The Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2018

Initial draft collected on Nov. 19, 2018. The file will be updated as additional worthy records are found (although updating may lag behind the official 2018 list). Last year's list was never frozen (OK, let's say it was frozen on Nov. 19, 2018). There also exists a parallel list of The Best Jazz of 2018.

Note: numbering of lists (aside from A/A-) is only temporary, to make it easier for me to tally up stats.

[*] indicates that I reviewed this on the basis of an advance, often a CDR copy (a good thing, I might add, for vinyl-only releases). [**] identifies a record that I've only heard via download or through a streaming service like Napster.

For all lists, I've included 2017 (and in rare cases earlier) records that I discovered after last year's freeze date, but I've only included such records if they were so little known that they received less than five points in the 2017 metacritic file. These are marked, e.g., -17, after the label.

New Music

1. The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex)
Dutch group, career approximately parallels the Mekons starting from similar postpunk and politics, but where the Mekons dabbled with country, the Ex took an interest in jazz and Africa. Still, Arnold de Boer's vocals retain their punk bark, and drummer Katherina Bornefeld is as welcome a change of pace as Moe Tucker. As for the guitarists, they've never before cranked out such driving thrash -- even when they were trying to drown out Ken Vandermark in Lean Left. Can't say much for the words yet, but they've always been right on. [**]

2. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
Soul singer, cut an album for Motown in 1982, a second album in 1991, a third in 2000 in Europe where she finally started to find some traction. Did an album of Brit Rock songs in 2010 which seemed like a waste, but turned to Dylan here, much more impressively. Probably helps that she steers away from songs you recognize -- mostly from the '80s, I gather. Gives them more charge and depth than Dylan ever did. **

3. Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (The Last Music Company)
A veteran of Jim Kweskin's 1960s Jug Band, went on to a duo with husband Geoff, then a solo act, starting with one of my favorite early-1970s singles -- seemed like a one-shot, but over the 1980s and 1990s the blues saved her bacon, and she struck gold with a Memphis Minnie tribute in 2001, Richland Woman Blues. She's traded in sex for some time now, but one can imagine her saving Barker for her 70s. Backed by Dave Torkanowsky's hot dixieland band, suggested by Barker's New Orleans roots if not by her music. **

4. Shopping: The Official Body (FatCat)
British post-punk band, third album, Rachel Aggs plays guitar and sings, bassist and drummer also sing some. Songs are tight, clean, have a rhythm and tone similar to that of such classic post-punk bands as Wire, Gang of Four, and Joy Division. That's pretty good. **

5. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy)
Third album, continuing her evolution from dancing android to flesh and blood pop star, conscious enough to opine that "everything is sex, except sex is power." Her funk channels Prince rather than George Clinton and James Brown, so it slides off the one, aiming for something more slippery. **

6. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys (Southern Domestic)
Possibly the best singer-songwriter in America for the decade 1996-2005, a period bracketed by two A records (Diary of a Mod Housewife and Little Fugitive, nothing much lower in between. Then she married Eric Goulden (aka Wreckless Eric) and cut three duo albums with him -- two better than anything he'd done before. First solo album in 13 years, doesn't rank with her best but at least four songs make me want to come back, everything else I enjoy -- her voice, of course, but also some of the hardest guitar she's ever employed. **

7. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut (Drag City)
Noise pop duo, guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Allen Spunt, fifth album, everything they've done so far makes a strong impression, although none of it has stuck with me. Every time I've played this album I've heard non-obvious echoes of a Go-Betweens song. One thing I'm sure of is that I'll never play anything else and find it reminds me of No Age. Still, the sound here moves way beyond noise, with an undeniable vitality. After three plays I enjoy every moment of it. But after three days I doubt I'll remember any of it. **

8. Lori McKenna: The Tree (CN/Thirty Tigers)
Singer-songwriter, folk division, with possibly the clearest, most immediately appealing batch of songs in a twenty-year career. Does tail off a bit toward the end. **

9. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)
Previously the most consistent Velvets-rooted alt/indie band in the land, here they try to mix things up to sometimes odd effect, not least by employing Dangermouse as producer. Still, half or more of the songs come through as loud and clear as anything this year. Not impossible that deeper exposure will tie up the rough edges. **

10. Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing (Legacy)
New songs, working harder to prove he ain't dead yet than he has in quite some time. Gives him a new perspective on life. **

11. Jean Grae & Quelle Chris: Everything's Fine (Mello Music Group)
Rap duo, Tsidi Ibrahim (daughter of Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima Bea Benjamin) and Gavin Tennille -- reports are they are engaged or married. Underground beats, often recycling to the title refrain. More his raps than hers, but his sly offhand delivery has never been better framed. **

12. Czarface/MF Doom: Czarface Meets Metal Face (Silver Age)
The former originally a 2013 album by 7L & Esoteric (George Andrinopoulos and Seamus Ryan, 7 albums 1999-2010) and Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck, now joined into a "supergroup," now with four subsequent albums. Needless to say, their comic book/underground rap fusion was right up Doom's alley -- indeed, MF stands for "Metal Face." Of course, I'm not properly following the plot, but even at my superficial level this is great fun. **

13. Mary Gauthier: Rifles & Rosary Beads (In the Black)
Folk singer, has some good records under her belt, co-wrote these songs with veterans and spouses with their peculiar experiences and their usual rationalizations for their "service" -- no jingoism here let alone bloodlust, nothing that challenges my anti-military instincts, but I come away with little interest or empathy, no matter how remarkable the social realism. [PS: On further reflection, I was a bit harsh. The multiple writers make this less consistent than Becky Warren's War Surplus, but diversity has its merits and charms.] **

14. Kali Uchis: Isolation (Virgin EMI)
Pop singer, born in Colombia but raised in Virginia, real name Karly Loaiza, her stage name seems to have been a childhood nickname. First album after a mixtape. Doesn't really fit under any of the assigned genres (hip hop, Latin, funk/soul; I've also seen bossa nova, reggaeton, and trip hop mentioned). Joe Levy tried "vintage and futuristic." Not especially glitzy, but it does grow on you, not like anything you'd expect, but still cozy comfortable. **

15. Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (Mobile Home)
Tom Shimura, Bay Area rapper, tenth album, quite possibly the biggest big beat anywhere, explodes on the first cut, delivers an even bigger band on the second. Not sure I approve of the glosses on James Brown and the Rolling Stones, but they sure are glossy. Nor do I care to wallow in the cancer story, but they all sort of work out in the end. **

16. Riton + Kah-Lo: Foreign Ororo (Riton Time)
British DJ, Henry Smithson, started recording in 1999 but first time I've bumped into his, the breakthrough here the addition of Nigerian singer-rapper (songwriter?) Faridah Seriki. Beats skew toward grime, accent too but a bit less, starts with a hit and pads it out superbly. **

17. Becky Warren: Undesirable (self-released)
Nashville singer-songwriter, second album after 2016's excellent War Surplus. This lacks that album's overarching concept, but extends its sensibility. Rocks harder, too. Occasionally reminds me of Lucinda Williams. **

18. Rolling Blackouts C.F.: Hope Downs (Sub Pop)
Australian guitar band, from Melbourne, released a couple of widely praised EPs, picked up by influential alt/indie label Sub Pop, with this their first LP. Their guitar jangle is mesmerizing, with faint echoes of the Go-Betweens, and the lyrics I notice smart (though not as touching). Still, impressive. **

19. Kate Nash: Yesterday Was Forever (Girl Gang)
English singer-songwriter, also acts, which kept her busy the last five years, between albums three and four. This one seems more scattered, but all four are terrific. **

20. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Downey to Lubbock (Yep Roc)
Two aging and never more than marginal stars in the alt-Americana niche -- though from my vantage point each has a half-dozen essential albums, especially if you factor in former groups, the Blasters and the Flatlanders -- trying to prop each other up, stretching two new Alvin songs out with mostly obscure covers -- the few you readily recognize seem most desperate, but great songs out in the end. Especially when sung by great voices, and bolstered by a lot of guitar. **

21. Laurie Anderson/Kronos Quartet: Landfall (Nonesuch)
Audio for some form of visual presentation, Anderson's usual work mode, reportedly linked to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Music seems less expansive than her best, the string quartet as much anchor as vehicle. Would be neither here nor there but for the spoken word, which is fascinating even at its most elliptical. **

22. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy)
First record of new songs since 2005's Fair and Square, with its pointed anti-Bush songs. Still, no (even oblique) mention of Trump this time: just a batch of scrimpy songs about love and death, mostly the latter. He practically looks dead on the cover, and his throat-cancer-damaged voice has deteriorated even further, making this hard to listen to at first. Still, you get used to all that, and start noticing his little tics of wit. By the end, he's in heaven, and rather than mourning you're wishing you could come along for the ride. **

23. Confidence Man: Confident Music for Confident People (Heavenly)
Dance pop quartet, fronted by a man and woman in white with pseudonyms, backed by two people totally in black, faces hidden behind hoods. Don't know where they're from -- one source says Missoula, MT, another Melbourne down under, their label website only showing UK dates. Reminds me of various things, especially from 1980s new wave disco, which doesn't offer great promise for future efforts, but for now those are all things I enjoy, and there's something to be said for living in the moment. **

24. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel (RCA Nashville)
Country supergroup, although only Miranda Lambert was well known before their 2011 debut. Group went on hiatus after their 2013 album, with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley as well as Lambert releasing pretty good solo albums. Still, this is a group effort, with nearly all songs jointly credited. **

25. Anderson .Paak: Oxnard (Aftermath/12 Tone Music)
Working his way up the California coastline, perhaps on his way to Big Sur to complete his transformation into hippiedom (or underground literary renown). I haven't sorted this all out -- doubt I ever will -- but it's as fetching as his previous one. **

26. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher (Deckdisc)
Brazilian samba singer, discography goes back to 1960 although I didn't notice her until 2016's A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo). The back catalog may be worth a trawl, but moving forward, at 80 she's clearly not intent on fitting into anyone else's genre. Raps some, rocks more. **

27. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)
Scottish trio, two black (one born in Liberia, the other second generation from Nigeria). I initially filed them as hip-hop, but they sing more than rap. I never warmed to their two previous albums or two earlier mixtapes, but this is pretty solid all around and not much like anything else. **

28. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic)
Rapper Belcalis Almanzar, first album after two Gangsta Bitch Music mixtapes and a chart-topping single, "Bodak Yellow," that won last year's Pazz & Jop song category. Big investment here: scads of songwriters, producers, guests, yet consistent, hooky, unpredictable. **

29. Eric Church: Desperate Man (EMI Nashville)
Country singer-sonwriter, seemed headed for rock stardom a few years back, sporting one of the loudest bands in Nashville. Dials it back a bit here, giving the songs more air and resonance, leaning toward Steve Earle territory. Happy to hear more of that. **

30. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (Strut)
Youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, wound up running his legendary father's band -- fitting because he's a dead ringer, playing alto sax, singing, writing and leading irresistibly bouncy political rants. If they run shorter than his father's side-long essays, that's because he has even more to complain about, and hope for. **

31. Kyle: Light of Mine (Atlantic)
Rapper Kyle Thomas Harvey, from Ventura, CA, first studio album after a couple of mixtapes. Has a charming light touch both rapping and singing. **

32. Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba: Routes (Twelve/Eight)
Senegalese kora master, based in North Carolina, plus his American band, which does a pretty fair rendering of the deep Mande roots while adding to the leader's cosmopolitanism. He, in turn, approximates into a kinder, gentler Youssou N'Dour. **

33. The Coup: Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack (UMGRI Interscope)
Boots Riley, Oakland rapper, called his first group the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective, changing the name to the Coup in 1992. We last heard from the in 2012 on Sorry to Bother You, a title Riley recycled for his film debut this year. I don't know much about the movie ("a bananas satirical comedy about code-switching and exploitative capitalism"), but his soundtrack offers nine in-your-face pop songs, with Tune-Yards adding jangly noise to the infectious "Hey Saturday Night," Janelle Monáe adding cyborg cool to two more songs, and guest raps from Killer Mike and E-40. Short (35:46), tight, explosive. **

34. Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild! (Bloodshot)
Jerry Lee's sister is 12 years his junior, 15 years older than Fulks. She cut two albums in 1969 (one with Jerry Lee), then nothing until 1990, when she found a rockabilly market in Europe. She's been touring hard ever since, with 20+ albums up through 2015's Hard Rockin' Woman. She met Fulks in Sweden through a common publicist, and one thing led to another. I'm not finding any credits: are these old songs, or do they just sound that way? is that Linda on the piano? Either way, great fun. And while I'm a sucker for rockabilly, the change-of-pace pieces work just as well. **

35. Gift of Gab: Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! (Giftstribution Unlimited, EP)
Blackalicious rapper Timothy Parker, has solo projects going back to 1994. Six cuts, 21:16, most superb (especially "The Gentrification Song", "Aspire"). **

36. John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (Ars Spoletium)
Singer-songwriter, main instrument mandolin, which gets him filed under folk but he's studied in India, married a woman from Croatia, and recorded this one with a group in Spoletto, Italy. I'm ambivalent about the early songs -- maybe just can't pigeonhole them -- but this gets a big lift from "Checkers with My Cat," and while I haven't fully parsed it yet, "The Old Communist" is a marvelous piece of songcraft. **

37. Chromeo: Head Over Heels (Big Beat/WEA)
Dance pop duo, David Macklovitch ("Dave 1") and Patrick Gemayel (P-Thugg), from Montreal, "the only Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture," fifth album since 2004. Not sure why so many critics dismiss this as retro. I find their big beat dance grooves more fun than bubblegum. **

38. Ry Cooder: The Prodigal Son (Fantasy)
Three clever originals, the rest obscure covers, mostly blues/gospel, four by three gents known as Blind -- Willie Johnson, covering all the bases, doubles up. Took several plays to sink in, and still feels a little slick, but hardly glib. **

39. Mdou Moctar/Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar Meets Elite Beat in a Budget Dancehall (Boomarm Nation)
Only thing I know about Elite Beat is that he/it involves Jesse Munro Johnson, who also does business as Gulls. No band credits, although the sharp metallic guitar is certainly Moctar's (a Tuareg from Niger), cutting a swath through the extended keyb/drum vamps. Three "raw, unedited, live recordings" (38:12), no voices to speak of. **

40. Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (Twin, EP)
Atlanta rapper, 20, "grew up listening to Lana Del Rey, memorizing all the songs on the Rock Band video game." Looks like she has a couple of mixtapes and a bunch of singles since 2016, with this meant as a commercial ploy. Sketchy, but pretty hooky, with eight tracks adding up to 26:39. **

41. Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation (Dame Productions/Thirty Tigers)
Country singer, first claim to fame came in 1995 when she starred in a Patsy Cline tribute, but didn't follow up her superb 1998 I've Got a Right to Cry until 2011, and this is the first I've noticed in 20 years. Covers of pop obscurities, most terrific -- my pick is the doo-wop of "It's All Right (You're Just in Love)," originally by the Tams. Christgau's favorite is a rockabilly piece called "The Fool." The only one I immediately recgonized was from Sonny & Cher. Archivalism on a par with prime Ry Cooder. **

42. Lily Allen: No Shame (Parlophone)
Change of pace record after three aces -- the last two tops on my 2009 and 2014 annual lists -- eschewing the "euphoric choruses and monstrous drops" that put Sheezus over the top, aiming for more of "an audio diary." Three singles I sampled early on Napster were underwhelming, but the first official one, "Trigger Bang," is just fine. But she got help there, and indeed two other songs with feat. guests stand out. Elsewhere, takes a while to sink in that the voice in "Three" is her daughter's. And while the last two songs are catchy enough, they're vamps built on obvious clichés. I've given this a lot of time, and I'm disappointed, but I still adore her. And lately I've found myself with a couple of her songs wedged in my cranium. Only other record this month I can say that for is Between the Buttons, and it had a 50 year head start. **

43. Future: Beast Mode 2 (Epic/Freebandz)
Classified as a retail mixtape, name checks a 2015 mixtape. Low key but catchy "sing-rap blues." **

44. The Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed (Slow Things)
Reunion of the band's original 1977 lineup, with for-the-duration members Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh, plus four others (Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan, Ros Allen) -- not sure when they left, probably not far into the 1980s. Closer to their punk roots, a time when they weren't yet the great country-ish band they became in the mid-1980s, but their vintage post-punk sound hits the spot today, as does their heartfelt politics. **

45. Noname: Room 25 (self-released)
Chicago rapper Fatima Warner, "debut album" following her "debut mixtape" Telefone, which sure sounded like an album to me -- both are self-released downloads, but Telefone was the one that also came out on vinyl. This didn't make much of an impression at first, but developed notably on second spin, then trailed off a bit when the guests showed up. Barely (hopefully). **

46. Sly & Robbie Meet Nils Petter Molvaer Feat. Eivind Aarset and Vladislav Delay: Nordub (Okeh)
Risks too many cooks, although reggae's premier rhythm section usually work within the borders of the Norwegian trumpeter's jazztronica -- the main difference being the extra resonance of acoustic drums. Aarset is Molvaer's usual guitarist, so I'm not sure why he gets billing while keyboardist/producer Jan Bang doesn't -- probably because Delay's electronics seek to square the circle. **

47. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (Don Giovanni)
I think I first first ran into Kupferberg when Grove Press published a very slim book of his, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft (1966). It offered advice I could have used at the time, but as I recall wasn't all that useful. Nor was what I thought of as his sequel, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working (actually written in 1961). I probably read some of his poetry, but unlike his buddy Ed Sanders -- they formed a rock group in 1964 called the Fugs -- nothing especially memorable. Still, he was a hero to several generations of folkie-anarchists, including Lewis and his older fiddle player here, Peter Stampfel. Lewis allows himself leeway to "interpret and/or "misinterpret" Kupferberg's songs. The music palpably picks up when Kupferberg/Lewis stole it from someone talented (e.g., "I Wanna Hold Your Foot"), and the large-scale sing-alongs tidy his oeuvre up about as much as one could hope. **

Also added the following 2017 albums after freezing the 2016 year-end file:

1. Girma Bèyènè & Akalé Wubé: Éthiopiques 30: "Mistakes on Purpose" (Buda Musique)
Ethiopian, no recording dates but seems to be recent. Bèyènè plays piano and sings, somewhat talky; Akalé Wubé is a band, with sax, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums, plus some guests drop in. Their relaxed flow doesn't sound all that African, but that's just how unique they are -- and note that the horns can on occasion slip into jazzy dissonance. **

