Home Stretch: The Best Records of 2018, with One Month to Go (December 2, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)


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I feel like my life has been too hectic lately even for music. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, life…death: the month of November was a massive wave that washed over me and left me lying here on December’s shore. I might have written about music had any event really taken form; even my college pop music students were busy doing research, so not much entertaining (certainly from their perspective) was going in the ivory yurt. Upon reflection, at least these moments remain fairly vivid:

My wife and I listened to a ’50s/’60s blues playlist I made for her throughout our trip to my parents’ for Thanksgiving and back. Nicole: “I am just in love with the sound of this period of blues–the electricity, the voices, the power.” I cannot say I disagree. The playlist mixes icons like the above gentleman with characters from the shadows, many of them captured on great compilations like Super Rare Electric Blues 60s Era and Scratchin’: The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story.

I have been positively addicted to the music of Catalonia’s nuevo flamenco firebrand Rosalia. Her voice is powerful, the rhythms that support it–especially on her recent El Mal Quererare intoxicating and blood-quickening, and she seems better able than any artist I’ve seriously bent an ear to this year to chase demons out. A measure of my love and respect for this record is that I just ordered the vinyl–from Spain.

A week ago today, the Columbia, Missouri, rapper featured above died under circumstances that remain shadowy, though the local sheriff’s department says that, as indicated in its ongoing investigation, he was shot while perpetrating an armed robbery. I’ve known the kid since 2010, I was his teacher for 180 days, I’ve witnessed and heard testimony to his evolution into a positive force for good in our community, and, while he may have been up to something (and very well may not have), it wasn’t robbery. Whatever it was, as a friend says, Columbia now has a hole that is going to be hard to fill. The first essay he wrote for me, in August of 2010, detailed–really, in classical style–his journey through dangerous street episodes to an understanding that he had the charisma, skills, and energy to devote to positive change in his home city. The last eight years have provided plenty of evidence that he was evolving even further, but now we’ll never know. I’m pouring out a pint glass of white-man juicy haze IPA onto the curb for you, Ahmonta Harris–I know you will appreciate the mischief. Read more about who he was here.

Also, I have either being lazy or desperate or both in rescuing and “repurposing” on this blog some old, old pieces I once wrote under the nom de plume of “The Reverend Wayne Coomers” during the first half of the ‘Oughts, for a website I invented and commandeered called The First Church of Holly Rock and Roll. I actually wrote sermons. At one point, I even had a staff (here’s a notable contributor’s section). And we were very highly-principled. Check ’em out if you’d like a chuckle before they disappear.


Which brings me to this facile undertaking: tweaked oh-so-delicately from last month, 150 albums from this calendar year I pronounce “very good” (think of their grades as 86.5% or better, and fuck your charges of grade inflation–this is pop music!) and 35 issues of old music (some of it which has appeared before, some just excavated) that are also B-plussy. I know: you’re saying to yourself, “11 female acts in your Top 20, man? Sure you’re not letting the politics of the moment bleed into your critical acumen?” Yeah, I’m sure. It’s simply the music that moves me the most, that I’ve listened to the most, and if the moment is moving me, well, that’s life. Plus, I’m honestly evolving critically anyway, and I have the good fortune not to have to be done yet.

  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Rosalia: El Mal Querer
  3. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  4. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  5. JLin: Autobiography (Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography)
  6. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  7. The Internet: Hive Mind
  8. Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
  9. Noname: Room 25
  10. Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings
  11. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel
  12. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  13. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  14. Pusha T: Daytona
  15. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
  16. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher
  17. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  18. Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer
  19. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  20. JD Allen: Love Stone
  21. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  22. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldiers: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  23. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  24. Cloud Nothings: Last Building Burning
  25. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  26. Nidia: Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida
  27. Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours
  28. Blood Orange: Negro Swan
  29. Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune
  30. Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties
  31. Daniel Carter: Seraphic Light
  32. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  33. The Necks: Body
  34. Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon
  35. Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy
  36. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  37. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  38. Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild!
  39. James Brandon Lewis: Radiant Imprints
  40. boygenius: EP
  41. Mitski: Be the Cowboy
  42. Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh: Sparrow Nights
  43. Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death in Meatspace
  44. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  45. Lisbon Freedom Unit: Praise of Our Folly
  46. Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya
  47. SOPHIE: The Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides
  48. The Goon Sax: We’re Not Talking
  49. Lyrics Born: Quite a Life
  50. Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz
  51. DJ Juan Data: Ritmos Crotos, Volume 1
  52. Chhoti Maa: Agua Corre
  53. Ken Vandermark / Klaus Kugel / Mark Tokar: No-Exit Corner
  54. Tallowit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo
  55. Knife Knights: 1 Time Mirage
  56. Angelika Niescier: The Berlin Concert
  57. Young Mothers: Morose
  58. Kelela: Take Me Apart—The Remixes
  59. Becky Warren: Undesirable
  60. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  61. Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts
  62. Sidi Toure: Toubalbero
  63. Robyn: Honey
  64. Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics
  65. Tyshawn Sorey: Pillars
  66. Chhoti Maa: Caldo de Hueso
  67. Wynton Marsalis & Friends: United We Swing–Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas
  68. La Maison Noir: The Black House
  69. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  70. Serengeti: Dennis 6e
  71. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs
  72. Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation
  73. Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories
  74. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  75. Full Blast: Live in Rio
  76. Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed
  77. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  78. Bombino: Deran
  79. Teyana Taylor: T.S.E.
  80. Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs
  81. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: An Angel Fell
  82. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  83. Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt: Brace Up!
  84. Sarayah: Feel the Vibe
  85. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  86. The Thing: Again
  87. Tierra Whack: Whack World
  88. Lori McKenna: The Tree
  89. Chief Keef: The Kozart
  90. Nas: Nasir
  91. Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse
  92. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
  93. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  94. Makaya McCraven: Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape)
  95. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  96. Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited
  97. Beats Antique: Shadowbox
  98. Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)
  99. Charge It to The Game: House with a Pool
  100. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  101. The Beths: The Future Hates Me
  102. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  103. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  104. Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar meets Elite Beat In a Budget Dancehall
  105. Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing
  106. Mudhoney: Digital Garbage
  107. Wussy: What Heaven is Like
  108. Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  109. Kiefer: happysad
  110. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  111. Freddie Gibbs: Freddie
  112. Kamasi Washington: Heaven & Earth
  113. Don Flemons: Black Cowboy
  114. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  115. Shopping: The Official Body
  116. Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid
  117. Maria Muldaur: Don’t You Feel My Leg—The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blu Lu Barker
  118. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  119. Shame: Songs of Praise
  120. Henry Threadgill: .and More Dirt
  121. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  122. Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
  123. The Coup: Soundtrack to the Film Sorry to Bother You
  124. ALLBLACK & Kenny Beats: Two-Minute Drills
  125. Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco: You’re Driving Me Crazy
  126. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  127. E.S. Douze: The Stoned 1
  128. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  129. Tal National: Tantabara
  130. Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): History of Nothing
  131. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  132. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  133. Tirzah: Devotion
  134. The Chills: Snowbound
  135. Ambrose Akinmusire: Origami Harvest
  136. Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil
  137. Big Freedia: Third Ward Bounce
  138. Heather Leigh: Throne
  139. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  140. Busdriver: Electricity Is On Our Side
  141. Lonnie Holley: MITH
  142. Del McCoury Band: Del McCoury Still Plays Bluegrass
  143. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag
  144. Migos: Culture II
  145. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  146. The Carters: Everything is Love
  147. Sleep: The Sciences
  148. The English Beat: Here We Go Love
  149. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  150. Santigold: I Don’t Want—The Gold Fire Sessions


  1. Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940
  2. Dead Moon (2LPs, 1 book)
  3. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  4. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  5. Danny Barker: “Tootie Ma Was Big Fine Thing” / “Corrinne Died on the Battlefield” and “Indian Red” / “Chocko Mo Feendo Hey”
  6. Willie Nelson: Things to Remember—The Pamper Demos
  7. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  8. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  9. Charles Mingus: Jazz in Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden
  10. Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Music from the Original Motion Picture)
  11. Prince: A Piano and a Microphone
  12. Various Artists: Amarcord Nino Rota
  13. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  14. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  15. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  16. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms
  17. Joe McPhee: Nation Time
  18. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  19. Various Artists: Oxford American, North Carolina Music Issue, 2018
  20. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  21. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  22. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  23. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  24. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  25. Wussy: Getting Better
  26. Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks—The Bootleg Series, Volume 14
  27. Milford Graves: Babi
  28. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  29. Various Artists: The Beginning of the End
  30. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  31. Various Artists: Two Niles to Sing a Melody—The Violins & Synths of Sudan
  32. Feeling Kreyol: Las Pale
  33. Neil Young: Songs for Judy
  34. Joe McPhee: One Day…A Lightning Storm
  35. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie 1964-1974

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