Home Stretch: The Best Records of 2018, with One Month to Go (December 2, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

 

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I feel like my life has been too hectic lately even for music. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, life…death: the month of November was a massive waved that washed over me and left me lying here on December’s shore. I might have written about music had any event really taken form; even my college pop music students were busy doing research, so not much entertaining (certainly from their perspective) was going in the ivory yurt. Upon reflection, at least these moments remain fairly vivid:

My wife and I listened to a ’50s/’60s blues playlist I made for her throughout our trip to my parents’ for Thanksgiving and back. Nicole: “I am just in love with the sound of this period of blues–the electricity, the voices, the power.” I cannot say I disagree. The playlist mixes icons like the above gentleman with characters from the shadows, many of them captured on great compilations like Super Rare Electric Blues 60s Era and Scratchin’: The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story.

I have been positively addicted to the music of Catalonia’s nuevo flamenco firebrand Rosalia. Her voice is powerful, the rhythms that support it–especially on her recent El Mal Quererare intoxicating and blood-quickening, and she seems better able than any artist I’ve seriously bent an ear to this year to chase demons out. A measure of my love and respect for this record is that I just ordered the vinyl–from Spain.

A week ago today, the Columbia, Missouri, rapper featured above died under circumstances that remain shadowy, though the local sheriff’s department says that, as indicated in its ongoing investigation, he was shot while perpetrating an armed robbery. I’ve known the kid since 2010, I was his teacher for 180 days, I’ve witnessed and heard testimony to his evolution into a positive force for good in our community, and, while he may have been up to something (and very well may not have), it wasn’t robbery. Whatever it was, as a friend says, Columbia now has a hole that is going to be hard to fill. The first essay he wrote for me, in August of 2010, detailed–really, in classical style–his journey through dangerous street episodes to an understanding that he had the charisma, skills, and energy to devote to positive change in his home city. The last eight years have provided plenty of evidence that he was evolving even further, but now we’ll never know. I’m pouring out a pint glass of white-man juicy haze IPA onto the curb for you, Ahmonta Harris–I know you will appreciate the mischief. Read more about who he was here.

Also, I have either being lazy or desperate or both in rescuing and “repurposing” on this blog some old, old pieces I once wrote under the nom de plume of “The Reverend Wayne Coomers” during the first half of the ‘Oughts, for a website I invented and commandeered called The First Church of Holly Rock and Roll. I actually wrote sermons. At one point, I even had a staff (here’s a notable contributor’s section). And we were very highly-principled. Check ’em out if you’d like a chuckle before they disappear.

 

Which brings me to this facile undertaking: tweaked oh-so-delicately from last month, 150 albums from this calendar year I pronounce “very good” (think of their grades as 86.5% or better, and fuck your charges of grade inflation–this is pop music!) and 35 issues of old music (some of it which has appeared before, some just excavated) that are also B-plussy. I know: you’re saying to yourself, “11 female acts in your Top 20, man? Sure you’re not letting the politics of the moment bleed into your critical acumen?” Yeah, I’m sure. It’s simply the music that moves me the most, that I’ve listened to the most, and if the moment is moving me, well, that’s life. Plus, I’m honestly evolving critically anyway, and I have the good fortune not to have to be done yet.

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

OLD MUSIC NICELY REPACKAGED OR SIMPLY REISSUED

  1. Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940
  2. Dead Moon (2LPs, 1 book)
  3. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  4. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  5. Danny Barker: “Tootie Ma Was Big Fine Thing” / “Corrinne Died on the Battlefield” and “Indian Red” / “Chocko Mo Feendo Hey”
  6. Willie Nelson: Things to Remember—The Pamper Demos
  7. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  8. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  9. Charles Mingus: Jazz in Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden
  10. Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Music from the Original Motion Picture)
  11. Prince: A Piano and a Microphone
  12. Various Artists: Amarcord Nino Rota
  13. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  14. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  15. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  16. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms
  17. Joe McPhee: Nation Time
  18. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  19. Various Artists: Oxford American, North Carolina Music Issue, 2018
  20. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  21. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  22. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  23. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  24. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  25. Wussy: Getting Better
  26. Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks—The Bootleg Series, Volume 14
  27. Milford Graves: Babi
  28. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  29. Various Artists: The Beginning of the End
  30. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  31. Various Artists: Two Niles to Sing a Melody—The Violins & Synths of Sudan
  32. Feeling Kreyol: Las Pale
  33. Neil Young: Songs for Judy
  34. Joe McPhee: One Day…A Lightning Storm
  35. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie 1964-1974

“Baby, I’m Scared of You”: A Halloween Playlist! Plus: Best Records of ’18, 83% of the Way Through This Mess

Please ramp up your Halloween anxiety with this YouTube playlist of my favorite scary records! It’s not meant to be comprehensive–these are the ones we regularly blast out into the street when we await trick-or-treaters in the driveway, a firepot in front of us and libations beside us (tonight: a single barrel Four Roses). It’s heavy on Roky, Dead Moon, The Cramps, and Screamin’ Jay, but it ranges into punk, rap, jazz, and country, too.

Halloween

 

Also, what would the end of the month be without an OCD update of my favorite records released this year? It’s been an outstanding one: after thinning the herd in September, I’m back up to 135 records I’d give a B+ or better to if they were my students (some of ’em do grow on you over time!). My list of reissues is up to 25 from 20 for those of you who range across the years or just think music’s been over for awhile. Sad to say, some new records (particularly the new Cloud Nothings) have not made it to my inner ear yet, but I got a sneakyloo listen to the new Pistol Annies and I’m betting heavy on that.

Overeem’s “Best of 2018,” two months from New Year’s

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

OLD MUSIC NICELY REPACKAGED

  1. Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940
  2. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  3. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  4. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  5. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  6. Prince: A Piano and a Microphone
  7. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  8. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  9. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  10. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms
  11. Joe McPhee: Nation Time
  12. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  13. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  14. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  15. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  16. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  17. Kuniyuki Takahashi: Early Tape Works 1986 – 1993 Volume 1
  18. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  19. Wussy: Getting Better
  20. Milford Graves: Babi
  21. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  22. Various Artists: The Beginning of the End
  23. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  24. Various Artists: Two Niles to Sing a Melody—The Violins & Synths of Sudan
  25. Feeling Kreyol: Las Pale

“The Rhythm, The Rebel!” (June 17th, 2018, Monett, MO)

Since I’m on va-cay and out of pocket, I’m departing from my newly-established Sunday ritual of Spotifying the week’s listening and sharing another project I’m working on that might benefit and enlighten you and me.

I’m two chapters into Chris Weingarten’s so-far stellar 33 1/3 offering on Public Enemy’s Nation of Millions. I’ve read a passel of ’em; this is vying for my favorite, though it’s perhaps a shade too glib and overwritten. One neat thing Weingarten does is focus on the construction process behind a highly constructed album that, due to the profusion of samples the Bomb Squad layered in, couldn’t conceivably be made today, even by a moneybags like Jay Z.

What I decided to do was, chapter by chapter, include all the sample sources, influential tracks, and highlights in a YouTube playlist as a reading supplement. Needless to say, it’s under construction, but it’s already 29 tracks deep and is enjoyable independent of the book.

For our edification, enjoyment, or both:

Aaaaaand…this week’s awards!

Plucked from History’s Dustbin (best recent purchase of an old record): Everything But The Girl’s Amplified Heart.

Grower, Not a Shower (old record I already owned that’s risen in my esteem): Bettye LaVette’s relatively new Things Have Changed.

Encore, Encore! (album I played at least twice this week): Big Youth’s Screaming Target.

Through the Cracks (sweet record I forgot to write about): Busdriver’s Electricity is On Our Side.

Songwriters’ Special (May 8th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Nothing special on this day–other than the songs. I experienced a sudden craving for pithy, 2-to-3-minute country songs, which sometimes get crowded out by my striving to hear everything, stay on top of new releases, and the ascension of jazz as my musical respite of choice. Used to be, around here, that every weekend, especially Saturdays and Sundays, country was always on the box; the friends we saw regularly were also dedicated to the stuff, as well as drinking beer and yelling along with songs. We’re older, busier, and many of our boon companions are raising kids. As well, though there’s plenty of good country songwriting, the singers seem safer–better for them, not so much for the music, and us.

I guess I experienced a flash of reminiscence and had to go back to the well. And in the well was some golden elixir: tales told by a gravedigger suddenly $40 poorer, a daughter realizing that time’s snatched her mourning, a Stetson-less Texan who’s just as big as you are, a heartbroken lover demanding the taverns close so his baby can’t get in, a rounder whose eighth-grade education doesn’t mean he was born yesterday, a leather-clad redhead whom Death gifts a motorcycle, a murderous cuckold lost in the cave of his crime, a scared greenhorn who can’t find the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge…that’s just scratching the surface, but how can one resist their stories.

I’ve prepared a playlist with some highlights. The singers aren’t always the songwriters, but in those cases the songwriters show up as singers later in the playlist. I recommend this to readers who think they don’t like country, or who are startin’ to hate country (but still love cowboy songs).

Short-shrift Division:

Free jazz I find hard to shake. I listened to the whole of David S. Ware’s Live in The World: three discs of sweeping, dramatic music within which Ware and his pianist Matthew Shipp vie to snatch your heart out of your chest. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard this band take “The Way We Were” into the cosmos; they also push Sonny Rollins’ “Freedom Suite” off the edge of the planet, and Ware’s own “Aquarian Sound” and “Mikuro’s Blues” hold their own with both. A terrific intro to a tenor saxophonist who was gone too soon (the artistic offspring of Ben Webster and Pharoah Sanders!) and a classic quartet that was fairly inarguably the turn of the century version of Trane’s. No shit.

Literary/Photographic Note:

Billie Holiday fans are directed to check out Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill, a collection of Dantzic’s 1957 photographs of Holiday assembled by Dantzic’s son Grayson. The book opens with a blazing Zadie Smith story in which she inhabits Holiday’s gone soul and looks back on its final days; I advise listening to Smith read it–the inhabitation reaches beyond the written word. Half of Dantzic’s photos capture the singer so incandescently that it’s unfathomable that she’d be dead within the next year; the other half suggest that a termite loneliness is eating her from within. A haunting collection.

Many Things, Uncompromised–My Favorite Records of 2018, A Third the Way Out (April 28th, 2018)

Damn–50 solid records already and we ain’t half finished? I’d say that’s a solid rebuke to the sourpusses who are ever pronouncing our music a corpse. And I’d go a mite further and say the list also incorporates a rebuke to those knicker-twisted souls who are wondering when our music is gonna take on, you know, the thing–several of the slabs listed below do so and how, without spoiling their sounds (politics can do that, you know). Take a dive into something below that’s mysterious, I invite you.

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  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart
  3. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  4. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  5. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  6. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  7. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  8. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  9. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldier: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  10. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  11. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  12. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  13. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  14. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  15. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  16. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  17. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  18. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  19. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  20. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  21. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  22. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  23. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  24. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  25. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  26. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  27. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  28. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  29. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  30. Shopping: The Official Body
  31. Ebo Taylor: Yen Ara
  32. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn: Octopus
  33. Tal National: Tantabara
  34. Shame: Songs of Praise
  35. Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens
  36. David Murray (featuring Saul Williams): Blues for Memo
  37. Rich Krueger: Life Ain’t That Long
  38. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  39. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  40. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  41. Tallawit Timbouctou: Takamba WhatsApp 2018
  42. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  43. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  44. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  45. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  46. Superorganism: Superorganism
  47. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  48. Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet: Landfall
  49. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  50. Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyio

OLD MUSIC NICELY REPACKAGED

  1. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  2. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  3. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  4. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  5. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  6. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  7. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie

A Playlist of the Top 30 or So

Oh…and fuck Kanye West.

Square and Straight (April 26th, 2018, Columbia, MO)p

I believe today was the third time I’ve listened to to this record in 2018. I’ve worn it out over the years, and 36 years since I first was able to lay my hands on it–it was out of print during my formative years–my enthusiasm for it is undimmed. For a time, it was my least favorite of the four regular-issue “true Velvets” studio albums (plus the deep, deep desert-island-pick 1969 Velvet Underground Live): I used to feel Nico’s presence and the last two tracks really marred it, as well as that Lou’s writing was far improved by The Velvet Underground and Loaded. In fact, I wondered why it seemed to be the most famous VU album of them all–they clearly got better, right?

My love for The Velvet Underground and Nico has evolved. Though my musical tastes are very wide-ranging, and though I have a hunger for any work of art about unexplored and taboo territory– epater la bourgeoisie, bring it on!–I am honestly one of the squarest, straightest dudes on the planet. The mere existence of BDSM culture makes me giggle; I’d never shoot anything into my arm (gimme a beer!); I’ve never encountered a dealer except for a few brief seconds up the street from Poe’s old walk-up in Baltimore (I giggled and waved him away); my gender and sexual identities might as well be birthmarks (for the record, sometimes I think they actually are for us, but sometimes most definitely not). I guess what I’m saying is, though I love Lou’s writing in general, and on this album appreciate its expressions of remorse, compassion, insecurity, desperation, catharsis, and epiphany, I’m definitely not as stimulated by the subject matter he presents on this album as I used to be. I also used to think his artistic persona was the pinnacle of cool, and that the personae he created for his songs were pure genius; just engaging with those inventive illusions was extremely exciting, since I had a slim chance of meeting such folks in reality. I am not demeaning these past enthusiasms–they are the output of genius, a genius I still think had more amazing creations ahead.

What I go to The Velvet Underground and Nico for these days is the noise, from Cale’s celeste on “Sunday Morning” to Nico’s three drones (I don’t hear them as singing, I hear them as pure sound) to my favorite rhythm guitars in music history (true for me throughout this group’s recordings) to the breaking glass and vacuum cleaner-like sounds in “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” Threaded throughout: that ominous Cale viola–on “Venus in Furs,” it sounds as if it’s advance fanfare for Yeats “rough beast” slouching toward Bethlehem. It’s the sound that’s most exciting, and most original, especially since its abrasions, distortions, and explosions are integrated into palatable pop structures (for the most part), including a Motown rip. I usually get up to turn up the stereo when “Death Song” and “European Son” approach; I admit I used to skip that pair fairly frequently, and now they’re fave raves.

More than anything else on this immortal record, the noises are what meaningfully jolt me out of myself these days. Pure pleasure might be counterrevolutionary; does that mean impure pleasure is revolutionary? In this case, the impurities are those committed against euphony, an artistic crime I’ve come to treasure that reminds me of the limits of a square and straight ear.

Roky

I also spent some time with Restless Records’ You’re Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson. Though it does not include Roky’s groundbreaking work with The 13th Floor Elevators, it’s a neat, well-selected single-disc tour of the man’s demented but often moving solo work. I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again: Erickson is in the top strata of history’s white rock and roll singers–yep, he belongs with Jerry Lee, Elvis…name your own top four and just add this Austinian. His range extended from blood-curdling screams to sweet, lullabye-like Hollyisms; in the spaces between, he could drive an uptempo number to a Little Richard-level intensity, and always present was a hint of his Texas drawl–don’t you like to hear place in a singer’s attack? None of those qualities would have mattered much if he didn’t also write indelible, dream-invading songs that would have occurred to no one else. I imagine most folks would chalk up their unique strangeness to mental illness; I have no research to support this, but I’d like to believe that, at least on some level, Erickson was engaged in a conscious, intentional creative process that had nothing to do with his psychological state or the drugs that might have been in his system (at the time of creation, or prior). I might have actually reached for this compilation because its contents tend to make better sense in Trump’s America:

Hmmm…maybe not so loony after all, eh?

Short-shrift Division:

Called upon on my Facebook wall to “explain” Wayne Cochran, I got caught up in some clips of the mightily-coiffed Sixties stage-shaker, who mos def was James Brown-influenced (to say the least, perhaps) but definitely had his own kind of thing. Enjoy this quick Cochran playlist, and pass the hairspray:

I’ve Got Just About Everything (April 26th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Bob Dorough, Arkansas native, agile pianist, crafty songwriter, wry and affecting singer, passed away at 94.

It’s weird. I’d just been thinking recently about him, wondering how he was doing. The world loves him mostly as the mastermind behind Schoolhouse Rock; legions of teachers, I assure you, envy the economical yet specific effectiveness with which he educated a generation about grammar, math, civics, and more. Some know he teamed, rather unaccountably but very successfully, with Miles Davis, particularly on a timeless Christmas original. Jazz buffs know him as, among other things, a bit of a Hoagy Carmichael 2.0, for “Baltimore Oriole,” “Johnny One-Note,” and “Devil May Care.” He’s famous with me personally for his witty and true “Love (Webster’s Dictionary Definition)” and his torch-carrying for the regular white guy vocal tradition begun by such humble and soulful folks as Tommy Duncan, Jack Teagarden, and Carmichael, and extended radically forward by Peter Stampfel and other eccentrics.

YouTube does not have Dorough well-covered, nor does Spotify. Do me and yourself and Bob’s memory a kindness and seek out the zingy, delightful Too Much Coffee Man, the rare and revelatory This is a Collection of Pop Art Songs (with the definitive “Love”), and the surprising early ’70s 45rpm EP Rainy Day Garden, under the 44th Portable Flower Factory moniker, featuring Dylan, Tempts, and Youngbloods covers.

Please honor his life and career by sampling this playlist. That is all.