January 2005 Notebook


Monday, January 31, 2005

Today would have been my mother's 92nd birthday. She died almost five years ago, which makes this about the fifth anniversary of the last time I cooked a substantial meal for her. I remember cooking what I think of as my standard Chinese menu: Szechuan fried chicken, dry fried string beans, strange flavor eggplant, ham & egg fried rice. I was a bit disappointed when, a couple of months later, we took her out to a Chinese buffet and she proclaimed it the best food she'd ever had. I assure you, I cook better than the buffet, but by then pleasures were so few and far between that I figure she just got carried away. Don't think she was losing her marbles. (I remember wondering about that once, when I came home from a trip, woke her up, and she was babbling incoherently about a bad wreck George Jones had. Turned out she just hadn't put her teeth in.)

My father was already ill at the time of the dinner, although we didn't yet know with what. He missed that dinner, declined rapidly after that, and died in March 2000. Mom died in June, less than a year after we moved to Kansas to be closer to them. I lost my SCO job in September, and have been floundering ever since -- thinking first about starting a business, then doing more writing, then . . . well, it's now now, and not much has changed. My mother drove me crazy, but she motivated me in ways no one else ever has, and I've never bothered to develop my own drive and discipline -- so while I spend hours and hours sort-of working it seems like I never get anything done. Dumbass thing for a guy in his mid-50s to say, but that about sums it up.

Made dinner for Steve, Kathy and family. Old things that Mom used to fix: fried round steak with mushroom gravy (actually, a Campbell's soup special), overcooked green beans, fried sweet potatoes, roasted corn; Josi fixed broccoli salad and an oatmeal cake -- as good as I remembered them, although my own cooking was a bit short of the mark. I guess I'm better off with Chinese.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Music: Initial count 10183 [10158] rated (+25), 902 [916] unrated (-14).

  • Rick Braun: Esperanto (2003, Warner Bros.). Trumpet player, of the crossover/smooth jazz variety. First cut, a cover of "Green Tomatoes," gets a big send-up, with Kirk Whallum and Norman Brown joining in. Second cut, a lilting latin beat with a bit of moderate trumpet color and washes of synth, is a Braun original called "Latinesque" -- the name bespeaking how second-hand and trivial it is. The rest of the pieces were written by Braun in collaboration with others -- mostly guests, like keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who demand more conspicuous roles. These cuts are pleasing enough, but lack either the exuberance of the first cut or the simplicity of the second. B-
  • Alex Bugnon: Head Over Heels (1990, Orpheus). Swiss keyboard player, of the crossover/smooth jazz variety. Guitarist Keith Robinson is prominent here, and Donald Byrd makes a guest appearance. Also an alto saxophonist named Vincent Henry -- I had to wonder if that's an alias for Vincent Herring. The closest thing I can find to confirming this is that Herring's website claims that he has appeared on over 170 albums, but AMG only lists 88, way short. On the other hand AMG lists 83 sideman albums for Vincent Henry, which adds up nicely. This strikes me as a bit florid, especially on the three cuts (one gospelish) where singers fill in, but most of it is agreeably funky. Better than I expected, especially from looking at the cover. [PS 2006-03-07: I received email from Vince Henry, quoting this entry and adding: "I can help clear up the Vincent Henry-Vincent Herring mystery by assuring you that I am not an alias for Vince Herring. We are two different people and actually do know each other. Whenever we do run into each other we have great time exchanging mistaken identity stories. By the way, may I add that I am very impressed with the work you put into your web sight."] B
  • Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel Music, Volume One (1925-55 [2004], Dualtone). A companion to James R. Goff's book, short but well documented, mostly obscure, but groups like the Golden Gate Quartet and the Chuck Wagon Gang appear, more white than black, but hard to tell the difference. B+
  • Harry Connick, Jr.: Only You (2004, Columbia). Seems like I've seen this listed as the best selling jazz album of 2004. Maybe I should be writing this up under JCG, but I got this from the library, and don't expect much. The credit on the back cover reads: "Arranged, Orchestrated & Conducted by Harry Connick, Jr." The building blocks are a trio, a section of strings, and a big band, of which trio + strings is the most frequent combination. Connick is a lovely singer, but the songs are gold-plate standards, and he really doesn't do much with them. The big band can add some interest, but the strings are completely nondescript. B-
  • The Country Gentlemen: The Complete Vanguard Recordings (1973-74 [2002], Vanguard). No big deal: two albums from 1973-74, following a long string of records on Folkways and Rebel. Standard fare, although they still manage to add a little something even to a song as worn down as "House of the Rising Sun." Closes with two very good gospel pieces. B+
  • Jim Croce: Facets (1966-69 [2004], Shout! Factory, 2CD). The first disc is his first album, home-recorded and released with a pressing of 500 copies, a rarity that became legendary after he cut a real hit album and died. The second disc is a short set of duets cut with wife Ingrid, also known as "Jim and Ingrid Too." This was a follow-up to a duo album they cut in 1968. Some progress here: the 1966 album is mostly covers, the 1969 set mostly originals. His big hit and early death left fans wondering where he came from and what he might have done. The evidence here is that he was an ordinary folkies, a bit more likable than most. B
  • Jim Croce: Home Recordings: Americana (1967 [2003], Shout! Factory). From "Mom and Dad's Waltz" to "Mama Tried" via "In the Jailhouse Now," which goes to show you that behind every upcoming folkie is a good record collection; still missing is an original idea, not to mention a studio and a band. C+
  • Peter Herborn's Acute Insights (1987-88 [2002], Winter & Winter). An octet, not quite a big band, but close enough for most practical purposes. Herborn is a trombonist, although my notes (probably cribbed from the Penguin Guide) lists him first and foremost as arranger and conductor. Most of the eight musicians switch between several instruments, giving Herborn a broad pallette to work with. A bright and clever album, with a lot of action and dynamics, a nimble feel. A-
  • George Lewis: Jazz Funeral in New Orleans (1953 [1997], Tradition). The great New Orleans clarinetist. His records were all pretty much the same, with many songs repeated from record to record. But this was a very good period for him, and this was an exemplary performance. I slightly prefer The Beverly Cavern Sessions, but not by a lot. A-
  • A Proper Introduction to Maddox Brothers & Rose: That'll Learn Ya Durn Ya (1948-53 [2004], Proper). Their claim to be "the most colorful hillbilly band in America" was, if anything, too modest. The five brothers Maddox were a rocking, rolling cyclone with instruments -- they whooped, hollered, cackled, wisecracked, and occasionally sung. Sister Rose had a laugh that could pluck and fry a rooster, but when she sung (or yodelled) she owned the group: she was the sort of woman you didn't want to tangle with unless you were really looking for trouble. Mama Maddox managed the group and dressed them up to their motto. Their covers of "Whoa Sailor" and "Philadelphia Lawyer" and "I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again" are definitive, and you might forget Hank Williams and add "Honky Tonkin'" to that list. The only comparable original was "It's Only Human Nature," although Rose's Tex-Mex "Cocquita of Laredo" is outrageous camp. Vol. 1 of two Arhoolie comps hits most of the same highpoints -- the sound quality is a bit better there, and the filler is more trad, but this one is cheaper and picks more odd gems. A
  • A Proper Introduction to Dodo Marmarosa: Dodo's Dance (1946-48 [2004], Proper). A fair selection of work by a minor pianist of the bebop era, which elevate a notch when joined by tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. B+
  • Dino: The Essential Dean Martin (1949-69 [2004], Capitol). His associations with Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra made him look second-rate, and on his own he lapsed into a celebrity caricature of his notoriously drunken self. Lewis and Sinatra were geniuses -- nobody could compete with them, and Martin never tried. What made him the greatest second banana of the era was that he could toss off a brilliant performance so effortlessly that even artists like Lewis and Sinatra had to admire him, but he was so self-effacing about it that he never threatened to become a challenger. You figured him for lazy, but that's just because he was such a natural. Having changed his name from Dino Crocetti, he had to wrestle "Mambo Italiano" back from Rosemary Clooney, but nowadays it's almost impossible to eat linguine without hearing "Nel Blu di Pinto di Blu" in the background. When I was a teenager his songs were essential philosophy: "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" was the ultimate question, and "Everybody Loves Somebody" the answer. He got me through the worst years of my life. A
  • The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Featuring Teddy Pendergrass (1972-75 [2004], Epic/Legacy). A big part of Philadelphia's rise to prominence as a soul factory, their lead singer (not Harold Melvin) a primal force of nature saddled with a bit too much help, remarkable and annoying at the same time. B+
  • Pat Metheny Group: Imaginary Day (1997, Warner Bros.). Evidently one of the major jazz guitarists of our era, both popularly and artistically, although I've never figured out why. This isn't a particularly well-regarded album, but I found it at the library so I thought I'd give it a spin. Dense texture, forward momentum. Guests provide extra percussion, which is nice; some vocals too, which isn't. Metheny's done 40+ albums so far. I don't dislike this one (not much, anyway), but don't see much reason to recommend it either. B-
  • Hafez Modirzadeh: By Any Means Necessary! (1999, X Bot 25). Tenor saxophone with a thin and scratchy feel, sort of Lester Young filtered through John Coltrane. He also plays soprano sax, flute, and other instruments which accentuate the south Asian feel. (As best I recall Modirzadeh comes from Iran. I've run across him in the past working with Anthony Brown's Asian-American Orchestra.) B+
  • The Best of Jim Nabors (1966-75 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): His Gomer Pyle sendup always raised the hackles on my red neck, but his operatic singing is even lower brow. It would have been funnier than Tiny Tim if only he had given you reason to suspect he had a sense of humor, but he always played it straight, even on "Ave Maria." C
  • The Best of Jane Olivor (1976-82 [2004], Columbia/Legacy). In another time and place she might have sung opera, but as a pop chanteuse she adores her melodies so much she doesn't realize that the songs are kitsch at best. Which is why vocal skills don't amount for much in pop music. C
  • Perry Robinson Quartet: Angelology (1996 [1998], Timescraper Jazz). Probable title on front cover, but not on spine, back cover, etc., all of which just say Perry Robinson Quartet. Robinson is credited with (soprano/sopranino clarinet); also in group: Simon Nabatov (piano/accordion), Ed Schuller (bass), Ernst Bier (drums). Despite a couple bits that strike me as avant-classical abstraction, this is marvelous music. The detour into tango with Nabatov picking up the accordion is a wonderful surprise, but just one of many. A-
  • Tavares: Anthology (1973-81 [2004], Capitol, 2CD). Somewhere in the second tier of '70s soul groups, but more doesn't uncover minor charms -- it exposes their main weakness: awkward clichés force-wrapped around their grooves, which also don't scale. B

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Debbie Gordon sent me a letter following up on my blog post about her presentation Friday night. I asked to reprint part of her letter:

I was really trying to avoid the contradiction between a Jewish and democratic state which I know I mentioned and is there, because I wanted to take for granted the notion of a Jewish state, a kind of soft "separation," if you will. I wanted to show how "illogical" it was for Israel not to cut a reasonable deal with the Palestinians. I wanted to show that the Sharon administration is threatening Zionism in some fundamental ways (maybe Sharon can't "help it" in that Sharon's own movement looks differently to Sharon now that he is Prime Minister), and I wanted to show how that was tied to a kind of political neurosis -- Israel claims all of historical Palestine as Israel while simultaneously claiming to be a Jewish state. It continues to appropriate Palestinian land and with that appropriation it is, regardless of the fantasy of emptying the land, taking in more and more Palestinians. That leaves the state to either try to make reality fit a fantasy (the neurotic option) by 1) expelling Palestinians through literal removal (the radical solution) or squeezing them so that movement out is voluntary (also radical when anyone pays attention but the world turns its face so that the former doesn't need to be implemented) and 2) granting limited self-rule to Mahmoud Abbas on the land that Israel doesn't want (America's and Sharon's solution) OR giving up the project of forcing reality to conform to fantasy.

Since Sharon does not want to or cannot (due to the radical right government in Israel today) take Door Number 3, one of Israeli's longstanding goals, normalization with the rest of the world, is being threatened in new ways. It does seem to me that we have entered a new stage of the conflict in which facts on the ground have exceeded any two state solution. The only thing that might change the status quo continuing stubborn local realities in the Middle East that don't conform to Bush's weird obsessive quest that combines political calculation, zealous nationalism and anti-Arab ideology. Then Bush will "need" a foreign policy achievement, and maybe then he'll push Israel and maybe Israel will have a new government -- it's hard to speculate -- and some kind of radical u-turn will be possible.

What I was trying to do was to read Zionism dialectically and to suggest, which was maybe more implicit than it should have been, that a certain kind of "Zionist" logic itself dictates that the Palestinians be given their freedom. I wanted to honor the essence of Zionism which is that there must be a homeland for Jews -- a "soft" exclusivity but that if safety for Jews is essential then the fact that Israel cannot imagine anything other than some version of the 1967 Allon Plan for a final settlement, is undermining Zionism itself.

I went off on a slightly different tangent when Gordon's talk provoked me to think about the contradictions in the conjunction of the Jewish state and Democratic state concepts, especially now that we see a pronounced tendency in Israel toward "transfer" of non-Jews. This isn't a new tendency: it formally dates back to the 1937 Peel Commission proposal to partition Palestine and transfer the resulting minorities -- a proposal David Ben-Gurion rushed to embrace. Before then there were several major efforts to segregate Jews and Arabs in Palestine: the Land Trust prohibited sales of land from Jews to Arabs, so land transfer was a one-way street; the Jewish labor unions discriminated against Arab labor; perhaps most importantly, the increasing use of Hebrew created a linguistic divide and barrier. Britain's support for partition and transfer was shelved when the Arab Revolt of 1937-39 broke out. While the British, with the help of Jewish "self-defense" forces, brutally squashed the revolt, British policy toward Palestine became much more ambiguous from 1939 on, with the British actively working to restrict Jewish immigration at the same time as the Holocaust.

The 1947 U.N. partition plan was largely a rehash of the Peel plan, although as far as I know transfer was not officially part of it. Ben-Gurion's support for transfer was always tempered by his desire for acceptance and recognition by the Imperial powers, and by a very keen sense of what was possible at any given time. During the 1947-49 war for the most part he neither ordered nor restrained an expulsion policy -- Ramle and Lydda were notable exceptions, deemed critical because of their central position between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem -- maintaining the deniability that he needed to keep the Western powers from coming down on Israel. It is telling that Ben-Gurion opposed the 1967 war on the grounds that the Arabs on the lands that would be conquered would not flee this time.

Support for transfer in Israel waxes and wanes depending on the stress level and political isolation of Israel, which is probably at an all-time high right now -- it peaked following the death of the Peace Process, so skillfully orchestrated by the Barak-Sharon tag team, and the outbreak of what should have been called the Shaul Moffaz Intifada, since Moffaz was the one responsible for most of the violence. And while the violence has abated somewhat, in its place is a plateau of triumphalism that leaves Israel as morally isolated as ever, hanging by the thread of George W. Bush's own battered bluster. In effect, the conflict within Ben-Gurion's mind has been writ large across the Israeli political spectrum, without Ben-Gurion's own cunning to contain it. But this increase of extremist rhetoric from the now-not-so-far right is in many ways less troubling than the actual continuing efforts -- acts, not rhetoric -- to nudge the "facts on the ground" in directions that marginalize the Palestinians more than ever.

That is, of course, only one tendency among many in a complex and contradictory Israel. But what makes it so ominous is that the ground game is proceding with so little visibility, therefore so little opposition. An announcement was made last week that the 1951 law that enabled Israel to confiscate "abandoned" property would be invoked for property in Jerusalem. For many years now Israel has been quietly revoking Jerusalem residency permits to reduce the number of Palestinians who have legal rights to live in annexed Jerusalem. Now the other shoe drops: they lose their property too. Another recent move was to reinstate discriminatory practices to prevent land from being sold to Arabs, circumventing an Israeli court ruling. None of this is in response to violence or security issues: it's just everyday greed meant to take advantage of people without rights. In many ways it resembles a law passed in the U.S. in the '20s that invested Indian lands to private owners, who could then sell them to whites, further nibbling away at the reservation lands.

If we were to make a comparative study of colonial settler movements, we would find many failures and a few successes. One major success was the United States, where the native population was reduced over 90% and crowded into tiny patches of relatively undesirable (especially for agricultural purposes) land. There are many reasons why the Zionists face a much more difficult task, but two are likely to be their undoing: the Immigrant Americans figured when to stop pressuring the Natives, and the national identity of the U.S. was flexible and inclusive enough to permit Indians to leave their reservations and circulate in the larger society. These points provided a way to break out of the struggle, saving the Native Americans from extermination and/or saving the Immigrant Americans from perpetual war. Israel's identify as a Jewish/Democratic state makes this very difficult. The non-Jewish population under Israeli control is close to 50%, and trending against the Jews. On the other hand, Israel's military dominance is so complete that they can enforce the status quo indefinitely, so why should they let up? Who's going to make them? Any local revolt can be met with withering force. No external power can or would challenge them. And political logic, the almost automatic resort to force against fear, makes it virtually impossible for them to reform themselves.

The only escape that I can imagine is that the rest of the world might use their influence and favors to tip Israel toward a minimal set of acceptable reforms. Note here that I'm conceding that no power cannot force Israel to do something against the will of its people. Rather, you have to find some approach that leads to peace that the Israeli people can agree to. The obvious approach would be for Israel to give up the lands occupied in 1967. Israel would be no less secure from foreign attack behind the 1967 borders than they are now. It has long been clear that Israel's small minority of non-Jewish citizens pose no threat to the Jewish population. But this involves Israel giving up something it wants -- land, especially the West Bank (their Judea and Samaria). But doing so also gets rid of Israel's biggest problem, their potential majority of disenfranchised Palestinians, and that's a reason why a substantial number of Israelis already favor the deal. The question is, how much more favor would it take in order to convince a critical number of Israelis to make the deal? (Ignoring for now that other question, why would the world want to?)

Recent history has shown that Israel puts very little value on the prospect of peace as an incentive to give up anything, let alone land -- this stems as much from their expectations of hostility as from their drunkenness with war. On the other hand, Israel's economy depends much on aid from America -- both government and private. Take that away and they'd face a lower standard of living. There's no way that Israel can force America to pay tribute. And there are other sanctions -- trade restrictions, freezing foreign investments -- that provide a little leverage without inflicting irreversible damage. Incentives are also possible, like opening markets for Israeli products and investments. All that may or may not be enough, but nastier sanctions -- blockading ports and promoting starvation -- would backfire. More aggressive demands, like repatriation of the refugees, would also fail. A different solution to the refugee problem must be found -- like paying to resettle the refugees outside of Israel.

I have no hope that Bush will turn on Israel, even in a gentle sort of "tough love" approach, but I can think of plenty of reasons why he should. America's blank check support of Israel has only made us all the more culpable for Israeli injustices -- a fact that is only underscored as the U.S. adopts more and more of Israel's us-against-the-world tactics. Nothing would help the America's credibility, which is especially damaged in Iraq, than to champion a fair and just resolution for the Palestinians. But for that to happen, someone in Washington would have to grasp that the current approach is dysfunctional, and that a new direction is needed. Bush? When in history has a President shown himself to be more obtuse in the face of greater adversity?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Tonight was the third of three straight nights of events revolving around the politics of Israel. This one was a presentation by Debbie Gordon, a professor of Women's Studies at Wichita State University. Her primary research involves Palestinian women, so she has travelled to the West Bank a number of times. She had been in Ramallah during the recent elections there, so part of her talk reported on those events. She showed slides from her trip, and around them built a presentation called "Towards Peace or Cantonization of the West Bank? A Report from Ramallah."

The main thrust of her framework was to emphasize that Israel's appropriation of the West Bank and Gaza has been systematic, continuous and relentless ever since the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war. To this effect she showed maps starting with the 1967 Allon Plan, followed by the 1995 Oslo II map, the Camp Davis 2000 map, the Taba 2001 map, and a current map showing the actual and proposed paths of the separation fence. These were accompanied with quotes explaining the rationale of the Allon Plan -- that colonization of heavily populated parts of the West Bank and Gaza would be extremely difficult, but that they could be marginalized and ceded back to Jordan. The differences between the Allon Plan and the Oslo maps reflect the withdrawal of Jordan from any interest in occupying parts of the West Bank. With Jordan out of the picture, the best option for Israel was to get the PLO to step in and manage the densest Palestinian areas. Yasser Arafat's performance in that role presents a muddled record -- it seems likely that both sides felt they could play the peace game for their own purposes, but in the end Arafat's leadership wasn't skillful enough to overcome the pressure of settlement growth, economic isolation, security friction, and political duplicity that sunk the Peace Process. In its wake Sharon squeezed all the harder, grinding the Intifada down, isolating dense Palestine into concrete-walled open air jails, their economies becoming more and more destitute. At the same time, Gordon pointed out that the logic and rhetoric of the Israeli political class is becoming more brazen. She quoted Arnon Soffer on the rationale for unilateral separation -- i.e., Sharon's planned withdrawal of the Gaza settlements, which makes it possible to treat Gaza as a free fire zone. She quoted Benny Morris and Uzi Cohen as supporting "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians -- one proposal was to give the Palestinians 20 years to leave, then forcibly remove any that failed to do so.

The above isn't a direct report of Gordon's presentation: I've interpolated a few formulations of my own, but we've discussed this many times before and have much the same understanding. One small difference of opinion is that she puts more weight on the importance of demographic factors driving the political factors, but there's little doubt that demographic fears haunt both sides. One way she illustrated this was to point out the inherent contradictions in the concept of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state. We hear that line all the time, but usually misread it as meaning that Israel must preserve a Jewish majority in order to maintain a Jewish state, but perhaps we should think more clearly about what it means to be a Democratic state. Majority rule is actually only a small aspect of democracy. More important, and more telling, is that a democracy must respect the rights of all of its citizens. The only way a Jewish state can do this is if there are no non-Jews. As Gordon pointed out, this idea is expressed in the old saw, "a land without people for a people without land." In case of the real Israel that has always been a myth, but it can also be viewed as a dream, an ideal, a program pointed toward genocide -- as the Soffer and Cohen quotes make clear.

Whether this will happen is an open question. There are various forces leaning against it. Gordon quoted Tommy Lapid warning that Israel is risking becoming as estranged from the world as South Africa during the late apartheid era. She could have quoted Sharon himself on the need to act before the world starts to dictate new policies to Israel. The death of Arafat and the election of Mahmoud Abbas as his successor opens up other possibilities, including that Bush's harried but oft-proclaimed commitment to democracy in the middle east will limit Sharon's options. If Abbas can demilitarize the Intifada world opinion will shift in favor of Palestinian rights, which may tie Israel's hands. On the other hand, Abbas' political career depends on delivering tangible improvements in the daily lives of Palestinians, and Israel has many options to undermine him. If the U.S. doesn't follow through on its commitments to support Abbas -- and I can't think of anyone in the world who'd make a less dependable sponsor than George W. Bush -- Israel can wait him out, then move on the next tactical mistake.

The Q&A session that followed raised a number of interesting issues. In particular, Gordon talked at some length about how WSU mishandled the Emily Jacir exhibit, especially why she thought the administration went out of its way to make trouble for itself by totally misunderstanding the political issues surrounding the exhibit. She mentioned that she's going to write a paper on that affair. Looking forward to that.

Shortly after we moved to Wichita (I was born here) in 1999, we attended a presentation that Gordon gave to the same organization (the Global Learning Center) based on a similar trip to the West Bank. It is interesting to compare both the lecture and the Q&A between then and now. The audiences were very similar -- in many cases the same people. But there's been a pretty substantial shift from then to now in terms of the sophistication of everyone's understanding of these issues. Tonight's presentation was far more radical than the one five years ago. It was also far more readily understood and accepted. That's one small bit of progress during a time when there's not a lot of that to go around.

Amidst all the hype surrounding elections in Iraq, I'd like to make several points. Some of these should be stories, but I don't hear any of them in the mainstream press.

  1. Contrary to reports, this is not the first experience that Iraqis have had with elections. Shortly before the U.S. invasion, Iraq held an election which confirmed Saddam Hussein as President. The election was a complete sham, with no opposition and unanimous acclamation. Nor was this the first time that Iraq had voted to flater the rulers. This isn't discussed, but it is implicit when reporters claim that this is Iraq's first "free" election. But it matters, because the only thing that Iraqi are likely to have learned from their experience with elections thus far is that they can be fixed by whoever's in charge.

  2. This week's election may be a good deal more free than elections under the Baath were, but aside from multiple candidates, it lacks virtually every other aspect of free and democratic elections. The most obvious thing is that the candidates aren't exposed to the public: they don't/can't campaign, they can't travel, they can't be questioned, in many cases their names aren't even public. A large segment of the population is boycotting the election, and many more distrust any election held under foreign military occupation.

  3. One story that should be revisited is what happened to the original U.N. proposals for organizing the elections, and how those changes have affected the actual elections. The U.N. proposed a low-key, politically neutral caretaker government, but the U.S. insisted on installing Iyad Allawi as Prime Minister. Allawi has proven to be nothing more than an American stooge, supposedly ordering the murderous sieges of Najaf and Falluja to stamp out political opposition to the U.S. occupation. He even took time out to come to the U.S. to campaign for George W. Bush. His partisanship has done immense damage to the legitimacy of these elections.

  4. The U.S. has poisoned the ground for free elections from the very start. Bush's own election campaign depended on the argument that Iraq is the central front of the War on Terrorism. To make this argument true Bush needed terrorists in Iraq, and he's created whole armies of them -- probably a lot more than he needed. Whether this was cynical or just incompetent is a problem for historians to sort out, but the net effect has been to create a civil war and thereby limit elections to only one faction within Iraq. The defining trait of this faction isn't the expected Sunni-Shia-Kurd split: it's between those Iraqis who are willing to work with the Americans, at least short-term, and those who aren't. Effectively, Bush has worked to split off from the electorate the people he couldn't win anyway, which presumably improves his odds of success. Bush's definition of democracy seems to be an election where the right people win, regardless of how. Haiti under Aristide wasn't a democracy, nor Venezuela under Chavez. Hamid Karzai, on the other hand, is the poster boy for Afghan democracy, even though he was appointed by the Bush Administration in a loya jirga convened (rather inconveniently for most Afghans) in Germany.

  5. One of the core traits of any democracy is that all of the people in the country be able to participate and be able to trust in the fairness and accuracy of the results. Iraq fails that test.

  6. Nonetheless, there is one possible silver lining, which is that despite all the U.S. efforts to poison and rig the elections, they could still wind up voting into power a government that tells the U.S. to cease fire and take a hike. This would also give some credence to the idea that these are free elections, as nothing else could do.

  7. On the other hand, if the U.S. does manage to keep its appointed stooges in power, a Shia explosion becomes very likely. Thus far the Shia clergy has played ball with the Americans, knowing that they held a potential majority come election day. The elections run the risk of snuffing out that hope, leaving the Resistance as the only viable alternative to Imperialism. Such risks have long been evident, which is why Bush made sure that Iraqi elections could only happen after the U.S. election. The U.S. faces a lose-lose scenario when the votes are counted, and Bush couldn't afford the effects of either loss on his own election.

One other non-story I'm very curious about is what were the negotiations that lured ABC and others into covering the election story from Iraq, where they are effectively hostages on U.S. military bases, being force-fed U.S. propaganda. I watched Peter Jennings' coverage last night, and I'm not sure when I've ever seen such shameless toadying.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

We went to see a slide show tonight presented by Emily Jacir, a Palestinian-American artist. Some of her work is being exhibited at the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University, starting a little over a week ago, so her visit today is in conjunction with the exhibit. There was also to be a reception and talk at the gallery, which fizzled out due to plane delays.

To back up a little bit, it should be noted that her exhibit has been a political hot potato here. The Ulrich is controlled by a Foundation that is more/less independent of the University, and evidently some donors connected to the foundation objected to the exhibit, arguing that Jacir's Palestinian sympathies would present an unfair, biased, and hostile view of Israel, and that if the exhibit is shown there the Ulrich ought to provide space for a "balancing" pro-Israeli viewpoint. This debate simmered in private for a number of months before it finally boiled over, generating a lot of publicity including as many as a dozen letters published in the Wichita Eagle. In my notebook (Jan. 3, 2005) I quoted and commented on one such letter, from Rabbi Nissim Wernick, which included the following: "I previewed this so-called 'art,' and I found it outrageously inflammatory and blatantly false. . . . For hundreds of years, anti-Semites in Europe and the Middle East blamed Jews for all their troubles. This exhibit of Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir's artwork uses the same big lie technique against the Jewish state of Israel. I hope the good people of Wichita see the work for what it is: a blatant anti-Semitic attempt to breed hatred." Ultimately, those attacking the exhibit backed down from their demand for a counter-exhibit, although they continued to publicly attack Jacir, and were handing out leaflets outside the gallery tonight. More about that later.

Jacir was born in 1970 in Bethlehem. I don't have all of the biographical details, but she lived in Saudi Arabia and possibly elsewhere as a child. She studied art in the U.S., in Memphis and Dallas, and became a U.S. citizen. Consequently, she is able to travel in Israel with relatively few restrictions. She lives in New York and Ramallah. Her slide show gave us a general overview of her work, which is much more extensive than the small exhibit shown in the Ulrich gallery. Some examples:

  • A series of works produced in Paris, where she started with a sum of money and went to a series of money exchange places, converting dollars to francs and vice versa. She photographed each shop and exhibited the photographs and the change receipts.
  • A series of works where she took whole issues of Vogue magazine and traced the sections of each page with exposed skin, blacking out the skin. The idea came from her mother, who would buy Vogue in Paris then black out all the skin as she flew back to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
  • She produced a series of Christmas cards based on her home town of Bethlehem, contrasting classic scenes depicting the birth of Christ with more contemporary views of Bethlehem besieged by helicopter gunships.
  • She created a huge cardboard box that completely filled up an exhibit room except for two-foot wide passages along the walls; entering this room creates a profound sense of claustrophobia, as the object consumes space and pressures the viewer.
  • She built a tent which had embroidered on it the names of hundreds of Palestinian villages that were erased from the map during the 1947-49 war. This was combined in an exhibit at a museum in Queens with photographs that she had found of the 1947 U.N. session, held in the same building, that approved the partition of Palestine, and with copies of a brochure that had been distributed by the Jordanian pavilion, where her mother worked, during the 1964 World's Fair on the same grounds.
  • She filmed a video of one hour of nonstop driving in west Texas; viewers could then select their choice of music to play while watching the video. This sets up an implicit contrast to occupied Palestine, where it is impossible to drive for an hour without checkpoints.
  • She filmed a video of walking through an Israeli checkpoint between Ramallah and Bir Zeit University. Her camera was hidden in a bag, so the result was bouncy and somewhat randomly focused, but the video provide a rough sense of the experience.
  • She organized what she called an "intervention" where on several widely spaced occasions a number of Palestinian women would place personals ads in the Village Voice seeking Jewish males for romance in Israel. She had several clippings and quotes from people who had noticed the ads and expressed alarm about this new tactic of trying to infiltrate Israel.
  • She is working on a series of oil paintings of email messages that she has collected over recent years.

The exhibit actually on display at the Ulrich, which provoked all this ruckus, is called "Where We Come From." The work is based on a question which Jacir asked of various Palestinians in the occupied territories and exile: "If I could do anything for you, anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?" Jacir then took these questions and traveled in Israel, attempting to fulfill the requests. Each one is then turned into an exhibit piece, consisting of two pieces. One is a card in English and Arabic with the question and details as to why the person is unable or afraid to do the deed. Matched with each card is a photograph (or two, or in one case a video) documenting Jacir's fulfillment of the request. The requests are mostly mundane: "Go to Gaza and eat Sayadryeh." "Go to my mother's grave in Jerusalem on her birthday and put flowers and pray." One of the more provocative ones is, "Go to Haifa's beach at the moment of the first light, take a deep breath and light a candle in honor of all those who gave their lives for Palestine."

You can view parts of the exhibit here and here.

Jacir's work has a political dimension to it, but I believe that much of the political charge that surrounds it comes not from the work but from the atmosphere. "Where We Come From" is itself pretty innocuous. The pictures of ordinary things have no political content in themselves; that only comes from the cards, which set the context. And the cards are dominated by the questions, which come first, rather than the explanations, which are smaller, below, and matter-of-fact. If this be propaganda, it is unusually subtle. To describe it as a "big lie," as Rabbi Warnick did, and associate it with the long, sordid history of anti-semitic big lies -- blood libel, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Nazi propaganda -- is preposterous. For one thing, there is very little mention here of Israel, even less of Jews. But then Jacir doesn't have to introduce them into her art -- they dwell in the ether.

I don't doubt that Jacir intends to draw a political point, nor that that political point is sharply critical of Israel. But what I see her doing in her art is attempting to draw contrasts in her own life experiences, where being Palestinian looms large, and inevitably orients her toward politics, if for no other reason that that politics won't let Palestinians be. You need no more proof of that than to note that as far away from her native land as Wichita is from Bethlehem she finds herself pummeled with pamphlets screaming, "Wichita State University is presenting this art exhibit by Emily Jacir that is defamatory to the State of Israel. . . . Our intention is to call upon all peace loving individuals to see this exhibit for what it is: A hate filled, inflammatory, anti-Israel display." The sad fact is that the hate is not inside the gallery, where we might examine it as estranged artifact; rather, the hate is in the streets, where it can do the most harm.

The more interesting question is why are the people who handed out these pamphlets so hysterical about such a subtle rebuke of Israel? They obviously have seen the exhibit, since the inner pages of the pamphlet go piece-by-piece explaining the travel restrictions with lines like: "Inconvenience caused by the Intifada"; "By his own admission, he is a security risk"; "If Egypt won't let you in, why should Israel." They also provide an insert on "the cause of the Palestinian refugee problem," where they claim that the work of Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe has been "thoroughly discredited"; explain how the decline in the Arab population of Haifa from 62,500 to "almost nothing" was purely the Arabs' fault ("both the Haifa Jewish leadership and the Hagana went to great lengths to convince the Arabs to stay"); deny that Palestinians who received Jordanian citizenship should be counted as refugees; criticize the other Arab countries for "keeping Palestinian refugees in festering poverty, all the better to use them as a weapon against Israel"; and argue that as many Jewish refugees were created in Arabic lands, which Israel went to great expense and sacrifice to integrate.

These are all points that we can argue until we're all blue in the face. I've read quite a bit about the subject, and thought about it to the point where I think I can make sense out of what happened and why, and have some practical ideas for making the situation a good deal better. For what little it's worth I started out from a view that was very favorable to Israel and I've wound up with a view that is very critical. There are simply too many facts that show that what is happening today under Israeli control is manifestly unjust, and that the political leadership of Israel is locked on a course to make things worse rather than better. It bothers me greatly that so many Jews in America, especially ones who on most other issues are more reasonable and fair-minded than most non-Jews here, have developed such an extraordinary blind spot to what Israel is doing.

But what does this have to do with Jacir's art? When she poses mundane questions like why can't a Palestinian go visit his mother still living in Israel, or his mother's grave if she's passed on, the only real argument she's making is for fundamental decencies in human life. The irony of treating this question as an attack on Israel is that it is so easy for an Israeli Jew rephrase the same question. But the fierce charges in the atmosphere and the burning memory of so many historical injustices keeps way too many Israelis and way too many Palestinians from appreciating the mundane. They are locked in a dance of destruction, one that kills oneself as much as it kills the other. I'd like to think that Jacir's art, by moving the focus from the political to everyday things, might subvert this dance.

Some bad luck yesterday. A helicopter crash in western Iraq killed 31 U.S. Marines. A train wreck in California killed 13 commuters. But it is worth recalling what Branch Rickey used to teach: luck is the residue of design.

Reports are that the helicopter wasn't shot down by Iraqi patriots, as dozens of other U.S. helicopters have been. Rather, it flew into a cloud of dust or sand, disorienting the pilot, who plowed it into the ground. But note that the helicopter was flying at night, the pilot depending on night vision apparatus. The reason, of course, was to avoid becoming one of the dozens of U.S. helicopters shot down by Iraqi patriots. But more than that it's worth noting that the troops were being transported by helicopter because it wouldn't have been safe to just drive where they were going. They took the safest option they had, and now they're dead.

But that's war, and war is always a risk, even though U.S. casualties thus far have been relatively light considering the intensity of the fighting there. The U.S. military works so hard at minimizing casualties that it never occurs to them that they may have just been lucky, or that a few turns of luck the other way (such as the twenty-some killed in that mess tent in Mosul) might start to balance the scales.

The train wreck in California is freakier: someone parked a truck on a train track; the train that hit it derailed and hit another train. The guy who caused the wreck seems to have been disturbed and suicidal, but the wreck itself happened because nobody expected it to happen, and the real destructive force came not from the truck but from the trains. This, too, is a sort of balancing of the scales: the potential for such a wreck has long existed, and becomes more likely and more deadly as a number of factors increase: the speed and inertia of trains, the number and size of trucks, disturbed and possibly suicidal (or homicidal) people. Given enough chances, the possible is bound to happen.

There are differences between these events. The crash in Iraq was the unforseen (or discounted) consequence of deliberate political decisions, and as such could easily have been avoided. The crash in California would have been much harder to avoid, since the many decisions that made it increasingly likely were for the most part made reflexively (if at all), just merging into the blur of more people moving faster with less time to consider consequences. As James Gleick argued in Faster, this is merely the temper of the times. But the overall shape of this increasing complexity and its manifest risks are things that thoughtful, responsible people could analyze and work on. Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote about how the near future is going to be dominated by the need to solve problems much like this train wreck, and his fears that we might not be up to the task. He called that book The Ingenuity Gap. Everyday life in America is so full of these risks that you'd think we'd be furiously concentrating on them, but the one organization that people look to for help in times of crisis (cf. the hurricanes and tsunamis much in the news lately) has its head stuck up its ass in Iraq, while back in Washington the news is focused on rewarding incompetents and criminals, while the administration tries to figure out how to bust Social Security -- about the only significant piece of the government that is demonstrably not broken.

If Branch Rickey is right, and he's one guy I'd never bet against, the residual luck of this administration is going to be bad, bad, bad, . . .

Starting to transition to the new blog. Last piece I wrote here and copied there. This one I wrote there, and am copying here. I doubt that I'll copy everything down here, but it's good to have a backup. Presumably, anyone who reads the notebook instead of the blog is pretty dedicated anyway. Here goes:

The U.S. Senate approved Condoleezza Rice as U.S. Secretary of State yesterday. The newspaper today noted that the thirteen dissenting votes were a modern era record for Secretary of State designates, eclipsing the seven who voted against Henry Kissinger. Both earned their disapproval by working as National Security Advisers, contributing to acts that only be described as war crimes. The difference was that Kissinger was clearly the architect of the Nixon administration's policies: overthrowing Allende and establishing the fascist Pinochet regime in Chile, cynically broadening the Vietnam war to convert it into a cold war poison pill, triggering the chain of events that led to genocide in Cambodia, exploiting Iran and Israel as American tools in the middle east. Rice's role in the Bush administration is far harder to estimate. Her only public function over the last four years has been to spread disinformation -- what in less politically correct periods of history we used to call "lies." Whether she did anything else in private (and she's been notoriously private) is hard to discern, but the Bush administration's record has been so completely disastrous that her prospects are very limited: she can be dismissed as ineffective on anything she might have gotten right, and should be opposed for everything else that she went along with.

Rice strikes me as one of those people who are thought to be smart because lots of other people say they're smart. The most famous example of this was Edward Teller, who despite the accolades of genuinely brilliant people like Richard Feynman never actually accomplished anything of note in physics. Of course, Rice can't be compared to Teller, any more than George Schultz can be compared to Feynman. Rice's academic field, Soviet Studies, is considerably less rigorous than nuclear physics. In fact, almost nothing academics (not to mention the CIA) thought they knew about the Soviet Union in the '80s has turned out to be true. But Rice built a wildly successful academic and political career of astonishing vacuity out of that intellectual dustbin, significantly boosted by politicians who found her useful. But her act has worn thin over the last four years. Had Bush lost, she would be history. But in a country dumb enough to elect Bush President she qualifies for Secretary of State. Just goes to prove one of David Ogilvy's maxims: "First rate people hire first rate people; second rate people hire third rate people."

On his recent album, Nasir Jones (dba Nas) has a song where he tries to analyze Rice, ultimately concluding, "I don't get this chick." Maybe there's nothing there to get.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

We went to a panel discussion tonight, "Prospects for Peace: A Conversation With Israeli Jews and Arabs." On the panel was David Leichman and Fouad Salman, both Israeli citizens, one a Brooklyn-born Jew, the other a native Palestinian. Leichman is Executive Director of an "educational park" at Kibbutz Gezer, near Ramle. Salman works for U.S.A.I.D., supervising U.S.-funded projects in Gaza and the West Bank. The two, along with Salman's father-in-law Samir Dabit (present but not speaking), have hosted an annual private party to get Jews and Arabs together informally. They came to the U.S. to facilitate a similar party in Kansas City.

The panel mostly consisted of Q&A. Both men supported two states divided at the 1967 borders, with a complete withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the occupied territories, and a Palestinian capitol in East Jerusalem. Where they differed most significantly was in their body language. Leichman was confident, disarming, in complete control, and a bit full of himself. Salman looked like he was being compressed under a huge weight. Some of the difference can be attributed to Leichman's advantage in English -- he is a native speaker, whereas Salman is not -- and some may be due to Leichman's evidently greater experience in public forums; some may merely be personality, but despite their evident friendship and mutual respect their bearing attested to their different roles in a severely inequal nation. Salman dutifully spoke at some length about the necessity that Mahmoud Abbas be able to suppress violence against Israel. Leichman spoke about how Sharon's proposed removal of settlements in Gaza should be viewed as a "confidence building measure," while viewing peace as the long-term process of cultural adjustment.

While Leichman has a point there, this reminds me of the tactical differences between Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck when it came to breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. Rickey came up with a clever, visionary scheme to build a consensus for integration, even going so far as to imagine that once the Dodgers saw how great Jackie Robinson was they'd beg Rickey to keep him on the team. That didn't happen, and Rickey wound up having to trade a couple of his star players to restore team peace. Veeck, on the other hand, gave any dissenters on the Indians only one option if they didn't like the idea of Larry Doby joining their team: a one-way ticket to AAA Toledo. Nobody took him up on the offer, and the case was closed. I have to admit that I have a natural preference for consensus-building, but in as polarized a situation as ending racial segregation in the U.S., or occupation and terrorism in Israel-Palestine, it would be a lot easier if someone just laid down the law.

One thing I found disturbing about both speakers, but especially Leichman, was their bewilderment when confronted with the bare facts of the occupation. They seemed to treat two states as a done deal, that the Palestine Authority was a de facto government which can and should be held accountable for the acts of its people. I don't doubt that there is some room for confusion at this point, and I certainly don't have a grasp on the distinctions between who controls what in areas A, B and C, especially after the wreckage caused by Sharon's repeated interventions. But the overwhelming coercive power of the occupation must persist, if not in the micromanagement of the pre-PA years at least in Israel's immense capacity to isolate and/or destroy. One wonders whether even the smartest of Israel's citizens haven't been sheltered from or blinded to that reality.

Salman's frustration was most evident in his argument that in order for peace to come the material welfare of Palestinians has to improve. He sees the A.I.D. projects as trying to serve that purpose, so their inevitable failure in the wake of violence is tragic. He's right to an extent, but one should also realize that those projects are intended to buttress the status quo; the people who strive to wreck them understand full well that what they are fighting is the status quo, and they believe that matters more than the temporary welfare of the people. Same thing is going on in spades in Iraq. The real question is what the people who suffer believe. One thing we should have learned by now is that people all over the world are willing to accept a lot of pain in order to fight what they view as injustice.

Two more striking things about the discussion. One was that several of the Arabs present in the audience made broad rhetorical efforts to restate the position that Judaism and Islam have common roots tracing back to Abraham, and that this is reflected in the respect and tolerance that Islam has displayed toward Jews throughout history. This argument builds toward a "why can't we be friends?" where implicit answer is that the Jews, lacking any reciprocal recognition of Islam, insist on excluding Arabs, whereas the Arabs' long track record of including Jews shows that their dominance would inevitably be more just. One problem with this argument is that it is intrinsically patronizing, and that's precisely the sort of offense that digs deep into a Zionist's skin. The other problem is that the Palestinians never had the real political power to show the Zionists any beneficence. Even in the Ottoman period Palestine was ruled by Turks who were being pecked to death by European powers. After the Ottoman Empire fell Britain took over, so Jewish immigrants had every reason to curry favor with the new rulers by playing up their Europeanness, and by systematically isolating themselves from natives.

The other thing was when Leichman made a passionate defense of Zionism as the necessary fulfillment of the national aspirations of the Jewish people. He attempted to tie together the entire history of the Jews as an aspiration to return to their ancestral land, to speak their own language, to build their own distinctive national culture, which could only be achieved by the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel. I've seen bits and pieces of this argument elsewhere, but never seen it articulated so forcefully, even though he had a few unorthodox filips (he credited the Yiddish culture in Poland as comparable), contradictions and caveats (he insisted that Palestinians also have legitimate national aspirations and rights, and that while one cannot compromise on rights one can certainly compromise on real estate).

I personally find the whole argument for national aspirations tied to dominance over a specific land to be bizarre -- we tend to naturalize where we come from, and a nation like the United States is merely a representation of the people who happen to live here, their culture, religion, even language mostly a matter of personal choice, often idiosyncratically so. But Leichman's outburst goes to the core of the assertion that it matters that Israel is a Jewish state, not merely a state where lots of Jews live in security with full rights. The one thing one must concede here is that the argument, even if it is structured like myth, has the force of belief behind it, turning it into a tangible social fact -- one that could be an obstacle to peace and justice, but needs to be reconceived as a hurdle.

Wrote the following in a letter, and thought it would be worth recording here:

From what I've been able to tell [smooth jazz is] a very narrow niche. Aside from the singers, who overlap with cabaret on one end and pop stars on the other (Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt being certified pop stars, or at least famous has-beens), it looks to me like we're talking fewer than 100 new records per year, from 10 or so labels. I counted a little over 1000 new jazz records last year, and estimate that the real number is close to (but probably less than) 2000. Didn't count labels, but 200 is my guess, not counting artist self-releases. The overwhelming majority of those records/labels are in a totally different world from the smooth niche. They typically cut their records in one live take, and if optimistic might press 2000 copies; they get distribution through outfits like Cadence, if they're lucky; I can't even order their records through stores here (not that local stores in this particular case are anything to brag about), much less find them on shelves. But I can find damn near all the smooth jazz made in the world here, plus a few major mainstream jazz artists, some reissues, and occasionally something on a mid-level independent label. (If I counted all the labels in the jazz dept. at Borders, which is by far the largest stock in Wichita, I doubt that I would tally 50. But Circuit City, which budgets about three feet for jazz, will have 75% of the new smooth jazz that Borders stocks.)

So from these meager observations I can surmise that the number of smooth jazz labels is limited by the distribution penetration factor -- the successful labels have to be everywhere there is shelf space, and the number of releases have to be limited to fit that shelf space. I don't know how radio fits into this, but I gather that smooth jazz is a distinct radio format (I never listen to radio, so pleas excuse my ignorance here), and radio playlists are probably as short as the shelf space. (I know that rock playlists have shrunk dramatically over the years, and can't think of any reason why the same wouldn't apply here.) So smooth jazz is the product of mass distribution run through a very narrow sieve. And, obviously, there is a corresponding audience for that product. I don't know what the sales levels are for those records -- I'd guess a smooth jazz album would have to sell at least 20k copies, probably ranging up to 200k (Kenny G presumably sells more, given how many copies I find in used stores). That pays for a different style of production, etc., and all that gets rolled into the distinctive aesthetics of the style. Which is mostly what I'll wind up writing about, but as you can see it all depends on a mountain of guesswork. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Book: Siva Vaidhyanathan: The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (2004, Basic Books). SV teaches in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University, and publishes a blog sivacracy.net. His core interest has to do with how copyright law, which in the U.S. has increasingly favored rights holders, works against the interests of the public, especially by restricting or inhibiting creativity. He understands, for instance, that much of what we think of as new and innovative is really based on prior work, often spun off on unanticipated tangents. The central part of this book (the easiest-to-read part) deals with the music industry: file sharing, Napster, DMCA, pay-for-access schemes, etc. (Not much on creative reuse or appropriation, which is rich subject but involves getting into the music rather than just skimming over the business and politics.)

But along the way toward a fairly benign and balanced account of the music industry wars, SV discovered a more general principle: a global struggle between oligarchy and anarchy. The dreary early part of the book attempts to ideologize and develop a critique of anarchy. (Oligarchy is self-evident; the rich need not explain, even if occasionally they try to rationalize.) The problem here is that the anarchy that SV describes doesn't attempt to instantiate a system of sociocultural organization, unlike, say, the writings of self-avowed anarchists from Kropotkin and Tolstoy to Goodman and Bookchin. Rather, SV's anarchy makes more sense as resistance to oligarchy. Mostly resistance, anyway, notwithstanding the occasional preëmptive strike. The key is that the anarchic movements here are furtive, the scattered work of individuals and subterranean conspiracies, whereas for Bookchin et al. anarchism was a matter of community building, accomplished by a moral reformation.

There are cases of the latter in SV's mix, in fact ones he would recognize: the science commons, open source, the creative commons license. But these are cases where the distinction between anarchy (without control) and chaos (without order) are easy to make. The core concept of at least one major strain of anarchist thought is that relations based on power are inherently damaging, both to those who wield power and to those who are victimized by it. Anarchists divide about what happens next: one approach is to grow a power-free civil society through coöperation and consenses; another is to try to extend individual freedom to the maximum extent possible. In the general sense, both approaches are tools, which like most tools work better for some tasks than for others. SV approaches this territory by introducing two terms -- cultural democracy and civic republicanism -- as a way of establishing a boundary between what he sees as positive anarchy (in culture) and negative anarchy (in civics). To quibble with that would mostly be a matter of quibbling.

While the ideologizing of anarchy isn't very helpful, oligarchy is brute fact and blind ambition. And in a world which prides itself on having one-and-only-one superpower, it's not unreasonable to think of the world in terms of oligarchy and its discontents. If anything, the very notion of superpower is oligarchy's way of celebrating itself. The strongest sections of the book are where SV turns on the empire. Consider this quote:

The Washington consensus was a form of market fundamentalism complicated by bad faith. Although its advocates claimed to champion "free trade" and "open markets," there was nothing free and nothing open about the Washington consensus. It was more Washingtonian than consensual, existing mainly among major institutions in Washington, D.C., and representing the vested interests of developed nations. While intending to empower market forces, it depended on coercion by institutions that resemble superstates with no direct democratic accountability. In practice, powerful multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank determine important policies of many nation-states. Clearly the multilateral institutions that enforced the Washington conesnsus serve the interests of a handful of rich, powerful states in North America and western Europe.

That's as clear a statement as you'll find anywhere, and the latter third of the book is full of such critiques. (Not that I think much of what SV calls "California Ideology" -- a combination of techno-optimism and shady business ethics that conjured up a lot of imaginary wealth in the late '90s, setting the stage for the subsequent orgy of antihype. Sifting through the reality under the bubble will take more work than is done here.) Interesting book. Glanced through his blog and there's a lot of interesting things there (many contributed by someone named Ann Bartow). The name I've avoided above is Siva Vaidhyanathan. Paperback coming out in May. Look for it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Music: Initial count 10158 [10131] rated (+27), 916 [921] unrated (-5). Another week of flailing erratically, much of the time spent on trying to figure out how to incorporate a proper blog into the website. Hope to get that done this coming week. Should also finish RG and get close to finishing JCG, but that's more ambition than I'm likely to accomplish. Wake up most mornings thinking about that Israel-Palestine piece, but that's even more ambition.

  • John Butcher: Music on Seven Occasions (1996-98, Meniscus). Solo tenor or soprano saxophone, or duos on same with a handful of other musicians -- percussions Gino Robair or Michael Zerang; Alexander Frangenheim (bass), Veryan Weston (piano), Thomas Lehn (analogue synth), John Corbett (guitar), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Terri Kapsalis (violin), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). Slow, difficult, screechy. Don't really have the patience for this sort of thing. B-
  • Kenny Clarke's Sextet: Plays André Hodeir (1957 [2000], Universal/Gitanes). You may be thinking Bird and Diz, but truth is bebop has always been defined by its drummers. One of the interesting factoids about bebop is how few drummers could play the music: turn any pre-1950 classic over and you'll find one of three names: Art Blakey, Max Roach, or from the very start, Kenny Clarke. Roy Haynes came a bit later, and a couple of established drummers, like Shelly Manne, made the conversion. Clarke had a short reign: he liked the atmosphere better in France, which took him out of the spotlight here. But it also made this marvelous record possible. Clarke was a famous name in Paris, but his group was mostly French, including the extraordinary pianist Martial Solal. Hodeir is best known here as a jazz scholar, which infused his music as well as his writing. His pieces here are arranged around themes from famous American jazz masters -- Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Tadd Dameron, Milt Jackson, Benny Carter -- with his own pieces connecting. The horn work is sharp and clever, but the whole thing maintains a light feel. A-
  • David Grisman, John Hartford, Mike Seeger: Retrograss (1989, Acoustic Disc). Grisman is a jazz-influenced mandolinist, makes his living on the bluegrass circuit, where is he something of a legend. He's one of those SFFRs, someone I've never run across even though I've know I should for a long time now. Hartford and Seeger are estimable folkies, but their roles here are secondary. The songbook here strays from the traditional, attempting to retrofy the likes of Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, and Lennon/McCartney, although they take some liberties, renaming a famous Leiber/Stoller song "Hound Dawg." While I find "When I'm Sixty-Four" rather cute, the exercise as a whole feels square, the music rather stately. Still SFFR. B
  • The Best of Guy Lombardo: The Early Years (1928-34 [2002], Collectors' Choice). Remembered mostly these days for "Auld Lang Syne," back in 1962 he was still remembered fondly enough by none other than Duke Ellington for tribute in his Recollections of the Big Band Era. Nothing here swings, but plenty of it sways, with some gems like "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" have the same sort of stately elegance that was part of Ellington's kit circa 1930. Almost everything here charted top-ten. Gets a bit less interesting toward the end. B+
  • Michael Moore Trio: Chicoutimi (1993, Ramboy). This is less immediately beguiling than Moore's more recent albums (Jewels and Binoculars, White Widow), but it's been steadily gaining on me, even while it defies analysis. A trio with Fred Hersch and Mark Helias, with Moore sticking to clarinet, recorded in Bremen, which perhaps inevitably pays homage to the Jimmy Giuffre/Paul Bley/Steve Swallow trio. Not sure what the title reference to the town on the northern frontier of Quebec means, other than that it doubles as a song title. The ablum moves slowly through many elegant sections with a few rough spots along the way. B+
  • Michael Moore Trio: Bering (1993, Ramboy). This was the follow-up to Chicoutimi -- same group (Fred Hersch, Mark Helias, Moore sticking to clarinet), same type of music. Distinctions are marginal, but I like it a shade better. Really beautiful music. A-
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel: The Next Step (2000, Verve). First record I've heard from the relatively young electric guitarist, although I have an as-yet-unheard advance of his new record in the advances pile in front of me. This is a quartet with Mark Turner on tenor sax, plus bass and drums. B+
  • Charlie Rouse/Julius Watkins: Les Jazz Modes: The Rare Dawn Sessions (1956 [1995], Biograph, 2CD). Pidgin French from the '50s, the group so-named because Watkins' instrument was the French horn, a rarity in the jazz world. Also unusual here is that this represents Rouse before he started working with Thelonious Monk. Monk was not merely a difficult leader -- he became an all-consuming occupation. Rouse's work here is characteristically delightful -- perhaps even a shade lighter than his work with Monk. Watkins' horn doesn't have nearly the expressive range or personality, but his lines have a spare elegance. Main caveat is the occasional appearance of a warbling soprano singer who adds nothing but scat. B
  • Martial Solal: NY-1: Live at the Village Vanguard (2001 [2003], Blue Note). Piano trio with François Moutin and Bill Stewart. I think he's brilliant, but I'm having trouble concentrating on this. Could be better, but at least: B+
  • White Widow (2001, Ramboy). No indication of artist name on cover, so I don't know whether White Widow is intended as a group name or just the album name. But even if it is a group name the group has a leader and that is Michael Moore. This is really delightful. A-

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Got some mail from Calvin Wilson, a movie critic for St. Louis Today, complimenting me on Jazz Consumer Guide. He sent along some links to several of his reviews. They're worth reading. Thought I'd note them here for future reference:

Friday, January 21, 2005

A couple of weeks ago we had a major ice storm here in Kansas. The atmosphere was sandwiched, with cold air at the surface, warm and wet above. It rained steadily for a whole day, the drops freezing on contact with the chilled surfaces, encasing every branch, leaf, needle, and blade of grass in ice. In such miserable weather we just stayed inside where it was dry and warm, hoping the electric would hold steady. We were lucky in that regard: I counted three sharp brownouts but no outages. When I finally went out a couple of days later, I was surprised at how much destruction the storm had left. Most of the trees in the city had broken branches, many huge, which in turn took down power lines. Over 50,000 had lost their electric power -- many, as it turned out, for a week or more. It was the most extensive storm damage I had ever witnessed. You may take that as evidence that I have led a sheltered life, but I've seen several other bad ice storms, a hurricane, a tornado or two or three, a lot of nasty squalls.

This event happened a few days before mudslides and avalanches in California made the news. It happened a week-plus after the far more destructive Indian Ocean tsunami -- as I write now the death toll there is lurching toward, or possibly past, a quarter of a million people. The early reports came from Thailand, since that's where the tourists were, but the ill-reported destruction in Sumatra must have been unfathomable. I recently read Simon Winchester's book on the tsunami unleashed by the 1883 explosion and collapse of the volcano Kratakau in the straits between Sumatra and Java, but the destruction then was largely contained by the straits -- even though the effect was unmistakable in Jakarta and measurable in England.

These disasters each have a political impact, which is not to say that they have a political cause. Sure, one can argue that people take risks in living in dangerous places because they unreasonably expect stable environments, but people have to live somewhere, and most places entail risks. (I'd argue that California is riskier than most places; others might point to Kansas tornados, which I take seriously but don't worry much about.) Rather, the impact is that these and virtually all other disasters weren't budgeted for. Now the electric company here is moaning about the need to raise rates to cover its extraordinary expenses, while the city government has to reallocate money to clean up broken limbs. These are small stakes compared to the damage the tsunami caused, but all of these cases underscore the core fact that when something goes wrong we (as in everybody) expect government to come in and fix things.

What this means is that as disasters mount up government has not merely become the insurer-of-last-resort, it's increasingly becoming the only insurer of note. This should give us pause, especially as the political geniuses of the Republican party have set out on a program to systematically bankrupt government. In doing so they run the risk of leaving us in the rubble. The Bush administration's response to the tsunami crisis is a good example of how this is going to work: a tiny pittance, maybe a bit more after the media shames them, plus whatever the charitably inclined might pitch in; meanwhile the government's contribution gets delivered through the military -- the only U.S. government agency functioning beyond U.S. borders these days -- and only after they work out the payola angles.

One thing we have to realize is that such disasters are inevitable. The tsunami was caused by a major slip along the undersea fault that separates the Indo-Australian plate from Southeast Asia. One doesn't need to check the historical data to determine that such earthquakes are inevitable. All one needs to know is that the limestone that crowns the Himalayas 29,000 feet above sea level was formed in a shallow sea millions of years ago, before India's northward momentum smashed into Tibet and raised the mountains and the plateau behind them. Whether another such earthquake/tsunami happens next year or a hundred years from now or a thousand years from now may be uncertain, but it is absolutely certain that there will be thousands of such slips over the next few millions of years. That this one caught us by surprise just means that we weren't paying attention.

Of course, there are Bush-people who don't buy all of this plate tectonics, millions-of-years, only-a-theory hogwash. Their short-term plan is to ban such inconvenient science from the schools. Their only slightly long-term hope is to hasten armageddon and apocalypse. They are making alarming progress on both fronts.

One more note: After the tsunami I saw at least one normally sane blogger attempt to link the tsunami to global warming. There are several things wrong with this. It is true that global warming will, in general, increase the energy accumulation of tropical storms, and this will tend to increase the tidal surges created by those storms. But it's extremely difficult to get a surge that comes anywhere near the power of this level of tsunami, and any such surge would only have local effects -- nothing at the distance of the coasts of India or Somalia. On the other hand, the worst case global warming scenario would also be incomparable to the tsunami -- it could be far worse. The worst case scenario, at least as I understand it, would be for the East Antarctica Ice Sheet to destabilize and rapidly slide off into the ocean. This would dramatically add to the volume of the world's oceans, and as such would raise the sea level -- everywhere. This would produce waves like a tsunami, but unlike a tsunami they wouldn't recede: huge stretches of real estate, including many of the world's major cities, would be drowned.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Movie: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. This comes off as half-assed much of the time. The klutzy camerawork and grainy resolution of the film-within-the-film threatens to devour the rest of the work, especially as the campy acting straddles both sides of the camera. The most extreme example of the latter is Willem Dafoe's Klaus, but especially when the film swerves through one of its Keystone Cops sequences he can be hilarious. In straddling the border between science and entertainment, wealth and indolence, professionalism and incompetency or dumb luck, fame and ridiculousness, there are many bare edges to work with, some sharp, others dull and rusty, so the film fragments into so many details. Nature, for one, is decorated with surrealism. B+

More year-end lists:

Rolling Stone: Critics Poll, Albums:

  1. Kanye West: The College Dropout
  2. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose
  3. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand
  4. Brian Wilson: Smile
  5. Arcade Fire: Funeral
  6. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born
  7. U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  8. Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous
  9. Green Day: American Idiot
  10. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Readers Poll, Albums:

  1. U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  2. Green Day: American Idiot
  3. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News
  4. Usher: Confessions
  5. Brian Wilson: Smile
  6. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born
  7. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand
  8. Eminem: Encore
  9. Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs
  10. Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill

Mojo: 40 Best Albums of 04:

  1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (Mute)
  2. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  3. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  4. Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (of the Golden Empress)/Nino Rojo (XL)
  5. Mark Lanegan Band: Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet)
  6. Björk: Medúlla (One Little Indian)
  7. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
  8. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Delivery Man (Lost Highway)
  9. Secret Machines: Now Here Is Nowhere (679)
  10. Patti Smith: Trampin' (Columbia)
  11. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
  12. The Libertines: The Libertines (Rough Trade)
  13. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)
  14. Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Attack/Sanctuary)
  15. Kings of Leon: Aha Shake Heatbreak (Handmedown)
  16. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  17. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Rough Trade)
  18. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Locked On)
  19. Mavis Staples: Have a Little Faith (Alligator)
  20. Adem: Homesongs (Domino)
  21. The Icarus Line: Penance Soiree (V2)
  22. The Delgados: Universal Audio (Chemikal Underground)
  23. Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  24. Kelley Stoltz: Antique Glow (Beautiful Happiness)
  25. Lhasa: The Living Road (Les Disques Audiogramme)
  26. Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill (Domino)
  27. Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters (Polydor)
  28. Tom Waits: Real Gone (Anti-)
  29. The Zutons: Who Killed the Zutons? (Deltasonic)
  30. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (4AD)
  31. Cee-Lo: Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine (Arista)
  32. The Country Soul Revue: Testifying (Casual)
  33. Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Triban Union/Independent)
  34. Norah Jones: Feels Like Home (Blue Note/EMI)
  35. The Bees: Free the Bees (Virgin)
  36. The Futureheads: The Futureheads (679)
  37. Reigning Sound: Too Much Guitar (In the Red)
  38. Paul Westerberg: Folker (Vagrant)
  39. Prince: Musicology (NPG)
  40. Kasabian: Kasabian (RCA)

Genre Albums of the Year: World (David Hutcheon):

  1. Youssou N'Dour: Egypt (Nonesuch)
  2. Gipsy Kings: Roots (Sine)
  3. Bebel Gilberto: Bebel Gilberto (Eastwest)
  4. Etienne Daho: Réévolution (Virgin France)
  5. Mory Kanté: Sabou (Riverboat)
  6. Asere: Destino (Astar)
  7. Rachid Taha: Tékitoi (Wrasse)
  8. Les ondas Marteles: Y Después de Todo (Bleu Electric)
  9. Yulduz: Bilmadim (30 Hertz)
  10. Omara Portuondo: Flor de Amor (World Circuit)

