Monday, June 12, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28254 [28225] rated (+29), 385 [383] unrated (+2).

Barely less than the thirty that for me marks a productive week, but close enough, especially given that my cutoff for the week's report was relatively early, and since then I'm already as I write this up to seven records for next week. I've continued to add items to the Music Tracking file, especially from early "so far" lists (although I ran out of patience when I tried to scoop up the 2017 jazz review list from All About Jazz). I've been picking promising (well, in some cases just much touted) records from the list, and getting the usual hit-and-miss results. I found two A- records there: a rapper who surprised me, and a pop star who still sounded convincing after four plays. The hardest call was the Mountain Goats' Goths, which probably got six plays without clearly making the grade -- still, a damn nice album. Two records I didn't spend much time on but you might turn out to be more to your taste: MUNA and Jay Som.

The other A- is American Epic: The Soundtrack, which is the tip of an iceberg that includes much more I haven't found time to deal with, notably a 5-CD box and a bunch of individual artist compilations for genres (Blues, Country) and artists I already have serviceable anthologies by (Carter Family, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, Leadbelly, Memphis Jug Band). Chances are any of those would do you well. But the box is a lot to focus on coming off the computer, and I wouldn't be able to review the doc -- always important with reissues -- without actually getting my hands on the product. As for the original music, I haven't seen the PBS shows, and don't know where to begin. The whole thing is much like the Ken Burns jazz and Martin Scorsese blues campaigns, except I'm much less engaged.

As for the mid-year lists (and obviously we're still close to a month shy), so I'm working from a short and arbitrary sample. Without resorting to math, I'll give you my subjective impression of how this list would shape up if we had more data. Also, I've included my grades, where known, in brackets:

  1. Kendrick Lamar: Damn (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) [A-]
  2. Sampha: Process (Young Turks) [*]
  3. The XX: I See You (Young Turks) [A-]
  4. Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)
  5. Syd: Fin (Columbia) [A-]
  6. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (Run the Jewels) [A-]
  7. Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (PW Elverum & Sun) [*]
  8. Drake: More Life (Young Money/Cash Money) [*]
  9. Spoon: Hot Thoughts (Matador) [***]
  10. Thundercat: Drunk (Brainfeeder) [*]
  11. Migos: Culture (QC/YRN/300) [***]
  12. Jay Som: Everybody Works (Polyvinyl) [*]
  13. Khalid: American Teen (Right Hand/RCA) [A-]
  14. Perfume Genius: No Shape (Matador) [B-]
  15. Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville) [***]
  16. Slowdive: Slowdive (Dead Oceans) [*]
  17. Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (Domino)
  18. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian) [***]
  19. Laura Marling: Semper Femina (More Alarming) [*]
  20. The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch) [B-]

The top slot is a slam dunk. The next three could go any way, with XX a clear leader in UK, Misty in US, and Sampha broader (but not so deep) everywhere. I think RTJ3 is underrepresented, probably because its release straddled the New Year. The sample is skewed toward hip-hop, so I tended to slide those records back a bit (especially Drake, which showed up on the third most lists). Also I pushed Christgau favorites Lekman and Magnetic Fields up (onto) the list (the latter quite a bit, but also note that its Metacritic score is very high).

Some other, somewhat less likely, possibilities: Ryan Adams: The Prisoner; Arca [B]; Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ [A-]; Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound [**]; Future: Hndrxx; (Sandy) Alex G: Rocket; Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life [**]; Kehlani: SweetSexySavage [*]; The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions [***]; Paramore: After Laughter [***]; Priests: Nothing Feels Natural [**]. Also on my "first pass" list: Mary J. Blige: Strength of a Woman [***]; Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness; Charly Bliss: Guppy; Feist: Pleasure [B]; Future Islands: The Far Field; Girlpool: Powerplant [B]; Gorillaz: Humanz; Jlin: Black Origami [**]; Aimee Mann: Mental Illness; Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me; Sorority Noise: You're Not as ___ as Your Think; Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer [*].


More 2017 best of (so far) lists:

I should also note that Robert Christgau has a review of several books by Terry Eagleton: With a God on His Side.


New records rated this week:

  • Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017, Pro Era/Cinematic): [r]: A-
  • Chicano Batman: Freedom Is Free (2017, ATO): [r]: B-
  • Bill Cunliffe: BACHanalia (2013-16 [2017], Metre): [cd]: B-
  • Joey DeFrancesco and the People: Project Freedom (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Drake: More Life (2017, Young Money/Cash Money): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art Fristoe Trio: Double Down (2017, Merry Lane, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • Gabriel Garzón-Montano: Jardin (2017, Stones Throw): [r]: B
  • Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House (2016 [2017], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life (2017, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • J.I.D: The Never Story (2017, Dreamville/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (2016 [2017], Truth Revolution): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (2017, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kyle Motl: Solo Contrabass (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Mountain Goats: Goths (2017, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • MUNA: About U (2017, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Necks: Unfold (2017, Ideologic Organ): [r]: B+(***)
  • Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli: Living Tribute (2016 [2017], Essential Messenger): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jay Som: Everybody Works (2017, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dayna Stephens: Gratituge (2017, Contagious Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Becca Stevens: Regina (2017, GroundUp): [r]: B-
  • Matthew Stevens: Preverbal (2017, Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Dylan Taylor: One in Mind (2015-16 [2017], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Urbanity: Urban Soul (2017, Alfi): [cd]: B
  • Shea Welsh: Arrival (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
  • Wire: Silver/Lead (2017, Pinkflag): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charlie Watts/The Danish Radio Big Band: Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band (2010 [2017], Impulse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charli XCX: Number 1 Angel (2017, Asylum): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • American Epic: The Soundtrack ([2017], Columbia/Third Man/Legacy): [r]: A-
  • Alice Coltrane: The Ecstatic Music of Turiyasangitananda [World Spirituality Classics 1] (1982-95 [2017], Luaka Bop): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Bilodeau: The Sun Through the Rain (self-released)
  • Burning Ghosts: Reclamation (Tzadik): advance
  • The Four Bags: Waltz (NCM East)
  • Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl)
  • The Great Harry Hillman: Tilt (Cuneiform): cdr
  • Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane (2007, Resonance): June 16
  • Molly Miller Trio: The Shabby Road Recordings (self-released)
  • Ed Neumeister & His NeuHat Ensemble: Wake Up Call (MeisteroMusic): July 15
  • Jeremy Rose: Within & Without (Earshift Music)
  • Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite (Clean Feed)
  • The Vampires: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (Earshift Music)