Rhapsody Streamnotes: August 18, 2015

My trip to the northwest pushed July's compilation all the way to the end of the month, but I've been knocking down records at a furious clip this August. Still, this is only average length for this year, where I've only done one Rhapsody Streamnotes per month, usually close to the middle. I suppose I could have waited another week and come up with something ridiculous. But I hit a logical endpoint in the "old music" section and I'm looking forward to doing something different there in the future. (Not that I know what.)

The "old music" section is mostly the result of my attempt to fill in the gaps in Spin's Top 300 Albums of 1985-2014. When that list was published on May 11, I copied it down, noted my grades, and discovered that I hadn't heard 81 of those 300 records (27%). Not a big surprise. There's a generation gap between me and the younger critics who picked the list -- I know 1970s rock pretty well, but didn't review records during much of this period (1980-2003), so I had no reason to pay attention to things I wasn't likely to like. And while I like alt/indie much more than metal, say, I don't like it enough to write for Spin. (For diversity, Spin likes, and does a pretty decent job of covering, hip-hop -- 19.6% of their list -- but my tastes there are more underground, and I missed a lot of the 1990s gangsta bubble they're so fond of. Their EDM is about as spotty as mine -- making it hard to intersect -- and they only listed three country albums, one Africa comp, and no jazz.)

On the other hand, since I got onto Rhapsody -- 2007 was when I started taking notes -- it's been more tempting (or at least cost-effective) to check out records other people like even when I'm pretty doubtful I'll like them myself. For instance, I wound up hearing 47 of the top 50 finishers in last year's EOY Aggregate (OK, only 42 of the next 50, 38 of the third 50, and with interest really starting to wane, 20 of the fourth -- although I later caught up with U2 and Fred Hersch). So the Spin list offered a form for working backward. Along the way, I picked up other records of likely interest by artists placing a record on the list. For instance, Green Day's American Idiot made the list, but Christgau had much preferred their previous album, Warning (A- to C+), so it didn't make sense to hit one without checking out the other. On the other hand I didn't bother rechecking records I had previously rated -- in Green Day's case, Dookie (also on Spin's list) and Insomniac (not on the list). In those cases, for your convenience, I listed my previous grades at the bottom.

Of course, not every artist got the same treatment. I checked out an extra album for Aerosmith, M83 and Cursive and found that was more than enough. And I didn't feel like exploring Tori Amos or Killers at all. Of course, not everything was available on Rhapsody. I wound up with 10 records still missing (3.3%). I've heard that most of those are available on YouTube, but haven't tried chasing them down yet. (I did go to YouTube to find the Nots album, and I noticed a lot of unheard Ty Segall there -- Memphis artists. Segall's Manipulator was number 25 on last year's EOY Aggregate list.)

Since then I've added a few more "old music" artists, a side trip from listening to their new albums: Kurt Elling, Alan Jackson, the Sonics, Tamikrest. The new stuff is relatively straightforward, although I should note again that one exceptional source of leads was Phil Overeem's "Top 50 of 2015 (So Far)" list (posted on Facebook, so no link), pointing me toward 79rs Gang, Dead Moon, Mdou Moctar and Nots among the A-list, and several more high B+s. Only three records came from my jazz queue (Adair/Aliquo, ElSaffar, and the magnificent Schweizer/Bennink disc) -- I had to chase James Brandon Lewis, and for that matter, Miles Davis, down on Rhapsody. Both Davis boxes, by the way, are incomplete on Rhapsody -- the Acrobat is only half there, the Sony just missing a couple cuts. I felt I had heard enough (in one pass) to offer a fair grade, but I would much rather had heard it all. (I do, by the way, never grade something I haven't listened to all the tracks I can hear.) In both Davis reviews I take pains to explain my limits. My hedge on the Acrobat box was to pick the lower of the two most likely grades. It could be that the missing material will nudge it over the A- cusp. Also possible that doc and multiple plays might make the difference, but that's pure speculation.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on July 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (6797 records).

Recent Releases

79rs Gang: Fire on the Bayou (2015, Sinking City/Urban Unrest): Big Chief Romeo Bougere of the 9th Ward Hunters and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier of the 7th Ward Creole Hunters team up to form the Soixante Dix Neufleurs Bande, aka 79rs Gang. A throwback to the great New Orleans Indian bands of the 1970s, though the beats are sharper and tenser, the jungle denser, the struggle harder. A-

Beegie Adair/Don Aliquo: Too Marvelous for Words (2015, Adair Music Group): Piano and tenor sax quartet from Nashville, backed by Roger Spencer on bass and Chris Brown on drums. I hadn't run into Adair before, but AMG credits her with 48 albums since 1997 -- admittedly a rather cheesy list with lots of standards and tributes, piano music for special occasions (not just Xmas but Mother's Day), a Cocktail Jazz Party and Beautiful Ballads. She goes for standards here, especially Strayhorn with a dash of Monk. I am familiar with Aliquo, a mainstream tenor who really shines on the ballads. Perhaps too easy, but they earn their title. A- [cd]

Alessio Alberghini/Garrison Fewell: Inverso (2014 [2015], Floating Forest): Duets, Fewell plays guitar, Alberghini mostly soprano sax, sometimes baritone. Originals plus two pieces by John Tchicai. Nice, intimate, "little gem" is the phrase from the liner notes. B+(**) [cd]

Gregg Allman: Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA (2014 [2015], Rounder): Like Elvin Bishop, Allman realizes that the long-term career strategy for southern rockers is to revert to the blues, so he starts off here with Blind Willie McTell and works his way through Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James, also Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett, working in a few ravers from his old band. Saxophonist Jay Collins always hits the spot. B+(***)

Takeshi Asai: French Trio Vol. 2 (2014 [2015], De Trois Cités): Pianist, based in New York, only bio I've seen (AAJ) gives his birth date as 1864 (presumably a typo on '8') but doesn't mention where. He has a couple New York Trio records, but also likes France, and Pascal Combeau (bass) and Maxime Legrand (drums) show why. B+(**) [cd]

Baltazanis: End of Seas (2015, self-released): Guitarist, first name Costas, has previously recorded in the group Iasis. This is a postbop quintet (trumpet, keyboards, bass, drums) plus guests) which favors a steady groove. B+(*) [cd]

Bastet: Eye of Ra (2015, self-released): Cat-headed Egyptian goddess, something I know because my sister had a black cat she named Bastet. This one is a San Francisco-based quartet where guitarist Justin Rock writes the songs, backed by sax, bass, and drums -- a little more postbop than fusion, a lot more guitar than sax. B [cd]

Louie Belogenis: Blue Buddha (2015, Tzadik): Tenor saxophonist, credits go back to 1993 with groups God Is My Co-Pilot and Prima Materia, but not much under his own name -- indeed, looked like this was an eponymous group album until I found his name on the spine, and I can't be sure of that. Quartet, with Dave Douglas on trumpet, Bill Laswell on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. B+(***) [cdr]

