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.

 

 

Living to Listen’s 2019 Top 25 LPs Video Playlist (plus a showcase for some rekkids that are “Late to the List”)

I’ve been pickin’ at my “Best Records of 2019” list like an itchy scab. Just can’t leave the damn thing alone. If you click on that link, you’ll see I’ve added some items (bold-faced), including a few that are fairly high up the list. For many of the augmentations, I have the indefatigable Glenn Boothe and Keith Artin to thank: their “Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll”–1,122 members strong just a second ago–opened everyone’s eyes up to excellent slabs they hadn’t heard before, and I hope they make it a tradition. Also–this happens when you’re a long-lister–I forgot to list two albums that I respectively loved and really liked and played many times: 75 Dollar Bill’s I Was Real and 86-going-on-16 folkfunk originator Bobby Rush’s Sitting on Top of The Blues.

But. That ain’t what this is about! To grease the reader’s wheels for test-driving some of this stuff, I’ve created two YouTube playlists. The first highlights great tracks from my favorite 25 releases, with one exception: since Joe McPhee and the DKV Trio’s explosive box set of live recordings doesn’t currently have a reasonable video available on YouTube, I replaced it by a great single that wasn’t attached to an album–I’ll let you figure that out. The second gathers a track a piece from 10 albums that just got on the list at the last minute (that’s almost literal). Enjoy!

The Best Records 2019 Had to Offer (Now, Forward Into the Past)

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185 really good-to-really great albums of new music. 60 laudable issuings of music recorded in another time. That, my friends, is an embarrassment of riches. Now: if that will rub off on general citizenship, good cheer, charming self-effacement, and energized civic action, we’ll be cooking with gas here.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 – The Final Unscrolling

(bolded items are new additions to the list)

The Straight and Bent A’s:

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Junius Paul: Ism
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  6. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  7. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  8. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  9. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  10. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes
  13. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  14. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  15. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  16. Mexstep: Resistir
  17. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  18. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  19. Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New
  20. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  21. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  22. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  23. Tanya Tucker: While I’m Livin’
  24. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  25. EARTHGANG: Mirrorland

The Tragically Flawed A- Team:

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real
  2. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  3. Dumb: Club Nites
  4. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  5. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  6. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  7. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  8. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  9. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys A Record
  10. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  11. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  12. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  13. Zonal (featuring Moor Mother): Wrecked
  14. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  15. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  16. Ifriqiyya Electrique: Laylet El Boore
  17. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  18. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  19. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  20. Andres: Andres IV
  21. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  22. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  23. Rod Wave: Ghetto Gospel
  24. Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All in Good Time
  25. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  26. Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
  27. Various Artists: The Final Battle—Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics
  28. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  29. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  30. Planchettes: The Truth
  31. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  32. JME: Grime MC
  33. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  34. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  35. Bill Orcutt: Odds Against Tomorrow
  36. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  37. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  38. Pat Thomas, Dominic Lash, and Tony Orrell: Bleyschool
  39. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  40. Sote: Parallel Persia
  41. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  42. SEED ENSEMBLE: Driftglass
  43. Arto Lindsay, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, Phil Sudderberg: Largest Afternoon
  44. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  45. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II

The No-Disgrace B+ Ticklers:

  1. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  2. Sudan Archives: Athena
  3. San Cha: La Luz de la Esperanza
  4. GRLwood: I Sold My Soul to the Devil When I Was 12
  5. P. P. Arnold: The New Adventures of P. P. Arnold
  6. Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia
  7. FKA Twigs: MAGDALENE
  8. Miranda Lambert: Wild Card
  9. Aquarian Blood: A Love That Leads to War
  10. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  11. Quelle Chris: Guns
  12. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  13. DaBaby: KIRK
  14. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  15. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  16. Bobby Watson, Vincent Herring, and Gary Bartz: Bird at 100
  17. Ghostface Killah: Ghostface Killahs
  18. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  19. Earl Sweatshirt: FEET OF CLAY
  20. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  21. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  22. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  23. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  24. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  25. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  26. Dan Weiss Trio + 1: Utica Box
  27. Davido: A Good Time
  28. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  29. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  30. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  31. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  32. Poncho Sanchez: Trane’s Delight
  33. Gang Starr: One of the Best Yet
  34. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  35. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  36. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  37. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  38. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  39. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  40. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  41. The Sensational Barnes Brothers: Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  42. GoldLink: Diaspora
  43. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  44. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  45. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four—Memphis
  46. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  47. black midi: Schlagenheim
  48. Nots: 3
  49. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  50. Robert Forster: Inferno
  51. Aziza Brahim: Sahari
  52. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  53. Ingrid Laubrock & Aki Takase: Kasumi
  54. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  55. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  56. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  57. G & D: Black Love & War
  58. Boris: Love & Evol
  59. Girl Band: The Talkies
  60. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  61. Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons
  62. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  63. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  64. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  65. Flying Lotus: Flamagra

Hey! A “B” is a Decent Grade!:

  1. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  2. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  3. Bobby Rush: Sitting On Top of the Blues
  4. JD Allen: Barracoon
  5. Big Thief: Two Hands
  6. Kele Okereke: 2042
  7. Various Artists: Queen & Slim—The Soundtrack
  8. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  9. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  10. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  11. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  12. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  13. Santana: Africa Speaks
  14. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  15. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  16. Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon—The Music of Duke Ellington
  17. Sault: 5
  18. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  19. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  20. Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction
  21. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  22. Warren Storm: Taking the World by Storm
  23. Solange: When I Get Home
  24. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  25. Ranky Tanky: Good Time
  26. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  27. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  28. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  29. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  30. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  31. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  32. Doja Cat: Hot Pink
  33. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  34. Dopolarians: Garden Party
  35. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  36. Hama: Houmeissa
  37. Ill Considered: 5
  38. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  39. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  40. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  41. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  42. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  43. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  44. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  45. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  46. Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima
  47. Mekons : Deserted
  48. Lee Scratch Perry: Life of the Plants (EP)
  49. Marquis Hill: Love Tape
  50. Serengeti: Quail (EP)

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New Releases of Older Material

A = Thoroughly Enjoyable:

  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. Merle Haggard & The Strangers: Live in Austin, ‘78
  8. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  9. Various Artist: WXAXNXD Sessions
  10. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  11. Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (Bill Laswell Remix)
  12. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Run Get My Shotgun
  13. Chic: The Chic Organization: 1977-1979
  14. Griot Galaxy: Kins
  15. Various Artists: Mogadisco—Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972-1991)
  16. Various Artists: No Other Love—Midwest Gospel (1965-1978)
  17. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  18. The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels In The Band
  19. Various Artists: Love is All I Bring—Reggae Hits & Rarities by the Queens of Trojan Records
  20. Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse

A- = You’ll Barely Notice the Rough Spots:

  1. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  2. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  3. David S. Ware New Quartet: Theatre Garonne, 2008
  4. Various Artists: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records—The Definitive Collection
  5. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  6. Various Artists: Jambu
  7. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  8. Clifford Jordan: Glass Bead Games
  9. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  10. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  11. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  12. Various Artists: J-Jazz–Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1983 (Volume 2)
  13. John Coltrane: Blue World
  14. Moondog: The Stockholm 1981 Recordings
  15. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  16. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  17. Smokey Haangala: Aunka Ma Kwacha
  18. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  19. Various Artists: Blues Images Calendar Companion, Volume 17
  20. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  21. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  22. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  23. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  24. Various Artists: Brutal Africa—The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana
  25. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  26. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  27. The Heptones: Swing Low
  28. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  29. Prince: Originals
  30. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987

B+ = A Three-Beer Buzz:

  1. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  2. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  3. James Wayne: Junco Partner–The Very Best Of James Wayne 1950-1955
  4. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  5. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  6. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  7. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  8. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  9. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  10. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane

Durable after a Decade: The Records I Keep Going Back to From 2010-2019

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Seems like every music blog, website, and critic’s doing one of these, so I might as well, too. I dove into it expecting results much different than I came up with. These are the records from this decade I’ve played the most often with the most delight, simple as that.

