Favorite edition 2010: Quarter first

I may as well just call it now.

All the new releases in which I’m interested have all been pushed to April, which makes 2010 Q1 a dud for predicting what may end up on the year-end favorite list. Of course, it’s pretty ridiculous to make such predictions when the year is only three months old. (As if that stopped me before.)

Of the five albums bearing 2010 release dates I’ve so far encountered, only three have managed to wedge their way into regular rotation:

  • Tokyo Jihen, Sports Is this Bizzaro world we’ve entered? While Sanmon Gossip seems like the Tokyo Jihen record Tokyo Jihen never recorded, Sports is the Shiina Ringo album that never followed up Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana. The writing on this album is really, really good, and the performances even tighter. I grew to like Sanmon Gossip with a lot of effort, but Sports grabbed hold immediately.
  • Res, Black.Girls.Rock! Res made this album available as a free download on her web site in late 2009, but only recently did she make it available on CD — with poster! — so I’m considering this a 2010 release. How I Do was a remarkable debut, and the eight years since have not diminished Res’ muse. In fact, she gives rock a bit more focus on this album.
  • Sade, Soldier of Love Sade’s previous album, 2000’s Lovers Rock, was the first time Sade made a really cohesive album. Soldier of Love doesn’t feel quite as together, but demand for new Sade material outstrips supply by a long proverbial mile. And given the long wait, Sade and co. made sure it was worth it.

As for the other two …

The Magnetic Fields’ Realism is a pretty breezy album, but Stephin Merritt’s witticisms are not where my tastes lie at the moment. It shouldn’t stop fans from enjoying it nonetheless. Eluvium’s Similes ventures into vocals, a first for Matthew Cooper. Not sure if my tastes align with that either.

Most of the first part of this year has been spent playing catch-up. My trip in November made me miss quite a few 2009 releases that should have caught my attention. To wit:

  • Sacha Sacket, Hermitage Sacket really throws his cap over the wall on this one. The bigger sound is something I hope he pursues on his next album.
  • Dylan Rice, Electric Grids & Concrete Towers I may have to live with this one a bit. I still have a big crush on him, but I’m not sure his rustic charms are as effective as they were back in 2006.
  • Alarm Will Sound, a/rhythmia Oh, sure, it may sound like chaotic noise to some listeners, but in reality, there’s a level of precision demanded by these pieces that only the brave can dare to accomplish. Alarm Will Sound, in other words, have guts.
  • Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, Terry Riley: In C Remixed I didn’t have high expectations for this collection, but some of these remixes are surprising. At the same time, it’s jarring to hear actually bass lines and chord progressions imposed on what should be a harmonically vague piece.
  • Stephen Sondheim, Road Show (Original Cast Recording) I couldn’t quite get into Passion, and I don’t remember much of Assassins. Road Show is probably the first Sondheim score since Into the Woods I’ve really dug.

Now that select Warner Bros. titles are available on eMusic, what I’ve really been doing these first few months of 2010 is catching up on catalog.

  • Club Nouveau, Life, Love and Pain I’ve been meaning to crossgrade this album from vinyl to digital. On a visit to San Francisco, I found it in Amoeba Records and gave in to the impulse to purchase it. Days later, it became available on eMusic. Huh. Despite the big hit singles from this album, the remaining tracks (save for two) don’t feel like filler.
  • Erasure, The Innocents I have always liked this album, but I never actually owned a copy of it. I taped it off a friend’s copy back in the ’80s. I could have dropped cash on the deluxe edition, but I don’t love the album that much.
  • Santigold, Santigold Santigold co-produced Res’ 2001 debut, so I decided to check her out finally. Why did I hesitate?
  • Darren Hayes, The Tension and the Spark I vaguely remember Savage Garden as being incredibly milquetoast, but this album could actually make a person forget that era of Hayes’ past.
  • John Adams, Nixon in China At first, I thought I would need to break up listening to this opera over a period of days. I was transfixed by it in one sitting, and it continues to be a mesmerizing work with each play. It’s hard to get "I Am the Wife of Mao Tse-tung" out of your head when you hear it.
  • Last Forever, Trainfare Home This overlooked Nonesuch release predates the rustic lushness of Hem by a number of years. These original pieces are meant to sound timeless, and they do.
  • Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols I get it now.