Favorite edition 2007: Quarter first

I’m usually surprised if the first quarter of a year yields something which really gets my attention. Q1 of 2007 is not surprising.

CD sales are down 20 percent since the start of the year, and a soft release schedule has been cited as a reason for the slip. Norah Jones was probably the biggest release event in the first quarter, but I listened to her album once and nearly slipped into a coma. How the hell is this woman such a zietgiest?

I’m going to take a stab at listing some favorite first quarter releases, but I can already tell that by third quarter, many of these titles will fall off. If they don’t, this year is really going to suck.

  • Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone It’s because of Friday Night Lights on TV that I’ve really grown to like Explosions in the Sky. The band’s music serves as a terrific score for the drama unfolding on the small screen. As for All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, it’s a return to the harder stuff on Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever but they’ve also expanded the sonic palette to include heavily-processed piano and strings.
  • Sasagawa Miwa, Mayoi Naku This album doesn’t really get going till about the fourth track, but on this album, Sasami doesn’t get bogged down by her introspection. In fact, Mayoi Naku is her most outgoing album so far. There are still some dead spots, but they’re more than compensated by such decidedly harder tracks as "Kako" and "Kageboushi".
  • Shiina Ringo x Saito Neko, Heisei Fuuzoku Ringo-chan is kind of slumming it on this album by performing orchestral versions of her own music, but even when she’s slacking, she still sounds far and away better than other artists at their peak. Shiina includes a number from tracks from the already-exotic Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, and they don’t reveal anything new about those songs. The new material on Heisei Fuuzoku really shines, especially "Oiran" and "Hatsukoi Shoujo".
  • Ore wa Konna Mon Ja Nai, 2 The band’s SXSW showcase was impressive, and even on recording, owkmjn’s angular playing is difficult and rewarding. It’s improvisatory without being overtly jazz, and it’s post-rock without the meandering.
  • Hyakkei, Standing Still in a Moving Scene Hyakkei is a very pretty-sounding band. They don’t possess the brutal force of Envy, mono or Explosions in the Sky, which sets them apart. And that’s a good thing.
  • Chara, Union I’ve always liked Chara’s voice, but I have never really warmed up to her albums. A detractor of Musicwhore.org way, way back said I didn’t get it because I wasn’t listening to her lyrics, which I don’t. That bias stated, I really like the music I’ve heard on Union. She sounds really upbeat on this album, and the forays into sparseness which (seemed to have) killed her previous work is kept to a minimum.
  • Tommy heavenly6, Heavy Starry heavenly This album is just the last four singles on one convenient disc, but Tommy heavenly6 is my favorite Kawase Tomoko persona. I … almost … don’t … miss the brilliant green.
  • Steve Reich, Phases This set was actually released late last year, but I didn’t get my hands on it till this year. If you get the individual discs on which these Nonesuch recordings appear, you’d blow about $20 each. For $40, you can get them in one convenient package.

I spent most of this quarter listening to catalog. Those favorites:

  • Grizzly Bear, Horn of Plenty Haunting and soothing. I like the lo-fi sound of Horn of Plenty over the studio finesse of Yellow House. The remix disc of Horn of Plenty is also impressive, and I don’t listen to remix discs.
  • Patty Griffin, Flaming Red You could pick up her latest album, Children Running Through, but you haven’t really heard her rock out till you listen to Flaming Red.
  • James William Hindle, Town Feeling Some easy, rustic country.
  • Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd, Original Cast Recording (remastered) The remastered sound of this recording brings subtleties in the orchestration previously muffled. And that whistle? Listen on headphones for the best effect.