I’m not limiting myself to 2008—I’m never that up-to-date, and you already know about Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver without my telling you. I spent some time sorting through my iTunes and came up with albums that I bought or first gave a serious listen to this year. I made selections month-by-month:
Stardust is a Willie Nelson album from 1978. It’s a collection of old standards, like Stardust, All of Me, Moonlight in Vermont. I love those good songs that have such a rich history. Some of them are 60, 70, 80 years old, and they’re still good, and there’s probably many more good covers to come.
I had a 4-way tie for favorite Radiohead album until In Rainbows came along. Easily my most-played album this year.
I pretty much flipped out when I first listened to Ainadamar. I spent a nice Saturday afternoon playing it very, very loudly following along with the Spanish libretto. The music has a cool mix of Cuban and Moorish influences.
Jeff Buckley, Live at Mercury Lounge. Hard to find, google it. Lots of goofy stage banter. He plays Buckley standbys and also the childhood classic 3 Is a Magic Number, Nina Simone’s The Other Woman, and the old folk tune Dink’s Song.
Moon Pix is one of the early Cat Power records. I love the loose, sliding feel to the whole album.
Johnny Cash at San Quentin. I’d rank this over the Folsom Prison recordings. It’s a barn-burner. The audience is so fired up.
Saxophonists Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan have some lovely things to say on Two of a Mind.
Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder collects Gould’s famous recordings of the Goldberg Variations—the 1955 recording that helped make his name and the 1981 recording shortly before he died. Great stuff.
Elvis: 2nd to None. A nice compilation. I have such fun with this one, I just wanna dance and swagger all Elvis-y. Listen to Bossa Nova Baby. And come on, If I Can Dream? Goose bumps every time.
I was too cool for Fiona Apple’s debut when it first came out. Now that I’m older and wiser Tidal has gotten a good bit of play.
Speaking for Trees. I’ve never seen the movie that goes along with it, but the sounds are great. There’s some guitar noodling, crickets and bugs buzzing in the background, Chan Marshall’s singing. That’s about it.
Bach: Cello Suites. Pierre Fournier performs. Great music for background, deep listening, or dancing if you know your gigues, menuets, courantes, gavottes, etc.
Shostakovich: The String Quartets. The Fitzwilliam String Quartet plays the 15 quartets. It’s a lot to take in.
A bit of a weak month, but I liked string quartets of Leoš Janáček and Maurice Ravel. The first time I heard Janáček’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” was on NPR while I was driving. One of those tunes where you have to stay in the car until it’s over.
Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time. A nostalgic pick. I hadn’t listened to this album since elementary school, but I stumbled across it in our office iTunes network. It still sends me off to air guitar land. See: Wasted Years, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and the mini-history lesson in Alexander the Great.
Rush – 2112. Sucker for prog rock.
Ibrahim Ferrer – Buenos Hermanos. I’m convinced one of the best reasons to work with other people is for the intra-office music sharing. A co-worker introduced this album to me. My favorite pick by far is Boliviana, I emailed her: “The last minute of the song makes me want to be on the patio of a little coastal villa somewhere in Central America, dancing with all my friends while the sun sets.”
Soul of the Tango: The Music of Ástor Piazzolla. Yo-Yo Ma plays passionate Argentinian dance music.
Went on vacation and didn’t listen much. Didn’t find anything fantastic when I got back home.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s Ask Forgiveness is a really great, much-too-short album of covers, including Bj??rk and R. Kelly. His cover of Sinatra’s Cycles might be my favorite song this year…
Almost Alone. A late Chet Atkins collection of mostly solo country guitar. Listen to Jam Man or Big Foot.
Southern Country Gospel. I love albums like this that make you remember how much that gospel, bluegrass, blues, country, and folk are so intertwined. And I love the common emotional elements: love, struggle, desire, hope, etc.
Ella and Louis. Fitzgerald and Armstrong. A great collection of duets that was a long time coming. Give a listen to They Can’t Take That Away from Me and Cheek to Cheek.
Blood on the Tracks. I’m a latecomer to Bob Dylan. I’ve forgiven myself and I’m working on it.
Charles Mingus wrote The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as a ballet, set to jazz suite in six parts.
The month is still young, but this one is great. Talking Timbuktu brings together Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré for an African blues jam. Good stuff. Check out Ai Du.