Halfway to Listville: Slabs from 2019 That Have Been Consistently Good To Me (and Some Music Moments That’ve Been Good For Me)

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We’re halfway through 2019 and the tanks are rolling into DC! Nice! Anyway, I’ve heard almost 100 new records that are damn good, as well as 20 issuances of older music that might cause you to get revelated. They’re further down the page. But first

Top 10 Music-Related Moments of My Month:

ONE: I was out of town running sound for a wedding, and went for two early morning walks with headbuds in, not my usual mode of listening (I don’t like being aurally cut off from my immediate environment). On the first, 84-year-old Abdullah Ibrahim’s new album The Balance (with an impressive front line of tenor, flute, and baritone) dovetailed harmoniously with a southwest Missouri sunrise.

On the second–here I was listening out of obligation, because my expectations were low for the release but it was “required listening”–I surrendered to Freddie Gibbs, thanks to an uptick in the MC’s wit and Madlib’s subtle facilitation. The name of the album, easily one of the year’s best, is Bandana.

TWO: Speaking of that wedding, the bride had originally chosen Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” as the pick to click right after she and her hubby kissed and were presented–then she changed it, much to my initial dismary, to Toby Keith’s “God Love Her.” Besides being less than moved by Mr. Keith, I thought the sentiment left out the poor groom. When Apple Music suddenly dropped the original single (fortunately, I had been testing the playlist daily and noticed), I thought that was a sign–but it turned out the video of the song was still available, so out of obligation (notice I take those seriously?) I plugged it in. Pretty good song, and the young lady’s gum-popping coincided with the couple hitting the “red carpet” after descending the altar steps. Perfectly irreverent!

THREE: I stumbled onto a neat new French label, Dark Tree. Along with a ton of other items, Dark Tree is offering two rare recordings from master pianist, composer, bandleader, and arranger Horace Tapscott’s “Watts school”: an inspiring Tapscott live show (his discography is so small and scarce every new addition is an event–to my ear and mind, anyway) and a wild and woolly concert by a quartet fronted by clarinetist John Carter and Ornette-connected trumpeter Bobby Bradford.

FOUR: Peter Perrett should never have survived the Eighties, but lo and behold the old reprobate has checked in with his second strong album in a row, Humanworld. It could use one more uptempo tune, but his sardonic lyricism and daring phrasing sound undimmed by forty years’ passage. There may be hope for the rest of us.

FIVE: Listen, I am not a fan of Iran’s fundamentalist leadership, but it’s not like every Iranian should be tarred with that brush, especially its youth and its uneasy artists. Out of solidarity with the hopeful people of that country against our stupidly-start-a-fire-then-heroically-put-it-out president, I’ve been getting deeply into the work of Sote. Subversive electronica twining traditional sounds with near-futuristic ones–you should give it a try yourself.

SIX: I don’t get out to much live music here in Columbia, Missouri. I will freely admit why: the offerings seldom interest and almost never excite me. However, I am still needing five cups of coffee in order to sleep after learning that the upcoming Dismal Niche Experimental Music Festival (October 3-6) will spotlight Agadez guitar lightning-forker Mdou Moctar [his new album Ilana (The Creator)–see below–is one of the year’s best], Chicago mix-Mesmer Makaya McCraven, soundscape weaver Julianna Barwick, and hypnotic finger-picker Yasmin Williams.

SEVEN: I received a new James Booker find and a Professor Longhair reissue in the mail on the same day, though I ordered them on different days from different outlets. The Fess record has worse sound than the original LP, but because I am a well-known nut about Booker, I am frequently asked which Booker album it should be bought if only one were to be. It might very well be the title bolded in the second list below.

EIGHT: John Corbett is one of the more enthusiastic music writers I know of. His style isn’t snazzy–in fact, it’s frequently a bit awkward and corny–but the power of his love has persuaded me on numerous occasions and I’ve seldom been disappointed. His new listening memoir, Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, is a fun read (it was worth it to me just to be directed to The Fall’s Dragnet!), and his record label, Corbett Vs. Dempsey, specializes in reissuing free jazz and experimental records that have long been out of print. A new C vs. D release I purchased made the second list below (Sounds of Liberation–Byard Lancaster’s sax backing a Black Power singing group!), and another, Tetterettet, by the wacky, sly, and skilled Instant Composers Pool Tentet, sent me on an a deeper ICP (nope–not Insane Clown Posse!) dig that netted me not quite half-a-hundred albums. Yes, I just typed that.

NINE: The first blues album I ever bought with my own money was Fenton Robinson’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime (White Dog Records, Fayetteville, AR, 1981). In the ensuing years, I was finally able to buy Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson records (and plenty other masters’, as well), and I forgot about ol’ Fenton. I broke it out one afternoon out of the clear blue sky, and realized it was, in Christgauvian terms, an A+. Nicole, a blues hardliner, turned to me and said, “Why haven’t we been playing this five times a year every year since we met?” That’s a twenty-nine-year expanse, and she’s correct.

TEN: A very young septuagenarian friend of mine who lives in Austin and has very high standards recently told me, “Dylan hasn’t cut shit since Blonde on Blonde.” OK. No.I was obliged to shatter his misconceptions. Being as chronologically gifted as he is, he still buys and listens to CDs–giving me the perfect excuse to do something I live to do but never get the chance to: MAKE SOME MIX DISCS! He asked for one, and in characteristic overkill I sent him four–and I didn’t even allow myself songs Dylan waxed prior to 1980.

I haven’t heard back from him. Maybe he’s still working through the discs. But unsurprisingly as I compiled the playlist, I ran across a track even I had overlooked. It stunned me in its humility, sorrow, and depth of understanding–I’d link it, but it ain’t available. Next time you pull out World Gone Wrong, give your full attention to “Lone Pilgrim.”

BONUS TRACK: I was fortunate to attend one of only twenty nationwide theatrical screenings of Martin Scorsese’s new Rolling Thunder Tour movie. In it, he mixes fascinating footage from the tour with recently filmed interviews with participants. The house was packed–at 57, I was probably in the youngest quartile of the attendees–and we were virtually sitting on top of each other. Two elderly female friends–slightly more elderly than I, at least–were kibbitzing a bit in the aisle in front of me, and upon Dylan’s first talking head appearance (likely filmed in 2018), one turned to the other and, in complete seriousness, asked:

“Who’s that?”

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 3rd, 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. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  13. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  14. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  15. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  16. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  17. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  18. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  19. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  20. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  21. Senyawa: Sujud*
  22. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  23. Sote: Parallel Persia
  24. Quelle Chris: Guns
  25. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  26. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  27. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  28. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  29. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  30. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  31. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  32. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  33. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  34. GoldLink: Diaspora
  35. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  36. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  37. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  38. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  39. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  40. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  41. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  42. Youssou N’Dour: History
  43. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  44. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  45. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  46. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  47. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  48. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  49. Nots: 3
  50. Santana: Africa Speaks
  51. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  52. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  53. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  54. Fennesz: Agora
  55. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  56. Robert Forster: Inferno
  57. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  58. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  59. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  60. Solange: When I Get Home
  61. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  62. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  63. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  64. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  65. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  66. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  67. slowthai: Great About Britain
  68. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  69. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  70. Mekons: Deserted
  71. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  72. Que Vola: Que Vola
  73. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  74. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  75. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  76. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  77. Hama: Houmeissa
  78. Steve Earle: Guy
  79. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  80. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  81. Ill Considered: 5
  82. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  83. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  84. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  85. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  86. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  87. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  88. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  89. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  90. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  91. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  92. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  93. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  94. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  95. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  96. 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. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  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. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  7. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  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. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  12. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  13. Prince: Originals
  14. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  15. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  16. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  17. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  18. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  19. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  20. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

Where (The) Future Unfolds: Five Months of Engaging Rekkids, Year 2019

 

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My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of June 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. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  5. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Senyawa: Sujud*
  8. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  9. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  10. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  11. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  12. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  13. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  14. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  15. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  16. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  17. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  18. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  19. Quelle Chris: Guns
  20. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  21. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  22. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  23. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  24. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  25. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  26. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  27. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  28. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  29. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  30. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  31. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  32. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  33. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  34. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  35. Youssou N’Dour: History
  36. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  37. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  38. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  39. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  40. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  41. Nots: 3
  42. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  43. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  44. Fennesz: Agora
  45. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  46. Robert Forster: Inferno
  47. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  48. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  49. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  50. Solange: When I Get Home
  51. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  52. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  53. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  54. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  55. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  56. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  57. slowthai: Great About Britain
  58. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  59. Mekons: Deserted
  60. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  61. Que Vola: Que Vola
  62. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  63. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  64. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  65. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  66. Hama: Houmeissa
  67. Steve Earle: Guy
  68. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  69. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  70. Ill Considered: 5
  71. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  72. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  73. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  74. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  75. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  76. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  77. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  78. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  79. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  80. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  81. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  82. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  83. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  84. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  85. 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. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  4. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  5. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  6. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  7. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  8. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  9. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  10. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners

 

Trust in the Lifeforce: Best New Records from the First Third of 2019 (Updated 5/1 with Two Significant Add-Ons and Two Bye-Byes)

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I think I’m back to thinking this is a bit of a weak year. Or maybe I’m just saying that to see 2019 hit me back. It worked last time. Some recent observations:

*I’ve been following the huzzahs and hisses directed at Ms. Knowles’ live album. Not having always been vulnerable to her wiles, I understand both sides of the argument (as well as those on middle ground). But I know what I’m hearing, and I find very little not to love: the brass/marching band support (the arrangements make it all sound so easy, but it couldn’t have been), the tougher vocals (something I’ve always wanted from her and knew she could offer), the song selection (I’ve now been converted to tunes I’d tuned out on), the showcases (especially for Freedia! she was owed!), and, honestly, the educational content. It’s a tour de force, and it stands up without visuals, as outstanding as those must have been–I’ve yet to see anything but clips.

*I’d like to thank my friend Dan Weiss for forcefully suggesting I listen to Control Top’s furious Covert Contracts. I have many compadres who ask me, “Well, what about punk rock NOW?” That album’s an answer.

*Billie Eilish may tempt some who know me to wonder if I am bending over backwards to stay hip with the kid-crowd, but I’d argue her material isn’t exactly kid stuff. If you hung around humans her age as much as I do (I have no choice: I teach them), you might hear her record differently. The booga-booga cover pose is not entirely a joke–her generation is indeed dealing with stressors the hoarier among us might well have sidestepped, and it ain’t about how tough we are and they ain’t. And I hear that twining through the songs–along with some charming and funny backtalk and a mordant sense of humor that probably helps Eilish on more than just her music. One way I know she must be doing something right is that she defeats my resistance to “little baby voices” with sheer weirdness, chutzpah, and attitude.

*I recently raided Sublime Frequencies’ Bandcamp site after reading an article on the label in The New Yorker. Several of their more recent offerings are budget-priced, so I indulged myself, expecting really just to be educated about some international music I’d never heard before. Indonesia’s Senyawa’s 2018 album Sujud, however, did that and more, extended traditions of their country’s music into the realm of the self-consciously experimental. If that doesn’t sound like a strong bet, maybe it wasn’t–but they won it. I haven’t heard a more mesmerizing, unique album this year (by the way, I’m counting Sujud as a 2019 offering since, thanks to the above article, that’s when its impact is likely to be more substantial.

*Don’t you love it when a band that’s never done anything for you does something for you? I can’t put my finger on it–I think it’s the songwriting and dynamics–but Shovel & Ropes’ By Blood has me rockin’, and rooting for it.

*It’s too easy, very absurd, and not a little lazy to call Mdou Moctar “The Hendrix of the Sahara.” However, there is a reason he has two records in my Top 70 (!) so far.

And there’s also a reason why, last time, he was compared to Prince.

*LATE-BREAKING ADD-ON: I finally broke down after playing it more times than any other record this year and claimed A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper as a 2019 record; it was a 2018 RSD release, but saw an issue to the rest of humanity in December. The jazzer take on The Beatles’ inescapable album might sound like a must-to-avoid (I initially streamed it with some trepidation myself), but it’s quirkily catchy and inventive–plus the jazzers in question include Mary Halvorson, Makaya McCraven, and Shabaka Hutchings, not exactly the paint-by-numbers type and the latter two in the midst of a pretty substantial moment. But don’t trust me; sample it yourself. Also, I wrinkled my nose at LPX being compared to Robyn (and could she not name herself something less mechanical?), then I played her Junk of the Heart EP and felt quite a bit of joy. In fact, a lot of joy.

2019 New Release Honor Roll

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  4. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  5. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  6. Senyawa: Sujud*
  7. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  8. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  9. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  10. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  11. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  12. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  13. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  14. Heroes are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  15. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  16. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  17. Quelle Chris: Guns
  18. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  19. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  20. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  21. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  22. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  23. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  24. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  25. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  26. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  27. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  28. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  29. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  30. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  31. Fennesz: Agora
  32. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  33. Robert Forster: Inferno
  34. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  35. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  36. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  37. Solange: When I Get Home
  38. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  39. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  40. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  41. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  42. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  43. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  44. Mekons: Deserted
  45. Que Vola: Que Vola
  46. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  47. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  48. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  49. Hama: Houmeissa
  50. Steve Earle: Guy
  51. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  52. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  53. Ill Considered: 5
  54. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  55. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  56. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  57. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  58. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  59. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  60. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  61. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  62. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  63. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE
  64. The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet (featuring Joe McPhee): Sweet Oranges
  65. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  66. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  67. Wynton Marsalis: Bolden (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  68. People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, The P
  69. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  70. 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. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  4. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  5. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  6. Belton Richard: The Essential Cajun Music Collection, Volume 2

“Weaponize Your Sound”: Best Albums of ’19, 25% through the Briar Patch

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All I had to do was bitch about 2019 and it stepped to me–almost immediately. Top 25s in particular are getting a lot of replay.

Bold-faced entries represent older music, which I usually separate into a dedicated list later. Notable: some very emotionally intense desert blues up in here, and it parallels some shit coming down at the source; some really talkative rap records striking deep; my reading as always effects my musical perceptions–I just finished Dave Cullen’s Parkland.

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Quelle Chris: Guns
  4. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  5. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  6. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  7. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  8. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  9. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  10. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  11. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  12. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  13. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  14. Robert Forster: Inferno
  15. Heroes are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  16. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  17. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  18. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  19. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  20. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  21. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  22. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  23. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  24. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  25. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  26. Various Artists: Live at Raul’s
  27. Solange: When I Get Home
  28. Tanya Tagaq: Snowblind
  29. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  30. Steve Earle: Guy
  31. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  32. Jenny Lewis: On the Line
  33. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  34. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze (featuring Cousin Joe, James Booker, and Snooks Eaglin)
  35. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  36. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  37. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  38. Que Vola: Que Vola
  39. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  40. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  41. People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, The P
  42. Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix)
  43. Hama: Houmeissa
  44. Ill Considered: 5
  45. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  46. M’dou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  47. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  48. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  49. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  50. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  51. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  52. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE
  53. The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet (featuring Joe McPhee): Sweet Oranges
  54. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  55. Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock
  56. Ty Segall: Deforming Lobes
  57. The Specials: Encore
  58. Meat Puppets: Dusty Notes
  59. Mekons: Deserted
  60. Greg Ward and Rogue Parade: Stomping Off from Greenwood

Best Rekkids of ’19 – End of Febru-weary Edition

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Behold–a rather tentative list of 30 pretty damn decent releases from the 2019th year of our lord (is that right? asks the history-challenged heathen). I would not say that, so far, our musical high priests have laid a cornucopial spread before our weary, hungry, hopeful selves; I would say, however, that plenty of interesting stuff is at your fingertips. The following are in rough order of how much enjoyment I’ve gained from and willing repetition I’ve applied to each long-player. Certain of my regular prejudices are in play: Joe McPhee is a genius and a saint to me, musically and personally, and in his 79th year (50 or so of them as a devoted free-playing jazz multi-instrumentalist and happy noise-maker) he shows no signs of slowing down or having passed his sell-by date–I love all three of his new records, including all six discs of his “Nation Time!”-keyed live collaboration with DKV (that’s Hamid Drake, Ken Kessler, and Ken Vandermark); I come alive at the sound of a Tuareg guitar, no matter how familiar or how augmented by Western intrusion; I am certain Yugen Blakrok needs more recognition and I will bend over backwards to see that, at least within my very circumscribed social range, she gets it; I have a very soft spot for the hoarier artist. But I’d almost argue that those strong prejudices, built from high expectations, might just make me more likely than most to recognize why records therein don’t really cut it. Almost.

Also, I am being very strict about releases being from 2019. If I am not, I will get my wrists slapped.

If anything really obvious is missing (Sharon Van Etten, Future, Gary Clark, Jr.) it might well be assumed that I am immune to its spells.

Finally, I am including new releases of material recorded in bygone days (rather than listing those separately) because pickings are just that slim. So far. [Ex Hex, Mekons, Jamila Woods, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Royal Trux (Royal Trux?), Quelle Chris, hell, ol’ dead Marvin Gaye each have one in tha chamba for future firing.]

After the list is a YouTube playlist where you can test-drive some of the stuff if it’s unfamiliar to you.

  1. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  2. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  3. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  4. Heroes are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  5. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  6. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dure–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  7. Que Vola: Que Vola
  8. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  9. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  10. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  11. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  12. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  13. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  14. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  15. People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, The P
  16. Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix)
  17. Hama: Houmeissa
  18. Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock
  19. Ill Considered: 5
  20. M’dou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  21. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  22. Greg Ward and Rogue Parade: Stomping Off from Greenwood
  23. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  24. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  25. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  26. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  27. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE
  28. The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet (featuring Joe McPhee): Sweet Oranges
  29. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  30. The Specials: Encore

A note on the playlist: two-three full albums are included (one of them a three-disker) because single tracks were not available, so you may want to be prepared to click past them after an initial taste. Or you may not…

 

 

Three Lists (which The Blogger Sheepishly Submits)

Posting every other day has been the hardest of the five-six resolutions I cornily made for myself (I’m doing great on the others). Life has happened, and you can’t push that river. Perhaps I should post just when I want to and I have something urgent to communicate? Yes, and that would be today.

TEN OF MY “FAVORITE ALBUMS OF ALL-TIME”

Recently I asked my Facebook friends the impossible: name your favorite album of all-time. I led with my choice (Professor Longhair’s Crawfish Fiesta, which I’ve definitely played more than any other over the past 15 years) and instantly regretted it, not because it isn’t sublime, but someone else listed something more important. So, here aren’t my 10 favorite albums of all-time, in order; here are 10 records I’d list as my very favorite record, based on number of lifetime plays, significance to my development as a human, sparked joy, and facility in connecting me with other humans. I steadfastly avoided trying to have a politically correct representative list; these are the ones my heart reaches for, instantly.

The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime

Professor Longhair, Crawfish Fiesta

Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited

Howlin’ Wolf

The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin

Lucinda Williams

Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys: Basin Street Blues–The Tiffany Transcriptions, Volume 3

The Best of Doug Sahm & The Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975

The Clash: London Calling

Having a Good Time with Huey “Piano” Smith and The Clowns

 

MY TEN FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2019

I don’t know about you, but the offerings thus far have been slim compared to last January. I will stretch to 10, nonetheless, though I may have to lean on reissues of older stuff. There is no serious priority order–it’s too early, and some of these may not end up making my Top 100 in the end. Also: a deep bow of amazement to the ageless Joe McPhee, who’s the star of no less than three of these; an acknowledgement that I have only sampled the glam comp below via YouTube searches; a thank you to my young friend Lucas Fagen, who convinced me that I was not too old and trap-rattle-addled to return to, and enjoy, Bad Bunny; and my apologies if some of these are kinda-’18. I remain needing serious convincing regarding Sharon Van Etten (Remind Me Tomorrow is an “up” album for her???).

Heroes are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions

Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dure–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent

Greg Ward and Rogue Parade: Stomping Off from Greenwood

Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist

Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee

DVK and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time

The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet: Sweet Oranges

Sir Shina Peter and His Internation Stars: Sewele

Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks

Bad Bunny: X 100PRE

 

TEN GREAT BRAZILIAN ALBUMS THAT PAAL NILSSEN LOVE AND CATALYTIC SOUND HAVE LED ME TO (SO FAR)

I ordered and received a CD recently from the fascinating experimental music label Catalytic Sound (Sweet Oranges, above), and within was a neat little ‘zine-styled “quarterly” with poetry and other neat stuff–especially master free drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s list of his 100 favorite Brazilian records. Nilssen-Love’s made many sojourns to Brazil in the recent past, and he’s clearly a sharp, indefatigable crate-digger (that describes his drumming, too). What blew my mind is, though I really love Brazilian music, I’d only heard of 10 or so of them, and didn’t own many. Thus–and this is a reason I haven’t posted recently–I’ve been on a grail quest of my own, using his list as a road map. I’ve heard at least 20 of the records he’s listed since Friday; these are my favorites, and I only have 60-70 to go!

Pedro Santos: Krishnanda

Alessandra Leao: Dois Cordoes

Underground Samba Lapa

Ile Aiye: Canto Negro

O Som Sagrado de Wilson Das Neves

Clara Nunes: Esperanca

Tim Maia: Racional, Volumes 1 and 2

Moacir Santos: Coisas

Grupo Fundo De Quintal: Samba E No Fundo Do Quintal

Elis Regina: Samba, Eu Canto Assim

 

 

Brace for Impact: Finalized Top 10 LP and Singles List, plus the Usual Listenin’ Report

As I have mentioned before, I get to vote in the recently-defunct Village Voice‘s Pazz & Jop poll. However, I’m probably more careful when I vote in a similar poll offered up by Brad Luen for the Facebook music-nut group Expert Witness. I have to live with those motherfuckers on a daily basis! And it’s a tough room! This year, there is some kidding-on-the-square about my albums list (which is different from my Pazz & Jop list; BTW, you get 100 points to distribute across your Top 10, with no more than 30 and no less than 5 for each item), but most telling is I actually submitted a singles ballot. I am an album dude, but this year I really leaned into some smashing songs. For what it’s worth, here’s my lists, and I checked them thrice:

Albums

  1. Tracey Thorn: Record (30)

  2. Rosalía: El Mal Querer (25)

  3. CupcaKe: Ephorize (10)

  4. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (5)

  5. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher (5)

  6. Noname: Room 25 (5)

  7. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel (5)

  8. Tierra Whack: Whack World (5)

  9. Mary Gauthier: Rifles & Rosary Beads (5)

  10. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (5)

Singles

  1. Rosalía: “Malamente”*

  2. Tracey Thorn: “Sister”

  3. JLin: “The Abyss of Doubt”

  4. CupcakKe: “Duck Duck Goose”

  5. Swamp Dogg: “I’ll Pretend”

  6. John Prine: “When I Get to Heaven”

  7. Pistol Annies: “Got My Name Changed Back”

  8. Parquet Courts: “Almost Had to Start a Fight”

  9. Robyn: “Between the Lines”

  10. Rosalía: “Baghdad”

On to the new year, though it’s included little new music. I’ve been on Louisiana kick.

Travailler, C’est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent

Hadn’t heard of Vincent, whose very lyrical compositions are interpreted here by a range of Cajun all-stars (ex. Zachary Richard, David Doucet, Steve Riley). The songs are in French, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel them, and I’d happily argue this is the best truly country music we have.

Jourdan Thibodeaux et Les Rôdailleurs; Boue, Bocane, Et Bouteilles

This youngster sings in a pleasingly grizzled baritone, plays a killer fiddle (as he must), fronts a racially integrated Cajun band (still a bit rare), and features a Savoy (of the Louisianan royal music family) on guitar dirtying things up a bit. I love it when youngsters mess with folk forms.

Sean Ardoin: Kreole Rock and Soul

Member of another Louisianan royal music family, this time of the zydeco persuasion, Ardoin does some messing around of his own, striving to live up to the title and winning three falls out of five. Winners: “Kick Rocks,” “Abracadabra” (yes, that one). Losers: “Just What I Needed” (yes, that one), and possibly the worst song I have ever heard from a Louisiana artist, “You Complete Me.”

Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band: Black Pot

Chubby plays it safe here, but if he and his band were playing these songs at the Mid-City Rock ‘n’ Bowl, you’d never sit down. The title cut’s a dance-floor killer; the closing cut is the sweetest paean to home in zydeco history; in between is competence-plus, community, and commitment.

Joe McPhee and Mats Gustafsson: Brace for Impact

It took 10 years for this meeting of two free jazz masters to come to light, and it might be one of the best of the year in spite of its vintage. They are master listeners, too, not just in a studio but across decades and an ocean: Poughkeepsian McPhee’s 79 going on 30, Mats, a Swede living in Austria, is 54. If you’d like to hear how a jazz composition can be built out of thin air, quick thinking, and imagination, you might as well start here.

Dabke–Sounds of the Syrian Houran

Dabke, an Arab music played at weddings and other celebrations, has a head-spinning number of variations. According to the Wikipedia entry on the style, there are either 2, 6, or 19 types. This motorvating compilation ranges across several of them–you might even call it a dabke Nuggets. Just trying to sell you on trying it, folks!

Rosalía: El Mal Querer

Let it be understood that the frequency with which this Catalonian-cum-Barcelonan powerhouse has appeared here simply testifies to her power. Her voice is intense, alluring, frightening, multi-faceted–and it brings out the Arabic roots of the music that’s been her life, and with which she happily experiments: flamenco. Producer El Guincho deepens the allure and broadens her appeal with savvy settings; if you want to hear her more sparely adorned, check out her debut (more on that later). She is going to be huge, and I may have to finally learn to at least hear Spanish to keep up.

Wire: Pink Flag

Even they have never recorded (again) anything quite like this 21-song, 37-minute voyage into alienation and paranoia. But again it must be said: sometimes paranoids are right. Drowning in the big swim, discerning strange things that aren’t quite right, witnessing murder, looting, and rape, 1-2 hating you, creating a field day for the Sunday papers, they take a moment to expose their hearts when their shades get broken, along with their fleeting love.