New Albums in my collection: March 2020

>> Mandy Moore: Silver Landings
An album of introspective and mostly acoustic singer-songwriter material which would sound right at home on the playlist at your favorite college town cafĂ© (…well, once they reopen someday).

>> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together
>> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts VI: Locusts

These are digital only. A surprise release of two new Ghosts albums, for free! Two different moods are covered in this continuation of the instrumental experiments project. Together is calm and reflective, while Locusts is a bit more ominous. They were created as opposing yet complementary reactions to the uncertain times we’re living in right now.

>> Porcupine Tree: In Absentia
The newly released box set, containing the 2017 album remaster with dynamic range compression and volume limiting removed, available on CD for the first time. Also included are two bonus discs of audio: one with the extra tracks recorded during the sessions but not included on the album, and one with demos. A fourth disc is a blu-ray with a hi-res version of the stereo remaster (with accompanying Lasse Hoile slide show of nightmare fuel from the album’s artwork), as well as the 2003 surround mix from the original DVD-A release, and a feature length documentary chronicling the creation of the album. All housed in a great oversized hardcover book of essays and photos.

>> Renaissance: Turn of the Cards
The latest in the series of Renaissance reissues is one of their landmark albums. A four disc set including the original album remastered (with bonus tracks), and two bonus discs comprising a complete live show from 1974 with a 24-piece orchestra. Also included is a DVD with a new 5.1 mix of the album.

>> Grace VanderWaal: Perfectly Imperfect
>> Grace VanderWaal: Just The Beginning

Here is an example of an artist I liked from what I had heard of them, though I had no idea who they were. Grace VanderWaal did songs for the animated films Next Gen and Wonder Park. I liked both of them, not even realizing they were by the same person. After a little digging, I discovered it was Grace VanderWaal. A singer-songwriter who plays the ukelele and has a big, distinctive voice which belies her age. This is her debut EP and album, recorded when she was twelve and thirteen years old respectively. (She is currently sixteen.) Don’t let her age fool you; this is not Kidz Bop. These are real songs which can appeal to listeners of any age, yet lyrically are relatable to her peers. I had no idea the songs I liked from those films were sung by someone so young.

New Albums in my collection: February 2020

>> Billie Eilish: dont smile at me
It’s not a typo; that’s how the EP title is stylized. Reissue of Billie’s 2017 debut EP. Prelude to her impressive full-length debut album a year later, it’s hard to believe these sounds came from a sixteen year old.

>> Donna Lewis: now in a minute
Found this for a couple of dollars at a thrift shop. Got it mainly for the single which brings me back to my college days in the mid 1990s, but the rest of the album is pleasant pop music from the Welsh singer/songwriter as well.

>> Pet Shop Boys: Hotspot
Their latest is the third produced by Stuart Price, who brought Pet Shop Boys a fresh contemporary sound with their previous two albums: Electric and Super. This is the deluxe 2CD edition, which includes an instrumental version of the entire album on the second disc.

>> Yes: Fly From Here – Return Trip
In 2011, Yes released Fly From Here, which was very nearly a Drama reunion. Trevor Horn produced the album, and Geoff Downes was brought back to play keyboards (essentially ousting Oliver Wakeman, Yes’s keyboard player at the time), as many of the songs used for Fly From Here were penned and recorded as demos by Horn and Downes in the early 1980s (as The Buggles) during and after their stint in Yes for 1980’s Drama. (In fact, Yes played an early version of the title track live on the Drama tour.) Fast forward to 2018. The band decides to bring Trevor Horn back to remix the album, re-record and rearrange some parts, and record all new vocal tracks for the whole album (except for two songs; one sung by Chris Squire and another by Steve Howe), replacing Benoit David’s vocals from the original Fly From Here. This revisited version of Fly From Here then really did become the successor to Drama, boasting the same lineup as that album. Vestiges of the original 2011 version remain in the form of a couple of Oliver Wakeman’s recorded keyboard parts and a songwriting credit for Benoit David.

New Albums in my collection: January 2020

I’ve heard “Bad Guy” on the radio about eleven million times on the radio over the past year, and now that I’ve picked up the whole album, I’ve discovered a remarkable collection of creative music and an impressive debut album. And she was only seventeen when this album was released! Billie whispers lyrics over quiet soundscapes punctuated with subsonic bass, befitting of the disturbing cover art. Your subwoofer will get a workout with this album.

New Albums in my collection: December 2019

>> Camila Cabello: Camila
>> Camila Cabello: Romance

Yes, there is actually some current pop music that I like. Don’t judge me.

>> Candy Dulfer: Sax-a-Go-Go
More 1990s contemporary jazz from the musician famous for “Lily Was Here”, the 1991 collaboration with David A. Stewart of Eurythmics.

>> Ingrid Michaelson: Songs of the Season
I almost went a year without getting a new holiday album. Almost. Right before Christmas Eve I got this collection. While the album was recorded in 2018, it sounds like it could have come from the late 1950s, with arrangements harkening back to the golden age of pop vocal music.

>> Snail Mail: Habit
Reissue of Lindsey Jordan’s 2016 debut EP, recorded when she was about 17 years old. Throwback 1990s Lo-Fi sound with perhaps a few hints of shoegaze or dream pop.

>> Various Artists: Celtic Tides
A collection of Celtic music spanning both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, from Ireland to Canada.

New Albums in my collection: November 2019

>> Steve Hackett: Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall
Multi-disc set with the concert film on blu-ray and DVD, and the audio on two CDs. The latest in Hackett’s increasingly frequent live albums. It’s hardly a redundancy though, as this time the songs are accompanied by a full orchestra. Genesis and Hackett solo songs of old (and not so old) are featured.

>> Anthony Phillips: Strings of Light
The first new album in seven years from the Genesis founding member is a showcase of his skills on a variety of acoustic guitars from his collection, similar to 2005’s Field Day. The 24 pieces of music span two CDs, and a DVD with a surround mix is also included.

>> Prince: 1999
New 2CD edition with a remastered version of the original album, plus an extra disc of single versions, remixes, and B-sides.

>> Wilderun: Veil of Imagination
Wilderun’s third album shows a band comfortable in their craft and expanding their scope. While they made their name taking the uniquely European genre of folk metal and putting it through a North American lens, Veil of Imagination finds them going more symphonic, with a generous helping of early Opeth influences.

New Albums in my collection: October 2019

International version of the kawaii metal group’s third album, the first after Yui-Metal’s departure. Missing are two songs from the original Japanese edition, which was released as a 2CD set. A very strong album which covers many styles of metal, including European folk metal! The Indian-influenced “Shanti Shanti Shanti” is one of the highlights for me.

>> Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein: Stranger Things 3 Score
The synthwave instrumental BGM from the third season of the series.

>> Vince Guaraldi: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Quite literally the soundtrack for the timeless special. It’s the literal audio from the show, minus dialogue, but with a few sound effects still embedded since the master tapes for the show have apparently been lost to the ages. It may be low fidelity mono, and a scant twenty minutes long, but more Vince Guaraldi music is always a good thing!

>> PassCode: CLARITY
UK release of the Japanese idol metal group’s latest album. They’re quite different from BABYMETAL, though, sounding more like trance metal musically, often featuring scream vocals. (Making effective use of the “gap”: idols singing in a way completely opposite to their outward appearance.) They do use autotune fairly regularly on the girls’ singing, which normally I would absolutely despise since autotune is an abomination, but being Japanese girls, it kind of makes them sound like Vocaloids (which I like), so… I’m more okay with it? In any case, when it comes to idols singing metal, PassCode is another of my favorite groups.

New Albums in my collection: September 2019

>> The Beatles: Abbey Road
Following the new modern stereo remixes of Sgt. Pepper and The Beatles comes a new stereo mix of Abbey Road. Also included is an “alternate” album of demos and rehearsal takes of each of the songs.

>> Opeth: In Cauda Venenum
The impressive new release comes as a bilingual set with the complete album in both their native Swedish and in English.

>> Lindsey Stirling: Shatter Me
>> Lindsey Stirling: Artemis

Shatter Me is Lindsey’s second album, and I got “The Complete Experience” limited edition. Instead of a normal CD case or digipak, it’s a 9×9 inch 48 page magazine with photos and interviews, and a sheet of word magnets.
Lindsey’s fourth album Artemis was just released, and I like the artwork as much as the music on it, which is of course a fusion of solo violin and electronic sounds. It’s also a concept album, despite being mostly instrumental. (Which itself is a welcome return to form after her previous album Brave Enough, which while a good album, relied quite heavily on vocal collaborations.)