Exactly What Nobody Wanted: The Best Records of 2019 (so far), With Two Months Left to Survive It

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Observations of October (OOO for short!)

This has been a pretty great year for music tomes. Simply at present, three are battling for my attention and holding it why they get it: John Doe, Tom DeSavia, and friends’ sequel to the LA punk kinda-oral-history Under the Big Black Sun, titled More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy [key subtitular words] of LA Punk; Vivien Goldman’s Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot [oh, those subtitles!], which is passing my first rule of excellent music books by costing me money in buying CDs (yes, I know I could download or stream, but fuck it); and Will Ashon’s inventive and surprising Chamber Music: Wu-Tang and America 9in 36 Pieces, which keeps Jeff Chang’s streak alive of never blurbing a bad book. In the recent past, I’ve devoured Hannah Ewens‘ groundbreaking FANGIRLS, due out in the States next year and possibly landing in my freshman comp/pop music womens’ college class as an assigned text next semester (Ewens’ book passed my second rule of excellent books in that it forced me to read another book, in this case Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck, which in turn led me to the aforementioned Goldman book), and luxuriated in Celeste Bell and Zoe Howe’s Day Glo! The Poly Styrene Story, an oral history of the life, times, vision, and work of Ms. Bell’s influential punk mom. Again, that’s just the last three weeks or so. Get your ass to the library.

 

Speaking of books, Will Friedwald’s The Great Jazz & Pop Vocal Albums is finally letting go its grip on me. However, thinking about the eccentricity of some of his choices, I began to wonder why the distinctive Al Hibbler, a fellow Missouri native (from the metropolis of Tyro!) and maker of terrific albums with the likes of both Ellington and Kirk, didn’t make the cut. Hibbler had a resonant, rich-coffee voice as well as quirky, almost-Cockney articulation on some words (such his pronunciation of “I” as “Oy”). The resulting weird sound matched perfectly with those produced by Rahsaan, as can be sampled on their splendid A Meeting of the Times, on the short list of the best albums ever made by two blind men teaming up:

I’ve played that album many times, but lately I moved on to Hibbler’s two Classics label entries (featuring much of his work with Duke) as well as his romantic, passionately sung, but little-heard mid-Fifties releases (most of them piquantly-titled, such as Torchy & Blue and Al Hibbler Sings the Blues Monday Every Day).

 

Black Sabbath is really good peace-making music. My wife and I were having a mild dispute Saturday evening as she attempted to prepare some pulled pork sandwiches and I tried to convince her I was correct about several non-pork-related points. It had been her turn for stereo control about a half-hour prior to this discussion, and she asked for some Sabbaf. I pulled the two-CD compendium Symptom of the Universe, loaded, and cranked it up, and headed back into the kitchen. Did you know it is fairly impossible to keep a straight face while arguing about anything with a Black Sabbath song as a backdrop? God knows as your dog nose, bog blast all of you / Sabbath, bloody sabbath, nothing more to do / Living just for dying, dying just for you, yeah”?” Well, OK, then! (I can’t resist sharing the below, which is kind of how I feel about this set):

 

I have to put in a strong word for New Orleans’ Sinking City Records and its new release, Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music. This label’s put out precious few records, and it doesn’t knock itself out in getting them distributed, but they are always very interesting and usually really damn good on top of that (try their 79rs Gang or Michot’s Melody Makers or Stooges Brass Band records–or their reissues of Ricky B and Danny Barker singles). Take it from me; I think I’ve bought them all, and I never wait for a review or stream samples to cut my losses. Asher’s only-in-NOLA experiment, which–and this doesn’t capture it–reaches both forwards and backwards through Crescent City music history and features some very bracing ghost appearances, is likely to inch into my Top 10 by the end of next month. Think about giving it a shot. Also, SCR’s pretty much vinyl-only, and I like that.

