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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2008

[Santigold - Santigold]

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.

  1. Santigold, Santigold
  2. MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS, MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS
  3. The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
  4. Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be
  5. ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World
  6. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
  7. Sam Amidon, All Is Well
  8. Leo Imai, Fix Neon
  9. Nico Muhly, Mothertongue
  10. Spangle call Lilli line, ISOLATION

Other favorites from the year:

  • Matt Alber, Hide Nothing
  • ZAZEN BOYS, ZAZEN BOYS 4
  • Utada Hikaru, HEART STATION
  • Perfume, GAME
  • 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.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2013

[Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe]

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 relaunched this site in early 2014 to focus more on discovering catalog music than newer artists. As a result, I didn’t get a chance to revise the Favorite Edition 2013 list after I discovered a number of critical favorites.

  1. Jason Isbell, Southeastern
  2. Jarell Perry, Simple Things
  3. Patty Griffin, Silver Bell
  4. Sam Amidon, Bright Sunny South
  5. James Blake, Overgrown
  6. Sigur Rós, Kveikur
  7. Hem, Departure and Farewell
  8. Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe
  9. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Old Yellow Moon
  10. LEO Imai, Made from Nothing

Other favorites from the year:

  • Rhye, Woman
  • Kanye West, Yeezus
  • Johnny Hates Jazz, Magnetized
  • TV Mania, Bored with the Internet and Prozac?
  • Ty Herndon, Lies I Told Myself
  • Res, Refried Mac
  • Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

Jason Isbell had caught my eye with the stark but stunning cover of Southeastern, but I didn’t follow up on that fascination till well into 2014. Nor did I make the connection between Blood Orange and Solange till after 2013 had passed.

Isbell and Blood Orange bumped Johnny Hates Jazz and TV Mania, while Rhye and Kanye West nearly crack the Favorite 10.

I dug The College Dropout, but West can teach Billy Corgan lessons in being insufferable. Yeezus, though, sounded like an indie rock record, so I could overlook the man and focus on the art. I wouldn’t cut him that slack nowadays.

Ty Herndon came out of the closet in 2014, and he was cute enough for me to take a listen to his greatest hits collection, This Is Ty Herndon. I ended up liking it more than I expected, mostly because I really can’t stand country radio.

Lies I Told Myself shows up on this list because it sounds way more confident than anything on This Is Ty Herndon.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2014

[Huck Hodge - Life Is Endless Like Our Field of Vision]

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 2014 list has already gone through one revision, and this version expands it slightly.

  1. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  2. John Luther Adams, Become Ocean
  3. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds of Country Music
  4. Royal Wood, The Burning Bright
  5. The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring
  6. Meredith Monk, Piano Songs
  7. Inventions, Inventions
  8. MONO, Rays of Darkness
  9. Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kouwankyoku~
  10. BADBADNOTGOOD, III

Other favorites from the year:

  • Juanes, Loco de Amor
  • The Drums, Encyclopedia
  • Cocco, Plan C
  • Shaprece, Molting EP
  • Huck Hodge, Life Is Endless Like Our Field of Vision
  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • Sam Amidon, Lily-O
  • U2, Songs of Innocence

The year started with Juanes topping the list. He’s now been bumped off the Favorite 10 in favor of BADBADNOTGOOD. Despite that change, the Favorite 10 is pretty solid. The remaining list, however, has expanded to include The Drums and Taylor Swift.

You read that right.

I’ve been curious about 1989 for a while, but I felt no desire to stream it. Yet, a thrift store copy selling for $2 was more incentive to check it out. I wonder why that is? I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

The Drums’ Encyclopedia didn’t start out as a favorite, but when I stopped expecting it to be a carbon copy of the self-titled debut, its strengths became apparent. That said, it’s really a strange album.

The last addition to the list is an album by Huck Hodge, a University of Washington music composition professor from whom I took a number of classes. I actually heard most of this album in class, so it made sense to own a copy of it.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 2017

[Sampha - Process]

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.

Do I have new favorites? Which ones have fallen out of favor? This time around, we’ll cover a greater span of time from as recently as last year, all the way to 1978!

We start with last year’s list.

This most recent decade won’t see much in the way of significant revisions, as I explore deeper into catalog releases than following new artists. Wouldn’t it be odd if I discover new artists from 2017 five years from now? Probably not.

  1. Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome
  2. Royal Wood, Ghost Light
  3. RADWIMPS, Your name.
  4. Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
  5. Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain
  6. Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs
  7. Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon
  8. Eluvium, Shuffle Drone
  9. Sampha, Process
  10. Living Colour, Shade

Other favorites from the year:

  • Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Plays the Art of Noise
  • David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanac
  • Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
  • Leo Imai, Film Scum EP
  • Renée Fleming, Distant Light
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kuukoukyoku~
  • Brandon Stansell, Slow Down
  • Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium

Jason Isbell’s previous two albums ranked high on the Favorite Edition lists of 2013 and 2015, but The Nashville Sound had a tenuous grip on its position in the 2017 list. The late discovery of Sampha and Eluvium gave Isbell the final nudge.

Anne Dudley took up Eluvium’s vacated spot, nearly knocking Living Colour off.

Brandon Stansell makes his first appearance on the list. Stansell performed at the Concert for Love and Acceptance, hosted by Ty Herndon. Like Herndon, Stansell is a country artist, although he’s starting his career out of the closet.

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Favorite Edition 2017 Year Final

[Living Colour - Shade]

2017 was a rather active year in music, but when it came to new releases, I opted to leave a lot of stuff on the shelf. A decade ago, new albums by Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear would have been breathlessly awaited. I don’t get the sense either had much staying power beyond their release dates.

As a result, I ended up purchasing a total of 34 new titles, approximately 7 percent of my total buying activity. The remaining purchases? Catalog and reissues. This list, in other words, comes from a small pool of albums.

  1. Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome
  2. Royal Wood, Ghost Light
  3. RADWIMPS, Your name.
  4. Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
  5. Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain
  6. Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs
  7. Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon
  8. Living Colour, Shade
  9. Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
  10. Renée Fleming, Distant Light

Sam Smith and Living Colour are the big changes from the mid-year listThe Thrill of It All isn’t as weird as I hoped it could be, but it’s a more appealing album than Smith’s debut.

Shade is the perfect soundtrack for the frustration of living under the current administration. Pre-release press mention the blues as a springboard for the album, but really, Living Colour transform the blues in ways that are nigh unrecognizable.

Other favorites from the year:

  • Eluvium, Shuffle Drone: I hate both the repeat and shuffle buttons on my playback mechanisms. That said, Matthew Cooper deserves mad props for creating an album that puts both buttons to excellent use.
  • Sampha, Process: I admit I didn’t listen to this album till a few weeks ago, once it started showing up on year-end favorite lists.
  • David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanack: My long-simmering discovery of Gillian Welch will have to wait for another entry, but it’s the reason David Rawlings shows up here.
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Kuukoukyoku~: Part of me misses the rocking Ringo-chan of the early 2000s, but then hearing these songs side-by-side with the artists who recorded them first deepens my appreciation for her.
  • Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium: It helps to have heard this album with a laser light show.
  • The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts: Jonny Pierce takes over the show.
  • Cocco, Cocco 20 Shuunen Kinen Special Live at Nippon Budokan ~Ichi no Kan x Ni no Kan~: The live performances don’t stray too far from what’s heard in the studio, but Cocco’s voice doesn’t seem to have aged a bit.
  • Duran Duran, Thanksgiving Live at Pleasure Island: If you’re a fan of the seriously-underrated Medazzaland, this live album is a must-have.

 

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Concert Edition 2017

[Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27, 2017]

I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.

Except concerts.

That would be Janet Jackson pictured with this entry.

JACK Quartet, Meany Hall, Jan. 10

I ran into my music theory TA at this concert, and we both we a bit meh about the program. JACK is a great quartet, but I honestly can’t remember much beyond the Morton Feldman piece which opened the concert.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Benaroya Hall, Jan. 27

The [untitled] series introduces me to a lot of new music of which I never follow up after hearing it. I still love going to these concerts, though.

University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble, John Zorn: Cobra, Meany Hall, March 1

I’ve known about Cobra for years, but this performance was the first I’ve attended. Recordings can’t do this piece justice. It must be experienced live to understand it.

Seattle Symphony, Aaron Jay Kernis: Violin Concerto, Benaroya Hall, March 18

Violinist James Ihnes has a lot of creative capital in Seattle as director of the seasonal chamber music festival, so I think the audience was willing to give Kernis’ concerto a chance. The piece and the performance went over well.

Japan Nite Tour, Chop Suey, March 22

Damn, had it been five years since I’ve attended a Japan Nite concert?

Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, April 21

There’s no way I would miss an Emerson concert with Shostakovich or Bartok on the program.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], Benaroya Hall, April 28

A program centered around Andy Warhol concluded with a “popera”, which actually was far more engaging that I expected.

University of Washington Harry Partch Ensemble, Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, Meany Hall, May 6

UW has a number of Harry Partch’s custom instruments, which were put to use in a production of Oedipus. Without the visual element, they pretty much sound like gamelan.

Midnight Oil, Moore Theatre, May 31

Yeah, definitely my favorite show of the year. The set list covered the entire span of their career, and just about everything I wanted to hear live I did.

Low + MONO, Neptune Theatre, June 16

I’ve known about Low for a long time — mostly through the band’s cover of “Africa” by Toto — but I was never curious enough to seek them out. I was duly impressed, even if I don’t think I’ll own anything other than Things We Lost in the Fire. MONO, of course, brought it.

The Revolution, Showbox, July 15

The band crafted the set list incredibly well. It started off with some obscure but recognizable stuff, but the second half kicked off the favorites. And everyone left pleased.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Paramount Theatre, Sept. 12

Jason Isbell delivered a flawless performance as usual. The audience, though, was weird. It was a Tuesday night, and the Seattle Freeze was in full force, with half the audience sitting and the other half standing.

Sam Amidon, Fremont Abbey, Sept. 22

If nothing else, you really must go to a Sam Amidon show just to hear him talk between songs.

Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27

I held onto my ticket after two cancellations, and I was glad I did. No opening act. Just Janet dishing out hit after hit in an epic DJ mix, only live.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Benaroya Hall, Oct. 13

I think this concert was the first where only one piece on the program was entirely unfamiliar to me. It’s always nice to hear Steve Reich’s Different Trains live.

Depeche Mode, Key Arena, Oct. 21

I think Depeche Mode 101 ruined this concert for me. I hadn’t really followed the band since the early aughts, and much of the set list drew from more recent albums.

Kronos Quartet, Federal Way Performing Arts Center, Nov. 4

Kronos has a way of upending expectations. Just when you think you’ve seen them do something new, some composer has them attach bowstring to a plastic toy.

 

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Looking ahead: May-June 2017

[U2 - The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Edition)]

It seems all the bands in which I’m interested all decided to release their albums in May and June. To date, I have a total of four 2017 releases since the start of the year. Putting together the Favorite Edition Half Year is going to be tricky.

At the Drive-In, in*ter al*li*a, May 5

I can’t figure out why I’m looking forward this late-coming follow-up to Relationship of Command, an album I like but can’t listen to very often. And I wasn’t enough of a fan to follow either Mars Volta or Sparta.

Café Tacvba, Jei Beibi, May 5

I find it interesting that Café Tacvba is releasing this album through CD Baby. That means they’ve gone completely independent.

Midnight Oil, Full Tank, May 7
Midnight Oil, Overflow Tank, May 7

Tempting as these complete boxed sets may be, my current Midnight Oil collection occupies quite a bit of shelf space. Also, the import markup makes these sets fiscally untenable. Hey Sony, fans outside of Australia might be interested in some of these releases.

Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte, May 12

It’s a visual album about a man going into outer space to find the woman of his dreams. I would be interested to see how Café Tacvba would tackle the same plot.

PWR BTTM, Pageant, May 12

Anyone who has Grindr or Scruff installed on his phone would probably check out a band called PWR BTTM.

Art of Noise, In Visible Silence (Deluxe Edition), May 19

The weirdest album I acquired in 1986. The b-sides are terrific.

Kishida Shigeru, Symphony No. 1, May 24

If the orchestral work Kishida released last year as a digital single is any indication, don’t expect a musical metamorphosis on the level of C. Kip Winger.

Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain, May 26

His first album of original music.

Cody Chesnutt, My Love Divine Degree, June 2

It’s been a while. I had wondered if another 10 years would pass before another Cody Chesnutt album would arrive.

U2, The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), June 2

I already have the 20th Anniversary edition, so really, I just want the white cover with the color photo.

Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs, June 9

For a while there, I thought Kronos had moved on from Nonesuch, given the number of albums the ensemble has released on other labels. This collaborative album with Sam Amidon, Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens and Olivia Chaney is the first Kronos has released on Nonesuch since 2012, not counting various anthologies.

Dan Messe, Amelie: A New Musical, June 9

I’m not sure what draws me to this cast recording — the fact it’s based on Amelie or the fact it was written by a member of Hem.

Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister, Planetarium, June 9

Well, somebody had to update Gustav Mahler’s The Planets

The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts, June 16

Jonny Pierce goes full Roland Orzabal ca. 1993, becoming the sole member of his band The Drums.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, June 16

I would be OK with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson releasing albums on alternating years.

Vinyl

Midnight Oil, The Vinyl Collection, May 7

I would like to get Redneck Wonderland, Breathe and Head Injuries on vinyl. I could do without Capricornia, Earth and Sun and Moon and Place Without a Postcard. Maybe separate releases down the line? Outside Australia, even??

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, May 12

Harris’ shows at the Ryman gave the venue new life, and she returns for the venue’s 125th anniversary. So of course a reissue (on vinyl!) is in order.

En Vogue, Funky Divas, June 9

I’m disappointed rock bands haven’t turned “Free Your Mind” into a crossover classic.

Enya, A Day Without Rain, June 16
Enya, Amaratine, July 14

A Day Without Rain is Enya’s weakest album, and Amaratine went a long way to rectify it. That won’t stop me from getting both of them.

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Looking ahead: Steve Reich, Nico Muhly, Cocco, Shiina Ringo

[Steve Reich - Radio Rewrite]

In the past, I’d feature upcoming releases that were editorially interesting. That is, they looked interesting even if I would never listen to them. I’m changing that policy to feature only things I plan on exploring myself.

The Drums, Encyclopedia, Sept. 23

I admit — I started listening to The Drums because I caught a video of “Forever and Ever, Amen” and thought Jonny Pierce’s shirt … accentuated his physique. He tripped my gaydar, unreliable as it is. The self-titled debut album was pretty good. The follow-up, not as much. I’m willing to give this third album a shot, now that the band is down to a duo.

Steve Reich, Radio Rewrite, Sept. 30

Whatever Radiohead references Reich throws into this piece will be totally lost on me given my ambivalence about Radiohead, but I am interested to hear Jonny Greenwood’s complete re-recording of Electric Counterpoint.

Nico Muhly, Two Boys, Sept. 30

I was wondering at what point Nonesuch would snag Nico Muhly for a recording.

Sam Amidon, Lily-O, Sept. 30

I look forward to hearing what Bill Frisell contributes to Sam Amidon’s modernized folk.

Cocco - 「プランC」

Cocco, Plan C, Oct. 8

Part of me wondered whether Pas de Bourée was something to tide fans over till a proper album release. The next question is whether it’s a harbinger of what’s to come.

Shiina Ringo, Hi Izuru Tokoro, Nov. 5

Shiina Ringo resumed releasing singles as a solo artist a year before disbanding Tokyo Jihen, and she’s put out four thus far. Taken together, they don’t really hint at a direction her music would go. Her self-cover album Gyakuyunyuu was a fascinating mess. I’m interested to see how she pulls it all together.

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