Rhapsody Streamnotes: January 31, 2016

Well, I guess that's all for 2015. At least my 2015 list is frozen. Of course, my standard practice is to keep adding stragglers until Dec. 31, 2016, but they will be clearly separated out in this color. I suppose I should also stop adding discoveries to my EOY jazz and non-jazz files. By the way, they've finally come close to balancing out, with a 77-73 jazz edge for A/A- records, and an 11-11 tie in the secondary category of compilations, reissues and/or vault music.

This month what I've tried to do is to track down the most interesting-looking albums that showed up on various 2015 EOY lists -- aggregated as new music and old music. You will, for instance, find ten 2015 non-jazz releases below with A- grades -- six new music, four compilations, etc. -- that have yet to show up in Christgau or Tatum columns. (OK, plus two from Christgau that hardly anyone else has noticed yet: Lil Dicky and Lost in Mali.)

You can get a sense of how much I've checked out by comparing the blue/green ink to black in the EOY Aggregate files. As I write (and these things constantly change) the top-rated new albums I've missed so far are almost all not on Rhapsody:

  1. Joanna Newsom: Divers (Drag City)
  2. Adele: 25 (XL)
  3. Arca: Mutant (Mute)
  4. Jim O'Rourke: Simple Songs (Drag City)
  5. Faith No More: Sol Invictus (Ipecac/Reclemation)
  6. Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls (Parlophone)
  7. Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM)
  8. Thee Oh Sees: Mutilator Defeated at Last (Castle Face)
  9. FFS: FFS (Domino)
  10. Ghost: Meliora (Loma Vista)
  11. Baroness: Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
  12. Prurient: Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore)

OK, the first four plus DeJohnette aren't on Rhapsody. The others I haven't bothered looking up, so they're as real as Schrödinger's cat. Most are in the hard rock/crossover metal vein, so the odds I might like one are pretty slim. (On the other hand, the DeJohnette, judging both from its lineup and critical reactions is very likely an A-. Christgau gave Arca an A- and Adele **; most likely I'd come in a notch lower, but both are prospects. I've never heard anything by Newsom, and have no idea: Christgau gave her an A- for one record, a C+ for another.)

The other thing you can tell from that list is that the black ink (unheard records) gets thicker the further you go down the list: 12 of the top 100, 35 of the next 100, 51 of the third 100, 60 of the fourth 100, 71 of the fifth 100. There are more than 5100 records in the EOY Aggregate, and the share I've heard probably turns random around 1000 (the point total drops to 1 after 2500, with everything after that sorted alphabetically). After all, I play a lot of jazz, and play a lot of things I didn't pick out -- they simply came to my door -- so they're scattered well down among the also-rans.

Speaking of jazz, you'll find my first two A-listed 2016 releases below. Aside from David Bowie's Blackstar, I haven't sought out any 2016 releases, but I've played a few things from my queue (looks like 24 records below, so a little less than 20% of the total). That's about what I'd expect -- not sure what percent of jazz records I give A/A- grades to, but it's probably closer to this 8.3% than to the 4.2% one pick would have represented.

The other oddity this week is that I think this is the first "old music" section without a single A- record. But most often I've been working off best-of lists or opportunistically seeking out an old record with a sterling reputation. Most of this column's list is made up of David Bowie albums I didn't think would be worth checking out at the time, and I mostly confirmed what I expected. On the other hand, I did much better than usual with recent reissues/compilations/vault music. For this I have to credit the EOY lists -- certainly I wouldn't have gone near Patrick Cowley or Savant without their guidance. By the way, the nearest miss was The Complete Matrix Tapes -- I rarely bother with 4-CD sets, and trying to figure them out in one long sitting without reference to booklet or packaging is a hopeless task. I'll give a second spin to any single that comes that close, but couldn't afford the time here.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody (other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 8. Past reviews and more information are available here (7665 records).

Recent Releases

Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel: This Could Be That (2015 [2016], Bacalao): Andres is a drummer, originally from Cincinnati, based in the Bay Area, home to a wide range of Latin jazz and pop outfits, few particularly distinguished. This is pretty much as advertised, although I'll note the curious choice of group identity: I don't suspect anything ominous, but cartels are intended to reduce competition, not to excel at it. B+(*) [cd]

The Arcs: Yours, Dreamily (2015, Nonesuch): Major disconnect between the review I'm reading (at AMG) and what I'm hearing here -- promised garage blues/roots rock/retro, sounds more like Flaming Lips psychedelia toned down a few notches. Led by Dan Auerbach, better known to you (if not me) for the Black Keys. Not without interest or a fey catchiness -- at least the title is true. B

Julian Argüelles: Let It Be Told (2012 [2015], Basho): British tenor saxophonist, twelth album since 1991, has played in a number of big bands the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, who return the favor here. The program: new arrangements of South African composers, mostly jazz notables like Chris McGregor, Abdullah Ibrahim, and most of all Dudu Pukwana (three pieces). Vibrant music. B+(***)

Julian Argüelles: Tetra (2014 [2015], Whirlwind): Quartet album, gives you a clearer picture of the saxophonist, ably supported by pianist Kit Downes, with Sam Lasserson on bass and James Maddren on drums. B+(***)

Aram Bajakian: There Were Flowers Also in Hell (2014, Sanasar): Guitarist, based in New York, Armenian heritage which he's made something of (while also recording Moravian folk music and doing projects for John Zorn and Frank London). Trio with Shahzad Ismaily (bass) and Jerrome Jennings (drums), but only 5/13 cuts available on Bandcamp, a sequence from the middle of the album, so varied I have no idea where he's going. B+(**) [bc]

Aram Bajakian: Music Inspired by the Color of Pomegranates (2015, Sanasar): Solo guitar, the inspiration a 1968 film directed by Sergei Parajanov on the life of 18th-century Armenian poet/musician Sayat-Nova (Vilen Gatstyan). Does have some of that ambling/ambient soundtrack vibe. B+(**)

Julien Baker: Sprained Ankle (2015, 6131 Records): Singer-songwriter from Memphis, cut this bare-bones guitar (or piano) and voice album before she turned 20. I suppose I'd be more sympathetic to the maladies and agonies of youth if I wasn't so preoccupied with old age. B+(*)

Michael Bates: Northern Spy (2015, Stereoscopic): Bassist, has put together a very solid series of albums, which this only adds to. Trio, with Michael Blake on tenor sax and Jeremy "Bean" Clemons on drums. B+(***)

Battles: La Di Da Di (2015, Warp): Third album for this trio, which sort of bridges the gap between alt-rock -- basically a guitar-bass-drums band -- and electronica (dabbling with keyboards, but mostly after the beats. This time they lost the vocals and doubled down on the beats. A-

Nicholas Bearde: Invitation (2015 [2016], Right Groove): Standards singer -- "Dindi," "Nature Boy," "Lush Life" -- with a soul voice and scattered jazz spots, Vincent Herring sax on three cuts, piano by someone named Nat Adderley Jr. B+(*) [cd]

The Bellfuries: Workingman's Bellfuries (2015, Hi-Style): Austin TX group, third album going back to 2001, AMG lists their style as rockabilly revival but these are mostly mid-tempo story songs and ballads, the vocalist an immediate turn-off but I suppose one could get used to him. B

Big Boi + Phantogram: Big Grams (2015, Epic, EP): Ex-OutKast rapper plus electronica duo (Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter), their 7-cut, 28:35 joint venture often attributed to Big Grams, and I've seen album covers without the artists' names. More guests show up -- not sure who, other than that 9th Wonder and Skrillex produce a track each, and there's a female singer (Barthel?). All slips by pretty easily. B+(*)

David Bowie: Darkstar (2016, Columbia): Released a week before his death, this cycles back to his early work -- he hasn't sounded this much like Ziggy Stardust in decades, nor has he scripted such drama -- yet it's certainly of a different order. The music is tightly wound, but swings some and relies on sax for a pervasive jazziness. Not a masterpiece, but vital to the end. B+(***)

Bully: Feels Like (2015, Startime International/Columbia): Nashville group, as straightahead as '90s grunge, not just fronted but led by Alicia Bognanno, "who earned a degree from Middle Tennessee State University in audio recording before getting an internship at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studios in Chicago." Ten short songs, two with as many as two words in the title, but doesn't feel like she's slighting us. A-

Kenny Carr: Exit Moon (2015, Zoozazz Music): Guitarist, has a handful of albums since 2005, I won't say smooth but basically a groove guy, leading a quartet with Wurlitzer, bass, and drums. Pretty listenable. I vaguely recall a rap in there somewhere. B+(*) [cd]

Carter Tutti Void: f(x) (2015, Industrial): Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti were members of Throbbing Gristle from 1976-81, the group which originally developed industrial rock, or so I gather -- they're one group I never got to. They went on to record many albums as Chris & Cosey before renaming themselves Carter Tutti in 2000, and picking up Nik Void (from Factory Floor) in 2011. Second trio album, the grind reminds me of Gramsci -- why isn't there a group called Fordismo? -- while the synths or guitars are more attractive than the clank of a machine brake, though maybe not the occasional voices. B+(***)

Mary Foster Conklin: Photographs (2014 [2016], MockTurtle Music): Standards singer, from New Jersey, based in New York, three or four albums since 1998. Nothing terribly obvious, so takes a while to sink in. With pianist John DiMartino arranging, and Houston Person on one cut. B+(**)

Elysia Crampton: American Drift (2015, Blueberry): Born in Bolivia, grew up in Southern California and Northern Mexico, based in Virginia (which inspires some historiography here), previously known as E+E. Four pieces, thick with synth layered like geological strata (another interest), topped with a smatter of voices, as peripheral as people crawling on the surface of the earth. A-

Joseph Daley/Warren Smith/Scott Robinson: The Tuba Trio Chronicles (2015 [2016], JoDa Locust Street Music): The leader has emerged as one of the top tuba/euphonium players in jazz, and this is meant as his showcase. Robinson plays just about every conceivable reed instrument, with the lower-pitched ones the best fits (bass sax, contra-alto clarinet, bass flute, and contrabass sarrusophone). Smith plays percussion, including tympani, marimba, and vibes. B+(**) [cd]

Dâm-Funk: Invite the Light (2015, Stones Throw): Damon Riddick, second album (or third with 7 Days of Funk), doesn't fake the funk but does stretch it out and water it down, as if quantity beats quality. B

Damily: Very Aomby (2015, Helico): Guitarist, bandleader from Tulear in Madagascar, eighth album sine 1994, not sure if he sings but there are multiple voices in the band. The guitar, with affinities to soukous but a tone more like Mali, drives the music, even the drums striving to keep up. B+(***)

Deafheaven: New Bermuda (2015, Anti): A metal band, the ghastly vocals couldn't possibly suggest any other genre, but their guitar noise is uncommonly tidy, no doubt a credit to their collective chops -- on Sunbather they deftly changed volume and speed, and here they stretch out, averaging about ten minutes per song. I cut them some slack and played this at low volume -- the high volume that metalheads and stereophiles insist on just strikes me as oppressive. B+(*)

Dilly Dally: Sore (2015, Partisan): Punkish Toronto band, founded by guitarist-vocalists Katie Monks and Liz Ball, expanded to quartet with bass and drums. B+(**)

DJ Paypal: Sold Out (2015, Brainfeeder): Name undisclosed; one report is that he was born in North Carolina but is based in Berlin, although others tie him to footwork (which I've heard is a Chicago phenomenon). Mostly beats and synth-tones, mixes in a few vocals I've already put out of mind. Amusing in its way. B+(**)

C Duncan: Architect (2015, Fat Cat): Singer-songwriter from Scotland, initial stands for Christopher, first album. I expected something electronic but this is more conventional, aside from the choral layering, an affectation I don't much care for. B-

Elephant9 With Reine Fiske: Silver Mountain (2015, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion band ("progressive neo-psychedelic jazz-rock trio"), keyboards-bass-drums, augmented with guest guitarist Fiske, who might as well be one of the boys. B+(*)

FKA Twigs: M3LL155X (2015, Young Turks, EP): Title somewhat more obscure than her previous EP1 and EP2, five songs, 18:44, a placeholder after her LP1 finished 3rd in the 2014 EOY Aggregate. Mostly produced by Boots Asher, trip-hop that trips more than it hops, and barely does that. C+

Foals: What Went Down (2015, Warner Brothers): British band, fourth studio album (not counting the remix Tapes), indie rockers who suck up a little EDM, which helps when you're not paying attention. Highly regarded at home, gradually building up a base here. B

The Foxymorons: Fake Yoga (2015, Foxyphoton): Dallas group (duo anyway), formed in the 1990s with five albums to date but I'd never heard of them until this week, and this weren't among the first 3925 albums in my EOY Aggregate -- Christgau pick hit them, and they're plenty likable, as alt-rock goes. B+(***) [bc]

Bob Gluck/Billy Hart/Eddie Henderson/Christopher Dean Sullivan: Infinite Spirit: Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band (2015 [2016], FMR): Piano, drums, trumpet, bass. Mwandishi was a Swahili name Herbie Hancock adopted in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and the title of a 1970 album Hart and Henderson played on -- they were credited as Jabali and Mganga. B+(***) [cd]

