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Monday, August 12, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31902 [31860] rated (+42), 259 [259] unrated (+0).

Running late again, mostly because I've been fiddling with the 2019 Metacritic file, adding extra points for high grades (not just midyear list picks) for most of the publications tracked by Album of the Year. The specific lists are noted here: in most cases one point for grades scored 80+, although for some relatively generous publications I've used 90+ (e.g., for AllMusic Guide, I'm counting 4.5 star records, but not 4.0 star ones). My latest project there has been to add points for All About Jazz grades of 4.5+ stars (4 stars is probably their median grade; at any rate it's very common). I've worked my way back to March 26, and the work has slowed down as I've had to check more release dates to separate 2019 releases out from the earlier ones (mostly late 2018's, but sometimes they review older releases). AOTY doesn't track AAJ (or any other jazz sources), so this has started to generate some jazz coverage. I should probably do Downbeat next.

Many of this week's picks are things I stumbled onto from various lists, and they're a pretty patchy group. I've finally started adding the final/latest Christgau EW reviews to his database, so a couple records (like the Diana Gordon EP) were suggested there -- which, by the way, led me to find Taana Gardner's disco classic (one of very few Christgau-rated A records I missed). Phil Overeem's latest list (link last week) led me to several things, including the George Jones United Artists Rarities, which sent me on a minor dive with a side of Little Jimmy Dickens.

The bigger dive this week was into the works of Jon Lundbom and Bryan Murray. This started with Balto Beats and swept up pretty much everything I had missed. (I had heard their often excellent records on Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup label, but missed almost everything else.)

The other smaller dive was into country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. I initially graded his new one B+(***), but wondered if I shouldn't revisit 2017's Purgatory -- graded B+(**) by me at the time, but later a Christgau A-. Both of my initial reviews admitted that more spins may be called for, and it didn't take many. Also found two relatively crude earlier releases, which really brought his songwriting into focus. A couple more spins of the live EPs will raise could that grade as well, but the best songs are repeats from the debut -- probably still the best place to hear them.

One minor note: I've taken the time lock off the August Streamnotes draft file, which is where the monthly archive winds up. I won't do any indexing of the file until the end of the month, nor am I likely to be citing the URL in my weekly posts (although it's appeared in the notebook since I went weekly). But the naming convention is likely to be consistent moving forward, and you might spy something for the next Music Week there (e.g., the records I'm listening to as I'm writing this).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Leila Bordreuil/Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads (2016, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tyler Childers: Country Squire (2019, Hickman Holler/RCA): [r]: A-
  • The Cinematic Orchestra: To Believe (2019, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage II (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Elephant9: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elephant9 With Reine Fiske: Psychedelic Backfire II (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Diana Gordon: Pure (2018, self-released, EP): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Harbinger: Extended (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (2017 [2019], Zoho, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Anne Mette Iversen's Ternion Quartet: Invincible Nimbus (2018 [2019], BJU): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Kavuma: The Banger Factory (2019, Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • LSD: Labrinth/Sia/Diplo Present . . . LSD (2019, Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Lage Lund: Terrible Animals (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Lundbom/Bryan Murray: Beats by Balto! Vol. 1 (2018 [2019], Chant): [r]: A-
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (2019, Laborie Jazz): [cd]: B-
  • Simon Nabatov Quintet: Last Minute Theory (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ola Onabulé: Point Less (2019, Rugged Ram): [cd]: B
  • Mario Pavone Dialect Trio: Philosophy (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alberto Pibiri & the Al Peppers: The Nacho Blues (2019, Alberto Pibiri Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The John Pizzarelli Trio: For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole (2019, Ghostlight): [r]: B+(**)
  • Noah Preminger: After Life (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jenny Scheinman/Allison Miller: Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller's Parlour Game (2019, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet: Gettin' It There (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Silbergleit: January (2018 [2019], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (2019, PAO/Blujazz): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Tyler Childers: Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (2013-14 [2018], Hickman Holler, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Jones: United Artists Rarities (1962-64 [2019], EMI Nashville): [r]: B+(***)
  • Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April Is the Cruellest Month (1975 [2019], Black Forms Editions): [r]: B-

Old music:

