The Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2014

This file is frozen as of January 31, 2015. Additional finds up to December 31, 2015 can be found in colored type here.

Year after year I present my year-end lists as just that: long, mind-numbing lists like I use every day to keep track of the current year (e.g., 2014, 2013, 2012, etc.). Other people's lists generally have cover scans and brief write-ups, and it occurred to me that I have all that. Why not just table it up? I did this for the jazz albums part of my list back when I filed my ballot for the Jazz Critics Poll. So this is the other side of the coin: the non-jazz list.

For A-list only: [*] indicates that I reviewed this on the basis of an advance, often a CDR copy (a good thing, I might add, for vinyl-only releases). [**] identifies a record that I've only heard via download or through a streaming service like Rhapsody.

For all lists, I've included 2013 (and in rare cases earlier) records rated after the freeze date (Jan. 1, 2014) that were so obscure they received less than five points in the 2013 metacritic file. These are marked, e.g., '13, after the label.

New Music: Non-Jazz

1. Lily Allen: Sheezus (Warner Brothers/Regal)
If this is a tribute to/parody of Yezus, it's a reply on the same level as Born in the USA to Thriller, saying both "I can do that" and "I can do that my way, which is better." Not sure what else she could do: the slice-of-life details that made It's Not Me, It's You so perfect are harder to find when you're a star, but her flippant attitude is intact and indomitable. [Deluxe Edition adds a 5-song disc you can safely ignore.]

2. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (2014, Big Dada)
Brit rapper ("London-born performance poet"), née Kate Esther Calvert, cites Samuel Beckett and Wu-Tang Clan as influences. Dan Carey's beats give her a firm ride and the breaks seem just right, while her rhymes dazzle, and I'm a sucker for the accent.
3. The Green Seed: Drapetomania (Communicating Vessels)
Two rappers, two DJs, all the vinyl scratch sounds like a throwback to the '80s but the samples are more fluid, and the underground message is conscious, even when conflicted on matters of the heart. Matters of state, those are more obvious.

4. Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (Masterworks)
Probably the best jazz violinist around, I was rather taken aback in 2008 when she released a vocal album as some sort of country chanteuse. I much preferred the jazz album she released at the same time, and had forgotten about her as a singer in 2012 when she released Mischief & Mayhem, even better. Now she's back singing again, her voice flavored with a whiff of high and lonesome, and her songwriting has matured so much that every song offers real human interest. Takes the occasional fiddle break, too. [*]

5. The Strypes: Snapshot (Island/Photo Finish)
I suppose it's inevitable that youngsters will approach vintage rock and roll through intermediaries, but better Rockpile than the Stray Cats -- not just better models but closer to the source. This Irish group covers Nick Lowe and wrote one new song that's a near clone, but they also cover Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, and "Rollin' & Tumblin'" -- their debut album is styled as a snapshot of their live act -- while the originals reflect and refract the Yardbirds' guitars. I can't complain about imitation: this makes me feel exactly like Having a Rave-Up did fifty years ago.

6. Wussy: Attica! (Shake It)
Cincinnati group led by Lisa Walker and former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver, so obscure that AMG hasn't constructed a biography page for them, even though they list eight of their five (or six) albums, but so legendary that many of Robert Christgau's Witnesses have already proclaimed this the record of the year. As usual, I'm late to the cult, and not that enthused, but this starts with a clever rip on "Baba O'Riley" and follows with one solid song after another, the two voices and viewpoints offering contrasts even where the music grows loud and samey. [**]

7. Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture?)
Brooklyn-based band of ex-Texans, debut album made my P&J ballot mostly on the basis of impeccable post-Velvets sound, something this adds to, subtracts from, and mostly fucks around with.

8. Old 97's: Most Messed Up (ATO)
Guitar band with pop hooks, the latter mostly due to Rhett Miller. I've usually dragged my feet on them, admiring rather than liking their best albums, but this one flows so organically it's hard to complain. And the title song, which expands to "I'm the most messed up motherfucker in this town," is both tougher and funnier than Miller ever gets on his own albums.

9. ¡Mayday x Murs!: ¡Mursday! (Strange Music)
Third album for "genre-buster" hip-hop group Mayday!, first to feature underground rapper Murs, nearly every track jumping the grooves. Much more here than I can sort out at the last moment, which is when I found this. Could move up.

10. Shakira: Shakira (RCA)
I'm more impressed by the Blake Shelton duet than the Rihanna, although no surprise that the latter is the lead video. Ends with two songs in Spanish, one I can even translate, and yes, I'm crazy for her too.


Big K.R.I.T.: Cadillactica (Def Jam)
Rapper from Mississippi, broke through with a big mixtape a few years back and is now toiling for a major label. Wide range of material, doesn't jump out of the grooves but flows and repays multiple spins. Could grow into one of the records of the year.

12. Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (Warner Brothers)
He's always had a knack for singles hooks, finally stringing together a full album of them -- admittedly a short one (37:56), with none of eleven songs topping 3:53.

13. Leonard Cohen: Live in Dublin (Columbia, 3CD)
Recorded five years after his career-redefining Live in London, the bait here is more -- three discs instead of two, plus a DVD for those who feel they have to watch music. (I'm not one, but would probably check it out if I had a copy.) His intervening album was a good one but had little impact on the songbook. The pace may be a bit more subdued but it's basically the same concert -- he's in fairly good voice, his use of backup singers remains masterful, he runs a masterful band, and he's a most gracious impressario. I'd grade it higher if it weren't so redundant. [**]

14. Pharrell Williams: Girl (Columbia)
Hitmaker, to use Rhapsody's unusually apt genre tag, celebrates turning 40 by using his full name for the first time, after using his first name for a 2006 album, and Neptunes and N.E.R.D. further back, but his real calling has been as a producer. Not all hits, but he finds the sweet spot pretty often, most flamboyantly in "Happy." [**]

15. Miranda Lambert: Platinum (RCA Nashville)
Fifth album, tempting to say she's achieved preëminence in a major Nashville niche -- she only has credits on half the songs, nearly all on the back half, only one exclusively hers, so the song mills are pitching her stereotypical fare like "Smokin' and Drinkin'" and "Old Sh!t" -- but she's still the only one in it. And if she seems to be coasting, it's not like anyone is catching up.

16. Iggy Azalea: The New Classic (Island)
Rapper from Australia, but her mentor is T.I. and her state-of-the-world production is post-Gaga, post-Minaj even, a "pop/rap hybrid" that eschews the soft center, aiming both sharp edges at the other. "Fancy," of course, is irony, but anyone who'd describe herself as "his new bitch" is bound to be trouble. Metacritic grade: 57. [**]

17. Angaleena Presley: American Middle Class (Slate Creek)
Debut album from the last of three Pistol Annies to make the move, and probably the best of the bunch. Noteworthy that the title song sees union membership as the key to middle class identity. [**]

18. Kool A.D.: Word O.K. (2014, self-released)
Not the oft-repeated "best rapper in the world," but perhaps the most relaxed, a "what me care?" attitude that let him release the project "outtakes" (as Not O.K.) ahead of the main course. Nor am I sure it even matters. "Some times I get paid to perform raps/other times I do it for free." Whatever, all good. [**]

19. Spoon: They Want My Soul (Anti-)
Texas rockers with a long history of corraling pop hooks unveil an edgier sound without losing their knack -- if anything, they've upped their game.

20. Charli XCX: Sucker (Atlantic)
Second album, big beat dance pop with postpunk sneer and swagger. The song that cinched it for me was "London Queen," where she comes to America because it's the only country big enough for her, even though she can't quite believe it. And no, it's not because I'm flattered by the portrait. It's the perfect flipside to "I'm So Bored With the USA." [**]

21. Orlando Julius with the Heliocentrics: Jaiyede Afro (Strut)
Nigerian saxophonist, one of the founders of Afrobeat -- Fela Kuti started out in Julius' band -- gets rediscovered by English quasi-jazz group which previously brought some attention to Ethio-jazz master Mulatu Astatke. In this one the sax bulls right past the beat, impressive in its own right. [**]

22. Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems (Columbia)
His "golden voice" is more gone than ever, but his tactic of using female backing vocals keeps him limping along. As for the songs, they're becoming more biblical not because he's thinking of death so much as he's pondering very old things. [**]

23. The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie/Washington Square)
Hard to tell in two plays whether a new record by a band with such a consistent sound is a typically good one or one of their best, especially without following with a lyric sheet -- when the sound is so consistent, that's where you have to go for fine evaluations. But phrase after phrase seems right, so my initial judgment is this album has nowhere to go but up.


Sly & Robbie: Dubrising (Taxi)
Bassist Sly Dunbar and drummer Robbie Shakespeare, the rhythm section behind a who's who of reggae stars in the 1970s and 1980s with dozens of their own albums from Present Taxi in 1981 on, passing through dub and dancehall along the way. I count this as their 16th album with "dub" in the title. Sorry to say, this is the first I've heard, but I can't imagine it's not one of the best. [**]


Thurston Moore: The Best Day (2014, Matador)
I've often thought that Kim Gordon's voice added an essential human dimension to Sonic Youth's trademark guitar tunings, but now that the group has broken up I'm beginning to appreciate the appealing lightness of his tunes, and the austere luxury of his guitar -- as trademark as ever. [**]

26. The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt (2014, Suicide Squeeze): Three women from Atlanta, a pretty basic punk trio, which was all I came up with on first play. Returning to them, the first thing that struck me was the rightness of the tone, which carries all but one or two of the songs. Their faces are obscured by hair on the cover, but are much clearer on record. [**]

27. D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA)
Not what you'd call prolific -- a well-received debut album in 1995, a near-classic follow-up in 2000, and now this. Aside from an exhortation about "the Jesus of the Bible" the words melt into the fractured funk grooves, which could just as well do without them (though maybe the voices should stay). Oblique and mysterious. [**]
28. Rodney Crowell: Tarpaper Sky (New West)
After albums where he played second fiddle to Mary Karr and Emmylou Harris, Crowell returns with his best collection of original songs in years. Especially the last two, one dedicated to Guy Clark with just that craft, the other to John Denver a soporific too pretty to bemoan. [**]

29. Fumaça Preta: Fumaça Preta (Soundway)
Dutch band, led by Portuguese/Venezuelan drummer Alex Figueira, they play a rhythmically complex take on garage rock with airs of Brazilian psychedelia, a mix so unique reviewers grasp at analogous straws -- AMG mentions Os Mutantes, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee, "Zappa-esque chamber music," and "Latin boogaloo meets Bollywood sitar music and breakbeats." My first thought was Pulnoc, but then I noticed a chintziness that veered toward Red Hot Chili Peppers and concluded they're pretty unique. Full of shit, maybe, but uniquely so. [**]

30. Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop)
Country-ish singer-songwriter, got noticed on her 2000 debut Not the Tremlin' Kind, but she did seem a little trembly and a decade's worth of records never quite clicked -- closest was 2011's Kitty Wells tribute, which may have helped her focus, but doesn't explain the easy grace of these melodies. [**]

31. Golem: Tanz (Discos Corason)
Punk-klezmer group led by accordionist-singer Annette Ezekiel Kogan, with Aaron Diskin as a second singer, the band anchored by violinist Jeremy Brown and noted jazz trombonist Curtis Hasslebring. Several albums, this the first on a Mexican label, produced by Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu). [**]

32. Deena: Rock River (Verbena Music)
Cucumbers girl Deena Shoshkes keeps hanging in there, releasing records every couple years with a few songs that remind you of the great album she and Jon Fried released in 1987, but never this many before. The first song I noticed here was the one with her riff on Superman the slob, but after several plays it's slipped behind the pack, mostly put over by her giant smile of a voice.

33. Lee Ann Womack: The Way I'm Livin' (Sugar Hill/Welk)
Country singer, doesn't write so has some trouble maintaining a persona -- she's too sweet to convince you she's the hopeless drunk of Chris Knight's "Send It on Down" but maybe she does sleep with the devil -- at least that's where she's picking her songs these days. (I normally tire quickly of Jesus songs, but you're not likely to run across any of these in church.) The move from countrypolitan MCA Nashville to a more trad label helps too. [**]

34. Dave Alvin/Phil Alvin: Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (Yep Roc)
Broonzy had a light touch which suited the folk blues idiom and you won't get that here -- seek out the originals -- but his songs could handle some extra muscle, as Muddy Waters proved on Sings Big Bill Broonzy in 1960. This just pushes them a little harder, with Phil's voice adding a tartness that Dave's dry drawl can't provide.

35. Big Ups: Eighteen Hours of Static (Tough Love/Dead Labour)
Post-hardcore group debut, a short LP at 27:35, but the eleven tracks don't feel cramped or rushed. Bass leads the guitar, vocals are spoken or shouted, but coherent and thoughtful even -- e.g., the wish for justice. [**]

36. Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: High Life (Warp)
Second album this year, but where Hyde seemed like a spare wheel on Someday World this feels much more integral. Riffing guitar replaces the ambient blips of yore, every bit as captivating but more substantial. [**]

37. Doug Seegers: Going Down to the River (Rounder)
Nashville singer-songwriter in his 60s, first album, a throwback to honky tonk with a few quirks and one out-of-character market sop -- a gorgeous cover of Gram Parsons' "She" (replete with Emmylou Harris). Oddly enough, after the front-loaded stuff turns to filler he finds new depths to his songs. [**]

38. Todd Terje: It's Album Time (Olsen)
Norwegian DJ, went for old-fashioned synths on his excellent EP It's the Arps, and he adds more angles and textures to similar beats here, some cheesy enough to get slammed as cocktail music but they keep me amused. Odd song out has a vocal which only Bryan Ferry gets away with. And it closes with two super dance vamps. [**]

39. Allo Darlin': We Came From the Same Place (Slumberland)
Brit guitar-rock group led by Australian singer Elizabeth Morris, third album, all at a very high level. [**]

40. Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (Cumbancha)
The most Cuban-sounding of Congolese stars, this has outsided salsa rhythms with soukous guitar supercharge, for an unrelenting up, up, up. Crazy machine, indeed. [**]

41. Aphex Twin: Syro (Warp)
Richard D. James, enjoyed a measure of fame in the mid-1990s for his "ambient works" -- can't say as I was impressed, nor do I recall following any of the aliases he's used since the last Aphex Twin album in 2001. This, however, is fun throughout, a trippy mix of bass lines and beats, with a little ambient coda at the end. [**]

42. Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters (In De Goot/Relativity)
A new version of the Welsh-born, Mekons-bred, Chicago-based singer-songwriter's 1998 album Skull Orchard, backed by the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus -- who not only harmonize but can turn into a mob -- and packaged as a bonus stuck into a 96-page book. Of course, I don't have the book, but glancing through the 12-page sampler, and reading Christgau's review (June 17, 2011 -- oops, no link) make me wish I could. They help make up for what I missed from the original record, and while the chorus should soften the songs, they wind up beefing it up. [**]

43. Jonatha Brooke: My Mother Has 4 Noses (Bad Dog)
Singer-songwriter from Illinois; first I noticed of her was her 2008 album The Works where she started with Woody Guthrie lyrics -- possibly the best of nearly a half-dozen good-to-great albums like that. The songs were originally part of a one-woman play: a daughter's portrait of a mother descending into dementia. [**]

44. Mary Gauthier: Trouble & Love (In the Black)
Folk singer-songwriter from Louisiana, always has a finely detailed sense of her subjects. These eight songs move slowly, which gives them all the more resonance. [**]

45. GOAT: Commune (Sub Pop)
Swedish group, acronym stands for "Gathering Of All Tribes" although there is something to be said for u&lc also. Second album, following World Music, they promiscously cross borders without ever getting nailed down to any particular tribal identity, maybe because the whole world unites in amplifier distortion. [**]

46. Dub Thompson: 9 Songs (Dead Oceans, EP)
Two 19-year-olds from Agoura Hills (near LA), Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer, debut with an eight-track 29:36 mini-album, postmodern postpunk, loud and brash but at one point ("Dograces") dissolving into distant circus sounds. [**]

47. Tami Neilson: Dynamite! (self-released)
Country singer from New Zealand, has a couple previous records I should check out. Ten songs, short at 29:02, but they cover quite a range -- honky tonk, rockabilly, folkie duet, a paean to Texas, the title cut beyond category. [**]

48. Company Freak: Le Disco Social (Opus Label)
Disco, not just retro but a straight shot back to 1978 give or take a Chic twerk, aside from an occasional lyric like "keep the people dumb, and the terrorists have won" -- not that they mind dumb music, as long as you can dance to it. [**]

49. Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: What Have We Become (Virgin)
Heaton was the voice of the Housemartins and Beautiful South, recording some of my favorite albums, like, ever, and Abbott added her voice to the latter. I haven't sussed out all the meanings here -- is the title track only about obesity? what does "lost him to a DIY" mean? why, exactly, must Phil Collins die? -- but I'm hooked enough on the music.

50. Parquet Courts: Parkay Quarts: Content Nausea (What's Your Rupture?)
Considered an EP, but runs 12 songs, 34:59 (even with three not breaking one minute, but one runs 6:26). Nor is the throwaway cover of "These Boots (Are Made for Walking)" worthless. Their post-Velvets drone isn't wasted on shlock; it thrives there. [**]

51. The New Mendicants: Into the Lime (Ashmont)
Veteran songwriters from Teenage Fanclub and the Pernice Brothers plus a drummer from the Sadies giving them roots, but not very deep ones, in three Anglophone countries. Their soft melodiousness gets compared to the Hollies, not that that's what the Hollies are remembered for, but then who recalls the Insect Trust? [**]

52. Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (Stones Throw)
Underground rapper from Queens, usually sells himself short but lets this one run a healthy 41:48. Beats seem a little off, but he talks his way around them, and usually pays off. [**]

53. Call Super: Suzi Ecto (Houndstooth)
J.R. Seaton, from Britain but based in Berlin, stitched this techno together, very appealing little loop patterns with a tiny bit of industrial klang and a gentle woosh -- that underwater sound that Drexciya so enjoys. I could probably listen to the first few pieces indefinitely. [**]

54. Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (Big Legal Mess)
A Mississippi blues singer, not just old-fashioned but at 82 justly ancient, coming off as a Fred McDowell throwback locked in a studio with a lot of noisemakers. [**]

55. Sleaford Mods: Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
British duo, Andrew Fearn is responsible for the punkish music, often just bass over drums, while Jason Williamson spews profanity occasionally laced with social criticism, often incisive, sometimes not ("it's all so fucking boring"). [**]

56. Statik Selektah: What Goes Around (Duck Down Music)
DJ, so even though he gets lots of shout outs he depends on his fairly illustrious guest rappers -- slightly more than half names I recognize -- to get the messages across, or to make them up on the fly. And they aim for more gold than their underground reps should make them accustomed to. [**]

57. Bob Wayne: Back to the Camper (self-released)
This is the real outlaw country, not just the attitude to "do everything I can until I die," but full of tales of crime that give me the willies. Too much heaven and (especially) hell, but he offers a disclaimer -- "not every song is true" -- in a name-dropping song worthy of certified outlaw David Allen Coe. And he does a Marty Robbins thing that goes way beyond the model. [**]
58. Chumped: Teenage Retirement (Anchorless)
Post-punk band fronted by Anika Pyle, who gives them an intelligible air, variously humane and exuberant -- and contagious, the sentiment echoed by the drums, lifting this well above the norm. [**]

59. Nicki Minaj: The Pinkprint (Young Money)
In earlier emails about the near shutout of US hip-hop albums on EOY lists, the prospect of this album's late-season drop was held out as some sort of "great black hope" -- no doubt recalling the precedent Beyoncé set last year, finishing 4th in P&J after being released too late to make nearly any other poll. I don't expect that to happen here: sure, it's a better album than Beyoncé, but it's a bit of a letdown after the expansion of the last two studio albums, nor is it as safe a crossover. I'm tempted to dismiss it as padded, but most of her padding doubles as sex appeal -- a point the disjointed "Anaconda" drives home uproariously. [**]

60. Grieves: Winter & the Wolves (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
Seattle rapper, underground beats, articulate rhymes, finding himself in the world, his growth rippling throughout the music. [**]

61. Ought: More Than Any Other Day (Constellation)
Montreal postpunk group, or maybe post-newwave since they're more likely to recycle Talking Heads and the Feelies, with singer Tim Beeler reserving his best David Byrne impression or when the music merits it. Angrier, bleeker, tougher, all traits demanded by history, not to mention art. [**]

62. Objekt: Flatland (Pan, 2CD)
TJ Hertz, born in Tokyo and raised in the UK, gets a lot of drive out of his beats, with this never missing a step, at least until he tries ambient for a closer -- and that, too, is splashier than the norm. [**]

63. Kelsey Waldon: The Gold Mine (self-released)
Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, cotton country rather than coal (let alone bluegrass), though she grew up with enough sense of class that the longest review I've found was on the World Socialist Web Site. Even without that she could probably get by on voice. [**]

64. Withered Hand: New Gods (Slumberland)
When Michael Tatum first told me this album was "awesome," I expected something other than an underwhelming Scottish Beach Boy, even if this Willson is as stuck in his room as that Wilson. I still can't say as I get, let alone appreciate, it, but the album is mightily tuneful and more than a little substantial.
65. Amy LaVere: Runaway's Diary (Archer)
Her little girl voice doesn't especially fit her deeply felt songs, so the latter take a while to sneak up on you. [**]

66. John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (New West)
Singer-songwriter going back to the mid-1970s, when he had a younger and weirdly slurred voice and sang about crushing ants and waterskiing to heaven; some marvelous work, but was never as good after he had a freak hit and kept cranking out albums nearly every year whether he had worthy songs or not. This is his best in ages (probably since 1983) -- the songs matter, his voice has achieved a new level of surrealism, and he's learned something from Adorno: "old people are pushy/'cause life ain't cushy." [**]

67. Serengeti: Kenny Dennis III (Joyful Noise)
A third album about David Cohn's Chicago rapper character, an older mentor and sometime adversary of the artist's own alter-ego Chicago rapper character, as they rendez-vous in LA, hit the road to Rockford, and eventually crack up. I suspect I've heard it before, but it's finally beginning to stick.

68. Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers (Legacy)
Billed as Nelson's first album of "mostly original" songs since 1996's Spirit, most are co-credited to Buddy Cannon, and 5 (of 14) don't have Nelson's name on them. A while back Legacy included Nelson in their Valentine's Day release of Love Songs, inadvertently showing that no country singer in our memory has pitched less woo or waxed less romantic than Nelson, but he tops himself time and again here -- if "Used to Her" and "Wives and Girlfriends" seem too witty, there's "I Thought I Left You," where he compares his beloved to measles and the whooping cough. The warmest he comes is "I love you because you're crazy like me," but he didn't write that. Nor did he write "it's hard to be an outlaw who ain't wanted any more" -- that's Billy Joe Shaver's line. But he did write "I can't forget the shit you put me through, and of course I can't forgive you because that's just what I do" ("I've Got a Lot of Traveling to Do"). [**]

69. Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (Yep Roc)
First album for a young singer-songwriter from New Jersey with a vintage country/folk feel, a knack for smartly structured, sensitive and sensible songs -- if anything, reminds me most of T-Bone Burnett. [**]

70. Boozoo Bajou: 4 (Apollo)
German electronica duo (Peter Heider, Florian Seyberth), first album in 2001 and while this may be their their fourth, that ignores various compilations and remix jobs. Generically downtempo, has an ethereal, ambient feel, lovely in itself, even more interesting when it picks up a beat. [**]


Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth (Lightning Rod)
A fairly legendary songwriter, noted for songs that were often funny and catchy and corny at the same time, early on he was regularly outsung by his clients but the margins have narrowed so his biggest problem these days are songs that struggle to get past their titles ("The Git Go" and "Long in the Tooth"); well, that and the chances you've heard a few before -- like "Last Call for Alcohol" or "Hard to Be an Outlaw" (on Willie Nelson's latest). [**]

72. Lee Scratch Perry: Back on the Controls (Upsetter Music, 2CD)
Those peculiarly complex devices on the cover are vacuum tubes, state-of-the-art in the 1950s but largely obsolete during the reggae producer's 1970s heyday, except in technological backwaters (which could include Jamaica). Presumably they signal his intent to go back to that vintage period, although time and age can't deal him the same hand. The result is heavy on the dub, and I mean real heavy, but he keeps it up for 92 minutes -- old groove with new layers of murk, the effect positively postmodern. [**]

73. The Delines: Colfax (El Cortez)
Low-keyed countryish rock group from Portland though the title song suggests Denver, singer is Amy Boone although Willy Vlautin -- a novelist Christgau has written about and the leader of Richmond Fontaine -- seems to be the songwriter. Stories about working on oil rigs and wandering the streets in a PTSD fog are realer than usual. And the music reminds me of a group called the Vulgar Boatmen -- slow and cautiously lovely. [**]

74. Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (2014, self-released): Still not sure Christgau's pick for "rap album of the year" is worth the trouble -- I heard nothing redeeming or even very interesting the first four times through, and wouldn't have bothered but for peer pressure. This only started to sound like something after slogging through YT's back catalog, realizing it wasn't so bad, then getting a charge from the acceleration on I Came From Nothing 3. The musical breakthrough here came on "4 Eva Bloody" -- there are others, but sometimes the music threatens to vanish. Not sure there is, or ever will be, a lyrical breakthrough, or that either of these Atliens have any future. But this turns out to be a pretty unique item.

75. Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark)
Harder and denser than I recall, they've given up punk brevity to stretch one song out to 7:23, but that's by far the outlier: at 8 songs, 31:24, some may treat this as an EP but it feels whole, and more could easily become too much. [**]

76. Supreme Cuts: Divine Ecstasy (Dovecote)
Chicago laptop duo (Mike Perry, Austin Keultjes), second album, mix up all sorts of things but never lose track of the dance beat. [**]

Also added the following 2013 albums after freezing the year-end file:

  • Sleaford Mods: Austerity Dogs (Harbinger Sound) **
  • Serengeti: C.A.B. (Anticon, EP) **
  • Kool A.D.: Not OK (self-released) **
  • Kool and Kass: Peaceful Solutions (self-released) **

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  • African Express: African Express Presents . . . Terry Riley's In C Mali (Transgressive) **
  • Atmosphere: Southsiders (Rhymesayers Entertainment) **
  • Aurelio: Lándini (Real World) **
  • Katy B: Little Red (Columbia) **
  • Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect Park) **
  • The Baseball Project: 3rd (Yep Roc) **
  • Benyoro: Benyoro (self-released) **
  • Scott H. Biram: Nothin' but Blood (Bloodshot) **
  • Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions (Capitol) **
  • Benjamin Booker: Benjamin Booker (ATO) **
  • Carla Bozulich: Boy (Constellation) **
  • Toni Braxton & Babyface: Love Marriage & Divorce (Motown) **
  • Bushwick Gospel Singers: Songs of Worship Vol. 2 (The Church of Universal Knowing) **
  • Calle 13: MultiViral (El Abismo/Sony Music Latin) **
  • Johnny Cash: Out Among the Stars (1981-84, Columbia) **
  • Caleb Caudle: Paint Another Layer on My Heart (This Is American Music) **
  • Neneh Cherry: Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound) **
  • Chromeo: White Women (Big Beat) **
  • Jack Clement: For Once and for All (IRS Nashville) **
  • Common: Nobody's Smiling (Def Jam) **
  • Dagens Ungdom: Dagens Ungdom (Metronomicon Audio) **
  • Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence (Interscope) **
  • EMA: The Future's Void (Matador) **
  • Emperor X: The Orlando Sentinel (self-released) **
  • Ex Hex: Rips (Merge) **
  • Fear of Men: Loom (Kanine) **
  • The Felice Brothers: Favorite Waitress (Dualtone) **
  • Aretha Franklin: Sings the Great Diva Classics (RCA) **
  • Alice Gerrard: Follow the Music (Tompkins Square) **
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata (Madlib Invazion) **
  • Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons (Tommy Boy) **
  • Grenier/Archie Pelago: Grenier Meets Archie Pelago (Melodic) **
  • Hail Mary Mallon: Bestiary (Rhymesayers Entertainment) **
  • Half Japanese: Overjoyed (Joyful Noise) **
  • Hard Working Americans: Hard Working Americans (Melvin/Thirty Eigers) **
  • Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas: Secret Evil (Instant) **
  • Homeboy Sandman: White Sands (Stones Throw, EP) **
  • Hookworms: The Hum (Weird World) **
  • Leela James: Fall for You (J&T) **
  • Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey: Going Back Home (Chess) **
  • Karen Jonas: Oklahoma Lottery (self-released) **
  • Kasai Allstars: Beware the Fetish [Congotronics 5] (Crammed Discs, 2CD) **
  • Kool & Kass: Coke Boys 5 (self-released) **
  • Seun Kuti + Egypt 80: A Long Way to the Beginning (Knitting Factory) **
  • La Dispute: Rooms of the House (Vagrant) **
  • La Roux: Trouble in Paradise (Cherrytree/Interscope) **
  • Lost in the Trees: Past Life (Anti) **
  • The Juan MacLean: In a Dream (DFA) **
  • The Margots: Soplé (Okka Disk) **
  • Mindtroll: EP #4 (self-released, EP) **
  • Modern Baseball: You're Gonna Miss It All (Run for Cover) **
  • The Muffs: Whoop Dee Doo (Cherry Red) **
  • O'Death: Out of Hands We Go (Northern Spy) **
  • Peaking Lights: Cosmic Logic (Weird World) **
  • The Danny Petroni Blue Project: The Blue Project (DPS)
  • Rod Picott: Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail (Welding Rod) **
  • Pinch & Mumdance: Pinch B2B Mumdance (Tectonic) **
  • Popcaan: Where We Come From (Mixpak) **
  • Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia Demo (Top Dawg) **
  • Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia: Devil's Tale (Asphalt Tango) **
  • Amy Ray: Goodnight Tender (Daemon) **
  • Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch) **
  • Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis: Our Year (Premium) **
  • Röyksopp & Robyn: Do It Again (Cherrytree, EP) **
  • 75 Dollar Bill: Olives in the Ears (self-released) **
  • Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)
  • Shit Robot: We Got a Love (DFA) **
  • Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up (Ipecac) **
  • Sly & Robbie: Underwater Dub (Groove Attack) **
  • Sonzeira: Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Talkin' Loud/Virgin) **
  • Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain) **
  • St. Vincent: St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic) **
  • Sun Kil Moon: Benji (Caldo Verde) **
  • Tacocat: NVM (Hardly Art) **
  • Tensnake: Glow (Astralwerks) **
  • Tinariwen: Emmaar (Anti-) **
  • Tokyo Police Club: Forcefield (Mom + Pop Music) **
  • Tricky: Adrian Thaws (!K7) **
  • The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) **
  • Dean Wareham: Dean Wareham (Sonic Cathedral) **
  • Matt Woods: With Love From Brushy Mountain (Lonely Ones) **
  • Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow (Warner Brothers) **

Also added the following 2013 albums after freezing the year-end file:

  • Boogaloo Assassins: Old Love Dies Hard (Sicario, EP) **
  • Maya Jane Coles: Comfort (I Am Me) **
  • Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias: A New Kind of Funk (self-released) **
  • El-P/Killer Mike: Run the Jewels (Fat Beats) **
  • Knifefight: Knifefight (Anticon, EP) **
  • Live From Festival Au Desert Timbuktu (Clermont Music) **
  • The Margots: Pescado (Okka Disk) **
  • Stellar OM Source: Joy One Mile (RVNG Intl) **
  • Troy Ave: New York City: The Album (BSB) **
  • We Love . . . Detroit (We Love, 2CD) **

Reissued Music

The big trends in reissued music were "anniversary" expanded editions and boxes with way too much crap. Meanwhile smaller specialists searched out ever greater obscurities, most obscure for good reason. Europe is healthier because looser copyright laws encourage what US bigwigs would call pirating but their sets are hard for me to pick up. So my picks here are idiosyncratic more by selection than by taste.

1. Wild Jimmy Spruill: Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story (1956-63, GVC, 2CD)
An r&b guitarist (1934-96), Spruill cut a few sides under his own name but his story is spread out in session work, especially for producers Danny and Bobby Robinson at Fire, Fury, and other New York labels. This collects 61 songs, bracketted by two Wilbert Harrison songs, his big hit "Kansas City" and eventual sequel, "Goodbye Kansas City." Not much else here is as famous, although Solomon Burke and the Shirelles show hints of major talent, but unfamiliarity opens up the era to fresh ears.

2. Bring It On Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke (1959-76, Ace)
The liner notes -- by the way, the best I've seen in years -- note several previous "Black America Sings" discs: Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, Bachrach & David, Otis Redding. Those strike me as novelty concepts, but Cooke's murder -- Trayvon Martin wasn't the first young black man killed by a confused and stupid white person with a gun, ya know -- left a hole that the covers helped fill. So while Cooke's originals remain indelible, his legacy deserves something more -- like this.

3. The Falcons: The Definitive Falcons Collection: The Complete Recordings (1956-63, History of Soul, 4CD)
At least for someone of my generation, there's something deeply satisfying in listening to black vocal groups from the 1950s into the 1970s -- the quality summed up in the mid-1960s as "soul," I suppose. Over recent years labels like Numero Group have been competing to find little known regional soul groups, usually with middling results, but this Detroit group I had never heard of -- billed on the cover as "the world's first soul group" -- holds up remarkably well, way beyond their one chart single ("You're So Fine," #17 in 1959) or the brief (1960-63) tenure of their most famous member: Wilson Pickett. Not all great, of course, and the sound quality leaves something to be desired. Hat tip to Milo Miles for recommending this.

4. Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Vol. 2: More Pili (1981-83, Sterns Africa)
Kenyan band, led by Moreno Batamba (d. 1993), not sure exactly when these were cut but the West African soukous is as upbeat and inspired as the previous volume, the vocals a bit harsh but the guitar sheer paradise. [**]

5. Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions: The Unreleased Recordings (1970s, Time-Life)
Cut in the late 1970's for Sam Phillips' son Knox -- you'd think something that recent could be dated more precisely -- ten cuts, 43:11 thanks to a long, sloppy "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and a Chuck Berry medley. [**]

6. Balani Show Super Hits: Electronic Street Parties From Mali (Sahelsounds)
From Mali, starting with DJ Balani and DJ Bamanan and picking up another half-dozen artists I've never heard of. Don't know when these were recorded, but the drum-heavy style started in the late 1990s and "continues to evolve." [**]

7. Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz and Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978 (Strut, 2CD)
Compiled by Sofrito producer Hugo Mendez with an ear for the irresistible dance beat and a domain with deep African ties that has hardly ever been tapped.

8. Cabaret Voltaire: #7885 Electropunk to Technopop (1978-85, Mute)
Dismissed by Christgau as "dadaist dance musicians," I got to them late and have scarcely scratched the surface, but I was blown away by a 2003 comp, The Original Sound Sound of Sheffield '83/'87. This, which favors shorter 7-inch versions over the 12-inchers that so impressed me, does much the same, the beats all but regimented but irresistible, with talkie vocals marking time. [**]

9. Craig Leon: Early Electronic Works: Nommos Visiting (1981-82, Aparté)
Best known as the producer of rock albums, starting in the 1970s with eponymous LPs Ramones, Blondie, and Suicide along with Richard Hell & the Voidoids' Blank Generation, later Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, and the Go-Betweens' Tallulah, and much later classical albums, but in the early 1980s he released these two albums of electronic music -- too beatwise for "new music" but not snappy enough for techno, closest in spirit to the ambient exotica Jon Hassell was developing, but sui generis nonetheless. [Also available on 2LP as Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting (RVNG Intl.); Rhapsody omits one 15:20 track.] [**]

10. Arto Lindsay: Encyclopedia of Arto (1996-2012, Northern Spy, 2CD)
First appeared in the late-1970s New York No Wave band DNA, rooting him in avant-noise, but as he moved on into the 1980s he revealed a second side rooted in Brazil, where he spent time growing up. First disc here collects studio tracks from 1996-2004 (O Corpo Sutil, Mundo Civilizado, up through Invoke and Salt). Second disc is taken from 2011-12 live shots and is rather dicier, more primitive, sometimes abstract, sometimes wrapped in noise, often remarkable. [**]

11. Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969 (Soul Jazz)
Probably too many songs about reincarnation, a common trope for wits with doubts about the human condition. These wordslingers, after all, are all wits -- I'm particularly amused by the one who'd rather talk to Khrushchev than Bulganin -- and the lightweight beatwise music is always a delight. [**]

12. Verckys et l'Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Abrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (1969-78 [2014], Analog Africa)
Title-wise, I guess soukous doesn't ring up the cash register as much as funk, afrobeat, or psychedelia, but Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta spent a decade in the employ of Franco before spinning off Orchestre Vévé and recording this fairly classic soukous. No titles in common with RetroAfric's 2001 superb compilation, Vintage Verckys.

13. Hailu Mergia and the Walias: Tche Belew (1977, Awesome Tapes From Africa
Keyboard player from Ethiopia -- I think he wound up driving a cab in BC -- offers very enchanting if slightly cocktail-ish grooves, the simplicity all the more charming. The label released a slightly later (1985) tape last year and it's every bit as enjoyable. [**]

14. Wilco: What's Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014 (1994-2014, Nonesuch, 2CD)
One of the most eminent alt/indie rock groups of the last two decades, with eight studio albums, all but the debut selling 200,000 or more. I've graded six of those -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at A-, all but one of the rest B+ -- so I'm a bit surprised I don't recognize any of these 38 plainly tuneful tracks. With one pass, I hardly know them any better now, but they're so pleasant and satisfying, as consistent as these things get. [**]

15. Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers (1928-37, Dust-to-Digital)
"For the traveling recording men of the late 1920s, Arkansas offered enticing pickings." Twenty-six cuts, from as many string bands and singers, none I've ever heard of, although a few stand out above the hillbilly norm, and that scratch groove feels like roots to me. [**]

16. Les Ambassadeurs: Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako (1975-77 [2014], Sterns Africa, 2CD): Malian prince-turned griot Salif Keita's old group from its early days in Mali's capital city: Keita sings on the first disc and one song into the second, after which they used several singers. Later in 1977 the group moved to Abidjan and renamed themselves Les Ambassadeurs Internationales. [**]


Chris Butler: Easy Life (1970, Future Fossil)
Later went on to write witty pop songs for Akron new wave bands Tin Huey and The Waitresses, in 1970 Butler was one of the students at Kent State the National Guard didn't kill -- although the guy he sold his drums to was one of the dead. Butler had a rock band, and his juvenilia is pretty tuneful -- could be more ragged, and takes a turn in that direction after 13 seconds of gunfire. For an extra buck, you can get a second copy without the narration. But for me the history rings true: sure, I wasn't there, but I was then. [**]

Also added the following 2013 albums after freezing the year-end file:

  • Shaver: Shaver's Jewels: The Best of Shaver (1993-2001, New West)
  • John Hiatt: Here to Stay: Best of 2000-2012 (2000-12, New West) **

Honorable Mention

Additional non-jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.

  • Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971, Tompkins Square) **
  • Sleepy John Estes with Hammie Nixon: Live in Japan (1974, Delmark) **
  • Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997 (Strut, 2CD) **
  • I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 (Light in the Attic) **
  • Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar: Live à l'Étoile (1969, Teranga Beat) **
  • Muwei Power: Sierra Leone in 1970s USA (1975-76, Soundway) **
  • Punk 45: Underground Punk and Post-Punk in the UK 1977-81, Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing as Society: Get a Job, Get a Car, Get a Bed, Get Drunk! (1977-81, Soul Jazz) **
  • The Rough Guide to Bollywood Disco (1965-93, World Music Network, 2CD) **
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali [Second Edition] (1996-2013, World Music Network, 2CD) **
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara [Second Edition] (1980-2013, World Music Network, 2CD) **
  • Suburban Base Records: The History of Hardcore, Jungle, and Drum 'n' Bass: 1991-1997 (New State, 3CD)
  • Junior Wells: Southside Blues Jam (1969-70, Delmark) **

Also added the following 2013 albums after freezing the year-end file:

  • Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young (1973-80, Soul Jazz) **


Additional new non-jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  • 2NE1: Crush (YG Entertainment) ** [B+(**)]
  • Ab-Soul: These Days . . . (Top Dawg) ** [B+(**)]
  • Actress: Ghettoville (Ninja Tune) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ryan Adams (Blue Note) [B]
  • Afghan Whigs: Do to the Beast (Sub Pop) ** [B+(**)]
  • Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jhené Aiko: Souled Out (Def Jam) ** [B+(*)]
  • Fatima Al Qadiri: Asiatisch (Hyperdub) ** [B+(**)]
  • Yemi Alade: King of Queens (Effyzzie Music Group) ** [B+(**)]
  • Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots (Parlophone) ** [B+(*)]
  • Alt-J: This Is All Yours (Canvasback/Atlantic) ** [B]
  • Alvvays: Alvvays (Polyvinyl) ** [B+(*)]
  • Arca: Xen (Mute) ** [B]
  • Avi Buffalo: At Best Cuckold (Sub Pop) ** [B+(*)]
  • Iggy Azalea: Reclassified (Def Jam) ** [B+(**)]
  • Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires: Dereconstructed (Sub Pop) ** [B]
  • Marcia Ball: The Tatooed Lady and the Alligator Man (Alligator) ** [B+(*)]
  • Baloni: Belleke (Clean Feed) [B+(**)]
  • Banks: Goddess (Harvest) ** [B+(**)]
  • Bobby Bare Jr's Young Criminals' Starvation League: Undefeated (Bloodshot) ** [B]
  • Courtney Barnett: The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (Mom + Pop Music) ** [B+(*)]
  • Basement Jaxx: Junto (Atlantic Jaxx) ** [B+(**)]
  • Batida: Dois (Soundway) ** [B+(**)]
  • Beck: Morning Phase (Capitol) ** [B-]
  • Drake Bell: Ready Steady Go! (Surfdog) ** [B-]
  • Dierks Bentley: Riser (Capitol Nashville) ** [B-]
  • Beverly: Careers (Kanine) ** [B+(*)]
  • Eric Bibb: Blues People (Stony Plain) ** [B+(*)]
  • Big Freedia: Just Be Free (Queen Diva) ** [B+(*)]
  • Elvis Bishop: Can't Even Do Wrong Right (Alligator) ** [B+(**)]
  • Bishop Nehru/MF Doom: NehruvianDOOM (Lex) ** [B+(**)]
  • Maggie Björklund: Shaken (Bloodshot) ** [B]
  • Aloe Blacc: Lift Your Spirit (XIX/Interscope) ** [B+(*)]
  • Rubén Blades: Tangos (Sunnyside) ** [B]
  • Blaqstarr: The Blaq-Files (2002-06) (Jeffree's/Mad Decent, EP)** [B+(*)]
  • Dean Blunt: Black Metal (Rough Trade) ** [B+(*)]
  • Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder (Bloodshot) ** [B+(*)]
  • Buck 65: Neverlove (WEA Canada) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Bug: Angels & Devils (2014, Ninja Tune) ** [B+(*)]
  • Busdriver: Perfect Hair (Big Dada) ** [C]
  • Buzzcocks: The Way (1-2-3-4 Go) ** [B]
  • Camper Van Beethoven: El Camino Real (429) ** [B+(**)]
  • Caribou: Our Love (Merge) ** [B+(**)]
  • Carlene Carter: Carter Girl (Rounder) ** [B+(**)]
  • Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread (Blue Note) ** [B+(**)]
  • Cities Aviv: Come to Life (Young One) ** [B+(*)]
  • Gary Clark, Jr.: Live (Warner Brothers, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Terri Clark: Some Songs (Bare Track) ** [B+(**)]
  • Clipping: CLPPNG (Sub Pop) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze) ** [B+(**)]
  • Hollie Cook: Twice (Mr. Bongo) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ian William Craig: A Turn of Braeth (Recital) ** [B+(*)]
  • Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita (Polyvinyl) ** [B+(**)]
  • Dej Loaf: Sell Sole (World) ** [B+(*)]
  • Mac DeMarco: Salad Days (Captured Tracks) ** [B]
  • Brigitte DeMeyer: Savannah Road (BDM Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • Toumani Diabaté/Sidiki Diabaté: Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit) ** [B+(**)]
  • Luther Dickinson: Rock 'N Roll Blues (New West) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ani DiFranco: Allergic to Water (Righteous Babe) ** [B+(*)]
  • Dirty Loops: Loopified (Verve) ** [C+]
  • DJ Quik: The Midnight Life (Mad Science) ** [B+(*)]
  • Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (Concord) ** [C]
  • Jorge Drexler: Bailar en la Cueva (Warner Music Latina) ** [B+(**)]
  • Drive-By Truckers: English Oceans (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  • Duck Sauce: Quack (Fool's Gold) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  • Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy (Mello Music Group) ** [B+(**)]
  • Eagulls (Partisan) ** [B+(*)]
  • Justin Townes Earle: Single Mothers (Vagrant) ** [B+(**)]
  • East India Youth: Total Strife Forever (Stolen) ** [B]
  • Robert Ellis: The Lights of the Chemical Plant (New West) ** [B]
  • El-P/Killer Mike: Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal) ** [B+(**)]
  • Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: Someday World (Warp) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ex Cops: Daggers (Downtown) ** [B+(*)]
  • Marianne Faithfull: Give My Love to London (Easy Sound) ** [B+(*)]
  • Chet Faker: Built on Glass (Downtown) ** [B+(**)]
  • Fantasma: Eye of the Sun (Soundway, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Far East Movement: KTown Riot (2014, Interscope, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Simone Felice: Strangers (Dualtone) ** [B+(*)]
  • Fennesz: Bécs (Editions Mego) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bryan Ferry: Avonmore (BMG) ** [B+(*)]
  • Lee Fields: Emma Jean (Truth & Soul) ** [B+(**)]
  • First Aid Kit: Stay Gold (Columbia) ** [B]
  • 5 Seconds of Summer (Capitol) ** [B]
  • FKA Twigs: LP1 (Young Turks) ** [B]
  • The Flaming Lips: With a Little Help From My Fwends (Warner Brothers) ** [B+(**)]
  • Dom Flemons: Prospect Hill (Fat Possum) ** [B+(**)]
  • Flying Lotus: You're Dead (Warp) ** [B+(**)]
  • Four Year Strong: Go Down in History (Pure Noise, EP) ** [B-]
  • Roddy Frame: Seven Dials (AED) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ben Frost: Aurora (Bedroom Community) ** [B+(**)]
  • Fucked Up: Glass Boys (Matador) ** [B+(**)]
  • Fujiya & Miyagi: Artificial Sweeteners (Yep Roc) ** [B+(*)]
  • John Fullbright: Songs (Red Dirt) ** [B+(*)]
  • Future: Honest (Epic) ** [B+(**)]
  • Future Islands: Singles (4AD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Lee Gamble: Koch (Pan, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bunji Garlin: Differentology (RCA/VP) ** [B+(**)]
  • Kevin Gates: By Any Means (Bread Winners Association) ** [B+(**)]
  • Gazelle Twin: Unflesh (Last Gang) ** [B+(**)]
  • Brantley Gilbert: Just as I Am (Valory) ** [B-]
  • Gold-Bears: Dalliance (Slumberland) ** [B+(**)]
  • Ariana Grande: My Everything (Island/Republic) ** [B+(**)]
  • Grouper: Ruins (Kranky) ** [B+(**)]
  • David Guetta: Listen (Atlantic) ** [B]
  • Steve Gunn: Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors) ** [B+(*)]
  • Luke Haines: New York in the '70s (Cherry Red) ** [B]
  • Haitian Rail: Solarists (New Atlantis) ** [B+(**)]
  • Hamell on Trial: The Happiest Man in the World (New West) ** [B+(**)]
  • Hard Working Americans: The First Waltz (Melvin) ** [B+(*)]
  • Joe Henry: Invisible Hour (Work Song) ** [B+(*)]
  • Hercules & Love Affair: The Feast of the Broken Heart (Moshi Moshi) ** [B]
  • Hiss Golden Messenger: Lateness of Dancers (Merge) ** [B+(*)]
  • Honeyblood (Fat Cat) ** [B]
  • Horse Meat Disco: Volume IV (Strut) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Hotelier: Home, Like Noplace Is There (Tiny Engines) ** [B+(*)]
  • How to Dress Well: What Is This Heart? (Domino) ** [B]
  • Sam Hunt: Montevalo (MCA Nashville) ** [B]
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jennifer Hudson: JHUD (RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  • Chrissie Hynde: Stockholm (Caroline) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway) ** [B+(*)]
  • Iceage: Plowing Into the Field of Love (Matador) ** [B]
  • Ikebe Shakedown: Stone by Stone (Ubiquity) ** [B]
  • Imarhan Timbuktu: Alak Warled (Clermont) ** [B+(**)]
  • Luke James: Luke James (Island) ** [B+(**)]
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want (Daptone) ** [B+(*)]
  • Jungle: Jungle (XL) ** [B+(**)]
  • Manika Kaur: Satnam Waheguru: The True Name (self-released) [B+(**)]
  • Ricky Kej/Wouter Kellerman: Winds of Samsara (Listen 2 Africa) [C]
  • Kelis: Food (Ninja Tune) ** [B-]
  • Wiz Khalifa: Blacc Hollywood (Atlantic) ** [B+(**)]
  • Amira Kheir: Alsahraa (Sterns) ** [B+(*)]
  • Khun Narin: Electric Phin Band (Innovative Leisure) ** [B+(**)]
  • Kiasmos (Erased Tapes) ** [B+(*)]
  • EG Kight: A New Day (Blue South) ** [B+(**)]
  • Lake Street Dive: Bad Self Portraits (Signature Sounds) ** [B+(*)]
  • Dawn Landes: Bluebird (Western Vinyl) ** [B+(**)]
  • Nikki Lane: All or Nothin' (New West) ** [B+(*)]
  • Sami Lane: You Know the Drill (self-released, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Lawrence Arms: Metropole (Epitaph) ** [B+(**)]
  • Le1f: Hey (Terrible/XL, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  • Let's Wrestle (Fortuna Pop) ** [B+(*)]
  • Jenny Lewis: The Voyager (Warner Brothers) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock & Roll Time (Vanguard) ** [B+(**)]
  • Link of Chain: A Songwriters' Tribute to Chris Smither (Signature Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Little Dragon: Nabuma Rubberband (Republic) ** [B]
  • Tove Lo: Queen of the Clouds (Island) ** [B]
  • Logic: Under Pressure (Def Jam) ** [B+(**)]
  • Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited (Masterworks) ** [B+(**)]
  • Loscil: Sea Island (Kranky) ** [B+(*)]
  • Lydia Loveless: Somewhere Else (Bloodshot) ** [B+(**)]
  • Low Society: You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (Icehouse) ** [B+(*)]
  • Corb Lund: Counterfeit Blues (New West) [B+(*)]
  • Lykke Li: I Never Learn (Atlantic) ** [B+(**)]
  • Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Wig Out at Jagbags (Matador) ** [B+(**)]
  • Eleni Mandell: Let's Fly a Kite (Yep Roc) ** [B+(*)]
  • J Mascis: Tied to a Star (Sub Pop) ** [B+(*)]
  • Jessica Lea Mayfield: Make My Head Sing . . . (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Menzingers: Rented World (Epitaph) ** [B]
  • Meridian Brothers: Salvadora Robot (Soundway) ** [B+(**)]
  • Metronomy: Love Letters (Because/Elektra) ** [B+(**)]
  • K Michelle: Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? (Atlantic) ** [B+(*)]
  • Microwaves: Regurgitant Phenomena (New Atlantis) ** [B]
  • Bette Midler: It's the Girls! (East/West) ** [B+(**)]
  • Migos: Rich Ni**a Timeline (Quality Control Music) ** [B+(*)]
  • Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics: Cigarros Explosivos! (Asphalt Tango) ** [B+(*)]
  • Parker Millsap: Parker Millsap (Okrahoma) ** [B+(**)]
  • Moodymann (Mahogani) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin (Merge) ** [B+(**)]
  • Mozes & the Firstborn (Burger) ** [B+(**)]
  • Nick Mulvey: First Mind (Fiction/Harvest) ** [B+(*)]
  • Naked Wolf (El Negocito) ** [B+(*)]
  • Naomi Punk: Television Man (Captured Tracks) ** [B]
  • Natural Child: Dancin' With Wolves (Burger) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jennifer Nettles: That Girl (Mercury Nashville) ** [B]
  • The New Basement Tapes: Lost on the River (Island) ** [B+(*)]
  • The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers (Matador) ** [B+(*)]
  • Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault (Reprise) ** [B+(*)]
  • Karen O: Crush Songs (Cult, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Conor Oberst: Upside-Down Mountain (Nonesuch) ** [B+(**)]
  • Off!: Wasted Years (Vice) ** [B+(**)]
  • Old Crow Medicine Show: Remedy (ATO) ** [B+(**)]
  • Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar) ** [B+(*)]
  • Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk (Arista) ** [B-]
  • Charlie Parr: Hollandale (Chaperone) ** [B+(*)]
  • Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke (Sony Masterworks) [B+(*)]
  • Eric Paslay: Eric Paslay (Capitol Nashville) ** [B]
  • Pattern Is Movement (Hometapes) ** [B-]
  • PC Worship: Social Rust (Northern Spy) ** [B-]
  • Perfect Pussy: Say Yes to Love (Captured Tracks) ** [B-]
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (Reprise) ** [B+(*)]
  • Phantogram: Voices (Republic) ** [B+(*)]
  • PRhyme (PRhyme/Universal) ** [B+(**)]
  • Picastro: You (Sonic Clang) ** [B+(*)]
  • Ariel Pink: Pom Pom (4AD) ** [C-]
  • Pink Floyd: The Endless River (Rhino) ** [B+(*)]
  • Pink Martini & the Von Trapps: Dream a Little Dream (Heinz) ** [B+(*)]
  • Prince: Art Official Age (Warner Brothers) [B+(**)]
  • Prince/3rdEyeGirl: Plectrum Electrum (Warner Brothers) ** [B+(*)]
  • Protomartyr: Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art) ** [B+(**)]
  • Ratking: So It Goes (Hot Charity/HXC/XL) ** [B]
  • Real Estate: Atlas (Domino) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Roots: . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (Def Jam) ** [B+(**)]
  • Royal Blood (Warner Brothers) ** [B]
  • Ruby: Waiting for Light (Fireweed) ** [B+(**)]
  • Leon Russell: Life Journey (Universal) ** [B-]
  • Sabina: Toujours (Bar/None) ** [B+(**)]
  • SBTRKT: Wonder Where We Land (Young Turks) ** [B]
  • Schizophonia: Cantorial Recordings Reimagined (Blue Thread Music) [B+(*)]
  • Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron (Interscope) ** [B+(**)]
  • John Schooley: The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World (Voodoo Rhythm) ** [B+(**)]
  • Derek Senn: The Technological Breakthrough (self-released) ** [B+(**)]
  • Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni (Glitterbeat) ** [B+(**)]
  • Shamir: Northtown (Godmode, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear (RCA) ** [B]
  • Sisyphus (Asthmatic Kitty) ** [B+(**)]
  • Skrillex: Recess (Owsla/Big Beat/Atlantic) ** [B-]
  • Slackk: Palm Tree Fire (Local Action) ** [B]
  • Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (Capitol) ** [B-]
  • Chris Smither: Still on the Levee (Signature Sounds, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Snowbird: Moon (Bella Union, 2CD) ** [B]
  • Sohn: Tremors (4AD) ** [B+(*)]
  • The Soundcarriers: Entropicalia (Ghost Box) ** [B+(**)]
  • Speedy Ortiz: Real Hair (Carpark, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Spider Bags: Frozen Letter (Merge) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bruce Springsteen: American Beauty (Columbia, EP) ** [C+]
  • Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (Columbia) ** [B+(*)]
  • St. Paul & the Broken Bones: Half the City (Single Lock) ** [B+(*)]
  • Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron: Better Than Expected (Don Giovanni) ** [B+(**)]
  • Vince Staples: Hell Can Wait (Def Jam, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • Step Brothers: Lord Steppington (Rhymesayers) ** [B+(**)]
  • Strand of Oaks: Heal (Dead Oceans) ** [B-]
  • Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Superlatone, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Swans: To Be Kind (Young God, 2CD) ** [B]
  • Sunny Sweeney: Provoked (Aunt Daddy) ** [B+(*)]
  • Sylvan Esso: Sylvan Esso (Partisan) ** [B+(*)]
  • Temples: Sun Structures (Fat Possum) ** [B+(*)]
  • T.I.: Paperwork (Grand Hustle) ** [B+(**)]
  • Ana Tijoux: Vengo (Nacional) ** [B+(**)]
  • Tinashe: Aquarius (RCA) ** [B+(**)]
  • Randy Travis: Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am (Warner Brothers) ** [B+(**)]
  • Tune-Yards: Nikki Nack (4AD) [B+(**)]
  • TV on the Radio: Seeds (2014, Harvest) ** [B]
  • Tweens (Frenchkiss) ** [B]
  • The Vamps: Meet the Vamps (Island) ** [B+(**)]
  • Sharon Van Etten: Are We There (Jagjaguwar) ** [B-]
  • Caetano Veloso: Abraçoço (Nonesuch) ** [B+(**)]
  • Viet Cong: Cassette (Mexican Summer) ** [B]
  • Leon Vynehall: Music for the Uninvited (3024) ** [B+(*)]
  • Mirel Wagner: When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day (Sub Pop) ** [B+(**)]
  • Loudon Wainwright III: Haven't Got the Blues (Yet) (429) ** [B+(*)]
  • Joe Louis Walker: Hornet's Nest (Alligator) ** [B-]
  • Scott Walker + Sunn O))): Soused (4AD) ** [C]
  • Seth Walker: Sky Still Blue (The Royal Potato Family) ** [B]
  • Jessie Ware: Tough Love (Interscope) ** [B+(*)]
  • Warpaint (Rough Trade) ** [B]
  • Chuck E. Weiss: Red Beans & Weiss (Anti) ** [B+(*)]
  • Whiskey Myers: Early Morning Shakes (Wiggy Thump) ** [B+(*)]
  • Jack White: Lazaretto (Third Man) ** [B-]
  • White Lung: Deep Fantasy (Domino) ** [B+(**)]
  • Betty Who: Take Me When You Go (RCA) ** [B+(*)]
  • Wild Beasts: Present Tense (Domino) ** [B]
  • Wildest Dreams (Smalltown Supersound) ** [B+(**)]
  • Don Williams: Reflections (Sugar Hill) ** [B+(*)]
  • Hank Williams III: Ramblin' Man (Curb, EP) ** [B+(*)]
  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen: Atomos (Kranky) ** [B+(**)]
  • Luke Winslow-King: Everlasting Arms (Bloodshot) ** [B]
  • Wooden Wand: Farmer's Corner (2013 [2014], Fire) ** [B+(**)]
  • Yelle: Complètement Fou (Kemosabe) ** [B+(**)]
  • YG: My Krazy Life (Def Jam) ** [B-]
  • Neil Young: A Letter Home (Third Man) ** [B+(**)]
  • Neil Young: Storytone (Reprise) ** [B+(*)]
  • Young Fathers: Dead (Anticon) ** [B+(*)]
  • Young Thug/Rich Homie Quan/Birdman: Rich Gang: The Tour Pt 1 (Cash Money) ** [B+(*)]

Additional reissued/archival jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).

  • Julian Bahula: Spirit of Malombo: Malombo Jazz, Jabula and Jazz Africa 1966-1984 (Strut, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]
  • Francis Bebey: Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984 (Born Bad) ** [B+(**)]
  • Cables to the Ace (Communicating Vessels) [B]
  • Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 (Soul Jazz, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Bob Dylan: Dylan (1973, Columbia/Legacy) ** [C-]
  • Gipsy Rhumba: The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in Spain 1965-1974 (Soul Jazz) ** [B+(**)]
  • Hyperdub 10.1 (2006-14, Hyperdub, 2CD) ** [B+(**)]
  • Lewis: L'Amour (1983, Light in the Attic) ** [B]
  • The Magic Words: Junk Train (2006, Shake It, EP) ** [B+(**)]
  • Native North America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 (Light in the Attic, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
  • Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day [Willie's Stash, Vol. 1] (Legacy) ** [B]
  • Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych From Peru's Radical Decade (1968-74, Tiger's Milk) ** [B+(*)]
  • The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molam and Luk Thung From Northeast Thailand 1970-1982 (Soundway) ** [B+(*)]
  • X__X: X Sticky Fingers X (1978-80, Smog Veil) ** [B+(**)]

New non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them:

  • Akrobatik: Built to Last (self-released)
  • Tony Allen: Film of Life (Jazz Village)
  • Arc Iris (Anti-Epitaph)
  • The Black Keys: Turn Blue (Nonesuch)
  • Boris: Noise (Sargent House)
  • The Budos Band: Burnt Offering (Daptone)
  • Ali Campbell: Silhouette: The Legendary Voice of UB40 (Cooking Vinyl)
  • Coldplay: Ghost Stories (Atlantic/Parlophone)
  • Fatboy Slim: Bem Brasil (Astralwerks)
  • Sallie Ford: Slap Back (Vanguard)
  • Kira Isabella: Caffeine and Big Dreams (Sony Music Canada) [2]
  • Jenny Hval & Susanna: Meshes of Voice (Susannasonata)
  • Jessie J: Sweet Talker (Island/Lava/Republic)
  • James: La Petite Mort (BMG Rights Management)
  • Kiasmos (Erased Tapes)
  • Jennifer Knapp: Set Me Free (Righteous Babe)
  • Lily & Madeleine: Fumes (Asthmatic Kitty)
  • Manic Street Preachers: Futurology (Columbia)
  • James Vincent McMorrow: Post Tropical (Vagrant)
  • Mogwai: Rave Tapes (Sub Pop)
  • Morrissey: World Peace Is None of Your Business (Harvest)
  • Kassem Mosse: Workshop 19 (Workshop)
  • Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line (Nonesuch)
  • Paolo Nutini: Caustic Love (Atlantic)
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Days of Abandon (Yebo Music)
  • Pere Ubu: Carnival of Souls (Fire)
  • Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters: Lullaby and . . . the Ceaseless Roar (EastWest)
  • Rancid: . . . Honor Is All We Know (Epitaph)
  • Damien Rice: My Favourite Faded Fantasy (Atlantic)
  • Ty Segall: Manipulator (Drag City)
  • Ed Sheeran: X (Asylum/Atlantic)
  • Shellac: Dude Incredible (Touch & Go)
  • The Shivas: You Know What to Do (K)
  • Shovels and Rope: Swimmin' Time (Dualtone)
  • Stalley: Ohio (Atlantic/Maybach)
  • Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)
  • Taylor Swift: 1989 (Big Machine)
  • Jamie T: Carry on the Grudge (Virgin)
  • Tanya Tagaq: Animism (Six Shooter)
  • Paul Thorn: Too Blessed to Be Stressed (Perpetual Obscurity)
  • Tweedy: Sukierae (Anti)
  • Weezer: Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Island/Republic)
  • Lucinda Williams: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20)
  • Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie (Compass, 2CD)
  • Hyperdub 10.2 (Hyperdub)

Reissued/historical non-jazz records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them:

  • A Certain Ratio: Sextet (1982, Factory Benelux, 2CD)
  • Bob Dylan: The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol 11 (Columbia/Legacy, 6CD)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge (Legacy)
  • Rowland S Howard: Pop Crimes (Fat Possum)
  • Ross Johnson and Jeffrey Evans: Vanity Sessions (Spacecase)
  • Bessie Jones/The Georgia Sea Island Singers: Get in Union: Recordings by Alan Lomax 1959-1966 (Tompkins Square)
  • Joe Jack Talcum: Home Recordings Vol 2 1993-1999 (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
  • Underworld: Dubnobasswithmyheadman [20th Anniversary Super Edition] (1994, Universal, 5CD)
  • Robert Wyatt: Different Every Time (Domino, 2CD)
  • Country Funk II: 1967-1974 (Light in the Attic)
  • Punk 45: Proto-Punk, 1970-77, Vol. 3: Sick on You! One Way Spit! After the Love & Before the Revolution (1970-77, Soul Jazz)