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

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In vaguely alphabetical order:

Baby Velvet, Please Don't Be in Love With Someone Else — Hannah Crofts from All Our Exes Live in Texas has her solo debut.  Lovely, sightly neurotic pop.

Andrew Bird, Inside Problems — What more can i say?  Bird always brings the goods.

Dead Engine, Brake — (EP) Another small set of power trio rock.

Guilhem Desq & Sébastien Gisbert, Storm — Desq's manic electric hurdy gurdy is joined by Gisbert's thrumming percussion.

50 Foot Wave, Black Pearl — (EP) There was always a clear stylistic break between her two bands as well as her solo work, but the latest Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave, and Kristin Hersh releases sound very similar.  Sludgey, abrasive, sometimes it feel like i'm still listening out of inertia.

Florence + the Machine, Dance Fever — A fuller and broader work than her previous album.  Her voice is still a marvel to behold.

Grieflines, Fathoms — (EP) Electronica side project for I Like Trains guitarist Guy Bannister.

Imogen Heap & Dan O'Neill, Chordata Bytes I — Heap has taken a library of oceanic sounds from marine biologist O'Neill and turned it into electronic music.

Jean-Michel Jarre, Oxymore — Jarre had been collaborating with Pierre Henry, musique concrète pioneer, but he died in 2017.  That work is now finished.  It's a... grimier work, but still very Jarre.

Zola Jesus, Arkhon — Spooky, haunting vocals are her bread and butter.

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee, Bamanan — Malian pop, a Bandcamp suggestion that hit me right away.

Midnight Oil, Resist — My album of the year, everything the Oils are known for, a massive comeback album.

Sea Power, Everything Was Forever — Their soundtrack to Disco Elysium (an amazing video game that is accessible to any level of gaming skill) piqued my interest.  A few of the DE tracks resurface here with lyrics.

Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point —Another comeback album, this one where an old rift between the band members was repaired.  It's a lovely work.

12/30 '22 5 Comments
Yay! I always enjoy your year end music reviews.

I love love love that Midnight Oil album. I heard the first single when it first came out and I couldn't get over how freaking great they sound.

The older I get, the more annoyed I get when people seem surprised that someone over 50 can do something cool, relevant, urgent, or with spryness... and I realize that's probably how I sounded when I was telling folks how much I love the record. Bah.

I also love that Tears for Fears album and was happy they recorded it.

I didn't know Jean Michel Jarre had new (ish) music out, but I will check it out!

And I need to get more into Florence and the Machine. For no reason whatever, I just haven't sat down and given her a careful listen yet, but I know I'm gonna love it. Maybe I'll do that this weekend. What's your favorite album?

Hmm... probably Ceremonials.

Jarre has been on a tear over the last 5 years or so.
I had no idea Kristin Hersh was writing new music. Listening now!
She's never stopped! When did you last listen?
Her live shows are consistently outstanding.
2/11 '21 2 Comments
(George Takei voice) Ohmyyy.
Late to the party here, but hot daaamn. I have never heard of Venus Hum, but this is freakin' wonderful. She sounds like a goddamned adult woman, and boy oh boy is that refreshing. She's not doing the fake "hip singing" accent-- she's just singing (and singing well) no effects on her voice that I can tell.

When she flips into her higher register her voice reminds me of everything I loved about Tori Amos' early '90s era higher register.

Thank you for linking to this!

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.

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.
I was looking for a quote for Calvin, for his...senior...yearbook...oy...and going through DW to find it. So many broken links :/
Wayback Machine!
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".
I didn't take you for a Babylon 5 fan.
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.
VH and Nevermind were epochal events, but as standalone albums, they were not my choice.

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..."

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.
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.