August Augury: 67% Exhausted, The End of The End of the Decade Finds a Second Breeze

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Warm Takes

I originally did not buy Lana Del Rey‘s set-up. The nostalgia, iconography, and icon-checks (I liked the dark tinge, but I just didn’t trust it); the tempos; the (somewhat) whispery delivery and sexy presentation (what’s wrong with sexy? I don’t truss it!); the desperation and decadence: the machine seemed built to manipulate. However, friends encouraged me to keep listening, and eventually her strange combination of deviance, sincerity, and trap-springing won me over last year as I consumed her oeuvre up to that point at very close listening range. The new one? She seems to have perfected that combo, the record just sounds magnificent, and the times have further lent themselves to draining one of fucks to give (and that’s scary, actually). Big winner for me–might just move up.

 

There may not be a better-named MC in rap than Rapsody. Her Eve is a tour de force of checklist skillz, and the tribute concept make the album an excellent pairing with Jamila Woods’ r & b version of the same.

Sheer Mag? Rock and FUCKING roll! Fresh and energetic at that! A friend joked that it was a Judas Priest album but that is a compliment right now.

No long-term observer of Raphael Saadiq would deny that the fellow is criminally talented. But from the Tonies through his collaborations and two solo joints, he’s never seemed to me to really get it all together–his career reminds me a bit of Bobby Womack. But the more personal nature of Jimmy Lee‘s songs and its consistent and dynamic flow may mean he’s finally really nailed it. I think he has.

I trust if you’re reading this, you are aware of Poland’s swing to the right, especially in its attitude toward its LGBTQIA population. If you have $50 to donate as the calendar flips, think about trying the 122-track electronic pig-out compilation Total Solidarity. It’s angry, the artists mean it, man, the quality’s hella consistent–and you can dance to it.

And now…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of August 31, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  6. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  7. Rapsody: Eve
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  15. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  16. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  17. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  18. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  19. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  20. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  21. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  22. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  23. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  24. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  25. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  26. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  27. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  28. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  29. Sote: Parallel Persia
  30. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  31. Quelle Chris: Guns
  32. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  33. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  34. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  35. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  36. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  37. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  38. Senyawa: Sujud*
  39. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  40. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  41. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  42. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  43. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  44. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  45. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  46. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  47. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  48. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  49. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  50. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  51. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  52. GoldLink: Diaspora
  53. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  54. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  55. G & D: Black Love & War
  56. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  57. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  58. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  59. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  60. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  61. Resavoir: Resavoir
  62. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  63. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  64. JD Allen: Barracoon
  65. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  66. Youssou N’Dour: History
  67. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  68. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  69. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  70. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  71. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  72. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  73. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  74. Nots: 3
  75. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  76. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  77. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  78. Santana: Africa Speaks
  79. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  80. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  81. Fennesz: Agora
  82. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  83. Robert Forster: Inferno
  84. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  85. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  86. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  87. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  88. Solange: When I Get Home
  89. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  90. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  91. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  92. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  93. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  94. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  95. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  96. slowthai: Great About Britain
  97. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  98. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  99. Mekons: Deserted
  100. Que Vola: Que Vola
  101. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  102. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  103. Hama: Houmeissa
  104. Steve Earle: Guy
  105. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  106. Ill Considered: 5
  107. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  108. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  109. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  110. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  111. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  112. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  113. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  114. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  115. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  6. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  7. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  8. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  9. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  10. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  11. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  12. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  13. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  14. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  15. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  16. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  17. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  18. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  19. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  20. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  21. Prince: Originals
  22. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  23. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  24. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  25. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  26. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  27. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  28. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  29. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

Seven Long Months: 100+ Slabs of Aural Awesomeness Released in Nerve-Wracking ’19

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Honestly, folks: so much good music for the times lies in wait for you out there–right now. If you’re having beers or cocktails with someone who’s mourning the days when music was really, good man, do me a favor: fart in their general direction. And blast some Mexstep or Balvin/Bunny in their faces.

Blurt re: new developments.

1) Mexstep’s Resistir came out in December ’18 but I’m claiming it for ’19. Dude behind “the mask” is a college professor I’d love to sit in with, but he can rhyme and write. I’m tired of this national bullshit and this album is bracing for your earhole. Dig:

2) I fucking love freely improvised music–jazz just doesn’t describe it anymore. I’m of Dutch heritage and I spent most of the month listening to the thinking person’s ICP (that’s Instant Composers Pool, homeslice), and damned if July didn’t deliver multiple new albums by artists working in this niche. It’s not escapist, it’s not hummable, but when I engage with it, it keeps me in the moment and matches the buzzing of my nerve endings. To wit, items #32, 63, and 64. Here, try some:

3) Anyone notice this is a stellar year for rap music? I have. Little Simz, Gibbs ‘n’ ‘lib, South African Queen Blakrok, fuckin’ 2 Chainz!, Woods ‘n’ Segal, Esq., Maxo Kream, Balvin / Bunny, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, and–I am sorry to break from the contemporary wisdom, but I know good shit when I hear it–Chance (come on, admit it: even his big fans are too ready to jump his ass, but it’s a justifiably sunny piece of work loosed upon overcast days).

4) Hellllllooooooo Cleveland!!!! Impressive new Ubu (can you believe David Thomas has forced his art to work for almost 50 years?) and a Peter Laughner box that even cognoscenti were doubting, but which intelligently honors a complicated subject. I was a doubter, and it revelated me.

5) As far as archival finds go, under the radar shimmers a UA rareties collection of tracks by the world’s greatest country singer, George Jones, which should not be missed by anyone who isn’t on the Bear Family mailing list. Also, if you’re a jazz fan of B+ intensity or higher, you might want to check out the work of Brit sax, flute, and vibe maven Tubby Hayes, whose ’69 Fontana Records session called Grits, Beans, and Greens just came to the surface. None other than Rahsaan Roland Kirk annointed him, so don’t just trust me. And we’re in a UK jazz moment, doncha know.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 31st, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  15. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  16. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  17. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  18. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  19. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  20. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  21. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  22. Senyawa: Sujud*
  23. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  24. Sote: Parallel Persia
  25. Quelle Chris: Guns
  26. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  27. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  28. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  29. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  30. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  31. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  32. Leila Bourdreuil / Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads
  33. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  34. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  35. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  36. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  37. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  38. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  39. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  40. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  41. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  42. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  43. GoldLink: Diaspora
  44. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  45. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  46. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  47. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  48. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  49. Resavoir: Resavoir
  50. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  51. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  52. JD Allen: Barracoon
  53. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  54. Youssou N’Dour: History
  55. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  56. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  57. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  58. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  59. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  60. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  61. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  62. Nots: 3
  63. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  64. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  65. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  66. Santana: Africa Speaks
  67. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  68. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  69. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  70. Fennesz: Agora
  71. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  72. Robert Forster: Inferno
  73. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  74. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  75. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  76. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  77. Solange: When I Get Home
  78. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  79. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  80. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  81. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  82. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  83. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  84. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  85. slowthai: Great About Britain
  86. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  87. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  88. Mekons: Deserted
  89. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  90. Que Vola: Que Vola
  91. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  92. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  93. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  94. Hama: Houmeissa
  95. Steve Earle: Guy
  96. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  97. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  98. Ill Considered: 5
  99. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  100. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  101. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  102. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  103. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  104. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  105. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  106. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  107. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  108. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  109. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  110. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  5. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  6. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  7. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  8. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  9. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  10. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  11. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  12. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  13. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  14. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  15. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  16. Prince: Originals
  17. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  18. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  19. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  20. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  21. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  22. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  23. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

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

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

Top 10 Music-Related Moments of My Month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s that?”

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 3rd, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

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

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  4. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  5. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  6. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  7. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  8. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  9. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  10. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  11. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  12. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  13. Prince: Originals
  14. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  15. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  16. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  17. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  18. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  19. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  20. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

“It’s Old, But It’s Good”: 10 Hoary Music-Makers I’ve Been Bewitched by Lately

The faster the wheels of technology whirr, the more I fear (or resent?) that “old things” will be ground to dust in the gears. Perhaps I’m an ignatz, but I’ve always approached any awesome tunes I’ve heard as permanent fixtures in my life, and the makers of those tunes as people to stay connected with, to root for, and watch. “Because I Got High”? YES. Toussaint McCall? YES. I’m just not quick to discard (I feel the same way about humans I actually know). I tend to hold these things close for a good long while, aiming for forever, whatever that means. On my lips, at the end, my version of “Rosebud!,” even if I will be 40 years past the minting of this line: “I may not live past 21 / But ohhhhhhh–what a way to die!!!!”

Thus I’m dedicated to the old shit, as well as the new. It’s ritualistic. In any given week, I’ll have knelt at the altar of the verities many times. Just as a for-instance, here are the gods and goddesses that have compelled me over the past week, with a brief, I hope not too glib line of commentary:

Mary Lou Williams: from the late ’20s all the way through the ’70s, this Pittsburgh-born piano genius wrote, arranged, and rocked the keys across almost every jazz style–and vied in public with the fierce force known as Cecil Taylor.

Jimmy Rushing: like Williams a musician who came through and left his mark on Missouri, he was a singer for whom ebullience was a given. That’s no small compliment in my book; facing the apocalypse, I’d take him over Big Joe Turner.

Blood and Fire Records: I’m not sure of the label’s present state of fortitude, but Steve Barrow (and assorted others) gloriously succeeded in fully representing the full canon of Seventies reggae and dub–y’heard of Yabby You, Sylford Walker, Keith Hudson, or Niney? Or know the difference between the I-“boys”? I thought not.

Rosalia: Yeah, homey, I know she’s only 25, but she didn’t come out of know-where. She’s so bewitched me recently I’ve had to scour the past for her singles and collabs, and they are not temporary things.

Excello Records: Thought I’d heard what I needed to hear from this Nashville-fed-by-Louisiana blues-soul-gospel-r&b label, but dear lord I was mistaken. Read a book on the subject recently and was led to discover that all three of the label’s Heart of Southern Soul volumes are pretty essential. Humble, but transcendently so in many cases.

Joy Division: I will confess to having had quietly but deeply dark moods since my teenhood, and thus Ian Curtis always made sense to me. But Jon Savage’s recent oral history of his band revealed just how normal the whole enterprise actually was. Nonetheless, Curtis’ nakedness resounds, and will continue to.

Hank Thompson: One of the four great Fifties Hanks (Williams, Penny, and Snow being the others), Thompson was the most warmly fun-loving and regular-guy-ish–and the second-most fecund.

Cabaret Voltaire: I unfairly scoffed at many un-punk British bands of the ’80s, but I always wondered if their rousing Rough Trade Wanna Buy a Bridge? placing, “Nag Nag Nag,” augured other glories. Turns out, maybe-kinda.

Ice-T: The man’s moved on from hip-hop, but somehow, as much success as he found in its practice, I feel he has come to be underrated. Assured, inventive, astute, provocative, and in love with a story, he remains a master MC in the rap pantheon. I once used this song in a 10th grade English class and we talked about it for two periods.

Sir Shina Peters: I thought King Sunny Ade was the end-all in Nigeria juju. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong.

Why do I have to be tipsy in a hotel room to write?

 

 

 

 

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

 

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My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of June 3, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

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

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  4. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  5. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  6. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  7. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  8. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  9. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  10. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 New Release Honor Roll

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

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  4. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  5. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  6. Belton Richard: The Essential Cajun Music Collection, Volume 2

Productive Distractions (aka Those Damn Pages)

It’s a good bet that, if I haven’t posted for awhile, I’ve been reading more than usual. For me, usual is constantly, and I have been reading more than constantly, whatever the adverb for that is. Much of my reading has concerned music, and I’d recommend pretty much all of it.

Mott

Ian Hunter’s long-unavailable Diary of a Rock and Roll Star has recently been released by Omnibus in a new edition. I’d long wanted to read it, but either couldn’t find or afford a used copy.  Finally in my grip, it lived up to my sustained high expectations–it even surprised me. Hunter’s frequently very funny: picture the writer and singer of “Sea Diver” sweeping up a minefield of cat-grunt in his flat before he catches his flight to the U.S. He’s very insightful: about the early-Seventies U. S. landscape, about the record biz, about stardom, about band chemistry. He’s got a killer eye: when action slows, his detailed observation of his surroundings can frequently make relative stasis stimulating. And–particularly if you picture him behind glitter, guitar and shades–he’s charmingly mature (his wife was frequently present, so there’s that, but even so he convincingly view groupies as an annoyance and at one point weaponizes them in a prank on the group’s roadies). It’s a real compliment to his talent as a journalist (of sorts) that, despite the fact that he references his bowel movements–travel sucks!–as often as substance indulgence, its pages move the reader forward pretty contagiously.

Most relevant to this blog, it clears my bar for music books: a) it sent me straight back to Mott’s music (I’m still stuck on it even though I finished the book weeks ago), and b) it cost me money–I sprang (rather impulsively, since I duplicated much I already owned) for both the new early-Mott Mental Train six-disc box set and (rather thoughtlessly, since I had digital copies of each, and since…CDs) CD copies of Mott and All the Young Dudes. I’m a hopeless victim of consumerism, but at least I’m celebrating art while in those chains. I could be a bit more stoopid….

 

abdurraqib_7200_cvr_blurb

It’s really too early for me to write about the above sure-to-be-classic because I am still in its thrall. I love Abdurraqib’s two previous books, one a collection of poetry (The Crown Ain’t Worth Much), the other a collection of essays (They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us), both of which showcase the author’s unique skill at not only absorbing and expressing the very particular fears and pain of being a person of color in these United States right now, but also revealing how his fellow artists do the same. Few current writers explain more viscerally how great music opens out, explains, challenges, and buffers the world its audience lives in–he’s one of the best music writers alive (the terms “reviewer” or “critic” don’t do him justice). This is a stray thought I haven’t wrestled fully enough with, but in some ways he is the literary point person for the relatively new strain of openly emotional, frequently depressive wave of r & b, dance, and rap that I associate with Khalid, The Internet, and Ben LaMar Gay, to name just a few. It’s quite possible this subgenre’s been named and I just haven’t caught up, but its emergence is absolutely unsurprising, given the world as Abdurraqib describes it.

ANYHOW, in Go Ahead in The Rain, which stands strong as a ATCQ primer on its most basic level, Abdurraqib extends the above strengths even further. If you’ve ever cared about how the members of your favorite band cared about each other, how they managed to work together and pool their distinctly different talents to create lasting art, those moments and bands will be conjured as you read. If you’ve ever gravitated to and held on to a band like a life-preserver when you feared your world would swamp you, you’ll be transported back to those crises. If you ever took a band’s dissolution personally–if you ever felt a break-up like a gut-punch, and if you ever knew such a phenomenon meant more than just what it was–you’ll feel much less than a fanboy/girl after this (that is, if you ever did). But don’t get the impression from the nostalgic tint and past tense verbs of that sentence-spew that Go Ahead in The Rain is a lament for the better days (and beats and rhymes) long gone. The presence in the world of Tribe’s last album, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, released with shocking timeliness in November of 2016, will hover in the reader’s mind (if s/he knows it, of course, but if s/he doesn’t–what the fuck???) through the first three-quarters of the book, and when it touches down in Abdurraqib’s pages–well, I had to gather myself a bit before I proceeded. Note: fans of the author will not be surprise that the ghost of Leonard Cohen wafts into these proceedings.

It’s tangentially related, but don’t expect Abdurraqib to condemn so-called “mumble rap.” If you’ve read his past work, it’s hard to imagine you would, but this book’s title might make you wonder. What he does have to say about that subgenre is as eloquent and redemptive as anything I’ve read on the subject. It’s common sense, really, but they say such a thing has taken wing.

Go Ahead in The Rain is a damn good book. A great one. Mine was a library copy–I finished it, returned it, and went and bought a copy to keep and re-read. That’s my review, really.

May2019-OFC

Don’t ask me why I took me until this year for me to subscribe to The Wire because it’s right up my (but possibly not your) alley. I have read shared articles from the London-based magazine for years, most of which I’ve enjoyed, but was never moved to actually do the deep dive. To put it simply, The Wire is very seriously devoted to music that’s experimental or otherwise very much out of the ol’ main stream. Also put simply, it overwhelms me. Some of my few readers may wonder how I stay on top of what I already struggle to stay on top of; this invaluable resources always immediately reminds me that too much exciting music is being made for anyone to stay on top of–ever.

To the point of this entry, though, the current issue features spectacularly informative articles about two acts (for lack of a better word) I already loved but clearly needed to know more about: the First Nations artists Tanya Tagaq (article by Phil England) and A Tribe Called Red (article by Marcus Boon). Each piece provided thrilling revelations: I have Tagaq’s recently-published memoir, Split Tooth, on the way, and I’ve repeat-played the two ATCR albums I didn’t even know about several times this week. In addition, tucked away in the ATCR piece was a reference to the “Cypress Hill-influenced” Native American rap group piquantly named Snotty Nose Rez Kids. Turns out this relatively new crew has two very fucking good records out, with a 2018 single on Apple Music portending a third. Then there’s Jeremy Dutcher, basically an Indian classical musician hollering back at old wax cylinder recordings. If you don’t read The Wire and you’re a seeker, best get on board. It’s pretty cheap if you go digital, but it would be worth the price if you wanted a hard copy.

Sample a playlist of First Nations brilliance.