Soundtracks (Pete Redmond):

  1. Massive Attack: Danny the Dog (Wild Bunch/Virgin)
  2. Ennio Morricone: Short Night of the Glass Dolls (Screen Trax)
  3. Dawn of the Dead (Trunk)
  4. Bruno Nicolai: Tutto i Colori del Buio (Digitmovies)
  5. Zbigniew Preisner: It's All About Love (First Name)
  6. Ilaiyaraaja: Wings (RER Megacorp)
  7. Bobby Beausoleil & the Freedom Orkestra: Lucifer Rising (Arcanum)
  8. Francois de Roubaix: La Scoumoune (CAM)
  9. Jerry Fielding: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Intrada)
  10. Schwabing Affairs (Diggler)

Folk (Colin Irwin):

  1. Mary McPartlan: The Holland Handkerchief (MCP)
  2. Martin Carthy: Waiting for Angels (Topic)
  3. Tempered: Last Night's Fun (Rabble Rouser)
  4. The Oysterband: The Big Session Volume 1 (Westpark)
  5. Old Swan Band: Swan Upmanship (Wild Goose)
  6. Susan McKeown: Sweet Liberty (World Village)
  7. Planxty: Live 2004 (Sony)
  8. Pete Coe: In Paper Houses (Backshift)
  9. Uiscedwr: Everywhere (Yukka)
  10. Bob Davenport: The Common Stone (Topic)

Underground (Andrew Carden):

  1. Wolf Eyes: Burned Mind (Sub Pop)
  2. Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (Fat Cat)
  3. French Kicks: Trial of the Century (Eat Sleep)
  4. Sun O))): White (Southern Lord)
  5. Mindflayer: It's Always 1999 (reissue) (Load)
  6. Sunburned Hand of the Man: Rare Wood (Spirit of Orr)
  7. Black Dice: Creature Comforts (Fat Cat)
  8. Coachwhips: Banbers vs Fuckers (Narnack)
  9. Shearwater: Winged Life (Fargo)
  10. Oneida: Secret Wars (Jagjaguwar)

Americana (Sylvie Simmons):

  1. Terry Allen: Juarez (Sugar Hill)
  2. Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo (Cooking Vinyl)
  3. Jim White: Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See (Luaka Bop)
  4. Iron & Wine: The Sea & the Rhythm (Sub Pop)
  5. Dan Reeder: Dan Reeder (Oh Boy)
  6. Laura Veirs: Carbon Glacier (Bella Union)
  7. Ben Weaver: Stories Under Nails (Fargo)
  8. Jolie Holland: Escondida (Anti-/Epitaph)
  9. Charlemagne: Charlemagne (Loose)
  10. Johnny Dowd: Cemetery Shoes (Munich)

New Jazz (Chris Ingham):

  1. Bojan Z Trio: Transpacific (Label Bleu)
  2. James Carter: Gardenias for Lady Day (Columbia/Sony)
  3. Marty Ehrlich: Line on Love (Palmetto)
  4. Bill Charlap Trio: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein (Blue Note)
  5. Ulf Wakenius: Forever You (Stunt)
  6. Stefano Bollani: Småt Småt (Label Bleu)
  7. Joe Lovano: I'm All for You (Blue Note)
  8. Patricia Barber: Live: A Fortnight in France (Blue Note)
  9. Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble: Musik (Enja)
  10. Enrico Pieranunzi: Fellinijazz (CamJazz)

Dance (Matthew Collin):

  1. Little Anie and the Legally Jammin': Little Annie and the Legally Jammin' (Italic)
  2. Felix Da Housecat: Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever (Emperor Norton)
  3. Fotomoto: Suranov, A? (Snegiri)
  4. !!!: Louden Up Now (Warp)
  5. UNKLE: Never, Never Land [Inside Out Limited Edition Bonus CD] (Global)
  6. Volga: Three Fields (Volga/Sketis)
  7. Junior Boys: Last Exit (Kin)
  8. Spektrum: Enter the Spektrum (Playhouse)
  9. Sketch Show: Loophole (Third Ear)
  10. Roni Size: Return to V (V)

Reggae Reissues (Andrew Perry):

  1. Max Romeo & the Upsetters: War Ina Babylon (Hip-O Select/Universal)
  2. Burning Spear: At Studio One (Soul Jazz)
  3. The Skatalites: Ska-Boo-Da-Ba (Ska Down Jamaica Way Vol. 1) (WSM)
  4. Creation Rebel: Starship Africa (Hit Run)
  5. Lee Perry: Dub Triptych (Trojan/Sanctuary)
  6. Studio One Funk (Soul Jazz)
  7. Herman Chin Loy: Aquarius Rock: The Hip Reggae Sound Of . . . (Pressure Sounds)
  8. Trojan Explosion (Trojan/Sanctuary)
  9. Mikey Dread: African Anthem Dubwise (Auralux)
  10. Bob Marley and the Wailers: Grooving Kingston 12 (JAD Masters 1970-1972) (Universal)

Urban (Angus Batey):

  1. Skinnyman: Council Estate of Mind (Lowlife)
  2. Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)
  3. Blade: Storms Are Brewing (691 Influential)
  4. Beverley Knight: Affirmation (Parlophone)
  5. Masta Ace: A Long Hot Summer (Studio)
  6. Eminem: Encore (Interscope)
  7. Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs (Parlophone)
  8. Jay Sean: Me Against Myself (Relentless)
  9. Ozomatli: Street Signs (Real World)
  10. Mos Def: The New Danger (Geffen)


  1. The Faces: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . . (Rhino)
  2. The Kinks: Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary)
  3. Can: Tago Mago (Spoon)
  4. Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost (Revenant)
  5. Jeff Buckley: Grace 10th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Sony Legacy)
  6. ABC: Lexicon of Love Deluxe Edition (Universal)
  7. Social Classics Vol. 3: Dread Meets B-Boys Downtown (Heavenly)
  8. The United States of America: The United States of America (Sundazed)
  9. Bettye Swann: Bettye Swann (Honest Jons)
  10. Nicky Siano's the Gallery (Soul Jazz)

All Music Guide: Best of 2004, minus classical:

  • !!!: Louden Up Now (Touch and Go)
  • Aberfeldy: Young Forever (Rough Trade)
  • Ada: Blondie (Areal)
  • The Arcade Fire: Funeral Buy (Merge)
  • Architecture in Helsinki: Fingers Crossed (Bar/None)
  • Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70) (Revenant)
  • Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
  • Björk: Medúlla (Elektra)
  • The Black Keys: Rubber Factory (Fat Possum)
  • Blanche: If We Can't Trust the Doctors (V2)
  • Camera Obscura: Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge)
  • The Clash: London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Epic/Legacy)
  • CocoRosie: La Maison de Mon Reve (Touch and Go)
  • Alice Coltrane: Translinear Light (Impulse)
  • Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From the WEA Vaults (Rhino Handmade)
  • Comets on Fire: Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
  • Deerhoof: Milk Man (Kill Rock Stars)
  • Destroyer: Your Blues Buy (Merge)
  • Dios: Dios (Startime International)
  • Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
  • DJ/Rupture: Special Gunpowder (Tigerbeat6)
  • Electrelane: Power Out (Beggars Banquet)
  • Faces: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . . (Warner Bros./Rhino)
  • Faun Fables: Family Album (Drag City)
  • Felix da Housecat: Devin Dazzle & the Neon Fever (Rykodisc)
  • The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade)
  • The Finn Brothers: Everyone Is Here (Nettwerk)
  • Jason Forrest: The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash (Sonig)
  • Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  • The Futureheads: The Futureheads (Sire)
  • The Go!: Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Memphis Industries)
  • Green Day: American Idiot (Reprise)
  • The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
  • Alan Jackson: What I Do (BMG/Arista Nashville)
  • Jobriath: Lonely Planet Boy (Sanctuary)
  • Junior Boys: Last Exit (Domino)
  • Mike Keneally & the Metropole Orkest: The Universe Will Provide (Favored Nations/NPS Output)
  • Le Tigre: This Island (Strummer/Universal)
  • The Legends: Up Against the Legends (Lakeshore S)
  • Jens Lekman: When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (Secretly Canadian)
  • Sondre Lerche: Two Way Monologue (Astralwerks)
  • Liars: They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (Mute)
  • The Libertines: The Libertines (Rough Trade)
  • Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz: Crunk Juice (TVT)
  • Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  • Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  • Mastodon: Leviathan (Relapse)
  • Nellie McKay: Get Away from Me (Columbia)
  • Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  • Moodymann: Black Mahogani (Peacefrog)
  • Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Attack)
  • Teedra Moses: Complex Simplicity (TVT)
  • Mouse on Mars: Radical Connector (Thrill Jockey)
  • A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder (Matador)
  • Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City)
  • The Organ: Grab That Gun (Mint)
  • Johnny Paycheck: The Little Darlin' Sound of Johnny Paycheck: The Beginning (Koch)
  • The Ponys: Laced With Romance (In the Red)
  • David Ruffin: David -- The Unreleased Album (Hip-O Select)
  • Saturday Looks Good to Me: Every Night (Polyvinyl)
  • Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters (Universal)
  • Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  • Rick Springfield: Mission Magic (Master Classics)
  • The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice/Atlantic)
  • Telefon Tel Aviv: Map of What Is Effortless (Hefty)
  • Tilly and the Wall: Wild Like Children (Team Love)
  • TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  • Caetano Veloso: A Foreign Sound (Nonesuch)
  • Ricardo Villalobos: Thé au Harem d'Archimède (Perlon)
  • Walking Concert: Run to Be Born (Some)
  • The Walkmen: Bows + Arrows (Record Collection)
  • Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  • Brian Wilson: SMiLE (Nonesuch)
  • Wolf Eyes: Burned Mind (Sub Pop)
  • Wrangler Brutes: Zulu (Kill Rock Stars)
  • Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles (5 Rue Christine)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Shawn Bosler asked me to write a Voice Choices for Sonic Liberation Front. This is what I came up with:

Sonic Liberation Front
37 West 26th St.
Manhattan, NY
Phone: (212) 576-1155

Led by percussionist Kevin Diehl, SLF takes Afro-Cuba's Yoruba rhythms and melodies as a starting point for their free jazz and electronics, creating a postmodern folk music that both honors its historical roots and shows how we find liberation in the exotic and the adventurous.

Price Info: $15
at 8:00 pm
Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Music: Initial count 10131 [10103] rated (+28), 921 [934] unrated (-13). Seems like this has been a week of thrashing. Year-end comments done, but year-end lists keep pouring in. A frozen copy of the year 2004 list has been squirrelled away, with the ongoing list still collecting new things and grades, but color-coded to distinguish what came late. The year 2003 list is now completely frozen, which means I didn't add Triage's Twenty Minute Cliff to it, a newly discovered A-. Not much new coming in, so the unrateds continue to wither down. Not much rush on either, but could get JCG and RG organized this week. Meanwhile, just trying to hack away at the backlog.

  • Federico Aubele: Gran Hotel Buenos Aires (2003, Eighteenth Street Lounge Music). AMG lists Aubele under electronica, but lists this album under latin. Aubele is an Argentine guitarist, which would seem to favor the latter, but Argentine music is rooted more generically in Europe as South America, and Aubele's approach is decidedly low-key, closer to trip hop than tango. In particular, singer Sumaia offers a light gloss on trip hop deadpan. Aubele's guitar makes for a nice, fragrant background. Delightful. B+
  • The Beakers: Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution (1980-81 [2004], K). Another rock group with negligible output during their lifetime, resurrected long after the fact with lots of previously unreleased material. Official releases: one 45, songs on two comps. Label calls them "four art-bashing funk wave arbiters who skronked into action [and] toured up and down the west coast." From Seattle, I think. Influenced by Gang of Four. A couple of songs sound like Talking Heads, wrenched into a deeper vocal register and harder beat. The saxophonist is fun, but pretty inarticulate. It's crap, but that's just part of their aesthetic. B
  • The Blackouts: History in Reverse (1979-84 [2004], K). More sonic archaeology from Seattle, a group with two EPs and loose connections to groups like Ministry and Revolting Cocks, which along with Talking Heads and the Fall roughly delimit their sound: more prog and more accomplished than most of the era's postpunk wannabes. Note that the songs here have been programmed in reverse chronology, hence the title. The last/first song is a blatant Talking Heads cop. It's interesting that minor bands sound like everyone else, while major bands sound like themselves. This one is minor, but pretty sharp. B+
  • Lloyd Banks: The Hunger for More (2004, Interscope). Not so fly as NERD, nor so high as Nelly, but a more credible gangsta than either. Not that that's much of a claim, but it helps position him. Consistently works musicwise; the beats bounce, the slower shit paces itself, the rhymes carry the rhythm. Don't know about lyrics. I've seen big piles of this in stores, so presumably it sells bigtime. Don't listen to much bigtime commercial rap, but this is a lot more solid than I usually expect. B+
  • Carnival in Trinidad ([2001], Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt). No discographical information. Only a couple of names I've run into before. I've also seen this packed up in a slipcase box with other "International Music Series" titles, one of Cajun music, the other from Latvia. Pretty half-assed, but the music on this one at least is red hot. Presumably this is recent material, since it marks a progression beyond classic calypso and soca similar to where dancehall stands beyond ska and reggae: much harder beats, a forceful dance frenzy, a significant reduction in the importance of the words. In other words, pure party. B+
  • A Certain Ratio: Early (1978-85 [2002], Soul Jazz, 2CD). They were one of the first electronic dance bands, combining elements of disco and new wave and krautrock and what eventually came to be known as industrial -- bands like New Order and OMD and Cabaret Voltaire came later. I vaguely remember an early album, which would have been on Factory Records, home of Joy Division. The main difference vs. Joy Division is that they didn't have a trademark singer, but their music was pointed toward anonymity, so that may have been a plus -- after all, Joy Division got better when Ian Curtis left the scene. The "Early" disc is still a lot of fun; "B-Sides, Rarities & Sessions" is a little more scattered. B+
  • Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash: Brand Spankin' New (1998, Knitting Factory). Horvitz plays organ (Hammond B3), various synths and electric piano. He's joined by Timothy Young (guitar), Fred Chalenor (bass), and Andy Roth (drums), for what is basically a shorthand funk outing. B+
  • María Márquez: Nature's Princess (2003 [2004], Adventure Music). Venezuelan singer, now based on Oakland CA; the music has an unfamiliar, non-specific latin feel to it, evenly paced and wrapped in lush arrangements, but it is her voice (sharp, almost arch) that you will love or hate; I'm starting to get used to it. B B
  • Nas: Street's Disciple (2004, Sony Urban Music/Columbia, 2CD). Sex rhymes and attitude, rants on perfect bitches, one for his old man and/or Muddy Waters. Two discs, and both of them worthwhile. A-
  • Enrico Pieranunzi/Paul Motian: Flux and Change (1995, Soul Note). Piano and drums duo, with 23 pieces, nominally organized into three suites. The relationship of the suites isn't obvious, especially given that they include borrowed pieces like "St. Thomas" and "Straight No Chaser." But the piano and drums are clear enough. B+
  • Dianne Reeves: Christmas Time Is Here (2004, Blue Note). I hate Christmas albums. Hate them so much I didn't bother to record this in the current jazz file. Playing it now just to move it off my shelf, and don't expect ever to play it again. (Note to publicists: don't send me Christmas music.) That much said, this has little of the typical feel of Christmas music. No jingle jangle. Not even much I'd recognize as usual fare, save the opener ("Little Drummer Boy") and closer ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and something about chestnuts roasting on an open fire -- taken very slow -- none among the worse. Reeves is among the best jazz singers working today. Steve Wilson is a definite plus. The string quartet doesn't do much damage. The Scrooge in me says deep six it. But I've heard worse -- much worse. B-
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia ([2004], World Music Network): whereas the Éthiopiques series went for blanket coverage of a corner of Africa unlike any other, this comp just cherry-picks -- mostly from Éthiopiques plus late-breaking star Aster Aweke. As usual, the documentation doesn't bother with mundane details like where or when -- most of this seems to come from the post-Mengistu thaw in the '90s, with a few bits from pre-Mengistu "swinging Addis" in the '70s. A-
  • Matthew Sweet: Living Things (2004, RCAM). Trademark sound, but the layering has grown awful thick, and the songs collapse under all the dead weight. C+
  • Skye Sweetnam: Noise From the Basement (2004, Capitol). Young rocker from Canada, somewhere near Toronto. Don't know how old she is, but I gather from her bio on her website that she's moved on past age twelve. Her collaborator here is someone named James Robertson, who (we're informed) was 21 when they met. This is their first album, and it sounds pretty good to me. Note cover song, "Heart of Glass." Note original, "It Sucks." Think when she grows up she'll become the next Pink? B+
  • Van Halen: 1984 (1984, Warner Brothers). Hey, it's a dirty job, but this seems to be regarded as the masterpiece of the biggest arena rock band of the early '80s. Sure, I'm 20 years late, but I've had other priorities, like the Descendents and the Revolting Cocks. Title song is 1:07 of synth swosh. "Jump" sounds like it must have been their hit -- clean, tight, radio-ready. "Panama" couldn't have been a hit -- lousy, cluttered song, but a great bass riff. "Top Jimmy" is wobblier. "Hot for Teacher" and "House of Pain" are just heavy. Guess it could be their masterpiece. B

Saturday, January 15, 2005

More year end lists:

Jazz Times: Top 50 CDs:

  1. Don Byron: Ivey-Divey (Blue Note)
  2. Andy Bey: American Song (Savoy)
  3. Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: The Out-of-Towners (ECM)
  4. Branford Marsalis: Eternal (Marsalis Music)
  5. Dave Douglas: Strange Liberation (Bluebird)
  6. Saxophone Summit: Gathering of Spirits (Telarc)
  7. Geri Allen: The Life of a Song (Telarc)
  8. Von Freeman: The Great Divide (Premonition)
  9. Bill Frisell: Unspeakable (Nonesuch)
  10. The Bad Plus: Give (Columbia)
  11. Maria Schneider: Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare)
  12. Patricia Barber: Live: A Fortnight in France (Blue Note)
  13. Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost (Revenant)
  14. Marilyn Crispell: Storyteller (ECM)
  15. Joe Lovano: I'm All for You (Blue Note)
  16. Alice Coltrane: Translinear Light (Impulse)
  17. Tomasz Stanko: Suspended Night (ECM)
  18. Chris Potter: Lift (Sunnyside)
  19. Matthew Shipp: Harmony & Abyss (Thirsty Ear)
  20. Brad Mehldau: Live in Tokyo (Nonesuch)
  21. Scott Hamilton & Harry Allen: Heavy Juice (Concord)
  22. Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room (Verve)
  23. Dave Burrell: Expansion (High Two)
  24. The Great Jazz Trio: Someday My Prince Will Come (Eighty-Eights)
  25. Stefon Harris & Blackout: Evolution (Blue Note)
  26. Luciana Souza: Neruda (Sunnyside)
  27. Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: Mean Ameen (Delmark)
  28. Moacir Santos: Ouro Negro (Adventure)
  29. Charlie Haden: Land of the Sun (Verve)
  30. Brad Mehldau: Anything Goes (Warner Bros.)
  31. Bill Charlap: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein (Blue Note)
  32. Andrew Hill: The Day the World Stood Still (Stunt)
  33. John Scofield Trio: EnRoute (Verve)
  34. James Moody: Homage (Savoy)
  35. Craig Taborn: Junk Magic (Thirsty Ear)
  36. Clark Terry & the Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Porgy & Bess (Americana)
  37. Tony Malaby: Adobe (Sunnyside)
  38. The Nels Cline Singers: The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone)
  39. Sticks & Stones: Shed Grace (Thrill Jockey)
  40. Rabih Abou-Khalil: Morton's Foot (Justin Time/Enja)
  41. Medeski, Martin & Wood: End of the World Party (Just in Case) (Blue Note)
  42. David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters: Gwotet (Justin Time)
  43. Bob Brookmeyer: Get Well Soon (Challenge)
  44. Ben Allison: Buzz (Palmetto)
  45. Omar Sosa: Mulatos (Otá)
  46. Louis Sclavis: Napoli's Walls (ECM)
  47. Joe Sample: Soul Shadows (Verve)
  48. Carla Bley: The Lost Chords (Watt/ECM)
  49. Roscoe Mitchell: Solo3 (Mutable)
  50. Terry Gibbs: 52nd & Broadway (Mack Avenue)

Reissues of the Year:

  1. Miles Davis: Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1963-1964 (Columbia/Legacy)
  2. Andrew Hill: Dance of Death (Blue Note)
  3. Woody Herman: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Woody HErman, 1945-1947 (Mosaic)
  4. James Brown: Soul on Top (Verve)
  5. The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions (Verve)
  6. Bill Evans: You Must Believe in Spring (Warner Bros.)
  7. Tal Farlow: The Complete Verve Tal Farlow Sessions (Mosaic)
  8. Revolutionary Ensemble: The Psyche (Mutable)
  9. Dizzy Reece: Mosaic Select (Mosaic)
  10. Dexter Gordon: The Complete Prestige Recordings (Prestige)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Renato Redentor Constantino has a piece on TomDispatch which juxtaposes various quotes about the U.S. relief effort in Indonesia with U.S. statements about Iraq and Korea. While I knew that the U.S. did some horrible things in Korea, I don't recall reading about these:

But there are tides and tides -- and some tides have yet to recede from the region.

"The damage done by the deluge far exceeded the hopes of everyone," reported the U.S. Fifth Air Force gleefully in May 1953 after wave upon wave of American fighter-bombers had destroyed and emptied the 2,300-foot Toksan dam, an earth-and-stone reservoir in North Korea. Floodwaters from the dam surged and washed out bridges and roads and swept away railway lines. The massive flash-flood destroyed hundreds of buildings and devastated rice field after rice field.

U.S. Air Force accounts joyously described the intended consequences of the campaign. "To the average Oriental," wrote one report, ". . . an empty rice bowl symbolizes starvation."

The Oriental "could stand the loss of industry" stated another. He "could sustain great loss of human life, for life is plentiful and apparently cheap in the Orient." But not rice. "The Westerner," the report declared, "can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of this stable food commodity has for the Asian -- starvation and slow death . . . Attacks on the precious water supply had struck where it hurts most."

"The last time an act of this kind had been carried out, which was by the Nazis in Holland in 1944," said Korea historians Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings, "it had been deemed a war crime at Nuremberg."

Then Constantino brings up another recipient of U.S. aid to Asia: Pol Pot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More year-end lists:

Jazzmatazz: New Issues:

  • Peter Brotzmann: Medicina (Atavistic)
  • Dave Burrell's Full-Blown Trio: Expansion (High Two)
  • Bill Charlap Trio: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein (Blue Note)
  • Pierre Favre & Arte Quartett: Saxophones (Intakt)
  • Dennis Gonzalez New York Quartet: NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mother Tongue (Pi)
  • Kevin Norton's Living Language: Intuitive Structures (Cadence)
  • Greg Osby: Public (Blue Note)
  • Ned Rothenberg & Peter A. Schmid: En Passant (Creative Works)
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra: Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare)
  • Elliot Sharp: Velocity of Hue (2003) (Emanem)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts: Detained at the Blue Note (Half Note)
  • Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts: Wake Up! (To What's Happening) (Palmetto)

Honorable Mention:

  • Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel: Buzz (Palmetto)
  • Jamie Baum: Moving Forward, Standing Still (Omnitone)
  • Alice Coltrane: Translinear Light (Impulse)
  • David Berger and the Sultans of Swing: Marlowe (Such Sweet Thunder)
  • Marc Copland/Gary Peacock: What It Says (Sketch)
  • Gary Hassay & Ellen Christi: Tribute to Paradise (Drimala)
  • Phillip Johnston: Rub Me the Wrong Way (Innova)
  • Frank Kimbrough: Lullabluebye (Palmetto)
  • Soweto Kinch: Conversations With the Unseen (Dune)
  • Tony Malaby Trio: Adobe (Sunnyside)
  • Joe Maneri/Mat Maneri/Barre Phillips: Angles of Repose (ECM)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: Eternal (Marsalis Music)
  • Jon Mayer: The Classics (Reservoir Music)
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Solo (Mutable Music, 3CD)
  • Larry Ochs/Joan Jeanrenaud/Miya Masaoka: Fly Fly Fly (Intakt)
  • One for All: Blueslike (Criss Cross)
  • Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt: Vista (Meta)
  • Matthew Shipp: Harmony & Abyss (Thirsty Ear)
  • Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Breeding Resistance (Delmark)
  • Cecil Taylor & the Italian Instabile Orchestra: The Owner of the Riverbank (Enja/Justin Time)
  • Mark Turner/Larry Grenadier/Jeff Ballard: Fly (Savoy)
  • Triage: American Mythology (Okka Disk)
  • Fay Victor: Lazy Old Sun: Live/Life in the Low Lands (Greene Ave)

Other notable new releases:

  • John Abercrombie Quartet: Class Trip (ECM)
  • Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Back Together Again (Thrill Jockey)
  • Derek Bailey & Milo Fine: Scale Points on the Fever Curve (2003) (Emanem)
  • Frode Berg: Dig It! (Nagel Heyer)
  • Tim Berne's Big Satan: Souls Saved Hear (Thirsty Ear)
  • Andy Bey: American Song (Savoy)
  • Raoul Björkenheim & Lukas Ligeti: Shadowglow (Tum)
  • Brotzmann/McPhee/Kessler/Zerang: Tales Out of Time (Hatology)
  • Uri Caine Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Winter & Winter)
  • Deep Blue Organ Trio: Deep Blue Bruise (Delmark)
  • Paul Dunmall & Paul Rogers: Awareness Response (2003) (Emanem)
  • Ellery Eskelin: Ten: EEwAP&JP+3(10) (Hatology)
  • Don Friedman Trio: My Favorite Things (441)
  • Don Friedman: Hot House (Chiaroscuro)
  • Ian Hendrickson-Smith: Still Smokin' (Sharp Nine)
  • Conrad Herwig & Brian Lynch: Que Viva Coltrane (Criss Cross)
  • Vinnie Golia Quintet: One, Three, Two (Jazz'halo, 2CD)
  • Peter Kowald/Alberto Braida/Giancarlo Locatelli: Aria (Free Elephant)
  • Tom Lawton: Retrospective/Debut (Dreambox Media, 2CD)
  • Dom Minasi: Quick Response (CDM)
  • David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters featuring Pharoah Sanders: Gwotet (Justin Time)
  • Mario Pavone Quartet: Boom (Playscape)
  • Bruno Råberg Nonet: Chrysalis (Orbis Music)
  • The Revolutionary Ensemble: And Now . . . (Pi)
  • Jerome Sabbagh: North (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Rob Schneiderman: Back in Town (Reservoir)
  • Dave Schnitter: Sketch (Sunnyside/Omix)
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith: Too Damn Hot (Palmetto)
  • John Scofield Trio: EnRoute: Live (Verve)
  • Tierney Sutton: Dancing in the Dark (Telarc)
  • Bobby Watson & Horizon: Horizon Reassembled (Palmetto)
  • David Weiss Sextet: The Mirror (Fresh Sound New Talent)

Jazzmatazz: Box Sets:

  • Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-1970) (Revenant, 9CD)
  • Miles Davis: Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis, 1963-1964 (Columbia/Legacy, 7CD)

Jazzmatazz: Vintage Issues and Reissues:

  • Anthony Braxton: Solo (Milano) 1979 (Golden Years of New Jazz)
  • Duke Ellington: Piano in the Background (1961, Columbia/Legacy)
  • The Globe Unity Orchestra & the Choir of the NDR-Broadcast: Live at Hamburg '74 (Atavistic Unheard Music Series)
  • Andrew Hill: Dance With Death (1968, Blue Note)
  • Elvin Jones Jazz Machine: The Truth: Heard Live at the Blue Note (1999, Half Note)
  • Steve Lacy Five: The Way (1979, Hatology, 2CD)
  • Warne Marsh: All Music (1976, Nessa)
  • Revolutionary Ensemble: The Psyche (1975, Mutable Music)
  • Paul Rutherford Trio: Gheim: Live at Bracknell 1983 (Emanem)

Other notable vintage releases and reissues:

  • Duke Ellington: Piano in the Foreground (1961, Columbia/Legacy)
  • Les McCann: Invitation to Openness (1971, Water)
  • McCoy Tyner: Counterpoints: Live in Tokyo (1978, Milestone)
  • Sun Ra: Solo Piano Recital - Teatro La Fenice - Venezia (1977, Golden Years of New Jazz)

Harp: Critics Picks Top 40:

  1. Tom Waits: Real Gone (Anti-)
  2. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  3. PJ Harvey: Uh Huh Her (Island)
  4. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter: Oh, My Girl (Barsuk)
  5. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)
  6. Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
  7. Steve Earle: The Revolution Starts . . . Now (Artemis/E-Squared)
  8. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Delivery Man (Lost Highway)
  9. Mark Lanegan: Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet)
  10. Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute)
  11. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  12. Drive By Truckers: The Dirty South (New West)
  13. Anders Parker: Tell It to the Dust (Baryon)
  14. Ted Leo: Shake the Sheets (Lookout)
  15. Ray Lamontagne: Trouble (RCA)
  16. Black Keys: Rubber Factory (Fat Possum)
  17. Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill (Anti-)
  18. John Frusciante: Shadows Collide With People (Warner Bros.)
  19. Jesse Malin: The Heat (Artemis)
  20. Jon Dee Graham: The Gerat Battle (New West)
  21. Richard Buckner: Dents and Shells (Merge)
  22. Robyn Hitchcock: Spooked (Yep Roc)
  23. Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Sanctuary)
  24. Nick Cave: Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-)
  25. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
  26. Eleni Mandell: Afternoon (Zedtone)
  27. Paul Westerberg: Folker (Vagrant)
  28. Los Lobos: This Ride (Hollywood)
  29. Matthew Sweet: Kimi Go Suki Raifu (RCA)
  30. Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  31. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  32. Joana Newsom: Milk Eyed Mender (Drag City)
  33. Magnetic Fields: i (Nonesuch)
  34. Patty Griffin: Impossible Dream (ATO)
  35. Mindy Smith: One Moment More (Vanguard)
  36. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Sony)
  37. Camper Van Beethoven: New Roman Times (Vanguard)
  38. Slaid Cleaves: Wishbones (Rounder)
  39. Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me (Columbia)
  40. David Berkeley: After the Wrecking Ships (Ten-Good)

Other Music: Outstanding electronic albums:

  • Mitchell Akiyama: If Night Is a Weed and Day Grows Less (Sub Rosa)
  • AM/PM: The Ends 1 & 2 (Dreck)
  • Efterklang: Tripper (Leaf)
  • Thomas Fehlmann: Lowflow (Plug Research)
  • Fennesz: Venice (Touch)
  • Fourcolor: Water Mirror (Apestaartje)
  • Oliver Hacke: Subject Carrier (Trapez)
  • Junior Boys: Last Exit (Domino)
  • Khonnor: Handwriting (Type)
  • Mokira: Fft Pop (CubicFabric)
  • Mu: Afro Finger and Gel (Tigersushi)
  • Pantha Du Prince: Diamond Daze (Dial)
  • DJ Rels: Theme for a Broken Soul (Stones Throw)
  • Savath and Savalas: Apropa't (Warp)
  • Spektrum: Enter the . . . Spektrum (Playhouse)
  • Sten: Leaving the Frantic (Dial)
  • John Tejada: Logic Memory Center (Plug Research)
  • Triola: Triola Im Fünftonraum (Kompakt)
  • Ricardo Villalobos: The Au Harem D'Archimede (Perlon)

Other electronic notables:

  • Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  • Claro Intelecto: Neurofibro (Ai)
  • Melchior Productions: The Meaning (Playhouse)
  • Pan Sonic: Kesto Box (Mute)
  • Secret Frequency Crew: Forest of the Echo Downs (Schematic)

Outstanding Electronic Compilations and Mixes:

  • 4-Hero: Life Styles (Harmless)
  • Baile Funk 2: Various Agora e Moda (Black Betty)
  • DJ Koze: All People Is My Friends (Kompakt)
  • How to Kill the DJ Pt. 2: Optimo Mix (Tigersushi)
  • Kompakt 100 (Kompakt)
  • Morgan Geist: Unclassics (Environ)
  • Nicky Siano's Gallery (Soul Jazz)
  • Theo Parrish: Parallel Dimensions (Ubiquity)
  • Trax Records: 20th Anniversary Collection (Trax)

Outstanding rock albums:

  • Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (FatCat)
  • Panda Bear: Young Prayer (Paw Tracks)
  • Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  • Black Dice: Creature Comforts (DFA)
  • Bloc Party: Bloc Party (Dim Mak)
  • Blonde Redhead: Misery Is a Butterfly (4AD)
  • Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
  • Diane Cluck: Oh Vanille (Self-released)
  • The Double: Palm Fronds (Catsup Plate)
  • Dungen: Ta det Lungt (Subliminal Sounds)
  • Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Epic/Domino)
  • The Futureheads: S/T (Sire)
  • Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  • Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
  • Joanna Newsom: The Milk Eyed Mender (Drag City)
  • Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  • Juana Molina: Tres Cosas (Domino)
  • The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
  • Skygreen Leopards: One Thousand Bird Ceremony (Soft Abuse)
  • Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
  • TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch & Go)
  • The Walkmen: Bows and Arrows (Record Collection)
  • White Magic: Through the Sun Door (Drag City)

Other rock notables:

  • Comets on Fire: Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
  • The Concretes: S/T (Astralwerks)
  • Dead Moon: Dead Ahead (Tombstone)
  • Jolie Holland: Escondida (Anti)
  • Love Is All: Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up (What's Your Rupture)
  • Susanna & the Magical Orchestra: Lists of Lights & Buoys (Rune Grammofon)
  • Golden Apples of the Sun (Bastet)

Outstanding rock reissues:

  • Terry Allen: Juarez (Sugar Hill)
  • Bill Fay: From the Bottom of an Old Grandfather Clock (Wooden Hill)
  • Jobriath: Lonely Planet Boy (Attack/Sanctuary)
  • The Kinks: Village Green Preservation Society -- Deluxe Edition (Sanctuary)
  • Pavement: Crooked Rain . . . Deluxe Edition (Matador)
  • Annette Peacock: My Mama Never Taught Me How to Cook (Castle/Sanctuary)
  • Terry Reid: Super Lungs/Complete Studio Recordings '66-'69 (EMI UK)
  • The Revelons: Anthology (Sepia Tone)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex: Remastered Editions (Straight Ahead/A&M Import)
  • Rough Trade Shops Indie Pop Box (Mute)

Outstanding post-punk reissues:

  • Antena: Camino del Sol (Numero)
  • Arthur Russell: World of Arthur Russell (Soul Jazz)
  • Arthur Russell: Calling Out of Context (Audika)
  • Arthur Russell: World of Echo (Audika)
  • Comsat Angels: It's History (Nano)
  • The Cure: Three Imaginary Boys (Fiction/Rhino)
  • DNA: DNA on DNA (No More)
  • Homosexuals: Astral Glamour (Mesthetics/Morphius)
  • Lizzy Mercier Descloux: Press Color (ZE)
  • Lizzy Mercier Descloux: Mambo Nassau (ZE)
  • Metal Urbain: Anarchy in Paris (Acute)
  • So Young But So Cold: Various Underground French Music '79 to '83 (Tigersushi)
  • Verschwende Deine Jugend: Punk und New Wave in Deutchland (Universal Germany)

Outstanding folk reissues:

  • Fotheringay: Fotheringay (Fledgling)
  • Kathy & Carol: Kathy & Carol (Collectors Choice)
  • Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (Island)
  • Richard & Linda Thompson: Hokey Pokey (Island)
  • Richard & Linda Thompson: Pour Down Like Silver (Island)
  • Shirley Collins & the Albion Country Band: No Roses (Castle)
  • Singing in the Streets: Scottish Children Songs (Rounder)
  • Chris Smither: Honeysuckle Dog (Okra-tone)

Outstanding hip hop:

  • Beans: Shock City Maverick (Warp)
  • De La Soul: The Grind Date (Sanctuary Union)
  • Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
  • Foreign Exchange: Connected (BBE)
  • Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)
  • Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  • MF Doom: Mm . . . Food (Rhymesayers)
  • M.I.A.: Galang (XL)
  • Prince Po: The Slickness (Lex)
  • Sa-Ra: Glorious and Rosebuds (Ubiquity 12")
  • Sa-Ra: Double Dutch (Ubiquity 12")
  • Dread Meets B-Boys Downtown (Heavenly)
  • Third Unheard - Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983 (Stones Throw)

Soul, funk & assorted grooves:

  • Baby Huey: The Living Legend of . . . (Water)
  • Bettye Swann: S/T (Honest Jons/Astralwerks)
  • Candi Staton: S/T (Astralwerks)
  • Cloud One: Atmosphere Strut (Octipi)
  • Connie Price & the Keystones: Wildflowers (Now Again/Stones Throw)
  • Eccentric Soul - The Capsoul Label (Numero)
  • Eccentric Soul - The Bandit Label (Numero)
  • Manzel: Midnight Theme (Dope Brother)
  • McNeal & Niles: Thrust (Chocolate Industries)
  • Midwest Funk - 45s from Tornado Alley (Jazzman)
  • Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel/Adventures in Paradise (Stateside)
  • Temptations: Psychedelic Soul (Motown/Universal)
  • Wonder of Stevie 2 (Harmless)
  • Marvel of Marvin (Harmless)

Outstanding experimental music:

  • Oren Ambarchi: Grapes From the Estate (Touch)
  • Sir Richard Bishop: Improvika (Locust Music)
  • Boredoms: Seadrum/House of Sun (Warner)
  • Broken Hearted Dragonflies: Insect Electronica From Southeast Asia (Sublime Frequencies)
  • Luciano Cilio: Dell 'Universo Assente (Die Schachtel)
  • Climax Golden Twins: Highly Bred & Sweetly Tempered (Northeast Indie)
  • Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic (Tzadik)
  • Johann Johannsson: Virthulegu forsetar (Touch)
  • Paul Panhuysen: A Magic Square of 5 to Look At . . . (Pinkity Plonk)
  • Zeena Parkins & Ikue Mori: Phantom Orchard (Mego)
  • Phonophani: Oak or Rock (Rune Grammofon)
  • Rolf Julius: Early Works Volume 1 (Fringes Archive)
  • Skyphone: Fabula (Rune Grammofon)
  • Sunn O))): White 1 (Southern Lord)
  • Sunn O))): White 2 (Southern Lord)
  • Jozef Van Wissem: Simulacrum (Bvhasst)

Jazz greats:

  • Active Ingredients: Titration (Delmark)
  • Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost Box Set (Revenant)
  • Alice Coltrane: Huntington Ashram Monastery (Impulse Japan)
  • Cooper-Moore: Box Set (50 Miles of Elbow Room)
  • East New York Ensemble: At the Helm (Ikef)
  • Andrew Hill: Black Fire (Blue Note)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Kabell Years (Tzadik)
  • Patty Waters: You Thrill Me (Water)

Outstanding psychedelia and krautrock:

  • The Beat of the Earth: S/T (Radish)
  • The Electronic Hole: S/T (Radish)
  • Relatively Clean Rivers: S/T (Radish)
  • Bobby Brown: Enlightening Beam of Axonda (Akarma)
  • Bulent: Benimle Oynar Misin (World Psychedelia)
  • Can: Monster Movie (Spoon/Mute)
  • Can: Soundtracks (Spoon/Mute)
  • Can: Tago Mago (Spoon/Mute)
  • Can: Ege Bamyasi (Spoon/Mute)
  • Circle: Forest (Ektro)
  • Extradition: Hush (Vicious Sloth)
  • Fairfield Parlour: From Home to Home (Repertoire)
  • Simon Finn: Pass the Distance (Durtro/Jnana)
  • Ghost: Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City)
  • Harmonia: Musik Von Harmonia (Brain/Universal)
  • L: Holy Letters (VHF)
  • Mogollar: S/T (World Psychedelia)
  • Morgen: S/T (Radioactive)
  • Pearls Before Swine: Wizard of Is (Water)
  • Pharaoh Overlord: Battle of Axehammer (Last Visible Dog)
  • Jack Rose: Two Originals of . . . (VHF)
  • Charlie Tweddle: Fantastic Greatest Hits (Companion)
  • United States of America: S/T (Sundazed)

Reggae, roots & lovers:

  • Aquarius Rock: Various/Hip World of Herman Chin-Loy (Pressure Sounds)
  • Blackbeard: I Wah Dub (More Cut/EMI)
  • Burning Spear: Creation Rebel (Heartbeat)
  • Carlton & the Shoes: Love Me Forever (PSOC)
  • Mikey Dread: African Anthem Dubwise (Auralux)
  • Dub Trio: Exploring the Dangers of . . . (ROIR)
  • Keith Hudson: Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood (Basic Replay)
  • Lee Perry: 14 Upsetters Dub Blackboard Jungle (Luxx)
  • The Royals: Dubbing With . . . (Pressure Sounds)
  • Linval Thompson: Whip Them King Tubby! (Luxx)

La decadence magnifique:

  • Keren Ann: Nolita (EMI)
  • Lo Borges: Lo Borges (Odeon Brazil)
  • Chico Buarque & Ennio Morricone: Per un Pugno di Samba (RCA/BMG Brazil)
  • Divine Comedy: Absent Friends (EMI/Parlophone)
  • Edu Lobo: S/T (Universal Brazil)
  • Galt MacDermot: Galt MacDermot in Film (Kilmarnock)
  • Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria/Ultimo Trem (Far Out)
  • Sergio Sampaio: Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua (Universal Brazil)
  • Saint Etienne: Various/The Trip (Family)

World favorites:

  • Afro-Baby: Evolution of the Afro Sound in Nigeria (Sound Way)
  • Bats'i Son: Music of the Highlands of Chiapas (Lattitude/Locust Music)
  • Ghana Soundz 2 (Sound Way)
  • Ustad Hafizullah Khan: Khalifa Kirana Gharana (Just Dreams)
  • King Sunny Ade: Syncro System (Sterns)
  • The Nguni Sound: South Africa & Swaziland (SWP)
  • Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk & Pop Music Volume 1 (Sublime Frequencies)
  • Bush Taxi Mali: Field Recordings of Mali (Sublime Frequencies)
  • Princess Nicotine: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Sublime Frequencies)
  • Tunde Williams/Lekan Animashaun: Mr. Big Mouth/Low Profile (Honest Jons)

Outstanding Americana reissues:

  • Elizabeth Cotton: Shake Sugaree (Smithsonian Folkways)
  • John Fahey: The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick (Water)
  • Jimmy Martin: Don't Cry to Me (Thrill Jockey)
  • Sister Gertrude Morgan: Let's Make a Record (Preservation Hall)
  • Isaiah Owens: You Without Sin Cast the First Stone (Case Quarter)
  • Country Got Soul Volume 2 (Casual)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Kansas state legislature is rushing this week to pass a state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage and civil unions. I wrote the following letter to my state senator, who's a Republican but not a total menace to society:

Jean Schodorf,

As a resident of your distinct, I urge you to vote against the proposed state constitution amendment to prohibit "gay marriage." This is the wrong way to deal with the issue, which can be dealt with much better through normal law-making procedures. If anything, it bespeaks a fear of the rule of law on the part of its advocates -- in particular, a fear that law might be used to counter discrimination and to promote equal rights for all Kansans. I also worry that this amendment may be taken as a constitutional base to promote even greater hatred of and discrimination against homosexuals. The tragic consequences of such hatred shouldn't need to be elaborated: my first encounter with this was when a teenage friend attempted suicide for fear and shame of his homosexuality.

