I do not really care if there is a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard: 55 Pretty Snazzy Records Released This Calendar Year, barely including that one, January 1 – March 28, 2023

Happy Spring! It’s hit me like 100 gecs new album did when I first listened to it at 4:45 one morning before my first sip of coffee. And like the buds on our quince bushes, very interesting new records are popping up all over the place, but in all colors and shapes. A few thoughts:

  1. At least I always give her albums a try, but I’m pert-near unmoved by the charms (?–weird word for her, though I suppose The Sirens were charming) of Lana Del Rey. Rather than figure out a new way to say it, I’ll just copy and paste what I replied to a good friend who loves her (and I DO NOT begrudge him or anyone else their Lana-love): “To quote Neil Young, ‘It’s all one song.’ I’m still not buying in. I mean, it’s far from bad, but I just don’t resonate with Cali femme fatales (or femme fatales in general) in 2023, plus she works the same levers every album. She is interesting, but she reminds me of another interesting artist I only like in VERY small doses, Nick Cave (whom I’m fairly sure you like a lot). They just trade on stuff I’m somehow invulnerable to.
  2. Clearly, though, I love former Raincoat Gina Burch’s new album. From the title (justified) to the songs to the attitude, she’s living proof that growing old and thinking younger is no sin. She’s still playing the game of life to win.
  3. Note to my friend Kevin Bozelka: you are the first person I remember mentioning 100 gecs. As I have before, I undervalued your enthusiasm. I did try them, and sillily thought them silly. I did kinda like “Stupid Horse.” I am now among the convinced. Will I never learn, K-Boz?
  4. Trance-state-lovers: please check out the Islandman record, Aftab’s collab, the Necks’ new one (no surprise but fans are fine with that), and Dream Dolphin’s carefully selected compilation.
  5. Last year, I don’t think I convinced anyone I know to sample Temporal Drift’s excavations of the late Sixties-early Seventies Japanese rock scene, especially the folkie–>drone–>skronkensqueal performances of Les Raillizes Denudes. The band was one of a kind, and noise junkies who can forgive often out-of-tune singing (in Japanese)–I do not know one who cannot–seriously need to take the plunge. I mean now, Buster Brown.
  6. Fans of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives / Private Parts recordings might just HAVE to try Jacqueline Humbert and David Rosenboom’s Daytime Viewing (just reissued on Unseen Worlds–great and accurate label name, by the way), which was recorded around the same time. Where Ashley is droll, they are simply slot-mouthed as they roll out tales of domestic damage regularly communicated by the title TV machine.
  7. Numbers 7 & 37: “There’s one thing that I’m certain of / Return, I will, [always], to [new] Brazil.”
  8. I am reading with great absorption, edification, and enjoyment Irish intellectual Fintan O’Toole’s ingenious pairing of memoir and social history, We Don’t Know Ourselves, which has actually given me hope for my own country. My inclusion here of Black Country, New Road (to which I’ve previously been invulnerable) and Lankum (a little slow and moody for my taste–but they have something I can’t quite put my finger on yet that beguiles me), both of whom hail from the Emerald Isle, may be more than slightly influenced by O’Toole’s magic–especially in proving the title thesis.
  9. Beware jazz octogenarians and septuagenarians–they bedazzle to the end. Wadada Leo Smith just keeps rolling out fetching records–this one has electricity–and Threadgill, though he does not play on his new release, justifies his recent honors with his pen and conduction. As for the younguns? If in the past, you’ve found Angel Bat Dawid a bit much (I’ve been on the verge a few times), she’s gone a very imaginative new direction to create her best record yet.
  10. Because of the rampant idiocy, cruelty, and hatred we are having to fight but endure from chunks of our fellow citizens, I strongly recommend that you either buy a physical copy or pay for a download of the very moving and powerful Anthology Records compilation Blacklips Bar—Androgyns and Deviants / Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels 1992-1995.

(Bolded items are new to the list; * = Reissue; # = Archival release).

  1. Gina Burch: I Play My Bass Loud (Third Man)
  2. 100 gecs: 10,000 gecs (Dog Show/Atlantic)
  3. Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  4. Liv.eGirl in The Half Pearl(Real Life / AWAL)
  5. Islandman (featuring Okay Temiz and Muhlis Berberoglu: Direct-to-Disc Sessions (Night Dreamer)
  6. Kelela: Raven (Warp)
  7. Rodrigo Campos: Pagode Novo (YB Music)
  8. Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (Matador)
  9. Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes Records)
  10. Dream Dolphin: Gaia—Selected Ambient & Downtempo Works (1996​-​2003) (Music from Memory)
  11. Walter Daniels: “From Death to Texas” / “Seems Like a Dream” (Spacecase Records 45)
  12. Balka Sound: Balka Sound (Strut)
  13. Hiatus Kaiyote: Choose Your Weapon (Flying Buddha / Sony Masterworks)*
  14. Algiers: Shook (Matador)
  15. Aroof Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad, Ismaily: Love in Exile (Verve)
  16. Wadada Leo Smith: Fire Illuminations (Kabell)
  17. Parannoul: After the Magic (Poclanos/Top Shelf)
  18. Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler Records)
  19. The Urban Art Ensemble: “Ho’opomopono” (CFG Multimedia 16-minute single)
  20. Angel Bat Dawid: Requiem for Jazz (International Anthem)
  21. The Necks: Travel (Northern Spy)
  22. Kali Uchis: Red Moon in Venus (Geffen)
  23. Various Artists: Purple Haze from East, Volume 1 (VW Sorcerer Productions) *
  24. Karol G: Manana Sera Bonito (Universal Music Latino)
  25. Andrew Cyrille: Music Delivery / Percussion (Intakt)
  26. Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Hell to Pay (Black & Wyatt)
  27. Jacqueline Humbert & David Rosenboom: Daytime Viewing (Unseen Worlds) *
  28. Henry Threadgill: The Other One (Pi)
  29. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind Stripped Naked (Columbia)#
  30. Various Artists: Blacklips Bar—Androgyns and Deviants / Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels 1992-1995 (Anthology Recordings) #
  31. Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic)
  32. Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement (Circum/Libra)
  33. Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My (Jagjaguwar)
  34. Mat Muntz: Phantom Islands (Orenda)
  35. Das Kondensat: Anderen Planeten (Why Play Jazz)
  36. Iris DeMent: Workin’ On a World (FlariElla)
  37. Romulo Froes & Tiago Rosas: Na Goela (YB Music)
  38. James Brandon Lewis: Eye of I (Anti-)
  39. Les Raillizes Denudes: ’77 Live (Temporal Drift) #
  40. Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double: March On (self-released EP—coming in March)
  41. Ice SpiceLike…?(10K Projects / Capitol Records EP)
  42. Yves Tumor: Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Warp)
  43. Yonic South: Devo Challenge Cup (Wild Honey)
  44. Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Shirley Scott: Cookin’ With Jaws and The Queen (Craft)
  45. Taiko Saito: Tears of a Cloud (Trouble in the East)
  46. Lankum: False Lankum (Rough Trade)
  47. Staples Jr. Singers: Tell Heaven (EP) (Luaka Bop) Note: the vinyl gets you more great minutes of testifying.
  48. Heinali: Kyiv Eternal (Injazero)
  49. Tri-County Liquidators: “Flies” / “Weep Then Whisper” / “Bitter” (self-released)@
  50. Lana Del Rey: Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (Polydor)
  51. Various Artists: Turkish-Syrian Earthquake Relief (Canary Records) #
  52. Vinny Golia Quartet: No Refunds (Unbroken Sounds)
  53. Black Country, New Road: Live at Bush Hall (Ninja Tune)
  54. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: From Paris to Paris (Rogue Art)
  55. Gee Tee: Goodnight Neanderthal (Goner)

Made in Chicago / Made in a Mad Mind (January 23, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

At the end of 2015, I listed Jack DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago as the album I considered the very best of that year. I believed it, yet at times I have wondered if my biases toward older artists, toward free jazz, and toward historic occasions had too much to do with my choice. Yesterday, I broke out the album for some deep listening in The Lab (my truck’s cab), and can confirm that the music therein was easily worthy of that top ranking. I’ve listened to it several times in the past two years, but it had been awhile, and distance has a way of clearing away the fog of prejudice.

Made in Chicago is more a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Windy City’s legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) than it is a DeJohnette album, though the on-stage drummer’s leadership is clear throughout: on piano, the late Muhal Richard Abrams (ship’s captain and co-founder of AACM); on alto saxophone, bass flute, bass recorder, Henry Threadgill (playing more horn, and playing more scintillatingly, than he has in years); on soprano and alto saxophones, wooden flute, Roscoe Mitchell); and on double bass, violoncello, Larry Gray.  Those jazz fans who have a passing knowledge of the work produced by the AACM over the past half-century might expect this live show, part composed and part improvised, to be difficult, cacophonous, and/or cerebral (at the cost of its emotional impact). To the contrary: the five performances–especially the opening three–are a treat for the ears, directly evoking a wide range of conscious states (meditation, serenity, trance, wakefulness, joy), progressing–thanks to these wise septuagenarians’ expert ears and quick minds–with exceptional coherence and logic, and communicating great depth of feeling. Abrams and Threadgill in particular are in great form, the former often playing hypnotic, repetitive figures that bring to mind birdcalls or early morning rain-patter, the latter letting loose a dazzling variety of breath-length vocalizations. Maybe my favorite music of the entire set is the laughter and delight the men share at the end of each piece: considering they have proven to be musicians with exceptionally high artistic and intellectual standards, their happiness with their work confirms for me that I am hearing something grand. Also, you’ll seldom hear such an impassioned reaction to this kind of music by a live audience.

Verdict: yes, this is a great record. If you’ve heard of the AACM and want to dip a toe in its broad and deep expanse, this is a wonderful point of entry.

Recently, I admitted that, if forced into a choice, I’d take Dion over Elvis. Perhaps this declaration is a bit less controversial, but I’d also argue that the greatest non-melanated American rock and roll singer of all-freakin’-time is none other than Austin, Texas’ own Roky Erickson. I don’t have to be nudged too firmly on any day of the week to put on an Erickson platter, from the ground-breaking psychedelic garage rock of his mid-Sixties units The Spades and The 13th Floor Elevators to his post-acid / schizophrenic-breakdown, post-prison-stint solo work in the early Eighties, a period I chose to visit yesterday. The Evil One, originally issued in 1981 on 415 Records and nicely reissued by Light in the Attic in 2013, is, simply put, a landmark of the decade, with at least 10 of its 15 songs being among the best 20 Erickson ever wrote (present are “Two Headed Dog,” “Stand for the Fire Demon,” “The Night of the Vampire,” “Creature with The Atom Brain,” “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer,” and one of his rare Buddy Holly-styled yearners “If You Have Ghosts”), and featuring some of the most transported yowling ever recorded. In the best Roky howls, you can hear a whirring bandsaw blade’s edge, as well as an aching vulnerability hidden deep in his keening Texas twang, and his guitar could and did rhyme with all of that. The lyrics? Best not thought about too deeply, but in today’s political and social environment, Erickson two-headed dogs, demons, zombies, vampires, ghosts, and atom-brained creatures might just take on new meaning for folks just getting their feet wet. The thing is, as late-night sci-fi-corny as his scenarios can be, the best of them can’t conceal and don’t distract from the excitement, inspiration, and depth of feeling Roky invests in his singing. If you love Little Richard, I don’t see any reason why you won’t, don’t, or shouldn’t like Erickson. They’re both uniquely mad, they’re both still breathing, and, while Richard may have gotten his fair share of acclaim, we need to break Roky out of the cult ghetto before it’s too late. Recommendations: very obviously this record, Don’t Slander Me (from 1985), and the career-summing two-disc comp I Have Always Been Here Before, released by Shout! Factory, now out of print but certainly worth the hunt and obtainable at a reasonable price.

Dedicated to my friend Dave Gatliff: An YouTube playlist that should serve as a decent introduction to Roky’s work!

Short-shrift Division  (courtesy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel):

Ricky Nelson, “Be-Bop Baby”

The Coasters, “Yakety Yak”

Blossom Dearie, “The Gentleman is a Dope”

Charlie Parker, “Bird of Paradise”