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Monday, February 18, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31145 [31103] rated (+42), 249 [251] unrated (-2).

Still killing time fiddling with the Pazz & Jop ballots and my EOY Aggregate list. As I'm only selectively adding P&J voters' ballots to the count, I've been perturbing the standings a bit, nudging Cardi B (which I like more) into 4th over Pusha T and Low (which I don't like, although it's far from their worst) down to 10th, under Noname and Parquet Courts (which I do like). Reminds me of something I used to do in my late teens, when I could create my own book lists by mixing real bestseller with other books I was drawn to, including a lot of titles from Pantheon, Grove Press, and Monthly Review Books. The EOY Aggregate remains more rooted in reality, but factoring in my own grades and lists from favored critics and fellow travelers does add a (useful, I think) bias to the thing.

Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists have evened out a bit, 63-58, with one late-discovered A- in each this week. Also found my first 2019 non-jazz A-, against 12 jazz A/A- records (although Leyla McCalla's Capitalist Blues could be called non-jazz, and two more of that dozen feature spoken-word poetry).

I pulled a couple old unrated CDs off the shelf this week, now in "old music" below. I should note that French blues collection is part of a series. I also own The Prewar Vocal Jazz Story (1923-45, released 1996), which is in my database as a full A. I gave it a spin last week, and it would be hard to improve on. Had I spent more time with The Prewar Blues Story, I might have concluded it's every bit as authoritative. There are more volumes in the series, all long out of print, but likely to be worthwhile if you stumble upon one. Booklets are pretty good.

After Christgau's Expert Witness, I spent some more time with Alex Chilton reissues -- although I was actually primed with last week's review of Big Star's Live at Lafayette's Music Room. I had reviewed Ocean Club '77 back when it came out, but gave it another shot, and a better grade.

Last week I started replacing my rated albums lists with my review notes. Working methodology is to collect the list in a scratch file and retain it in the notebook, while only swapping the reviews in for the blog post. Still a bit awkward for me, but I trust more timely reviews in smaller than monthly chunks will be more useful.


New records rated this week:

  • Asleep at the Wheel: New Routes (2018, Bismeaux): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (2018, Rimas Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • J Balvin: Vibras (2018, Universal Latino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blueprint: Two-Headed Monster (2018, Weightless): [r]: A-
  • Moses Boyd Exodus: Displaced Diaspora (2018, Exodus): [r]: B+(***)
  • BTS: Love Yourself: Tear (2018, Big Hit): [r]: B
  • Mariah Carey: Caution (2018, Epic): [r]: B
  • Hayes Carll: What It Is (2019, Dualtone): [r]: A-
  • Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dease: Reaching Out (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: B
  • Michael Dease: Bonafide (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dessen Trio: Somewhere in the Upstream (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [s]: B+(***)
  • José Dias: After Silence, Vol. 1 (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Erin Rae: Putting on Airs (2018, Single Lock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kinky Friedman: Circus of Life (2018, Echo Hill): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joshua Hedley: Mr. Jukebox (2018, Third Man): [r]: B
  • Muncie Girls: Fixed Ideals (2018, Buzz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murs: A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable (2018, Strange Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thiago Nassif: Três (2015 [2018], Foom): [r]: A-
  • Larry Ochs/Nels Cline/Gerald Cleaver: What Is to Be Done (2016 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B-
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (2014 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (2018 [2019], Arbors Jazz): [cd]: A-
  • Shad: A Short Story About a War (2018, Secret City): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (2018, FAMM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ricardo Toscano: Quartet (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeff Tweedy: Warm (2018, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack White: Boarding House Reach (2018, Third Man/Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Kelly Willis: Back Being Blue (2018, Premium): [r]: B+(*)
  • Luke Winslow-King: Blue Mesa (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Big Star: Live on WLIR (1974 [2019], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Chilton: From Memphis to New Orleans (1985-89 [2019], Bar/None): [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Heartsongs (1989 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller (2018, BMG, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • 1930s Jazz: The Singers (1930-38 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • 1930s Jazz: The Small Combos (1930-39 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • 1940s Jazz: The Singers (1940-49 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Best of Blues Records Presents: The Prewar Blues Story [La Grande Époque du Blues 1926-1943] (1926-43 [1994], Best of Blues, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Alex Chilton: Bach's Bottom (1975 [1993], Razor & Tie): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex Chilton: Like Flies on Sherbert (1979 [1996], Last Call): [r]: B


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Alex Chilton: Ocean Club '77 (1977 [2015], Norton): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (Piloo): February 22
  • Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (self-released)
  • Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside): March 15
  • Urbanity: Urbanity (Alfi) **

Daily Log

The Wichita Eagle dropped Non Sequitur from its comics page, responding to the fake news "outrage" over a largely invisible "Fuck Trump" buried in a "coloring book" comic. I wrote this to the Eagle:

Please reconsider your hasty decision to drop Non Sequitur from the comics page. For that matter, please consider bring Doonesbury back -- it's always been much more than political commentary. Your efforts to impose your sense of political correctness on something that's first and foremost entertainment diminishes the value of your sadly declining product. It would also save us from having to reconsider whether your paper is worth what we pay for it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Another weekly batch of links and comments. At some point I started shunting pieces on Trump's "state of emergency" declaration to the end, but a few are scattered in the main list. Also wound up adding more "related" links under first-found stories. More time might let me sort out a better pecking order. But at this point I'm mostly going through the motions, to establish a record for possible later review. Book idea is still germinating. Last couple weeks have been especially trying for me, and this coming one looks likely to be worse.


Some scattered links this week:


Some more links on the "emergency" declaration:

Friday, February 15, 2019

Daily Log

Monday, February 11, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31103 [30062] rated (+41), 251 [253] unrated (-2).

Last week I speculated about possibly changing the Music Week format to offer my reviews in weekly doses, so you get information sooner and in what should be more digestible doses (20-40 records per week instead of 100-200 records at the end of the month). As I thought about it, I realized that I could still archive the reviews in monthly chunks, and announce that file when it becomes public. So, I'm trying that approach this week. Actually, there is a bit of surplus here: a few records that appeared in last week's Music Week that I got to after posting January 2019 Streamnotes.

I haven't really figured the workflow out yet. What I'm thinking is that I'll collect Music Week in the notebook as usual, then swap in the reviews when I create the blog post file. Still some room for sloppy errors here, even with all the redundancy. Rated count report this week is slightly higher than actual because I came up short and found a half-dozen unregistered grades -- probably over the last 3-4 weeks, as that's about when I last checked the ungraded list.

The Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll came out last week. I didn't vote, as I wasn't invited (for the first time since when? 2002?). Relevant links:

They only listed the top 100 albums, and didn't include vote counts (just points). I scraped a copy of the ballot data but haven't yet done anything to clean up the data to make it more useful. I added the top-100 rank and a few dozen select voter ballots to my EOY Aggregate, but haven't done the one thing that would be most useful: make sure all of the records that got votes but didn't crack the top 100 get recognized in the EOY Aggregate. In recent years somewhere between 1400 and 2000 records got votes (from 400+ voters). This year should be pretty close to those numbers. My EOY Aggregate currently lists 3216 new records (plus 367 reissues/compilations/etc.). I'd guess that there are at least 100 records in the ballot fine print that I've missed. Whether it's worth pursuing this any further is hard to say.

The P&J winner this year was Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour, but my EOY Aggregate favors Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, by a pretty solid margin. Musgraves also won Uproxx's slapdash critics poll, although by a closer margin. I've had Monáe in the lead since the second week of counting, and for most of this time Musgraves was in 3rd, behind Mitski's Be the Cowboy. Musgraves did lead Metacritic's aggregate (98.5 to 97 points), but Monáe led at Album of the Year, with Mitski second and Musgraves a fairly distant third (364-353-295 points). Acclaimed Music Forums has had Monáe ahead from the start, with Musgraves down at 7th as of February 6 (including P&J), after Monáe, Low, Idles, Pusha T, Mitski, and Robyn). I'm not able to access the latter's spreadsheets, but they break lists down by US, UK, and other, and include a lot of the latter. I think it's fair to say that Musgraves benefits from US bias, not so much because American critics prefer her to Monáe as because non-Americans don't. Idles seems to be the band with the greatest UK bias (3 at AMF, 35 P&J, followed by Arctic Monkeys (11 at AMF, 43 P&J).

I keep putting off trying to write up some commentary on the EOY lists, and will have to punt again this week. I will note that Wayne Shorter's Emanon, which won top album in our Jazz Critics Poll, finally appeared on Napster last week. I played it and while I suspected that it was overrated, I was really surprised at how painful it was to listen to. The orchestra side was one of the worst I've heard, but the live quartet sides were little better (despite momentary exceptions).

By the way, I posted a new edition of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. I was struck by this line:

you don't review an album properly by listening once and jotting down your thoughts but by immersing over time and then spending hours finding words to convey your response, all hours in which you can't listen to anything else.

Actually, I do the exact opposite of this. Most of the notes below are based on a single play of an album, often while I was distracted trying to write something about a completely different topic. Worse still, sometimes I didn't even manage to jot down my thoughts: I found myself at the end of an album with a proximate grade impression but no details and no self-analysis as to why I felt the way I did -- and most importantly, no desire to correct my lapse by listening to the record again. At this point I don't even feel like trying to justify the way I work.

On the other hand, I will note that it increasingly seems like I'm working under a cloud of doubts about my ability to express myself clearly -- even in matters of much greater import than which underground rapper might be worth your while. (There are several this week, and the odds that I got the pecking order right aren't especially good.) Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble moving on from this EOY list nonsense?


New records rated this week:

  • Ace of Cups: Ace of Cups (2018, High Moon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aceyalone & DJ Fatjack: 43rd & Excellence (2018, That Kind of Music): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dem Atlas: Bad Actress (2018, Rhymesayers): [r]: B
  • August Greene: August Greene (2018, Fat Beats): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck D as Mistachuck: Celebration of Ignorance (2018, SpitSLAM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Double Dee & Steinski: Lesson 4: The Beat (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mats Eilertsen: And Then Comes the Night (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sue Foley: The Ice Queen (2018, Stony Plain): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo: Humble Beast (2017, Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo & Southside: Swervo (Machine/Epic/Cinematic/150 Dream Team/808 Mafia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charlotte Hug & Lucas Niggli: Fulguratio: Live at Ad Libitum 2016 (2016 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mick Jenkins: Pieces of a Man (2018, Cinematic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cody Jinks: Lifers (2018, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
  • Darren Johnston/Tim Daisy: Crossing Belmont (2017, Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
  • K.A.A.N.: Subtle Meditation (2018, Redefinition): [bc]: A-
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Fragments of Always (2016 [2017], FMR): [bc]: B+(***)
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Eudaimonia (2018, FMR): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Marlowe: Marlowe (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues (2019, Jazz Village): [r]: A-
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (2019, The Royal Potato Family): [r]: A-
  • Ulysses Owens Jr.: Songs of Freedom (2018 [2019], Resilience Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phonte: No News Is Good News (2018, Foreign Exchange): [r]: B+(**)
  • Verneri Pohjola/Maciej Garbowski/Krzysztof Gradziuk: Gemstones (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Javier Santiago: Phoenix (2016 [2018], Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wayne Shorter: Emanon (2015-16 [2018], Blue Note, 3CD): [r]: B-
  • Vestbo Trio: Gentlemen . . . (2019, Dog Hound): [bc]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Big Star: Live at Lafayette's Music Room (1973 [2018], Omnivore): [r]: B+(*)
  • A Certain Ratio: acr:set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Louvin Brothers: Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings (1952-55 [2018], Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Make Mine Mondo! (1958-69 [2018], Ace): [r]: B
  • Neil Young: Songs for Judy (1976 [2018], Reprise): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Jeb Bishop & Tim Daisy: Old Shoulders (2012, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (Origin): February 15
  • Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (OA2): February 15
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (Arbors Jazz): April 5

Notes

A Certain Ratio: ACR:Set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): B+(*)

Make Mine Mondo! ([2018], Ace): B+(*)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Nothing much on Korea this week, other than Trump announces second Kim summit will be in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few weeks out (Feb. 27-28). The Wichita Peace Center was pleased to host a couple of events last week when Professor Nan Kim from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, author of Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide (2016), an activist in Women Cross DMZ (here on Twitter). I expect we'll be seeing a lot of speculation and spin on Korea over the next few weeks, especially from neocons so enamored with perpetual war -- but also from Democrats hoping to score cheap points against Trump. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years. I won't try to recapitulate here, but here's a bit from a letter I wrote last year, with links to various key writings:

I wrote up some further comments on the Korea situation in the intro to my August 26, 2018 Weekend Roundup blog post.

