Streamnotes: January 31, 2020


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 December 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (14132 records).


Recent Releases

Snoh Aalegra: Ugh, Those Feels Again (2019, Artrium): Soul singer, born in Sweden, parents Iranian, original name Shahrzad Fooladi, based in Los Angeles, first album Feels, so title is a play on that. B+(**)

Acid Arab: Jdid (2019, Crammed Discs): French acid house group, although the names don't strike me as especially French (or at all Arab): Minisky, Carvalho, Casanova, Borne, Bourras. But the vocals are mostly Algerian, and guests (samples?) range from Turkey to Niger, so the concept comes through clear enough. B+(*)

Add-2: Jim Crow: The Musical (2019, Add-2 Productions): Chicago rapper Andre DiJuan Daniels, mixtapes since 2005 including four volumes of Tale of Two's City, and the album Prey for the Poor. Title suggests two dimensions of distance -- history viewed on stage, past from present, others from self -- but Jim Crow persists as a mental trap, not least because it's periodically reinforced by events. A-

Harry Allen/Mike Renzi: Rhode Island Is Famous for You (2019, GAC): Tenor sax and piano, non-headliners on bass and drums. Mostly standard fare, tending toward gorgeous. B+(***)

Altin Gün: Gece (2019, ATO): "Anatolian rock" band, founded in Amsterdam by bassist Jasper Verhulst, with Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Erdic Yildiz Ecevit (vocals, saz, keys) for Turkish roots. Ranges between groove and spots for "a very soulful language." As usual, any psychedelia is in the mind of the beholder. B+(**)

Franck Amsallem: Gotham Goodbye (2018 [2019], Jazz & People): French pianist, born in Algeria in 1961, grew up in Nice, moved to New York in 1986, back to France in 2001. Has a dozen albums since 1990, this a lush postbop quartet with Irving Acao most impressive on tenor sax. B+(***)

Joe Armon-Jones: Turn to Clear View (2019, Brownswood): British keyboard player, member of Ezra Collective and a common fixture on the London jazz scene. Some promise, but the guest vocals tend to scatter. B [bc]

Daymé Arocena: Sonocardiogram (2019, Brownswood): Cuban singer, based in London, fourth album, has a bit of a diva complex, though I could see getting into that. B

BaianaSystem: O Futuro Não Demora (2019, Máquina De Louco): Brazilian group, from Salvador in Bahia. Forró roots with electronic beats, postmodern imports, even a bit of Manu Chao. B+(***)

John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (2019 [2020], Freedom Road): Trumpet player, wrote something he calls "President Gillespie Suite," but doesn't provide any words to advance his cause. Only real drawback I see is that he's dead, but late in life he filled admirers with the sort of awe presidents once enjoyed (well, at least before Nixon). Bailey gets some nice trumpet in here, but pretty regularly gets smoked by his saxophonist, Stacy Dillard. B+(**) [cd]

BCUC: The Healing (2019, Buda Musique): South African group, from Soweto, acronym stands for Bantu Continua Ubuntu Consciousness, the polyglot name a hint of international eclecticism. But still sounds more like Afrobeat, with two of three pieces running long (19:18, 16:23), and not just the one Femi Kuti guests on. Saul Williams appears on the 3:54 closer. B+(**)

BCUC: Emakhosini (2018, Buda Musique): Earlier record, same basic idea, no guests. B+(*)

Beans on Toast: Cushty (2017, Xtra Mile): English folk singer Jay McAllister, has dropped an album on December 1 (his birthday) every year since 2009, same cover design, titles differ. More songs about politics than not, some too obvious, and some too hyperbolic ("we talking end of days, proper apocalyptic shit"). B+(**)

Beans on Toast: A Bird in the Hand (2018, Beans on Toast Music): Don't care for the lecture on "Bamboo Toothbrush," even as modest as it is, but something exceptionally beguiling to this batch of music. B+(***)

Beans on Toast: The Inevitable Train Wreck (2019, Beans on Toast Music): English folksinger-songwriter Jay McAllister doubles down on the politics. I could quibble on details, but his heart and head are in the right place, and we're fortunate to have him. The refrain about "leave it in the ground" is catchy enough for a demonstration mob (although I wouldn't go so far as his dis on cows). He also doubles down on the music: he's added keyboards to his guitar in the past, but he's got a full band this time. Rocks a little, concluding that "life goes on and on and on." A-

Benny Benack III: A Lot of Livin' to Do (2019 [2020], LA Reserve): Trumpet player, sings, second album, wrote four songs but mostly depends on standards, big name in the band is bassist Christian McBride, has two guest spots for female singers. B+(**)

Daniel Bernardes & Drumming GP: Liturgy of the Birds: In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Pianist, from Portugal, leads a trio augmented by a percussion quartet. All original compositions, their pedigree as "explorations of Olivier Messiaen's compositional techniques" something I'll have to take at face value. B+(**)

Lea Bertucci: Resonant Field (2017 [2019], NNA Tapes): Composer/sound artist, based in New York, main instrument is alto sax, but more important here is a large grain silo which frames everything in echo and resonance. B+(*)

Big K.R.I.T.: K.R.I.T. Iz Here (2019, Multi Alumni): Mississippi rapper Justin Lewis Scott, fourth album, long list of mixtapes. Came out late and hardly anyone noticed. B+(**)

Jim Black Trio: Reckon (2019 [2020], Intakt): Drummer, fourth album since 2011 with this particular trio: Elias Stemseder (piano) and Thomas Morgan (bass). Helps to focus on the drummer here, frantically tying together the many remarkable tangents. A-

Black Alien: Abaixo De Zero: Hello Hell (2019, Extrapunk Extrafunk): Brazilian singer/rapper, Gustavo de Almeida Ribeiro, started in a duo with Speed 1993-2001. Nine cuts, 26:49. B+(*)

Black to Comm: Seven Horses for Seven Kings (2019, Thrill Jockey): Marc Richter, based in Hamburg, Germany, close to a dozen albums since 2006, one namechecking Coldplay, Elvis & John Cage (2011). Leftfield electronica: dense, harsh, menacing. B

Blacks' Myths: Blacks' Myths II (2019, Atlantic Rhythms): DC duo: bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Crudup III -- names I've run across on other obscure (and often noisy) projects. This lays the sound on thick, and if that isn't clear enough, Thomas Stanley provides some words. B+(**) [bc]

Pip Blom: Boat (2019, Heavenly): Dutch jangle pop band, same name as the singer-guitarist-songwriter -- will file them under her, but does sound like a group. B+(***)

Boy Harsher: Careful (2019, Nude Club): Electropop duo, beats reminiscent of the new wave 1980s (OMD, New Order, Cabaret Voltaire) but more claustrophobic, something they're calling darkwave. Haven't deciphered many words, but the beat goes on and on and on. A-

Bremer/McCoy: Utopia (2019, Luaka Bop): Danish duo, Jonathan Bremer plays bass, Morten McCoy piano, fourth album together. Easy listening: pretty, soothing, nothing more. B

Zach Brock/Matt Ulery/Jon Deitemyer: Wonderment (2018 [2019], Woolgathering): Violin-bass-drums trio. B+(**)

Brockhampton: Ginger (2019, Question Everything/RCA): Hip-hop "boy band" collective, formed in Texas but moved to California, best-known member releases solo albums as Kevin Abstract. B+(**)

Apollo Brown: Sincerely, Detroit (2019, Mello Music Group): Erik Vincent Stephens, grew up in Grand Rapids, moved to Detroit in 2003, hip-hop producer, a dozen albums sharing credit with various rappers, six more under his own name. Here it feels like he's working with the whole city, at least what's left of it. Not optimism -- "we knew from the start that things fall apart" -- but hard-earned survival. A-

Burna Boy: African Giant (2019, Atlantic): Nigerian rapper Damini Ogulu, based in London, fifth album. B+(*)

Charly Bliss: Supermoon (2019, Barsuk, EP): Listed by Napster as Charly Bliss 2019 EP, but this title appears on Bandcamp and elsewhere. Five songs, 15:52, smart pop. B+(**)

Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (2019, Kafou Music): Kora master from Senegal, "part of the great line of Cissokho griots," fifth album. I find it a bit awkward. B+(**)

Gary Clark Jr.: This Land (2019, Warner Brothers): The most hyped bluesman of his generation, certainly at the moment he first arrived. Never impressed me, but maybe I was wrong to slot him in blues -- a music he can play credibly (cf. "Dirty Dish Blues" here) but is just one facet of his fairly eclectic rock repertoire. He's just as likely to signal Funkadelic or the Miracles, but never what you'd call inspired, even when he pumps up the volume. B

