Monday, June 4, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29786 [29759] rated (+27), 339 [344] unrated (-5).

Rated count better than expected, but mostly due to listening to old (often familiar) music -- only 11 new releases below. Could be that I listened to/rated/reviewed a few albums between last Monday's update and my catastrophic computer crash. If so, I'll have to go back and redo. But I did find a couple of bookkeeping discrepancies that added to the rated count.

Current computer status:

  • Old work machine dead. New power supply had no effect, so motherboard is dead. Haven't removed and tested disks each. They are RAID-1, so both should have same data, and I should be able to recover from either one, but there's some learning curve there. Also possible the surge fried one or both.
  • Using my "music/media" machine I built a couple years ago. It is same or better (albeit cheaper), with an 8-core AMD processor (FX-8350), ASUS 970 Pro Gaming ATX motherboard, 32 GB SDRAM (1866), ASUS Radeon 2GB video card (best I could find for less than $60), 2 TB SATA hard disk, 24X DVD burner. It's running Ubuntu 16.04, which is a big advance from 12.04 on the dead machine. It is surprisingly fast at most things. But the newer software presents its own problems.
  • I had the computers on two opposite desks, so I've just turned around rather than try to move computers. However, the new desk is messier, the keyboard and mouse are less convenient (newer but generally crummier -- slower and more accident prone), and the lighting worse, so I need to work on all that.
  • I've recovered and restored the data on my various web servers, and set up local vhosted copies of each of the websites. Most have suffered quite a bit of breakage -- sometimes configuration problems, but mostly due to changes from PHP 5 to PHP 7. The worst of these problems is that the interface code for Robert Christgau's CG database has to be rewritten. Thus far I've only done this for three files -- but they, at least, work, and the other 30-40 files should be similar. The more vexing problem is that all of my stuff assumes the ISO-Latin-1 character set, and recent software defaults to UTF-8. I've temporarily solved this problem in some cases, but still have a problem with the database that I need to figure out. The better solution long-term would be to convert everything to UTF-8, but "everything" is a lot. [PS: While working on this post, I tried running a routine grep command on one of my files, only to have it fail, complaining that my ISO-8859-1 file is "binary." Spent an hour looking for workarounds, to little avail. It seems to be getting to the point where UTF-8 is so baked into the system that we have no other option than to adapt/adopt.]
  • Until I'm confident that I have everything working locally, I'm only doing limited updates to the servers -- mostly just poking new blog posts (although I'll need to add some image files for this one, and I should update the book roll). That means things like the year-to-date and music tracking lists are stuck in pre-crash state. That means I've done the indexing for last week's Streamnotes locally but haven't shipped it up to the server. No estimate on when I'll be able to update fully. End of June might be a reasonable goal.
  • I'm not feeling a lot of need for the many files I've lost, but one exception is a spellcheck program I wrote, which I find much more useful than standard tools like ispell. (I need to try my hand at rewriting that.) The biggest problem is likely to be the loss of many years of mail and my accumulated address book. I woke up one day last week feeling bad about never getting around to responding to kind notes from friends and (especially) strangers after my sister died. Would be nice to hear from those people again.
  • I'm putting off indefinitely the task of trying to recover the old disks. Also to figure out what to do with the old computer carcass. (The old Antec box is very nice, but the layout boxes the power supply up in the bottom of the case, so it has to be vented out the back. Nearly all power supplies these days are designed with fans pointing up, the idea being to mount them in the top of the box, which makes more sense give that hot air rises.)

As some point I may push a few of the more volatile music files onto the server. (Maybe I should try writing an explicit pathname archival tool today, since that would be useful now and again in the near future? OK, that's done.)

A couple of notes on this week's music. Back in December, Cuneiform announced that they wouldn't be releasing any new music -- you can still buy their back catalog, and they've put it up on Bandcamp so you can actually listen to it. (They've always been a holdout from streaming services.) So I was surprised when the two new Thumbscrew releases showed up in the mail. Looks like they have some more digital-only releases, but these are (or soon will be) physical. And they're so good I went back and tried to play Mary Halvorson's other new record this year, Code Girl. I still don't like it, the problem a singer who grates on my nerves. Vocals also undermine the Phil Haynes double, but his No Fast Food album is possibly the best showcase in recent memory for Dave Liebman.

The unpacking queue has thinned out considerably in the last month, and not having time to do much research, I've resorted to using Napster's very limited "featured" offerings. That got me to Chvrches, Gift of Gab, Pusha T, and Kanye West. I wound up giving West's 7-track "album" an extra play after a Facebook friend raved about it, and another stressed how much better it got after multiple plays. I also followed links to reviews by Rob Harvilla. Meaghan Garvey, and Lindsay Zoladz, none of which turned out to be all that positive. I looked the album up on Metacritic, where its average score is 67 for 20 reviews (user score is 7.4 on 397 ratings). I wound up bumping the album one slot, but was already regretting that before "Ghost Town" finished.

I'm counting the 7-cut (21-23 minute) West productions as EPs. In the past I've often lowballed EPs, not because I think they lack value but because usually a record takes some time to make itself felt. Still, two of my A- grades this week are EPs (both six cuts, one a mere 21:16, the other a near-LP 28:40). Both are terrific, but also feel pretty substantial to me. Between the vinyl revival and the dominance of digital formats, that sort of length range is becoming common, making labels awkward.

As for my "old music," one of the scripts I tested was the one that prints out my grade database for a given artist. I used the Rolling Stones as my test case, and noticed the ungraded Black and Blue and a few albums I've never heard. Most were available on Napster, so I figured they'd make for easy listening while I was working on the website. Once I caught up with the missing items, I decided to go back and pick up the UK versions of early albums I knew from US editions. (One thing that inspired me here was Michael Tatum's review of Out of Our Heads -- US edition, although I had to look that detail up. By and large, the UK editions turned out not to be as good -- or maybe they just sounded a bit thin (on the computer) and dated? I didn't do any rechecking. I also didn't prepare cover images, even when they rose to A- or even A.

I imagine I'll follow similar strategies in coming weeks, and see where it all leads me. But I'll also take a look at Phil Overeem's latest list and see what else pops up. Played the new Sidi Touré album while writing this, realizing (again) there are old ones I should catch up with.

New records rated this week:

  • Chvrches: Love Is Dead (2018, Glassnote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gift of Gab: Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! (2018, Giftstribution Unlimited, EP): [r]: A-
  • Phil Haynes & Free Country: 60/69: My Favorite Things (2014 [2018], Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bongwool Lee: My Singing Fingers (2016 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • No Fast Food: Settings for Three (2016 [2018], Corner Store Jazz): [cd]: A-
  • Pusha T: Daytona (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thumbscrew: Ours (2017 [2018], Cuneiform): [cd]: A-
  • Thumbscrew: Theirs (2017 [2018], Cuneiform): [cd]: A-
  • Kanye West: Ye (2018, Def Jam/GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Ernie Krivda and Swing City: A Bright and Shining Moment (1998-2002 [2018], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Professor Rhythm: Professor 3 (1991 [2018], Awesome Tapes From Africa, EP): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones [UK] (1964, Decca): [r]: A-
  • The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones No. 2 [UK] (1965, Decca): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rolling Stones: Out of Our Heads [UK] (1965, Decca): [r]: A-
  • The Rolling Stones: Aftermath [UK] (1966, Decca): [r]: A-
  • The Rolling Stones: Got Live if You Want It! (1963-66 [1966], Abkco): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons [UK] (1967, Decca): [r]: A
  • The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968 [1996], Abkco): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Made in the Shade (1969-74 [1975], Rolling Stones): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Black and Blue (1976, Rolling Stones): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Still Life (American Concert 1981) (1981 [1982], Rolling Stones/Virgin): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rolling Stones: Undercover (1983, Rolling Stones): [r]: B
  • The Rolling Stones: Flashpoint (1989-90 [1991], Rolling Stones/Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge (1994, Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Rolling Stones: Bridges to Babylon (1997, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Live Licks (2002-03 [2004], Virgin, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda/Gianni Mimmo: Triad (Long Song)
  • Satoko Fujii: This Is It! (Libra)