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.
I had discovered so much music in 1987 that at the time, I thought 1988 was a dud by comparison. Over the years, I’ve discovered that is not the case. The Favorite 10 doesn’t change from the original list, but look at that expanded list.
In Tua Nua, The Long Acre
Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust
Kronos Quartet, Winter Was Hard
The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good
Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
Living Colour, Vivid
Duran Duran, Big Thing
Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
The Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba
Other favorites from the year:
Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
John Adams, Nixon in China
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Savvy Show Stoppers
Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
Sarah McLachlan, Touch
Erasure, The Innocents
Sade, Stronger Than Pride
The Pogues, If I Should Fall from Grace with God
The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues
The Godfathers, Birth, School, Work, Death
Camouflage, Voices & Images
Ambitious Lovers, Greed
Iron Path, Iron Path
Toni Childs, Union
Throwing Muses, House Tornado
Pixies, Surfer Rosa
N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton
Information Society, Information Society
Ofra Haza, Shaday
The Smiths, Rank
Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
I guess I really limited the expanded list 10 years ago so I wouldn’t have to do so much writing. The Pogues, the Waterboys, the Godfathers, Ambitious Lovers, Ofra Haza, the Smiths and Lucinda Williams would not have appeared on that list — I’ve discovered those albums only in the last 6 years.
Like Ambitious Lovers before it, Ofra Haza’s Shaday was an album I intended to buy when it was released in 1988, but it never managed to leap ahead of other priorities.
At the time, critical consensus about Haza seemed mixed. Some writers weren’t too keen on the commercial direction her international albums were taking, while the listening public buoyed them to the top of the world music charts.
I picked up on that ambivalence. I had my hands full getting into college rock and modern classical music. Shaday sounded like something that fit into my burgeoning interests, but without a way to preview it, I couldn’t be sure. So my curiosity was diverted and wasn’t rekindled until I ran across a cheap copy on vinyl 27 years later.
The precocious but unschooled teenager I was probably would have dug the novelty of an Israeli pop album for a spell, then moved on to something more fashionable. As an adult, I find the primitiveness of the analog synthesizers comforting, especially that robotic bass so emblematic of the late ’80s.
But I’ve also had a chance to be exposed to other international pop music in the time since I first encountered Shaday, and I’d say the album is on par with what Molotov or Värttinä do when mixing American popular music with their home culture. A clueless gringo such as myself can latch onto the backbeat while a local can appreciate the music’s core.
I don’t need to know a lick of Hebrew to appreciate Haza’s voice, and like the best J-pop artists, she throws in a few English phrases as punctuation.