 

Many of my friends consider me at least somewhat of a music expert, but I regularly demonstrate I couldn’t possibly be. Just f’rinstance: last week, I screened Asif Kapadia’s harrowing documentary Amy for my Stephens College students. They’d been working on writing reviews, we’d Zoomed in some very excellent thinkers and writers to give advice, and they’d sampled several divergent models. For our final piece in the unit, I thought the film (which is more than a little complicated, and that’s a compliment) would make excellent substance for our final Socratic seminar. I’d seen it thrice before, still wasn’t sure it didn’t exploit what it seemed to want to criticize, and–most important to this blather–found myself still pretty resistant to Winehouse’s wiles. Something about her delivery (even after she’d really perfected it) seemed affected to me, without Dap Band bolstering I questioned whether her work would stand up as straight and strong, and I didn’t trust the throwback bouffant, which played to my taste (I love me some girl groups, as well as some bad girls). While watching the film two more times (I have two classes), performance clips of “You Know I’m No Good” and “Love is a Losing Game” finally perforated my shell of ignorance, and I spent a good chunk of the weekend listening to Back to Black. You know what? That sucker is a classic! Eureka–it only took me a decade to figure that out. The thing is, pop music’s so deep and rich that, even if you’re an occasional lunkhead in perceiving it (like me), at least (we hope) you’ll catch up to it later when you need something durable, powerful, and wonderful.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of November 3, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  6. Mexstep: Resistir
  7. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  8. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  9. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  10. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  13. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  14. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  15. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  16. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  17. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  18. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  19. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  20. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  21. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  22. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  23. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  24. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  25. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  26. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  27. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  28. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  29. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  30. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  31. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  32. Miranda Lambert: Wildcard
  33. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  34. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  35. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  36. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  37. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  38. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  39. Sote: Parallel Persia
  40. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  41. Quelle Chris: Guns
  42. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  43. DaBaby: KIRK
  44. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  45. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  46. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  47. Senyawa: Sujud*
  48. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  49. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  50. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  51. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  52. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  53. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  54. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  55. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  56. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  57. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  58. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  59. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  60. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  61. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  62. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  63. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  64. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  65. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  66. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  67. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  68. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  69. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  70. GoldLink: Diaspora
  71. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  72. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  73. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  74. G & D: Black Love & War
  75. Girl Band: The Talkies
  76. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  77. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  78. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  79. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  80. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  81. Resavoir: Resavoir
  82. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  83. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  84. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  85. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  86. JD Allen: Barracoon
  87. Big Thief: Two Hands
  88. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  89. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four–Memphis
  90. Youssou N’Dour: History
  91. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  92. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  93. Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl
  94. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  95. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  96. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  97. Terry Riley and Kronos Quartet: Sun Rings
  98. Boris: Love & Evol
  99. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  100. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  101. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  102. black midi: Schlagenheim
  103. Nots: 3
  104. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  105. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  106. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  107. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  108. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  109. Santana: Africa Speaks
  110. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  111. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  112. Fennesz: Agora
  113. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  114. Robert Forster: Inferno
  115. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  116. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  117. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  118. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  119. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  120. Solange: When I Get Home
  121. James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz
  122. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  123. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  124. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  125. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  126. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  127. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  128. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  129. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  130. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  131. slowthai: Great About Britain
  132. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  133. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  134. Mekons: Deserted
  135. Que Vola: Que Vola
  136. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  137. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  138. Hama: Houmeissa
  139. Steve Earle: Guy
  140. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  141. Ill Considered: 5
  142. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  143. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  144. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  145. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  146. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  147. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  148. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  149. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  150. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. The Royals: Gish Abbai
  6. Various Artists: Bulawayo Blue Yodel
  7. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  8. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  9. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  10. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  11. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  12. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  13. Various Artists: Jambu
  14. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  15. John Coltrane: Blue World
  16. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  17. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  18. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  19. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  20. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  21. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  22. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  23. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  24. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  25. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  26. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  27. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  28. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  29. Prince: Originals
  30. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  31. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  32. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  33. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  34. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  35. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  36. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  37. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  38. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  39. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane
  40. George Jones: United Artists Rarities

How Do Songs from The Bardo Go?: 135 Damn Nice Records from This Calendar Year, 35 Releases of Older Records

 

 

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New Stuff News:

My freshman comp/pop music class engages in a Socratic seminar every month focused on a new release by an artist of reasonable significance. This month, they discussed Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell. Funny how different two classes of 18-to-20-year-old women can be. My first class was fascinated by the contradictions created in Del Rey’s work: soothing sounds concealing horror and danger, nostalgia presaging dystopia, “Is this a dream or is it wreckage?”, sexual assertiveness vs. sexual passivity. My second class just hated it: the songs are too long, repetition and filler create boredom, too few dynamics. My take, via Wilde: when the critics are in disagreement, it’s a sign the artist is in harmony with herself.