Karl Berger/Kirk Knuffke: Moon (2013-14 [2015], NoBusiness, 2CD): Duets, Knuffke on cornet, the 80-year-old German best known on vibraphone but he's also a remarkable pianist. Runs long, and not a lot of sparks, but gaps of age and continent give way to shared dreams (old and new). B+(**) [cd]

Luciano Biondini: Senza Fine (2014 [2015], Intakt): Accordion player, from Italy, AMG credits him with eight records, I've run across him on a couple of Rabih Abou-Khalil's discs. This one is solo, but his instrument is so rich harmonically the set escapes the spareness of so many solo sets. B+(*) [cd]

Michael Blum/Jim Stinnett: Commitment (2015, self-released): Guitar and bass, plus a couple others (Brad Smith on piano, Fred Haas on tenor sax, Grant Stinnett one track on bass guitar) here and there. I wasn't sure why Stinnett got cover billing, but he contributed three (of ten) songs, two more than Blum, who plays tasteful guitar and sings several standards ("Pick Yourself Up," How Deep Is the Ocean") with awkward charm. B+(*) [cd]

Don Braden: Luminosity (2010-14 [2015], Creative Perspective Music): A fine mainstream tenor saxophonist with 18 albums since 1991. Credit here refers to his Organix Quartet, with Dave Stryker (guitar), Kyle Koehler (organ), and Cecil Brooks III (drums), with Claudio Roditi and Sherman Irby listed as special guests (one track each). Sumptuous soul jazz, but too much flute. B+(*) [cd]

The Dan Brubeck Quartet: Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave & Iola Brubeck (2013 [2015], Blue Forest, 2CD): Five of Dave & Iola Brubeck's six children became professional musicians, Dan playing drums. Iola was a jazz lyricist before she married Dave in 1942, and they both lived together into their nineties, so there's something especially sweet about this project, with its thick booklet and many pictures. Dan's quartet is modeled on dad's, with Steve Kaldestad on tenor sax, Tony Foster on piano, and Adam Thomas on bass -- Thomas also sings the lyrics that figure largely (although not exhaustively) here. B+(***) [cd]

Casa: Futuro (2012 [2015], Clean Feed): Avant-sax trio: Pedro Sausa on sax, Johan Berthling on bass, Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. Has some strong moments, but doesn't sustain them. B [cd]

Kasey Chambers: Bittersweet (2015, Sugar Hill): Australian singer-songwriter, emerged in 2000 with a voice that rivaled anyone in Nashville. She married Shane Nicholson in 2008 and has a couple duet albums with him, but this is her first solo since divorce. Still, not much of a breakup album, not that the title cut -- a duet with Bernard Fanning -- doesn't try. Does end on an up note with "I'm Alive." B

Greg Cohen: Golden State (2014, Relative Pitch): Bassist, has only a handful of albums under his own name but has appeared on many dozens more, equally home in trad jazz (Marty Grosz), in avant-garde (John Zorn, Ornette Coleman), and with the occasional rock star (Tom Waits, Lou Reed). This is a duo album with guitarist Bill Frisell doing his impressionist folkie thing on a set of venerable California-themed chestnuts. B+(**)

Jay Collins and the Kings County Band: Rivers Blues and Other People (2012, Sundown): Tenor saxophonist for Gregg Allman and Levon Helm, who appreciate his blues honk, Collins has an early (1994) jazz album with Kenny Barron, Joe Locke, Rufus Reid and Ben Riley I'd like to hear someday, but here he's moved into a blues format. Presumably he's the singer -- I don't see a credits list, but he's still got some jazz guys in the band (Dred Scott, anyway). B+(***)

The Coneheads: L.P. 1 (2015, Erste Theke Tonträger, EP): Title runs on: Aka 14 Year Old High School PC-Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo For The Sake Of Extorting $$$ From Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P.. Punk band from Indiana, I don't know that they aren't 14 but they're old enough to know from Devo. Discogs lists five other albums, all self-released cassettes since 2014. This has 15 songs, two of them covers (Residents' "Lizard Lady" and Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer"), runs 21:11 with a slow fade at the end. B+(***) [bc]

The Convergence Quartet: Owl Jacket (2013 [2015], NoBusiness): Avant-jazz group -- Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Andrew Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (bass), Harris Eisenstadt (drums) -- has a couple good records together. Hawkins continues to impress in this group, but the cornet seems less out there. B+(**) [cdr]

Easton Corbin: About to Get Real (2015, Mercury Nashville): Country singer, more/less neo-trad, third album. One thing that strikes me, looking at Wikipedia, is that while his three albums have peaked on the country charts higher (4-2-1) sales have hit the skids (371-177-29, in thousands). I've heard sales in general have slacked off, but not that much. B

Linda Dachtyl: A Late One (2015, Chicken Coup/Summit): Organ player, third album since 2006, with Don Hales on guitar and Cary Dachtyl on drums, plus various guest slots for sax and/or brass. Two originals, most of the rest from early bop sources (Dameron, Monk, Silver) but swung pretty hard -- one tune's "A Tribute to Cozy Cole," and another has a croonerish vocal. B+(**) [cd]

Doomtree: All Hands (2015, Doomtree): Minneapolis hip-hop crew -- includes solo artists I've heard: P.O.S., Dessa, Sims, plus four more I don't know -- sixth group album. Lots going on here -- maybe too much, plus the synths can get busy and they try to slam everything down. B+(***)

Benjamin Duboc/Jean-Luc Petit: Double-Basse: This Is Not Art (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): Double-bass duets, most often one plucked, the other bowed, the latter offering deep moans as a backdrop to random rhythm. B+(*) [cd]

Kurt Elling: Passion World (2015, Concord): Jazz singer, a dozen albums since 1995, used to be an impressive dervish of fancy technique, which isn't to say better, but this is rather plodding. C

Amir ElSaffar: Crisis (2015, Pi): Trumpet player, originally from Iraq, named his 2007 album Two Rivers and calls his group Two Rivers Ensemble -- more appropriate than ever as he figures out more ways to integrate Arabic motifs into his music. The superb jazz rhythm section of Carlo DeRosa (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) is matched by Tareq Abboushi (buzuqi) and Zafer Tawil (oud, percussion), and ElSaffar sings three pieces. Ole Mathisen's sax complements his trumpet, which has advanced to a new plane. A- [cd]

Field Music: Music for Drifters (2015, Memphis Industries): Fifth album, this one written as a soundtrack to a 1929 documentary (John Grierson's Drifters), dispenses with vocals and plays more like a series of jazz set pieces, a bit regular but more hypnotic for that. B+(**)

Nick Finzer: The Chase (2014 [2015], Origin): Trombonist, second album, leads a sextet with Lucas Pino on sax, Alex Wintz on guitar, Glenn Zaleski on piano, plus bass and drums. All originals, postbop, nice to hear the deep leads but nobody gets dirty. B+(*) [cd]

Future: DS2 (2015, Epic): Rapper Nayvadius Cash, third album, title short for Dirty Sprite 2. B+(***) [Later: A-]

Laszlo Gardony: Life in Real Time (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): Pianist, originally from Hungary, has a dozen albums since 1986, most trios but this time he unleashes the saxophones: Don Braden, Bill Pierce, and Stan Strickland (all tenor, with Strickland also playing bass clarinet), and they create all sorts of excitement. B+(***) [cd]