John Grant: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (2015, Partisan): Born in Michigan, grew up in Colorado, led an alt-band called the Czars which I never bothered with, then moved to New York, London, Berlin, and wound up in Iceland. Along the way his solo debut became a hot item in England, and he's still much more important there (and in Europe) than in the US. Not sure what to make of this -- he shows some surprising pop moves, electronics, samples, even a bit of hip-hop. Pastiche, maybe. B+(*)

Gutbucket: Dance (2014 [2016], Gut): Brooklyn band, formed in 1999 and have tried to established a niche for "punk jazz" -- a jazz-rock fusion based on attitude and chops, although it's hard to get really primitive when Ornette Coleman is dancing in your head. With Ken Thomson (sax), Ty Citerman (guitar), Adam Gold (drums), and bassist du jour Pat Swoboda, cut live in a burst of energy at the Stone. B+(**) [cd]

Helena Hauff: Discreet Desires (2015, Ninja Tune/Werkdiscs): DJ/electronica producer based in Hamburg, first album after a number of singles, EPs, and DJ mixes. Fairly basic beats here, mixed with a fine sense of what works, really all it takes. B+(***)

Steve Hauschildt: Where All Is Fled (2015, Kranky): From Cleveland, formerly of Emeralds, plays synths, aims for ambient and fails only in the sense that what he produces is too interesting and too catchy to just fade into the woodwork. A-

Stephen Haynes: Pomegranate (2015, New Atlantis): Cornet player, recorded a trio album called Parrhesia in 2010 with Joe Morris (guitar) and Warren Smith (percussion), and expands that group for a tribute, adding William Parker (bass) and Ben Stapp (tuba) because "Bill Dixon loved the low end, and would have dug this instrumentation." Dixon would no doubt dig the fractured abstractions too, but I get more from Morris' solos (and Smith's vibes). B+(**)

Health: Death Magic (2015, Loma Vista): Los Angeles group, started in noise rock before moving into electronica -- AMG's line is "a dissonant yet accessible brand of art-damaged pop." Here and there I hear echoes of the Pet Shop Boys, but nothing coherent. Group name usually printed all-caps, but I haven't figured out why yet. B+(*)

Helen: The Original Faces (2015, Kranky): This is Liz Harris, who also does business as Grouper, a lo-fi experimental rock outfit. And this is, well, lo-fi experimental rock, although it may be intended to be a bit catchier. B+(*)

Mette Henriette: Mette Henriette (2014 [2015], ECM, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, last name Rolvĺg, from Norway, evidently her first album, a long one. First disc is all trio with piano (Johan Lindvall) and cello (Katrine Schiott), very pastoral. The second is more expansive, 13 musicians in all, in various combos, increasing the "third stream" effect, the drama as well. B+(*) [dl]

Ira Hill: Tomorrow (2015, self-released): Jazz singer from Phoenix, 19-years-old, first album, credits Cheryl Bentyne "for believing in me," also with vocals I didn't notice. Took his first two songs too fast, then tried a ballad, even worse. Reminds me how difficult "My Funny Valentine" is to do well. C [cd]

Florian Hoefner: Luminosity (2015 [2016], Origin): Pianist, from Germany, third album, quartet with tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, always a strong player, first shadowing then running away with the album. B+(***) [cd]

Hot Chip: Why Make Sense? (2015, Domino): Fifth album I've heard and I have no recollection of the others, still I'm surprised how much this seems like a blue-eyed soul throwback, except that no one has quite the vocal chops the genre expects. Not dumb, but "you make my heart feel like it's my brain" can be disorienting. B

Jason Kao Hwang: Voice (2014 [2016], Innova): Opera, with music by the violinist, words from various poets, voiced by Deanna Relyea for the first half, Thomas Buckner on the backstretch. Several pieces were commissioned and premiered in 2010-12, but it's not clear if these were recorded then or later. Relyea is so extreme she's almost a caricature of a diva -- I couldn't stand her until I had to laugh. Buckner is more spoken voice, tolerable but also rather dramatic. The music is interesting when it breaks free of the voices. The first half is backed by Taylor Ho Bynum's trio plus Piotr Michalowski (sopranino sax, bass clarinet) and Hwang; the second by Joe McPhee, William Parker, Sang Won Park (kayagung, ajam, voice), and Hwang. B+(*) [cd]

Abdullah Ibrahim: The Song Is My Story (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): Solo piano (plus two tracks of saxophone), recorded for release on his 80th birthday, reissued a few months later in the US. One of the all-time greats, but this comes off very subdued. B

Christine Jensen and Maggi Olin: Transatlantic Conversations: 11 Piece Band Live (2013 [2016], Linedown): Alto/soprano sax and piano, respectively, Olin leads 5-3 in compositions. Recorded in Stockholm, the band is often magnificent, though I can't say I enjoy vocalist Sofie Norling. B+(*) [cd]

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Azui Infinito (2015 [2016], Greenleaf Music): Trombonist, has called his group Catharsis for several albums now. Mike Rodriguez is a potent trumpet player, Jorge Roeder plays electric as well as acoustic bass, Eric Doob is the drummer, and Camila Meza sings. The latter threw me as first, but now seems like an integral part of the sonic mix. B+(**) [cd]

Kehlani: You Should Be Here (2015, self-released): R&B singer, surman Parrish, not old enough to drink legally but claims to have experienced a whole lifetime of hurt. Soft beats, broken cadences, has some potential but opened with two spoken pieces, followed with a song that left the taste of shit in your mouth, then one that never got beyond the N-word. B-

Aly Keďta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (2015 [2016], Intakt): Keďta hails from Ivory Coast, playing balafon and kalimba, the soft percussion marvelously matched to Brönnimann's bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and soprano sax, with the drummer adding an extra charge. I suppose I knew that Niggli was also born in Africa -- in Cameroon in 1968 -- but hadn't run across Brönnimann before: turns out he too was born in Cameroon, and they've known each other since they were one year old. A [cd]

Knxwledge: Hud Dreams (2015, Stones Throw): Hip-hop producer Glen Boothe, has released 64 albums on Bandcamp since 2009, something I have little intention of trying to sort out. This is mostly instrumental, the beats submerged with a static echo. B+(*)

Sam Lee & Friends: The Fade in Time (2015, The Nest Collective): British folk singer, first album garnered a Mercury Prize nomination, second adds his "Friends" -- not sure who they are or what they do, but they probably add instrumental depth and some unfolkie sound effects. The weepers are a bit much for me, but he does have a sound. B+(*)

