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

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

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

(bolded items are new additions to the list)

The Straight and Bent A’s:

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

The Tragically Flawed A- Team:

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

The No-Disgrace B+ Ticklers:

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

Hey! A “B” is a Decent Grade!:

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

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New Releases of Older Material

A = Thoroughly Enjoyable:

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. The Royals: Gish Abbai
  6. Various Artists: Bulawayo Blue Yodel
  7. Merle Haggard & The Strangers: Live in Austin, ‘78
  8. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  9. Various Artist: WXAXNXD Sessions
  10. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  11. Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (Bill Laswell Remix)
  12. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Run Get My Shotgun
  13. Chic: The Chic Organization: 1977-1979
  14. Griot Galaxy: Kins
  15. Various Artists: Mogadisco—Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972-1991)
  16. Various Artists: No Other Love—Midwest Gospel (1965-1978)
  17. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  18. The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels In The Band
  19. Various Artists: Love is All I Bring—Reggae Hits & Rarities by the Queens of Trojan Records
  20. Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse

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

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

B+ = A Three-Beer Buzz:

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

Overeem’s Hot 100 Albums for 2018, Rendered Down to 100 Videos (PLAY LOUDLY, ON SHUFFLE) (December 12, 2018, Stephens College, Columbia, MO)

Tracey RecordVS. Rosalia

 

It’s End of The Year List time, and–as you know if you’ve been following along–I’ve been meticulously preparing for it. We have a couple more Fridays’ worth of releases in 2018, but I have a feeling not too much will change about my mile-long scroll of favorite what-we-used-to-call-records.

Don’t get me started on politics, but 2018 was an exciting and surprisingly transformative year for me in terms of what I listened to and how I listened to it. I worked very diligently to stay out of the curmudgeon’s bunker; popular and semi-popular music, just like the world that produces it, is in a state of constant flux, and were I to grouse about its current state, well–what would that run parallel to in the social and political world (I ask myself all the time)? When I think of grouchy white men shaking their fists at the sky and yearning for old times in non-musical sectors of experience, those would be the exact folks I’m not lining up behind. Perhaps my analogy is faulty, but it feels solid for me, and, quite honestly, I love and more importantly respect flux.

I don’t think I tried too hard to do it–often I was drawn as moth to flame, though I didn’t pay the moth’s price–but I indulged in far more pop and dance music than I have in awhile. Crucially, though, all four of my beacons (Tracey Thorn, JLin, Rosalia, Robyn) laced their fun with social commentary that was far from ham-handed. Plus, it was fun, like great pop is supposed to be. I make no apologies for feeling pleasure at this point in my life, especially from music.

Far more than in any musical year I remember, my listening was dominated by women’s voices. I have always tried to be a feminist, and the way our world’s burning right now I know I have to up my game, so one might suspect that I’m–hmmm–overcorrecting? I don’t think so. It just so happens that women have made made most of the liveliest, smartest, funniest, boldest, and most defiant records this year. I was suspicious of myself, so I triple- and quadruple-checked, especially things I lurved way back in January. Most of that stuff still works wonders.

Elsewhere? Not a lot of rock, but so what? Plenty of free jazz because it helps me with my brain. Some great international records because it’s not just about u.s. A nice tablespoon full of vivacious oldsters whom Death may find it hard to kill. Hip hop to the max. And really—the sheer amount of really solid records. This could be illusion, because I surrendered to Apple Music and thus listened to more records (at the expense of my old ones) than ever before. Thing is, though, I seldom felt I was wasting my time.

To test my theories and judgment, play this YouTube playlist loudly, on shuffle, and prepare to stretch some. Speaking of theories, I think being equally comfortable swiveling on the dance floor and tracking someone’s battle with entropy through your headphones in a darkened room is a worthy goal that might help you make friends and, if not influence your enemies, at least de-nut them.

Devil Ain’t Fine: DJ Philly Phil’s 110 Favorite Albums of 2017, Plus 85 Old Records Whose Acquaintance He Just Made, That Helped Him Survive This Mess

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It’s been one helluva hard year–but when has one not been lately, and when has music not been succor? At one time or another, each of these 195 records has acted as a spell–however temporary–to vanquish the horror from my ears, eyes, and mind. To remind me that maybe all is not lost, that we are capable of bounteous joy when we are inspired, especially, perhaps, when we are inspired by the void.

I’m not one to theorize, and I am too convinced by chaos to believe that a given year’s list of recordings can be read like tea leaves and divined from. But, scanning mine again, I can see some things that finally dawned on me, some things I’ve always loved become far more important to me and sound so much more inexhaustible than I ever would have predicted, and some things that, mercifully, were the direct result of humans I actually know pushing me (as opposed to me retreating into a bubble of books and blogs, and just drifting and hacking my way through a jungle alone). I mean, it’s not like I don’t listen to people, but I have a tendency to mutter, “Hey, I know what I’m doing here.”

Dawnings: Electronic music, which I’d always appreciated but never been elevated by. Ah, yes–I’d like a Fourth World to choose to inhabit every day, an Outro Tempo to swing to every night, and a Mono No Aware to hourly heighten my consciousness. Perhaps I’m waxing too clever, but the stuff I’m alluding to was like a good massage: ultimately soothing but not without hitting spots that made me wince.

Inexhaustibles: I have loved free jazz since I first heard Ornette Coleman–I was young and dumb in ’82, but I can remember thinking, “This sounds beautiful, not crazy, and it’s not that free!”–but, to be honest, I’d always assumed that once I oozed into the second half of my life, I’d probably be seeking things that were easier, since surely my life would become more difficult. Well, life–not necessarily mine, but that’s not all that important a distinction–has become more difficult, often I do need easier things in my ear, but, lo and behold, free jazz (free experimental music, if you choose) has become easier. Not just easier, but more engaging, more thought-provoking, more exciting, funnier and wiser than I’d ever heard it to be and expected it to stay. That applies to many recordings I was already familiar with, but breaking into a trove of really, really hard-to-locate masterpieces from St. Louis’ Black Arts Group (late ’60s to early ’70s–gone to soon, but their seeds drifted elsewhere) and being led by such perceptive writers as John Corbett and Kevin Whitehead to the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra and Instant Composer’s Pool were straight-up blessings that rearranged my mind and cleaned out the wax. And I know this wish is in vain, but I hope Joe McPhee never dies.

Humans: I thank my students at Stephens College for opening my stubborn ears to The Internet, Rhiannon Giddens, SZA, and Lana Del Rey–and for indirectly helping me access a moving, depressive, and daring vein of what I suppose I have to call r&b but which I really believe is something new that’s just starting to blossom. I thank so many old friends: Whitney Shroyer, for tugging my coat about Harlem River Drive and Sunshine Daydream, John Schooley, for convincing me to take a chance on Link Wray’s Polydors, Isaac Davila, for stoking the fire of my interest in electronic music, and Nicole, my wife of 27 years, for setting us both off on a Latin rampage after we saw Eddie Palmieri’s 80th birthday show. Last but not least, I thank the lively Facebook group Expert Witness, several members of which I have indeed met in reality and many more I seriously intend to, for pointing me hither and yon and often assuring me my instincts were right about the greatness of, just for example, Albums Number 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9 in my Top 10–records the titles of which might well look very foreign to you but which you better lean in to. (Though I do not need it, I await affirmation on #4!)

Suggestion for everyone reading this: host some listening parties starting today, and get out of your comfort zones.

OK…on with it! Here’s some great stuff, most of which is linked so you can sample it immediately. In my Hot 100 are some recordings that are old but that have never been released before–at least not in the present form. Also, I’m with Duke Ellington in ignoring categories and just seeking out good music; I see no reason why you can’t queue up some free improvised music like William Parker’s right after the joyous dance music of Ibibio Sound Machine and have a killer time.

The Top 40? In order of my preference for them. The Final 70? In random order. The 85 older releases that crept up on me? Alphabetized for your convenience!

  1. Zeal and Ardor: Devil is Fine
  2. Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyai
  3. Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
  4. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Kalenda
  5. Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life
  6. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound
  7. JLin: Black Origami
  8. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is
  9. Harriet Tubman: Araminta
  10. Various Artists: Miracle Steps (Music from The Fourth World 1983-2017)
  11. Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood
  12. William Parker: Meditation – Resurrection
  13. Various Artists: Sweet as Broken Dates–Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa
  14. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Talk Tight
  15. Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won
  16. Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway
  17. Various Artists: Even a Tree Can Shed Tears–Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973
  18. Steve Earle and The Dukes: So You Wannabe an Outlaw?
  19. Gogol Bordello: Seekers and Finders
  20. Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for The South Side
  21. Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Loafer’s Hollow
  22. Hamad Kalkaba: Hamad Kalkaba and The Golden Sounds 1974-1975
  23. Angaleena Presley: Wrangled
  24. Various Artists: Battle Hymns
  25. Les Amazones D’Afrique: Republique Amazone
  26. The Revelators: …we told you not to cross us (20th Anniversary Edition)
  27. Syd: Fin
  28. Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy’s Demo (EP)
  29. The Perceptionists: Resolution
  30. Kendrick Lamar: Damn
  31. Sampha: Process
  32. Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm
  33. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now
  34. Burnt Sugar: All You Zombies Dig The Luminosity
  35. Fat Tony: MacGregor Park
  36. Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem
  37. Body Count: Blood Lust
  38. John Waters: Make Trouble
  39. Filthy Friends: Invitation
  40. Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa
  41. Prince: Purple Rain – 2017 Deluxe Remaster
  42. New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions
  43. The Goon Sax: Up to Anything
  44. Kelela: Take Me Apart
  45. Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound
  46. Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame
  47. Half Cleveland: Live at the Wi-Fi
  48. Thurst: Cut to the Chafe
  49. SZA: CTRL
  50. Jackie Shane: Any Other Way
  51. Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black
  52. Maximum Ernst: Maximum Ernst
  53. Oddisee: The Iceberg
  54. Tamikrest: Kidal
  55. Tyshawn Sorey: Verismilitude
  56. John Escreet: The Unknown
  57. Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II – Emerging Worlds 
  58. James Luther Dickinson: I’m Just Dead I’m Not Gone (Lazarus Edition) READ THE BOOK!
  59. Obnox: Niggative Approach
  60. Aram Bajakian: Dalava–The Book of Transfigurations
  61. (The Late) Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indominata
  62. Trio 3: Visiting Texture
  63. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers: Sidelong
  64. Jay-Z: 4:44
  65. Aruan Ortiz: Cub(an)ism
  66. Wadada Leo Smith: Solo–Reflections and Meditations on Monk
  67. Alice Coltrane: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  68. Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
  69. Young Thug: Beautiful Thugger Girls
  70. Ty Segall: Fried Shallots
  71. Tony Allen: A Tribute to Art Blakey
  72. Trio de Kali w/ The Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan
  73. Hard Working Americans: We’re All in This Together
  74. Randy Weston: African Nubian Suite
  75. Gato Preto: Tempo
  76. Tinariwen: Elwan
  77. Shina Williams: Agb’oju L’Ogun
  78. Let’s Eat Grandma: I, Gemini
  79. Ross Johnson and Lesa Aldridge: Lesa and Ross
  80. Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator
  81. Various Artists: Mono No Aware
  82. Karreim Riggins: Headnod Suite
  83. Various Artists: Outro Tempo–Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992
  84. Omou Sangare: Mogoya
  85. Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang?
  86. Bob Dylan: Triplicate
  87. Pierre Kwenders: MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time
  88. Brix & The Extricated: Part 2
  89. Tomasz Stanko: December Avenue
  90. Dion: Kickin’ Child–The Lost Album 1965
  91. Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, The Lonesome, and The Gone
  92. Chuck Berry: Chuck
  93. Joe King Cologbo & High Grace: Sugar Daddy
  94. Don Bryant: Don’t Give Up On Love
  95. Thelonious Monk: Soundtrack to Les Liaisons Dangereuses
  96. Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
  97. David S. Ware: Live in New York City 2010
  98. Thundercat: Drunk
  99. Elliott Sharp, Mary Halvorson, and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar
  100. Erica Falls: Home Grown
  101. Bill Evans: Some Other Time–The Lost Session from the Black Forest
  102. Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
  103. Husker Du: Savage Young Du
  104. The Replacements: For Sale–Live at Maxwell’s
  105. Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo
  106. Miguel: War & Leisure
  107. 2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
  108. The Paranoid Style: Underworld USA (EP)
  109. Sun Ra: Discipline 27-li
  110. Migos: Culture

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85 Great Older Releases That I’ve Bought in ’17 That I Still Can’t Get Enough Of

(If it’s bolded, I’ve been hooked on the thing quite seriously)

  1. Allison, Mose: I’m Not Talkin’—The Song Stylings of Mose Allison 1957-1972
  2. Amobi, Chino: Paradiso
  3. Anonymous 4: The Lily & The Lamb–Chant & Polyphony from Medieval England
  4. Avengers: Died for Your Sins
  5. Les Amazones de Guinée: Au coeur de Paris & M’mah Sylla (Bolibana Collection)
  6. Anderson, Fred, and Hamid Drake: …together again
  7. Astatke, Mulatu: Mulatu of Ethiopia
  8. Ben, Jorge: Africa Brasil
  9. Black Artists Group: In Paris 1973
  10. Blassie, Fred: Nothin’ But a Pencil Neck Geek!
  11. Blythe, Arthur: Illusions
  12. Breuker, Willem: Bob’s Gallery
  13. Bowie, David: Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
  14. Carmichael, Hoagy: Music Master
  15. Case, Neko: The Tigers Have Spoken
  16. Cochran, Wayne: Wayne Cochran!
  17. Cohran, Philip: Armageddon
  18. Coursil, Jacques: Trails of Tears
  19. The Creation: Action Painting
  20. Curtis, King: Instant Soul–The Legendary King Curtis
  21. Davis, Anthony: Episteme
  22. Del Rey, Lana: Hollywood
  23. Dion and The Belmonts: Together Again
  24. d/j Rupture: Minesweeper Suite
  25. Dog Life: Dog Life
  26. Dog Life: Fresh from the Ruins
  27. E: E
  28. Eggleston, Cozy: Grand Slam
  29. Fela: The Best of Black President, Volume 2
  30. Fela: Live in Detroit
  31. Foc’sle Singers: Foc’sle Songs and Shanties
  32. Gibbs, Melvin: Ancients Speak (all hail Pete Cosey!)
  33. Goblin: Soundtrack to the film Suspiria
  34. Gonzalez, Dennis: Idle Wild
  35. Gonzalez, Dennis: Nile River Suite
  36. Grateful Dead: Sunshine Daydream
  37. Harlem River Drive
  38. Hassell, Jon: Dream Theory in Malaya–Fourth World, Volume Two
  39. Hemphill, Julius: Coon Bidness
  40. Human Arts Ensemble: Whisper of Dharma
  41. Ink Spots: These Cats Are High
  42. Instant Composers Pool: Aan & Uit
  43. Jamal, Ahmad: The Awakening
  44. JJ DOOM: Bookhead
  45. Kelela: Cut 4 Me
  46. King: We Are King (would have been in my 2016 Top Ten had I been on the ball)
  47. Kyle, K. Curtis: The Collected Poem for Blind Lemon Jefferson
  48. London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Theoria
  49. Mateen, Sabir: Prophecies Come True
  50. McGann, Bernie: Playground
  51. McPhee, Joe: At Willisau
  52. McPhee, Joe: “The Loneliest Woman”
  53. McPhee, Joe: Tenor / Fallen Angel
  54. Mitchell, Joni: Hejira
  55. The Montgomery Brothers: Groove Yard
  56. Orchestra Regionale De Mopti
  57. Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz #7—Islam
  58. Patrick, Pat, and Baritone Retinue: Sound Advice
  59. Perry, Lee Scratch: Dub Triptych
  60. Perry, Lee Scratch: Presents African Roots
  61. Perry, Lee Scratch: Voodooism
  62. Prince Jazzbo: Ital Corner
  63. Pullen, Don, and Beaver Harris: A Well-Kept Secret
  64. Rah Digga: Everything is a Story
  65. Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Face to Face
  66. Stanko, Tomasz: Leosia
  67. Sullivan, Maxine: Close as Pages in a Book
  68. Sun Ra: The Space Age Is Here to Stay
  69. Swell Maps: Jane from Occupied Europe
  70. Swell Maps: A Trip to Marineville
  71. Tate, Buddy: Jive at Five
  72. This Heat: Out of Cold Storage
  73. Thomas, Luther, and Human Arts Ensemble: Funky Donkey Vols. 1 & 2
  74. Thornton, Clifford: The Panther and The Lash
  75. Morgan, Lee: Live at The Lighthouse
  76. Various Artists: After-School Special—The 123s of Kid Soul
  77. Various Artists: American Epic (yes, the sound really is that much of an improvement)
  78. Various Artists: Hanoi Masters–War is A Wound, Peace is a Scar
  79. Various Artists: Killed by Death #5
  80. Various Artists: The Original Sounds of Mali
  81. Various Artists: Cumbia Cumbia 1 & 2
  82. Various Artists: Songs from Saharan Cell Phones, 1 & 2
  83. Various Artists: The Poppyseeds–The Sound of Crenshaw
  84. White, Ruth: Flowers of Evil
  85. Wray, Link: Three-Track Shack

 

 

Here’s 117 records from late-2015 to December 31st of this complicated year, the high quality of which I can vouch for from multiple lessons, I mean listens. If I’d have to put a grade on ’em, current and former students and fellow teachers, I didn’t give an A+, and there’s nothing below a B+. 15 days remain in December, so we may have some work turned in just under the wire, and some of these may shift up and down in the spotlight as I keep revisiting them (for example, I may be checking myself too much on the new Stones album; the worst of Jinx Lennon’s two excellent records from 2016 may be getting a boost because I love the best one so much; “grading” the estimable Wadada Leo Smith’s sprawling parks tribute is a chore just the first time through; I just got a new Tom Zé, and he’s dangerous and a grower given repeated exposure); Chicago workaholic Serengeti just dropped a new one today. Nonetheless, I’m posting results. Come back and visit in a few days. However, I suspect that Queen Bey, the charms of whom I’ve mostly resisted her whole career, is unlikely to be knocked off her throne–note that she gets the top spot by virtue of the CD + DVD version. Happy holidays, and support these artists with your cash instead of just streaming or stealing! (More links coming soon!)

2016 TOP 10 FULL-LENGTH RELEASES

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade (CD +DVD)
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  5. Rihanna: Anti
  6. Various Artists: Desconstrucão–A Portrait of São Paulo’s Music Scene
  7. Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Sane
  8. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  9. Tanya Tagaq: Retribution
  10. Jamila Woods: HEAVN

THE REST OF THE TOP 40

  1. J. D. Allen: Americana
  2. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  3. Elza Soares: A Mulher do Fim do Mindo
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  9. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  10. Bombino: Azel
  11. Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm in Each Stroke
  12. Alicia Keys: Here
  13. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  14. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
  15. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  16. Wussy:Forever Sounds
  17. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  18. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  19. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  20. Solange: A Seat at The Table
  21. Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  22. Aram Bajakian: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates
  23. Nots: Cosmetic
  24. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  25. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  26. Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables
  27. Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Uplift Grief Magnets
  28. Aram Bajakian: Dolphy Variations
  29. John Prine: For Better, Or Worse
  30. Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 1 & 2: Still Buggin’ (EPs I am considering as a single album–they are free, so hit the hyperlinks)

Best of the Rest (Alphabetical Order)

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock
  2. Beasley, John: MONKestra, Volume 1
  3. Bowie, David: Blackstar
  4. Bradley, Charles: Changes
  5. Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011
  6. Brown, Danny: Atrocity Exhibition
  7. Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)
  8. Cave, Nick: Skeleton Tree
  9. Childbirth: Women’s Rights
  10. Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend
  11. Dalek: Asphalt for Eden
  12. De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody
  13. DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement
  14. Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody
  15. Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels
  16. Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories
  17. Garbage: Strange Little Birds
  18. Gates, Kevin: Islah
  19. Gray, Macy: Stripped
  20. Kondi, Sorie: The Freetown Tapes (2006-2016)
  21. Konono N1 Meets Batida
  22. Kool and Kass: Barter 7
  23. Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered
  24. Lambert, Miranda: The Weight of These Wings
  25. Lewis, Jeffrey, and The Jrams: A Loot-beg Bootleg
  26. Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway
  27. Lopez-Nussa, Harold: El Viaje
  28. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rue Vermilion Revival
  29. Lowe, Allen: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora–Down and Out Down East
  30. Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle
  31. Martinez, Pedrito: Habana Dreams
  32. McPhee, Joe, and Ray Boni: Live from the Magic City
  33. The Men: Devil Music
  34. Mexrissey: No Manchester
  35. M. I. A: Aim
  36. Murray, David: Murray, Allen, and Carrington Power Trio–Perfection
  37. Natural Child: Okey-Dokey
  38. N’Dour, Youssou: #SENEGAL REKK (EP)
  39. Neville, Aaron: Apache
  40. Oblivian, Jack, and The Sheiks: The Lone Ranger of Love
  41. Oddisee: Alwasta (EP)
  42. Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
  43. Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm
  44. Person, Houston, and Ron Carter: Chemistry
  45. Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn
  46. Pussy Riot: xxx
  47. Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome
  48. Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage–Road Shows, Volume Four
  49. Rush, Bobby: Porcupine Meat
  50. Slavic Soul Party!: Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite
  51. Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution
  52. Smith, Wadada Leo: America’s National Parks
  53. Stampfel, Peter, and The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm: Holiday for Strings
  54. Stetson, Colin: Sorrow–A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
  55. Tempest, Kate: Let Them Eat Chaos
  56. Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
  57. Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes
  58. Various Artists: Khmer Rouge Survivors–They Will Kill You, If You Cry
  59. Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live
  60. White Lung: Paradise
  61. Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo
  62. Young Thug: Jeffrey
  63. Zé, Tom: Canções Eróticas de Ninar
  64. Zé, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

New Old Stuff

  1. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  2. Van Morrison: It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vols. II, II, IV + DVD
  3. Pylon: Live
  4. James Booker: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)
  5. Swanee Quintet: The Complete Nashboro Recordings 1951-1962
  6. Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  7. Angry Angles
  8. Julius Eastman: Femenine
  9. Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius
  10. Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul
  11. Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary
  12. Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago
  13. Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

My 50 Favorite Music Purchases of 2015 That Were New to Me

8 Bold

Eight Bold Souls

Field Mob

Field Mob

Joe-Harriott-007

Joe Harriott

As wave after wave of tracks and albums wash over our cyber-eyes and into our cyber-ears, I become more and more committed to exploring the past, to seeking out releases I learn about from my reading and conversations that sometimes end up barely available on Amazon or Discogs or eBay. Honestly, I find this pursuit more exciting—at least at present—than I do hearing new music, which I do continue to enjoy thoroughly. Though it does make me smack myself upside the head quite frequently: how did I miss 8 Bold Souls, Joe Harriott, and Field Mob—easily my favorite “excavations” of the year, and clearly significant innovators in their fields?

So, continuing to strive to counteract the pull of the dustbin of time, here are my 50 favorite purchases of old stuff from 2015 (the links don’t necessarily take you to tracks from the album, because, contrary to popular belief, “Everything is[n’t] on YouTube!”):

  1. 8 Bold Souls: Last Option/Ant Farm/Sideshow/8 Bold Souls
  2. Animals: We’re Gonna Howl Tonight
  3. Bang, Billy: Bang On!
  4. Barbieri, Gato: Chapter One – Latin America
  5. Barker, Thurman: Strike Force
  6. Beausoleil: Hot Chili Mama
  7. Brotzmann, Peter: Tentet–Stone/Water
  8. Chappelear, Leon: Western Swing Chronicles, Vol. 2
  9. Cook, Elizabeth: Gospel Plow
  10. Curtis, King, and Champion Jack Dupree: Blues at Montreux
  11. Dexateens: Lost and Found
  12. Dunn, Bob: Master of the Steel Guitar
  13. Field Mob: From Tha Roota To Tha Toota/613—Ashy but Classy
  14. Garner, Erroll: Afternoon of an Elf
  15. Geller, Herb: Plays the Songs of Arthur Schwartz
  16. Gordon, Roscoe: Let’s Get High–The Man-About-Memphis!
  17. Hamilton, Chico: Man from Two Worlds
  18. Harriott, Joe: The Joe Harriott Story
  19. Horribly Wrong: C’Mon and Bleed with…The Horribly Wrong
  20. Hayes, Clifford, and the Louisville Jug Bands: Volume 1 (1924-1926)
  21. Ice Cube: The Essentials
  22. J-Wonn: I Got This Record
  23. Katey Red: Melpomene Block Party
  24. Keith, Tyler: Tyler Keith is The Apostle
  25. Lane, Ronnie: Ooh La La–An Island Harvest
  26. Lewis, Furry: 4th and Beale
  27. Lonesome Sundown: I’m a Mojo Man–The Excello Singles
  28. McIntyre, Makanda Ken: In the Wind
  29. Memphis Slim: The Come Back
  30. Murray, Sunny (with Sabir Mateen): We Are Not at The Opera
  31. Newborn, Phineas: Here is Phineas/Fabulous Phineas
  32. No Speed Limit: Sweet Virginia
  33. Pickett, Charlie, and The Eggs: Live at The Button
  34. Prince Buster: Jamiaca’s Pride / Rocksteady
  35. Raw Spitt: Raw Spitt
  36. Sani, Mammane et son Orgue: La Musique Electronique du Niger
  37. Schlippenbach, Andrew Von: Monk’s Casino
  38. Selvidge, Sid: Waiting for a Train
  39. Smart, Leroy: The Don Tells It Like It Is
  40. Soulja Slim: The Streets Made Me
  41. Super Chikan: Shoot That Thang/ Blues Come Home to Roost
  42. Townsend, Henry: Mule
  43. Twilley, Dwight: I’m on Fire! 1974-1984
  44. Various Artists: The Last Soul Company—Malaco, A Thirty Year Retrospective
  45. Various Artists: Rare Electric Blues—’60s Era
  46. Various Artists: Wrestling Rocks!
  47. Vinson, Eddie “Cleanhead”: The Original Mr. Cleanhead
  48. Waldron, Mal, and Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981
  49. White, Bukka: Sky Songs
  50. X_X: x_StickyFingers_x

I vote in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll Again

Screenshot 2015-12-18 07.49.10

Screenshot 2015-12-18 07.48.38

Above are my choices for Top 10 albums and singles for 2015 (ignore what I thought were my Top 10 albums, below). In addition to being invited to submit a ballot (100 points distributed among 10 albums, no fewer than five points, no more than 30, per rekkid), we can mail in an essay or more scattered “commentary,” which is usually all I have time to do. For those on tenterhooks, here is my attempt to put shit together in a world of chaos!

“If a year-end best-of-pop-music Top 10 lacks the presence of anyone 70 or older, it’s lying. As has been proved over and over again, though pop was, perhaps, once actually a youth music, the older guys (and gals) not only know what it’s all about, but they really have it all worked out. I think Gram Parsons sang that. Just before he died at 26.

Though my Top 10 has more fresh blood than maybe any ballot I’ve ever submitted—Courtney Barnett is absolutely irresistible, the comparatively ancient Kendrick Lamar an irrepressible force whose growing confidence I hope isn’t dulled by pessimism—it’s got plenty hair sprouting out its ears. Made in Chicago: Muhal Richard Abrams 85, Roscoe Mitchell 75, headliner Jack DeJohnette 73, Henry Threadgill the pup at 71, all celebrating the AACM’s 50th anniversary—and not with a bingo game. Welcome Back: Irene Schweizer, 74, and Han The Man Bennink, 73, joining forces to improvise racket and rhythm into beauty once again after two decades.  Albert Ayler’s Ghosts Live at The Yellow Ghetto: John D. Morton, 62, and Craig Bell, 63, proving that a very bad attitude, ugly noise, and irreverence aren’t the exclusive property of the kids—and also pushing siblings Willie Nelson, 83, and Bobbie Nelson, 84, to #11 and off the ballot. I feel a little guilty about that decision—but Willie shouldn’t have recycled so many songs. This is serious business.

Really, though, looking at my list, it isn’t mostly about age. It’s about time and race. Between the 1885 formation in New Orleans of the first “black Indians gang,” The Creole Wild West, and the hands-across-the-‘hoods of the 79rs Gang’s Fire on the Bayou, on which New Orleans’ 7th Ward Creole Hunters and 9th Ward Hunters team up on a rare stripped-down Mardi Gras Indians record, lay 130 years of self-defense and self-preserving “social clubs” that shouldn’t still be necessary.

Between the first Chicago meeting, in 1965, of a group of young musicians debating the laws and details of an impregnable artistic sanctuary and classroom called the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (its first record, Sound, by Mr. Mitchell, arrived in ‘66), and Made in Chicago’s defiant proof of the founders’ and the organization’s undiminished power stand cultural, financial, political, and aesthetic obstacles Hercules would have been hard pressed to surmount.

Between Alex Haley’s “faction” of an 18th century Kunta Kinte and Mr. Lamar’s “King Kunta” testify 250-plus years of deliberate oppression that shape-shifts with every hard-earned challenge. Maybe you’d argue that this isn’t how I should put a year-end best-of-pop-music Top 10 together. I’d counter that the records are that good, and they may be that good because of what sprawls across the expanse of time and presents itself to us right now. Or maybe not.

Some further notes about time and race: Jeffrey Lewis’ Manhattan-leading “Scowling Crackhead Ian”’s persona wearily and compassionately peers back across the years—all the way to grade-school horrors perpetrated by a human he stills sees regularly, 20-some years later. He wonders when the two of them can just…shake hands and put the past aside. That was the most moving line I heard all year, and I couldn’t help but hear it, too, as a metaphor for our country’s own near-fatal stubbornness.  And Allen “The Maine Monk” Lowe’s mournful, angry, questioning jazz march “Theme for the Nine (Murdered in Church, Parts 1 & 2)”—smeared with the haunting blues baritone of Black Artists’ Group founder Hamiet Bluiett, 75 years young himself—was the first serious musical response to the Charleston massacre. Have there been others? I don’t know. But I expect them.

The best thing about listening to the music I liked most in 2015 was that it forced me to wonder whether we are capable of the change we need to make, and question myself about whether I have been doing enough to make that change happen. Also—I will be honest— whether I even want to be part of this continuing social experiment that refuses to unmask itself, for its own good. Time and race—I can’t get them off my mind.”

The lucky blatherers get either a few sentences or, in select cases, whole essays excerpted in the corrupted old Village Voice itself. I’ve been excerpted four times, and this strange offering is not likely to get published fully. But it’s fun to try. And I really believe it: pop music is youth music, but way more–it’s an avenue for old farts to pass along wisdom as to what to expect! Aren’t you interested?

Some of my favorite “singles” for 2015: