Inverse Proportion Theory of Musical Succor: “Records Were as Great This Year as Our World was Terrible”

I’m making no bones about it: we did not do a good job living as humans with other humans this year. Not. At. All. I really didn’t expect to turn 57 and come to the conclusion that, despite reading, enjoying, and occasionally subscribing to the viewpoint of many cynics and curmudgeons, I have been naive. A lot of us dig fascism as a possible salve on our fear. It’s hard to know how many, but even a big little is a lot.

I ain’t going into the nooks and crannies of that now, though. 2019’s music-makers responded with some very convincing aural evidence that we can actually do a very transcendent job working, playing, speaking, and listening to each other, and–especially–calling on us to be our best possible selves, rather than wallow in self-pity and misguided resentment. If the music that was produced this year is a real representation of who we are, how we feel, and what we want, then the hate-wave is operating on borrowed time.

Remember: naive at 57.

Anyway, I endorse all the albums below as interesting. Also, please note my somewhat half-hearted grading scale. And think about sending the artists the most money you can and just buying physical media to defy Marie Kondo. You know she’s marketing a bunch of worthless shit to fill your houses with, don’t you? Seriously: we’re not all grifters, especially the folks that made this stuff…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 — THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

For those that need a harness on this burgeoning list:

1-10: Straight A (no A+ record this year)

11-66: A-

67-118: B+

119-170: B (and a B is still a good record)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Junius Paul: Ism
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  7. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  8. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  9. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  10. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. EARTHGANG: Mirrorland
  13. Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes
  14. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  15. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  16. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  17. Mexstep: Resistir
  18. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  19. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  20. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  21. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  22. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  23. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  24. MARK LOMAX, II: Afrika United (one part of a box set—if it’s all this good, woah!)
  25. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  26. Dumb: Club Nites
  27. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  28. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  29. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  30. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  31. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  32. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  33. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys A Record
  34. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  35. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  36. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  37. Zonal: Wrecked
  38. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  39. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  40. Tanya Tucker: While I’m Livin’
  41. Ifriqiyya Electrique: Laylet El Boore
  42. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  43. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  44. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  45. Andres: Andres IV
  46. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  47. Rod Wave: Ghetto Gospel
  48. Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All in Good Time
  50. Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
  51. Various Artists: The Final Battle—Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics
  52. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  53. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  54. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  55. JME: Grime MC
  56. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  57. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  58. Bill Orcutt: Odds Against Tomorrow
  59. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  60. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  61. Pat Thomas, Dominic Lash, and Tony Orrell: Bleyschool
  62. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  63. Sote: Parallel Persia
  64. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  65. SEED ENSEMBLE: Driftglass
  66. Arto Lindsay, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, Phil Sudderberg: Largest Afternoon
  67. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  68. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  69. Sudan Archives: Athena
  70. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  71. GRLwood: I Sold My Soul to the Devil When I Was 12
  72. Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia
  73. FKA Twigs: MAGDALENE
  74. Miranda Lambert: Wild Card
  75. Aquarian Blood: A Love That Leads to War
  76. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  77. Quelle Chris: Guns
  78. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  79. DaBaby: KIRK
  80. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  81. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  82. Ghostface Killah: Ghostface Killahs
  83. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  84. Earl Sweatshirt: FEET OF CLAY
  85. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  86. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  87. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  88. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  89. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  90. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  91. Dan Weiss Trio + 1: Utica Box
  92. Davido: A Good Time
  93. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  94. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  95. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  96. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  97. Poncho Sanchez: Trane’s Delight
  98. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  99. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  100. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  101. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  102. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  103. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  104. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  105. The Sensational Barnes Brothers: Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  106. GoldLink: Diaspora
  107. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  108. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  109. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four—Memphis
  110. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  111. black midi: Schlagenheim
  112. Nots: 3
  113. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  114. Robert Forster: Inferno
  115. Aziza Brahim: Sahari
  116. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  117. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  118. Ingrid Laubrock & Aki Takase: Kasumi
  119. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  120. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  121. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  122. G & D: Black Love & War
  123. Boris: Love & Evol
  124. Girl Band: The Talkies
  125. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  126. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  127. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  128. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  129. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  130. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  131. JD Allen: Barracoon
  132. Big Thief: Two Hands
  133. Various Artists: Queen & Slim—The Soundtrack
  134. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  135. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  136. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  137. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  138. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  139. Santana: Africa Speaks
  140. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  141. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  142. Sault: 5
  143. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  144. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  145. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  146. Solange: When I Get Home
  147. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  148. Ranky Tanky: Good Time
  149. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  150. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  151. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  152. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  153. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  154. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  155. Doja Cat: Hot Pink
  156. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  157. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  158. Hama: Houmeissa
  159. Ill Considered: 5
  160. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  161. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  162. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  163. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  164. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  165. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  166. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  167. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  168. Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima
  169. Mekons : Deserted
  170. Serengeti: Quail

New Releases of Older Material

1-12: Straight A (no A+ record this year)

11-27: A-

27-45: B+

46-55: B (and a B is still a good record)

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. The Royals: Gish Abbai
  6. Various Artists: Bulawayo Blue Yodel
  7. Merle Haggard & The Strangers: Live in Austin, ‘78
  8. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  9. Various Artist: WXAXNXD Sessions
  10. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  11. Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (Bill Laswell Remix)
  12. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Run Get My Shotgun
  13. Chic: The Chic Organization: 1977-1979
  14. Griot Galaxy: Kins
  15. Various Artists: Mogadisco—Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972-1991)
  16. Various Artists: No Other Love—Midwest Gospel (1965-1978)
  17. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  18. The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels In The Band
  19. Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse
  20. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  21. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  22. Various Artists: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records—The Definitive Collection
  23. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  24. Various Artists: Jambu
  25. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  26. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  27. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  28. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  29. Various Artists: J-Jazz–Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1983 (Volume 2)
  30. John Coltrane: Blue World
  31. Moondog: The Stockholm 1981 Reccordings
  32. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  33. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  34. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  35. Various Artists: Blues Images Calendar Companion, Volume 17
  36. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  37. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  38. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  39. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  40. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  41. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  42. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  43. Prince: Originals
  44. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  45. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  46. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  47. James Wayne: Junco Partner–The Very Best Of James Wayne 1950-1955
  48. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  49. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  50. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  51. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  52. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  53. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  54. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane
  55. George Jones: United Artists Rarities

I Like My Pockets Fat and Not Flat (May 17th, 2018, driving around Columbia, MO, in my truck)

The following is adapted from a Facebook post I made yesterday on a group page inhabited by other music fanatics. We are all–of most of us are–fans of the great, time-tested music critic Robert Christgau. He himself has tested time as few critics have. On the page, we occasionally tout albums that Christgau underrated, overrated, or…failed to rate at all. It’s that last category that fascinates me, and it just so happened I’d dusted off the above CD to reacquaint myself with in “The Lab” (my truck cab, where I engage in pure musical meditation and try to operate the vehicle simultaneously).

I’d been introduced to the album by a friend in 1992. My wife Nicole, Mark, and I had been invited to a party thrown by Nicole’s co-worker; the majority of the other partygoers would be rap and r&b fiends, and Mark, who happened to be visiting from out of town, insisted on bringing Runaway Slave to force on whoever was selecting. It (along with Redman’s debut and a 12″ of EPMD’s “Headbanger“) turned the gathering out, and I got myself a copy the following week. I listened to it constantly for several weeks (and failed to turn my 10th graders in to it), then it disappeared into the stacks for the better part of 26 years.

Played it twice in the truck yesterday, then purt-near ran into the house and wrote this:

A classic rap album Xgau didn’t even deign to acknowledge. Aside from a run of wreck-catchers (“Fat Pockets,” “Still Diggin’,” “Soul Clap,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Party Groove,” the title song), aside from the great horn-powered, beat-bejeweled production by Showbiz and the underrated Diamond D, aside from it being light on misogyny and peeled caps, aside from the two MCs being distinct and in synch, it’s pretty fucking conscious, with self-determination a thread throughout and considerable science dropped re: systematic racism. On heavy rotation in our three-room apartment in ‘92, and it still sounds phat, yet crisp. An “A,” easy, and one of the peaks of so-called “Golden Age” hip hop.

Hours later, I’ve calmed down, played it again, and deduced that I’m exactly right…though perhaps not praising enough! Time: the revealer.