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!
Here’s my most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio. It sort of feels like a continuation of last month’s mix–slinky, flirty, loungey, and never picking up too much speed. I recently revisited Dusty Springfield’s version of “Spooky” in headphones, and while I’ve been a longtime fan of hers, I was particularly floored by her vocal quality and intonation, so that was the jumping-off point here. I hope you like it! You can download an mp3 version here.
1. World Standard – Pasio
2. Frank Harris & Maria Marquez – Campesina
3. Miharu Koshi – Tohboh-Sha
4. Yves Tumor – The Feeling When You Walk Away
5. Dusty Springfield – Spooky
6. Márta Sebestyén & Levente Szörényi – András
7. Karin Krog – Just Holding On
8. Quarteto Em Cy – Caminho De Pedra
9. Lena d’Água – Tão
10. Fred Manda – Cartoon In Kartoum
11. Patrice Rushen – Let Your Heart Be Free
12. Solange (no, not that Solange) – Quero Um Baby Seu
13. Gal Costa – Baby
14. Nora Guthrie – Home Before Dark
15. Hiroyuki Namba – Hiru No Yume
Here’s my latest episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio. This one’s a bit loungey-slinky, with some some funk and new wave. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version of it here.
1. Spectors Three – I Really Do
2. Ichiko Hashimoto – Poinciana
3. Geoffrey Landers – Say You’ll Say So
4. Akofa Akoussah – I Tcho Tchass
5. Imitation – Watashi No Suki Na Kuni
6. Alessi Brothers – Seabird
7. Barbara Marchand – I Whisper Roll Over
8. The Jellies – Jive Baby On A Saturday Night
9. Letta Mbulu – Nomalizo
10. Maria Kozic & The MK Sound – Trust Me
11. David Astri – Safe And Sound
12. Angelo Badalamenti – The Bookhouse Boys
13. Cocteau Twins – Lazy Calm
14. Minako Ito – 一年ののち
A classic. While Hosono needs no introduction around here, I’m realizing that Tatsuro Yamashita has perhaps not been given enough air time. For the unfamiliar, Yamashita is iconic in his own right, not just because of his classic Japanese Christmas favorite “Christmas Eve” or his enormous output but also because of his signature early-80’s take on a wall-of-sound expansiveness crossed with a deep love for the Beach Boys, relentlessly clever songwriting, and of course, mirror-polished synth programming. Shigeru Suzuki is perhaps best known for his work with Happy End and Tin Pan Alley, and is also a wildly prolific session musician, who’s contributed to over 588 recordings as of 2006.
Which brings us to Pacific, for which each track was composed by one of the above three. It also includes plenty of of contributions from–you guessed it–Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi. Though YMO’s self-titled debut was also released in 1978, from what I understand Pacific came first, and feels very akin to much of the exotica and fusion that Hosono had already been fixated on across several projects. Still, Pacific is clearly the product of a handful of masterminds having fun together: its unabashed tropical nostalgia acts as a jumping off point for flitting between genres (lounge, funk, disco, rhumba, smooth jazz, Latin fusion, synth pop), all delivered in full-color with jaunty, winking songwriting.
Even with vaporwave and its kitsch-scraping genre contemporaries behind us, Pacific holds up as well as ever. It’s only in closer “Cosmic Surfin'” that we get a taste of the more hard-edged, crunchy electro that became YMO’s signature sound, and fittingly, a different version of the song went on to appear on YMO’s debut the same year. I highly recommend listening to this as much as possible before fall rolls around.
Il Guardiano del Faro (“the lighthouse keeper”), aka Federico Monti Arduini, was a very prolific Italian musician, composer, and producer who was credited as an early adopter of the Moog synthesizer. Despite having had a slew of best-selling songs in Italy, there’s very little information available about him on the internet–I don’t even remember how this wound up in my hands! Really smart orchestral sensibility applied to lush, synthetic space-age smooth jazz fusion. Ideal cheeky retro-futurist bachelor pad soundtrack. Don’t miss the syrupy quivering cover of “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
Arto Lindsay made a name for himself as a founding father of the New York no wave scene with his project DNA. He went on to work with the Lounge Lizards, Ambitious Lovers, and the Golden Palominos before producing a slew of solo records. Though American, Lindsay’s parents were missionaries and he spent his teenage years in Brazil at the height of the tropicália movement. This Brazilian influence emerged more and more throughout his 40 year long career, spawning a trilogy of records dense with Brazilian sound: O Corpo Sutil (1996), Mundo Civilizado (1996), and finally, Noon Chill. Lindsay has also done production work for Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé, Gal Costa, Vinicius Cantuária, and Carlinhos Brown, to name a few. (Side note: he’s also responsible for the weirdest/best cover ever of Prince’s “Erotic City.”)
Noon Chill sounds like a well-intentioned poolside afternoon gone on a codeine bender. Most of the songs are bossa nova at heart, but they continuously slip down dark, trip-hoppy rabbit holes and spiral off into ominous drum and bass riffs. It’s like Tanto Tempo‘s sinister older brother. Combined with Lindsay’s trademark disinterested vocals and lyrics like “I do love your lack of all expression/I find it not at all distressing,” you can’t help but see Noon Chill through heavy eyelids.
Synthy tropical lounge pop bliss, with plenty of icy space for good measure. Camino del Sol was originally a 5-track 12″, was later expanded into an LP by the wonderful Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule, and then reissued with some unreleased material by the also wonderful Numero Group in 2004. Their take on “The Girl From Ipanema” is killer, but by no means the standout. If you’re a fan of music, you’ll like this. Spiky, shimmering, John Foxx-produced (!) “Spiral Staircase” preview in all its cheeky brevity below.