love?” and after “Do You Remember Love?” I will always treasure Robotech for introducing me to Japanese animation, but that show really did butcher the source material.
Madonna, Madame X
The singles preceding Madame X‘s release did not do the album justice. It’s a far more ambitious work than the singles let on.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing
The Politics of Dancing is a reliably 80s synth album, but that title track is an unshakable earworm. Cherry Red in the UK is giving it an expanded reissue in July 2019.
Roger Daltery, Under a Raging Moon
This album is steeped in the ’80s, which is probably why it appeals to me so much.
One of these years, I’m not going to have a big enough pool from which to draw a mid-year Favorite Edition list. This year got close.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): The big criticism of this cover album is the slavish reproduction of the originals, as if Weezer did nothing to inject its own personality in these songs. The studio geek in me, however, marvels at such a feat. It may be a karaoke exercise, but it’s a painstaking one, not unlike art students reproducing the masters.
Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tricky proposition to distill seven centuries of music in a single program, but Denk takes an admirable stab at it. I have no objections to his choices.
James Blake, Assume Form: Blake’s previous album was lengthy and not terribly engaging. He rights the ship on this one.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert: Where Become Ocean explored the Seattle Symphony’s lower and middle registers, Become Desert hovers almost exclusively in the upper ends.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: Shiina’s first three albums looms large over the rest of her work, Tokyo Jihen included. Sandokushi is a fascinating mess — lots of seemingly disparate songs threaded together as a single program. It’s jarring but coherent, and probably the best summation of her style thus far.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: Like Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake, Legacy! Legacy! was playing on a record store sound system and made me stop to find out who is Jamila Woods.
Solange, When I Get Home: There are no obvious singles on this album, which is fine because it’s not intended to be a singles album.
Madonna, Madame X: A quotation of Tchaikovsky’s signature work could have backfired, but when the Nutcracker interrupts “Dark Ballet,” it doesn’t feel forced. The singles preceding the release of Madame X didn’t hint at this kind of creative stretch.
The Drums, Brutalism: Jonny Pierce tones down the Joy Division influence and brings forth the beats.
I had high but cautious hope for 57th and 9th. That will learn me.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi, May 27
This album adds six new tracks to the seven already released in various downloads and singles. Does anyone else get the sense Ringo-chan is phoning it in? I would think a 20-year anniversary would warrant a big reissue campaign in addition to a new album.
Eluvium, Piano Works, May 31
The deluxe edition vinyl release of this new album of piano works includes a sheet music book of Eluvium’s keyboard works.
Madonna, Madame X, June 14
Rebel Heart turned out better than I expected, but that seems to be the exception than the rule in recent years.
Prince, Originals, June 21
This compilation brings together demos of songs Prince wrote for other singers. I wonder if in the distant future we’ll hear The Family with Prince’s vocals.
Sigur Rós, Ágætis byrjun (Deluxe Edition), June 21
I like Sigur Rós, and Ágætis byrjun is a fine album. I’m not sure I love it enough for 4-CDs or 7-LPs.
James Blake, Assume Form, May 31
I hesitated on getting James Blake’s latest album till I found an unopened copy at the thrift store for $3. It’s turned out to be one of the better releases of 2019.