Negativity and hope, locked in an eternal struggle featuring titty twisters.

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Let's start off with my album of the year: I Like Trains's KOMPROMAT. These once gloom-rockers are fucking pissed and this album is start-to-finish political criticism, from straight-up mockery of British elites to creepily anthropomorphizing social media algorithms.  Their first single, "The Truth", is huge and the video is great.  It is a new step in the evolution of their sound and i'd love nothing better than to travel to Europe in 2022 and attend a live show of theirs while i'm there.

Albums (alphabetically by artist):

  • Compasses, Sotavento — A Venezuelan group composed music in the various national styles, with a prog/fusion bent.  They earned a Latin Grammy nomination for this.  Fun music and top-notch musicianship.
  • Fleet Foxes, Shore — More of their pastoral sort of indie rock.  Apparently their last album was considered a bit of a downer and this is a departure, tonally.
  • Junebug, Too Late to Love You — The adventure computer game Kentucky Route Zero is a lovely piece of interactive storytelling that was released as five acts (the final published in January 2020), and the music by Ben Babbitt was integral to the experience.  In the middle of the game, one of the characters, an android named Junebug, performs a great song titled "Too Late to Love You".  Babbitt has hinted for several years that he'd make a whole album as Junebug, and it dropped in the middle of the year.  The album itself is just okay, but true to the character.  Really, play KRZ.
  • Kaki King, Modern Yesterdays — More guitar wizardry fom King.
  • Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Not Our First Goat Rodeo — The followup to The Goat Rodeo Sessions is not quite as amazing as its predecessor, but you can't go wrong with this crew.
  • Bob Mould, Blue Hearts — Bob is still pissed, but also hopeful.  A return to form in my view, his best since Silver Age.
  • Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts — Simultaneously released ambient electronica soundtracks of hope and anxiety, respectively.  Still available for free download.
  • Patty Larkin, Bird in a Cage — Her best since Regrooving the Dream, she sets many of her favorite poems to music.
  • Pearl Jam, Gigaton — Their best since the self-titled avocado album.
  • Throwing Muses, Sun Racket — Just weird, which is a funny thing to say about a TM album.
  • Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn, Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn — Guzheng and banjo performing Chinese and American folk tunes.  Really nice stuff.

EPs and singles: Midnight Oil's The Makarrata Project (they reunited, but just lost their bassist to cancer) is a collaboration with various Aboriginal artists, Andrew Bird's "Capital Crimes" is Bird at his most political, Venus Hum put out five new singles (plus a Christmas song) for the first time since 2009, and Elana Stone's "Permanent Limbo" is a perfect pandemic pop jewel.

1/1 '21 2 Comments
I like this list. 10/10 would check it all out.
Apparently Kentucky Route Zero has no relation to I-0 (Interstate Zero) by Adam Cadre.
Brian Rapp 1/2 '21

1990: Soda Stereo - Canción Animal
1991: Sting - The Soul Cages
1992: Juan Luis Guerra 4.40 - Areíto
1993: David Bowie - Black Tie White Noise
1994: Soundgarden - Superunknown
1995: Garbage - Garbage
1996: Soundgarden - Down on the Upside
1997: Depeche Mode - Ultra
1998: Garbage - Version 2.0
1999: Lakuna - Castle of Crime

2000: P J Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
2001: Tool - Lateralus
2002: dredg - El Cielo
2003: Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
2004: Vernon Reid & Masque - Known Unknown
2005: Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
2006: Tool - 10,000 Days
2007: Battles - Mirrored
2008: My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
2009: Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

2010: AfroCubism - AfroCubism
2011: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile - The Goat Rodeo Sessions
2012: Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself
2013: The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law
2014: Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
2015: Kathryn Calder - Kathryn Calder
2016: Garbage - Strange Little Birds
2017: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION
2018: The Joy Formidable - Aaarth
2019: Andrew Bird - My Finest Work Yet

2020 wrapup coming next.

12/16 '20

So i've decided to do an Album of the Year contest among all i own.  No EPs or singles, no compilations, live albums OK.  Pickings are slim until the mid-80s.  Unsurprisingly, some years have a winner that may not be a favorite, but it's the best of the bunch.  Other years have 2 or 3 massive albums so choosing one is tough.

1956: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra - Ellington at Newport 1956 (Complete)
1957: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra - Such Sweet Thunder
1958: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra - Black, Brown and Beige
1959: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

1962: Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus, Max Roach - Money Jungle
1963: Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder
1964: John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

1966: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra - The Far East Suite
1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced

1969: Leo Kottke - 6- and 12-String Guitar

1970: Santana - Abraxas
1971: Led Zeppelin - [untitled]
1972: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra - Latin American Suite
1973: Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
1974: King Crimson - Red
1975: Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
1976: Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygène
1977: Pink Floyd - Animals
1978: Jean Michel Jarre - Équinoxe
1979: The Police - Reggatta de Blanc

1980: Talking Heads - Remain in Light
1981: King Crimson - Discipline
1982: Andy Summers & Robert Fripp - I Advance Masked
1983: The Police - Synchronicity
1984: Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade
1985: Soda Stereo - Nada Personal
1986: Peter Gabriel - So
1987: Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses
1988: Living Colour - Vivid
1989: Pixies - Doolittle

12/16 '20 10 Comments
Go buy some Bowie right now and redo the 70s.
Been there, done that.

I should fix the embedded videos that didn't survive the LJ>DW migration.
rone 12/16 '20
I was looking for a quote for Calvin, for his...senior...yearbook...oy...and going through DW to find it. So many broken links :/
Paul Lord 12/16 '20
Wayback Machine!
rone 12/17 '20
Interesting. We have so much musical overlap that assumed that Hunky Dory, Ziggy, or Scary Monsters would have won their years...
Hm, the title associated with John Sheridan is not "Remain in Light".
Brian Rapp 12/16 '20
I didn't take you for a Babylon 5 fan.
rone 12/16 '20
I forget how, but I recently stumbled upon some misplaced directory that happened to contain Jean Michel Jarre's Équinoxe. I loooooved that album in the mid/late 80s, and listening to it again was like revisiting a dear, close friend.
Without consulting my music library, only two counters.
1970 - American Beauty over Abraxas (personally, Live/Dead over either).
1978 - VH1 without question

For 1991 I have no idea how you choose between Nevermind and The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.
Paul Lord 12/16 '20
VH and Nevermind were epochal events, but as standalone albums, they were not my choice.
rone 12/16 '20

May Kim and i look so good in another thirty years.

11/28 '20 4 Comments
I've been meaning to say. I LOVE these photos!!! I thought I DID say, but realized I hadn't, so here we are. LOVE THEM. And you and Kim will surely glow twice as bright.
Anne Mollo 12/14 '20
Careful. If the exponential series continues the descendants will eventually ignite the atmosphere.
Thomas Boutell 12/16 '20edited
rone 12/16 '20
Thomas Boutell 11/28 '20

I did jury duty a few weeks ago. It was a rape case, and there were five charges in total. We were able to only deliver one verdict, guilty on the charge of traumatic injury to an intimate partner. The case was complicated by having only a single witness, the victim, who also was rather unreliable. She admitted freely that she did not remember many of the events of that day, and what she did remember, she wasn't sure of their order. Both people involved had been smoking meth, which was used as a way to further cast doubt upon her testimony, despite clear instructions during jury selection that we should not let that bias us. Three of the four charges which we were hung were overwhelmingly tilted towards guilty, where one juror held out because she felt that the witness was not reliable at all, again despite instructions regarding the single witness rule. The one charge where we were definitely not close to any consensus was the actual rape charge.

It's difficult not to come away from a trial like that feeling that the system is tilted away from justice for the more vulnerable population, or feeling that, by thinking that she could have gotten a more just verdict if she had been a more reliable witness, it's not that far from saying that the victim didn't do enough, which is certainly not compassionate. There was no question that the defendant was a manipulative creep, in addition to his prior history, including a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence.

After the trial, the judge asked the jury if we would stay behind to speak with both lawyers in order to talk about the case and ask any questions or give any feedback. Half of us did it, and I'm glad that I did so. During deliberations, the court recorder came in to read testimony back for us, and she commented that it was a dream trial in the sense that both lawyers were not only on their best behavior but actually worked well with each other. I noticed how remarkably civil and helpful they were, a far cry from the scripted undercutting and backbiting you see on television. I asked the public defender how well-funded his department was, and he said that he would only consider working for Santa Clara County, San Francisco, or New York.

3/21 '20 2 Comments
My one and only stint of jury duty was aggravated sexual assault, which I think wasn't rape only by dint of the fact that the aggressor didn't get beyond removing some clothing items from the victim. There were actually two charges, through which I discovered that "a credible threat of death" is a serious offence in Ireland.

The parties knew each other. The defence made much of this, more than I was comfortable with, given the solid statistics on a rapist being someone that the victim knows. Neither of the parties were sympathetic, either - not quite to the extent you've described above, but certainly there was a sense that this was just another disaster in the lives of two people who had plenty of other disasters in their lives. There was some stagey antagonism between the lawyers (barristers? solicitors? there's some nuance here that I don't know offhand about who gets to be in court and who just wears a suit in an office and takes your money in return for some quantity of legal advice), and I got the sense that it was grandstanding for the jury and the minimal public gallery, and that after the case the two would be off down the pub for a cosy chat.

The thing that struck me most was the whole concept of "beyond a reasonable doubt", which is the standard required for the assault charge; the judge explained to us that if there was any other /possible/ interpretation of the evidence, no matter how implausible, we should make a finding of "not guilty". I get the reasoning behind this, but it's an extraordinarily high burden of proof for a situation which frequently has no real chance of reaching that level of confidence, not least because there may only have been a single witness who also happens to be the victim and the accuser. I think, when it came down to it, there was a certain amount of fuzziness in how the jury interpreted this, because I may have been mistaken but it looked like the judge raised her eyebrows a little when the guilty verdict was delivered. I'm comfortable with my own vote on this, in no small part because of the audio from the emergency services call which we had access to. I don't much care what happened beforehand and who might have given what mixed signals to whom, the person on that call was terrified, and no amount of mitigating circumstances or alternative reads of the evidence could alter that.

Not, I would say, an experience I enjoyed. But an experience, nonetheless.
Waider 3/22 '20
Ugh that is a wrenching situation. Thank you for doing the work.
Thomas Boutell 3/22 '20

My FXTec Pro1 finally arrived!  Except it won't work on Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile.  Hope i get my $700 back.

2/7 '20 9 Comments
Late to the party here, and very sad to hear this review. Dammit, I had such high hopes! I was really pulling for you, and it.

Looks like I'll keep using my KeyOne. (Gotta say, it's been a total champ.)
Fack. Who DOES it work on?
It's a mystery.
rone 2/9 '20
It should work, according to specs, on Verizon.
Kevin Schnitzius 2/7 '20edited
Agreed. Forums were ambivalent on Verizon but insisted it was a gimme on AT&T. It is possible that i got a lemon.
rone 2/9 '20
oh man! That is an interesting gadget. I read this review, which is definitely unflattering, but the reviewer does say that it worked for him fine on AT&t and T-Mobile. Maybe you got a straight-up lemon. Maybe that's a relief, judging from the rest of the review.
"The physical act of forcing the top half to open is maddening. Rather than simply pop open with a little pressure, you have to press the top half forcefully to convince the hinge to budge." 100% agreed. If it had worked, though, i was ready to live with it. Now we each have a Pixel 4 that already go dead at the end of the day with mild-to-moderate use. Fuck phones.
rone 2/9 '20
I'm not immune to the shiny though. I always wish for a better camera. And an optical zoom.
LOL. My Moto X4 is two years old and has better battery life than that.

My unsolicited Internet theory is that in any purchase, it's always better to own something on the high end of midrange than something "top of the line." Like... a Camry, not a [insert car here, I don't know enough about luxury cars].

Not enough people actually get the top of the line thing, the rough edges don't get ironed out, there's pressure to do bleeding edge things and it winds up flaky and poorly supported.

I dreamed last night that i saw Faith No More in concert (whom i've not yet seen) for the second time (at a venue i didn't recognize).  This morning, i got a Songkick alert for an upcoming FNM concert.

I can't process this.

1/28 '20 1 Comment
"Alexa, stop listening to my dreams..."
Brian Rapp 1/29 '20

In alphabetical order, 2019 releases:

  • Battles, Juice B Crypts— The band's down to two members now.  Bleepier.  Vocal collaborations like Gloss Drop.
  • Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet— He's not kidding.  He keeps getting better.
  • Ioanna Gika, Thalassa— She had a guest appearance on Stumptown, where she played an amazing cover of "One Thing Leads to Another", so i looked her up and yeah, sold.
  • The Joy Formidable, Y Falŵn Drom— The band reissued their debut mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning for its 10th anniversary, but also recorded new versions of the songs with Welsh lyrics.
  • Juan Luis Guerra 4.40, Literal— He remains a force, so very good at what he does, and barely looks like he's aged since he came across my cultural radar 30 years ago.
  • Mdou Moctar, Ilana: The Creator— Tuareg Nigerien rock.  Recommendation from a friend, another instant buy.
  • The New Pornographers, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights— Another TNP album without Dan Bejar, which is fine by me.  Doesn't feel as good as its predecessor.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mettavolution— Fabulous.  They stretch by adding more multi-track work, electric guitar, and vocals.  Their arrangement of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" is epic.
  • Takénobu, Conclusion— Nick Ogawa is joined now on violin by his fiancée Kathryn Koch; here, they re-record some older tracks and add new ones.  They're great together.
  • Tool, Fear Inoculum— It's good but... the tracks lack separation.  The overall feel is too similar.  And their ultra-deluxe CD packaging ($45, if you can find it) feels like a cash grab from their legion of slavering fans (i bought the MP3 album).

There was also Sleater-Kinney's The Center Won't Hold, but it was super disappointing and, alas, prophetic.

12/24 '19 3 Comments
How do you discover new music? Is it mostly recommendations from friends, or any music blogs/critics you like?

I wanna grab the new Andrew Bird but haven't yet. I keep meaning to-- I love him. Very happy to hear it's wonderful!
I used to discover it via Pandora (e.g., Takénobu is a Pandora discovery), but it hasn't been too good at that for the last couple of years. It's possible it might still work if i flush out my up/down thumbs.
rone 12/25 '19
I didn't buy any specific music this year -- I have Amazon's Unlimited deal. But thanks for your list, it's still quite difficult to find new, good music.