Negativity and hope, locked in an eternal struggle featuring titty twisters.
- Follows you
2020 in music 1/1 '21
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.
album of the year, part two 12/16 '20
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.
album of the year, part one 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
faith... again? 1/28 '20
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.
irreverent canine 12/26 '19
Speaking of new music:
the year in music 12/24 '19
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.
changeling music 11/28 '19
Did you ever eagerly await an album by a favorite musician that was such a disappointment that not only did it sour you on subsequent releases, but also caused you to more skeptically analyze their previous work, as you wonder if you ever really liked it as much as you thought you did?
One does not simply listen to music. Sure, you can listen to a whole album at a time, old-school, or just throw everything into the shuffle blender, but the vicissitudes of statistics lead to things getting neglected. In addition, one wants to listen to new stuff, and listen to it more often in order to become familiar with it. How to balance listening to neglected stuff with the need to listen to new stuff more often?
After various attempts that were eventually unsatisfying, i developed a Fibonacci-based approach; songs are added to a list according to how many times they've been played, and each list has a backoff value where a song isn't allowed to show up until it has been Fn days since it was last played. These lists are aggregated into a master list. Another list is created for songs above a minimum number of plays that have not been played for a number of days that is larger than the largest value from the previous lists. The value varies in an attempt to balance the amount of tracks in the latter list with those of the former aggregated list.
As it stands now, I have lists for tracks played up to 11 times, aggregated in the ‘lessthan12’ playlist, which itself is bound to the ’Not Recently Played’ playlist in ‘listen’. I recently ran through the entire playlist, so I am back to playing my entire catalog on shuffle, in order to allow the lists to repopulate.