Written by Teagan Boram
Since 2012, I have made it a habit to document the albums that I listened to most throughout the year. The thing that sets my list apart from most, though, is that there’s no requirement for the albums to have come out that year. So some of these might be old news to you, but I’m hoping that there’s at least a couple you’ve never heard of.
For the last couple of years, I’ve reflected on how it’s been difficult for me to keep albums relevant in my listening practice, but this year it was no problem. And I do hate how boring this sounds, but I did a lot of work this semester (studying/artwork), and the music that I find is easiest to work to either has no lyrics or lyrics in a language I don’t understand, so that explains why I chose about half of these albums. Here they are (in the order that I discovered/listened to them):
Dorothy Ashby: The Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby (1965)
Favorite Track: “Nabu Corfa”
I don’t usually set yearly goals music-wise, but a goal that has kind of been in the back of my mind for the last couple of years has been to listen to more female musicians. I think I definitely achieved that this year, and I’m glad that finding Dorothy Ashby was a part of that. Ashby almost single-handedly made the harp a jazz instrument in Detroit in the 1960s. Besides the harp, she also explored a lot of other instruments: if you check out The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, she brings in instruments like the koto and also sings. Another track on this album worth mentioning is Ashby’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun,” which is fun to hear not only as a jazz number but being lead with a harp.
Chilly Gonzales: Solo Piano III (2018)
Favorite Track: “October 3rd”
Chilly Gonzales makes amazing music to concentrate to. His piano compositions are beautiful, his cover albums are entertaining, and his 27-hour long, Guinness World Record-breaking solo piano concert is impressive. This kind of “classical music,” felt pretty alien to me, as I don’t really go out of my way to listen to any of the old masters on the regular. But I was pretty surprised when I found that not only was I humming along to each song but also getting songs stuck in my head (it’s rather difficult to figure out what song is in your head when there’s no lyrics). Gonzales’ solo piano work is definitely heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and you should give it a listen. There are three solo piano albums in all.
Mitski: Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014)
Favorite Track: “First Love / Late Spring”
Mitski gets it. What she does with music I would love to do with visual art. Some of the songs on this album touch such crazy emotions in me that I can’t really listen to them (*cough, cough* “I Don’t Smoke”), but she was there for me when I needed her most. For me, it was this album that felt the most personal, and as I attempted to explore her whole discography this year, I kept coming back to this one (Be the Cowboy is in second place). She’s an artist who one hundred percent has my support going forward.
Angel Olsen: MY WOMAN (2016)
Favorite Track: “Sister”
When MY WOMAN came out, I was still processing Angel Olsen’s first album and her EP, so I didn’t end up really listening to this one until this summer when I was doing the drive back down to Fullerton from San Francisco. MY WOMAN is magically open and hopeful, and Angel Olsen is definitely on a different level when it comes to writing about love and relationships. She’s super inspiring as an artist, and she’ll also have my support going forward, though hopefully I can catch up with her releases and listen to All Mirrors before the next one comes out.
Tatsuro Yamashita: For You (1982)
Favorite Track: “Love Talkin’ (It’s You)”
Tatsuro Yamashita was the pioneer of the citypop genre in Japan in the 1980s. A lot has changed since then, but I definitely don’t feel qualified to bring up Vaporwave in this conversation. Because the only place I could originally listen to this album was YouTube, I was constantly going down the rabbit hole of suggestions until the end of this summer had been immortalized in a nondescript YouTube playlist called “jams.” jams contained almost exclusively Japanese music until probably a couple weeks ago. There’s definitely a lot to be said here, about YouTube, citypop, sampling, etc. but I just have to say: you should give citypop a listen, especially this album.
Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (2019)
Favorite Track: Andromeda
I heard the first track from this album, “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” on KCRW during the spring semester, and it took me until fall semester to finally listen to the rest of the album (I’m just really bad at listening to new music, okay?). Weyes Blood (or Natalie Mering) also gets it. I think the important shift towards listening to more female musicians has helped me find artists who “get it,” in terms of the fact that they and I have had similar experiences. This album is definitely very personal, and very comforting in a way, to hear things that I’ve felt put into words and music.
Thanks for reading and happy listening!