2. Anna Tivel: Small Believer (Fluff and Gravy)
Singer-songwriter from Portland, plays guitar and violin, fourth album, has a producer who spruces up the sound without clutter or distraction. A lovely album, I find myself hanging on every word. **

3. Marvin Pontiac: The Asylum Tapes (Strange and Beautiful)
Fictional artist invented by Loung Lizards saxophonist John Lurie. His back story started with birth in Mali in 1932, mother Jewish from New Rochelle, father a west African who abandoned him, grew up in Chicago playing blues harmonica, copying Little Walter; went nuts, believing he had been abducted and probed by aliens; hit and killed by a bus in 1977. Pontiac first appeared in our world when Lurie released his Greatest Hits in 2000. Not much sax here; mostly guitar and growl. Can't claim it's as good as Beefheart, but if you miss him you might welcome a kindred spirit. **

4. Youssou N'Dour: Raxas Bercy 2017 (self-released)
Not sure this even counts as a thing: a concert tape dumped out on YouTube, what in ancient times was called a bootleg and generally ignored by respectable critics, but nowadays is just data, the original source apparently the artist himself. Still, good luck trying to come up with a usable copy -- I'm not sure mine qualifies on that account either. As live N'Dour concerts go, this does live up to his stellar reputation, and I especially like the sharp attack on the drums. **

5. Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues (eOne)
Released in October, the group name shortened to note the absence of U-God (some legal issues, royalties maybe), conspicuously produced by Mathematics, pretty much universally ignored (68 at Metacritic on 13 reviews, only one EOY list appearance I've noted, and 100th place at that). I can't say I've ever been much of a fan, and indeed disliked the whole 1990s gangsta fad, but time changes everything, not least how one perceives those who haven't changed. They're old school now, their beats/samples sound great, giving their tales of drug dealing an air of literature, and their defense of black masculinity a quest for dignity and power (albeit with a whiff of sexism). **

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  1. A.A.L. (Against All Logic): 2012-2017 (Other People) **
  2. American Aquarium: Things Change (New West) **
  3. MC Paul Barman: (((Echo Chamber))) (Mello Music Group) **
  4. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop Music) **
  5. Bombino: Deran (Partisan) **
  6. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy (Matador) **
  7. The Carters: Everything Is Love (Parkwood/Roc Nation) **
  8. Rosanne Cash: She Remembers Everything (Blue Note) **
  9. Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound) **
  10. Frankie Cosmos: Vessel (Sub Pop) **
  11. CupcakKe: Ephorize (self-released) **
  12. Dream Wife: Dream Wife (Lucky Number) **
  13. Jason Eady: I Travel On (Old Guitar) **
  14. Open Mike Eagle: What Happens When I Try to Relax (Auto Reverse, EP) **
  15. Marianne Faithfull: Negative Capability (BMG) **
  16. Flatbush Zombies: Vacation in Hell (Glorious Dead) **
  17. Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jaroches de Veracruz (Smithsonian Folkways) **
  18. Hieroglyphic Being: The Red Notes (Soul Jazz) **
  19. Hinds: I Don't Run (Mom + Pop) **
  20. Jon Hopkins: Singularity (Domino) **
  21. Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance (Partisan) **
  22. The Internet: Hive Mind (Columbia) **
  23. Roy Kinsey: Blackie: A Story by Roy Kinsey (Not Normal) **
  24. Rich Krueger: NOWThen (Rockin'K Music) **
  25. Lithics: Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars) **
  26. Roc Marciano: RR2: The Bitter Dose (Marci) **
  27. Masta Ace & Marco Polo: A Breukelen Story (Fat Beats) **
  28. Shawn Mendes: Shawn Mendes (Island) **
  29. Nicki Minaj: Queen (Young Money/Cash Money) **
  30. Molly Tigre: Molly Tigre (Very Special) **
  31. Orquesta Akokán (Daptone) **
  32. Pusha T: Daytona (GOOD/Def Jam, EP) **
  33. Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore (Much Prefer)
  34. Rolo Tomassi: Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (Holy Roar) **
  35. Saba: Care for Me (Saba Pivot) **
  36. Amanda Shires: To the Sunset (Silver Knife) **
  37. Skee Mask: Compro (Ilian Tape) **
  38. Sophie: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) **
  39. Tal National: Tantabara (Fat Cat) **
  40. Tierra Whack: Whack World (UMGRI/Interscope, EP) **
  41. Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (Southern Domestic) **
  42. Wussy: What Heaven Is Like (Shake It) **

Also added the following 2016 albums after freezing the 2016 year-end file:

  1. Methodist Hospital: Giants (self-released) **
  2. Tom Zé: Sem Você Não A (Circus) **

Reissues/Historic Music

The standard for historic music is a record where everything was recorded 10+ years ago, regardless of whether it's ever been in print before. Some past lists may have treated previously unreleased music as new (regardless of actual age), but I've never been able to manage that distinction consistently. This category also includes compilations of previously released music, including straight reissues, although my selection is very erratic.

