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
Washington State is under a stay-at-home order till May 4, which means I’m not going to be shopping for music at a local record store till then — assuming the order doesn’t get extended.
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, May 15
Prior to No Shape, I’ve been ambivalent about Perfume Genius. I would hear excerpts of previous albums and not feel much compulsion to listen to more. I picked up No Shape from the thrift store mostly because it had garnered a lot of acclaim. And I liked it enough to look forward to this next release.
Various Artists, I Still Play, May 22
Bob Hurwitz retired as president of Nonesuch in 2017, and for his send-off, a number of artists wrote piano works for him. The title piece, written by John Adams, was Hurwitz’s reply when someone asked him if he still plays piano.
Inventions, Continous Portrait, July 10
Matthew Cooper of Eluvium and Mark Smith of Explosions in the Sky reunite for their first new album since 2015.
Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow the Rules, July 10
Sam Smith,TBD (formerly titled To Die For), Fall 2020
Everything But the Girl, Temperamental, May 8
I like this album enough to want this vinyl reissue, but I didn’t like it enough to get the deluxe edition a few years back.
The Studio One compilations planted a notion that maybe I didn’t hate reggae music after all. My coworkers at Waterloo Records would play these compilations, and I would find myself liking what I heard. Dawn Penn’s “No No No” left a particular impression, but many years would pass before I learned the song’s title. The only reggae music I heard growing up was sifted through a Hawaiian music filter, and I didn’t like it.
Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1
OK, fellow gays, I understand why you all love Robyn now.
The Faint, Danse Macabre
I stocked so many copies of this album during my Waterloo shifts, I got sick of it, having never heard a single note. If it’s that popular, it had to suck, right? Maybe in my more judgmental days …
Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Sonic Youth, Confusion Is Sex / Kill Yr. Idols
I’ve read a number of record guides, and very few of them recommend this album. They are wrong. Confusion Is Sex is probably the closest Sonic Youth has gotten to its modern classical roots, and I like it a lot.
On Facebook, I posted this controversial stance: Duffy > Adele. Maybe I like Rockferry because it’s not piped into every restaurant and waiting room.
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
I scored when I found a copy of this album with a DVD of the video for “Hurt” at the thrift store. Then I heard the rest of it, and … wow.
This album entered the Favorite Edition list on pretty much the first listen.
Various Artists, Living In Oblivion, Vol. 1
I had a copy of this album, but the booklet got water damaged in a refrigerator leak. So I gave it away. Welcome back.
Washed Out, Within and Without
Part of me wishes the cover of the album were homoerotic, but the music on it is great.
Anderson .Paak, Ventura
I’ve heard of Anderson .Paak but not from Anderson .Paak, so a $2 copy of this album at Goodwill, unopened, seemed like a low-risk way to find out who he is. I’m impressed.