  • Balto Exclamationpoint/Plaidworthy: If the Big Hurt (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Balto!: Balto! (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Balto!: Two Cans of Soup (2017, self-released, EP): [bc]: B-
  • Balto!: Taco Cat Poops (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Baltbom!: ¡!Baltbom!¡ (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Baltsticks!!: Play You, Play Me (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Bryan and the Haggards/Eugene Chadbourne: Merles Just Want to Have Fun (2012 [2013], Northern Spy): [bc]: A-
  • Tyler Childers: Bottles and Bibles (2011, Hickman Holler): [r]: A-
  • Little Jimmy Dickens: 16 Biggest Hits (1949-65 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Taana Gardner: Heartbeat (1981, West End, EP): [r]: A-
  • George Jones: George Jones Sings the Hits of His Country Cousins (1962, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Jones: My Favorites of Hank Williams (1962, United Artists): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Jones: George Jones Sings Like the Dickens! (1964, United Artists): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Lundbom: Big Five Chord (2003 [2004], self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: All the Pretty Ponies (A Live Recording) (2004 [2005], self-released): [r]: B
  • Bryan Murray: What You Don't Forget (2007, Jazz Excursion): [bc]: B+(***)
  • John Pizzarelli: P.S. Mr. Cole (1996-97 [1999], RCA): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Tyler Childers: Purgatory (2017, Hickman Holler): [r]: [was B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi): August 30
  • Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (Summit): October 4
  • Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (Savant)
  • Mike Pachelli: High Standards (Fullblast): September 1
  • Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So (HighNote)
  • Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (A.T. Music)
  • Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (self-released): October 3

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Again, spent a little over two days collecting what seems to be a bottomless series of links that show various aspects of the same basic fact: that Donald Trump is like all other conservatives in the sense that he believes some people (like himself) are innately superior to other people, and that the political system should be rigged to favor superior people over inferior ones, but even among conservatives, as an individual he is exceptionally ignorant, abusive, vain, and corrupt. Most weeks I take pains to remind you that what's wrong with him is just a reflection of his political beliefs, and we need to focus on the broader right-wing and not just on him. Still, this week he was such a flaming asshole that it's hard to get beyond the horror and disgust he reeks of.


Some scattered links this week:


Not news, but let me note in passing a few more historical links on intellectuals who had some influence on me:

Monday, August 05, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31860 [31831] rated (+29), 259 [257] unrated (+2).

I continue to be surprised at the pro-gun memes showing up in my Facebook feed. Consider this screed (from kin in Arkansas, if that matters):

"When I was in high school we had gun racks in trucks, and they had guns in them, and they were loaded. We even had fist fights! But never once did someone get pissed and go get a gun to shoot someone. We don't have a gun problem people, we have a people problem, a sin problem, a lack of heart and soul problem, a lack of respect for human life problem ,or even a mental health problem. . . . but we DO NOT have a gun problem! I think it's easier for some people to blame an inanimate object instead of taking responsibility."

This starts off with an anecdote which may have been true in the author's personal experience but is far from the general rule. Then it offers up a list of suspect people, blaming them and exculpating the guns they use to commit crimes. We watch a lot of crime stories on TV, and they invariably come down to motive and opportunity. Lots of people have motives that some people have killed for, but they don't do so because they never had the opportunity (or they had some scruples that inhibited them from striking out). Guns may do nothing on their own (there's a Steve Earle song called "The Devil's Right Hand" that argues otherwise), but when someone picks one up, they offer the opportunity of killing someone else, even at a distance. The basic idea behind gun control is to keep guns out of the hands of people who might use them criminally. One might argue that the government isn't smart or fair enough to make those decisions, but reasonable people could surely agree in minimal lists of guns that no one should have and people who should not have guns.

The problem there is finding reasonable people, especially among those on the right who have been propagating these stupid gun memes. Admittedly, there are people who would like to outlaw all guns, but they aren't numerous, and aren't in any position to reject reasonable compromises. My own position is that I dislike guns, and don't see any good reason for the vast majority of Americans (including myself) to own any, but I'm pretty resistant to the idea of outlawing things just because lots of people dislike them -- alcohol, drugs, and sex are cases we should have learned better than. On the other hand, I can occasionally see a case for prohibiting or strictly regulating some things that are especially dangerous, and I could understand wanting to include guns in that category.

Of course, there are some things that government is even more inept at dealing with than guns, and oddly enough they show up on the list of things pro-gun people like to blame gun violence on. Foremost is mental illness, which heads up Trump's list of scapegoats (along with ubiquitous things like violent video games). The fact is we don't do a very good job of treating (or even identifying) mental illness in this country, partly because we don't try (and conservatives are even more lax in this regard), but also because nobody's really very good at it. A rigorous system that tried to quarantine crazy people to keep them away from guns would be orders of magnitude more expensive and more hurtful than one that prohibited guns from all but the certifiably sane. Yeterday's meme blaming gun violence on drugs diagnosis without a solution.

I didn't mean to go down this rathole, but it just opened up -- as is so often the case. What I did want to do is quote a Barbara Ehrenreich tweet:

The mental illness we really have to fear is narcissism. It makes dumb, loathsome people feel virtuous and smart. Gun ownership is another form of narcissism. It makes little men feel big.

I'll also add this one from Adam Serwer, on Trump's Monday morning backpedal:

Trump sounds like a robot when condemning white supremacy and like himself when he's attacking religious and ethnic minorities because one is him pretending and one is him being himself.


Moving on, we have a week's worth of new music for you below. I added some grade data to my mid-year list aggregate, checking sites that hadn't produced lists and (usually) according one point for each record rated 80+ (based on AOTY lists. This had the surprise effect of boosting Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow to first place, 48-47 over Billie Eilish (gain from last week was 10-4). The only other notable shift was Weyes Blood, up from 15 to 10. Biggest drop was probably James Blake, 10-14.

Much of what I listened to last week came from looking at these lists. My other major source was Phil Overeem's July honor roll -- most impressively the MexStep record that came out mid-December, with no one noticing it in 2018 lists.

New batch of q&a from Robert Christgau up tonight: XgauSez.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Iggy Azalea: In My Defense (2019, Bad Dreams/Empire): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (2017 [2019], Jazz Dimensions): [cd]: B+(***)
  • J. Balvin & Bad Bunny: Oasis (2019, Universal Music Latino): [r]: B+(**)
  • B.J. the Chicago Kid: 1123 (2019, Motown): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chance the Rapper: The Big Day (2019, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid (2019, Shake It): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Chick Corea/The Spanish Heart Band: Antidote (2019, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Default Genders: Main Pop Girl 2019 (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Embon: Reminiscent Mood (2018-19 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Empath: Active Listening: Night on Earth (2019, Get Better): [r]: B+(*)
  • Filthy Friends: Emerald Valley (2019, Kill Rock Stars): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Frith: All Is Always Now: Live at the Stone (2007-16 [2019], Intakt, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (2017 [2019], Aerophonic, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rhiannon Giddens: There Is No Other (2019, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charles Wesley Godwin: Seneca (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks (2019, Big Persona/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • MexStep: Resistir (2018, Third Root): [r]: A-
  • The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (2019, Bar/None): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pink: Hurts 2B Human (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism (2017 [2019], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sasami: Sasami (2019, Domino): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Who: Betty (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband: Tor & Vale (2018 [2019], Moonjune): [cd]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • The Tubby Hayes Quartet: Grits, Beans and Greens: The Lost Fontana Studio Session 1969 (1969 [2019], Decca): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Bob Moses: When Elephants Dream of Music (1982 [1983], Gramavision): [r]: B
  • Pink: Funhouse (2008, LaFace): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pink: Greatest Hits . . . So Far!!! (2000-10 [2010], LaFace/Jive): [r]: A-
  • Olaf Polziehn Trio Featuring Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 2 (2003, Satin Doll): [r]: B+(**)
  • Olaf Polziehn/Ingmar Heller/Troy Davis/Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 3 (2006, Satin Doll): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Corey Christiansen: La Proxima (Origin): August 12
  • Harbinger: Extended (OA2): August 12
  • New York Voices: Reminiscing in Tempo (Origin)
  • Alberto Pibiri & the AI Peppers: The Nacho Blues (Alberto Pibiri Music)
  • Paul Silbergleit: January (Blujazz)
  • Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (PAO/Blujazz)
  • Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music); August 30

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Starting this early (Friday), hoping to avoid the last-minute crunch. Not really news, but CNN's Democratic presidential debates got a lot of attention from the punditocracy this week. As usual, I didn't watch in real time (although my wife did, so I overheard some), but caught the "highlights" later (among the comics, Colbert was most informative). Let's group the links here, rather than clutter up the main section:


Lots of non-campaign news this week, but Donald Trump's flagrant racism caught the most attention, climaxing with two mass shootings which, despite pro forma denials, appear as the proof in the pudding.

Checked my Facebook feed shortly before filing this, and was rather surprised to find as many/maybe more pro-gun memes than anti, not that the former make any sense. One, for instance, links to a piece titled "Every Mass Shooting Shares 1 Thing in Common, NOT Guns": I didn't follow, but the picture shows a pile of pills. I doubt that, but even if lots of mass shooters popped pills, by definition every single one used a gun. All of those were forwarded by acknowledged friends. (Of course, I do also have anti-gun friends. They may even be in the majority, but lose out in this comparison because they tend to post their own thoughts instead of just propagating someone else's propaganda.)

Some links on this and other stories:


Jul 2019