Living to Listen’s Top Albums of 2020, Part II (I refuse to admit we’re in a different calendar year–even today, which is the dawn of 2020, Part III)

Yes, I know it’s 2022, and this list is dedicated to the top spins of 2021. But it feels to me as if 2020 started on March 15 of that actual year (The Ides, you know) and has declared the turning of the last two annums invalid. Until I feel differently, I’m gonna keep believing it, though, like Joe Tex’s man in that Viet Nam foxhole, I believe we’re gonna make it.

If you follow this blog, you know the good records mount and mount until there seems to be no sane scaling of them. For your pleasure and convenience, I’ve topped them off to a mere 50 like I’m lookin’ for coal and to hell with the slag (the still-pleasurable slag). This time, my rubric is simple: How likely, really, am I to listen to these albums several times more while I continue trying, in my futile battle against the dustbin of time to save every flower, to keep up with the mounds of fresh sounds? You can always access the previous months’ lists for those a cast a cold eye upon, though December’s getting shafted in that regard. Also, I’ve voted in a couple of year-end polls and, as usual, I make no promises (to anyone who really cares) that these results will match up with those. One never drops the same needle on the same record twice.

The archival digs I’ve trimmed to 25. I know I had that massive, well-appointed, and long-overdue Marian Anderson box at #1 last month, and now it’s not on the list at all–I guess that was a) pretentious; b) the happy historian in me; and c) overambitious.

Goodbye, Greg Tate. Why’d you have to go? I hope there is enough of your uncollected passionate criticism to fill another bucket of buttermilk with (gad)flies. It’s hard to imagine not being able to keep reading your newest insights for the rest of my life. And one thing I really appreciate looking back on your work I’ve read (most of it) is how seldom you were an asshole…if ever. Your style seemed to exclude that as a choice.

Thanks to the kindness of Tom Hull, I was invited to vote in the Jazz Critics Poll. Should you be curious, here’s my ballot (scroll down to the O’s).

In a related development, I’m considering a move to Scandinavia….

Bolded titles are new to the list, and to be fair, most of the releases I dug in December are on the list.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine 
  2. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr 
  3. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon  
  4. East Axis: Cool With That  
  5. Gift of Gab: Finding Inspiration Somehow
  6. Ka: Martyr’s Reward
  7. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted 
  8. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman  
  9. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja 
  10. No-No Boy: 1975  
  11. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night 
  12. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son  
  13. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias 
  14. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name 
  15. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim  
  16. King Britt & Tyshawn Sorey: Tyshawn and King  
  17. For Those I Love: For Those I Love 
  18. Mariá Grand: Reciprocity 
  19. R. A. P. Ferreira: The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures 
  20. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son   
  21. Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave 
  22. The Source: …But Swinging Doesn’t Bend Them Down 
  23. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways 
  24. Various Artists: Sacred Soul of North Carolina 
  25. Mexstep: Vivir 
  26. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying
  27. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  28. Marta Gabriel: Metal Queen 
  29. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After 
  30. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa  
  31. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows  
  32. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free 
  33. Monster Magnet: A Better Dystopia 
  34. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg  
  35. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  36. Lukah: Why Look Up, God’s in the Mirror 
  37. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty  
  38. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies  
  39. Paris: Safe Space Invader  
  40. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet   
  41. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos 
  42. Bitchin’ Bajas: Switched-On Ra  
  43. Body Metta: The Work is Slow  
  44. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives  
  45. Ducks Ltd: Get Bleak 
  46. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions 
  47. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses  
  48. Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber: Angels Over Oakanda 
  49. Neil Young: Barn 
  50. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raise the Roof 
     
    Archaeological Digs 
  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony   
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street  
  3. The Plastic People of the Universe: Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned 
  4. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits 
  5. Bobo Jenkins: My All-New Life Story 
  6. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York  
  7. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966  
  8. ICP Orchestra: Incipient ICP (1966-1971) 
  9. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták   
  10. Roy Brooks: Understanding 
  11. Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band: The Legendary No Nukes Concerts 
  12. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket  
  13. Mujician: 10 10 10 
  14. Various Artists: Journeys in Modern Jazz–Britain
  15. Leo Nocentelli: Another Side 
  16. Agustin Pereyra Lucena Quartet: La Rana 
  17. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—Live in Seattle 
  18. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 
  19. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame  
  20. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy  
  21. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop  
  22. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  23. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A 
  24. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire  
  25. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction 

No-Save* November: The Best Recordings Released in 2021 (So Far), Which I’ve Drained My Wallet For Despite Using Multiple Streaming Platforms

Odd-servations:

  1. R. A. P. Ferreira (formerly known as Milo) is having one helluva year. If as a rap aficionado you’re insistent on the freshest, most ticklish, and slammingest beats, move along. But if you dig word-slinging and surprising associations, you best get hip.
  2. Bible and Tire Company’s Sacred Soul of South Carolina is the perfect gospel pairing with Musicmakers Foundation’s contemporary rural blues comp Hanging Tree Guitars (from 2020). Strictly speaking, if you have one and love it, you must do right and get the other. And the “soul” in the title is no exaggeration.
  3. You may be tired of historical theory stirred into your toons. I am not. Keep pouring, luvs. If you’re like me and enjoy critical beatdowns, Mexstep, The Brkn Record, and the irrepressible Irreversible Entanglements each have the musical cocktail for you. And yes, the music is piquant to listen to if you’re not about the science. It does help, though.
  4. South Memphis’ Lukah is one of the most stentorian MCs I’ve heard in a good long while, plus he has two strong records out this year. The new one (bolded, below) is the pick; its politics, flow, and sense of place are astounding, and his sexual philosophy seems to have advanced.
  5. Best news is likely in the archaeological section. This may be a strange list upon which to find Marian Anderson, but, truly, as Duke opined, there’s only two kinds of music, good and bad, and the woman brilliantly blazed a trail. That’s a 15-disc box with both historic and important unreleased recordings, plus brilliant photos and notes, but, um…less than $80*? Also, Bobo Jenkins was a rocking, charming, and eccentric DIY blues guitarist whose career stretched from the ’50s into the late ’70s; if that sounds like your meat and taters, it’s on Third Man and it might have been RSD only, but…c’mon–if you want it, you can track it down. And as far as historical monuments in the rowdier aspects of the modern musical life of Brother Europe go, you can’t beat Corbett vs. Dempsey’s look at the formative days of the masterful and mischievous Instant Composers Pool and Guerilla Records’ top-notch and long-overdue reissue of The Plastic People of the Universe’s truly revolutionary original bootleg.

Next month, I’m gonna get tough with this list, shave it down, get serious about their listenability and durability, and and arrange it into categories of A, A-, B+, and B–since we all have loved grades so much our whole lives. I know you cannot wait. And, yes, I’m very serious about that Wild Up record.

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine
  2. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  3. East Axis: Cool With That 
  4. Ka: Martyr’s Victory
  5. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr
  6. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  7. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom (currently unavailable)
  8. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  9. No-No Boy: 1975 
  10. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night
  11. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted
  12. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying
  13. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways
  14. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  15. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias
  16. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name
  17. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  18. William Parker: Painter’s Winter 
  19. Bktherula: Love Black
  20. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  21. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  22. R. A. P. Ferreira: The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures
  23. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  24. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  25. For Those I Love: For Those I Love
  26. Lady Gaga and Friends: Dawn of Chromatica
  27. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  28. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  29. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  30. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident
  31. Various Artists: Sacred Soul of North Carolina
  32. Florian Arbenz: Conversations 2 & 3
  33. Ensemble 0: Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  34. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air
  35. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  36. The Brkn Record: The Architecture of Oppression, Part 1
  37. Jah Wobble: METAL BOX – REMIXED IN DUB
  38. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  39. Mexstep: Vivir
  40. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  41. Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  42. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  43. Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates
  44. Pink Siifu: Gumbo’!
  45. Marta Gabriel: Metal Queen
  46. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After
  47. Dua Saleh: Crossover
  48. James McMurtry: The Horses and The Hounds
  49. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die
  50. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  51. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  52. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  53. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free
  54. Monster Magnet: A Better Dystopia
  55. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  56. Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More
  57. Lukah: Why Look Up, God’s in the Mirror
  58. JPEG MAFIA: “LP!”
  59. Darius Jones: Raw Demoon Alchemy—A Lone Operation
  60. Dos Santos: City of Mirrors
  61. Marthe Lea Band: Asura
  62. Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor’s Version)
  63. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  64. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  65. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  66. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  67. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  68. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  69. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos
  70. Asleep at the Wheel: Half a Hundred Years
  71. SAULT: Nine 
  72. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  73. Slaughterhouse: Fun Factory
  74. Thurst: I’m Gen X
  75. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  76. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  77. Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre: Heirs of the Dog
  78. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  79. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  80. Native Soul: Teenage Dreams
  81. Willow: lately i feel EVERYTHING
  82. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  83. Ran Cap Duoi: Ngù Ngay Ngày Tân Thê
  84. Blue Reality Quartet: Blue Reality Quartet
  85. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  86. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  87. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  88. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  89. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  90. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  91. Carly Pearce: 29—Written in Stone
  92. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  93. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
  94. Andreas Roysum Ensemble: Fredsfanatisme
  95. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  96. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  97. JD Allen: Queen City 
  98. Florian Arbenz: Conversation # 1 Condensed
  99. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  100. Angel Olsen: Aisles (EP)
  101. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile
  102. Kasey Musgraves: starcrossed
  103. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness: Songs from Another Life
  104. Vince Staples: Vince Staples
  105. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  106. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  107. Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay
  108. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States
  109. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  110. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  111. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  112. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever
  113. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  114. Los Lobos: Native Sons
  115. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  116. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  117. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America 
  118. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  119. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  120. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  121. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  122. AZ: Do or Die
  123. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  124. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  125. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  126. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  127. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  128. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  129. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  130. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  131. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  132. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  133. RP Boo: Established 
  134. The Bug: Fire
  135. Steve Earle: JT 
  136. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  137. Benny The Butcher: Pyrex Picasso
  138. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  139. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  140. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  141. Alder Ego: III 
  142. Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
  143. Alton Gün: Yol 
  144. Meet Me @ The Altar: Model Citizen (EP) 
  145. Penelope Scott: Hazards (EP)
  146. Ichiko Aoba: Windswept Adan
  147. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  148. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  149. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  150. Aluna: Higher Ground—Testaments

Archaeological Digs

  1. Marian Anderson: Beyond the Music
  2. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  3. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  4. The Plastic People of the Universe: Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned
  5. Bobo Jenkins: My All-New Life Story
  6. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York
  7. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 
  8. ICP Orchestra: Incipient ICP (1966-1971)
  9. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták  
  10. Roy Brooks: Understanding
  11. Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band: The Legendary No Nukes Concerts
  12. Jimmy Lyons: Push Pull
  13. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  14. Leo Nocentelli: Another Side
  15. Agustin Pereyra Lucena Quartet: La Rana
  16. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—Live in Seattle
  17. Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray, et al: Corona
  18. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977
  19. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975
  20. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame
  21. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  22. Bush Tetras: Rhythm and Paranoia—The Best of Bush Tetras
  23. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  24. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop 
  25. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  26. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3
  27. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A
  28. Kiko Kids Jazz: Tanganyika Na Uhuru
  29. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album
  30. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings 
  31. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  32. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found
  33. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork
  34. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction
  35. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits
  36. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  37. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing
  38. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1
  39. Joseph Spence: Encore
  40. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1
  41. Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York 1980-1985 (2CD version)

For Those I Love, A Burgeoning List Including Lots of Long-Playing Lyricism–Best Rekkids, January 1 – November 1

October Observations:

I recently managed to talk former Vice UK music maven and FANGIRLS author Hannah Ewens into Zooming once again with my students at Stephens College to chat about her book (their required reading for my freshman comp/pop music class) and other related bits. She was smart, warm, funny, and curious about my students, as usual. A few days after her visit, in a glum mood, I happened upon her IG and noticed she was vaunting a group called For Those I Love (it’s also the name of the group’s album), which she’d just seen. Only it ain’t a group, it’s an Irishman named David Balfe, and his album captures a desperation for solace, connection, and dancefloor expiation I (and probably you) know all too well. Hadn’t heard of him, played the slab, instantly cheered up.

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is the bassist for Norwegian jazz powerhouse The Thing. Dude just waxed an album, (Exit) Knarr, that features an instrumental texture, rhythmic variation, and conceptual focus that–to my amateur ear–tops anything his group’s ever released (and I love ’em). I liked it so much after three listens that I was willing to pay a hefty shipping cost for the vinyl. Never underestimate a Scandi jazzer–never.

Chuck Eddy has long been one of the best (and most open) music writers on the planet. He, too, offers monthly recommendations of interesting new musical offerings, and his latest featured a bit o’ metal, courtesy of lead Crystal Viper Marta Gabriel, Monster Magnet, and Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre . Metal is usually not my jam, especially modern metal (the worst excuse for singing I have ever heard, quite often), but the records Chuck anointed with a nice score all three a) are “cover albums” of throwback metal; b) mostly shine light on VERY obscure older songs (Joecephus’ album, a Nazareth tribute, is the exception); c) head-bang balls-out in a trad manner; and d) are a blast. I may be overrating them on this list–as is my wont when I put a list up right after I’ve heard something enjoyable–but maybe I’m not. Time will tell, but my wife Nicole loved all three, too, and I have my Marta Gabriel poster on my office wall.

I’ve probably listed 10 albums over the past five years that my students had to force on me because I made the gas face in class when they mentioned the artists involved. One of this year’s candidates is Willow Smith. The student who verbally twisted my arm is probably the best writer, thinker, and talker I’ve ever taught, and she understood my balking but reminded me that anyone can make a stunning record. I tried Willow’s lately I FEEL EVERYTHING and I must admit it is…powerful and dynamic. Thanks, Jadyn.

Thurst. I really enjoyed the first album, liked then forgot the second, and find myself amusedly intrigued by the conceptual thrust (not a typo) of the songs here. The structures and instrumental attack don’t demonstrate much variety, but the songs tickle me in a snide and sloppy way, so I’m going with it.

The excavation of transitional-period ’65 Trane playing A Love Supreme live with Pharoah Sanders and an expanded quartet had me on tenterhooks for months. I have a refined taste for racket, so reports of the classic suite being somewhat defiled bothered me not a whit; I’d also heard the fidelity was not the best, but these days I often wonder if the young writers who report this have ever heard ’60s-’70s vinyl bootlegs. Alas, though, while I value it, it’s not quite the mind-blower most others have reported. The performance wasn’t planned, and you can definitely hear that; Pharoah ain’t quite full Pharoah yet–his tenor “warbling” works much better on Live at the Village Vanguard Again; Trane’s too level in the mix, to my ear, and Elvin seems to be the one you’re really hearing most of the time (could be much worse, but it’s not a drummer date). Historically, it’s major, but as an absorbing, potentially compelling repeat-listen work, not so much.

bktherula: DEFINITELY one to watch! And, of course, hear. Sound, rhythm, words–a pretty complete package, and becoming ever more impressive.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids: not sure why these Neechie MCs aren’t being more frequently lifted among us music nerds, because they’ve hardly stepped wrong up to and including their new record. Third Nations-representing with accuracy, humor, passion, wildness (kids everywhere are nuts), reverence for the past–whaddya want? Well, maybe the beats aren’t all that varied, maybe there aren’t enough hooks, but I suspect they’re operating on the cheap, and I advise you just lean into the words and the delivery.

JPEG Mafia and Pink Siifu have made their most accessible albums. That probably sucks for many; I personally welcome it, and honestly think the move better justifies their respective reps.

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine
  2. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  3. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  4. East Axis: Cool With That 
  5. Ka: Martyr’s Victory
  6. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr
  7. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  8. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom (currently unavailable)
  9. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  10. No-No Boy: 1975 
  11. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night
  12. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted
  13. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (released 11/9/20)
  14. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways
  15. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  16. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias
  17. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name
  18. William Parker: Painter’s Winter 
  19. Bktherula: Love Black
  20. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  21. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  22. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  23. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  24. For Those I Love: For Those I Love
  25. Lady Gaga and Friends: Dawn of Chromatica
  26. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  27. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  28. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  29. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident
  30. Florian Arbenz: Conversations 2 & 3
  31. Ensemble 0: Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  32. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air
  33. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  34. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  35. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  36. Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  37. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  38. Pink Siifu: Gumbo’!
  39. Marta Gabriel: Metal Queen
  40. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After
  41. Dua Saleh: Crossover
  42. James McMurtry: The Horses and The Hounds
  43. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die
  44. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  45. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  46. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  47. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free
  48. Monster Magnet: A Better Dystopia
  49. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  50. JPEG MAFIA: “LP!”
  51. Dos Santos: City of Mirrors
  52. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  53. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  54. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  55. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  56. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  57. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  58. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos
  59. SAULT: Nine 
  60. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  61. Slaughterhouse: Fun Factory
  62. Thurst: I’m Gen X
  63. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  64. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  65. Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre: Heirs of the Dog
  66. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  67. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  68. Native Soul: Teenage Dreams
  69. Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More
  70. Willow: lately i feel EVERYTHING
  71. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  72. Ran Cap Duoi: Ngù Ngay Ngày Tân Thê
  73. Blue Reality Quartet: Blue Reality Quartet
  74. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  75. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  76. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  77. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  78. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  79. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  80. Carly Pearce: 29—Written in Stone
  81. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  82. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
  83. Andreas Roysum Ensemble: Fredsfanatisme
  84. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  85. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  86. JD Allen: Queen City 
  87. Florian Arbenz: Conversation # 1 Condensed
  88. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  89. Angel Olsen: Aisles (EP)
  90. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile
  91. Kasey Musgraves: starcrossed
  92. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness: Songs from Another Life
  93. Vince Staples: Vince Staples
  94. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  95. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  96. Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay
  97. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States
  98. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  99. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  100. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  101. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever
  102. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  103. Los Lobos: Native Sons
  104. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  105. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  106. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America 
  107. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  108. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  109. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  110. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  111. AZ: Do or Die
  112. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  113. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  114. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  115. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  116. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  117. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  118. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  119. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  120. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  121. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  122. RP Boo: Established 
  123. The Bug: Fire
  124. Steve Earle: JT 
  125. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  126. Benny The Butcher: Pyrex Picasso
  127. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  128. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  129. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  130. Alder Ego: III 
  131. Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
  132. Alton Gün: Yol 
  133. WC Anderson and Chad Fowler: Lacrimosa
  134. Meet Me @ The Altar: Model Citizen (EP) 
  135. Penelope Scott: Hazards (EP)
  136. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  137. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  138. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  139. Aluna: Higher Ground—Testaments