I was born in October, 1950, the same week as the Chinese entry, a date which marked the maximal US advance in the peninsula. I wrote several pages about this in a memoir. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years -- mostly when US presidents threatened to blow it up. For instance:

Many lesser references, including virtually every month since March 2017. I've also been known to make a pretty decent kimchi, and a couple dozen other Korean dishes.

On nuclear weapons, I wrote a fairly substantial post on Aug. 6, 2005, another on Aug. 21, 2015.

I've read Rhodes' four books on nuclear weapons, plus quite a bit more. I believe that Kurlansky's 2nd point is generally correct ["Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them"], but nuclear weapons are something of an exception: most politicians, even ones as ill-disposed toward peace as Kennedy and Krushchev, seem to have drawn a line there, so I tend not to worry as much as most of us about proliferation.

One thing I hadn't thought much about until Saturday was the economic problem of unifying Korea. I was aware of the German "model" -- and thought at the time that people were following a lot of bad ideas (e.g., totally shuttering the East German auto industry because their cars weren't good enough to sell in the West). But I didn't follow it much later -- I do know more about the economic failures in Russia, especially in the 1990s, when as David Satter put it, "[Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always criminal, and, as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found it difficult to be strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of social darwinism, economic determinism, and a tolerant attitude toward crime prepared the young reformers to carry out a frontal attack on the structures of the Soviet system without public support or a framework of law." (Quote in my 17/04 notebook, referring back to 07/09.)

Anyhow, I now think the utter impossibility of unifying the two Korean economies is an important point -- one of several that Americans don't seem to have a clue about.

I'll add one comment here. One thing I was struck by in Trump's State of the Union address was this:

On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone -- almost double what was expected. An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!

My bold. Of course, the point everyone noticed was his plea that for the good of the country (i.e., Trump) Democrats must give up their efforts to investigate (e.g., Trump, for possible crimes or other embarrassments). Of course, he had no hope of getting his way there, even if his intent was truly threatening -- e.g., that if the Democrats investigated him, he might start a "wag the dog" war as a diversion, hoping the people would blame the Democrats. Still, I think the quote does show that when his personal financial interests aren't slanted otherwise, Trump is inclined to favor peace. The saber-rattling over Iran is clearly a case where the corrupt money (from Israel and the Saudis) is able to make Trump more belligerent. Venezuela is another case where Trump's corrupt influences may lead to war. But Korea is one case where the major influencers -- even if you discount Russia and China -- are pushing Trump toward war, so it offers a rare opportunity to claim success at achieving peace. Granted, the neocons and the defense industry don't like it, but they may be just as happy to pivot to higher budget, lower risk "threats" like Russia and China. That's one of several reason to be cautiously optimistic that Trump might be able to deliver a peaceful outcome. On the other hand, I think that Democrats need to be very cautious, lest Trump be able to make them out to be dangerous, war-thirsty provocateurs. I still believe that a major reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was that she came off as the more belligerent (e.g., her claims to superiority in "the commander-in-chief test").


Some scattered links this week:

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Daily Log

Tweeted this:

Someone should write an opinion piece arguing that Democrats shouldn't quit at the first hint of scandal, or demand that other Democrats quit. Be aware, acknowledge mistakes, learn, make amends, but stick with it and continue to serve.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31062 [30033] rated (+29), 253 [251] unrated (+2).

Rated count down from 40+ in recent weeks, mostly because I finally took the time to plow through Anthony Braxton's 11-CD Sextet (Parker) 1993 (on Bandcamp). Only gave it one pass (spread over three days), but loved nearly every minute of it. I pulled the original 1995 2-CD release out, Charlie Parker Project 1993, thinking it might be time to bump it up from A-, and played the live disc in the car today, but couldn't hear enough to make much difference. There is more super-long Braxton on his Bandcamp, if I ever find time to dig into it.

January 2019 Streamnotes appeared last week, with 201 record reviews. That is up from 138 in December, 186 in August (the most of any 2018 month). I looked back through 2013 and didn't find a month/column with more records (185 in November 2013 was the highest 2013-17 total). As I noted back on August 30, 2018, my single column record was 206 records on November 8, 2009, but that was before I settled on monthly posts, so covered 41 days.

I've thought a bit about going back to posting weekly, which would basically mean 20-40 records per post. I could still collect them in monthly files for archival purposes. Doing it weekly would be timelier, and involve more easily digested chunks. It's also been suggested that I should hold back reviews until release dates. Readers noted that of the 8 2019 A/A- releases I touted in January, only 3 had actually been released when my column came out. No commitment yet, but I'll think about that.

I decided that for album tracking purposes, 2018 ended on January 31, 2019 -- the date of my frozen album list. I'll keep adding records to the working album list until January 31, 2020 (a month later than my usual deadline, as I noticed this year that I was finding out about late 2017 releases only when I saw 2018 EOY lists). These are marked in a distinct color, which helps me keep track of some stats. I'm still adding records to the 2018 Jazz and Non-Jazz best-of lists, and will probably do that well into next fall. I'm also still adding to the Music Tracking 2018 file, but the rate has slowed down as I've largely stopped adding to the 2018 EOY Aggregate (and its reissues/old music edition). The Music Tracking file is the easiest way I have of counting how many 2018 releases I've heard/graded: 1091. This also shows that the jazz share was 735 (67.3%). Some other genre totals: hip-hop (88), electronica (38), country (33), world (32), metal (3). Some other genres have switches, but I don't have data for them to use.

I figured out a solution to the database update character set problem I mentioned last week. Importing an ISO-8859-1 mysqldump file using PhpMyAdmin somehow corrupts the file, even with explicit character set flags. But the command line interface read the file correctly, and once stored in the database the PHP code was able to handle it correctly. I was also able to fix a problem with the RSS feed, where the HTTP header and XML header were reporting different character sets. I'm still confused by Firefox, where the "Page Info" dialog still claims "text encoding: windows-1252." I hate it when diagnostic tools lie to you -- in part because you have to prove that no other explanation is possible, and that's a lot more work than finding a workaround -- but that seems to be the case here.

I did finally manage to port the RSS code I wrote for Christgau back to my own website. Same basic problem in that I have to manually edit the description file. I've never used RSS, and was surprised to find that built-in support for it was recently dropped by Firefox. In principle, it should be very useful for me -- especially when compiling Weekend Roundup posts. If you can recommend a reader, let me know. Also let me know if you're having any problems with these RSS feeds. I still intend to port the Q&A system. Shouldn't be much work, especially now that I seem to be working my way past some of the technical problems I've been plagued with recently. Next priority issue for me is to be able to reboot my main machine cleanly. At the moment, I have a batch of software updates waiting reboot. Would be good to post this update before I risk that.


New records rated this week:

  • Armand Hammer: Paraffin (2018, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bhad Bhabie: 15 (2018, BHAD Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite (2018, FHQ): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elvis Costello & the Imposters: Look Now (2018, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Marilyn Crispell/Tanya Kalmanovitch/Richard Teitelbaum: Dream Libretto (2018, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Outliers (2017 [2019], Papillon): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dessa: Chime (2018, Doomtree): [r]: A-
  • Yelena Eckemoff/Manu Katché: Colors (2017 [2019], L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton Trio: Live at Pyatt Hall (2017 [2018], Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (2014-15 [2019], Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: A
  • Julia Holter: Aviary (2018, Domino): [r]: B
  • Sarathy Korwar and Upaj Collective: My East Is Your West (2018, Gearbox): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (2018, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Metric: Art of Doubt (2018, Metric/BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Van Morrison: The Prophet Speaks (2018, Exile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (2018 [2019], Orenda): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Popcaan: Forever (2018, Mixpak): [r]: B+(**)
  • Protoje: A Matter of Time (2018, Easy Star): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zhenya Strigalev: Blues for Maggie (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tony Tixier: Life of Sensitive Creatures (2016 [2017], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Global Reach (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: C
  • Nate Wooley & Torben Snekkestad: Of Echoing Bronze (2015 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (1993 [2018], New Braxton House, 11CD): [bc]: A-
  • Asnake Gebreyes: Ahadu (1988 [2018], Buda Musique): [r]: B+(***)
  • Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms (1975 [2018], Strut): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall + 3 (2015 [2018], Bar/None, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley (2008 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (Capri): March 15
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (self-released)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (Orenda)
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi): February 22

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Weekend Roundup

We watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 last night. Here's a review by Owen Gleiberman, which hits most of the key points. Seems to me he should have cut it into two separate movies: one on Trump (with more coverage of what he did after taking office), the other on the Flint water crisis (rather than just using his home town as his pet way of contextualizing world events). The Flint story winds up turning Obama into the goat (if not the villain, still Rick Snyder), which would have been more effective without Trump all over the map.

The Trump parts are more interesting. Moore treats Trump's presidential run as a publicity stunt -- as he's done before, but this time he went through with it only because NBC fired him for racist comments, only to find his fan's adoration in his early rallies. His decimation of his Republican opponents, then of Hillary Clinton, is a piece of story that Moore could open some eyes on, in large part because Moore doesn't flinch when Trump's absurdity and cruelty come simultaneously into focus. Indeed, his whole sequence of Trump and Ivanka is extremely creepy. However, after the election, instead of delving into the profound corruption and malign neglect that has been so evident, he settles for a long lament on the end of democracy and the rise of fascism. He can be creepy there, too, as with the Trump voiceover of stock Hitler/Third Reich newsreel footage, with side glances at Putin and Duterte and commentary by Timothy Snyder. I don't see that as necessarily unfair -- in fact, when I first noticed the Nazi rallies I expected a segue to Fred Trump in the 1930s at Madison Square Garden -- but it's far from the most important or enlightening thing a filmmaker like Moore could come up with.


