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
  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*
  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

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