Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34955 [34897] rated (+58), 233 [231] unrated (+2).

This will, sorry to say, have to remain brief. I doubt I'll ever get around to writing up a 2020 year-end essay, despite having follow the year's records more closely than ever before. However, no regrets about letting the plague year fade into historical memory. Let's get this over with.

I'm surprised to find this post is only a day late. I took ill on Sunday, spent much of Monday with doctors, and tried my best to sleep through Tuesday -- failing mostly because the dog had other ideas. Urinary tract infection, nasty business. Presumably the antibiotics will kick in and I'll be back to normal in a few days. Two additional factors have compounded my misery. For one thing, we're in the middle of what the Wichita Eagle has called our worst cold snap since 1983. That mostly means daytime temperatures in the teens, with overnight lows close to zero. We got a bit of snow early on, and a bit more since. It doesn't amount to much, but it isn't melting either, so going out (as I did on Monday) is treacherous, and the cold itself is painful.

The other big thing is that my wife, Laura Tillem, fell on the porch Wednesday and broke her thigh bone. They operated on her, a procedure they call intramedullary nailing. The "nail" is a long titanium rod inserted into the canal of the femur, so it provides weight-bearing structural support even before the bone heals. She was in the hospital through Monday morning, then transferred to a rehab clinic (actually, another hospital on the northwest edge of Wichita). If all goes well, she may come on Friday. Needless to say, her absence has made my condition much harder to deal with.

Although the review count is high, all of that came from before Sunday. Since then, the only CD I've played downstairs has been The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 8, where Ben Webster, Red Callender, and Bill Douglass join Art Tatum. It's a extraordinary set of gentle ballads -- perfect, soothing background music, which is all I've been up for.

My Year 2020 file has been frozen. The latter is an archive file which captures what I knew at the moment when I decided the year was done. I'll continue to update the former for a year. Same for my jazz and non-jazz EOY files, though I'm likely to stop bothering with them when/if I create 2021 files. The current A-lists are 83 jazz, 72 non-jazz, with old music breaking 12-17. B+(***) records broke 152-105 (27-18 for old). The division among lower grades is pretty close (490-487; 52-41 for old). Total number of reviewed records (from tracking file): 1610. That total was inflated a bit by my decision to include all 2019 albums that hadn't appeared in my 2019 tracking file, plus all December albums even if they had appeared, but that only added 52. I believe my previous high was 1334 albums in 2011, followed by 1230 in 2010, with 1222 in 2019 a close third. (I didn't check every year. Just did an initial sort by file size, then fgrep|wc for the counts. Also, I used the frozen files, to keep the comparisons fair.)

I won't be doing that again. My 2021 tracking file has very little in it beyond albums I have promo copies of. Last year I primed my EOY Aggregate files with review grades (mostly from AOTY and Metacritic, but I also tracked other sources, especially jazz and country), so I had a pretty good real-time idea how the year was stacking up before the EOY lists started appearing. I'm not doing that for 2021. While I enjoyed keeping on top of so much information, it took up a lot of time, and I'm thinking that time could be better spent. On the other hand, without that data to guide me, I expect I'll be listening to many fewer albums in 2021.

I spent much of last week scrounging up more data for the EOY Aggregate. I think we can say that's done now. The best-regarded albums for 2020 (points in braces, my grades in brackets, with * subdividing B+):

  1. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic) {814} [A-]
  2. Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG) {664} [A]
  3. Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher (Dead Oceans) {619} [**]
  4. Taylor Swift: Folklore (Republic) {434} [***]
  5. Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia) {401} [A-]
  6. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (Warner) {390} [A-]
  7. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (Merge) {364} [A-]
  8. Haim: Women in Music Pt. III (Columbia) {327} [**]
  9. Sault: Untitled (Black Is) (Forever Living Originals) {318} [***]
  10. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (Matador) {314} [*]
  11. Fontaines DC: A Hero's Death (Partisan) {259} [*]
  12. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind (Warp) {240} [**]
  13. Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (Interscope) {231} [A-]
  14. Moses Sumney: Grae (Jagjaguwar) {219} [B]
  15. Rina Sawayama: Sawayama (Dirty Hit) {217} [B-]
  16. Sault: Untitled (Rise) (Forever Living Originals) {215} [***]
  17. Charli XCX: How I'm Feeling Now (Asylum) {194} [***]
  18. The Weeknd: After Hours (Republic) {187} [B]
  19. Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (Interscope) {179} [*]
  20. Fleet Foxes: Shore (Anti-) {178} [B]
  21. Adrianne Lenker: Songs and Instrumentals (4AD) {172} [*|B]
  22. Laura Marling: Song for Our Daughter (Chrysalis/Partisan) {172} [**]
  23. Caribou: Suddenly (Merge) {164} [**]
  24. Thundercat: It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder) {162} [B]
  25. Freddie Gibbs & the Alchemist: Alfredo (ESGN/ALC/Empire) {160} [*]
  26. Idles: Ultra Mono (Partisan) {158} [***]
  27. Bruce Springsteen: Letter to You (Columbia) {156} [**]
  28. Maria Schneider Orchestra: Data Lords (ArtistShare -2CD) {150} [**]
  29. Soccer Mommy: Color Theory (Loma Vista) {150} [***]
  30. Porridge Radio: Every Bad (Secretly Canadian) {145} [*]
  31. Kelly Lee Owens: Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound) {142} [**]
  32. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine (Skint) {137} [**]
  33. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (Rimas) {135} [**]
  34. Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour (Columbia) {133} [*]
  35. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: Reunions (Southeastern) {133} [*]
  36. Lady Gaga: Chromatica (Interscope) {133} [***]
  37. The Strokes: The New Abnormal (Cult/RCA) {131} [*]
  38. Sufjan Stevens: Ascension (Asthmatic Kitty) {123} [A-]
  39. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene (4AD) {122} [***]
  40. Mac Miller: Circles (Warner) {120} [A-]
  41. Megan Thee Stallion: Good News (300 Entertainment) {115} [A-]
  42. Khruangbin: Mordechai (Dead Oceans) {114} [*]
  43. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown (International Anthem) {113} [**]
  44. Nubya Garcia: Source (Concord) {109} [**]
  45. Ambrose Akinmusire: On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment (Blue Note) {108} [**]
  46. Deftones: Ohms (Reprise) {105} [C+]
  47. Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (Atlantic) {104} [*]
  48. Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (Impulse!) {100} [A-]
  49. Hayley Williams: Petals for Armor (Atlantic) {100} [*]
  50. Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels (Highway 20) {97} [A-]
  51. Jay Electronica: A Written Testimony (Roc Nation) {96} [*]
  52. Bartees Strange: Live Forever (Memory Music) {96} [*]
  53. The Chicks: Gaslighter (Columbia) {94} [***]
  54. Lianne La Havas: Lianne La Havas (Nonesuch) {92} [*]
  55. Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (Domino) {87} [**]
  56. Taylor Swift: Evermore (Republic) {86} [***]
  57. Bill Callahan: Gold Record (Drag City) {83} [B]
  58. Clipping: Visions of Bodies Being Burned (Sub Pop) {81} [***]
  59. Jarv Is: Beyond the Pale (Rough Trade) {80} [A-]
  60. Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling (ATO) {79} [A-]
  61. The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (PW Elverum & Sun) {79} [**]
  62. The Flaming Lips: American Head (Warner/Bella Union) {78} [*]
  63. Bright Eyes: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (Dead Oceans) {76} [**]
  64. Mary Halvorson's Code Girl: Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12) {76} [B]
  65. Ashley McBryde: Never Will (Warner Nashville) {73} [A-]
  66. Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (Pyroclastic) {73} [A-]
  67. Destroyer: Have We Met (Merge) {72} [*]
  68. J Hus: Big Conspiracy (Black Butter) {72} [**]
  69. Margo Price: That's How Rumors Get Started (Loma Vista) {72} [*]
  70. X: Alphabetland (Fat Possum) {72} [*]
  71. Immanuel Wilkins: Omega (Blue Note) {70} [A-]
  72. Working Men's Club: Working Men's Club (Heavenly) {69} [**]
  73. The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (Dirty Hit) {68} [***]
  74. Lil Baby: My Turn (Quality Control) {68} [**]
  75. Ariana Grande: Positions (Republic) {67} [*]
  76. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (International Anthem) {67} [A-]
  77. Jyoti [Georgia Anne Muldrow]: Mama, You Can Bet! (SomeOthaShip) {67} [**]
  78. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Sideways to New Italy (Sub Pop) {67} [**]
  79. Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates (Invada) {65} [A-]
  80. Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline (Anti-) {65} [**]
  81. Chris Stapleton: Starting Over (Mercury Nashville) {65} [**]
  82. AC/DC: Power Up (Columbia) {64} [B]
  83. Jeff Rosenstock: No Dream (Polyvinyl) {64} [B]
  84. Moses Boyd: Dark Matter (Exodus) {63} [**]
  85. US Girls: Heavy Light (4AD) {63} [B-]
  86. Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (Relative Pitch) {61} [**]
  87. Halsey: Manic (Capitol) {60} [***]
  88. Arca: KiCk i (XL) {59} [*]
  89. Hum: Inlet (Earth Analog) {59} [B]
  90. Touché Amoré: Lament (Epitaph) {59} [**]
  91. Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman (37d03d) {58} [B]
  92. Code Orange: Underneath (Roadrunner) {58} [B]
  93. Carla Bley/Steve Swallow/Andy Sheppard: Life Goes On (ECM) {57} [***]
  94. Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (Agent Love) {57} [A-]
  95. Pearl Jam: Gigaton (Monkeywrench/Republic) {57} [B]
  96. Beabadoobee: Fake It Flowers (Dirty Hit) {56} [**]
  97. The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (Carpark) {56} [*]
  98. Brandy Clark: Your Life Is a Record (Warner Nashville) {56} [A-]
  99. Georgia: Seeking Thrills (Domino) {56} [***]
  100. Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders (Ghostly International) {56} [*]
  101. Rudresh Mahanthappa: Hero Trio (Whirlwind) {56} [A-]
  102. Oneohtrix Point Never: Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (Warp) {56} [*]
  103. Sorry: 925 (Domino) {56} [**]
  104. Sun Ra Arkestra: Swirling (Strut) {56} [A-]

Lenker's Songs and Instrumentals were separate digital releases, but combined on CD. I graded each half, but most list sources combined the two. Most of the recent changes were due to my counting of individual ballots for Francis Davis's Jazz Critics Poll, the Uproxx Music Critics Poll, and the Pazz & Jop Rip-Off. My initial tactic was to only count ballots of individuals I've counted in past years, but I added a few more names where I thought the picks were particularly interesting. One effect of this was to secure 2nd place for RTJ4, after Punisher had briefly topped it. The JCP ballots (all but 17 were counted) explain why jazz is represented here much more than in other aggregates (28, 43, 44, 45, 48, 63, 65, 71, 75, 75, 84, 93, 96, 96). I consider that a feature.


New records reviewed this week:

2nd Grade: Hit to Hit (2020, Double Double Whammy): Jangle pop band from Philadelphia, first album, Peter Gill wrote the songs, sings and plays guitar. B+(**)

Jhené Aiko: Chilombo (2020, Def Jam): Alt-r&b singer-songwriter, from Los Angeles, third album, title her (and her father's) surname. Pretty chill. B+(*)

Thana Alexa: Ona (2020, self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter, born in New York, parents Croatian, plays violin, second album, some strong political themes. Drummer Antonio Sanchez (her husband) is the standout in a sharp band, and various guests drop in. B+(**)

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi (2019, Agogo): Highlife musician from Ghana, 31st album since 1973, plays tenor sax and sings. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell: Spiders (2020, Out of Your Head): Duo, alto sax and piano, former credited with compositions, one of several records they've done together recently, from a partnership going back at least to 2010, but this is the first I've managed to hear all the way through. First-rate pianist, drawing Berne out for a live album that is both intimate and imposing. A- [dl]

Jake Blount: Spider Tales (2020, Free Dirt): Banjo and fiddle player from DC, sings some, has a degree in ethnomusicology and puts it to good use, first album after an EP and a couple of group credits (e.g., The Moose Whisperers). B+(***) [bc]

Busta Rhymes: Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God (2020, Conglomerate/Empire): Rapper Trevor Smith, tenth album since 1996, returns to his third title after 22 years, offering us 5 more years. Good chance he'll disccover another such event in 2042, by which point his beats and growl will be even older school. Still, I've never understood the point of worshipping a god who promises such wrath, let alone associating with the people who relish devastation. Lost a point for the "Satanic" ending. B+(*)

Chika: Industry Games (2020, Warner, EP): Rapper Jane Chika Oranika, from Alabama, got accepted by Berklee but saved money by going local, then dropped out after a year. Second EP (first on a label, 7 cuts, 20:14). Finding her legs, "I'm 22, making money." I can recall the feeling, and it sure beats what went down before. B+(**)

Common: A Beautiful Revolution [Part 1] (2020, Loma Vista): Chicago rapper Lonnie Lynn, debuted 1992, a pretty big star with gold records through 2007, with a half-dozen records since; has done some acting, writing, political activism, making him a target for the Fox News crowd (and Obama). Still, surprising this one was so thoroughly ignored -- some pegged it as an EP, but I count nine tracks, 34:14, and it's all pretty solid. B+(***)

Chris Crack: White People Love Algorithms (2020, New Deal Collectives): Rapper Christopher Harris, claims a "coming of age as a drug-dealing math wiz." 16 tracks, 28:05. B+(**)

Ani DiFranco: Revolutionary Love (2021, Righteous Babe): Buffalo folksinger, now transplanted to New Orleans, 20th studio album since 1990, music a little on the slick side, lyrics sometimes sneak up on you. B+(**)

Kevin Dixon: The Summer We All Bought Guns (2020, Covid Charlie's Demo-lution): Singer-songwriter from North Carolina, quarantine project was to "whip up a few demos for my beloved band, Zen Frisbee," but got carried away, winding up with 33 songs that average close to 4 minutes. Lo-fi, a lot to sit through, especially as moments of clarity are rare. B [bc]

Che Ecru: Til Death (2020, F Plus): R&B singer-songwriter from Boston, second album, don't know much more -- website says "I'm bored and I make music." B+(**)

Wendy Eisenberg: Auto (2020, Ba Da Bing): Guitarist, from Boston, past records tend to be avant/jazz, adds voice here. Some parts are basically strum and warble, but crank up the intensity and things start to break in interesting ways. B+(*) [bc]

En Attendant Ana: Juillet (2020, Trouble in Mind): French indie pop group, second album, Margaux Bouchaudon writes and sings, plays guitar and keyboards. Titles in English, although I can't follow the lyrics (or pick up stray French). Nice crunchy riffs. B+(**)

See'J Foster: HiSonGreWings (2020, self-released): Rapper, from Mobile, Alabama, dedicates this to his father, who died a year past, contemplating the hole his death left. B+(**) [bc]

Gabriel Garzón-Montano: Agüita (2020, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter born in Brooklyn, parents Colombian and French, third album since 2014. B+(*)

Dana Gavanski: Yesterday Is Gone (2020, Ba Da Bing): Canadian singer-songwriter, of Serbian descent, from Vancouver, based in Toronoto. Picks up a bit midway. B+(*)

Dana Gavanski: Wind Songs (2020, Ba Da Bing, EP): Five songs (22:59), covers, one Serbian folk, others airy ballads. B [bc]

Beverly Glenn-Copeland: Live at Le Guess Who? 2018 (2018 [2020], Transgressive): Singer-songwriter, b. 1944 in Philadelphia, father reportedly played classical piano 4 hours a day, mother sang spirituals, "one of the first black students to study at McGill University in Montreal," spent most of his life in Canada, recorded an album of electronics in 1986, "began publicly identifying as a trans man in 2002." References suggested filing under folk or jazz, but is so "beyond category" as to mock it. Plays piano, sings with operatic high notes, talks a lot. B+(***)

Goodie Mob: Survival Kit (2020, Organized Noize/Goodie Mob Worldwide): Major Atlanta hip-hop group for three 1995-98 albums, before Cee-Lo Green went solo. Reunited for a 2013 album (Age Against the Machine), and again here. They were overshadowed by OutKast in their heyday, and barely remembered today, but with a little editing this would be the perfect complement to RTJ4. A-

Conan Gray: Kid Krow (2020, Republic): Singer-songwriter, "social media personality," first album after singles and an EP, has some pop smarts, issues with alcohol, can blow things out of proportion. Choice cut: "Wish You Were Sober." B+(*)

Gunna: Wunna (2020, YSL/300): Atlanta rapper Sergio Kitchens, second album plus the Drip Season series of mixtapes. B+(*)

Juniper: Juniper (2020, self-released): Last name Shelley, 15-year-old singer-songwriter from New Jersey, draws on 1960s girl groups plus some bubblegum and a bit of cha cha ("Poke Your Eye Out"). Refreshing to hear teen music I can relate to my teens. (Well, not mine personally, but my general era.) A- [bc]

KMRU: Peel (2020, Editions Mego): Joseph Kamaru, a sound artist/producer from Nairobi. Ambient. The 15:10 opener barely engages your consciousness, but isn't bad for background. The one called "Klang" gets a bit louder, but not enough to merit the title. B+(*) [bc]

LCSM [Likwid Continual Space Motion]: Earthbound (2020, Super-Sonic Jazz): London group, seems to have existed in various guises at least since 2003, with Ian Grant (aka IG Culture) the central figure (his albums go back to 1994; he's described here as "one of the most important protagonists of the UK's broken beat jazz scene"). What we could call "jazz-funk," but never really satisfied with a groove. B+(***) [bc]

Madlib: Sound Ancestors (2021, Madlib Invazion): Otis Jackson Jr., raps a little but is more DJ/producer, with more collaborations than albums under his own name (especially recently). This time it's Kieren Hebden (Four Tet), but he just blends in. B+(*)

Maluma: Papi Juancho (2020, Sony Music Latin): Colombian reggaeton star Juan Luis Londoño Arias, fifth album since 2012, long (22 songs, 73:30). Very consistent, nothing really jumps out. B+(**)

Shawn Mendes: Wonder (2020, Island): Canadian pop star, fourth album since 2015. Awkward start, recovers, but erratic. Will have a recommendable Greatest Hits some day. Lyric I jotted down: "I'm not the type to overthink." B+(*)

Moor Mother & Billy Woods: Brass (2020, Backwoodz Studioz): Philadelphia poet Camae Ayewa, part of jazz group Irreversible Entanglements but also has a number of hip-hop moves, including this with one-half of Armand Hammer. Lot here, but didn't catch much of it. B+(**)

Nihiloxica: Kaloli (2020, Crammed Discs): Group bills itself as "Kampala's darkest electro-percussion group." Billed as their "full-length debut," although they have a 26:12 eponymous EP on Nyege Nyege Tapes. B+(**)

Kassa Overall: Shades of Flu: Healthy Remixes for an Ill Moment (2020, Flu Note): Drummer, straddles hip-hop and free jazz, combines the two with this 37:24 remix of jazz tracks. Label is a play on Blue Note, down to the logo. B+(*) [bc]

Palberta: Palberta 5000 (2021, Wharf Cat): Indie rock band from New York, three women, first DIY albums (2013-14) were called My Pal Berta and Shitheads in the Ditch. Transitioning from punk to pop, not really either at the moment. B+(*)

Tayla Parx: Coping Mechanisms (2020, Taylamade): Pop/r&b singer, given name Parks, second album. B+(*)

Penya Na Msafiri Zawose: Penya Safari E.P. (2020, On the Corner): UK group, linked to Tanzania at least through vocalist-percussionist Zawose (you may recognize the name, as the daughter of Hukwe Zawose), though on their own they slump toward more basic electronica. "E.P." in title, but runs 34:05 (7 songs). B+(*) [bc]

Real Estate: The Main Thing (2020, Domino): Indie band, originally from New Jersey, singer-guitarist Martin Courtney and bassist Alex Bleeker constants through five albums since 2009. Sweet voice, nice indie strum, very par for the course. B+(*)

Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial (2019, Atlantic): Los Angeles rapper Rodrick Moore, first album after a couple mixtapes and some singles ("The Box," included here, was a hit). B

Roshin: Unrequited (2020, self-released): From Toronto, "raps, sings and plays rudimentary keyboard lines." B+(*) [bc]

Lingo Seini Et Son Groupe: Musique Hauka (2020, Sahel Sounds): From Niger, a rare recording of Hauka ritual music -- Hauka was a fringe religious movement which developed over a century ago as resistance to French colonialism (Wikipedia "see also": Cargo cult, Ghost dance). Vocals and percussion, mostly calabash. Recent recording, I presume, but I doubt if the music has changed much in the last century. Notes say that Seini has been performing for 60 years. B+(**) [bc]

Shamir: Shamir (2020, self-released): Last name Bailey, singer-songwriter from Las Vegas suburbs, 2015 debut got some attention, but he's been self-releasing since 2017, and this is a short digital only (8 songs plus 3 short skits, 27:41). More rockish, don't get much out of the voice or synths. B

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station: The Bluest Note (2020, Tuff Kong, EP): Brooklyn rapper Skyler Taylor, albums since 2006, often with co-credited producers. Dumbo Station is a nu-jazz group from Italy, one previous album, playing rather than sampling the classic jazz riffs (notably Francesco Fratini on trumpet). Hometown tales, steady going. Six tracks, 19:52. A-

Skyzoo: Milestones (2020, Mello Music Group, EP): Seven track (24:35) "conceptual EP," recapitulating autobiography from son to father of his own son. Knows his jazz, named his son Miles, doubling the meaning of his title. Another obvious choice: rapping over "Song for My Father." With no children of my own, I'm surprised I find this so touching. A-

Stove God Cooks: Reasonable Drought (2020, The Conglomeration Entertainment): Rapper Aaron Cooks, first album, produced by Roc Marciano, who sometimes gets co-credit. B+(**)

Thick: 5 Years Behind (2020, Epitaph): Brooklyn punk trio, three women, first album after a bunch of singles/EPs, 11 songs, 27:08. B+(**)

Ty Dolla $ign: Featuring Ty Dolla $ign (2020, Atlantic): Trap rapper Tyrone Griffin, from Los Angeles, third album, major effort, doesn't return much. B

Westside Gunn: Who Made the Sunshine (2020, Griselda/Shady/Interscope): Buffalo rapper, second album (plus a mixtape) this year. Takes on God and/or the Sun in the opener, but loses me after, impressing me mostly with intensity for some unfathomable purpose. B+(*)

Matthew Wright: Locked Hybrids (2020, Relative Pitch): British composer, I guess, perhaps more like a jazz DJ, creates "sound installations" with turntables and electronics, figure this as his quarantine project, working with archived samples of Evan Parker, Toma Gouband, and Mark Nauseef, dating from 2018. Can't say as he really makes much of them. B [bc]

YoungBoy Never Broke Again: Top (2020, Never Broke Again/Atlantic): Rapper Kentrell Gaulden, second album, came out before he turned 21. I'm struck by how cramped this feels, and how little I can follow. B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Birds of Prey: The Album ([2020], Atlantic): Dubbed a "candy-colored, R-rated new entry in the DC Extended Universe" -- more a conceptually-aligned side-project than a soundtrack, especially since the movie Birds of Prey has its own "Original Motion Picture Score." Fifteen sharp-edged pop tunes by women, only four household names chez moi (Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Halsey, Summer Walker; ok, I've also heard of K.Flay and Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Does it a few high points. B+(***)

Billy Brooks: Windows of the World (1974 [2002], WeWantSounds): Trumpet player (1926-2002), played for Lionel Hampton, recorded this one album under his own name, a big band Ray Charles co-produced and released on his Crossover Records. Lasting impact was a sample A Tribe Called Quest lifted. Best forgotten: flute with horn blasts. B- [bc]

Beverly Glenn-Copeland: Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland (1970-2019 [2020], Transgressive): Scattered picks from "her" eponymous debut through "his" latest live outings (repeating "Deep River" from Live at Le Guess Who? 2018). The gospel electronica of "A Little Talk" is a favorite, followed by stronger rhythm tracks, but the album is interesting in all sorts of ways. A- [bc]

Honey Radar: Sing the Snow Away: The Chunklet Years (2015-18 [2020], Chunklet Industries): Jason Henn's alt/indie group dates back to 2008, starting in Indiana and winding up in Philadelphia, along the way throwing some lo-fi singles out on this Atlanta label. B+(**)

Portals: A Kosmische Journey Through Outer Worlds and Inner Space ([2020], Behind the Sky): Thirteen artists, mostly 5-minute chunks, working with analog synths for a retro space vibe, with a "Berlin-school" influence. Presumably recent music, although some of the artists (Ian Boddy, Steve Roach) go back to the 1980s. B+(***) [bc]

Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin' 1965-1976 (1965-76 [2021], Light in the Attic): Frank Sinatra's daughter, 25 when she scored her iconic hit ("These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"), 80 last week when she made the news for saying something intemperate about Donald Trump (her father was famously liberal until he switched rat packs to pal around with Spiro Agnew). Her only other bit hit was a duet with Dad, skipped here, focusing on songs with Lee Hazlewood (mostly writing/producing, but some duets; label has reissued a lot by Hazlewood). Bag gets mixed over time -- more his fault than hers. Low point: "Arkansas Coal" ("so this is how it feels to be dead"). B+(**)

Southeast of Saturn: Michigan Shoegaze/Dream Pop/Space Rock (1990s [2020], Third Man): Obscure bands, which seems about right for this kind of anonymous drone. B+(*)

Voz Di Sanicolau: Fundo De Marê Palinha (1976 [2020], Analog Africa, EP): Short album (6 tracks, 18:39) recorded in Rotterdam by Cabo Verdean emigrés. B+(**) [bc]

Mike Westbrook: Love and Understanding: Citadel/Room 315 Sweden '74 (1974 [2020], My Only Desire): British pianist, ambitious composer, a Penguin Guide favorite I've heard very little from. Commissioned by Sveriges Radio, played by their big band -- most famous: Arne Domnérus (alto sax/clarinet), Jan Allen (trumpet/alto horn) and Bengt Hallberg (piano) -- with Westbrook on electric piano and John Surman on his usual reeds. High point is the 14:40 "Pastorale." A- [bc]

Old music:

Beverly Glenn-Copeland: Keyboard Fantasies (1986, Atlast): Six minimalist compositions played on a Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer and a Roland TR-707 Rhythm Composer, fetching in their simplicity, plus voice, which is an acquired taste. B+(**) [bc]

Playboy Tre and DJ Swatts: Goodbye America: Da Story of a Drunk Loner (2008, Last Call Entertainment): Saw this on a 2013 list of "The Five Best Atlanta Hip-Hop Albums of All Time," topped by OutKast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, and Bubba Sparxxx, the only one I had never heard of. Still surprised to find that neither AMG nor Discogs lists this (at least under "Playboy Tre"), while Wikipedia redirects me to B.o.B. -- someone else, linked by the production group HamSquad and the occasional shout outs. This rapper Clarence Montgomery III, from Decatur, Georgia, formerly dba Y.B.M., for all I know may be calling himself something else these days. Sloppy mixtape, with enough brilliant runs to mark it as a cult classic. But he was already selling his future short. As he put it: "Cause, you know, I like to get fucked up." A-

Playboy Tre: Liquor Store Mascot (2009, Playboy Music): Banner across top proclaims: "DJ Swatts and Ham Squad Present." The beats get you going, but the interludes work too, and the star has an appealing delivery. Too much alcohol, but "Remember Me" will sober you up. Epitaph: "the breaks won't come for you." A-

SK Kakraba: Songs of Paapieye (2015, Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Ghana, plays gyil, a "xylophone made of 14 wooden slats strung across calabash gourd resonators." Label specializes in reissues, as its name claims, but Kakraba moved to Los Angeles, and this seems to be a recent recording. B+(**) [bc]


Unpacking: Sorry, I haven't gotten around to listing the half-dozen or so CDs I received in the mail last week