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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: current count 32080 [32047] rated (+33), 227 [229] unrated (-2).

Held this back an extra day, as I couldn't quite get it together on time. Cutoff was late Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup, so I've already got a jump on next week.

My listening was even more scattered than usual last week. My A-list finds all came so early that by weekend I forgot that I had any. I hoped Michael Tatum's new A Downloader's Diary -- his third this year after a prolonged lean patch, and his first since moving to Seattle -- would offer some major discoveries, but started with Blarf's Cease & Desist and found it really wasn't for me. Several other records impressed but didn't wow me. Two I had dismissed earlier got new spins, and minor grade upticks. Tatum's review of Purple Mountains is especially insightful, but describing the album as a "suicide note" doesn't do much to draw me in.

Tatum started writing his column in August, 2010, intent on filling in the void left by the second sacking of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide (by MSN Music). Christgau rebooted at MSN in November 2010 with his Expert Witness blog, while Tatum continued his monthly columns into 2014 (skipping a couple along the way). I tried to help out by publishing (and archiving) his columns. In April 2014, he moved to Odyshape, ending later that year with a piece called The Pause Button. Since then, he's self-published (most recently at Medium), while I've intermittently updated the archive. After a couple thin years, he's made a strong return to form this year, with three columns so far. He's one of the sharpest and most lucid critics around, and deserves your readership and support.

Meanwhile, Christgau has been publishing his Expert Witness blog at Noisey, but that ended in June. With no new publisher forthcoming, Tatum might have had another hole to fill. But Christgau has come up with a new scheme to keep publishing new Consumer Guide capsule reviews. He's launching a subscriber newsletter, based on Substack, called And It Don't Stop. It will cost you $5/month to get a once-monthly batch of new reviews sent to your e-mailbox, plus there will be various extras -- he explains his plans here, in It's a Start. Subscribers will get their first batch of reviews delivered on Wednesday, September 18.

As you probably know, I built and maintain Christgau's website, with its database of 17,271 albums and 1,372 articles (or more, as that easy-to-find number is actually a subset). At some point (undecided at present) I'll add those new reviews and pieces to the website. This isn't fundamentally different from the various timelocks we've been using for years, where publishers insist that their payments merit a period of exclusivity. I don't have any real solutions here, but I do believe that we're all fortunate to have Christgau continuing to write for us. Subscribing helps.

Back to my list this week, aside from Tatum's picks, most of this week's records are things I became aware of feeding data into my metacritic list. I started this year's list by collecting mid-year lists, but then I made two discoveries/decisions: rank info in the lists wasn't very useful (most lists were unranked, and many were shorter than EOY lists so the scales didn't quite fit), so I just started counting references without any weighting; also, I found that I could rather easily supplement the lists with AOTY's ratings lists organized by publication, so I started adding those in (first for publications that didn't offer mid-year lists, eventually for nearly all non-metal sources), usually using 80+ as my standard (90+ for AMG and Exclaim!, where 80s are ultra-common). Thus, I've been able to pick up new records as they're released. The sampling is not as good for post-July records, but it gives newer records some recognition. Thus far, the top-rated August/September releases (points in front, my grades in brackets at end, just before that is the AOTY score and review count):

  1. [24] Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell (Polydor/Interscope) 85/28 [A-]
  2. [20] Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (Mom + Pop) 76/29 [-]
  3. [18] Bon Iver: i,i (Jagjaguwar) 80/31 [-]
  4. [18] Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (Bella Union) 79/24 [A-]
  5. [16] Marika Hackman: Any Human Friend (AMF) 84/19 [-]
  6. [16] The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion (Frenchkiss) 75/20 [A-]
  7. [13] Charli XCX: Charli (Asylum) 79/20 [**]
  8. [13] Clairo: Immunity (Fader) 74/21 [***]
  9. [12] Blanck Mass: Animated Violence Mild (Sacred Bones) 79/20 [-]
  10. [12] The Murder Capital: When I Have Fears (Human Season) 86/14 [-]
  11. [11] (Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (Domino) 83/14 [-]
  12. [11] Rapsody: Eve (Roc Nation) 86/7 [***]
  13. [10] Kano: Hoodies All Summer (Parlophone) 86/12 [-]
  14. [10] Shura: Forevher (Secretly Canadian) 79/18 [-]
  15. [10] Jay Som: Anak Ko (Polyvinyl) 79/20 [-]
  16. [10] Taylor Swift: Lover (Republic) 71/22 [***]
  17. [10] Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops (Joyful Noise) 77/14 [-]
  18. [9] Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (Columbia) 85/4 [A-]
  19. [9] Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (Wilsuns) 76/11 [**]
  20. [9] Tool: Fear Inoculum (Volcano/RCA) 79/20 [-]

