When not going to concerts, The Day’s music reviewers are sitting at their desks with headphones on. At the end of the year, editors make them take all that “research” and come up with a list of their favorite recorded music. Here it is:
Rick Koster’s picks:
“We’re Here Because We’re Here”
A shimmering, majestic, ultimate-crescendo of such melancholy beauty it becomes a sort of emotionally overwhelming pagan hymn.
An in-concert commemoration of their 2009 “Fear of a Blank Planet” tour. Tunes from across their adventurous catalog as well as the start-to-finish recitation of the whole “Fear” album.
“The Golden Archipelago”
Falsetto Captain Jonathan Meiberg and his revolving cast of cohorts create atmospheric worlds of delicate pop quite like nothing I’ve heard.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Astonishingly nominated for a Best Contemporary Jazz Grammy, “Backatown” is a delicious reduction of the entire galaxy of New Orleans music — old and new — and served up by a stunning and empathetic band.
Milton Moore’s picks:
“Bach: Violin & Voice”
Hilary Hahn, Matthias Goerne, and Christine Schafer
American superstar Hilary Hahn was the marketing hook and the driving force behind this set of excerpts from Bach cantatas, but it’s the selections and the singers that make this a winner. Joining Hahn is one of the world’s great baritones, Matthias Goerne, and the fine German soprano Christine Schafer. Each of the arias and duets weaves polyphony as only Bach can, the interplay between voice and violin found in excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion and the B Minor Mass. Bach lovers and Hahn fans will be thrilled, but if you’ve never heard Goerne before, this disc will be a revelation.
Anne Sofie von Otter
“Ombre de mon amant”
Anne Sofie von Otter is one of the world’s unique talents, whether recording Mozart operas, Kurt Weill Broadway songs, Berlioz oratorios, or even pop duets with Elvis Costello. This set of early French Baroque arias, with early music specialist William Christie leading Les Arts Florissants, is exquisitely spare and seductive. Featuring works by Rameau and Charpentier, the Swedish mezzo soprano draws on pure, lilting beauty of these mostly mid-tempo arias, spinning long lines that let the listener savor the purity of her voice. The title aria, by the little-known Michel Lambert, is full of languid longing, and most of this material has the same unhurried, luxurious appeal.
This ECM release, by the Kiev Chamber Choir led by Mykola Hobdych, is entirely a cappella liturgical works by my favorite living composer from the former Soviet bloc, Valentin Silvestrov. Silvestrov sees all of his music as ‘postlude,” and his minimalism is invariably dramatic. These chants and hymns reference the Russian traditions, but they are only rooted in the past. Solo voices, frequently females voices, emerge freely above basso pedal notes that act like the sea upon which the harmonies float. This will be an immensely satisfying disc to the those who love the “Eastern mysticism” of Arvo Part.
Stephen Chupaska’s picks:
Deerhunter’s latest is a pop salad of sunny melodies and airy sonics. To employ a phrase once used to describe early R.E.M, the album is the “acceptable side of the unacceptable stuff.”
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
So, you want to be a hip-hop star, listen now to what Kanye says. You could listen to this zooming limo-ride through the perils of fame five times in row (and I have) and uncover something new and brilliant. Pity about the clumsy title.
More elective surgery on the melancholy heart from The National. “High Violet” is alternately shimmering and besotted.
Rumored to be not as good as the band’s earlier records, I listened to it seemingly every day to be sure. And well, let’s put it on one more time…
Belle & Sebastian
“Write About Love”
Belle and Sebastian, you had me at: “Let me dance/ I want to surrender.” Candy floss 1960’s pop married with arch lyrics will get me every day, month and year.
Kenton Robinson’s picks:
The Rolling Stones
“Exile on Main Street”
Sorry, but this is in my opinion simply the greatest rock ‘n’ roll album of all time. And the remastering magically preserves its muddy glory while making many of the lyrics comprehensible for the first time.
“Quarantine the Past”
This is a “best of,” really. Perhaps you had to be there, but when Pavement was cutting these tracks and cutting through all the pretentious crap that had come to be rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘90s, it was the most refreshing thing in the world.
Belle & Sebastian
“Write About Love”
If you’re old enough to remember the first British invasion, the Merseybeat, Petula Clark, etc., you’ll feel a certain nostalgia hearing Belle & Sebastian. Their sound is familiar yet new, and nobody today is writing better hooks.
Somehow, I was late to the party that is Massive Attack. Known as the inventors of “trip-hop,” this British musical collective creates haunting and hooky songs that, if you don’t already own them, will drive you back to their previous four albums.
Eliades Ochoa, Toumani Diabaté et al.
A late entry for the year, just out in November, this is some of the most gorgeous music you could ever hope to hear. The formula is this: Take the greatest musicians of Cuba and Mali and turn them loose in a studio. Gold.