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 

“Chrissie, Bar the Door”–A Gush of Recorded Matter into the LTL List: January 1st – June 1, 2021

All I have to say is the size of my list of 2021 go-to albums just increased by 30%, no surprise, as the gears of normal creativity and associated production are grinding into motion. That, and the two new albums created by African artists that stormed my top five are crackling with six-string (and vocal) intensity.

Bolded items are new to the list; items followed by a # are reissues or archival digs; all items are linked to pages of interest or usefulness.

  1. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street #
  3. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony #
  4. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon
  5. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York #
  6. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa
  7. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket #
  8. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman
  9. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son 
  10. No-No Boy: 1975
  11. Ashnikko: Demidevil 
  12. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son
  13. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  14. Penelope Scott: Public Void 
  15. Paris: Safe Space Invader
  16. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 #
  17. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy #
  18. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales
  19. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction)
  20. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame #
  21. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine
  22. Dawn Richard: Second Line 
  23. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan
  24. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork #
  25. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs
  26. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley 
  27. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album #
  28. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland
  29. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth
  30. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty
  31. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir
  32. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You
  33. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW
  34. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute
  35. Various Artists: Indaba Is
  36. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom
  37. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom
  38. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits, Volumes 1-3 #
  39. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears
  40. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay #
  41. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP)
  42. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire #
  43. Madlib: Sound Ancestors
  44. Joe Strummer: Assembly #
  45. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions
  46. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go
  47. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine 
  48. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing #
  49. Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine
  50. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy
  51. Alder Ego: III
  52. Shem Tube, Justo Osala, Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya
  53. Steve Earle: JT
  54. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever
  55. Tony Allen (and friends): There is No End
  56. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  57. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy 
  58. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days
  59. Contour: Love Suite
  60. Alton Gün: Yol
  61. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1 #
  62. Hearth: Melt
  63. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises
  64. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans
  65. serpentwithfeet: DEACON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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