1. I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits (Piranha)
Various artists compilation from Botswana, a patch of desert between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which gives you a rough set of bearings for the music. No idea whether these pieces are new or old. More laid back than mbaqanga, not unlike the drift inland from Senegal and Nigeria to Mali. **

2. Liz Phair: Girly-Sound to Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Boxset (1991-93, Matador, 3CD)
Classic album on first disc, demo cassettes crammed into two more, and actually cheaper on CD than MP3. **

3. Professor Rhythm: Professor 3 (1991, Awesome Tapes From Africa)
From South Africa, Thami Mduli's third album, six very rhythmic tracks (28:40), reminds me of pennywhistle or township jive, some catchy instrumentals, some adding even catchier vocals. Somewhat earlier than last year's Awesome find, Bafana Bafana. **

4. Neil Young: Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live (1973, Reprise)
A live set immediately following the recording of one of Young's most extraordinary albums, one that would sit on the shelf nearly two years before its June 1975 release. Nine of the album's twelve songs appeared here, along with "Walk On" (introduced for the encore as an "old song," but was a 1974 single from On the Beach). Not sure that the live album offers anything extra, the reprise is even stronger than on the album, and I've had songs from this stuck in my head all week. **

Also added the following 2017 albums after freezing the 2017 year-end file:

1. Anna Domino: East and West + Singles (1984, Les Disques du Crépuscle)
Singer-songwriter, an army brat born in Tokyo, grew up in Ann Arbor, Firenze, and Toronto before winding up in New York and getting signed to a Belgian label. Five-cut debut, 22:55. Hard to peg. Christgau tried "hypnotic with no cosmic aspirations." CD reissue adds three increasingly catchy singles and a demo, getting us to a respectable 38:19. **

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  1. Black Panther: The Album (Music From and Inspired By) (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) **
  2. Liz Phair: The Girly-Sound Tapes (1991, Matador) **
  3. Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions (1967, Rhino) **
  4. The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You've Never Heard (1927-36, World Music Network) **
  5. A Tribe Called Quest: Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveller (1989-91, Jive/Legacy) **

Also added the following 2017 albums after freezing the 2017 year-end file:

  1. Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972, Strut) **
  2. Don Drummond: Don Cosmic (1960-65, Studio One) **


Additional new non-jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  1. 3hattrio: Lord of the Desert (Okehdokee) ** [B+(**)]
  2. 700 Bliss: Spa 700 (Halcyon Veil/Don Giovanni, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  3. Amen Dunes: Freedom (Sacred Bones) ** [B+(*)]
  4. Alice Bag: Blueprint (Don Giovanni) ** [B+(*)]
  5. Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino) ** [C+]
  6. Beach House: 7 (Sub Pop) ** [B+(**)]
  7. Berry: Everything, Compromised (Joyful Noise) ** [B-]
  8. Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce (Asylum Worldwide, EP) ** [B]
  9. Black Foxxes: Reiði (Spinefarm) ** [B]
  10. Blood Orange: Negro Swan (Domino) ** [B+(**)]
  11. The Bottle Rockets: Bit Logic (Bloodshot) ** [B+(*)]
  12. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes (Def Jam) ** [B+(**)]
  13. The Breeders: All Nerve (4AD) ** [B+(*)]
  14. Leon Bridges: Good Thing (Columbia) ** [B+(*)]
  15. Burna Boy: Outside (Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  16. Busdriver: Electricity Is on Our Side (Temporary Forever) ** [B-]
  17. David Byrne: American Utopia (Nonesuch) ** [B]
  18. Camila Cabello: Camila (Syco/Epic) ** [B+(**)]
  19. Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You (Low Country Sound/Elektra) ** [B-]
  20. Playboi Carti: Die Lit (AWGE/Interscope) ** [B+(*)]
  21. Neko Case: Hell-On (Anti-) ** [B+(*)]
  22. Cavern of Anti-Matter: Hormone Lemonade (Duophonic) ** [B+(**)]
  23. Lando Chill: Black Ego (Mello Music Group) ** [B+(*)]
  24. The Chills: Snow Bound (Fire) ** [B+(**)]
  25. Chloe x Halle: The Kids Are Alright (Parkwood/Columbia) ** [B+(**)]
  26. Chvrches: Love Is Dead (Glassnote) ** [B+(*)]
  27. Brent Cobb: Providence Canyon (Low Country Sound/Elektra) ** [B+(**)]
  28. J. Cole: KOD (Roc Nation) ** [B+(**)]
  29. Elysia Crampton (Break World, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  30. Rodney Crowell: Acoustic Classics (RC1) ** [B+(*)]
  31. Lucy Dacus: Historian (Matador) ** [B+(*)]
  32. Daphne & Celeste: Daphne & Celeste Save the World (Balatonic) ** [B]
  33. Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo: Something to Say (Shanachie) ** [B+(**)]
  34. DJ Koze: Knock Knock (Pampa) ** [B]
  35. Eminem: Kamikaze (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope) ** [B+(**)]
  36. The English Beat [Dave Wakeling]: Here We Go Love (Here We Go) ** [B-]
  37. Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  38. Fickle Friends: You Are Someone Else (Polydor) ** [B+(**)]
  39. Florence + the Machine: High as Hope (Virgin EMI) ** [B+(*)]
  40. Ezra Furman: Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union) ** [B+(**)]
  41. Billy F Gibbons: The Big Bad Blues (Concord) ** [B+(*)]
  42. Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (ESGN/Empire, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  43. Ginkgoa: One Time (self-released, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  44. The Go! Team: Semi-Circle (Memphis Industries) ** [B+(**)]
  45. Gorillaz: The Now Now (Parlophone) ** [B-]
  46. Ariana Grande: Sweetener (Republic) ** [B]
  47. Grouper: Grid of Points (Kranky, EP) ** [B]
  48. Gwenno: Le Kov (Heavenly) ** [B+(**)]
  49. Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy at the Apocalypse: Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (Saustex) ** [B+(*)]
  50. Clay Harper: Bleak Beauty (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  51. Haley Heynderickx: I Need to Start a Garden (Mama Bird) ** [B+(**)]
  52. Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (Moog Recordings Library) ** [B+(*)]
  53. Homeboy Sandman & Edan: Humble Pi (Stones Throw, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  54. Hookworms: Microshift (Domino) ** [B+(*)]
  55. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Saddle Creek) ** [B+(*)]
  56. Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop) ** [B]
  57. Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap (All Money In/Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  58. Wilko Johnson: Blow Your Mind (Chess) ** [B+(**)]
  59. Juice WRLD: Goodbye & Good Riddance (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  60. Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo (Dead Oceans) ** [B+(*)]
  61. Kids See Ghosts [Kanye West/Kid Cudi]: Kids See Ghosts (GOOD/Def Jam, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  62. Hayley Kiyoko: Expectations (Empire/Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  63. Femi Kuti: One People One World (Knitting Factory) ** [B+(*)]
  64. Rich Krueger: Life Ain't That Long (Rockink) ** [B+(**)]
  65. Ravyn Lenae: Crush (Atlantic, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  66. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (Septic Tiger) ** [B+(*)]
  67. Lykke Li: So Sad So Sexy (RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  68. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (Matador) ** [B+(*)]
  69. Ashley McBryde: Girl Going Nowhere (Warner Nashville) ** [B+(**)]
  70. Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (Capitol) ** [B-]
  71. Melody's Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage (Fat Possum) ** [B]
  72. Migos: Culture II (Quality Control/Motown/Capitol, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]
  73. MIKE: Black Soap (Lex, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  74. MIKE: Renaissance Man (Lex) ** [B+(*)]
  75. Rhett Miller: The Messenger (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  76. Parker Millsap: Other Arrangements (Okrahoma) ** [B+(*)]
  77. Father John Misty: God's Favorite Customer (Sub Pop) ** [B]
  78. Mitski: Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans) ** [B]
  79. Ashley Monroe: Sparrow (Warner Nashville) ** [B-]
  80. Rae Morris: Someone Out There (Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  81. Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco: You're Driving Me Crazy (Legacy) ** [B+(**)]
  82. Mount Eerie: Now Only (PW Elverum & Sun) ** [B+(*)]
  83. Mr. Fingers: Cerebral Hemispheres (Aleviated) ** [B+(**)]
  84. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (MCA Nashville) ** [B]
  85. Nas: Nasir (Mass Appeal/Def Jam, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  86. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism (Naïve) ** [B+(*)]
  87. Tami Neilson: Sassafrass! (Outside Music) ** [B+(**)]
  88. Willie Nelson: My Way (Legacy) ** [B+(**)]
  89. Danielle Nicole: Cry No More (Concord) ** [B+(*)]
  90. Old Crow Medicine Show: Volunteer (Columbia Nashville) ** [B+(*)]
  91. Old Man Saxon: The Pursuit (Pusher, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  92. Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (Warp) ** [B+(*)]
  93. Parliament: Medicaid Fraud Dogg (C Kunspyruhzy) ** [B]
  94. Post Malone: Beerbongs & Bentleys (Republic) ** [B+(**)]
  95. Prefuse 73: Sacrifices (Lex) ** [B]
  96. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red (Rough Trade, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  97. Charlie Puth: Voicenotes (Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  98. Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (Morphius/ReR Megacorp) ** [B+(*)]
  99. Bebe Rexha: Expectations (Warner Brothers) ** [B+(*)]
  100. Rival Consoles: Persona (Erased Tapes) ** [B+(*)]
  101. Robyn: Honey (Konichawa/Interscope) ** [B+(**)]
  102. Royce Da 5'9": Book of Ryan (EOne) ** [B+(*)]
  103. Ty Segall: Freedom's Goblin (Drag City) ** [B]
  104. Ty Segall & White Fence: Joy (Drag City) ** [B+(*)]
  105. Serpentwithfeet: Soil (Secretly Canadian) ** [B]
  106. Shame: Songs of Praise (Dead Oceans) ** [B]
  107. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Years (Bloodshot) ** [B+(*)]
  108. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: On Audiotree Live (Audiotree, EP)
  109. Paul Simon: In the Blue Light (Legacy) ** [B]
  110. Sleep: The Sciences (Third Man) ** [B+(*)]
  111. Sloan: 12 (Yep Roc) ** [B]
  112. Snail Mail: Lush (Matador) ** [B+(*)]
  113. SOB X RBE: Gangin (Empire) ** [B-]
  114. Soccer Mommy: Clean (Fat Possum) ** [B+(**)]
  115. Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse (Carpark) ** [B+(*)]
  116. Vince Staples: FM! (Def Jam, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  117. Sunflower Bean: Twentytwo in Blue (Mom + Pop) ** [B+(*)]
  118. Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive (Merge) ** [B+(**)]
  119. Superorganism: Superorganism (Domino) ** [B+(**)]
  120. Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (Joyful Noise) ** [B]
  121. Ebo Taylor: Yen Ara (Mr. Bongo) ** [B+(**)]
  122. Tracey Thorn: Record (Merge) ** [B+(**)]
  123. Tirzah: Devotion (Domino) ** [B+(**)]
  124. Sidi Touré: Toubalbero (Thrill Jockey) ** [B+(**)]
  125. Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death in Meatspace (Tropical Fuck Storm/Mistletone) ** [B+(**)]
  126. Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (4AD) ** [B]
  127. Turnstile: Time & Space (Roadrunner) ** [B+(*)]
  128. Underworld & Iggy Pop: Teatime Dub Encounters (Caroline, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  129. U.S. Girls: In a Poem Unlimited (4AD) ** [B+(**)]
  130. Colter Wall: Songs of the Plains (Young Mary's) ** [B+(**)]
  131. The Weeknd: My Dear Melancholy (XO/Republic, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  132. Kanye West: Ye (Def Jam/GOOD Music, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  133. Wye Oak: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs (Merge) ** [B+(*)]
  134. The Xcerts: Hold on to Your Heart (Raygun) ** [B]
  135. Years & Years: Palo Santo (Polydor) ** [B]