Luke Combs: What You See Is What You Get (2019, River House/Columbia Nashville): Country singer from North Carolina, second album, big voice, heavy guitar, likes beer and dogs, less sure about love, considers himself one of the "Blue Collar Boys." B+(**)

Crazy P: Age of the Ego (2019, Walk Don't Walk): English electropop group, formed 1995 by Chris Todd (Hot Toddy) and Jim Baron (Ron Basejam), called themselves Crazy Penis until 2008. Eighth album. Dance beats, upbeat, might fuck you up. B+(***)

Theo Croker: Star People Nation (2019, Sony Masterworks): Trumpet player, born in Florida, spent seven years in China before landing in Los Angeles. Second album was In the Tradition for Arbors, but since 2014 he's moved toward hip-hop fusion, with mixed results. Rarely a plus when someone sings. B

Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (2019, Silver Age): Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck, with the self-sufficient duo 7L & Esoteric, eighth album together since 2013, on their own again after meet-ups with MF Doom and Ghostface Killah. Mad comic cover art, songs that are dynamic and funny, often built on killer riffs. A-

Czarface: A Double Dose of Danger (2019, Silver Age, EP): Bears the group credit, but just a 10-cut, 28:26 instrumental album that fell through the cracks, released just after the group's Ghostface session. B+(*)

Jeff Davis: The Fastness (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, based in New York, originally from Colorado, formerly married to pianist Kris Davis. Sixth album since 2010, With tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby, reminding me of his scene-stealing form on the early Kris Davis Quartet records, plus Russ Lossing (keyboards), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). B+(***)

Jamael Dean: Black Space Tapes (2019, Stones Throw): Young pianist (20), born in Bakersfield, father a "soul jazz" drummer, grew up in Los Angeles, currently enrolled at New School in New York, first album. Six cuts, revolving cast, seems rather scattered, with bits of hip-hop fusion and acid jazz, but none quite predictable. B+(*)

Bertrand Denzler/Dominic Lash: Pivot (2019, Spoonhunt): Tenor sax and bass duo. One 31:21 piece, not much to it, drone-like. B- [bc]

Dreamville: Revenge of the Dreamers III (2019, Dreamville): Various artists, but sources credit this to the label, and I've seen it filed under star J. Cole. I initially guessed this had something to do with the so-called Dreamers, but I can't find any evidence of a political theme. Rather, this celebrates a found community, brought together by creativity and commerce. B+(*)

Mr Eazi: Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London (2018, Banku Music): Nigerian singer, at least born there, but started in Ghana, titling his previous one Life Is Eazi, Vol. 1: Accra to Lagos. Beats bounce more like reggae than highlife, slips up once in a while, but much of this is very attractive. B+(***)

Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (2019, Crammed Discs): Nigerian producer Leke Awayinka, first album, raps some over electro-beats. Lots of ideas here, most work, some don't. B+(**)

Daniel Erdmann's Velvet Revolution: Won't Put No Flag Out (2019, Budapest Music Center): German tenor saxophonist, first album as leader 2007, second album with this trio -- Théo Ceccaldi (viola, violin) and Jim Hart (vibes, percussion). "Over the Rainbow" is an odd cover choice, marking a shift to chamber jazz. B+(**)

Dori Freeman: Every Single Star (2019, Blue Hens Music): Folksinger-songwriter from Virginia, fourth album, reminds me of Iris DeMent -- sure, a kinder, gentler version. B+(***)

Fruit Bats: Gold Past Life (2019, Merge): Eric D. Johnson's Chicago rock band, eighth album since 2001. At best they offer songcraft with nice little hooks. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity (2019 [2020], Libra): Thirteen-piece big band, short some brass from standard big bands, and no piano, the leader content to compose and conduct. All name players -- not so hard to do in New York. Impressive when your draw in close, otherwise can slip on by. B+(***) [cd] [02-14]

(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (2019, Domino): G stands for Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, singer-songwriter, started DIY/lo-fi, third record on Domino. Highest-rated record I hadn't heard by EOY (32, vs. 58 for Holly Herndon and 61 for Jenny Hval). Not awful, possibly an interesting weirdo, if you care. B

Jan Garbarek/The Hilliard Ensemble: Remember Me, My Dear (2014 [2019], ECM New Series): British male vocal quartet, named after an Elizabethan miniaturist painter, focused on medievel and renaissance music from 1980, later entering into several collaborations, notably with Swedish saxophonist Garbarek on 1994's Officium. Evidently disbanded in 2014 after this farewell concert in Bellinzona, Switzerland. I loved the sax so much on the debut that I wound up liking the voices, but the lower the ratio, the less patient I become. B+(*)

Geometry [Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Tomeka Reid]: Geometry of Distance (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Voice, cornet, guitar, and cello. The latter pluck abstractly, the former work on building some drama, not necessarily a plus. B+(*) [bc]

Ghost Rhythms: Live at Yoshiwara (2019, Cuneiform): French group, jazz-rock fusion with accordion and fiddle referring back to folk dances, possibly the concept behind the name -- not that they don't prog out on occasion. B+(*) [dl]

Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas (2018 [2019], Meta): Big project, "composed and improvisationally conducted" by percussionist Adam Rudolph, who concludes: "This album feels like the culmination of everything I've been reaching for throughout my career." Massive indeed, with forty musicians credited. B+(***)

Gordon Grdina/Matt Mitchell/Jim Black: Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio (2019 [2020], Skirl): Guitarist from Vancouver, also plays oud, has a substantial body of work since 2006. Trio here with piano and drums. The piano impresses with sharp angles, fading back for the guitar, which never really takes charge. B+(**) [cd]

Halsey: Manic (2020, Capitol): Pop singer-songwriter Ashley Frangipane, third album. Two plays, has some edge, some hooks, not sure whether she's interesting or mostly a flake. B+(***)

Scott Hamilton Quartet: Danish Ballads . . . & More (2019, Stunt): Tenor saxophonist, did a similar album of Swedish Ballads in 2013, recorded this in Copenhagen, with Jan Lundgren on piano and locals on bass and drums. Songbook appears to be mostly Danish, with Oscar Pettiford's Montmartre Blues close enough. A-

Scott Hamilton: Jazz at the Club: Live From Sociëtat De Witte (2018 [2019], O.A.P.): Since his record deal with Concord ran out a decade ago, the tenor saxophonist has wandered the world, picking up sympathetic bands (almost all quartets), and letting the tapes roll. Standard fare, he usually sounds terrific, and the combos rarely disappoint. This one is from The Hague in Netherlands, with Francesca Tandoi on piano and singing two tracks. B+(***)

Scott Hamilton: Street of Dreams (2019, Blau): Another tenor sax quartet, don't know when or where it was recorded, but label is Spanish (one Hamilton has seven albums on), with Dena DeRose on piano, Ignasi González on bass, and Jo Krause on drums. Ballads may be a bit pinched, but the faster ones swing hard. B+(***)

Hash Redactor: Drecksound (2019, Goner): Post-punk quartet from Memphis, first album (discounting Demo Tape 2017). Most reminiscent of the Fall, down to the vocals. B+(**)

Tim Heidecker: Another Year in Hell: Collected Songs From 2018 (2018 [2019], Jagjaguwar, EP): Comedian, writer, director, actor, musician -- I can't say as he was on my radar until he released a collection of songs about Donald Trump in 2017 (Too Dumb for Suicide). Sample lyric: "I'm down in the basement making signs out of love . . . and I hope I find a like minded girl tonight at the trump rally." Six cuts, 18:38. B

Hieroglyphic Being: Synth Expressionism/Rhythmic Cubism (2019, On the Corner): Jamal Moss, from Chicago but associated more with Detroit techno, has close to fifty albums since 2008, most on his own Mathematics label, but I only seem to notice him when some other label picks him up (e.g., Soul Jazz). Vinyl-sized at 5 songs, 34:25, opens with old-fashioned synths, adds a couple of saxophones to the 12:12 closer ("Timbuktu 2"), a very choice cut. A-

Laurence Hobgood: Tesseterra (2019, Ubuntu Music): Pianist, from North Carolina, musical director for Kurt Elling, several albums since 2000. Piano trio plus string quartet ETHEL, some tricky covers ("Wichita Lineman," "Blackbird," Ravel, Debussy, Sting), doesn't seem promising but somehow works. B+(**)

Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (2019 [2020], Jazzbeat Productions): Alto saxophonist, from Connecticut, recorded four albums 1989-93 then took a long break after his label folded. Returns here with a spry hard bop quintet. B+(**) [cd]

William Hooker: Symphonie of Flowers (2019, ORG Music): Free jazz drummer, early works date from 1975, no artist credits here, but someone plays impressive piano, various electronics, some sax, and one cut veers into African chant vocals. Still, until the last two cuts go over the deep end with effects, the drums dominate, as they should. B+(**)

Jenny Hval: The Practice of God (2019, Sacred Bones): Norwegian singer-songwriter, studied in Australia before returning to Norway. Went all goth on her last album (Blood Bitch), but turns here to avant-electronics producer Lasse Marhaug, and the beats help a lot. B+(***)

Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (2019, Merge): British electropop group, formed by producers with the idea of fusing elements from 1990s drum & bass with 1980s Afrobeat. They then recruited London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ghanaian guitarist Alfred Bannerman, and various horns and percussionists. Third album, true to formula. B+(**)

IPT: Diffractions (2018 [2019], ForTune): Polish improv trio: Szymon Wojcinski (keyboards), Jakub Bandur (violin), Jakub Gucik (cello). Chamber jazz, slowly grows on you. B+(***) [bc]

Irreversible Entanglements: Homeless/Global (2019, International Anthem, EP): Phiadelphia group, released a fine debut LP in 2017, released this 23:38 track in advance of a second album. MC/poet Camae Ayewa enters after 7:35 of roiling freebop -- trumpet, sax, bass, drums (Luke Stewart the only name I recognize). B+(**) [bc]

Bobby J From Rockaway: Summer Classics (2019, Make Noise): White rapper from Queens, first record, old-style beats and boasts, even has a song called "Blue Eyed Soul," but gets production help from Kwamé, Statik Selektah, and others, and a guest shot from Kilah Priest, and has some fun. B+(**)

JackBoys and Travis Scott: JackBoys (2019, Cactus Jack/Epic, EP): Houston collective centered on Scott's Cactus Jack label, seven-cut "compilation" (21:23), with Scott featured on 3-4 tracks, Don Tolliver taking lead on one, Sheck Wes and Young Thug also appearing. Trap rap minus hard edges, as far as I can figure. B+(*)

Michael Janisch: Worlds Collide (2019, Whirlwind): Bassist, from Wisconsin, studied in Boston, moved to New York, then to London. Large postbop group with trumpet (Jason Palmer), two saxes (George Crowley and John O'Gallagher), guitar (Rez Abbasi), keyboards (John Escreet), and two drummers, the leader playing electric as well as acoustic bass. Up for fusion, but fancier. B+(**)

The Japanese House: Good at Falling (2019, Dirty Hit): English singer-songwriter Amber Bain, name refers to a property in Cornwall. Plays guitar and keyboards, and sings. First album after a number of EPs, introspective electropop. B+(*)

Jealous of the Birds: Wisdom Teeth (2019, Atlantic, EP): Naomi Hamilton, Irish singer-songwriter, released an album in 2015, two EPs since, this the second, 5 substantial songs, 18:40. B+(**)

Lauren Jenkins: No Saint (2019, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter, from Texas, first album (after an EP), knows her tropes, has a voice and sounds plenty authentic. B+(**)

Cody Jinks: After the Fire (2019, Late August): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, self-released six albums before signing to Rounder for two that finally cracked the country charts. Classic sound, old-time virtues, an eye for detail, a bit of jazz at the end. B+(***)

Cody Jinks: The Wanting (2019, Late August): Released just a week after After the Fire, a gimmick that promised two consecutive number ones, but Wikipedia shows both albums topped at 2, as did his previous best, Lifers. Pretty much the same album, but a couple of songs strike me as a tad overweight -- maybe he's just leaning in too hard. B+(**)

Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West: Five Times Surprise (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Two guitarists, six-string electric violin, drums, six-string bass. B+(**) [dl]

Egil Kalman & Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds (2019, Shhpuma): Swedish bassist, plays modular synthesizer here, in two long duets with the guitarist, based in Oslo and Berlin. Guitar slowly picks, against subtle background shading. B

Aly Keïta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalan Teban (2019 [2020], Intakt): Balafon player from Côte D'Ivoire, trio with reeds and drums -- two Swiss musicians who were born in Cameroon and have known each other since childhood. Their previous Kalo-Yele was my favorite album of 2016. This is comparably delightful, notably when Brönnimann takes charge. A-

Oumar Konaté: I Love You Inna (2018 [2019], Clermont Music): From Mali, fifth album, good-enough singer but really impressive on electric guitar, backed by electric bass and drums in a configuration that would have turned Jimi Hendrix's head. A-

Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (2019, The Leaf Label): Drummer, born in US, grew up in India, based in London but recorded some of this in Mumbai. In London he fits in with an expansive jazz scene, but this sounds more like hip-hop, especially with an array of rappers from India, but also note some fine sax leads, and lots of exotic percussion. A-

Peter Lemer Quintet: Son of Local Colour (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): British pianist, recorded an album in 1968 called Local Colour, not much since but decided to get the band back together for a 50th anniversary reunion, and got 4/5ths of the way: John Surman (baritone/soprano sax), Tony Reeves (bass), and John Hiseman (drums), with Alan Skidmore (tenor sax) filling in for the ailing Nisar Ahmad Khan. They reprised all the old songs (assuming "City" + "Enahenado" = "Ciudad Enahenado"). B+(**)

Kim Lenz: Slowly Speeding (2019, Blue Star): Rockabilly singer, recorded four albums as Kim Lenz & the (or Her) Jaguars. Slows it down here, but keeps the grit and the smoldering heat. B+(**)

Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel (2019, Thrill Jockey): Bass-and-drums duo from Providence, RI; eighth studio album since 1999, mostly noise with just enough beat and tune to suggest the noise is an aesthetic choice. People who don't normally gravitate to this sort of thing have been known to like them -- sometimes. I'm actually impressed by this, but only managed to finish it by turning the volume down. B+(*)

Christian Lillinger: Open Form for Society (2018 [2019], Plaist Music): German drummer, has appeared -- rarely first but often with his name on the banner -- in quite a few albums since 2009, and pulls much of his circle together tight: three pianists, two mallet players, two bass players, cello, and scattered electronics. Many rough edges, emphasis on percussion, although the piano leads are striking. B+(***)

Arto Lindsay/Joe McPhee/Ken Vandermark/Phil Sudderberg: Largest Afternoon (2019 [2020], Corbett vs. Dempsey): OK, some guys got together in Chicago, and rolled the tape. The saxophonists do this sort of thing all the time, so this is fairly typical for them. Lindsay sticks to guitar here, and everything seems to be improv, so don't expect his usual crypto-Brazilian no wave, but he turns in a respectable performance, cutting against the grain. B+(**) [bc]

Fred Lonberg-Holm/Joe McPhee: No Time Left for Sadness (2019 [2020], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Cello and tenor sax duets, the former also on electronics. Three pieces, increasing length, driven mostly by the cello although this winds up being a strong performance for McPhee. B+(**) [bc]

Brian Lynch Big Band: The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music (2019, Hollistic MusicWorks): Trumpet player from Wisconsin, started out as a mainstream guy, playing hard bop with Horace Silver and Art Blakey, got a taste for big bands with Toshiko Akiyoshi, and most importantly for Latin music with Eddie Palmieri, turning into a specialist. All that is evident here. Sure, there are tics that turn me off, but he invariably bounces back with something wondrous. Less evident from the music is his reading list, which pairs two authors for each of nine songs -- some examples: David Levering Lewis and W.E.B. DuBois, Ned Sublette and Eric Hobsbawm, Naomi Klein and Mike Davis, Amiri Baraka and A.B. Spellman. A-

John McLaughlin/Shankar Mahadevan/Zakir Hussain: Is That So? (2020, Abstract Logix): The guitarist's love affair with Indian music dates back at least to his 1976 Shakti, which percussionist Hussain played on. Not sure when vocalist Mahadevan entered the picture, but he was touring with McLaughlin in 2013 when "the idea for this album appeared in my mind." He dominates this album: I'm duly impressed by his remarkable voice, but have limited use for his style of opera. B+(**)

Brad Mehldau: Finding Gabriel (2017-18 [2019], Nonesuch): Pianist, has mostly done trios since 1993, opts for the kitchen sink this time, with scattered horns and strings, blustery swells of sound, and voices on most songs. It escapes being awful -- indeed, has its moments, especially the saxophones (2 cuts). B

Anna Meredith: Fibs (2019, Moshi Moshi): British electronica composer, describes this as "technicolour maximalism" with "visceral richness," which means it's a bit much. B

The Messthetics: Anthropocosmic Nest (2019, Dischord): Guitarist Anthony Pirog and two guys from Fugazzi. No vocals, all rock grind, maybe too fancy for punk but nowhere near jazz. B+(*)

Microtub: Chronic Shift (2018 [2019], Bohemian Drips): "A trio of tuba players focusing on microtonality": fourth release, with Robin Hayward, Martin Taxt, and Peder Simonsen. Two pieces, barely tops 30 minutes. While the ambience is pleasing enough, it's unlikely you'd identify this as tuba music, let alone three instruments. B

Microwave: Death Is a Warm Blanket (2019, Pure Noise): Post-hardcore band from Atlanta, third album. Reminds me a bit of Husker Du, not a band I've bothered playing in decades. Also liked them a bit more when they opened up, a reaction Husker Du fans may not share. B+(*)

Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian jazz-rock trio, leader's full name Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen (guitar), with Ellen Brekken (bass) and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad (drums). Raw power, impressive guitar chops. B+(**)

Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes (2019, Don Giovanni): Camae Ayewa, more poet than rapper, and on her second album adroit enough in the studio to make some knotty, almost impenetrable music. B+(**)

Allison Moorer: Blood (2019, Autotelic): Country singer-songwriter from Alabama, sister of Shelby Lynne, has had two famous songwriter-husbands. Tenth album, title tied to a memoir: the headline event in her life was in 1986 when her father shot and killed her mother, then killed himself. Not sure any songs can do full justice to the event, but these cut deep and move you. A-

Gurf Morlix: Impossible Blue (2019, Rootball): Austin-based singer-songwriter, tenth album, good tribute album to Blaze Foley a while back, was married to Lucinda Williams for a while. Nice set of blues-based songs. B+(**)

Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock (2019, Merge): Main guy in Hüsker Dü, an important 1980s band I've lost my interest in, went solo in 1989 and has cranked out a dozen albums since, to no special distinction. Still, this attaches more hooks to his signature din, and occasionally takes a break to find his voice, maybe even a melody (e.g., title cut). B+(**)

Andrew Munsey: High Tide (2019, Birdwatcher): Drummer, from Califoria, seems to be his first album, although he's appeared on close to a dozen, notably ones by his quintet here: Steph Richards (trumpet/flugelhorn), Ochion Jewell (tenor sax/kalimba), Amino Belyamani (piano/rhodes), and Sam Minaie (double bass). B+(**)

The Murder Capital: When I Have Fears (2019, Human Season): Irish post-punk group, first album. Laura suggested "Pogues meet New Order," but doesn't really deliver either distinction. The double guitars sprawl where punk chops, and the vocals sound more like Nick Cave. B+(*)

Murs: The Iliad Is Dead and the Odyssey Is Over (2019, Jamla/Empire): Rapper Nick Carter, albums since 2003 and still underground, produced by 9th Wonder and the Soul Council. Barely noticed when it came out, this is one of his best. A-

Aaron Novik: The Fallow Curve of the Planospheres (2019, Avant LaGuardia): Clarinet player, bills himself as coposer first, and that's clearly the focus here. Album is conceived of as a compilation of five "suites of music," each an EP (although I've found no evidence of them having been previously released), each with a different band and locale. B+(*)

Otoboke Beaver: Itekoma Hits (2019, Damnably): Japanese punk rock group, four women, singer-songwriter Accorinrin, records since 2011, not sure how much of this 14-song, 26:26 LP is new -- 5 songs from a 2016 EP, one new recording of an older song. Ultimately too chaotic, harsh, noisy for my taste, but for a moment I was pretty impressed. B+(**)

Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown (2020, International Anthem): Chicago guitarist, has appeared in avant-jazz groups (Chicago Underground Trio), also in experimental post-rock outfits (Tortoise, Isotope 217), his own work widely scattered, as is this. Title cut is pretty seductive, with trumpet and alto sax over slinky rhythm. B+(**) [bc]

J. Pavone String Ensemble: Brick and Mortar (2019, Birdwatcher): Jessica Pavone, plays viola here, violin elsewhere; studied with Anthony Braxton, teaming up with Mary Halvorson on several projects. Ensemble here has two violins and two violas, a fairly narrow range, with harsh tones that rattle my nerves. B

The Pernice Brothers: Spread the Feeling (2019, Ashmont): Alt/indie band, Joe Pernice is the singer-songwriter, brother Bob also plays guitar, eighth album since 1998. B+(*) [bc]

Pet Shop Boys: Hotspot (2020, X2): Fourtheenth studio album since their 1986 debut, instantly identifiable, though both the beats and the voice have put on a few pounds. The feigned optimism doesn't convince me, although "Hoping for a Miracle" is about right, and "Wedding in Berlin" is to this generation what "Going to the Chapel" was to mine. B+(***)

Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy: Legacy Alive: Volume 6 at the Sidedoor (2019, Onyx Productions): Drummer, joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at 21 as a second drummer and stayed through the band's last major phase. Here he keeps the flame lit, convening a stellar group of Blakey alumni for the master's centennial -- Bobby Watson (alto sax), Bill Pierce (tenor sax), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Geofrey Keezer (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass) -- to expand upon the songbook. B+(**)

Portico Quartet: Memory Streams (2019, Gondwana): British group, nominally jazz but mostly because no vocals, their sound a mix of electronics, Chinese hang, with a sax for melody. B+(*) [bc]

Post Malone: Hollywood's Bleeding (2019, Republic): Rapper-singer Austin Richard Post, from Syracuse, third album, seems to be quite popular. Aims for a big, arena sound. I find it a bit claustrophobic, even though the pummeling offers occasional pleasures. B

The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019, Warner Brothers): Los Angeles garage pop band, led by Lydia Night, second album, brash and catchy. B+(***)

Rex Orange County: Pony (2019, RCA): English singer-songwriter Alexander O'Connor, 21, debut album after a pair of self-released downloadables. Clever guy, has some pop smarts. B

Emily Scott Robinson: Traveling Mercies (2019, Tone Tree Music): Folksinger-songwriter from North Carolina, lives in an RV she's put more than a quarter million miles on, took a short break from her touring to record this debut album. Character songs, probably fiction -- I doubt she's really a "white hot country mess," but that's her best shot for a hit. B+(***)

Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings (2019, RCA): Pop producer, I guess, born in England, raised in New York, also lives in Los Angeles. Records feature guest singers: Miley Cyrus and Angel Olsen the most famous, Yebba and Lykke Li get the most work. The stars are the most distinctive, which means they seem the most out of place. B+(*)

Kurt Rosenwinkel Bandit 65: Searching the Continuum (2019, Heartcore): Guitarist, from Philadelphia, based in Switzerland, debut 1996, bills his band -- a trio with Tim Motzer (guitar) and Gintas Janusonis (drums), both also electronics -- as a "post-jazz sonic trio." I omitted "mesmerizing," an intent they only occasionally achieve. B+(***)

Serengeti: Music From the Graphic Novel Kenny Vs the Dark Web (2019, Burnco, EP): Chicago rapper David Cohn, has a lot of mixtapes, many featuring a character named Kenny Dennis, who reappears here (more or less -- this feels more like scattered outtakes than anything thematic, even though the graphic novel supposedly is). 7 tracks, 18:17. B+(**)

Shed: Oderbruch (2019, Ostgut Ton): German DJ/producer, fifth album since 2008, really like his upbeat pieces, don't dislike the more atmospheric ones. B+(***)

Ed Sheeran: No. 6 Collaborations Project (2019, Atlantic): English singer-songwriter, fourth album, pretty big star over there, one I've generally found amiably listenable. Harder to judge this one given that each cut has one or more guests, most rappers and/or r&b singers. B+(**)

Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury (2019, Elektra): Metamodern country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, opens his fourth album with a pretty nifty guitar instrumental. He reminds me that Nashville has become the home of swaggering mainstream rock music, and he lives up to the title here. I suppose I should be more impressed. B+(***)

Skyzoo & Pete Rock: Retropolitan (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper Gregory Skyler Taylor (8 albums and 14 mixtapes since 2004), first with producer Peter Phillips. B+(**)

Sly Horizon: The Anatomy of Light (2018 [2019], Iluso): Trio: Rick Parker (trombone), Alvaro Domene (guitar), and Jeremy Carlstedt (drums), everyone also credited with electronics, which generates most of the dark ambience. B+(*) [bc]

Gary Smulyan & Ralph Moore Quintet: Bird's Eye Encounter! (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound): Two saxophonists, baritone and tenor, recorded live in Basel, Switzerland, backed by Olivier Hutman (piano), Stephan Kurmann (bass), and Bernd Reiter (drums). Moore was one of my favorite mainstream saxmen in the 1990s, but seems to have vanished after 1996. He's less distinctive here than Smulyan, as they romp through a nice set of hard bop covers. B+(**)

Jim Snidero: Project-K (2019 [2020], Savant): Alto saxophonist, seems to have passed through a portal and found himself in a Dave Douglas project. Aside from the trumpeter, the band includes Orrin Evans (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), and Do Yeon Kim (gayaguem, a Korean zither). Feels fractured, or quirky, with some potential upside. B+(***) [cd]

Son Volt: Union (2019, Transmit Sound): Alt-country band, Jay Farrar's second after Uncle Tupelo, ninth album since 1995. Has picked up some politics, even setting a Joe Hill speech to music. B+(*)

Omar Souleyman: Shlon (2019, Mad Decent/Because): Syria's most famous wedding singer, has a dozen-plus albums that are more/less interchangeable. This one is short (6 songs, 34:14), but that seems about right given the intensity. A-

Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: The Peyote Dance (2019, Bella Union): New York group, debut 2012, not much on who they are but the approach uses electronically processed field recordings and spoken word. In this one Smith reads from Antonin Artaud's writing on his 1936 trip to Mexico, where the poet went to kick heroin and wound up experiencing peyote. Good to hear Smith's voice, but the music is cryptic (at best). B+(*)

Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: Mummer Love (2019, Bella Union): Same framework, but the writer is Arthur Rimbaud, his subject to Harrar, Ethiopia, "the epicenter of Sufism in Africa." Smith's role is reduced, but the samples include discernible rhythm and chant vocals, so score one for Africa. B+(**)

Special Request: Vortex (2019, Houndstooth): Paul Woolford, electronica producer from Leeds, issued records under his own name from 2002 before adopting this moniker in 2012. Rhythm tracks, often quite fast, the complexity in the echo as they drive you manically along. A- [bc]

Special Request: Bedroom Tapes (2019, Houndstooth): "Comprised solely of lost material from a recently discovered box of cassettes that emerged in the process of a house move." Implies that they're quite early, but the rhythm sketches are well developed. B+(***) [bc]

Special Request: Offworld (2019, Houndstooth): A third album within a six-month stretch, and indeed something of a stretch, but the vocal added to "237,000 Miles" adds a new dimension to his work, and the beats in the middle are as compelling as those on Vortex. The long final mix, with its dramatic pauses and ambient fuzz, took longer to come around. A- [bc]

Vinny Sperrazza/Jacob Sacks/Masa Kamaguchi: Play Sonny Rollins (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano trio, drummer first named. Group has at least four more albums, each on another composer: Cy Coleman, Tadd Dameron, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan. B+(*)

The Steel Woods: Old News (2019, Woods Music): Southern rock traditionalists, based in Nashville, Wes Bayliss and Jason "Rowdy" Cope the principals, second album, comes on strong, leaves me cold. Docked a notch for making Merle Haggard sound like a bitter old jerk. B-

Harry Styles: Fine Line (2019, Columbia): English, former boy group star from One Direction, second solo album. Seems pointless even when he comes up with something catchy -- actually, the catchier, the more annoying it gets. C+

Sunn O))): Life Metal (2019, Southern Lord): Drone metal band, eighth album since 2000. Emphasis on drone, with more fuzz than metal. I don't seriously dislike it, but seems slight, and I don't get the appeal. B-

Leo Svirsky: River Without Banks (2019, Unseen Worlds): American composer, based in the Netherlands, fifth album since 2011. Mostly piano, rolls on and on. B+(**)

Earl Sweatshirt: Feet of Clay (2019, Tan Cressida/Warner, EP): Odd Future rapper, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, based in Los Angeles, father a South African poet and political activist. Short (7 songs, 15:26), cryptic. Rhythm swims upstream. Maybe life's like that? B+(*)

Veronica Swift: Confessions (2019, Mack Avenue): Jazz singer, started young with an album at age 9 (Veronica's House of Jazz) with Richie Cole, Hod O'Brien (her father), and Stephanie Nakasian (her mother) -- O'Brien, who died in 2016, played piano an all-time favorite album, Roswell Rudd's Flexible Flyer (with Sheila Jordan). Standards, backed by Benny Green Trio on three cuts, Emmet Cohen's on the rest. Dazzling vocal chops. B+(**)

Rebecca Trescher: Where We Go (2019, Enja/Yellowbird): German clarinet player, third album, leads a tentet, replete with harp, vibes, lots of flutes, and scat voice -- none of which manage to spoil the impressive arranging. B+(**)

Dwight Trible: Mothership (2019, Gearbox): Jazz singer, based in Los Angeles, half-dozen albums since 2001, starts with a piece by LA jazz legend Horace Tapscott, covers some more usual suspects, wrote three. B+(*)

Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops (2019, Joyful Noise): Australian "supergroup," with Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin from the Drones, and others from other groups I don't recall. Second album. Less noise, more funk -- promising, but ends with a bit of bombast. B+(*)

Tuba Skinny: Some Kind-a-Shake (2018 [2019], self-released): New Orleans trad jazz band, members started busking around 2005, cut their eponymous debut in 2009, and have released an album most years since. Todd Burdick's sousaphone looms large. Several vocals. B+(***)

William Tyler: Goes West (2019, Merge): Guitarist, considered folk (not unlike John Fahey) although not clear to me that his primitivism runs very deep. Maybe because, given the choice, he so often opts for lush. B+(**)

Summer Walker: Over It (2019, Interscope): Neo-soul singer-songwriter from Atlanta, first album. Long jams, a bit awkward. B

Amber Weekes: Pure Imagination (2019 [2020], Amber Inn Productions): Standards singer, second album, very fond of Oscar Brown Jr., starts delightful (especially "It's All Right With Me"), less so on the ballads, least of all a duet with Mon David. B+(*) [cd]

Kanye West: Jesus Is King (2019, GOOD Music/Def Jam): Could be he was punking Trump, who clearly got off on proximity to such celebrity and feigned obeissance, but hard to see how he figured to pull off the same trick with G-d, unless his anarchism harbors a closeted atheist. Nothing here convinces me that he believes in G-d, much less that I should. He takes the hollow trimmings of Christianity and turns them into a chaotic mess, without even offering a wink that he might be aiming for satire, which leaves us with some form of mental illness. Still has production chops and can rap, and there's one bit of good news: it's only 27:04 long. B-

Wilco: Ode to Joy (2019, dBpm): Jeff Tweedy's band, in a particularly middling mood, doesn't seem like much, but can't complain about the comfort factor. B+(*)

Will of the People [Haftor Medbøe]: Will of the People (2019, Copperfly): Norwegian guitarist, based in Edinburgh, several albums since 2005, first for this trio with Pete Furniss (bass clarinet and electronics) and Tom Bancroft (drums). B+(**)

Wire: Mind Hive (2020, Pink Flag): Forty years after they raised the art-bar for punk, they've broadened their music without fundamentally changing it. This one almost seems like a return to basics. B+(***)

Yola: Walk Through Fire (2019, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): British singer-songwriter Yolanda Quartey, first solo album after an EP and several with the group Phantom Limb. PopMatters picked this as the year's best Americana album, possibly because Dan Auerbach produced the album in Nashville, but I don't generally hear that. The title cut is certainly an exception, but more often than not this builds to a grandiosity I find grating. B+(*)

Brandee Younger: Soul Awakening (2019, self-released): Harp player, from Long Island, pulled this early tape off the shelf: producer Dezron Douglas (bass) and the drummer (usually EJ Strickland) craft a matrix that envelops the harp while letting it sparkle. Plus guests: Niia sings one track, the rest have horns, the standout among many fine performances Ravi Coltrane. B+(***)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Fred Anderson Quartet: Live Volume V (1994 [2019], FPE): Recorded at the tenor saxophonist's Velvet Lounge, during a stretch when he rarely recorded. With Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), Tatsu Aoki (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: The Complete Newport 1956 & 1958 Recordings (1956-58 [2019], Legacy): Duke Ellington's Newport sets are more famous, especially his smashing comeback (or more precisely, Johnny Hodges' return) in 1956. And there's no shortage of live Armstrong sets from the 1950s: The California Concerts is my favorite, with 4-CDs spanning 1951-55, starting with what I still think of as the real All-Stars (Hines, Teagarden, Bigard, Shaw, Catlett), but hardly losing a beat as the second tier (Billy Kyle, Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, plus singer Velma Middleton) take over. They're been represented by 1956's The Great Chicago Concert, but the 1956 Newport set is every bit as potent, with Armstrong himself in an especially ebullient mood. The 1958 set is marginally less extraordinary: Peanuts Hucko replaced Hall, they do some more atypical material (including "Tenderly," a calypso, and a Latin-tinged "Ko Ko Mo"). On the other hand, Jack Teagarden drops in, with Bobby Hackett, for a reprise of "Rockin' Chair." [NB: This seems to be a digital-only release; it was previously released on 4-LP by Mosaic in 2014. Total length 144:43, which could fit on 2-CD.] A-

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Century Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume One (2001-17 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): Founded in 1999 by Greg Tate and Jared Michael Nickerson, released their first album in 2000, 15 more through 2017, from which they've assembled three CDs of mixes -- I found Volume Two shortly after release date, but One and Three eluded me. Tate (I assume) is responsible for the creative titling, and both for networking in dozens of New York musicians, reworking black music traditions rooted in funk and free jazz, Butch Morris providing the key "conduction" concept. Still, lot of vocals here. B+(***)

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Century Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Three (1999-2017 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): The thing about these "mixtapes" is that rather than separate their remarkable body of work into its various facets, or breaking it up into eras, highlighting each major one on its own disc, they mix them all together. All three are spread over two decades, each picks pretty much the same music, and they're all somewhat biased toward soul vocals -- not what I would pick, although I imagine a single disc would be possible that would eventually grow on me. B+(***)

Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years (2006-13 [2017], Dualtone, 2CD): Texas singer-songwriter, for a long time I figured he'd never top his debut -- Old No. 1 in 1975 -- but he kept plugging away, recording for Sugar Hill 1988-2002, then in 2006 getting another shot on Dualtone. He recorded four albums there, reduced here with some extras, not least a few live remakes of old songs. B+(***)

Julie Coker: A Life in the Limelight: Lagos Disco & Itsekiri Highlife 1976-1981 (1976-81 [2019], Kalita): Gained initial fame as Miss Western Nigeria 1957, moved into TV and radio, produced two albums fileted here (7 songs, 30:55). Nothing major here. B+(*)

Miles Davis: The Lost Quintet (1969 [2019], Sleepy Night): Bootleg, live date from November 9 in Rotterdam, touted as Davis's "third great quintet," "lost" because it wasn't showcased in a studio album, but not really that obscure: second quintet saxophonist Wayne Shorter is still on hand, backed by a then young but not legendary rhythm section: Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette -- all of whom were on hand for Bitches Brew (recorded 1969, released 1970). Morever, they formed the quintet on the 4-CD 2013 box Live in Europe 1969, which included a November 5 date in Stockholm and another two days later in Berlin. Four pieces -- two from Bitches Brew, the others also in the box set -- stretched to 58:11. The thing that struck me about the Live 1969 recordings is how seriously Davis and Shorter considered plunging into the avant-garde, and this recording is even more raggedly free. But with John McLaughlin, Davis was also on a parallel track toward fusion, and that soon won out, with Shorter and Corea soon leaving for their own inferior fusion ventures. Sound is so-so here, but the rhythm section is really smoking. B+(***)

Endless Boogie: Vol. I, II (2005 [2019], No Quarter, 2CD): Rock jam band from Brooklyn, name from a John Lee Hooker album, formed eight years before they committed to wax two 3-song LPs (second side of each is a single 25-minute piece). Vocals here and there, but are secondary to the two-guitar grind, which is muscular enough to hold up for 25-minute runs. A-

Smokey Haangala: Aunka Ma Kwacha (1976 [2019], Séance Center): Zambian singer-songwriter, played keyboards, also wrote poetry and journalism, died at 38 in 1988. B+(*)

ICP Tentet: Tetterettet (1977 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg's Instant Composer's Pool, later better known as ICP Orchestra. Full of grand gestures and sly jokes, or in some cases gross ones, as they take stereotypical circus music and transform it into extraordinary free jazz. A- [bc]

Jaye P. Morgan: Jaye P. Morgan (1976 [2019], Wewantsounds): Singer and actress, given name Mary Margaret Morgan, had some hits 1953-59, recorded rarely after 1962, appeared on The Gong Show 1976-78. This obscurity flirts with disco, settles for ballads. B [bc]

John Prine: Chicago '70: The Early Sessions (1970 [2019], Hobo): Two sets a year before Prine released his first album: one broadcast from the 5th Peg, the other an interview by Studs Terkel. Effectively demos, just guitar and voice, remarkable for an unrecorded artist to have so many memorable songs: 12 made his first album, 5 more his second, 3 more later, the other 2 (one a Hank Williams medley) show up on The Singing Mailman Delivers -- Prine's own comp of his 1970 tapes, to which this doesn't add much. B+(***)

Professor Longhair: Live on the Queen Mary (1975 [2019], Harvest): New Orleans piano legend Roy Byrd, started recording in 1949 but had few albums before his death in 1980, after which his reputation was secured in numerous live tapes and a stellar 2-CD Rhino retrospective. This one appeared early, in 1978, probably because it was "presented by Paul and Linda McCartney." Seems a bit redundant at this stage, but if I heard it first, I might well have been blown away. B+(***)

Sun Ra Arkestra: Live in Kalisz 1986 (1986 [2019], Languidity): Relatively late (Ra died in 1993, albums thin out from 1990), live in a small city in central Poland, released on a Polish label named for another Sun Ra album. Always terrific when they break out the interplanetary boogie, somewhat hit and miss, but their 13:24 "Mack the Knife" is a real treat. A- [bc]

Patrice Rushen: Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recorddings 1978-1984 (1978-84 [2019], Strut): Started out as a jazz pianist, with three 1974-77 albums on Prestige (first one with no vocals), before switching to disco at Elektra: five albums, charted 98-39-71-14-40 pop. This selects 15 songs (79:21), often going with extended (12-inch) versions. Nothing very classic here, but she can stretch a funk vamp, even with repetitive vocals, even with none. B+(*) [bc]

Martial Solal: And His Orchestra: 1956-1962 (1956-62 [2019], Fresh Sound): French pianist, emerged as a major figure in the early 1950s, presented here in large groups from nine to eighteen pieces. Some of France's top players, plus US refugees like Lucky Thompson and Kenny Clarke, but the piano is what you focus on. B+(**)

Laurie Spiegel: Unseen Worlds (1991 [2019], Unseen Worlds): A pioneer in electronic music, started with analog sythesizers in 1969, worked at Bell Labs 1973-79 writing composition software, founded New York University's Computer Music Studio. First record was The Expanding Universe (1980). Not many more, but this one was taken as the name of this label. The pieces, organized as "Thesis," "Antithesis," and "Synthesis," with grand gestures that I assume derive from classical music aesthetics, plus some piano to settle things down. A-

Jim Sullivan: U.F.O. (1969 [2019], Light in the Attic): Singer-songwriter, guitarist, recorded two albums before mysteriously disappearing in 1975. Not easily classifiable, but not interesting or weird enough to matter. B

Jim Sullivan: Jim Sullivan (1972 [2019], Light in the Attic): Second album, a second introduction, dropping the fake strings and letting the music flow, with a country accent and a few horns. B+(*)

Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Flight 17 (1978 [2019], Nimbus/Outernational): First record from the pianist's Los Angeles community organizing project, originally listing him as "conductor." Brilliant in spots, the piano (of course), also the drums. [Played 2014 reissue from Nimbus West bandcamp.] B+(***) [bc]

This Is Toolroom 2019 (Edits) (2019, Toolroom): English electronica label, founded by Mark Knight in 2004, purveyors of something called tech house, which in my book could pass for techno or house. This was number two on the Ye Wei Blog EOY list: presumably the full-length (20 tracks, 129:10) version as opposed to the (Edits), which is the only version I could find online (same 20 reduced by half to 69:36). Various artists, Knight's the only name I recognize, with beats so similar they could come from the same shop. Still, grows on you. B+(***)

June Tyson: Saturnian Queen of the Sun Ra Arkestra (1968-92 [2019], Modern Harmonic/Sundazed): Singer, worked with Sun Ra over 25 years, until her death in 1992. No dates on these pieces, so the range could be narrower, and no credits, although the Arkestra was pretty stable for much of this period. Vocals were always an iffy thing with the Arkestra, mostly space chants, conveniently collected here. B+(**)

Hank Williams: The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings (1949 [2019], BMG, 2CD): Radio shots, eight 15-minute shows (including patter but trimmed of advertising, about 12 minutes each), each opening with "Happy Rovin' Cowboy" and signing off with "Sally Goodin'" -- in between, expect at least one classic, some breaks and filler, and the obligatory hymn. Remarkable sound, extraordinary voice, could be edited down to an even more remarkable single CD. [Probably identical to the 1993 Polygram 2-CD release of Health & Happiness Shows.] A-

Old Music

Harry Allen Quartet: London Date (2015 [2016], Trio): Retro-swing tenor saxophonist, with a local London rhythm section (Andrea Pozza, Simon Woolf, Steve Brown) playing standards. Most impressive on the fast ones, but "Our Love Is Here to Stay" is taken deliciously slow. B+(***)

Murs/9th Wonder: Brighter Daze (2015 [2016], Jamla): Rapper Nick Carter, name an acronym of Making Underground Raw Shit, which he's been doing since 1997. Producer Patrick Douthit debuted in 2003, recorded his first album with Murs in 2006, this their 5th album together. B+(***)

Ben Webster/Don Byas: Giants of the Tenor Sax (1944-45 [1988], Commodore): Not playing together: five cuts of Webster in Big Sid Catlett's Quartet, three of Byas with Slam Stewart, and three more of Byas with Hot Lips Page Orchestra. Repackaging Commodore's catalog, they used the same title to combine Chu Berry and Lucky Thompson sets -- more of a generation split, with 14 years separating Berry and Thompson (and Berry's death in 1941, before Thompson got started), whereas Byas is only three years youger than Webster. Nothing monumental, and the sax theme breaks down when Page takes over, singing two of his three. B+(**) [cd]

Ben Webster and His Quartet: Wayfaring Webster (1970 [2000], DayBreak): Tenor sax great, backed by a piano trio I don't recognize, on a previously unissued radio shot from Netherlands. This comes late in Webster's career (d. 1973), but he sounds fine, and the band doesn't hurt. 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:


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 connection seems to be with Saharan blues-rock, but they work with all sorts of guitar patterns. No vocals, none needed. [was B+(***)] A-

Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (2019, Secretly Canadian): Singer-songwriter born in Wales, moved as a child to Perth, Australia, offers what Christgau calls "a catalogue of assholes" -- males, "boys will be boys," etc. -- although I'm also struck by the allergies and bearers of infectious diseases. [was B+(***)] A-

Craig Finn: I Need a New War (2019, Partisan): Fourth solo album, after fronting groups Lifter-Puller and the Hold Steady (a continuing venture with its own album this year). Has a distinctive voice, writes serious songs about interesting people. Initially taken aback by the title here refers to U.S. Grant, who would think such a thing, and still prefer the band effort, but this one is growing on me. [was: B+(***)] A-

Kalie Shorr: Open Book (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Maine, based in Nashville. Songs have some country in them and are often brash and pointed. Production bigger than she needs, but she rocks harder than any Nashville ingenue since Miranda Lambert. [was: B+(*)] A-

Music Weeks

Current count: 32712 [32538] rated (+174), 230 [221] unrated (+9).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

January 31, 2020

Music: Current count 32712 [32640] rated (+72), 230 [228] unrated (+2).

Whereas last week I closed my count on Sunday as usual but didn't post Music Week until Thursday, this week I'm even later, and this time I used to the extra days to squeeze more records in. For the record, the count was +34 Sunday evening, when I would normally cut over. The reason for the extra days this week is that I usually save away a frozen copy of my yearly list on or near the end of January, and I thought it would make more sense to align that date with the end of January Streamnotes. Last year I decided to publish my reviews in my Music Week posts, out each Monday, and align the monthly Streamnotes archives with Music Week posts, cutting off each month on its final Monday. However, this year the final Monday left five days in the month, which is normally 20-25 records -- enough of a discrepancy to make me want to include them before freeze date.

On the other hand, I didn't get as much done in my extra days [of January] as I hoped. In fact, the only way I'll get anything up dated Jan. 31 is through the miracle of backdating. (I'm writing this on Feb. 1, and doubt I'll get done tonight, either. [I finally did the freeze Feb. 5, posting well after midnight, so Feb. 6.])


Robert Christgau published his Dean's List 2019 on January 26, with 76 records, 14 released in 2018 or earlier (back to 2015, including my 2018 favorite, The Ex: 27 Passports). A half-dozen titles hadn't been reviewed yet in his Consumer Guide -- the biggest surprise Kalie Shorr's Open Book. I gave it a low B+ in December, resisting the glitzy Nashville production, but gave it another shot, and the songs started poking through. It's one of several re-grades below -- mostly records I admired first time but liked a little more on review. I replayed a few more I didn't budge, including Purple Mountains, The Paranoid Style, Danny Brown, and Slowthai -- all solid B+(***), as I originally thought. I played everything else I had missed (except couldn't find the Seeds soundtrack), but haven't gone down the list to biggest disconnects (like 100 Gecs).

I don't mean to nitpick, but thought it might be helpful to list my non-jazz A-list picks that Christgau hasn't yet reviewed or listed (skipping records, like Hayes Carll: What It Is and Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell, that Christgau gave B+ or stars to):

  1. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterioum (IOT)
  2. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session (Third Man)
  3. Control Top: Covert Contracts (Get Better)
  4. MexStep: Resistir (Third Root -18
  5. Mavis Staples: We Get By (Anti-)
  6. Dave: Psychodrama (Neighbourhood
  7. Weldon Henson: Texas Made Honky Tonk (Hillbilly Renegade)
  8. People Under the Stars: Sincerely, the P (Piecelock 70)
  9. Chris Knight: Almost Daylight (Drifters Church)
  10. Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines (Oh Boy)
  11. L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence (Mello Music Group)
  12. Allison Moorer: Blood (Autotelic)
  13. Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (Legacy)
  14. Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe (ATO)
  15. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (Keel Cool/RCA)
  16. Queen Key: Eat My Pussy (Again) (Machine Entertainment Group)
  17. The Chemical Brothers: No Geography (Virgin EMI)
  18. Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation (Editions Mego)
  19. Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (Silver Age)
  20. Murs: The Iliad is Dead and the Odyssey Is Over (Jamla/Empire)
  21. Hieroglyphic Being: Synth Expressionism/Rhythmic Cubism (On the Corner)
  22. YBN Cordae: The Lost Boy (Atlantic)
  23. Sault: 5 (Forever Living Originals)
  24. Sault: 7 (Forever Living Originals)
  25. The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Little Stars (OverPop Music)
  26. Boy Harsher: Careful (Nude Club)
  27. Apollo Brown: Sincerely, Detroit (Mello Music Group)
  28. Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (X2)
  29. Lee Scratch Perry: Heavy Rain (On-U Sound)
  30. Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (The Leaf Label)
  31. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline (Fontana North)
  32. Caroline Spence: Mint Condition (Rounder)
  33. Ani DiFranco: No Walls: Mixtape (Righteous Babe)
  34. Peter Perrett: Humanworld (Domino)
  35. Oompa: Cleo (OompOutLoud)
  36. Add-2: Jim Crow: The Musical (Add-2 Productions)
  37. Omar Souleyman: Shlon (Mad Decent/Because)
  38. Special Request: Offworld (Houndstooth)
  39. Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance (Columbia/Legacy)
  40. Beans on Toast: The Inevitable Train Wreck (Beans on Toast Music)

I'm surprised this list ran so long (40 of 77 records, so 52%). One thing Christgau laments on his list is a hip-hop shortfall, but I count 13 here (including Blakrok, MexStep and Dave, but not Yanya, Korwar or Sault). Also 6 country, some political folkies, some electronica, and various world outposts. By the way, recent adds and promotions made the non-jazz A-list longer than the jazz one (77-to-75).


The extra listening time brought my number of reviewed 2019 releases to 1224. This compares to 1075 at freeze time last year, 1145 in 2017, 1075 in 2016, 1110 in 2015, 1173 in 2014, 1149 in 2013, 1068 in 2012, 1334 in 2011, and 1236 in 2010. (Going further back: 2009: 1050, 2008: 907, 2007: 1135, 2006: 1089, 2005: 871, 2004: 941, 2003: 525. No data for earlier years, as 2003 was when I started writing -- and getting promos -- again.) About 75% of this year's records were streamed or downloaded, which is probably a record high, but likely to be topped each coming year. I've been expecting the review total to decline each year since my 2011 peak. The only significance I attribute to the bump this year is that I haven't felt up to doing much else. I expect it to drop next year, perhaps significantly -- either if I get into writing long-contemplated but slow-starting non-music projects, or if my health declines.

Meanwhile, the main thing that slowed this post down wasn't a desire to cram in more records. It was the time it took to reach a break point in my EOY Aggregate. I wound up counting 689 lists, of which 174 were considered major (generally, 20+ ranked records, scored 1-5 points), vs. minor lists (top-tens, scored 1-3 points, or unranked lists), with some discretion exercised. Aside from the lists, this includes grade points from Robert Christgau, Michael Tatum, and myself (1-5 points), which admittedly gives the totals a slight bias. I also included a lot of Jazz Critics Poll individual ballots, which contributed significantly to the two jazz albums that cracked the top 40 (plus ten more in the top 100). On the other hand, with no Pazz & Jop poll this year, I wasn't able to cherry-pick individual ballots there. Two more systematic biases should be noted: I skipped nearly all metal lists this year, and I skipped most of the international press lists that Acclaimed Music Forums does such a good job of compiling. Both omissions were mostly the result of priorities as I was trying to catch up while recuperating from surgery, and I never got back to them. I may find some reason to fiddle further, but at this point the smart thing would be to leave well enough alone.

Here's the top 40, with points up front and my grades in brackets.

  1. [447] Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell (Polydor/Interscope) [A-]
  2. [380] Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? (Darkroom/Interscope) [A-]
  3. [334] Tyler, the Creator: Igor (Columbia) [**]
  4. [319] FKA Twigs: Magdalene (Young Turks) [B]
  5. [278] Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (Ghosteen/Bad Seeds) [B]
  6. [275] Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (Sub Pop) [B-]
  7. [274] Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (Drag City) [***]
  8. [269] Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (Nice Life/Atlantic) [A-]
  9. [265] Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  10. [259] Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  11. [235] Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (Columbia) [**]
  12. [226] Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD) [A-]
  13. [224] Little Simz: Grey Area (Age 101) [A-]
  14. [206] Solange: When I Get Home (Saint/Columbia) [*]
  15. [181] Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (Partisan) [***]
  16. [178] Brittany Howard: Jaime (ATO) [B]
  17. [173] Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (Keep Cool/RCA) [A-]
  18. [166] Big Thief: Two Hands (4AD) [**]
  19. [166] Ariana Grande: Thank U Next (Republic) [**]
  20. [160] Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar) [A-]
  21. [148] Black Midi: Schlagenheim (Rough Trade) [**]
  22. [141] Dave: Psychodrama (Neighbourhood) [A-]
  23. [141] Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka (Polydor) [*]
  24. [130] Jenny Lewis: On the Line (Warner Bros.) [*]
  25. [130] Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (Method) [***]
  26. [129] Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (Warp) [***]
  27. [125] Bon Iver: i,i (Jagjaguwar) [B]
  28. [117] Aldous Harding: Designer (4AD) [B]
  29. [116] Taylor Swift: Lover (Republic) [A-]
  30. [112] Julia Jacklin: Crushing (Polyvinyl) [B]
  31. [111] The Highwomen: The Highwomen (Elektra) [B]
  32. [111] The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD) [**]
  33. [110] Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (Columbia) [B-]
  34. [109] Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic) [***]
  35. [107] Denzel Curry: Zuu (Loma Vista) [**]
  36. [105] Thom Yorke: Anima (XL) [B-]
  37. [103] Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (Dead Oceans) [*]
  38. [103] Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (Constellation) [***]
  39. [101] Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (604/School Boy/Interscope) [***]
  40. [100] Rapsody: Eve (Roc Nation) [***]

Every aggregate list (either of lists or of individuals) has its peculiar selection and weighting biases. I'm having trouble finding more, but the big ones are Album of the Year and Metacritic. I can't do any analysis at this time, but my impression is that for a long time, the lists were dominated by alt/indie rock with occasional celebrity-crossover hip-hop breakthroughs (e.g., Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar). Last few years alt/indie has waned, and pure pop albums have done better, as well as some artier things I often have trouble fathoming (Nick Cave and Weyes Blood are prime examples this year). One result is that there are more albums on the list I like these days, certainly compared to 6-10 years ago (when I started compiling these EOY lists). Still, not a lot of critically popular hip-hop this year (only Tyler, the Creator in the top 10 this year, although it was a huge year for British hip-hop, with Little Simz, Dave, Slowthai, and others just down the list).

January 23, 2020

Music: Current count 32640 [32614] rated (+26), 228 [229] unrated (-1).

Three days late with this, but the cutoff was late Sunday night, so this is still an honest week's listening report. While I was not honoring my self-imposed schedule, I did continue to listen, so my scratch file for next week includes an additional 21 records -- a pace which will probably top 40 next week. Maybe more: it's tempting to run late next week so I can close January near the end of the month (instead of final Monday, the 27th this year). I usually do my freeze exercise the end of January: that being my signal to stop monitoring EOY lists and move on to the new year.

Actually, you'll find my first 2020 A- record below, as well as a few more 2020 releases. Most of the CDs in my promo queue are still future releases, so I'm noting release dates in cases that aren't out yet. I noticed on Facebook Phil Freeman noting that he already has over 100 promo records in his 2020 spreadsheet. I have a quarter of that, but might not be so far behind if I downloaded all the links that cross my mail. Thus far I've done none, but I am pleased to be getting mail from Astral Spirits now.

I've added quite a bit of jazz to my EOY Aggregate, including the NPR Jazz Critics Poll totals for new albums and reissues, plus about two-thirds of the critic ballots -- my first pass rule was to only list critics I had listed in previous years. This has pushed Kris Davis' poll-winning Diatom Ribbons to 33rd overall, the top-rated jazz album. I re-played the record when the poll dropped, but didn't feel like raising my initial B+(***) grade. I have maybe a dozen more records I feel like I should retry -- mostly Christgau picks that I liked but didn't spend much time with on first pass, like: Danny Brown, Stella Donnelly, The National, The Paranoid Style, Purple Mountains, Rapsody. Not much elsewhere has me wondering. Indeed, while my tracking file shows that there are literally thousands of unheard records that someone likes, I'm having a lot of trouble identifying ones that seem promising for me.

I also added in the totals from something called Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll. This is a fan poll which has existed for twenty-some years, but got more attention this year with Village Voice having abandoned their signature poll. I got an invite to join a while back, but never voted. I did, however, go through the ballots, and picked out fifty or so names I recognized -- mostly folks I had counted ballots from in past years. In the past I've been inclined to use P&J as an endpoint, testing how well my own lists anticipated the results, and in the process finding various biases of the critics polled. Still, nothing like what we see with this self-selected fan community. Purple Mountains won in a landslide, as both hip-hop and pop votes were pretty depressed. On the other hand, certain Christgau favorites did surprisingly well (e.g., The Paranoid Style at 17, 75 Dollar Bill at 8).

January 13, 2020

Music: Current count 32614 [32575] rated (+39), 229 [230] unrated (+0).

I've finally heard that NPR's Jazz Critics Poll will be published tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM. I've been given advance URLs for the poll results and for the accompanying essay by Francis Davis.

No time to write much more. December Streamnotes still not indexed. EOY Aggregate still a work in progress. My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz still growing. Did play a couple of 2020 releases last week. Going back and forth between the 2020 and 2019 tracking files reminds me of the cartoon depictions of the decrepit old man representing the old year giving way to the new year baby. Every year we get older, but 2019 hurt more than most.

January 6, 2020

Music: Current count 32575 [32538] rated (+37), 230 [228] unrated (+2).

I might as well go ahead and post this, as I'm nowhere near getting to a reasonable breakpoint. I haven't even done the indexing for last month's Streamnotes file. Nor do I have much to add on EOY lists. Latest I have on NPR's posting of the Jazz Critics Poll results is "end of this week or beginning of next." I've since got a request to write a little something by Thursday, so I'd say early next week is the more likely date.

All of the promos in my queue are 2020 releases, so I figured they could wait as I try to mop up what I've missed from 2019. Also, when I've been away from the computer, the CDs I've been playing have been old jazz: some Ellington, Hawkins, Webster, and a lot of Armstrong -- an especially pleasant surprise to find Armstrong's terrific Newport sets on the computer.

The B+(***) record with the most potential is the Sturgill Simpson. I only gave it one play, and really wasn't in the mood for an arena rock album -- much closer to that than to neotrad or neocosmopolitan coutry, a trend that Nashville artists like Eric Church have pursued of late. Still, an impressive performance, his third straight B+(***) in my book. On the other hand, Omar Souleyman's fifth straight A- was an easy call, not that I can keep any of them straight. Didn't hurt to be reminded of the humanity that the US has tried so hard to snuff out for decades now.

Also nice to find a new electronica artist I really like.

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [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