writers geeks love their lists, as the characters of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity would have you believe.
All the fashionable online pundits are throwing together decade retrospectives, and there’s no reason my little dog and pony show shouldn’t get in on some of that action.
I’ll count backward, instead of using the traditional Desert Island Disc format (which reminds me …), and I’m splitting this list of 50 up by tens. That should really pad my Holidailies output.
This first set is probably the most unstable. I have to admit I was padding these lower ranks, and 10 years from now, I may change my mind about these albums. I’m far more certain about the first 20, maybe the first 25.
For now, here’s what you get.
Minako, Suck It till Your Life Ends mata wa Shine Made Sono Mama Yatte Iro
When this album was released in 2002, I practically gushed over it. I was still pretty enthralled with Japanese indie rock, and I was willing to absorb anything. This album is still very good, but it probably doesn’t deserve quite the enthusiasm on which I lavished. It would also turn out to be the only album Minako would record. (The young singer was also studying medicine at the time.) Pianist Don Grusin produced the album, and he assembled a versatile house band to bring out the country, reggae, pop, blues and rock elements lurking in Minako’s songs.
Tomosaka Rie, Toridori.
For her first album in eight years, actress Tomosaka Rie eschewed standard idol material to work with the likes of Shiina Ringo, Tokyo Jihen, clammbon and Kaela Kimura. Although still very much a pop album, Toridori felt less frothy and more substantive than her late ’90s work. Still not sure if it really qualifies of decade favorite, but it certainly was a favorite for 2009.
Nick Lachey, What’s Left of Me
Here’s the reason this list is called a "favorite" list, not a "best" list. By no stretch of the imagination of the rockist imagination could this album be construed as good. Every song sounds like it was generated by a Clear Channel hit widget with too much compression set as the default. But I can’t help like it because it’s so pre-fabricated. And yes, I do like it when Nick Lachey treats shirts as optional garb.
Tokyo Jihen, Otona (Adult)
It was obvious on the first Tokyo Jihen album that Shiina Ringo was still trying to feel her way through tailoring her music to a specific set of players. She gets it right on Otona.
BONNIE PINK, Present
BONNIE PINK has the kind of pop-friendly voice that doesn’t lend itself well to the experimentation of her recent albums. When she does stick to singer-songwriter material, she can positively shine, as she does on this 2003 album.
Van Tomiko, Van.
Do As Infinity couldn’t work without Van Tomiko, and as it turns out Van Tomiko doesn’t really work without Do As Infinity — or a comparable analogue. Van. could very well be mistaken for a Do As Infinity album, given its karaoke-ready melodies and watered-down hard rock arrangements. In fact, it may even surpass Do As Infinity for clarity.
UA, Golden green
There are two distinct phases in UA’s career — before AJICO and after AJICO. UA kept her more experimental side in check before teaming up with BLANKEY JET CITY’s Asai Kenichi to form what amounts to a Japanese super group. Afterward, UA let it all hang out, all but abdicating any piety to melody. Golden green, however, lets UA have her proverbial cake to eat. It’s one of her most tuneful albums, without forsaking the experiments.
unkie, the Price of Fame
Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew eventually turned into fusion. unkie, following in the footsteps of LOSALIOS, branches the Bitches Brew lineage through surf and punk rock. Hell, yes, it’s exciting as it sounds.
Spangle call Lilli line, ISOLATION
Spangle call Lilli line called this album "Gothic classical". All you need to know is the piano contributions of guest musician Miyazawa Keiko evoke the French impressionist composers (Debussy, Satie, etc.) It’s an ingenious pairing that works incredibly well for this band, which can sometimes be a bit inscrutable.
Music from the Motion Picture, Once
Movie musicals require a suspension of belief modern audiences aren’t apt to provide, which makes Once pretty subversive version of the form. The film follows the convention of building a scene to the song, but instead of a song-and-dance staging, the song is cast in a music video. It’s actually a new form — the music video musical. It also helps that the music is something of a third main character, similar to Amadeus and Immortal Beloved (two of my favorites, by the way.)