I started running out of things to say just as the SARS-CoV2 spread in the US, and when the lockdown happened, I threw myself into recording a pair of cover albums. I wasn’t buying much music, nor listening to anyone other than myself. By the time I finished making the albums, stores were opening up, and my music buying eventually resumed.
But I still don’t have much to say.
That doesn’t mean I’ve run out of opinions. So here are my favorites of the year so far.
Sam Sparro, Boombox Eternal
Timo Andres / Brad Mehldau / Jeremy Denk / Randy Newman, I Still Play
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Reunions
The Streets, None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive
Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories
Play this album next to Janet Jackson’s Control, and you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they were born in the same era. Sam Sparro evokes the R&B sound of the 80s with such affection it makes me nostalgic for a style of music against which I actively rebelled at the time.
The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette
I picked this album up at the thrift shop solely on the reputation of providing the name for Japanese garage rock band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. And I don’t really like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. But I do like this album quite a lot.
Jay Som, Anak Ko
I heard this album playing at Sonic Boom around the time of its release. I had intended to listen to it in full on a streaming service when I got home. That never happened. Nearly a year later, I snagged a copy at the thrift shop.
Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
This album probably came to symbolize what sucked about disco, but I don’t think it’s been given its due credit. There is some fine writing on this album, and its commercial success shouldn’t be a knock against it.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories, Jan. 17
When Trail of Dead announced they would take a hiatus after releasing their ninth album, it felt like the right time. They’d been at it for 20 years, and they sure deserved the break. Their return is also nicely timed — I have to say I’ve missed them.
Ben Watt, Storm Damage, Jan. 31
I’m still somewhat surprised Ben Watt has spent his post-Everything But the Girl solo career thus far being a troubadour.
Neneh Cherry, Raw Like Sushi (Deluxe Edition), Jan. 31
I came around to this album quite late, but I’m glad to see it get some deluxe treatment.
CHARA+YUKI, echo, Feb. 14
The closest thing we’ll get to a MEAN MACHINE reunion.
Onitsuka Chihiro, REQUIEM AND SILENCE, Feb. 20
Onitsuka Chihiro commemorates the 20th anniversary of her debut with yet another compilation, this one spanning three major labels.
Sam Sparro, Boombox Eternal, Feb. 21
If the pre-release single “Everything” reflects the remainder of the album, I’m on board.
Clannad, In a Lifetime Anthology, March 13
I probably don’t need this anthology given the depth of my Clannad collection, but I wait eagerly for news of US dates on their farewell tour.
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, 20th Anniversary Box, March 25
Another band celebrating their 20th anniversary is LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. The 20th Anniversary Box compiles 4 CDs of singles, a Blu Ray or DVD of the duo’s acoustic tour, an LP of acoustic recordings and a score book. I’m tempted by the score book alone. The singles collection will also be sold separately (COMPLETE SINGLES 2000-2019), and the acoustic recordings will be released on vinyl (TWO OF US Acoustic Recording Session at VICTOR STUDIO 302.)