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.
1979 is officially the year I started collecting music. And it’s all because of a post-disco hit about the Twilight Zone theme song. This list, though, couldn’t have been compiled till 2006.
Gang of Four, Entertainment!
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita
Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd
Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach
Midnight Oil, Head Injuries
Talking Heads, Fear of Music
The Clash, London Calling
Michael Jackson, Off the Wall
The Police, Reggatta de Blanc
Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl
Other favorites from the year:
The Manhattan Transfer, Extensions
The B-52’s, The B-52’s
The hit in question is “Twilight Tone” by the Manhattan Transfer.
Though more renowned as a jazz vocal quartet, the group wouldn’t get on my radar till “Twilight Tone” invaded the airwaves. Search YouTube for a performance of the song on a variety show — it’s amazing what people will endure for art. Or gimmickry.
My parents relented and bought the Extensions album for me. Of course, I played “Twilight Tone” to death, but I also dug the other songs on the album. Unlike “Twilight Tone”, they ranged from doo-wop to a capella. One song was a bizarre novelty with the singers voices rendered at chipmunk speed. You could say this was Manhattan Transfer’s disco album.
I’ve included it in the extended list. As fond as I am of the album, I have a better sense of what 1979 really offered as a year in music.
I save my concert ticket stubs, but I’ve never taken an inventory of how many I have. So one night, I decided to scan them all. This stub is the oldest I could find.
Monsters of Grace is a multimedia piece by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, and this staging was part of the SXSW Interactive festival in 1999. It had been two years since I moved from Honolulu, so the idea that I could go to a Philip Glass performance left me awestruck. Better yet, the show was restricted to badge holders, and I had a media badge.
I remember nothing of the music. It’s Philip Glass, so I imagine there were a lot of arpeggios and harmonic motion in thirds to distant keys. Since he was a keynote interview that year, Glass conducted and performed with his ensemble.
I do remember it was 3D, which meant I had to wear glasses, and Wilson’s staging in that regard was quite stunning.
None of my ticket stubs date earlier than 1999 because I had an evil entry-level work schedule at a newspaper. For the first year and a half, I worked nights. Then I was moved to early mornings on a 4-day/10-hour schedule. I wouldn’t have an office-hours schedule till the start of 1999.
That year was the first SXSW festival I attended. Later in the week, I would go to my first Japan Nite.
I saw Philip Glass in person two more times. The first was a year and a half later with Kronos Quartet performing his score to Dracula. The last was in 2012, when he took a bow after a staging of Einstein on the Beach at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, Calif.
Well, Frank Ocean finally dropped his much anticipated album Blonde. I think the fall 2016 release schedule can get drunk and go home now.
John Adams, Scheherezade.2, Sept. 30
John Adams brought Scheherezade.2 to the Seattle Symphony last season. Leila Josefowicz must have dropped some mean gauntlet for Adams to create a work of such athleticism. I’m not sure if I absorbed enough of the piece in the concert hall because that was a lot of music.
Steve Reich, The ECM Recordings, Sept. 30
From what I can tell on Amazon, this reissue of Steve Reich’s albums on ECM won’t split the movements of each work into individual tracks. That would seem to be an important oversight to correct on a reissue.
MONO, Requiem for Hell, Oct. 14, 2016
Reports indicate the orchestras are on their way back on this album.
Nico Muhly and Tietur, Confessions, Oct. 21
Songs inspired by YouTube comments performed by a Baroque ensemble — if anyone can make this premise work, it’s Nico Muhly.
Shaprece, COALS, Oct. 28
Shaprece’s performance with Seattle Symphony was riveting, and I’ve been looking forward to this album since.
Ty Herndon, House on Fire, Nov. 11
Ty Herndon announced this album was to be released back in May when he performed in Seattle back in February, but now it looks like he has some label interest. No date has been specified for the release.UPDATE, 09/11/2016: Herndon announced a release date of Nov. 11, 2016, with pre-orders starting on Oct. 11, i.e. National Coming Out Day.
Angelo Badalamanti, Music from Twin Peaks, Sept. 9
I can’t hear that descending/ascending bass line without picturing the dancing little man.
Madonna, Something to Remember, Sept. 13
Ray of Light seems to have dropped off the release schedule for now with Something to Remember taking its place.
Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl, Sept. 23
Like Wrecking Ball before it, Red Dirt Girl was a pivotal album for Emmylou Harris, marking her transition from interpreter to songwriter.
Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa, Sept. 23
I’m hoping this release is the first in a series of Kronos Quartet vinyl reissues because I’m not yet in the financial straits to track down the European pressing of Black Angels.
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Sept. 23
This reissue was actually listed for a March release, which came and went without notice. Then it popped back up for September.
Sting, The Studio Collection, Sept. 30
Brand New Day and Sacred Love make their first appearance on vinyl, but the only album I’m really interested in is Ten Summoner’s Tales, a European release of which I can still snag online.