An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 28, 2019
Music: current count 32276  rated (+28), 224  unrated (+0).
Birthday last week, so I lost a day to cooking, most of another to shopping and prep. I usually like to do something new and extraordinary, but had a terrible time settling on a theme and menu this year. Finally, the final decision was made by Laura, in favor of an idea Max Stewart floated: fire up the grill and made burgers. That seemed pretty ordinary to me, but in fact I can't recall ever grilling hamburgers (I've grilled or smoked pretty much everything else). Turned out to be a pretty good idea. I picked up a new cookbook (The Ultimate Burger), and came up with three variations: teriyaki pork burgers with grilled pineapple, salmon burgers with tomato chutney, and good old bacon cheeseburgers. Even took a shot at making some potato buns (although I bought more for backup, mostly brioche and pretzel buns).
For side dishes, I did baked beans, two potato salads, coleslaw, corn and tomato salad, and my standard cucumber-yogurt thing. And for dessert, I stuck with my original choice: Mom's coconut cake, served with vanilla ice cream. Had nine people, and everyone seemed pleased.
October archive (see link above) is wrapped up and indexed. Not much to say about this week's haul, except perhaps that The Daisy Age was the surprise A+ in Robert Christgau's first new Consumer Guide under his And It Don't Stop subscription newsletter, and the only new CD I've bought in 3-4 months (not that I couldn't have assembled the play list from Napster). Back when I was writing Recycled Goods, I tried to get on Ace Records' promo list, but never got so much as a reply. So I was pretty jealous when Bob told me a few years back that they had started sending him records. This looks like the tenth of their records he's reviewed since 2013. (If anyone cares, I'd review every damn one.)
Some of the old music this week were rap records from that vintage (1989-95). Also filled in some EST back catalogue, after reviewing their Live in Gothenburg as an A- last week (which makes it, in my humble estimation, their best record ever).
Best-reviewed albums from the week of 10-25 (according to my metacritic file (4+ counting my grades in brackets, but paren totals don't count my grades): Anna Meredith: FIBS (9); Rex Orange County: Pony (5); Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Colorado (5); Blaenavon: Everything That Makes You Happy (4); Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (4) [***]; Hana Vu: Nicole Kidman/Anne Hathaway (4). Also note: Kanye West: Jesus Is King (2).
Best-reviewed albums from 10-18: Floating Points: Crush (13); Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2) (9); Caroline Polachek: Pang (9); Battles: Juice B Crypts (7); Clipping: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (7); Vagabon (7); Patrick Watson: Wave (5); Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (3) [***].
New records I want to track down: The Bad Plus: Activate Infinity; Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola; Nellie McKay: Bagatelles; Van Morrison: Three Chords & the Truth.
Also out since last week, previously graded: Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond [**]; Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds [*]; Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (Sunnyside) [**]; Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (Ropeadope) [*]; Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (Outside In Music) [*]; Esbjorn Svensson Trio: EST Live in Gothenburg (2001, ACT -2CD) [A-].
New records reviewed this week:
Big Thief: Two Hands (2019, 4AD): Adrianne Lenker's group, fourth album, hot on the heels of this year's U.F.O.F., a widely praised breakthrough album. Comparable songs here, somewhat less compelling. B+(**)
The Nat Birchall Quartet: The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef (2019, Jazzman): British tenor saxophonist, main influence is Coltrane, also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet but no flute here (a big part of Lateef's repertoire). With Adam Fairhall or John Ellis on piano, Michael Bardon on bass, and Andy Hay on drums, plus Birchall and Hay add some African percussion. Some originals as well as originals and covers from Lateef's songbook. Still sounds more like Coltrane, but that's nothing to sneeze at. B+(**)
Daniel Carter/Julius Priester/Adam Lane/Reggie Sylvester/David Haney: Live Constructions Volume 2 (2018 , Slam): Leader plays saxophones and trumpet, did Volume 1 with Haney (piano) and Hilliard Greene (bass), returns in a new set, adding trombone (Priester) and drums (Sylvester), with Lane taking over the bass slot. Keeps it rather skeletal. B+(*)
Daniel Carter/Stelios Mihas/Irma Nejando/Federico Ughi: Radical Invisibility (2018 , 577): Saxophonist, best known for his work in William Parker's groups, also credited with trumpet, clarinet, flute, and keyboard. The others play guitar, bass, and drums, recording in New York, all titles joint credits. B+(**) [bc]
Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (2019, Partisan): Mainly Greg Gonzalez, from El Paso, relocated to New York, and recorded this second album in Mallorca and Germany. First album had a Pet Shop Boys vibe. This one is slower and milder, takes longer to seduce you, but comes close. B+(***)
Harry Connick Jr.: True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter (2019, Verve): Singer, backed by a 25-piece orchestra which seems like overkill on the one hand and nothing special on the other. Still, easy to get a kick out of the Porter songbook. B+(*)
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Four (2018 , Long Song): Piano-bass duo, fourth album together, two cuts add Natsuki Tamura on trumpet. B+(***) [11-08]
Binker Golding: Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers (2018 , Gearbox): British tenor saxophonist, half of Binker & Moses, goes for a conventional quartet here with Joe Armon-Jones (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass), and Sam Jones (drums). All originals, most build on riffs, and the larger group pays dividends in swing. A- [cd]
Kim Gordon: No Home Record (2019, Matador): Sonic Youth chanteuse (1983-2009), now 66, first nominal solo album although she had a side project in the 1990s (Free Kitten), several more since, including post-SY albums as Body/Head and Glitterbust. She does a masterful job of capturing Sonic Youth's sound, then folds it back on itself, making it more impenetrable then ever. But didn't she used to be the one who opened it up? B+(***)
Homeboy Sandman: Dusty (2019, Mello Music Group): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, nine albums and nine EPs since 2007, not that there's much distinction between them, as his albums all fit comfortably on vinyl -- this is one of his longer ones, with 15 cuts (34:52). B+(***)
Mute: Mute (2018 , Fresh Sound New Talent): New York-based quartet, name an anagram from plucking random letters from the artists' names: Kevin Sun (C-Melody sax/clarinet), Christian Li (piano), Jeonglim Yang (bass), Dayeon Seok (drums). All four write songs (3-3-2-1). The saxophonist continues to impress, even spread a bit thin over a finely balanced group. A- [cd]
Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below (2019, Pi): Guitarist, most recently heard on his 6-CD Work, where he played solo every tune Thelonious Monk ever wrote. Returns to a quartet format here, with Matt Mitchell (keyboards), Anthony Tidd (electric bass), and Sean Rickman (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Anne Phillips: Live at the Jazz Bakery (2019, Conawago): Singer, recorded an album in 1959, another in 2000, then (I guess) this one, with scattered studio work (she was a backup singer on Leslie Gore's "It's My Party") and advertising jingles. Much too much talk in between songs, but she explains it all if you're interested. Husband Bob Kindred plays sax, Roger Kellaway piano, and Chuck Berghoffer bass. B- [cd]
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (2019, Constellation): Alto saxophonist from Chicago, latterday AACM member, Bandcamp page says she's in Indonesia (but I've also heard New York, and this was recorded in Montreal). I've had problems with the vocals before, but these seem to fit the bill. Band includes two guitarists who switch off to other instruments, bass, drums, occasional vibes, and Steve Swell (counted as a guest) on trombone. B+(***)
Rocket 808: Rocket 808 (2019, 12XU): Austin band, a project of guitarist John Schooley (best known for the Revelators), mostly instrumental rock band, guitar reminds me of Link Wray, but not that special. B [bc]
Michael Jefry Stevens & the Mountain Chamber Jazz Ensemble: The Poet Is in the House (2019, ARC): Avant-pianist, based in Black Mountain, NC, where he rounded up this 14-person group, with everything from strings to voice. A pretty mixed bag, the vocals a particular sore point. B [bc]
Devin Brahja Waldman: Brahja (2019, RR Gems): Saxophonist, also plays other instruments (piano, synthesizer, drums here), has several previous albums. Some version confusion here: Bandcamp offers four tracks (31:30), Discogs for the LP lists eight tracks (46:25), but my CDR from the artist adds a ninth track (total 54:51). Lineups vary, scattered vocals, seductive grooves, bits of exotica, steady saxophone. B+(***) [cdr]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Daisy Age (1989-94 , Ace): A blip in the history of hip-hop, where pop rap took an underground twist, perhaps all the more to distinguish itself from the contemporary vogue for gangsta. I didn't respond at all well to De La Soul at first -- they lead off here, and are credited with a ridiculous acronym for DAISY -- but I've logged A-list albums for nine other artists here (although a couple only with later compilations), and eventually got into some later De La Soul albums. Half of these cuts are well remembered (not that I've pulled the albums out recently). The others fit the flow, which is what a good various artists comp should do. [NB: 2-LP adds 2 cuts: Fu-Schnickens with Shaquille O'Neal: "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?) (K-Cut's Fat Trac Remix); Leaders of the Old School: "Case of the P.T.A."] A [cd]
Saadet Türköz/Elliott Sharp: Kumuska (2007 , Intakt): Turkish singer, ancestors recently arrived from Central Asia, now based in Switzerland, backed by the American, who gives up his usual guitar for analog synthesizers, bass clarinet, and glissentar. B+(*)
Black Sheep: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (1991, Mercury): Hip-hop duo (Dres and Mista Lawange), from New York but met up in North Carolina, affiliated with Native Tongues ("which included the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul"). First album, a little rough out of the gate but finds its flow. B+(**)
Brand Nubian: Foundation (1998, Arista): Afro-centric hip-hop group from New Rochelle, New York, named like their first hit single in 1989. Fourth album, second best after their 1990 debut. Choice cut: "Probable Cause." B+(***)
Fu-Schnickens: Greatest Hits (1992-95 , Jive): Brooklyn hip-hop trio, cut two albums 1992-94, reduced them to four cuts each and added four odds and ends in this career-capper. Don't know that any of them went any further. Dense, rapid-fire, turntables and a sideline in dancehall toasts. B+(***)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Plays Monk (1996, Superstudio Gul; , ACT): Major Swedish piano trio with Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Östrum (drums), first album in 1993, so this is fairly early. Monk tunes, nicely done but fancied up a bit, with strings on a couple. B+(**)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Winter in Venice (1997, Superstudio Gul; , ACT): Original material, including the four-part "Semblance Suite in Three or Four Movements." B+(*)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: From Gagarin's Point of View (1999, ACT): Looks like this was initially released by Superstudio Gul, but picked up fast by the German label, which went on to reissue earlier albums. First appearance of initials on the cover, more background image than logo, and first album where Magnus Öström pushes the rhythm to the fore, which would significantly broaden their popular appeal. B+(**)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: Good Morning Susie Soho (2000, ACT): "EST" on spine but spelled out on cover. B+(***)
E.S.T.: Leucocyte (2007 , ACT): Recorded in Australia, not released until shortly after pianist Svensson died in a scuba diving accident. Two long, multi-part pieces (plus a few more), the title tract running 27:37. Everyone doubles on electronics, adding bits of sparkling light to the settings. B+(**)
E.S.T. [Esbjörn Svensson Trio]: 301 (2007 , ACT): Named for the studio in Australia where Leucocyte was recorded, sessions from that same month. My favorite here is the drum roll of "Three Falling Free: Part II." B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: