Expect The Unexpected: My Favorite 100 Records of This Year on 🔥 🔥 🔥.

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Due to the unexpected death of a great friend, I have been in “4M” mode: Medicatin’ Myself Mostly with Miles.” Another Davis, Lockjaw, has been providing more traditional relief (the blues stomping out the blues), but new music hasn’t been able to elbow in and make much impact. 79rs Gang, a team-up by 7th and 9th Ward Mardi Gras Indian chiefs, released their second straight great album, both available on Sinking City. The first, Fire on the Bayou, was as stripped-down as a mess of Indian chants has ever gotten; the new one, Expect the Unexpected, is as impure as one has ever dared. Little Simz and Sunwatchers purt-near knocked me out with punch-packing EPs, the former gaining more confidence and edge with each new song, the latter barely able to contain their joyous in-all-directions energy. Despite seeming to have blown his voice out, Steve Earle delivered his best songs in years, the product of a more ambitious previous project, I believe. Les Amazones d’Afrique and the Saharan cellphone-foisting legions of Sahel Sounds offered two intriguingly varied and effective sets…and that about does it for fresh musical crank-turning in my world. Where are The Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell, you may be asking? I do not like those albums. Lady Gaga? Something tells me I need her pronto, but I’ve yet to get to it. Maybe next month if the whole circus hasn’t imploded.

Below are my Still-Warm 100, followed by 15 issuances of music recorded in earlier years. Bolded items correspond to the above album covers; they are new to the list. Also, someone lost the top slot, but she’s doin’ alright.

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  2. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  3. Kesha: High Road
  4. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  5. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  6. Body Count: Carnivore
  7. Anna Higberg Attack: lena
  8. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  9. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved (it’s late ‘19, actually)
  10. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  11. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  12. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  13. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  14. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  15. Steve Earle: Ghosts of West Virginia
  16. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  17. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  18. 79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected
  19. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  20. Moses Sumney: grae
  21. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  22. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  23. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  24. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  25. Little Simz: Drop 6 (EP)
  26. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  27. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  28. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  29. Tyler Keith: The Last Drag
  30. Chicago Underground: Good Days
  31. Les Amazones d’Afrique: Amazones Power
  32. K Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  33. Fat Tony and Taydex: Wake Up
  34. Danny Barnes: Man on Fire
  35. Various Artists: Sahel Sounds Sampler 2
  36. The Howling Hex: Knuckleball Express
  37. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG
  38. U. S. Girls: Heavy Light
  39. The Necks: Three
  40. fra fra: Funeral Songs
  41. Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko: Traversees
  42. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
  43. Rod Wave: Pray 4 Love
  44. Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence, Pts. 1 & 2
  45. Sunflowers: Endless Voyage
  46. McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, and Nilssen-Love: Of Things Beyond Thule, Volume 2
  47. X: Alphabetland
  48. Sabir Mateen, et al: Survival Situation
  49. Ndudozo Makhathini: Modes of Communication—Letters from the Underworlds
  50. Mythic Sunshine: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  51. Joe Ely: Love in the Midst of Mayhem
  52. Sunwatchers: Brave Rats (EP)
  53. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: UNLOCKED
  54. GuiltyBeatz: Different (EP)
  55. El Alfa: El Androide
  56. Alkibar Junior: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 4 (EP)
  57. Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers
  58. Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey: Invisible Ritual
  59. Elysia Crampton: ORCORARA 2010
  60. Sunwatchers: Oh Yeah?
  61. Shopping: All for Nothing
  62. Katie Shorr: Open Book
  63. The Neptune Power Federation: Memoirs of a Rat Queen
  64. Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
  65. MONO: Before The Past
  66. Chubby & The Gang: Speed Kills
  67. Rina Sayawama: SAYAWAMA
  68. STRFKR: Future Past Life
  69. Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation
  70. Darragh Morgan and John Tilbury: For John Cage (composer: Morton Feldman)
  71. Westside Gunn: Pray for Paris
  72. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind
  73. Waxahatchie: Saint Cloud
  74. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Born Deadly (EP)
  75. Evan Parker and Paul Lytton: collective calls (revisited) (jubilee)
  76. Fire! Orchestra: Actions for Free Jazz Orchestra
  77. Majid Bekkas: Magic Spirit Quartet
  78. Jan St. Werner and Mark E. Smith: Molocular Mediation
  79. Lyra Pramuk: Fountain
  80. Shabazz Palaces: The Don of Diamonds
  81. Megan Thee Stallion: Suga
  82. Childish Gambino: 3.15.20
  83. Ohad Talmor Newsreel: Long Forms
  84. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP)
  85. Tamikrest: Tamotait
  86. Luís Lopes Humanization 4Tet: Believe, believe
  87. Dramarama: Color TV
  88. Colin Stetson: Color Out of Space (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  89. Tomeka Reid and Alexander Hawkins: Shards and Constellations
  90. Wayne Phoenix: Soaring Wayne Phoenix Story The Earth
  91. Thundercat: It is What it Is
  92. Amaria Hamadahler: Music from Saharan Whats App 5
  93. Oumou Diabate et Kara Show Koumba Frifri: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 2 (EP)
  94. Pink Siifu & yungmorpheus: Bag Talk
  95. Jays Electronica and -Z: A Written Testimony
  96. Meredith Monk: Memory Game
  97. Luke Combs: What You See Is What You Get
  98. Jeich Ould Badou: Music from Saharan WhatsApp 03
  99. Pink Siifu: NEGRO
  100. Moor Mother: CLEPSYDRA

REISSUED AND NEWLY ISSUED OLDER MUSIC

  1. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  2. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  3. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  4. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  5. Various Artists: Stone Crush—Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  6. Observer All Stars & King Tubby: Dubbing with the Observer (reissue)
  7. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  8. Fela Kuti: Perambulator
  9. No Trend: Too Many Humans/Teen Love (reissue)
  10. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  11. Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings
  12. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  13. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  14. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  15. Various Artists: Jamaican All-Stars (Studio One)

 

“Close the Door, Richard”

Richard

When I was 18, few if any legit Little Richard records were in print (or otherwise available in southwest Missouri). Also, unbelievable but true, I had never heard a song of his on the radio. I HAD read about him: “anarchy in the USA,” someone wrote. That sounded irresistible. As a freshman in college, somewhere I read that this album was available through Rather Ripped Records in California. $20 was a fortune for me then but I wrote a check and mailed it off.

When the record arrived, I stopped everything I was doing and put it on. A second or two of silence, then “Long Tall Sally” EXPLODED out of the speakers. Whatta voice! Whatta band! What an attack! I think I listened to it 10 times that day. It’s hard for streamers to understand the feeling of only being able to read about some incredible music but not find it–true for many of us until the CD boom brought forth a reissue boom–and this hit collection lived up to everything I’d ever read about Richard’s music, in fact surpassed it. It’s still my gold standard for first impressions. No album has ever so immediately convinced me. I was so convinced I wrote a short story around it (the only one I’ve ever written) two weeks after I got it in the mail. And the album art and message? Effing perfect.

He lived a long, sometimes tortured, painful, and lonely life, and you can probably listen to everything essential he ever recorded in a couple of hours–he wasted no time on wax–but make no mistake: he was a giant. A giant who has intriguingly continued to be very important and inspiring in different ways over the years. We shall not see his like again.

Open Up, and Say “Uhhhhh…NO!” – The Best Long-Players of 2020 So Far

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Lots of movement on and additions to my updated list. 100 104 106 107 total good new releases is pretty good for four months in; I’ve heard it said that, other than Fiona Apple’s offering (seeming to excite everyone, including this previous tire-kicker), no one’s dropped a classic yet. I’d add Makaya McCraven’s GSH interp to that, goldarn Kesha continues to be a shot in this malaise’s arm, Lewis and Taylor wail on their new live duet, the inspired Irish folk-punk Jinx Lennon has given me more than I can quickly absorb (but it’s raised a little chicken skin during two listens), Lido Pimienta’s pop-folk schizo-concept album has come up the chart like gangbusters,  X’s comeback is slowly growing on me, and HOLY SMOKE Anna Hogberg Attack’s lena is a huge leap forward from a predecessor that was superb–in a word, time (and there’s plenty of it) has a way of conveying power onto a work of art, so we’ll wait and see.

2020 (January 1 – April 30): A Bad Time for Most Anything But Music, Part 5

Note: Bolded items are new to the ongoing 2020 list.

  1. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  2. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  3. Kesha: High Road
  4. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  5. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  6. Body Count: Carnivore
  7. Anna Hogberg Attack: lena
  8. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  9. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved (it’s late ‘19, actually)
  10. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  11. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  12. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  13. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  14. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  15. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  16. Danny Barnes: Man on Fire
  17. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  18. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  19. Mdou Moctar: Mdou Moctar Mixtape, Volume 1
  20. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  21. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  22. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  23. Chicago Underground: Good Days
  24. K Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  25. Fat Tony and Taydex: Wake Up
  26. The Howling Hex: Knuckleball Express
  27. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  28. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG
  29. U. S. Girls: Heavy Light
  30. The Necks: Three
  31. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
  32. Rod Wave: Pray 4 Love
  33. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  34. Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence, Pts. 1 & 2
  35. Sunflowers: Endless Voyage
  36. McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, and Nilssen-Love: Of Things Beyond Thule, Volume 2
  37. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  38. Moses Sumney: grae
  39. X: Alphabetland
  40. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  41. Tyler Keith: The Last Drag
  42. Ndudozo Makhathini: Modes of Communication—Letters from the Underworlds
  43. Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko: Traversees
  44. Mythic Sunshine: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  45. STRFKR: Future Past Life
  46. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind
  47. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: UNLOCKED
  48. GuiltyBeatz: Different (EP)
  49. Alkibar Junior: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 4 (EP)
  50. Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers
  51. Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey: Invisible Ritual
  52. Sunwatchers: Oh Yeah?
  53. Shopping: All for Nothing
  54. Katie Shorr: Open Book
  55. The Neptune Power Federation: Memoirs of a Rat Queen
  56. Chubby & The Gang: Speed Kills
  57. Rina Sayawama: SAYAWAMA
  58. Darragh Morgan and John Tilbury: For John Cage (composer: Morton Feldman)
  59. Westside Gunn: Pray for Paris
  60. Onipa: We No Be Machine
  61. Waxahatchie: Saint Cloud
  62. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Born Deadly (EP)
  63. Evan Parker and Paul Lytton: collective calls (revisited) (jubilee)
  64. Fire! Orchestra: Actions for Free Jazz Orchestra
  65. Majid Bekkas: Magic Spirit Quartet
  66. Jan St. Werner and Mark E. Smith: Molocular Mediation
  67. Lyra Pramuk: Fountain
  68. Shabazz Palaces: The Don of Diamonds
  69. John Anderson: Years
  70. Natural Child: California Hotel
  71. Megan Thee Stallion: Suga
  72. Childish Gambino: 3.15.20
  73. Ohad Talmor Newsreel: Long Forms
  74. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP)
  75. MONO: Before The Past
  76. Tamikrest: Tamotait
  77. Luís Lopes Humanization 4Tet: Believe, believe
  78. Colin Stetson: Color Out of Space (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  79. Tomeka Reid and Alexander Hawkins: Shards and Constellations
  80. Lakecia Benjamin: Pursuance—The Coltranes
  81. Wayne Phoenix: Soaring Wayne Phoenix Story The Earth
  82. Moses Boyd: Dark Matter
  83. Thundercat: It is What it Is
  84. Kassa Overall: I Think I’m Good
  85. Oumou Diabate et Kara Show Koumba Frifri: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 2 (EP)
  86. Dogleg: Mellee
  87. Pink Siifu & yungmorpheus: Bag Talk
  88. Jays Electronica and -Z: A Written Testimony
  89. Meredith Monk: Memory Game
  90. Luke Combs: What You See Is What You Get
  91. Jeich Ould Badou: Music from Saharan WhatsApp 03
  92. Pink Siifu: NEGRO
  93. Moor Mother: CLEPSYDRA

