This EP finds UA going back to a more pop sound, very reminiscent of HORIZON.
The Lindas Lindas, Growing Up, June 3
This album is already available on streaming services, and it’s a burner.
Patty Griffin, Tape, June 10
Patty Griffin’s debut album, Living With Ghosts, was pretty much her demo tape. I admit I haven’t followed Griffin since the mid-2000s, but I am curious to see more of her lo-fi side.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, XI: BLEED HERE NOW, July 15
… Trail of Dead was the last rock show to which I attended before SARS-CoV2 slammed the world shut. It feels like yesterday.
Ty Herndon, Jacob, July 15
Ty Herndon has been talking up this album since before writing and recording had finished. He’s a mainstream singer at heart, so I’m not expecting a makeover on the level of Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. But he does seem to be swinging for the fences on this one.
Perfume, PLASMA, July 27
The pandemic has really messed up my sense of time. FUTURE POP was released in 2018, and I saw Perfume in concert the following year. Like the … Trail of Dead album, it doesn’t seem that long ago.
Cracker, Cracker, May 27
Cracker’s self-titled debut album turns 30 years old in 2022, and the album hasn’t see a vinyl reissue in all that time.
I can’t say I expected much from 2021 given how Generation X has turned out to be such dumb fucks, but I didn’t anticipate those expectations should have been lower. If the current trajectory holds, 2022 can already go fuck itself.
At least we got a new ABBA album out of the deal.
ABBA, Voyage: When Frida sang the opening notes of “I Still Have Faith in You,” I hadn’t realized how starved I was to hear that voice, those voices. Voyage also pulls off the remarkable feat of picking up exactly where the band left off in 1982, practically ignoring the musical developments that came in the wake of ABBA’s hiatus. It makes sense for the virtual live show. Why let 2022 intrude on 1982? It’s also remarkable how the band’s lyrics are darker than I remember. But I was 8 years old the first time I was an ABBA fan, so a lot of that subtext would have been lost on me.
Duran Duran, FUTURE PAST: ABBA shows how you can take the past into the present. Duran Duran takes the future into the past. Duran Duran has always tried to run parallel with the contemporary, but on some albums, they skew too heavy on relevancy. (I’m looking at you, Red Carpet Massacre.) With FUTURE PAST, Duran Duran embraces its past self, grounding all the experience of a 4-decade career into the fundamentals that make their signature sound.
Deafheaven, Infinite Granite: Yes, I’m far more into post-rock than heavy metal, so the fact this album embrace more of the former and less of the latter does not disappoint me in the least. Toward the end of the album, we do get treated to the scream vocals.
sungazer, Perihelion: Adam Neely is correct when he says recorded music has been too de-valued to be a reliable income source. As much as I love this sungazer album, I’m not going to complain if the next one takes years to arrive, if it ever does.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I don’t think I’ve spun an Utada Hikaru song this much since “Be My Last”. I also love that all the remixes of “Beautiful World” are distinctive enough to withstand repeated listening.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert: Glad to hear it’s lost no longer.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1: There’s a melodic turn at the end of the chorus on “Happily Unhappy” that pretty much encapsulates the longevity of Jam and Lewis. Volume 2 reportedly includes the pair’s biggest collaborator, Janet.
MONO, Pilgrimage of the Soul: I seem to like every other MONO album since Hymn to the Immortal World. Couldn’t get into For My Parents …, The Last Dawn or Now Here Nowhere, but I’m all about Requiem for Hell, Rays of Darkness and this album.
Helmet, Live and Rare: I have only the first three Helmet albums in my collection, but this live album makes me wish I had seen them live.
FINNEAS, Optimist: Sorry, Billie.
Some other favorites from the past year:
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Q: Will sex, God, and titties continue to be a part of the Yo! Majesty brand? A: Anything less is uncivilized. It’s time to be free.
Lil Nas X, MONTERO: Given the amount of time I spend in thrift shops, I have a bias against streaming-only releases. For the price Columbia is charging for downloads, I may as well wait for a physical release. I like this album, but downloading FLAC files from Bandcamp is the closest I’ll consider owning a digital release. I’m old that way.
Perfume, Polygon Wave: Yeah, this was really a maxi single. But I couldn’t stop playing this one either.
CZARFACE / MF DOOM, Super What?: To be honest, I don’t own very many MF DOOM albums, but man, that was a 2020 loss that affected me more than I expected.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: This album is good, but I have a sense that it could have been phenomenal with a few more tweaks.
Craig Armstrong, Nocturnes: Music for Two Pianos, Sept. 3
Armstrong wrote and recorded this album during lockdown, as pretty much every other musician trying to make sense of this awful zeitgeist.
James Blake, Friends That Break Your Heart, Sept. 10
I really liked Assume Form, but man, I hate the cover of this album.
MONO, Pilgrimage of the Soul, Sept. 17
Takaakira Goto hints that this album might have the fastest tempi on a MONO album, which is a direction I didn’t expect but more than welcome.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar (50th Anniversary), Sept. 17
Whatever you may think of Andrew Lloyd Webber now, back in the day, he was gutsy enough to make rock bands sound like Prokofiev, and that blur between electric guitars and dissonant harmonies has shaped my musical tastes ever since. So yeah, I’m all about an expanded version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Perfume, Polygon Wave, Sept. 22
I find it cool that 20+ years into a storied pop career, Perfume releases their first ever EP. They have tons of singles and a lot of albums. But EPs? Nah.
BADBADNOTGOOD, Talk Memory, Oct. 8
My enthusiasm for this new album is based entirely on III, which means I have three other albums with which I can either enhance or temper that enthusiasm.
Garbage, Garbage, Aug. 27
A repressing of a 2015 reissue.
Tokyo Jihen, Education (Kyouiku), Sept. 29 Tokyo Jihen, Adult (Otona), Sept. 29 Tokyo Jihen, Variety (Goraku), Sept. 29 Tokyo Jihen, Sports, Sept. 29 Tokyo Jihen, Discovery (Daihakken), Sept. 29 Tokyo Jihen, Music, (Ongaku), Sept. 29
You’re damn right I’m getting all 6 albums, even if I really only like two of the them.
Denk had yet to release his latest album, c.1300-c.2000, when he performed at Meany Centre. So he chose to focus mainly on Beethoven. The program did include John Adams’ I Still Play, which he wrote for retired Nonesuch Records president Bob Hurwitz.
Carolyn Shaw, Piano Concerto, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, Feb. 2
I think Shaw lost me in the second movement of her piano concerto, when the opening melody in the piano repeated. And repeated. And repeated. The first movement established this piece wasn’t minimalist, so why become one in the second movement?
When I first started exploring classical music, I bought a cassette tape with Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and Lieutenant Kije Suite. His Symphony No. 7 was tacked onto the album to fill out space, so I listened to it quite a lot. I haven’t explored other Prokofiev symphonies, but I have a fondness for the seventh.
I had planned to attend the Seattle Symphony’s performance of Heiner Goebbels’ Surrogate Cities, but it was scheduled on the day I was flying back from London. The concert was rescheduled a day earlier, and I traded my ticket for Amaedus Live. I was glad to learn it was the theatrical cut.
Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, March 6
The program on this concert included the Barber Adagio, a Razumovsky quartet by Beethoven and the Britten’s String Quartet No. 3. I particularly looked forward to the Britten quartet, having stumbled across recordings of his quartets at the thrift shop.
Morsel Trio, Good Shepherd Center, March 8
My violin teacher (Luke Fitzpatrick) and my music theory T.A. (Daniel Webbon) had pieces on this program.
Michael Tilson-Thomas, San Francisco Symphony, Benaroya Hall, March 19
I’ve known about Michael Tilson-Thomas for years, and I even have a number of his recordings as a pianist. So I wanted to hear him with the San Francisco Symphony before he ends his tenure in July 2020. The centerpiece of the concert was Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. I love the first movement of the piece, but I’ve never really internalized the remained of it.
untitled 2, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, March 22
Pierre Boulez never struck me as a person you’d really want to meet in real life, and that impression has spilled over into his music. So I don’t think I really heard a piece by Boulez until this concert. It wasn’t as grating as I was expecting it to be.
Perfume, Paramount Theatre, Apr. 10
I’m sure there were parts of this concert that were … prefabricated, but I didn’t mind. It was visually stunning, and Perfume were entirely gracious to Seattle fans. If I hadn’t gotten out of the hospital a few days before, I probably would have stood in the excessively long line at the merchandise table.
When the orchestra finished playing the premiere of George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 5, one audience member didn’t even wait for conductor Thomas Dausgaard to signal for the applause. It was a pretty monstrous piece.
Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang, Meany Hall, May 22
Samuel Carl Adams has followed his father’s footsteps into the world of composition. His father is John Adams. Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang performed a piece by the younger Adams, and he sounds nothing like his father. In fact, I would like to hear more from Sam Adams.
untitled 3, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, June 7
A reimagning of Schubert and Schumann. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In the Spotlight: Bolcom, Jolley, Poteat & Hausmann, Octave 9, June 11
Seattle Symphony transformed its education space into a high-tech venue to showcase more experimental programming. I’m looking forward to attending concerts in this new space.
Torche, Highline, Sept. 15
Sturgill Simpson made me realize I was getting too old for rock shows, so I almost decided against seeing Torche, despite loving the new album. Then I saw they were playing at a venue that is a 6-minute walk from my apartment. I’m glad I went.
Bugs Bunny on Broadway, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, Oct. 5
I wasn’t going to miss hearing What’s Opera, Doc? performed live. Even the 3-d animated new shorts weren’t too bad.
This first untitled concert of the 2019-2020 season showcased works for brass, and alternated between early and modern music. At the end of the concert, I was asked what I thought. I answered, “It was more conservative than I prefer.”
John Williams, Violin Concerto, St. Louis Symphony, Powell Hall, Nov. 3
I debated whether to take in a St. Louis Symphony concert while I was attending WordCamp US. A Sunday matinee seemed like a good option for someone navigating an unfamiliar city without a car. The light rail and bus system got me to the concert hall, which has a really nice sound. James Ehnes was the soloist for the Williams concerto, and yes, it’s unmistakably John Williams. For an encore, Ehnes did Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3.
Sleater-Kinney, Paramount Theatre, Nov. 23
I chose to sit in the mezzanine for this show because, yes, Sturgill Simpson.
One new song out of a 52-track career retrospective? I think I’m fine.
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop, Sept. 27
Don’t Tell a Soul was the first album I bought from the Replacements, so I’m interested to hear this period of the band’s history expanded on this boxed set.
Cocco, Star Shank, Oct. 2
Three years is pretty much the average gap between Cocco albums these days, now that she’s diversified into fashion, films, stage acting and literature. So she’s right on schedule.
Explosions in the Sky, The Rescue, Aug. 16 Explosions in the Sky, How Strange Innocence, Aug. 16
Explosions in the Sky wrote and recorded The Rescue in two weeks, and it’s a surprisingly tight album given its self-imposed constraints. Previously available only at the band’s shows, it gets a vinyl reissue for the band’s 20th anniversary.
Pinback, Summer in Abaddon (15th Anniversary Edition), Sept. 27
During my days as a record store employee, I got the impression Pinback was a fairly mellow band. So when I found this album at the thrift store, I was taken aback by how boisterous it was.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku, Nov. 3 NUMBER GIRL, DESTRUCTION BABY, Nov. 3
Just as Universal was starting to neglect NUMBER GIRL’s albums, the band reunites and gives the label a reason to dig into the archives. Oh, thank goodness.
Midnight Oil, Breathe Tour 97, Nov. 29
I’m unclear about whether this album was actually released on Record Store Day 2019. It showed up on the list, only to disappear as the April date approached. But it’s up on Discogs, so … where was it available? And is this reissue vaporware?
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.
The Favorite Edition 2008 spurred this exercise to revisit lists from 10 years ago. While the Favorite 10 has only one change, the other favorites include a number of new discoveries.
MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS, MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS
The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World
Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
Sam Amidon, All Is Well
Leo Imai, Fix Neon
Nico Muhly, Mothertongue
Spangle call Lilli line, ISOLATION
Other favorites from the year:
Matt Alber, Hide Nothing
ZAZEN BOYS, ZAZEN BOYS 4
Utada Hikaru, HEART STATION
Jennifer Koh, String Poetic
Janelle Monáe, Metropolis: The Chase Suite
Chris Walla, Field Manual
It took me a year and a half to get around to Santigold. I’m not sure why I hadn’t, and I can’t remember what finally spurred me to do so. I’m just glad I did. Chris Walla, unfortunately, must make way.
Perfume, Jennifer Koh and Janelle Monáe are retroactive entries, replacing hey willpower, Bob Mould and VOLA AND THE ORIENTAL MACHINE.
I must have really been tough on Utada Hikaru’s HEART STATION — it didn’t even rank at the time.
Competition for this list was tough. Matt Alber and ZAZEN BOYS could have squeezed into the Favorite 10, and even Janet Jackson and R.E.M. turned out some decent work that year. The cup runneth over.