Last year, new releases made up 7 percent of my music purchases. This year, that number ticks up to … 8 percent. For a while there, I didn’t know if I would find enough titles to make a Favorite 10, but I did.
- Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: When you visit multiple record stores and ask what is playing, you probably ought to buy that album if the answer is the same at each store.
- Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I also liked the Emotion Picture that accompanied the release of this album.
- Christine and the Queens, Chris: Those dance moves!
- Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: I didn’t realize the cover of “Sid to Hakuchuumu” was by MIKA, the singer “discovered” by Perez Hilton. MIKA’s circumspection about his sexuality drew a lot of attention and some controversy. I checked out his music as a result of the brouhaha and found little that was remarkable. That said, he nails the French interpretation of this very Ringo track.
- Steve Grand, Not the End of Me: I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I hear a bit of Matt Alber’s swoon on some of the quieter moments on this album.
- Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson, Landfall: Take all the swagger and posturing out of hip-hop, and it would probably sound a lot like Laurie Anderson.
- Seattle Symphony with Roomful of Teeth, Berio: Sinfonia: This piece was awesome to hear live.
- Nico Muhly & Thomas Bartlett, Peter Pears: Ceremonial Balinese Music: Oddly enough, I found a recording of Colin McPhee performing his gamelan transcriptions with Benjamin Britten, and I kind of wish Muhly and Bartlett had also done the unpublished scores.
- Yore, EP1: Recent press seems to obscure the fact Yore released music under his own name, so we’ll stick with that preference and just mention this EP finds him moving in a direction more akin to Cocteau Twins or even Utada Hikaru.
- Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi:Her sound has gotten darker since her comeback.
Other favorites from the year:
- John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once
- Leo Imai, VLP
- Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!
- Craig Armstrong, Sun on You
- Tracey Thorn, Record
- Renee Fleming, Broadway
- Igor Stravisnky, Chant Funebre / Le Sacre du Printemps
- Eponymous 4, Travis
OK, I’m being a bit cheeky including my own album, Travis, on this list. I finished recording it in 2016, so I’d been sitting on it for more than a year. In all that time, I’ve not gotten sick of hearing it day in and day out, and when I compare it with other albums I’ve recorded, it sounds like a proper, professional work.
So yeah, I think my album is one of the best to be released in 2018. You can check it out at the Eponymous 4 Bandcamp store.
Tags: christine and the queens, craig armstrong, eponymous 4, favorite edition, igor stravinsky, janelle monae, john coltrane, kronos quartet, laurie anderson, leo imai, mikami chisako, nico muhly, parquet courts, renee fleming, roomful of teeth, seattle symphony, shiina ringo, steve grand, thomas bartlett, tracey thorn, utada hikaru, various artists, yore
After Sturgill Simpson’s November 2016 concert at the Paramount, I knew my days of rock music concert-going were waning. That was two hours on my feet, and I recognized I had little of the stamina that got me through those kinds of shows in my 30s.
So in 2018, I limited my concerts to classical events. Mostly.
Seattle Symphony, Stravinsky: Funeral Song, Benaroya Hall, Jan. 6
The most interesting piece on the program wasn’t the west coast premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song — it was Gyorgi Ligeti’s Violin Concerto.
Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Shostakovich: Quartet for Strings No. 8, Benaroya Hall, Jan. 27
This performance was the second time I heard the Shostakovich Eighth Quartet at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival. The second movement gets me every time.
Seattle Symphony, John Luther Adams: Become Desert, Benaroya Hall, March 31
Pretty much a single chord for an hour, but it was surprising to hear the choirs enter from behind me.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Benaroya Hall, April 27
I’ve been attending untitled concerts since their inception in 2012. Not all of the programs sink in, and I can’t honestly remember what the Nikoleav and Rastakov pieces on the program sound like.
Seattle Symphony, Sibelius: Kullervo, Benaroya Hall, June 2
The premiere of Andrew Norman’s Cello Concerto was postponed, and the replacement pieces on the program didn’t interest me. So I traded my ticket for Kullervo.
UW School of Music, Composition Studio, Music Building 213, June 5
I performed at this concert! And I premiered one of my own pieces! It’s called Feldman and Messiaen at the Airport with Eno, and it’s scored for violin, ukulele, melodica and piano. I gave myself the violin part, which consisted of playing a single note for 8 counts every few seconds.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], June 15
I must have been exhausted after the spring I’ve had because I don’t remember a single note played that evening.
Sam Smith, Key Arena, Sept. 8
Based on his studio albums thus far, you would think Smith would be something of a sad sack, but he made those songs of heartbreak sound positively rousing at Key Arena. I just wished the teenagers sitting next to me didn’t shine their phone screens in my face.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Benaroya Hall, Oct. 12
Even if I don’t rush out and learn about every piece that gets programmed in the [untitled] series, I still like the sense of discovery that comes with seeing unfamiliar music performed live. That said, Hans Abraham’s Schnee was quite the memorable performance.
St. Lawrence String Quartet, Meany Hall, Oct. 25
I didn’t know St. Lawrence String Quartet did a TED Talk on Haydn’s “Sun” quartets, so I wasn’t prepared for the night’s performance to include a lecture. I also didn’t anticipate that I would immediately get into Haydn.
Brooklyn Rider, Meany Hall, Nov. 13
The first half of Brooklyn Rider’s concert featured new works by women, all dealing with the theme of healing. The second half was Beethoven’s op. 132. I bought a CD to help the quartet fund a recording of the pieces featured on the evening’s program.
Tags: brooklyn rider, concert edition, sam smith, seattle chamber music festival, seattle symphony, st lawrence string quartet, university of washington
I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.
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.
Tags: concert edition, depeche mode, emerson string quartet, harry partch, jack quartet, janet jackson, japan nite, jason isbell, john zorn, kronos quartet, low, midnight oil, mono, sam amidon, seattle symphony, the revolution, university of washington
Sturgill Simpson posted a photo of the crowd at his Seattle show on Nov. 11, 2016. I was standing pretty close to the stage, and sure enough, I spotted myself in the pic. His show capped yet another active year of concerts, which included a trip to Portland and two weeks of modern American symphonic music.
Sō Percussion, Jan. 31, 2016
Like Kronos Quartet before it, Sō Percussion commissions original works that often push technological boundaries as much as musical ones. The first time I saw Sō in Austin, the quartet performed Dan Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley, which required performers to use old game console controllers to manipulate a Bach keyboard piece.
For this concert, Bryce Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings features the Chordstick, a custom instrument that combines a hammered dulcimer with an electric guitar.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Feb. 5
The big piece performed at this concert of mid-20th Century New York City composers was Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman. 2016 would eventually find Seattle Symphony programming four Feldman pieces in various concerts. Crowd reaction, of course, ranged from the usual restlessness to outright departure.
Seattle Symphony, Berio: Sinfonia, Feb. 6
I hadn’t planned on attending this concert till my music theory professor devoted an entire class on the piece. The fact Roomful of Teeth performed with the symphony was another incentive.
Kronos Quartet, Feb. 20
Sorry, the live performance of Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 did not convince me to pick up the DVD, but it’s always nice to hear Franghiz Ali-Zade’s Mugam Sayagi.
Ty Herndon, Feb. 25
It was a sparse crowd at El Corazon, and Herndon played a stripped down set of his hits. He also previewed “If You” and mentioned his new album would be out in May. House of Fire arrived in September, albeit with a larger promotional splash.
Jeremy Denk, March 18
The Goldberg Variations and Ligeti Etudes in a single night. Yeah, it was a good concert.
John Adams, Scheherezade.2, March 19
Oh wow, did Leila Josefowicz bring her A-game. I picked up the Nonesuch recording of this work when it was released because it’s an amazing display of athleticism. I think I like this work more than Adams’ first Violin Concerto.
Stephen Sondheim, Assassins, Feb. 26
As much of a Stephen Sondheim fan that I am, I’ve so far only seen two of his works on stage. Honolulu Community Theatre did Sunday in the Park with George back in the early ’90s. ACT Theatre did Assassins. That’s a show that will test your startle response.
Rhye, Apr. 21
Seattle Theatre Group scheduled Rhye and Courtney Barnett for the same night, and I wanted to see both of them equally. I ended up going to Rhye because Barnett’s show sold out. Despite illness, Milosh sounded awesome.
Santigold, May 14
I couldn’t decide who I wanted to see more — Santigold or the SG1 Dancers. It turned out I loved them both.
Seattle Symphony, Beethoven and Gershwin, June 11
A scheduling conflict prevented me from attending the first [untitled] concert of the season, so I traded the ticket for a program of Beethoven and Gershwin works. The evening started with the Seattle premiere of Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour, which the crowd seemed surprised to enjoy.
Seattle Symphony, Tuning Up!, June 17-July 2
After years of attending SXSW, I decided I was going to stay away from Bumbershoot. Then Seattle Symphony announced a two-week summer festival of American modern works, and I couldn’t part with my money fast enough. The clerks at David and Co. thought I was a performer because I was there for every concert. George Perle, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe — I was definitely the target market for this festival.
Matt Alber, June 26
A bout of pneumonia prevented me from seeing Matt Alber in 2014, so his show in June was a nice way to participate in at least one gay pride event this year.
Explosions in the Sky, Sept. 2
I thought it was odd Explosions in the Sky announced a whole bunch of Pacific Northwest dates without including Seattle, so I opted to travel down to Portland and catch them at the wonderful Crystal Ballroom. The day after I bought my ticket, the band announced its Bumbershoot date. Bullet dodged.
Sigur Rós, Sept. 20
The last time Sigur Rós performed in Seattle was in 2012, and the show sold out by the time I could access the Seattle Theatre Group site. This time, I got into the pre-sale. The amazing light show was equal parts Einstein on the Beach and TRON.
Seattle Symphony, Prokofiev and Beethoven, Sept. 24
For this concert, the symphony premiered a piece by Gabriel Prokofiev and included The Love of Three Oranges by his grandfather, Sergei. It had been so long since I listened to Three Oranges that I anticipated Peter and the Wolf instead.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Oct. 28
I’m not as versed in the works of Witold Lutoslawski, but then who is?
Sturgill Simpson, Nov. 11
Sturgill Simpson doesn’t do encores, and why should he when he plays two hours straight? That show pretty much made me wonder why I’m still going to rock concerts in my mid-40s. How could Simpson have the endurance to do those shows for six months, when just watching him exhausted me?
Tags: concert edition, explosions in the sky, jeremy denk, john adams, kronos quartet, matt alber, rhye, santigold, seattle symphony, sigur ros, so percussion, stephen sondheim, sturgill simpson
Concert reviews were always something I wanted to write for this site, but I never drummed up the gumption to jot down my thoughts about shows after I attend them. In reality, I didn’t want shows to become means to an end, in the same way album purchases had become source for reviews.
Still, I go to a lot of concerts, and it feels awkward not mentioning them at least once.
So I’m going to do a year-end overview of all the shows I’ve attended in the past year.
Continue reading »
Tags: arvo part, bang on a can, catalyst quartet, concert edition, danish quartet, duran duran, emerson string quartet, emmylou harris, jason isbell, john adams, mono, neutral milk hotel, rodney crowell, seattle symphony, sturgill simpson, wayne horvitz