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.
One of these years, I’m not going to have a big enough pool from which to draw a mid-year Favorite Edition list. This year got close.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album): The big criticism of this cover album is the slavish reproduction of the originals, as if Weezer did nothing to inject its own personality in these songs. The studio geek in me, however, marvels at such a feat. It may be a karaoke exercise, but it’s a painstaking one, not unlike art students reproducing the masters.
Jeremy Denk, c.1300-c.2000: It’s a tricky proposition to distill seven centuries of music in a single program, but Denk takes an admirable stab at it. I have no objections to his choices.
James Blake, Assume Form: Blake’s previous album was lengthy and not terribly engaging. He rights the ship on this one.
John Luther Adams, Become Desert: Where Become Ocean explored the Seattle Symphony’s lower and middle registers, Become Desert hovers almost exclusively in the upper ends.
Shiina Ringo, Sandokushi: Shiina’s first three albums looms large over the rest of her work, Tokyo Jihen included. Sandokushi is a fascinating mess — lots of seemingly disparate songs threaded together as a single program. It’s jarring but coherent, and probably the best summation of her style thus far.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!: Like Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake, Legacy! Legacy! was playing on a record store sound system and made me stop to find out who is Jamila Woods.
Solange, When I Get Home: There are no obvious singles on this album, which is fine because it’s not intended to be a singles album.
Madonna, Madame X: A quotation of Tchaikovsky’s signature work could have backfired, but when the Nutcracker interrupts “Dark Ballet,” it doesn’t feel forced. The singles preceding the release of Madame X didn’t hint at this kind of creative stretch.
The Drums, Brutalism: Jonny Pierce tones down the Joy Division influence and brings forth the beats.
I bought this album back in high school, before I had any inkling of how to listen to jazz. I didn’t understand it and sold it for cash. Now that I’ve had rudimentary schooling in jazz, I picked it up again at the library book sale. I get it now.
Johnny Cash, American Recordings
I remember the accolades heaped upon this album at the time of its release, but I hadn’t gotten into country music yet. So I had no interest in Johnny Cash. Now that I know more about his life and music, I see what all the fuss was about.
This album was listed in the book 1,000 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I found a copy of it at the thrift store. I liked it enough.
PJ Harvey, Rid of Me
To Bring You My Love gets the highest praise among PJ Harvey’s albums, but I couldn’t get into it. I much prefer Rid of Me.
Pop Will Eat Itself, This Is the Day … This Is the Hour … This Is This!
This album got good reviews in all the magazines I read as a teenager, but I hesitated on getting it. I would eventually find a ratty vinyl copy selling for cheap decades later. Teenaged self should have been the one to take that plunge.
Sly and the Family Stone, Stand!
Too many tracks on this album have been licensed to sell products, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to diminish them. Or maybe we’re just more chill about music licensing these days.
Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club
I totally forgot that “Wordy Rappinghood” was a Tom Tom Club track. I dug that track so much as a kid, I annoyed everyone around me by singing it.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album)
The meticulousness this covers album takes in reproducing the originals is ridiculous and admirable.
Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome (Premium Edition), March 20
Aside from a poster and a photo book, this premium edition of Syndrome also includes a second disc of the entire album without vocals. Karaoke! It’s also housed in an LP-sized jacket. I say, just stick a vinyl version of the album in that jacket!
Weezer, Weezer (The Teal Album), March 8
I’m usually ambivalent about Weezer, but this album is actually fun. It’s been available on streaming services for a while now.
Gang of Four, Happy Now, March 29
I might check this out when it’s released, but I have to admit I haven’t even listened to Complicit yet. The band’s previous album, What Happens Next, was one of the last I downloaded from eMusic before I canceled my subscription.
Idlewild, Interview Music, April 5 (UK)
Idlewild dropped off my radar right around the middle of the last decade, so I’m not sure if they’ve got successively safer with each album or if they reverted back to the brashness of Hope Is Important.
The Drums, Brutalism, April 5
I think I’m still following the Drums because Jonny Pierce synthesizes post-punk in a way more sophisticated than Interpol, the Killers or the Strokes ever did.
Massive Attack, Mezzanine (Deluxe Edition), April 19 (UK)
I picked this album up from the thrift store in 2018. I like it, but enough to drop money on a deluxe edition?
BBMak, TBD, April 26
Don’t judge. I’ll be in London when this album comes out. HMV will probably be shuttered by that time.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Madonna, March 5
I missed out on the 2013 reissue of this album, so I’ve already placed my pre-order.
Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!, March 6
I won’t lie — I would rather see fra-foa’s Chuu no Fuchi reissued on vinyl, but I AM Ready! was enjoyable. Maybe enjoyable enough to get on vinyl?