Additional reissued/archival non-jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  1. Stella Chiweshe: Kasahwa: Early Singles (1974-83 [2018], Glitterbeat) ** [B+(**)]
  2. Gene Clark: Gene Clark Sings for You (1967, Omnivore) ** [B]
  3. Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 (Free Dirt) ** [B+(**)]
  4. The Gladiators: Symbol of Reality (1982, Omnivore) ** [B+(**)]
  5. Jimi Hendrix: Both Sides of the Sky (Legacy) ** [B+(**)]
  6. Millie Jackson: Exposed: The Multi-Track Sessions Mixed by Steve Levine (1972-79, Ace) ** [B]
  7. Tommy McCook & the Agrovators: Super Star/Disco Rockers (1977, Pressure Sounds) ** [B+(**)]
  8. Prince: Piano and a Microphone 1983 (NPG/Warner Bros.) ** [B]
  9. Joe Strummer: 001 (Ignition, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]
  10. Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (1971-79, Legacy, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]

New non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them:

Reissued non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them:

  1. Courtney Marie Andrews: May Your Kindness Remain (Fat Possum/Mama Bird)
  2. Daniel Avery: Song for Alpha (Phantasy Sound/Mute)
  3. The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (Carpark)
  4. Big Ups: Two Parts Together (Exploding in Sound)
  5. Charles Bradley: Black Velvet (Dunham)
  6. Kasey Chambers: Campfire (Essence Music Group)
  7. Chicago Farmer: Quaretet Past Tonight (self-released)
  8. Christine and the Queens: Chris (Because)
  9. Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid (BMG)
  10. Deafheaven: Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (Anti-)
  11. Dessa: Chime (Doomtree)
  12. Fantastic Negrito: Please Don't Be Dead (Cooking Vinyl)
  13. The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (Wichita)