The Libertines: Anthems for Doomed Youth (2015, Virgin EMI): British postpunk band, impressed some people in their 2003-04 heyday but broke up and regrouped a decade later. I don't doubt that youth is doomed, but these don't strike me as anthems -- more like supporting documentation. B+(*)

Lil Dicky: Professional Rapper (2015, self-released, 2CD): David Burd, name actually on the cover which presents a professional-looking resume touting his BSBA and summa cum laude 3.93 GPA. From Cheltenham Township, a suburb of Philadelphia, first album, crowdsourced after mixtapes called So Hard and Hump Days. Two long, and not as funny as most similar artist MC Barman, but maybe one shouldn't be so picky. A-

Lions: Lions EP (2014 [2015], self-released, EP): New York-based Ethio-jazz group, led by guitarist Nadav Peled, also credited with arrangements of Ethiopian pop tunes from the '60s and '70s and new compositions -- not clear which is which. Six songs, 28:38. Sounds a bit like surf guitar plus ska keybs and horns. B+(**)

Lizzo: Big Grrrl Small World (2015, BGSW): Rapper Melissa Jefferson, born in Houston, raised in Detroit, based in Minneapolis. Second album. Lost me when she went soft, but then I decided that wasn't so bad either. B+(*)

Los Lobos: Gates of Gold (2015, 429/Savoy Jazz): Venerable East LA band, founded in the 1970s but really found their stride with 1984's How Will the Wolf Survive? and had a second masterpiece with 1996's Colossal Head. Mostly filler here, but they still sound good on a blues and better than that on "La Tumba Sera El Final" -- the one they didn't write. B+(**)

Marina and the Diamonds: Froot (2015, Atlantic): Pop singer-songwriter from Wales, Marina Diamandis, third album, doesn't have any chirp in her voice so not exactly a natural for bouncy teen pop, but gains traction as the album wears on. B+(*)

Archy Marshall: A New Place 2 Drown (2015, True Panther Sounds): British singer-songwriter, first appeared as Zoo Kid, then more notably as King Krule, matures into using his given name (or something close to it). Most resembles trip hop with its blunted beats and submerged colors, scant cover for vocals that seem determined to lurk rather than appear. Still, rather remarkable when you bother to pay attention, which isn't a given. A-

Jenny Maybee/Nick Phillips: Haiku (2015 [2016], self-released): Bay Area singer-songwriter-pianist, although the trumpet player also kicks in a couple of songs, and there's a bass player for good measure. First album, slow and somber. B

Pete McCann: Range (2014 [2015], Whirlwind): Guitarist, fifth album since 1999, shows up in a lot of side credits, most often adding some nice harmony and a memorable solo. This is a quintet with John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Henry Hey (piano, keyboards), Matt Clohesy (bass, electric bass), and Mark Ferber (drums). Too nice, I thought at first, then they cranked it up and I decided nice was better. B+(*)

Terrence McManus and John Hébert: Saints and Sinners (2015, Rowhouse Music): Guitar and bass, the former one of the more distinctive players to have appeared recently on the avant scene, the latter one of those bassists who always seems to show up on impressive albums. This has a sound but not much flow. B+(*) [dl]

Gabriel Mervine: People (2015 [2016], Synergy Music): Trumpet player, based in Denver, first album, fairly ordinary postbop quintet, although the change-of-pace coda take on "You Go to My Head" was lovely. B [cd]

Hudson Mohawke: Lantern (2015, Warp): Ross Birchard, Scottish beat maker, second album. Kitsch, some all right, some not so much. B

Róisin Murphy: Hairless Toys (2015, PIAS): Irish chanteuse, sang in Moloko before going solo, keeping the electronica backdrop. First pass I find the straight upbeat pieces attractive and the slower/artier/more atmospheric ones less so, but some would surely grow on me. B+(**)

Nero: Between II Worlds (2015, Cherrytree/Interscope): British dubstep group, added singer Alana Watson ("Fergie-fication") for their second album. Seems like they're bucking more for the arena than the dancefloor. B

New York Gypsy All Stars: Dromomania (2015, self-released): More melting pot from musicials with roots, maybe even birthplaces, in southeastern Europe, where gypsy is mess an ethnic group than a model of musical amalgamation -- their website even talks about "Roma-inspired zeal from swinging salsa to pulsing bhangra." B+(**)

Dick Oatts/Mats Holmquist/New York Jazz Orchestra: A Tribute to Herbie +1 (2015 [2016], Summit): I must admit that when I unwrapped this title, the first Herbie who flashed to mind was Nichols, a pianist who died in 1963 after a brief but brilliant career -- his 3-CD The Complete Blue Note Recordings is an essential for any serious jazz collection -- and has been the subject of several superb tributes. But, alas, time moves on, so now we're talking about Herbie Hancock, at 75 a venerable figure, no doubt. Holmquist arranges here and contributes one tune, but doesn't play, so the alto saxophonist is the front man (or field commandant). The big band does what big bands do: mass horns, with occasional solo spots. "Watermelon Man" stands out, but then it always does. B+(*) [cd]

Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices (2015 [2016], Intakt): Piano trio, the pianist Cuban-born, New York-based, has several albums. Originals, standards by Monk and Coleman, extra percussion on one cut for some Latin tinge, but mostly superb straight jazz, something you'd expect with Eric Revis on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(***) [cd]

Kresten Osgood, Masabumi Kikuchi, Ben Street & Thomas Morgan: Kikuchi/Street/Morgan/Osgood (2008 [2015], ILK Music): On the drummer's label may be why he gets top billing here vs. the more conventionally ordered (piano-bass-bass-drums) title. The pianist, perhaps best known for his group Tethered Moon, died last year, so this release must be something of a memorial. He cut across virtually all styles, but the two bassists seem to prod him inward, so this comes off as deeply personal. B+(***)

Laura Perlman: Precious Moments (2015 [2016], Miles High): Standards singer, presumably not the film music composer who shows up first on Google. This seems to be her first album, backed professionally by Bill Cunliffe (piano), Mark Sherman (vibes, Chris Colangelo (bass), and Joe La Barbera (drums), with Sherman producing and arranging (two arrangements by Cunliffe). B+(*) [cd]

Chris Pitsiokos Trio: Gordian Twine (2015, New Atlantis): Alto saxophonist, leads a trio with Max Johnson on bass and Kevin Shea on drums. Tags on the bandcamp page include "noise rock" and "experimental rock," but this is the sort of scratchy, scrappy free jazz that seemed so far out in the late 1960s, twenty-some years before the leader was born. B+(***)

Plastician: All the Right Moves (2015, self-released): British DJ Chris Reed, formerly Plasticman (a name he gave up when threatened with legal action by Plastikman). Has a reputation for grime and dubstep, but this is a continuous dance mix pieced together from more or less familiar samples -- "My Prerogative" and "Raspberry Beret" were two I recognized. This topped Michaelangelo Matos' P&J ballot, but I have a hard time judging: is this a real album if it only floats around the internet? Artwork says CD. And there's certainly more to it than just stitching together hits. A- [sc]

Protomartyr: The Agent Intellect (2015, Hardly Art): Detroit band, sound reminds me of Psychedelic Furs, buried a little deeper in the garage, less likely to land a hook but exceptional in their averageness. B+(**)

Nathaniel Rateliff: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (2015, Stax): Folkie from Missouri, signed with Concord and they seem to have told him that if he rounded up some soul horns they'd release his album on Stax. He delivered on that, throwing in some gospel and funk for good measure. If you're easily impressed, you will be. B+(*)

John Raymond: John Raymond & Real Feels (2014 [2016], Shifting Paradigm): Trumpet player (flugelhorn here), has a couple previous albums, this a trio with Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Mostly covers, folk-traditional ("Amazing Grace," "This Land Is Your Land") plus some that will always seem too hokey ("Scarborough Fair," "Blackbird") -- but not so much here. B+(***) [cd]

Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse: August Love Song (2015 [2016], Red House): Masse is a singer from Maine, part of the folk group The Wailin' Jennys but also has a couple jazz albums. She wrote one-and-a-half songs here -- the half segues into "Old Devil Moon" -- and the trombone great wrote two songs, the rest from the standards repertoire. With Rolf Sturm on guitar and Mark Helias on bass, what I love is the trombone growl and rumble, but the others, not least the singer, do their part too. A- [cd]

Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra: Turning Towards the Light (2015, Cuneiform): Percussionist, but just composer here, nor is this obviously related to the world musics he's studied. Founded Go: Organic Orchestra in 2003, but this all-guitar variant is new here: Rez Abbasi, Damon Banks, Marco Capelli, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Jerome Harris, Joel Harrison, Miles Okazaki, Marvin Sewell, Kenny Wessel (Banks and sometimes Harris on bass guitar; Harris also plays lap steel, and Wessel banjo), and no shortage of effects. Harmonically rich, a showcase of jazz guitar tricks, but everything turns back to the same color. B+(**)

Joan Shelley: Over and Even (2015, No Quarter): Chalk this up to "stupid marketing tricks": a 12-cut LP reduced to a 4-cut EP on Rhapsody (and with only 2 playable tracks on Bandcamp). Kentucky singer-songwriter plays and sings pretty folk-ish music. B+(*)

Julian Shore: Which Way Now (2015 [2016], Tone Rogue): Pianist, from Rhode Island, has a couple configurations here, half the pieces with Dayna Stephens (tenor sax), Gilad Hekselman (guitar), bass and drums, a mixed bag ranging from pedal steel to voice for the others. Lush, not sure that's a plus. B [cd]

Deborah Shulman: My Heart's in the Wind (2015 [2016], Summit): Standards singer, fifth album since 2004, backed by a fairly notable band -- Larry Koonse on guitar, Terry Trotter on piano -- but everything's done slow ballad so they don't get to show off much. B+(*)

Skyzoo & Antman Wonder: An Ode to Reasonable Doubt (2013, self-released, EP): Runs 9 tracks, 38:49, yet billed as an EP, probably because it started as a trivial idea: a remake of Jay-Z's debut album. Different songs, but Antman Wonder's orchestrations come close to the mark, a fair facsimile of a thug opera. B+(**)

Skyzoo: Music for My Friends (2015, First Generation Rich): Despite the concept, rather scattered. B+(**)

Snarky Puppy/Metropole Orkest: Sylva (2014 [2015], Impulse!): Brooklyn jazz-funk collective with at least eight albums since 2006. I should probably make a proper study of them from the beginning, as as this live meeting with the venerable Dutch orchestra -- something of a jazz powerhouse since Vince Mendoza took over (since moved on and not in the credits here) -- is the sort of thing groups do once they're established (and running out of ideas). Aside from an occasional throb of funk bass, much of the appeal here is in the intricate layering and details the Orkest adds. B+(***)

Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace/La Orquesta Sonfonietta: Canto América (2015 [2016], Patois): Latin jazz from San Francisco, the leaders play percussion and trombone respectively, the Orquesta is huge with a changing membership, and there are extra horns and a string quartet and vocals, pretty much the kitchen sink. B- [cd]

The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded: Routes (2015 [2016], Strikezone): Guitarist Dave Stryker and alto saxophonist Steve Slagle, have played on each other's albums since the 1980s and consolidated into one of the more enduring partnerships in jazz history. Usually a quartet, the "expanded" band includes John Clark on French horn and extras on several tracks: tenor sax, trombone/tuba, piano/keyboards (Bill O'Connell). Regardless, the altoist's solos are the high points. B+(***)

Lew Tabackin Trio: Soundscapes (2014-15 [2016], self-released): With Boris Kozlov on bass and Mark Taylor on drums, the leader appears on the cover holding a flute in his right hand and a tenor sax in his left, as if he's trying to make up his mind. Plays both, more flute than I'd preferred but he's actually quite good at it. B+(**) [cd]

Taraf de Haďdouks: Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts (2015, Crammed Discs): Romanian gypsy band, been around for a long time: first album appeared in 1991, shortly after the fall of Ceausescu, and some of the founders have since passed. A marvelous band, but some of the vocalists leave me annoyed -- especially the operatic male a couple cuts in. B+(**)

James Taylor: Before This World (2015, Concord): Concord is turning into an old folks home for singer-songwriters from the 1970s -- the irony is that when Carl Jefferson founded the label in 1972, he specialized in picking up jazz singers and musicians the major labels had washed out and reviving their careers (Rosemary Clooney is a prime example), but the corporate hacks who ru[i]n the company these days don't have the same taste or imagination. As for Taylor, I thought Lester Bangs said all that needed to be said way back in the early 1970s. C+

Tenement: Predatory Headlights (2015, Don Giovanni): Pop-punk band from Appleton, Wisconsin; third album, try to be dank at heart but catchy, somewhat successfully on all counts. B+(*)

Thundercat: The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam (2015, Brainfeeder, EP): Long title for 6 cuts, 16:07. Stephen Bruner has two previous albums, ties with Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and Kamasi Washington and previously toiled in the metal band Suicidal Tendencies. Strikes me as a chameleon who refuses to be pinned down as a soul man or DJ or soundtrack artiste, but I'd bet on the latter. B

Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott: Return of the East West Trumpet Summit (2014 [2016], Origin): Trumpet players, did a record together called East-West Trumpet Summit in 2010, and this is more of the same, with George Colligan on B3 and Matt Jorgensen on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Brian Wilson: No Pier Pressure (2015, Capitol): Beach Boy auteur returns to form, not that anyone noticed, or likely cares. After a remarkably erratic and mediocre solo career -- aside from 2004's Presents Smile, his ace-in-the-hole -- he manages to dust off and polish all his pet tricks and what passes for his personality. But I can't say the guests help much. B+(*)

Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss (2015, Sargent House): Goth girl from Los Angeles, has several albums built up from guitar drone and electronics -- strikes my superficial ears as damsel-in-distress music but she's probably more in control, may even get a kick from the dark side. B+(*)

Zomba Prison Project: I Have No Everything Here (2015, Six Degrees): Ian Brennan and Marilene Delli have wandered the globe in search of unknown singers and musicians, much like the Lomaxes wandered the American South, which brought they to a dilapidated ("Dickensian") prison in Malawi. Various artists, both male and female, solo and in groups, some a cappella, some with improvised instruments, some more professional -- with echoes of south African pop. B+(**)

Zs: XE (2015, Northern Spy): Experimental noise group, has range between 2-6 members over the last decade-plus, lately a trio with saxophonist Sam Hilmer the surviving founder, Patrick Higgins on guitar, and Greg Fox on drums. Gets more interesting for me when the sax comes out. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Buena Vista Social Club: Lost and Found (1996-2000 [2015], World Circuit): Outtakes from the sessions that produced the legendary 1997 album which rebooted the careers of a lost generation of Cuban musicians -- Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Rubén Gonzalez, Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa, Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez -- plus some live shots that followed. Perhaps the booklet helps, but offhand this fits together awkwardly with nothing all that revelatory. B

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Live in San Francisco 1971 (1971 [2015], Sundazed): Early country-hippy band formed in Ann Arbor in 1967, cut their first album (Lost in the Ozone) in 1971, then followed that up a year later with a fine collection of trucking songs. Geoffrey Stokes featured them in the era's best book about the record business, Star Making Machinery. They hit a couple times with novelty songs -- "Hot Rod Lincoln," "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," and "Seeds and Stems Again" are all here -- and they hung on forever as a live band. B+(**)

Patrick Cowley: Muscle Up (1973-81 [2015], Dark Entries): Regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic dance music, Cowley (1950-82) plays synths for Sylvester and composed tracks for gay porn films -- evidently that's the source of this compilation. Several scattered styles here, an early stretch of more ambient material that sneaks up on you, and some upbeat tracks (like "Pigfoot" and "5oz of Funk") that just jump you. A-

Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll (1960s-75 [2015], Dust-to-Digital): Near the top of the list of unspeakable crimes perpetrated by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger was their expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, which led more or less directly to the fall of Prince Sihanouk's studiously neutral government and one of the most brutal and bloody civilian purges of the post-WWII era, killing some two million people. John Pirozzi's documentary film looks back before the debacle, finding a cosmopolitan Phnom Penh and a surprisingly vital rock and roll scene, American music filtered through France and lightly spiced with sonorities you'd expect from the Far East. A-

Tubby Hayes Quartet: The Syndicate: Live at the Hopbine 1968 Vol. 1 (1968 [2015], Gearbox): British tenor saxophonist, one of the few to develop a distinctive bop-based style, lived fast, died young (1935-73). Quartet with guitar (Louis Stewart), bass and drums. B+(**)

Trevor Jackson Presents: Science Fiction Dancehall Classics (1981-87 [2015], On-U Sound, 2CD): Adrian Sherwood dance grooves from the 1980s, leaning on reggae and dub, adding industrial clanks, here and there a vocal but almost all are disposable. The numerous groups are more alike than you can imagine, which makes this a producer's record, or a DJ's. B+(**)

Karin Krog: Don't Just Sing: An Anthology: 1963-1999 (1963-99 [2015], Light in the Attic): Norway's (or should I say Scandinavia's) premier jazz singer of the last fifty years, sings mostly in English so that shouldn't be a problem, yet she's remained little known here. This tries to solve the problem by stretching her too thin, and I don't have liner notes to explain the range -- just a 37-year range of dates, and occasional hints about saxophonists from Dexter Gordon to Jan Garbarek to John Surman. B+(**)

Lost in Mali: Off the Beaten Track From Bamako to Timbuktu ([2015], Riverboat): Could be I should treat this compilation of "13 previously uncollected Malian artists" as new -- the odds I can track down sources for records by 13 artists I've never heard of are slim to none. Eschewing hits, you get atmosphere. I remember that in grade school I was asked to imagine an African safari. The animals were easy enough to conjure up, but I couldn't have had a clue to the people. Still an air of mystery here. A-

Mariah: Utakata No Hibi (1983 [2015], Shan-Shan): An alias Yasuaki Shimizu (b. 1954), a Japanese composer and saxophonist, used for a series of 1980-83 albums, of which this is the last. Shimizu has a long catalog of classical music (notably Bach) and soundtrack work, plus he led a group called the Saxophonettes. Dance beats, a bit of Asian flavor in the plucked strings. B+(**)

Mike Osborne: Dawn (1966-70 [2015], Cuneiform): Alto saxophonist, an important figure in the early days of the British avant-garde but he recorded little under his own name and retired due to illness in 1982. This offers some of his earliest work, opening with six tracks from a 1970 trio with South Africans Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums), followed by three tracks from his first group, a quartet co-led by John Surman, both superb. A- [dl]

The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Salsa (2008-13 [2015], World Music Network): I only barely have a clue what "psychedelic" means in American rock, and not the slightest idea how to distinguish psychedelic from ordinary salsa, other than that, judging from this, it's relentlessly upbeat and relatively recent. Of course, it's hard to track the dates down without the booklet (and with these guys it would still be hard with). I suspect it's just an excuse to release a new sampler without deleting the old one (which these guys are also known to do). B+(**)

The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Samba (2009-14 [2015], World Music Network): These also appear to be recent tracks by acts I scarcely recognize, although the words "Brazil" and "Psychedelic" were more than occasionally associated going back to the late-1960s (e.g., Tom Zé). So it's not surprising that this selection seems more bent from the norm than was the case for salsa. B+(***)

Bobby Rush: Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (1964-2014 [2015], Omnivore, 4CD): Blues journeyman, arrived late (some sources list 1940 as his birthdate but more likely ones say 1933), only a couple isolated singles from the 1960s, first album 1979 (only one on Philadelphia International), then a steady stream on obscure labels until he founded his own. Toured the chitlin circuit relentlessly, and is still working at 82. I doubt if any of his albums are outstanding, but this long compilation of his life's work is rich and varied and keeps coming at you, the only missteps songs you know done better elsewhere, but even there you have to give him credit (cf. "Take Me to the River"). This can happen when a minor artist sticks to it. Does tail off a bit toward the end. A-

Arthur Russell: Corn (1982-83 [2015], Audika): Like Patrick Cowley, Russell (1951-92) was a pathmaker in electronic dance music, and died young of AIDS. He's been better anthologized -- see The World of Arthur Russell on Soul Jazz -- but lasted longer, produced more, and was more eclectic. This scatters widely, dance beats secondary to other quirks, including a reminder that his main instrument was cello. B+(**)

Savant: Artificial Dance (1981-83 [2015], RVNG Intl): This combines a 1981 EP and a 1983 album, The Neo-Realist (At Risk), the collected works of Kerry Leimer's early band, and it really was a band -- guitar-bass-drums beneath the synths and vocal samples and tape effects, giving it a metallic edge. Must have seemed like an avant curiosity at the time, partly because the pieces spin off in divers directions, but they break new ground so assuredly this sounds like accomplished innovation. A-

Schlippenbach Trio: First Recordings (1972 [2014], Trost): Not the first recordings by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach -- his Globe Unity Orchestra dates from 1967, and he recorded The Living Music under his own name in 1969 -- but this is the first trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lowens, about six months (April to November) before Pakistani Pomade (a Penguin Guide crown album), and 42 years before their latest, Features (one of the best jazz albums of 2015). One long (38:25) piece, three short ones (18:06 total). Sax strains a lot but the piano is pretty spectacular. B+(**)

Gloria Ann Taylor: Love Is a Hurtin' Thing (1971-77 [2015], Luv N' Haight): Church-trained soul singer, cut some singles from 1968-77 but no hits and no albums. This doesn't quite quality as a career sampler, based as it is on five Selector singles, plus a couple discofied retreads. B+(*)

The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes (1969 [2015], Polydor, 4CD): Impossible to overstate the importance or accomplishment of this group, especially a string of four studio albums so extraordinary no one -- not the Beatles or Rolling Stones, Dylan or Redding -- has come close to matching. So it shouldn't be surprising that fans have snapped up scraps -- starting with the 1972 release of an execrable bootleg recording of Live at Max's Kansas City (dating from 1970; reissued on 2CD in 2004) and the much better 1969: The Velvet Underground Live in 1974 (2LP, reissued in two separate CD volumes in 1988). Ever since, the VU's old tape stashes have been flogged almost as mercilessly as Jimi Hendrix's, including 1985's VU, 1986's Another View, extensive extras on the 1995 Peel Slowly and See box, 2001's The Quine Tapes, and even more extras on 2CD and 3CD "deluxe editions" of the four albums. Now there's this: a 4CD expansion of the 1969: The Velvet Underground Live tapes, recorded over two nights at the Matrix in San Francisco. I gave this the one shot I can afford with streaming, and wavered back and forth at least a dozen times: some wonderful music here, some even not very familiar, but also an awful lot of redundancy. B+(***)

Old Music

David Bowie: Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 (1968-72 [2000], Virgin, 2CD): First disc goes from May 1968 to June 1971, and the early tracks are things I don't recognize and don't care to ever hear again, broken up with studio patter I don't need to hear again. Second disc advances from September 1971 to May 1972, covering the Velvets and cranking up terrific songs from Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. B+(**)

David Bowie: David Live (1974 [2005], Virgin EMI, 2CD): Like most double-LP live sets of the time, this promised lousy sound and rehashes of familiar songs done better elsewhere, profit taking and redundancy. There is that, but the added material shows a soul slant, and the sound, crowd noise, and interpretive moves aren't minuses. B

David Bowie: Stage (1978 [2005], Virgin EMI): Second live double, the reissue again expanding and reordering the original. Emphasizes newer material, especially Station to Station and the two Eno collaborations, opening with the murky ambience of "Warszawa" then filling the venue with "Heroes." He still does "Star" and "Ziggy Stardust" but that's about it. Bonus: "Alabama Song," sung to the rafters. B+(**)

David Bowie: Tonight (1984, EMI America): Aside from the live albums, this was the first Bowie album I passed on. Widely panned at the time, the two songs solely penned by Bowie ("Loving the Alien," "Blue Jean") aren't bad, although they feel like leftovers from (different) prior projects. Iggy Pop wrote (or co-wrote) five others, including two from Lust for Life given newly perverse arrangements (equally perverse is the "God Only Knows" cover). B-

David Bowie: Never Let Me Down (1987, EMI America): Tied to one of Bowie's biggest tours, this album is energetic and showy and completely forgettable -- almost like he wore out his welcome, or possibly thought he'd outgrown it. B-

David Bowie: Black Tie White Noise (1993, Virgin): Bowie floundered in the 1980s after Let's Dance (1983), finally in 1989-91 burying himself in the light metal band Tin Machine. This album represents his return to sounding like himself, although the new wave grind is more mechanical than it should be. B

David Bowie: The Buddha of Suburbia (1993 [2007], Virgin): Initially designed as a soundtrack to a BBC series based on Hanif Kureishi's book, Bowie retooled this into an album but it never lost the tag. Actually, some of the best passages here are ambient instrumental. It's the songs that don't sink in. B

David Bowie: Outside (1995, Virgin): I'm not sure even what to call this: maybe an operetta? It has a libretto, and the 19 songs voice different characters, even if they mostly sound like Bowie. Eno shares credits on most songs, and the band including Reeves Gabrels and Mike Garson get some credit. Not the sort of thing I readily follow, and at 74:36 (assuming you don't get the "extended" version; I skipped a whole second disc of outtakes) I rarely tried. B-

David Bowie: Earthling (1997, Virgin): Yet another concept album for yet another concept tour: clearly he's in a rut, but he's getting more comfortable there. He understands he needs keyboards, synths, electronics, and something of a dance beat, and he knows that if he speeds it up it won't be too bad, no matter how uninspired. He's turned into a pro, and a hack. B

David Bowie: Hours . . . (1999, Virgin): Another album that didn't sound bad but left me with nothing memorable after one (not very engaged) play, least of all a desire to write a better review. B-

David Bowie: Heathen (2002, ISO/Columbia): The notion that this is a comeback album concedes that he hasn't done anything very inspiring in the previous 10-15-20 years, but if you believe that this won't change anything. The only thing that's "back" is his voice, indeed more unmistakable here than anything since Tonight, maybe Let's Dance. B

David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed (1995-2014 [2014], Columbia/Legacy): Available in several widely-varying formats -- a 3-CD that reverses chronological order with a lot of non-album takes; a 2-CD from early-to-late, ending the first with Scary Monsters and starting the second with Let's Dance -- again, mostly single versions and radio edits; a 2-LP that hops around more (first side: "Let's Dance," "Ashes to Ashes," "Heroes," "Changes," "Life on Mars?"; second starts with "Space Oddity" and ends with "Rebel Bebel"; third includes "Fame" and a new song; fourth is mostly late but includes two songs from Let's Dance); then there's a 1-CD that mostly tracks the vinyl but there are exclusive perks for Japan, Argentina, and other special national editions. Then there's the Rhapsody edition, which is just the first disc from the 3-CD edition, working backwards from the new song, "Sue (or in a Season of Crime)," to Outside (1995). If they ever released this by itself -- a Best of 1995-2014 -- it might be useful, at least more so than any of the albums it picks from. The new piece, backed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra, is a bit overwrought but not without interest, the remixes usually help, a song I noticed before comes out sharper ("I'm Afraid of Americans" -- from 1997, but even more true today), and the Pet Shop Boys help out. The older music in the other editions can only help, although there are other places to get it. B+(*)

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas (1973 [1974], MCA): After three studio albums, the band's first official live album, from Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas (with many more to come). More country covers ("Crying Time," "Diggy Liggy Lo"), more rock and roll covers ("Good Rockin' Tonight," "Riot in Cell Block #9"), only two originals: "Too Much Fun" and the the ever-popular, even if not very good (but we've all been there) "Seeds and Stems Again Blues." B+(***)

Sue Foley: Change (2004, Ruf): Guitar-playing blues singer from Canada, cut some very good records in the 1990s but her three albums on Ruf (2004-07) slipped by unnoticed (at least by me). Live set, half originals but gains traction on the covers ("Careless Love," "Sugar in My Bowl") then seals the deal with her own "Shake That Thing." B+(***)

Stephen Haynes: Parrhesia (2010, Engine Studios): Cornet player, a protege of Bill Dixon's, in a trio with Joe Morris on guitar and Warren Smith on all things percussive. Abstract, needs some assembly from the listener, but interesting enough to command your attention. B+(**)

Peter Karp/Sue Foley: Beyond the Crossroads (2012, Blind Pig): Karp cut a couple Americana albums before hooking up with Foley for their He Said, She Said (2010). This second one moves further away from blues and into rock (or rockabilly). I don't particularly approve, but they do seem to be having a good time. B+(*)

New York Gypsy All Stars: Romantech (2011, Traditional Crossroads): First album, on a label that has released a lot of Turkish classical music. More trad than the new album, and also sharper (or at least hotter). No brass, though: the group leader is a clarinetist, Ismail Lumanovski, and he sets the tone. B+(***)

Throbbing Gristle: The First Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle (1975 [2001], Thirsty Ear): The original industrial group's first release was called The Second Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle (1977), implicitly acknowledging this album -- Discogs lists a half-dozen releases from 1987, tagging them all as "unofficial." The first piece's talkie vocal offers a link back to the Velvet Underground, but the sound quality is so murky it isn't clear where the aesthetic emerges from the ineptitude. B

Tin Machine: Tin Machine (1989, EMI): Short-lived back-to-basics rock band that David Bowie submerged himself into at a time when his career was more involved in hacking out soundtracks than creating new artistic conceits -- although arguably this was one such. With Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Tony Sales (bass), and Hunt Sales (drums) -- sons of comedian Soupy Sales who played in Iggy Pop's Bowie-era band. Oddly, the more you hear Bowie here, the worse it gets. (Best cut by far is "Under the God"; someone once assembled a record called Elvis' Greatest Shit -- you could probably do the same with Bowie, for which I'd nominate "Working Class Hero.") C+

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:

Carly Rae Jepsen: E-MO-TION (2015, Interscope/Schoolboy/Silent): Gave this another shot after it finished 3rd in P&J, the poll's big surprise although the album had gained steadily in my EOY Aggregate, moving up to 18th. Not as flamboyant as Grimes or as clever as Lily Allen, it takes some time to adjust to her ambivalence. Clearly I filed this too soon. [was: B+(***)] A-

Lord Huron: Strange Trails (2015, Iamsound): [was: B+(**)] B+(***)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • David Bowie: Space Oddity (1969, Virgin): B+
  • David Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World (1970, Virgin): B+
  • David Bowie: Hunky Dory (1971, Virgin): A
  • David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972, Virgin): A-
  • David Bowie: Live Santa Monica '72 (1972 [2008], Virgin/EMI): A-
  • David Bowie: Pin-Ups (173, Virgin): B
  • David Bowie: Aladdin Sane (1973, Virgin): B+
  • David Bowie: Aladdin Sane: 30th Anniversary Edition (1973 [2003], Capitol, 2CD): B+
  • David Bowie: Diamond Dogs (1974, Virgin): B
  • David Bowie: Young Americans (1975, Virgin): B
  • David Bowie: Station to Station (1976, Virgin): A
  • David Bowie: Low (1977, Virgin): A-
  • David Bowie: Heroes (1977, Virgin): A-
  • David Bowie: Lodger (1979, Virgin): B+
  • David Bowie: Scary Monsters (1980, Virgin): B+
  • David Bowie: Let's Dance (1983, Virgin): B
  • David Bowie: Changesbowie (1969-90 [1990], Rykodisc): A
  • David Bowie: The Next Day (2013, Columbia): B+(*)
  • Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Lost in the Ozone: B+
  • Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Trucker's Favorites (1972, MCA): A-
  • Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Too Much Fun: The Best of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (1971-74 [1990], MCA): A
  • Sue Foley: Young Girl Blues (1992, Antone's): B
  • Sue Foley: Without a Warning (1993, Antone's): A
  • Sue Foley: Big City Blues (1995, Antone's): A-
  • Sue Foley: Walk in the Sun (1996, Discovery): B+
  • Sue Foley: Ten Days in November (1998, Shanachie): A-
  • Sue Foley: Love Comin' Down (2000, Shanachie): A-
  • Sue Foley: Back to the Blues (2000, Antone's): B+
  • Sue Foley: Where the Action Is . . . (2002, Shanachie): B+
  • Peter Karp/Sue Foley: He Said, She Said (2010, Blind Pig): B+(**)


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