YES THANK YOU: The Best of a Bounty of Absorbing, Motorvating, Challenging, Exciting Albums Gifted Us By 2022

190 albums of new music I can sit down with and which will at the very least engage and stimulate me enough to play them again. 45 albums of music made in the past that’s been reissued or freshly excavated that make me realize I’m never going to get to the point where I don’t have to dive into the past anymore and simply live in the musical moment. Does it all make me feel something akin to Jerry Lee Lewis’ music does? No–none of it does. It makes me feel new and different things, though; Live at the Star Club was a high bar for all popular performers when it came out, has been in the interim, and will continue to be, I can hear it first second to last in my head without having to put it on, and it still makes my skin prickle. BUT I’m all about feeling new feelings (and thinking new thoughts) (and experiencing new physical reactions) today’s music (be it acoustic or electric or organic) can conjure before I die. It’s been a salve as well as a shot in the arm and ass for me all year, and simply surveying the diversity of the list stuns me…and gives me hope. That last is important, because I seriously contemplate (once in a while) the possibility, voiced by folks far more educated than I am, that we’re a virus on this globe. We aren’t, or at least we don’t have to be, and we choose to be, at least some of us will create sounds that honor us, and help us go down feeling fully alive. Merry fucking Christmas, eh? YES. Merry fucking Christmas!

Relatively Merry Musings:

  1. It’s absurd to try and put 190 (or even 45) records in precise modern music lovers’ order. After about #30, the procession gets a little I-Chingish; even so, days after I publish these, I find myself thinking, “Why’d I put that at #112?” I’m not gonna drive myself crazy, though. I feel pretty strongly about my Top 30, though when the wonderful and exacting Facebook group Expert Witness and the comfortably less exacting Facebook group Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll comes a-calling for my final Top 10, mine might not be THIS Top 10. WON’T be THIS Top 10. Might even have something in it not even among these 235 slabs.
  2. Thank you to one of my phenomenal Stephens College students (also a single mom) (also a veteran of our Middle Eastern wars) for writing an amazing essay on Mary Gauthier’s Rifles and Rosary Beads, which I forced on her (“folk music is not my jam”) and she ended up admiring, and giving a great presentation and handing in a nice research paper on previous-unknown-to-me Colombian-Canadian Jessie Reyez. Reyez has gotten her through some rough nights and I understand why.
  3. I am a Little Simz self-starter. Though, pre-Grey Area, I merely appreciate her work, from that point on I’ve gone starry-eared, and her brand-spanking-new one, delicately Saulted, is no exception. She sounds great, she writes tough, and she inspires. I may come down to Earth in the next month, but I can’t worry about that now.
  4. I have a California friend named Chris who often feeds me fuel I somehow miss, and he recently passed along a powerful, even rowdy record from Kinshasa, Lady Aicha and Pisko Crane’s N’Djila Wa Mudujimu, that moved me to immediately buy a vinyl copy. I could picture myself playing it over and over–and milady also seriously digs music from many African countries. I owe ya, Chris. THAT one may move UP.
  5. Petrol Girls’ new album lives up to the band name. On fire, and fire burns.
  6. Los Angeles’ Juke Bounce Werk label, which I just learned about a couple weeks ago, submitted an inexpensive 52-song comp of consistently propulsive–I dare say bangin’–dance music on Bandcamp. I thought, “Wow! I need to tell people about this!” Then I noticed it was the 10TH VOLUME of such compilations. Where’s the longform piece on these folks?
  7. Above, I mentioned the Facebook group Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, which ably–I mean, ably–replaces the Voice’s influential but very gone original poll. Honestly, I like the Facebook version better: it’s more personal, interactive, flexible, surprising, funny–and group members’ early Top 10 submissions remind even the most avid music consumer that YOU CAN’T LISTEN TO EVERYTHING. Together, though, we can. I knew nothing about Mama’s Broke, took a flyer on Mama’s Broke’s Narrow Line on name and title alone from another user’s list…and heard echoes of Dock Boggs and The Carter Family modernized expertly for Struggle 2022. If I’d read about it, I’d have thought, “Not my jam”; it is my jam and peanut butter, too. Generic jars of each, because they’re more affordable.
  8. I came late to both Tyler Childers’ and Pillbox Patti’s albums. Childers had won my heart by writing a song about jacking off on the road, but I’d lost touch with him–and was a bit cold-cocked by his sober-Gram-Parsons gospel album. I knew nothing about Pillbox Patti, but I’d just finished Patrick Haddon Keefe’s Sackler-skewing Empire of Pain, which set me up to be knocked out by her tales of Parsonian heart-pain and substance reliance. Talk about a country paradigm.
  9. Anyone out there annually purchase Blues Images‘ calendar-and-CD combo that keeps the world of country blues alive? Well, hate to tell ya, this one’s the last one–they can’t afford to keep knocking them out. Follow that preceding link to help John Tefteller and crew go out in much-deserved fine and dignified style. PLUS? The accompanying CD, which includes the most amazing job of restoration of ’20s records I’ve heard so far, will stun you.
  10. Can you resist cumbia? I cannot. The two cumbia compilations, one from Mexico, the other from Peru, both from the esteemed Analog Africa label, that I just added to my archival dig list, aren’t just fun–they add twists, even experimentation, to that addictive rhythm.
  11. (Bonus Track I) Dickie Landry. No one like him.
  12. (Bonus Track II) D. Boon died UNJUSTLY–damn you, cosmos–on December 22, 1985. Too cool to be forgotten, corndog.


(New additions to the list are bolded.)

  1. Rosalia: MOTOMAMI (Columbia)
  2. Willie Nelson: A Beautiful Time (Sony)
  3. Beyoncé: Renaissance (Parkwood Entertainment)
  4. Tanya TagaqTongues (Six Shooter) 
  5. Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford—Paul’s Scene (Whaling City Sounds)
  6. Stro Elliot & James Brown: Black & Loud—James Brown Reimagined (Polydor)
  7. 75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost, Volume 3–Other People’s Music (Black Editions Group)
  8. Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (Schoolkids Records)
  9. Jeff Parker ETA IVTet: Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy(Eremite)
  10. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM)
  11. Wet Leg: Wet Leg (Domino)
  12. Harry Styles: Harry’s House (Columbia)
  13. Sun Ra Arkestra (featuring Marshall Allen): Living Sky (Strut / Omni Sound)
  14. Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (On-U Sound)
  15. Amanda Shires: Take It Like a Man (ATO)
  16. Little Simz: NO THANK YOU (Forever Living Originals)
  17. Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars (Thirty Tigers)
  18. Patricia Brennan: More Touch (Pyroclastic)
  19. black midi: Hellfire (Rough Trade)
  20. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiGraphy (577 Records)
  21. SAULT: Untitled (God)(self-released)
  22. Lady Aicha & Pisko Crane’s Original Fulu Miziki of Kinshasa: N’Djili Wa Mudujimu (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
  23. Sudan ArchivesNatural Brown Prom Queen (Stones Throw)
  24. Gogol Bordello: Solidaritine (Das Grand Kapital)
  25. Bitchin’ Bajas: Bajascillators (Drag City)
  26. Ashley McBryde: Presents…Lindeville (Warner Nashville)
  27. Steve Lacy: Gemini Rights (RCA)
  28. Suzi Analogue: Infinite Zonez (Never Normal)
  29. Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (Merge)
  30. Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn: Pigments(Merge)
  31. Various Artists: Sowal Diabi—From Kabul to Bamako (Accords Croises)
  32. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (Phantom Limb)
  33. Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)
  34. Anitta: Versions of Me (Deluxe) (Warner)
  35. Ka: Languish Arts (Iron Works)
  36. Lady Wray: Piece of Me (Big Crown)
  37. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life (Ghost Theatre)
  38. SAULT: Today & Tomorrow(self-released)
  39. The Mountain Goats: Bleed Out (Merge)
  40. ensemble 0: Music Nuvulosa (Sub Rosa)
  41. The Ogun Meji DuoFreedom Suite (self-released)
  42. PhelimuncasiAma Gogela (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
  43. 700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (Hyperdub)
  44. Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos(Far Out)
  45. The Chats: Get Fucked (Cooking Vinyl)
  46. Jinx Lennon: Pet Rent (Septic Tiger)
  47. Freakons: Freakons (Fluff & Gravy)
  48. Jeong Lim Yang: Zodiac Suite—Reassured(Fresh Sound)
  49. WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk)
  50. Etran de L’AirAgadez (Sahel Sounds)
  51. Homeboy Sandman: I Can’t Sell These (self-released)
  52. Horsegirl: “Billy” / “History Lesson, Part II” (Matador)
  53. Mark Lomax Trio: Plays Mingus (CFG Multimedia)
  54. Makaya McCraven: In These Times (International Anthem)
  55. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  56. Buck 65: King of Drums (4320739 Records DK)
  57. JID: The Forever Story (Dreamville/Interscope)
  58. Mdou Moctar: Niger EP Volume 1 (Matador)
  59. ifsonever: ifsonever (Jazz & Milk)
  60. Various Artists: Lespri Ka—New Directions in Gwoka Music from Guadeloupe (Time Capsule Sounds) 
  61. Satoko Fujii: One Hundred Dreams (Libra)
  62. Mark Lomax II: Prismatic Refractions, Volume I (self-released)
  63. Special Interest: Endure (Rough Trade)
  64. Petrol Girls: Baby (Hassle)
  65. James Brandon Lewis: MSM Molecular Systematic Music—Live (Intakt)
  66. Kari Faux: Lowkey Superstar(Don Giovanni)
  67. Adeem the Artist: White Trash Revelry(self-released)
  68. Miranda Lambert: Palomino (Vanner)
  70. Daniel Villareal: Panama ’77 (International Anthem)
  71. Kehlani: blue water road (TSNMI/Atlantic)
  72. Iara Renno: Oriki (self-released)
  73. Dr. John: Things Happen That Way (Rounder)
  74. Horace Andy: Midnight Scorchers (On-U Sound)
  75. Ka: Woeful Studies (Iron Works)
  76. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 2—Joy Boy (New Amsterdam)
  77. Various Artists: Juke Bounce Werk Presents JBDUBZ Volume X (Juke Bounce Werk)
  78. Lucrecia Dalt: Ay!(RVNG International)
  79. GloRilla: Anyways, Life’s Great (CMG/Interscope)
  80. Mama’s Broke: Narrow Line (Free Dirt)
  81. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Lift Every Voice (Division 81 Records)
  82. Tyshawn Sorey: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi)
  83. Amber Mark:Three Dimensions Deep (PMR / Interscope) 
  84. Florian ArbenzConversation #5—Elemental; Conversations #6 and 7
  85. Morgan Wade: Reckless (Deluxe) (Ladylike) 
  86. Zoh Amba: O, Sun (Tzadik)
  87. Jussi ReijonenThree Seconds I Kolme Toista (Challenge Records International)
  88. Ran Blake: Driftwoods (Tompkins Square)
  89. Whit Dickey: Root Perspectives (Tao Forms)
  90. Billy Woods: Aethiope(Backwoodz Studios)
  91. Ishmael Reed: The Hands of Grace(Reading Group)
  92. Dan Ex MachinaAll is Ours, Nothing is Theirs (self-released)
  93. Anna von HausswoolffLive at Montreaux Jazz Festival (Southern Lord) 
  94. Felipe Salles: Tiyo’s Songs of Life (Tapestry)
  95. Steve Lehman: Xaybu—The Unseen(Pi Recordings)
  96. Tom ZéLingua Brasiliera (Selo Sesc)
  97. Tyler Childers: Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven (Hickman Holler)
  98. Joyce Moreno: Brasilieras Cancoes(Biscoito Fino)
  99. M.I.A.: Mata(Island)
  100. Pillbox Patti: Florida (Monument)
  101. Elaine Elias: Quietude(Candid)
  102. Nancy Mounir: Nozhet El Nofous (Terrorbird)