REISSUES AND PAST RECORDINGS NEWLY BROUGHT TO LIGHT

  1. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  2. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  3. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  4. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  5. Fela Kuti: Perambulator
  6. Various Artists: Stone Crush—Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  7. Observer All Stars & King Tubby: Dubbing with the Observer (reissue)
  8. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  9. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  10. Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings
  11. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  12. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  13. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  14. Various Artists: Jamaican All-Stars (Studio One)

Explosions: Music and Viruses – 65 Solid Platters to Spin or Stream, and You Have Time (January 1 – April 1)

 

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You may be staying in for a spell, but very good records are coming out–by the bazillion. If your income stream has not been pinched or cut off entirely, try to support your favorite record stores, most of which are thrilled to conscientiously ship items to you, and Bandcamp, where you can help music makers much more directly and often at bargain prices by purchasing their work. Yesterday, I spent $50 with one of the best shops I know of, Lafayette, Louisiana’s Lagniappe Records, and a few weeks ago I dropped $100 with Bandcamp on a day that 100% of consumer cash was being directed to artists represented there. I also hope to assist Columbia’s own Hitt Records in continuing to be Mid-Missouri’s finest. I know I am fortunate to be able to do so.

I’ve listened to 55 releases of fresh music I know I will listen to again with pleasure; call them B+ or 8.5s/10 or better. In addition, 10 reissues of previously hard to find old releases and new issues of music recorded in olden times have convinced me to buy or download them. Enjoy the slideshow of album covers above and imagine your flippin’ through the stacks; try the YouTube “store jukebox” below to sample some of the music I’m touting. Here’s my list, and I’ve checked it thrice. Keep calm, carry on, take care of yourself and those around you, and make time to apply sound salve to your soul at least once a day.

Items in bold are new to the list.

2020 (January 1 – April 1): A Bad Time for Most Anything But Music

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  2. Kesha: High Road
  3. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  4. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  5. Chicago Underground Quartet: Good Days
  6. Body Count: Carnivore
  7. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  8. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved
  9. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  10. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  11. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  12. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  13. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  14. Danny Barnes: Man on Fire
  15. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  16. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  17. K Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  18. Fat Tony and Taydex: Wake Up
  19. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  20. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG
  21. U. S. Girls: Heavy Light
  22. The Necks: Three
  23. Sunflowers: Endless Voyage
  24. Moses Sumney: grae
  25. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  26. Jan St. Werner and Mark E. Smith: Molocular Mediation
  27. Lyra Pramuk: Fountain
  28. Megan Thee Stallion: Suga
  29. Mythic Sunshine: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  30. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: UNLOCKED
  31. Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers
  32. Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey: Invisible Ritual
  33. Shopping: All for Nothing
  34. Katie Shorr: Open Book
  35. The Neptune Power Federation: Memoirs of a Rat Queen
  36. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
  37. Darragh Morgan and John Tilbury: For John Cage (composer: Morton Feldman)
  38. Onipa: We No Be Machine
  39. Evan Parker and Paul Lytton: collective calls (revisited) (jubilee)
  40. Fire! Orchestra: Actions for Free Jazz Orchestra
  41. Natural Child: California Hotel
  42. Childish Gambino: 3.15.20
  43. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP)
  44. MONO: Before The Past
  45. Tamikrest: Tamotait
  46. Colin Stetson: Color Out of Space (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  47. Lakecia Benjamin: Pursuance—The Coltranes
  48. Wayne Phoenix: Soaring Wayne Phoenix Story The Earth
  49. Moses Boyd: Dark Matter
  50. Kassa Overall: I Think I’m Good
  51. Oumou Diabate et Kara Show Koumba Frifri: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 2 (EP)
  52. Dogleg: Mellee
  53. Jays Electronica and -Z: A Written Testimony
  54. Luke Combs: What You See Is What You Get
  55. Jeich Ould Badou: Music from Saharan WhatsApp 03

REISSUES AND PAST RECORDINGS NEWLY BROUGHT TO LIGHT

  1. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  2. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  3. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  4. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  5. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  6. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  7. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  8. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  9. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  10. Various Artists: Jamaican All-Stars (Studio One)

 

Reaching for My Third Mind (My 25 Favorite Releases from 2020)

 

It’s a good bet lately that when I initially scoff at the news of a new release, you should place your bets against me. Cases in point:

Me, scoffing: “Dave Alvin’s doing a psych-rock album? Smells desperate. Reality: I can’t believe I’ve played this five times in three days. (Note: it’s also a covers album, which is something that always both intrigues me and smells funny, but Alvin and his Campers knock all but the 13th Floor Elevators tune out of the box.)

Me, scoffing: “A Moses Sumney double-album? I couldn’t get through one last time–too sensitive for me. Reality: He’s on some serious new shit.

Me, scoffing: “Two Princess Nokia albums at once? She couldn’t quite sell an EP last time, and who does she think she is, Axl Rose? Bruce Springsteen? Reality: Dude, do you even remember 1992?

Me, scoffing: “Do we really need another complaining grrrrl punk outfit that didn’t check that other acts are called Mr. Wrong? Reality: YES.

I could end up having been correct on my first impulse, but I doubt it. Nothing below’s been FULLY road-tested but the top seven.

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  2. Kesha: High Road
  3. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  4. Fat Tony and Taydex:Wake Up
  5. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  6. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  7. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved
  8. K Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  9. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  10. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  11. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  12. Moses Sumney: grae
  13. Mythic Sunshine: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  14. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: UNLOCKED
  15. Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey: Invisible Ritual
  16. Shopping: All for Nothing
  17. Natural Child: California Hotel
  18. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP)
  19. MONO: Before The Past
  20. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  21. Colin Stetson: Color Out of Space (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  22. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  23. Wayne Phoenix: Soaring Wayne Phoenix Story The Earth
  24. Moses Boyd: Dark Matter
  25. Oumou Diabate et Kara Show Koumba Frifri: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 2 (EP)

 

Hey! A Top 10 Popped Out!

PLEASE SHUFFLE THE ABOVE!

Shoulda waited a day to post last time: turns out Friday was a pretty good one for new music, good enough for me to cobble together a 2020 Top 10 list! You can all breathe a sigh of relief for me! And maybe for the year, because 2019 was a hard act to follow.

I’m not saying these are all just freakin’ stellar, not just yet–I have simply actively enjoyed these to the tune of at least two reps. I am Halsey novice and am frankly under the influence of Hannah Ewen’s FANGIRLS chapter on her. Apparently, Kesha’s on some throwback shit, but that album makes me happy. The new album by crafty Texan Terry Allen isn’t enough like Moby Dick to avoid slightly disappoint me, but–a lot like Michael Hurley–Allen zings you several times right as you’re about to nod off. This is the third iteration of GSH’s final recordings–it’s already been reimagined once–but McCraven’s magic makes it the best. The Buenos Aires recordings were released in late 2019, so I’m cheating–but dang they’re good! Chris Kirkley has 11 more Saharan WhatsApp EPs, one per month, coming our way. I think Fat Tony is the most underrated rapper in America, but I lean more toward words and concept than beats and flow. Shopping’s other albums didn’t really move me completely, but their Pylon-cum-Gang of Four actually has me wanting to (wanting to) dance this time–dance in the dumpster fire. Full disclosure: my history of personal interactions with Natural Child, newly emerged from a chastening that led to a hiatus and that I trust they took seriously, probably causes me to overrate them, but their return is much less bland and much more weird than their previous two records. The mercurial music scribe Phil Freeman’s morning tweet about previously-unknown-to-me Mythic Sunship delivered a tenth item…and Bob Xgau’s your uncle:

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  2. Kesha: High Road
  3. Fat Tony and Taydex: Wake Up
  4. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  5. Shopping: All for Nothing
  6. Mythic Sunship: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  7. Natural Child: California Hotel
  8. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP) (hear the whole thing above)
  9. MONO: Before The Past
  10. (Tie) Terry Allen and The Panhandle Mystery Band: Just Like Moby Dick / Halsey: Manic

 

 

 

 

What’s The Matter with Me?