Utada Hikaru, “Face My Fears”, March 6
I’m getting this less for the new song and more for the English version of “Chikai”, going by the title “Don’t Think Twice”. “Chikai” is probably the most rhythmically confounding song Utada has written.
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.
1996 was my final year in college, a year before I would earn the kind of disposable income that would go into building a music collection. While the Favorite 10 of 1996 remains mostly unchanged, the extended list includes many more discoveries I couldn’t afford to hear at the time.
Soundtrack, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet
Soundtrack, Robotech Perfect Collection
Asylum Street Spankers, Spanks for the Memories
Various Composers, Gay American Composers
Original Cast Recording, Rent
Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar
Everything But the Girl, Walking Wounded
Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs
Robin Holcomb, Little Three
Other favorites from the year:
Midnight Oil, Breathe
Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser
Emmylou Harris, Portraits
Kronos Quartet, Howl USA
Yen Town Band, Montage
Neutral Milk Hotel, On Avery Island
Aphex Twin, Richard D. James Album
Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor
Café Tacuba, Avalancha de Exitos
I could actually add more titles from Wilco, Helmet, Gillian Welch, DJ Shadow and Amuro Namie to the extended list, but I haven’t lived with them as long as the ones I’ve already added.
I owned the Richard D. James album at one point. It was a promo from the student newspaper, but I was such a neophyte with EDM that I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. As it turns out nobody could really make heads or tails of it.
The original extended list didn’t include Lore because it had already fallen victim to a collection purge. I rediscovered the album after the death of Padraig Duggan.
Avalancha de Exitos was the first album by Café Tacuba I would encounter, but I wouldn’t purchase it till many years later. I borrowed it from a friend and liked it. But I stayed away from it because it’s a cover album of music of which I had no reference.
2017 marked the largest year-over-year increase in my CD collection, and the biggest recipient of that largesse is the Lifelong Thrift Shop.
I crunched the numbers, and the store provided 168 of the 458 items bought in 2017. At an average of $0.73 per CD and $1.46 per record, I contributed more than $130 to Lifelong coffers. I wouldn’t have made a charitable payroll deduction that large.
The Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale is another source for discount music, and I parted with $75 of my cash to them.
Essentially, weekly visits to the thrift shop has crowded out my interest in new releases. That, and being old.
Art of Noise, In Visible Silence: This album started my fascination with the Art of Noise and, more importantly, introduced me to the term musique concrète. It was the weirdest album I encountered in my tween years, and it primed me to discover Kronos Quartet.
Wendy and Lisa, Eroica: A woefully underrated album.
k.d. lang, Ingenue: The MTV Unplugged bonus material didn’t seem like much of an enhancement on paper till you actually listen to it
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead: The demos don’t stray too far from what eventually appeared on record, but it’s nice to hear how these tracks evolved.
Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain: I have to admit I was more enamored of the Eroica reissue, despite the bonus material in this special edition.
Deee-Lite, World Clique: I’m usually not a fan of remixes, but the bonus disc on this special edition actually worked.
Moondog, Moondog: I had been curious about Moondog for a long time, and the Record Store Day reissue of his self-titled Columbia debut was a good excuse to fill in a gap finally.
Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs: Yes, you can find this album at Lifelong for $1, but I still like it. And it’s on vinyl to boot!
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman: OK, I ended up with two copies of this album on vinyl because I hadn’t anticipated I could get the Ryman special edition when I visited Nashville in August 2017.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Symphonic Suite AKIRA: The sequencing of the album had to change to accommodate the limitation of vinyl, but that doesn’t work against it.
Nakamori Akina, Fushigi: I have a number of middling Nakamori Akina albums,
so out of curiosity, I did a search for what’s considered her best work. I wasn’t expecting an album that actually gets nods by the American indie music press. It puts to rest who I like better in the Akina vs. Seiko debate.
The Streets, Original Pirate Material: I so dug “Geezers Need Excitement”, I used it as part of an assignment for an ear training/sight singing class I’m taking.
New York Dolls, New York Dolls: I picked this album up from Lifelong Thrift Shop purely on reputation, and I didn’t expect how prescient it was.
Loretta Lynn, Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind): Don’t let the country weepies fool you — this album is all about how women have to be strong because men are just no good.
Perfume, GAME: It took nearly a decade for me to discover the sublimity of “Polyrhythm.”
The Roots, Game Theory: I want to call this album punk AF.
Low, Things We Lost in the Fire: I’m not sure how much further I want to explore the Low catalog.
Midnight Oil, Head Injuries: For the American Midnight Oil fan who wants to reach back into the Australian catalog, this album is where to start.
Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: Similarly, I’m not sure how much further I want to explore Mingus after hearing this work. I feel everything else would pale by comparison.
Weezer, Pinkerton: This album is the one to own if you can’t stand Weezer fans.
I don’t think I’d mind Weezer if it weren’t for the fans.