I'm most surprised that Saadiq has gotten so few reviews. I'm less bothered that Lana Del Rey's point total only places her album at 31. That's a structural problem due to the fact that more mid-year lists were counted than ratings. AOTY's 85 score for the album rates it at 17, with 28 reviews topped only in the top 100 by Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow (84/35), Thom Yorke's Anima (82/29), Bon Iver's i,i (80/31).

I'll note that two 1970s rockers died last week: Eddie Money and Rick Ocasek. The former never interested me much, but I had one of his compilations on my unrated list, so figured I should check it off. Tried looking on Napster before going to my shelves, and found a later 2-CD 35-song edition in place of my 1-CD 15-cut item, so I wound up reviewing both. Ocasek, of the Cars, was more important, but I didn't have any unfinished business with them, so didn't bother. Last one of their records I played was the Cars' 1985 Greatest Hits, giving it B+(**), which is about where I pegged their first two albums (both B+ in my database).

I did some work on the Jazz Guides last week. I still have some group albums to fold in -- I left them out of the first pass because they involve more cross-referencing -- but otherwise am up to date (through August). Current page counts: 1791 + 829.


One thing that slowed me down in getting this out was that I started writing up a postscript to Sunday's Weekend Roundup. Despite vowing not to slip down any rabbit holes, I had trouble doing that. Spent much of today figuring I would polish this up a bit, but didn't manage that either. For what it's worth, I wrote these further notes on Monday:

  • There was a breaking story that I barely touched on, but which may prove to be the week's most important. Start with: Everything we know about the Saudi oil attacks and the escalating crisis in the Gulf. The first problem here is that "everything we know" isn't very much, especially when you discount what various parties with their own ulterior motives have tried to claim (a list that starts with Mike Pompeo). Several sources noted that the Houthis in Yemen had claimed responsibility. Saudi Arabia has been bombing them for years now, so they have motive, but Pompeo doesn't see how they could pull such an attack off. The only other claim I've seen is here: Iranian drones launched from Iraq carried out attacks on Saudi oil plants. That would still involve flying drones 500-600 km, so I have to wonder whether it wouldn't have been easier to smuggle much smaller drones into the area, especially given that you don't need a lot of firepower when you're shooting at something as flamable as an oil refinery. Still, the real problem here isn't a "whodunit" or even its contextualization -- Saudi hostility and aggression against their neighbors (both direct, as in Yemen, and through proxies) is clearly at the root of this incident -- but a question of what the real powers will do next. Trump almost immediately tweeted that an American retalliation was "locked and loaded," awaiting only the Saudi government's direction. The implication is not only that Trump has subordinated American interests to the Saudis (as he has even more emphatically to the Israelis) with scant care for whatever the consequences may be. On the other hand, maybe the Saudis are coming to recognize how vulnerable they are to blowback from their wars. Too early to tell how this dangerous story sorts out.

  • There is something very unsatisfying about the various Bolton links. While Bolton was well understood and his views roundly opposed, it isn't clear what he actually did while in the Trump administration, or whether he actually had any effect beyond adding to the chaos. A fly-on-the-wall insider account might help, although it's equally likely that no one will ever make any sense out of US foreign policy during the Bolton year-plus. A couple of odd data points: Bolton was fired after the Taliban deal was scuttled; before Bolton was fired, Trump seemed to be more open to meeting with Iran than after, as exemplified by his post-Bolton "locked and loaded" tweet. I've never had any doubt that Bolton was pure evil, but the first week without him has already brought into question Jeet Heer's title, John Bolton's ouster makes the world safer. Yet another piece I should have linked to: Robert Mackey: Threatening new war for oil, Donald Trump calls his own offer of Iran talks "fake news".

