An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, September 26, 2022
Music: Current count 38768  rated (+51), 44  unrated (-0: 16 new, 28 old).
I want to keep this brief. I haven't wrapped up the September archive file (link above) yet. I also haven't caught up with last week's releases in the metacritic file. Plenty of time for that sort of thing later.
I wrote up another big Speaking of Which yesterday. I picked up a couple links as far back as last Tuesday, but didn't write much of anything until Saturday. In between, I worked some on a future Book Roundup post, which I had hopes for last week but couldn't pull together in time. For what little it's worth, I developed a new scratch file to work in until I get enough material for a real post. No problem sharing the link, but I don't know how useful it will be (for you, although the jury is still out on how well it works for me).
I got some tips for this week's music from Chuck Eddy's Best Albums of 2022 So Far list, including an A- rapper I had never heard of. Christian Iszchak published a similar list. I spent less time with it, because I was already much more in tune with it -- I have 32 of 50 albums at A- or higher, 9 more at B+(***), only 1 as low as B, the last unrated belatedly added to today's list.
The Britney Spears dive was occasioned by a question to last week's Xgau Sez.
Pharoah Sanders died last week. I don't have much to say at this point, but my grade list is here. While there are good albums early and late -- in between was a struggle for most jazz musicians -- my favorite is 1990's Welcome to Love, which I've long regarded as the most gorgeous saxophone record ever recorded. Here are some obituaries: Andy Cush (Pitchfork); Andrew Flanagan/Nate Chinen (NPR); Jon Parles (New York Times).
Three more death to note way too briefly: Hillary Mantel (one of my wife's favorite writers); Anton Fier (drummer for Golden Palominos and other groups); Richard Cobeen (a music teacher and friend of friends). Also note that Dorothy Billings' memorial is this week.
Got a new dishwasher installed this week. I was surprised at how painful the whole process was: how hard it was to compare shopping information, how difficult to deal with dealers, how messy the whole delivery and installation process got. I'm not happy either with my choice or with the install (although not really the fault of the guy who did it). I've installed my own before, but decided to save myself some pain. If I ever do feel better, maybe I'll pull it out and redo it right, but for now it works ok. I used to pride myself as a smart shopper, but I'm on an extended losing streak.
Upgraded one computer to Ubuntu 22.04 last week with no issues, then finally did my main writing computer last night. Big problems. They lost my Firefox data (history, bookmarks, passwords, settings). Also broke my web server. Both problems are fixed now, but it took quite a bit of digging, config file editing, and shell programming to get it fixed. One reason I'm rushing to get this out.
New records reviewed this week:
Ingrid Andress: Good Person (2022, Warner Music Nashville/Atlantic): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Colorado, studied at Berklee, second album. B+(*) [sp]
Linda Ayupuka: God Created Everything (2022, Mais Um Discos): Singer from Ghana, first album, "the future of fra fra music." Voices over beats, of varying intensity. B+(**) [sp]
Sasha Berliner: Onyx (2022, self-released): Vibraphonist, second album, backed by James Francies (keyboards), Burniss Travis (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums), with guests Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Julius Rodriguez (synths), and Thana Alexa (vocals). B+(**) [bc]
The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (2022, Carpark): Indie pop band from New Zealand, Elizabeth Stokes the singer and rhythm guitarist, Jonathan Pearce the lead guitarist. Third album, jumps out fast. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Broom: Keyed Up (2021 , Steele): Guitarist, debut album 1981, does a pretty fair Wes Montgomery impression. Quartet with piano/organ (Justin Dillard), bass (Dennis Carroll), and drums (co-producer Kobie Watkins). Makes it look easy. B+(**) [cd]
Butcher Brown: Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey (2022, Concord Jazz): Jazz quintet from Richmond, Virginia; albums since 2013 veer between punk and funk with a Fela tribute on the side, but mostly this one, featuring MC and multi-instrumentalist Tennishu, goes for hip-hop. B+(*) [sp]
Cšthe: Chill Out Punk (2022, Tršum Weiter!): German singer-songwriter, last nameSieland, fourth studio album since 2011. Light electropop, or perhaps deeper if I could decipher more than the occasional word, but definitely a chill album, and no, not punk. B+(***) [sp]
Cave In: Heavy Pendulum (2022, Relapse): Metalcore band from Massachusetts, debut 1998, a couple of their early releases wound up in my database but I never heard them until this showed up as the highest rated unheard album this year (tied for 150 on my list). Only their 7th studio album: they had a hiatus between their 2005 and 2011 releases, and didn't follow the latter up until 2019. Gruff vocals, more tolerable than the usual metal thrash, but awful long. B-