One story I don't delve into below is the flap over Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, something involving racist photos in his college yearbook, which has elicited howls of indignation and calls for his resignation from many Democrats and leftists -- Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are two names that popped up in my twitter feed (full disclosure: I follow Ehrenreich but not Warren or any other office-holders). I suppose if I knew more details I might think differently, but my first reaction is that I find these calls deeply troubling, both on practical grounds and because they display an arrogant self-righteousness I find unbecoming. Sooner or later, Democrats need to learn to forgive themselves -- especially those who show some capacity to learn from their mistakes. I understand that Northam is no great shakes as a Democrat, but I'd rather see him become a better one (if that's possible).

On the other hand, I don't want to turn this into a diatribe against "purism" -- if real leftists (like Ehrenreich) insist on holding folks to higher standards, God bless them.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Daily Log

Enough stuff going on I feel like writing somewhere I can fid it again, doubtful that anyone else will bother.

Eyes have gotten little better since I was diagnosed with posterior vitreous detachment (left eye) a month ago. I have an appointment to see optometrist again on Feb. 5. Bigger problem has been with my nose. Hard to describe, but it is very annoying, somewhat painful, and very frustrating, as it seems like no combination of picking and snorting and blowing or anything else can clear it. I've resumed steroid nasal spray, which never did much good for sinus allergies and tended to irritate after awhile. Gets worse during the night, under the CPAP mask, which tends to cut my sleep short. Pain/weakness in hips seems somewhat under control, but always threatening. I should manage to pick out a new doctor for things like that, but that's a depressing task. I've had severe allergies since the 1980s, and my nose has been a big part of the problem, but despite perennial complaints no doctor has ever come close to helping. The hip problem dates back more than a decade, although it has come and (until now) gone.

Laura has a more acute problem that she doesn't want me to "blab" about. She saw doctor today and prognosis seems not too bad. Will be a problem for next couple of months, but probably not much longer.

Tried to do an update to Christgau website last night. I have a local database/website, and update the public one through a two-step process: a tarball of changed files, followed by a MySQL database dump. I've been fighting software updates for years to keep using Latin-1 8-bit characters, while the world is moving toward UTF-8 (multibyte, covering all languages, whereas Latin-1 just takes care of Western European languages). The problem seems to be that while my copy of the database is happy with Latin-1, and the dump file I get from the mysqldump command is Latin-1, when I import that dump on the server using PhpMyAdmin (a web-based management program -- with CPanel on the server, I've stopped using shell commands) takes and/or stores the file as UTF-8, despite me setting every switch I can find to Latin-1. (One clue is that when I used PhpMyAdmin on the local machine to create a dump, it came out as UTF-8 -- again, with all the switches set to Latin-1.)

I've been procrastinating working on that all day (8:42 PM as I write this), but need to give it another shot. The simplest thing would be to just import the dump file and see what happens: I'd at least get my updates, and the accent characters wouldn't be any worse than what's on the server already. Still, my goal has long been to fix this problem when I next dealt with it. I still have several blind spots (e.g., what's really in the database?) and other sources of confusion (e.g., why is the text encoding from the HTTP headers set to "windows-1252"?).

I did the file update last night, without a hitch. The database changes include about three months of recent EW reviews, plus I've added stubs for the Dean's List records that Christgau hasn't reviewed yet. Those stubs are broken links until I get the database updated. Also, Christgau is hoping to link to those reviews from an article he is writing for the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll (out next week?), so I have a commitment there.

I did make one small change to the RSS feed, fixing a HTTP header problem. Possibly the first time I've written PHP code to modify HTTP headers, so something I'm long overdue learning. That might be the way to fix the "windows-1252" coding error, although presumably the source lies deeper in Apache configuration (but I've looked for it there many times, to no avail). I've been meaning to port the RSS feed and the Q&A system from Christgau's website to mine. Should take little more than a couple of hours in each case, but the task has dragged on for more than a month now. Just hard to get optional work done under the recent conditions of my life.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 31033 [30993] rated (+40), 251 [257] unrated (-6).

After posting yesterday's Weekend Roundup, I read a few more pages into Ben Fountain's Beautiful Country Burn Again (mentioned in the post) and found this bit, so relevant to the week's news:

Even a cursory run through American history shows Exceptionalism has been used to justify monumental bloodshed, oppression, and profit. Cotton Mather saw "the evident hand of God" in the colonists' wholesale slaughter of Native Americans in King Philip's War, a genocide that would eventually roll all the way to the Pacific under the quasi-religious doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Over 300 years of slavery were justified on biblical grounds, as, variously, a means of saving African souls, or adherence to a divinely ordained natural order. For invasion and conquest in the name of liberty and democracy, we have the land grabs in Mexico in 1846-48, the Philippines in 1899-1902, and Panama in 1903. For the softer sorts of grabs -- i.e., imperialism -- in the early twentieth century, the career of Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940) provides a useful guide to U.S. adventures in Mexico (again), Central America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and China. A partial list of U.S.-sponsored or actively supported interventions, regime changes, and coups d'état for the latter half of the twentieth century would include Iran (coup, 1953), Guatemala (coup, 1954), Vietnam (coup, 1963; the war, 1965[?]-1973[?]), the Dominican Republic (intervention, 1965), Child (coup, 1973), Argentina (coup, 1976), Nicaragua (war, 1980s), El Salvador (war, 1980s), Panama (invasion, 1989), and Haiti (coup, 1991; invasion, 1994; coup, 2004). Underneath all the high-minded missionary rhetoric, you will usually find the throbbing heart of the profit motive.

You can add Venezuela to that list. In fact, you can wonder why Fountain didn't include it in the first place (or Colombia, which has been the main base for US troops in Latin America for 20-25 years now).


Still spending a lot of time checking out 2018 albums that have shown up on various EOY lists (see my Aggregate), but not finding much there. Three of this week's four A- releases are actually 2019 releases, all jazz, one dating back to 1966-67. Also got into some old music, as I noticed a Curtis Amy reissue, and followed that thread. I've long admired Amy's 1963 album Katanga, so thought it might be fun to hear more.

Expect a Streamnotes on or near the end of the month. I'll freeze my 2018 list then, and try to work up some stats for the year. The Music Tracking file is showing 1074 graded albums in 2018 -- still down from 1185 in 2017, but not as much as I had expected. I was surprised a couple months ago to find my Jazz and Non-Jazz best-of lists were already evenly balanced. Usually I start out with a big jazz advantage, then they even off as I catch up with EOY lists. This year, the opposite has occurred: starting close to even, I'm not up to 63 A/A- jazz, but only only 53 A/A- non-jazz.


I've been trying tonight to do a database update to the Robert Christgau website, and I keep running into character set problems. The database was originally designed and built in 2001, at which point doing everything using Latin-1 (ISO-8859-1 8-bit characters) seemed to make most sense. That was the default for MySQL at the time, but over the years MySQL and damn near everything else moved on to UTF-8. Until recently I've been able to keep chugging along by twiddling various settings to insist on Latin-1. At this point, I'm still able to use mysqldump to create a SQL file with Latin-1 encoding, but when I try to do the same thing through PhpMyAdmin, even when I explicitly specify ISO-8859-1 output, I'm getting a UTF-8 file. While I can use the command line on my machine, I've gotten into the habit of using CPanel and PhpMyAdmin to import my SQL dumps into the public server. Even when I start with a Latin-1 SQL dump file, and set the character set options in PhpMyAdmin to use ISO-8859-1, the import operation seems to be filling the database with UTF-8. The result has been that accented characters coming from the database are garbaged. (Of course, one suspicious thing is that "latin1" seems to be preferred by mysqldump, while PhpMyAdmin insists on "ISO-8859-1.)

A few weeks back, I announced that I would be creating a discussion list for technical and design issues for the Christgau website (and a few others I work on, including my own). Only a few people have written to me to sign up, and I have yet to use the list. If you're willing to help me figure out these technical issues, or if you just want to lurk as I struggle with them, write me and I'll sign you up.


New records rated this week:

  • 10^32K: The Law of Vibration (2018, self-released): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Amnesia Scanner: Another Life (2018, Pan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Baloji: 137 Avenue Kaniama (2018, Bella Union): [r]: B+(***)
  • Boy Azooga: (One) (Two) (Kung Fu!) (2018, Heavenly): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brothers Osborne: Port Saint Joe (2018, EMI Nashville): [r]: B
  • Cloud Nothings: Last Building Burning (2018, Carpark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christopher Dell/Johannes Brecht/Christian Lillinger/Jonas Westergaard: Boulez Materialism: Live in Concert (2017 [2018], Plaist): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band (2017-18 [2019], Hot Cup, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again: The Music of Carla Bley (2015 [2019], TUM): [cd]: A-
  • Alexander Hawkins: Iron Into Wind: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Human Feel [Chris Speed/Andrew D'Angelo/Kurt Rosenwinkel/Jim Black]: Gold (2017 [2019], Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Juan Ibarra Quinteto: NauMay (2017 [2018], self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Jayhawks: Back Roads and Abandoned Motels (2018, Legacy): [r]: B
  • Lil Baby: Harder Than Ever (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lil Baby & Gunna: Drip Harder (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lil Wayne: Tha Carter V (2018, Young Money/Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Meek Mill: Championships (2018, Maybach Music Group/Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Proc Fiskal: Insula (2018, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joey Purp: Quarterthing (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Orquesta Del Tiempo Perdido: Stille (2016-17 [2018], Shhpuma): [r]: B
  • Tom Rainey Trio With Mary Halvorson and Ingrid Laubrock: Combobulated (2017 [2019], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mette Rasmussen & Chris Corsano: A View of the Moon (From the Sun) (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mette Rasmussen/Tashi Dorji: Mette Rasmussen/Tashi Dorji (2016 [2018], Feeding Tube): [bc]: B-
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (2016-17 [2019], TUM): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Teyana Taylor: KTSE [Keep That Same Energy] (2018, GOOD Music/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B
  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (2015 [2018], Hopscotch): [dl]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Ran Blake/Jeanne Lee: The Newest Sound You Never Heard (1966-67 [2019], A-Side, 2CD): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Curtis Amy & Paul Bryant: The Blues Message (1960, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Curtis Amy & Frank Butler: Groovin' Blue (1961, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Curtis Amy: Way Down (1962, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Curtis Amy: Tippin' On Through (1962, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Curtis Amy: Groovin' Blue/Way Down/Tippin' On Through (1961-62 [2013], Fresh Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Curtis Amy Sextet: Peace for Love (1994, Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee: Free Standards: Stockholm 1966 (1966 [2013], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paul Bryant: Burnin' (1960, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paul Bryant Featuring Curtis Amy & Jim Hall: The Blues Message (1960 [2010], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bumble Bee Slim: Back in Town (1962, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Curtis Counce: You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce! (1956-57 [1984], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Curtis Counce Quintet: Exploring the Future (1958, Boplicity): [r]: B+(***)
  • Les McCann Ltd.: On Time (1962, Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(*)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Trump's lockout ended on Friday, for three weeks, anyway. I wouldn't make a big deal about Trump blinking or caving. He's a born bully, and still dangerous, so you'd just be taunting him. On the other hand, I'm pretty much convinced that the purpose of the lockout was to try to intimidate the new Democratic House, so we might as well acknowledge that in that regard he failed. Perry Bacon Jr. explains Why Trump Blinked, although the info graphic on "Trump Approval Ratings" is probably all you need to know: approve, 39.4%; disapprove, 56.0%. Those are his worst numbers since the 2016 election, and those numbers have never been above water.

Another big story was the much anticipated indictment and arrest of Roger Stone. My right-wing cousin on Facebook: "Gestapo tactics used against Roger Stone! A old man, his wife and a dog. A SWAT team in full gear for arresting! For shame F.B.I." Of course, Stone's not the first guy who's been Gestapoed by the FBI. That's pretty much their standard operating procedure. I can't even especially blame them here, given that the NRA has pretty much guaranteed that every criminal in America will be armed. The risk, of course, is that a half-cocked SWAT team member will freak out and kill someone for no good reason. We had a prime example of that here in Wichita, about a year ago.

Still, the bigger story is the coup that Trump & Co. tried to pull off in Venezuela. This one was a bit unorthodox. Normally, one tries to secure power first, then quickly recognize the plotters to help them consolidate power. This time Trump recognized the coup before there were any "facts on the ground," thereby alerting Maduro to the plot. As I recall, GW Bush recognized a coup in Venezuela [in 2002] that ultimately failed, but even he wasn't as premature as Trump.

This coup has been preceded by decades of vitriolic propaganda aimed at delegitimizing the democratically elected Chavez and Maduro governments. This has made it very difficult to know what reports are fair and accurate. On the other hand, the historical record is clear that the US has long exploited Venezuela (and virtually every other country in Latin America), leading to chronic poverty, extreme inequality, and harsh repression nearly everywhere -- and this has long made me sympathetic to political movements, like Chavez's, that have sought to halt and undo neo-liberal predation (even in cases where I don't particularly approve of the tactics). Whatever the facts here, Trump's actions are fully consistent with US policy of more than a century, and as such should be opposed.

Some links on Venezuela:


Some more scattered links this week:


PS: I asked for comments last week on a possible book outline, and got essentially zilch back. To save you the trouble of a click, I'll just paste them in here:

One thing I feel I need to decide this week (or, let's say, by the end of January, at latest) is whether I'm going to try to write my unsolicited advice book for Democrats in 2020. Say it takes three months to write, two to get edited and published, that gets us to July, by which time we'll probably have a dozen Democrats running for President. (I'm counting four right now: Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard; Wikipedia lists more I wasn't aware of, plus an announcement pending from Kamala Harris tomorrow.) [Ballotpedia lists eight "notable" declared/exploratory Democratic candidates.] But that's just a measure of how soon what Matt Taibbi likes to call "the stupid season" will be upon us. I have no interest in handicapping the race, or even mentioning candidates by name. I'm more interested in historical context, positioning, and what I suppose we could call campaign ethics: how candidates should treat each other, the issues, the media, the voters, and Republicans. And note that the book is only directed toward Democrats who are actually concerned enough to get involved in actual campaigns. Even there, it won't be a "how to" book. I don't really know anything about running a campaign. It's more why we need candidates in the first place, and what those candidates should say.

Some rough ideas for the book:

  • I'm thinking about starting off with a compare/contrast between Donald Trump and George Washington. They are, by far, the richest Americans ever to have won office, and otherwise couldn't be more unalike (unless I have to deal with GW's ownership of slaves, which suggests some similar views on race). The clearest difference is how we relate to money, and how we expect politicians with money to serve.

  • I'd probably follow this up with brief compare/contrasts between Trump and selected other presidents. I might find various presidents that offer useful contrasts on things like integrity, diligence, intelligence, care, a sense of responsibility, a command of details, tolerance of corruption. I doubt I'd find any president Trump might compare favorably to, but it might be helpful to make the effort.

  • Then I want to talk about political eras. Aside from Washington/Adams, there are four major ones, each dominated by a party, each with only two exceptions as president:

    1. From 1800-1860, Jefferson through Buchanan, interrupted only by two Whig generals (and their VPs, since both died in office, Harrison especially hastily).
    2. From 1860-1932, Lincoln through Hoover, interrupted only by two two-term Democrats (Cleveland and Wilson).
    3. From 1932-1980, Roosevelt through Carter, interrupted only by two two-term Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon/Ford).
    4. From 1980-2020, Reagan through Trump, interrupted only by two two-term Democrats (Clinton and Obama).

    There's quite a bit of interesting material I can draw from those periods. Each starts with a legendary figure, and ends with a one-term disaster. (I suppose you could say that about Washington/Adams as well, but that's a rather short descent for an era.) In each, the exceptions substantially resemble the dominant party. But the Reagan-to-Trump era does reflect an anomaly: each of the first three eras started with a shift to a broader and more egalitarian democracy, whereas Reagan was opposite. Each era had a mid-period nudge in the same direction (Jackson/Van Buren, Roosevelt, Kennedy/Johnson, but also GW Bush). Of course, the anti-democratic tilt of Reagan-to-Trump needs some extra analysis, both to show how it could run against the long arc of American history and why after 1988 it was never able to post commanding majorities (as occurred in previous eras).

  • I then posit that in 2020 the goal is not just to defeat Trump but to win big enough to launch a new (and overdue) era. This will be the big jump, but I think if Democrats aim big, they can win big -- and it will take nothing less to make the necessary changes. This is possible because Republicans, both with and without Trump, have boxed themselves into a corner where all of their beliefs and commitments only serve to further hurt the vast majority of Americans. It will be tough because Republicans still have a stranglehold on a large segment of the public. But this spell can be broken if Democrats look beyond the conciliatory tactics and marginal goals that marked the campaigns of Obama and the Clintons.

  • At some point this segues into a lesson on the need for unity and tolerance of diversity within the Democratic Party. I'll probably bring up Reagan's "11th commandment," which served Reagan well but has since been lost on recent Tea Partiers and RINO-bashers (although the post-election fawning over Trump suggests that Republicans will come around to backing anything that wins for them).

  • I'll probably wind up with a brief survey of issues, which will stress flexibility and feedback within a broad set of principles. I can imagine later doing a whole book on this, but this would just offer a taste.

Book doesn't need to be more than 300 pages, and could be as short as half that. It is important to get it out quickly to have any real impact. I would consider working with a co-author, especially someone who could carry on to do much of the promotion -- something I'm very unlikely to be much good at.

While I can imagine that this could be worth doing, I can also think of various reasons not to bother. The obvious one is that I haven't been feeling well, having a good deal of back pain, and having a trouble with my eyes -- things that have taken a toll from my normal workload over the last few months. I also seem to be having more difficulties coming up with satisfactory writing. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to write up a response to a particularly annoying Facebook rant, and never did come up with anything I felt like sharing. I am especially bothered by self-destructive arguments I see both on the left and the right of the Democratic Party spectrum, and this sometimes tempts me to throw up my hands and leave you all to your fates. On the other hand, sometimes this tempts me to think that all the help you need is a little clarity that I fancy I can provide.

Just knocked this much off the top of my head, in two sets of a couple hours each, so this is very rough. Next step will be to try to flesh out a bit more outline, maybe 3-5 times the length, with a lot of bullet points. That would be the goal for the next 7-10 days. If I manage that, I'll circulate it to a few friends, then make a decision whether to proceed. The alternative project at this point is probably a memoir, which is something that can take however much time it takes (or however much I have left).

Comments welcome, and much appreciated.

I haven't made any notable progress in the intervening week, which is probably not a good sign. I have started reading Ben Fountain's book, Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution, which is mostly reportage of the 2016 campaign, but a cut above, partly the writing -- Fountain is best known for his novel (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk) -- and partly because he pays as much attention to the public as to the politicians. (The paperback subtitle is Trump's Rise to Power and the State of the Country That Voted for Him. I can't say it's helped me a lot in thinking about my book, but does keep my head somewhat in the game.

Other books I've read on the 2016 election and/or Trump (latest to oldest):

  • Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History
  • Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump
  • David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
  • Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal
  • Mark Singer: Trump and Me
  • Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign
  • Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In
  • Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 30993 [30949] rated (+44), 257 [263] unrated (-6).

No real reason I didn't post this on Monday, except it was a rough day and I didn't feel like writing an introduction. Been adding some polls to the EOY Aggregate, and will probably keep doing that until I get to the end of the Metacritic Top-Tens list, decide what to do with the lists on Acclaimed Music Forums bulletin board, and/or the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll comes out. (No idea when, but I hear that Robert Christgau will have a small piece there. Last year's came out on January 22, but as of this writing it's not there yet.) I can give you a link for the Uproxx Music Critics Poll, which was hastily opened back when nobody knew whether the Voice would do anything. They got "nearly 200 critics" to vote, and the top of the list is (in brackets, first the record's position in my EOY Aggregate list, then my grade):

  1. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (MCA Nashville): [2: B]
  2. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy) [1: A-]
  3. Mitski: Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans) [3: B]
  4. Pusha T: Daytona (GOOD/Def Jam, EP) [4: B+(***)]
  5. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic) [5: A-]
  6. Lucy Dacus: Historian (Matador) [37: B+(*)]
  7. Ariana Grande: Sweetener (Republic) [15: B]
  8. The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (Dirty Hit/Polydor) [40: B]
  9. Boygenius: Boygenius (Matador, EP) [46: B]
  10. Noname: Room 25 (self-released) [9: A-]

Finishing scores for Other records in my EOY Aggregate top 20 (here the bracket number is the Uproxx finish):

  1. Robyn: Honey (Konichawa/Interscope) [14: B+(**)]
  2. Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance (Partisan) [88: B+(***)]
  3. Low: Double Negative (Sub Pop) [18: B+(*)]
  4. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade) [21: A-]
  5. Kamasi Washington: Heaven and Earth (Young Turks, 2CD) [23: B+(***)]
  6. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop Music) [39: B+(***)]
  7. Sophie: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) [26: B+(***)]
  8. Christine and the Queens: Chris (Because Music) [43: B+(**)]
  9. Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino) [30: C+]
  10. Kali Uchis: Isolation (Virgin EMI) [22: A-]
  11. Blood Orange: Negro Swan (Domino) [84: B+(**)]
  12. Beach House: 7 (Sub Pop) [15: B+(**)]
  13. Black Panther: The Album (Music From and Inspired By) (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) [19: B+(***)]

I can't says as I recognize many of the critics who voted for Uproxx. (I wasn't invited, nor was I invited to Pazz & Jop, despite having voted in the latter every year since 2003 -- and a few years back in the 1970s.) I still think Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer has to be a pretty solid favorite to win Pazz & Jop. Monáe leads Album of the Year's Aggregate, with 364 points to 353 for Mitski and 295 for Musgraves. My list had that same order, albeit with a much larger point edge, until this last week, when Musgraves edged into second ahead of Mitski. Metacritic (link above) has Musgraves edging Monáe out, 98.5 to 97 (with Mitski at 88), followed by Idles, Pusha T, Cardi B, Low, Robyn, Christine and the Queens, and Ariana Grande.

I'm not real sure what's going on with Acclaimed's spreadsheets (they don't seem to be publicly available as such), but the latest summary I've seen lists the top ten as: Janelle Monáe, Low, Idles, Pusha T, Mitski, Robyn, Kacey Musgraves, Sophie, Kamasi Washington, and Beach House, followed by Rosalia (El Mal Querer), Arctic Monkeys, Cardi B, Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, Blood Orange, Christine and the Queens, Jon Hopkins (Singularity), Kali Uchis, and US Girls (In a Poem Unlimited). Acclaimed has less of a US focus, with a lot of non-English lists from Europe and a few from Latin America -- places where Musgraves falls down and Idles (and Rosalia) pick up.

Maybe I'll find time (and inspiration) to say more about this when I wrap up my own little project.


New records rated this week:

  • Aphex Twin: Collapse EP (2018, Warp, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archivist & Fugal: Undertow (2018, BleeD, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Avery: Song for Alpha (2018, Phantasy Sound/Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • Daniel Bennett Group: We Are the Orchestra (2018, Manhattan Daylight Media, EP): [r]: B
  • Ran Blake/Clare Ritter: Eclipse Orange (2017 [2019], Zoning): [cd]: A-
  • Samantha Boshnack's Seismic Belt: Live in Santa Monica (2018 [2019], Orenda): [cd]: A-
  • Bruce: Sonder Somatic (2018, Hessle Audio): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dillon Carmichael: Hell on an Angel (2018, Riser House): [r]: B+(*)
  • Extra Large Unit: More Fun Please (2017 [2019], PNL): [bc]: B
  • First Aid Kit: Ruins (2018, Columbia): [r]: B
  • George FitzGerald: All That Must Be (2018, Double Six): [r]: B+(**)
  • Helena Hauff: Qualm (2018, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(***)
  • Will Hoge: My American Dream (2018, Thirty Tigers/EDLO, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Crosswinds (2018 [2019], Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • J.I.D: DiCaprio 2 (2018, Dreamville/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Michael Kocour: East of the Sun (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Adam Kolker & Russ Lossing: Whispers and Secrets (2014 [2018], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kukuruz Quartet: Julius Eastman: Piano Interpretations (2017 [2018], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kuzu: Hiljaisuus (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Maribou State: Kingdoms in Colour (2018, Counter): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill McHenry Trio: Ben Entrada La Nit (2015 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Meder: Passage (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Miss Red: K.O. (2018, Pressure): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kelly Moran: Ultraviolet (2018, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Whitey Morgan and the 78's: Hard Times and White Lines (2018, Whitey Morgan Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Greg Murphy Trio: Bright Idea (2018 [2019], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Eva Novoa's Ditmas Quartet: Live at IBeam (2016 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: A-
  • Objekt: Cocoon Crush (2018, PAN): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ross From Friends: Family Portrait (2018, Brainfeeder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rudolph Quintet: Resonance (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: You Don't Know the Life (2018 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: B
  • Troye Sivan: Bloom (2018, Capitol): [r]: B
  • Sleaford Mods: Sleaford Mods (2018, Rough Trade, EP): [r]: B
  • Caitlyn Smith: Starfire (2018, Monument): [r]: B
  • Walter Smith III: Twio (2018, Whirlwind): [bc]: A-
  • Walter Smith III/Matthew Stevens/Joel Ross/Harish Raghavan/Marcus Gilmore: In Commmon (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wing Walker Orchestra: Hazel (2017 [2019], Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley: Deeply Discounted II/Sequences of Snow (2018, Pleasure of the Text/Audiographic, EP): [bc]: B
  • Leon Vynehall: Nothing Is Still (2018, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jamie Lin Wilson: Jumping Over Rocks (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peter Zak Quartet Featuring Marcos Varela: One Mind (2017 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • André Hodeir: Essais: Complete Paris & New York Sessions (1954-60 [2017], Fresh Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra: Crystal Spears (1973 [2019], Modern Harmonic): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

    Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music From Vintage Disney Films (1988, A&M): [r]: B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • The End [Sofia Jernberg/Mats Gustafsson/Kjetil Moster/Anders Hana/Greg Saunier]: Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen (2018, RareNoise): [cdr]: album title wrong D+


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Inner Rhyme (In a Circle)
  • Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Outliers (Papillon): February 19
  • Yelena Eckemoff/Manu Katché: Colors (L&H Production): February 22
  • Hiljaisuus: Kuzu (Astral Spirits/Aerophonic): February 26
  • Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic): February 26
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Global Reach (self-released)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weekend Roundup

The shutdown, or as David Frum put it, "the President's hostage attempt," goes on, revulsing and alienating government workers and the public on top of the revulsion and alienation they first felt when he took office and started to self-destruct the government. (The exception, or so we're told, is the ICE border agent union, which relishes the idea of moving from the backwaters of law enforcement to the closest thing we've ever had to Hitler's SS.) As I've noted before, the first and foremost job of every Chief Executive is to keep things working. In many regards Trump had already broken the organizations he was responsible for running before he shuttered offices and halted paychecks (e.g., see the story below on EPA prosecutions). His new cudgel is blunter, and dumber.

The first thing that popped into my mind when Trump insisted on shutting down the government is that this is why we don't negotiate with terrorists. Except I couldn't use that, because I believe that we should negotiate with terrorists, with hostage-takers, with all manner of brutes and bullies. I'd even be willing to quote Winston Churchill, something about "jaw-jaw" being better than "war-war." But Trump sees this as a test of power, to be resolved by bending Congressional Democrats into submission. The reason terrorists have such a poor reputation for negotiating is that, like Trump, they're insatiable. Republicans have played this budget chokehold card many times since 1995, always coming back for more, so what Trump is doing is completely in character. The difference this time is that Democrats didn't win a major election just to let Trump trod all over them. They were voted in to resist Republican tyranny, and this is their first serious test.


One thing I feel I need to decide this week (or, let's say, by the end of January, at latest) is whether I'm going to try to write my unsolicited advice book for Democrats in 2020. Say it takes three months to write, two to get edited and published, that gets us to July, by which time we'll probably have a dozen Democrats running for President. (I'm counting four right now: Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard; Wikipedia lists more I wasn't aware of, plus an announcement pending from Kamala Harris tomorrow.) But that's just a measure of how soon what Matt Taibbi likes to call "the stupid season" will be upon us. I have no interest in handicapping the race, or even mentioning candidates by name. I'm more interested in historical context, positioning, and what I suppose we could call campaign ethics: how candidates should treat each other, the issues, the media, the voters, and Republicans. And note that the book is only directed toward Democrats who are actually concerned enough to get involved in actual campaigns. Even there, it won't be a "how to" book. I don't really know anything about running a campaign. It's more why we need candidates in the first place, and what those candidates should say.

Some rough ideas for the book:

  • I'm thinking about starting off with a compare/contrast between Donald Trump and George Washington. They are, by far, the richest Americans ever to have won office, and otherwise couldn't be more unalike (unless I have to deal with GW's ownership of slaves, which suggests some similar views on race). The clearest difference is how we relate to money, and how we expect politicians with money to serve.

  • I'd probably follow this up with brief compare/contrasts between Trump and selected other presidents. I might find various presidents that offer useful contrasts on things like integrity, diligence, intelligence, care, a sense of responsibility, a command of details, tolerance of corruption. I doubt I'd find any president Trump might compare favorably to, but it might be helpful to make the effort.

  • Then I want to talk about political eras. Aside from Washington/Adams, there are four major ones, each dominated by a party, each with only two exceptions as president:

    1. From 1800-1860, Jefferson through Buchanan, interrupted only by two Whig generals (and their VPs, since both died in office, Harrison especially hastily).
    2. From 1860-1932, Lincoln through Hoover, interrupted only by two two-term Democrats (Cleveland and Wilson).
    3. From 1932-1980, Roosevelt through Carter, interrupted only by two two-term Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon/Ford).
    4. From 1980-2020, Reagan through Trump, interrupted only by two two-term Democrats (Clinton and Obama).

    There's quite a bit of interesting material I can draw from those periods. Each starts with a legendary figure, and ends with a one-term disaster. (I suppose you could say that about Washington/Adams as well, but that's a rather short descent for an era.) In each, the exceptions substantially resemble the dominant party. But the Reagan-to-Trump era does reflect an anomaly: each of the first three eras started with a shift to a broader and more egalitarian democracy, whereas Reagan was opposite. Each era had a mid-period nudge in the same direction (Jackson/Van Buren, Roosevelt, Kennedy/Johnson, but also GW Bush). Of course, the anti-democratic tilt of Reagan-to-Trump needs some extra analysis, both to show how it could run against the long arc of American history and why after 1988 it was never able to post commanding majorities (as occurred in previous eras).

  • I then posit that in 2020 the goal is not just to defeat Trump but to win big enough to launch a new (and overdue) era. This will be the big jump, but I think if Democrats aim big, they can win big -- and it will take nothing less to make the necessary changes. This is possible because Republicans, both with and without Trump, have boxed themselves into a corner where all of their beliefs and commitments only serve to further hurt the vast majority of Americans. It will be tough because Republicans still have a stranglehold on a large segment of the public. But this spell can be broken if Democrats look beyond the conciliatory tactics and marginal goals that marked the campaigns of Obama and the Clintons.

  • At some point this segues into a lesson on the need for unity and tolerance of diversity within the Democratic Party. I'll probably bring up Reagan's "11th commandment," which served Reagan well but has since been lost on recent Tea Partiers and RINO-bashers (although the post-election fawning over Trump suggests that Republicans will come around to backing anything that wins for them).

  • I'll probably wind up with a brief survey of issues, which will stress flexibility and feedback within a broad set of principles. I can imagine later doing a whole book on this, but this would just offer a taste.

Book doesn't need to be more than 300 pages, and could be as short as half that. It is important to get it out quickly to have any real impact. I would consider working with a co-author, especially someone who could carry on to do much of the promotion -- something I'm very unlikely to be much good at.

While I can imagine that this could be worth doing, I can also think of various reasons not to bother. The obvious one is that I haven't been feeling well, having a good deal of back pain, and having a trouble with my eyes -- things that have taken a toll from my normal workload over the last few months. I also seem to be having more difficulties coming up with satisfactory writing. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to write up a response to a particularly annoying Facebook rant, and never did come up with anything I felt like sharing. I am especially bothered by self-destructive arguments I see both on the left and the right of the Democratic Party spectrum, and this sometimes tempts me to throw up my hands and leave you all to your fates. On the other hand, sometimes this tempts me to think that all the help you need is a little clarity that I fancy I can provide.

Just knocked this much off the top of my head, in two sets of a couple hours each, so this is very rough. Next step will be to try to flesh out a bit more outline, maybe 3-5 times the length, with a lot of bullet points. That would be the goal for the next 7-10 days. If I manage that, I'll circulate it to a few friends, then make a decision whether to proceed. The alternative project at this point is probably a memoir, which is something that can take however much time it takes (or however much I have left).

Comments welcome, and much appreciated.


Meanwhile, some scattered links this week:

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Marianne Cowan Pyeatt posted this on Facebook:

For many, many years there were so many things going on behind the scenes and all we got was propoganda. We didn't know that govt in DC had been overtaken by socialists and that the exucation system was being used to indoctrinate socialism. Given that the MSM is completely and utterly a tool of the left, Social media is the only platform left to many people. I'm sorry if you are tired of political posts. But, we Are literally talking about losing the identity and values of our nation to a group that has quietly manipulated us for decades. Maybe a political post had never changed your mind, but, you can't say that you are only hearing one side these days.

I replied:

You know, back in 1966, I dropped out of high school in Wichita, KS, in part because I disliked the schools force-feeding me their political and cultural dogmas. I started reading on my own, looking for things that helped make sense of the world around me -- at the time, the big issues were the Vietnam War and racial turmoil. Within two years, still a teen in Wichita, I embraced socialism. Fifty years later, having worked for a living while still reading vast amounts of history and economics, my views have moderated somewhat, but I still believe that the only way to secure personal freedom and high living standards for everyone is through social democracy. That's been a lonely view -- at least until Bernie Sanders showed that the label is no longer poison and the ideas have genuine popular appeal. Still, you can't be talking about real socialists (like me) because we don't secretly control anything. Mass media in America is owned and controlled by the rich, which includes a smattering of social liberals among a majority of staunch conservatives. It's the latter who have endowed and directed secretive societies that have endeavoured to infiltrate public institutions and to dominate public discourse -- some of the more notorious examples are the Federalist Society's certification of right-wing judges and ALEC's lobbying of state legislatures. Forerunners of these groups have been ranting about socialists since the 1890s, a tactic which really took off with the McCarthy "red scare" of 1947-54. As your post shows, some people continue to be taken in by this paranoid fear of subversives -- probably in part because they rightly feel that they have been losing their freedom to today's ascendant "robber barons" (most other people have the same feeling, but lack the conceit to blame their woes on an imaginary left). But we socialists are not your enemy. We offer the only viable path out of the ever-tightening noose of a short-sighted, self-interested, out-of-control plutocracy.

Marianne is the wife of a second cousin in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She is normally a fine person, the mother of three lovely (now mostly grown) children. Her husband is a government worker -- a county health inspector -- and she's done office work (I've never delved into the details). But somewhere along the line she got active in Republican politics, and convinced her husband to follow suit. I don't know for sure, but I rather figured that her mother had much to do with her politics. I never met the mother (now deceased), but she was German, and according to stories I've heard complained bitterly about how ordinary Germans like herself were mistreated after losing the war, blamed for the war, etc. Not sure why she immigrated to the US, but it seemed to have liberated her from the "collective shame" that was customary in Germany in the 1950s, allowing her "inner Nazi" to come out. (Not that any of the stories tried to depict her as a neo-Nazi, but, you know, that's something I'm rather quick to sniff out -- in part, I suppose, because I've known Germans who were not.)

My cousin (her mother-in-law) is a solid anti-war Democrat, and I recall a lot of political strife in the family over the Iraq War. Our great-great-grandfather was a Union officer in the Civil War, after which he moved to that Ozark niche in Arkansas -- a patch of two (and a half) counties that was solidly Republican ever since, even when the rest of the state was 95% Democrat. He held office as a Republican, and the family was pretty solidly Republican when my mother was growing up, but my cousin's father (my uncle Ted) switched to the Democrats with FDR. He was a deeply compassionate man, touched by the poverty of the Great Depression, and legendary for his efforts to help neighbors down on their luck -- a sense of ethics that has been passed down, although it has met a stone barrier in Marianne.

I also wanted to comment on Allen Lowe's post:

to me Bernie's biggest problem is a lot of his supporters; not all of you, I mean, some of my best friends . . .

The problem with a lot of these people is that anyone who doesn't go with Bernie, advocate for Bernie, report on Bernie, endorse Bernie, or do Bernie with everything, is a sellout. That's really the view of a certain core of his followers. And I gotta admit, it means I will never support Bernie, because if he wins I gotta listen to these nuts for another bunch of years. And I do think Bernie has done a lot of good for the party, and we owe him a lot.

Now remain calm, as I said, you are not ALL like that. But enough of you are to make me wanna turn heel and run away (or run train outta the station, whatever the hell that means).

I wrote back (after tons of other comments):

Going back to the original post, it sounds like you're pretty desperate to find a reason to slam Sanders. The closest analogy I can come up with is that a person might like a band's music but decide not to go to one of their concerts because you don't like the people who show up there. The difference is that at the concert you're all there together, but after an election neither you nor any other voter has real access to a candidate. It's a different kind of participation. But more importantly, you don't seem to understand how "selling out" works. If Sanders wins, you're not stuck with four more years of Sanders supporters accusing you of selling out. Half of them will be accusing Sanders of selling out, and the other half will either shut up or lamely defend him. Your fear is only realized if Sanders loses and some other highly compromised candidate wins instead, leaving his supporters nothing to do but backbite people who "knew better" but failed to support him. Of course, supporters of every other candidate tend to do the same thing. If Sanders seems to have more of them, it's because more people see him as making a difference that matters. If you weren't so committed to opposing him, you might appreciate that more.

One thing I noted in the comments was Terri Hinte complaining that Sanders had voted against the Magnitsky Act ("he and Rand Paul, birds of a feather?"). I wasn't aware of that, but count it as one more reason in his favor. The United States government should not be arbitrarily judging and punishing foreign individuals because someone decides that their business runs counter to America's supposed interests. Maybe there should be an international tribune that can do that, according to some kind of consensus international law, but this is just one of a number of cases where the US has arrogated itself to be sole judge-and-jury over the rest of the world.

Allen responded:

oh come on, Tom, that's not how it works; he lost the last campaign, and it pretty much neutralized his crazies; they were quiet until the latest election. And this ain't a concert, so it's a bad comparison. He wins, and like the tsuris the Dems are having now with the progressive caucus, his people feel empowered, and they are all over us like white on Condoleezza Rice. There are many other politicians with just as many or more followers; he doesn't have a plurality on people who think he's making that difference (though I think he has made a crucial difference, btw). But I do see his followers or their types as already attaching themselves to the "we are the only pure ones" bandwagon, so it may just be too late. I know and like a lot of these people, and can work with them, but about every day I encounter one of 'em popping up on a thread. They remind me of nothing so much as the student radicals I know in the '60s who used to stand up at every meeting and shout "we gotta burn it all down." They were always right and everyone else was a sellout. And there are enough of them now to start a fire.

My first possible reply went like this:

Not much to actually respond to here. Sure, I know people who are too "purist" to vote for any Democrat, but I wouldn't call them "crazies" -- they're not violent, and they can be counted on to demonstrate for good causes. All the Sanders supporters I know -- and I stood three hours in a caucus line that voted 3-to-1 for Sanders -- are reasonable people. After 2016, they were the ones people who organized the run for Mike Pompeo's House seat, and they came closer to winning than any Democrat had since Dan Glickman last won in 1992 -- with zilch support from the national Party, which was putting all its effort into a losing contest in Georgia. What tsuris? There's a legitimate debate within the Party as to whether Democrats would be more successful if they moved toward the left. I can see both sides there, but suspect that left policies (if implemented) would be more effective -- and one thing Democrats sorely need are tangible results.

I didn't post that. Tried a second attempt, and got so frustrated I commented it out of the notebook.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 30949 [30913] rated (+36), 263 [260] unrated (+3).

Rated count remains healthy despite my various disabilities. The breakdown shifted rather dramatically toward "recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries" -- probably because I finally added a few rather deep compilation-oriented lists to my EOY Aggregate and its Old Music companion, including the complete Jazz Critics Poll: Reissues/Historical list. Some other late-breaking polls I picked up:

The James Brown compilation topped the Ye Wei list, and could have rated higher had I spent more time with it. The FOLC is one of those retro-rock things Phil Overeem especially loves. I was vaguely aware that a lot of Sun Ra had been reissued last year, so when my first two picks turned out to be especially good, I tried out a bunch more. Trying to figure out the lay of the land, I jotted down a list of 85 more Sun Ra albums on Napster that I haven't heard. I should return to them at some point.

There is a new XgauSez over on Robert Christgau's website, as well as the 2018 Dean's List. I wanted to get the reviews caught up, but in the end decided just to post the list. Still don't feel up to starting the planned site redesign, and probably shouldn't risk it until I do.

I gather there is a Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll in the works, so that will probably wrap up my EOY list madness. Christgau held back his point assignments for the poll, although I wouldn't expect them to post ballots this year after they failed last year. Christgau will be writing some kind of piece for the poll. For the first time in 15+ years I didn't get an invite, so I find myself losing interest. Much more info can be mined from my own EOY Aggregate anyway.


New records rated this week:

  • Art Brut: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out (2018, Alcopop!): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Binney: Here & Now (2018, Mythology): [r]: B-
  • Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (2018 [2019], Laborie Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Peter Brotzmann & Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros (2011 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Deardorf: Perception (2017-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Delines: The Imperial (2019, El Cortez): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bryan Ferry and His Orchestra: Bitter-Sweet (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (2018 [2019], Multiphonics Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Janczarski & McCraven Quintet: Liberator (2016 [2018], ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Brandon Lopez: Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis (2018, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Loretta Lynn: Wouldn't It Be Great (2006-17 [2018], Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (2016-17 [2019], Whirlwind, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • May Okita: Art of Life (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (2018, Flying Dolphin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Zeal and Ardor: Stranger Fruit (2018, MVKA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Denny Zeitlin/Buster Williams/Matt Wilson: Wishing on the Moon (2009 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Gordon Beck Quartet: When Sunny Gets Blue (1966-68 [2018], Another Planet): [r]: B+(*)
  • James Brown & the Famous Flames: The Federal & King Singles As and Bs 1956-61 (1956-61 [2018], Acrobat, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Feeling Kréyol: Las Palé (1988, Strut, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!! And Rights!! ([2018], FOLC): [bc]: A-
  • Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway): [r]: B+(**)
  • Guy Lafitte: His Tenor Sax & Orchestra 1954-1959 (1954-59 [2018], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Guy Lafitte: Quartet & Sextet Sessions 1956-1962 (1956-62 [2018], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave McKenna: In Madison (1991 [2018], Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Prine: Live in Asheville '86 (1986 [2016], Oh Boy): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Sun Ra With Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold: Judson Hall, New York, Dec. 31, 1964 (1964 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra: Astro Black (1972 [2018], Modern Harmonic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra: The Cymbals/Symbols Sessions: New York City 1973 (1973 [2018], Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Discipline 99 (Out Beyond the Kingdom Of) (1974 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (1974-75 [2018], Strut): [r]: A-
  • Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Taking a Chance on Chances (1977 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be (1979 [2018], Cosmic Myth): [r]: A-
  • Sun Ra: Sun Ra Plays Gershwin (1951-89 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B
  • Jesse Sharps Quintet & P.A.P.A.: Sharps and Flats (2004 [2018], Nimbus West/Outernational Sounds): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra: We Travel the Space Ways (1960 [2012], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Still Dreaming (2017 [2018], Nonesuch): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band (Hot Cup, 2CD): February 14
  • Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again (TUM)
  • Alexander Hawkins: Iron Into Wind: Piano Solo (Intakt)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
  • Human Feel [Chris Speed/Andrew D'Angelo/Kurt Rosenwinkel/Jim Black]: Gold (Intakt)
  • Greg Murphy Trio: Bright Idea (Whaling City Sound)
  • Tom Rainey Trio With Mary Halvorson and Ingrid Laubrock: Combobulated (Intakt)
  • Dave Rudolph Quintet: Resonance (self-released)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM): February 15
  • Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (Flying Dolphin)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weekend Roundup

For many years now, I've identified two major political problems in America. The most obvious one is the nation's habit and obsession with projection of military power as its leverage in dealing with other nations. As US economic power has waned, and as America shed its liberal ideals, it's become easier for others to challenge its supremacy. In turn, American power has hardened around its military and covert networks, placing the nation on a permanent war footing. This near-constant state of war, since 1945 but even more blatantly since 2001, has led to numerous social maladies, like domestic gun violence and the xenophobia leading to the current "border crisis."

The other big problem is increasing inequality. The statistics, which started in the 1970s but really took off in the "greed is good" 1980s, are clear and boring, but the consequences are numerous, both subtle and pernicious. It would take a long book to map out most of the ways the selfish pursuit and accumulation of riches has warped business, politics, and society. One small example is that when GW Bush arbitrarily commanded the world to follow his War on Terror lead ("you're either with us or against us"), he was assuming that as US President he was entitled to the same arbitrary powers (and lack of accountability) corporate CEOs enjoyed.

I used to wonder how Reagan was able to affect such a huge change in America despite relatively sparse legislative accomplishments -- mostly his big tax cut. The answer is that as president he could send signals to corporate and financial leaders that government would not interfere with their more aggressive pursuit of power and profit. Reagan's signals have been reiterated by every Republican president since, with ever less concern for scruples or ethics or even the slightest concern for consequences. All Trump has done has been to carry this logic to its absurdist extreme: his greed is shameless, even when it crosses into criminality.

Still, what the government lockout, now entering its fourth week, shows, is that we may need to formulate a third mega-ailment: we seem to have lost our commitment to basic competency. We should have seen this coming when politicians (mostly Republicans) decided that politics trumps all other considerations, so they could dispute (or ignore) any science or expertise or so-called facts they found inconvenient. (Is it ironical that the same people who decry "political correctness" when it impinges on their use of offensive rhetoric are so committed to imposing their political regimen on all discussions of what we once thought of as reality?)

A couple things about competency. One is that it's rarely noticed, except in the breech. You expect competency, even when you're engaging with someone whose qualifications you can properly judge -- a doctor, say, or a computer technician, or a mechanic. You also expect a degree of professional ethical standards. Trust depends on those things, and no matter how many time you're reminded caveat emptor, virtually everything you do in everyday life is built on trust. We can all point to examples of people who violated your trust, but until recently such people were in the minority. Now we have Donald Trump. And sure, lots of us distrusted him from the start of his campaign. He was, after all, vainglorious, corrupt, a habitual liar, totally lacking in empathy, his head full of mean-spirited rubbish.

On the other hand, even I am shocked at how incapable Trump has been at understanding the most basic rudiments of his job. There's nothing particularly wrong with him having policy views, or even an agenda, but the most basic requirement of his job is that he keep the government working, according to the constitution and the laws as established per that constitution -- you know, the one he had to swear to protect and follow when he took his oath of office. There have been shutdowns in the past -- basically ever since Newt Gingrich decided the threat would be a clever way to extort some policy concessions from Bill Clinton -- but this is the first one that was imposed by a president.

His reason? Well, obviously he's made a political calculation, where he thinks he can either bully the Democrats into giving him something they really hate ($5.7 billion so he can brag about how he's delivering that "big, beautiful wall" he campaigned on) and thereby restore his "art of the deal" mojo from the tarnish of losing the 2018 "midterms" so badly, or rouse the American people (his base, anyway) into blaming the Democrats for all the damage the shutdown causes. Either way, he feels that his second-term election in 2020 depends on this defense of political principle. Besides, he hates the federal government anyway -- possibly excepting the military and a few other groups currently exempt from the shutdown -- mostly because he's bought into the credo that "politics is everything, and everything is politics" (which makes most of the Democrat-leaning government enemy territory).

On the other hand, all he's really shown is that he's unfit to hold office, because he's forgotten that his main job is to keep the United States government working: implementing and enforcing the laws of the land, per the constitution. One might argue that using his office for such a political ploy is as significant a violation of his trust as anything else he's done. Indeed, one might argue that it is something he should be impeached for (although that would require a political consensus that has yet to form -- not that he isn't losing popularity during this charade).


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, January 07, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 30913 [30874] rated (+39), 260 [251] unrated (+9).

The 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results were published by NPR early Saturday morning, with two pieces by Francis Davis:

  • The 2018 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll: Top 50 new albums (blurbs by various authors on top ten), five additional blurbs on "Solitary No. 1s" (records that only received one vote, a 1st place, including one I wrote on The Music of Anders Garstedt), and one blurb and top ten (or less) standings for the other categories: Reissues/Historical, Debuts, Latin, Vocals.
  • Wayne Shorter Travels the Spaceways, with Davis's own year summary plus his own annotated ballot.

As has been the case since 2009, I tabulated all of the ballots and formatted them and complete totals here. Since I posted all that, I've had to update the files a few times. Most troubling were cases where I counted votes for the wrong record by an artist (one of the Esperanza Spalding votes should have been for her 2017 album; two of the Mingus votes should have gone to Live in Montreux 1975. Other problems were routine typos, but all (so far) have been easy to fix.

Bigger problem is that I never got copied on Richard Scheinin's ballot, so it didn't get counted. Still unresolved what to do about that, but I took the trouble to dig his top-25 list out of his Twitter feed and added it into my EOY Aggregate. I've also added the entire new and historical album lists, but thus far I haven't dipped into the individual ballots. I've started to pick up individual ballots from All About Jazz writers (only a few of whom voted in JCP), and before long I'll take a look at the JJA member lists (which I wasn't able to find until today). I'm also doing some mop-up on rock/pop lists, but I'm starting to skip lists of little/no interest (chiefly metal). Don't know how long I'll keep this up, as the EOY list season is basically done, and the 223 lists I currently have logged give a pretty fair picture, at least in rock/pop, hip-hop, and (somewhat less) electronica.

While most of the records below are 2018 releases I've noted on lists and am belatedly checking out, two of the new A- albums are 2019 releases (and another by Quinsin Nachoff will show up in next week's report). I'm also treating Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet as a 2019 release: physical CDs don't hit the market until Jan. 26, although a digital release came out Nov. 23, and enough critics heard and voted for it to finish 3rd in JCP -- alas, not me, not that it would have cracked my ballot (even if I didn't follow my recent rule of only voting for historical records I have physical copies of).

So the only new A- this week from the 2018 lists turns out to be Spiritualized, which at 49 was the highest-rated album I hadn't heard yet. I once loved their 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, but last time I checkec them out the record got a B-. Wound up playing the new one three times. Next few EOY Aggregate records I haven't heard don't seem more promising: Julia Holter, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Deafheaven, Anna Calvi, Cat Power, Drake, Troye Sivan, Ghost, Lump, MGMT, Daughters, Florence + the Machine, Jorja Smith, Elvis Costello, First Aid Kit. I'll probably play a few of those before end of January.

Among the top 50 JCP albums, I've managed to hear 47. The exceptions are numbers 50 (Elio Villafranca), 48 (Noah Preminger/Frank Carlberg), and 1 (Wayne Shorter). None of those are available on Napster or Bandcamp, nor do I recall any download offers. Shorter's Emanon is a 3-CD live set with a hard-cover graphic novel costing $53.82 on CD and $156.38 on vinyl. Not sure how well this was serviced -- I don't even get email from Blue Note these days, which hasn't been a problem given that everything else they release is available on Napster, and since they decided to bet on hip-hop fusion they haven't released much that's worth hearing. (This year: two ***, from Rosanne Cash and Charles Lloyd/Lucinda Williams; two **, from Kenny Barron and Dave McMurray; five *: Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, GoGo Penguin, José James; five B or worse.)

On the other hand, I've only heard 5 of the top-ten historical, with Dolphy's Musical Prophet the only physical (too late). Francis Davis remarked to me that the new albums list seemed to be governed by "more is better": 3-CD Shorter (and Sorey); 2-CDs from Akinmusire, Coleman, Halvorson, Salvant, Washington, plus separates that could have been joined by Threadgill and Thumbscrew (we counted the former separately, but merged the latter), plus 6-CD monsters from Okazaki and Kimbrough -- all in the top-20. But the real home of gigantism is the historical list, where the top 8 were all 2-CD or more, topped by the 21-CD The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles and the 11-CD Sextet Parker 1993. (I had naively assumed that the latter was just a repackaging of Braxton's brilliant Charlie Parker Project 1993, so didn't bother investigating further, but the full digital is available on Bandcamp. I should take a close look at the site and see what else is accessible.

I've been tempted to revisit several albums after seeing how they placed in various lists. The only one with a regrade so far is Tierra Whack's 15-minute EP Whack World. When Christgau placed it in his top-10, I thought it might overcome my prejudice against EPs. Even without the video, it feels remarkably full. I also gave Mitski's Be the Cowboy (last week's Christgau A-, number 2 in my EOY Aggregate) another chance, but didn't for a moment feel like moving my grade above B. I'm usually a sucker for a well-crafted pop album, but there are several this year that do precious little for me (Robyn, Ariana Grande; I like Sophie a bit more, but a recent retry didn't help it). Right now re-listening to Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming (number 2 for Francis Davis), which will probably get a small bump.

Just finished reading Suzy Hansen's Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, which winds up with a thoroughly damning critique of US foreign policy, not least because it pains her so much to admit to it all. But the cinch for her seems to have been returning to the US (Brooklyn, Mississippi) and seeing first-hand how the imperialist bile rots the nation from the inside. At a more detail level, she illustrates without coming to any real conclusions the ambivalences she feels about Kemal and Erdogan and their respective cults with their peculiar ways of both dovetailing with and rebelling against American hegemony.


New records rated this week:

  • 6lack: East Atlanta Love Letter (2018, LoveRenaissance/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christopher Ali Solidarity Quartet: To Those Who Walked Before Us (2018, Jazz Och Solidaritet): [r]: B+(**)
  • Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (2018, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baco Exu Do Blues: Bluesman (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blue Standard: A Good Thing (2018 [2019], Big Time): [cd]: B
  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz: Volume Two (2012-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Coathangers: Live (2018, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(**)
  • CupcakKe: Eden (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kris Davis/Matt Mitchell/Aruán Ortiz/Matthew Shipp: New American Songbooks: Volume 2 (2018, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dos Santos: Logos (2018, International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart: Live at Jazz Standard: Saturday (2015 [2018], Greenleaf Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire!: The Hands (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Hecker: Konoyo (2018, Kranky): [r]: B
  • Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, RodBros Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Here's to Us: Animals, Wild and Tame (2018, Hoob Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rolf Kühn: Yellow + Blue (2018, Edel/MPS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (2018 [2019], Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mad Crush: Mad Crush (2018, Upon This Rock, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adrianne Lenker: Abysskiss (2018, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack Mouse Group: Intimate Adversary (2017 [2019], Tall Grass): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Grant Peeples & the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (2018, Gatorbone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (2018, Ear Drummer/Interscope, 3CD): [r]: B
  • Rejoicer: Energy Dreams (2018, ,Stones Throw): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jay Rock: Redemption (2018, Top Dawg/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff Rosenstock: Post- (2018, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Greg Saunier/Mary Halvorson/Ron Miles: New American Songbooks Volume 1 (2017, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Boz Scaggs: Out of the Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spiritualized: And Nothing Hurt (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: A-
  • Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar (2015-18 [2019], Moonjune): [cd]: A-
  • Martin Wind: Light Blue (2017 [2018], Laika): [r]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (1963 [2019], Resonance, 3CD)
  • Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun (1970 [2018], Odin): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Chicago Farmer: Midwest Side Stories (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe Vol. 1 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe, Vol. 2 (1961 [2006], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe/Volume 3 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]; B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Conversations (1963, FM/Vee Jay): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (1963 [1990], West Wind): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, self-released, EP): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ran Blake/Clare Ritter: Eclipse Orange (Zoning): February 15
  • Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (Laborie Jazz): February 1
  • Samantha Boshnack's Seismic Belt: Live in Santa Monica (Orenda): March 15
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (Edgetone)
  • Chuck Deardorf: Perception (Origin): January 18
  • Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (Multiphonics Music): February 25.
  • Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside): February 8
  • Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Crosswinds (Intakt): January 18
  • Michael Kocour: East of the Sun (OA2): January 18
  • Dave Meder: Passage (Outside In Music): February 8
  • Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind): February 8
  • May Okita: Art of Life (Origin): January 18
  • Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: You Don't Know the Life (RareNoise): cdr, January 25
  • Wing Walker Orchestra: Hazel (Ears & Eyes): February 15


Names I had to add death dates for (*names I was aware of): Misha Alperin, Charles Aznavour, Robert Barry, Eddie Campbell, Eddie Clearwater, Vic Damone, Nathan Davis, Sonny Fortune, *Aretha Franklin, *Roy Hargrove, Fred Hess, Algia Mae Hinton, Morgana King, Denise LaSalle, Lazy Lester, Didier Lockwood, Kasse Mady [Diabaté], Geoffrey Oryema, Perry Robinson, Philip Tabane, Marlene VerPlanck, Bill Watrous, Tad Weed, Tony Joe White, Wesla Whitfield, *Nancy Wilson.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening, other than my own misery.

One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first, presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable, even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II, and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man to actually being in charge, running an administration and party that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly, his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).

Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority of American voters so grievously since Reagan.

I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty of evidence to back them up.


Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Daily Log

Noted in my twitter feed yesterday, a quote from Donald J. Trump in 2013: "A shutdown falls on the President's lack of leadership. He can't even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the president is weak."

Possible 50-word piece for NPR:

Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt (Moserobie)

Swedish trumpeter Garstedt left a scant legacy when he died at age 31, but 18 years later five [former] bandmates revive his music brilliantly. The two saxophonists (Milder and [Fredrik] Ljungkvist bob and weave, while pianist [Mathias] Landraeus anchors a free-ranging rhythm section: tricky postbop as coherent as classic swing.

Added this in the cover letter (much more than 50 words):

You have several obvious options here. Cover only gives the last names, so you can save space by dropping the first names, but then you have to add them to the review. If you leave them in the credit, scratch the bracketed [Fredrik] and [Mathias] in the text. My normal practice in cases like this (and I mostly write super-terse reviews) is to spell them out up front, but you may want to budget your space differently. You can also save space by dropping the bassist (Auguston) and drummer (Rundkvist). They are much less recognized than the first three. You could drop Landraeus, in which case you could get rid of the parenthetical, since "two saxophonists" matches the two remaining names names are saxophonists (Ljunkvist also plays some clarinet, but I already skipped over that.) You could even reduce the credit to Joakim Milder. Ljungkvist is better known in US, but Milder is a couple years older and may have a better connection to Garstedt (really hard to tell).

I dropped [former] when trimming words, but it might help clarify. I originally had "vibrant" instead of "coherent" and don't have much of a preference. Maybe "as classic swing" should be changed to "as any classic"? Thought about adding "wax and wane" after "bob and weave," but didn't think I had the space.

Previously wrote:

Two tenor saxes (latter also credited with soprano and clarinet), plus piano-bass-drums. The composer was Swedish, played trumpet, died in 2000 at age 31, didn't leave any records under his own name, not many side credits either (one each with Fredrik Norén and Christian Falk). The musicians claim ties to him, and bring his music brilliantly to life.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30874 [30842] rated (+32), 251 [269] unrated (-18).

Surprised I accumulated so many records given how miserable I've been all week. I've only been able to sit at the computer for more than an hour at a time the last couple days. That cut down on how much I could stream, but I did make a considerable dent in my physical CD queue: as of this moment, I have zero pending 2018 albums, and not much looking on to 2019.

I added Robert Christgau's grades to my EOY Aggregate. I've only been adding my own grades as I've collected items from other lists, so there are a lot of things I will eventually add to the list but that aren't there now. Somewhat surprised that the following Christgau-rated albums hadn't appeared in any previously compiled list (his grades, then mine, where I have one):

  • Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (Rhymesayers) [**, **]
  • Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation (Dame Productions/Thirty Tigers) [A-, A-]
  • Born Ruffians: Uncle Duke & the Chief (Yep Roc) [*]
  • Chris Butler & Ralph Carney: Songs for Unsung Holidays (Smog Veil) [**]
  • Chicago Farmer: Quarter Past Tonight (self-released) [A-]
  • Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba: Routes (Twelve/Eight) [A-, A-]
  • The Coathangers: Live (Suicide Squeeze) [**, **]
  • Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya (Stonetree) [A-, A-]
  • E-40: The Gift of Gab (Heavy on the Grid) [**]
  • Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild! (Bloodshot) [***, A-]
  • Gift of Gab: Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! (Giftstribution Unlimited -EP) [***, A-]
  • Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy at the Apocalypse: Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (Saustex) [A, *]
  • Clay Harper: Bleak Beauty (self-released) [B+, *]
  • Homeboy Sandman & Edan: Humble Pi (Stones Throw -EP) [A-, **]
  • Joan Jett: Bad Reputation [Music From the Original Motion Picture] (Legacy) [A-, A-]
  • George Jones & the Jones Boys: Live in Texas 1965 (Ace) [***, ?]
  • Rich Krueger: Life Ain't That Long (Rockink) [A, **]
  • John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (Ars Spoletium) [A-, A-]
  • Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (Septic Tiger) [A-, *]
  • Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (Don Giovanni) [B+, A-]
  • Mad Crush: Mad Crush (Upon This Rock -EP) [B+]
  • Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07, Blue Engine) [A-, *]
  • Walter Martin: Reminisce Bar & Grill (Family Jukebox) [*, B]
  • Mast: Thelonious Sphere Monk (World Galaxy) [A, ***]
  • Medhane: Ba Suba, Ak Jamm (Grand Closing) [*]
  • Molly Tigre: Molly Tigre (Very Special) [***, ***]
  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (The Last Music Company) [A, A]
  • Nas: Nasir (Mass Appeal/Def Jam -EP) [*, **]
  • Willie Nelson: My Way (Legacy) [*, **]
  • Grant Peeples and the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (Gatorbone) [***, **]
  • Primo!: Amici (Upset the Rhythm) [*]
  • Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (Morphius/ReR Megacorp) [*, *]
  • Ike Reilly: Crooked Love (Rock Ridge Music) [**]
  • Riton & Kah-Lo: Foreign Ororo (Riton Time) [A-, A-]
  • Derek Smalls: Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing) (BMG) [*]
  • Sidi Touré: Toubalbero (Thrill Jockey) [***, **]
  • The Chandler Travis Three-O: Backward Crooked From the Sunset (Iddy Biddy) [*]
  • Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (Southern Domestic) [A-, ***]
  • I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits (Piranha) [A-, A-]
  • Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (Legacy) [B+, **]

Those are all 2018 releases. Christgau's Dean's List will no doubt include his usual slew of late finds, but they fall out of this page. List is pretty long, but would be longer had I not already counted lists from known Christgauvians like Chris Monsen (Mekons 77, Amy Rigby, Elza Soares) and John Smallwood (Rigby, Lyrics Born, Wussy: What Heaven Is Like). I'll get to more as I find them, and at some point add in my own thus-far missing grades. Also results from Jazz Critics Poll, once they become public (soon, I think).

I have 175 EOY lists compiled to date, totalling 1798 + 46 albums (latter are reissues; very few lists focus on them so far). Not sure how many more I will pick up before I give up. The effort came to a standstill ten or so days ago, and I doubt I'll ever pick up the slack. The top of the list is fairly stable at this point (not that I've been paying close attention). My main interest in the list is to identify records worth checking out, so my intention now is to focus more on lists that line up well with my own interests. That probably means I've seen enough metal already. On the other hand, the current jazz listings are only about one-third as deep as the Jazz Critics Poll standings (154 vs. 487 new albums) and one-fourth as deep as my own personal ratings (176 vs. 678 new + old albums).


New records rated this week:

  • The 14 Jazz Orchestra: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be (2018 [2019], Dabon Music): [cd]: B
  • The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018, Dirty Hit/Polydor): [r]: B
  • Sam Broverman: A Jewish Boy's Christmas (2018, Brovermusic): [cd]: B
  • City Girls: Period (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B
  • City Girls: Girl Code (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B
  • Julien Desprez/Luís Lopes: Boa Tarde (2016 [2018], Shhpuma): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Kit Downes: Obsidian (2016 [2018], ECM): [r]: B
  • Jake Ehrenreich: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Peter Evans/Agusti Fernandez/Barry Guy: Free Radicals at DOM (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Light (2017, 1st & 15): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave (2018, 1st & 15th): [r]: A-
  • Nils Frahm: All Melody (2018, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gaika: Basic Volume (2018, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nabihah Iqbal: Weighing of the Heart (2017, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(*)
  • Thomas Johansson: Home Alone (2016 [2018], Tammtz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jones Jones [Larry Ochs/Mark Dresser/Vladimir Tarasov]: A Jones in Time Saves Nine (2016 [2018], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Let's Eat Grandma: I'm All Ears (2018, Transgressive): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug MacDonald Trio: View of the City (2016 [2018], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Roberto Magris: World Gardens (2015 [2018], JMood): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mac Miller: Swimming (2018, REMember Music/Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Liudas Mockünas: Hydro 2 (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Joel Moore/Nick Mizock/Paul Scherer/Michael Barton/Paul Townsend: Magnetic EP (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Møster!: States of Minds (2018, Hubro, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Simon Nabatov/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Luminous (2015 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Judy Night Quintet: Sliding on Glass: Live at 210 (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kresten Osgood: Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz (2018, ILK, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Otherworld Ensemble: Live at Malmitalo (2017 [2018], Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Imagine Meeting You Here (2017 [2019], Alister Spence Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett (2018, OA2): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Best of the Jazz Heritage Series Volume 1 (2018, self-released): [cd]: B-


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty, Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (2018, The Last Music Company): [cd]: [was A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (Hot Cup): February 1

Purchases:

  • Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
  • Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (Mobile Home)
  • Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy)
  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty, Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (The Last Music Company)
  • Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel (RCA Nashville)
  • John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy)


   Mar 2001