2010

Pierced Arrows: Descending Shadows

Elizabeth Cook: Welder

M.I.A.: Maya

2011

Polystyrene: Generation Indigo

Wussy: Strawberry

2013

Live from Festival au Desert Timbuktu

Martha Redbone Roots Project: The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake

Mariem Hassan: El Aaiún Egdat

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba: Jama Ko

Jason Isbell: Southeastern 

2014

Wussy: Attica!

Withered Hand: New Gods

Young Thug and Bloody Jay: Black Portland

Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day

Chris Butler: Easy Life

2015

Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts: Manhattan

Jinx Lennon: 30 Beacons of Light for a Land Full of Spite, Thugs, Drug Slugs, and Energy Vampires

John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic

Miguel: Wildheart

79rs Gang: Fire on the Bayou

Africa Express: Terry Riley’s In C – Mali

2016

A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here

Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Sane

Rihanna: Anti

Beyonce: Lemonade

Elza Soares: Woman at the End of the World

Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King

Solange: A Seat at the Table

2017

Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me

Princess Nokia: 1992

Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng

Zeal & Ardor: Devil is Fine

JLin: Black Origami

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is

Various Artists: Miracle Steps (Music from The Fourth World 1983-2017)

2018

Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed

Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel

Noname: Room 25

The Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed

Tracey Thorn: Record

Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings

Rosalia: El Mal Querer

John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness

Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive

2019

Little Simz: Grey Area

Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains

Inverse Proportion Theory of Musical Succor: “Records Were as Great This Year as Our World was Terrible”

I’m making no bones about it: we did not do a good job living as humans with other humans this year. Not. At. All. I really didn’t expect to turn 57 and come to the conclusion that, despite reading, enjoying, and occasionally subscribing to the viewpoint of many cynics and curmudgeons, I have been naive. A lot of us dig fascism as a possible salve on our fear. It’s hard to know how many, but even a big little is a lot.

I ain’t going into the nooks and crannies of that now, though. 2019’s music-makers responded with some very convincing aural evidence that we can actually do a very transcendent job working, playing, speaking, and listening to each other, and–especially–calling on us to be our best possible selves, rather than wallow in self-pity and misguided resentment. If the music that was produced this year is a real representation of who we are, how we feel, and what we want, then the hate-wave is operating on borrowed time.

Remember: naive at 57.

Anyway, I endorse all the albums below as interesting. Also, please note my somewhat half-hearted grading scale. And think about sending the artists the most money you can and just buying physical media to defy Marie Kondo. You know she’s marketing a bunch of worthless shit to fill your houses with, don’t you? Seriously: we’re not all grifters, especially the folks that made this stuff…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 — THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

For those that need a harness on this burgeoning list:

1-10: Straight A (no A+ record this year)

11-66: A-

67-118: B+

119-170: B (and a B is still a good record)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Junius Paul: Ism
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  6. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  7. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  8. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  9. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  10. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. EARTHGANG: Mirrorland
  13. Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes
  14. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  15. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  16. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  17. Mexstep: Resistir
  18. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  19. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  20. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  21. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  22. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  23. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  24. MARK LOMAX, II: Afrika United (one part of a box set—if it’s all this good, woah!)
  25. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  26. Dumb: Club Nites
  27. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  28. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  29. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  30. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  31. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  32. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  33. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys A Record
  34. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  35. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  36. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  37. Zonal: Wrecked
  38. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  39. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  40. Tanya Tucker: While I’m Livin’
  41. Ifriqiyya Electrique: Laylet El Boore
  42. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  43. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  44. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  45. Andres: Andres IV
  46. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  47. Rod Wave: Ghetto Gospel
  48. Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All in Good Time
  49. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  50. Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
  51. Various Artists: The Final Battle—Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics
  52. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  53. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  54. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  55. JME: Grime MC
  56. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  57. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  58. Bill Orcutt: Odds Against Tomorrow
  59. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  60. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  61. Pat Thomas, Dominic Lash, and Tony Orrell: Bleyschool
  62. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  63. Sote: Parallel Persia
  64. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  65. SEED ENSEMBLE: Driftglass
  66. Arto Lindsay, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, Phil Sudderberg: Largest Afternoon
  67. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  68. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  69. Sudan Archives: Athena
  70. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  71. GRLwood: I Sold My Soul to the Devil When I Was 12
  72. Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia
  73. FKA Twigs: MAGDALENE
  74. Miranda Lambert: Wild Card
  75. Aquarian Blood: A Love That Leads to War
  76. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  77. Quelle Chris: Guns
  78. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  79. DaBaby: KIRK
  80. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  81. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  82. Ghostface Killah: Ghostface Killahs
  83. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  84. Earl Sweatshirt: FEET OF CLAY
  85. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  86. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  87. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  88. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  89. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  90. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  91. Dan Weiss Trio + 1: Utica Box
  92. Davido: A Good Time
  93. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  94. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  95. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  96. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  97. Poncho Sanchez: Trane’s Delight
  98. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  99. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  100. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  101. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  102. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  103. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  104. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  105. The Sensational Barnes Brothers: Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  106. GoldLink: Diaspora
  107. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  108. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  109. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four—Memphis
  110. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  111. black midi: Schlagenheim
  112. Nots: 3
  113. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  114. Robert Forster: Inferno
  115. Aziza Brahim: Sahari
  116. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  117. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  118. Ingrid Laubrock & Aki Takase: Kasumi
  119. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  120. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  121. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  122. G & D: Black Love & War
  123. Boris: Love & Evol
  124. Girl Band: The Talkies
  125. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  126. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  127. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  128. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  129. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  130. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  131. JD Allen: Barracoon
  132. Big Thief: Two Hands
  133. Various Artists: Queen & Slim—The Soundtrack
  134. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  135. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  136. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  137. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  138. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  139. Santana: Africa Speaks
  140. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  141. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  142. Sault: 5
  143. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  144. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  145. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  146. Solange: When I Get Home
  147. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  148. Ranky Tanky: Good Time
  149. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  150. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  151. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  152. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  153. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  154. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  155. Doja Cat: Hot Pink
  156. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  157. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  158. Hama: Houmeissa
  159. Ill Considered: 5
  160. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  161. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  162. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  163. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  164. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  165. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  166. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  167. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  168. Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima
  169. Mekons : Deserted
  170. Serengeti: Quail

New Releases of Older Material

1-12: Straight A (no A+ record this year)

11-27: A-

27-45: B+

46-55: B (and a B is still a good record)

  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. Merle Haggard & The Strangers: Live in Austin, ‘78
  8. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  9. Various Artist: WXAXNXD Sessions
  10. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  11. Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (Bill Laswell Remix)
  12. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Run Get My Shotgun
  13. Chic: The Chic Organization: 1977-1979
  14. Griot Galaxy: Kins
  15. Various Artists: Mogadisco—Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972-1991)
  16. Various Artists: No Other Love—Midwest Gospel (1965-1978)
  17. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  18. The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels In The Band
  19. Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse
  20. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  21. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  22. Various Artists: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records—The Definitive Collection
  23. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  24. Various Artists: Jambu
  25. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  26. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  27. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  28. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  29. Various Artists: J-Jazz–Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1983 (Volume 2)
  30. John Coltrane: Blue World
  31. Moondog: The Stockholm 1981 Reccordings
  32. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  33. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  34. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  35. Various Artists: Blues Images Calendar Companion, Volume 17
  36. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  37. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  38. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  39. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  40. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  41. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  42. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  43. Prince: Originals
  44. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  45. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  46. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  47. James Wayne: Junco Partner–The Very Best Of James Wayne 1950-1955
  48. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  49. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  50. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  51. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  52. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  53. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  54. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane
  55. George Jones: United Artists Rarities

Of Isms and Other Analogous Fluids, Solids, and Gasses (Best Albums of 2019, 11 of 12 Months Down)

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Music News from the Overeem Abode:

*Saw a warm, witty, and wise “Wussy Duo” house show here in Columbia, Missouri, at Botts Manor. All I asked was that they sing three of their several incandescent songs  (“Beautiful,” “Maglite,” and “Acetylene”–I got all those plus a t-shirt) and just be as perfectly imperfect as they are at their best. We’d seen the Bottle Rockets earlier this fall at another house show, and really dug it, so keep your eyes open for such things.

*Read several terrific music books, but experiencing Beastie Boys Book for the second time when my wife downloaded its audiobook equivalent sent us both on a Beastie Boys / Run DMC / ATCQ / Biz Markie jam-out when we made about 65 tamales for Thanksgiving.

Also, Will Ashon’s Chamber Music: Wu-Tang and America (in 36 Pieces) broke my mind into 36 pieces as he took me on a deep dive into The Clan’s debut album, a plunge which features incisive commentary from a former teacher of mine (Sundiata Cha-Jua), a primer on Shaw Brothers kung-fu flicks and their specific influence on The Wu that has me drooling (many are available on Amazon “You Fucking Bastards” Prime), and several heroic attempts to reinterpret the least savory aspects of that release (torture, anyone?). One of my favorite chapters simply capsule-summarizes 36 Shaw Brothers (and related) flicks to tear-inducingly comedic effect. Wait! Isn’t Ashon a white dude? A white dude writing a 300-plus-page disquisition (even though it’s not a 33 & 1/3 publication, it’s one of the best in doing what those usually try and fail to do) on THE WU-TANG CLAN???? Yep, and he’s well aware of the thin ice, doesn’t quite fall through it, and straightforwardly acknowledges it. RECOMMENDED, actually.

*”Are you still hooked on Will ‘Dr. Evil’ Friedwald‘s pop singing criticism,” I hear you asking. Why yes I am–so glad you inquired! I’ve previously blathered about Friedwald’s The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums, which I’m actually not even finished with, and this month I tipped on in to his pretty mammoth A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, which set me on a quest to more deeply acquaint myself with the recorded works of three eccentrics: the Ellingtonian Al Hibbler, the quirky and multi-talented seductress Eartha Kitt, and the “is-he-a-POC-or-isn’t he?” (see the seldom-seen documentary of his life) Herb Jeffries. Twenty years ago, I probably would have thought aficionados of such singers were perhaps a bit uptight, when in actuality it was me who needed to get loose. That being said, I was wise enough about ten years ago to become a rabid fan of Jeffries’ twilight-time release The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again), and if I hadn’t become enough of a fan of Friedwald’s already, his Biographical Guide passage about this record clinched it. I’d never read anything about it that matched my passion for it, and Friedwald might as well have been taking dictation from my heart:

HERB

*Oh, and for shits and giggles and because I feel I’m blog-cheating by just listing records I like without commentary, I decided to break down my list and GRADE THEM like a real teacher should(n’t). I’m not gonna belabor this, but an A is an album I’ve played over and over in a short period of time with great pleasure, and that, as a whole, works; an A- I’ve also played several times, may feature a couple bum tracks, but will stay in my collection in physical form and ride with me in the cab of my truck; a B+ is damn good–at least 66.6% of its tracks are–but I don’t need to hold, study, and fondle it; and a B is something that is GOOD–just GOOD–but has a couple dynamite cuts on it or projects a personality I want to stay at least electronically acquainted with.

Will anyone unseat Little Simz? And didn’t I keep Tracey Thorn on the throne almost all year last year, too? Am I an Anglophile? A gynophile (izzat even a word)? Well. If something out there doesn’t get a little better soon, a dead dude’s gonna top my chart. ‘Nuff said on that.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of November 30, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

(“A”s or 9.5-10/10s)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  3. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Junius Paul: Ism
  6. Rapsody: Eve
  7. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  8. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  9. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  10. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana

(“A-”s or 9.0-9.4999/10s)

  1. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  2. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  3. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  4. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  5. Mexstep: Resistir
  6. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  7. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  8. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  9. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  10. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  11. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  12. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  13. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  14. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  15. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  16. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  17. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  18. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  19. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  20. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  21. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  22. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  23. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  24. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  25. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  26. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  27. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  28. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  29. Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
  30. Various Artists: The Final Battle—Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics
  31. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  32. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  33. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  34. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  35. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  36. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  37. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  38. Pat Thomas, Dominic Lash, and Tony Orrell: Bleyschool
  39. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  40. Sote: Parallel Persia

(“B+”s or 8.65-89.999/10)

  1. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  2. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  3. FKA Twigs: MAGDALENE
  4. Miranda Lambert: Wild Card
  5. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  6. Quelle Chris: Guns
  7. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  8. DaBaby: KIRK
  9. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  10. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  11. Senyawa: Sujud*
  12. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  13. Earl Sweatshirt: FEET OF CLAY
  14. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  15. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  16. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  17. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  18. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  19. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  20. Dan Weiss Trio + 1: Utica Box
  21. Davido: A Good Time
  22. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  23. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  24. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  25. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  26. Poncho Sanchez: Trane’s Delight
  27. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  28. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  29. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  30. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  31. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  32. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  33. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  34. The Sensational Barnes Brothers: Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  35. GoldLink: Diaspora
  36. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  37. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  38. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four—Memphis
  39. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  40. black midi: Schlagenheim
  41. Nots: 3
  42. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  43. Robert Forster: Inferno
  44. Aziza Brahim: Sahari
  45. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  46. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  47. Boris: Love & Evol
  48. Ingrid Laubrock & Aki Takase: Kasumi
  49. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  50. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile

(“B”s or 8.3-8.64999)

  1. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  2. G & D: Black Love & War
  3. Girl Band: The Talkies
  4. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  5. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  6. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  7. Resavoir: Resavoir
  8. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  9. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  10. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  11. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  12. JD Allen: Barracoon
  13. Big Thief: Two Hands
  14. Various Artists: Queen & Slim—The Soundtrack
  15. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  16. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  17. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  18. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  19. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  20. Santana: Africa Speaks
  21. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  22. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  23. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  24. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  25. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  26. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  27. Solange: When I Get Home
  28. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  29. Ranky Tanky: Good Time
  30. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  31. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  32. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  33. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  34. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  35. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  36. Doja Cat: Hot Pink
  37. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  38. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  39. Hama: Houmeissa
  40. Ill Considered: 5
  41. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  42. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  43. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  44. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  45. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  46. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  47. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  48. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  49. Mekons : Deserted
  50. James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz

*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 

(“A”s or 9.5-10/10s)

  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: Send I A Lion–A Nighthawk Reggae Joint
  7. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Run Get My Shotgun
  8. Merle Haggard & The Strangers: Live in Austin, ‘78
  9. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  10. Various Artists: No Other Love—Midwest Gospel (1965-1978)

(“A-”s or 9.0-9.4999/10s)

  1. Tribe: Hometown–Detroit Sessions 1990-2014
  2. Various Artists: Bulawayo Blue Yodel
  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. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  7. Various Artists: Jambu
  8. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  9. John Coltrane: Blue World
  10. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  11. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt

(“B+”s or 8.65-89.999/10)

  1. Various Artists: WXAXRXP Sessions
  2. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  3. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  4. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  5. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  6. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  7. Various Artists: Blues Images Calendar Companion, Volume 17
  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. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  12. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  13. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  14. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  15. Prince: Originals
  16. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  17. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972

(“B”s or 8.3-8.64999)

  1. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  2. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  3. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  4. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  5. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  6. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  7. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  8. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane
  9. George Jones: United Artists Rarities

 

 

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