I remember this album causing a bit of controversy among my record store co-workers at the time of its release. Cave In had recorded a number of metal albums till Antenna, which was the band’s major label debut. Antenna does not hide its commercial ambitions, and some of those said co-workers did not like this change in creative direction. Listening back to it, I have to say I really like it, which probably means I would not be the target market for their more metallic work.
Kraftwerk, Techno Pop (a.k.a. Electric Café)
You would think I would already have owned the entire Kraftwerk discography by now, and yet, they are the first band in decades that I’ve discovered through used vinyl instead of used CD. Yeah, I’ve dabbled with downloads of their albums in the past, but I’ve taken an earnest interest in them now. Techno Pop, a.k.a. Electric Café, is one of my favorites, mostly because of the Saturday Night Live skit Sprockets.
Bell Biv Devoe, Poison
When Poison showed up on the Record Store Day 2022 List, I immediately launched Spotify to determine if it were something for which I would want to budget. I was a teen-ager at the time of the album’s release, and I distinctly remember dismissing it as something cooler kids would like. I have since grown to appreciate new jack swing, and yes, I bought this album when RSD rolled around.
Manu Chao, Clandestino
I sold a lot of copies of this album when I worked at Waterloo Records, but I had no curiosity to find out why it was so popular. A few months into the job, I quickly sensed that Austinites on the whole did not like the same things that I liked. But I picked it up for $0.10 at Lifelong Thrift Shop, and I understand now why it’s still a popular album. Chao threads a lot of genres into his music, but he doesn’t get too clever, lest he falls into the Sting trap.
Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale and the Right Steppers
The entire album is great, but “We Cry Together” is fucking devastating.
The Linda Lindas, Growing Up
“Racist Sexist Boy” could have just been a flash in the pan, but oh damn, the Linda Lindas got that righteous indignation down pat.
TwoSet Violin, Fantasia
Eddy Chen and Brett Yang are common period guys through and through. I don’t look to them to advocate for Brian Ferneyhough or Peter Sculthorpe. So this EP of original music composed by Jordan He is absolutely on-brand for the duo — contemporary but rooted very much in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Back at the dawn of the recorded music industry, albums did little more than collect an artist’s last few singles onto a compilation, a model Japan still follows to some extent. Most of the tracks on BAD Mode was released as singles, and I have to admit, I couldn’t see how they all worked as an album. Then Utada provided the last few tracks, and it became apparent BAD Mode just might be their best album. I’m still very much attached to Ultra Blue, DISTANCE and First Love, but BAD Mode is quickly rising up the ranks.
Black, Wonderful Life
How is this album not more popular than it is? Hatakeyama Miyuki even covered the title track. It’s actually quite popular in the UK, but the US needs to catch up.
Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point
Similar to Duran Duran, Tears for Fears has never really recorded the same album twice, and The Tipping Point follows that tradition. This album resembles Duran Duran’s FUTURE PAST in the way it tips a hat to earlier work while still sounding modern. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith know what works for each other, and The Tipping Point reflects that ease, despite the difficulty in getting the album made.
Midnight Oil, RESIST
The modus operandi of a Midnight Oil album hasn’t changed in 40 years, but what’s unfortunate is how much dire the world has become for not heeding the band’s warnings in all that time.
My mom bought the single “Whatcha Doin’?” for me when I was 8 years old, so I didn’t exactly have quite the appreciation for the song that I do now. Decades later, I picked up the self-titled album from whence the single came at the Austin Record Convention, and not being an expert on late 70s funk, I really dug it. The band is tight. Pauline Wilson sounds incredible. And the songwriting? Top notch. Seawind has been reissued a number of times in Japan, which indicates this album is vastly underrated here in the States.
Various Artists, Living in Oblivion, Vol. 4
Just look at this track list and tell me this compilation isn’t crack for 80s music fans.
MF DOOM, MM FOOD?
Kate Bush sang the digits of pi and wrote a song about doing laundry. So a hip-hop album about food should not be outside the realm of plausibility.
At the onset of the 1980s, ABBA quietly disappeared. They broke up, but from what I remember, they never publicized it. No big announcement. No farewell tour. Just the inevitability of tastes moving on without them. It took a decade before audiences realized how much they missed the quartet, by which time, they shut door on a possible reunion. Until it actually happened, and the world lost its collective shit, myself included.
Electric Light Orchestra, Time
Following the movie musical excess of Xanadu, Electric Light Orchestra downsized the orchestral part of their sound to include more synthesizers. As such, Time dabbles a toe into new wave but does not fully dive in. I can’t confess to being the target market of ELO’s pre-Xanadu work, but this tentative detour appeals to me.
Styx, Kilroy Was Here
Similar to ELO, Styx also went into a more keyboard-oriented sound with Kilroy Was Here, and like Time, it doesn’t completely abandon the band’s core sound. So it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a new wave detour, even if the synthesizer effects give it that early 80s sheen. But as established by Time, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.
Falco, Falco 3
The American vinyl pressing of Falco 3 replaced the two big hits of the album — “Rock Me Amadeus” and “Vienna Calling” — with unimpressive remixes. As a cost-conscious teen of the late ’80s, I could not abide by this bait-and-switch and sold my copy to a used music shop months after the purchase. I would not think of the album 39 years till a tinge of nostalgia and a reasonably-priced used copy brought the title back into my collection. The remainder of the album wasn’t bad, but I still wanted those single edits. Thankfully, an anniversary CD reissue of the album included the mixes of my youth.
Helmet, Live and Rare
I am by no means an officiando on the works of Helmet, but I have a sense I would have preferred the Big Day Out set over the CBGB’s set back in my youth of the early ’90s. Today? I much prefer the CBGB set.
Tokyo Jihen, Sougou
This two-disc retrospective of Tokyo Jihen isn’t limited just to singles, otherwise it could have easily fit onto once disc. Once the material enters the post-Sports era, I have to admit I lost interest. So the first disc is probably going to get more spins than the second if you have the same reaction.
Duran Duran makes it a point to make each album sound distinctive, but that’s often meant the band would run away from the fundamentals which made them famous. FUTURE PAST, as the title indicates, finds the band embracing its past while still facing forward. Generations of bands in their wake is proof enough they were onto something enduring.
Adam Neely said his goal was to be the Neil deGrasse Tyson of music theory education, and I say, he already is. But he can also write. If you had to file Perihelion in a section of a record store, jazz would be as a good a fit as any, but it wouldn’t be a complete descriptor of what Neely and drummer Shawn Crowder do.
Sugababes, One Touch (Deluxe Edition)
One Touch has grown on me over the last year, and the previously unreleased demos on this deluxe edition would have fit well on the album proper. I didn’t even mind the remixes on the second disc.
Spandau Ballet, True
I picked up this album on vinyl a long time ago, but I hadn’t really listened to it since. So I gave it a few plays on Spotify and grew to like it enough to want it on CD.
ZARD, BEST ~Request Memorial~
ZARD has always existed on the periphery of my Japanese music fandom. I had a sense they would be too mainstream J-Pop for me. This compilation showed up in the thrift store, and yes, it’s quite mainstream J-pop but not cloyingly so.
I couldn’t really get into Billie Eilish’s second album, but I really like the one her brother made.
I bet the metal fans hate this album. Since I’m more of a post-rock / shoegazer fan, I find it brilliant. Also, gutsy. It takes bravery to risk change that alienates a portion of your fan base.
I sold this album when cash got short, but “Foolish” is one of those songs that just pop into my head for no reason. So on a recent trip to the thrift shop, I welcomed this album back in my collection and discovered how well it’s held up since its release. Yeah, it’s a bit long — as albums of the CD era are wont to do — but the best bits overshadow the filler.
Gang of Four, 77-81
This sprawling boxed set of Gang of Four’s first two albums contains a full live album, an EP of singles and a cassette tape of early demos.
I bought the vinyl version back in March, but I also wanted to pick up the CD boxed set as well. The packaging is stark but beautiful. My only objection is the digital downloads that accompany the CD set. The sides of the digitized cassette are not broken down by track. But I have to admit, that is punk as fuck.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1
Yeah, it’s about damn time Jam and Lewis took top billing. There are singers of whom I probably would never have heard if they hadn’t worked with Jam and Lewis.
Cyndi Lauper, True Colors
Similar to ZZ Top’s Afterburner, True Colors followed an immensely popular album, and while its predecessor had more hits, this album is the better collection of songs. Despite incredibly corporate covers of the title tracks in subsequent years, the original has some daring arrangement choices, particularly the fake ending with just percussion, an underrated technique in pop production.
Jeff Mangum, Live at Jittery Joe’s
If you are a fan of On Avery Island or In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, there is little you’ll find objectionable on this solo live album.
Camper Van Beethoven / Cracker, The Virgin Years
The compilation was only made available as a promo, but it’s one that ought to get an official release. As the title indicates, it compiles tracks from two Camper Van Beethoven albums and two Cracker albums, all released by Virgin in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
This album has a lot of attitude, which it should given Kesha’s well-publicized legal battles. It’s fundamentally a pop album, with rock and country providing a gritty sheen.
ZZ Top, Afterburner
Eliminator has the bigger hits, but Afterburner is the better album.
Prefab Sprout, Two Wheels Good (a.k.a Steve McQueen)
Prefab Sprout is one of those bands about whom I knew without actually hearing their music. So it was nice to discover they fell somewhere between Yaz and ABC in their pursuit of a jazzy new wave sound.
TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
I didn’t get TV on the Radio at first. The few excerpts I heard seemed unfocused and tuneless. But I picked up their albums from thrift shop to see if I could eventually understand. By then, I had listened to more hip-hop and R&B and realized the band is Black af. A decade and a half ago, my rockist collection had little room for Black voices.
Aceyalone, All Balls Don’t Bounce
I confess to sacrilege — I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics on this album. The beats are too damn distracting.
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
The National is one of those bands I like, but I would not consider myself a fan. I would seem demographically suited to be one, given the rest of my collection, but I just haven’t been convinced enough to jump in two-footed. But I do like Boxer and this album.
I picked up a Highwaymen album from the thrift shop a while back, and despite Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson all showing up on the same album, the sum of its parts fell short of a whole. The Highwomen do a far better job in that regard.
Paul Moravec, Tempest Fantasy / Mood Swings / B.A.S.S. Variations / Scherzo
My first encounter with Paul Moravec was at an internship for the label Composers Recordings Inc. (CRI). The label reissued some Moravec recordings in its catalog on CD, and I got a free copy. Most of the promos I got during my internship were starkly downtown or uptown — the distinction back in the 90s between the young-ish minimalists and their older dodecacophanists. Moravec stood out because he was tonal af and made no bones about it. I lost that disc over the course of a few moves, but I remembered his name.
The Neptunes, The Neptunes Present … Clones
I bought this compilation when it first came out because I really liked what Pharrell and Chad Hugo were doing in the studio. But I had no clue about hip-hop history, so a lot of it went over my head. I had to sell it for cash during leaner times, but I picked it up again at the thrift shop.
When this album was released, I felt a bit of Jam and Lewis fatigue. After doing right by Janet Jackson and the Human League (somewhat), the production duo seemed to be everywhere. Of course, 30 years later, I picked up this album at the thrift store because Jam and Lewis are on it.
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch
It doesn’t feel like they went away.
Dmitri Shostakovich, The Symphonies (Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink)
I’m incredibly familiar with the 15 string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, but I’ve been ambivalent about his symphonies. So I’ve been picking up Shostakovich symphony albums piecemeal when they show up at the thrift stores. I finally lucked into a box set at the now-defunct Seattle location of Everyday Music.
Of course, I have to agree with consensus about the fifth symphony. I don’t think the seventh is actually that great, but I do like the crunchiness of the eighth.
Arditti Quartet, Arditti
I’ve actually wanted to own this album for a long time, given its proximate release to Kronos Quartet’s first few major label albums. But the flow of time made me forget about this album till I saw it at Everyday Music before the store’s closure. (I do own a disc of Ligeti quartets on which Arditti performs.) I don’t want to enter the debate about which quartet is “better”, but I can understand critics who would side with Arditti.
I haven’t really understood why Laurie Anderson is so revered, even after listening to some of her other albums (Mister Heartbreak, Strange Angels.) I finally got around to listening to Big Science, and then I knew.
Grace Jones, Slave to the Rhythm
I like Warm Leatherette more, but as far as album covers go, Slave to the Rhythm has an iconic one.
Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 2
I’m not sure if the first volume of Cuttin’ Grass was meant to reveal any new facets to Simpson’s early albums, but it feels like the second volume does a better job of it.
Heaven 17, Penthouse and Pavement
Heaven 17 gets thrown in with Tears for Fears, ABC and Depeche Mode in music recommendation engines, but Penthouse and Pavement shows they were a little less melodic and a bit less danceable than those bands. And that’s not a knock.
I liked Rogue One probably a lot more than an average Star Wars fan might, so I was willing to entertain Riz Ahmed’s hip-hop work with the usual skepticism afforded to Hollywood actors dabbling in music. This work is no dilettante effort. Ahmed prosecutes the societal forces in the UK that brought about Brexit in an astonishing performance.
Wayne Horvitz, Live Forever, Vol. 1: The President – New York in the 80s
Wayne Horvitz dives into his archive to surface this must-have collection of live recordings and outtakes.
Kelela, Take Me Apart
I love how modern day R&B artists are willing to blur the lines between pop music and indie rock.
I’ve known about this album since it was first released in 1987, but I was too young at the time to have understood the impact of the Minutemen on independent rock.
sungazer, vol. I sungazer, vol. 2 Adam Neely, time//motion//wine
I never paid much attention to YouTube till I learned about Adam Neely and music theory YouTube. It’s been a year now since I discovered his channel, and YouTube has since eclipsed Science Channel as my television entertainment of choice. Neely’s own music combines electronic beats with rhythmically complex jazz, and while I enjoy watching him explain music theory, I sometimes wish the YouTube algorithm would give him enough slack to create more music.