Mary Halvorson: Meltframe (2014 [2015], Firehouse 12): Guitarist, one of several impressive musicians to study under Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan, has been very prolific since 2005 -- AMG lists 20 albums, Discogs 19. This is solo, ten pieces written by other jazz musicians, Ellington and (maybe) Coleman the only standards. Shows off many of her favorite tricks, and when she gets noisy and dissonant you don't miss anyone else. B+(***) [cd]

Lafayette Harris, Jr. Trio: Bend to the Light (2011 [2015], Airmen): Mainstream pianist, seven albums since 1973, this a sparkling trio with Lonnie Plaxico and Willie Jones III (also "help" on percussion by Thomas Dyani, and uncredited scat by Jazzmeia Horn. B+(**) [cd]

Albert "Tootie" Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street: Philadelphia Beat (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): Brother of Jimmy and Percy Heath, the drummer's discography goes back to 1957 (Red Garland, John Coltrane, Nina Simone) and runs on for hundreds of records since then, but before 2013 he only had two albums under his own name. Second album with this piano trio, all standards. Nice to spotlight the drummer, although Iverson offers the surprises. B+(**)

Bret Higgins: Bret Higgins' Atlas Revolt (2015, Tzadik): Bassist, from Canada, first record, leads a quintet with electric guitar (Tom Juhas), violin, keyboards, and drums. They keep a groove going, a touch of klezmer in the violin, but mostly opens up for the guitar. B+(**) [cdr]

Paul Hubweber/Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Clayton Thomas/Willi Kellers: Intricacies (2014 [2015], NoBusiness, 2CD): Trombone, alto/soprano sax, piano, bass, drums, respectively, mostly German. I had never heard of Hubweber before, but he seems to be a fairly major figure in the German avant-garde: Discogs credits him with 15 albums since 1998, but his Wikipedia page (in German) lists 37 albums going back to a solo, Aus meiner Sicht, in 1976. Two long improvs (49:39 and 44:40) plus a 14:34 encore. Focus on the pianist, who most likely you have heard of. B+(***) [cd]

Alan Jackson: Angels and Alcohol (2015, Capitol Nashville): Sixteen albums in, the neo-traditionalist sounds most like himself. If this seems easier than most of his albums, like he's aging comfortably, that's probably because he knows he's got a good bunch of songs. A-

Jar-e: Chicas Malas (2009, Exotic): In the new records queue for six years now -- can't even find a hype sheet. Jar-e sings (male) and plays keyboards and trombone, band includes guitar-bass-drums, some horns, and background singers (female). Third album, recorded after he moved from North Carolina to Mexico. Basically southern rock, ulta-lightweight division. B- [cd]

Stefan Keune/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Fractions (2013 [2015], NoBusiness): German saxophonist, sopranino and tenor here (alto elsewhere), ten or so albums since 1992, backed by bass and drums. Free improv, fast and furious, although the sopranino tends to be a bit squeaky. B+(***) [cdr]

Lama + Joachim Badenhorst: The Elephant's Journey (2015, Clean Feed): Lama is a mostly Portuguese trio led by bassist (and composer) Gonçalo Almeida, with Susana Santos Silva on trumpet and Greg Smith on drums. Here they add a clarinet -- gives them some color contrast but doesn't perk up the group much. B+(*) [cd]

Gaetano Letizia/Mike Clark/Wilbur Krebs: Froggy & the Toads (2015, self-released): Guitar-drums-bass trio, the leader originally from Naples, plays in blues and fusion groups, this trio somewhere in between, maintaining a groove while adding something more. B+(**) [cd]

Daniel Levin Quartet: Friction (2015, Clean Feed): Avant-cellist, ten albums since 2003, this a quartet with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Matt Moran (vibes), and Torbjorn Zetterburg (bass). Has a couple moments when they all get moving, but also bogs down a lot. B [cd]

James Brandon Lewis: Days of FreeMan (2015, Okeh): Tenor saxophonist, born in Buffalo, went into gospel before jazz, self-released an album in 2011 and got his second picked up by Sony when they relaunched the Okeh label. Third album, a sax trio with Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Rudy Royston, although he's mixed in some vocal bits, which may (or may not) have anything to do with the hip-hop the hype sheet says he's been studying. The horn, however, rings clear. A-

Lil Wayne: The Free Weezy Album (2015, Young Money/Republic): A good-will gesture, I suppose, dumped on the web after Wayne sued Birdman and Cash Money over the delay/non-release of Tha Carter V (although Sorry for the Wait 2 came out first). His post-jail albums have lost something -- nothing in technique so much as that swagger that elevated rather mundane ideas (mostly "fuck bitches/make money") into a transcendent joke. Obviously, he can still crank this shit out by the truckload. B+(*) [dl]

Frantz Loriot/Manuel Perovic Notebook Large Ensemble: Urban Furrow (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): The leaders composed this, with Loriot playing viola and Perovic conducting. The group itself isn't that large -- I count nine pieces, including Loriot (but not Perovic): two reed players (tenor and alto sax, but also bass clarinet and bassoon), two brass, guitar, cello, bass, drums. I don't know what to make of the bit of vocal, but the ensemble work is powerful. B+(**) [cd]

Shai Maestro Trio: Untold Stories (2014 [2015], Motema): Israeli pianist, third album, recorded in Brooklyn and France, backed by Jorge Roeder (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Nick Mazzarella Trio: Ultraviolet (2015, International Anthem): Alto saxophonist from Chicago, with Anton Hatwich (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums), has several previous albums plus tenure in the Chicago Reed Quartet. B+(***)

Miguel: Wildheart (2015, RCA): Neo-soul singer from Southern California, surname Pimentel, third album, built with thick, loopy layers of chorus, occasionally punctured by an unexpected "fuck." I could see losing oneself in the swim, but I don't relish drowning, even if that's someone's idea of heaven. Does end on two exceptional pieces, both (wtf?) "feat. Lenny Kravitz" (guitar, I guess). Easy to underrate. Easy to overrate, too. B+(***)

Mdou Moctar: Afelan (2013, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitarist from Niger, one of those Saharan rockers although this keeps its groove on a fairly even keel. B+(*) [bc]

Mdou Moctar: Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai [Original Soundtrack Recording] (2015, Sahel Sounds): English title of the film is Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It, about a Tuareg musician, which is exactly what Moctar is. None of the usual soundtrack pitfalls, just lots of guitar, some chant vocals, and that Saharan beat that's as accessible as the blues. A- [bc]

Mount Eerie: Sauna (2015, PW Elverum & Sun): Lo-fi singer-songwriter Peter Elverum, started out as the Microphones in 1999, has more than a dozen albums since 2004, when he adopted this more appropriate moniker -- AMG describes his albums as "massive and mysterious." Dirges built on drone (or organ), tarted up with background voices. B-

Larry Newcomb Quartet: Live Intentionally! (2015, Essential Messenger): Guitarist, I don't see any previous albums, but Bucky Pizzarelli seems to like him. Three originals, the rest standards and jazz tunes from Charlie Parker and Carla Bley. Eric Olsen plays a lively piano, and everyone swings. B+(*) [cd]

Nots: We Are Nots (2014, Goner): "Weird punk" band from Memphis, originally guitarist Natalie Hoffmann and drummer Charlotte Watson before adding bass and keyboards. Eleven songs, only runs 26:28. Not sure I caught any of the words, but Hoffmann has a unique guitar sound ("reverb-soaked noise bursting forth like shards of aural shrapnel") and they build up an impressive sonic wall. A- [dl]

Obnox: Know America (2015, Ever/Never): Lamont Thomas, from Cleveland, fifth album under this moniker since 2011, has bounced around through various other bands (Unholy Two, Puffy Areolas, Bassholes, and the only one I've heard of, This Moment in Black History -- look for their 2006 album, It Takes a Nation of Assholes to Hold Us Back). A synthesis of surrealism and noise rock, seems promising as it wears you down. B+(*) [bc]

Oceaán: The Grip (2014, B3SCI, EP): Electronica, approximately trip-hop, from Oliver Cean (Brussels-born, Manchester-based), four songs, 15:15. B+(*)

César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz: No Limits for Tumbao (2015, Alfi): Piano/keyboard player, born in Cuba but also identifies as Venezuelan, group a quartet with bass, percussion, and drums, to which the album adds many featured guests and a few surprising turns, like Linda Briceño's vocal on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Orozco argues that tumbao is as pervasive as swing was for Ellington. B+(**) [cd]

Matt Panayides: Conduits (2014 [2015], Pacific Coast Jazz): Guitarist, second album, tone and lines put him in the Montgomery mainstream of jazz guitar. Quartet: Rich Perry's tenor sax helps out but doesn't threaten to steal the show. B+(*)

Evan Parker/Joe Morris/Nate Wooley: Ninth Square (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Sax-guitar-trumpet improv, live from Firehouse 12, the guitarist at his most prickly, which brings out the same when Parker switches from tenor to soprano. The trumpeter manages to get himself into all sorts of interesting avant mixes, but doesn't add much. B+(**) [cd]

Simon Phillips: Protocol III (2015, Phantom): British drummer, started out in trad jazz bands, but has run the table doing jazz, classical, and rock (Big Country, Judas Priest, Toto). This is your basic fusion quartet, with Andy Timmons (guitar), Ernest Tibbs (electric bass), and Steve Weingart (keyboards), all with long resumes (not that I didn't have to look them up). B [cd]

Howard Riley: 10.11.12 (2012 [2015], NoBusiness): No sound (someone screwed up), no grade. [cdr]

Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique: Love Is Free (2015, Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope, EP): The Swedish pop-disco diva, keyboardist Markus Jägerstedt, and the late Christian Falk (1962-2014, best known as a producer). Four originals, an Arthur Russell cover, total 20:50. One terrific dance piece after another. Wish there were more. A-

Jason Roebke: Every Sunday (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Avant-bassist, from Chicago, has appeared on 40+ albums since 1997, several under his own name. This is one of those bass-guitar-drums trios where the normally louder guitar (Matthew Schneider) is held down to play around the bass. Drummer Marcus Evans does leave marks. B+(**) [cd]

Robert Sabin: Humanity Part II (2014 [2015], Ranula Music): Bassist, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Gary Peacock. Third record, originals except for the title piece by Morricone, arranged for ten pieces -- five brass, two saxes, guitar-bass-drums. B+(***) [cd]

Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (2015, Intakt): Piano-drum duo, both should be household names by now, and indeed the Dutch percussionist is one of the very few Europeans to make Downbeat Hall of Fame ballot. On the other hand, I've had to write in the name of the Swiss pianist the last few years -- this year ahead of Myra Melford and Marilyn Crispell, who are similar players only in the sense that anyone can be described as similar to Cecil Taylor; Schweizer comes as close as anyone to matching Taylor, but she can also work in some boogie woogie or pennywhistle jive, and closes here with a bit of Monk that evokes "Lullaby of Birdland." In the late 1980s Schweizer started a series of duos with top avant drummers (Louis Moholo was the first, followed by Gunter Sommer and Andrew Cyrille). The best was her 1995 meeting with Bennink (although I also have the 1990 Pierre Favre at A). This return engagement belongs alongside. A [cd]

Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (2015, Atlantic): The group members fled war-torn north Mali for Bamako, and have kept on moving, finding a welcome for their desert blues/Saharan rock in the west. Produced by a guitarist in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this seems a bit slowed down and bulked up compared to their numerous competitors. On the other hand, that may make them a bit more accessible. A-

The Sonics: This Is the Sonics (2015, Revox): Garage rock band from Tacoma led by Gerry Roslie, had a hitless run in the late 1960s, regrouped in 1972 and 1980 and 2007, putting out some live albums but this is their first studio joint in many decades. Still hard, fast, loud, ramshackle, and Rob Lind is still on sax. Fewer obvious covers, and they can't quite write them like they steal 'em. B+(***)

Vince Staples: Summertime '06 (2015, Def Jam, 2CD): West coast rapper, came up in a group called the Cutthroat Boyz, released a much-admired EP last year (Hell Can Wait), intends to make a big splash with his studio debut (split into two discs, but total time just 59:07). B+(***)

Grant Stewart: Trio (2014 [2015], Cellar Live): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, recorded three albums 1992-99 then picked up the pace since 2005. I think of him as the kind of guy who usually has a piano on hand, but this time it's just bass (Paul Sikivie) and drums (Philip Stewart). B+(**)

Swervedriver: I Wasn't Born to Lose You (2015, Cobraside): British band, filed with shoegaze for their guitar echo, released four albums 1991-98, broke up, regrouped a decade later, but only now do they have a new album. Much like the old sound, maybe a bit heavier, as happens, a bit more obscure too. B

Tamikrest: Taksera (2015, Glitterbeat): Tuaregs from Mali, fourth record, "live" which may make it redundant as it certainly doesn't kick out the jams. B+(**)

Brianna Thomas: You Must Believe in Love (2013 [2015], Sound on Purpose): Singer-songwriter, debut album, wrote four originals to go with seven standards, lined up some guests to go with Allyn Johnson's piano trio -- trombonist Wycliffe Gordon made the biggest impression on me. Will Friedwald and Bill Clinton are fans. B+(*) [cd]

Helen Tzatzimakis: Soulfully (2014 [2015], Cobalt Music): Pianist-singer, from Greece, has at least one previous album (also a book of poetry), mistakes sadness for soul, gloom too -- quotes Brecht, "In the dark times/Will there also be singing?/Yes, there will also be singing/about the dark times." Most appealing when I can't make out the words -- not just not "Crazy," but not "Ne Me Quitte Pas" either. On the other hand, Marianne Faithfull's "So Sad" does her justice, or vice versa. B+(*) [cd]

Bill Warfield and the Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra: Mercy Mercy Mercy (2015, Blujazz): Trumpet player, has led big bands since 1988 (at least). Shows funk is just another twist on swing. B+(*) [cd]

Brad Allen Williams: Lamar (2012-13 [2015], Sojourn): Guitarist, UNT grad, first album, trio with Pat Bianchi on organ and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, nice soul jazz groove, nothing that hasn't been done dozens of times. B+(*) [cd]

Mark Winkler: Jazz and Other Four Letter Words (2015, Cafe Pacific): Jazz singer, has a dozen albums since 1985, writes most of his own lyrics but draws on Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough for the song that frames the album "I'm Hip" -- he ends with his own "Stay Hip," so close it sounds like a reprise. Two songs are paeans to beatnik-era jazz (title cut, which name drops no one after the '50s, and "You Cat Plays Piano"). Two duets with Cheryl Bentyne, who is also hip. B+(***) [cd]

Wire: Wire (2015, Pink Flag): Seems a little late in the day to be releasing an eponymous album -- suggests the imagination is flagging. But what they've come up is the most generic rendering of their brand yet. Doesn't blow you away, but it's served them well over nearly 40 years. B+(***)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

The Miles Davis Quintet: All of You: The Last Tour 1960 (1960 [2014], Acrobat, 4CD): Cover adds "featuring John Coltrane" -- the tenor saxophonist who had played in Davis' Quintet since 1955 but had finally broken out as a star in his own right with 1959's Giant Steps. The Quintet was filled out with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The tracks come from eight dates on a European tour, and while Davis gets the first solo, the cuts were picked to show Coltrane breaking away from the band. He's making those giant steps, but Wynton Kelly is also superb doing his usual bebop thing, and Davis gets his licks in. Rhapsody bills this as Vol. 1, only including the first two discs. It seems unlikely that the other two drop off much, but I'll hedge a bit. Caveat emptor. B+(***)

Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975 [The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4] (1955-75 [2015], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): Since I fell off Legacy's mailing list, it's been impossible to fairly evaluate their bootleg boxes. I used to ease myself into a box, playing a disc here and there until I was familiar with the terrain, and then there's the booklets with all that info and pictures and such. Those are the tangible things that make box sets worthwhile, and judging from the reviews by critics so treated this one must be a dandy. (Then, again, box sets almost never get negative reviews.) The 1955 group was a rather ad hoc mix of stars (Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, Percy Heath, Connie Kay), but I can't say much about them given that Rhapsody dropped 3 (of 4) cuts. Davis returns with his regular group in 1958, with seven cuts that were previously released on CD in 2001: I gave that a B but was more impressed this time, especially by Coltrane's "Bye Bye Blackbird" solo. (Some also on the 1963 LP Miles & Monk at Newport, more on a French LP in 1968.) The second disc gives us two Quintet sets from 1966 and 1967: really superb material, with Wayne Shorter in especially fine form. The third disc offers three 1969 cuts by the transitional electric band (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette), starting with "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" -- again, superb. Then we get six sizzling tracks from the 1973 8-piece band playing in Berlin, a bit sloppier but the trumpet rises to the occasion, and one cut from 1975. Fourth disc steps back to 1971, a Newport show in Switzerland with Gary Bartz on alto, Keith Jarrett on electric piano and organ, Michael Henderson on electric bass, and lots of percussion, which drags a bit in the 25:38 "Funky Tonk" but closes strong -- I can't say it's essential but it fills a slot on a shelf full of dazzling early '70s live albums. Assuming the box is up to snuff, probably: A-

Dead Moon: Live at Satyricon (1993 [2015], Voodoo Doughnut): Guitarist-singer Fred Cole drifted through close to a dozen bands from 1965 until he formed this DIY punk trio, which lasted two decades, with wife Toody on bass and Andrew Loomis on drums. They subsisted on self-released records and touring, cutting corners by limiting their album covers to black ink only. AMG lists this as Tales From the Grease Trap, Vol. 1: evidently we can expect a series of old live tapes. As someone who hasn't heard any of their previous albums -- 10 studio, 4 live, the 2-CD retrospective Echoes From the Past -- I can't really say this is their best or the one you should have, but it could be. A-

Charlie Haden/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Tokyo Adagio (2005 [2015], Impulse): The search through the late great bassist's vault tapes continues, having yielded a thoroughly delightful duo with guitarist Jim Hall last year. This matches him with a familiar Cuban pianist -- they and Paul Motion appeared on The Montreal Tapes Volume 4. Rather placid, though. B+(*)

Phil Haynes: Sanctuary (1999 [2015], Corner Store Jazz): Drummer, has close to ten records since 1998 and more side credits going back another decade. This is solo, a limiting factor on any instrument. B+(*)

Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City: Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77 (1970-77 [2015], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Updates a compilation with the same title issued in 1996, dropping 4 (of 16) tracks, adding 5. One of the first things I did when I got to New York in the 1970s was to try to dive into salsa music, but while it always sounded great on the street I never developed a knack for finding records I much liked. This does better than I did, but for every couple blistering rhythm tracks there's one that throws up something incomprehensibly prog. The luck of the experiments, I guess. B+(***)

Mammane Sani et Son Orgue: La Musique Electronique du Niger (1978 [2013], Sahel Sounds): Full name Mamman Sani Abdoulaye, originally released this album of organ groove pieces on cassette -- typos seem to be as common as copies of this (the original cassette, optimistically titled Vol. No. 1, is credited to Mamman Sani Aboullaye, while the LP reissue is as above. B+(***) [bc]

Mamman Sani: Taaritt (1985-88 [2014], Sahel Sounds): Previously unreleased groove pieces recorded in Niamey and Paris using analog synths, originally intended as a "relaxation guide," the album cover depicting a fantastic space ship hovering over the Agadez Mosque in the middle of a very barren desert. Much more beat than you get from new age, and more amusing than either minimalism or prog rock. B+(**) [bc]

Daniel Smith: Jazz Suite for Bassoon (1995-97 [2015], Summit): Bassoonist, recorded a lot of classical music since 1986 (including at least thirteen CDs of Vivaldi) before trying his hand at jazz with 2006's Bebop Bassoon -- best title is 2014's Smokin' Hot Bassoon Blues, but none are very good. This is earlier material, transitional I suppose. The 20:16 "Jazz Suite for Bassoon" was written by someone else (Steve Gray, who plays piano) and has some twisty moves but not a lot of dynamic range (nothing that would bury the bassoon). The first two-thirds of the album contains "Baroque Adaptations for Bassoon and Jazz Trio" and three "Scott Joplin Rags" -- so at least you get a regular beat. B [cd]

Huey "Piano" Smith: Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu (1956-62 [2012], Hallmark): I first heard the title tune on the Flamin' Groovies' Supersnazz and was even more delighted when I tracked down the original -- ever since every bit as essential to my New Orleans soundtrack as "West End Blues." That may not have occurred until Rhino compiled Serious Clownin': The History of Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns (1986). Later I picked up Music Club's now-out-of-print This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith (2000) and, on Christgau's tip, this shorter (14 vs. 18 cuts) and cheaper redundancy. Note, though, that you get no liner notes at all, And while more isn't necessarily better, if I had it to do again I'd check out the 24-cut The Very Best of Huey "Piano Smith & the Clowns, Volume 1 (1999, Westside; evidently reissued 2013, Traditions). A- [cd]

J.B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World for Me (1965-66 [2015], Dust-to-Digital, 2CD): Bruce Jackson's field recordings of Prisoner No. 130196 at Ramsey State Farm in Rosharon, TX. This is much extended beyond the three songs that appeared on the Takoma LP Ever Since I Have Been a Man Full Grown (1965). All vocal, on some Smith may be leading others, a couple spoken sections every bit as dramatic. B+(**)

Old Music

2Pac: 2Pacalypse Now (1991, Interscope): Lesane Parish Crooks (1971-96), aka Tupac Shakur, first album, peaked at 64 on the charts but eventually went gold as his next three albums -- all he released before he was shot and killed -- proved increasingly popular. Nothing splashy here, just solid beats and fairly conventional observations, even "Words of Wisdom." B+(*)

2Pac: Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993, Interscope): Acronym allegedly stands for "Never Ig'nant Getting Goals Accomplished" with the "Z" signifying something plural, whatever any of that might mean, but I'll take the acronym over the onomatopoeia (I guess that's the right word). The album itself is also rather opaque, which may at least save it from being something worse. B

2Pac: Me Against the World (1995, Interscope): In 1992 Shakur's gun shot and killed a 6-year-old (he reportedly drew the gun, put it down, and it accidentally fired when one of his entourage picked it up -- who says "guns don't kill people; people do"?). In April 1993 Shakur pled to an assault charge, doing a few days in jail. In October Shakur was charged with shooting two off-duty cops, but charges were dropped. In November Shakur was charged with sexual assault and sentenced to 18-54 months in jail, but was released pending appeal. In early 1994 he was found guilty of assault and served 15 days in jail. In November he was robbed and shot five times -- an event detailed in the "Intro" here. In February 1995 he began serving his sentence for sexual assault, and was in jail when his third album topped the charts. I don't see when he got out of jail, but in September 1996 he was in Las Vegas, where he assaulted a Crips gang member and later that night was shot and killed. Shouldn't it be I Against the World? Not his worst grammatical offense, nor is his grammar his worst criminal trait. B-

2Pac: All Eyez on Me (1996, Death Row, 2CD): Working off his bail debt -- Suge Knight and Jimmy Iovine ponied up $1.4 million and got a deal for Shakur's next three, this counting as two. Two things: first is that the production has taken a big step forward -- nearly every song is full of ear candy, which had never been the case before; second is that the political context has given way in favor of the supposed luxuries of the thug life, a parable of capitalism triumphant. The combination, probably hyped by his martyrdom, sold more than five million copies. Actually, third thing: the auteur himself generally disappears into the mix, a trait which must have helped him become so prolific after his death. B+(*)

Aerosmith: Aerosmith's Greatest Hits (1972-79 [1980], Columbia): A hard-rocking band from Boston, one that I've rarely bothered with or took an interest in. This is their original best-of, LP-length at 10 songs, 37:32, often preferring edited-down singles to album cuts. Two originals rise above the generic, and the two covers at the end help. B+(**)

Aerosmith: Pump (1989, Geffen): This album (and its successor, Get a Grip, is their second act, a resurgence of hard and fast, presumably what made them in the first place. B-

Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes (1991, Atlantic): Singer-songwriter, plays piano, previously led a synthpop band that released an eponymous album, Y Kant Tori Read (1988). Not clear at this point which way this falls. B

Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (2004, Fat Cat): Evidently just a duo at this point, Avey Tare and Panda Bear, the idea to present a more stripped down sound, achieved by blocking out half the group. A typical piece is "Visiting Friends," with its basic folk guitar strum and background noises, not exactly animal sounds. Actually, more typical is the incoherent shit that follows. C+

Animal Collective: Feels (2005, Fat Cat): Back at full strength, which means they can add some harmony to the guitar riffs and they can keep a groove going on the rare occasions when they can find one. And when they can't, that's why they call it "experimental" -- frequent failure is to be expected. B+(*)

Birdman & Lil Wayne: Like Father, Like Son (2006, Cash Money/Universal): Bryan Williams pops up on records here and there, originally with Big Tymers, most recently with Young Thug, but his real claim to fortune (if not fame) was in co-founding Cash Money Records. This started as a mixtape to promote his biggest star -- Wayne is 13 years his junior -- and turned into a legit album. The father frames his business as a classic gangsta operation. The son plays along, showing respect, earning his keep. B+(***)

Neko Case: Blacklisted (2002, Bloodshot): Singer, grew up in Tacoma, joined Canadian alt/indie New Pornographers in 2000 but was also pursuing a solo career, initially on country-ish but later the country influence faded -- this album is transitional, neither here nor there. B+(*)

Cursive: Domestica (2000, Saddle Creek): Alt/indie band from Omaha, third album of seven 1997-2012, a little heavy-handed for my taste. B

Cursive: The Ugly Organ (2003, Saddle Creek): Proves its case against the organ, then sinks deeper. B-

The Deftones: White Pony (2000, Maverick): Alt-metal band, guess that means they can suspend the grind for a few moments of relative peacefulness and make something musical out of it. They do, several times, and while the vocal scream could easily wear thin, their grind is succinct enough I can get into it. B+(*)

Kurt Elling: Close Your Eyes (1994 [1995], Blue Note): Jazz singer, from Chicago, made a big splash with this his first album, impressing people with his quick shifts and flashy scat. I can't say he has an especially effective voice on ballads, but it's much clearer than on the new album, twenty years later. Has a good band with pianist Laurence Hobgood, and slots a couple guests on sax (notably Von Freeman). B

Kurt Elling: The Messenger (1994-96 [1997], Blue Note): Second album, leads with an impressive enough "Nature Boy" and a not-bad "April in Paris," but soon wanders into usual thing, way too convoluted for me to follow let alone care, although I noticed myself noticing the vocalese "Tanya Jean" on both plays, the hip-talkie "It's Just a Thing" too, plus there are scattered touches, like the saxophone. Cassandra Wilson joins in on "Time of the Season" -- I wouldn't call that success but it is sorta interesting, par for the album. B+(*)

Kurt Elling: This Time It's Love (1997-98 [1998], Blue Note): Like Betty Carter -- another singer I admire more than like -- he has a tight command on the band, and when he's not singing there's almost always something interesting going on. But I doubt I'll ever care much for his voice or mannerisms, especially when he loads up on the ballad schmaltz as he does here. B

Kurt Elling: Flirting With Twilight (2001, Blue Note): Seems like the same formula mix, but the voice is more plodding and very little strikes me as interesting, even in a bad way. B-

Kurt Elling: Man in the Air (2003, Blue Note): A Penguin Guide 4-star album, like Live in Chicago and Flirting With Twilight, although I can't begin to fathom why. (Unlike his first albums, where he seemed to have something novel going.) B-

Green Day: Kerplunk (1992, Lookout): Postpunk, early (second album), keeps it clean and straightforward. B+(*)

Green Day: Nimrod (1997, Reprise): Fifth album -- Dookie was their ten-million unit breakthrough, with Insomniac selling a couple million more, but neither much impressed me at the time. This is probably no better, but they do have a way of being hard and clean and crunchy at the same time. B+(**)

Green Day: Warning (2000, Reprise): Reviews argue over "maturity" but they mean things like the ability to construct credible songs along multiple lines, to slow down as well as speed up, and to throw things into the mix I never expected from this band. Doesn't feel like a masterpiece, and I doubt I'll ever love it, but there's not a bad moment. A-

Green Day: American Idiot (2004, Reprise): I assume the title song is for Bush, although he's hardly the only American idiot they could have targeted. It's as snappy as they ever got, but other pieces are merely loud, and when they toy with the Who's rock opera concept they can get, uh, operatic. B+(*)

Alan Jackson: Here in the Real World (1989, Arista): First album, leads off with the only song Jackson didn't have a hand in writing and it's the one song that comes off a bit stilted. He's clearly studied country music, coming up with a sound that came to be called neo-traditionalism -- like real country music -- and songs that ply classic country tropes, occasionally with a modern dollop (like "I like my sushi southern fried"). First single only made it to 45, but the next 27 went top 10, only 3 falling short of top 3. Four of them are here. B+(***)

Alan Jackson: Don't Rock the Jukebox (1991, Arista): Declares his fealty to country music over rock in the title song, and doesn't make you regret it, even though he's not the sort of guy who drinks doubles or hops trains. But he namechecks George Jones (twice, even eliciting a cameo), pays tribute to Hank, and spins Ernest Tubb around. A-

Alan Jackson: A Lot About Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love) (1992, Arista): Five more singles, one cruising on a motorcycle, another in a Mercury (suggesting he's secretly been searching through old rock & roll records). B+(**)

Alan Jackson: Everything I Love (1996, Arista): Skipping ahead to his sixth album, he's become really consistent, mostly because his sound -- that fiddle and steel guitar and honky tonk piano -- is so appealing. Still, I note that this has a record number of other people's songs, including the ones that grab your attention ("Little Bitty," from Tom T. Hall, and "Who's Cheatin' Who," by Jerry Hayes). B+(**)

Alan Jackson: High Mileage (1998, Arista): Jackson dips a toe into the political economy. Sure, his "Little Man" wasn't a worker -- just a small business proprietor buried by big business, but when he thinks it through he'll find a worker, and maybe he'll find more than nostalgia. B+(***)

Alan Jackson: Under the Influence (1999, Arista): A dozen covers. You'd expect as devout a student of country music as Jackson to dig deeper into the tradition, but 10 (of 12) songs came out 1971-81, when he was 13-23 (the other two came out in 1963 and 1967). He picks Merle Haggard and George Jones twice, but his Hank is Jr. and he winds up in "Margaritaville" -- sober as usual. B

Alan Jackson: When Somebody Loves You (2000, Arista): Seems to be struggling with his writing -- song titles include "www.memory" and "Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song" -- but the songs he picked off the rack are pretty lame. Maybe one can make a case for "It's Alright to Be a Redneck" but you need a better song than the one Bill Kenner and Paul McLaughlin wrote. B

Alan Jackson: Like Red on a Rose (2006, Arista Nashville): Alison Krauss replaces Jackson's longtime producer Keith Stegall here. The most obvious result is that everything slows down, but also note that Jackson only penned one song, and that was a remake ("A Woman's Love"). B+(*)

Killers: Hot Fuss (2004, Island/Universal): From Las Vegas, which has shed its tawdriness to become the home of homegenized American culture. Even the group's name have become as main street as apple pie. Still, seems like a perfectly average new wave rock band. B

Frankie Knuckles: Beyond the Mix (1991, Virgin): Francis Nicholls, born in the Bronx but became "The Godfather of House Music" DJing in Chicago. This was his first album, nine fine dance tracks, plus an undanceable gospel wail, "Soon I Will Be Done." B+(**)

Frankie Knuckles: Best of Frankie Knuckles (1986-87 [1998], Mirakkle): I don't think anyone has tried to assemble a career retrospective for Knuckles like Rhino did for Larry Levan, so the "best-ofs" are side glimpses. I was only able to track down about half of these 12-inchers (5-of-12 released under Knuckles' name), and they all come from his first year or two of recording. ("It's a Cold World") B+(**)

Lil Wayne: Tha Block Is Hot (1999, Cash Money/Universal): First album from the New Orleans rapper, must have been about 17 at the time, but he had signed with Cash Money when he was nine and had been in the Hot Boys. Long (70:18), most tracks have "featuring" credits (but not big stars -- mostly his old crew: B.G., Juvenile, [Young] Turk, producer Mannie Fresh). Basically a mixtape, gone platinum. B+(**)

Lil Wayne: 500 Degreez (2002, Cash Money/Universal): Third album, another long one (70:21), Mannie Fresh again produces, but the "featuring" credits are way down as Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter) comes into his own. B+(***)

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter (2004, Cash Money/Universal): Fourth album, a breakthrough at least in the sense that he returned to this title three more times, even though this didn't sell nearly as well as his debut. Even longer (79:07), chock full of hooks -- even one called "Hoes" is too catchy to fret over. A-

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter II (2005, Cash Money/Universal): His worldview has finally settled down to "get money/fuck bitches," although sometimes he swaps the priority. But he doesn't stop there, and in the long run -- and his records always run long -- I can't help but marvel at the beats and grooves and wordplay, sometimes even the change ups. A-

Lil Wayne: The Leak (2007, Cash Money, EP): Five tracks, 19:29, leaked outtakes from The Carter III sessions, quickly turned into product, then eventually palmed off as bait for the album's "deluxe edition." B+(**)

M83: Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003, Gooom Disques): French electronic group, second album, last with co-founder Nicolas Fromageau (survived by Anthony Gonzalez). Multiple synths, have some appeal when you can sort them out but not much when they amass into huge curtains of sound. B-

M83: Saturdays = Youth (2008, Mute): I guess someone told them they'd need vocals to break pop, so they subcontracted some. B

Maxwell: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (1996, Columbia): First album from one of the blander neo-soul discoveries of the '90s. No doubt it flows. B

The Microphones: The Glow, Pt. 2 (2002, K): Early lo-fi project from singer-songwriter Phil Elvrum, recorded four main albums 1999-2003 plus a lot of mini-albums, EPs, singles, etc. -- Elvrum adopted the last of his album titles, Mount Eerie, as moniker from 2005 on. This one is very erratic, with many flashes of promise, some noisy and some not. Evidently, "The Glow, Pt. 1" was just a track on the previous album, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water. B+(**)

Miguel: All I Want Is You (2010, Jive): Debut album, makes his bid at a "love man" and backs it up with slinky, marginally funky rhythm. B+(**)

My Chemical Romance: Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004, Reprise): I guess you'd call this an emo band: a little anguished which comes off as heavy but not quite metal. Recorded four albums (2002-10), this the second their major label breakthrough. B-

Ride: Nowhere (1990, Sire): British shoegaze band, cut five albums 1990-96 but only the first two are well-regarded. This is their debut, a steady, rolling storm of guitar wrapped around songs with some pop appeal. B+(***)

Slint: Spiderland (1991, Touch & Go): Math rock band from Louisville, started out in punk then mixed up time signatures, volume levels, etc., working in spoken word vocals -- considered innovative although they also come off as tentative and unfocused, at least on this, their second and last album. B

The Sonics: Here Are the Sonics (1965, Etiquette): Garage rock band from Tacoma, first album, four original songs by singer-keyboardist Gerry Roslie ("The Witch," "Boss Hoss," "Psycho," and "Strychnine") padded with eight covers (two from Berry Gordy) done as rough and raw as they could. Retro even then. A-

The Sonics: Boom (1967, Etiquette): Second album, similar mix of originals (5) and covers (8), though neither are quite up to the first album's. B+(**)

Swervedriver: Mezcal Head (1993, A&M): British group, second of four albums from their 1991-98 heyday, a little on the heavy side of shoegaze, but the guitar pulse is strong, consistent, a bit nervous. B+(**)

System of a Down: Toxicity (2001, American): LA hardcore group's second album -- AMG considers them alt metal, overlooking the humor and politics and quirky rhythms, although I have to admit no real hardcore group would interpose a hymn about "when Angels deserve to die," or the Gypsy touches that anticipate Gogol Bordello. (One metal trait is that they tend to wear out their welcome.) B+(*)

Tamikrest: Adagh (2010, Glitterbeat): Tuareg group from northeast Mali, dodged civil war in a French school and picked up scattered western influences which they combined following the model of Tinariwen. Discovered at Festival au Désert in 2008, which led to Chris Eckman (of Dirtmusic and the Walkabouts) producing this first album. B+(**)

Tamikrest: Toumastin (2011, Glitterbeat): Christgau went through the trot sheet and approves ("tell the world that a little education can be a broadening thing"). I'll settle for the sound, which is clear in details that are rarely rushed -- there are certainly hotter Tuareg bands. A-

The Unicorns: Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003, Alien8): Canadian band, from Montreal, their only studio album (not counting a limited edition live set and a couple EPs, one from a brief reunion in 2014). Lo-fi, likes flutes, not without a certain element of whimsy. B+(*)

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream (2012, RCA): Listening to the new one, I suspected that I must have underrated this widely praised second album smash, but the first few cuts -- through the title track -- were limper than anything on the first or third, and when it got better it wasn't by much. [Was: B] B+(*)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section:

  • 2Pac: Better Dayz (1994-96 [2002], Interscope, 2CD): B-
  • Aerosmith: Rocks (1976, Columbia): B
  • Aerosmith: Gems (1973-82 [1988], Columbia): B
  • Aerosmith: Get a Grip (1993, Geffen): B-
  • Tori Amos: Strange Little Girls (2001, Atlantic): C+
  • Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam (2007, Domino): B+(*)
  • Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009, Domino): B+(*)
  • Animal Collective: Centipede Hz (2012, Domino): B-
  • Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Furnace Room Lullaby (2000, Bloodshot): B+
  • Neko Case: Live From Austin TX (2003 [2007], New West): B-
  • Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006, Anti-): B
  • Neko Case: Middle Cyclone (2009, Anti-): B
  • Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (2013, Anti-): B+(**)
  • The Deftones: Diamond Eyes (2009 [2010], Reprise): B-
  • Kurt Elling: Live in Chicago (1999 [2000], Blue Note): B
  • Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): C+
  • Kurt Elling: Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman (2009, Concord): B-
  • Kurt Elling: The Gate (2010 [2011], Concord): B-
  • Kurt Elling: 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project (2012, Concord): C+
  • Green Day: Dookie (1994, Reprise): B+
  • Green Day: Insomniac (1995, Reprise): B
  • Alan Jackson: Who I Am (1994, Arista): B+
  • Alan Jackson: The Greatest Hits Collection (1989-95 [1995], Arista): A-
  • Alan Jackson: Drive (2002, Arista): B+
  • Alan Jackson: 16 Biggest Hits (1989-2002 [2007], Arista Nashville/Legacy): A-
  • Alan Jackson: What I Do (2004, Arista Nashville): B+(***)
  • Alan Jackson: Good Time (2008, Arista Nashville): A-
  • Alan Jackson: 34 Number Ones (1989-2008 [2010], Arista Nashville, 2CD): B+(***)
  • Alan Jackson: Freight Train (2010, Arista Nashville): B+(**)
  • Alan Jackson: Thirty Miles West (2012, ACR/EMI Nashville): B+(**)
  • Lil Wayne: Da Drought 3 (2007, self-released, 2CD): A-
  • Lil Wayne: The Dought Is Over 2: The Carter 3 Sessions (2007, self-released): B+(***)
  • Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III (2008, Cash Money/Universal/Motown): A-
  • Lil Wayne: No Ceilings (2010, self-released): A-
  • Lil Wayne: Rebirth (2010, Universal/Motown/Cash Money): B-
  • Lil Wayne: I Am Not a Human Being (2010, Universal/Motown): B+(**)
  • Lil Wayne: Tha Carter IV (2011, Motown/Cash Money): B+(*)
  • Lil Wayne: I Am Not a Human Being II (2013, Cash Money/Republic): B+(**)
  • Maxwell: BLACKsummers'night (2009, Columbia): B+(*)
  • Ride: Going Blank Again (1992, Sire): B+
  • The Sonics: Introducing the Sonics (1967, Jerden): B+(**)
  • Tamikrest: Chatma (2013, Glitterbeat): A-


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo


Greg Magarian [10:22pm Aug 18]:

Fantastic read as always. One parochial quibble re: System of a Down. "Gypsy touches"? Homeboys are Armenian.

Clifford Ocheltree [10:57pm Aug 18]

A side note for detail maniacs like myself. The Hallmark Huey "Piano" Smith CD is a straight reissue of the Sue (UK) LP with the same title in 1965 which was a reissue (with one track added) of the Ace (US) LP "Having A Good Time" (1959). Hallmark seems to be a strictly reissue operation but they have put out a large number of rather interesting pieces.

TH: I looked at a lot of Smith compilations in writing this, but didn't dig that deep. I did check Import CDs to discover that the 14-cut Hallmark is $6.59 vs. $12.86 for the probably superior 24-cut The Very Best of Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns (Traditions, but seems to be a straight reissue of the 1997 Westside comp, Having a Good Time: The Very Best of Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns, Volume 1; same cover image, but less title).

Dan Weiss [11:50pm Aug 18]

I'm personally flattered since I wrote 51 of the blurbs on the Spin list!

Christopher Monsen [2:44am Aug 19]

The Scweizer/Bennink duo is indeed a keeper (I am, in fact, putting the finnishing touches on my review as I type this).

Thomas Walker [8:17am Aug 19]

The Schweizer/Bennink album is available on Bandcamp: https://intaktrec.bandcamp.com/album/welcome-back

It is as good as Tom says - many thanks for the review.

Phil Overeem [6:05pm Aug 19]

Tom, I am beyond flattered that you would reference my list in your post. Here's a link to it, with a Yoakam demotion and a Continental Drifters promotion, if you'd like to include it in an editing of your piece: https://livingtolisten.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/a-mid-august-top-50-with-several-more-knocking-down-the-door/