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  • Friday, December 22, 2017
    Celebrating the Year in Nonesuch Music: 2017

    As 2017 draws to a close, and the Nonesuch Journal takes a bit of a hiatus till the start of 2018, it's time to take a look back and remember all of the great and diverse music made by Nonesuch artists over the past year. Many Nonesuch artists and their recent Nonesuch releases have made music critics' and fans' year-end best lists. Here, in words and music and in chronological order, is a look back at the year in Nonesuch music:


    JANUARY

    Randy Newman
    A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" b/w "Putin"

    The new year in Nonesuch music began with the release of two timely Randy Newman tracks on a vinyl 7" single on January 20, just in time for Inauguration Day: "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," from the Randy Newman Songbook box set, b/w "Putin," a new song previously available only digitally and included later in the year on Newman's new album, Dark Matter. The Los Angeles Times called the former song a "three-decades-on bookend to 'Political Science'" that was "so funny it hurt."

    ---

    k.d. lang
    Hymns of the 49th Parallel [Vinyl]

    Also released on January 20 and timely in its own way was the first-ever vinyl release of k.d. lang's 2004 Nonesuch debut album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel, a highly personal "Canadian Songbook." This lushly orchestrated, gorgeously sung contemplation of work by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Jane Siberry, and others is "an album of triumphant Canadian soul music," says the Washington Post, and lang's performance of Cohen's "Hallelujah" has been called "downright transcendent" by the Boston Herald, "mesmerizing" by the Guardian.

    ---

    Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
    Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau

    Mandolinist/singer Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau, longtime admirers of each other's work, made their duo album debut together with the release of Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, a mix of covers and original songs, on January 27. The artists "come from different worlds but the same species," says the New York Times. "Mr. Thile is a progressive-bluegrass pacesetter; Mr. Mehldau is the most influential jazz pianist of the last 20 years. Both are team players." The Guardian exclaims: "Two very different musicians hit a remarkable rapport on this double album." The vinyl edition includes a bonus take on Fiona Apple's "Fast As You Can."



    FEBRUARY

    The Staves
    Tired As F*ck / Train Tracks

    The English trio The Staves released a digital double A side on February 10. The single includes "Tired As F*ck," a previously unreleased tune, and "Train Tracks," a re-mastered version of a bonus track from their 2015 album If I Was. The former was "written in the midst of a relationship breaking down," says the trio. "Lamenting the lack of some sort of guidance, but also accepting and resigning yourself to fact that you have to soldier on. Keep going. There is no helping hand. 'Train Tracks' is the beginning of something new and how confusing and difficult that can be when you're really just as clueless as anyone! The two tracks bookend each other in that respect."

    ---

    Rhiannon Giddens
    Freedom Highway

    Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens' follow-up to her highly praised solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, was released on February 24. The album includes nine original songs she wrote or co-wrote, a traditional tune, and two civil rights–era songs. She co-produced the album with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Louisiana studio, with the bulk of recording done in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War, over an intense eight-day period. "Giddens emerges as a peerless and powerful voice in roots music," Pitchfork exclaims. It's a "rich collection," says NPR; "hope comes back to life in Giddens' music."

    Freedom Highway has been included on year's best lists from NPR Music, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Mojo, Uncut, the Guardian, Fopp/Uncut, PopMatters, fRoots, No Depression readers, and listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered.



    MARCH

    The Magnetic Fields
    50 Song Memoir

    The Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir, released March 10, chronicles the 50 years of songwriter Stephin Merritt's life with one song per year. He sings vocals on all 50 songs and plays more than 100 instruments, from ukulele to piano to drum machine to abacus. Unlike his previous work, the lyrics are nonfiction—a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis). Available in five-LP and five-CD editions including a 100-page book with an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt, and as a standalone book with a full-album download card. It's "quite an achievement," says NPR. The Wall Street Journal calls it "a highly entertaining summary of pop culture of the past half-century ... 50 Song Memoir is a treat."

    The set has been included on year's best lists from the AtlanticMojo, Uncut, and New York magazine, which says: "There’s never a dull moment because Stephin’s story is full of twists, but also because he plays dozens of instruments astoundingly well and balances pointed detail and emotional heft like a seasoned novelist."