None of this has much to do with "gay marriage" per se -- an issue I care little about one way or another. But it should be noted that the judicial decisions that led to "civil unions" in Vermont and "gay marriage" in Massachusetts came about as the result of laws that gave special consideration to married couples and as such effectively discriminated against unmarried couples and singles, the overwhelming majority of whom are not homosexual. Legalizing "gay marriage" at best only solves a small part of the real problem. Pretending that the stereotypical husband-wife-kids nuclear family is the only proper way of organizing society doesn't even recognize the real world. If the Kansas state legislators wanted to do anything constructive around this issue they would look for ways to limit and reduce discrimination against unmarried people regardless of sexual preference. Unfortunately, the dominant attitude seems to be to rant and rave. Hopefully you'll be smarter and more sensible than that.

Thank you for your time.

I have to admit that I resent that advocates of gay marriage have been pushing this issue so hard at a time when there are much more serious and pressing political problems. On the other hand, the only people talking about the issue in Kansas these days are the far-right Republicans. They promoted a similar constitutional amendment last year, which failed to pass the Senate, and in a similar move failed to pass the House. Following the 2004 election, it is quite possible that this one will pass, but it's also possible that it won't. The deciding votes will be moderate Republicans like Schodorf.

The friend who I referred to in the letter tried to kill himself before I met him. When I was 15 I was put into the locked psychiatric ward in a local hospital, suffering from a severe case of hookey. He was my roommate there for the better part of a month. He was a couple of years older than me, 17 I think, and had committed himself to try to "get fixed." He got "fixed" all right: at least a dozen doses of electroshock. Broke his spirit and fried his brain. I saw him once afterwards, and he was barely recognizable. Tried to track him down in his hometown (Pratt, west of Wichita) but didn't connect. No idea how the rest of his life went.

Postscript (Jan. 14, 2005): Schodorf voted for the resolution, which passed. The article in the Wichita Eagle said this about Schodorf:

"Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said she voted for the amendment to reflect the "huge number of constituents" who favored it. But she personally plans to vote against it if it is placed on a statewide ballot.

"I still question it," she said.

A statewide poll done by Survey USA on Wednesday night showed 47 percent of those polled in favor and 46 percent against the Kansas Legislature reconsidering the marriage amendment, which failed last year.

What the poll strongly suggests is that, despite Schodorf's impression, the majority of her constituents would have opposed the amendment. She won a very close election in 2002 for her first term, then won by a big margin in 2004, picking up a broad range of support, including ALF-CIO backing. The state senate districts in the Wichita area have been gerrymandered so that there are two heavily Democratic districts while the others more/less favor Republicans. Schodorf's district includes Democratic areas in west-central Wichita and more Republican areas in the west exurbs, so it's fairly evenly balanced, but more Democratic than average for the state. All across the country "moderate" Republicans do well in Democratic areas, even picking up mayors in cities as solidly Democratic as New York and Los Angeles. But when push comes to shove, whatever moderation they claim to possess goes out the window.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Music: Initial count 10103 [10063] rated (+40), 934 [961] unrated (-27). Running rather fast through 2004 releases to check what I missed for year-end list. Working on year-end Pazz & Jop comments, which I have to terminate and hand in today. Some of the new rated count are things that I had done previously but didn't get my bookkeeping right on. I've added things that I've noticed in year-end lists to the "Hyped" lists. What I haven't been doing is going out and buying things that responsible rock critics most likely should have heard this year (e.g., Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Devin the Dude, DFA Compilation #2, Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Hold Steady, Isis, Nas, Joanna Newsom, Jill Scott, TV on the Radio, U2, Gretchen Wilson). When I know something I'll let you know, but I can't keep track of everything. The way the world works is that I get some stuff in the mail without asking for it, and that's all over the map, but mostly jazz; I get more stuff that I have to ask for, again mostly jazz because that's my best gig. This past year I've gotten so much in the mail that I haven't had time to listen to much of anything else, and that (not to mention poverty) has cut back on how much I buy. Historically, most of what I have bought has been purchased used, but that's become hard now that the four best used CD stores in Wichita have gone kaput. Lack of good stores also keeps me from buying much new, at least impulse purchases. When I do order something new it's usually underground rap or electronica -- genres that I enjoy but don't write much about and don't have much prospect of finding used, at least around here -- or old music that I can do something with in Recycled Goods, but which is worth having for background anyway.

  • Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (1969 [2002], FMR). With Trevor Watts (alto sax), John Stevens (drums), and Jeff Clyne (bass), substituting Barry Guy on bass for the last (title) cut. The Penguin Guide gave this one of its few crowns, and all I can say is: wow! A
  • Mary J. Blige: Share My World (1997, MCA). Slow jams, the drums showing some muscle, the vocals ululating in that quasi-gospel trope that came to dominate soul divadom in the '90s. I've never spent much time with her, and skipped through this one faster than it no doubt deserves. I don't doubt but that she's the major player in this movement; what I do doubt is that I like it enough to sort out its nuances. Which certainly do exist. B+
  • Jean-Paul Bourelly: Boom Bop (2001, Jazz Magnet). This precedes Bourelly's marvelous Trans Atlantic (Boom Bop II), sharing with it synth-beats and griot vocals (Abdourahmane Diop). Front cover credit also goes to Archie Shepp and Henry Threadgill. Lot of interesting and odd things here, some of which (frequently the singer) aren't especially pleasing. Terrific guitar. Not a lot of sax, but tasty. B+
  • Jimmy Buffett: Meet Me in Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection (1973-2002 [2003], MCA/UTV, 2CD). More funny business, including 11 new recordings on the second disc, plus 2 new live recordings on the first disc -- mostly remakes of songs they could probably afford to license. I've long been an admirer of his first album's title (A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean), but I've somehow managed to miss (or forget) his music over the 30+ years he's been slinging. Some things I like here include the rant leading into "Fruitcakes" and the made-for-country "Why Don't We Get Drunk (and Screw)." Note that they're on the first disc, along with the semi-hits and non-remakes. Likable guy, but I don't quite find his yankee-in-the-tropics persona all that interesting. Also cautious about the remakes, not that authenticity seems to be a big concern with him. B
  • Don Byas: Laura (1950-52 [2000], Gitanes). This is a subset of Byas' recordings for the Blue Star label, previously collected on the long-out-of-print Don Byas on Blue Star (Emarcy 833405), a personal favorite. The songs are almost all standards, the pace slow, the groups minimal, leaving you with an intense study of Byas' tone and form. "The Man I Love" is especially exquisite. Seems slight at first, but it gets to the essence of the man. A-
  • Clusone 3: Love Henry (1996 [1997], Gramavision). Pretty low key as their work goes, but nobody sounds better relaxed than Michael Moore. B+
  • DJ Irene: Global House Diva (2000, Strictly Hype/Warlock). Mix disc with 37 tracks, mostly the usual hard beats, but she doesn't merely throw in the kitchen sink . . . she throws in the goddamn garbage disposal. B
  • DNA: DNA on DNA (1978-82 [2004], No More). One seven-inch single, four cuts on Brian Eno's No New York album, a six-cut EP called A Taste of DNA -- that was DNA's officially released discography. This adds another 20 tracks culled from various scratch tapes, filling up nearly all of the available bits on the CD. The idea behind "no wave" was to torture "new wave" until it keels over and spills all the beans. I don't know whether it was meant to be nihilist but it was certainly meant to be noisy and nasty. B+
  • Julius Hemphill: Coon Bid'ness (1972-75, Freedom). Early Hemphill, from two dates, both with Abdul Wadud on cello, both with extra horns including Hamiett Bluiett. The later work, which opens, strikes me as more tentative, but the long (20:08) take of "The Hard Blues," with Baikida Carroll (trumpet), is a good example of how magical Hemphill can be -- both risky and tightly together. B+
  • Joe Jackson: Greatest Hits (1979-89 [1996], A&M). Born David Ian Jackson, 1954, in Burton-upon-Trent, merry olde England. Not sure how he decided to change his name, which follows in the muddy tracks of discredited baseball superstar Shoeless Joe Jackson, still a famous name in these parts but probably meaningless in the U.K. His first album, Look Sharp, sailed in on the "new wave" of ex-pub rockers, but it soon became clear that he had even less to do with pub rock than Sting had to do with ska. Two of the three lead-off cuts from Look Sharp still sound sharp, but this quickly devolves into ordinary pop -- Billy Joel wasn't an influence, but they did tend to converge. He was derivative and opportunistic from the start -- I recall his song about getting played on the radio getting a lot of play on the radio -- and he got worse. "Hometown" reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel's nasty comeback, but it's not even nasty. "Nineteen Forever" is another horrible thought, played so straight you can't tell if he's really that dumb. Most likely he's not. Most likely he's just a hack. C+
  • Alanis Morissette: So-Called Chaos (2004, Maverick). Seems like her usual album. Songs have a nice crispness to them. Possibly some content too, but I have trouble concentrating on it, and under the circumstances that's probably my fault. B+
  • Mark Murphy: Bop for Miles (1990 [2004], Highnote). Somehow never managed to hear him before, which means I'm about 30 albums behind the power curve. Or maybe I just managed to avoid him. He's got this hipster/jive thing going, which he crams with a lot of scat. It's a style I never cared for, combining the worst of vocalese with the worst of Maynard G. Krebs. Band swings. But I'm a long ways from connecting with this. B-
  • Notekillers (1977-81 [2004], Ecstatic Peace). This was a Philadelphia band that had one seven-inch single to show for four years of stoned practice and occasional gigs. That makes them an order of magnitude more obscure than Boston's La Peste (who had a much more noted EP), two orders from Chicago's Shrimp Boat (who actually released a couple of forgotten albums), three orders from New York's DNA (an EP and a slice of the Brian Eno-produced No New York, plus Arto Lindsay and Ikue Mori went on to bigger and better things). All of these bands have recently been reissued in editions far larger than they ever intended to record, the filler coming from scraps of practice tapes and live gigs. The interest is because in their various ways they achieved a kind of primitive purity that harkens back to the punk ideal, anthemized by the Adverts' "One Chord Wonders," then made a little weirder. None of the compilations justify their length, but when you're searching for ideals, a few rough spots along the way are to be expected. Notekillers exists because Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth, a six or seven on rock's Richter scale) happen to recall the single. The payoff is in the live tracks, especially "Richochet" and "Juggernauts," that close the set -- pure riff pieces that repeat into brain-numbing bliss. One problem the band had was no singer. Here it doesn't matter. A-
  • The Rough Guide to South African Gospel ([2003], World Music Network). Mostly choirs, with the same sort of vocal uplift you find in black America gospel, but the words aren't in English -- with may be a blessing. B+
  • Santana: Santana (Legacy Edition) (1969 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD). The first thing I'm struck by here is how thin and archly metallic this sounds, even in what is presumably a state-of-the-art remastered edition. At the time Christgau denounced this as "the methedrine school of American music. A lot of noise." Of course, his standards and aesthetics of noise changed since then -- cf. DNA, then tell me this is noise. The concept here is rock with congas, kind of like BS&T was rock with horns. Santana himself eventually developed a reputation as a slick guitarist, but keyboards are more prominent here, and nothing much emerges from his (or any other) guitar. The bonus disc both sounds better and, at least on the live cuts, cooks -- a rare case of improvement. B
  • Tarika: D (1999, Xenophile). Marketed as "roots dance music from Planet Madagascar" -- wouldn't want to leave anything out there. Don't know how one would dance to it, but the acoustic guitar rhythm dominates, and that puts me in a good mood for whatever else they do. Their first album, under Tarika Sammy (Fanafody) turned me off from Malagasy music, but this is one of several albums that's bringing it back into the realm of interest . . . mostly on the strength of the guitars. I've heard their comp is good. Another subject for further research. B+
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers: Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock (1977-2003 [2004], Capitol). Interesting that their self-description is Rock instead of Blues. Almost everything they've ever done comes out of the blues tradition, but then they're just a bunch of white guys who know they're parasites on tradition, not contributors. They know their limits, but they also know their audience. I once saw them do Elmore James' stratospheric ballad "The Sky Is Crying" and you could feel the crowd losing patience. When they finished they picked up the pace a bit, and the fellow next to me yelled out, "yeah! rock 'n' roll!" The next song was "Madison Blues" -- another Elmore James classic. One is advised to go back to the originals for James, but they cranked "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" up to a level John Lee Hooker never achieved. And they wrote one classic on their own, a guitar rave called "Bad to the Bone." And they hung in there: I'm more impressed that they logged 30 years than that they came up with 16 songs to show for them. Cut this down to 12 songs and lose the DVD and they'd grade even better. B+
  • Triage: Twenty Minute Cliff (2003, Okka Disk). I put their recent American Mythology into my top ten jazz list, then asked for this slightly earlier album. It's a bit more avant, with Dave Rempis' saxophones (mostly alto) riffing broadly, but the rhythmic undertow set up by Tim Daisy's drumming is all the background we need to keep it very interesting. A-
  • Johnny Winter: Second Winter (Legacy Edition) (1969-70 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD). First disc has original 1969 album plus two bonus tracks. Second disc is a previously released "Live at Royal Albert Hall" performance from 1970. This was his second album, and the covers, obvious as they are ("Slippin' and Slidin'," "Johnny B. Goode," "Highway 61 Revisited") tower over his originals -- the sure mark of a journeyman. The live show is less of the same, puffed up to look like more. B-
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Point of No Return (1977, Moers). Early on, a live performance from Festival Moers. One's tempted to ask whether it's so early they haven't learned to play yet, but most certainly they were just being nasty, as they were wont to do. And the nastiness is actually the most becoming thing about them. B
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Moving Right Along (1993, Soul Note). Eric Person takes over for the departed Julius Hemphill, the mastermind for better and worse of this group. Plus James Spaulding shows up for two tracks. I've always had problems with this group -- both the tone and their tendency to scratch -- but this one redeems itself less than most. B-

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

More year-end lists.

New Yorker: Jazz Notes: Our favorite jazz albums of 2004, listed alphatetically:

  • Bill Charlap: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein (Blue Note)
  • Alice Coltrane: Translinear Light (Impulse)
  • Von Freeman: The Great Divide (Premonition)
  • Fred Hersch: The Fred Hersch Trio + 2 (Palmetto)
  • Soweto Kinch: Conversations With the Unseen (Dune)
  • Charles Lloyd and Billy Higgins: Which Way Is East (ECM)
  • Joe Lovano: I'm All for You (Blue Note)
  • Mylab: Mylab (Terminus)
  • David Sanchez: Coral (Sony)
  • Nancy Wilson: RSVP (Rare Songs, Very Personal) (MCG Jazz)

www.fastnbulbous.com: Fester's Lucky 13:

  1. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  2. Björk: Medulla (Elektra)
  3. Ghost: Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City)
  4. Razorlight: Up All Night (Vertigo UK)
  5. Junior Boys: Last Exit (Kin UK)
  6. The Walkmen: Bows + Arrows (Record Collection)
  7. Arto Lindsay: Salt (Righteous Babe)
  8. Annie: Anniemal (679)
  9. Mark Lanegan Band: Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet)
  10. Sketch Show: Loophole (Third Ear)
  11. The Black Keys: Rubber Factory (Fat Possum)
  12. The Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Memphis Industries)
  13. Utada: Exodus (Island)

Fester goes on to list 342 albums dipping down to his 8 rating, which he aligns with B and ***. Won't list them all here, but the last four are: Keane, Liars, Ash, Courtney Love.

Jazzreview.com: Mark E. Gallo (Jazz):

  1. Stefon Harris & Blackout: Evolution (Blue Note)
  2. Geri Allen: The Life of a Song (Telarc)
  3. Patricia Barber: A Fortnight in France (Blue Note)
  4. Pyeng Threadgill: Sweet Home - The Music of Robert Johnson (Random Chance)
  5. Frode Berg: Dig It! (Nagel Heyer)
  6. Louis Smith: Louisville (Steeplechase)
  7. James Carter: Live at Bakers (Warner Bros.)
  8. Mike Wofford Trio: Live at Athenaeum Jazz (Capri)
  9. Satoko Fujii Quartet: Zephyros (Natsat)
  10. McCoy Tyner: Illuminations (Telarc)
  11. Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Paseo (Blue Note)
  12. Ed Thigpen: #1 (Stunt)
  13. Luis Munoz: Vida (Pelin)

Jazzreview.com: Mark E. Gallo (Blues):

  1. Charlie Musselwhite: Sanctuary (Real World)
  2. Ted Robinson: Did You Ever Wonder? (Severn)
  3. Ronnie Earl: Now My Soul (Stony Plain)
  4. Otis Taylor: Double V (Telarc)
  5. Pyeng Threadgill: Sweet Home - The Music of Robert Johnson (Random Chance)
  6. Rishell and Raines: Goin' Home (Artemis)
  7. Guitar Shorty: Watch Your Back (Alligator)
  8. Nick Curran: Player (Blind Pig)
  9. Amos Garrett: Acoustic Album (Stony Plain)
  10. Dr. John: N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or D'Udda (Blue Note)
  11. Duke Robillard: Blue Mood (Stony Plain)
  12. Bo Keys: The Royal Sessions (Yellow Dog)

Jazzreview.com: Mark Keresman:

  1. Claire Ritter: Greener Than Blue (Zoning)
  2. Lukas Ligeti: Mystery System (Tzadik)
  3. Von Freeman: The Great Divide (Premonition)
  4. Mekons: Punk Rock (Quarterstick)
  5. Julie Lee: Stillhouse Road (Compadre)
  6. Emeline Michel: Raisin Kreyol (Times Square)
  7. Heptones: Deep in the Roots (Heartbeat)
  8. Jupiter Trio: Beethoven & Shostakovich Piano Trios (Bridge)
  9. Dr. John: N'Awlinz: Dis, Dat, or D'Udda (Blue Note)
  10. Marilyn Crispell Trio: Storyteller (ECM)

Honorable mentions: Courtney Pine, Devotion (Telarc); Elvis Costello, The Delivery Man (Lost Highway).

Reissues/collections: Herbie Hancock/VSOP, Live Under the Sky (Columbia/Legacy); Sam Rivers, Contours (Blue Note); The Treniers, They Rock! They Roll! They Swing! The Best of . . . (Collectables); Bobbie Gentry, Chickasaw County Child: The Artistry of . . . (Shout! Factory); Mamie Smith, Crazy Blues: The Best of . . .; Tony Bennett, Cloud 7 (Columbia/Legacy).

