April 2019 Notebook
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Monday, April 15, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31371 [31344] rated (+27), 252 [251] unrated (+1).

May just be seasonal allergies, but feeling too lousy to even take a stab at writing an introduction. I still have XgauSez to edit and post before I go to bed tonight, so need to get onto that while I can.

A couple of notes, though. I've been talking about moving computers around for a month or more. I finally got that done this week. Best thing so far is that I have two relatively uncluttered desks to work on, instead of one hopelessly messy one. Also I moved the speakers above the desk, where they sound better and I can access the controls. (Also, now both computers have speakers. Subwoofers are still under the desk, where they should be, and that space is less cluttered than before. No website work yet, but I should get to that soon.

Delighted to see Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (49) finally posted. I checked out a couple of his recommendations below (also found a new live Pet Shop Boys he didn't mention). Also continuing to pick albums off from Phil Overeem's 25% through the briar patch list.

Finally, I finally did manage to cast a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot, a day past the deadline, but seems likely to be counted (not that I could ever tell from the results). I didn't do a very good job of collecting notes this time, but here is what I have.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Charlotte Adigery: Zandoli (2019, Deewee, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Etienne Charles: Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 (2019, Culture Shock Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks [This Is Bate Bola OST] (2018 [2019], International Anthem): [r]: B
  • Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (2019, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (2018 [2019], FPE): [r]: B+(*)
  • Amber Mark: Conexão (2018, Virgin EMI, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (2019, Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (2019, Make): [cd]: A-
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (2016 [2019], TUM): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nicki Parrott: From New York to Paris (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Jeremy Pelt the Artist (2018 [2019], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Agenda (2019, X2, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (2018 [2019], X2): [r]: A-
  • Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (2018 [2019], Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ruby Rushton: Ironside (2018 [2019], 22a): [r]: B
  • Jim Snidero: Waves of Calm (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (2019, Strikezone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • James Suggs: You're Gonna Hear From Me (2018, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Warren Vaché: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Louis Armstrong: Sparks, Nevada 1964! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: A-
  • Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time: African Visionary Music (1972 [2018], Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: In Coventry, 1966 (1966 [2018], Storyville): [r]: B
  • Ben Lamar Gay: 500 Chains (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Grapes (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ben Lamar Gay/Edinho Gerber: Benjamin E Edinho (2011-13 [2018], International Anthem, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joanne Grauer: Introducing Lorraine Feather (1978 [2018], MPS): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environental and New Age Music 1980-1990 (1980-90 [2019], Light in the Attic): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (Summit)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (Summit)
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (Uncle Marvin Music): May 17
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (Skirl)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (Green Egg): May 3

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I don't feel up to writing much about Julian Assange, but following his arrest in London, I anticipate that I'll find a bunch of links this week and should collect them together. Assange is an Australian, a computer programmer who came up with Wikileaks, a system to collect and publish anonymously submitted documents. That's always seemed like a noble endeavor, an aid in exposing how the rich and powerful conspire in private to manipulate and profit, and for a while he seemed to be doing just that. He quickly ran afoul of those powers, most notably the US government, which set out to charge him with various crimes, and quite possibly orchestrated a broader smear campaign against him. Assange, in turn, sought asylum from criminal charges, and since 2012 has been sheltered by the Ecuadorean embassy in London. I don't know how much Assange has had to do with Wikileaks since 2012 (or how much freedom he has had to do anything), but his brand name wound up playing a role in Trump's 2016 campaign when it framed the release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. One effect of the DNC dump was to expand the Democratic side of bipartisan outrage against Assange, especially as Clinton's drones tried to paint him as a Putin accomplice.

I don't have strong opinions about Assange one way or the other, but I did welcome his release of leaked documents on the Iraq War and the US State Department. (See my September 2, 2010 entry, Troops, on the "Collateral Murder" video, anti-war vet Ethan McCord, and a related speech by Barak Obama -- what I said then is still pretty relevant today.) Releasing the DNC emails didn't particularly bother me either, although the timing was suspicious (immediately after the release of Trump's Access Hollywood tape, allowing the media to spin scandal on top of scandal), as was the lack of any RNC/Trump campaign emails to balance the picture.

Anyhow, the Assange links:

Let's also break out multiple links on Israel's elections:


Scattered links on other topics this week:

Monday, April 08, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31344 [31312] rated (+32), 251 [249] unrated (+2).

Back in business. I figured all it would take to get Napster working again was a reboot -- it broke following a software update that didn't require one but involved a new Flash module, so I suspected that threw things out of sync. Still, I didn't want to do that for other reaasons, but was forced to when the computer freaked out and gave me a swizzle patterned screen. That suggested something far worse, but the reboot fixed that too.

Working Napster gave me a chance to catch up with the last couple weeks of Robert Christgau picks -- Stella Donnelly/Sharon Van Etten and Pedro the Lion/Jason Ringenberg -- where only the B+ record didn't disappoint. (Actually, I couldn't find Ringenberg's Stand Tall on Napster, but was able to fish a Soundcloud link from my email trash, so thanks to the publicist.) Guess I'm still missing the Ariana Grande/Amber Mark week -- I had the former's Sweetener way down at B, a grade split matching Mitski's Be the Cowboy, but haven't heard the more recent one.