I don’t have much to say. We’ve been buffeted by snow here in Misery, USA, so I’m definitely not sitting on a bank of sand, watching the river flow. I’m squirreled away down in my computer bunker, keeping cats from between me and the monitor, scrolling through my iTunes/Apple Music adds for 2020 and realizing I can’t even make a Top Five list of new records I have truly enjoyed–and I have listened to around 10. I’m also troubled by the fact that, while I was able to listen to more great new music than ever last year and effectively track my listening with the hopes of aiding readers, the sheer time, attention, and effort required–and, folks, I barely write, I’m just listing (slightly to the left–this danged labyrinthitis, I tell ya)–was at times reminiscent of twelve months on a fuel-injected gerbil wheel. Was it worth it, especially, as I said to a friend recently, that I don’t think I took (had?) the time to listen a Velvet Underground album in 2019? I’m not sure. Complain, complain. Perseverate, perseverate. That’s about all I ever write here.

So I’ll just substitute some music-related observations from January, some clearly related to future lists, if I ever make them:

1) Blossom Dearie. I resisted her for awhile because of that name and that voice. But didja know it’s her real name? And the voice–at first too little-girly, then gradually taking on nuance, humor, and weirdness–grows on one. I bought one of them Real Gone Music “Six Albums By” sets of Blossom (her first six albums for Norman Granz, which all happen to be pretty stellar end-to-end) and probably played it more than anything else last month. She was a great pianist, and she knew a great song.

2) Fania All-Stars. Hadn’t listened to ’em in a bit, then the above video sent me on a wild Discogs ride through their first-decade catalog. Talk about shit-hot.

3) Chrysalis’ Dance Craze VHS. In the Fishbone chapter of John Doe’s second LA punk oral history, More Fun in the New World, ’tis revealed how influential the above documentary was on the scene. Hell, I was wild, loose, and youfull in those days–why’d I not seen it? My quest to obtain it ended in two eBay disasters: the former seller cagily advertised it so a smarter consumer than I would have known it was a dub, which it was, and a BAD one, and an expensive one at that; since I had not been embarrassed enough for my liking and I still wanted it badly (“The end of all wanting / Is all I’ve been wanting”–yep, Mr. Berman), the latter one I ordered, legit, in great condition, and cheaper, only to find it was PAL-formatted and wouldn’t play on my VCR (yes, just a reminder that these are VHSes I’m talkin’ ’bout!). I was like, “Dude, you did not mention that in the listing; Dude was like, “Did you look at the photo of the VHS cover?” FOCK! Anyone need a PAL Dance Craze VHS for cheap? By God, I will HAVE it some day.

4) Drive-By Truckers and Kesha and Aroma Coffee Shop. Retirees like me have a tendency to drift to coffee shops and post up. I’ve never done this, but a new cafe opened up near my domicile that’s inviting and promising, so last Friday, I thought I might as well do as fellow geezers do and find a corner. Another motivator was some new records were just waiting for me to listen to: the DBTs’ The Unraveling and Kesha’s High Road. There was a time when anyone who knew me could easily predict my takes–accent on was, because I don’t truck with foolish consistency. From the looks of things, I am among the few to hear The Unraveling as sodden, merely topical, enervating, and possibly ominous in terms of the band’s future (what’s up with Cooley’s two–and not that great-songs?). I, too, believe that we have serious fucking problems in this country, but records like this one don’t help me. SPARK, man! SPARK! On the other hand, Kesha, an artist I’ve learned a lot about from teaching young students at a women’s college, has created something liberating, jubilant, triumphant–even if in some ways it’s a return to an earlier persona–in High Road that made my morning without my having to take deliberate action to escape the daily shitstorm. I am sure I am the only one comparing these two acts in this way, but in pop music it be’s that way sometimes. I go way back with the Truckers, as a fan, but also on a personal level, as they once played the high school I taught at for free and kicked almighty ass, but I cannot tell a lie.

Justine

5) That de Sade album. Speaking of the end of all wanting, long ago I’d cast a line out for the above on Discogs Lake and just waited for the bobber to dance. Finally, and for a pittance, I got the chance to yank, and it sits waiting to be spun, smelling just a mite moldy. I am no Sadist, but such an item is difficult to resist and especially in these times, metaphorically at the very least; however, do I listen alone or in company, and if in company, with whom? I’m stuck in a state of suspended animation, so maybe I’ll stall a little longer and digitize it. Love that label name!

6) THE GOATS. Someone asked me recently if I ever had the chance to write a 33 1/3rd book (basically, I do have the chance, just not the drive), about what album would I write mine. I reeled off several but knew I was forgetting one. The arrival in 2019 (I initally missed it, thus didn’t list it) of a freakin’ raucous live album of a ’93 performance by ultra-underrated Philly crew The Goats, which I just learned about the other day, reminded me that I’d first try to write about their durable and still-relevant Tricks of the Shade. Our flag is not a peace sign, indeed.

7) If you’re ever in Springfield, Illinois. Definitely hit Cozy Dog, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and Lincoln’s tomb (supposedly the man once said, “You’d have to shoot me to get me to go back to Springfield!”), but there’s a record store on Adams Street that can swallow you up: Recycled Records. Besides music, they have stereo equipment, memorabilia, VHSes galore (I didn’t look for Dance Craze, alas), even porno mags. I skipped that stuff and snagged two sealed Willie John comps on Ace for $6 a piece and a great three-disc Abbey Lincoln career overview I didn’t know existed for $17 (and with Gary Giddins liner notes). If you ask for help, you will get it–and more.

8) Tomeka Reid. I think Reid is my favorite musician-I-hadn’t-heard-about-til-recently. I’d actually heard her inimitable jazz cello on records I owned by others, but–two things about her two solo releases, the 2019 Old and New and 2016’s Tomeka Reid Quartet (now impossible to find in physical form): her playing and composing are rich, expressive, and surprising–she stretches the cello’s usual jazz role fascinatingly–and they also spur quartet member and guitar genius Mary Halvorson to some of her best playing ever. That’s saying something.

9) Natural Child. I stumbled upon this Nashville group in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2010, at an amazing and free garage-rock festival sponsored by Scion. We arrived on Massachusetts Street, found a parking spot, which just happened to be in front of The Granada, one of the festival’s four venues, and wandered in to see whoever happened to be there. The group immediately charmed and rocked us with their extremely casual stage manner and their delightfully fucked-up songs–a nicer, funnier Royal Trux, maybe. I bought up all their 45s—that was it for their output at the time–and they held up in the absence of the band charming, rocking, and delighting us in person. We saw them several times in several places, and they were always worth it. As their sound starting to lean toward country–much harder stuff to pull off than tire-kickers think–they lost their je ne sais quois, and though our enthusiasm for their output dimmed, we still saw ’em when they were close. A member of the band brought some trouble upon himself and them in an incident I only know about third-hand and thus will not report, and retired themselves from the action to work on things, a wise choice. Suffice it all to say, the band is back after several years with a new record, I’m happy to see it, and I hope (and trust) that they’ve put in work on more than just the music. I am rooting for them.

10) International Anthem. IA’s the first label in a long time–maybe ever–that’s seriously tempted me to just buy its entire output sans investigation. Their most recent release, Jeff Parker’s Suite for Max Brown, would be my record of the year in 2020 if I were able to muster a list, and Irreversible Entanglement’s upcoming Who Sent You?, based on early indications, may be challenging it. All of their releases are fired by skilled, passionate players, and the label’s accent on liberation and commitment to warm, present production standards make for a unity of sound and vision reminiscent of legendary labels I surely need not name for you. I’m heading to Chicago soon, and if they have a physical home, I may well visit and bow.