Jazzreview.com: C. Andrew Hovan:

  • John Scofield: En Route (Verve)
  • Mike LeDonne: Smokin' Out Loud (High Note)
  • Ralph Bowen: Keep the Change (Criss Cross)
  • Andrew Hill: Dance With Death (Blue Note)
  • Jim Rotondi: New Vistas (Criss Cross)
  • Art Farmer/Benny Golson: The Complete Argo/Mercury Recordings (Mosaic)
  • Uri Caine Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Winter & Winter)
  • Stefon Harris: Evolution (Blue Note)
  • Enrico Rava: Easy Living (ECM)
  • Don Pullen: Mosaic Select 13 (Mosaic)

amazon.com: Top 100 Editors' Picks:

  1. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  2. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  3. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)
  4. Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  5. Snow Patrol: Final Straw
  6. Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  7. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  8. The Drive-By Truckers: The Dirty South (New West)
  9. Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  10. Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
  11. Tom Waits: Real Gone (Anti-)
  12. Nick Cave: Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-)
  13. Björk: Medulla (Elektra/Asylum)
  14. Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill (Anti-)
  15. The Magnetic Fields: i (Nonesuch)
  16. Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  17. Paul Westerberg: Folker
  18. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  19. Ray LaMontagne: Trouble
  20. Damnwells: Bastards of the Beat
  21. Bebel Gilberto: Bebel Gilberto
  22. The Sadies: Favourite Colours
  23. Marah: 20,000 Streets Under the Sky
  24. Jill Scott: Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2 (Hidden Beach/Epic)
  25. Mos Def: The New Danger (Geffen)
  26. The Killers: Hot Fuss (Island/Def Jam)
  27. PJ Harvey: Uh Huh Her (Island)
  28. Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute)
  29. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  30. Delgados: Universal Audio
  31. Ricky Fante: Rewind
  32. The Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs (Capitol)
  33. Green Day: American Idiot (Reprise)
  34. Aqualung: Still Life
  35. The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  36. Burning Brides: Leave No Ashes
  37. Tift Merritt: Tambourine (Lost Highway)
  38. Girl Called Eddy: Girl Called Eddy
  39. Citizen Cope: The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
  40. Visqueen: Sunset on Dateland
  41. Mclusky: Difference Between Me & You Is That I'm Not on Fire
  42. Chuck Prophet: Age of Miracles
  43. Van Hunt (Capitol)
  44. Dogs Die in Hot Cars: Please Describe Yourself
  45. Garden State [Soundtrack]
  46. The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (XL)
  47. Ambulance LTD: Ambulance LTD (TVT)
  48. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Atlantic)
  49. Juana Molina: Tres Cosas
  50. Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  51. Mason Jennings: Use Your Voice
  52. The Thermals: Fuckin A (Sub Pop)
  53. Keane: Hopes & Fears (Interscope)
  54. Beta Band: Heroes to Zeros
  55. [classical: Mozart]
  56. Los Amigos Invisibles: Venezuelan Zinga Son 1
  57. Don Byron: Ivey-Divey (Blue Note)
  58. [classical: Bach/Beethoven/Webern]
  59. Thievery Corporation: The Outernational Sound (ESL Sound)
  60. John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls
  61. The Ponys: Laced With Romance (In the Red)
  62. Elvis Costello and the Imposters: The Delivery Man (Lost Highway)
  63. Keren Ann: Not Going Anywhere
  64. Antibalas: Who Is This America? (Ropeadope)
  65. Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Sanctuary)
  66. Zero 7: When It Falls
  67. Federico Aubele: Gran Hotel Buenos Aires
  68. Foreign Exchange: Connected
  69. Jem: Finally Woken
  70. Adem: Homesongs
  71. Prince: Musicology (Columbia)
  72. Tommy Stinson: Village Gorilla Head
  73. The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
  74. Delays: Faded Seaside Glamour
  75. The Von Bondies: Pawn Shoppe Heart (Sire)
  76. Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Funeral for a Friend
  77. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: Handel Arias
  78. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
  79. Jon Brion: I Heart Huckabees
  80. Fela Kuti: The Underground Spiritual Game (Quannum Projects)
  81. Comets on Fire: Blue Cathedral
  82. Jeanine Tesori, et al.: Caroline, or Change (2004 Original Broadway Cast)
  83. Tres Chicas: Sweetwater
  84. The Libertines: The Libertines (Rough Trade)
  85. Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins: Which Way Is East (ECM)
  86. Dr. John: N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or D'Udda (Blue Note)
  87. William Shatner: Has Been (Shout! Factory)
  88. Tegan & Sara: So Jealous (Vapor/Sanctuary)
  89. Veils: Runaway Found
  90. DeLovely [Soundtrack]
  91. K-Os: Joyful Rebellion
  92. Leon Fleisher: Two Hands
  93. Future Soundtrack for America (Barsuk)
  94. Finn Brothers: Everyone Is Here
  95. Faultline: Your Love Means Everything
  96. [classical: Haydn]
  97. Mory Kante: Sabou (Riverboat)
  98. Charlie Hunter: Friends Seen & Unseen (Ropeadope)
  99. Robyn Hitchcock: Spooked
  100. Stereolab: Margerine Eclipse

amazon.com: Top 100 Customers' Favorites: We'll try skipping the editors' choices, also (more numerous) records released before 2004.

  1. Norah Jones: Feels Like Home (Blue Note)
  2. Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company (Concord/Hear Music)
  3. Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room (Verve)
  4. Eric Clapton: Me & Mr. Johnson
  5. Jimmy Buffett: License to Chill
  6. Clay Aiken: The Way / Solitaire
  7. Los Lonely Boys: Los Lonely Boys
  8. U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope)
  9. Harry Connick Jr: Only You
  10. Usher: Confessions (Laface)
  11. Mindy Smith: One Moment More
  12. Ray!: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  13. Rod Stewart: Stardust . . . The Great American Songbook, Volume III
  14. Melissa Etheridge: Lucky
  15. Joss Stone: Soul Sessions
  16. K.D. Lang: Hymns of the 49th Parallel (Nonesuch)
  17. Clay Aiken: Merry Christmas With Love
  18. Indigo Girls: All That We Let In
  19. Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin (RCA)
  20. Five for Fighting: The Battle for Everything
  21. Velvet Revolver: Contraband (RCA)
  22. The Passion of the Christ [Soundtrack]
  23. Anonymous 4: AmericanAngels
  24. Alanis Morissette: So-Called Chaos (Maverick)
  25. Aerosmith: Honkin' on Bobo
  26. Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits
  27. Mary Chapin Carpenter: Between Here and Gone
  28. Ashlee Simpson: Autobiography
  29. Josh Groban: Live at the Greek
  30. Tim McGraw: Live Like You Were Dying
  31. Queen Latifah: Dana Owens Album
  32. Gretchen Wilson: Here for the Party (Sony Nashville)
  33. Patty Griffin: Impossible Dream (ATO)
  34. Keb' Mo': Keep It Simple
  35. Eminem: Encore (Aftermath)
  36. Jamie Cullum: Twentysomething (Verve)
  37. John Lennon: Acoustic
  38. Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me (Columbia)
  39. Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  40. Shania Twain: Greatest Hits
  41. Anita Baker: My Everything (Blue Note)
  42. Britney Spears: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative
  43. Neil Young: Greatest Hits

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Alt Rock: after: Rilo Kiley, Modest Mouse, Tegan & Sara, Fiery Furnaces, Delgados, TV on the Radio, Franz Ferdinand; also Elliott Smith.

  1. Doug Gillard: Salamander
  2. Paris Texas: Like You Like an Arsonist

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Blues: after: Dr. John.

  1. J.J. Cale: To Tulsa & Back
  2. Holmes Brothers: Simple Truths
  3. Mofro: Lochloosa
  4. Nathaniel Mayer: I Just Want to Be Held
  5. North Mississippi Allstars: Hill Country Revue
  6. Tarbox Ramblers: A Fix Back East
  7. Ben Harper/Blind Boys of Alabama: There Will Be a Light
  8. Black Keys: Rubber Factory
  9. G. Love: Hustle

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Country: after: Loretta Lynn, Sadies, Tift Merritt; also Tres Chicas.

  1. Alan Jackson: What I Do
  2. Grey Delisle: Graceful Ghost
  3. Willie Nelson: It Always Will Be
  4. Iris DeMent: Lifeline (Flariella)
  5. Buddy Miller: Universal United House of Prayer (New West)
  6. Gretchen Wilson: Here for the Party (Sony Nashville)

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Dance & DJ: excluding: Air, Zero 7.

  1. M83: Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
  2. Sasha: Involver
  3. Sander Kleinenberg: This Is Everybody Too
  4. Junior Boys: Last Exit (Kin/Domino)
  5. Federico Aubele: Gran Hotel Buenos Aires
  6. BT: Music From & Inspird by the Film Monster
  7. Miguel Migs: 24th St Sounds
  8. Unkle: Never Never Land

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Folk: after: Mason Jennings, Robyn Hitchcock.

  1. Ray LaMontagne: Trouble
  2. Paul Kelly: Ways & Means
  3. Tony Joe White: Heroines
  4. Ollabelle: Ollabelle
  5. Bonnie Prince Billy: Greatest Palace Music
  6. Todd Snider: East Nashville Skyline (Oh Boy)
  7. Richard Buckner: Dents & Shells
  8. Leonard Cohen: Dear Heather (Columbia)

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Hard Rock: after: Burning Brides.

  1. Diecast: Tearing Down Your Blue Skies
  2. Killswitch Engage: End of Heartache
  3. Haunted: Revolver
  4. Cradle of Filth: Nymphetamine
  5. Megadeth: System Has Failed
  6. Fu Manchu: Start the Machine
  7. Velvet Revolver: Contraband
  8. Danzig: Circle of Snakes
  9. Skindred: Babylon

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: International: after: Mory Kante; also: Antibalas.

  1. Choying Drolma/Steve Tibbets: Selwa
  2. Ojos de Brujo: Bari
  3. Souad Massi: Deb (Heartbroken)
  4. David Darling/Wulu Bunum: Mudanin Kata
  5. Sharon Shannon: Libertango
  6. Tinariwen: Amassakoul
  7. Is It Rolling Bob? A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan
  8. Youssou N'Dour: Egypt (Nonesuch)

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Jazz: after: Don Byron, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Hunter.

  1. Madeleine Peyroux: Careless Love (Rounder)
  2. Soweto Kinch: Conversations With the Unseen (Dune)
  3. Chris Potter Quartet: Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside)
  4. Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel: Buzz (Palmetto)
  5. Mylab: Mylab (Terminus)
  6. Branford Marsalis Quartet: Eternal (Marsalis Music/Rounder)
  7. Medeski Martin & Wood: End of the World Party (Just in Case) (Blue Note)

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Latin: excluding: Bebel Gilberto, Federico Aubele, Los Amigos Invisibles, Juana Molina.

  1. Bossacucanova: Uma Batida Diferente
  2. Cristina Branco: Sensus
  3. Bebo Valdes/Diego El Cigala: Lagrimas Negras
  4. Pepe Aguilar: No Soy De Nadie
  5. Rocio Durcal: Alma Ranchera
  6. Rosa Passos: Amorosa

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: New Age:

  1. Donna De Lory: The Lover & the Beloved
  2. Vas: Feast of Silence
  3. David Darling/Wulu Bunum: Mudanin Kata
  4. Choying Drolma/Steve Tibbetts: Selwa
  5. Jai Uttal/Ben Leinbach: Music for Yoga & Other Joys
  6. Nicholas Gunn: Breathe
  7. Steve Roach: Mantram
  8. Jan Garbarek: In Praise of Dreams
  9. Ottmar Liebert: La Semana
  10. Libera: Free

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Pop: after: A Girl Called Eddy, Brian Wilson, Keren Ann; also: Björk, Finn Brothers.

  1. Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me (Columbia)
  2. Usher: Confessions (Laface)
  3. Trashcan Sinatras: Weightlifting (SpinArt)
  4. Bonnie McKee: Trouble
  5. Skye Sweetnam: Noise From the Basement

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: R&B/Soul: after: Jill Scott, Van Hunt; also: Prince.

  1. Usher: Confessions (Laface)
  2. Joss Stone: Soul Sessions
  3. Amel Larrieux: Bravebird
  4. Teena Marie: La Dona (Cash Money Classics/Universal)
  5. Angie Stone: Stone Love (J Records)
  6. Ciara: Goodies
  7. Amp Fiddler: Waltz of a Ghetto Fly

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Rap & Hip-Hop: after: Kanye West, Madvillain, Mos Def, Foreign Exchange; also: Beastie Boys.

  1. De La Soul: The Grind Date (Sanctuary)
  2. Gift of Gab: Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up (Quannum Projects)
  3. Sound Providers: Evening With the Sound Providers
  4. Devin the Dude: To Tha X-Treme (Rap-a-Lot)
  5. Cee-Lo: Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine (Arista)

amazon.com: Editors' Picks: Rock: after: Brian Wilson; also: Chuck Prophet, Tom Waits, Tommy Stinson, Drive-By Truckers, Nick Cave, Damnwells, Green Day.

  1. The Music: Welcome to the North
  2. The Silos: When the Telephone Rings (Dualtone)

I won't bother with the "Customer Favorites" in genres, except for jazz:

  1. Norah Jones: Feels Like Home
  2. Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room
  3. Norah Jones: Come Away With Me (2002)
  4. Harry Connick Jr: Only You
  5. Jamie Cullum: Twentysomething
  6. Madeleine Peyroux: Careless Love
  7. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (1997; really 1959)
  8. Diana Krall: Live in Paris (2002)
  9. Stan Getz: Getz/Gilberto (1997; really 1964)
  10. Wynton Marsalis: The Magic Hour

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I've managed to fold all of the Penguin Guide 3.5/4-star additions into the record database -- approx. 750 records. I was curious how these records might affect my coverage metrics, so I collected these stats:


So the answer is -4% for 2000's, -3% for 1980's, -1% for 1960's, nothing significant for older groups. Makes sense. The metric counts artists with only a slight weighting for album counts. (An artist with 3+ albums is counted heavier than one with one or two, but I count each artist I have one or more albums by, so merely adding albums to artists I already have something by has no effect.)

I don't have history on how the metrics have shifted over time. The values go up when I get new records, and go down when I add records I don't have to the database. In addition to the Penguin Guide records, I've been adding Y2004 records as I sift through year-end lists. But in general I haven't been adding a lot of unowned records lately. Most of those records were picked up from various record guides, including a rule-of-thumb that everything 4.5 star I find in AMG gets added. (I know of no systematic way of collecting that data, so what I have has been picked up almost accidentally.)

The metric numbers are overstated where I haven't spent enough time researching what I've missed. Some obvious cases are: Klezmer (80%), Avant-Garde (53%), Europe (42%), Gospel (30%; I've totally ignored CCM, and have no desire to correct that); Asia/Pacific (29%), New Age (15%). They also tend to be overstated for more recent time periods (post-2000 jazz 95%, rock 69%) for lack of consensus over what's important, plus the fact that (especially for jazz) I get a lot of review copies that aren't important.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The following letter appeared on the Wichita Eagle on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005. It was written by Rabbi Nissim Wernick, of Wichita:

I read with great dismay the article "Palestinian art exhibit to stand alone" (Dec. 27 Eagle). I previewed this so-called "art," and I found it outrageously inflammatory and blatantly false. It is propaganda at its worst.

Israel is the only state in the Middle East with freedom of the press; the only place where Arab women have a right to vote; the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Muslims and Jews are guaranteed equal access to universal health care.

For hundreds of years, anti-Semites in Europe and the Middle East blamed Jews for all their troubles. This exhibit of Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir's artwork uses the same big lie technique against the Jewish state of Israel.

I hope the good people of Wichita see the work for what it is: a blatant anti-Semitic attempt to breed hatred.

Laura wanted me to write a reply, which is why I copied this down. But replying is awkward. For one thing, I haven't previewed this art exhibit. I've seen a couple of pieces on the web, but that only starts to suggest the possible impact of the whole exhibit. Is it hateful? I don't know. I also don't know that if it is that's such a bad thing. I disapprove of violence, of course, but it's harder to take a strong position on hate: some ideas, some things, some people, maybe even some nations deserve hate. And art is at least one way to sublimate hate without converting it to violence.

The Rabbi's letter is beautifully structured. The first and last paragraphs attack the exhibit without explaining what is inflammatory and what is blatantly false. The second paragraph praises Israel for a list of things that are in fact grotesque distortions. The third paragraph smears the exhibit by associating it with centuries of anti-semitism. In juxtaposing Israel's supposed virtues against the vast and well-known litany of anti-semitic vices the Rabbi hopes that the reader won't notice that the dots don't connect.

As I understand it, Jacir is a U.S. citizen of Palestinian (Arab) descent. As such, she can travel more/less freely in Israel on her U.S. passport, while millions of other Palestinians cannot. A major point of her art is to exploit this discrepancy, possibly to coax the viewer into wondering why. The reason why is pretty simple: in Israel's "war of independence" 700,000 Palestinians left their homes (some forcibly, some under fire, some merely fearful). Israel then confiscated the abandoned lands, and has ever since refused to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Israel justifies this by claiming that the Palestinians are security risks, as indeed some are. Israel further points out that those who did not flee were accorded Israeli citizenship, with the sort of rights and advanages that the Rabbi listed. Since 1967 the situation has become further clouded, as Israel has held some 3.5 million Palestinians under harsh military occupation, while confiscating further lands and undermining any sort of normal economic development in the occupied regions. Israel also regards those Palestinians as security risks, as indeed some are.

There are reasons Israel did what it did, but there's no need to rehash them here. The point that should be made is that Israel's acts, regardless of reason, have had tragic consequences for millions of Palestinians. And that it's completely disingenuous for the Rabbi to talk like the reason some/most/all Palestinians hate Israel is for any reason other than what Israel has itself done to them -- especially to link their personal and collective tragedy with the long, dreadful, but completely unrelated history of European anti-semitism.

What the Rabbi has done in his letter is a common trick: to hold up the Holocaust as a shield to keep people from examining what Israel has done of its own accord. To do so is dishonest and dangerous. For one thing it associates diaspora Jews with Israel by virtue of their shared history as victims of anti-semitism, whereas in fact diaspora Jews do virtually none of the things that the Israeli state does to infringe on the human rights of Palestinians. For another, by equating opposition to Israel's injustices with anti-semitism the Rabbi gives fresh legitimacy to a vile and utterly discredited legacy of hatred.

Of course, this is not just the Rabbi's doing. Unquestioning supporters of Israel play these games all across the country, and all around the world. They are constantly on the prowl, looking for any incident that, unchallenged, might show that Palestinians have legitimate grievances against the state of Israel -- even an art exhibition in Wichita KS. The Rabbi and others have argued that there is a need to balance Jacir's art with a defense of Israel. Any such interposition calls out for further balance: to show that what Israel does is not supported by large numbers of Jews both in Israel and throughout the diaspora, and to show that it is possible to stand up against Israeli injustice without resorting to anti-semitism. If the Rabbi's "balance" alone appears it will only reinforce the paranoia that leads to anti-semitism. One should think carefully over what one wishes for.

Pazz & Jop Ballot due today.

  1. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (High Two) 15
  2. Le Tigre: This Island (Strummer/Universal) 14
  3. Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss (Thirsty Ear) 12
  4. Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute) 10
  5. The Vandermark Five: Elements of Style . . . Exercises in Surprise (Atavistic) 10
  6. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch) 8
  7. David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters: Gwotet (Justin Time) 8
  8. Pipi Skid: Funny Farm (Peanuts & Corn) 8
  9. Todd Snider: East Nashville Skyline (Oh Boy) 8
  10. Capital D: Insomnia (All Natural) 7

I need to write something to explain these choices, and so forth. I was intending to write just that for Static Multimedia, but now it appears that the music editorial politics have flared up again, and my guy may be on the outs. Wish I had a better outlet for Recylcled Goods.

More year-end lists.

Wichita Eagle: Rod Pocowatchit: The Year in Rock:

  1. Green Day: American Idiot (Reprise)
  2. Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  3. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Sony)
  4. The Killers: Hot Fuss (Island)
  5. U2: How to Make an Atomic Bomb (Interscope) [sic]
  6. Muse: Absolution (Warner Bros.)
  7. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  8. Secret Machines: Now Here Is Nowhere (Warner Bros.)
  9. Von Bondies: Pawn Shoppe Heart (Warner Bros.)
  10. The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  11. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Sony)

CNN: Tyson Lex Wheatley: The Best Albums You Didn't Hear:

  • Tegan & Sara: So Jealous (Vapor/Sanctuary)
  • Isis: Panopticon (Ipecac)
  • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheets (Lookout)
  • Aloha: Here Comes Everyone (Polyvinyl)
  • Pinback: Summer in Abaddon (Touch and Go)

Wheatley also adds a top ten, which presumably you did hear (hell, even I have heard four of them):

  • The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  • Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  • TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  • Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  • Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  • Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  • Ron Sexsmith: Retriever (Nettwerk)
  • Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (Fat Cat)
  • Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  • Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)

Michaelangelo Matos: long piece on his blog; additional lists, including mixtapes, elsewhere.

