Here, then, is where the bulk of my listening in 2010 resided. I find myself in an odd position of championing albums that are already well vetted. Almost defeats the purpose of keeping a weblog.
Unless, of course, my opinion rubs against conventional wisdom, which it so far hasn’t.
- John Adams, Nixon in China First, I couldn’t believe eMusic would let me have a two-hour opera for approximately $5. (Back when they gauged downloads by individual files instead of price.) I thought I would need to break up listening to this work over a number of days. I took in the entire thing in one sitting, and most subsequent listens were complete from start to finish. Nixon in China is engaging, sometimes even exhilarating, even if the idea of a US diplomatic trip to a Communist country during the Cold War seems like unlikely operatic material.
- Santigold, Santigold Santigold helped out Res on her 2001 debut album, How I Do, so when Res came out with Black.Girls.Rock! this year, I checked out Santigold at the same time. Hot damn — how do you start to describe this self-titled debut? Like Res, Santigold injects a lot of rock attitude in her heavy beats, but her rock skews more indie, putting her closer to the bleeding edge. Creator, indeed.
- Benjamin Britten, War Requiem / Sinfonia da Requiem / Ballad of Heroes At some point, I’ll listen to Britten’s own recording of his landmark work, but the performance by Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus was my first introduction.
- Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols Yeah, I get it now.
- Kawai Kenji, Serei no Moribito Ongakuhen 1 I’ve watched Serei no Moribito from start of finish a number of times now, and I knew I needed the soundtrack when I started humming "Naji no Uta" without provocation.
- Last Forever, Trainfare Home This obscure Nonesuch release predates Hem by about two years, and it’s a solid collection of original music meant to sound like timeless Americana. An article in the Austin Chronicle about Last Forever caught my attention back in 1997, but I never followed up on the curiosity till years later, when I found the title while browsing eMusic Nonesuch offerings. The album has been taken off of eMusic, but it’s still available from Nonesuch itself.
- The Decemberists, Castaways and Cutouts The Decemberists can rub people the wrong way, what with Colin Meloy’s precious nasal voice and stately lyrics. But they feel closer in spirit to Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea than the lethargic torture of Microphones ever could.
- Lisa Stansfield, Affection This album was a big hit in the early ’90s, but it’s all but out of print in the US. In the UK, a 2005 reissue expands the track listing to include an early EP. At the time, the chip I held on my shoulder for Soul II Soul’s "Back to Life" and "Keep on Movin’" applied to Stansfield’s "All Around the World". Of course, deep down I loved all those tracks.
- Anita Baker, Rapture If I weren’t so distracted by post-punk, I probably would have owned this album back in 1986.
- Janelle Monáe, Metropolis: The Chase Suite You know where I stand on TheArchAndroid.
Honorable mention goes to …
- Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come I downloaded this album as a way to pad my eMusic quota, but it was a natural fit considering I’m familiar with the album’s opening track ("Lonely Woman") and the ensemble’s instrumentation, which John Zorn mimicked with Masada.
- The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta I’m a fan of Sting’s first two albums, but my curiosity about the Police itself extended only to the big hit singles. I’m glad I decided to dig deeper.
- Toni Childs, Union Not sure why I didn’t take to this album when it first came out, but as an adult, it spoke to me much more.
- Erasure, The Innocents I like this album enough to own it legitimately but not enough to drop big bucks on a deluxe edition.
- Club Nouveau, Life, Love and Pain Aside from the two filler tracks on this album, it’s pretty tight and ages incredibly well. I bought the CD when I visited Amoeba Records in San Francisco, my only purchase out of so many available. Sid Chen over at The Standing Room had the best reaction: "You canNOT be serious".
- The Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come Like Toni Childs, I didn’t take to this album when it was introduced to me in 1987, but I had a far easier time digesting it many decades later. Maybe because by then I had already listened to The Queen Is Dead.
- Emmylou Harris, Roses in the Snow I think the Portraits boxed set I bought in 1996 did too good a job indoctrinating me into the Church of Emmylou Harris — I’m actually familiar with a number of tracks on this album already.