Dad’s Top Discs of 2022

December 14, 2022

I’m not sure if there has been a musical theme this year. I’ve spent a lot of the year listening to Polish and Ukrainian music during and following my trip into the war zone. Replaying “Szal Niebieskich Cial” by Maanam in my Krakow hotel room, waiting for my ride to Auschwitz, or blasting “Бабушка” by the Russian rap artist L-Jane as we sped towards Lviv with the smoke from Russian rocket attacks in front us will always be powerful musical memories.

The best concert of the year was easily the DhakaBrakha show in Beaverton on September 30. The Ukrainian band enchanted us and compelled us to act. Their other-worldly sounds had Andi squeezing my arm and me in tears thinking of the people I left behind there. The images behind the quartet conveyed that this was more than just a concert. It was a desperate plea for global action. In Beaverton.

Like last year, I was devoted to making endless playlists on Spotify. This included 35 playlists for Andi while she was living in her apartment, with titles like, “Tied to the Whipping Post” and “So It’s Come to This, Barry Manilow.” Andi’s back home but we’re still not back together, so I will step up my playlist game in 2023.

As part of my Spotify playlist obsession, at the end of each month, I listened to at least one song of the 100 to 200 albums that were released that month (thanks to Wikipedia), making a playlist representing that month’s music. So I have quite literally listened to at least one song from each major release in 2022. That’s a lot of K-Pop and death metal. But it gave me a good overview of the year and lots of new discoveries, like Norway’s Blood Command. While I was looking for love lost songs, I found plenty of punk and metal albums that gave me the energy to swim forward.

So here is my annual “Top 20” list. Maybe not the twenty best albums, but the albums I enjoyed the most this year. The top three reflect the diversity on the list. Wet Leg’s debut album brought me back to the clever wordplay that I loved in 80s new wave music. The Smile’s A Light for Attraction Attention is essentially a Radiohead album and it transported me the to the ambient beep bop boop that helped be drift off on those endlessly lonely nights. At the top of the pile is the New Jersey punk band, Titus Andronicus. Their sweeping opus, The Will to Live, was joyous, earnest, and empowering. I played “I’m Screwed” a thousand times, always at full volume. It’s exactly what I needed to survive 2022.

The rest of the list has some old friends, like Harry Styles and Miranda Lambert, and releases I just lost myself in, like Soli’s beautiful tribute to Miriam Makeba. Giles Martin’s remix of The Beatles’ Revolver was orgasmic, especially when experienced with a gummy or two. I’m sure 2023 will have some favorite artists I don’t yet know exist. No doubt I will be listening to more music with my daughter who will turn nine in nine months. But here’s my soundtrack this year that has been like no other.

1. Titus Andronicus – The Will to Live

2. The Smile – A Light for Attraction Attention

3. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

4.  Blood Command  – Praise Armageddonism

5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House

6. The Linda Lindas – Growing Up

7. Somi – Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba

8. The Beatles – Revolver Super Deluxe Edition

9. Adrian Quesada – Jaguar Sound

10. Todd Rundgren – Down with the Ship

11. Viagra Boys – Cave World

12. Rosalía – Motomami

13. Natalia Lafourcade – De Todas las Flores

14. Drive-By-Truckers – Welcome to Club XIII

15. Miranda Labert – Palomino

16. Bebehoven – Light Moving Time

17. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

18. Beyoncé – Renaissance

19. Father John Misty – Chloe and the Next 20th Century

20. Various Artists – Elvis (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Father Randy’s Top 20 LPs for 2016: Back to Vinyl

December 27, 2016

Near the end of my tenure at Portland State University, the provost instituted her “challenge,” called reTHINK PSU, designed to encourage the growth of the use of technology to expand the university . She invited a speaker to get the faculty onboard the move to online education. He repeated the Nathan Harden line, that in fifty years half the brick and mortar colleges and universities in the country would be history, replaced by websites (probably run by some kid in India). The message was get on the train or get left at the station. He tried to make the point by claiming that CD technology had replaced vinyl records, so get ready for college professors to go the way of the Foghat album.

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Ironically I was listening to this talk sitting in my office in Cramer Hall as it streamed on the university server. If I had been in the room, I would have jumped up to say that CDs sales were tanking, but vinyl was making a massive comeback, growing even faster than downloads and streaming music. Fortune magazine reported in April that vinyl album sales were at a 28-year high. Turns our kids want their Taylor Swift on wax (and their teachers in the goddamn classroom). Sometimes the old way is the best.

I say this because I really fell off my hipness high horse this year. The arrival of the baby in 2014 got me out of the cavalcade of live shows and endless hours in record stores. In 2016, between a rampaging toddler, the effort to return to work, busting Trump’s tiny balls, and finishing my new novel, The Dream Police, I just abdicated my staples for side-lined music aficionadodom. My favorite podcasts,  All Songs Considered, Sound Opinions, and Alt Latino, went un-downloaded. Our local weeklies, Willamette Week and The Portland Mercury, remained in their boxes on NE Alberta Street. An occasional breeze or hip kid would blow in to let me know what was up, but I missed so much. Did you know that Radiohead put out an awesome album in 2016? Of course you did.

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Where I kept things real was on the vinyl front. A large chunk of the new releases I bought this year were on vinyl (including a bootleg vinyl release of Frank Ocean’s long-awaited follow up to the brilliant 2012 release, Orange). I couldn’t stop buying vinyl, at Amoeba Music in LA and Peaches in New Orleans, and a dozen record stores in Portland. Old, new, kids’ records, 45’s, and even Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass from the 50 cent bin at Everyday Music. Solange just sounded better on vinyl and Bowie had to be experienced deep in the ruts. The ghost is the grooves, not the machine.

Andrea and I took our love of LPs into the sharing economy. Our basement just became an AirBNB called the Alberta Vinyl Den. Each guest lets me know his or her music tastes when they make a booking and I stock the room with a dozen albums from my massive collection. So guests get to feel like they are staying in the record store of their dreams, complete with a turntable and a refrigerator full of beer.

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2016 was a still a great year for music. With the blessing of babysitters we did manage to see some great shows, including some true classics; Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, and the Electric Light Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl (a double bucket list item). We saw some good world music, like Bomba Estereo and Bombino. We saw a wildly drunken gig by Greasy Alice in New Orleans and caught a show by old friend Chris Robinson that took us down a rabbit hole. I just caught Georgia underground pioneers Pylon at Mississippi Studios. (Last time I saw them was at the Agora Ballroom in 1983.) Earlier in the year we caught a barely attended show there by Sir Paul’s son, James McCartney and got to chat after the gig. Other than the Cuban band we saw every Sunday during our summer on Isla Mujeres, I think my favorite show of 2016 was Father John Misty at Edgefield in the pouring rain surrounded by a thousand other dudes with beards. It was perfectly Portland.

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So here is my Top 20 favorite albums of 2016, recognizing that I’m surely missing a ton I will discover in 2017 or 2027. (Nick Cave’s new one? Someone said it was killer.) I really think we’ll be talking about the Beyoncé and Solange albums 50 years from now.  A serious thanks to the gang at Music Millennium for pointing me in the right direction on some good stuff.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar
  2. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  3. Y La Bamba – Ojos del Sol
  4. Solange – A Seat at the Table
  5. Drive-By-Truckers – American Band
  6. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
  7. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
  8. Frank Ocean – blond
  9. Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
  10. Bombino – Azel
  11. Patti Smith – Horses: Live at Electric Ladyland Studios
  12. The Beatles – Live at Hollywood Bowl
  13. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
  14. Carla Morrison – Amor Supremo
  15. The Bangles – Ladies and Gentlemen…
  16. A Tribe Called Quest  – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
  17. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
  18. Chris Robley – The Great Make Believe
  19. Ages and Ages – Something to Ruin
  20. Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello

Here’s to more music on vinyl in 2017. And more professors in classrooms.

Dad’s Favorite Discs 2015

December 28, 2015

SaturnspatternDespite the fact, now that The Beatles are streaming on Spotify, there is a whole new generation of kids that will never listen to Rubber Soul straight through, I’m still a firm believer in the album format. Artists like Kendrick Lamar can have a complete musical vision that can’t be represented by one track. Some, like Bjork, will actually wrap it in some wonderful album artwork. And some will release a set of songs that you just can’t stop playing. For me that was the 9 track album a hero of mine from my teenage days, Paul Weller. Andrea and I both played the hell out of it and it will still be on heavy rotation in the new year.

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It was hard to hang out in record stores this year with a wild monkey living in our casa. I even fell behind on my three favorite music podcasts (Sound Opinions, All Songs Considered, and Alt Latino). Most of the year was spent watching Cozy transform from a baby into a toddler, and on planes and writing my ass off. But there was still plenty of music in the house and the one thing we learned in 2015 is that Cozy Valentina loves to dance, especially to hip hop and Latin music. And she likes record stores, too.

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The six weeks we spent in Mexico helped to infuse her with her native rhythms. Our weekly “Sunday Funday” fix of Cuban music on the beach and the endless playing of Osmani Garcia and Pitbull’s single, “Taxi,” had her up on her feet and shaking her diaper. The other day I was playing some dreary Bob Dylan and she figured out how to get the CD out of the stereo and replace it with a Bomba Estero disc. She hit play, climbed on the table and danced. She’s mama’s girl.

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There was a great theme of classic jazz this year. The amazing DJs on KMHD got me through the ups and downs of 2015. They provided much of the soundtrack while I worked on my new novel, The Dream Police. The year culminated with a show at the Village Vanguard in New York City a few weeks ago. The Christian McBride Trio provided an evening of bliss in the world’s most historic jazz cellar.

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We actually did manage to get out and see some shows this year thanks to some much appreciated babysitting. We went to see Patti Smith, Algiers, Madonna, Genders, Emily Kinney, La Santa Cecilia and Paul Weller. Andrea made it to shows by Sleater-Kinney and Elle King. And Cozy went to her first two concerts with us this year, U2 in Vancouver and then The Waterboys in Portland.

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As I predicted, I bought a lot less music in 2015 (and a lot more diapers). But here are 20 releases from 2015 I really enjoyed. I’ve been a Paul Weller fan since he was in The Jam in the late 1970s and I think his latest is one of the best things he’s ever done. Seeing him play these songs at the Wonder Ballroom in October was beyond thrilling. And I have to say how excited I was about a new ELO album. It may really just be a Jeff Lynne album but it captures what was great about the group in the seventies; the music that inspired my last book.

  1. Paul Weller – Saturns Patterns
  2. Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Alone in the Universe
  3. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  4. Algiers – Algiers
  5. The Waterboys – Modern Blues
  6. Bomba Estereo – Amanecer
  7. Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
  8. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
  9. The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
  10. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah
  11. Madonna – Rebel Heart
  12. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
  13. Bob Dylan – Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Best of the Cutting Edge
  14. Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
  15. Keith Richards – Crosseyed Heart
  16. Bjork – Vulnicura
  17. Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure
  18. Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
  19. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  20. Pete Townshend – Truancy

You can stream tracks here on my Spotify 2015 Top 20 playlist.

Honorable mention: Waxahatchee – Ivy Trip, Bob Dylan – Shadows in the Night, The Flaming Lips – With a Little Help From My Fwends, Ringo Starr – Postcards From Paradise, Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect, Various Artists – PDX Pop Now 2015

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I love year-end lists. They typically serve as shopping lists (or at least streaming). SO much music to catch up on. I bought a Kedrick Lamar track over the summer but the album topped so many year-end lists, I finally purchased the whole thing and now I get it (but it loses points for all the “bitch” talk). It will be on heavy rotation in 2016. But it’s going to have to compete with the new David Bowie album out on January 8. And I know I need to get into Grimes and give that Sujan Stevens album another try. But what all about the great stuff that I’ll be ranking a year from now? When am I going to listen to that?

I have a lot of catching up to do. I’m sure when I get the latest albums by Alabama Shakes, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dwight Yoakum, and Young Fathers I’ll wish I had listened to them in 2015. Cozy just wants more salsa and hip hop. I’m setting aside some album time when Cozy goes off the college.

Go back 1 year! Dad’s Favorite Discs 2014

Dad’s Favorite Discs of 2014

December 30, 2014

There has always been a lot of music in this house, but I want Cozy to be surrounded by the best there is. I feel lucky that my mom loved jazz and I think I became a Brubeck fan in utero. As you can see from Cozy’s College of Music Knowledge, I’m a fan of the ancient art form known as the “album.” It represents a complete vision from an artist.

This is probably the last year for a while that I will be buying a lot of new albums. Music got us through the pregnancy and now sometimes helps baby sleep. My love of rap music took a back seat this year as a screaming baby and Killer Mike raging against the machine really don’t work well together.  But it was truly a great year of music.

It was also a great year for Latin music, highlighted by our road trip to LA to attend the Supersonico Fest, seeing Café Tacuba, Calle 13, and other great stars. I discovered so much great music listening to NPR’s Alt Latino podcast, I could do another Top 20 list of just Spanish language albums.

So these are the 20 albums I spent the most time with in 2014. Maybe not the best, but the ones I really connected with. The Against Me! album is easily #1. Perfectly crafted punk songs that give voice to the transgender experience. Maybe the most important record of the year.

Top 20 Favorite Albums of 2014

  1. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  2. Beck – Morning Phase
  3. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
  4. St. Vincent – self titled
  5. La Santa Cecelia – Someday New
  6. The GHOASTT – Midnight Sun
  7. Jack White – Lazaretto 
  8. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  9. Ages and Ages – Divisionary
  10. Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  11. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  12. Ceci Bastida – La Edad de la Violencia
  13. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  14. Ryan Adams – self-titled
  15. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  16. FKA twigs –  LP1
  17. Pacifika – Amor Planeta
  18. Lily Allen – Sheezus
  19. Chrissie Hynde – Stockholm
  20. Lana del Ray – Ultraviolence

Honorable Mention

Various Artists – The Art of McCartney, New Pornographers – Bill Bruisers, Steelism – 615 to Fame, Sinead O’Connor – I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, Beyoncé – self titled, Bob Dylan & the Band – The Basement Tapes Raw, Calle 13 – Entren Los Que Quieran, U2 – Songs of Innocence