Archaeological Digs

  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  3. Kiko Kids Jazz: Tanganyika Na Uhuru
  4. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York
  5. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 
  6. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták  
  7. Roy Brooks: Understanding
  8. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  9. Agustin Pereyra Lucena Quartet: La Rana
  10. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—Live in Seattle
  11. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977
  12. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975
  13. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame
  14. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  15. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  16. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop 
  17. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  18. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 # 
  19. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A
  20. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album
  21. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings 
  22. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  23. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found
  24. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork
  25. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction
  26. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits
  27. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  28. Joe Strummer: Assembly
  29. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing # 
  30. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1
  31. Joseph Spence: Encore
  32. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1
  33. Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York 1980-1985 (2CD version)

Golden Musical Days – I’d Like to Share Them with You: Superior Slabs, January Through September 2021

Observations and Coat-Pulls:

The Ebony Hillbillies are an all-black string band from NYC that plays traditional, original, and surprising cover material (like “Sexual Healing”). Their several previous releases are all spirited and enjoyable, but their most recent release (at #12 below) is their very best. It’s technically at 2020 release, but it came out in November, I’m a fan, and I just found out about it. In terms of performance and material, they’ve never been sharper–and they always have an edge.

I am not the biggest fan of big ol’ pop releases, but Mickey Guyton’s FINALLY-released debut album (at #16)–it’s technically contemporary country, but it transcends that label–moved the hell out of my wife and me last Saturday night. “Black Like Me” won me over last year when I first heard it on Joe Levy’s “Uprising” playlist on Spotify, but the songs are consistently strong from top to bottom, I love the emotional flexibility of Guyton’s singing, and anyone who can induce me to love a song about relaxing with wine’s got something going for her (I just hear about that a lot because I run with a mostly-female teacher crowd).

Look out when old sage Pete Stampfel and (relatively) young sage Jeffrey Lewis join forces! At #13, they fit new, topical, and fairly hilarious lyrics to old tunes–but not always the usual old tunes you’d associate with Stampfel. It’s not just a novelty; the whole’s possibly better than the sum of its parts.

Swedish drummer/percussionist/composer Florian Arbenz is on a serious roll this year. If you foster an attraction for percussion-focused jazz, you owe to yourself to test-drive both of his Conversation albums; if you’re not sure what it means to foster such an attraction, take a chance it’ll happen to you and try them anyway. (Several folks make multiple appearances on this list: Arbenz, Stampfel, legendary and prolific bassist William Parker, and the late, great modern classical composer Julius Eastman.)

I am an unabashed fan of Little Simz, and I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for her follow-up to the still-sounding-amazing Grey Area. I’ve checked out the singles as they’ve come out, as well as an early video or two. I told myself not to overreact. Once Sometimes I Might Be Introverted came out (it’s at #11), I played it twice and whispered to myself, “I’m not that impressed.” Well…I am that impressed.

There’s some cool stuff on that new Dylan bootleg load…but not enough, and there’s enough back there for it to be enough. It’s also not as meh as some would think who aren’t already familiar with the highlights (many are, and that’s part of the problem with the load).

I arrived very late at an appreciation for electronic dance music, but, thanks to JLin’s Black Origami, I did arrive. I cannot keep up with it–frankly, I depend on Pitchfork, which is depending on it a bit–to keep me superficially informed, and one may have noticed it appearing more frequently on ye olde list. I like what I like, with absolutely no rubric to press down upon it, and maybe that’s a good thing. #s 35, 54, and 104, I salute you happily and mindlessly!

This is strange, but I would enjoy Kasey Musgraves’ current and previous albums joined as a kind of double-record concept album more than I enjoy them separately. That’s the kind of gestaltist I yam.

ZYDECO LIVES at #39, and I suspect it will always, alongside Keith, Willie, and cockroaches.

Happy listening!

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list. #s indicate archival music.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine
  2. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  3. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  4. East Axis: Cool With That 
  5. Ka: Martyr’s Victory
  6. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  7. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom (currently unavailable)
  8. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  9. No-No Boy: 1975 
  10. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night
  11. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted
  12. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (released 11/9/20)
  13. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways
  14. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  15. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias
  16. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name
  17. William Parker: Painter’s Winter 
  18. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  19. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  20. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  21. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos
  22. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  23. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  24. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  25. Lady Gaga and Friends: Dawn of Chromatica
  26. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  27. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  28. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident
  29. Florian Arbenz: Conversations 2 & 3
  30. Ensemble 0: Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  31. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  32. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  33. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  34. Pink Siifu: Gumbo’!
  35. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die
  36. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  37. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  38. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  39. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free
  40. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air
  41. Slaughterhouse: Fun Factory
  42. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  43. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  44. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  45. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  46. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  47. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  48. SAULT: Nine 
  49. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  50. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  51. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  52. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  53. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  54. Native Soul: Teenage Dreams
  55. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile
  56. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  57. Ran Cap Duoi: Ngù Ngay Ngày Tân Thê
  58. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  59. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  60. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  61. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  62. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  63. Carly Pearce: 29—Written in Stone
  64. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  65. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
  66. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  67. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  68. JD Allen: Queen City 
  69. Florian Arbenz: Conversation # 1 Condensed
  70. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  71. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  72. Kasey Musgraves: starcrossed
  73. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness: Songs from Another Life
  74. Vince Staples: Vince Staples
  75. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  76. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  77. Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay
  78. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States
  79. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  80. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  81. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  82. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever
  83. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  84. Los Lobos: Native Sons
  85. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  86. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  87. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America 
  88. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  89. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  90. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  91. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  92. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  93. AZ: Do or Die
  94. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  95. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  96. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  97. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  98. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  99. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  100. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  101. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  102. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  103. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  104. RP Boo: Established 
  105. The Bug: Fire
  106. Steve Earle: JT 
  107. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  108. Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  109. Benny The Butcher: Pyrex Picasso
  110. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  111. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  112. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  113. Alder Ego: III 
  114. Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
  115. Alton Gün: Yol 
  116. Meet Me @ The Altar: Model Citizen (EP) 
  117. Penelope Scott: Hazards (EP)
  118. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  119. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  120. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  121. Aluna: Higher Ground—Testaments

Archaeological Digs

  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  3. Kiko Kids Jazz: Tanganyika Na Uhuru
  4. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York
  5. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 
  6. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták  
  7. Roy Brooks: Understanding
  8. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  9. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977
  10. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975
  11. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame
  12. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  13. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  14. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop 
  15. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  16. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 # 
  17. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A
  18. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album
  19. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings 
  20. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  21. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found
  22. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork
  23. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction
  24. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th AnniversaryMixtapes/Groiddest Schizznits Vols. 1-3
  25. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  26. Joe Strummer: Assembly
  27. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing # 
  28. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1
  29. Joseph Spence: Encore
  30. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1
  31. Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York 1980-1985 (2CD version)

COOL WITH THIS!: Strongest Records of 2021 So Far, By My Lights

Observations:

*The great American music scholar, musician, and composer Allen Lowe, in league with his razor-sharp jazz unit East Axis, knocked out one of his best recordings ever, Cool With That, in the fall of 2020. Ill health proceeded to fall upon him, and though he appears to have survived it, more struggles lay ahead. This is the best free jazz disc yet released in ’21–pay Lowe back and check it out.

*Speaking of jazz players, composers, and freedom, William Parker’s career output is a challenge to explore fully, but do not miss his new release, Mayan Space Station, which features the exciting guitarist Ava Mendoza. Parker’s made a wide variety of records, but never one with six-string this cutting.

*Inexplicably–well, I have been under a lot of stress for many months, and thus distracted–I dropped the ball on Bob Dylan’s there-and-gone film Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan (early–the old fucker’s still got a hell of a sense of humor). I missed it, flat out. Also, instead of simply admiring the indefatigable energy of my longtime lamplight, I occasionally suspect him of, um, gambits; I’m not sure what exactly that means, but maybe “hustle” is a better word. My own gambit not to get my knickers in a twist over the production, however, proved stupid at least from the aural evidence. This morning I was able to access the commercially unavailable soundtrack (cheating, I list it below), and it kicks mountains of ass. Getting sidelined from constant touring’s cleared out his larynx, but more importantly, via neat new arrangements, subtly altered lyrics, and a lot of vim, he made several of his “old” tunes completely fresh–in fact, “To Be Alone With You” and “The Wicked Messenger” (at least) top the originals, and from his current mortal vantage point, “Forever Young” is forever young. BluRay, please?

*My wife Nicole and I helped crowdfund the Smithsonian’s rap project back in 2014, via Kickstarter. The nine-disc box finally arrived in stores this week; it was also our donors’ gift. Even though the tracks stop at 2014, it’s excellently selected and sequenced, it sounds incredible, the accompanying book and vintage photographs are stunning, and…well…it was about damn time. Among the minor quibbles: no DOOM.

*Alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s intense new tribute to Ornette Coleman’s work is the THIRD of the year to make the list, and they’re all so good it makes you miss Ornette even more deeply. PLEASE sample Miguel Zenon’s and Gimenez Lopez’s as well.

*I don’t know any one in person or in cyberspace who loves the British rapper Dave as much as I do. I suppose hardcore hip hop heads might malign his rhyming and flowing skills, or sniff at his beats, but he is the kind of storyteller we need right now, and from the beginning of his last record to the end of his new one I’ve never been bored. In a way, Florence Shaw of the band Dry Cleaning is his narrative sibling; she mostly talks, but it’s what she talks about, and the settings that surround the stories, that count.

*The Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri–COVID Central once already, and probably heading that way again right now. But HEY–if you’re starving for lounge rockabilly with an edge, slide on over to Sundazed Records and check out their latest excavation: the J Ann C Trio Live at Tan-Tar-A (the site of many Missouri public education retreats and worse). Fans of Wanda Jackson and The Skeletons/Morells should NOT miss it.

*I feel like I may have underrated Low Cut Connie’s “Quarantine Concert” covers comp on this list. They’re a group I admire more than I listen to, BUT…this record can open up your waterworks. Adam Weiner is indeed among the last of our eighty-eight-key rock and rollers, and he puts EVERYTHING into these performances. You can feel it in the choices, in his playing, and particularly in the singing–plus? The tough cookies he was referring to were–are, goddam it, we have to be all over again–us.

*The pandemic slowed most musicians, but some, like tenor saxophonist extraordinaire JD Allen, took the bull by the horns and just recorded alone. Allen’s record of solo performances is searing.

*If you’re reading this, you certainly know Bad Brains. Likely, you know Death (well, we all do, but I’m talking about the band). Probably, you don’t know Pure Hell (at least you don’t know the band by that name). Yep: there were at least THREE punk bands of color in the ’70s.

*I want to thank the longtime record gobbler and music sage Tom Hull for regularly linking me on his absolutely essential blog. He is a giant when it comes to keeping fanatics informed about the best of the wide range of music humans make, and he is quite a sharp political mind and cook as well. I am truly humbled he occasionally checks this spot out, and it’s perhaps out of embarrassment that I’ve started commenting more as well as thinking about and slapping down a damned list. Anyone can do that. (I DO listen to them all, though–just sayin’….LOL….)

*I totally love what Sweden’s Jobcentre Rejects label has been up to lately: digging up spunky but obscure Rust Belt metal from the early Eighties. Mistreater’s album is on the main list, and Axxe’s killer 45 is down on my teensie singles listing below. Thing is, there was no pomp in these bands; they existed solely to head-bang and lay down the bad-ass sound–the bad-ass non-technophilic sound, I should say.

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list. #s indicate archival music.

  1. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  1. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street #
  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  1. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  1. East Axis: Cool With That 
  1. William Parker: Mayan Space Station 
  1. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  1. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop #
  1. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York # 
  1. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  1. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom 
  1. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták  #
  1. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  1. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket # 
  1. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  1. AUM Grand Ensemble x Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  1. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 # 
  1. No-No Boy: 1975 
  1. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  1. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja 
  1. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  1. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  1. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 # 
  1. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  1. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 # 
  1. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame # 
  1. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy # 
  1. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  1. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  1. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  1. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  1. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  1. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 # 
  1. Dry Cleaning: Sweet Princess (EP) 
  1. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  1. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  1. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  1. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  1. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  1. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A #
  1. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  1. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  1. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album # 
  1. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  1. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  1. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  1. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  1. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  1. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  1. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  1. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  1. SAULT: Nine 
  1. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  1. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  1. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  1. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  1. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  1. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  1. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  1. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  1. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  1. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  1. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  1. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings #
  1. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  1. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found # 
  1. JD Allen: Queen City 
  1. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  1. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  1. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  1. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  1. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  1. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork # 
  1. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  1. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  1. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction #
  1. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  1. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  1. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits, Volumes 1-3
  1. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute 
  1. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  1. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  1. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  1. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1 #
  1. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  1. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay # 
  1. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  1. Joe Strummer: Assembly # 
  1. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  1. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  1. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  1. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  1. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  1. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  1. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing # 
  1. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  1. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  1. Steve Earle: JT 
  1. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  1. Tony Allen (and friends): There is No End 
  1. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos 
  1. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  1. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  1. Alder Ego: III 
  1. Garbage: No Gods No Masters 
  1. Shem Tube, Justo Osala, Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya 
  1. Contour: Love Suite 
  1. Alton Gün: Yol 
  1. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1 # 
  1. Hearth: Melt 
  1. Trak Trak: Sur Sur 
  1. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  1. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  1. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  1. Rodrigo Amado & This is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men 

SINGLES

Dry Cleaning: “Bug Eggs”/”Tony Speaks!” 

Steve Lehman:: “Cognition” (JLin remix

Henry Threadgill: “Clear and Distinct” (Georgia Ann Muldrow remix) 

Axxe: “Through the Night” / Rock Away the City” 

90 Degrees of Freedom Found: My Favorite Rekkid Releases of 2021, and We’re Only Halfway There

Random observations on the recent explosion of excellent recordings I always should expect but never do and grouse about the paucity of then look dim-witted as a result of my shitty memory:

  1. You may think I’m a little nuts by including so many box sets, but they really are that good and I have been listening to them. Is sitting around listening to box set really a pop thang? Should I even care? Somebody’s gotta do it.
  2. The Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon is having a great year. He’s on two records here (Law Years and Path of Seven Colors) and his duet album of boleros with Luis Perdomo is stunning but I need to listen to it one more time.
  3. I have moved many items around, but I finally hooked right into AUM Grand Ensemble & Ensemble O’s interpretation of Julius Eastman’s Femenine. Eastman’s having a MUCH-deserved revisiting and several interpretations of this piece are out there, but none this hypnotic and beautiful.
  4. How much mileage does SAULT get out of mystique?
  5. I’ll have some of what Loretty’s having, please.
  6. I’m sorry, I just don’t fucking trust Lana Del Rey and I really despise Olivia Rodrigo’s single, but the sonics and words of the former’s album (I’m just blocking out her persona) and the rest of the latter’s songs (for the most part) have broken my resistance. For now.
  7. That Screamers excavation is the first new record I have surprised my wife Nicole with that we both instantly jumped up and down joyfully to. Myself, I’d really mostly only read about them in West Coast punk tomes, but after a 40-year-burial this item really explodes out of the vault.
  8. Is it fair to list Record Store Day releases on these lists? I admit I just lie in wait with my bobber floating in eBay Lake, and I assume anyone else can as well.
  9. If you’re needing a guitar-helping and moping ’cause you can locate one, I urge you to dip into the Moctar, Arby, and Young items in the Top 10. Seriously.
  10. SUPPORT FIRE IN LITTLE AFRICA’S PROJECT. It’s worthy.

BOLDED ITEMS ARE NEW TO THE LIST.

Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim

JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street #

Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony 

James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon

Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman

Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York #

Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket #

R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son 

AUM Grand Ensemble x Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine

Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 #

No-No Boy: 1975

Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son

Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja

Penelope Scott: Public Void 

Paris: Safe Space Invader

Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 #

Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 #

Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame #

Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy #

Ashnikko: Demidevil 

Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction)

Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan

Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall #

Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 #

Dry Cleaning: Sweet Princess (EP)

Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future

Dawn Richard: Second Line 

Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine

Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors

Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album #

Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange

Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth

Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty

Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious)

SAULT: Nine

Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir

Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You

Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature

ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper

Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW

Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough

Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives

Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears

Mistreater: Hell’s Fire #

Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found #

Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley 

Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein!

Various Artists: Indaba Is

Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom

Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom

Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork #

Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs

Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses

Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland

Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits, Volumes 1-3#

Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute

Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP)

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi

Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1

Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg

Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay #

Madlib: Sound Ancestors

Joe Strummer: Assembly #

Julien Baker: Little Oblivions

Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying

Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go

Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine 

girl in red: if I could make it go quiet

Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club

Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing #

Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy

Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR

Steve Earle: JT

Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever

Tony Allen (and friends): There is No End

Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy 

Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days

Alder Ego: III

Garbage: No Gods No Masters

Shem Tube, Justo Osala, Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya

Contour: Love Suite

Alton Gün: Yol

Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1 #

Hearth: Melt

Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises

Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans

serpentwithfeet: DEACON

AFTERNOTE (is that a word?):

Top 10 Artists I’ve Been Listening to Over the Last 72 hours / A Nod to Will Friedwald

Carmen McRae (I’m pretty much always listening to–at the very least hearing in my head–Lady McRae)

Anita O’Day (I’m pretty much always listening to–at the very least hearing in my head–Lady O’Day)

Moody Marilyn Moore

Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards

Herb Jeffries

Jackie Paris

Carol Sloane

Earl Coleman–LOTS of Earl Coleman

Al Hibbler

Jeanne Lee

STREAM ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM….

“It’s Growing: Most Euphonious Fruit of First Quarter, 2021”

Music Spring has apparently sprung–although I’m not yet hearing anything that will knock most people’s socks off; for that matter, the only two records I’ve been addicted to are (no surprise) #1 and (ranked “low” because I have a strong Ornette Coleman bias) #5. Also, 14 out of 50 (*) are jazz recordings, none of them that straight-ahead; however, lest you suspect me musically anhedoniacal, I would classify seven of them FUN (!). I’m catching on! Maybe I’m catching back on. In other news?

POETRY is in the house (#s 22 and 25–the former a must for all you trad Brit Lit majors, the latter pretty fucking FUN itself, but just remember what the lit-heads in your life consider fun)…

I just dove into the Doomed & Stoned series (honoring a silent pledge to my metalhead friend Vance, for whose sake I will try 4-5 metal albums a year, though this collection might be more accurately described as “stoner rock”), fished its Scottish entry out of the loch, and found it consistently satisfied my riff requirements and seldom repelled me with overly ugly singing…

I think I got a bit overexcited about the Julien Baker album simply because she was coming forth with more energy, but she remains an attractively sullen writer, to me at least, because that’s been my usual attitude du jour lately…

I am fucking hooked on Roisin Murphy. Anything you wanna serve up, even if it’s “just” a remix.

OK, kids, keep in mind that this coming Friday (May 7) is the (reputedly) last Bandcamp Friday. Many of the links below go straight to these records’ Bandcamp page. Put your money where you ears are, ’cause we know you’re streaming your ass off.

(Items which are new to the list are bolded; also, the order–always a touch whimsically arrived at–has shifted significantly from March. Items followed by an # are either reissues, fresh compilations of older material, or archival finds).

  1. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street*#
  2. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony*#
  3. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon*
  4. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket !#
  5. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman*
  6. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son !
  7. Ashnikko: Demidevil !
  8. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley !
  9. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction)
  10. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja*
  11. Penelope Scott: Public Void !
  12. Paris: Safe Space Invader
  13. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy*#
  14. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales
  15. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame*#
  16. Dawn Richard: Second Line !
  17. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork#
  18. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs
  19. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album*#
  20. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland
  21. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth
  22. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty
  23. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You
  24. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW
  25. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute
  26. Various Artists: Indaba Is
  27. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom
  28. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom
  29. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears*
  30. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay !
  31. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP)
  32. Madlib: Sound Ancestors
  33. Joe Strummer: Assembly#
  34. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions
  35. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go*
  36. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine !
  37. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing*#
  38. Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine
  39. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy*
  40. Alder Ego: III*
  41. Shem Tube, Justo Osala, Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya
  42. Steve Earle: JT
  43. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  44. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy (Hey–buy this album played live as cheap as you wanna!)
  45. Omar Sosa: East African Journey
  46. Alton Gün: Yol
  47. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1 !#
  48. Hearth: Melt*
  49. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises*
  50. serpentwithfeet: DEACON

February 11 – March 7: A Thin and Motley Crew

Maybe the fact that this year’s class of nice new albums has kinda oozed out like molasses is due the frustrations, chaos, depression, struggle, and occasional collapses of 2021’s second half. I dunno. Below are the platters I’ve quite enjoyed, but in order for it to even look like a two-month list I’ve incorporated archival digs (one of which is–all seven great discs of it–at the top of the heap), which I usually separate out. I’ve finally gotten smart and added hyperlinks to additional album information as I go (rather than regretting that I hadn’t later), and I’ve switched my album cover slideshow to a cumulative one. If these stunning achievements seem a bit meager to you, hey–I’m old.

Notes:

Both those box sets are well worth the time one needs to spend: #1, unreleased examples of the stunning, versatile genius of Black Arts Group veteran composer / player / arranger Hemphill, #2, the luscious fruit of a lifetime of plumbing and glorying in the depths of American song by Stampfel.

Two classical works? Yes, two classical works. It’s not that I’m desperate; it just so happens that new interpretations of justly famous works of my favorite traditional classical composer (Messiaen) and my favorite experimental classical performer (Eastman) have showed up together.

Strut Records’ ongoing resuscitation of the Black Fire label’s catalog continues to excite, enlighten, and inspire me–plus it nicely dovetails with the moment.

  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  3. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs
  4. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  5. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions
  6. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute
  7. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom
  8. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  9. Various Artists: Indaba Is
  10. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom
  11. Madlib: Sound Ancestors
  12. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  13. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales
  14. Founders: Songs for the End of Time
  15. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go
  16. Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, and Carmen Castaldi: Garden of Expression
  17. Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood
  18. Corey Ledet: Corey Ledet Zydeco
  19. Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine
  20. Thumbscrew: Never is Enough
  21. Steve Earle: JT (late addition! FORGOT IT….)

January 1 – February 10: Slim Pickings

Most record-grubbin’ folks I know are still catching up to 2020’s explosion–our cohort are still learning about the previous year’s bounty right now and likely will be til the Ides of March. In the past, I’ve usually been able to muster 10 new releases by the end of January to post as a list, but this year I was only halfway there by February’s dawning. Plus, I was flat worn out–not just from all those varied and vital slabs from the worst year in modern history, but from the worst year in modern history. Maybe we’ll look back (and the music will be able to help us do listen back) and be able to say, “We needed those tragedies, large and small, to finally motivate us to clean house”; I’m not holding my breath.

However, simply from really needed to do something to get my mind off of a layer cake of frustrations, I’ve cobbled together a Top 10 for 2021. Will any of these still be in my Top 100 on December 31? I’m less confident than ever, but could our world of musicians suffer from “striver’s fatigue”? We shall see. The simple presence of Messiaen in the list is a sign of struggle (one of my very favorite classic composers, and interpreted quite thrillingly by the group responsible–but come on!).

  1. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs
  2. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute
  3. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom
  4. Various Artists: Indaba Is
  5. Madlib: Sound Ancestors
  6. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales
  7. Founders: Songs for the End of Time
  8. Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, and Carmen Castaldi: Garden of Expression
  9. Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood
  10. Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine

Power Up! Look Out! This Dance’s About Over!: 155 Rekkids That Have Given Me Pleasure This Year When I Really, Really Needed It!

New developments?
1) Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger made their record on an iPad in their apartment while sheltering in place; that fact, and the gentleness of the recording have it shooting up my chart.

2) There’s some serious experimental noise coming out of Memphis–and that’s really no surprise.

3) Aesop Rock just gets better with age.

4) Could be the best improvisors in the world–the band Cortex among them–are from Norway.

5) My former student Jessica Kittle TOLD ME Kali Uchis was an artist of exploding potential.

6) AC/DC have made a strong record. Just when you thought they were done….

7) I was struck by a countryish song called “Black Like Me” I heard on a writer’s playlist three months ago and forgot to see who the artist was. So THAT’S Mickey Guyton! Very good to know!

8) The music writer Chuck Eddy is unafraid to tread confidently out on limbs. He recently did this on behalf of a group I hadn’t heard of called Hot Country Knights. The band name and album cover made me chuckle, and I sampled it purely for that reason, without asking Chuck about them. The songs? “Chuckle” isn’t a strong enough word. Hey…if you need some laughter in your life and you sometimes pine for ’90s country, you might wanna take a flyer yourself. Check out Chuck’s blog here.

9) If you know who Madlib and Karreim Riggins are, you will have to proceed directly to their “black classical music” collab project, Jahari Massamba Unit.

10) A couple historical dudes named Mingus and Hendrix are benefiting from very impressive excavations of legendary live performances they once delivered. You can benefit as well.

Living to Listen’s 100 Favorite New Releases of 2020, January 1 to November 30

(Items new to the list are bolded.)

  1. Kahil El’Zabar: America, The Beautiful
  2. Run The Jewels: RTJ 4
  3. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  4. SAULT: Untitled (Black Is) 
  5. 79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected
  6. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  7. Fire! Orchestra: Actions
  8. Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Majeure
  9. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  10. Neptunian Maximalism: Éons (band name and album title of the year, based on music’s justification of same)
  11. Marx Lomax II: The Last Concert—Ankh & The Tree of Life
  12. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  13. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  14. Jyoti: Mama You Can Bet!
  15. Hamell on Trial: The Pandemic Songs
  16. Boldy James & The Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China
  17. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine
  18. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  19. Anna Högberg Attack: lena
  20. Tee Grizzley: The Smartest
  21. Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide
  22. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved
  23. Kahil El’Zabar: Spirit Groove (featuring David Murray)
  24. Bob Dylan: My Rough and Rowdy Ways
  25. Ashley McBryde: Never Will
  26. Zeal and Ardor: Wake of a Nation (EP)
  27. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  28. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  29. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  30. Bettye LaVette: Blackbirds
  31. Mike & The Moonpies: Touch of You–The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart
  32. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  33. Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath
  34. Body Count: Carnivore
  35. Open Mike Eagle: Anime Trauma Divorce
  36. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  37. Cortex: Legal Tender
  38. Various Artists: Memphis Concrete Presents Sound in Geometry Series, Volume 1—On Triangles
  39. James Brandon Lewis: Molecular
  40. Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites
  41. Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)
  42. SAULT: Untitled (Rise)
  43. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  44. The Human Hearts: Day of the Tiles (EP)
  45. Kesha: High Road
  46. DJ-Kicks / Various Artists: Mr. Scruff
  47. Little Simz: Drop 6 (EP)
  48. K. Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  49. Drakeo the Ruler & JoogSzn:Quit Rappin
  50. Joel Ross: Who Are You?
  51. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  52. Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimension Stardust
  53. Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw
  54. Hot Country Knights: The K is Silent
  55. AC/DC: POWER UP
  56. Thiago Nassif: Mente
  57. Luke Stewart: Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet
  58. Bette Smith: The Good, The Bad, and The Bette
  59. Florian Arbenz & Greg Osby: Reflections of The Eternal Line
  60. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  61. Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Chicago Waves
  62. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: Shaman!
  63. City Girls: City on Lock
  64. Moses Sumney: grae
  65. Apollo Brown & Che Noir: As God Intended
  66. Al Bilali Soudan: Tombouctou
  67. JD Allen: Toys / Die Dreaming
  68. No Age: Goons Be Gone
  69. Steve Earle: Ghosts of West Virginia
  70. Ammar 808: Global Control / Invisible Invasion
  71. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  72. Junglepussy: Jp4
  73. Alicia Keys: ALICIA
  74. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  75. Dehd: Flower of Devotion
  76. Mickey Guyton: Bridges (EP)
  77. The Ridiculous Trio: The Ridiculous Trio Plays The Stooges
  78. Burna Boy: Twice as Tall
  79. Conway the Machine: From a King to a God
  80. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  81. Various Artists: Eyes Shut, Ears Open–A Burning Ambulance Compilation
  82. Moor Jewelry: True Opera (EP)
  83. Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories – The Music of Thelonious Monk
  84. Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul
  85. Optic Sink: Optic Sink
  86. Laraaji: Sun Piano
  87. Tiwa Savage: Celia
  88. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  89. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  90. Beauty Pill: Sorry You’re Here (EP)
  91. Steve Arrington: Down to the Lowest Terms—The Soul Sessions
  92. Jahari Massamba Unit: Pardon My French
  93. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  94. Julianna Barwick: Healing is a Miracle
  95. Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3—Cane and Abel
  96. Speaker Music: Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
  97. Lori McKenna: The Balladeer
  98. Old 97s: Twelfth
  99. Theo Parrish: Wuddaji
  100. Mars Williams: An Ayler Christmas, Volume 4

Reissues and Past Recordings Freshly Excavated

  1. Various Artists: Daora–Underground Sounds of Urban Brasil
  2. Wussy: Ghosts
  3. Various Artists: Turn Me Loose, White Man
  4. Thelonious Monk: Palo Alto
  5. Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975
  6. Jimi Hendrix: Live in Maui
  7. Hallelujah Chicken Run Band: Take One
  8. Pylon: Pylon Box
  9. Various Artists: Hanging Tree Guitars
  10. Various Artists: Saint Etienne Present Songs for the Fountain Coffee Room
  11. Milford Graves & Don Pullen: The Complete Yale Concert
  12. King Ubu Orchestru: Concert at Town Hall – Binaurality Live 1989
  13. Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodelico De L. C. V.
  14. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms 1970-1982
  15. Junior Byles: Beat Down Babylon (Deluxe Reissue)
  16. Various Artists: Soul Love—The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993
  17. Sun Ra: Unity—Live at Storyville NYC October 1977
  18. Peter Stampfel and The Bottlecaps: Demo ‘84
  19. Various Artists: La Locura de Machuca—1975-1980
  20. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  21. Victor Chukwu: Akalaka / The Power
  22. Dennis Gonzalez: Forever the Falling Stars
  23. The Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road
  24. Various Artists: Strum and Thrum—The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987
  25. Hiroshi Yoshimura: Green
  26. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  27. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  28. The Awakening: Hear, Sense, and Feel
  29. Bessie Jones: Get in Union
  30. Tony Allen: No Accommodation for Lagos
  31. Black Unity Trio: Al-Fatihah
  32. Various Artists: All Aboard! The CN Express—Rock Steady and Boss Reggae Sounds 1967-1968
  33. The Pogues: BBC Sessions 1984-85
  34. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  35. Various Artists: Love Saves the Day—A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979
  36. TEST: TEST and Roy Campbell, Jr.
  37. Joe McPhee: Black is The Color
  38. Various Artists: Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973
  39. Various Artists: Stone Crush—Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  40. Walter Bishop Jr.: Coral Keys
  41. Observer All Stars & King Tubby: Dubbing with the Observer (reissue)
  42. Roky Erickson / 13th Floor Elevators: You and Me and I (Live)
  43. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  44. Fela Kuti: Perambulator
  45. No Trend: Too Many Humans/Teen Love (reissue)
  46. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  47. Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings
  48. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  49. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  50. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  51. Lee Scratch Perry: Play On, Mr. Music
  52. Various Artists: Maghreb K7 Club–Synth Rai, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997)
  53. Brother Theotis Taylor
  54. Black Ark Players: Black Ark In Dub
  55. Prince: Sign O’ The Times (Deluxe Edition)
  56. The Replacements: Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition)