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

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

Good To My Earhole, July 20 – August 7: “Why Do I Suddenly Appear Every Time I Am Near?”

Highlights of my last two weeks’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale depending on how the landing was stuck:

The Paranoid Style/ROLLING DISCLOSURE – 9.5 – I haven’t read Richard Hofstadter (yet), I don’t need convincing that, in this life, so and so is fucked, and it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. But I am happy to report none of the above impacts my enjoyment of this boisterous, tuneful, sardonic, allusive rock and roll album (yeah–you remember rock and roll?). In fact, one of the main pleasures of this record is how much helpless joy Elizabeth Bracy and her bandmates exude while taking it all apart. Another is listening for how Bracy retools other pop folks’ catchy lines to make her points (my favorite is extracted from a Carpenters sugar cube). Easily one of the best rockin’ records of 2016 (check the band’s track record), and I advise you quickly do the work to find and buy it, as it is an accurate marker of these times. Aren’t you gonna want to recall them?

THE EARL BOSTIC STORY – 8 – Bostic has always been one of my favorite saxophonists. After counseling such future titans as John Coltrane, he crossed over from jazz into r&b and pop, largely on the power of the unruly, RAW way he’d tear into a chorus or riff. Though some folks consider his musical context a little too moldy, I treasure the gash he rips in them (just listen to “Flamingo,” one of his big hits)–and he’s remarkably reliable across a box set. Fans of James Carter who are in the dark might wanna check where some of that cat’s irreverence comes from.

Aaron Neville/APACHE – 7.8 – New Orleans’ toughest-looking pussycat hasn’t had this much musical muscle behind him in years, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs. No star producers or players in the band, either. Not all the lyrics are winners, and I suppose the sound looks back too sentimentally on ’70s styles. But–there’s that voice, the 75-year-old grain of which cuts some of its youthful sweetness, and several of the tunes are real convincers. Picks to click: “All of the Above,” “Ain’t Gonna Judge You,” and–especially–“Make Your Momma Cry.”

James Moody (with Kenny Barron)/FLY ME TO THE MOON – 8.3 – Moody’d never quite struck deep with me ’til I heard this two-fer-one CD. My problem was listening for flash, excitement, and aggression–whether on tenor, alto, or flute (an instrument I give very little room in jazz), the man just plays with quietly intense smarts, skill, and soul. From ’62 and ’64 sessions for Argo, with excellent runs at “Sonnymoon for Two” and (Dizzy’s) “Ole” and some sharp arrangements.

HONKY TONK AMNESIA–THE HARD COUNTRY SOUND OF MOE BANDY – 8.5 – “You wroooote/’Your Cheeeeeeatin’ Heart’ about/A gal like my/FIRST [my caps] ex-wife,” Moe sang on Paul Craft’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” and there were many more such wry laments on his three albums for GRC–which would all probably fit on a single disc. This ain’t it–the folks at Razor & Tie always did a great job, but Bandy’s usually tame or pat later stuff crowds out the likes of “This Time I Won’t Cheat on Her Again” and “It’s Better Than Going Home Alone.” However, honky-tonk cravers will get a buzz on from a mere perusal of the writing credits (Sanger Shafer, Curley Putman, Dallas Frazier, Wayne Carson, and Sonny Throckmorton), and Bandy, droller than he was hard, was just the mind and voice to put their songs across.

Leonard Cohen/LIVE IN LONDON – 10 – Cohen’s mos def recorded too many live albums, but if you have to have one, this be it. Perhaps I am influenced by having been hypnotized and charmed in person by a show from this 2008-2009 tour, but the selections, arrangements, and players are simply unerring, and the main attraction is blissfully at peace with the sands left in his hourglass. Whether he’s telling a story about his then-96-year-old-teacher apologizing for not being dead, thanking us for keeping his songs alive on “Tower of Song” (in which he still hasn’t moved up a floor on ol’ Hank), or intoning knowingly on the eternal “Who By Fire” (in a magnificent new setting), his eyes smile as he awaits his maker. We can all use that model–he’s still waiting, by the way. This review is for my friend Deke, whose eyes smiled, too.