 

Nicole and I attended Columbia’s annual Dismal Niche Experimental Music Festival (October 3-6) and were blown away. Thursday night we witnessed Makaya McCraven’s shape-shifting jazz improv unit (left-hand pic), augmented by the mesmerizing young vibraphonist Joel Ross, Blacks’ Myths’ thundering and throbbing bassist Luke Stewart, and Jeff Parker of Tortoise fame. At times, I find McCraven’s recorded music sounding perilously close to chill-lounge fare, but witnessing him live, conducting master musicians in the moment, I became a believer. Locked into a groove, the group would fixate on a figure developed by one player, and McCraven would lead them into a new movement built around it–when, in the blink of an ear, they sidestepped into Latin land, I almost felt dizzy. On Saturday night, we came prepared for Mdou Moctar’s Tuareg guitar assault (right-hand pic), having deeply indulged in so-called desert blues for the better part of the last decade, but Moctar elevated beyond even that level. Conjuring Sharrock and Hendrix, sending crackling beams of electricity through his band’s Saharan dance grooves, and just LOSING IT on the final number, exploiting every inch of his axe’s strings from every angle he could reach them, he left more than a few of us younger folks (I’m 57) wondering if we’d ever heard the like. A Top Five concert for us, and great praise is due Columbian Matt Crook, the fulcrum beneath the fest ($50 for four nights plus workshops and assorted other fun stuff??? You’ve got to be kidding me!).

I have always liked Laurie Anderson at arm’s length (is that possible?). I have no problem with pretentiousness as long as its properly put in service, but I’ve often detected a light scent of bullshit hovering over her work. However, Heart of a Dog moved me, and her new readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead are relatively free from self-consciousness and–honestly speaking–just what the doctor ordered for me (and perhaps you?) inna this ya time. Sometimes I think I can’t take another day of this furor and flapdoodle, but one listen to this record set my feet firmly on the ground. Not an easy thing for art to do right now.

Old Stuff News:

Leave it to me to be so far behind in my music study that the old seems new. True, American music is a deep, deep well, but–really–I should not just now be luxuriating in the music of Kay Starr, Peggy Lee, Bobby Troup, and (especially) Shirley Horn. I’ve been daily dipped in Will Friedwald’s The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums, in which the author explores in considerable depth 50-plus records one would think I’d (and likely you) would have already been familiar with. I’d tried to read one of Friedwald’s Sinatra books and found it too gushy, but I bought this one used for a pittance, and, skimming it and noticing the likes of Tiny Tim, Bobby Short, Steve & Eydie, and Robert Goulet in the table of contents, perversity overcame me and I just had to read it, and listen along. Not every one of Friedwald’s choices enraptured me, but Kay Starr (the white Dinah Washington!), Peggy Lee (no fucking joke), Barb Jungr (few better Dylan interpreters, and she actually fomented a mini-revolution), and Maxine Sullivan (didn’t she disco?) sent me straight to Discogs. Also: Carmen McRae’s ultra-rare Live at The Dug? A sheer A+ that I will be playing regularly til i croak. The chief discovery I made, though, was of an artist who didn’t even make the list of albums, but who was referred to peripherally in a few other artists’ entries: Shirley Horn. An early influence on Miles, a musical double-threat via vocals and 88s, almost obsessively proceeding at a very unhurried and hypnotic pace, and flawlessly choosing songs, she sounds to me like a MAJOR voice in jazz. Her early Embers and Ashes? Pour a drink and just let her flow over you.

On with the show…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of October 5, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  6. Mexstep: Resistir
  7. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  8. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  9. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  10. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  13. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  14. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  15. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  16. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  17. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  18. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  19. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  20. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  21. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  22. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  23. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  24. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  25. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  26. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  27. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  28. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  29. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  30. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  31. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  32. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  33. Sote: Parallel Persia
  34. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  35. Quelle Chris: Guns
  36. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  37. DaBaby: KIRK
  38. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  39. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  40. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  41. Senyawa: Sujud*
  42. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  43. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  44. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  45. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  46. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  47. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  48. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  49. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  50. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  51. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  52. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  53. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  54. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  55. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  56. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  57. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  58. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  59. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  60. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  61. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  62. GoldLink: Diaspora
  63. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  64. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  65. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  66. G & D: Black Love & War
  67. Girl Band: The Talkies
  68. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  69. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  70. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  71. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  72. Resavoir: Resavoir
  73. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  74. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  75. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  76. JD Allen: Barracoon
  77. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  78. Youssou N’Dour: History
  79. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  80. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  81. Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl
  82. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  83. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  84. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  85. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  86. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  87. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  88. Nots: 3
  89. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  90. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  91. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  92. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  93. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  94. Santana: Africa Speaks
  95. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  96. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  97. Fennesz: Agora
  98. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  99. Robert Forster: Inferno
  100. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  101. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  102. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  103. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  104. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  105. Solange: When I Get Home
  106. James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz
  107. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  108. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  109. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  110. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  111. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  112. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  113. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  114. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  115. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  116. slowthai: Great About Britain
  117. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  118. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  119. Mekons: Deserted
  120. Que Vola: Que Vola
  121. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  122. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  123. Hama: Houmeissa
  124. Steve Earle: Guy
  125. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  126. Ill Considered: 5
  127. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  128. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  129. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  130. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  131. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  132. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  133. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  134. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  135. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. The Royals: Gish Abbai
  6. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  7. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  8. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  9. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  10. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  11. Various Artists: Jambu
  12. John Coltrane: Blue World
  13. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  14. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  15. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  16. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  17. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  18. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  19. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  20. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  21. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  22. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  23. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  24. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  25. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  26. Prince: Originals
  27. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  28. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  29. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  30. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  31. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  32. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  33. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  34. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  35. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane

August Augury: 67% Exhausted, The End of The End of the Decade Finds a Second Breeze

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Warm Takes

I originally did not buy Lana Del Rey‘s set-up. The nostalgia, iconography, and icon-checks (I liked the dark tinge, but I just didn’t trust it); the tempos; the (somewhat) whispery delivery and sexy presentation (what’s wrong with sexy? I don’t truss it!); the desperation and decadence: the machine seemed built to manipulate. However, friends encouraged me to keep listening, and eventually her strange combination of deviance, sincerity, and trap-springing won me over last year as I consumed her oeuvre up to that point at very close listening range. The new one? She seems to have perfected that combo, the record just sounds magnificent, and the times have further lent themselves to draining one of fucks to give (and that’s scary, actually). Big winner for me–might just move up.

 

There may not be a better-named MC in rap than Rapsody. Her Eve is a tour de force of checklist skillz, and the tribute concept make the album an excellent pairing with Jamila Woods’ r & b version of the same.

Sheer Mag? Rock and FUCKING roll! Fresh and energetic at that! A friend joked that it was a Judas Priest album but that is a compliment right now.

No long-term observer of Raphael Saadiq would deny that the fellow is criminally talented. But from the Tonies through his collaborations and two solo joints, he’s never seemed to me to really get it all together–his career reminds me a bit of Bobby Womack. But the more personal nature of Jimmy Lee‘s songs and its consistent and dynamic flow may mean he’s finally really nailed it. I think he has.

I trust if you’re reading this, you are aware of Poland’s swing to the right, especially in its attitude toward its LGBTQIA population. If you have $50 to donate as the calendar flips, think about trying the 122-track electronic pig-out compilation Total Solidarity. It’s angry, the artists mean it, man, the quality’s hella consistent–and you can dance to it.

And now…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of August 31, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  6. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  7. Rapsody: Eve
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  15. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  16. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  17. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  18. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  19. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  20. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  21. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  22. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  23. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  24. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  25. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  26. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  27. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  28. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  29. Sote: Parallel Persia
  30. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  31. Quelle Chris: Guns
  32. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  33. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  34. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  35. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  36. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  37. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  38. Senyawa: Sujud*
  39. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  40. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  41. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  42. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  43. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  44. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  45. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  46. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  47. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  48. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  49. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  50. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  51. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  52. GoldLink: Diaspora
  53. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  54. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  55. G & D: Black Love & War
  56. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  57. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  58. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  59. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  60. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  61. Resavoir: Resavoir
  62. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  63. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  64. JD Allen: Barracoon
  65. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  66. Youssou N’Dour: History
  67. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  68. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  69. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  70. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  71. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  72. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  73. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  74. Nots: 3
  75. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  76. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  77. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  78. Santana: Africa Speaks
  79. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  80. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  81. Fennesz: Agora
  82. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  83. Robert Forster: Inferno
  84. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  85. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  86. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  87. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  88. Solange: When I Get Home
  89. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  90. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  91. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  92. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  93. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  94. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  95. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  96. slowthai: Great About Britain
  97. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  98. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  99. Mekons: Deserted
  100. Que Vola: Que Vola
  101. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  102. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  103. Hama: Houmeissa
  104. Steve Earle: Guy
  105. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  106. Ill Considered: 5
  107. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  108. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  109. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  110. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  111. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  112. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  113. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  114. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  115. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  6. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  7. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  8. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  9. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  10. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  11. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  12. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  13. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  14. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  15. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  16. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  17. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  18. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  19. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  20. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  21. Prince: Originals
  22. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  23. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  24. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  25. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  26. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  27. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  28. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  29. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

Seven Long Months: 100+ Slabs of Aural Awesomeness Released in Nerve-Wracking ’19

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Honestly, folks: so much good music for the times lies in wait for you out there–right now. If you’re having beers or cocktails with someone who’s mourning the days when music was really, good man, do me a favor: fart in their general direction. And blast some Mexstep or Balvin/Bunny in their faces.

Blurt re: new developments.

1) Mexstep’s Resistir came out in December ’18 but I’m claiming it for ’19. Dude behind “the mask” is a college professor I’d love to sit in with, but he can rhyme and write. I’m tired of this national bullshit and this album is bracing for your earhole. Dig:

2) I fucking love freely improvised music–jazz just doesn’t describe it anymore. I’m of Dutch heritage and I spent most of the month listening to the thinking person’s ICP (that’s Instant Composers Pool, homeslice), and damned if July didn’t deliver multiple new albums by artists working in this niche. It’s not escapist, it’s not hummable, but when I engage with it, it keeps me in the moment and matches the buzzing of my nerve endings. To wit, items #32, 63, and 64. Here, try some:

3) Anyone notice this is a stellar year for rap music? I have. Little Simz, Gibbs ‘n’ ‘lib, South African Queen Blakrok, fuckin’ 2 Chainz!, Woods ‘n’ Segal, Esq., Maxo Kream, Balvin / Bunny, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, and–I am sorry to break from the contemporary wisdom, but I know good shit when I hear it–Chance (come on, admit it: even his big fans are too ready to jump his ass, but it’s a justifiably sunny piece of work loosed upon overcast days).

4) Hellllllooooooo Cleveland!!!! Impressive new Ubu (can you believe David Thomas has forced his art to work for almost 50 years?) and a Peter Laughner box that even cognoscenti were doubting, but which intelligently honors a complicated subject. I was a doubter, and it revelated me.

5) As far as archival finds go, under the radar shimmers a UA rareties collection of tracks by the world’s greatest country singer, George Jones, which should not be missed by anyone who isn’t on the Bear Family mailing list. Also, if you’re a jazz fan of B+ intensity or higher, you might want to check out the work of Brit sax, flute, and vibe maven Tubby Hayes, whose ’69 Fontana Records session called Grits, Beans, and Greens just came to the surface. None other than Rahsaan Roland Kirk annointed him, so don’t just trust me. And we’re in a UK jazz moment, doncha know.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 31st, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  15. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  16. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  17. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  18. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  19. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  20. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  21. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  22. Senyawa: Sujud*
  23. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  24. Sote: Parallel Persia
  25. Quelle Chris: Guns
  26. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  27. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  28. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  29. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  30. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  31. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  32. Leila Bourdreuil / Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads
  33. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  34. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  35. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  36. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  37. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  38. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  39. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  40. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  41. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  42. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  43. GoldLink: Diaspora
  44. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  45. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  46. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  47. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  48. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  49. Resavoir: Resavoir
  50. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  51. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  52. JD Allen: Barracoon
  53. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  54. Youssou N’Dour: History
  55. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  56. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  57. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  58. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  59. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  60. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  61. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  62. Nots: 3
  63. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  64. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  65. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  66. Santana: Africa Speaks
  67. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  68. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  69. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  70. Fennesz: Agora
  71. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  72. Robert Forster: Inferno
  73. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  74. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  75. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  76. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  77. Solange: When I Get Home
  78. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  79. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  80. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  81. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  82. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  83. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  84. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  85. slowthai: Great About Britain
  86. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  87. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  88. Mekons: Deserted
  89. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  90. Que Vola: Que Vola
  91. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  92. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  93. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  94. Hama: Houmeissa
  95. Steve Earle: Guy
  96. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  97. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  98. Ill Considered: 5
  99. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  100. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  101. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  102. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  103. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  104. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  105. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  106. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  107. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  108. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  109. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  110. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  5. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  6. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  7. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  8. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  9. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  10. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  11. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  12. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  13. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  14. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  15. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  16. Prince: Originals
  17. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  18. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  19. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  20. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  21. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  22. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  23. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

