The two CDs I enjoyed the most this year were both sound worlds, and silences, from the distant past:
Brian Eno, Another Green World, and
van Morrison, Astral Weeks, fifty year anniversary for that one, and I hadn’t realized how closely the lyrics were tied to details of Belfast. Next up will be the quieter cuts on Electric Ladyland.
The Beatles’s White Album tapes were a revelation, but it is enough to hear them once or twice. I learned that the album was remarkably well-produced, no less than Sgt. Pepper, to get that under-produced sound. “I Will” came directly from “Blue Moon” (!), and “Blackbird” came from Bach’s Bourree (less surprising). Classic Beatle songs such as “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” and many others were basically written by 1968, making 1966-68 a truly remarkable period in their songwriting output. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was better in its early acoustic version. Some of my best Beatles listening was to track down their most Cage-Stockhausen-influenced passages, such as Paul’s acoustic fade-out at the end of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” or the instrumental close of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
Paul’s new album Egypt Station does not have much ear candy, but it does reveal his longstanding status as a very horny dude; listen to his much earlier Temporary Secretary for something unacceptably obscene (and creative). Then go back and re-listen to his early Beatle lyrics through this lens. The best argument for LSD I’ve heard is simply that it got Paul to stop singing about girls for a few years, so it must be pretty powerful.
I got sick of hip-hop this year, so of the new releases I’ve been most intrigued by:
Lush, Snail Mail (at least three excellent songs)
Low, Double Negative
Mitski, Be the Cowboy
But it is too early to judge their staying power. Sitting in the “I still haven’t listened to this yet pile” is:
Aphex Twin, Collapse EP (too many other CDs piled on top of the record player!)
Autechre, NTS Sessions, an 8-CD set.
Self-recommending is Desmond Dekker: Action!/Intensified
What do you all recommend?