  103. Rick Rosato: Homage (self-released)
  104. The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (Carpark)
  105. Alvvays: Blue Rev(Polyvinyl / Transgressive)
  106. Ari Lennox: age/sex/location (Dreamville/Interscope)
  107. Oumou Sangare: Timbuktu (World Circuit Limited)
  108. Various Artists: Hidden Waters—Strange and Sublime Sounds from Rio de Janiero (Sounds and Colours)
  109. SeaJun Kwon: Micro Nap (Endectomorph Music)
  110. Gilla Band: Most Normal(Rough Trade)
  111. Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork(4AD)
  112. Jessie Reyez: Yessie (FMLY/Island)
  114. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Universal)
  115. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity:Elastic Wave (ECM)
  116. Miguel Zeñon: Musica de las Americas (Miel Music)
  117. Priscilla BlockWelcome to the Block Party (InDent)
  118. The Comet is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam(Impulse)
  119. Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (Audiocon)
  120. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: I’m Good, HBU? (Distorted Muse)
  121. Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope)
  122. Charm Taylor: She Is The Future (Sinking City)
  123. OGJB: Ode to O (TUM) (Note: Band name – O = Oliver Lake, G = Graham Haynes, J = Joe Fonda, B = Barry Altschul / Title – O = Ornette) 
  124. Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, and Enrico Rava: Two Blues for Cecil (TUM) 
  125. Luke Stewart’s Silt TrioThe Bottom (Cuneiform) 
  126. Tyler Mitchell: Dancing Shadows (featuring Marshall Allen) (Mahakala Music)
  127. Crow Billiken (aka R.A.P. Ferreira): If I don’t have red I use blue (self-released)
  128. Dopolarians: Blues for Alvin Fielder—Live at Crosstown Arts, Memphis(Mahakala Music)
  129. The Paranoid Style: For Executive Meeting(Bar/None)
  130. Carl Stone: Wat Dong Moon Lek (Unseen Worlds)
  131. Joy Guidry:Radical Acceptance (Whited Sepulchre)
  132. Tasche de la Rocha: Tasche de la Rocha & The Psychedelic Roses (Sinking City)
  133. Meridian Brothers and El Grupo & Renacimiento (Ansonia)
  134. Avram Fefer Quartet: Juba Lee(Clean Feed)
  135. Jeffrey Lewis: When That Really Old Cat Dies(self-released)
  136. Mitski: Laurel Hell (Dead Oceans)
  137. Jockstrap: Jockstrap (Rough Trade)
  138. Earthgang: Ghetto Gods (Dreamville/Interscope)
  139. Breath of Air: Breath of Air (Burning Ambulance Music)
  140. Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note) 
  141. David Murray Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt)
  142. Fulu MizikiNgbaka (EP)
  143. David Virelles: Nuna (Pi / El Tivoli)
  144. Javon Jackson & Nikki Giovanni: The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (Solid Jackson) 
  145. Leikeli47: Shape Up (Hardcover/RCA)
  146. Witchcraft BooksVolume 1—The Sundisk (Iapetus Records)
  147. Hurray for The Riff Raff: Life on Earth (Nonesuch)
  148. Qasim Naqvi/Wadada Leo Smith/Andrew Cyrille: Two Centuries (Red Hook)
  149. Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee: Bamanan (3DFamily)
  150. Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (Firehouse 12)
  151. DJ Black Low: Uwami (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
  152. Ibibio Sound Machine:Electricity (Merge)
  153. Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light, Volume 1(577 Records)
  154. Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts)
  155. Kahil El’Zabar Quartet: A Time for Healing (Spirit Muse)
  156. Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (Luaka Bop)
  157. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note)
  158. Pusha T: It’s Almost Dry (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam)
  159. Elza SoaresElza Ao Vivo No Municipal (Deck)
  160. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO)
  161. Open Mike Eagle: a tape called component system with the auto reverse (Auto Reverse)
  162. Chad Fowler/Ivo Perelman/Zoh Amba/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Steve Hirsch: Alien Skin(Mahakala Music)
  163. Tommy McLain: I Ran Down Every Dream (Yep Roc)
  164. Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (Fundacja Słuchaj)
  165. Charli XCX: Crash (Atlantic)
  166. Pete Malinverni: On the Town—Pete Malinverni Plays Leonard Bernstein (Planet Arts) 
  167. Marxist Love Disco Ensemble: MLDE(Mr. Bongo)
  168. Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (Verve)
  169. Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don’t Like It (Bible & Tire)
  170. Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Mesmerism (Pi Recordings)
  171. Dezron Douglas: Atalaya(International Anthem)
  172. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (DeeWee)
  173. Tomeka Reid & Joe McPhee: Let Our Rejoicing Rise (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
  174. Earl Sweatshirt: Sick! (Tan Cressida / Warner) 
  175. Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (4AD)
  176. Jeff Arnal and Curt Cloninger: Drum Major Instinct (Mahakala Music)
  177. R.A.P. Ferreira: 5 to the Eyes with Stars (self-released)
  178. Natsuki TamuraSummer Tree (Libra)
  179. Ghais Guevara: There Will Be No Super-Slave (self-released)
  180. Manel Fortia: Despertar (Segell Microscopi/Altafonte)
  181. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (Big Machine)
  182. Various Artists: if you fart make it sound good (WA Records)
  183. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind)
  184. Sonnyjim & The Purist: White Girl Wasted (Duape)
  185. Florian Arbenz: Conversation #8—Ablaze (Hammer Recordings)
  186. Mavis Staples & Levon Helm: Carry Me Home (Anti-)
  187. Panda Bear & Sonic Boom: Reset (Domino)
  188. Blue Reality Quartet: Ella’s Island (Mahakala Music)
  189. Cost of Living: Apollo Brown & Philmore Green (Mellow Music Group)
  190. Taylor Swift: Midnights(non-expanded) (Republic)


  1. Los Golden Boys: Cumbia de Juventud (Mississippi Records)
  2. Albert Ayler: Revelations—The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental)
  3. Cecil Taylor:The Complete Legendary Live Return Concert at the Town Hall (Oblivion)
  4. Tommy Womack: 30 Years Shot to Hell! An Anthology (Schoolkids Records)
  5. Various Artists: Lovers Rock—The Soulful Sound of Romantic Reggae (Trojan)
  6. Staples Jr. Singers: When Do We Get Paid (Luaka Bop)
  7. Dickie Landry: Solos (Unseen Worlds)
  8. Albert Ayler: La Cave Live 1966 (Ezz-Thetics) 
  9. Various Artists: Cumbia Sabrosa—Tropical Sound System Bangers From The Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (Rocafort Records)
  10. Biluka y Los Canibales: Leaf-Playing in Quito (1960-1965) (Honest Jon’s)
  11. Various Artists: OZ DAYS LIVE ’72 – ’73 Kichijoji–The 50th Anniversary Collection (featuring Les Rallizes Dénudés)  (Temporal Drift)
  12. Les Raillizes Denudes: Live ’77 (Temporal Drift)
  13. Ernest Hood: Back to the Woodlands (Freedom to Spend)
  14. Various Artists: A Chat About the Beauty of the Moon at Night–Hawaiian Steel Guitar Masters 1913-1921 (Magnificent Sounds)
  15. The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo (Interscope)
  16. Various Artists: Blues Images—1920s Blues Classics, Volume 20 (Blues Images)
  17. Son House: Forever on My Mind (Easy Eye Sound)
  18. Lavender Country: Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows (Don Giovanni)
  19. Mal Waldron: Searching in Grenoble—The 1978 Solo Piano Concert (Tompkins Square)
  20. Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Quintet (Mr. Bongo)
  21. Horace Tapscott Quintet: Legacies for Our Grandchildren (Dark Tree)
  22. Dickie Landry & Lawrence Weiner: Having Been Built on Sand(Unseen Worlds)
  23. Various Artists: The D-Vine Spirituals—Sacred Soul (Bible & Tire)
  24. Various Artists: Saturno 2000—La Rebajada De Los Sonideros 1962-1983 (Analog Africa)
  25. Various Artists: Peru Selvatico—Sonic Expedition into the Peruvian Amazon 1972-1986 (Analog Africa)
  26. Kabaka International Guitar Band: Kabaka International Guitar Band (Palenque Records)
  27. The Pyramids: AOMAWA—The 1970s Recordings (Strut)
  28. Hermeto Pascoal: Hermeto (Far Out Recordings)
  29. Sun Ra: Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt (Strut)
  30. Asha Puthi: The Essential Asha Puthi (Mr. Bongo)
  31. Malik’s Emerging Force Art Trio: Time and Condition (moved-by-sound)
  32. Volta Jazz: Air Volta (Numero)
  33. Blondie: Against the Odds—1974-1982 (3-CD Rarities Version) (UMe / Numero Group)
  34. Joyce Moreno: Natureza (Far Out Recordings)
  35. Various Artists: From Lion Mountain—Traditional Music of Yeha, Ethiopia (Dust-to-Digital)
  36. Charles Stepney: Step-on-Step(International Anthem)
  37. Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come is Now (ESP-Disk)
  38. John Ondolo: Hypnotic Guitar of John Ondolo (Mississippi Records)
  39. Luciano Luciani y sus Mulatos: Mulata, vamos a la Salsa (Vampisoul)
  40. Cecil Taylor: Respiration (Fundacja Stuchaj)
  41. Norma Tanega: Studio and Demo Recordings, 1964-1971 (Anthology)
  42. Irma Thomas: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 (Good Time)
  43. Afrika Negra: Antologia, Volume 1 (Bongo Joe)
  44. Various Artists: Summer of Soul (Legacy)
  45. The Heartbreakers: LAMF—The ’77 Found Mixes (Jungle)

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 

FINAL EDITION: Living to Listen’s Top 100 New Releases of 2020 (Plus a Top 40 of Reissues and Archival Discoveries)

Yep, this is it. Eight days into a very 2020-like 2021. But I gotta say again that, since, for reasons in addition to COVID-19 and the creep, this year was the worst of my life (that year in elementary when I got my ass kicked on the bus, at home plate on the playground, on the bus again, and in front of a small crowd at the park was close), MUSIC WAS ESSENTIAL, and if I hadn’t had access to any records prior to 2020, I still would have been in very high cotton. So many inspired, intelligent, defiant, creative, funny, funky, and artistically coherent slabs–an extension of my love of novels, I still listen to albums, and this roll call was proof I ain’t no dummy.

The Top 10 is my real Top 10. I was asked to submit it to a terrific Facebook group that produces poll results like the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll used to, and I thought on it very carefully–though some friends argue there’s no difference, these are the records that meant the most to me, that I needed the most, that powered me through a minimum of 10 horrible days, rather than the 10 greatest artistic albumic achievements of the year. 11-90? I did quite a bit of thinking about those as well, 10 at a time–then, today, came back and fussed with it to get it just right and include some late ’20 releases.

Apologies to these artists who were originally on my list months ago, and who here make the Top 100 (there are a good 50-75 more strong albums) but who I must have accidentally deleted while editing in the fall: the great Southern rocker Tyler Keith, the rejuvenated Dramarama, the delightful and fearless Billy Nomates, and the gutsy Ashley McBryde. They may never see this, and even if they do, they may not care–but it matters to me.

DIG IN. 2021’s breathin’ down your neck.

BOLDED ENTRIES = Records added (or restored) to the list.

  1. Kahil El’Zabar: America The Beautiful
  2. Run The Jewels: 4
  3. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  4. 79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected
  5. Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Majeure
  6. Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways
  7. Fire! Orchestra: Actions
  8. SAULT: Untitled (Black Is)
  9. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  10. Mars Williams: Presents an Ayler Xmas, Volume 4–Chicago vs. New York
  11. Watt, Kaiser, Golia, Peet, and Hanrahan: A Love Supreme Electric
  12. Spillage Village: Spilligion
  13. Body Count: Carnivore
  14. Jyoti: Mama You Can Bet!
  15. Mike & The Moonpies: Touch of You–The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart
  16. Boldy James & The Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China
  17. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine
  18. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  19. Kesha: High Road
  20. Neptunian Maximalism: Éons
  21. Various Artists: An Anthology of Experimental Music from Mexico
  1. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  2. Anna Högberg Attack: lena 
  3. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History
  4. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  5. Bktherula: Nirvana
  6. Belle and Sebastian: What to Look for in Summer
  1. Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimension Stardust
  2. Thiago Nassif: Mente
  3. Hamell on Trial: Pandemic Songs
  4. Goodie Mob: Survival Kit
  5. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  6. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  7. Tee Grizzley: The Smartest
  8. Bettye LaVette: Blackbirds
  9. Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath
  10. Zeal & Ardor: Wake of a Nation (EP)
  11. Adulkt Life: Book of Curses
  12. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  13. Florian Arbenz and Greg Osby: Reflections of The Eternal Line
  14. Little Simz: Drop 6 (EP)
  15. Dramarama: Color TV
  16. The Human Hearts: Day of The Tiles (EP)
  17. Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites
  18. X: Alphabetland 
  19. Various Artists: Memphis Concrète Presents Sound in Geometry Series, Volume 1–On Triangles
  20. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  21. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  22. Various Artists: Music for Abandoned Cold War Places
  23. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  24. Moor Jewelry: True Opera
  25. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  26. Mark Lomax II: The Last Concert–Ankh & The Tree of Live
  27. Don Vappie & Jazz Creole: The Blue Book of Storyville
  28. Mickey Guyton: Bridges (EP)
  29. Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide
  30. Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw
  31. Moses Sumney: grae
  32. Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Chicago Waves
  33. Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates
  34. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You?
  35. Alicia Keys: ALICIA
  36. Moor Mother & Billy Woods: Brass
  37. K-Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  38. 75 Dollar Bill: Live at Tubby’s
  39. Luke Stewart: Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet
  40. SAULT: Untitled (Rise)
  41. Drakeo the Ruler: Quit Rappin’
  42. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: Shaman!
  43. Juice WRLD: Legends Never Die
  44. Black Thought: Streams of Thought 3–Cane and Abel
  45. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  46. Ashley McBryde: Never Will
  47. Tyler Keith: The Last Drag
  48. City Girls: City on Lock
  49. Serengeti: With Greg from Deerhoof
  50. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
  51. Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul
  52. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  53. Julianna Barwick: Healing is a Miracle
  54. No Age: Goons Be Gone
  55. James Brandon Lewis: Molecular 
  56. Junglepussy: Jp4
  57. JD Allen: Toys / Die Dreaming
  58. Hot Country Knights: The “K” is Silent
  59. Ill Scholars: Ill Scholars
  60. Cortex: Legal Tender
  61. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  62. Lori McKenna: The Balladeer
  63. The Necks: Three
  64. Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour
  65. Steve Earle: Ghosts of West Virginia
  66. Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories–The Music of Thelonious Monk
  67. Rina Sawayama: Sawayama
  68. Bette Smith: The Good, The Bad, and The Bette
  69. Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)
  70. Al Bilali Soudan: Tombouctou
  71. Dehd: Flower of Devotion
  72. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  73. Jeannie Seely: An American Classic


  1. Various Artists: Daora–Underground Sounds of Urban Brazil
  2. Wussy: Ghosts
  3. Uncle Victor Chukwu: Akalaka / The Power
  4. Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodelico De LCV
  5. Charles Mingus: Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975
  6. Thelonious Monk: Palo Alto
  7. Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland
  8. Sharhabil Ahmed: The King of Sudanese Jazz
  9. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms 1970-1982
  10. King Ubu Orchestru: Concert at Town Hall—Binaurality Live
  11. Various Artists: Hanging Tree Guitars
  12. Pylon: Pylon Box
  13. Lee Scratch Perry w / Seskain Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo
  14. Various Artists: How the River Ganges Flows: Sublime Masterpieces of Indian Violin 1933-1952
  15. Hallelujah Chicken Run Band: Take One
  16. Various Artists: Saint Etienne Presents Songs for the Fountain Coffee Room
  17. Milford Graves & Don Pullen: The Complete Yale Concert
  18. Various Artists: Sumer is Icumen In–The Pagan Sound of British and Irish Folk 1966-1975
  19. Junior Byles: Beat Down Babylon
  20. Various Artists: Soul Love Now–The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993
  21. Various Artists: Turn Me Loose, White Man, Or, Appropriating Culture–How to Listen to American Music 1900-1960 (Allen Lowe, compiler)
  22. Various Artists: Southeast of Saturn–Michigan Shoegaze / Dream Pop / Space Rock
  23. Various Artists: Excavated Shellac–An Alternate History of the World’s Music
  24. The Awakening: Hear, Sense, and Feel
  25. Black Unity Trio: Al-Fatihah
  26. Peter Stampfel & The Bottlecaps: Demo ’84
  27. Lon Moshe and The Southern Freedom Arkestra: Love is Where the Spirit Lies
  28. Various Artists: Stone Crush–Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  29. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot–Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  30. Prince: Sign ‘o The Times (Deluxe Edition)
  31. Various Artists: Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju, and Palm Wine Music from Nigeria and Ghana)
  32. Little Richard: Southern Child
  33. Fela: Perambulator
  34. Various Artists: Black Ark Players / Black Ark in Dub
  35. Hiroshi Yoshimura: Green
  36. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria
  37. Riley (featuring Gary Stewart): Grandma’s Roadhouse
  38. The Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quartet: Spring
  39. Walter Bishop, Jr.: Coral Keys
  40. Horace Tapscott: Ancestral Echoes

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
  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
  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
  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

“I Love Women / I Think They’re Great / They’re a Solace to a World / In a Terrible State”: Living to Listen’s Picks for the Most Rewarding New Albums and Reissues of 2018 (December 28, 2018, Columbia, Missouri, Second Ward)


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I want to open by addressing two things. If you are an EOY (End-of-Year) list watcher, and you frequent this blog, you might wonder: “Hey, is he just fucking aggregating from other lists?” You’d be justified in that suspicion, but–especially if you look back across my posts in ’18–you’d be wrong. For whatever reason–coincidence, politics, the law–women simply made the most direct, from-the-gut, punch-to-the-jaw records this year, and all year long. It’s almost as if they give a shit, as well we all ought. Dudes distinguished themselves: Parquet Courts, Makaya McCraven, and Superchunk, to variously explicit and subtle degrees, seemed to acknowledge the shit that’s coming down around our ears, and if Zeal & Ardor didn’t qualify for either explicit or subtle, at least their dark roar–their sharp shtick (if it’s shtick, let it be sharp)–seemed to fit well with mornings where reading the news was like drinking from a fire hose (props to the great cartoonist John Darkow).

Looking down through my list, well–Tracey Thorn’s held the top spot for me all year. That’s especially significant in that I wasn’t previously a huge fan, nor did I know much about her 30+-year career. I’d written her off in the ’80s as being Brit-pop, which I couldn’t connect with, but, on a tip, I quickly learned that Record was euphonious, danceable, and of the moment, with its politics so personal that they never tripped up the album’s momentum. It was two things I really love: human, and whole. I’ve not gotten tired of it. Rosalia’s record has yet to be released in the States, but its combo of flamenco conventions, top-of-the-line dance-pop production, and the artist’s confident vocal exhortations are addictive. CupcaKe: I don’t blush much, but her record forces me to understand what a Puritan I still am while immersing me in pleasure as the epiphany sinks in. I’ve been a confirmed Dylanophile since ’75, and at first I overreacted to LaVette’s cover album gambit as too easy, but once her wrestling of the songs’ content into her experience became clear to my ear, I was all in. She still oversings, but not so much that she distracts from the pretty spiffy material. McCraven: I’m honestly impressed with his mix method, his style of percussion synchronizes with my personal rhythms (an achievement that I don’t take lightly), and he’s a workaholic. Sometimes I wonder whether it seduces me so well as to be a sedative, but I don’t think so. The pure beat-pleasure he produces reminds me of Tony Williams, so…yeah. A wonderful student named Juniper forced me to listen to Noname (I don’t have time to listen to everything–come on!), and as a result that artist became a daily touchstone in my comp/pop music class. Oh, and a final thing? Jazz is not dead, not by a long shot, and though I wish Nate Chinen’s great “new” book were the reason I feel that way, in actuality, Chinen’s just hit a triple off the wall rather than an upper-deck homer.

To close: while it might be fairly easy to argue that 2018 did not bring us that may iconic albums, it did bring us a dazzling array of very, very good albums shot across the bow from all directions. At no time this year did I ever feel that music was “over”–that’s such an absurd idea on its face, but there’s no shortage of adepts (even) who might make the argument. Now–if this damn country would just snap to, and live up to its aural art. I’m not holding my breath.

In Bold: THE TESTED-BY-HEAVY-REPS TOP 25 (after those, all bets are off)

Listen to a YouTube Playlist of selections from the below via a previous post.

  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Rosalia: El Mal Querer
  3. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  4. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  5. Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
  6. Noname: Room 25
  7. Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings
  8. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel
  9. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  10. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  11. Pusha T: Daytona
  12. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
  13. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher
  14. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  15. Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer
  16. JD Allen: Love Stone
  17. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  18. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldiers: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  19. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  20. Cloud Nothings: Last Building Burning
  21. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  22. Tierra Whack: Whack World
  23. Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon
  24. JLin: Autobiography (Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography)
  25. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  26. Nidia: Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida
  27. Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours
  28. Blood Orange: Negro Swan
  29. The Internet: Hive Mind
  30. Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune
  31. SOPHIE: The Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides
  32. Maria Muldaur: Don’t You Feel My Leg—The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blu Lu Barker
  33. Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties
  34. Daniel Carter: Seraphic Light
  35. The Necks: Body
  36. Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy
  37. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  38. James Brandon Lewis: Radiant Imprints
  39. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  40. boygenius: EP
  41. Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh: Sparrow Nights
  42. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  43. Lisbon Freedom Unit: Praise of Our Folly
  44. Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya
  45. The Goon Sax: We’re Not Talking
  46. Lyrics Born: Quite a Life
  47. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  48. Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation
  49. Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz
  50. Chhoti Maa: Agua Corre
  51. Tallowit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo
  52. Knife Knights: 1 Time Mirage
  53. Angelika Niescier: The Berlin Concert
  54. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  55. Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts
  56. Robyn: Honey
  57. Tyshawn Sorey: Pillars
  58. Chhoti Maa: Caldo de Hueso
  59. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  60. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs
  61. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  62. Teyana Taylor: S.E.
  63. Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs
  64. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  65. Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt: Brace Up!
  66. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  67. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  68. Lori McKenna: The Tree
  69. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
  70. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  71. Makaya McCraven: Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape)
  72. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  73. Wussy: What Heaven is Like
  74. Andrew Cyrille: Lebroba
  75. Ken Vandermark / Klaus Kugel / Mark Tokar: No-Exit Corner
  76. Tal National: Tantabara
  77. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  78. Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics
  79. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  80. Charge It to The Game: House with a Pool
  81. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  82. Myra Melford: The Other Side of Air
  83. Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death in Meatspace
  84. The Beths: The Future Hates Me
  85. Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave
  86. Sidi Toure: Toubalbero
  87. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  88. Heather Leigh: Throne
  89. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  90. Becky Warren: Undesirable
  91. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag
  92. Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild!
  93. Chief Keef: The Kozart
  94. Mitski: Be the Cowboy
  95. The Thing: Again
  96. Young Mothers: Morose
  97. The Carters: Everything is Love
  98. Sleep: The Sciences
  99. Serengeti: Dennis 6e
  100. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper
  101. Kelela: Take Me Apart—The Remixes
  102. Wynton Marsalis & Friends: United We Swing–Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas
  103. La Maison Noir: The Black House
  104. Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories
  105. Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  106. Full Blast: Live in Rio
  107. Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed
  108. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  109. Bombino: Deran
  110. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: An Angel Fell
  111. Sarayah: Feel the Vibe
  112. Nas: Nasir
  113. Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse
  114. Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited
  115. Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)
  116. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  117. Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar meets Elite Beat In a Budget Dancehall
  118. Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing
  119. Mudhoney: Digital Garbage
  120. Kiefer: happysad
  121. Freddie Gibbs: Freddie
  122. Don Flemons: Black Cowboy
  123. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  124. Shopping: The Official Body
  125. Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid
  126. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  127. Shame: Songs of Praise
  128. Henry Threadgill: .and More Dirt
  129. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  130. Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
  131. The Coup: Soundtrack to the Film Sorry to Bother You
  132. ALLBLACK & Kenny Beats: Two-Minute Drills
  133. Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco: You’re Driving Me Crazy
  134. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  135. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  136. Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): History of Nothing
  137. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  138. Tirzah: Devotion
  139. The Chills: Snowbound
  140. Ambrose Akinmusire: Origami Harvest
  141. Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil
  142. Big Freedia: Third Ward Bounce
  143. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  144. Busdriver: Electricity Is On Our Side
  145. Lonnie Holley: MITH
  146. Del McCoury Band: Del McCoury Still Plays Bluegrass
  147. Migos: Culture II
  148. La Luz: Floating Features
  149. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  150. The English Beat: Here We Go Love
  151. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  152. Santigold: I Don’t Want—The Gold Fire Sessions
  153. Kasey Musgraves: Golden Hour
  154. Meek Mill: Championships
  155. DJ Juan Data: Ritmos Crotos, Volume 1


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  1. Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940
  2. Various Artists: The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions
  3. Dead Moon (2LPs, 1 book)
  4. The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles
  5. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  6. Various Artists: Feelin’ Right Saturday Night–The Ric & Ron Anthology
  7. Lee Dorsey: Night People
  8. Danny Barker: “Tootie Ma Was Big Fine Thing” / “Corrinne Died on the Battlefield” and “Indian Red” / “Chocko Mo Feendo Hey”
  9. Willie Nelson: Things to Remember—The Pamper Demos
  10. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  11. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  12. Charles Mingus: Jazz in Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden
  13. Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Music from the Original Motion Picture)
  14. Various Artists: Amarcord Nino Rota
  15. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  16. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  17. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  18. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms
  19. Joe McPhee: Nation Time
  20. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  21. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  22. Prince: A Piano and a Microphone
  23. Various Artists: Oxford American, North Carolina Music Issue, 2018
  24. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  25. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  26. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  27. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  28. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  29. Wussy: Getting Better
  30. Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks—The Bootleg Series, Volume 14
  31. Milford Graves: Babi
  32. Power Trip: Opening Fire–2008-2014
  33. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  34. Various Artists: The Beginning of the End
  35. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  36. Various Artists: Two Niles to Sing a Melody—The Violins & Synths of Sudan
  37. Neil Young: Songs for Judy
  38. Joe McPhee: One Day…A Lightning Storm
  39. Dur Dur of Somalia: 1, Vol. 2
  40. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie 1964-1974
  41. Feeling Kreyol: Las Pale
  42. Various Artists: Hillbillies in Hell
  43. Bruce Springsteen: No Nukes Concert
  44. John Prine: Live in Asheville ’86
  45. Various Artists: The Contempo Story

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!)


  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


  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

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