25 Favorite Releases of 2017

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share some of my favorite releases of the year. Obviously not exhaustive; just some personal highlights. Quite a few of these are giant major label releases, so I’ll be taking down those download links quickly or leaving them off accordingly. Let me know if links are broken. Happy holidays!

 

Previously: 2016 | 2015

Alice Coltrane – Divine Songs, 1987
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Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir – Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2, 1987
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Cleaners From Venus – Going To England, 1987
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David Sylvian – Secrets Of The Beehive, 1987
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Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses, 1987
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dip in the pool & Masahide Sakuma – 黒いドレスの女 OST, 1987
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Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt & Emmylou Harris – Trio, 1987
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Elicoide – Elicoide, 1987
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Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full, 1987
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Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle – Baby Wants To Ride/Your Love, 1987
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Geoffrey Landers – Many Hands Make Light, 1987
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George Michael – Faith, 1987
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Haruomi Hosono – The Tale Of Genji, 1987
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Ichiko Hashimoto – Mood Music, 1987
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Isabelle Antena – Hoping For Love, 1987
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Laraaji – Essence/Universe, 1987
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Masahiro Sugaya – Music From Alejo, 1987
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Meredith Monk – Do You Be, 1987
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Michael Jackson – Bad, 1987
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Pet Shop Boys – Actually, 1987
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Phuture – Acid Tracks, 1987
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Pizzicato Five – Pizzicatomania, 1987
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Prince – Sign O’ The Times, 1987
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Sinead O’Connor – The Lion And The Cobra, 1987
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Yasuaki Shimizu – Music For Commercials, 1987
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Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell, 1995

A few days ago, poor Steve Aoki revealed his remix of the iconic 攻殻機動隊 (Ghost in the Shell) theme for the forthcoming remake. The remix is the EDM equivalent of trying to embroider lace with a power drill, and incensed anime fans have flooded the comments with rage (as well as with links to the also-iconic theme from the Stand Alone Complex series). Rather than adding further insult to injury, I wanted to share the original soundtrack, as it’s one of the best anime soundtracks (and arguably one of the best soundtracks, period).

To make the aforementioned theme, scoring giant Kenji Kawai combined Bulgarian choral harmonies and traditional Japanese vocal techniques into a wedding song with lyrics in the ancient Japanese language Yamato Kotaba. The theme is repeated in three different variations, all of which should give you goosebumps. The rest of the soundtrack is gorgeous, murky atmospherics: submerged keyboards, sparse taiko, synthetic strings, ominous clanging, a lone (Spanish?) guitar. If you haven’t seen the movie, song titles like “Nightstalker” and “Floating Museum” should be able to paint a sufficient picture. The real curveball is the closer, sometimes listed as a bonus track, which is a bubblegum pop sung in Cantonese. Many reviewers complain about the inclusion of the jarring closer, but I think a slightly psychotic ending makes sense in the context of a movie about fragmented personhood in a cyberpunk dystopia. Bonus round: here’s a very beautiful live performance of the theme.

Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir – Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, 1975

Heartbreaking, eerie, and otherworldly, this album is actually a compilation of various recordings dating back as far as 1952, when the choir was first formed by Bulgarian composer Philip Coutev. As the women in the choir are from all over Bulgaria, the music is a hodgepodge of differing vocal styles from the country’s quite isolated provinces. Marcel Cellier compiled these songs in 1975, but it went largely unnoticed until its rerelease by 4AD in 1986, to overnight worldwide renown. Volume II of this compilation won Cellier a Grammy in 1989. That same year, Kate Bush released The Sensual World, which featured three Bulgarian female soloists. The choir has been touring worldwide since then, and everyone and their dog loves them (as they should). Find out much more here and here.
The title translates to “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices”–an apt description, as it’s a complete mystery to me how music this majestic and unsettling can actually exist. It completely changed my concept of the relationship between dissonance and beauty. Powerful stuff!

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