Tuesday, January 1, 2013
A Year in Music (Something Changed)
Instead of simply rattling off another list of my favorite albums released this year, I thought that I would provide a sampling of what's been on heavy rotation this past year, a partial soundtrack to my 2012 if you will. So here we go, in rough chronological order . . .
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stage Whisper: "When you've been stuck here on the doorstep of nothing to forsake, well, you might as well be anyone's to take . . ." Every album Gainsbourg has released has been stronger than the previous, as her voice grows more mature with each outing. Listening to this disc, I discovered that I now find her live versions of many of the tracks from IRM more powerful than the original studio takes from only two years ago. (Meanwhile, her voice is also sounding more like her mother's, especially when singing in French).
Favorite tracks: "Memoir", "AF607105"(live), "Just Like a Woman"(live)
Pulp I: One of my first challenges of 2012 was charming a potential date through a mutual obsession of Pulp. In the end, it was pretty unsuccessful, but I am not going to complain about anything that led me to put Pulp's underrated This Is Hardcore back into regular rotation.
Favorites: "The Fear", "Glory Days", "Like a Friend"
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas: "The splinters that you carry/The cross you left behind" Cohen is a master, one of my all time favorite singers, whose influence I am sure has seeped into my own poetry both consciously and otherwise. I offer no qualified praise for his most recent album, as others have, but plainly declare it without caveat a beautiful collection of songs. His last two albums have been a return to the feel of Recent Songs, which, in my mind at least, has been quite welcome.
Favorites: "Come Healing," "Going Home", "Show Me the Place"
Belle & Sebastian I: I was hanging out in the Village waiting for a delayed date, when I decided to see what was in the used CD section of Kim's. Hmmm, Tigermilk, that one Belle & Sebastian album I never got around to buying. Bought it, put it on at home the next day and . . . wow. How exactly did I get by all this time without this disc? Stellar. (Oh the date? Complicated. It ended up going no where, but that's truly a story for another day . . . )
Favorites: "Expectations" "She's Losing It" "Mary Jo"
The Doors, Strange Days: Indeed they were, Jim, indeed they were . . .
Favorites: "People Are Strange" "Moonlight Drive"
Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde: Still capable of revelations after all this time . . .
Favorites: "Visions of Johanna," "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"
The Walker Brothers, No Regrets: Some uncanny timing & all of a sudden, so much more makes sense . . .
Favorites: "Hold an Old Friend's Hand", "Burn Our Bridges"
Johnny Cash, American IV, Live at San Quentin: Several years ago (yes, I'll admit that it was when Walk the Line was released) I tried to get into the music of Mr. Johnny Cash, yet for whatever reason it did not resonate with me at the time. Yes, I liked it (as familiar as it is, can anyone deny the hook of "Ring of Fire"?), yet something was missing. Maybe I needed time to pass, my ears to mature, or circumstances to shift. Whatever it was, it only took the first few notes of each of these albums for me to stop whatever I was doing at the moment and realize what I had been missing out on all this time . . .
Favorites: "The Man Comes Around," "Give My Love to Rose," "Wreck of the Old '97" "Darlin' Companion"
Scott Walker, Classics and Collectables: Someday, someone, somehow will reissue the remaining Walker albums from the 60s/70s that have never been on CD. Until then, we'll just have to get by with the second disc of this anthology. The record executives may have calling the tunes (literally) but he sang them oh so lovely . . .
Favorites: "The Me I Never Knew," "I Have Dreamed" "This Way Mary"
Pulp II: The difference that a few months makes: from trying to seduce some gal through the internet to standing in Radio City Music Hall with my dearest love, basking together in the fact that we were actually seeing Pulp live. Not an imaginary story, not a dream sequence. This. Actually. Happened. Wow.
Favorites: "Common People" "Razzamtazz" "I Spy" "Something Changed" "Do You Remember the First Time" & all those countless other songs that I have been obsessed with these past 15 odd years . . .
Spiritualized, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light: Following up on the strength of Songs in A&E, Mr. Pierce has put together another beauty of layered rock music. Yes, he may still subscribe to the rule of "why use just one gospel choir, when you can use two," but it works, oh so so well. If you've got some good stereo speakers, this is the time to use 'em . . .
Favorites: "So Long Pretty Thing," "Life Is a Problem"
Frank Sinatra, Songs for Swingin' Lovers: What better way to begin a Memorial Day weekend than with this classic album? Some things simply don't age (OK, "Making Whoopee" kinda does, but damnit, he still sings it like a pro . . .).
Favorites: "You Make Me Feel So Young," "Too Marvelous for Words"
Belle & Sebastian II(Push Barman to Open New Wounds): As I said, some things never grow old, this two disc collection of gems being among them.
Favorites: "String Bean Jean," "Belle & Sebastian", "This Is Just a Modern Rock Song," "Jonathan David" "Marx & Engels"
J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos: Eight discs of a Baroque master's music to soak up, which may take awhile (several months later, I'm still absorbing it all) but well worth it . . .
Favorites: Concerto #5
Bob Dylan, Tempest: Another stellar late career album from Mr. Zimmerman. Plus, who would have guessed 50 some years ago that not only would he eventually record a 14 minute long piece about the sinking of the Titanic with a gloss, but it would be among the most moving songs of his career?
Favorites: "Tempest" "Soon after Midnight"
Bill Fay, Life Is People: "Souls arriving constantly/From the shores of eternity/Birds and bees and butterflies/Parade before my eyes." A collection of meditations on the universe and our place in it, our search for love, grace & peace, all conveyed through lush arrangements and with Fay's typical humility. No less than his "Time of the Last Persecution" (written 40 years ago in response to the killings at Kent State), music for the days we live in . . .
Favorites: "The Healing Day", "Never Ending Happening"
Wolfgang Mozart, Don Giovanni: The opera I spent the most time with this year, including a revisiting of the current production at the Met. It also inspired a one-act play which I might return to for further tweaking in the new year, or I may abandon, or, well, we'll see . . .
Favorites: "Madamina, Il Catalogo E' Questo"
Dave Brubeck Quartet, Live at Oberlin: Even before Mr. Brubeck's recent passing, this was one of my more highly played jazz albums. It's a perennial favorite, which now has added poignancy to it . . .
Favorites: "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)"
Luke Haines, The Oliver Twist Manifesto: Sly, poppy, philosophical, irreverent, brilliant . . .
Favorites: "Oliver Twist", "Christ"
Meanwhile, there's a stack of year end acquisitions that I need to catch up on -- what? Oh, and there's a new Thao and the Get Down Stay Down out in a month? Better get listening . . .
Cheers all, and best wishes for 2013.