Raven Chacon/Tatsuya Nakatini/Carlos Santistevan: Inhale/Exhale (2020 , Other Minds): Trio from New Mexico: guitar, percussion, bass, with electronics, live improvs on two side-long pieces (39:10 total). B+(*) [sp]
The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (2022, Impulse!): British fusion group, third or fourth album since 2016, with King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) on tenor sax, Danalogue (Dan Leavers) on keyboards, and Betamax (Maxwell Hallett) on drums. B+(**) [sp]
Deca: Smoking Gun (2022, Coalmine): New York rapper Matthew Kenney, 10th album since 2004, delivery reminds me of Buck 65, beats too, guest spots for Blu and Homeboy Sandman. A- [sp]
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Finding Light (2022, Ridgeway): Bassist, albums since 2012, divided songwriting with guitarist Pilon 6-4, with Blade on drums. Tends toward ambient. B+(*) [cd]
DJ Travella: Mr Mixondo (2022, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Nineteen-year-old singeli producer from Tanzania: hip-hop beats, but faster. B+(*)
Djo: Joe Keery (2022, Awal): Joe Keery, better known as an actor (Stranger Things, since 2016), started in the band Post Animal, second solo album. B [sp]
Edoheart: Pandemonium (2022, Edoheart, EP): Esohe Arhebamen, from Nigeria, family moved to Detroit when she was seven, alias honors the Edo people of Nigeria, has studied the butoh dance of Japan, choreographed, published books of poetry, and released close to 10 albums and EPs. This one runs five tracks, 17:24, a star burst of ideas. B+(**) [sp]
El Khat: Albat Alawi Op. 99 (2022, Glitterbeat): Tel Aviv group, varied backgrounds (Iraq, Poland, Morocco, Yemen), named for a social drug common in Yemen, which "provides a feeling that promotes community and relaxation." B+(*) [sp]
Emperor X: The Lakes of Zones B and C (2022, Dreams of Field): Singer-songwriter Chad Metheny, originally from Florida, based in Berlin, debut 1998 but I didn't notice him until 2011's Western Teleport. I've been impressed with most of his work, but don't seem to be latching onto much here, even though the song titles are interesting, and the music is forthright. B+(**) [sp]
Alex G: God Save the Animals (2022, Domino): Singer-songwriter Alex Giannascoli, fourth album on this indie label after as many self-released efforts, going back to 2010. B
Noah Garabedian: Consider the Stars Beneath Us (2022, Outside In Music): Bassist, has a previous record or two, wrote everything here, played by Dayna Sephens (tenor/soprano sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), and Jimy Macbride (drums), with producer Samuel Adams credited for "effects, programming, additional recording, Moog Minitaur, Juno JU-06A." B+(***) [cd]
Connie Han: Secrets of Inanna (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, fourth album, trio with John Patitucci (bass) and Bill Wysaske (drums), plus spots for Rich Perry (tenor sax) and Katisse Buckingham (flute/piccolo). B+(*) [sp]
Jasper HÝiby/Planet B: What It Means to Be Human (2021 , Edition): Danish bassist, several albums, this is second of a promised four albums, starting with 2020's excellent Planet B, same trio with Josh Arcoleo (sax) and Marc Michel (drums). The bass is the pulse of life, the sax an adventure, the drums play off that. Includes spoken word texts from Grace Lee Boggs, Ruby Sales, and Jane Goodall. A- [sp]
Jon Irabagon: Rising Sun (2021 , Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, Filipino roots, first noticed in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, won a Monk Prize (which got him a record on Concord, where he had to make nice and delivered a pretty good one anyway). Hit and miss in his solo work. Composed this (only cover is "Bebop") during an extended family roadtrip through the upper mountain states, and recorded it with a stellar quartet -- Matt Mitchell, Chris Lightcap, and Dan Weiss -- with guest spots for Miles Okazaki (guitar) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). B+(***) [bc]
Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (2022, Verve): Jazz singer, grew up in the Bronx, second album, still 22. Credits hard to come by, but guitarist Pasquale Grasso is featured on three songs, backed by Ben Paterson (piano), David Wong (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). Mix of standards and jazz tunes she's written vocalese lyrics to. B+(**) [sp]
Julian Lage: View With a Room (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, I count nine albums on mid-to-major labels, including his 2009 debut. Trio returns with Jorge Roeder (bass) and Dave King (drums), plus second guitarist Bill Frisell. B+(**) [sp]
Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: Counterfeit Mars (2021 , Relative Pitch): Saxophone (tenor/soprano) and drums duo, something they've done a lot of since the pandemic locked them down. B+(***) [bc]
Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer: OM 50 (2022, Intakt): Avant-fusion band (soprano sax, guitar, bass, drums), founded 50 years ago, released 5 albums 1975-80 -- their 2006 A Retrospective is a good sampler -- got back together for a live album in 2010, another in 2020, then this shortly before the drummer died. Too many spots where they lay back, but most are rewarded with outstanding returns. B+(***) [sp]
James Brandon Lewis Quartet: MSM Molecular Systematic Music Live (2021 , Intakt, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, swept last year's Jazz Critics Poll with his Red Lily Quintet album Jesup Wagon, building on a streak of superb albums going back to 2014 (Divine Travels, on Okeh). This live set expands on his 2020 Quartet album Molecular -- with AruŠn Ortiz (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- reprising 9 (of 11) songs, stretch to 89:48. B+(***) [sp]
Charles Lloyd: Trios: Ocean (2020 , Blue Note): Second of three trio albums, following Trios: Chapel earlier this year, with a box set scheduled for November 18 collecting all three. This one has the tenor saxophonist backed by piano (Gerald Clayton) and drums (Anthony Wilson), with Lloyd also playing a fair amount of flute. B+(**) [sp]
Marilyn Mazur's Shamania: Rerooting (2022, Clap Your Hands): Percussionist, born in US but family moved to Denmark when she was six, albums since 1984, including Shamania in 2019. Josefine Cronholm and Sissel Vera Petterson sing -- latter also plays alto sax, with Lotte Anker on tenor sax, plus trumpet, trombone, keyboards, electric bass, and two more percussionists. B+(**) [cd]
Makaya McCraven: In These Times (2022, International Anthem): Chicago-based second-generation drummer, mother a Hungarian folk singer (he includes one of her songs here), albums since 2012 including some crossover potential -- this one is distributed by XL in Europe, and Nonesuch in the US. Long credits list, which doesn't qualify as a big band but provides even more textural and rhythmic options. Unfortunately, that's basically all he has, but it makes for a swell ride, as long as it lasts. B+(**) [sp]
Cario Mombelli: Lullaby for Planet Earth (2021 , Clap Your Hands): From South Africa, plays electric bass, voice credit threw me as there's not much of that. Has a record with Charlie Mariano from 1990. Otherwise, discography picks up in 2014. This was recorded in Basel with Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitar and Jorge Rossy on drums and vibraphone. Atmospherics, light and airy. B+(***) [cd]
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 14: Henry Franklin (2022, Jazz Is Dead): The producers continue their tongue-in-cheek series featuring (mostly) forgotten figures of the decade jazz came closest to dying: the 1970s. Franklin is a bassist who released three obscure albums in the 1970s (the first two on Black Jazz), then struggled to find an outlet until 2000. Eight tracks with 7-9 musicians each, total 31:06. B+(*) [sp]
No Age: People Helping People (2022, Drag City): Indie rock duo, Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt, have an impressive string of albums since 2007. This one flies a bit under the radar. B+(**) [sp]
Oriental Brothers International Band: Oku Ngwo Di Ochi (2022, Palenque): Nigerian highlife band, founded in 1973, working under various names, sometimes featuring vocalist Dr. Sir Warrior or guitarist Godwin "Kabaka" Opara, neither of whom are still around for this new recordings (their first in 20 years). But the current crew, including band leader Ferdinand Dansatch Opara, have earned the right to keep this marvelous band name going. A- [bc]
Chris Pitsiokis: Art of the Alto (2022, Relative Pitch): Alto saxophonist, has produced quite a bit since 2012, including his group CP Unit. This one is solo, second time he's done that. First impression is that this is as good/bad/unlistenable as Anthony Braxton's For Alto. But ultimately it's a bit more varied, which helps. B+(*) [bc]
Shawn Purcell: 180 (2022, Origin): Guitarist, from Pittsburgh, based in DC region, spent eight years in Airmen of Note, teaches at George Mason. Basically an organ trio, with Pat Bianchi and Jason Tiemann, plus trombone on one track, vocals (Darden Purcell) on three. B [cd]
Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Long Gone (2022, Nonesuch): Supergroup (tenor sax, piano, bass, drums), all four established themselves as leaders in the 1990s, came together for the well-regarded 2020 album Round Again. B+(***) [sp]
Sampa the Great: As Above, So Below (2022, Loma Vista): Rapper Sampa Tembo, from Zambia, raised in Botswana, based in Australia after she turned 20. Second album (after two mixtapes). B+(**) [sp]
Rina Sawayama: Hold the Girl (2022, Dirty Hit): Pop singer, born in Japan, moved to London at age five, got a degree at Cambridge in political science, has worked as a model and actress. Twenty singles, but this is just her second album. I didn't like her earlier work, possibly sounded too metal, but this at best sounds like '90s Madonna, and there's something to even the most overwrought ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Suede: Autofiction (2022, BMG): Britpop group, first four albums (1993-99) were big hits in UK, three later albums (2013-18) returned to top ten there. For most of this time, they were known as London Suede in the US, but that seems not a problem this time. Music seems framed for the arena: big and heavy. B [sp]
Two Shell: Home (2022, Mainframe Audio, EP): British electronica duo, from London, eight releases since 2019, mostly EPs, which is how this one is billed, but at 5 tracks, 33:03 it could be an album. But it seems to slip by awful fast. B+(*) [sp]
Will Vinson: Tripwire (2021 , Whirlwind): British alto saxophonist, based in New York, dozen-plus albums since 2004, this a trio with Matt Penman (bass) and Eric Harland (drums), plus guest Melissa Aldana (tenor sax) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]
Katharina Weber: In Marta's Garden: Piano Solo (2022, Intakt): Swiss pianist, has a 2001 duo credit, a previous 2008 solo album, more albums since. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Suzi Analogue: Infinite Zonez (2016-19 , Disciples): Hip-hop/electronica producer, compiled this from four Zonez volumes. B+(*) [sp]
John Ondolo: Hypnotic Guitar of John Ondolo (1961-68 , Mississippi): Tanzanian singer-songwriter, frequented the Kenyan scene in Nairobi, played guitar, a member of Vijana Jazz Band. This collects early singles. Feels primitive, but is still very beguiling. A- [bc]
Celestine Ukwu and His Philosophers National: No Condition Is Permanent (1971-74 , Mississippi): Nigerian (Igbo) highlife singer (1940-77) and bandleader, recorded a half-dozen albums with this group (1971-76). Five tracks (32:57), selected from singles and albums. Loses a bit when they slow it down, but the closer ("Tomorrow Is So Uncertain") is especially lovely. B+(***) [bc]
The Dils: Class War (1977-80 , Bacchus Archives): Los Angeles punk band, released two singles in 1977 ("I Hate the Rich"/"You're Not Blank" and "Class War"/"Mr. Big"), and three more songs in 1980, with a 10-track live album appearing in 1990, all combined here. Two members went on to the country-rock Rank and File. The singles are notably political, and they display some embryonic tunecraft. B+(*) [sp]
Highlights From the Mercury Blues 'n' Rhythm Story (1945-55 , Mercury/Chronicles): Single-CD sampler from the 8-CD box, 20 tracks. Cuts way back on the redundancy with only one song per artist, but plenty to go around. I suspect I could pick an alternate I'd like even more, but this does the job. A-
Nova Twins: Nova Twins EP (2016, Robotunes): British funk-metal duo, Amy Love and Georgia South, 5-song debut (15:03), start out closer to hip-hop but with heavier bass lines. I recommend their two subsequent full-length albums, but this should get you going. A- [sp]
Britney Spears: . . . Baby One More Time (1998 , Jive): Teen pop princess, cast in The Mickey Mouse Club at 11, signed a record deal at 15, released this debut album at 17, looking pert and wholesome on the cover, last time you could say that. Sold 25 million copies: her most ever, although the next one came close (20 million). Front-loaded. The ballad "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" seemed like a fall, but turned out to be catchy enough. B+(**)
Britney Spears: Britney (2001, Jive): Third album, another big seller (10 million), seems to have found her sound here, compressed with a staccato beat. B+(***)
Britney Spears: Circus (2008, Jive): Sixth album, after In the Zone (B) and Blackout (high B+), which this outsold 4 million to 3.1. Her ballad is a bust, but the dance beats are tight, even if there's little to distinguish the songs. B+(*)
Britney Spears: The Essential Britney Spears (1998-2012 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD): Seven albums in -- Britney Jean came out later and contributed nothing here -- so less to choose two discs (33 songs) from than the single disc (14 songs) Greatest Hits from 2004. But as she grew out of teendom, she got dirtier, and her beats got denser, so while she never came up with a particularly interesting pop persona, her records got better even as the individual songs grew less memorable. Her early phase end 9 songs in with "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The rest is consistenty enjoyable, although I could say the same for 2011's Femme Fatale (4 songs here), or for that matter 2016's Glory (her last album before her neuroses and conservatorship put her out of commission). A-
Britney Spears: Britney Jean (2013, RCA): Still charting high (although topping out at 4 was her lowest ever), but the raw sales have collapsed (as was happening throughout the industry). She describes this as her most personal album, and indeed has a piece of all the songwriting credits, but also a lot of help. B
Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
Neptune Power Federation: Le Demon De L'Amour (2022, Cruz Del Sur): Australian fuzz metal band since 2012, singer Lauren Friedman (aka Screaming Loz Sutch), have a drummer who goes by Mr Styx. - [yt]
Grade (or other) changes:
Britney Spears: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (1998-2004 , Jive/Zomba): Premature: compiled after four albums, baited with two new singles: the title cut (a Bobby Brown cover) is sharper than all but a couple of her own hits, which oddly seems to diminish them. [was: B] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: