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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

One-Liners (June 5th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Nicole and I went on a seven-mile trail walk today, but I still squeezed in multiple records and there’s still time. In the colossally self-righteous words of Ian Mackaye, “What have you done?” (Wait…was there a cuss word in there? Oh yeah–profanity was pure enough for him!)

So, I will attempt to address each of those platters with a one-liner precise enough to tempt you to try them if you haven’t.

Dr. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag

I confess, I’m a fool for NOLA trad, and here the reigning clarinet master and his not-that-mouldy henchman go back so far, several tracks on this new release kick in with a marching band drum cadence–and he ends with a teasing “Saints.” (No YouTube yet; here’s an Apple Music link.)

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is

On the other hand, if you need something smokin’ hot, deliriously catchy, and stretching from Africa to Cuba to the Crescent City, get with 2017’s best jazz album immediately.

Ty Segall: Slaughterhouse

This totally rips, but Segall has a touch of Stooges Disease: he tends to find a way to derail his best efforts, here with quonset hut production values that make one wanna beg for a remix.

Wes Montgomery: In Paris

If you’ve never been convinced of the man from Indiana’s greatness on guit, he’s on fiya on this typically stellar Resonance dig, the best such rekkid so far in ’18.

Die Like a Dog Quartet: fragments of music, life, and death of Albert Ayler

Worthy of the named master without being too reverent–also, featuring surprisingly subtle Brotzmann fury, and surprisingly irreverent electronics and brass from Toshinori Kondo, who almost steals the thing.

Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed

Perhaps I am repeating myself, but this sucker’s a AOTY contender, and ten listens have elevated it in my esteem from flawed but ambitious diamond to a deep masterpiece–never count a soul queen out!

Dialin’ Up Dylan (June 4th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

I’ve been a Dylan freak since I was 15, and I’ll die one. I’m probably going too far here, but without him the best things in my adult life (teaching, the woman I chose for my wife, this life-long quest for knowledge) would never have materialized. I know I’d have been less happy in my alternate lives. The guy aggravates the crap out of me as well–I’m convinced that he’s the least annoying naked emperor around–but that’s just because he’s taught me not to accept bullshit. I bring this up because today I was finally able to dive a little more deeply into unsung reedman Michael Moore’s three successful attempts to prove Dylan’s music has modern jazz applications, one of which I’ve owned in a digital version for awhile, but all of which I just bought from separate Discogs vendors because I sense I may have few chances later. See, I told you I was a freak: Dylan? Jazz? YEAH! What Moore, bassist Lindsay Horner, and percussionist Michael Vatcher do is gamely improvise structures around snatches of melodies from the likes of “Dear Landlord,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Blind Willie McTell,” and “Boots of Spanish Leather,” then pretty consistently replicate the mood suggested by the songs’ lyrics when they cut loose within the structures. Moore, on clarinets, saxes, and bells, is the main soloist, evoking klezmer, British Isles folk, Arabia, and the blues. The commitment of the musicians to the concept pays off over and over again, and even when they don’t quite hit the mark, they sound like they’re making a gauzy B+ ECM record–no shame in that. Most important, they honor Dylan’s achievement and even make a case for extending it–when’s the last time you heard anyone raving about the man’s melodies, or nominating him for a spot in jazz’s standard repertoire?

Of the three the first, 2000’s The Music of Bob Dylan, is the best, taking the most chances with song selection (even covering a Dylan cover) and varying the attack more frequently. The third, Ships with Tattooed Sails (2003), with outstanding guest work by guitarist Bill Frissell, is next, and Floater, also from 2000, a bit too often lives up to its name but is still strong. For those of you who are free jazz shy, first, note my mention of structure above, and second, the songs’ duration seldom extend beyond five minutes–this unit’s focused beyond the standard. Also, Dylanophiles can amuse themselves by listening without the track list and trying to identify the songs; it’s not hard, but it’s not always easy–and it’s rewarding. The trio takes the original material and makes something new, and moving, out of it.

A sample:

You can also listen to the entirety of the group’s first record:

Speaking of making something new out of Dylanology, Nicole and I thrilled to these great new live performances by Bettye LaVette of songs from her new album of Bob interps, Things Have Changed:

Short-shrift Division:

Still hooked on pianistics!

The Ultimate Bud Powell

Phineas’ Rainbow

Anita: The Most (March 30, 2018, Columbia, MO)

One album I will always, always listen to is Anita Sings the Most, starring the scintillating Ms. O’Day and Oscar Peterson, who both supports her winningly and constantly challenges her (she’s more than equal–the proof’s in the pudding) throughout the 33:59 of the 1957 recording. It’s brief, but packed with radiant music.

Anita is at her sassy, mischievous, inventive, joyous best here–it’s the LP I’d recommend first to listeners dark to her genius–and it’s telling that she’s listed as co-producer with Norman Granz. She’s in control, from the song selection, tempos, and drummer, her longtime telepath, codependent, and partner in rhythm John Poole. The band is essential Peterson’s group, with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis, frequently sounding teleported, on guitar, but Anita could always count on Poole to turn the sharp corners she made in her interpretations.

Where to start? Where else but the beginning! Anita Sings the Most explodes out of the gate with two minutes and fifty seconds of quicksilver Gershwin: “‘S Wonderful / They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” There’s something about the heart-quickening pace and instrumental magic that makes her delivery of “You can’t blame / For feelin’ amorous” even more irresistibly fetching:

And it’s not just the sheer speed that’s exciting here. You can hear Anita ache, wince, and steel herself as she feels her way through “Love Me or Leave Me” and (especially) “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”:

If you jazz diva channel only features Billie, Ella, Sarah, and Dinah, consider adding Anita to your programming. Anita Sings the Most is a sure convincer.

Short-shrift Division:

Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed–Bettye sounds forced into some selections of this all-Dylan program, and her voice at times sounds on the verge of shredding, but she nails the title song, wears “Ain’t Talkin'” like she’s Alida Valli at the end of The Third Man, and wrests “Do Right to Me, Baby” out of Dylan’s grip, and Christendom’s.

Narrative-Free Takes (March 5, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Sara and Maybelle Carter: An Historic Meeting–Something about the Carters’ stoicism hypnotizes me, as does their hard-earned authority. You do wonder if the hand that rocks the cradle can change the world (again), and do they have some kind words for immigrants (in a song that’s a sister to their stunning “Hello Stranger”). And: Maybelle’s autoharp is up in the mix, a wise choice.

Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues–And I almost wish it didn’t. While for a new group this might raise eyebrows, the multiple absences lead me to a regrettable conclusion: those who never thought the group had soul in the first place will have to acknowledge its presence then as a result of its absence here. If that makes sense.

Bettye LaVette: “Things Have Changed”–After nailing my ass to the wall with I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise and a Memphis show I saw on the subsequent tour, LaVette’s raw magic has quit working on me. She often sounds so in love with the effects she used in just the right places on that album that she’s just used them as much as possible since, though if the material is just right, it just doesn’t matter. This lead cut from her coming album, a set of Dylan covers? I love the song so much I can’t really tell, but the world-weary fabric-rip in her exhortations suits the lyric.

Young Fathers: “In My View”–“In my view / Nothing’s ever given away / I believe / To advance, then you must pay / … When I leave / You’ll be dancing on my grave / … I wanna be king / Until I am.” Pretty intriguing, until the video (above) ruins it, if you’re watching it. Or does it? The thing (that last line, the video’s close) takes a weird, telling turn.

Janelle Monàe: “Make Me Feel”–I’m right about next to nothing without hindsight, but I once told a classroom of students (six years ago) that Janelle was going to be a big star, and even if that didn’t happen, she’d never be boring. I seldom need confirmation–but I’ll take it!