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.
Anton Reicha, Reicha Rediscovered, Vol. 3 (Ivan Ilić), Jan. 8
I usually pose questions on the blog rhetorically, so I wasn’t expecting Ivan Ilić himself to answer a query about what’s up with the remainder of his Reicha Rediscovered series. The third volume was expected in 2020, but SARS-CoV2 had other plans.
Rhye, Home, Jan. 22
Liked Blood. Was lukewarm about Woman. So I’m approaching Home with caution.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP, Jan. 27
Utada Hikaru’s new single — it’s called an EP, but it’s really a maxi single — serves as the theme song for a new Evangelion movie. Hikki fans will probably have the other tracks on this release, which compiles her previous theme songs for the film series.
Cocco, Kuchinashi, Feb. 17
Is it already time for a new Cocco album? [Checks calendar.] Actually, this album arrives 18 months after 2019’s Star Shank, which is 1.5 years quicker than Cocco’s usual turnaround time.
Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 2, Apr. 2
Volume 1 of Cuttin’ Grass didn’t include tracks from A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, but Volume 2 does. It does not, however, include anything from Sound & Fury.
Soundtrack, Batman: Original Motion Picture Score (colored vinyl), Jan. 15
When Tim Burton’s Batman hit theaters in 1989, Warner Bros. tried to foist Prince’s album of songs for the movie as the official soundtrack. Fans wanting to hear Danny Elfman’s theme song were pretty miffed that they got a Prince album instead. So the label released Elfman’s score separately. I picked up an original vinyl pressing of the soundtrack a long while back, and I see it pop up in used bins from time to time. This reissue is part of Rhino’s annual Start Your Ear Off Right series.
bloodthirsty butchers, Mikansei, Jan. 20
I’m not aware of very many vinyl reissues of bloodthirsty butchers album. I wouldn’t mind seeing ones for yamane and Kouya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers.
Girl Talk, Feed the Animals, April 2021
Girl Talk is accepting orders for this second pressing of Feed the Animals. A recent e-mail announced orders are expected to ship at the end of April 2021 and includes packaging improvements.
The new decade doesn’t start till the end of of 2020, if you use the modified Julian calendar upon which scientists and the Naval Observatory rely. Pop culture writers are not scientists. Would you consider U2’s debut album a product of the ‘70s? Boy was released in 1980, and it would seem odd to lump it in the decade that gave us disco.
So even though science tells us the albums of 2020 should be counted in this review of the decade, we’ll save them for next decade. Besides, we didn’t give 2010 that accommodation last decade.
Tokyo Jihen, Sports: This album was a true band effort with songwriting duties spread among members rather than falling entirely on Shiina Ringo’s shoulders. But you couldn’t tell. Tokyo Jihen finally felt like an independent unit here and not just a backing band.
Jason Isbell, Southeastern: The stark cover with Isbell gazing directly at the camera only hints at the vulnerability contained within the album’s 12 tracks.
Jarell Perry, Simple Things: I knew about neo-soul, but until I ran across Solange, Frank Ocean and Jarell Perry, I didn’t know the genre had formed its own underground. Sometimes, Perry is a beat or two away from falling into the orbit of Björk. Oddly enough, he reminds me a lot of Utada Hikaru.
Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury: Simpson owned this decade. He started out sounding like a traditionalist, but by decade’s end, he created a body of work incomparable even to itself. All of his albums should be on this list, but I’m choosing his most confounding.
Solange, A Seat at the Table: You may have Beyoncé.
Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!: I wish I could sing along with this album, but these lyrics … hot damn!
John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot): When your award-winning commission inspires Taylor Swift to donate to your organization …
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: The Pulitzer Prize should have gone to this album.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton:The Phantom of the Opera was the last time I was riveted to a cast recording.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: I’ve always felt Monáe had a Muzai Moratorium or Shouso Strip inside her. This album comes closest.
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: It’s like the decade preceding this album’s release had melted away.
Eponymous 4, Travis: Yeah, I’m putting my own damn album on this list. I can listen to it without cringing or second guessing it. It almost feels like someone better than myself had made it.
Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All: Similar to Monáe, I feel Sam Smith has an I Am a Bird Now or a Homogenic in them, waiting to bust out. This album is a step in that direction.
D’angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: I got pregnant listening to this album, and I’m not even a woman.
I’m old enough now that I can no longer be mistaken for someone remotely connected to the zeitgeist. A phrase I would often employ was, “I know of them, but I’ve not heard from them.” These days, the first part of that phrase is a stretch.
That said, I’m surprised by the number of R&B titles that have crept into my playlist rotation. I’m still a rockist at heart, but rock is loosening its grip on my attention.
Sturgill Simpson, Sound & Fury: How was Sturgill Simpson ever going to top A Sailor’s Guide to Earth? He didn’t. He veered so drastically in a different direction that the albums can’t be compared. None of his albums can be compared to each other.
Torche, Admission: Torche can be found under the metal section of most music stores, but when I play their albums, I hear post-rock.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): It’s a karaoke album, but a painstakingly created one.
Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tall order to compile eight centuries of music into a single program.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert: It was also stirring to hear this piece live.
Cocco, Star Shank: We hear hints of clouds covering the sunniness of Cocco’s later work.
BBMAK, Powerstation: I will not lie — I’ve anticipating this album for most of the year, and I do not care who knows.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: This album is a glorious mess.
Solange, When I Get Home: Similar to Sound and Fury, this album is confounding and fascinating at the same time. There’s nothing on here that matches the tunefulness of A Seat at the Table, and it would be too disruptive to the album’s flow if there were.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: “Basquiat” was playing on the in-store system at Sonic Boom, and it pretty much clinched my decision to get this album.
Like Patti Smith’s Horses, Sound & Fury confounded me. I put the album on repeat, and each listen only heightened my confusion and fascination. Was this My Bloody Valentine reborn as a southern rock band? Was it ZZ Top making the electroclash album it should never, ever record? In the end, it’s just Sturgill Simpson applying his work ethic to fucking with our minds.
Cocco, Star Shank
I don’t think I’ve heard Cocco scream with the kind of abandon she does on this album. It’s almost uncharacteristic now that she’s let a lot more sunshine into her music.
I didn’t realize how much I missed BBMAK till they announced their reunion, and this album does not disappoint.
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop
Don’t Tell a Soul was the first Replacements album I ever bought, so I find the over-produced, slick sound comforting. That said, I really dig this original mix by Matt Wallace. Thing is, it would have totally tanked in 1989. Maybe in 1993, it would have made more sense. But not in 1989.
Kim Gordon, No Home Record
Do we really need to pay attention to any other former member of Sonic Youth?
Ali Wong, Baby Cobra
I signed up for Netflix to watch the Sound & Fury anime. I might keep my subscription to watch Baby Cobra.
Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express
Kraftwerk strikes me as a band I ought to like, but so far, this album is the only one to connect.
Prince, Dirty Mind
I didn’t think I would like anything Prince recorded before 1999. I think I rather like this more than 1999.