Streamnotes: July 29, 2019


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on June 24. Past reviews and more information are available here (13252 records).


Recent Releases

75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real (2019, Thin Wrist): Guitar-drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, the former studied Mauritanian music with Jheich Ould Chighaly, perhaps why their most obvious (indeed, the practically only) connection seems to be with Saharan blues/rock. No vocals on this third album. The 16:55 title cut, fourth in, is where my interest kicks in. B+(***)

100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs (2019, Dog Show): Dylan Brady and Laura Les (aka osno1), electropop so cartoonish I've seen it classified as bubblegum bass. Annoying to start, eventually found some kind of groove. B

JD Allen: Barracoon (2019, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, has a distinctive sound and built his reputation by in a series of powerhouse trio albums. This is another, a return to form with a new set of bandmates, Ian Kenselaar (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums). Title inspired by a Zora Neale Hurston book. Originals, but closes with a touching "When You Wish Upon a Star." A-

Jay Anderson: Deepscape (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): Bassist, has appeared on close to 250 albums since breaking in with Woody Herman in 1978, and has led a few. Opens and closes solo, the tracks in beween with Billy Drewes (bass clarinet/alto/soprano sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), and Matt Wilson (drums), sometimes adding harmonium (Frank Kimbrough) and/or percussion (Rogerio Boccato). B+(**)

Gretje Angell: In Any Key (2018 [2019], Grevlinto): Standards singer, born in Akron, based on Los Angeles, father and grandfather both jazz drummers. First album, voice reminds you of Brazilian singers even before she got to "Berimbau" and "One Note Samba." Backed by guitarist Dori Amarillo -- some cuts just him, others with bass, drums, and/or percussion. B+(**) [cd]

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation (2019, Editions Mego): Italian composer, based in Berlin, "working in the fields of analog and digital synthesis and minimalism." Fourth album. All synth, rooted in minimalism but building something more out of such basics. A-

Ilia Belorukov/Gabriel Ferrandini: Disquiet (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Russian alto saxophonist, never noticed him before but Discogs credits him with 55 albums since 2007. Teams up here with the Portuguese drummer (RED Trio and much more). Choppy, somewhat muted. B+(**)

Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Requiem for a New York Slice (2018 [2019], Iluso): Bass/cornet/cello, the strings on the scratchy side. Dedicated to the late Mike Panico (1965-2018), a founder of Relative Pitch Records. B+(*) [bc]

Black Midi: Schlagenheim (2019, Rough Trade): British experimental rock band; two guitars, bass and drums; three credited vocalists, but the main guy is pretty distinctive; first album after some singles. Most similar band I recognize is Pere Ubu, but I don't instantly love them. Still, not a comparison I make lightly. B+(**)

James Blake: Assume Form (2019, Polydor): British singer-songwriter, started in electronica but never offered much in the way of beats -- at any rate I've never understood his appeal. Comes and goes here. B-

Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (2019, Ofeh): "Featuring the songs of James Byfield," who usually does business as Blind Lemon Pledge. He is a guitarist, "roots songwriter," sings some but mostly turns his songs over to Marisa Malvino. She brings some blues grit. B+(*) [cd]

Blood Orange: Angel's Pulse (2019, Domino): British r&b singer Dev Hynes, started as Lightspeed Champion, fourth album under this moniker. Mix of soft soul with edgier moments. B+(**)

Burial: Clausto/State Forest (2019, Hyperdub, EP): Single really, 2 songs, 13:44. The A-side reminds you why you bother to listen to him. B-side just kills time. B

Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter from Scotland, young, first album, processed as pop with his voice stretched toward soul. Topped charts in UK and Ireland. Impressive so far, but could turn annoying. B+(*)

Daniel Carter/Tobias Wilner/Djibril Toure/Federico Ughi: New York United (2016 [2019], 577): Best known for his work with William Parker, Carter plays a range of horns -- alto sax, tenor sax, flute, and trumpet -- against Wilner's jazztronica (electronics, synths, beats), backed with bass and drums. B+(***)

Charly Bliss: Young Enough (2019, Barsuk): Power pop group, Eva Hendricks sings, second album, seems like they got the tone right, all the hooks buttoned up tight. A-

Cheekface: Therapy Island (2019, New Professor Music): Los Angeles band, Greg Katz the singer-guitarist, backed by bass and drums. Reminds me somewhat of the Dead Milkmen. Not as funny, but not for lack of trying. B+(**)

Stef Chura: Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter from Michigan, second album, doesn't neglect the guitar. B+(*) [Later: B+(**)]

Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (2018 [2019], Intakt): Piano-violin duo, several previous records together ("almost 20 years"). B+(*)

DaBaby: Blank Blank (2018, South Coast Music Group, EP): Rapper Jonathan Kirk, born in Cleveland, grwe up in North Carolina, released his first mixtape in 2017, this number nine. Short pieces, packing 10 cuts into 23:57. Reminds me of Young Thug -- he started later, but is a year older. B+(***)

DaBaby: Baby on Baby (2019, South Coast music Group): First studio album after a bunch of mixtapes, songs remain compact and sharp, taking 13 to push the album up to 31:36, scoring a hit single with "Suge" but can't say as it stands out much. B+(**)

Caroline Davis: Alula (2017 [2019], New Amsterdam): Alto saxophonist, handful of albums. With Matt Mitchell on synths, Greg Saunier on drums, bits of voice. Some stretches impress, some make me wonder, strikes me as overly fancy. B+(*)

Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums and trumpet duo, the drummer probably more steeped in free jazz but Knuffke can swing that way when the occasion calls for it. B+(***) [cdr]

Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet/Box of Light (2018 [2019], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Drummer, has a long association with Matthew Shipp, including a stint in David S. Ware's famous Quartet. Two quartets, one disc each: the first with Rob Brown (alto sax), Shipp (piano), and William Parker (bass); the other with Brown, Steve Swell (trombone), and Michael Bisio (bass). Noticed last year that multi-disc releases fare well in EOY polls, which may explain why they seem to be becoming the rule, leaving me with the problem of deciding whether to grade the stronger or weaker disc. Swell is impressive enough here, but Brown doesn't do much working around him. On the other hand, Brown is terrific on the first, probably because Shipp sets him up so well. B+(***)

Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, from San Francisco, third album, rhythm section marks this as jazz, and Melecio Magdaluyo's sax/reeds drives the point home. Puts her politics up front, asking "who put them in charge?" B+(**) [cd]

Open Mike Eagle: The New Negroes: Season 1 Soundtrack (2019, Comedy Central, EP): Cover adds "With Baron Vaughan & Open Mike Eagle" -- the former the comedian host for the series, with the rapper some kind of sidekick, his role unclear on these nine short cuts (21:56), eight featuring other rappers (Danny Brown, MF DOom, Phonte, Lizzo, etc.). B+(*)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known: Ancient/Future/Music (2019, Spiritmuse): Drummer Kahil El'Zabar's long-running group, debuted in 1981 with Three Gentlemen From Chikago, sixteenth album, only their second since 35th Anniversary Project in 2009. The leader is the only constant, with several long-time members falling by the wayside, replaced here by Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone sax), and Ian Maksin (cello). El'Zabar sings, chants, incants, an heir of Sun Ra, more of this world than out of it. B+(***)

