Sacred Tapestry – Shader Complete / New Dreams Ltd. – Sleepline (2012-2013, reissued 2018)

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Vektroid is truly an artist of the internet age; not only does she work in a genre that was born entirely online, but she has a tendency to continuously remix and reconfigure her back catalogue in a way that wasn’t really possible in the age of physical media. Throw in the fact that she uses about a dozen different aliases and you wind up with a discography that’s massively confusing; you’re never quite sure what’s from when, or whether the thing you’re listening to is actually just another work-in-progress. So when Aguirre announced the release of two of Vek’s albums on vinyl, I knew I had to get them; if nothing else it’s neat to actually get a finished product in your hands, especially one that seems so backwards-minded.  I mean, the vaporwave on cassette tape thing at least makes some sense – it is in fact that perfect physical medium for a genre that obsesses itself with lo-fi digital futurism circa 1986, where a record player is not something to be nostalgic for, but rather an old technology to be discarded and forgotten as we face a brighter future.

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Wall of Voodoo – Call of the West (1982)

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I saw Stan Ridgway and his new band perform a huge chunk of this album during a tour they did for its 25th anniversary.  I was 21 and  probably the youngest person there; unlike many of their contemporaries, there has been no real critical re-evaluation of Wall of Voodoo.  That was 11 and a half years ago.  The time, how it flies.

In college I used to listen to this album all the time.  At some point I went through an 80’s one-hit wonder phase, scanning through all the great songs I’d heard on VH1 back in the day and grabbing the albums, mainly because the ones I’d gotten from Devo and Gary Numan were excellent.  Perhaps these acts were one-hit wonders to the outside world, but if you’re a fan, you know what’s up.  It occurred to me that Wall of Voodoo might be the same.  Though “Mexican Radio” is a bit different from “Cars” or even “Whip It” – it’s so stylized, with spaghetti-western licks, a wild synthesizer line, clanky percussion, and a singer who sounds like a film noir actor with a lobotomy.  It was like pieces from four different bands that somehow coalesced into one.  If you watched the “Whip It” video with the sound off, this is the sort of music you would imagine them playing.  I had no idea what a full record from these guys would sound like.
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Denki Groove Decade: 2008-2017

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On March 12, 2019, Pierre Taki tested positive for a small amount of cocaine. In America this would be no big deal; a temporary embarrassment as your mug shot floats around the ‘net, perhaps a limited-run reality series as you attempt to get sober. In Japan, you’re basically banished from the planet. Apparently this is big news, as sales of the PS4 game Judgment suddenly came to a halt, which seems grossly unfair to the hundreds of people who worked on it. More important to me is the complete vanishing of the Denki Groove catalogue from all retailers and streaming services. I was stoked to finally be able to buy DG stuff on iTunes (instead of paying import prices or searching high and low for a way to pirate it), and it was awesome that I could now point people to Spotify rather than dodgy live videos on YouTube. All of that, just gone overnight.  And they wonder why I insist on carrying that ol’ fashioned iPod around.
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Haruomi Hosono – Nokto De La Galaksia Fervojo (1985)

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Now that we’re in the throes of Polar Vortex 2019, I figured it was time to revisit a few of my favorite Winter albums. Not in the celebratory or romantic sense of the season, but rather the Wisconsin Winter in as it really is in the dead of January. The sheets of white that blanketed everything have turned grey and brown, the trees are bare, and there’s no one on the streets. As the subzero days pile up, people get crankier and more emotionally distant.  Outside of being able to store your beer outside, there’s virtually nothing good about it; shoveling snow sucks, and driving in it is even worse.

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Sifl and Olly – Songs of Season 1

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Sit down, children, and I’ll tell you a tale of a time when MTV used to play music videos. What’s that? Grandpa already told you that one? Huh? “What’s MTV?” Alright, let’s start over. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really into the music videos at the time; even as a pre-teen dipshit, I knew when I was being pandered to. What I really liked was the oddball original programming they came up with. Daria, Celebrity Deathmatch, Tom Green, that one cartoon with the alien who lived inside the dude’s gigantic head, and so on. Too old for Nickelodeon, too young for…whatever this was, but I still preferred to punch above my weight class, so to speak.

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2018 Recap

2018: It was a bad year for Planet Earth, but a pretty good year for new music. Once again a lot of favorites were active this year, including some long-awaited and truly unexpected comebacks. As usual I didn’t get around to everything I wanted to, and I haven’t really been listening to a lot of *new* music, as in artists who have debuted sometime this decade. I guess that’s the price you pay for being somewhat of an obsessive; over time these lists get larger and larger, in part because I’m always gonna be interested in new material by some band I used to dig or am still on the fence about. But 2018 did seem to be unusually busy, especially in its first half. I’ve heard enough for a cursory glance back, as well as a holding spot for the stuff to be listened to later. Which I’ve come to realize is a lot.  This time I’m just gonna do it in alphabetical order, with links to the albums I’ve actually reviewed on here, plus some scattered thoughts.  Italicized albums were among my favorites.
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Avalanches – Wildflower (2016)

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It’s only appropriate that I pick this album for the return of Critter Jams, as Wildflower is also a highly anticipated comeback that many people said was never gonna happen. Can’t say I caught Avalanche fever the first time around, but these sort of constantly teased and perpetually delayed albums are always interesting to me, even when they turn out to be as overcooked and joyless as Chinese Democracy. I mean this thing was in the works for over a decade; I remember its release seeming imminent way back in 2007. By the time it actually came out they’d pulled the football so many times that its existence practically felt surreal.

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