The end of another year approaches. I generally don’t have much time to listen to music, but this year, somehow (was it the ipod I bought and ended up jogging and walking to?) I’ve been able to return to one of my great pleasures.
A gift of music can be, for some of us, one of the best things to receive. An aunt of mine, who knew a lot about rock music, once gave me 3 LP’s for Christmas. Music I never would have thought to buy, but that opened me to entirely new musical worlds. One of my favorite presents of all time!
So I’m sharing with you some of my favorite recordings that I’ve come across this year. Treat yourself or, if a recording seems right for someone you know, give them a treat.
Tatiana Nikolaeva Shostakovich: 24 Preludes & Fugues. This was a gift this year from a former college roommate and fellow music student of yore. I have never enjoyed Shostakovich – his music is too dense, thick and forbidding somehow. But these? Oh my god, they are lyrical, witty, full of a direct and simple beauty. I may end up searching out some more Shostakovich this coming year…
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. I came to this unwillingly. Their earlier work was just not to my taste – too sweeping and needlessly grand. They can still tend to that, but this work is much more modulated. And they hit a lovely, vibrant lyric nerve in their exploration of the suburbs. For anyone who ever grew up in the suburbs, this just might speak to you. It did me.
The Band – The Band. “Music from Big Pink” was a tremendous and lovely album. The next record I bought of theirs way back when was “Stage Fright”. It was a huge disappointment. So I gave up on exploring their music more, and missed out on this other masterpiece. I happened on it this year when I remembered an LP I’d loved back in high school, “Journey” by John Simon. It faded into obscurity, but I’ve always remembered itl. The guy could hardly sing in tune, his piano playing is a bit ragged, but he writes marvelous melodies and fantastic arrangements. His lack of perfection and chops gave me the courage to follow my dreams of being a musician, all my imperfections notwithstanding. So, wondering what became of him, I looked him up. Turns out he produced “Music from Big Pink” and “The Band”. Well. I gave “The Band” a try this year, and it’s great. His own music is still great (you can find it on the web, he put out 2 albums) and he produced 2 fantastic albums for the Band. For real.
Isabelle Faust – Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin. I have other recordings of solo Bach violin music. It’s all very well done, but not LOVELY. This, my friends, is LOVELY. She makes her violin sound so sweet, she takes such time with every line of notes. I just love it.
Alexandre Tharaud – Rameau: “Nouvelles Suites”. Baroque music on the piano is something I love. Here is some non-Bach that is very very beautiful, and exquisitely interpreted. Included is Ravel’s ” Hommage À Rameau [Images, Premier Livre, 1905]”. If you like piano music, this is a great one.
Big Star – #1 Record/Radio City. This recording is legendary as being the unluckiest record of all time. Or something like that. Made in the early 70’s, the record label just chucked it in the wastebasket somehow, and it was forgotten. But it’s legend bubbled on over the years, and with the death of one of its masterminds, Alex Chilton, this past year, and with the advent of easy and cheap distribution via the internet, it seems to have finally made its way into the world. If you’re one of those people who dream that someone will uncover a hitherto unknown recording by The Beatles or some other majorly classic group, this is for you. It is a true classic. Song after song is fantastic.
Galactic – Ya-Ka-May. I got it for me, but my 8 year old son latched onto it and played it nonstop for months. And I never got tired of it. A way cool blend of hip hop w/New Orleans beats and horns. The drummer is other-worldly, the best groove ever. And the songs are all catchy and well-written and stand the test of time. Note: There are couple songs with naughty words, so if you’re child wants to listen, you might want to edit 🙂