Joni Mitchell - Blue (1971) and Court And Spark (1974). I'm not a fan of Joni Mitchell's music. The only possible explanation is that I'm a sexist pig! I mean, on paper she should be one of my favorites: folky, iconoclastic, brutally honest, clever. But man, I get almost nothing from her music. I've held on to these in case I ever change my mind. I haven't read Sean Nelson's 33 1/3 book on Court and Spark, but I plan to. Maybe that will turn me around.
Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood (Music From The Motion Picture) (2007). This is an extraordinary piece of music. It was impossible to forget in the movie. It's completely arresting on its own. I prefer this to most of Greenwood's work in Radiohead, actually.
Jorge Ben - Negro é Lindo (1971). Jorge Ben was on the more traditional bossa nova side of the tropicalia artists, and this album fuses tropicalia-style psychedelia with more traditonal Brazilian music forms. As far as I can tell, the songs are all originals, and they're pretty great. I'm particularly fond of "Cassius Marcelo Clay."
Joseph Spence - Happy All The Time (1964). I first heard of Spence through a book about John Fahey and Leo Kottke. The author described Spence's otherworldly fingerstyle guitarwork as being like Harpo Marx playing the harp, which is to say: completely untutored brilliance. This album showcases that brilliance. Spence's voice is a little rough for some listeners. But I don't care; I love it.
Josephine Foster - Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You (2005). Speaking of a voice that's too rough for some listeners, Foster's voice always turns me off before it digs its way into my skin. I know some people hate Joanna Newsom's voice, and I suspect that this is what it sounds like to people: nasal, airy, harsh. But then it works. Although she's lumped in with the freak-folkers like Devendra Banhart, this comes across like the traditional music that the Carter Family grew up on, like an Art Nouveau version of the Childe Ballads.
Joy Division - Substance (1977-1980), Unknown Pleasures (1979), and Closer (1980). I never listened to Joy Division as a teenager, mostly because I was stupid. I knew that the goth girls loved them, and I heard the synths and thought they were just another Cure-esque mopey dance band. I couldn't have been more wrong. When I finally got around to them in my late 20s, I was shocked at how great their slash-and-burn post-punk sound was. This would have been right up my alley when I was 17. It still is.
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