This past year, I started keeping a log of purchases every week, and a cursory look at those entries show how much catalog has taken over my collection.
Like last year, many of these purchases come from Lifelong Thrift Store or Goodwill. A month-long CD sale at Easy Street Records contributed quite a number of titles. I’ve whittled down nearly 600 purchases to a list of Favorite 10.
Patti Smith, Horses: The first time I played this album, I didn’t get it. So I played a few more times and became fascinated with it on each play.
Boris, Pink: I remember other Japanese indie rock fans fawning over this album, and it’s taken me 12 years to get around to finding out why.
David Bowie, Scary Monsters: At first I was going to be boring and choose Ziggy Stardust or Let’s Dance as my favorite Bowie album, but this one takes it, hands down.
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: I like the story of how this album came about just as much as I like the end result.
Fugazi, The Argument: Fugazi didn’t make a bad album, just less good ones. The Argument would probably be Fugazi’s best album if 13 Songs and Repeater weren’t in the way.
Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark: I went on a Joni Mitchell binge this year, and this album is the only one I really like. Sorry, Blue.
Roxy Music, Avalon: Quite the dapper album.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced: It’s weird how familiar this album feels after years of hearing covers by Kronos Quartet, Sting and Emmylou Harris.
The Pogues, Rum Sodomy and the Lash: I didn’t accommodate the Pogues during my Celtic phase of the mid-90s because they were more rock than Celtic.
Wire, Pink Flag: I’m also fond of the self-titled Killing Joke album.
The last half of the year was stuffed with reissues that were of particular interest for me.
Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense! (Deluxe Edition):(Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! may have all the hits, but the post-ZTT albums from 1986 and 1987 are the band’s creative peak.
Camouflage, Voices and Images (30th Anniversary Edition): This reissue received a limited run in Germany, so pick it up before they’re all gone.
Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock (30th Anniversary Edition): The acoustic re-recording of this album works quite well, given how reliant the original was on MIDI.
Kate Bush, Remastered Part I and Remastered Part II: It’s apparent on which side Kate takes in the loudness wars, because these remasters do nothing with the volume. In the case of The Red Shoes, it’s actually pulled back. But they sound great, particularly Part I.
Julee Cruise, The Voice of Love: I so dug Floating Into the Night that I didn’t think it could be topped. It wasn’t, because The Voice of Love is a different beast.
Sasagawa Miwa, Houjou -BEST 03-18-: I passed on the two most recent Sasagawa Miwa albums, but this retrospective does a good job of highlighting the best parts of her output.
Frank Ocean, Endless: This album was better than Blonde.
Prince, Piano and a Microphone 1983: How about a vinyl reissue of the Love Symbol album?
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.
From here on out, you’ll see a lot of names repeat on these lists. These selections reflect my tastes as an adult rather than what I would have been listening to at the time.
Duran Duran, Rio
ABC, The Lexicon of Love
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
Kate Bush, The Dreaming
The Waitresses, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful
Roxy Music, Avalon
X, Under the Big Black Sun
Midnight Oil, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
The only album on this list I actually listened to in 1982 was the soundtrack to Tron. I was all about the video game, and I dug the special effects in the movie. I was, however, too young to understand how awful the screenplay was.
I saw the Waitresses on Solid Gold and absolutely loved “I Know What Boys Like.” By the time I would start collecting music, the Waitresses had already recessed into one-hit wonder memory. But the song left such an indelible print, I would seek it out in my first year of college.
Duran Duran’s Rio was released that year, but I had no inkling of it at the time. Music was a passive activity. The car radio or my siblings’ boomboxes keep me informed of the days’ hits, but my passion lie with video games — an activity my parents curtailed because they equated it with gambling.
It’s time we turn this list around. Instead of tracking the favorite new releases of 2018, I’ll start with my favorite catalog discoveries. The vast majority of my listening these days is old music that’s new to me, so let’s pretend no longer I have a read on anything current.
Patti Smith, Horses: PJ Harvey sure owes a lot to Patti Smith. The first time I played Horses, there were moments I thought I was listening to Polly Jean. This album confounded me, thus forcing me to play it multiple times, each time engaging me more than the last. Smith has been described as the godmother of punk, and I half expected a proto-Sleater-Kinney. Nah, man. That’s not it at all.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?: Maybe it’s because of Emmylou Harris and Kronos Quartet that made this album feel instantly familiar, or maybe its influence extends as far as the arm of Sauron.
Roxy Music, Avalon: Smooth
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: This shit is dark.
Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark: Without some schooling in Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, I wouldn’t have understood how ground-breaking this album is. Otherwise, the cheap imitations it spawned would have been my only reference.
Fugazi, The Argument: I didn’t think anything could top 13 Songs or Repeater, but this album comes damn close.
Dwight Yoakam, Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.: Honky-tonk AF
Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5: Even after 15 years, this split EP holds together well.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: This is the album I wished The ArchAndroid was. I still think she hasn’t yet recorded her Shousou Strip.
Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, Landfall: I found myself engaged in this album more than I expected.
Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: Shiina Ringo is one of the best songwriters, because the strength of her writing cuts through even the most ordinary interpretation of her songs.
Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly, Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music: It’s an improbable concept album based on transcriptions of Balinese gamelan music by English composer Colin McPhee. In execution, it’s a stronger concept than the Planetarium album Muhly did with Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister.
Steve Grand, not the end of me: Grand has gone through some serious shit since his debut album, and this sprawling sophomore effort lays it all out.
Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi: Check out the rhythmic modulation on “Chikai”. She does some amazing obfuscation with the downbeat.
Igor Stravinsky, Chant Funèbre / La Sacre Du Printemps: It seems Funeral Song didn’t really answer the question of how Stravinsky bridged his Scriabin-influenced early work with the Firebird and all that came after.
Tracey Thorn, Record: Tracey Thorn returns to the dancefloor, thank deities.