Maria Faust/Tim Dahl/Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (2019, Gotta Let It Out): Alto saxophonist, from Estonia, based in Denmark, several albums since 2014, this trio gets a buzz from Dahl's electric bass, running through 10 pieces in 37:43. B+(***)

Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (2019, Rune Grammofon): Started as a trio with Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), John Bethling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), then grew massive, up to 28 members, now down to 14: two vocalists (Mariam Wallentin, who wrote most of the lyrics, and Sofia Jernberg), a string quartet, trumpet, four reeds (arranged by Per Texas Johansson), and keyboards. Starts easy, swells to staggering, slows back down to some kind of lament. I'm baffled by it all, aside from a dirge with familiar lyrics, "At Last I Am Free." B

Flying Lotus: Flamagra (2019, Warp): LA producer, filmmaker, more of the latter but better known for his records and his work with other artists (e.g., Thundercat, Kamasi Washington). I've usually found his records too scattered, and this 26-cut, 66:57 mess certainly is. Still, lots of good bits in the mix. B+(**)

Al Foster: Inspirations & Dedications (2019, Smoke Sessions): Drummer, occasional leader with hundreds of side credits, including a long stretch with Miles Davis. Hard bop quintet, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt in prime form, with Dayna Stephens, Adam birnbaum, and Doug Weiss. Covers from Davis and Herbie Hancock, but everything else bears Foster's signature. B+(**)

Alex Fournier: Triio (3028 [2019], Furniture Music): Bassist, from Toronto, second album, calls this his "flagship project," actually started as a quartet and has since grown to six, with alto sax (Bea Labikova), trombone (Aidan Sibley), guitar, piano, and drums. Starts with piano trio, the horns sneaking in and expanding the sound into a very sophisticated postbop harmony. B+(***)

Future: Future Hndrxx: The Wizrd (2019, Epic/Freebandz): Rapper Nayvadius Wilburn, from Atlanta, did an album Hndrxx in 2017 and refers back here. Not as clear as I'd like, but runs long and steady. B+(**)

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (2019, Keel Cool/RCA): Rapper, from Gary, Indiana, second album (plus four mixtapes) with the producer (Otis Jackson), the combo sometimes known as MadGibbs. Lyrics are striking, carried along by the sweeping production. A-

Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (2016 [2019], self-released): Pianist, first noted in David Murray's Black Saint Quartet, haven't heard much from him since his stretch with Hyena ended in 2008. Solo here, strong on rhythm, which is usually what works for me. B+(***) [cd]

GoldLink: Diaspora (2019, Squaaash Club/RCA): Rapper (or more often singer) D'Anthony Carlos, second album, major groove at least half the way through. B+(***)

Hilliard Greene: Spirituals (2019, Unseen Rain): Bassist, long stretch as Jimmy Scott's music director, member of the group the Jazz Expressions, has recorded on several notable free jazz records (like Billy Bang's Da Bang). Had a solo album in 2003, again here, a deep roots exploration. Some voice, just enough to identify "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray." B+(*)

Augie Haas: Dream a Little Dream (2019, Playtime Music): Trumpet player, from Wisconsin, based in New York, has a couple previous records, plays and sings standards here, the songbook expanded to inlude doo-wop ("Earth Angel," "Stay") and soft rock ("Love Me Tender," "Stand by Me," "Blackbird"). Backed by Carmen Staaf (piano/organ), bass, drums, and a lot of strings. Not a great singer, but you'll probably find yourself blotting him out by singing along. B+(**) [cd]

Rich Halley: Terra Incognita (2018 [2019], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist, from Oregon, cover pictures are all rugged high desert, but he trekked to Brooklyn to record this, with Matthew Shipp's regular piano trio (Michael Bisio and Newman Taylor Baker). Shipp has played with a lot of avant saxophonists. He seems more content than usual to lay back and fill in. Halley opens fierce, the group chemistry only really developing with the long off-speed closer, appropriately titled "The Journey." A- [cd]

Aldous Harding: Designer (2019, 4AD): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, third album. Easy listening, but not without its beguiling passages. B

Bjørn Marius Hegge: Ideas (2019, Particular): Norwegian bassist. Title may extend to the fine print: "for Axel Dörner, Rudi Mahall, Hans Hulbaekmo and Håvard Wiik" -- no credits, but that's presumably the band here (trumpet, bass clarinet, drums, piano). A-

Jesca Hoop: Stonechild (2019, Memphis Industries): Singer-songwriter, eighth album, leans back toward folk this time, not as attractive as her pop move on Memories Are Now. B+(*)

Randy Houser: Magnolia (2019, Stoney Creek): Country singer-songwriter from Mississippi, fifth album. Big gestures, deep emotions, strong voice. B+(**)

Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance (2019, Gearbox): South African pianist, cut his first album for Duke Ellington in 1963, is 84 now. His solo pieces are steady here, but the group pieces really come to life, especially "Jabula" -- for some reason, Napster regards that the album title, but other sources read as above. B+(***)

Julia Jacklin: Crushing (2019, Polyvinyl): Australian singer-songwriter, second album. B

Jelena Jovovic: Heartbeat (2018 [2019], self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter from Serbia, moved to South Africa, later Austria. First album, wrote lyrics to several jazz melodies, music and lyrics to the rest. Only picks up a bit toward the end. B- [cd]

Judy and the Jerks: Music for Donuts EP (2019, Thrilling Living, EP): "Over the past half-decade Hattiesburg, MS has become a perhaps unlikely center of the international punk scene." Inspired by the Circle Jerks ("kin in not just name alone"). This group has even less song sense, trying 6 times, giving up after 7:54. C+ [bc]

Juice Wrld: Death Race for Love (2019, Interscope): Los Angeles rapper Jarad Higgins, second album. Key lyric: "I don't want anyone to think I'm an asshole." Still, the whine wore me out. B-

Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI (2019, 3Qtr): No relation to the late saxophonist. This one (Steve Thomas Lacy-Moya) hails from Compton, sings alt-r&b, plays guitar and bass. Best known from the Internet, but released an EP (Steve Lacy's Demo) in 2017, now this debut album. Some funk, some glitz, nice beats. B+(*)

Lady Lykez: Muhammad Ali EP (2019, Hyperdub, EP): MC from North London, title track a remix with Lioness rapping and Scratchclart producing, who returns for two more rapid-fire bits. D'Lux produced the change of pace. Four cuts, 13:43. B+(*) [bc]

Alex Lahey: The Best of Luck Club (2019, Dead Oceans): Budding power pop star, from Australia, likes her guitar riffs but drops back to keyboards for the slower ones. Second album. Good advice: "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself." B+(**)

Mike LeDonne: Partners in Time (2019, Savant): Pianist here, although he's played organ more often in the past. Names on the front cover in slightly smaller type, probably because they're more famous than he is: Christian McBride, Lewis Nash. Lively, support is impeccable. B+(**)

Lil Nas X: 7 (2019, Columbia, EP): Atlanta rapper Montero Lamar Hill, leads off with a remix of his breakout single, "Old Town Road," with Billy Ray Cyrus adding to the country twang. Six more songs plus the original single, total 18:44. B+(*)

Damon Locks/Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds (2019, International Anthem): Chicago-based "sound & visual artists," credited with "electronics, bells, voice" on his first album here, with a "15-piece" ensemble, but only credits three other musicians -- Angel Bat Dawid (clarinets), and two percussionists (remaining credits for singers and dancers). Pulls samples from "Civil Rights era" speeches but feels more contemporary, proof that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing. B+(*) [bc]

Aubrey Logan: Your Mom's Favorite Songs (2019, Resonance, EP): Carole King, Aretha Franklin, lesser knowns, sung with more panache than the cover/title implies. Just barely old enough to have spared us Your Granny's Favorite Songs. Six tracks, 23:15. B+(*)

Madonna: Madame X (2019, Interscope): She's moved from London to Lisbon, picked up a few new beats, plus Colombian featured Maluma, although that was the sort of timely move she's been making for ages now (single: "Medellin"). As her life in exile puts America ever more distant in the rear-view mirror, her politics grow both snarkier and more empathetic, with the solution a path of personal growth that only she seems to be able to pull off. Still, good for her. [NB: Listened to "Deluxe Edition," two extra songs, pretty good ones.] A-

Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Duo, soprano sax and piano, both Lithuanians -- probably a point of pride for the label, which has been an invaluable refuge for avant-jazz artists all around the world (including Japan). Relatively quiet, one could say intimate. B+(***) [cd]

Maluma: 11:11 (2019, Sony Music Latin): Colombian pop star, fourth album, noticed him on Madonna's latest, and she returns the favor here ("Soltera"). That's the only song I can follow, so I'm mostly going by sound: beats good, strings less. B+(**)

Mannequin Pussy: Patience (2019, Epitaph): Punk group from Philadelphia, principally singer-guitarist Marisa Dabice. Third album, assuming you count short ones (this one packs 10 cuts into 25:37). B+(**)

Charlie Marie: Charlie Marie (2019, self-released, EP): Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from Rhode Island, second five-cut eponymous EP separated by a live LP from a B&B in Charleston, SC. Full band, impressive sound and voice. B+(**) [bc]

The Mauskovic Dance Band: The Mauskovic Dance Band (2019, Soundway): Dutch group, principally Nic Mauskovic, first album after several EPs, a mix of "no-wave dance punk, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and space disco." B+(**)

MC Frontalot: Net Split, or the Fathomless Heartbreak of Online Itself (2019, Level Up): Damian Hess, day job web designer, started rapping about the Internet in 1999, leading to his 2005 debug album, Nerdcore Rising. Seventh album. Haven't followed his arc, but his love affair with tech isn't turning out the way he expected. B+(**)

Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (2018 [2019], Moddl): Standards singer from Colorado, first album, wrote the title cut and lyrics to a Wayne Shorter tune and some vocalese on "Lover Man." Scats some, takes a nice turn on a Joni Mitchell song. B+(*) [cd]

Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (2019, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Houston. First mixtape, after two EPs and a few singles. Trap beats, splashy, cover looks like it's rising out of 1970s blaxploitation movie, hot and steamy. B+(***)

Buddy & Julie Miller: Breakdown on 20th Ave. South (2019, New West): Husband-and-wife singer-songwriters, have recorded together off and on since 1995, also separately but they're usually better together. B+(**)

Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek: Star Splitter (2019, Clean Feed): Mazurek, from Chicago, has been recording since the 1990s, playing trumpet, dabbling in electronics and astronomy (one of his projects is Exploding Star Orchestra), so it's tempting to take him as the mentor if not leader here, but the younger Italian has the same tool kit -- his credits here: "cornet, soprano sax, alto flugelhorn, electronics, objects, voice"; Mazurek plays "piccolo trumpet, electronics, objects voice." No shortage of spaciness here, and it does tend to break up. B+(*)

Monopiece/Jaap Blonk: Monopiece + Jaap Blonk (2019, Shhpuma): West Coast group, despite name a trio -- Nathan Corder (electronics), Matt Robidoux (guitar), Timothy Russell (percussion) -- first album, with the Dutch vocalist as wild card. Scattered chaos, odd noise. B

Rico Nasty/Kenny Beats: Anger Management (2019, Sugar Trap, EP): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly and producer Kenneth Blume, nine hard and fast tracks, 18:40. Much anger, barely managed. B+(**)

Nature Work: Nature Work (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Freewheeling quartet, Jason Stein (bass clarinet) and Greg Ward (alto sax) up front, Eric Revis on bass and Jim Black on drums. Impressive at full speed, loses me a bit when they slow down, but that doesn't happen often. A-

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) (2019, Fantasy): Willie Nelson's son, via his fourth wife, has run this country-rock band since 2009. Fifth album (plus two backing Neil Young). B+(*)

Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (2019, Legacy): Still prolific at 86, a batch of originals (mostly co-credited to producer Buddy Cannon), almost as many covers (two from Guy Clark, one from Billy Joel). Reportedly the final chapter in Nelson's "Mortality Trilogy," but less focused on age and death than the previous entries. No dope songs either. Could be the new normal. A-

Angelika Niescier/Christopher Tordini/Gerald Cleaver: New York Trio Feat. Jonathan Finlayson (2018 [2019], Intakt): German alto saxophonist, bassist and drummer from New York, also the featured trumpet player. Starts with a strong piece called "The Surge." B+(***)

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (2019, Odin): Norwegian drummer, third album with this trio, featuring André Roligheten (sax/bass clarinet) with Petter Eldh (double bass). All three contributed pieces, with Nilsen having a hand in most. Slows a bit toward the end, without losing interest. A-

Nots: 3 (2019, Goner): Memphis punk trio -- Natalie Hoffmann (vocals/guitar), Charlotte Watson (drums), Meredith Jones (bass) -- minus the keyboards from their debut. Third album, strong and catchy riffs, tone seems a bit off. B+(**)

Nubiyan Twist: Jungle Run (2019, Strut): British group, 12 pieces, groove pieces, hit and (mostly) miss. B-

Karen O & Danger Mouse: Lux Prima (2019, BMG): Orzolek, born in Korea, father Polish, grew up in New Jersey, singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, second solo album. Producer pulls consistently interesting music together. B+(**)

Old Man Saxon: Goldman Sax (2019, Saxon Kincy, EP): Rapper, know very little about him, based in Los Angeles (or Denver, according to Bandcamp page). Third EP (7 tracks, 21:02). B+(**)

Evan Parker/Paul G. Smyth: Calenture and Light Leaks (2015 [2019], Weekertoft): Tenor sax-piano duo, the latter from Dublin, Ireland, with scattered records since 2003. Expected sound, deliberately paced. B+(**) [bc]

Evan Parker & Kinetics: Chiasm (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Tenor sax, backed by a Danish piano trio (Jacob Anderskov, Adam Pultz Melbye, and Anders Vestergaard), from two sets recorded two days apart, first in Copenhagen, second in London. LP length (38:13), fine form for the leader, also impressed by the piano. A-

William Parker/In Order to Survive: Live/Shapeshifter (2017 [2019], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Quartet, named for the bassist's 1995 album with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Cooper-Moore (piano), recorded several albums in late 1990s with Susie Ibarra on drums. Parker went with Hamid Drake on drums for his post-2000 pianoless quartets (with Lewis Barnes on trumpet and Brown on alto sax). He kept Drake when he reconvened IOTS in 2012, and in 2016 recorded a 2-CD album to showcase the two quartets (Meditation/Resurrection). The star has always been Cooper-Moore, who remains as distinctive as ever. A-

Jai Paul: Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) (2013 [2019], XL): British songwriter/producer, of Indian descent, had a couple singles and was working on an eponymous album when a set of his demos were leaked, to some acclaim and the artist's horror. He litigated to get the leaks suppressed, shelved the project, and has scarcely been heard from since. This is the first official release of the leaked material, with most pieces labelled "(unfinished)." Most definitely, but flashes here and there do match the fuss. B+(**)

Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye (2019, Cherry Red): Great post-punk band from Ohio, not sure how much beyond vocalist David Thomas remains, but they can still do weird and murky, even if the rust squeaks here and there. [CD comes with a second, live disc, I haven't heard.] B+(**)

Peter Perrett: Humanworld (2019, Domino): Former leader of the Only Ones, possessing one of the most memorable voices of the late 1970s punk invasion. Struggled long after the group broke up, only to make an improbably great comeback album in 2017 (How the West Was Won). This is a fitting sequel, if anything more fleshed out, more powerful. A-

PUP: Morbid Stuff (Rise): Canadian band, name an acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, Stefan Babcock the singer, backed by guitar-bass-drums. Third album, advertised as punk, but don't really hear it. Not that they don't rock. B

Queen Key: Eat My Pussy (Again) (2019, Machine Entertainment Group): Chicago rapper Ke'Asha McClure, first album (following last year's Eat My Pussy EP), reminds one of CupcakKe -- her more "mature" work as opposed to her salacious debut Cum Cake, but then Key is a year older, and judging from her forced rhymes and slack beats not as talented. Still, she remains fearless and defiant in a world where trust is hard to come by, and takes her pleasure where she can. A-

Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (2016 [2019], Dark Tree): Alto sax and electric guitar. Can, on occasion, irritate with too much noise, or nod off with too little, but impressive when walking that fine line. B+(**) [cd]

Resavoir: Resavoir (2015-19 [2019], International Anthem): Chicago project, written, arranged, and produced by Will Miller (trumpet, keyboards, sampler). A vast orchestra, flows nice, sometimes lovely, spoken word helps, choral voices less. B [bc]

Maggie Rogers: Heard It in a Past Life (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, first album, has won some prizes. I could see her developing into some kind of pop star, but may be too adult too early. B+(**)

Joel Ross: KingMaker (2019, Blue Note): Vibraphone player, first album, major label but no one I've heard of in the band (Immanuel Wilkins on alto sax, plus piano-bass-drums), aside from guest vocalist Gretchen Parlato (one track, just enough for radio). Strikes me as rather conventional (more Milt Jackson or Joe Locke than Stefon Harris). B+(*)

Santana: Africa Speaks (2019, Concord): Guitarist Carlos Santana in group form, eponymous first album appeared in 1969, still kicking 50 years later (dozens of personnel changes along the way, but the early-'70s core group reunited in 2013 (Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Shrieve). They were a big thing in their heyday, a group I never listened to after growing sick of Abraxas at a party that had nothing else to offer. So while he/they recorded 14 albums through 1979, I'm a bit surprised to find a steady stream of albums since (by decade: 7, 4, 2, 5). back for 50th anniversary with loud drums, bubbling percussion, wailing vocals, and great gobs of trademark guitar. B

ShitKid: [Detention] (2019, PNKSLM): Swedish punk auteur Åsa Söderqvist, morphing into a band with the addition of bassist Lina Ericsson, the fleshed out sound revealing itself as old-fashioned rock and roll. Short album by most standards (8 cuts, 23:54), but long by theirs. B+(*)

Skepta: Ignorance Is Bliss (2019, Boy Better Know): British grime MC, Joseph Adenuga Jr., called his first (2007) album Greatest Hits without having any. Scored a breakthrough last time, and is pretty steady here. B+(**)

Sneaks: Highway Hypnosis (2019, Merge): Eva Moolchan, had a group called the Shitstains, fourth album under this alias, defies listed genres (post-punk, spoken word). Thirteen short pieces, 27:53, some (most?) maybe worth the trouble. B+(*)

Sote: Parallel Persia (2019, Diagonal): Ata Ebtekar, Iranian, born in Germany, based in California, handful of records, this a mix of Iranian acoustic instruments (santoor, tar, tombak) and electronics, fast and frenzied, maybe even cartoonish. B+(*) [bc]

Caroline Spence: Mint Condition (2019, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, settled in Nashville, fourth album, first not self-released. Lyrics tend toward the literary, but her voice softens the edges, and the melodies suffice. Took me a while. A-

Emily A. Sprague: Water Memory (2017, self-released): Electronica composer, from the Catskills but based in Los Angeles. Ambient, sheets of synthy sound, simple and eloquent. B+(*)

Emily A. Sprague: Mount Vision (2019, self-released): Similar, less watery, more engaging. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (2018, Columbia, 2CD): Mostly solo, acoustic guitar, sixteen signature songs with a lot of talk along the way, probably derived from his well-regarded autobiography -- could just as well be reviewed as an audiobook, albeit with exaggerated gestures. I've never been much of a fan, but I have to respect (maybe even admire) what he's made of his life. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (2019, Columbia): Turns his eyes to the vast open spaces of the old west, then fills them up with loping melodies and swelling string arrangements. Some of the latter aren't so bad, and some are. Stories too, none amusing enough to get me to notice. B-

Mavis Staples: Live in London (2018 [2019], Anti-): Selected from two nights, including a birthday wish, reprises songs from her neighborhood even if I don't particularly recognize them as hers (Curtis Mayfield, Little Milton). B+(**)

Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (2018 [2019], Rainy Days): Saxophone and guitar, with Luques Curtis (double bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums) keeping them on track. Mostly a fusion grind, the guitarist more impressive but the richer tones of the sax no doubt help. Strigalev sings one song, which only Robert Wyatt could get away with. B+(*) [cd]

Supa Bwe: Just Say Thank You (2019, Freddy Got Magic/Empire, EP): Chicago rapper Frederick Burton, "Bwe" reportedly pronounced "boy/boo/buoy," second solo project, 7 cuts, 20:06, has something to say about entropy. B+(*)

Aki Takase: Hokusai: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): All originals, solo except for two pieces -- one with Alexander von Schlippenbach also on piano, the closer with a Yoko Tawada reading. B+(**)

Kate Tempest: The Book of Traps and Lessons (2019, Republic): British poet, spoken word artist, seems to have lost the beat from her breakthrough 2014 album (Everybody Down), making her less of a rapper, more of a preacher (or maybe just a scold). B+(*)

Yves Theiler Trio: We (2018 [2019], Intakt): Swiss pianist, second trio album with Luca Sisera (bass) and Lukas Mantel (drums). All originals, most strong on rhythm. B+(**)

Toro Y Moi: Outer Peace (2019, Carpark): Chas Bundick, aka Chaz Bear, sixth album since 2010. Electro, catchy in spots then gets caught up, tempted to say trip hop minus the gloom. B+(*)

AJ Tracey: AJ Tracey (2019, self-released): British rapper, debut album after four years of singles, EPs (5), and mixtapes (2, released as Looney). Grime beats, a little slack. B+(**)

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: La Misteriosa Musica Della Regina Loana (2019, ECM): Duets, piccolo/alto clarinet and accordion, the pair has at least four albums together, with Trovesi's discography (much on alto sax) dating back to 1978. The title is a play on a novel by the late Umberto Eco (1932-2016), a friend and fan of the duo. B+(**)

Turning Jewels Into Water: Map of Absences (2019, FPE): Percussion duo, a mix of Val Jeanty (from Haiti, aka Val-Inc) and Ravish Momin (from India, has done some jazz records I admire, with or without his group Tarana). Scattered voices and electronics flesh out the intensive beats. B+(***)

Turning Jewels Into Water: Which Way Is Home? (2018, FPE, EP): Introduced the duo last year, with five cuts, 21:01. Same intensity, maybe a bit more abstract. B+(**) [bc]

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (2018 [2019], WhyPlayJazz): Leader plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, recorded the album Basement Research in 1993, and has kept the name for low-pitched groups ever since. This 25th anniversary project has Julian Argüelles on baritone sax, Steve Swell on trombone, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(***)

Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (2018 [2019], Patois): Standards singer, has a previous album with a group called Jazzkwest ("the jazz band for all occasions!"), works with trombonist Wayne Wallace and his many friends here. Idea here is to pick one song from each decade of the 20th century, although she slips a couple more in. "These Boots Are Made for Walking" (1966) fits most uneasily, then leads into "It's Too Late" (1971). The later songs, from Split Enz and Toni Braxton, are less iconic. B+(*)

Faye Webster: Atlanta Millionaires Club (2019, Secretly Canadian): Singer-songwriter, based in Atlanta, various sources slot her in folk or country (note the pedal steel), but her slight voice and melodies don't fit there, any more than the token rap makes her trap. B

G. Calvin Weston/The Phoenix Orchestra: Dust and Ash (2019, 577): Drummer, played in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time in the late 1970s, released an album in 1988 with James Blood Ulmer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, a couple other items. First name Grant, sometimes spelled out, often dropped. Group includes electric guitar, bass, keyb, some strings, and the odd vocal by Kayle Brecher. B+(*)

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (2019, Blackwoodz Studioz): New York rapper and Los Angeles producer, the former with a dozen-plus albums since 2002 (including groups like Armand Hammer). Something of a slog, although much of it is worth the effort. B+(***)

Wreckless Eric: Transience (2019, Southern Domestic): Eric Goulden, British, part of the Stiff Records stable as pub rock gave way to punk and new wave, probably the main reason I habitually misspelled "reckless" for decades, tried various other aliases until he found himself in Nashville and married Amy Rigby. Not nearly her equal, but plods along agreeably on his own. B+(*)

Wschód: Wschód (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro (RED Trio) picked up this trio in Wroclaw, Poland, with Zbigniew Kozera (bass) and Kuba Suchar (drums). Builds to a strong simmer. B+(**)

The Yawpers: Human Question (2019, Bloodshot): Denver band, Americana as deep as their Whitman-honoring name, can be astute, can be catchy, can push their luck a bit too hard. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Chance the Rapper: 10 Day (2011 [2019], self-released): Chicago rapper Chancelor Bennett, one of the decade's best, released this debut mixtape in 2012, only 18 when he recorded it, yet bursting with wit, charm, and hooks. A-

Detail: Day Two (1982 [2019], NoBusiness): Group founded in 1982 by South African bassist Johnny Dyani, saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, and drummer John Stevens, initially with a keyboardist not present here -- a set recorded just ten days after the tracks on their debut album, First Detail. They recorded several albums up to Dyani's death in 1986, and regrouped for Last Detail in 1994-95 (with Kent Carter on bass). B+(**) [cd]

Bill Evans: Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (1968-69 [2019], Resonance): Selected from four recent (since 2012) caches of previously unreleleased trio tapes, with Eddie Gomez on bass and either Marty Morell or Jack DeJohnette on drums. Consistently fine work, well selected (as far as I can tell). A- [cd]

Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate Nov. 26 1961 (1961 [2019], Verve, 2CD): Tenor sax great, returns to US after three years in Denmark, a year before his crossover Brazilian moves made him a star. Hype sheet calls this "transitional," but it sounds little changed from his 1955-57 West Coast Sessions, his rhythm as sure, his tone every bit as cool. Pianist Steve Kuhn has some standout moments. John Neves (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums) fill out the quartet. A-

Dexter Gordon: At the Subway Club 1973 (1965-73 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Five long cuts, 95:57, as advertised, recorded on tour at Subway Jazz-Club in Cologne, the tenor saxophonist backed by Irv Rochlin (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), plus four extra cuts from earlier European tours, different personnel, none previously released. B+(**)

Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995 [2019], NoBusiness): Alto sax and percussion duets, part of Japan's free jazz scene, little known in the west except for frequent flyers like Satoko Fujii. Tends to move slow, at times feeling more like a bass-percussion group, but no less interesting for that. B+(***) [cd]

Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance (1968-2011 [2019], Resonance): Label sampler, a mix of new mainstream releases and older archival material (Jaki Byard, Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan, Gene Harris), closing with Marian Petrescu doing about as note-perfect an Oscar Peterson as you could ever hope for. B+(*) [cd]

Clifford Jordan Quartet: Glass Bead Games (1973 [1974], Strata East; [2019], Pure Pleasure): Actually, two quartets led by the tenor saxophonist, both with Billy Higgins on drums, piano/bass duties split between Stanley Cowell/Bill Lee and Cedar Walton/Sam Jones. Piano equally impressive, leader makes it all seem so natural. A-

Sourakata Koité: En Holland (1984 [2019], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Kora master, a Malinké from Senegal, sings some, moved to Paris in 1978, cut this in the Netherlands with Joseph Nganga (percussion, background vocals) and S.E.G. Cissé (more percussion). Too amiable for awesome. B+(**) [bc]

Eero Koivistoinen: The Front Is Breaking (1976, Love; [2017], Svart): Finnish saxophonist (tenor/soprano/sopranino), liked to play free over funk-fusion grooves. Starts impressive, but not so much when he lays out. B+(*)

Joe McPhee: Nation Time (1970 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Second album, plays tenor sax and trumpet, with Mike Kull (piano/electric piano), Tyrone Crabb (bass/electric bass/trumpet), and percussion (Ernest Bostic and Bruce Thompson). Original release was on CjRecord in 1971, the 18:30 title cut on one side, two more (22:12) on the other, as was the 2000 Atavistic Unheard Music Series reissue in 2000. This reissue adds three extra cuts, for a total of 65:00. The original album was one of the greatest artifacts of its era, a feat of radical boogaloo, the beat (especially on "Shakey Jake") just regular enough to drive us to ecstasy. The extras aren't as monumental, but hold up pretty well. A [bc]

Wes Montgomery: Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance (1956-66 [2019], Resonance): Nice selection from five previous sets of archival material. Guessing at dates, since In the Beginning starts in 1949, but the guitarist's career doesn't really pick up steam until 1956-58 -- his breakthrough was 1960's Incredible Jazz Guitar, and through Smokin' at the Half Note in 1965 he redefined jazz guitar so successfully that even today most American jazz guitarists seem to be in his thrall. As with Charlie Parker, I've long been a skeptic, but those bookends are too brilliant to be denied, and this more scattered selection comes close enough. A- [cd]

Harry Mosco: Peace & Harmony (1979 [2019], Isle of Jura): Nigerian singer-guitarist, last name Agada, member of the Funkees, used the alias Mr. Funkees for his first solo album (Country Boy), that name also appearing on cover here. Opens with disco, gets funky, goes reggae for the title cut, dubs out, returns to the dance floor. Not what you'd call an original thinker. B+(*)

Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums, bass, guitar, although there's an asterisk indicating that at some point Dickie switched to bass clarinet and Andreano to bass. Initially released in 1997 in a run of 22 copies. Main interest is the drummer, not least when the others drop out. B+(**) [cd]

Woody Shaw Quintet: Basel 1980 (1980-81 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Previously unreleased live set from Switzerland, with Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums), plus one later track (10:44) with just trumpet, piano (Mulgrew Miller), and drums (Tony Reedus). Pretty spectacular. A-

Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down: Live 1973 (1973 [2019], Omnivore): Bluesman, originally from Memphis, inspired by a chance meeting with Robert Johnson, moved to Chicago in 1941, cut a few records in 1946-52 but didn't really get on track until the late 1960s. Recorded this intimate solo set in St. Louis. B+(**)

Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance (1956-2018 [2019], Resonance): Sampler, label best known for archival tapes although they've released a few new artists, especially standards singers. The latter are in the majority here, the most impressive Aubrey Logan's new take on "A Natural Woman," mixed in with older fare from Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, and Debbie Andrews (credited, justly so, to Wes Montgomery). B [cd]

Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): Live shot, a year before their last album (The Eternal), two years after Rather Ripped, both solid entries in their 25-year run, although I can't say as I remember much from either. I do recall their sound, compressed and sharpened here. Blew me away at first, then faded into the ether. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen: The Live Series: Songs of the Road (1977-2013 [2018], Columbia): The first of three wide-ranging live compilations, released as digital downloads, loosely organized by theme. These are the car/road songs, with 8 (of 15) from 1977-80, from "Thunder Road" to "Cadillac Ranch." B+(**)

Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (1998 [2019], Dark Tree): Los Angeles pianist and community organizer, first albums in late 1960s were phenomenal, much since then is relegated to private sessions although The Dark Tree (1989) is a Penguin Guide crown album, and two late releases on Arabesque caught my ear. Died in 1999, so this is even later, and too much of a sing-along to give you a good sense of his piano (although the opening instrumental piece, the title of his 1995 Arabesque album, is phenomenal). Still, only the choir at the end starts to wear my patience. A- [cd]

David Wertman Sun Ensemble: Earthly Delights (1978 [2019], BBE): Bassist (1952-2013), self-taught, played in New York's late-1970s loft scene, second album -- jumped out at me because I remember the cover, but somehow missed listing it. With Greg Wall (baritone sax), David Swerdlove (soprano/alto sax), John Sprague Jr (flute/percussion), John Zieman (synth), and Jay Conway (drums). What's recently been referred to as spiritual jazz, often remarkable, as rooted in Ayler and Shepp as in hippie mysticism. B+(***) [bc]

Asnakech Worku: Asnakech (1975 [2018], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Actress, dancer, musician, "cultural icon" -- her work was previously featured in Éthiopiques, Vol. 16: The Lady With the Krar (as Asnaqètch Wèrqu), which overlaps this album recorded with Hailu Mergia on organ and Temare Haregu on drums. Her instrument was the ancient krar ("a lyre, or harp, with 6 strings attached to a cloth-wrapped wooden crossbar, the sound emits from a resonator bowl covered with animal skin"). B+(**) [bc]

Neil Young + Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa (1973 [2019], Reprise): Another archival tape in what promises to be an endless series, recorded early on the tour that produced the live album Time Fades Away, this is the first one I've heard that feels totally superfluous. The great songs are greater elsewhere, and the rest, well, who cares? B-

Old Music

The Legendary Bill Evans Trio: The 1960 Birdland Sessions (1960 [2005], Fresh Sound): Radio shots, from four dates, sound leaving something to be desired, narration excessive. The piano trio, with Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, would peak a year later with Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and end with LaFaro's tragic death a few weeks later. Not the pianist's best work, but worth focusing on LaFaro. B+(***)

Bill Evans: Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest (1968 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): Trio with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), recorded at MPS in Villingen, Germany, previously unreleased. B+(***)

Bill Evans: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (1968 [2017], Resonance): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), recorded at Netherlands Radio Union in Hilversum, Netherlands. B+(***)

Franco, Josky, Matalanza Du T.P. OK Jazz: A Paris 1983 Missile (1983 [1996], Sonodisc): One of Joe Yanosik's favorites from his deep dive into Le Grand Maitre's oeuvre. Pure guitar paradise. A [dl]

Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966 [2017], Resonance): With Ron McClure on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums, only the bassist changed from the group that recorded the famous Smokin' at the Half Note (which Pat Metheny credits as the greatest guitar album ever) less than a year prior. This only hits that level in the last three cuts, leaving me a bit unsure of the first two-thirds. B+(***)

Peter Kowald/Kent Kessler/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Flats Fixed (1998 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): German bassist (1944-2002), one of few who could keep your interest in a solo album, visits Chicago and picks up two sympathetic players. Kessler was bassist in Vandermark 5, and cellist Lonberg-Holm would join that group in 2006. B+(***) [bc]

Wes Montgomery: In the Beginning (1949-58 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): The label picked up a trove of unreleased Montgomery recordings in 2012, and have gradually been making them available. Two chunks here originally appeared in 2014 on vinyl, attributed to Wes Montgomery & the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet, with brothers Buddy (piano) and Monk (bass) plus two Johnsons: Alonzo "Pookie" (tenor sax) and Robert "Sonny" (drums). Aside from a 1955 set, not clear when most of the tracks were recorded, but they cover years when the guitarist was 24-33, before his first (1958) album. Mixed bag, including a couple of vocals. B+(**)

Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin' (1957-58 [1996], Pacific Jazz): Reissues the album The Montgomery Brothers and 5 Others along with the title track and three more from a later date in Los Angeles. Four cuts add Pookie Johnson on tenor sax and a 19-year-old trumpeter named Freddie Hubbard. Wes is developing his style, but the focus seems to be on Buddy Montgomery's vibes. B+(**)

Wes Montgomery: Far Wes (1958-59 [1996], Pacific Jazz): Compiles two more Montgomery Brothers albums, most with Harold Land (tenor sax) and Tony Bazley (drums): Montgomeryland, and Wes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery. B+(*)

Wes Montgomery: One Night in Indy (1959 [2016], Resonance): The guitarist on the verge of fame, playing for the home town folks, backed by pianist Eddie Higgins' trio (Walter Perkins on drums, "bassist unknown"). Starts with a 9:14 "Give Me the Simple Life" -- my favorite piece from the new best-of, and moves on through "Prelude to a Kiss" and four shorter pieces. Higgins impressed me as much as the guitarist. A-

Kristi Stassinopoulou/Stathis Kalyviotis: NYN (2016, Riverboat): Greek duo, have worked together since 1989, mostly on local labels (aside from a previous Riverboat album in 2012), seemingly rooted in folk but sped up and filled out. B+(**)

The V.S.O.P. Quintet: Five Stars (1979, CBS/Sony): Basically, the late-sixties Miles Davis quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) with Freddie Hubbard filling in for Davis, who moved on a decade earlier -- the others straggling to cash in on the fusion Davis created. Initially a live band to tour Japan, they release four live albums plus this studio effort. Four pieces, one each from everyone but Carter. None distinguished. 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:


Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 [2019], Astral Spirits): Tenor sax and drums duo, improv pieces in a Lisbon studio. The drummer likes to kick up a racket, so this runs hard and fast. Back in June I tentatively reviewed this based on 2/5 Bandcamp cuts. Later got the CD, which burns bright the entire 48:53. [Was B+(**)] A- [cd]

Music Weeks

Current count 31831 [31677] rated (+154), 257 [264] unrated (-7).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

July 29, 2019

Got a good start last week, even while I delayed posting Music Week, then lost most of three days with company and cooking, before partially recovering while I wrote up Weekend Roundup. The reason for last week's delayed posting was that I was tied up in one of my favorite wastes of time: compiling several dozens of mid-year ("so far") best-of lists. I've scoured through 66 lists, where each mention counts as one point regardless of rank (most lists are unranked, and many are are short compared to EOY lists, so this scheme is just easier to build the EOY list aggregate on top of. I've also included letter grades for Robert Christgau and myself (although only so far for records mentioned on other lists), using { A = 5, A- = 4, B+/*** = 3, ** = 2, * = 1 }. This introduces a slight skew, but it's diminished as I've added more lists. And since I'm actually more interested in using this as a tool to guide my own listening than as some sort of value-free social science research, I've included a few lists from friends and allies, including at least one I scraped off the unlinkable Facebook. (I suppose it might be possible to link to it, but common decency suggests otherwise.)

One thing I found odd is that I literally didn't find a single jazz list. Maybe I'll write one up later this week. The other thing I'm tempted to do is to add in points for AOTY 80+ ratings. For a few years I actually collected those ratings, but gave it up 2-3 years ago as too much work. On the other hand, some record of those ratings would round out the picture.

Without further ado, here are the top 30 records (so far), with point counts in braces and my grades in brackets:

  1. Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? (Darkroom/Interscope) {43} [A-]
  2. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (Nice Life/Atlantic) {40} [A-]
  3. Tyler the Creator: Igor (Columbia) {38} [**]
  4. Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (Columbia) {38} [**]
  5. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar) {38} [*]
  6. Solange: When I Get Home (Saint/Columbia) {37} [*]
  7. Ariana Grande: Thank U Next (Republic) {33} [**]
  8. Big Thief: UFOF (4AD) {32} [A-]
  9. Little Simz: Grey Area (Age 101) {32} [A-]
  10. James Blake: Assume Form (Polydor) {25} [B-]
  11. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (604/School Boy/Interscope) {25} [***]
  12. Jenny Lewis: On the Line (Warner Bros) {24} [*]
  13. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (Barsuk) {23} [A-]
  14. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar) {23} [A-]
  15. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian) {22} [***]
  16. Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (Method) {22} [***]
  17. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (Sub Pop) {22} [B-]
  18. Dave: Psychodrama (Neighbourhood) {20} [A-]
  19. Flying Lotus: Flamagra (Warp) {20} [**]
  20. Fontaines DC: Dogrel (Partisan) {19} [***]
  21. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (300 Entertainment) {19} [***]
  22. Anderson .Paak: Ventura (Aftermath/12 Tone Music) {19} [***]
  23. Better Oblivion Community Center (Dead Oceans) {18} [*]
  24. Denzel Curry: Zuu (Loma Vista) {18} [**]
  25. The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD) {18} [**]
  26. Maggie Rogers: Heard It in a Past Life (Capitol) {17} [**]
  27. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (Blackwoodz Studioz) {17} [***]
  28. Nilufer Yanya: Miss Universe (ATO) {17} [A-]
  29. Rico Nasty/Kenny Beats: Anger Management (Sugar Trap) {16} [**]
  30. Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (Question Everything/RCA) {14} [**]
  31. Julia Jacklin: Crushing (Polyvinyl) {14} [B]

Cutoff just above {13}: PUP, Quelle Chris, Toro Y Moi; {12}: Malibu Ken, Khalid, Bassekou Kouyate; {11}: 2 Chainz, Chemical Brothers, The Comet Is Coming, Aldous Harding, Priests, Todd Snider. Highest ranked records I haven't heard: {10}: Holly Herndon: Proto, Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs; {8}: Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?; {6}: Baroness, Gary Clark Jr., Flume, Foals, Cate Le Bon, Mark Ronson, Yola. I didn't bother with metal lists, so only noted 35 records as such, 0 heard by me. The overall list collected 745 titles (only 64 jazz, 50 heard by me).

I can't draw many conclusions from this data. The point scheme tends to keep any record from breaking out, with the top nine records (down to Little Simz but not James Blake) on most of the same lists. My guess is that if I had consistent ranking information Tyler, Vampire Weekend, and/or Solange would advanced a bit (also Weyes Blood, which topped two lists). Indeed, without the RC/TH grade points, Tyler would have come in first, with 36 points, vs. Eilish (34), Vampire Weekend/Van Etten (33), Lizzo (32), Grande (28), Blake (25), Big Thief/Little Simz (24).

I will probably add a few more lists as I find them. For instance, I have two specialized lists at Noisey open in tabs now (33 Essential Albums You Probably Missed So Far in 2009 and The 37 Best Ambient Albums of 2019 So Far) but held them back in case I found a more general list there. I may also, as noted, come up with a way to factor some grading data into the list.

Most of the non-jazz albums I've listened to in the last two weeks were suggested by these lists. They haven't been especially reliable, but have generated a couple surprise finds (e.g., Christina Barbieri and Queen Key last week). But two of this week's top records came on CDs from a friendly publicist. I dragged my feet on the Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery label best-ofs, thinking I'd prefer to hear the original albums they were selected from. Finally broke down and graded them last week, then found some of the missing records (badly misfiled by Napster). We're still missing the latest releases -- Evans in England and Montgomery's Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings. Turns out that the compilations do a good job of picking hilights from the series, and help round out a view of the artists beyond their masterworks (still Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Incredible Jazz Guitar).


I wanted to write a few words about DownBeat's Critics Poll results, but don't have the time (or possibly the stomach) for that right now. I missed the official deadline to vote, but was able to submit a ballot, which evidently was counted (my name is in the voter list, and they sent me a T-shirt). On the other hand, the disconnect between my votes and the charts is almost complete. Their HOF picks were especially paltry: I can sort of understand Nina Simone, who could be a great singer on occasion, but released a lot of bad-to-worse albums; but the Veterans Committee picks of Scott LaFaro and Joe Williams are hard to imagine. I might be OK with Williams if Jimmy Rushing was in, but even then he wouldn't be an obvious pick. LaFaro died at 25, having played with Bill Evans for two years, and with Ornette Coleman for considerably less. I've been touched by some of his work, but I have no idea how to compare his tiny discography against that of many other bassists not in the DBHOF. (On the other hand, the similarly short-lived Jimmy Blanton is in, as are such obvious contemporaries as Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and his predecessor with Coleman, Charlie Haden.)

July 22, 2019

I had a lot of stuff I wanted to write about this week, but never found the time, and it doesn't look like that'll change over the next several days. Therefore, let's just dump this out, and try again next week.

July 15, 2019

Slow getting this out, with Monday wiped out by a house emergency (water heater broke down). Had a nagging sore throat much of the week, but right now mostly feel exhausted. Relatively mild summer so far, but looks like triple digits coming soon and probably persisting. Next couple weeks will probably be worse.

Rated count cut off Sunday evening, but I've added unpacking since then, so the numbers are a little out of whack.

Second straight week with an unusually low rated count (24 last week). Again, spent some time on the Resonance anthologies without writing any reviews, and also found a higher-than-usual split of A- records, plus high B+ that merited extra plays. Most of the finds this week come from Chris Monsen's Jazz favorites list, plus a few more from Phil Overeem's Halfway to Listville. The easiest one was John McPhee's Nation Time: I skipped over it when I was catching up with Corbett vs. Dempsey's Bandcamp a few weeks back, as I had already given Corbett's 2000 reissue a full A, and hadn't noticed the extra cuts. No reason to repurchase if you have the Atavistic release, but the bonuses are just that.

Had a minor role in helping Joe Yanosik publish his magnum opus A Consumer Guide to FRANCO. I have a Guests section on my website, which I've used a few times but never really tried to promote. I've long thought that a better solution would be to set up guest areas on my Hullworks website, perhaps as sub-domains, which could be spun off should the guests decide to pony up for a domain name. I'm in a position where I can host those as well. I also considered hanging Joe's piece at Terminal Zone -- long my pet idea for a music-themed website (named for the zine Don Malcolm and I published back in 1977). In the end, I went with the path that involved the least thought and work.

When Joe first mentioned his Franco project to me, I glanced at Napster's Franco offerings, and spent a week digging around. My own (much more limited) set of Franco grades are here. You can also look up what Robert Christgau has written.

I might as well mention two projects that I've started but haven't gotten very far on. I've started to add recent reviews to the two large book manuscript files I have on jazz. Rather slow work, but I've added 99 pages up to January, 2019, pushing the 20th century jazz guide over 800, and the 21st over 1700. Files are backed up online, in ODT format.

I've also started collecting mid-year lists, as I did last year. This uses the EOY list aggregate format, and most likely will eventually evolve into a full EOY list aggregate later this year. Only have four lists compiled so far (about a third of those collected on AOTY). I'm surprised there aren't more, but haven't really looked yet. The current aggregate is way too sparse to draw any real conclusions from. One issue here is that I'm only awarding 1 point for each list mention. (Two reasons: one is that so far many of the lists are unranked; the other is that it makes it easier to clean up with I replace the midway lists with EOY lists.) The other point I should note here is that I'm factoring in my graces (A: 5, A-: 4, ***: 3, **: 2, *: 1), which currently results in quite a bit of skew. E.g., 6 of the top 8 records now are ones I've graded A- (Billy Eilish, Lizzo, Charly Bliss, Big Thief, Little Simz, Jamila Woods), and the other two (Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend) were *** and ** respectively. Expect my picks to slip as I add further lists, while records I like less will make inroads (Solange is the surest shot; maybe also Tyler the Creator, Sharon Van Etten, Jenny Lewis). Record that I haven't heard with the most list mentions so far: Flying Lotus' Flamagra.

July 8, 2019

Rated count down this week. Maybe I didn't focus well while Laura was in Boston, but it's also likely that coming up with a relative bounty of A- records had an effect: they always take more time. Also, I didn't take any dives into old music (the VSOP Quintet shows up in Napster's featured new jazz list, but with digital reissues I usually just cite the original release label/date -- and it wasn't good enough to inspire me to check out their other albums).

This is my first Music Week since Robert Christgau posted his final Noisey Expert Witness column, so it's fitting that I looked a little harder than usual for recent non-jazz. In this I was helped by Phil Overeem's halfway through 2019 list (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Peter Perrett, Billy Woods & Kenny Segal, Abdullah Ibrahim), and by Facebook comments from Dan Weiss (DaBaby, Open Mike Eagle, Gibbs again -- he's also big on Denzel Curry's Zuu, which I previously had at B+(**)). Most of the others were picked up by scrounging for new music on Napster.

The most controversial of these is probably Madonna's Madame X. Metacritic average is 70. Rob Sheffield wrote a 3-star pan at Rolling Stone, although it reads better than the rating. Spencer Kornhaber takes offense in The paradox of Madonna's gun-control music video. Took me a lot of plays before I recognized that the number of songs I was pleased to recognize exceeded the number of fingers I had available for counting. I have more doubts about the Peter Perrett album, but I gave How the West Was Won an A-, and this one hit the same pleasure spots. Makes me wonder if I underrated Special View (the 1979 Only Ones album), where I remembered his voice from.

I'll also note that I've given Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance 3-4 plays with increasing pleasure. I'd like to review the albums it was selected from before doing the compilation, but the release schedule hasn't made that possible. Haven't played the Bill Evans compilation yet, but same considerations apply there. I've been wanting to hear those records ever since they came out, but probably wouldn't have bothered with the compilations had they not appeared in the mail. Also got a note in email today asking whether I've downloaded recent AUM Fidelity releases. I've looked for them on Napster, but didn't notice the email invites. I'll eventually dig them out, but if you want my attention, best way is still to send a CD.

There will be a new XgauSez out by Tuesday morning. I'm hope to get this post wrapped up before I take a good look at it, and I've been hobbled by Weekend Roundup running into overtime. Also in my input queue is a lengthy and quite extraordinary "Consumer Guide to Franco" that Joe Yanosik compiled and asked if I would publish. Expect that later this week.

July 1, 2019

Noisey has evidently decided to drop Robert Christgau's Expert Witness column, the last one running on Friday. Christgau tweeted:

I do this for money as well as love. So just in case this is the last Expert Witness not just at Noisey, which I'm sad to announce it is, but anywhere, it sticks to albums I'm way late on and albums I wanted to be sure to weigh in on. Enjoy. Consume, even.

Obviously, I should make it a priority to round up these latest Consumer Guide reviews and stuff them into the database. Christgau's first Consumer Guide column was published July 10, 1969, so he's ten days short of fifty years. The whole list is here.

Twice before, Michael Tatum responded to lapses in Christgau's review schedule, first by debuting then relaunching his A Downloader's Diary column. As it happens, he had a new column, his 50th, ready to roll last week when he read Christgau's news, and revised his introduction. (Christgau started the parenthetical numbering scheme, but gave it up after reaching 52 in 1975. I also used it for my Recycled Goods columns.)

I managed to check out a few of Tatum's picks this week, but had previously given A- grades to Big Thief, Coathangers, Control Top, Dave, Billie Eilish, Little Simz, and Jamila Woods -- also a B+(***) to Stella Donnelly, B+(**) to Vampire Weekend. I haven't, however, checked any of his Trash picks.

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex 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
  • [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