Halfway to Listville: Slabs from 2019 That Have Been Consistently Good To Me (and Some Music Moments That’ve Been Good For Me)

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We’re halfway through 2019 and the tanks are rolling into DC! Nice! Anyway, I’ve heard almost 100 new records that are damn good, as well as 20 issuances of older music that might cause you to get revelated. They’re further down the page. But first

Top 10 Music-Related Moments of My Month:

ONE: I was out of town running sound for a wedding, and went for two early morning walks with headbuds in, not my usual mode of listening (I don’t like being aurally cut off from my immediate environment). On the first, 84-year-old Abdullah Ibrahim’s new album The Balance (with an impressive front line of tenor, flute, and baritone) dovetailed harmoniously with a southwest Missouri sunrise.

On the second–here I was listening out of obligation, because my expectations were low for the release but it was “required listening”–I surrendered to Freddie Gibbs, thanks to an uptick in the MC’s wit and Madlib’s subtle facilitation. The name of the album, easily one of the year’s best, is Bandana.

TWO: Speaking of that wedding, the bride had originally chosen Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” as the pick to click right after she and her hubby kissed and were presented–then she changed it, much to my initial dismary, to Toby Keith’s “God Love Her.” Besides being less than moved by Mr. Keith, I thought the sentiment left out the poor groom. When Apple Music suddenly dropped the original single (fortunately, I had been testing the playlist daily and noticed), I thought that was a sign–but it turned out the video of the song was still available, so out of obligation (notice I take those seriously?) I plugged it in. Pretty good song, and the young lady’s gum-popping coincided with the couple hitting the “red carpet” after descending the altar steps. Perfectly irreverent!

THREE: I stumbled onto a neat new French label, Dark Tree. Along with a ton of other items, Dark Tree is offering two rare recordings from master pianist, composer, bandleader, and arranger Horace Tapscott’s “Watts school”: an inspiring Tapscott live show (his discography is so small and scarce every new addition is an event–to my ear and mind, anyway) and a wild and woolly concert by a quartet fronted by clarinetist John Carter and Ornette-connected trumpeter Bobby Bradford.

FOUR: Peter Perrett should never have survived the Eighties, but lo and behold the old reprobate has checked in with his second strong album in a row, Humanworld. It could use one more uptempo tune, but his sardonic lyricism and daring phrasing sound undimmed by forty years’ passage. There may be hope for the rest of us.

FIVE: Listen, I am not a fan of Iran’s fundamentalist leadership, but it’s not like every Iranian should be tarred with that brush, especially its youth and its uneasy artists. Out of solidarity with the hopeful people of that country against our stupidly-start-a-fire-then-heroically-put-it-out president, I’ve been getting deeply into the work of Sote. Subversive electronica twining traditional sounds with near-futuristic ones–you should give it a try yourself.

SIX: I don’t get out to much live music here in Columbia, Missouri. I will freely admit why: the offerings seldom interest and almost never excite me. However, I am still needing five cups of coffee in order to sleep after learning that the upcoming Dismal Niche Experimental Music Festival (October 3-6) will spotlight Agadez guitar lightning-forker Mdou Moctar [his new album Ilana (The Creator)–see below–is one of the year’s best], Chicago mix-Mesmer Makaya McCraven, soundscape weaver Julianna Barwick, and hypnotic finger-picker Yasmin Williams.

SEVEN: I received a new James Booker find and a Professor Longhair reissue in the mail on the same day, though I ordered them on different days from different outlets. The Fess record has worse sound than the original LP, but because I am a well-known nut about Booker, I am frequently asked which Booker album it should be bought if only one were to be. It might very well be the title bolded in the second list below.

EIGHT: John Corbett is one of the more enthusiastic music writers I know of. His style isn’t snazzy–in fact, it’s frequently a bit awkward and corny–but the power of his love has persuaded me on numerous occasions and I’ve seldom been disappointed. His new listening memoir, Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, is a fun read (it was worth it to me just to be directed to The Fall’s Dragnet!), and his record label, Corbett Vs. Dempsey, specializes in reissuing free jazz and experimental records that have long been out of print. A new C vs. D release I purchased made the second list below (Sounds of Liberation–Byard Lancaster’s sax backing a Black Power singing group!), and another, Tetterettet, by the wacky, sly, and skilled Instant Composers Pool Tentet, sent me on an a deeper ICP (nope–not Insane Clown Posse!) dig that netted me not quite half-a-hundred albums. Yes, I just typed that.

NINE: The first blues album I ever bought with my own money was Fenton Robinson’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime (White Dog Records, Fayetteville, AR, 1981). In the ensuing years, I was finally able to buy Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson records (and plenty other masters’, as well), and I forgot about ol’ Fenton. I broke it out one afternoon out of the clear blue sky, and realized it was, in Christgauvian terms, an A+. Nicole, a blues hardliner, turned to me and said, “Why haven’t we been playing this five times a year every year since we met?” That’s a twenty-nine-year expanse, and she’s correct.

TEN: A very young septuagenarian friend of mine who lives in Austin and has very high standards recently told me, “Dylan hasn’t cut shit since Blonde on Blonde.” OK. No.I was obliged to shatter his misconceptions. Being as chronologically gifted as he is, he still buys and listens to CDs–giving me the perfect excuse to do something I live to do but never get the chance to: MAKE SOME MIX DISCS! He asked for one, and in characteristic overkill I sent him four–and I didn’t even allow myself songs Dylan waxed prior to 1980.

I haven’t heard back from him. Maybe he’s still working through the discs. But unsurprisingly as I compiled the playlist, I ran across a track even I had overlooked. It stunned me in its humility, sorrow, and depth of understanding–I’d link it, but it ain’t available. Next time you pull out World Gone Wrong, give your full attention to “Lone Pilgrim.”

BONUS TRACK: I was fortunate to attend one of only twenty nationwide theatrical screenings of Martin Scorsese’s new Rolling Thunder Tour movie. In it, he mixes fascinating footage from the tour with recently filmed interviews with participants. The house was packed–at 57, I was probably in the youngest quartile of the attendees–and we were virtually sitting on top of each other. Two elderly female friends–slightly more elderly than I, at least–were kibbitzing a bit in the aisle in front of me, and upon Dylan’s first talking head appearance (likely filmed in 2018), one turned to the other and, in complete seriousness, asked:

“Who’s that?”

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 3rd, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  13. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  14. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  15. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  16. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  17. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  18. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  19. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  20. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  21. Senyawa: Sujud*
  22. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  23. Sote: Parallel Persia
  24. Quelle Chris: Guns
  25. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  26. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  27. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  28. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  29. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  30. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  31. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  32. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  33. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  34. GoldLink: Diaspora
  35. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  36. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  37. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  38. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  39. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  40. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  41. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  42. Youssou N’Dour: History
  43. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  44. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  45. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  46. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  47. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  48. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  49. Nots: 3
  50. Santana: Africa Speaks
  51. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  52. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  53. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  54. Fennesz: Agora
  55. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  56. Robert Forster: Inferno
  57. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  58. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  59. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  60. Solange: When I Get Home
  61. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  62. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  63. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  64. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  65. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  66. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  67. slowthai: Great About Britain
  68. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  69. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  70. Mekons: Deserted
  71. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  72. Que Vola: Que Vola
  73. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  74. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  75. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  76. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  77. Hama: Houmeissa
  78. Steve Earle: Guy
  79. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  80. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  81. Ill Considered: 5
  82. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  83. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  84. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  85. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  86. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  87. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  88. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  89. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  90. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  91. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  92. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  93. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  94. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  95. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  96. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  4. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  5. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  6. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  7. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  8. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  9. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  10. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  11. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  12. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  13. Prince: Originals
  14. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  15. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  16. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  17. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  18. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  19. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  20. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

“It’s Old, But It’s Good”: 10 Hoary Music-Makers I’ve Been Bewitched by Lately

The faster the wheels of technology whirr, the more I fear (or resent?) that “old things” will be ground to dust in the gears. Perhaps I’m an ignatz, but I’ve always approached any awesome tunes I’ve heard as permanent fixtures in my life, and the makers of those tunes as people to stay connected with, to root for, and watch. “Because I Got High”? YES. Toussaint McCall? YES. I’m just not quick to discard (I feel the same way about humans I actually know). I tend to hold these things close for a good long while, aiming for forever, whatever that means. On my lips, at the end, my version of “Rosebud!,” even if I will be 40 years past the minting of this line: “I may not live past 21 / But ohhhhhhh–what a way to die!!!!”

Thus I’m dedicated to the old shit, as well as the new. It’s ritualistic. In any given week, I’ll have knelt at the altar of the verities many times. Just as a for-instance, here are the gods and goddesses that have compelled me over the past week, with a brief, I hope not too glib line of commentary:

Mary Lou Williams: from the late ’20s all the way through the ’70s, this Pittsburgh-born piano genius wrote, arranged, and rocked the keys across almost every jazz style–and vied in public with the fierce force known as Cecil Taylor.

Jimmy Rushing: like Williams a musician who came through and left his mark on Missouri, he was a singer for whom ebullience was a given. That’s no small compliment in my book; facing the apocalypse, I’d take him over Big Joe Turner.

Blood and Fire Records: I’m not sure of the label’s present state of fortitude, but Steve Barrow (and assorted others) gloriously succeeded in fully representing the full canon of Seventies reggae and dub–y’heard of Yabby You, Sylford Walker, Keith Hudson, or Niney? Or know the difference between the I-“boys”? I thought not.

Rosalia: Yeah, homey, I know she’s only 25, but she didn’t come out of know-where. She’s so bewitched me recently I’ve had to scour the past for her singles and collabs, and they are not temporary things.

Excello Records: Thought I’d heard what I needed to hear from this Nashville-fed-by-Louisiana blues-soul-gospel-r&b label, but dear lord I was mistaken. Read a book on the subject recently and was led to discover that all three of the label’s Heart of Southern Soul volumes are pretty essential. Humble, but transcendently so in many cases.

Joy Division: I will confess to having had quietly but deeply dark moods since my teenhood, and thus Ian Curtis always made sense to me. But Jon Savage’s recent oral history of his band revealed just how normal the whole enterprise actually was. Nonetheless, Curtis’ nakedness resounds, and will continue to.

Hank Thompson: One of the four great Fifties Hanks (Williams, Penny, and Snow being the others), Thompson was the most warmly fun-loving and regular-guy-ish–and the second-most fecund.

Cabaret Voltaire: I unfairly scoffed at many un-punk British bands of the ’80s, but I always wondered if their rousing Rough Trade Wanna Buy a Bridge? placing, “Nag Nag Nag,” augured other glories. Turns out, maybe-kinda.

Ice-T: The man’s moved on from hip-hop, but somehow, as much success as he found in its practice, I feel he has come to be underrated. Assured, inventive, astute, provocative, and in love with a story, he remains a master MC in the rap pantheon. I once used this song in a 10th grade English class and we talked about it for two periods.

Sir Shina Peters: I thought King Sunny Ade was the end-all in Nigeria juju. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong.

Why do I have to be tipsy in a hotel room to write?

 

 

 

 

Where (The) Future Unfolds: Five Months of Engaging Rekkids, Year 2019

 

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My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of June 3, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  5. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Senyawa: Sujud*
  8. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  9. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  10. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  11. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  12. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  13. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  14. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  15. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  16. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  17. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  18. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  19. Quelle Chris: Guns
  20. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  21. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  22. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  23. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  24. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  25. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  26. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  27. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  28. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  29. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  30. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  31. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  32. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  33. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  34. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  35. Youssou N’Dour: History
  36. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  37. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  38. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  39. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  40. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  41. Nots: 3
  42. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  43. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  44. Fennesz: Agora
  45. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  46. Robert Forster: Inferno
  47. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  48. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  49. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  50. Solange: When I Get Home
  51. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  52. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  53. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  54. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  55. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  56. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  57. slowthai: Great About Britain
  58. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  59. Mekons: Deserted
  60. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  61. Que Vola: Que Vola
  62. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  63. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  64. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  65. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  66. Hama: Houmeissa
  67. Steve Earle: Guy
  68. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  69. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  70. Ill Considered: 5
  71. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  72. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  73. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  74. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  75. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  76. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  77. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  78. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  79. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  80. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  81. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  82. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  83. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  84. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  85. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  4. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  5. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  6. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  7. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  8. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  9. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  10. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners