The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin Companion, July 21
The vinyl version of this early promotional compilation was released as part of Record Store Day Drops in June 2021.
Drive-By Truckers, Plan 9 Records, July 13, 2006, Aug. 6
This live set is a scorcher. The full performance was released as part of Record Store Day Black Friday 2020.
Art of Noise, Noise in the City: Live in Tokyo 1986, Aug. 13
When the Art of Noise visited Japan in 2017 for a series of concerts, they discovered a concert from 1986 had been recorded for a radio broadcast. That concert is getting a limited release on vinyl and CD.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert, Sept. 3
Unlike the shows recorded at the Ryman Auditorium, the set list for this lost concert consists mostly of Emmylou Harris’ long time hits.
Metallica, Metallica (Deluxe Edition), Sept. 10
For the longest time, the self-titled Metallica album was the only Metallica album I owned. While I have filled out my collection with the albums leading up to the black album, I have nothing beyond S&M.
Jeremy Denk, Mozart: Piano Concertos, Sept. 17
Sure, I’ll listen to Denk perform the K. 482, i.e. Concerto No. 22 in D Minor.
Sugababes, One Love (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 1
I’m not sure if the album on the whole is really that great, but “Overload” is one of the finest singles to come out of the early 2000s.
Enigma, MCMXC a.D., June 23
If you missed out on the colored vinyl reissues from 2018, Universal Music Germany is repressing this album and 7 others, remastered audio and all.
This album is one of those extremely rare, regional finds that will either be selling for $0.50 at a thrift store or $30 on Discogs.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
When this album was first released, my record store co-workers liked it enough to recommend it. Kanye had already gone headlong into celebrity insufferability by then, and I passed. It was that endorsement that prompted me to pick this album up at the thrift store. What I like best is the lack of raps, and thus, the lack of posturing. It’s also restrained, something refreshingly unbecoming of an artist with the size of Kanye’s ego.
The Bad Rackets, Full On Blown Apart
This album is the intersection of garage rock and punk that my Waterloo Records co-workers would play to death. It’s been about 15 years since, so I’m not so severe in my reaction to this kind of music. I’ve also met the band’s drummer, and he’s hotter than a straight guy has any business being.
Art of Noise, Re-works of Art of Noise
At the time of its release, I wasn’t interested in live tracks, which is half of this compilation EP. I was wrong to be so dismissive. Art of Noise had to adapt to a live setting, giving these tracks new facets the studio versions don’t capture. “Hammersmith to Tokyo and Back” is worth the price of the EP alone.
I skipped this album when it was released. All the pre-release press described Monster in terms that didn’t hold much appeal to me. I didn’t share everyone’s breathless acclaim for Automatic for the People, so I approached Monster with a level of skepticism that stopped me from listening to the album for 25 years. How foolish.
The Cult, Sonic Temple
I read about this album in a lot of magazines back in high school, but I never made the plunge. I like how it’s not quite heavy metal.
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.
And now we enter some new territory. I didn’t start collecting music in earnest till 1985, and I wouldn’t start exploring catalog music till 2005. Raiding thrift shops has allowed me to fill in a lot of history, which is why were expanding the range of this retrospective to as far back as 1978. Today, we start with 1984.
Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George
The Replacements, Let It Be
Andersson / Rice / Ulvaeus, Chess
Art of Noise, Who’s Afraid of? … the Art of Noise!
Madonna, Like a Virgin
Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain
Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA
Arvo Pärt, Tabula Rasa
Thompson Twins, Into the Gap
Other favorites from the year:
Guadalcanal Diary, Walking in the Shadows of the Big Man
Nena, 99 Luftballons
Eurythmics, 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)
Sade, Diamond Life
I was much more into arcade video games — the classic era of Pac-Man and Galaga — than music in 1984. The only album I owned from that time is 99 Luftballons. Everything else I would discover later.
My 12-year-old self would not have known what to make of the Replacements or Arvo Pärt. He would have scoffed and wretched over the idea that Madonna or Prince could rank on such a list. They were his brother’s albums, after all.
He certainly did not have the sophistication or patience for two LPs of Mozart, although he might have really liked watching Amadeus.
And he would have definitely protested the inclusion of Bruce Springsteen on the list, all the while gazing lustily after the cover of Born in the USA.
He would have totally understood the Thompson Twins, though.