Michaelangelo Matos: Albums:

  1. United State of Electronica (Mannheim)
  2. Gretchen Wilson: Here for the Party (Epic)
  3. DFA Compilation #2 (DFA)
  4. The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss)
  5. Devin the Dude: To Tha X-Treme (Rap-a-Lot)
  6. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice)
  7. Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats (Essay)
  8. Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  9. Big & Rich: Horse of a Different Color (Warner Bros. Nashville)
  10. Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella)

  11. The Futureheads (Startime International/Sire)
  12. Dungen: Ta Det Lungt (Subliminal)
  13. Ted Leo + the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheets (Lookout!)
  14. Junior Boys: Last Exit (Kin/Domino)
  15. The Mountain Goats: We Shall All Be Healed (4AD/Beggars)
  16. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
  17. Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)
  18. Van Hunt (Capitol)
  19. The Thermals: Fuckin A (Sub Pop)
  20. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  21. Carolyn Mark and the New Best Friends: The Pros and Cons of Collaboration (Mint)
  22. Wiley: Treddin on Thin Ice (XL)
  23. Brian Wilson Presents Smile (Nonesuch)
  24. Akufen: Fabric 17 (Fabric, UK)
  25. Stereolab: Margerine Eclipse (Elektra)
  26. DJ Green Lantern/Beastie Boys: New York State of Mind (djgreenlantern.com)
  27. Teedra Moses: Complex Simplicity (TVT)
  28. The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (XL)
  29. The Necks: Drive By (Recommended)
  30. The Meat Purveyors: Pain by Numbers (Bloodshot)
  31. Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth? (Tigerbeat6)
  32. Kanye West: Kon the Louis Vuitton Don (mixtape)
  33. Kompakt 100 (Kompakt)
  34. Luna: Rendezvous (Jetset)
  35. Mylab (Terminus)
  36. The Helio Sequence: Love and Distance (Sub Pop)
  37. Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me (Columbia)
  38. DJ Olive: Bodega (theagriculture.com)
  39. Viktor Vaughn: VV2: Venomous Villain (Nature Sounds)
  40. Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2004 (Greensleeves)
  41. Jon Langford: All the Fame of Lofty Deeds (Bloodshot)
  42. Lif Up Yuh Leg An Trample (Honest Jon's)
  43. Gilles Peterson in Brazil (Ether)
  44. Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute)
  45. De La Soul: The Grind Date (Sanctuary)
  46. Offshore Presents Troubled Waters Mixed By Clever (Offshore)
  47. Burnt Sugar: Black Sex Yall Liberation & Bloody Random Violets (Trugroid)
  48. Ill Ease: The Exorcist (Too Pure)
  49. Masta Killa: No Said Date (Nature Sounds)
  50. The Trio Plays Ware (Splasc[h], Italy)
  51. Kid606: Who Still Kill Sound? (Tigerbeat6)
  52. The Roots: The Tipping Point (Interscope)
  53. Lil Jon & the Eastside Boys: We Run the South (mixtape)
  54. Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  55. Komeda: Kokomemedada (Minty Fresh)
  56. Arto Lindsay: Salt (Righteous Babe)
  57. Phoenix: Alphabetical (Source/Astralwerks)
  58. Youssou N'Dour: Egypt (Nonesuch)
  59. Matthew Dear: Backstroke (Spectral Sound)
  60. Blood Brothers: Crimes (V2)
  61. Ada: Blondie (Areal)
  62. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  63. PJ Harvey: Uh Huh Her (Island)
  64. Lusine: Serial Hodgepodge (Ghostly International)
  65. R. Kelly: Happy People/U Saved Me (Jive)
  66. Triola: Triola Im Fünftonraum (Kompakt)
  67. Gogol Bordello vs. Tamar Muskat: J.U.F. (Stinky)
  68. Ellen Allien: My Parade (Bpitch Control)
  69. Camera Obscura: Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge)
  70. Ricardo Villalobos: Thé Au Harem D'Archimède (Perlon)
  71. Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra: Who Is This America? (Ropeadope)
  72. Jay-Z Construction Set (jayzconstructionset.com)
  73. Comets on Fire: Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
  74. Kerrier District (Rephlex)
  75. Michael Mayer: Touch (Kompakt)
  76. Dykehouse: Midrange (Ghostly International)
  77. Pop Ambient 2004 (Kompakt)
  78. Felix da Housecat: Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever (Emperor Norton)
  79. Courtney Love: America's Sweetheart (Virgin)
  80. The Rough Guide to African Rap (World Music Network)
  81. DJ Spooky: Rhythm Science (Sub Rosa)
  82. Nas: Street's Disciple (Columbia)
  83. Robag Wruhme: Wuzzlebud "KK" (Musik Krause)
  84. The Magnetic Fields: i (Elektra Nonesuch)
  85. Mary Lou Lord: Baby Blue (Rubric)
  86. Plastiq Phantom (Imputor?)
  87. The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
  88. The Biggest Dancehall Ragga Anthems 2004 (Greensleeves)
  89. Carina Round: The Disconnection (Interscope)
  90. The Fever: Red Bedroom (Kemado)
  91. Clinic: Winchester Cathedral (Domino)
  92. Rokia Traoré: Bowmboï (Nonesuch)
  93. IQU: Sun Q (Sonic Boom)
  94. Dalmatians: Rock/Pop Ruff Drafts (Imputor?)
  95. Jason Forrest: Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash (Sonig)
  96. Petey Pablo: Still Writing in My Diary, 2nd Entry (Jive)
  97. Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  98. Theodore Unit: 718 (Sure Shot/Navarre)
  99. Turing Machine: Zwei (Frenchkiss)
  100. New Mexicans: Chicken Head Talking Diamonds (Stuck Under the Needle)

Michaelangelo Matos: Reissues:

  1. The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (Rhino, 1977-81/82)
  2. The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll 1946-1954 (Hip-O)
  3. Trax Records: 20th Anniversary Collection (Trax, 1984-93)
  4. Pavement: Slanted & Enchanged: L.A.'s Desert Origins (Matador, 1993-4)
  5. Where Will You Be Christmas Day? (Dust-to-Digital, 1919-58)
  6. The Fall: 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong (Beggars, 1978-2003)
  7. Crazy 'Bout an Automobile (Ace, 1948-65)
  8. Haunted Weather (Staubgold, 1990-2004)
  9. The World of Arthur Russell (Soul Jazz, 1978-87)
  10. Solar Disco Box Set (Sanctuary, 1976-91)

Jess Harvell:

  1. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
  2. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come For Free (Vice)
  3. Junior Boys: Last Exit (KIN/Domino)
  4. Infinite Livez: Bush Meat (Big Dada)
  5. Lil Jon & the Eastside Boys: We Run the South (no label)
  6. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheers (Lookout)
  7. DJ Clever: Offshore Presents: Troubled Waters (Microcosm/OSR)
  8. DFA Compilation #2 (DFA)
  9. Equinox: Knowledge Presents Inperspective Records in the Mix (Knowledge)
  10. Blood Brothers: Crimes (V2)

Doug Wolk:

  • M.I.A.: Piracy Funds Terrorism, vol. 1
  • The Homosexuals: Astral Glamour
  • The Thermals: Fuckin A
  • The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat
  • Arthur Russell: Calling Out of Context
  • Madvillain: Madvillainy
  • IQU: Sun Q
  • Deerhoof: Milk Man
  • Danger Mouse: The Grey Album
  • Sagor & Swing: Orgelplaneten

Jon Caramanica:

  1. Cam'ron: Purple Haze (Roc-A-Fella)
  2. Kanye West: College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  3. Julie Roberts: Julie Roberts (Mercury Nashville)
  4. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  5. Jadakiss: The Champ Is Here (DJ Green Lantern) (mixtape)
  6. Gretchen Wilson: Here for the Party (Epic Nashville)
  7. Bun B: Gangsta Grillz: The Legends Series (DJ Drama) (mixtape)
  8. Daddy Yankee: Barrio Fino (VI/Universal Latino)
  9. Young Buck: Straight Outta Cashville (G-Unit/Interscope)
  10. Chamillionaire: King Koopa: The Mixtape Messiah (Chamilitary Ent)

Nelson George:

  1. Nas: Street's Disciple
  2. Kanye West: The College Dropout
  3. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
  4. Seal: IV
  5. Anthony Hamilton: Comin' From Where I'm From
  6. The Roots: Tippin' Point
  7. Prince: Musicology
  8. Kelis
  9. Joss Stone: Soul Sessions
  10. Booba: Pantheon

Jason Gross:

  1. Dollar Store: Dollar Store (Bloodshot)
  2. Mendoza Line: Fortune (Cookling Vinyl)
  3. Clouddead: Ten (Mush)
  4. Hold Steady: The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (French Kiss)
  5. A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder (Matador)
  6. Patti Smith: Trampin' (Columbia)
  7. Loretta Lynn: Van Leer Rose (Interscope)
  8. Magnetic Fields: i (Nonesuch)
  9. Silkworm: It'll Be Cool (Touch and Go)
  10. The Futureheads: The Futureheads (Sire)

  11. Lars Frederikson: Viking (Hellcat)
  12. Green Day: American Idiot (Reprise)
  13. Tom Waits: Real Gone (-anti)
  14. The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  15. Kimya Dawson: Hidden Vigenda (K)
  16. Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats (Essay)
  17. Mountain Goats: We Shall All Be Healed (4AD)
  18. Le Tigre: This Island (Strummer/Universal)
  19. Drive-By Truckers: The Dirty South (New West)
  20. The Roots: Tipping Point (Geffen)
  21. Seth P. Brundel: Devil's Pawn (Aesthetics)
  22. Guided By Voices: Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador)
  23. Viktor Vaughn: VV2: Venomous Villian (Insomniac)
  24. Donnas: Gold Medal (Atlantic)
  25. The Neville Brothers: Walkin' in the Shadows
  26. DJ BC: dj BC presents The Beastles (no label)
  27. Fatboy Slim: Palookaville (Astralwerks)
  28. The Libertines: The Libertines (Rough Trade)
  29. Eminem: Encore (Interscope)
  30. The Kleptones: A Night at the Hip-Hopera (no label)
  31. Chicago Underground Trio: Slon (Thrill Jockey)
  32. Meat Purveyors: Pain By Numbers (Bloodshot)
  33. Arto Lindsay: Salt (Righteous Babe)
  34. Ellis Hooks: Uncomplicated (Artemis)
  35. Quisquenya en el Hudson: Dominican Music in NYC (Smithsonian/Folkways)
  36. Tarbox Ramblers: A Fix Back East (Rounder)
  37. Lusine: Seriel Hodgepodge (Ghostly International)
  38. Shake the Nations! A New Breed of Dub IV (Dubhead)
  39. Burnt Sugar: Not Live In Paris (Trugoid)
  40. Mos Def: The New Danger (Geffen)
  41. Tift Merritt: Tambourine (Lost Highway)
  42. Version City Rockers: Darker Roots (Antifaz)
  43. Keren Ann: Not Going Anywhere (Capitol/Metro Blue)
  44. Hoahio: Peek-Ara-Boo (Tzadik)
  45. Dave Douglas/Louis Sclavis/Peggy Lee/Dylan Van Der Schyff: Bow River Falls (Premonition)
  46. Reigning Sound: Too Much Guitar (In the Red)
  47. The Real Tuesday Weld: I, Lucifer (Six Degrees)
  48. Melonie Cannon: Melonie Cannon (Skaggs Family)
  49. Tori Fixx: Marry Me (A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.)
  50. The Aggrolites: Dirty Reggae (Axe)
  51. The Quails: The Song Is Love (Mr. Lady)
  52. Special Pillow: Inside the Special Pillow (Zofko)
  53. Mochipet: Combat (Violent Turd)
  54. Coachwhips: Bangers Vs. Fuckers (Narnack)
  55. Old Bombs: Audios (Soft Abuse)
  56. Dave Douglas: Strange Liberation (RCA)
  57. Anne McCue: Roll (Messanger)
  58. Denise James: It's Not Enough to Love (Rainbow Quartz)
  59. Hanzo Steel: Vol. 1 'Kill Bill' Mixes (Hanzo Steel)
  60. The Waxwings: Let's Make Our Descent (Rainbow Quartz)
  61. 2/5 BZ: Ulonbay (Gozel)
  62. Flogging Molly: Within A Mile of Home (Side One Dummy)

Jason Gross: Archives and Reissues of Note:

  • Bob Dylan: Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall - Bootleg Series Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)
  • The Fall: Live at the Witch Trials and Dragnet (Sanctuary)
  • Jimmy Martin: Don't Cry to Me (Thrill Jockey)
  • Blue Ash: Around Again (Not Lame)
  • Black Merda: The Folks From Mother's Mixer (Tuff City)
  • Polecats: Polecats Are Go (Anagram)
  • Trouble Funk: Live and Early Singles (2.13.61)
  • Sonic Youth: Goo (DGC)
  • KMD: Best of KMD (Nature Sounds)
  • Pere Ubu: One Man Drives While the Other Man Screams (Hearthan)
  • Camper Van Beethoven: II & III (Spin Art)
  • Terry Allen: Juarez (Sugar Hill)
  • Anna Domino: Anna Domino (LTM)
  • Holy Modal Rounders: Bird Song: Live 1971 (Water)
  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Don't Look for a Heartache (Hightone)
  • Last Poets: Last Poets/This Is Madness (Light in the Attic)
  • Tunde Williams/Lekan Animashaun: Mr. Big Mouth / Low Profile (Honest Jons)
  • Cloud One: Atmosphere Strut (Octipi)
  • Edu: Lobo Edu (Dubas)
  • Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria/Ultimo Trem (Far Out)
  • Blackbeard: I Wah Dub (More Cut)
  • The Homosexuals: The Homosexuals (ReR)
  • John Carter: A Rose by Any Other Name (Rev-Ola)
  • DNA: DNA on DNA (No More)
  • Insect Trust: Hoboken Saturday Night (Collectors' Choice)
  • Indie Pop 1 (Mute)

Pop Matters: they published this list in reverse order, with healthy-sized review nuggets.

  1. Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  2. The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  3. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  4. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-)
  6. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  7. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice)
  8. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)
  9. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  10. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  11. Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  12. Green Day: American Idiot (Warner Bros./Reprise)
  13. AC Newman: The Slow Wonder (Matador)
  14. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  15. Björk: Medulla (Elektra/Asylum)
  16. Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (Fat Cat)
  17. Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Sanctuary)
  18. Drive-By Truckers: The Dirty South (New West)
  19. Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill (Anti-)
  20. The Walkmen: Bows and Arrows (Record Collection)
  21. Joana Newsom: Milk Eyed Mender (Drag City)
  22. Jean Grae: This Week (Babygrande)
  23. Iron and Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
  24. Devandra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
  25. U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope)
  26. Junior Boys: Last Exit (Domino)
  27. Keane: Hopes & Fears (Interscope)
  28. Tom Waits: Real Gone (Anti-)
  29. Talib Kweli: The Beautiful Struggle (Geffen/Rawkus)
  30. The Secret Machines: Now Here Is Nowhere (Reprise/Warner Bros.)
  31. Dungen: Ta Det Lugnt (Subliminal)
  32. Tears for Fears: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (New Door)
  33. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL/Beggars)
  34. Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  35. Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  36. Diplo: Florida (Big Dada)
  37. Patty Griffin: Impossible Dream (ATO)
  38. Mirah: C'mon Miracle (K)
  39. Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles (SRC)
  40. The Futureheads: The Futureheads (Sire)
  41. Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)
  42. Steve Earle: The Revolution Starts . . . Now (Artemis/E-Squared)
  43. Royce Da 5'9": Death Is Certain (Koch)
  44. Liars: They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (Mute)
  45. PJ Harvey: Uh Huh Her (Island)
  46. The Mountain Goats: We Shall Be Healed (4AD)
  47. Einstürzende Neubauten: Perpetuum Mobile (Mute)
  48. William Shatner: Has Been (Shout! Factory)
  49. !!!: Louden Up Now (Touch and Go)
  50. Trashcan Sinatras: Weightlifting (SpinArt)
  51. Miss Kittin: I.Com (Astralwerks)
  52. Allison Moorer: The Duel (Sugar Hill)
  53. Delays: Faded Seaside Glamour (Rough Trade/Sanctuary)
  54. The Magnetic Fields: i (Nonesuch)
  55. The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade)
  56. The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
  57. Mark Lanegan Band: Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet)
  58. The Von Bondies: Pawn Shoppe Heart (Sire)
  59. The Libertines: The Libertines (Sanctuary)
  60. The Ponys: Laced With Romance (In the Red)
  61. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheets (Lookout)
  62. Deerhoof: Milk Man (Kill Rock Stars)
  63. The Killers: Hot Fuss (Island/Def Jam)
  64. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
  65. Mos Def: The New Danger (Geffen)
  66. Apostle of Hustle: Folkloric Feel (Arts & Crafts)
  67. The Mendoza Line: Fortune (Misra/Bar None)
  68. John Vanderslice: Cellar Door (Barsuk)
  69. Carina Round: The Disconnection (Interscope)
  70. The Divine Comedy: Absent Friends (Nettwerk)
  71. Leonard Cohen: Dear Heather (Columbia)
  72. Julie Doiron: Goodnight Nobody (Jagjaguwar)
  73. The Manic Street Preachers: Lifeblood (Sony Music UK)
  74. Tift Merritt: Tambourine (Lost Highway)
  75. DJ Shadow: In Tune and on Time (Geffen)
  76. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Delivery Man (Lost Highway)
  77. The Dillinger Escape Plan: Miss Machine (Relapse)
  78. The Donnas: Gold Medal (Atlantic)
  79. Mastodon: Leviathan (Relapse)
  80. The Finn Brothers: Everyone Is Here (Nettwerk)
  81. DJ Danger Mouse: The Grey Album
  82. Bersuit Vergarabat: La Argentinidad al Palo (Universal/Polygram)
  83. Buddy Miller: Universal United House of Prayer (New West)
  84. Ghost: Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City)
  85. Sam Phillips: A Boot and a Shoe (Nonesuch)
  86. RJD2: Since We Last Spoke (Definitive Jux)
  87. Stars: Set Yourself on Fire (Arts & Crafts)
  88. Neon Thrills: Sweet Cactus (Bad Beat)
  89. The Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs (Capitol)
  90. The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me (French Kiss)
  91. Steve Turner: Steve Turner & His Bad Ideas (Roslyn)
  92. The Album Leaf: In a Safe Place (Sub Pop)
  93. The Honeydogs: 10,000 Years (United Musicians)
  94. Nina Nastasia: Dogs (Touch and Go)
  95. Minus 5: In Rock (Yep Roc)
  96. Earthling: Humandust (Discograph)
  97. Destroyer: Your Blues (Merge)
  98. Blonde Redhead: Misery Is a Butterfly (4AD/Beggars)
  99. The Whiles: Colors of the Year (Anyway)
  100. Fennesz: Venice (Touch)

Pitchfork: MMIV 2004: The 50 Best Albums:

  1. The Arcade Fire: Funeral (Merge)
  2. Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (Fat Cat)
  3. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice)
  4. The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade)
  5. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
  6. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  7. Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
  8. The Go! Team: Thunder Lightning Strike (Memphis Industries)
  9. Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)
  10. Joana Newsom: Milk Eyed Mender (Drag City)
  11. Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse (Geffen)
  12. M.I.A./Diplo: Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1 (hollertronix.com)
  13. Dungen: Ta Det Lugnt (Subliminal)
  14. Erlend Øye: DJ-Kicks (!K7)
  15. Annie: Anniemal (679)
  16. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL/Beggars)
  17. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
  18. Kanye West: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  19. Björk: Medulla (Elektra/Asylum)
  20. Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
  21. Fennesz: Venice (Touch)
  22. The Foreign Exchange: Connected (BBE)
  23. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
  24. TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)
  25. DFA Compilation #2 (DFA)
  26. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
  27. Interpol: Antics (Matador)
  28. Junior Boys: Last Exit (KIN/Domino)
  29. A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder (Matador)
  30. William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops (2062)
  31. De La Soul: The Grind Date (Sanctuary Union)
  32. Califone: Heron King Blues (Perishable)
  33. The Futureheads: The Futureheads (sire)
  34. Espers: Espers (Locust)
  35. Mirah: C'mon Miracle (K)
  36. Excepter: KA (Fusetron)
  37. Jóhann Jóhannsson: Virthulegu Forsetar (Touch)
  38. Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (Sanctuary)
  39. Cee-Lo: Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine (Arista)
  40. The Walkmen: Bows and Arrows (Record Collection)
  41. Les Savy Fav: Inches (Frenchkiss)
  42. DJ/Rupture: Special Gunpowder (Tigerbeat6)
  43. Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters (Polydor)
  44. Camera Obscura: Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge)
  45. The Concretes: The Concretes (Astralwerks)
  46. Iron and Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
  47. Comets on Fire: Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
  48. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  49. Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (Fat Cat)
  50. Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles (SRC)

Movie: Finding Neverland. Too much other stuff to write about. Pretty good movie, but I can't say that I particularly connected to it -- never trusted that Tinkerbelle shit, anyway. B+

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Music: Initial count 10063 [10027] rated (+36), 961 [982] unrated (-19). Should be working on year-end lists, but mostly doing clean-up. Also updating the database to pick up missing high-rated Penguin Guide jazz releases.

  • Available Jelly: Happy Camp (1996, Ramboy). On Michael Moore's label, this particular group includes four horns (two reeds, two brass), bass and drums. The horns combine in often wondrous ways, albeit with a few rough spots. B+
  • Al Green: Explores Your Mind (1974, The Right Stuff/Hi). Slick little hit: "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)"; masterpiece: "Take Me to the River"; luscious closer you won't find on any comp: "School Days." In many ways this is one of Green's slightest albums, and there are no bonus cuts for bait. But it's still indubitably an album from a stretch when he could do no wrong. I remember buying it knowing it wasn't one of his best just because I couldn't get too enough of his voice. B+
  • Fela Kuti (Mixed by Chief Xcel): The Underground Spiritual Game (Quannum Projects). Mixed by Chief Xcel of Blackalicious, this skips briskly through a range of Fela grooves and chants, the extra things like the airplane-ride-to-Africa cliché adding little. I prefer the originals, which get to stretch out and breathe a bit. But even if this plays a bit like the Cliff Notes version, the actual grooves and chants are undeniable. And the framing moves along as smartly as you'd expect. A-
  • A Proper Introduction to Julia Lee: That's What I Like (1944-52 [2004], Proper). Jay McShann is most famous today for siring Charlie Parker, but he was basically a boogie-woogie pianist, and more typical of his alumni were blues shouter Walter Brown and the hottest of Kansas City's red hot mamas, Julia Lee. She led a band in the '40s called Julia Lee and Her Boyfriends. A-
  • Boban Markovic Orkestar: Boban I Marko (2003, Piranha). Serbian brass, gypsy influenced, but you can also view it as Dusko Goykovich's bedrock. A-
  • Teedra Moses: Complex Simplicity (2004, TVT). Brighter and spunkier than any nu-soul album any jazz publicist tried to slip past my nose, escaping the dull gospelizing of the '90s without sneaking back to the discofied '70s. B+
  • William Shatner: Has Been (2004, Shout! Factory). The Star Trek captain cut an album in 1968 regarded as outrageous camp. This is his second album, a mere 36 years later. I can't attest to the first album, but this one is pretty ridiculous. From the title song: "has been implies failure/not so/has been is history/has been was/has been might again." Shatner doesn't bother trying to sing -- his words are all spoken, with others adding some sung vocals, such as the "cowboy chorus" to the title song. There's some funny shit here. He stands "Common People" on its head, turning it into a nasty putdown. He takes DJ Shadow's motorbeat to extremes in "I Can't Get Behind That." He adds to Brad Paisley's "Real" lines like "I'd love to help the world and all its problems/but I'm an entertainer, and that's all/So the next time there's an asteroid or a natural disaster/I'm flattered that you thought of me/but I'm not the one to call." Actually, "he" is likely a misnomer, especially in terms of the music, which Ben Folds put together. B
  • Trouble Funk: Live/Early Singles ([2004], 2.3.61, 2CD). No dates or discographical info in the package. Live appeared in 1981, before Drop the Bomb in 1982. Early Singles came out in 1997, but presumably predates the absent "Drop the Bomb." I'm guessing the dates are 1980-82, although either date could roll back a year or two. Nothing but party funk, so unself-conscious they make the Kool and the Gang look like eggheads. A-
  • Laura Veirs: Carbon Glacier (2004, Nonesuch). Singer-songwriter, not folksy, just looking for something ethereal. B+

Dec 2004