  • I wasn't very happy with the Bacevich and Walt pieces on Afghanistan, or for that matter with Ward's piece on how the Democrats debated Afghanistan. Lots of things in US politics make it very difficult to extricate ourselves from wars that are going badly, and it seems like everyone falls into one such trap or another.

  • On Samantha Power, also see: Jon Schwarz: A memoir from hell: Samantha Power will do anything for human rights unless it hurts her career.

  • What bothers me most about the Jonathan Franzen fracas is how fervently his critics cling to stark and simplistic either-or dichotomies, when the actual problem is complex, with complicated tradeoffs that can be very hard to get at, let alone discuss rationally. It could take a book to unpack that line, especially as I've come at it through old problems in philosophy. But really, climate change has been happening for decades now -- Bill McKibben's first (1989) book on the subject was The End of Nature, and he wasn't talking about some hypothetical future. That leaves us with two obvious problems: how to adapt to the world we have altered (and will continue to), and how to limit further damage. Recognizing the already-occurring changes in no way excuses us from trying to keep the situation from worsening (Franzen says as much, although you'd have to read him to find out, as his critics' cariacature lose such details).

Also thought I'd note why I didn't link to anything on Tuesday's election in Israel: I basically didn't find anything very interesting on the subject. Still, if you're curious, you might read Zack Beauchamp's pre-election piece: Israel's election, and how Benjamin Netanyahu might lose, explained. Nearly everything I read predicted a Netanyahu win -- as did everything before the previous election, even though it ended with Netanyahu unable to form a government. Latest results I've seen are "too close to call," with Netanyahu/Likud trailing Blue and White by a very slim margin (25.7% to 26.3%), which probably means another hung election.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Franco Ambrosetti Quintet: Long Waves (2019, Unit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Blarf: Cease & Desist (2019, Stones Throw): [bc]: B-
  • Peter Brötzmann/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Han Bennink: Fifty Years After . . . Live at the Lila Eule 2018 (2018 [2019], Trost): [r]: A-
  • Bill Callahan: Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (2019, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)
  • Car Seat Headrest: Commit Yourself Completely (2019, Matador): [r]: B+(**)
  • Frankie Cosmos: Close It Quietly (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (2019, 4AD): [r]: B
  • DSC [Leon Lee Dorsey/Greg Skaff/Mike Clark]: Monktime (2019, Jazz Avenue 1): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For (2019, Musical Fanzine/Get Better): [r]: B+(*)
  • Avram Fefer Quartet: Testament (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***) [11-08]
  • Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (2019, Bella Union): [r]: A-
  • Jayda G: Significant Changes (2019, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tim Hecker: Anoyo (2019, Kranky): [r]: B
  • The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019, Frenchkiss): [r]: A-
  • Cate Le Bon: Reward (2019, Mexican Summer): [r]: B
  • Derel Monteith: Connemara: Solo Piano Improvisations (2017 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(**) [10-18]
  • Derel Monteith Trio: Quantity of Life (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(*) [10-18]
  • Muna: Saves the World (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis: Beautiful Lie (2019, Next Waltz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (2019, Wilsuns): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elza Soares: Planeta Fome (2019, Deck): [r]: B+(**)
  • Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Live at Jazz Standard (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(*) [09-30]
  • Taylor Swift: Lover (2019, Republic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Emi Takada: Why Did I Choose You? (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Wilma Vritra: Burd (2019, Bad Taste): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charli XCX: Charli (2019, Asylum): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thom Yorke: Anima (2019, XL): [r]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock (1969 [2019], Craft): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jambú E Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia (1974-86 [2019], Analog Africa): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-95 [2003], Columbia/Legacy): [cd]: B-
  • Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-91 [2014], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: C+


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Stef Chura: Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek): [r]: [was: B+(*)] B+(**)
  • Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019, Drag City): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Raymond De Felitta Trio: Pre-War Charm (Blujazz)
  • Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (Sunnyside): October 24
  • Ben Markley Quartet Featuring Joel Frahm: Slow Play (OA2): September 20
  • Tish Oney With the John Chlodini Trio: The Best Part (Blujazz)
  • Peterson Kohler Collective: Winter Colors (Origin): September 20
  • Markus Rutz: Blueprints Figure One: Frameworks (OA2): September 20

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No time (or stomach?) for an introduction.


Some scattered links this week:

More Notes

Tweeted this along the way:

Bush effectively responded to Bin Laden's 9/11 taunt with: "You think that's terror. I'll show you terror." Bush and the political class brought America down to Al Qaeda's level within weeks, and kept digging, 18+ years: [Link: U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars that killed 500,000 people since 9/11.]

Monday, September 09, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: current count 32047 [32020] rated (+27), 229 [227] unrated (+2).

I've had a couple weeks of nagging technology problems. Got up and found both computers dead, resembling an overnight power shutdown but no indications of that anywhere else in the house. Both are on UPS's. One definitely has a bad battery, so turns out to be very interruptible. The other (my main computer) remains a mystery, and repeated a few days later, but second time was easier to power cycle. No data loss, but a bit unnerving. Main computer developed a speaker glitch after that, introducing a lot of static into music I was streaming. Haven't figured that out either, but switched to secondary computer for streaming (but speakers are inferior). It's old and I'm finding it extremely slow. The thing that bothers me most is how slow it is to wake up: closer to a minute than the 2-3 seconds of the main computer. Monitor has something to do with that, but slow as it is, it still displays connect status 5-10 seconds before getting a screen image. Tempts me to build a new one, especially as some newer and faster technology has become affordable.

Synology backup server appears to be working, although I've only set up two machines to backup so far, and I haven't checked them for updates carefully. More things I need to learn about it. One source of frustration is that I'm using an appliance router/firewall that I don't totally understand. In particular, I have it providing DHCP addresses, but it doesn't seem to provide DNS, so my computers have no way (other than fixed /etc/hosts addresses, not necessarily right with DHCP) to find my other computers. Looking at the router manual now, and don't see anything about DNS (although it does have stuff on DHCP and DDNS).

Most disconcerting glitch of the week was not being able to log into my dedicated server last night to post my Weekend Roundup. I've been informed that CPanel (the web server management gui interface software) has been bought up by the same vulture capitalists who own Plesk (their competitor). CPanel's management is celebrating their newfound monopoly by raising their prices, and enforcing this by requiring new licenses, breaking my server. Took several hours to get the hosting company to fix it, and will cost me more bucks in the future (CPanel is already almost a third of my monthly charge). Things like this make me wonder if the server's worth the cost and trouble -- or perhaps remind me that it isn't.

Lots of other things made life difficult. I could begin to enumerate them, but may not come out the other end. Some of the just boil down to being old and decrepit, which no one wants to hear about. Much pain the day I tried to cook dinner for friends, ending with two planned dishes abandoned, my kitchen stool crashed to the ground, and the front door handle falling off. On the other hand, the dishes I did manage to finish were magnificent: duck à l'orange; a salad with grilled asparagus, zucchini, and bread cheese, over arugula with roasted tomatoes and basil pesto; a sweet potato gratin, and spiced carrots; with triple chocolate mousse cake for dessert (Laura has a pic on Instagram, but I can't find it).

Some of these things cut into my listening time, which was pretty scattered anyway. Two records I had held back from last week managed to slip over the A- cusp. After making a dent in my new jazz queue, I got stuck on Avram Fefer's Testament, which I've played at least five times without writing up a grade. Release date isn't until November 8, so I'm tempted to put it aside until then. At some point I started looking for country music, and was struck at how the first four albums I sampled -- Tanya Tucker, Molly Tuttle, Dee White, Matt Carson -- wound up at the same B+(**) with different virtues and flaws. Four more records were easier to spread out (Mercury Rev, Highwomen, Ian Noe, Weldon Henson). Checked out a couple of old Bobbie Gentry albums after listening to Mercury Rev, and was surprised to find that the "classic" was a much bigger mess than the revival.

Thought I'd work on a Book Roundup mid-week, then got confused by some sloppy bookkeeping. I managed to clean that up, and will try to have a post ready mid-week (but the way things are going, could be months). I'm slowly trudging my way through Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, which is a useful map of the various schisms on the Republican side since 2008, although it falls short of exploring the deeper roots of their cravenness and corruption. That's kept me from reading a couple of promising books I picked up at the library: Joseph Stiglitz's People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent, and Astra Taylor's Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone.

Also got a third book at the library, which I'm definitely not going to read but should at least crib some notes from: Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Github, and More (3rd edition). The one thing I want to do with it is to copy down a list of on-line resources, especially the APIs. On the other hand, I'm not finding many things I want to do in the examples. Maybe I should build a tech resources link page, if only for my own use. (I had several long ago, didn't update it, and finally disconnected them to stop getting mail from wannabe adds.)


New records reviewed this week:

  • Matt Carson: No Regrets (2019, Bunba): [r]: B+(**)
  • James Carter Organ Trio: Live From Newport Jazz (2018 [2019], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Avishai Cohen/Yonathan Avishai: Playing the Room (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marco Colonna/Agustí Fernandez/Zlatko Kaucic: Agrakal (2017 [2018], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019, Polydor/Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds (2019, Ridgeway): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Eliane Elias: Love Stories (2019, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frode Gjerstad/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Matthew Shipp: Season of Sadness (2018 [2019], Iluso): [bc]: B
  • Weldon Henson: Texas Made Honky Tonk (2018 [2019], Hillbilly Renegade): [os]: A-
  • The Highwomen: The Highwomen (2019, Elektra): [r]: B
  • Florian Hoefner Trio: First Spring (2018 [2019], ALMA): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Urs Leimgruber/Jacques Demierre/Barre Phillips/Thomas Lehn: Willisau (2017 [2019], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B
  • Mercury Rev: Bobbie Gentry's the Delta Sweete Revisited (2019, Partisan): [r]: B
  • Ian Noe: Between the Country (2019, National Treasury): [r]: B+(***)
  • Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019, Drag City): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michele Rabbia/Gianluca Petrella/Eivind Aarset: Lost River (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B
  • Rapsody: Eve (2019, Roc Nation): [r]: B+(***)
  • Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano: Roma (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (2019, Columbia): [r]: A-
  • Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (2019, Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tanya Tucker: While I'm Livin' (2019, Fantasy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Molly Tuttle: When You're Ready (2019, Compass): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dee White: Southern Gentleman (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Warner Music Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Young Thug: So Much Fun (2019, 300/Atlantic/YSL): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • The Vaughn Nark Quintet: Back in the Day (1982-83 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B

Old music:

  • Bobby Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe (1967, Capitol): [r]: B
  • Bobby Gentry: The Delta Sweete (1968, Capitol): [r]: C+
  • Weldon Henson: One Heart's Gone (2011, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Weldon Henson: Weldon Henson's Honky Tonk Frontier (2015, Hillbilly Renegade): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Franco Ambrosetti Quintet: Long Waves (Unit)
  • AP6C [Alberto Pinton Sestetto Contemporaneo]: Layers (Clear Now)
  • Terrence Brewer & Pamela Rose: Don't Worry 'Bout Me (Strong Brew Music)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Efflorescence: Volume 1 (Leo, 4CD)
  • Noah Preminger Group: Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (self-released): October 4

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Hurricane Dorian, which last weekend was still wreaking unimaginable damage in the Bahamas while trudging slowly toward the Florida coast (or, for one poor soul with a rigidly linear flat-Earth imagination, Alabama), and a week later still exists, albeit downgraded to to post-tropical cyclone status, as it threads the strait between Newfoundland and Labrador, expected some time Monday to pass off the south coast of Greenland. The eye never crossed land on the east coast of the US, but came close enough to produce hurricane-force winds, storm surges, and scattered tornadoes from Florida to North Carolina. When it finally made landfall in Nova Scotia, it was still producing Category 2 winds, and Category 1 as far north as Newfoundland. It is officially tied with a 1935 "Labor Day" hurricane as the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Since Dorian formed in the tropical Atlantic on August 23, three more named storms have come and gone: Erin, which formed over the Bahamas ahead of Dorian, proceeded northeast to Florida then out into the Atlantic, eventually producing heavy rains in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; Fernand, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico and landed in Mexico; and Gabrielle, which formed in the mid-Atlantic and is now headed toward Ireland and Scotland. The Atlantic hurricane season continues to November 30, with Humberto the next name.


The Atlantic put a paywall on their website this week, limiting readers to 5 "free" articles per month, so I probably won't bother with them any more. They've moved to the right over the past year (although not especially toward Trump -- David Frum and Conor Friedersdorf are regulars), which cuts down on their utility. My wife subscribes to a bunch of things, and I take advantage of that, but haven't added to her list myself. Back when we bought a lot of magazines, I recall liking Harper's more than Atlantic (at least when Lewis Lapham was editor), but I haven't read them in ages. Looks like they offer a better subscription deal than Atlantic.

My own website remains free in every sense of the word (including free of advertising and pitches for money), so I feel entitled to my high horse. Of course, I realize the need publications have to raise money to continue operations, and I understand that it's generally good for writers to get paid, especially for serious work. But I also recognize that few people have the wherewithal (much less the interest) to read everything of likely interest. In this world, paywalls help balkanize public discourse, helping to herd us into isolated, self-selected hives. This isn't a good system. Nor is advertising a good answer. Nor do we have the political will to support a development system that would make public goods (like, but not limited to, news) universally accessible. But that's the sort of solution we should be thinking about.


Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Book Roundup

When I published my last Book Roundup, back on June 1, I speculated that I would have another one "ready in a few weeks." I used to average 4-5 of these per year, and at one point collected enough material for 4 within a couple of weeks. But I only published one in 2018, so I had quite a bit of catching up to do. My first effort in 2019 came out in March. I had a lot of leftovers then, but didn't get around to publishing them until June, and forgot to file them in my archive, so I got confused last night, and started to edit June's post as new.



Other recent books also noted without comment:

Gretchen Bakke: The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future (paperback, 2017, Bloomsbury USA).

David W Blight: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018, Simon & Schuster).

Ian Bremmer: Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism (2018, Portfolio).

Steve Brusatte: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World (2018, William Morrow).

Steve Deace: Truth Bombs: Confronting the Lies Conservatives Believe (to Our Own Demise) (2019, Post Hill Press).

John Duffy/Ray Nowosielski: The Watchdogs Didn't Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror (2018, Hot Books).

Ryan D Enos: The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics (2017; paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Brooke Gladstone: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media (2011; paperback, 2012, WW Norton).

Michael Hudson: . . . And Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year (paperback, 2018, Islet).

Chris Hughes: Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn (2018, St Martin's Press).

Michael Ignatieff: The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World (2017; paperback, 2019, Harvard University Press).

Alan Jacobs: How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (2017, Currency).

Robert Jervis/Francis J Gavin/Joshua Rovner/Diane Labrosse, eds: Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century (paperback, 2018, Columbia University Press).

Eric Kaufmann: White Shift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities (2019, Henry N Abrams).

James Mahaffey: Atomic Adventures: Secret Islands, Forgotten N-Rays, and Isotopic Murder: A Journey Into the Wild World of Nuclear Science (2017, Pegasus Books).

Samuel Moyn: Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018, Belknap Press).

Jennifer Palmieri: Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World (2018, Grand Central).

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen: The Ideas That Made America: A Brief History (2019, Oxford University Press).

Ruth Reichl: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir (2019, Random House).

David Selbourne: The Free Society in Crisis: A History of Our Times (2019, Prometheus Books).

Jeanne Theoharis: A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History (2018; paperback, 2019, Beacon Press).

Monday, September 02, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: current count 32020 [31984] rated (+36), 227 [236] unrated (-9).

Rated count topped 32,000 this week. I'd count that as a milestone, if not exactly news, as the accumulation has been as steady as time since I posted my first rated count of 8,080 in January 2003. That was about the time I started writing Recycled Goods plus the occasional Village Voice review, leading up to Jazz Consumer Guide, and a bit of work for Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, and F5. Those outlets opened up a stream of promo copies that continues (somewhat abated, often just a trickle) to this day. But as the mail thinned out, I resorted increasingly to streaming to make up the difference and expand my horizons. Since 2003, I've averaged a bit less than 30 per week (28.75), a bit less than 1,500 per year (1495). If I made a chart of that, I imagine it would show an upward slant from 2003-11 (when Jazz CG ended, then a plateau, tailing off a bit the last couple years).

Before 2003, that 8,080 came from close to 30 years of record buying (with a few promos in the late-1970s). That averages out to about 5 records per week, 270 per year, but a graph wouldn't be flat: you'd find an initial bulge peaking around 1977-78, a long trough, and a marked increase from 1995 on. I listened to music in my teens, but never bought much until I got my first steady job around 1973. My early music writings start in 1974, including a few reviews for the Village Voice in 1975-79. I gave them up around 1980, when I landed an engineering job and moved to New Jersey. I cut way back on my record buying there, and it's possible that some years I bought less than 100, maybe as few as 50. I moved to Boston in 1985, and found myself spending more time in record stores. I started buying CDs relatively late, and my pace picked up around 1995 when I got into a big jazz/roots kick. That continued when I returned to Kansas in 1999, as I built up the level of expertise that allowed me to write Recycled Goods and Jazz Consumer Guide.

But what really got me back into writing, aside from losing my software engineering job and finding few suitable opportunities, was encouragement from Michael Tatum, Bob Christgau, and (decisively) Laura Tillem. Still, I never planned on making music my central (let alone exclusive) writing focus, and I've sometimes wondered whether it hasn't just been a zero-sum game. I could have spent the last 20 years writing free software (as I had started in the 1990s with Ftwalk. I put a fair amount of effort into an open source business plan for home automation, and could have returned to that, or developed any number of tangential ideas. I also had a scheme for writer-oriented websites, of which Robert Christgau's was intended as a prototype. (One more I built was for Carol Cooper.) Several things distracted me from those paths (although I still maintain those two websites).

The other path I considered was writing political philosophy, which had been my main interest before getting sidetracked into music critique in the mid-1970s. I had soured on politics by 1975, and as I turned away from music around 1980 I wound up reading mostly science (making up for turning away from my early interest), engineering, and business. Laura reminded me that I still knew quite a bit about politics and history, and I toyed with the idea of writing a political book in the late 1990s. September 11, 2001 got me to reading history, politics, and economics again. (You can peruse my reading list -- the data file for my "Recent Reading" blog widget, newly formatted -- here.) I wound up writing several tons of political commentary -- not quite what I envisioned, but scattered with a fair number of serious ideas (some much more distinctive than the grunt work I've cranked out on music).

Seems like I've always been a notoriously slow reader and a poky, easily distracted writer, so for a good while I just took some comfort in getting any writing done at all. The on-line notebook has about 6.5 million words since 2000, and I've compiled much of that into nine ODT files averaging 1500 pages each (4 on music, 4 on politics, 1 personal). I can't claim they're very good, but when I dip into them I often find things worth remembering and even repeating. Still, these days I'm more likely to think of them as opportunity costs: if only I had focused on one thing or the other, maybe I'd have something much better to show for all the effort. Rating (and more/less reviewing) 32,000 records has been a pretty ridiculous thing to do -- as proven by the fact that no one else has been so foolish to do something that required nothing more than a lot of disposable hours. The only thing that would have been a bigger waste of time was not bothering to take notes.


As I wrote the above, I listened to three more albums, including a rather nice one by Florian Hoefner that is certain to remain below damn near everyone's interest threshold. I have little more to add on the records listed below. One thing is that there's only one non-jazz album among the new releases (but three in the recent compilations). Partly, I played quite a few new albums from the promo queue. I also added the 4.5/5.0 star reviewed records from The Free Jazz Collective to my 2019 metacritic file, and that pointed me to more new jazz (including several 2018 releases I had missed). But partly it was just one of those weeks when I felt much more certain about the jazz I heard than the non-jazz. The non-jazz exceptions this week came from Phil Overeem's latest list update (ok, Two Niles was on his 2018 list, but I found it on the Bandcamp page for Star Band De Dakar).

I listened to two other non-jazz records from this list, but couldn't make up my mind and held them back: Lana Del Rey's Norman Fucking Rockwell (number 5) and Raphael Saadiq's Jimmy Lee (18). I'm attracted to and resistant to both, which means they'll probably wind up high B+, but I'm not certain enough to say. Thanks to working on the metacritic file, I'm probably more aware of new non-jazz right now than any time this year, but less sure of my ears. On the other hand, this is definitely a good year for jazz.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Aqisseq (2016 [2018], ONJazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Kenyatta Beasley Septet: The Frank Foster Songbook (2019, Art Vs Transit, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Blue: Work (2019, Jazzheads): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Cat in a Bag: Cat in a Bag (2019, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Corey Christiansen: La Proxima (2019, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (2019, Rosebud Music): [cd]: C-
  • Haruna Fukazawa: Departure (2019, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Olli Hirvonen: Displace (2019, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**)
  • I Jahbar and Friends: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash (2019, Bokeh Versions): [bc]: B-
  • Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet: Whenufindituwillknow (2019, Golden): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Roberto Magris Sextet: Sun Stone (2019, JMood): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Todd Marcus: Trio+ (2019, Stricker Street): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee/John Edwards/Klaus Kugel: Journey to Parazzar (2017 [2018], Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (2019, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nérija: Blume (2019, Domino): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (2019, Savant): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Ogún Meji Duo: Spirits of the Egungun (2019, CFG Multimedia): [r]: A-
  • Mike Pachelli: High Standards (2019, Fullblast): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jason Palmer: Rhyme and Reason (2018 [2019], Giant Step Arts): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Parker/Jeb Bishop/Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride/Devin Gray: The Diagonal Filter (2018, Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pearring Sound: Nothing but Time (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • David Sanchez: Carib (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dana Saul: Ceiling (2018 [2019], Endectomorph): [cd]: A-
  • Rob Scheps: Comencio (2019, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harvey Sorgen/Joe Fonda/Marilyn Crispell: Dreamstruck (2018, Not Two): [r]: A-
  • Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (2019, A.T. Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet: Sweet Oranges (2017 -2018], Not Two): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (2019, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: No-Exit Corner (2016 [2018], Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luis Vicente/Vasco Trilla: A Brighter Side of Darkness (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Yao's Triceratops: How We Do (2018 [2019], See Tao): [cd], B+(**)
  • Jason Yeager: New Songs of Resistance (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (2019, Miel Music): [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Prince: Originals (1981-91 [2019], Rhino/Warner Bros.): [r]: B-
  • Sounds of Liberation: Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) (1973 [2018], Dogtown): [r]: B+(*)
  • Star Band De Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana De Senegal (1960s-70s [2019], Ostinato): [r]: B+(***)
  • Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan (Ostinato): [bc]: A-

Old music:

  • Louis Moholo-Moholo: Duets With Marilyn Crispell: Sibanye (We Are One) (2007 [2008], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Keiji Haino/Merzbow/Balasz Pandi: Become the Discovered, Not the Discoverer (RareNoise): advance, September 27
  • Led Bib: It's Morning (RareNoise): advance, September 27
  • Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Live at Jazz Standard (Capri): September 20

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Weekend Roundup

The lead story for most of next week will be Hurricane Dorian, which as I write this (see here and here) is a Category 5 Hurricane moving slowly through the Bahamas toward the coast of Florida. It is expected to turn north and follow the coast (possibly without the eye making landfall) up to North Carolina, where it will most likely head back into the Atlantic. The current tracking forecast puts it off the coast of Palm Beach around 2PM Tuesday, Jacksonville 2PM Wednesday, close to the SC/NC border 2PM Thursday, and straight east of the NC/Va border 2PM Friday. Presumably the storm will lose intensity as it drifts north, but not as quickly as it would if it landed. Rain forecasts are relatively mild, but the coast will see storm surges and a lot of wind.

Dorian was still a tropical storm when it passed over the Windward Islands last Monday (55 mph winds in Barbados, 4.1 inches of rain in Martinique). It wasn't much stronger when it crossed Puerto Rico, but was predicted to intensify to Category 3 or 4 as it headed through the Bahamas to Florida. It did more than that, reaching sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts to 225 mph. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season has been relatively mild so far, even compared to the forecasts (12 named storms, 5 hurricanes, 2 major). With the season about half over, there have been 5 named storms (TS Erin was named after Dorian, but has already dissipated), 2 hurricanes, 1 major (Dorian). The season continues through the end of November, so we're not much below expectations.


Some scattered links this week:


Further Notes

Dropped this item after finding myself going down a rathole:

  • Ed Kilgore: What should progressives be willing to sacrifice on the altar of civility?Eve Fairbanks: The 'reasonable rebels', putting not undeserved emphasis on the links between conservatives who defended slavery 150 years ago and conservatives today. The point seems to be that treating others with civility implies tacit deference and compromise. I don't see why that should be the case. Within my fairly long life I've hardly ever felt the need to resort to verbal (much less physical) violence when confronted with someone I've disagreed with profoundly. I've long felt it important to try to respect others -- although some people do manage to make that difficult, usually when they show no respect to you.


Aug 2019