So yeah, I’ve been busy. Day Job has been testing my patience the last few weeks but otherwise it’s same old same old. I’m on the hopefully last go-round of revision for In My Blue World and am planning for a March release for that. Then it’s into first-level revision for the Apartment Complex story.
In other news, I’ve bought myself a Gretsch Electromatic (thank you, Tall Toad Music!) and I am absolutely in love with this thing. It fits quite nicely in my hands and plays just wonderfully. I’ve been recording lo-fi demos on my phone for my Drunken Owl project, which I’m hoping to expand on soon.
Other than that? Not too much to report. January had some really cool music releases, and perhaps in a few days I’ll do a quick rundown of it all. But yeah, I’m treating this hiatus as a much-welcomed vacation from the internets. I’m still floating around on Twitter now and again, and I’ve been having some personal conversations with friends, but other than that, I don’t have any huge project plans on the boards. Even my whiteboard schedule is still blank!
So…not sure when this hiatus will end, but I promise I’ll try to be back soon enough. Thanks for waiting!
Summertime in 2018 seemed to go by in a blur for me somehow…I know I was ridiculously busy with the writing of both In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex story, not to mention dealing with consistent Day Job drama. What kept me sane, as always, was the music. It was around this time that I’d decided to change my listening habits (I’d been listening to Indie617 and occasionally SiriusXM up to that point) but found myself drawn to KEXP out of Seattle. That station provided me with a hell of a lot of new bands I’d never heard otherwise, and I’m happier for it.
Erasure, World Be Live, released 6 July. I can only describe this live record as ‘fabulous’, partly because the tunes are fantastic, and Andy Bell’s between-song commentary is absolutely hilarious.
Cowboy Junkies, All That Reckoning, released 13 July. A powerful record about facing that which you fear.
Tanukichan, Sundays, released 13 July. Not quite indie rock, not quite dreampop, but contains the best parts of both. A lovely relaxing album.
Gaika, Basic Volume, released 27 July. Trippy dancehall rap from Brixton with a mood that channels the murkiness of Tricky.
ShadowParty, ShadowParty, released 27 July. A fun, poppy alt-rock album from a sort-of supergroup containing members of New Order’s touring band.
El Ten Eleven, Banker’s Hill, released 10 August. I seem to be drawn to these indietronic-duo-with-a-sampler-footpedal bands, but I’m not complaining. Thanks to KEXP for pointing me in their direction!
Prince, Anthology: 1995-2010, released 17 August. I’d stopped listening to him sometime around Diamonds and Pearls, so I missed out on quite a lot. This collection surprised the hell out of me and made me appreciate his later work.
Mitski, Be the Cowboy, released 17 August. I’m a late follower of her work but this was a great starting off point for me.
Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You for Today, released 17 August. “Gold Rush” is quite the earworm for me.
Nothing, Dance On the Blacktop, released 24 August. Loud and crunchy, but quiet and tender as well. An interesting detour from their last album, but I love it.
Interpol, Marauder, released 24 August. They seem to have returned to the darker, louder post-punk that made Turn On the Bright Lights such a great album.
tunng, Songs You Make at Night, released 24 August. Late follower to this band as well, but I’m glad I found them. Quiet, delicate, and very quirky.
Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, released 7 September. How does this man keep writing such amazing records??
Eric Bachmann, No Recover, released 7 September. A lovely and tender album. This got heavy rotation during my writing sessions.
Chai, Pink, released 7 September. J-Punk with the energy of Shonen Knife and the goofiness of Puffy AmiYumi.
Bob Moses, Battle Lines, released 14 September. “Heaven Only Knows” is definitely in my Top 5 favorite tunes of the year. The whole album is simply amazing.
Failure, The Furthest Thing EP, released 14 September. Third of three EPs released, with the full album dropping a few months later.
Metric, Art of Doubt, released 21 September. A return to their rockier sound, though their synth layers are still front and center.
The Joy Formidable, Aaarth, released 28 September. Noisy, wild, and sultry. Listen to this loud.
Dave Grohl, Play EP, released 28 September. Sure, you could write this off as a twenty-minute long prog rock experiment, but Dave really is an amazing multi-instrumentalist.
Get comfy, y’all, because this is a huge entry. We had a ton of great releases this past summer that are worth checking out. Enjoy!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food, released 6 April. My first reaction to this was that they sound remarkably like Steely Dan here, and I kinda love it.
Eels, The Deconstruction, released 6 April. Mark Oliver Everett can write deceptively touching songs, even when the subject matter is pain and sadness. An album that’s both about endings and beginnings.
Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, released 6 April. An album as quirky as its title, it’s a hell of a fun listen. This one got a lot of listens during writing sessions this year.
The Damned, Evil Spirits, released 13 April. This album really reminded me of their early 80s post-punk era, especially The Black Album (which is incidentally my favorite of their back catalog). Great stuff.
Jesus Jones, Passages, released 20 April. So glad to see these guys returning. One of my favorite 90s bands, and one of the few that can combine hard rock and electronics and make it sound amazing.
Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles, released 4 May. Russian shoegaze that hits all my buttons: soaring melodies, heavy reverb, light and echoey vocals. A lovely album.
Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)” single, released 7 May. A great and powerful single-only release from the duo that I love cranking up on my headphones.
Beach House, 7, released 11 May. They’ve perfected that dreamy shoegazey sound and truly made it their own.
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, released 11 May. It’s a weird album and I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about (my theory is that it’s about a bellboy/desk jockey at said hotel working solo on the night shift and having a long dark night of the soul), but it’s still amazing.
Failure, Your Body Will Be EP, released 24 May. Second of the band’s four releases. This is going somewhere interesting, but we still don’t have the full story yet…
Snow Patrol, Wildness, released 25 May. A VERY welcome return for the band. “Life on Earth” is another contender for favorite song of the year for me…one of the most powerful tracks they’ve ever released.
Dave Matthews Band, Come Tomorrow, released 8 June. This record felt like a return to their Crash-era sound; it’s quite enjoyable.
Johnny Marr, Call the Comet, released 15 June. His recent solo albums over the past few years have always been great, but he’s surpassed himself here, reinserting his signature ‘guitarchestra’ sound into his work, and it’s simply gorgeous.
Florence + the Machine, High As Hope, released 29 June. One of her most personal albums, this one really reminded me of Patti Smith’s work, and that’s definitely a high compliment.
Gorillaz, The Now Now, released 29 June. After the glorious and crowded Humanz from last year, the ridiculously productive Damon Albarn followed up with a light and poppy record with a lot of sunny radio-friendly tunes.
…and here we are at the end of a long year of great music! As always, labels usually focus more on holiday sales of already-released albums than on dropping new ones, so this month was indeed a bit light. A few singles here and there, and that’s it. Personally I was letting myself relax a bit after an incredibly fruitful and creative year by listening to a lot of the records I’d purchased (or gotten as free promos!) from my store. I started working a little on the revision of The Phoenix Effect and starting in on its sequel, and would continue to do so until about late 1999 when I decided a complete rewrite was in order. (That, of course, would become A Division of Souls, the first book in the Bridgetown Trilogy.) I spent New Year’s Eve up at my sister’s place and taping WFNX’s countdown, and driving home early the next morning.
Porcupine Tree, Metanoia EP, released December. I didn’t get into this band until early 1999 when they dropped their fantastic Stupid Dream album, but I’d seen this cd floating around in the back room of the record store. It’s full of instrumental outtakes from their 1996 album Signify but it does go to show how tight they were as a band.
Belle & Sebastian, This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP, released 7 December. A lovely follow-up EP to their fantastic The Boy with the Arab Strap record from earlier in the year. The title track is a simple three chord tune but it’s got a wonderful slow build.
Beck, “Tropicalia” single, released 7 December. A bit of light-hearted bossa nova fun from his otherwise moody Mutations album, this one got the most airplay from the record on the local alt-rock stations.
All in all, 1998 was a very good year for me. I’d finished up my first novel in years, and I was in a good place financially and emotionally for the first time in ages. I still had a long way to go before I could save enough money to move out on my own, but I was no longer flailing. Things would change soon enough when the store manager moved on to bigger and better things (a regional manager of Newbury Comics — during the post-HMV years I’d run into him every now and again). He was replaced by a much less enjoyable manager, and by 2000 I’d be out of there myself. Despite that, I found myself in a much better frame of mind. And a lot of the tunes from 1998 had a lot to do with it.
Hope you enjoyed my year-long series! I may follow it up with more overviews but I don’t have anything planned as yet. We shall see!
Back again! Thanks for waiting! Here are a few of my favorite releases from late in the year. I’m pretty sure by this point I was already obsessed with heading to Emerson College, having learned about it from a college fair in the Valley. I remember spending a few mornings in The Pub Room writing up my admission forms and essays and looking forward to getting the hell out of town as soon as I could. Changes were a-comin’.
The Wolfgang Press, Birdwood Cage, released November. I’d first heard this band on 4AD’s Lonely Is an Eyesore compilation, and I loved the funk direction they’d decided to head towards.
Danielle Dax, Dark Adapted Eye, released November. She’s a singer I’d heard a lot about through music magazines and Trouser Press, but I’d only ever heard one song from her, a delicate and beautiful song called “When I Was Young”, which was only released as a b-side in 1986. By 1988 she’d signed with Warner and released this great compilation containing multiple singles, about half of her UK Inky Bloaters album, and this new single. She was weird and quirky, but she was a hell of a lot of fun.
The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues, released November. I remember WMDK and most of the other AOR stations loving this album and playing the hell out of it. You’ll still hear the title track on alternative radio to this day. It’s probably their most well known track after “The Whole of the Moon.”
Blue Clocks Green, “Hemingway” single, released November. Alternately voted as the most favorite and the most reviled track by the DJs on WAMH during the ’88-’89 school year. You either loved it or you hated it. Sure, it’s a really dumb song, but it’s catchy as hell. The 12″ of this album featured a remix called The Sun Also Reverses, which was the 7″ mix playing backwards.
My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything, released November. Before Loveless blew everyone’s mind in 1991, there was this album, a perfect bridge between their more psychedelic earlier sounds and their noisier follow-up.
REM, Green, released 8 November. Their first album for Warner, this one divided some fans. There’s a distinct move away from the acoustic countrified sound of the previous albums, leaning more towards the hard rock they’d started experimenting with on Lifes Rich Pageant as well as with more poppy fare. This one’s my favorite REM album — it’s solid and it’s amazing.
Erasure, Crackers International EP, released 28 November. Sneaking out some new tracks after the unexpected but welcome success of The Innocents earlier in the year, Erasure had another minor hit with the “Stop!” single.
Wait, September is already over? Man, that month went by WAY too fast.
Here’s some good tunage that popped up during the past month that I’m grooving to.
Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, released 7 September. He might be in his upper 70s, but he’s still rocking out, still touring, and still writing some great melodies. Like his previous record (2013’s New), while his voice isn’t as sonorous and steady as it used to be, that’s no worry, because he makes up for it by still being an amazingly creative songwriter.
Eric Bachmann, No Recover, released 7 September. The former Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers singer returns with his second solo album, this time full of absolutely gorgeous acoustic tracks. It’s quite a relaxing listen and its melodies go in all sorts of neat places.
Chai, Pink, released 7 September. This is a very weird and goofy J-Punk band, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun. They kind of remind me of Shonen Knife in a way, but with a more Puffy AmiYumi pop direction.
Craig Armstrong, Sun On You, released 7 September. Armstrong is more known for his film score work (including many of Baz Luhrmann’s movies), he occasionally releases an album that’s just as lovely as his scores. This one’s primarily a piano-based record but it’s a wonderful listen.
Bob Moses, Battle Lines, released 14 September. My latest music obsession, this electronic duo’s second album feels more vibrant and alive than their previous record, and sounds just awesome on headphones. Love this one.
Low, Double Negative, released 14 September. A perfect example of a band going in a completely unexpected direction, throwing you for a loop. This isn’t your quietcore Low… this is Low as filtered through electronic distortion, overmodulation, and who knows what else. It’s not for everyone, but it’s pretty damn fascinating once you get used to it.
Failure, EP3: The Furthest Thing, released 14 September. The third of four EPs scheduled for this year from this trio continues their project of releasing an album piecemeal, recording and releasing four EPs of four tracks once every quarter. Eagerly awaiting the final release in a few months!
Jungle, For Ever, released 14 September. The London collective releases their second record of 70s inspired groovy soul funk, and it’s infectious. They’re such a fun band to listen to!
Metric, Art of Doubt, released 21 September. While their previous albums were veering more towards a synth rock sound, this one pulls it all back and provides a lot of angry guitars and heavy lyrics. It’s a dark album, but it’s amazing and their best in years.
Alt-J, Reduxer, released 28 September. The alt-rock weirdos release a remix album of last year’s Relaxer, only they’ve introduced hip hop and electronica into their sound. The result is not only surprising and unexpected but it works perfectly. Definitely worth checking out.
The Joy Formidable, Aaarth, released 28 September. Noisy and often hypnotic angular rock that goes to unexpected places but sounds fantastic. An album that sounds dissonant and beautiful at the same time.