    ---

    Conor Oberst
    Salutations

    Conor Oberst's album Salutations, released on March 17, is a companion piece to 2016's lauded Ruminations. The new record comprises full-band versions of the ten songs from that solo album plus seven additional songs. Salutations was recorded at the famed Shangri-la Studios in Malibu and Five Star Studios in Echo Park with The Felice Brothers and the legendary drummer Jim Keltner, who co-produced the album. Guest performers include Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M. Ward, Gillian Welch, and Jonathan Wilson. The Independent says it's "probably the best work of the singer's career."

    ---

    Tigran Hamasyan
    An Ancient Observer

    Tigran Hamasyan's album An Ancient Observer, released March 31, includes ten new compositions, two of which are based on Armenian melodies. Some are through-composed and completely written out, while others are composed with ample space for Hamasyan to improvise. He cites a wide range of influences—from Baroque dance to hip-hop grooves adapted to piano—and the sounds of his native country of Armenia are present, as always. DownBeat exclaims: "It's simply breathtaking."



    APRIL

    Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer
    Bach Trios

    On Bach Trios, released April 7, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile, and bassist Edgar Meyer performed works by J.S. Bach originally written for keyboard instruments plus a sonata for viola da gamba. They last recorded together, with Stuart Duncan, on the Grammy-winning album The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which the Los Angeles Times called "haunting, invigorating, often breathtaking." The Times of London calls Bach Trios "effervescent" and "irresistible."

    ---

    Allen Toussaint | Emmylou Harris | Randy Newman
    The Allen Toussaint Collection | Queen of the Silver Dollar: The Studio Albums, 1975–79 | Lonely at the Top: The Studio Albums, 1968–77

    Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent record stores, took place on Saturday, April 22, and included among the releases on that day were The Allen Toussaint Collection, a compilation of tracks from his first four albums in its first-ever vinyl release; Emmylou Harris's Queen of the Silver Dollar: The Studio Albums, 1975–79, her first five studio albums on vinyl and a bonus 45 RPM; and Randy Newman's Lonely at the Top: Studio Albums, 1968–77, his first five studio albums on vinyl and a bonus 45 RPM.



    MAY

    Emmylou Harris
    At the Ryman

    Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers' Grammy Award–winning 1992 album, At the Ryman, was released on vinyl for the first time on May 12. Recorded live over three nights at the historic Nashville venue, it features the legendary singer and her acoustic backing band performing songs by Bill Monroe, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Stephen Foster, Nanci Griffith, and others. The New York Times upon its CD release in 1992: "This record is her finest moment."

    ---

    Sam Amidon
    The Following Mountain

    Sam Amidon released his latest album, The Following Mountain, on May 26. It represents a new approach for Sam Amidon, who shifts here from his previous norm of re-working traditional folk songs and presents nine wholly original compositions, with some lyrics drawing on traditional sources. The album was created with producer Leo Abrahams and frequent Amidon collaborator Shahzad Ismaily, with a rare guest appearance by drummer Milford Graves.

    The Following Mountain is included on the Uncut editor's list of the year's best.



    JUNE

    Kronos Quartet, Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, Natalie Merchant
    Folk Songs

    When Nonesuch Records celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, with festivals at the Barbican in London and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Kronos Quartet joined forces with four labelmates—Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant—to perform a concert entitled Folk Songs. The group later recorded the songs, most of which are traditional with contemporary arrangements, with Doug Petty as the album's producer, for the album Folk Songs, released on June 9.

    ---

    Fleet Foxes
    Crack-Up

    Fleet Foxes' long-awaited and highly anticipated third album, Crack-Up, was released on June 16. It arrived six years after the release of Helplessness Blues and nearly a decade since the band's self-titled debut. "Rewarding, involving, and meticulous," says the AP, "Crack-Up has been well worth the wait." "Likely to be the most remarkable album you will hear this year," exclaims the Times (UK). "The return of one of the most original bands of this century." Pitchfork calls it "their most complex and compelling album to date."

    Crack-Up was included on year's best lists from Pitchfork, BBC Radio 6 Music, Fopp/Uncut, Q, and the Sunday Times, and the listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered, among others. The album's opening track has made American Songwriter's list of the Top Songs of 2017.



    JULY

    Offa Rex
    The Queen of Hearts

    The Queen of Hearts, the debut album from Offa Rex, an adventurous project featuring English singer/multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney and The Decemberists, was released on July 14. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) and Colin Meloy at Martine’s studio in Portland, OR, the album draws largely on traditional English-Irish-Scottish repertoire to create a transatlantic musical conversation that flirts with psychedelia and folk rock while maintaining its own inimitable identity. NPR calls it "a match made in folk-rock heaven."

    The Queen of Hearts has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album and was included on year-end best-of lists from Mojo and fRoots.

    ---

    Natalie Merchant
    The Natalie Merchant Collection

    The Natalie Merchant Collection, a deluxe 10-CD box set, was released on July 14 as well. It comprises all eight of her solo studio albums from the previous three decades, as well as Butterfly—a new studio set featuring four new songs and six reinterpreted selections from her catalog, all arranged for string quartet—and Rarities, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks recorded between 1998 and 2017: home studio demos, album outtakes, live tracks, and collaborations with artists like Billy Bragg, David Byrne, The Chieftains, and Cowboy Junkies. The box includes a 100-page lyric book and pictorial history of the singer-songwriter's solo career, an archival treasure box for collectors. "Magnificent," exclaims Mojo in a five-star review, "a definitive and absorbing celebration of an artist with a singular voice and vision."

    The New York Times featured the box in its year-end Holiday Gift Guide, which says the set "sums up the quietly remarkable solo career of a songwriter curious about matters of the hear, historical oddities and the search for truth, pondering them all with folky melodies and a luminously melancholy voice."

    ---

    k.d. lang
    Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition

    Also on July 14, k.d. lang's Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition was released in celebration of the double platinum-selling, Grammy-winning album's silver anniversary. "Back in 1992, lang released a record unlike any other," says NPR. Her "monumental voice, both powerful and restrained, was simply unforgettable as she sang languorous songs of love and desire." The new two-disc set includes remastered versions of the album's original ten tracks, including its huge hit "Constant Craving," along with eight previously unreleased performances from lang's 1993 MTV Unplugged episode, recorded in New York City's famed Ed Sullivan Theater.

    The Ingénue Redux tour made stops across Canada and Australia and will be coming to the United States in 2018.



    AUGUST

    Randy Newman
    Dark Matter

    Dark Matter, Randy Newman's first album of new material in nine years, was released on August 4. Produced by long-time Newman collaborators Mitchell Froom, Lenny Waronker, and David Boucher, the album includes songs about Vladimir Putin, the Kennedy brothers, Sonny Boy Williamson, science vs. religion, love and loss, and more. NPR says Newman "remains first and foremost a craftsman of song, capable of telling ordinary stories in ways no one quite has before." The AP says Newman "is still at the top of his game."

    Randy Newman has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals, for the song "Putin," which was also named among the year's best songs by NPR Music. The album was included in year's best lists from Rolling Stone, Uncut, Flood, and Mojo, for whom Steve Earle named Dark Matter his favorite.



    SEPTEMBER

    Rostam
    Half-Light

    Rostam, who is known for his work with Vampire Weekend, made his own album debut with the release of Half-Light on September 15. The kaleidoscopic album features fifteen songs written, produced, and performed by Rostam. "Stunning," exclaims NPR. The New Yorker says it's "a wondrous album, full of coy dreams and quiet yearning." The Daily Beast calls it "a sublime collection of baroque pop ... one of the more extraordinary records of the year."

    The album was included among RTÉ's Best International Albums and NPR's All Songs Considered listeners' 100 Favorite Albums of 2017.

    ---

    Louis Andriessen
    Theatre of the World

    Louis Andriessen's Theatre of the World was released on September 29. The album was recorded live during the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2016 world premiere performances with conductor Reinbert de Leeuw and director Pierre Audi. The nine-scene multimedia work, which features a libretto by Helmut Krausser, is a far-ranging exploration of 17th-century German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher. The Los Angeles Times says: "Brilliant and deep, Andriessen's music compels from start to finish."



    OCTOBER

    Robert Plant
    Carry Fire

    Robert Plant's eleventh studio album, Carry Fire, produced by Plant in the west of England and Wales, was released on October 13. As with his 2014 album, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, it features his band The Sensational Space Shifters. They are also joined here by special guests, including Chrissie Hynde. The album is "transfixing," exclaims NPR. "Plant and his collaborators create music that overflows with irrepressible life force ... Carry Fire is rivetingly intimate."

    Carry Fire is on the year's best lists of Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Uproxx, Uncut, Sunday Times, Classic Rock, No Depression readers, and listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered, and "Bluebirds Over the Mountain," featuring Hynde, is on NPR's World Cafe's list of the year's best songs.

    ---

    Camille
    OUÏ

    Also on October 13, the French singer and composer Camille released OUÏ, her fifth studio album and first for Nonesuch Records in the US. Recorded over a year in La Chartreuse, a 14th-century monastery-turned-artist's residence in Avignon, OUÏ features folk music, hymns, ballads, pop, lullabies, and a cappella, with Camille on all vocal parts and all but one song in French. "A Parisian pop genius," says Pitchfork. "OUÏ is rich with brilliant, funny ideas about conception, nature, and identity, with plenty of pure pleasure hits for non-Francophones."



    NOVEMBER

    Fleet Foxes
    The Electric Lady Session

    On Record Store Day's Black Friday event, November 24, Fleet Foxes released a special 10" EP, The Electric Lady Session. It includes four songs from their album Crack-Up, selected from a WFUV session recorded at the historic Electric Lady Studio in NYC in June: Side A is "Cassius, -" and "- Naiads, Cassadies," and Side B is "Mearcstapa" and "On Another Ocean (January / June)." Each pair is recorded and cut as one long track to reflect the intentional fluidity between these songs, on both the album and in live performance.


    DECEMBER

    The Staves & yMusic
    The Way Is Read

    The English trio The Staves and NYC–based ensemble yMusic joined forces for The Way Is Read, a twelve-song album stemming from their 2016 collaboration at Justin Vernon's Eaux Claires Festival, and released on December 1. "A wonderful album," exclaims the Times of London. "The fusion of the siblings interweaving harmonies and yMusic’s sonic chattering results in music that is equal parts Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Philip Glass and the Penguin Café Orchestra."

    ---

    Chris Thile
    Thanks for Listening

    Chris Thile's third album of the year, Thanks for Listening, a collection of new studio recordings, produced by Thomas Bartlett, of ten songs originally written as Songs of the Week on A Prairie Home Companion, was released on December 8 and on vinly the following week. Thile manned almost all of the stringed instruments on the album and is joined by guest singers Sarah Jarosz, Gaby Moreno, and Aoife O'Donovan. "Right now, with how easy it is to be the talker on social media, how hard it is to maintain focus or give something enough attention to appreciate it, we're in a place where listening is a precious commodity," says Thile. "Thanks for Listening is a celebration of people who haven't switched off, despite being given every reason to do so."

    ---

    Randy Newman
    Harps and Angels [Vinyl]

    Finally, the year ended as it began: with a vinyl release from Randy Newman. His 2008 album, Harps and Angels, was released on vinyl for the first time just today. The vinyl edition features what was then the singer-songwriter's first album of new material in nine years on a single 140-gram LP. The album, with songs that are both scathingly satirical and unabashedly tender, was praised by the Guardian praised for its "sumptuous melodies, devastating pathos and thorny, irony-laden character songs," calling it "the work of a true master of popular song."



    AND SO, THE YEAR IN MUSIC

    Music from all of the artists above is available now in the Nonesuch Store.


    AND MORE ...

    There is, of course, more great music to come in 2018. Pre-orders are already available for Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet's first collaboration, Landfall; Steve Reich's Pulse / Quartet, with performances by the International Contemporary Ensemble and Colin Curry Group; and Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, Phantom Thread.

    Happy Holidays from everyone at Nonesuch Records!

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Celebrating the Year in Nonesuch Music: 2017

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on December 22, 2017 - 9:00am
Article Type: 
Publish date: 
Friday, December 22, 2017 - 09:00
Excerpt: 

As 2017 draws to a close, and the Nonesuch Journal takes a bit of a hiatus till the start of 2018, it's time to take a look back and remember all of the great and diverse music made by Nonesuch artists over the past year. Many Nonesuch artists and their recent Nonesuch releases have made music critics' and fans' year-end best lists. Here, in words and music and in chronological order, is a look back at the year in Nonesuch music.

Copy: 

As 2017 draws to a close, and the Nonesuch Journal takes a bit of a hiatus till the start of 2018, it's time to take a look back and remember all of the great and diverse music made by Nonesuch artists over the past year. Many Nonesuch artists and their recent Nonesuch releases have made music critics' and fans' year-end best lists. Here, in words and music and in chronological order, is a look back at the year in Nonesuch music:


JANUARY

Randy Newman
A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" b/w "Putin"

The new year in Nonesuch music began with the release of two timely Randy Newman tracks on a vinyl 7" single on January 20, just in time for Inauguration Day: "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," from the Randy Newman Songbook box set, b/w "Putin," a new song previously available only digitally and included later in the year on Newman's new album, Dark Matter. The Los Angeles Times called the former song a "three-decades-on bookend to 'Political Science'" that was "so funny it hurt."

---

k.d. lang
Hymns of the 49th Parallel [Vinyl]

Also released on January 20 and timely in its own way was the first-ever vinyl release of k.d. lang's 2004 Nonesuch debut album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel, a highly personal "Canadian Songbook." This lushly orchestrated, gorgeously sung contemplation of work by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Jane Siberry, and others is "an album of triumphant Canadian soul music," says the Washington Post, and lang's performance of Cohen's "Hallelujah" has been called "downright transcendent" by the Boston Herald, "mesmerizing" by the Guardian.

---

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau

Mandolinist/singer Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau, longtime admirers of each other's work, made their duo album debut together with the release of Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, a mix of covers and original songs, on January 27. The artists "come from different worlds but the same species," says the New York Times. "Mr. Thile is a progressive-bluegrass pacesetter; Mr. Mehldau is the most influential jazz pianist of the last 20 years. Both are team players." The Guardian exclaims: "Two very different musicians hit a remarkable rapport on this double album." The vinyl edition includes a bonus take on Fiona Apple's "Fast As You Can."



FEBRUARY

The Staves
Tired As F*ck / Train Tracks

The English trio The Staves released a digital double A side on February 10. The single includes "Tired As F*ck," a previously unreleased tune, and "Train Tracks," a re-mastered version of a bonus track from their 2015 album If I Was. The former was "written in the midst of a relationship breaking down," says the trio. "Lamenting the lack of some sort of guidance, but also accepting and resigning yourself to fact that you have to soldier on. Keep going. There is no helping hand. 'Train Tracks' is the beginning of something new and how confusing and difficult that can be when you're really just as clueless as anyone! The two tracks bookend each other in that respect."

---

Rhiannon Giddens
Freedom Highway

Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens' follow-up to her highly praised solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, was released on February 24. The album includes nine original songs she wrote or co-wrote, a traditional tune, and two civil rights–era songs. She co-produced the album with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Louisiana studio, with the bulk of recording done in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War, over an intense eight-day period. "Giddens emerges as a peerless and powerful voice in roots music," Pitchfork exclaims. It's a "rich collection," says NPR; "hope comes back to life in Giddens' music."

Freedom Highway has been included on year's best lists from NPR Music, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Mojo, Uncut, the Guardian, Fopp/Uncut, PopMatters, fRoots, No Depression readers, and listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered.



MARCH

The Magnetic Fields
50 Song Memoir

The Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir, released March 10, chronicles the 50 years of songwriter Stephin Merritt's life with one song per year. He sings vocals on all 50 songs and plays more than 100 instruments, from ukulele to piano to drum machine to abacus. Unlike his previous work, the lyrics are nonfiction—a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis). Available in five-LP and five-CD editions including a 100-page book with an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt, and as a standalone book with a full-album download card. It's "quite an achievement," says NPR. The Wall Street Journal calls it "a highly entertaining summary of pop culture of the past half-century ... 50 Song Memoir is a treat."

The set has been included on year's best lists from the AtlanticMojo, Uncut, and New York magazine, which says: "There’s never a dull moment because Stephin’s story is full of twists, but also because he plays dozens of instruments astoundingly well and balances pointed detail and emotional heft like a seasoned novelist."

---

Conor Oberst
Salutations

Conor Oberst's album Salutations, released on March 17, is a companion piece to 2016's lauded Ruminations. The new record comprises full-band versions of the ten songs from that solo album plus seven additional songs. Salutations was recorded at the famed Shangri-la Studios in Malibu and Five Star Studios in Echo Park with The Felice Brothers and the legendary drummer Jim Keltner, who co-produced the album. Guest performers include Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M. Ward, Gillian Welch, and Jonathan Wilson. The Independent says it's "probably the best work of the singer's career."

---

Tigran Hamasyan
An Ancient Observer

Tigran Hamasyan's album An Ancient Observer, released March 31, includes ten new compositions, two of which are based on Armenian melodies. Some are through-composed and completely written out, while others are composed with ample space for Hamasyan to improvise. He cites a wide range of influences—from Baroque dance to hip-hop grooves adapted to piano—and the sounds of his native country of Armenia are present, as always. DownBeat exclaims: "It's simply breathtaking."



APRIL

Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer
Bach Trios

On Bach Trios, released April 7, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile, and bassist Edgar Meyer performed works by J.S. Bach originally written for keyboard instruments plus a sonata for viola da gamba. They last recorded together, with Stuart Duncan, on the Grammy-winning album The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which the Los Angeles Times called "haunting, invigorating, often breathtaking." The Times of London calls Bach Trios "effervescent" and "irresistible."

---

Allen Toussaint | Emmylou Harris | Randy Newman
The Allen Toussaint Collection | Queen of the Silver Dollar: The Studio Albums, 1975–79 | Lonely at the Top: The Studio Albums, 1968–77

Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent record stores, took place on Saturday, April 22, and included among the releases on that day were The Allen Toussaint Collection, a compilation of tracks from his first four albums in its first-ever vinyl release; Emmylou Harris's Queen of the Silver Dollar: The Studio Albums, 1975–79, her first five studio albums on vinyl and a bonus 45 RPM; and Randy Newman's Lonely at the Top: Studio Albums, 1968–77, his first five studio albums on vinyl and a bonus 45 RPM.



MAY

Emmylou Harris
At the Ryman

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers' Grammy Award–winning 1992 album, At the Ryman, was released on vinyl for the first time on May 12. Recorded live over three nights at the historic Nashville venue, it features the legendary singer and her acoustic backing band performing songs by Bill Monroe, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Stephen Foster, Nanci Griffith, and others. The New York Times upon its CD release in 1992: "This record is her finest moment."

---

Sam Amidon
The Following Mountain

Sam Amidon released his latest album, The Following Mountain, on May 26. It represents a new approach for Sam Amidon, who shifts here from his previous norm of re-working traditional folk songs and presents nine wholly original compositions, with some lyrics drawing on traditional sources. The album was created with producer Leo Abrahams and frequent Amidon collaborator Shahzad Ismaily, with a rare guest appearance by drummer Milford Graves.

The Following Mountain is included on the Uncut editor's list of the year's best.



JUNE

Kronos Quartet, Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, Natalie Merchant
Folk Songs

When Nonesuch Records celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, with festivals at the Barbican in London and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Kronos Quartet joined forces with four labelmates—Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant—to perform a concert entitled Folk Songs. The group later recorded the songs, most of which are traditional with contemporary arrangements, with Doug Petty as the album's producer, for the album Folk Songs, released on June 9.

---

Fleet Foxes
Crack-Up

Fleet Foxes' long-awaited and highly anticipated third album, Crack-Up, was released on June 16. It arrived six years after the release of Helplessness Blues and nearly a decade since the band's self-titled debut. "Rewarding, involving, and meticulous," says the AP, "Crack-Up has been well worth the wait." "Likely to be the most remarkable album you will hear this year," exclaims the Times (UK). "The return of one of the most original bands of this century." Pitchfork calls it "their most complex and compelling album to date."

Crack-Up was included on year's best lists from Pitchfork, BBC Radio 6 Music, Fopp/Uncut, Q, and the Sunday Times, and the listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered, among others. The album's opening track has made American Songwriter's list of the Top Songs of 2017.



JULY

Offa Rex
The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts, the debut album from Offa Rex, an adventurous project featuring English singer/multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney and The Decemberists, was released on July 14. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) and Colin Meloy at Martine’s studio in Portland, OR, the album draws largely on traditional English-Irish-Scottish repertoire to create a transatlantic musical conversation that flirts with psychedelia and folk rock while maintaining its own inimitable identity. NPR calls it "a match made in folk-rock heaven."

The Queen of Hearts has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album and was included on year-end best-of lists from Mojo and fRoots.

---

Natalie Merchant
The Natalie Merchant Collection

The Natalie Merchant Collection, a deluxe 10-CD box set, was released on July 14 as well. It comprises all eight of her solo studio albums from the previous three decades, as well as Butterfly—a new studio set featuring four new songs and six reinterpreted selections from her catalog, all arranged for string quartet—and Rarities, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks recorded between 1998 and 2017: home studio demos, album outtakes, live tracks, and collaborations with artists like Billy Bragg, David Byrne, The Chieftains, and Cowboy Junkies. The box includes a 100-page lyric book and pictorial history of the singer-songwriter's solo career, an archival treasure box for collectors. "Magnificent," exclaims Mojo in a five-star review, "a definitive and absorbing celebration of an artist with a singular voice and vision."

The New York Times featured the box in its year-end Holiday Gift Guide, which says the set "sums up the quietly remarkable solo career of a songwriter curious about matters of the hear, historical oddities and the search for truth, pondering them all with folky melodies and a luminously melancholy voice."

---

k.d. lang
Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition

Also on July 14, k.d. lang's Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition was released in celebration of the double platinum-selling, Grammy-winning album's silver anniversary. "Back in 1992, lang released a record unlike any other," says NPR. Her "monumental voice, both powerful and restrained, was simply unforgettable as she sang languorous songs of love and desire." The new two-disc set includes remastered versions of the album's original ten tracks, including its huge hit "Constant Craving," along with eight previously unreleased performances from lang's 1993 MTV Unplugged episode, recorded in New York City's famed Ed Sullivan Theater.

The Ingénue Redux tour made stops across Canada and Australia and will be coming to the United States in 2018.



AUGUST

Randy Newman
Dark Matter

Dark Matter, Randy Newman's first album of new material in nine years, was released on August 4. Produced by long-time Newman collaborators Mitchell Froom, Lenny Waronker, and David Boucher, the album includes songs about Vladimir Putin, the Kennedy brothers, Sonny Boy Williamson, science vs. religion, love and loss, and more. NPR says Newman "remains first and foremost a craftsman of song, capable of telling ordinary stories in ways no one quite has before." The AP says Newman "is still at the top of his game."

Randy Newman has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals, for the song "Putin," which was also named among the year's best songs by NPR Music. The album was included in year's best lists from Rolling Stone, Uncut, Flood, and Mojo, for whom Steve Earle named Dark Matter his favorite.



SEPTEMBER

Rostam
Half-Light

Rostam, who is known for his work with Vampire Weekend, made his own album debut with the release of Half-Light on September 15. The kaleidoscopic album features fifteen songs written, produced, and performed by Rostam. "Stunning," exclaims NPR. The New Yorker says it's "a wondrous album, full of coy dreams and quiet yearning." The Daily Beast calls it "a sublime collection of baroque pop ... one of the more extraordinary records of the year."

The album was included among RTÉ's Best International Albums and NPR's All Songs Considered listeners' 100 Favorite Albums of 2017.

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Louis Andriessen
Theatre of the World

Louis Andriessen's Theatre of the World was released on September 29. The album was recorded live during the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2016 world premiere performances with conductor Reinbert de Leeuw and director Pierre Audi. The nine-scene multimedia work, which features a libretto by Helmut Krausser, is a far-ranging exploration of 17th-century German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher. The Los Angeles Times says: "Brilliant and deep, Andriessen's music compels from start to finish."



OCTOBER

Robert Plant
Carry Fire

Robert Plant's eleventh studio album, Carry Fire, produced by Plant in the west of England and Wales, was released on October 13. As with his 2014 album, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, it features his band The Sensational Space Shifters. They are also joined here by special guests, including Chrissie Hynde. The album is "transfixing," exclaims NPR. "Plant and his collaborators create music that overflows with irrepressible life force ... Carry Fire is rivetingly intimate."

Carry Fire is on the year's best lists of Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Uproxx, Uncut, Sunday Times, Classic Rock, No Depression readers, and listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered, and "Bluebirds Over the Mountain," featuring Hynde, is on NPR's World Cafe's list of the year's best songs.

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Camille
OUÏ

Also on October 13, the French singer and composer Camille released OUÏ, her fifth studio album and first for Nonesuch Records in the US. Recorded over a year in La Chartreuse, a 14th-century monastery-turned-artist's residence in Avignon, OUÏ features folk music, hymns, ballads, pop, lullabies, and a cappella, with Camille on all vocal parts and all but one song in French. "A Parisian pop genius," says Pitchfork. "OUÏ is rich with brilliant, funny ideas about conception, nature, and identity, with plenty of pure pleasure hits for non-Francophones."



NOVEMBER

Fleet Foxes
The Electric Lady Session

On Record Store Day's Black Friday event, November 24, Fleet Foxes released a special 10" EP, The Electric Lady Session. It includes four songs from their album Crack-Up, selected from a WFUV session recorded at the historic Electric Lady Studio in NYC in June: Side A is "Cassius, -" and "- Naiads, Cassadies," and Side B is "Mearcstapa" and "On Another Ocean (January / June)." Each pair is recorded and cut as one long track to reflect the intentional fluidity between these songs, on both the album and in live performance.


DECEMBER

The Staves & yMusic
The Way Is Read

The English trio The Staves and NYC–based ensemble yMusic joined forces for The Way Is Read, a twelve-song album stemming from their 2016 collaboration at Justin Vernon's Eaux Claires Festival, and released on December 1. "A wonderful album," exclaims the Times of London. "The fusion of the siblings interweaving harmonies and yMusic’s sonic chattering results in music that is equal parts Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Philip Glass and the Penguin Café Orchestra."

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Chris Thile
Thanks for Listening

Chris Thile's third album of the year, Thanks for Listening, a collection of new studio recordings, produced by Thomas Bartlett, of ten songs originally written as Songs of the Week on A Prairie Home Companion, was released on December 8 and on vinly the following week. Thile manned almost all of the stringed instruments on the album and is joined by guest singers Sarah Jarosz, Gaby Moreno, and Aoife O'Donovan. "Right now, with how easy it is to be the talker on social media, how hard it is to maintain focus or give something enough attention to appreciate it, we're in a place where listening is a precious commodity," says Thile. "Thanks for Listening is a celebration of people who haven't switched off, despite being given every reason to do so."

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Randy Newman
Harps and Angels [Vinyl]

Finally, the year ended as it began: with a vinyl release from Randy Newman. His 2008 album, Harps and Angels, was released on vinyl for the first time just today. The vinyl edition features what was then the singer-songwriter's first album of new material in nine years on a single 140-gram LP. The album, with songs that are both scathingly satirical and unabashedly tender, was praised by the Guardian praised for its "sumptuous melodies, devastating pathos and thorny, irony-laden character songs," calling it "the work of a true master of popular song."



AND SO, THE YEAR IN MUSIC

Music from all of the artists above is available now in the Nonesuch Store.


AND MORE ...

There is, of course, more great music to come in 2018. Pre-orders are already available for Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet's first collaboration, Landfall; Steve Reich's Pulse / Quartet, with performances by the International Contemporary Ensemble and Colin Curry Group; and Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, Phantom Thread.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Nonesuch Records!

featuredimage: 
2017: Celebrating the Year in Nonesuch Music

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