An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, December 28, 2020
Music: Current count 34643  rated (+34), 212  unrated (-1).
Rated count was depressed last week because I spent most of three days cooking a large dinner for Christmas Eve. Note that this was not a large sit-down dinner. We packaged the dinner up for take-out, and guests either came by to pick it up, or I delivered it to their homes. I prepared eight dinners for two, and we scrounged a ninth out of the surplus. I mostly didn't scale quantities up from recipes, but made more dishes, in effect creating a tasting menu. I tried to pick out dishes that didn't have to be served immediately, that retained their flavor and texture, that could be heated up easily, or eaten at room temperature. I thought a combination of Mediterranean dishes might work nicely. Here's the menu I came up with:
Most importantly, I provided a nice range of desserts:
The main courses all came out close to perfect. The desserts had all sorts of aesthetic problems, but were still pretty tasty. I had various other social ideas that came to naught: I had a long list of people I wanted to call, but most of my attempts failed, and I soon gave up. I also imagined a virtual get-together, that we never attempted. I bought a new webcam, which is still in the box. After the deliveries, I was exhausted and pretty sore. I've been a hermit ever since, which allowed me to knock out a modest Weekend Roundup, and substantially catch up on my listening shortfall. I kept adding records to the list below up to about midnight Monday, which is what got me over 30. It also allowed me to reduce my queue of 2020-released promos to zero. I thought about extending the week to the end of the month, but after I hit 30, I decided it would be best to release what I have, and free up time going forward.
I figure I still have a month to fiddle with my Year 2020 List before freeze. Likewise, I'll continue adding 2020 albums to my EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz lists -- probably well past the end of January. I remain surprised not only that there are more jazz than non-jazz A-list albums, but that the margin is continuing to increase (currently 76-to-55). I'm less surprised that the imbalance persists among lower grades -- B+(***) is currently 140-to-85 -- because I've simply played a lot more jazz this year than I have before (with the possible exception of the last year or two of Jazz Consumer Guide). I suppose one theory is that I'm quicker and more sure of my jazz grades.
I'm continuing to add to my EOY Aggregate file, although there is not a lot of churn in the rankings. The one high-placed record with some momentum is Taylor Swift's Folklore, which has just passed Waxahatchee for 5th place, and may well bump Bob Dylan from 4th before I'm done. Swift's Evermore seems to have arrived too late, with too little fanfare, to make a dent -- it's currently tied at 117, and has actually dropped a few spots lately.
I've heard the top 97 albums on the list -- was over 100, but Touche Amore and Crack Cloud (two bands I have next to zero interest in) recently rose to 98 and 100. I'm still way behind in adding lists, but my interest is beginning to wane.
Jazz Critics Poll should run at NPR something the week of January 4. I'm hoping to make some minor changes to the layout by then.
Although the December Streamnotes file is closed, I have not yet done the usual indexing, or inserted the usual Music Week notes. I'll get to that later this week.
New records reviewed this week:
Annie: Dark Hearts (2020, Annie Melody): Norwegian electropop singer-songwriter Anne Lilia Berge Strand, called her debut single "Greatest Hit," first album Anniemal. Waited 5 years for her second, 11 more for this one. B+(**)
Christiane Bopp/Jean-Marc Foussat/Emmanuelle Parrenin: Nature Still (2018 , Fou): Parrenin is a French folk singer, plays traditional instruments, vielle here, mixed uncomfortably with Bopp's trombone and Foussat's AKS synthesizer -- all three credited with voice, a rather medieval choral. B+(*) [cd]
Anthony Braxton/Jacqueline Kerrod: Duo (Bologna) 2018 (2018 , I Dischi Di Angelica): Sax and harp duo, the former playing alto, soprano, and sopranino, on his "Composition 189." B+(***)
Peter Br÷tzmann/MaÔlem Moukhtar Gania/Hamid Drake: The Catch of a Ghost (2019 , I Dischi Di Angelica): Gania is a Moroccan guimbri player and singer, from a family of notable Gnawa musicians -- his brother, MaÔlem Mahmoud Gania, recorded an album with Pharoah Sanders in 1994. He centers this album, the jazz greats working around him, but also providing him with edges that lift him way above the merely exotic. A-
The Bug: In Blue (2020, Hyperdub): Kevin Martin, British dubstep producer, first album 1998, with earlier groups going back to 1991 (Techno Animal, GOD, Ice, and later King Midas Sound). This one features singer Dis Fig (Felicia Chen). B+(*)
Carne Doce: Interior (2020, Tratore): Brazilian indie rock band, fourth album. B+(*)
Code Orange: Underneath (2020, Roadrunner): Metal (or hardcore punk) band from Pittsburgh, fourth album since 2012, highest unheard album (60) on my metacritic list after I suffered through the Deftones. This one is more listenable -- not because it's in any way softer, but more tuneful, at least in a riff-happy sense shared by all decent pop music. B
Deftones: Ohms (2020, Reprise): Alt-metal band from Sacramento, ninth album since 1995. Only reason I bothered with this was that it was by far the highest ranked album of the year that I hadn't listened to (33 at this moment, with only 4 records in the top 100 I haven't yet heard). Besides, I was nodding off, and figured I could move to the next room and still hear it well enough. C+
Bertrand Denzler/Antonin Gerbal: Sbatax (2019 , Umlaut): Tenor sax and drums duo, one 38:40 piece, all fire and fury. B+(***) [bc]
Jean-Marc Foussat/Thomas Lehn: Spie(l)gehungen (2017 , Fou): AKS synthesizer duo, French-Algerian and German, similar careers going back to the 1980s with 2-3 dozen albums each, not aware of them playing together before. Plays with noise, the building block of their peculiar topography. B+(***) [cd]
Muriel Grossmann: Quiet Earth (2020, RR Gems): Saxophonist (alto/tenor/soprano), born in Paris, grew up in Vienna, based in Ibiza since 2004, more than a dozen albums since 2007, current group a quintet with guitar, organ, bass, and drums. Starts with a Coltraneish spiritual jazz vibe, and builds on that. A-
The Heliocentrics: Telemetric Sounds (2020, Madlib Invazion): London-based jazz-funk collective, principally Malcolm Catto (drums) and Jake Ferguson (bass, guitar), named for Sun Ra, ten-plus records since 2007, four featuring obscure masters, the last two co-produced by Madlib, tipping their jazz a bit more to funk. B+(**)
K. Michelle: All Monsters Are Human (2020, EOne Music): Kimberly Michelle Pate, r&b singer from Memphis, fifth album. B+(**)
The Koreatown Oddity: Little Dominiques Nosebleed (2020, Stones Throw): Los Angeles rapper Dominique Purdy. Half-dozen albums and more mixtapes since 2012. Text on cover larger than title: "When I was a little kid, I was in two serious car accidents that would change the rest of my life." Some autobiography, several captivating riff pieces, much oddity. B+(***)
KRS-One: Between Da Protests (2020, R.A.M.P. Ent Agency): New York rapper Kris Parker, started gangsta in 1987 but after partner Scott La Rock was shot dead he went political and has been old school as long as the term has been used. Nicknamed Teacha, rhymes with Preacha, can wear on you but not for lack of wisdom. No lack of ego either: "I don't battle young rappers/that's child abuse." B+(**) [bc]
Liv.e: Couldn't Wait to Tell You . . . (2020, In Real Life): Soul singer, far removed from the gospel belter tradition, soft beats with slippery vocals, hard to grasp but eventually you realize you've been simply absorbing them. B+(*)
Masma Dream World: Play at Night (2020, Northern Spy): Devi Mambouka, from Gabon, father was an ambassador, mother Singaporean, moved to New York at 12. Uses sometimes messy field recordings, conceived as "spirit-led performance art" in a sacred space, "a prime opportunity to awaken one's power source from within." B
The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (2020, PW Elverum & Sun): A revival of Phil Elverum's (Mount Eerie) early (1997-2003) low-fi alias, presented as a single 44:44 track. Gentle guitar strum, vocal enters after 7:45, and eventually gets louder with some keyboard. Promises the song never ends, but it does. B+(**) [bc]
Ela Minus: Acts of Rebellion (2020, Domino): Gabriela Jimeno, born in Colombia, based in New York, first album, sings, plays drums, probably electronics. Considerably darker than electropop, but less languid than trip hop. B+(***)
Rico Nasty: Nightmare Vacation (2020, Sugar Trap/Atlantic): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, first studio album after a half-dozen mixtapes (first in 2014, when she was 17). Can't say much about lyrics, but titles run like "STFU," "OHFR?," and "Pussy Poppin," so I figure attitude and beats. Ends with her "breakout" 2018 single "Smack a Bitch," preceded by a remix of same, driving the whole thing home. A-
Waylon Payne: Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me (2020, Carnival): Born into country music -- father played in Willie Nelson's band, mother (Sammi Smith) sang with his godfather, Waylon Jennings. Tried to become a preacher, failed, did some acting (played Jerry Lee Lewis in Walk the Line and Hank Garland in Crazy), and a lot of drugs. He released an album in 2004. As far as I can tell, this is his second. Good songs, but the music slacks off a bit toward the end. B+(***)
RaeLynn: Baytown (2020, Round Here, EP): Country singer-songwriter Racheal Lynn Woodward, started as a teen contestant on The Voice, recorded an EP (2015), an album (2017), and now a second EP (6 songs, 17:39, named for her hometown in Texas), all for different labels. Voice has a twinkle in her twang, best on big, upbeat songs. Sample lyrics: "breaking up with you is like taking my bra off"; "don't worry, honey, around here we leave he judging to Jesus." B+(**)
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: Selbstportrait: Wahre Liebe (2020, Bureau B): Krautrock pioneer, in Kluster (later Cluster) from 1970, often uses surname only in solo work, as in his original Selbstportrait (1979), up to nine volumes now. B+(**)
Michael Rother: Dreaming (2020, Groenland): German guitarist, also plays keyboards, a founder of Krautrock bands Neu! and Harmonia, tenth solo album since 1977. Sophie Joiner sings, over rather lush ambient textures. B+(**)
Sevdaliza: Shabrang (2020, Twisted Elegaqnce): Sevda Alizadeh, born in Tehran, of Azerbaijani-Russian-Persian descent, moved to Rotterdam at age 5, played for the Dutch national basketball team, speaks five languages, has recorded in Persian and Portuguese but most of this second album is in English. Music closest to trip hop, loses a bit when the beat slacks off. B+(**)
Sorry: 925 (2020, Domino): Indie rock/pop band from London, first album, principally Asha Lorenz and Louis O'Bryen, both sing, which obscures the voice and persona, so you look more into the background, and find I'm not sure what. B+(**)
Steve Swell Quintet Soul Travelers With Leena Conquest: Astonishments (2018 , RogueArt): Trombonist, the most accomplished of his generation, leads an all-star group: Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), William Parker (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). The vocalist, who's most often worked with Parker, has a couple of spots, skittering expertly around the tricky music. The title cut features a list of astonishing but lately departed musicians. Great to hear those names. A [cd]
Thelonious Monster: Oh That Monster (2020, Outliner): Los Angeles punk-to-indie band led by Bob Forrest, released four albums 1986-92, regrouped for a not-quite-covers album in 2004, then nothing until this new one. I never got into them, but "Teenage Wasteland" sounds like a breakthrough (if not a breakthrough title). B+(***)
Lennie Tristano Centennial Quartet: Live @ Berklee (2020, Altered Music Productions): Tribute band, organized by former Tristano students Dave Frank (piano) and Jimmy Halperin (tenor sax), with Rick McLaughlin (bass) and Bob Tamagni (drums). Tristano school faves, including a couple of standards, boppish yet lighter than air. A-
Why?: Ten Voices (2020, Synesthesia Media, EP): Group with, or alias or, Yoni Wolf, from Cincinnati, who's been dodging the boundaries between hip-hop and indie rock at least since 2002. Four tracks, 16:21, "inspired by The Outlaw's Ocean, a book by Ian Urbina." B [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Available Jelly: Missolonghi: More From 2004 (2004 , Ramboy): Eponymous debut album 1984, group -- originally Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet), Michael Vatcher (drums), and others; here Toby Delius (tenor sax/clarinet), Eric Boeren (cornet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Ernst Glerum (bass) -- reconvened for 8 albums through 2011. These are outtakes from Bilbao Song. B+(**) [bc]
The George Coleman Quintet: In Baltimore (1971 , Reel to Real): Tenor saxophonist from Memphis, started with Booker Little (a schoolmate) and Slide Hampton, joined the Miles Davis Quintet 1963-64 (replaced by Wayne Shorter), didn't record albums under his own name until 1977, but still strong in his mid-80s. Quintet with little known group -- Danny Moore (trumpet), Albert Dailey (piano), bass, drums -- on five standards, most 9-11 minutes. Strong performances all around. A-
Michael Moore/Simon Nabatov: Ancient Sorrow (1998 , Ramboy): Duo (alto sax/clarinet and piano), not as young nor as far removed as their cover photos: Moore was born in California but moved to Amsterdam, while Nabatov moved from Moscow to Cologne. B+(***) [bc]
Thelonious Monster: California Clam Chowder (2004, Lakeshore): One-shot reunion album 12 years after their run ended with Beautiful Mess, 16 years before Oh That Monster. Fifteen songs with titles like "The Gun Club Song," "The Bob Dylan Song," "The Germs Song," "The Big Star Song," "The Oasis Song." The models I know best are sly and clever and not as close as you'd expect, which makes the rest even harder to peg. Could be SFFR. A-
Grade (or other) changes:
Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (2020, Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG): Rap duo, El-P and Killer Mike, fourth album, released a few days early, because "fuck it, why wait." Hard thrash, which seems just right for well-considered complaints about police violence. The signature album of 2020. [was: A-]: A [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: