No-Save* November: The Best Recordings Released in 2021 (So Far), Which I’ve Drained My Wallet For Despite Using Multiple Streaming Platforms


  1. R. A. P. Ferreira (formerly known as Milo) is having one helluva year. If as a rap aficionado you’re insistent on the freshest, most ticklish, and slammingest beats, move along. But if you dig word-slinging and surprising associations, you best get hip.
  2. Bible and Tire Company’s Sacred Soul of South Carolina is the perfect gospel pairing with Musicmakers Foundation’s contemporary rural blues comp Hanging Tree Guitars (from 2020). Strictly speaking, if you have one and love it, you must do right and get the other. And the “soul” in the title is no exaggeration.
  3. You may be tired of historical theory stirred into your toons. I am not. Keep pouring, luvs. If you’re like me and enjoy critical beatdowns, Mexstep, The Brkn Record, and the irrepressible Irreversible Entanglements each have the musical cocktail for you. And yes, the music is piquant to listen to if you’re not about the science. It does help, though.
  4. South Memphis’ Lukah is one of the most stentorian MCs I’ve heard in a good long while, plus he has two strong records out this year. The new one (bolded, below) is the pick; its politics, flow, and sense of place are astounding, and his sexual philosophy seems to have advanced.
  5. Best news is likely in the archaeological section. This may be a strange list upon which to find Marian Anderson, but, truly, as Duke opined, there’s only two kinds of music, good and bad, and the woman brilliantly blazed a trail. That’s a 15-disc box with both historic and important unreleased recordings, plus brilliant photos and notes, but, um…less than $80*? Also, Bobo Jenkins was a rocking, charming, and eccentric DIY blues guitarist whose career stretched from the ’50s into the late ’70s; if that sounds like your meat and taters, it’s on Third Man and it might have been RSD only, but…c’mon–if you want it, you can track it down. And as far as historical monuments in the rowdier aspects of the modern musical life of Brother Europe go, you can’t beat Corbett vs. Dempsey’s look at the formative days of the masterful and mischievous Instant Composers Pool and Guerilla Records’ top-notch and long-overdue reissue of The Plastic People of the Universe’s truly revolutionary original bootleg.

Next month, I’m gonna get tough with this list, shave it down, get serious about their listenability and durability, and and arrange it into categories of A, A-, B+, and B–since we all have loved grades so much our whole lives. I know you cannot wait. And, yes, I’m very serious about that Wild Up record.

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine
  2. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  3. East Axis: Cool With That 
  4. Ka: Martyr’s Victory
  5. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr
  6. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  7. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom (currently unavailable)
  8. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  9. No-No Boy: 1975 
  10. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night
  11. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted
  12. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying
  13. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways
  14. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  15. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias
  16. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name
  17. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  18. William Parker: Painter’s Winter 
  19. Bktherula: Love Black
  20. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  21. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  22. R. A. P. Ferreira: The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures
  23. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  24. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  25. For Those I Love: For Those I Love
  26. Lady Gaga and Friends: Dawn of Chromatica
  27. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  28. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  29. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  30. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident
  31. Various Artists: Sacred Soul of North Carolina
  32. Florian Arbenz: Conversations 2 & 3
  33. Ensemble 0: Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  34. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air
  35. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  36. The Brkn Record: The Architecture of Oppression, Part 1
  37. Jah Wobble: METAL BOX – REMIXED IN DUB
  38. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  39. Mexstep: Vivir
  40. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  41. Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  42. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  43. Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates
  44. Pink Siifu: Gumbo’!
  45. Marta Gabriel: Metal Queen
  46. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After
  47. Dua Saleh: Crossover
  48. James McMurtry: The Horses and The Hounds
  49. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die
  50. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  51. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  52. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  53. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free
  54. Monster Magnet: A Better Dystopia
  55. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  56. Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More
  57. Lukah: Why Look Up, God’s in the Mirror
  58. JPEG MAFIA: “LP!”
  59. Darius Jones: Raw Demoon Alchemy—A Lone Operation
  60. Dos Santos: City of Mirrors
  61. Marthe Lea Band: Asura
  62. Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor’s Version)
  63. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  64. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  65. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  66. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  67. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  68. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  69. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos
  70. Asleep at the Wheel: Half a Hundred Years
  71. SAULT: Nine 
  72. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  73. Slaughterhouse: Fun Factory
  74. Thurst: I’m Gen X
  75. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  76. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  77. Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre: Heirs of the Dog
  78. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  79. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  80. Native Soul: Teenage Dreams
  81. Willow: lately i feel EVERYTHING
  82. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  83. Ran Cap Duoi: Ngù Ngay Ngày Tân Thê
  84. Blue Reality Quartet: Blue Reality Quartet
  85. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  86. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  87. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  88. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  89. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  90. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  91. Carly Pearce: 29—Written in Stone
  92. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  93. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
  94. Andreas Roysum Ensemble: Fredsfanatisme
  95. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  96. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  97. JD Allen: Queen City 
  98. Florian Arbenz: Conversation # 1 Condensed
  99. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  100. Angel Olsen: Aisles (EP)
  101. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile
  102. Kasey Musgraves: starcrossed
  103. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness: Songs from Another Life
  104. Vince Staples: Vince Staples
  105. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  106. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  107. Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay
  108. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States
  109. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  110. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  111. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  112. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever
  113. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  114. Los Lobos: Native Sons
  115. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  116. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  117. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America 
  118. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  119. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  120. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  121. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  122. AZ: Do or Die
  123. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  124. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  125. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  126. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  127. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  128. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  129. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  130. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  131. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  132. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  133. RP Boo: Established 
  134. The Bug: Fire
  135. Steve Earle: JT 
  136. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  137. Benny The Butcher: Pyrex Picasso
  138. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  139. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  140. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  141. Alder Ego: III 
  142. Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
  143. Alton Gün: Yol 
  144. Meet Me @ The Altar: Model Citizen (EP) 
  145. Penelope Scott: Hazards (EP)
  146. Ichiko Aoba: Windswept Adan
  147. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  148. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  149. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  150. Aluna: Higher Ground—Testaments

Archaeological Digs

  1. Marian Anderson: Beyond the Music
  2. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  3. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  4. The Plastic People of the Universe: Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned
  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. Jimmy Lyons: Push Pull
  13. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  14. Leo Nocentelli: Another Side
  15. Agustin Pereyra Lucena Quartet: La Rana
  16. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—Live in Seattle
  17. Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray, et al: Corona
  18. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977
  19. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975
  20. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame
  21. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  22. Bush Tetras: Rhythm and Paranoia—The Best of Bush Tetras
  23. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  24. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop 
  25. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  26. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3
  27. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A
  28. Kiko Kids Jazz: Tanganyika Na Uhuru
  29. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album
  30. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings 
  31. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  32. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found
  33. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork
  34. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction
  35. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits
  36. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  37. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing
  38. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1
  39. Joseph Spence: Encore
  40. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1
  41. Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York 1980-1985 (2CD version)

“I Know It’s Hard, But It’s Fair” (January 5, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

There was a time when you couldn’t just stream, steal, or buy any piece of music ever recorded–in fact, a few works are rather elusive even now. I remember at the advent of the CD so many items I’d only read about but never seen in a store appearing before my eyes: The Velvet Underground and Nico, Funhouse, Out to Lunch. But even then, much very legendary music was either trapped in legal limbo or poorly distributed. I miss such exciting moments now, but in the latter half of the 1980s, if I saw an outlet mall along the highway, I never passed it by, because (this is just one example) you could always find King label r&b and country reissues (actual releases, not compilations) in the cut-out bin for anywhere from $5 to $8. The voracious but not particularly scholarly or careful folks at Gusto Records had snapped up all of King’s stuff (apparently, STILL has the rights to it!), and just slopped it out with no annotation or attention to sonic enhancement. I didn’t care about that then at all: I just relished the opportunity to actually hear George Jones’ raw Starday hits, the classic Stanley Brothers’ albums, and–especially–the Five Royales’ and Midnighters’ tracks that some argued might be the real beginning of what we used to call rock and roll.

Yesterday, I loaded the CD player carousel with Rhino’s ace compilations (now, like those Gusto cheapos, also out of print) of those latter two bands, Monkey Hips and Rice and Sexy Ways (respectively). They still sound HOT! The Five Royales, in particular, sound more amazing every year, thanks to Lowman Pauling’s nasty six-string knife-throwing and astonishingly varied and adult songwriting. The classics? “Right Around the Corner,” “Slummer the Slum,” “Tell the Truth,” “Think,” the original “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “When I Get Like This” are just a few. As a Missourian, sometimes I think subversive thoughts when I listen to this stuff and think about Pauling in comparison to the much better-known and officially lauded Chuck Berry. The gospel-fired group and solo vocals of the Royales (mostly courtesy of Johnny and Eugene Tanner) are nothing to sneeze at, either.

Hank Ballard’s Midnighters, in most ways, aren’t really in the same league (they even had to change their name from the Royals to avoid a confusion that probably would have benefited them). But Ballard’s unbridled, lusty hollering across the great “Annie” (and “Henry”!) series still sounds exciting and dangerous. And, though you might expect that the sequels would be sound-alikes, “Annie’s Aunt Fannie,” “Annie’s Aunt Fannie,” and “Henry’s Got Flat Feet” are distinct compositions that stand on their own, especially due to Ballard’s inventive lyrical twists and fiery contributions by Cal Green on guitar and the great Arnett Cobb on tenor. The expertly selected tracks include Ballard’s original version of “The Twist,” his JB-beloved ballad “Teardrops on Your Letter,” and the late dance masterpiece “Finger-Poppin’ Time.” Not that Hank forgot his meat and taters, as “Open Up the Back Door,” “Look at Little Sister,” and another sequel, “Let’s Go Again (Where We Went Last Night).”

I am happy that, via streaming, any listener can likely experience anything by these groups seconds after they learn about their existence (if they ever do, in the rushing tide of new). But I miss the thrill (and duration) (and surprises) of the hunt. It’s hard, but it’s fair–I hope as much to the artists’ estates as the listeners’ learning, but I have my doubts.

Short-shrift division:

I was in an experimental jazz groove otherwise.

Jason Moran’s fizzy and appropriately loose-limbed Fats Waller tribute, All Rise.

The budding East Coast free-jazz-with-resistance-poetry of Irreversible Entanglements‘ eponymous debut.