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

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