Seven Long Months: 100+ Slabs of Aural Awesomeness Released in Nerve-Wracking ’19

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Honestly, folks: so much good music for the times lies in wait for you out there–right now. If you’re having beers or cocktails with someone who’s mourning the days when music was really, good man, do me a favor: fart in their general direction. And blast some Mexstep or Balvin/Bunny in their faces.

Blurt re: new developments.

1) Mexstep’s Resistir came out in December ’18 but I’m claiming it for ’19. Dude behind “the mask” is a college professor I’d love to sit in with, but he can rhyme and write. I’m tired of this national bullshit and this album is bracing for your earhole. Dig:

2) I fucking love freely improvised music–jazz just doesn’t describe it anymore. I’m of Dutch heritage and I spent most of the month listening to the thinking person’s ICP (that’s Instant Composers Pool, homeslice), and damned if July didn’t deliver multiple new albums by artists working in this niche. It’s not escapist, it’s not hummable, but when I engage with it, it keeps me in the moment and matches the buzzing of my nerve endings. To wit, items #32, 63, and 64. Here, try some:

3) Anyone notice this is a stellar year for rap music? I have. Little Simz, Gibbs ‘n’ ‘lib, South African Queen Blakrok, fuckin’ 2 Chainz!, Woods ‘n’ Segal, Esq., Maxo Kream, Balvin / Bunny, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, and–I am sorry to break from the contemporary wisdom, but I know good shit when I hear it–Chance (come on, admit it: even his big fans are too ready to jump his ass, but it’s a justifiably sunny piece of work loosed upon overcast days).

4) Hellllllooooooo Cleveland!!!! Impressive new Ubu (can you believe David Thomas has forced his art to work for almost 50 years?) and a Peter Laughner box that even cognoscenti were doubting, but which intelligently honors a complicated subject. I was a doubter, and it revelated me.

5) As far as archival finds go, under the radar shimmers a UA rareties collection of tracks by the world’s greatest country singer, George Jones, which should not be missed by anyone who isn’t on the Bear Family mailing list. Also, if you’re a jazz fan of B+ intensity or higher, you might want to check out the work of Brit sax, flute, and vibe maven Tubby Hayes, whose ’69 Fontana Records session called Grits, Beans, and Greens just came to the surface. None other than Rahsaan Roland Kirk annointed him, so don’t just trust me. And we’re in a UK jazz moment, doncha know.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 31st, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  15. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  16. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  17. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  18. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  19. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  20. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  21. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  22. Senyawa: Sujud*
  23. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  24. Sote: Parallel Persia
  25. Quelle Chris: Guns
  26. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  27. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  28. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  29. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  30. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  31. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  32. Leila Bourdreuil / Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads
  33. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  34. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  35. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  36. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  37. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  38. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  39. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  40. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  41. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  42. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  43. GoldLink: Diaspora
  44. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  45. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  46. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  47. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  48. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  49. Resavoir: Resavoir
  50. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  51. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  52. JD Allen: Barracoon
  53. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  54. Youssou N’Dour: History
  55. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  56. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  57. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  58. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  59. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  60. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  61. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  62. Nots: 3
  63. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  64. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  65. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  66. Santana: Africa Speaks
  67. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  68. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  69. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  70. Fennesz: Agora
  71. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  72. Robert Forster: Inferno
  73. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  74. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  75. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  76. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  77. Solange: When I Get Home
  78. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  79. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  80. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  81. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  82. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  83. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  84. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  85. slowthai: Great About Britain
  86. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  87. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  88. Mekons: Deserted
  89. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  90. Que Vola: Que Vola
  91. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  92. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  93. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  94. Hama: Houmeissa
  95. Steve Earle: Guy
  96. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  97. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  98. Ill Considered: 5
  99. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  100. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  101. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  102. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  103. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  104. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  105. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  106. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  107. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  108. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  109. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  110. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  5. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  6. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  7. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  8. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  9. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  10. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  11. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  12. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  13. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  14. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  15. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  16. Prince: Originals
  17. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  18. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  19. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  20. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  21. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  22. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  23. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

A Great Record, a Great Party and a Great Writer (February 16-17, Columbia and St. Louis, Missouri)

Friday:

I listened to one of 2018’s best new releases. David Murray and Saul Williams’ Blues for Memo is definitely a work for these egregious times. Murray’s sax work is, as always, burly and brawny, but most impressive are the settings his written for Williams’ poetry, much of it adapted from his harrowing US(a.) collection from 2015. The poet’s readings have an actual pocket to breathe inside the songs–Murray wrote them with the lyrics sitting on his piano–though the listener may at times find it hard to breathe when confronting their truths.

Saturday:

My lovely wife threw an early birthday party for me, and I did control the music (the new Songhoy Blues was something I remember playing–there were many Bloody Marys involved), but the best musical moment was one I didn’t control. Imagine that!

My friend Rick Hocks brought his guitar, and near the end of the party played a lightly jazz-tinged arrangement of the above Gregg Allman classic–for me (though I am no midnight rider)! It was very nice, and inspired me to sing “harmonies.” That is a rare thing, and the Bloody Marys hadn’t anything to do with it!

Later in the day, we drove to the St. Louis County Library to hear the great writer and humanist George Saunders discuss his masterpiece (so far) Lincoln in the Bardo and the art of writing. With sprite-like wit and verbal agility, he kept a very impressive crowd rapt with his encouragements, especially regarding the power of line editing, the need to avoid constructing a grand plan before you begin writing, and the importance of being on speaking terms with the story you’re trying to tell. Absolutely delightful, and we eagerly await the next book!

Short-shrift Division:

The Hollies’ Greatest Hits

Fountains of Wayne: Out-of-State Plates

Glasvegas

The Go-Betweens: 1978-1990

Songhoy Blues: Resistance

George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo (audiobook–166 different readers, and it’s a must!!)

Here’s 117 records from late-2015 to December 31st of this complicated year, the high quality of which I can vouch for from multiple lessons, I mean listens. If I’d have to put a grade on ’em, current and former students and fellow teachers, I didn’t give an A+, and there’s nothing below a B+. 15 days remain in December, so we may have some work turned in just under the wire, and some of these may shift up and down in the spotlight as I keep revisiting them (for example, I may be checking myself too much on the new Stones album; the worst of Jinx Lennon’s two excellent records from 2016 may be getting a boost because I love the best one so much; “grading” the estimable Wadada Leo Smith’s sprawling parks tribute is a chore just the first time through; I just got a new Tom Zé, and he’s dangerous and a grower given repeated exposure); Chicago workaholic Serengeti just dropped a new one today. Nonetheless, I’m posting results. Come back and visit in a few days. However, I suspect that Queen Bey, the charms of whom I’ve mostly resisted her whole career, is unlikely to be knocked off her throne–note that she gets the top spot by virtue of the CD + DVD version. Happy holidays, and support these artists with your cash instead of just streaming or stealing! (More links coming soon!)

2016 TOP 10 FULL-LENGTH RELEASES

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade (CD +DVD)
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  5. Rihanna: Anti
  6. Various Artists: Desconstrucão–A Portrait of São Paulo’s Music Scene
  7. Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Sane
  8. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  9. Tanya Tagaq: Retribution
  10. Jamila Woods: HEAVN

THE REST OF THE TOP 40

  1. J. D. Allen: Americana
  2. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  3. Elza Soares: A Mulher do Fim do Mindo
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  9. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  10. Bombino: Azel
  11. Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm in Each Stroke
  12. Alicia Keys: Here
  13. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  14. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
  15. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  16. Wussy:Forever Sounds
  17. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  18. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  19. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  20. Solange: A Seat at The Table
  21. Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  22. Aram Bajakian: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates
  23. Nots: Cosmetic
  24. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  25. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  26. Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables
  27. Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Uplift Grief Magnets
  28. Aram Bajakian: Dolphy Variations
  29. John Prine: For Better, Or Worse
  30. Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 1 & 2: Still Buggin’ (EPs I am considering as a single album–they are free, so hit the hyperlinks)

Best of the Rest (Alphabetical Order)

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock
  2. Beasley, John: MONKestra, Volume 1
  3. Bowie, David: Blackstar
  4. Bradley, Charles: Changes
  5. Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011
  6. Brown, Danny: Atrocity Exhibition
  7. Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)
  8. Cave, Nick: Skeleton Tree
  9. Childbirth: Women’s Rights
  10. Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend
  11. Dalek: Asphalt for Eden
  12. De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody
  13. DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement
  14. Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody
  15. Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels
  16. Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories
  17. Garbage: Strange Little Birds
  18. Gates, Kevin: Islah
  19. Gray, Macy: Stripped
  20. Kondi, Sorie: The Freetown Tapes (2006-2016)
  21. Konono N1 Meets Batida
  22. Kool and Kass: Barter 7
  23. Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered
  24. Lambert, Miranda: The Weight of These Wings
  25. Lewis, Jeffrey, and The Jrams: A Loot-beg Bootleg
  26. Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway
  27. Lopez-Nussa, Harold: El Viaje
  28. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rue Vermilion Revival
  29. Lowe, Allen: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora–Down and Out Down East
  30. Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle
  31. Martinez, Pedrito: Habana Dreams
  32. McPhee, Joe, and Ray Boni: Live from the Magic City
  33. The Men: Devil Music
  34. Mexrissey: No Manchester
  35. M. I. A: Aim
  36. Murray, David: Murray, Allen, and Carrington Power Trio–Perfection
  37. Natural Child: Okey-Dokey
  38. N’Dour, Youssou: #SENEGAL REKK (EP)
  39. Neville, Aaron: Apache
  40. Oblivian, Jack, and The Sheiks: The Lone Ranger of Love
  41. Oddisee: Alwasta (EP)
  42. Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
  43. Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm
  44. Person, Houston, and Ron Carter: Chemistry
  45. Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn
  46. Pussy Riot: xxx
  47. Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome
  48. Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage–Road Shows, Volume Four
  49. Rush, Bobby: Porcupine Meat
  50. Slavic Soul Party!: Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite
  51. Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution
  52. Smith, Wadada Leo: America’s National Parks
  53. Stampfel, Peter, and The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm: Holiday for Strings
  54. Stetson, Colin: Sorrow–A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
  55. Tempest, Kate: Let Them Eat Chaos
  56. Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
  57. Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes
  58. Various Artists: Khmer Rouge Survivors–They Will Kill You, If You Cry
  59. Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live
  60. White Lung: Paradise
  61. Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo
  62. Young Thug: Jeffrey
  63. Zé, Tom: Canções Eróticas de Ninar
  64. Zé, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

New Old Stuff

  1. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  2. Van Morrison: It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vols. II, II, IV + DVD
  3. Pylon: Live
  4. James Booker: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)
  5. Swanee Quintet: The Complete Nashboro Recordings 1951-1962
  6. Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  7. Angry Angles
  8. Julius Eastman: Femenine
  9. Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius
  10. Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul
  11. Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary
  12. Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago
  13. Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

My Favorite Rekkids of 2016, 75% of the Way Through Their (not really totally) Loathsome Year (BECAUSE of these rekkids, in part)

These are the recent records (most minted in this calendar year, some not quite) that I most whole-heartedly recommend to the musical adventurer. I’m starting to hate lists, but it’s a habit, and when one is dealing with annual ones, one must stay on top of them. If you peer back at my last list-post, you’ll probably see little change, so as a bonus, I am throwing in some additional offerings that I don’t quite so strongly recommend, but that may delight you and eventually grow on me. As for purchasing them, I assume you know how to use the Internet, but in a few case where the source (sometimes the artist himself) needs a boost, I may direct you. As much as it’s possible for me to deduce it, they are in order of, um, power.

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. J. D. Allen: Americana
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  9. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  10. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  11. Rihanna: Anti
  12. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  13. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  14. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  15. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  16. Bombino: Azel
  17. Pylon: Live
  18. The Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  19. Nots: Cosmetic
  20. M. I. A: Aim
  21. Wussy: Forever Sounds
  22. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  23. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  24. Pedrito Martinez: Habana Dreams
  25. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  26. Various Artists: Desconstrucao–A Portrait of Sao Paulo’s Music Scene
  27. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  28. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  29. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  30. Mexrissey: No Manchester

THE BEST OF THE REST

[If the record’s bolded, it almost made or was previously in the Top 25; if it’s preceded by an asterisk (*), it barely made this list.]

Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 2 (EP)

Angry Angles

*Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates

Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)

Bowie, David: Blackstar

*Bradley, Charles: Changes

*Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011

Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)

Childbirth: Women’s Rights

Dalek: Asphalt for Eden

De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody

DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement

Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody

Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels

Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories

*Garbage: Strange Little Birds

Konono N1 Meets Batida

Kool and Kass: Barter 7

Iyer, Vijay, and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm in Each Stroke

Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered

Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway

Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle

*Natural Child: Okey-Dokey

Neville, Aaron: Apache

Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival

Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm

*Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago

Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn

Reed, Blind Alfred: Appalachian Visionary

Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage–Road Shows, Volume Four

Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution

*Stetson, Colin: Sorrow–A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony

Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes

Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius

Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live

White Lung: Paradise

Wills, Bob, and The Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

*Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo

*Young Thug: Jeffrey

Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea