Our Year in Review looks at some of the best and most interesting stories we ran. Feel free to catch up if you missed something of interest, or to read something you liked again.
As memories of turkey dinners have given way to Black Friday and Cyber Monday I’ve been spending a little time looking at our year in review at New Directions in Music. Though the site has been up and running since late summer 2018, this past year has seen a great deal of development and growth as our readership has continuously expanded.
As readers may know, NDIM is a website (which you’re reading), newsletter, Facebook page, and collection of YouTube and Spotify playlists. All of these components are designed to work together to bring readers not only the stories behind the music and the artists who created it but also direct contact with the music itself.
In the coming year, I plan to bring NDIM readers more of the thoughtful writing about music and its place in our lives that has become our hallmark. Also on the drawing board are some new features, an expanded newsletter with a subscription component, more playlists and curated music, and a renewed emphasis on vinyl culture.
For this review, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the great reads we brought you this year. Perhaps you missed some of them or would like to give them another look. So here is a review of some of the best of NDIM from 2019.
‘Freedom Suite’ took a look at the classic Sonny Rollins album, how it came to be recorded, and how it was redone by David S. Ware as an extension of its original roots as a protest performance.
As Blue Note Records turned 80 this year, we presented 10 Blue Note Records You May Not Know, including Sam Rivers/Fuchsia Swing Song and Charlie Rouse/Bossa Nova Bacchanal.
The Afro-Futurism of Robert Springett and Herbie Hancock is a review of Springett’s artwork for several of Hancock’s most expansive and exploratory albums and their influence on afro-futurism. Our Art of the Album series also celebrated the work of Pedro Bell, the groundbreaking artist behind Parliament’s wild urban psychedelic album cover art.
Our Song Remains the Same series delved into the history of the Stephen Foster song ‘Hard Times’ as well as the intersection of music and politics in ‘Give a Damn,‘ a story about how rising rock band Spanky and Our Gang became involved in New York Mayor John Lindsay’s fight against homelessness.
We presented a pretty good Guide to Dub Music and published the concluding parts of King Crimson: A 21st Century Guide in celebration of Crimson’s availability on Spotify and a 50th Anniversary Tour. I played the ‘Lost’ Beatles Album Game and took a deep look at two of Yoko Ono’s most rock and roll albums.
There were pieces on Christine McVie’s contributions to the Fleetwood Mac albums of 1970-1974, the towering fusion force of Return to Forever, and how hip hop DJs evolved from the discos of Brooklyn and the playgrounds of the Bronx.
In June we launched the NDIM newsletter, and we’ve published editions each Tuesday since then.
In July we launched the In Ten Tracks Series, in which I list ten songs by an artist that have continued to be a part of my life through the years. These are not always the hit songs people might expect to find on a ‘Best of’ list, and that sometimes confuses folks. I don’t exclude any songs just because they were popular–the litmus test is that they are personal favorites or they help tell the story of the band in a way that more well-known songs don’t.
The response to In Ten Tracks has been tremendous. So far I’ve created lists for artists that include Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Jethro Tull, and others. You can bet the series will be expanded in the coming year.
Other stories included
Outlaws and Highwomen, which covers the music country supergroup Highwomen and the first new release by Tanya Tucker in several years.
Girls Just Wanna Get Stoned about the ways that female artists are poised to influence the marketing of cannabis culture.
Miles Davis: The Making of Tutu covers the long road to making Miles Davis’ album Tutu, his first recording for the Warner Brothers label, influenced by Prince and Marcus Miller.
Album Cover Art: A Brief Survey takes a look at the history of album cover art and its move from straight-ahead marketing device to a more artistic aspect of vinyl culture.
Beth Orton and the Beat A survey of the British singer/songwriter’s electronica-influenced work with William Orbit, The Chemical Brothers, and more.
Wendy Carlos, Beethoven, and Kubrick discusses how Wendy Carlos came to compose and record music for Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange and how influential she was to the development of the synthesizer in popular music.
We lost many great musicians and others in the music world this past year. NDIM covered the careers of many who have passed including Dr. John, Ric Ocasek, Robert Hunter, and Ginger Baker.
I would like to invite newsletter readers to visit us on YouTube, Spotify, and Facebook. Next year I plan to re-launch our Instagram account as a vinyl records feature and may do the same on Pinterest.
New Directions in Music relies on the support of our readers. If you like the site, you can support our mission by letting your friends who are heavily into music (and who isn’t?) about us. Just forwarding this newsletter to a few people who might possibly be interested in what we offer is a fantastic way to support the site.
We also use affiliate links and programs, especially (for now) Amazon. When you click on a CD or other product we link to and make a purchase you are also helping to support NDIM. In 2020 we’ll create products and a store on the site that will allow you to purchase NDIM-related merchandise as well as publications.