Took a dive into George Strait after panning his new one, mostly because I noticed an unheard Christgau A- in the database (Something Special), and it panned out. I had his first Greatest Hits (1985) at A-, so it made sense to check out its source albums (just three of them). I'm not sure that grade holds up, but didn't recheck it. Still, after dismissing most of his songs as unmemorable, I've wound up with "You Look So Good in Love" stuck in my mind all week.

Other records suggested by various sources, most prolifically Phil Overeem. The tip on Angel-Ho came from breathless hype in The Nation ("Angel-Ho is the future of pop music"). I dug up Petra Van Nuis after she wrote to me (so sometimes that works). Strait and Mandy Barnett just showed up in Napster's featured lists.

Making fair progress on most projects, although not enough on moving the computer. (Will do that after I post this, I promise.) Biggest one is a new piece of badly-needed pantry shelving, which needs one more coat of paint before I drag it in and bolt it to the wall. I have a couple more projects in that space, ready to roll as soon as the first one is operational. Still, more projects seem to present themselves all the time. Dug up a couple plastic drawers full of CDs today, and my wife argued that I should get rid of them (something about the hoarding being psychotic). I had a plan a couple years back to start donating CDs to a local library, but never followed through on it -- partly because I was working on the Jazz Guide, maybe because they kept naming various buldings after the Kochs. The reason for having a substantial library is to look things up, but I'm fast losing my ability to do so, not to mention my prospects of ever writing anything worthwhile on the subject.

Still, the project I feel more pressing need for is to come up with a system so I can quickly identify where all my tools (and hardware) are. I'm forever thrashing, trying to find things I know I have somewhere, sometimes even having to buy more tools to replace those I've lost (most recently, a set of hole saws). In fact, thrashing seems to be the word for the week, maybe even the season.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her (2019, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (2019, T N' T Music): [cd]: A-
  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (2019, XM): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (2019, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (2019, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Earle & the Dukes: Guy (2019, New West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (2018 [2019], Pure Imagination): [cd]: B+(**)
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (2018 [2019], Blujazz/Southport): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (2019, Resonance): [cd]: B
  • Girls on Grass: Dirty Power (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Lanouguere Quintet: Eclectico (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jenny Lewis: On the Line (2019, Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile (2019, RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (2018 [2019], Storyville): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (2019, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jason Ringenberg: Stand Tall (2019, Courageous Chicken): [sc]: A-
  • Royal Trux: White Stuff (2019, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Babygirl: Crush on Me (2019, Father/Daughter, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Honky Tonk Time Machine (2019, MCA Nashville): [r]: B
  • Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Petra Van Nuis & Dennis Luxion: Because We're Night People (2018, String Damper): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (2018 [2019], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Two (2001-17 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Mandy Barnett: I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson (2013, Rounder): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Channel the Spirits (2016, The Leaf Label): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Strait Country (1981, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Strait From the Heart (1982, MCA): [r]: B
  • George Strait: Right or Wrong (1983, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Something Special (1985, MCA): [r]: A-
  • George Strait: The Best of George Strait [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1983-93 [2002], MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: 50 Number Ones (1982-2004 [2004], MCA Nashville, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD): April 26
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (T N' T Music): May 3
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (Blujazz/Southport)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (Blue Engine): April 19
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (Origin): April 19
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (Make)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (Storyville): April 19
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (TUM): May 17
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (Strikezone): May 3
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (OA2): April 19
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (Origin): April 19

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

One of my principles here is not to bother with politician horserace links, especially presidential candidates. One thing I've long held is that a president is only as good as his (or someday her) party, so the big question to ask any presidential candidate is: what are you going to do to get your party elected and make it an effective force? Still, every now and then I have opinions on specific people. When Greg Magarian griped about Tim Ryan and Michael Bennet getting a burst of press attention, as have recent stories about Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg raising great gobs of money, I commented:

Worth noting that O'Rourke and Buttigieg are principled neoliberals, and are raising money as such. They can do that because their youth and inexperience hasn't saddled them with the sort of baggage the Clinton establishment bears. That's bad news for Biden, who would be the obvious next-in-line for Clinton's donors if they didn't suspect that the brand is ruined. They may also be thinking that running someone young and outside might help crack Sanders' lead among young voters -- something Biden has no prayer of doing.

The one candidate I've been hearing the most (and most negative) about is Joe Biden. He hasn't announced yet, but evidently the decision has been made, the timing around Easter. Biden has led recent polls, but that can be attributed to his much greater name resolution. I've always figured the decision would turn on whether he's willing to risk his legacy on a very likely loss, but I suppose the decision will turn mostly on whether he can line up sufficient funding. (I had some doubts that Bernie Sanders would run, but when I saw his early funding reports, I immediately realized I was being silly.) Clearly, he didn't run in 2016 because Hillary Clinton had locked up most of his possible funding. That's less obvious this year, but a lot of competitive candidates have jumped in ahead of him.

Biden isn't awful, but he has a lot of baggage, including a lot of things that wound up hurting Clinton in 2016 (like that Iraq War vote). Some of those things could hurt him in the primaries, especially his rather dodgy record on race and crime, and with women. Other things, like his plagiarism scandal, will hurt him more in the general election. But the big problem there is that he was a Washington insider and party leader for so long that he makes it easy for Republicans to spin this election into a referendum on forty years of Democratic Party failures. Obama was largely able to avoid that in 2008, but Clinton couldn't in 2016.

Also, there is the nagging suspicion that he isn't really a very good day-to-day candidate. Last time he ran for president he was an also-ran, unable to get more than 1-2% of the vote anywhere. He got the VP nod from Obama after Clinton decided she'd rather be Secretary of State, and one suspects that the Clintons pushed for Biden as VP because they didn't regard him as a serious rival in 2016 (when a sitting VP would normally have the inside track to the nomination). And he's exceptionally prone to gaffes. He managed to avoid any really bad ones running with Obama, but running on his own he'll get a lot more scrutiny and pressure. Nobody thinks he's stupid or evil -- unlike Trump, whose base seems to regard those attributes as virtues -- but nobody is much of a fan either (well, except for the fictional Leslie Knope, which kind of proves the point).

For more, if you care, see Michelle Goldberg: The wrong time for Joe Biden:

Beyond gender, on issue after issue, if Biden runs for president he will have to run away from his own record. He -- and by extension, we -- will have to relive the debate over the Iraq war, which he voted to authorize. He'll have to explain his vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which, by lifting regulations on banking, helped create the conditions for the 2008 financial meltdown. (Biden has called that vote one of the biggest regrets of his career.) In 2016, Hillary Clinton was slammed for her previous support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which contributed to mass incarceration. Biden helped write the law, which he called, in 2015, the "1994 Biden crime bill." . . . No one should judge the whole span of Biden's career by the standards of 2019, but if he's going to run for president, it's fair to ask whether he's the right leader for this moment. He is a product of his time, but that time is up.

Other political news last week included the death of Ernest Hollings, the long-time South Carolina senator, at 97. I was, well, shocked to see him referred to in an obituary as a populist -- a thought that had never crossed my mind. I would grant that he was not as bad as the Republicans who served in the Senate alongside him (Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham), or his Republican successor (Jim DeMent). Still, those are pretty low standards.

By the way, a couple of non-political links below: subjects I used to follow closely in more carefree times. See if you can pick them out.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 01, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31312 [31297] rated (+15), 249 [253] unrated (-4).

Rated count way down, about half of what I consider a solid week. When I dropped to 29 last week, I described that as a "lazy week." Could say that again, but the real reason for the drop off is that the Flash plugin on my computer is fucked up, making it impossible to use Napster (or, for that matter, Spotify). That left me with playing CDs (9) and using Bandcamp (6), and I didn't really have much to choose from or look for on either. Unplayed CD queue is currently only 7 deep, and I don't just randomly play unknowns on Bandcamp. On the other hand, the Bandcamps generally got two spins, and the CDs more than that (I'd guess Larry Fuller got 7-8 plays -- not that I needed more than 2, but it made for pretty pleasant background music). All that lead to a couple anomalies. Only one A- is the lowest weekly total in quite some time, and I'm actually not real solid on it -- I've never been much of a Betty Carter fan, and should probably go back and check some of her earlier releases (and re-check The Audience With Betty Carter, which I have at B- even though it wears a Penguin Guide crown). It could be that I promoted it at the last minute because I came up with nothing else.

The other anomaly is the high percentage of B+(***) grades (8/15). Certainly the multiple replays helped out. At this point, I'm pretty sure the jazz records (especially the CDs) have plateaued, but three of the Bandcamps might merit further investigation: Mekons, Quelle Chris, and Mdou Moctar. I think I have those three pegged right, but they're close, and it's worth noting that I have the immediately previous albums by all three at A- (It Is Twice Blessed, Everything's Fine, and Blue Stage Sessions).

Priorities for the coming week will be to reconstruct my crashed tax file, finish (paint) a new pantry shelf, and finally get my computers rearranged and reconnected (hopefully fixing the Napster problem, and allowing me to get onto some website work). Also have my DownBeat Critics Poll invite, so that will be another (pretty much wasted) chunk of time. One website task I did manage to get done last week was to build a book page for Robert Christgau's new essay collection, Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading, due out from Duke University Press on April 12. Info and various links on that page. Still to be done is the nasty task of embargoing most of the pieces that appear in the book, so this is your last change (for several years) to squirrel away free copies of most of the book.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (2018 [2019], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Blu & Oh No: A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (2019, Native Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (2016 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ross Hammond & Sameer Gupta: Mystery Well (2018, Prescott): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mekons: Deserted (2019, Bloodshot): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Ilana: The Creator (2019, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Quelle Chris: Guns (2019, Mello Music Group): [bc]: B+(***)
  • SOL Development: The SOL of Black Folk (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992 [2019], Blue Engine): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (XM): April 12
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (self-released): June 7
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (Resonance): April 19
  • Pablo Langouguere Quintet: Eclectico (self-released): May 31


Mar 2019