January 2012 Notebook


Monday, January 30, 2012

Music Week

Music: Current count 19377 [19321] rated (+56), 847 [821] unrated (+26). Rated count is insanely high, not just because I've been leaning on Rhapsody hard but because I've been doing Impulse's twofer series, where I offer separate grades for each original album as well as for the combined package: basically, I get three grades for one record. This will make for a fairly healthy Recycled Goods later this week. The skeletons follow, but not the write-ups which would be awkward here. (I'll hold back a bunch of other records I'd like to hold these together, and the others don't quite look right mixed in.)

  • Marion Brown: Geechee Recollections / Sweet Earth Flying (1973-74 [2012], Impulse): B+(***) [Rhapsody]
  • Mel Brown: The Wizard / Blues for We (1968-69 [2012], Impulse): C+ [Rhapsody]
  • Alice Coltrane: Huntington Ashram Monastery / World Galaxy (1969-71 [2012], Impulse): B+(*) [Rhapsody]
  • Sonny Criss: The Joy of Sax / Warm and Sonny (1976 [2012], Impulse, 2CD): C+ [Rhapsody]
  • Bill Evans Trio: Explorations (1961 [2011], Riverside/OJC): B+(***) [Rhapsody]
  • Chico Hamilton: El Chico / The Further Adventures of El Chico (1965-66 [2012], Impulse): B- [Rhapsody]
  • John Handy: Hard Work / Carnival (1976-77 [2012], Impulse): B [Rhapsody]
  • Freddie Hubbard: The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard / The Body and the Soul (1962-63 [2012], Impulse): B- [Rhapsody]
  • Keith Jarrett: Mysteries / Shades (1975 [2012], Impulse): A- [Rhapsody]
  • Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady / Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963 [2012], Impulse): A- [Rhapsody]
  • Blue Mitchell: African Violet / Summer Soft (1977-78 [2012], Impulse): C [Rhapsody]
  • Oliver Nelson and Friends: Happenings / Soulful Brass (1966-68 [2012], Impulse): B+(*) [Rhapsody]
  • Howard Roberts: Antelope Freeway / Equinox Express Elevator (1970-72 [2012], Impulse): B+(*) [Rhapsody]
  • Sonny Stitt: Now! / Salt and Pepper ([2012], Impulse): B+(***) [Rhapsody]
  • Clark Terry: The Happy Horns of Clark Terry / It's What's Happening (1964-67 [2012], Impulse): B+(**) [Rhapsody]
  • Michael White: Spirit Dance / Pneuma (1972-73 [2012], Impulse): B [Rhapsody]

Music Week Ahead

Been listening to Rhapsody a lot this week, which is always good for the rated count. Also been playing two unnecessary compilations of old music -- one jazz, the other rock and roll -- which are things I can linger on. I say unnecessary because there's hardly anything in either set I don't have elsewhere. But I never get to what I have elsewhere.

No news on Jazz CG/Jazz Blog/Jazz Prospecting or whatever. I did finally set up a new directory to handle the work in, although I still haven't carried over the defunct JCG(28) material. And I did catalog several weeks of unpacking, which I'll list below. Seems like the inflow has slowed down, but I'm still getting a few items, and it will probably pick up when/if I get my outlet straightened out. Meanwhile, I've been focusing on Recycled Goods this week, and should have a decent-sized Rhapsody Streamnotes before long -- alas, not much yet to recommend. But I've barely started with 2012. I keep chasing down stragglers from 2011, and more often than not find I've already beaten that horse to death. The only A- addition to the post-freeze 2011 list was to correct a bookkeeping omission from way back (Beth Ditto's EP). The only new A- on the new 2012 list is one I'm actually somewhat soft on but I do approve of the political thrust.

I did at least manage to start a pair of metacritic files for 2012: new and old. Not much in them yet -- I have scanned all the usual suspects, but haven't seen much of interest yet. I've made a few minor changes, mostly using 75 as my threshold metacritic point score (instead of 80 last year) -- still thinking about whether to drop down to 70 (usually 3.5 stars) on more than Spin and Rolling Stone.

I also belatedly decided to keep adding new reviews (and Chuck Eddy's year-end list) to the 2011 metafile. Mostly, I'm doing a better job of checking on release dates, so I figured I should enforce the rule that the 2012 file only covers 2012 releases, but I also wanted to keep info on some late-2011s, and the 2011 file seemed like the perfect place to do that. (For one thing, free mixtapes seem to have a slight uptick in December, whereas commercial releases get pushed up or pulled back. E.g., M.I.A.'s Vicki Leekz came out on Dec. 31, 2011, so it utterly missed 2011 year-end lists.)

The Expert Witness discussion group poll results are finally out, at least for albums (songs later, and I'm not sure what poohbah Joey Daniewicz has planned for comments): album tally (62 albums with 2+ references; single references promised "soon"), top 25 (in dramatic countdown format), ballots. I submitted one of the latter, although you're better served looking at the 2011 list (link above, or see my blog entry, which splits out jazz and non). The electorate are people who follow closely Robert Christgau's Expert Witness blog -- big fans of his, as is evident by the selections (although the only record to crack the top 25 that he didn't review was one of my picks, so I can claim to have a few fans there also). None of my 10 picks finished in the top 10, and just 4 in the top 25 (Raphael Saadiq at 13, Mekons at 15, Todd Snider at 19, and Allen Lowe at 25), which suggests I'm falling out of step with everyone. On the other hand, I had 6 of the top 10 at A- (haven't heard Funeral Dress II), but also 10 more of the next 15 -- a higher correlation than I'm likely to find anywhere else.

I'll post Recycled Goods this week, and probably Rhapsody Streamnotes. We should also have something special from Michael Tatum. I'll start back up on the jazz after that. Meanwhile, I have a lot of stuff to do around the house. I'm also way, way behind on mail, and need to catch up with that. Also have to decide whether to renew my Notes on Everyday Life domain name, or chuck it. The site broke when the old server died, and has been dormant for over a year now, but my intent has always been to move the political posts there, do the music stuff over on Terminal Zone, and save this site for personal shit (like my mother's legendary coconut cake recipe). I don't recall her complaining about not being able to get things done until she was about my age. Now I know how she felt.

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last several weeks:

  • Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto: Conversations (TUM, 2CD)
  • Clipper Anderson: The Road Home (Origin)
  • Ehud Asherie: Upper West Side (Posi-Tone)
  • Ran Blake/David "Knife" Fabris: Vilnius Noir (NoBusiness): advance
  • Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack: Cracked Refraction (Porter)
  • Don Byron New Gospel Quintet: Love, Peace, and Soul (Savoy Jazz): February 21
  • Candy Dulfer: Crazy (Razor & Tie)
  • Sarah Elgeti Quintet: Into the Open (Your Favourite Jazz)
  • Nobuyasu Furuya Quintet: The Major (NoBusiness): advance
  • José Garcia: Songs for a Lifetime: Live (José Garcia Music)
  • Johs Ginsburg: Zembla Variations (Bju'ecords): February 7
  • Dennis González/Yells at Eels: Resurrection and Life (Ayler)
  • The Alex Goodman Quintet: Bridges (Connection Point): February 28
  • The Habit: Lincoln Has Won (Reel to Reel)
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio: Red Sparkle (Capri)
  • Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (Posi-Tone): March 20
  • Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven (Deep Rhythm Music): February 14
  • Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (ACT): March 13
  • Daunik Lazro/Jean-François Pauvros/Roger Turner: Curare (NoBusiness)
  • Josh Levinson Sextet: Chauncey Street (Jlevrecords)
  • Matt and the City Limits: Crash (Island/Def Jam): February 21
  • Mockuno NuClear: Drop It (NoBusiness)
  • Nick Moran Trio: No Time Like Now (Manor Sound)
  • Luis Perdomo: Universal Mind (RKM): February 14
  • John Raymond: Strength & Song (Strength & Song): February 28
  • Pete Robbins Transatlantic Quartet: Live in Basel (Hate Laugh Music): February 7
  • Arrica Rose & the . . . 's: Let Alone Sea (Poprock)
  • Marlene Rosenberg Quartet: Bassprint (Origin)
  • Joan Soriano: La Familia Soriano (IASO): April 10
  • Stone Quartet: Live at Vision Festival (Ayler)
  • Tumbledown House: Fables and Falsehoods (Silent Coyote Music)
  • Elio Villafranca/Arturo Stable: Dos y Mas (Motéma)
  • Justin Walter: Stars (Walter)
  • Doug Webb: Swing Shift (Posi-Tone)
  • Joanna Weinberg: The Piano Diaries (Kissingpoint)
  • Ben Wendel: Frame (Sunnyside): February 28


  • The First Rock and Roll Record (Famous Flames, 3CD)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Expert Comments

On Allen Lowe (surprise 25th place finisher in Joey's EW poll -- the highest finisher that Christgau didn't write about during the year):

First I heard of Allen Lowe was back when Francis Davis was writing a Jazz Consumer Guide for the Voice. He flagged Lowe's first two albums (1990-92). I bought them; liked the second (New Tango '92) more, but should revisit the first. Ever since then he's been a guy I've kept an eye open for -- among other things, picking up American Pop and That Devilin' Tune in book form even before I got the CDs. Davis and Lowe became friends. Davis introduced Lowe to Roswell Rudd, and they did an album together. Lowe discovered me when I started doing Jazz CG. He's a guy who expects to know everything, so he was surprised he hadn't heard of me before. He barraged me with emails over several days as he digested all of my old (mostly 1970s) music screeds -- very flattering, I thought, although he also chewed me out on various points. I haven't heard much from him since, although he was clearly disappointed when I panned his guitar-work on Jews in Hell, but he also got much better this time out.

By the way, Rich Halley's catalogue is on Rhapsody now, so by all means check out Children of the Blue Supermarket, and for that matter his older work, especially Mountains and Plains. Terrific saxophonist, but I know him mostly because he sought me out (although I'm pretty sure I had a Penguin Guide note on him). I tried to get Lowe and some others up on Rhapsody but that doesn't seem to have happened yet.

Got thumbed down for some reason.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Expert Comments

Joey Daniewicz is (slowly) posting some album results from his EOY 2011 poll. Presumably this will wind up being the top 25:

  1. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra 443 (32)
  2. Tune-Yards, Whokill 442 (33)
  3. Wussy, Strawberry 390 (28)
  4. Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What 326 (29)
  5. Pistol Annies, Hell on Heels 186 (16)
  6. Teddybears, Devil's Music 177 (17)
  7. Jay-Z/Kanye West, Watch the Throne 140 (18)
  8. Wussy, Funeral Dress II 131 (10)
  9. Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes 120 (11)
  10. Das Racist, Relax 108 (12)
  11. Low Cut Connie, Get Out the Lotion 84 (12)
  12. Shabazz Palaces, Black Up 83 (9)
  13. Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin' 78 (7)
  14. Withered Hand, Good News 77 (7)
  15. Mekons, Ancient & Modern: 1911-2011 76 (8)
  16. Jens Lekman, An Argument With Myself 74 (9)
  17. Emperor X, Western Teleport 68 (7)
  18. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light 67 (6)
  19. Todd Snider, Live: The Storyteller 55 (6)
  20. Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Tell My Sister 55 (5)
  21. Serengeti, Family & Friends 54 (6)
  22. Mates of State, Mountaintops 52 (6)
  23. Wild Flag, Wild Flag 51 (7)
  24. Britney Spears, Femme Fatale 49 (6)
  25. Allen Lowe, Blues and the Empirical Truth 46 (3)
  26. Dave Alvin, Eleven Eleven 44 (5)
  27. Middle Brother, Middle Brother 41 (4)
  28. Blaqstarr, Divine 39 (6)
  29. Lobi Traore, Bwati Kono 39 (4)
  30. Adele, 21 39 (3)
  31. Tom Waits, Bad as Me 38 (4)
  32. Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrati, Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrati 34 (5)
  33. The Weeknd, House of Balloons 34 (5)
  34. Fucked Up, David Comes to Life 33 (5)
  35. Tyler, the Creator, Goblin 31 (2)
  36. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake 30 (3)
  37. Matana Roberts, Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres 30 (2)
  38. Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO 29 (3)
  39. Those Darlins, Screws Get Loose 28 (5)
  40. Mayer Hawthorne, How Do You Do? 27 (3)
  41. Lady GaGa, Born This Way 26 (4)
  42. Yuck, Yuck 25 (3)
  43. Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Vol. 2 24 (3)
  44. Deer Tick, Divine Providence 22 (3)
  45. Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots 22 (2)
  46. Group Doueh, Zayna Jumma 21 (2)
  47. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes 20 (3)
  48. Darius Jones Trio, Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) 20 (2)
  49. Gang of Four, Content 19 (2)
  50. Lupe Fiasco, Lasers 19 (2)
  51. Tinariwen, Tassili 18 (2)
  52. A Note of Hope 17 (2)
  53. Battles, Gloss Drop 16 (3)
  54. Terakraft, Aratan N Azawad 16 (2)
  55. R.E.M., Collapse into Now 16 (2)
  56. White Denim, D 16 (2)
  57. Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost 16 (2)
  58. Bombino, Agadez 15 (2)
  59. Gregg Allman, Low Country Blues 15 (2)
  60. Rihanna, Talk That Talk 14 (2)
  61. The Baseball Project, Vol. 2, High and Inside 14 (2)
  62. Stephin Merritt, Obscurities 13 (2)
  63. Garland Jeffreys, The King of In Between 10 (2)
  64. Brad Paisley, This Is Country Music 10 (2)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music Week

Music: Current count 19321 [19294] rated (+27), 821 [821] unrated (+0). Some Rhapsody, both mopping up 2011 and my first two 2012 non-finds, and I reckon there will be more of all that this coming week. Meanwhile, haven't played any new jazz, so there's no Jazz Prospecting. The one piece of mail I got from Maura Johnston suggested we talk after the "year flip." Hasn't happened. I did figure that she wouldn't have much time until Pazz & Jop was over, so didn't mind waiting on that. Still waiting. Meanwhile, I'm way behind on cataloguing the incoming jazz -- the "unrated" count should be climbing (slowly), so I have to catch up with that. Have started to create a new directory structure for a jazz blog, but don't have it working yet. Still, the returns on the Rhapsody mop-up are slim: only two B+(***) albums among the 31 in my working file. And I finally wouldn't mind listening to more jazz -- but pickings seem to be slim there too.

Pazz N Jop vs. Metacritic File

After several years when my metacritic file did a pretty good job of predicting the outcome of the Village Voice's PazzNJop Critics Poll, this year's album results surprised me on several counts. For starters, only 5 of the top-10 metacritic albums finished in PnJ's top-10, where previous years landed 8-9. The divergences continue further down, but what's more interesting is how they diverge.

Here are the PnJ top-40 finishers that matched or exceeded their metacritic (MC) file positions (PnJ rank on left, MC on right, with +diff):

  1. Tune-Yards: Whokill [5: +4]
  2. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake [2: +0]
  3. Jay-Z/Kanye West: Watch the Throne [7: +4]
  4. Wild Flag: Wild Flag [23: +19]
  5. Tom Waits: Bad as Me [6: +1]
  6. Adele: 21 [11: +5]
  7. Destroyer: Kaputt [12: +5]
  8. Drake: Take Care [20: +12]
  9. Shabazz Palaces: Black Up [13: +3]
  10. Fucked Up: David Comes to Life [17: +6]
  11. The Weeknd: House of Balloons [14: +1]
  12. Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What [58: -44]
  13. EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints [34: -19]
  14. Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra [37: -21]
  15. The Roots: Undun [25: +8]
  16. The Black Keys: El Camino [27: +7]
  17. Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels [121: +98]
  18. Beyoncé: 4 [54: +28]
  19. Gillian Welch: The Harrow and the Harvest [51: +24]
  20. Danny Brown: XXX [105: +77]
  21. Lady Gaga: Born This Way [71: +41]
  22. Bill Callahan: Apocalypse [43: +12]
  23. Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica [40: +5]
  24. Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 [52: +16]
  25. Kate Bush: 50 Words for Snow [62: +25]
  26. Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' [79: +40]
  27. Wye Oak: Civilian [80: +40]

And here are the top-40 MC finishers that lost position in PnJ (MC rank on left, PnJ and -diff in brackets on right):

  1. Bon Iver: Bon Iver [9: -8]
  2. James Blake: James Blake [34: -31]
  3. Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues [18: -14]
  4. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy [12: -4]
  5. Radiohead: The King of Limbs [33: -24]
  6. Wilco: The Whole Love [22: -12]
  7. M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming [19: -4]
  8. Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo [20: -4]
  9. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost [25: -7]
  10. Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes [38: -19]
  11. Real Estate: Days [32: -11]
  12. Yuck: Yuck [24: -2]
  13. The Decemberists: The King Is Dead [29: -5]
  14. The Antlers: Burst Apart [68: -38]
  15. War on Drugs: Slave Ambient [49: -21]
  16. TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light [43: -14]
  17. The Horrors: Skying [80: -50]
  18. Washed Out: Within and Without [82: -51]
  19. Feist: Metals [59: -27]
  20. Wild Beasts: Smother [392: -359]
  21. Panda Bear: Tomboy [69: -34]
  22. Atlas Sound: Parallax [61: -25]
  23. SBTRKT: SBTRKT [127: -89]
  24. Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 [77: -38]

It's not hard to figure out differences between these two lists: the gainers featured more female artists (10 to 3), and more blacks (9 to TV on the Radio). The two geezers (Waits and Simon) were on the gainer list. The Voice poll has always favored those groups, but rarely by this much. Another structural difference is release date: among records released on or after October 25, six gained ground, one lost (Atlas Sound). Lots of year-end lists are submitted early, so later polls inevitably pick up later albums. (If you go back to October 1, the losers pick up M83 and Feist, so 6-3; forward to Nov. 1 drops Waits, so 5-1.)

The other difference that jumps out at me is that the gainers look much better than the losers. Checking against my grade-list, I see a 7-2 advantage in A- or better records, versus 4-9 with B or worse. The other thing I looked at was the UK split, which I had predicted would hurt PJ Harvey -- it did knock her out of first, but she wound up with a very strong second-place finish. After checking several bad guesses, I wound up with 4 UK acts on the gainers (PJ Harvey, Adele, Bill Callahan, and Kate Bush) vs. 6 on the losers (James Blake, Radiohead, Yuck, Horrors, Wild Beasts, and SBTRKT) -- not much of a trend, but the drops on the latter were pretty large. MC tends to overcount UK artists due to the disproportionate number of music mags published there, so it's something I mentally correct for.

More on this below the fold.

Another way to look at the differences is to divide the PnJ votes by the MC counts. (I actually add one to each value to eliminate the possibility of divide-by-zero faults. I tried this with PnJ points, but the scaling warps the results toward high vote-getters.) Using a combined 20-vote minimum, here are the top PnJ gainers:

  1. 1.118 - Fountains of Wayne: Sky Full of Holes [18/16]
  2. 1.083 - Anthony Hamilton: Back to Love [12/11]
  3. 1.000 - Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels [43/43]
  4. 0.898 - Danny Brown: XXX [43/48]
  5. 0.889 - Nick Lowe: The Old Magic [15/17]
  6. 0.852 - The Men: Leave Home [22/26]
  7. 0.838 - Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What [61/73]
  8. 0.833 - Twilight Singers: Dynamite Steps [9/11]
  9. 0.833 - Lou Reed & Metallica: Lulu [9/11]
  10. 0.765 - Bombino: Agadez [12/16]
  11. 0.760 - Wild Flag: Wild Flag [91/120]
  12. 0.739 - DJ Quik: The Book of David [16/22]
  13. 0.714 - Feelies: Here Before [14/20]
  14. 0.688 - Wussy: Strawberry [10/15]
  15. 0.670 - Tune-Yards: Whokill [135/202]
  16. 0.625 - Britney Spears: Femme Fatale [24/39]
  17. 0.621 - Lady Gaga: Born This Way [40/65]
  18. 0.615 - Demdike Stare: Tryptych [15/25]
  19. 0.614 - Das Racist: Relax [26/43]
  20. 0.610 - Beyoncé: 4 [46/76]
  21. 0.606 - EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints [59/98]
  22. 0.603 - Drake: Take Care [81/135]
  23. 0.600 - Tombs: Path of Totality [8/14]
  24. 0.600 - The Beach Boys: The Smile Sessions [23/39]
  25. 0.592 - Jay-Z/Kanye West: Watch the Throne [105/178]
  26. 0.591 - Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra [54/92]
  27. 0.588 - Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine [9/16]
  28. 0.574 - Charles Bradley: No Time for Dreaming [26/46]
  29. 0.571 - Mekons: Ancient & Modern [7/13]
  30. 0.571 - Dirtbombs: Party Store [7/13]
  31. 0.562 - Meshell Ndegeocello: Weather [8/15]
  32. 0.556 - The Rapture: In the Grace of Your Love [14/26]
  33. 0.554 - Adele: 21 [86/156]
  34. 0.539 - PJ Harvey: Let England Shake [129/240]
  35. 0.531 - Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' [33/63]
  36. 0.531 - Gillian Welch: The Harrow and the Harvest [42/80]
  37. 0.530 - Tom Waits: Bad as Me [96/182]
  38. 0.526 - The Roots: Undun [60/115]
  39. 0.526 - Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tell Me [9/18]
  40. 0.524 - Psychic Paramount: II [10/20]

And here are the big losers (for this I'm skipping over a large number of jazz albums, which are heavily sampled in MC and very scarce in PnJ; the first one would have been Gretchen Parlato in 2nd, then JD Allen in 3rd, James Farm in 5th, Julius Hemphill in 6th, and two reissues -- double whammies, I'm afraid -- Wadada Leo Smith in 8th and Miles Davis in 10th; note reverse sort, so Wild Beasts is the biggest loser):

  1. 0.048 - Wild Beasts: Smother [4/103]
  2. 0.059 - Tennis: Cape Dory [1/33]
  3. 0.067 - Cat's Eyes: Cat's Eyes [1/29]
  4. 0.069 - Ghostpoet: Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam [1/28]
  5. 0.074 - Bibio: Mind Bokeh [1/26]
  6. 0.074 - Cass McCombs: Humor Risk [1/26]
  7. 0.074 - The Dodos: No Color [1/26]
  8. 0.083 - Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat: Everything's Getting Older [1/23]
  9. 0.083 - Chad VanGaalen: Diaper Island [1/23]
  10. 0.088 - The Weeknd: Thursday [2/33]
  11. 0.090 - Anna Calvi: Anna Calvi [5/66]
  12. 0.091 - Male Bonding: Endless Now [1/21]
  13. 0.091 - Ty Segall: Singles 2007-2010 [2/32]
  14. 0.092 - Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean [5/64]
  15. 0.094 - Justice: Audio, Video, Disco [2/31]
  16. 0.095 - Childish Gambino: Camp [3/41]
  17. 0.095 - Kate Bush: Director's Cut [1/20]
  18. 0.098 - Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx: We're New Here [7/81]
  19. 0.100 - Bad Meets Evil: Hell: The Sequel [1/19]
  20. 0.100 - Other Lives: Tamer Animals [2/29]
  21. 0.107 - Josh T. Pearson: Last of the Country Gentlemen [5/55]
  22. 0.109 - The Arctic Monkeys: Suck It and See [6/63]
  23. 0.113 - Metronomy: The English Riviera [8/79]
  24. 0.114 - Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys [4/43]
  25. 0.114 - Kasabian: Velociraptor [3/34]
  26. 0.115 - I Break Horses: Hearts [2/25]
  27. 0.118 - SBTRKT: SBTRKT [10/92]
  28. 0.122 - Battles: Gloss Drop [10/89]
  29. 0.122 - Beirut: The Rip Tide [10/89]
  30. 0.125 - Cass McCombs: Wit's End [5/47]
  31. 0.125 - Sepalcure: Sepalcure [2/23]
  32. 0.125 - WU LYF: Go Tell Fire to the Mountain [6/55]
  33. 0.125 - Zomby: Dedication [8/71]
  34. 0.128 - Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care [5/46]
  35. 0.129 - Jonathan Wilson: Gentle Spirit [3/30]
  36. 0.130 - Little Dragon: Ritual Union [6/53]
  37. 0.132 - Balam Acab: Wander/Wonder [4/37]
  38. 0.132 - Björk: Biophilia [9/75]
  39. 0.132 - Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts [6/52]
  40. 0.133 - Noah and the Whale: Last Night on Earth [3/29]

Similar breaks here as above, although the most extreme one between these two lists is how my grade scale maps: I have 11 A- records gaining, only 1 (Bibio) losing. B or less break 4 to 7, but the unplayed albums are 7 up and 14 down. Women break 13 to 5 (counting Tennis and Little Dragon in the latter, but not Wussy or Mekons up top), and blacks 12-4 (counting SBTRKT, which actually has a pretty good album).

I'm not sure what to conclude from all this. My first thought was that the new Village Voice editor (Maura Johnston) had reshuffled the voter deck. And indeed there was quite a bit of turnover -- about 150 old critics gone and just slightly fewer new critics added -- but I have yet to discern any real pattern. (Among other things, I tried counting female names in the two sets, but gave up when it got too tedious and seemed likely to be indecisive.) Overall participation was less than 50%, and it may well be that the Bon Iver suppoorters just got complacent -- the album is something of a soporific if not quite a narcotic -- while the Tune-Yards crowd got energized. (I'd be happier if I liked Tune-Yards more, but I have both contenders down in the dead-ass boring end of the good albums pool, along with such marginal but tolerable talents as Kurt Vile, Destroyer, and Wild Beasts.)

Johnston, at least, was pleased, summing up:

Before this year's ballots were even sent out, many outside observers had tagged Bon Iver's falsetto-swaddled, reverb-drenched second album, Bon Iver, as the likely pick for No. 1;[ . . . ] That w h o k i l l -- the second album by Merrill Garbus's tUnE-yArDs, a shot across the bow that blended the personal and political into a stunning proclamation of faith in the self that quite literally begs "Don't take my life away" at one point -- marched to the top spot instead could speak to an unspoken desire to wrench one's ears and brains out of the constant stream of bad news and appreciate the miracle that is being fully alive and present in the world, no matter what external, extenuating circumstances might exist.

I can recall years when I hoped as much, but now I just tally up long lists of numbers, hoping to discern something diverting in the cracks. After a couple weeks of drought, I found one today: a Dutch reissue of some 1992-96 Detroit techno by a group I'd never heard of, Drexciya. Turns out it was in the metacritic file, way down with a count of 1 -- although had I kept updating the file it would be more like 4 or 5 (found an 8.7 in Pitchfork, 4.5 stars in RA). It's kind of a trifle, but as irresistible as that sort of thing gets.

I need to think more about how to make future metacritic files more useful. (Should also give some thought to whether they're worth the work, especially before I start another.) One thing I think this one perhaps inadvertently measures is how concentrated and collusive the critical press is.

Lots more analysis of the PnJ results over at Glenn McDonald's Needlebase site, like this centricity chart. I'm way off the pace as usual (609), but not completely dead last because I do occasionally vote for something someone else likes (6 of 10 records this year, Raphael Saadiq by far the most popular). Seems like there was more analysis in years past, especially in terms of affinities and cross-linkages. I'd be curious, for instance, to see what the results would look like if you only selected voters with one or more jazz albums on their ballots. I can think of a lot of other questions like that, which is why this would become even more useful if we had more data. But that's a perennial gripe. If I don't change course, some day I may take a crack at it.

Expert Comments

My comment on the above:

I spent a lot of time comparing PnJ results with my metacritic file, and posted what I came up with on my blog tonight. In all the years I've been doing this, the PnJ voters usually came up with results that were slightly smarter, more balanced, and often more inspired than what I collected (except that I always found a lot more jazz), but never by the margins I see this year. I suspect that a big part of the reason is that PnJ appears later: not only does that help pick up November releases that never make the early polls, it gives people a chance to test their ideas against other published lists. Other than that, I just don't know. Maybe the new Voice editor figured out a way to jam the ballot boxes. Maybe depressive albums don't inspire one to get out and vote.

Iran Contra II

This is a draft I wrote for a local newsletter. Turns out to be much longer than they wanted, so they'll have to edit it way down.

Iran had no problems with the United States until in 1953 when the CIA orchestrated a coup that toppled the democratic government, installed Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as dictator ("shah"), and handed Iran's nationalized oil company over to a multinational cartel dominated by US companies. The Shah went on to make enemies of virtually everyone in Iran, and was finally deposed by a revolution in 1979 that ultimately led to today's Islamic Republic. Iran broke relations with the US, and adding insult to injury held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, until Ronald Reagan became president and negotiated their return. Since then US policy on Iran has been irrational, petulant, and sometimes bellicose, while Iran's attitude has bounced back and forth between challenging and conciliatory.

During the 1980s the Reagan administration supplied arms to Iran as part of its illegal scam to arm the "Contras" in Nicaragua, but the US also supplied arms to Iraq in support of its seven-year war against Iran -- one that resulted in over a million deaths -- and the US itself shot down an unarmed Iranian airliner and attacked an offshore Iranian oil platform. In 2003 as the Bush administration was ramping up its propaganda campaign to sell war with Iraq, one of its hawks candidly boasted, "Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran." But ironically, the governments the US installed in Iraq and Afghanistan were well stocked with politicians sympathetic to Iran. Common interests should have led to an easing of tensions between the US and Iran, but unfortunately the US has lost control of its policy toward Iran. The result is the current paradox where Obama is withdrawing troops from Iran's borders at the same time he is clamping down ever-tighter sanctions in an attempt to cripple Iran's economy. Why the reckless push toward war after a decade of proving that war in the region is a fool's mission?

The short answer is that US Iran policy is being driven by Israel, and Israel's governing coalition actually wants to promote conflict in the region. They feel they must keep their people afraid of external threats, otherwise most would want to settle their conflict with the Palestinians -- the exceptions are the hawks who benefit from Israel's militarist culture and the ultra-religious settlers who have done so much to "create facts on the ground" that cannot be dismantled without throwing Israel itself into civil war.

But it was only in the 1990s when Israel started to view Iran as a threat, and started trying to drum up alarm by predicting Iran would develop nuclear weapons "within five years." Back in the 1950s Israel developed its "peripheral strategy" aimed at forming alliances with non-Arab nations and parties as a counterweight against Arab unity against Israel. That strategy worked in some cases: Turkey has been a long-term ally (at least until Israel killed nine Turks on an aid boat to Gaza), as was Iran both before and after the revolution. On the other hand, Israel's repeated meddling in Lebanon eventually turned everyone against them, provoking the once-complacent Shiites to organize into Hezbollah. Israel only turned against Iran once the US had smashed Iraq in 1991, leaving Israel with no credible Arab enemy, and leading toward the Oslo Accords -- the only genuine existential threat Israel's right ever faced, precisely because it promised to end the Palestinian conflict.

The chief promoter of Oslo, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by an anti-peace fanatic. He was in turn followed by a series of prime ministers -- Benyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Ariel Sharon -- who destroyed the Oslo agreement, both by direct action and by ratcheting up the settlement efforts. At the same time, Israel's security establishment became increasingly hysterical about Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program. (No such program has ever been proven to exist, and Iran's religious leader has not only denied interest in such a program but has declared that to build such weapons would be contrary to Islam. Israel has repeatedly asserted that Iran would have nuclear weapons in 3-5 years, and none of those forecast have proved true.)

The level of Israel's hysteria spiked sharply upward as soon as Obama was elected president. As long as Bush was in office, Israel had no worries that the US would apply any serious effort toward resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict -- the "Quartet Plan" and the "Roadmap" were treated by all sides as little more than a joke. However, Obama vowed to focus on the conflict, and demanded that Israel halt its settlement activities. Netanyahu, in response, did everything he could to change the subject to Iran. Three years later, Obama had made no progress on stopping the settlements, much less ending the conflict, but instead he wound up with a program of trying to economically strangle Iran, risking an outbreak of violence in the Strait of Hormuz -- a section of Iranian coastal waters through which a large portion of the world's oil passes.

Iran is nestled between Iraq and Afghanistan, but is at least twice as large as both combined. Iran has been shunned and isolated since 1979. It fought off an invasion by Iraq in the 1980s, and it has faced an increasingly hostile US presence in the Persian Gulf since 1990. Israel has bombed other countries suspected of working on nuclear weapons, has supported the MEK terrorist organization which attacks Iran, and has assassinated Iranian scientists. The US conducts drone flights over Iran. Like the US, Iran has an unsavory history of taking covert actions outside its territory, but it's hard not to see that they have a right to fear attack. Obama could do much to calm this situation by "taking options off the table" -- by declaring that the US won't attack Iran, by offering to recognize and trade with the Islamic Republic, and by declining to be a pawn in Israel's apocalyptic game. War with Iran would be a losing proposition for everyone. Dismantling the barriers that keep Iran isolated from and angry at the rest of the world would be a win for everyone -- except, perhaps, the few people both here and in Israel (and mostly likely in Iran, too) who thrive on stirring up trouble.

For more historical detail on the relationship between Israel and Iran, see Trita Parsi's 2007 book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States (Yale University Press). For fairly extensive quotes and my comments, look here. Israel's dependency on prolonging its conflict both with the world and with its own subject people has been documented many times in many places, but never more clearly than in Richard Ben Cramer's 2004 book, How Israel Lost: The Four Questions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brownback's Hail Mary Pass

No Weekend Roundup this week: I've been preoccupied with crunching Pazz & Jop numbers, and more on that in a day or two. Meanwhile, I'm not sure there's been much to focus on. The week, after all, was dominated by the White Folks Primary in South Carolina, and I'm sick and tired of listening to those malcontents griping about how we need to go back to "the principles this country was founded on" -- how can the heirs of John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, John Calhoun, and Strom Thurmond say such a thing without choking? Romney's collapse was especially amusing, although exit polls show he did manage to win his class (indeed, all those with income over $200,000), and as far as the Republican Party is concerned, that's all that really matters. Still, from all the TV coverage you'd think South Carolina was even whiter than North Dakota, and prosperous too -- whereas in fact it's so poor companies like Boeing move there to escape the high wages they have to pay in Kansas.

Speaking of Kansas, I have open a bunch of open tabs concerning Gov. Sam Brownback's state income tax plan:

The last piece sums up the Brownback-Laffer scheme thus (my emphasis added):

Brownback's plan would cuts rates, starting for 2013, so married couples would face a top rate of 4.9 percent instead of the current 6.45 percent. The plan would exempt 191,000 operators of partnerships, sole proprietorships and other small firms from paying any taxes on their business earnings. The standard deduction for heads of households would double to $9,000.

To offset potential revenue losses, Brownback proposed eliminating numerous credits and deductions, including ones for charitable contributions and interest payments on home mortgages. He'd also keep the sales tax at 6.3 percent, rather than dropping it to 5.7 percent in July 2013, as scheduled by law. He'd eliminate a credit for poor workers and their families.

Some critics dubbed the plan "Robin Hood in reverse" after state Department of Revenue figures showed that, as a group, filers with adjusted gross incomes of $25,000 or less would see a collective increase in their income tax burden while filers with incomes exceeding $250,000 saw the largest percentage cut as a group.

There are more articles with more details, including numerous case examples of how the proposed changes would hit the bottom lines of various taxpayers (plus Crowson's view, here on the right). But in looking for typical examples, the articles avoid the white elephant in the room: the tax-free carve out for business income. Although a lot of people who would catch a break there are small business owners who don't make much money, virtually everyone in the state who does make a lot of money -- starting with billionaires like Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin -- gets a free pass.

Of course, the argument is that we need those businesses to create jobs and keep the economy running. Still, how much thought went into this? Laffer, who was paid $75,000 for consulting, is possibly the biggest fraud in American history, having largely invented supply-side economics while sketching on a napkin. Brownback holds prayer vigils in Topeka to seek divine guidance for his policies -- or maybe he just hallucinates them then prays they work?

The idea of using tax breaks for incentives is venerable and easily overdone, but the key idea is that you're trying to encourage people to do something they wouldn't do without the incentive. We have tax breaks to get people to donate to charities, or to finance more expensive homes than they need -- two items that come to mind because Brownback is planning on ending them (and, by the way, the non-profits and realtors are none too happy about that). But do we really need special incentives to get businessmen to try to make even more money?

I could see coming up with a package of breaks (and even subsidies) to help people start new businesses -- there would be lots of ways to do this that would be capped by business size and profits so they wouldn't automatically flow up to benefit the richest. The net effect of the Brownback-Laffer plan is to accelerate the flow of wealth to the very same people who already have way more than they know what to do with, while sticking everyone else with the bill.

As the last two articles pointed out, not even the Republicans that dominate the state legislature could stomach all of this, so they came up with their own nefarious plan. It's bad enough, but nothing like what Brownback, Laffer, and God (or maybe Koch) came up with.

Pazz N Jop Research

Took me about five days to copy all of the Pazz & Jop results into the metacritic file, and to copy the metacritic file counts back into a table of Pazz & Jop results. The following data results from that travail (plus some SMOP -- small matter of programming).

First table, easiest to generate, is the list of top metacritic-ranked records that didn't get any Pazz & Jop votes:

  • [49] Joe Lovano: Bird Songs (Blue Note)
  • [32] Terri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project (Concord)
  • [29] Pharoahe Monch: WAR (We Are Renegades) (Duck Down Music)
  • [28] Bombay Bicycle Club: A Different Kind of Fix (Island)
  • [28] Summer Camp: Welcome to Condale (Apricot/Moshi Moshi)
  • [25] Chrles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM)
  • [25] Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting (Polydor/Candent Songs)
  • [22] Kurt Elling: The Gate (Concord)
  • [21] Pinch and Shackleton: Pinch and Shackleton (Honest Jons)
  • [20] James Carter Organ Trio_James: At the Crossroads (Emarcy)

Half of those are jazz records, reflecting the fact that I counted a lot of jazz lists (including over 100 lists from JJA and the Jazz Critics' Poll), whereas P&J had very few jazz voters (and even some jazz specialists skewed their ballots away). So let's continue the list skipping the jazz albums:

  • [20] Kode 9 and the Spaceape: Black Sun (Hyperdub)
  • [19] The Dears: Degeneration Street (Dangerbird)
  • [19] Slow Club: Paradise (Moshi Moshi)
  • [18] Arbouretum: The Gathering (Thrill Jockey)
  • [18] Cage the Elephant: Thank You Happy Birthday (Red Ink)
  • [18] Walls: Coracle (Kompakt)
  • [17] The Cool Kids: When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sounds)
  • [17] The Streets: Cyberspace and Reds and Computers and Blues (Atlantic)
  • [16] Evidence: Cats and Dogs (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  • [16] Grails: Deep Politics (Temporary Residence)
  • [15] Tori Amos: Nightof Hunters (Deustche Grammophon)
  • [15] CunninLynguists: Oneirology (QN5 Music)
  • [15] Fujiya and Miyagi: Ventriloquizzing (Yep Roc)
  • [15] Talib Kweli: Gutter Rainbows (Duck Down Music)
  • [15] George Strait: Here for a Good Time (MCA Nashville)
  • [14] Big Sean: Finally Famous (GOOD Music/Island Def Jam)
  • [14] Cloud Control: Bliss Release (Infectious)
  • [14] Baxter Dury: Happy Soup (Regal)
  • [14] Eddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs (Monkeywrench)
  • [13] Esben and the Witch: Violet Cries (Matador)
  • [13] Roots Manuva: 4everevolution (Banana Klan/Big Dada)
  • [12] And So I Watch You From Afar: Gangs (Richter Collective)
  • [12] Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Hysterical (V2)
  • [12] Dels: Gob (Big Dada)
  • [12] Nils Frahm: Felt (Erased Tapes)
  • [12] Givers: In Light (Glass Note)
  • [12] Kitty, Daisy and Lewis: Smoking in Heaven (Verve Forecast)
  • [12] David Lynch: Crazy Clown Time (Sunday Best)
  • [12] Dan Mangan: Oh Fortune (Arts and Crafts)
  • [12] Sigur Ros: Inni (XL/Young Turks)
  • [11] 9th Wonder: The Wonder Years (Traffic Entertainment)
  • [11] The Do: Both Ways Open Jaws (Get Down)
  • [11] Egyptrixx: Bible Eyes (Night Slugs)
  • [11] La Dispute: Wildlife (No Sleep)
  • [11] Lanterns on the Lake: Gracious Tide, Take Me Home (Bella Union)
  • [11] Parts and Labor: Constant Future (Jagjaguwar)
  • [11] Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter_Jesse: Marble Son (Thirty Tigers)
  • [11] White Hills: HP-1 (Thrill Jockey)
  • [10] Boris: Heavy Rocks (Sargent House)
  • [10] Chris Brown: FAME (Jive)
  • [10] Gorillaz: The Fall (Gorillaz)
  • [10] Jessie J: Who Are You (Universal Republic)
  • [10] The King Blues: Punk and Poetry (PIAS)
  • [10] Femi Kuti: Africa for Africa (Knitting Factory)
  • [10] Man Man: Life Fantastic (Anti/Epitaph)
  • [10] The Middle East: I Want That You Are Always Happy (PIAS)
  • [10] Moonface: Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped (Jagjaguwar)
  • [10] Ringo Deathstarr: Colour Trip (Sonic Unyon)
  • [10] Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy (Capitol)
  • [10] Wiley: 100% Publishing (Big Dada)

We can expand this a little further and take, say, records with no more than 5 Pazz & Jop ballots (again, lots of jazz here):

  • [103-4] Wild Beasts: Smother (Domino)
  • [66-5] Anna Calvi: Anna Calvi (Domino)
  • [64-5] Ambrose Akinmusire: When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note)
  • [64-5] Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)
  • [55-5] Josh T Pearson: Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute)
  • [51-3] Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music)
  • [47-5] Cass McCombs: Wit's End (Domino)
  • [46-5] Explosions in the Sky: Take Care Take Care Take Care (Temporary Residence)
  • [43-4] Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys (Atlantic)
  • [41-3] Childish Gambino: Camp (Glassnote)
  • [39-1] Gretchen Parlato: The Lost and Found (ObliqSound)
  • [38-5] Friendly Fires: Pala (XL)
  • [37-4] Balam Acab: Wander/Wonder (Tri Angle)
  • [36-3] Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at Birdland (ECM)
  • [34-1] JD Allen: Victory! (Sunnyside)
  • [34-3] Kasabian: Velociraptor! (Columbia)
  • [33-1] Tennis: Cape Dory (Fat Possum)
  • [33-2] The Weeknd: Thursday (self-released)
  • [32-4] AA Bondy: Believers (Fat Possum)
  • [32-5] J Mascis: Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop)
  • [32-1] Joshua Redman/Aaron Parks/Matt Penman/Eric Harland: James Farm (Nonesuch)
  • [32-5] Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo (Turnstile)
  • [32-2] Ty Segall: Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
  • [32-3] Matthew Shipp: Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2CD)
  • [31-4] Cymbals Eat Guitars: Lenses Alien (Barsuk)
  • [31-2] Justice: Audio, Video, Disco (Because)
  • [31-5] Twin Sister: In Heaven (Domino)
  • [31-5] Patrick Wolf: Lupercalia (Hideout/Mercury)
  • [30-2] Keith Jarrett: Rio (ECM, 2CD)
  • [30-5] Los Campesinos!: Hello Sadness (Arts and Crafts)
  • [30-3] Jonathan Wilson: Gentle Spirit (Bella Union)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Facebook Squibs

And now for something different, a glimpse at some recent home projects. At first they seem like good ideas, then turn into ordeals, then ultimately turn into accomplishments.:

Notes on Everyday Life - Tom Hull - On the Web:

Paula Wolfert's slow-roasted duck with fast-roasted veggies.

I like Etta James as much as anyone, but I don't see anything for Johnny Otis here, so check this one out.

Snatch & the Poontangs - The Signifyin' Monkey Part 2

The Johnny Otis Show - Snatch and The Poontangs There are a lot of reasons to recommend this. First, it's a double disc featuring Johnny Otis' 1968 comeback . . .

Notes on Everyday Life

Should probably take more pictures. Definitely should figure out how to manage them better. But I have a few here that represent some everyday work around the house. This first one is a 12x8 shed I had built in the backyard. I've been moving more tools out to the garage, and in doing so the garage was getting cluttered, especially with lawn equipment that I wanted to move out. A shed seemed like the right solution. I've long fancied building something like that, so I spent several weeks researching shed designs. Bought three books on the subject, plus I have a lot of general construction books. Then when push came to shove, I found a company that could build something very much like what I wanted, and do it a little cheaper and a whole lot faster. So they put up the shed, but I figured the least I could do was to build the ramp up to the door -- the door was about 10 inches above ground level, since the whole thing was on skids. I wound up spending about half as much to get the lumber delivered as they would have charged. And it took weeks to build -- admittedly, mostly waiting for breaks in the cold weather. It's built out of decking planks on top of a frame built out of pressure-treated 2x4, 2x2, and 1x4 lumber, itself sitting on top of paving stones. Underneath that I spread out some "weed block" plastic, put some fiberglass edges on both sides, and dumped 100 lbs. of gravel on it (not really enough). The front edge rests on a slice of vinyl garage door trim, so none of the wood rests on the ground. Still need to do a little more work on the edge. (Still plan on painting the shed, too. At least I did get a coat of sealer down on the ramp.)

Second photo is another backyard project, which would have been visible in the first had it been done then. Here you see the detached garage off to the right of the top picture, and a bit of the driveway. When it rains, water drains to a low spot in the driveway about 4-5 feet out from the garage, and pools up unless it can flow off to the side. The previous owners dug a trench leading off to the left, then turning back a few feet away from the garage until it hit a low spot. I've redug that trench four times in the last decade -- often during heavy rains, which at least is nice in that you get instant gratification when it starts draining. However, the trenches always fill up, so I figured a better solution would be to install a catch basin and dig a French drain to route and absorb the water. The basin is a foot-cube plastic box positioned to pick up the runoff. We then dug a trench about 18-20 inches deep, lined it with gravel, and ran about 25 feet of 4-inch perforated plastic pipe from the basin. In the picture, you can see the basin and some of the pipe surrounded by gravel. Afterwards, I covered the gravel with "weed-block" permeable plastic sheet, and filled the dirt back in. (I say "I" but most of the work in digging and filling the ditch was done by Tom James, a friend who does landscape work for a living.) Haven't had any rain since we got it done, but this should work.

Third picture is a new CD case in our bedroom. This was actually the second stage of a less visible project. For years I had stacked four small CD cases on top of the dresser, which the weight was destroying. To salvage the dresser, I took it apart, glued and clamped the fraying top piece, and reinforced the top with metal brackets. But it didn't seem like a good idea to move the cases back, so I built something that could be attached to the wall. The CDs you see are the ones from the old units, so capacity is up (although it can easily be filled from current stocks). Messed up and made the left unit a bit too high -- the floor slopes down from the right wall, but I wound up misjudging it. I thought I'd try painting this unit instead of leaving the wood tone, and I've used this black paint on a number of projects, but white might have been a better choice. The decor is still pretty much what came with the house. That'll be another project some day.

Finally, fourth picture is a small dinner I made last night. I've had a duck in the freezer for quite some time. Saw a recipe in Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen and figured it was worth a try. I slow-roasted the duck for 3.5 hours the night before, and made the base for the olive sauce. Last night all I had to do was to pop the duck under the broiler to crisp up the skin, and add the olives to the sauce. When I looked for some sort of veggie accompaniment, a "roasted root vegetables" recipe in Nancy Harmon Jenkins' The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook seemed like just the ticket. The recipe itself it complicated by beets and winter squash, which I'd just as soon do without. So I wound up with sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, a rutabaga, a couple parsnips, an onion, some leeks, garlic, herbs and olive oil, roasted in a hot oven for about an hour. A little parsley on top, and that was it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Expert Comments

Probably no real point in doing this, but commenters are posting year-end ballots. We'll give them three-letter abbrevs, and try to keep track: alw [Alex Wilson], apm [Anderson PM], bra [bradluen: minus Xgau-approved], cap [Cam Patterson: 25], daw [Dan W.: +3], fra [Fraptron], glh [GlenH444], grm [Greg Morton], jag [Jason Gubbels: +HM], jef [JeffC77], jol [Jon LaFollette], joy [Joe Yanosik], jre [jreamteam], kra [krazykart: + 5 electronic], lis [Liam Smith], mak [Mark926: 15], mar [Mark Rosen], mif [Mitch F], mrc [Marcus2010], nif [Nicky Faraj], pah [Paul Hayden], ric [Richard Cobeen], rst [rstay], rym [Ryan Maffei: +3], scc [scott coleman], tow [Tom Walker], ubi [ubik333], .

  1. [01] Another Side of Funkyman - rym
  2. [01] Bambara Mystic Soul - jag
  3. [01] Nigeria 70: Sweet Times - jag
  4. [01] Note of Hope - rst
  5. [01] Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque - jag
  6. [01] Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue - bra
  7. [01] Alabama Shakes: EP - cap
  8. [02] Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth -jag, ubi
  9. [01] June Tabor: Ashore - ubi
  10. [01] Bomb the Music Industry!: Vacation - jol
  11. [03] Britney Spears: Femme Fatale - apm, rym, scc
  12. [01] Class Actress: Rapprocher - cap
  13. [01] Comet Gain: Howl of the Lonely Crowd - jag
  14. [01] Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel - jag
  15. [01] Cults: Cults - jag
  16. [02] Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven - grm, scc
  17. [01] DaVinci: Feast or Famine - jag
  18. [01] An Horse: Walls - apm
  19. [01] Let's Wrestle: Nursing Home - apm
  20. [02] Deer Tick: Divine Providence - apm, mif
  21. [01] DJ Quik: The Book of David - bra
  22. [01] Drake: Take Care - jag
  23. [01] El Rego: El Rego - jag
  24. [01] Eric Church: Chief - mrc
  25. [01] Farmers by Nature: Out of This World's Distortions - jag
  26. [01] Garland Jeffreys: The King of In Between - mrc
  27. [02] Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost - jag, kra
  28. [01] My Morning Jacket: Circuital -kra
  29. [01] Greg Ward: Greg Ward's Phonic Juggernaut - jag
  30. [01] Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues - cap
  31. [01] Harrison Birtwistle: Night's Black Bird - bra
  32. [01] Jimmy Cliff: Sacred Fire - cap
  33. [01] John Cale: 1919 Live London 5/03/2010 - cap
  34. [01] John Prine: The Singing Mailman Delivers - cap
  35. [01] Julius Hemphill: Dogon A.D. - jag
  36. [01] Katy B: On a Mission - bra
  37. [01] Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at South Bank - jag
  38. [01] Lee Konitz: Live at Birdland - jag
  39. [01] Lee Perry/Bill Laswell: Rise Again - jag
  40. [01] Lil Wayne: Sorry 4 the Wait - nif
  41. [01] Lindsey Buckingham: Seeds We Sow - pah
  42. [01] Lupe Fiasco: Lasers - bra
  43. [02] Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres - tow, ubi
  44. [01] Mathias Eick: Skala -grm
  45. [01] Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World - bra
  46. [01] Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Beans/Hprizm: Knives From Heaven - jag
  47. [01] Metronomy: The English Riviera - rst
  48. [03] Middle Brother: Middle Brother - apm, jag, kra
  49. [01] White Denim: D - kra
  50. [01] Black Keys: El Camino - kra
  51. [01] Rene Marie: My Black Lace Freudian Slip - ubi
  52. [01] Mikal Cronin: Mikal Cronin - kra
  53. [01] Ty Segall: Goodbye Bread - kra
  54. [02] Rustie: Glass Swords - kra, scc
  55. [01] SBTRKT: SBTRKT - kra
  56. [01] Sepalcure: Sepalcure - kra
  57. [01] Tycho: Dive - kra
  58. [01] Machinedrum: Room(s) - kra
  59. [01] Cashier No. 9: To the Death of Fun - lis
  60. [01] Steve Cropper: Dedicated - lis
  61. [01] Miranda Lambert: Four the Record - cap
  62. [01] Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck - jag
  63. [01] Nacho Picasso: For the Glory - jag
  64. [01] New York Dolls: Dancing Backward in High Heels - nif
  65. [01] Off: First Four EPs - cap
  66. [01] Ofori Amponsah: Odwo - joy
  67. [01] PJ Harvey: Let England Shake - daw
  68. [01] Anna Calvi: Anna Calvi - scc
  69. [01] Pusha T: Fear of God II: Let Us Pray - cap
  70. [03] Rainbow Arabia: Boys & Diamonds - apm, fra, mak
  71. [01] BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse - mak
  72. [01] Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously - jag
  73. [01] Adele: 21 - scc
  74. [01] Raphael-Halley-Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket - bra
  75. [01] Roy Orbison: The Monument Singles - daw
  76. [01] Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa: Nordeste Plaza - mak
  77. [01] Scroobius Pip: Distraction Pieces - jag
  78. [01] Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 1 - joy
  79. [01] St. Vincent: Strange Mercy - rym
  80. [01] Terakaft: Aratan N Azawad - jag
  81. [01] The Baseball Project: Volume 2: High and Inside - jef
  82. [01] The Bats: Free All the Monsters - cap
  83. [01] REM: Collapse Into Now - lis
  84. [01] Poly Styrene: Generation Indigo - lis
  85. [01] The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World - jag
  86. [01] Theo Parrish: Ugly Edits - jag
  87. [02] Tom Waits: Bad as Me - pah, ubi
  88. [01] Vaccines: What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? - pah
  89. [01] Radiohead: The King of Limbs - mak
  90. [01] Vieux Farka Toure: The Secret - cap
  91. [02] Wilco: The Whole Love - jag, kra
  92. [01] Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact - kra
  93. [02] Cartagena! - grm, jag
  94. [03] Battles: Gloss Drop - jag, lis, nif
  95. [02] Blaqstarr: The Divine EP - alw, jre
  96. [02] Bombino: Agadez - jag, joy
  97. [02] Brad Paisley: This Is Country Music - cap, jol
  98. [02] Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots - cap, mar
  99. [02] Eddy Current Suppression Ring: So Many Things - cap, jag
  100. [02] Group Doueh: Zayna Jumma - jag, joy
  101. [02] Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO - mar, pah
  102. [02] Iceage: New Brigade - cap, jag
  103. [03] Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes - jol, mrc, scc
  104. [02] Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1967 - bra, jag
  105. [03] Rihanna: Talk That Talk - jre, ric, scc
  106. [03] Serengeti: Family and Friends - mar, scc, tow
  107. [02] Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 - bra, glh
  108. [02] Stephin Merritt: Obscurities - mar, rym
  109. [03] Those Darlins: Screws Get Loose - nif, pah, ubi
  110. [03] Tinariwen: Tassili - lis, mar, tow
  111. [02] Todd Snider: Live: The Storyteller - grm, nif
  112. [03] Caroline Chocolate Drops: Luminiscent Orchestrii - alw, glh, ric
  113. [03] Fucked Up: David Comes to Life - bra, daw, mif
  114. [03] Lobi Traore: Bwati Kono "In the Club" - cap, daw, grm
  115. [04] Low Cut Connie: Get Out the Lotion - lis, mif, mrc, tow
  116. [05] Mates of State: Mountaintops - apm, grm, jre, ric, scc
  117. [03] Plastic People of the Universe: Magical Nights - daw, glh, joy
  118. [03] Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' - cap, mar, ric
  119. [04] Shabazz Palaces: Black Up - cap, jag, joy, mak
  120. [04] The Mekons: Ancient & Modern - daw, jag, lis, rst
  121. [03] The Weeknd: House of Balloons - daw, mif, nif
  122. [03] Yuck: Yuck - jol, joy, ric
  123. [05] Das Racist: Relax - glh, jag, jef, mak, rst
  124. [06] TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light - cap, fra, jol, kra, mak, ric
  125. [04] Wussy: Funeral Dress II - alw, cap, glh, joy
  126. [05] Fountains of Wayne: Sky Full of Holes - grm, jef, jol, pah, rym
  127. [06] Jens Lekman: An Argument With Myself - alw, daw, joy, jre, mak, mif
  128. [05] Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister - alw, daw, fra, glh, tow
  129. [08] Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels - cap, jef, jre, mak, mrc, pah, scc, ubi
  130. [07] Wild Flag: Wild Flag - cap, grm, jag, lis, ric, rym, scc
  131. [06] Withered Hand: Good News - glh, jag, mar, nif, rym, tow
  132. [07] Emperor X: Western Teleport - cap, jag, mif, ric, rst, rym, tow
  133. [11] Teddybears: Devil's Music - apm, cap, daw, fra, jef, mak, mif, ric, rst, scc, tow
  134. [13] Jay-Z/Kanye West: Watch the Throne - alw, cap, daw, fra, jag, jef, jre, mak, mrc, nif, rst, rym, scc
  135. [14] Wussy: Strawberry - cap, daw, jag, jef, jol, joy, jre, mak, mrc, nif, pah, rym, tow, ubi
  136. [17] Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What? - alw, apm, glh, grm, jag, jef, jol, jre, mak, mar, mif, mrc, pah, rst, rym, scc, ubi
  137. [17] Tune-Yards: Whokill - alw, apm, fra, glh, grm, jag, jef, jre, kra, mak, mar, mif, mrc, pah, ric, rst, rym
  138. [18] Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra - alw, cap, daw, fra, glh, jag, jef, jol, joy, jre, mak, mar, mif, nif, mrc, rym, scc, tow

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Expert Comments

Johnny Otis died, age 90:

On Johnny Otis: George Lipsitz introduced me to a cut on an old LP comp that I immediately snarfed up. But it took years and years of searching to find "Signifying Monkey" on cd. It finally showed up on Cold Shot/Snatch and the Poontangs on Ace -- not the stuff he was famous for (notorious maybe).

Haven't been in touch with George for ages now, but I did notice that his most recent book is called Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story.

Errors/corrections for Pazz & Jop poll:

  • 517. Chris Chochran, Them (): Cochrane; label: Tzadik
  • 677. Snsd, Girls' Generation (1st Japan Album) (Nayutawave/Universal Music Japan): Group name is Girls' Generation, which is popularly abbreviated SNSD; album is probably Girls' Generation, their first (and only) Japanese studio release; album later repackaged as The Boys
  • 902. Bazan, Strange Negotiations (Barsuk): David Bazan
  • 902. Oneohtrix Point Never, Returnal (Editions): label: Editions Mego
  • 902. Simphewe Dana, Kultur Noir (Warner): Simphiwe Dana, label: Warner Bros. [UK]
  • 902. Darren Johnston, Gone to Chicago (Porto Franco): Darren Johnston's Gone to Chicago, title The Big Lift
  • 902. Fabulous, The S.O.U.L. Tape (self-released): Fabolous
  • 902. Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Message (Five Day Weekend): title, The Medium Is the Massage
  • 902. The Bachata Legens (iASO): The Bachata Legends
  • 1734. Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Eart's Reflections (Cunifrom); Earth's Reflections; label: Cuneiform
  • 1734. Imaginary Flaying Machines: Princess Ghibli (Coroner); Imaginary Flying Machines

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Some timely reading today:

Saved the latter for last because I wanted to quote from it:

Stopping legislation like this is very important to me, because the continual escalation of intellectual property enforcement is the foundation of the incipient rentier dystopia I've explored in much of my previous writing.

Some of the companies that are lobbying against SOPA and PIPA may well have their own dreams of a rentier dystopia, and that's something to beware of. Unfortunately, we live in a political system dominated by conflicting special interests, almost completely oblivious to the idea of a public interest, especially one unable to line the pockets of politicians.

Update: Also see the post-blackout report at Wikipedia.

Pazz + Jop

Again, my Pazz & Jop ballot, plus some extra info:

  1. Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley, Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle) [12]: 850-1-12: only vote.
  2. Lobi Traore, Bwati Kono "In the Club" (Kanaga System Krush) [12]: 850-1-12: only vote.
  3. Mekons, Ancient & Modern (Bloodshot) [10]: 167-71-6: Ted Cox, Jason Gubbels, Andrew Hamlin, J Neo Marvin, Christopher Monsen, Rob Trucks.
  4. Jimmie Dale Gilmore/The Wronglers, Heirloom Music (Neanderthal Noise) [10]: 902-10-1: only vote.
  5. Allen Lowe, Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts) [10]: 341-31-3: Jason Gubbels, Ken Shinamoto.
  6. Todd Snider, Live: The Storyteller (Thirty Tigers/Aimless) [10]: 902-10-1: only vote.
  7. Lupe Fiasco, Lasers (Atlantic) [9]: 244-47-6: John Bush, Bill Forman, Jason Gross, Geoffrey Himes, Kye Stephenson.
  8. Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy) [9]: 142-84-8: Larry Birnbaum, Alex Henderson, Steve Holtje, Daniel King, Ken Shinamoto, Jon Solomon, Chip Stern.
  9. Dave Alvin, Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc) [9]: 197-59-6: Geoffrey Himes, Larry King, Randy Lewis, Bill O'Neill, Leland Rucker.
  10. Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin' (Columbia) [9]: 39-307-33: Robert Bishop, James Blount, Ken Capobianco, Salvatore Caputo, Thor Christensen, Charles R. Cross, Bree Davies, Jer Fairall, Steve Forstneger, Ted Friedman, Gary Graff, Randall Grass, Nick Green, Kory Grow, Kenny Herzog, Joey Hood, Steve Horowitz, Charles Johnson, Greg Kot, Todd Martens, Noel Murray, Bill O'Neill, Ryan Patrick, Rebecca Raber, Mosi Reeves, D. Patrick Rodgers, Al Shipley, Alfred Soto, Ian Steaman, Lindsey Thomas, Ken Tucker, K. Leander Williams.

Positions sorted: 39, 142, 167, 197, 244, 341, 850, 850, 902, 902.

Votes sorted: 39, 8, 6, 6, 6, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1.

Voters with common picks:

  • Larry Birnbaum: Rollins
  • Robert Bishop: Saadiq
  • James Blount: Saadiq
  • John Bush: Lupe Fiasco
  • Ken Capobianco: Saadiq
  • Salvatore Caputo: Saadiq
  • Thor Christensen: Saadiq
  • Ted Cox: Mekons
  • Charles R. Cross: Saadiq
  • Bree Davies: Saadiq
  • Jer Fairall: Saadiq
  • Bill Forman: Lupe Fiasco
  • Steve Forstneger: Saadiq
  • Ted Friedman: Saadiq
  • Gary Graff: Saadiq
  • Randall Grass: Saadiq
  • Nick Green: Saadiq
  • Jason Gross: Lupe Fiasco
  • Kory Grow: Saadiq
  • Jason Gubbels: Lowe, Mekons
  • Andrew Hamlin: Mekons
  • Alex Henderson: Rollins
  • Kenny Herzog: Saadiq
  • Geoffrey Himes: Alvin, Lupe Fiasco
  • Steve Holtje: Rollins
  • Joey Hood: Saadiq
  • Steve Horowitz: Saadiq
  • Charles Johnson: Saadiq
  • Daniel King: Rollins
  • Larry King: Alvin
  • Greg Kot: Saadiq
  • Randy Lewis: Alvin
  • Todd Martens: Saadiq
  • Christopher Monsen: Mekons
  • Noel Murray: Saadiq
  • Bill O'Neill: Alvin, Saadiq
  • Ryan Patrick: Saadiq
  • Rebecca Raber: Saadiq
  • Mosi Reeves: Saadiq
  • D. Patrick Rodgers: Saadiq
  • Leland Rucker: Alvin
  • Ken Shinamoto: Lowe, Rollins
  • Al Shipley: Saadiq
  • Jon Solomon: Rollins
  • Alfred Soto: Saadiq
  • Ian Steaman: Saadiq
  • Kyle Stephenson: Lupe Fiasco
  • Chip Stern: Rollins
  • Lindsey Thomas: Saadiq
  • Rob Trucks: Mekons
  • Ken Tucker: Saadiq
  • K. Leander Williams: Saadiq

In 2010 there were 713 voters; in 2010 there were 701. 148 names were dropped from 2010 to 2011; 136 were added. The initial letter supposedly invited 1500 critics.

I wound up ranked 609 in centricity, with a 0.07 factor -- replace Raphael Saadiq with Avram Fefer, which would have made more sense for me to do, and I would have been much closer to the bottom. By contrast, Joey Daniewicz had the highest centricity score (0.74). His album ballot picks wound up: 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 16, 25, 109.

Expert Comments

More PnJ, this time a question as to why Matana Roberts finished at 78:

Matana Roberts' Coin Coin finished higher than I expected, but it did get unusual support from beyond the usual jazz confines, including rave reviews in No Ripchord and Tiny Machine Tapes, and an EOY list place in Prefix. It has vocals, a black history theme with an AACM pedigree which steers clear of the pitfalls Wynton Marsalis stumbles into when he tries to do this sort of thing. It finished 15th in our Jazz Critics' Poll, so has some cred there but is truly a crossover item (very small label, I didn't get serviced it so I imagine it didn't get much promo; I played it on Rhapsody, and have been told that I underrated it, which could well be). Finished with 33 in my metafile, same as J Cole, Coldplay, Neon Indian, Tennis, etc.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Expert Comments

PnJ comes out:

I was trying to get my end-of-year lists posted before P&J came out. Down in the fine print I grade out year-end lists by Christgau and Jason Gross -- the latter has steered me onto some obscure but interesting stuff in the past, but less so this year. Anyhow, I prepended a quick paragraph of my first impressions of P&J:

I haven't digested them, but there are a lot of surprises, starting with the tanking of Bon Iver (9th place), Fleet Foxes (18th), Radiohead (33rd), and James Blake (34th). (Drops like these almost suggest the new editor rigged the poll with more better-than-average critics.) Paul Simon rose even more than expected (14th). Another higher-than-expected that strikes me is Lydia Loveless in 134th (321 in my file) -- 1 spot below Brad Paisley, 9 below Lucinda Williams.

Key thing is that a lot of [bad] records that had lots of favorable press performed way below expectations. Offhand, it looks like about the same number of critics, votes, and records this year as last, so one thing to research is who left and who came. (I know we got Chris Monsen and Jason Gubbels on the list this year, which was certainly good for Wussy.)

I may quibble later, but at first glance this looks like the worst year ever for the predictive power of my metacritic file.

I'll also remind you that the real fun is in the individual ballots. E.g., I found someone named Josh Kortbein with a couple of metal albums, some avant jazz, Ebo Taylor, the Cornelius Cardew box set, and something I've never heard of on Important that could be any of those things.

More, trying to sort out the voter shift. Turns out Milo Miles was dropped from the poll this year.

Comparing the 2010 and 2011 voter lists, 148 names were dropped from the former (of 713 voters), and 136 were added to the latter (resulting in 701 voters). That seems like a lot, but the original invite letter announced that 1500 people were invited to participate. If that is true, participation is less than 50%, so there is likely to be a fair amount of change from year to year even if the invite lists are identical. I've separated out the lists, and the overwhelming majority of names are people I don't recognize, so I can't draw any real conclusions. It does occur to me that when Matos ran a critics poll at Idolator a few years back, he came up with a younger and more web-based electorate than the Voice had, so someone could try comparing that voter list to the (2011-2010) differences.

By the way, aside from Milo, the most famous missing name is probably Toure.

The interesting thing about Joey topping the centricity list is that nearly everyone else ducked. See the note at the top of the page:

In 2010 there were 26 voters with >.7 centricity. In 2011 only 4!

In other words, there wasn't much consensus this year -- actually, the word I'm tempted to use is conformism. I've seen ballots with 8 or 9 of the top 10 finishers on them. Joey's sorts out: 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 16, 25, 109. Throw out Wussy and the lowest finisher was Girls. And he managed to do that while working in two free downloads, two more hip-hop albums, one 70-year-old, and one 21-year-old. To quote me in one of Bob's 1970s articles, "some consensus."


Re: Pazz & Jop 2011. The distressing news is contained near the bottom of the list, where a whopping 621 albums are listed even though each only earned one or two mentions -- which has to be some kind of record. So it would seem that pop music critical consensus is becoming as fragmented and ghettoized as the listening tastes of the general public. Want further proof? A third of the high school students I teach have never heard of Adele, and another third hate her simply because she's popular with the third third.

Christgau responded:

JeffC: I'm not gonna do it, but you should look back at past lists and see how many records got one mention. About half seems right to me. I've written about this in at least one essay, but I'm not going to find it either.

More from me: I copied the results into a file, ran an emacs macro to pound them into single-line field-separated format, and could then isolate the single votes easily and accurately:

JeffC: Your data set (621 1-vote records) is in error. The number of PnJ records this year with only one vote is 1250, which makes them 63.5% of the total (1967). Due to sorting by points, 1- and 2-vote (and possibly more) are mixed up in the results. (The first 1-vote records, with 30 points, appear at number 344.)

The 2000 figures Marcus quotes work out to 62.9%, which is eerily consistent. The record probably dates to 2004-05 when the poll peaked with 793 and 795 ballots, although I doubt that the ratio of 1-vote records is that consistent year-to-year.

By the way, my metacritic file has 4602 records, of which 2001 have only one vote -- 43.4% of the total. It could be that as the sample size increases the percentage of 1-vote records flattens out, but it is also true that I deliberately undercounted single-vote records: on dozens of lists I didn't bother writing down things I hadn't seen before. (Actually, I think the main factor is that I counted longer lists. My math isn't good enough to quickly figure out how many skipped records it would take to even out the books, but it's more than 1000, and I skipped more like 200-300 records.)

As I recall, a few years back it was widely reported that there are something like 35,000 releases per year. I wouldn't be surprised if the number tops 50,000 now (especially counting all the digital-only releases). Not only is consensus impossible against such numbers, I'm not sure that it's even desirable.

End-of-2011 List

Update: The PazzNJop results came out after this was written but before I posted it. The Expert Witness results aren't out yet. [PPS: link here]. I haven't digested them, but there are a lot of surprises, starting with the tanking of Bon Iver (9th place), Fleet Foxes (18th), Radiohead (33rd), and James Blake (34th). (Drops like these almost suggest the new editor rigged the poll with more better-than-average critics.) Paul Simon rose even more than expected (14th). Another higher-than-expected that strikes me is Lydia Loveless in 134th (321 in my file) -- 1 spot below Brad Paisley, 9 below Lucinda Williams. More of this sort of thing later.

Today's the day I declared 2011 over, at least as far as my year-end list is concerned. A copy as of today will be frozen for future reference. I'll continue to fiddle with the still active 2011 list up to Dec. 31, 2012, but new adds and belated grades for currently pending records will be flagged in a different color (as I've done for a number of years now). This has taken a few days longer than usual, in part because the working list had turned into such a mess. I finally decided that I can't trust myself to rank records below A-, so I've alphabetized those sections.

I was tempted to do that with the A- list part as well, but figured I should at least be able to give the upper regions a decent go. But it, too, was a mess, so I've wound up doing a lot of resorting. One result is that the ballots I turned in to Pazz & Jop, the Jazz Critics Poll, and the Expert Witness Poll have all been more or less eclipsed. The only reason what follows won't be as fleeting is that I'm more likely to move on to 2012, but what I want to do here is to lay out my most official A-list of 2012. I'm going to do this in two chunks: the first is my jazz list; the second non-jazz. They are roughly equal in length, reflecting the fact that, for professional reasons as much as taste, I listen to a lot more jazz than anything else. I could try breaking non-jazz into further genres, but that seems like overkill. In both cases, I'm mising a few compilations and vault discoveries in, even though I keep them separate in my main lists. (The separation dates from writing Recycled Goods. I won't bother listing favorite reissues here, since whether I listen to a reissue or not is pretty much -- well, not random exactly, but contingent on a lot of very arbitrary conditions. Whereas I can make a strong claim to have listened broadly to jazz, and I can make a weaker but still substantial claim to have sampled a wide breadth of non-jazz, I haven't heard more than a small fraction of the reissues I'd like to hear, much less everything else.)

On both lists, ** indicates something only heard on Rhapsody or some other download source. I've generally played these less than records I have hard copies of. Not so noted are records I later obtained real copies of.

The top jazz list:

  1. Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle)
  2. Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (Not Two)
  3. Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts, 3CD)
  4. Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue (Sunnyside)
  5. Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (Pi, 2CD)
  6. Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy)
  7. David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español (Motéma)
  8. Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (Music Now!)
  9. Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (Prime Source)
  10. De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (Strotbrocck)
  11. Tommy Smith: Karma (Spartacus)
  12. Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (Playscape)
  13. Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (Jazzwerkstatt)
  14. Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique - I (Pi)
  15. Mathias Eick: Skala (ECM)
  16. Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (AUM Fidelity)
  17. Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation) **
  18. Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (Cuneiform)
  19. Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (Delmark)
  20. Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform, 2CD)
  21. Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères (TUM)
  22. Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (ACT)
  23. Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (Bju'ecords)
  24. The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (SteepleChase)
  25. Starlicker: Double Demon (Delmark)
  26. David S. Ware/Cooper-Moore/William Parker/Muhammad Ali: Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity)
  27. Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quartet: In Good Company (Capri)
  28. Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center (Reprise, CD+DVD)
  29. Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project (Zoning)
  30. Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (Jazz From Rant)
  31. FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (TUM)
  32. Yaala Ballin: On the Road (Gallery)
  33. Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (Clean Feed)
  34. Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz, 2CD)
  35. Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy: Volume 1 & 2 (Strick Muzik, 2CD)
  36. Side A: A New Margin (Clean Feed)
  37. Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Song) (NoBusiness)
  38. Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (Clean Feed)
  39. Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (YSL)
  40. Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine) **
  41. Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (Delmark)
  42. Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM, 2CD)
  43. Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy, 3CD)
  44. Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (self-released)
  45. Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You: New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics (Evening Star)
  46. Brian Charette: Learning to Count (SteepleChase)
  47. James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (Emarcy)
  48. Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (Concord)
  49. Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (Wide Hive) **
  50. Lim: With Marc Ducret (Kopasetic) **
  51. Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (Rhombus Publishing)
  52. Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (Savant)
  53. Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven)
  54. Inzinzac: Inzinzac (High Two)
  55. Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (Frosty Cordial)

That's the second (or third) time in the last week or two I've published the jazz list -- see my year-end piece at Rhapsody, Tom Hull: The Thrill of Discovery, and the completist Extended Year-End Jazz List. While the order has changed, I haven't added anything lately -- a clear admission that I've taken a break from jazz lately. Usually it's only a matter of a week or two until I find something I missed. In fact, here are the post-freeze 2010 (Jan. 24, 2011) finds:

  1. ICP Orchestra: ICP 049 (ICP)
  2. Dadi: Bem Aqui (Sunnyside)
  3. Free Fall: Gray Scale (Smalltown Superjazz)
  4. Ideal Bread: Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy (Cuneiform)
  5. Dmitry Baevsky: Down With It (Sharp Nine) **
  6. Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire (Drip Audio)
  7. Roger Davidson Quintet: Brazilian Love Song (Soundbrush)

Although had I been able to back up a couple weeks I would have added Benjamin Herman: Hypochristmastreefuzz (Dox) to the top of that list.

The top non-jazz list:

  1. Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister (1977-78, Nonesuch, 3CD)
  2. Lobi Traore: Bwati Kono "In the Club" (Kanaga System Krush)
  3. Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (Sounday)
  4. The Mekons: Ancient & Modern 1911-2011 (Bloodshot)
  5. Jimmie Dale Gilmore/The Wronglers: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal Noise)
  6. Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc)
  7. Todd Snider: Live: The Storyteller (Thirty Tigers/Aimless, 2CD)
  8. Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' (Columbia)
  9. Lupe Fiasco: Lasers (Atlantic)
  10. Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead)
  11. Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do (Universal Republic)
  12. The Weeknd: House of Balloons (mixtape) **
  13. Nigeria 70: Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife and Juju From 1970s Lagos (Strut)
  14. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds)
  15. Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra (mixtape) **
  16. Teddybears: Devil's Music (Big Beat/Atlantic)
  17. Cunninlynguists: Oneirology (RBC) **
  18. Fucked Up: David Comes to Life (Matador) **
  19. TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
  20. Kanye West/Jay-Z: Watch the Throne (Roc-A-Fella)
  21. Wussy: Strawberry (Shake It) **
  22. Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (ATO/Red)
  23. Fruit Bats: Tripper (Sub Pop) **
  24. Terakaft: Aratan N Azawad (World Village)
  25. Serengeti: Family & Friends (Anticon) **
  26. Class Actress: Rapprocher (Carpark) **
  27. Group Doueh: Zayna Jumma (Sublime Frequencies)
  28. Buck 65: 20 Odd Years (WEA Canada) **
  29. Elzhi: Elmatic (Jae B Group) **
  30. Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels (Columbia Nashville)
  31. Tinariwen: Tassili (Anti-) **
  32. Steve Cropper: Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales (429)
  33. Low Cut Connie: Get Out the Lotion (self-released)
  34. Emperor X: Western Teleport (Bar/None)
  35. Poly Styrene: Generation Indigo (Future Noise)
  36. Neil Young: International Harvesters: A Treasure (1984-85, Reprise)
  37. Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-)
  38. Ry Cooder: Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (Nonesuch)
  39. Bootsy Collins: Tha Funk Capital of the World (Megaforce) **
  40. Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (Vanguard)
  41. The Dirt Drifters: This Is My Blood (Warner Brothers)
  42. Afro Latin: Via Kinshasa (Syllart, 2CD)
  43. Hot Chelle Rae: Whatever (RCA) **
  44. Blaqstarr: Divine EP (NEET, EP) **
  45. Viceversah: Shine Not Burn (AR Classic) **
  46. Peter Stampfel/Jeffrey Lewis: Come on Board (self-released) **
  47. Rainbow Arabia: Boys and Diamonds (Kompakt)
  48. Limousines: Get Sharp (Dangerbird) **
  49. Bombino: Agadez (Cumbancha) **
  50. Generation Bass Presents: Transnational Dubstep (Six Degrees)
  51. Bibio: Mind Bokeh (Warp) **
  52. The Baseball Project: Vol. 2: High and Inside (Yep Roc) **
  53. Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (1976-2010, Strut)
  54. 9th Wonder: The Wonder Years (Traffic Entertainment)
  55. Johnny Cash: Bootleg Vol I: Personal File (1973-83, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD)
  56. Connie Smith: Long Line of Heartaches (Sugar Hill) **
  57. Eddy Current Suppression Ring: So Many Things (2003-04, Goner) **
  58. Vijana Jazz Band: The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka & Kamata Sukuma (1975-80, Sterns) **
  59. Miranda Lambert: Four the Record (RCA Nashville)
  60. Scroobius Pip: Distraction Pieces (Speech Development) **
  61. Cornershop: Cornershop and the Double-O Groove Of (Ample Play) **
  62. Hail Mary Mallon: Are You Gonna Eat That? (Rhymesayers Entertainment) **
  63. Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun (Blues Babe/Warner Bros.)
  64. J Mascis: Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop) **
  65. Britney Spears: Femme Fatale (Jive)
  66. Sorry Bamba: Volume One 1970-1979 (Thrill Jockey) **
  67. William Elliot Whitmore: Field Songs (Anti-) **
  68. Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
  69. Swollen Members: Dagger Mouth (Suburban Noize) **
  70. Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie (429)
  71. La Cherga: Revolve (Asphalt Tango)
  72. Middle Brother (Partisan) **
  73. Afro Latin: Via Dakar (Syllart, 2CD)
  74. Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Lost Highway)
  75. BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse (Out Here)
  76. New York Dolls: Dancing Backward in High Heels (429)
  77. Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine (Bloodshot) **

Post-freeze 2010 release finds:

  1. Plastic People of the Universe: Magical Nights (1969-85, Munster, 2CD)
  2. The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast (TBD) **
  3. Aaron Neville: I Know I've Been Changed (Tell It) **
  4. OFF!: First Four EPs (Vice) **
  5. Smile Smile: Truth on Tape (Kirtland) **
  6. Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Odditties (1973-90, Quebeservice) **

Didn't expect to have so much more non-jazz than jazz, even before the compilations tilted 10-to-1. Could know a couple of marginals off the bottom of the list, but doesn't seem worth the paperwork. Christgau's Dean's list, with both McGarrigles and virtually no jazz (a Nils Petter Molvaer album he likes more than I do) runs much longer (107, albeit with 12 pre-2011 releases, where I moved my onto the late-2010 list), so I figure I'm being picky enough.

Genre breakdown, as best I can reckon: rock singer-songwriters: 6 (including McGarrigles, so 2 old); rock groups: 11; electro-pop: 7, plus 4 further into electronica; world: 15 (6 old); country and americana: 15 (including a few who could be traded to the rock categories, like Cooder and Dirt Drifters); hip-hop: 12 rap, plus 7 with singers (including Cropper); other: Note of Hope (folk songwriter/rock singers).

Below the fold, I'll present two tables, each grading records from a friendly long (100+ record) year-end list (Jason Gross and Robert Christgau).

Every year Jason Gross drops a huge year-end list, including a lot of shit I've never heard of. Last year his list proved exceptionally fruitful as I chased down various obscurities. This year, uh, less so. (Lots of surprises, but thus far only one previously unrated A-, five ***, four **, although there are still lots of records I haven't been able to track down.) Can't tell you how many times I looked up one of his bands in AMG and discovered they are "quirky." I know Jason well enough to say he's pretty quirky, so that may be the norm, but he does listen to as much new music as anyone, and one of the good things about being quirky is that you welcome surprises. The following is his new records list. I don't know that he meant it to be ordered -- he didn't number anything, but he didn't alphabetize either. But I figure the best thing to do is to sort it by my grades, if for no other reason than because I'm curious how it breaks down that way.

  • Bombino: Agadez (Cumbancha)
  • Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
  • Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead)
  • The Fruit Bats: Tripper (Sub Pop)
  • Miranda Lambert: Four the Record (RCA Nashville)
  • The Limousines: Get Sharp (Dangerbird)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Lasers (Atlantic)
  • Middle Brother: Middle Brother (Partisan)
  • Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun (Warner Bros)
  • Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' (Columbia)
  • TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
  • Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-)
  • The Weeknd: House of Balloons (weeknd.com)
  • Kanye West/Jay-Z: Watch the Throne (Def Jam)
  • Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (Strut)
  • Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 (Capitol)
  • Common: The Dreamer/The Believer (Think Common)
  • T-Model Ford and GravelRoad: Taledragger (Alive)
  • The Front Bottoms: The Front Bottoms (Bar/None)
  • Gold-Bears: Are You Falling in Love? (Slumberland)
  • Kembe X: Self Rule (no label)
  • Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80: From Africa With Fury: Rise (Knitting Factory)
  • Los Chicharrons: Roots of Life (Tummy Touch)
  • Shackleton: Fabric 55 (Fabric)
  • Sidi Touré & Friends: Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey)
  • Battles: Gloss Drop (Warp)
  • Deaf Center: Owls and Splinters (Type)
  • Eilen Jewell: Queen of the Minor Key (Signature Sounds)
  • J-Rocc: Some Cold Rock Stuf (Stones Throw)
  • Kitty, Daisy & Lewis: Smoking in Heaven (Verve Forecast)
  • Kendrick Lamar: Section.80 (Top Dawg Entertainment)
  • Sonia Leigh: 1978 December (Southern Ground)
  • Let's Wrestle: Nursing Home (Merge)
  • M.I.A.: Vicki Leekx (vickileekx.com)
  • Andy Petr: Rapper Turned Singer (Mixpak, EP)
  • The Roots: Undun (Def Jam)
  • Wild Flag: Wild Flag (Merge)
  • Yuck: Yuck (Fat Possom)
  • British Sea Power: Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade)
  • Childish Gambino: Camp (Glassnote)
  • Danny Paul Grody: In Search of Light (Students of Decay)
  • Sean Jones: No Need for Words (Mack Avenue)
  • Mazes: A Thousand Heys (Fat Cat)
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong (Slumberland)
  • Brad Paisley: This is Country Music (Arista Nashville)
  • The Postelles: The Postelles (+1)
  • Prince Polo: Brooklyn Bodega (DubShot)
  • Rose Hill Drive: Americana (Slow and Shirley)
  • Sleeping in the Aviary: You and Me, Ghost (Science of Sound)
  • Tune-Yards: Whokill (4AD)
  • The Chain Gang of 1974: Wayward Fire (Modern Art)
  • Dum Dum Girls: He Gets Me High (Sub Pop, EP)
  • Tracy Nelson: Victim of the Blues (Delta Groove Productions)
  • Portugal. The Man: In the Mountain In the Cloud (Atlantic)
  • R.E.M.: Collapse Into Now (Warner Bros)
  • Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde (Fat Possom)
  • Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
  • Hayvanlar Alemi: Guarana Superpower (Sublime Frequencies) *
  • Antietam: Tenth Life (Carrot Top)
  • The Axis of Awesome: Animal Vehicle (Laughspin) *
  • Barreracudas: Nocturnal Missions (Douchemaster) *
  • Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch) *
  • James Blackshaw: Holly EP (Important) *
  • Blondie: Panic of Girls (Noble ID)
  • Harold Budd: In the Mist (Darla)
  • Chicago Blues: A Living History: The (R)evolution Continues (Raisin' Music) *
  • Evolution Control Committee: All Rights Reserved (Seeland 2010)
  • Brain F{/=}: Sleep Rough (Grave Mistake) *
  • Fennesz + Sakamoto: Flumina (Touch) *
  • Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma Alt Takes (Warp)
  • Justice of the Unicorns: Animals Will Be Stoned (Little Lamb)
  • Los Massieras: Better Than Italian (Clone) *
  • Lunch: Lunch EP (Mightier Than Sword)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Friend of the People (no label) *
  • Stephen Marley: Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life (Universal/Tough Gong)
  • McKnight & Bogdal: Zombie Nation (Indie Extreme)
  • Milo: I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here (miloraps.com)
  • Milos: Mediterraneo (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Occult: Detective Club Crimes (Alive)
  • Prefuse 73: The Only She Chapter (Warp) *
  • Resoe: The Black Void of Space (Echocord)
  • Pete Rock/Smif N Wessun: Monumental (Duck Down)
  • Robert Scott: Ends Run Together (Flying Nun, 2010)
  • Shackleton: Fireworks (Honest Jon's) *
  • SMM: Context (Ghostly International)
  • Omar Souleyman: Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts (Sublime Frequencies) *
  • Spook Houses: The Home EP (bandcamp.com)
  • STS: The Illustrious (stsisgold.com)
  • Swimsuit: Swimsuit (Speakertree)
  • Thievery Corporation: Culture of Fear (Eighteenth Street)
  • Viva Brother: Famous First Words (A&M)
  • Dominique Young: Unique Glamorous Touch Mixtape (Art Jam)
  • Air Textures Volume 1 (Air Textures)
  • Unclassified (Adult Swim)

*Looked for album on Rhapsody and didn't find it.

While I was working on the above, Robert Christgau's year-end list came out. Michael Tatum noted that he had six top-ten records in common with Christgau. As expected, I had none (at least in my Pazz & Jop and Expert Witness ballots) -- the list above rates the McGarrigle's Tell My Sister high enough, and might include Magical Nights if I allowed 2010 releases (which in this case, a record that never appeared in my 2010 metacritic file, would be a pretty reasonable decision).

We can do the same grade chart here as with Gross above:

  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister (Nonesuch)
  • Mekons: Ancient & Modern: 1911-2011 (Sin)
  • The Plastic People of the Universe: Magical Nights (Munster '10)
  • Lobi Traore: Bwati Kono "In the Club" (Kanaga System Krush)
  • Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc)
  • Sorry Bamba: Volume One 1970-1979 (Thrill Jockey)
  • The Baseball Project: Volume 2: High and Inside (Yep Roc)
  • Blaqstarr: The Divine EP (NEET)
  • Bombino: Agadez (Cumbancha)
  • Buck 65: 20 Odd Years (WEA)
  • Ry Cooder: Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (Nonesuch)
  • Steve Cropper: Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales (429)
  • Emperor X: Western Teleport (Bar/None)
  • Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead)
  • Drive-By Truckers: The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities) 2003-2008 (New West '09)
  • Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (New West)
  • Fruit Bats: Tripper (Sub Pop)
  • Group Doueh: Zayna Jumma (Sublime Frequencies)
  • Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (Vanguard)
  • Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do (Universal Republic)
  • Miranda Lambert: Four the Record (RCA)
  • Low Cut Connie: Get Out the Lotion (self-released)
  • Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center (Reprise Jazz)
  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Odditties (Querbeservice '10)
  • Middle Brother: Middle Brother (Partisan)
  • Aaron Neville: I Know I've Been Changed (EMI Gospel/Tell It '10)
  • Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra (free download)
  • Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels (Columbia)
  • Rainbow Arabia: Boys and Diamonds (Kompakt)
  • Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' (Columbia)
  • Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun (Blues Babe/Warner Bros.)
  • Serengeti: Family & Friends (Anticon)
  • Todd Snider: Live: The Storyteller (Thirty Tigers/Aimless)
  • Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Come on Board (no label)
  • Poly Styrene: Generation Indigo (Future Noise Music)
  • Teddybears: Devil's Music (Big Beat)
  • Terakaft: Aratan N Azawad (World Village)
  • Tinariwen: Tassili (Anti-)
  • TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
  • Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-)
  • Kanye West/Jay-Z: Watch the Throne (Roc-A-Fella)
  • Wire: 14 Sept 2002, Metro, Chicago (pinkflag.com '10)
  • Wussy: Strawberry (Shake It)
  • Neil Young/International Harvesters: A Treasure (Reprise)
  • Afro Latin Via Dakar (Syllart Productions/Discograph)
  • Afro Latin Via Kinshasa (Syllart Productions/Discograph)
  • BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse (Out Here)
  • Generation Bass Presents: Transnational Dubstep (Six Degrees)
  • Nigeria 70: Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju From 1970s Lagos (Strut)
  • Note of Hope (429)
  • Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (Strut)
  • The B-52's: With the Wild Crowd! (Eagle)
  • Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii: Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii (Nonesuch)
  • Deer Tick: Divine Providence (Partisan)
  • The Extra Lens: Undercard (Merge '10)
  • Fountains of Wayne: Sky Full of Holes (Yep Roc)
  • Gang of Four: Content (Yep Roc)
  • Garland Jeffreys: The King of In Between (Luna Park)
  • Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner (Ghostly International '10)
  • The Klezmatics: Live at Town Hall (Klezmatics Disc)
  • Lady Gaga: Born This Way (Streamline/Interscope/KonLive)
  • Jens Lekman: An Argument With Myself (Secretly Canadian)
  • Jeffrey Lewis: A Turn in the Dream-Songs (Rough Trade)
  • Pietra Montecorvino: Napoli Mediterranea (Taranta Power/Rai Trade)
  • Nine 11 Thesaurus: Ground Zero Generals (The Social Registry)
  • Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (Software)
  • The Russian Futurists: The Weight's on the Wheels (Upper Class '10)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Of Light (Switchblade Music/Templar '09)
  • Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
  • Street Sweeper Social Club: The Ghetto Blaster EP (SSSC '10)
  • Vieux Farka Touré: The Secret (Six Degrees)
  • Withered Hand: Good News (Absolutely Kosher)
  • Bachata Roja: Amor y Amargue (iASO)
  • Battles: Gloss Drop (Warp)
  • Eric Church: Chief (EMI)
  • Let's Wrestle: Nursing Home (Merge)
  • Mates of State: Mountaintops (Barsuk)
  • Stephin Merritt: Obscurities (Merge)
  • M.I.A.: Vicki Leekx Mixtape (vickileekx.com download '10)
  • Pusha T: Fear of God II (GOOD/Decon/Re-Up Gang)
  • Rihanna: Talk That Talk (Deluxe Edition) (Def Jam)
  • Saigon: The Greatest Story Never Told (Suburban Noize)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Shabazz Palaces (Switchblade Music/Templar '09)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (Sub Pop)
  • Jazmine Sullivan: Love Me Back (J '10)
  • Wild Flag: Wild Flag (Merge)
  • Yuck: Yuck (Fat Possum)
  • Childish Gambino: Camp (Glassnote)
  • Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador)
  • Brad Paisley: This Is Country Music (Arista Nashville)
  • Superchunk: Majesty Shredding (Merge '10)
  • Those Darlins: Screws Get Loose (Oh Wow Dang)
  • Tune-Yards: Whokill (4AD)
  • The Lonely Island: Turtleneck & Chain (Universal Republic)
  • Gil Scott-Heron/Jamie Xx: We're New Here (XL)
  • Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
  • SebastiAn: Total (Big Beat/Atlantic/Because/Ed Banger)
  • Rave On Buddy Holly (Fantasy)
  • David Bowie: Station to Station [Special Edition] (EMI '10)
  • Childish Gambino: Culdesac (free download '10)
  • Ravid Kahalani: Yemen Blues (GlobaLev)
  • Scott Miller: Christmas Gift (FAW)
  • Gurf Morlix: Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream (Rootball)
  • Wussy: Funeral Dress II (Shake It)
  • Classic Blues Songs From the 1920's: Vol. 9 (Blues Images)

The huge A- bump, along with the slope of everything else, shows that we still correlate rather well regardless of the top-10 split -- indeed, much better than I do with Gross.

I reckon I could do a third chart with another long listmaker Fast 'n' Bulbous, but it would only show more distance, and more disinterest on my part in checking out Fester's recommendations. There are categories where I've heard a fair amount of what's listed -- e.g., Hip Hop/Rap (12/12), Electro/Dream Pop (13/13), Country/Folk/Americana (10/13), R&B/Soul/Funk/Dancepop (7/13), Electronica/Techno/Dance (7/13), but there are also things like Metal (0/13), Doom (0/13, but I looked for YOB), Stoner Rock (0/13), Psych Rock (1/13, Psychic Paramount), and Heavy Rock (1/13, Fucked Up); some other stuff is in between, but the overall list leans toward the things I like least. Not many other critics go that deep that consistently, but I find it most interesting when they do.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Music Week

Music: Current count 19294 [19248] rated (+46), 821 [816] unrated (+5). Big rated week, almost everything coming from Rhapsody or other download sources (e.g., found some deep underground hip-hop over at bandcamp). All of that contributed to a huge 87-record Rhapsody Streamnotes. Ignored my jazz responsibilities: not sure when I'll pick them up again, but I'm not exactly inundated with new releases.

Metacritic Results

A couple days ago I decided to stop adding new lists to my metacritic files of new records and reissues/vault music. That left the former with 4622 records, and the latter with 826. I had put together similar files for several years running, but this year's file was, if not the largest ever, the most dilligent and systematic. Throughout the year I tracked Metacritic and most of the online semipopular music publications that regularly reviewed records and provided grades that I could (like Metacritic) convert into a numbers. Depending on the publication, I decided that a grade of 70-80 would be counted as a review of interest, and I dutifully jotted them down for everything except classical music. I looked at Metacritic weekly, and I looked at nearly everything else every month or two. I used this research to find records of personal interest, and jotted my own grades down when I managed to listen to something -- a subtle but insignificant bias in the final totals.

Then when people started posting year-end lists -- something virtually everyone involved in reviewing records winds up doing sooner or later -- I collected those two, broadening the sweep: where I tracked 93 sources during the year, I wound up with 414 year-end list sources (some of those producing multiple lists, so figure at least 500). The number of publications tracked was significantly up this year, but the number of year-end lists was down -- in 2010 I counted literally everything I could find, no matter how ill-informed or sloppy the compilers. This year I was pickier, looking for established publications and knowledgeable critics -- especially bloggers confident enough to produce long lists. If a list came to 100 records, I counted them all, giving them equal weight. This is arguably the wrong approach if you want to find the best-liked record of the year, but it does help find a wider range of records -- and that was my main interest. (There are some cases where I didn't count records that hadn't previously made my list -- this especially happened in looking at foreign lists, which were occasionally thick with unheard of local releases.)

I picked up lists from all around the world -- the listserv at Acclaimed Music Forum was a rich resource, especially as it picked up lists from print publications that were otherwise hard to find. I avoided local-specific lists: best Canadian releases, best local Austin bands, etc. I added in most genre-specific lists: again, eschewing classical music, also so-called Christian music. I wound up counting a lot of metal lists although I didn't go out of my way to find them. I did look for electronica, hip-hop, jazz, and country, and much less successfully for world. For jazz, I wound up counting all of the year-end lists at JJA, plus most of the ballots to our recent Jazz Critics Poll. Still, indie rock dominates by a large margin: that's just where the press is saturated. There's also a UK bias, thanks to the fact that about half of the English-language music publications are based there.

What follows is a cleaned up version of the results for the top 100 records. The second column has the total count. Following the record info are three numbers: the number of top-3 list finishes, the number of top-10 list finishes, and the number of tracked pubs that rated the record high and/or included it in a year-end list. If you click on the arrow, you'll get an abbreviated list of the top-10 publications (top-3 italicized; the abbreviations and all of the sources are here), and you can toggle the expansion away. Finally, in brackets, you'll find my grade for the record, which mostly shows that I don't think there is very much correlation between where a record places and how good it is.

1.250 Bon Iver: Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar) 10/23/53
{AV, BB, BBC, BG, Bow, CS, EW, F, G, HC, MO, NR, P, Pf, PM, PMA, Px, Q, Sl, Spk, St, U, UR}
2.240 PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (Vagrant) 17/23/51
{BBC, BG, Bl, Bow, Cl, CS, Fly, G, Gw, M, Mg, MO, NME, NR, Pf, PM, Q, Qs, S, Sl, St, U, UR}
3.207 James Blake: James Blake (Atlas/A&M) 3/7/46
{BB, CS, G, NR, PMA, Spk, TMT}
4.205 Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) 7/14/49
{ATH, CT, EW, F, Gw, M, NR, OTB, P, PM, PMA, RS, Spk, UR}
5.202 Tune-Yards: Whokill (4AD) 4/14/48
{Bow, CMG, CS, CT, G, MO, NME, NR, P, Pf, PM, PMA, Px, Sl}
6.182 Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-) 2/6/46
{BBC, BG, Bl, HC, M, Mg}
7.178 Kanye West/Jay-Z: Watch the Throne (Roc-A-Fella) 4/9/38
{AV, BB, HC, Ok, Px, Q, RS, XXL, JG}
8.170 St Vincent: Strange Mercy (4AD) 3/11/41
{AV, CS, MO, NME, NR, OTB, PM, PMA, Q, Sl, UR}
9.168 Radiohead: The King of Limbs (XL) 0/4/43
{Cl, PM, RS, U}
168 Wilco: The Whole Love (Anti-) 1/5/40
{AS, AV, HC, P, RS}
11.156 Adele: 21 (XL) 5/7/30
{AS, BB, Cl, EW, F, Q, RS}
12.154 Destroyer: Kaputt (Merge) 2/6/41
{CS, OTB, Pf, Px, Spk, TMT}
13.153 Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (Sub Pop) 4/7/39
{CMG, CS, OTB, PMA, Px, Sl, JG}
14.150 The Weeknd: House of Balloons (self-released) 3/13/36
{AV, BB, Blr, CMG, F, Fa, G, HC, Ok, OTB, PM, Sl, St}
15.147 M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute, 2CD) 4/9/26
{CS, F, P, Pf, PM, Spk, St, UR, XL}
16.145 Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador) 1/6/36
{BG, EW, NME, NR, Px, S}
17.141 Fucked Up: David Comes to Life (Matador) 3/6/43
{AV, BB, CT, PM, Px, S}
141 Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther/Matador) 0/5/31
{Fly, NR, Pf, PMA, S}
19.136 Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic) 2/5/41
{Bl, EW, OTB, S, Sl}
20.135 Drake: Take Care (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic) 1/8/32
{BB, Blr, CS, Fa, Pf, Px, St, XXL}
21.132 Real Estate: Days (Domino) 0/6/27
{ATH, AV, Bow, OTB, Pf, Px}
22.127 Yuck: Yuck (Fat Possum) 1/2/38
{Mg, UR}
23.120 Wild Flag: Wild Flag (Merge) 3/6/36
{Bl, CT, HC, Mg, RS, S}
24.115 The Decemberists: The King Is Dead (Capitol) 0/3/30
{AV, P, RS}
115 The Roots: Undun (Island Def Jam) 2/2/30
{CT, Ok}
26.111 The Antlers: Burst Apart (Frenchkiss) 2/7/33
27.109 The Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch) 0/3/25
{AS, Bl, Blr}
109 The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient (Secrety Canadian) 0/2/26
{Bl, U}
29.105 TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope) 0/0/40 [A-]
30.104 The Horrors: Skying (XL) 6/10/31
{BBC, Cl, Fly, Gw, M, MO, NME, OTB, U, UR}
104 Washed Out: Within and Without (Sub Pop) 0/3/29
{BG, F, UR}
32.103 Feist: Metals (Cherrytree) 0/1/31
103 Wild Beasts: Smother (Domino) 2/9/41
{BBC, Fly, M, MO, NME, Qs, Sl, St, U}
34.98 EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions) 1/2/31
{S, UR}
35.97 Panda Bear: Tomboy (Paw Tracks) 0/1/35
36.96 Atlas Sound: Parallax (4AD) 0/0/28 [B]
37.92 Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra (mixtape) 2/6/21
{BB, EW, Fa, G, Ok, JG}
92 SBTRKT: SBTRKT (Young Turks) 0/0/20 [***]
39.91 Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol) 0/2/37
{Bl, Gw}
40.90 Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (Software) 1/5/29
{Bl, Pf, RA, TMT, XL}
41.89 Battles: Gloss Drop (Warp) 0/2/35
{Cl, Fly}
89 Beirut: The Rip Tide (Pompeii) 0/1/28
89 Bill Callahan: Apocalypse (Drag City) 0/1/30
89 Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact (4AD) 0/3/34
89 Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise (Circus) 1/1/22
46.85 Foo Fighters: Wasting Light (Roswell/RCA) 0/2/32
{CS, K}
47.84 Florence + the Machine: Ceremonials (Universal Republic) 2/6/25
{BB, EW, Gw, Q, Spk, UR}
84 Iceage: New Brigade (What's Your Rupture?) 0/2/27
49.83 Cults: Cults (Columbia/In the Name Of) 0/0/22 [**]
50.81 Gil Scott-Heron/Jamie XX: We're New Here (XL) 0/0/32 [B]
51.80 Gillian Welch: The Harrow and the Harvest (Acony) 2/4/24
{AS, BG, PM, U}
52.79 Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) 1/2/28
{CMG, Qs}
79 Metronomy: The English Riviera (Because) 5/10/16
{BBC, Cl, DS, Fly, G, Gw, MO, NME, St, U}
54.76 Beyonce: 4 (Columbia) 0/3/21
{BBC, BG, G}
76 Mastodon: The Hunter (Reprise) 1/1/26
56.75 Bjork: Biophilia (One Little Indian) 0/1/33
57.74 Ryan Adams: Ashes and Fire (Pax-Am/Capitol) 0/1/22
58.73 Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music) 2/3/29
{AS, RS, JG}
73 Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde (Fat Possum) 0/1/30
60.72 Laura Marling: A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin) 0/1/28
72 My Morning Jacket: Circuital (ATO) 1/3/25
{Cl, EW, P}
62.71 Kate Bush: 50 Words for Snow (Anti-) 0/1/26
71 Zomby: Dedication (4AD) 0/4/28
{Bow, Cl, RA, XL}
64.70 Toro y Moi: Underneath the Pine (Carpark) 0/0/27 [**]
65.69 Kendrick Lamar: Section.80 (Top Dawg Entertainment) 0/2/13
{Ok, XXL}
69 John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon) 0/1/18
67.67 The Field: Looping State of Mind (Kompakt) 0/0/21
68.66 Anna Calvi: Anna Calvi (Domino) 0/2/22
{M, UR}
66 Tyler, the Creator: Goblin (XL) 0/1/19
70.65 Elbow: Build a Rocket Boys! (Fiction/Polydor) 0/2/30
{F, Q}
65 Lady Gaga: Born This Way (Streamline/Interscope) 1/2/21
{RS, Sl}
65 Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Mirror Traffic (Matador) 0/1/32
65 Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation (Fat Possum) 0/0/16 [*]
74.64 Ambrose Akinmusire: When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note) 1/1/8
64 Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD) 0/0/32 [*]
64 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong (Slumberland) 0/0/29 [*]
77.63 Arctic Monkeys: Suck It and See (Domino) 0/3/24
{Gw, NME, Q}
63 Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop) 0/0/27 [**]
63 Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' (Columbia) 1/2/24
{BG, CT}
80.62 Wye Oak: Civilian (Merge) 2/3/17
{ATH, AV, Mg}
81.61 Cut Copy: Zonoscope (Modular) 0/0/20 [B]
61 Low: C'Mon (Sub Pop) 0/1/23
83.59 Austra: Feel It Break (Domino) 0/1/22
84.57 ASAP Rocky: LiveLoveASAP (RCA/Polo Grounds Music) 0/1/12
57 Katy B: On a Mission (Columbia/Rinse) 1/5/24
{G, NME, NR, Qs, Sl}
57 Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation) 1/2/13
87.55 Josh T Pearson: Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute) 0/3/16
{BBC, M, U}
55 Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol 2 (Doxy/Decca) 1/1/5
55 WU LYF: Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (LYF) 0/3/18
90.54 The Kills: Blood Pressures (Domino) 0/1/22
54 Peaking Lights: 936 (Not Not Fun) 0/0/10 [**]
92.53 Big KRIT: ReturnOf4Eva (mixtape) 0/0/12
53 Little Dragon: Ritual Union (Peacefrog) 1/1/21
94.52 Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador) 0/0/27 [*]
52 Zola Jesus: Conatus (Sacred Bones) 0/0/21
96.51 Black Lips: Arabia Mountain (Vice) 0/1/24
51 Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music) 0/1/4
98.50 Dum Dum Girls: Only in Dreams (Sub Pop) 0/1/18
50 The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar (Canvasback/Atlantic) 0/1/23
50 Tinariwen: Tassili (Anti-) 0/0/23 [A-]

There are three or four jazz records in the top 100 -- Akinmusire, Rollins, Zenon, you decide about Stetson. Their tracked counts are very low, basically because it was hard to find jazz magazines to track, but they cracked the list because I had a lot of individual jazz critic lists. I could 13 hip-hop or r&b records on this list -- 4 of which were download only (Weeknd, Frank Ocean, ASAP Rocky, Big KRIT). Further down the list: Clams Casino, Danny Brown, Charles Bradley, Das Racist, Childish Gambino (all close at 41-48).

Electronica placed 11 records, although the electro-pop borderlands are hard for me to gauge, so maybe less (M83, Little Dragon). Off the list includes Rustie, Balam Acab, Justice, Kuedo, and Andy Stott, but the dropoff is sharper here.

Country didn't fare so well. The only thing country-ish that cracked the top 100 was Gillian Welch, leaving off the list: Pistol Annies, Hayes Carll, Lucinda Williams, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and that hideous Glen Campbell album (at 25). The only world album to hit the list was Tinariwen, and just barely. Runner up was Bombino (way down with 16). I also bothered to do a breakout for metal, which strikes me as at least as cliquish as any other genre, and probably more so. Only top-100 was Mastodon, with Liturgy (38) and Wolves in the Thron Room (35) well back. Only one I bothered to listen to was Mastodon -- nothing there I ever want to hear again.

The reissues list is way spottier than the new releases list, and got swamped by jazz votes near the end, pushing Julius Hemphill and Bill Dixon into a thicket of expanded rock reissues. Most of the press doesn't cover reissues at all, and those who do don't do a very good job of it. Further down, there is a lot of fodder for Recycled Goods if only I were able to get the records and find the time, but neither appear to be in the cards.

In theory, the metacritic file should do a fairly good job of predicting the results of the Pazz & Jop critics poll, but I have my doubts this year (but we will find out real soon now). One persistent problem is that I don't score more for placing higher on a list, whereas P&J does. The result is that a broad-based record will lead one that is intensely favored by slightly fewer voters. In the recent past, my file listed Arcade Fire over Kanye West, and Phoenix over Animal Collective -- two wrong conclusions, although both were easy to predict by looking at the ranks. Same thing would seem to be happening this year: PJ Harvey should easily beat out Bon Iver, and indeed on Metacritic's own list summary does so handily (Bon Iver slips to third, behind Adele, which I have stuck in 11th; Adele wasn't reviewed all that well initially, but after selling 5 or 6 million copies critics seem to be warming to it). The problem here is that PJ Harvey has a huge advantage with UK critics, whereas Bon Iver does slightly better in the US, and P&J is an American poll. James Blake and Radiohead also have slight UK biases -- much less so than Harvey -- so Bon Iver's only practical challengers are rather far back in the pack: Fleet Foxes, Tune-Yards, Tom Waits, Kanye West/Jay-Z, St. Vincent, Wilco, and I suppose you could just as well throw in Adele, Shabazz Palaces, or the Weeknd (the big story of the year was the free downloads, and the big winner there is House of Balloons).

Hanging around Christgau's Expert Witness discussion list, I initially expected Tune-Yards to be the record to beat. It's no doubt a contender -- finished 4th at Metacritic -- and it has both broad and intensive support, but not nearly as much of the latter as I had expected. Watch the Throne is a record that got mild reviews -- probably some rebound from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy -- but has gained ground in year-end lists. In most years, two or three crossover rap albums get more support in P&J than in the metacritic file, so there's a good chance that it, Shabazz Palaces, Drake, and Roots will get something of a bump, but I've scoured the hip-hop lists pretty well so they could just as well have it already.

The only other big movement I'm sure we'll see wtih P&J is Paul Simon -- tied for 58 on my list, certainly top-40 and possibly top-20 at P&J. Other than that it's hard to say. Two records that finished strong that I can't credit are M83 and Real Estate: I don't see anything attractive about either, and find it hard to imagine what it might be. (Beirut is another one, but looks to be on its way down.) The Horrors is a big UK thing, so expect them to drop (and take Wild Beasts with them, if not Florence or Laura Marling). I expect Frank Ocean will do better -- he's Weeknd's main competition, and I know a lot of people who prefer him. Two more possible gainers: SBTRKT and Oneohtrix Point Never. I'll also admit that the main reason I voted for Sonny Rollins was to see if we can push a jazz record into the top-40. Looks like a long shot, but not out of the question.

More after P&J, as I try to close out the year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week (or two):

  • Steve Benen: Friday's Mini-Report:

    It's a good thing Obama didn't listen to Republicans on the auto industry: "Chrysler will add 1,250 jobs at two Detroit factories next year -- another sign that the once struggling automaker appears to be making a comeback."

    It's a good thing Obama didn't listen to his own advisers -- principally Austin Goolsbee -- when they recommended that he let Chrysler fold. They argued that doing so would help General Motors, and wouldn't be a problem because General Motors would pick up the unemployed Chrysler workers. To my mind, this was the single most craven revelation in Ron Suskind's The Confidence Men. Obama was initially persuaded, but backed down after someone pointed out how insane this was.

  • Henry Farrell: Lilla v. Robin: Count me among those who disliked Mark Lilla's review of Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. I picked up a copy of Robin's book shortly after it came out. I haven't gotten around to it, but I understand the central thesis is that conservatives (at least from Burke on) all share one essential trait: their desire to defend the upper class against any challenges from the riff-raff. The upper class may be capitalists or slave owners -- or, if he bothered to look that far, Soviet commissars -- but the instinct is the same. Lilla made a big show of arguing that there are differences between conservatives as if that invalidated Robin's point, then dismissed the book with a flurry of invective. I had never heard of Lilla before, so Henry's post helps frame my annoyance. Also includes this interesting paragraph:

    Al-Ghazali, as quoted by Ernest Gellner, puts Mannheim's point more pithily -- "the genuine traditionalist does not know that he is one; he who proclaims himself to be one, no longer is one." But what I don't know (and can't tell from the book) is how much of this agonism is unique to conservatism's intersection with liberalism, and how much is a generic product of the competitive pressures of political conflict. The left and the right shape each other as they fight. Conservatives read Saul Alinsky. Markos Moulitsas, when he started trying to organize the netroots, was partly inspired by the Goldwater movement (as depicted in Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm). To really get at the questions that I think (perhaps I'm wrong) Robin is interested in, you would need an intellectual history not of the left, or the right, but of how they have shaped each other, and how each has separately been defined by the struggle between them. This would allow you better to figure out which parts of conservatism are uniquely reactionary, and which parts are simply reactive.

    It's certainly hard to think of any significant movement in US history that has been more obscured and distorted than the New Left, in large part because so much of the post-1970 right was defined by its hatred of the civil rights, antiwar, women's, and environmental movements. Still, such reaction wouldn't have gained any traction without aligning with the class interests of the rich, which is again the key point.

  • Mike Konczal: An Interview with Josh Kosman on the Embeddedness of Private Equity in the Tax Code: Related to the Romney/Bain stuff elsewhere. Kosman's The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy is one of the first books to check out on how private equity firms work -- and given its scant attention paid to Bain won't be the last.

    Private equity and buyouts started as a way to take advantage of tax gimmicks, not as a way of saying "we're going to turn around companies." And now it's out of control. I look at the 10 largest deals done in the 1990s, during ideal economic times, and in six cases it was clear that the company was worse off than if they never been acquired. Moody's just put out a report in December that looked at the 40 largest buyouts of this era and showed that their revenue was growing at 4 percent since their buyout, while comparable companies were growing at 14 percent.

    In January -- so just in the past 12 days -- Hostess, the largest bakery in the country, just went bankrupt. Coach, the largest bus company, just went bankrupt. And Quizno's is about to go bankrupt. All of these were owned by private equity.

  • Paul Krugman: Untruths, Wholly Untrue, and Nothing but Untruths:

    I was deeply radicalized by the 2000 election. At first I couldn't believe that then-candidate George W. Bush was saying so many clearly, provably false things; then I couldn't believe that nobody in the news media was willing to point out the lies. (At the time, the Times actually told me that I couldn't use the l-word either). That was when I formulated my "views differ on shape of planet" motto.

    Now, however, Mitt Romney seems determined to rehabilitate Bush's reputation, by running a campaign so dishonest that it makes Bush look like a model of truth-telling.

    I mean, is there anything at all in Romney's stump speech that's true? It's all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn't, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn't, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn't. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama's record and about his own. I can't find a single true assertion anywhere.

    And he keeps finding new frontiers of falsehood. The good people at CBPP find him asserting, with regard to programs aiding low-income Americans, that

    What unfortunately happens is with all the multiplicity of federal programs, you have massive overhead, with government bureaucrats in Washington administering all these programs, very little of the money that's actually needed by those that really need help, those that can't care for themselves, actually reaches them.

    which is utterly, totally untrue. Administrative costs are actually quite small, and between 91 and 99 percent of spending, depending on the program, does in fact go to beneficiaries.

    I'll add that it's private charities that have trouble delivering a majority of what they raise to their putative recipients. (Part of their problem is scale, most is the cost of fundraising, and some is due to lack of accountability.)

    For a top-ten list, see Steve Benen: Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity.

    Also see Krugman's column, America Isn't a Corporation. The basic points should be clear to anyone, but bear reiterating. As for Romney:

    Now, to be fair, being a career politician isn't necessarily a better preparation for managing economic policy than being a businessman. But Mr. Romney is the one claiming that his career makes him especially suited for the presidency. Did I mention that the last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover? (Unless you count former President George W. Bush.)

    And there's also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.

    Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain -- namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

    But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama's actions: "He did it to try to save the business." No, he didn't; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America's slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

    Romney probably likes the GM/Chrysler example because Obama's team did in fact steal a few pages from the private equity handbook there, so it's something he can understand in his own way: they did force some executives out, close some plants and lay off workers, and cajole the unions into reducing costs; but they didn't saddle the companies with unsustainable debt, and they didn't pile on huge management fees to instantly recoup their investment. Consequently, the industry emerged from the process healthier, whereas had Bain or their ilk been involved they would have been left off in far worse shape.

    Let me add two arguments I have, not with what Krugman said but with what he didn't. One is that Romney is not a typical businessman. Most people who run businesses preside over organizations meant to produce useful goods or services and try to make a comfortable profit doing so. Romney, private equity investors like him, and their financial allies, are fundamentally parasites and predators. They look for the margins between what a company can be bought for and how much cash can be sucked out of it how quick, and when they find one they devour it, reaping quick profits and almost invariably leaving the company depleted and often defunct. To such people, taking over the government looks like a license to steal -- if not just for oneself, then also for one's friends (e.g., with Bush père left office he landed at Carlyle Group, one of the world's largest private equity firms).

    The other question is whether government should be run like a business. That's a big one I can't begin to do justice to here, but the answer is no, and there are lots of reasons. One way to look at this is that capitalism is necessarily unstable, so you need some way of counterbalancing its excesses: to stimulate demand when it slacks, to pop bubbles when they emerge, to keep businesses honest, to protect workers, to provide services that businesses can't (or shouldn't) because they can't (or shouldn't) be gated, or even because we jointly want to do something without thinking of the bottom line.

    One more bit of Krugman on Romney and the Bailout:

    So what the story of Romney and the auto bailout actually shows is something we already knew from health care: he's a smart guy who is also a moral coward. His original proposal for the auto industry, like his health reform, bore considerable resemblance to what Obama actually did. But when the deed took place, Romney -- rather than having the courage to say that the president was actually doing something reasonable -- joined the rest of his party in whining and denouncing the plan.

    And now he wants to claim credit for the very policy he trashed when it hung in the balance.

  • Andrew Leonard: The Long Overdue Downfall of Gordon Gekko: Of course, he means Mitt Romney:

    Like Gekko, Romney made his fortune buying and selling companies; and like Gekko, he believes that his "greed is good" version of rough-and-tumble creative destruction is a positive force for America, weeding out the bad performers and nurturing lean-and-mean profit engines. If you are looking for the paradigmatic exemplar of the new style of capitalism mogul launched by the Reagan revolution, Romney is your man. Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko is merely ersatz.

    The shock is to see Newt Gingrich and his financial backers channeling the Oliver Stone critique so passionately and wholeheartedly. If you have not seen the three-minute advertisement "When Romney Came to Town," the soon-to-be debuted documentary lambasting Romney as the enemy of the American worker, prepare to be flabbergasted.

    "Their greed was only matched by their willingness to do anything to make millions in profits."

    "This film is about one such raider and his firm."

    "His mission: To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.

    "Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America, and began a pattern exploiting dozens of American businesses."

    And so on. Michael Moore doesn't sting this hard, and MoveOn isn't this angry. If Romney, as expected, ends up winning the Republican nomination, Obama's campaign team can relax.

    Much is being made of whether Gingrich has broken some sort of unspoken code of Republican primary collegiality by declaring class warfare on Romney. As Jonathan Chait argues, you can question whether a fellow GOP candidate is a true conservative, but to call him a "plunderer" is, or should be, beyond the pale. Plundering is what capitalism is all about! The free market is supposed to be built on the principle of unrestrained plunderation. Or it would be, if Democrats didn't keep getting in the way with their socialist-leaning regulations. [ . . . ]

    What the Wall Street Journal euphemistically calls "the rougher side of American capitalism," in its Monday article examining the legacy of Bain Capital, is suddenly no longer in fashion. And there is no better proof of this than the spectacle of one of the great culture warriors of our time, Newt Gingrich, defecting to the other side.

    His treason won't help his sorry campaign, and won't deflect Romney's path to the nomination, but it is still well worth our attention. Because the power of its attack highlights Romney's biggest vulnerability. In the 32 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president, there has never been more widely expressed antagonism and anger toward the practitioners of corporate-raider, leveraged-buyout, excessively compensated CEO, shareholder-value capitalism than there is now.

    And that's Mitt Romney. That is who he is. He can flip-flop about everything else, but there's no way to wriggle out of his essential nature. He's the 1 percent -- even Newt Gingrich says so.

    My emphasis added.

    Leonard has another related piece: A Romney Showdown: Krugman Versus Brooks: mostly on David Brooks, since it's more interesting to talk about wrong than right:

    With this column, Brooks settles, once and for all, the question of whether he himself is an elitist. And not just any run-of-the-mill elitist! No, Brooks is a heroic, truth-telling elitist, with the courage to say what conventional wisdom about American discourse declares verboten!

    In sum, great presidents are often aristocrats and experienced political insiders. They experience great setbacks. They feel the presence of God's hand on their every move.

    Unfortunately, we're not allowed to talk about these things openly these days. We disdain elitism, political experience and explicit God-talk. Great failure is considered "baggage" in today's campaign lingo.

    I wonder, why might Americans disdain elitism? Could it have something to do with our history, our defining identity as a people who rebelled against monarchy? Could it be that one of our core values, at least until recently, is the idea that anyone, no matter what family they were born into, or how wealthy they are, or what prep school they attended, has (at least theoretically) the potential and opportunity to rise to the highest office in the land?

    Brooks doesn't weigh in on whether Romney qualifies as a true blueblooded aristocrat -- although, given the fact that his father was a governor and car company CEO, the implication is obvious. What's equally obvious, however, is the slam at Obama, who was raised by a single mother and enjoyed none of the advantages that were mother's milk to Romney.

  • Alex Pareene: Romney's Rivals All Become Socialists, to Horror of Conservatives: Subtitle: "GOP candidates trash capitalism, and good on them."

    Perry added that "there is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failures and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business," which is basically a wholesale rejection of the free market system.

    (Even the reasonable Jon Huntsman got shrill: "Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.")

    Sarah Palin is among those attempting to stanch the bleeding by blaming the bad old liberal media for attacking Romney for his success, but everyone can plainly see who's actually responsible.

    National Review's Jim Geraghty complains that the candidates now all sound like Occupiers. The Club for Growth is pissed at Newt for his anti-Bain Capital attacks. Phil Klein accuses Romney's rivals of Marxist rhetoric. Avik Roy diagnoses Romney derangement syndrome. (The American Spectator literally calls for Gingrich to be investigated for violating campaign finance law for perhaps coordinating with a Super PAC. What happened to the absolute defense of campaign funding as speech?)

    It looks like Republican opinion leaders are beginning to coalesce around Romney due in part to disgust over anti-capitalist attacks being levied against him. Of course, his rivals wouldn't be pushing this line if they didn't think it was effective. The irony is that the Republican candidates are shameless enough to embrace the exact arguments conservatives and centrists have successfully shamed liberals out of making.

  • John Quiggin: Blogging the Zombies: Expansionary Austerity -- After the Zombies: A draft chapter to append to the forthcoming paperback edition of Quiggin's fine book, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. Key paragraph here (my emphasis added to key line):

    Expansionary austerity is not simply a zombie economic idea. It forms the basis of a political strategy of class war, undertaken by the financial and political elite (the "1 per cent") to hold on to the wealth and power they accumulated during the decades of market liberalism, and to shift the costs of their own failure on to the rest of the population. An effective response must similarly combine an economic analysis with a policy program and a political movement to mobilise resistance to the push for austerity.

    In other words, it is a political ploy disguised as economics. The problems with writing a chapter which tries to treat it as a matter of economics is that without its politics there is no idea there. Simply put, recessions occur when large numbers of people stop spending, either because they don't have and cannot borrow the money, or because they have a liquidity preference not to do so. Recessions end when people start spending again. Governments can help mitigate or even end a recession by deliberately making up the missing spending. Austerity is the argument that government should not do so, and in fact should contract like the private sector. By further reducing spending, the only thing austerity can do in the short term is to deepen and prolong the recession. So how can anyone think austerity can ever be expansionary? As best I can reckon, the answer depends on three highly implausible assumptions, each having more to do with political interests than with economics. First, austerity can only be expansionary in the long run: since by any analysis you're digging a short term hole, you're expecting something so good to happen later that it will more than make up for short-term sacrifice. (Keynes, you should recall, was notoriously dismissive of such arguments, reminding us that in the long run we're all dead.) Second, you assume that all economic growth results from investor confidence: that the economy can't grow until the rich are ready to invest again, and that as soon as they are it will grow spectacularly without any of the distortions government intervention would inject. And third, you assume that no permanent harm will come from prolonging the recession: for instance, you assume that idling workers won't cause their skills to atrophy, that education cuts won't reduce the skill levels of the workforce, that reduced health care won't undermine public health, that neglecting infrastructure won't reduce its value, that prolonged hardships won't kick back in the form of crime or revolt, and so forth.

    I can't see any way for austerity to prove its benefits, but I'm handicapped by viewing people as having both substantial needs and a democratic claim on the nation's wealth, and because I view workers as having at least as much to do with the generation of that wealth as anyone else (and probably a good deal more). The proponents of austerity, on the other hand, are remarkably keen on marginalizing everyone else. In fact, their economic theory tells them that recessions would automatically self-correct if only labor costs would drop to whatever level allowed immediate profitability rather than be obstructed by unemployment-producing strictures like minimum wage law. (Again, this is a major point where Keynes proved not that it shouldn't or couldn't work but that it doesn't.)

    While conservatives like to argue that whatever is convenient for them now is in line with timeless principles, the main effect of austerity programs is to delay, and the action conservatives most want to delay is anything that redistributes wealth, even at a trivial level. For example, unemployment benefits, food stamps, any sort of income support helps prevent the labor market from collapsing, allowing the unemployed to hold out for decent wages, and reducing downward wage pressure on the employed. Businessmen look at their own labor costs as lost profit, but don't seem to be able to grasp that lower wages for everyone reduces demand and locks them into a death spiral. That view is pure politics.

    There are reasons why austerity arguments have some appeal, and those do involve zombie economic ideas -- e.g., the idea that government should be run like a corporation. But the main idea is based on pure faith: if we just let nature run its course, we will rebound from this recession like we've rebounded from every past one. This is one idea that could be not just wrong but disastrously so. One big reason recessions in the past didn't persist was because external factors promised opportunities for growth: people, land, resources, energy, technology, access to markets, all those things used to be expanding even when the economy panicked. All those factors are approaching limits now, and that in turn limits the opportunities for investors. We've seen how recovery from the last three or four recessions has been increasingly protracted, with long delays in recovering employment levels, and no net wage growth over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, in searching for ever higher profits, the rich has turned increasingly to financial tricks -- indeed, one of the big problems with monetary stimulus is that when we pump more money into the financial system very little of it ever gets into the real economy, which makes the approach vastly inefficient. Such stimulus only adds to the inequality problem, which like austerity aims at impoverishing workers but winds up hollowing out the entire economy. I suspect that it has already become the case that the only way to actually grow the economy out of its recession is through a massive redistribution of wealth. We're a long ways from having the political insight to do that, but part of the process is extirpating the economic zombies Quiggins writes about: the whole hoary theory of "expansionary austerity" chief among them.

Expert Comments

My notice:

Since no one else mentioned it, I guess I will: Rhapsody Streamnotes up on my site -- a big one with 87 new records, few of which are really good but most of which have their cult fans. Last week I've been working furiously on the metacritic file, and feel like I'm done with it now. I'll write something up on it next week -- certainly something post-P&J since I'm curious how many records get votes there but didn't appear in my list. I'll be surprised if many do, given that my list is 4622 records long (+826 in the reissues, etc., complement). My own year-end list has topped 1000 new records. (Just tried one quick way to count it all and came up with 1321, which would include 100 or so still unrated items, plus a bit of noise, so 1200 might be a real number.) Still, IMO best thing I wrote this week was a note on "expansionary austerity." That should be up later today, pushing all those little notes further into obscurity.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rhapsody Streamnotes (January 2012)

Pick up text here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Expert Comments

Threw this out:

At the risk of tipping my hand, here are three records from my soon-to-be-posted Rhapsody Streamnotes that I'm a bit worried about overrating, mostly because they're way outside my bailiwick (and are therefore things I doubt I'd ever wind up playing much no matter how good they sound), and because by design I only give them one or two plays.

  • La Dispute: Wildlife (No Sleep)
  • The Front Bottoms: The Front Bottoms (Bar/None)
  • Limousines: Get Sharp (Dangerbird)

Recommendations for the last two came from Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog -- his 2010 year-end list yielded 6-8 surprise winners so I picked through his 2011 list pretty thoroughly (but only came up with these two). La Dispute (from Grand Rapids, MI) has broader support, but it's mostly from hard rock mags I have no use for like Kerrang and Sputnik -- I didn't look at it seriously until it showed up in a more interesting list (#7 at The Needle Drop). All three are on Rhapsody.

Public question about what one listened to in high school:

I didn't go to high school, but in junior high I favored the Rolling Stones over the Beatles, had some Kinks and Yardbirds lps, had singles (but no albums) by Bob Dylan and James Brown. Motown was the only thing I could ever dance to, but I didn't own any until later. During my hermit years I bought books but virtually no music -- the Band is about all I recall. In the 1970s I flipped the other way. Most influential were Velvet Underground, Parliament, Ornette Coleman, and George Jones -- my mother started talking to me again after I discovered George Jones. Oh, and Ducks Deluxe; gotta mention Ducks Deluxe.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Expert Comments

Someone opined: "Anyone who makes a worst albums list for 2011 and doesn't include Chris Brown in the mix, doesn't go far enough." I had a few things to say on this:

I have Chris Brown sandwiched in my list between Björk and Zebrahead, like them a mere B- (possibly unfair to Biophilia, which reportedly is intended to be something more than just a music stream). Lots more down below them, and I don't even go looking for bad albums. Seems to me that if you really wanted to write up a "worst albums" list you should do some research. For instance, the 3rd worst album I ran across this year was Thompson Square -- an eponymous country act determined to be lamer and smarmier than Lady Antebellum. Yet I found two records I thought even worse: Mark Moultrip's Relaxin' . . . on the Edge, and People Like Us, Welcome Aboard. Still, those records weren't totally devoid of merit: I rated them D+, but they are challenges to anyone who wants to construct such a list.

As it happens, I was looking at PopMatters' Worst Album list last night, wondering whether I should count them as backhanded compliments. Some, like Lady Gaga (7), seem to be. Some just strike me as pack mentality: Lupe Fiasco (3) seems to have set himself up for a drubbing by publicly fighting with his record company -- some critics take that sort of thing as an excuse to pile on. LMFAO (9) is another one that's fashionable to trash -- the Sorry in the title is the first hint. Then there are things like Owl City (10) that are an affront to literacy, and Goblin (4) which if you take at all seriously is innately detestable. Brown (2) almost gives us a perfect storm of all the reasons that make it easy for people to dump on an album, including that it really is pretty bad. Only Lulu, which has swept virtually all such lists this year, proved more irresistible.

Still, PopMatters bothered to come up with two records I hadn't heard of, which do appear to be truly awful: a death metal record, Ilud Divinum Insanus, by Morbid Angel, and something I can't begin to classify by a group called Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. That's a good deal more digging than most such lists show -- they're more likely to merely expose are the prejudices and limitations of the critic. (Look at the bottom of my list and you'll surely find some of mine.)

Nate Smith (sharpsm) responded:

I actually have Tom Hull's Worst Album Of The Year. How cool is that? And indeed, Welcome Abroad is pretty horrible. One of those found-sound/sample/mash-up things, only completely inept, and boring. It's kind of cute in small doses (Julie Andrews sings "The Sound Of Music" over The Doors' "The End" -- haw haw HAW!), but listening to more than ten minutes at a time is indistinguishable from torture (or being in a Car Stereo showroom). Bad album.

Worst Of The Year though? On the plus side, it's a free download at illegalart.net (pay-what-you-want, which is the same thing to me), so you don't end up wasting anything more valuable than an hour of your life. For sheer take-it-off-or-kill-me morally-bankrupt awfulness that lists at $12 for the Deluxe version, nothing I've heard this year beats Goblin.

Jon LaFollette came up with his worst of 2011 list:

Oh, and here is my list of the 20 worst albums from 2011. It's not definitive, but I wouldn't be friends with anyone who listens to these for their own enjoyment.

  1. Chris Brown - F.A.M.E.
  2. Nickelback - Here And Now
  3. OAR - King
  4. 311 - Universal Pulse
  5. Gym Class Hereos - The Papercut Chronicles II
  6. SuperHeavy - Self Titled
  7. Metallica & Lou Reed - Lulu
  8. Kelly Rowland - Here I Am
  9. Jessie J - Who You Are
  10. The Game - Purp & Patron
  11. Sum 41 - Screaming Bloody Murder
  12. Avril Lavigne - Goodbye Lullaby
  13. The Head & The Heart - Self Titled
  14. Incubus - If Not Now, When?
  15. Daughtry - Break the Spell
  16. All Time Low - Dirty Work
  17. The Wonder Years - Suburbia, I've Given You All and Now I Am Nothing
  18. Lady Antebellum - Own The Night
  19. Trace Adkins - Proud to Be Here
  20. Rise Against - Endgame

For the record, I own 0 and have heard 4 of those: Chris Brown [B-], Jessie J [B], Avril Lavigne [*], Trace Adkins [B]. I wrote:

I've heard four of Jon LaFollette's 20 worst (Adkins, Brown, Jessie J, Lavigne). Didn't think the latter was nearly as bad as its reviews, but it's down past line 700 on my 2011 list, so I don't think our nascent friendship is endangered.

Only record I can recall from my birth year is Subconscious-Lee, but since I don't think the LP had been invented I'm not clear on how (or when) it was released.

MitchF mentioned an error message at my website (errno 35 while trying to connect to mysql):

The aformentioned error message is a temporary resource allocation problem, where temporary can persist for hours. I just tried bringing up the blog and it was extremely slow but eventually successful. That tells me it's not broken enough that the technical staff can fix it. Errors like this pop up every few months, and the staff seem to be clueless: a couple days after it starts working again they usually send me a message back that says it's working now, with no admission let alone explanation of it not working. Lately I've also seen http connect errors, which are also temporary but lock out the entire site. If I was Mitt Romney I suppose I'd just fire them, but the bigger advantage of being Mitt Romney would be being able to afford someone much better.

El Intruso Jazz Critics Poll

Responses to El Intruso's jazz critics poll (up to three per slot):

  • Musician of the year: William Parker, Gerry Hemingway, Ivo Perelman
  • Newcomer Musician: Darren Johnston, Carlo De Rosa
  • Group of the year: Mostly Other People Do the Killing
  • Newcomer group: Inzinzac, Honey Ear Trio
  • Album of the year: Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle); Avram Fefer: Eliyahu (Not Two); Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts)
  • Composer: Tyshawn Sorey, Michael Bates
  • Drums: Gerry Hemingway, Tom Rainey, Lewis Nash
  • Bass: William Parker, John Hebert, Ken Filiano
  • Guitar: Luis Lopes, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Marc Ducret
  • Piano: Myra Melford, Kris Davis, Satoko Fujii
  • Keyboards/synthesizer/organ: Brian Charette, Gary Versace
  • Saxophone: David Murray, Ellery Eskelin, Dave Rempis
  • Trumpet/Cornet: Dennis Gonzalez, Ralph Alessi, Matt Lavelle
  • Clarinet: Michael Moore, Perry Robinson, Mort Weiss
  • Trombone: Roswell Rudd, Steve Swell, Joe Fiedler
  • Violin/Viola: Jason Kao Hwang
  • Cello: Erik Friedlander
  • Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz
  • Others instruments
  • Female vocals: Sheila Jordan
  • Male Vocals: Freddy Cole
  • Best live band: Vandermark 5
  • Record Label: Clean Feed, Cuneiform, AUM Fidelity

To a large extent I'm just throwing names out here, in many cases just to see what feels good. Some categories I care about, some not so much. The top three albums are by the book. The group categories (which for some reason are mandatory) disinterest me. The instrument slots are vastly unequal: I could go a lot deeper on saxophonists, but probably went too far on vibraphonists, and I didn't feel like even attempting the miscellaneous instruments thing. The past winners have been pretty idiosyncratic -- e.g., Harris Eisenstadt for composer, Fred Lonberg-Holm for cello.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll

The results of Francis Davis's sixth annual Jazz Critics Poll are public now. The Village Voice sponsored the first five, but fumbled the ball this year. Thankfully, Rhapsody picked it up and scored. The main link is here. The component links:

Complete results and all 122 voter ballots are also available here.

Update: Coming later today.

Expert Comments

I made a short announcement:

Francis Davis's 6th annual Jazz Critics Poll results and essays are up on Rhapsody: http://goo.gl/vZCju.

Francis and Rob Harvilla were kind enough to let me participate once again: I wrote a "second opinion" essay and collated all of the ballots over on my server. Short piece up on my blog. I'll have to add an update later once I've gathered my thoughts. Real busy right now. But I do want to especially thank everyone here who helped out on my playlist. I doubt I would have hacked my way through it without your help.

Christgau's year-end piece (Dad-Rock Makes a Stand) and Dean's List came out today. Only two records (of 107) hadn't previously appeared in Expert Witness: The Mekons: Ancient & Modern (hooray), and Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (thought it had some upside potential but didn't put much time into it).

Christgau's article posited that the 13 common picks in the top-50s of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone will finish Pazz & Jop in this order (the figures in brackets are where my metacritic file currently places them):

  1. Bon Iver, Bon Iver [1]
  2. Tune-Yards, Whokill [5]
  3. Jay Z/Kanye West, Watch the Throne [8]
  4. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues [4]
  5. St. Vincent, Strange Mercy [9]
  6. Drake, Take Care [20]
  7. Wild Flag, Wild Flag [23]
  8. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake [2]
  9. Destroyer, Kaputt [12]
  10. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra [35]
  11. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo [16]
  12. Beyoncé, 4 [54]
  13. Panda Bear, Tomboy [36]

Walter Cherretté, I believe it was, doubt that Wild Flag would top PJ Harvey. I commented:

There is a huge difference between how Let England Shake is viewed in the UK (and only slightly less throughout Europe) and the US. In the UK there is no contest for record of the year: it's PJ Harvey by a landslide. But in the US Let England Shake is still a top-10 finisher, most likely 5-6 (behind Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Tune-Yards, and some combo of James Blake, Wilco, Watch the Throne, Tom Waits, and maybe House of Balloons) -- Blake has a UK bias also, but it's less obvious. My metacritic file ranks Drake 20 and Wild Flag 23. Drake will probably beat that, but it's hard to see how he squeezes into the top 10. I don't try to weigh rank, but the rank evidence suggests that Tune-Yards and Weeknd could do better than my count (5 and 15 respectively).

Monday, January 09, 2012

Music Week

Music: Current count 19248 [19212] rated (+36), 816 [829] unrated (-13). Didn't publish Jazz Prospecting until midweek, then Recycled Goods, so much hustle and bustle there. Jazz Prospecting is on hold now. Rhapsody is fairly active, and a new column due soon. Been going through Jason Gross's list, and I'm surprised not to find much of interest there. But the same is true of the world at large.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Rhapsody Mix Tape

Friday, January 06, 2012

Recycled Goods (93): January 2011

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3162 (last time's reported 3220 was in error).

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Company Town Without a Company

Boeing announced that they're closing what's left of their Wichita plant. That means laying off 2,160 workers, and not fulfilling any of the promises they've made to Kansas politicos over the last decade while pursuing the great $35 billion tanker scam. The Boeing plant dates back to 1927 when it was Stearman Aviation. The plant greatly expanded during World War II, mostly at government expense, when employment swelled to over 50,000 and Wichita built the B-29s that won the war against Japan, and into the 1950s the B-47s and B-52s that pounded Korea and Vietnam (and still occasionally fly over Afghanistan).

My father worked at Boeing for 38 years, and my brother worked there for 23 years. In my father's day Boeing had several large plants in Washington plus the one in Wichita: all were unionized and the IAMAW negotiated nationwide, so Boeing's workers caught a break in Wichita. Nowadays it seems like they have hundreds of plants. The company isn't much good at building aircraft any more, but they do big business in auctioning off plants to cities and states eager to pay to have their citizens exploited. In 2005, Boeing spun several properties, including most of their Wichita plant, off in a private equity deal to create Spirit Aerosystems, reducing their Kansas employment from 15,000 to 4,500, and they cut more than half of that in the six years since.

It's not that Wichita and Kansas haven't been willing to cut Boeing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and abatements and other favors, nor that the local politicians ever hesitated to ply their influence for Boeing's benefit -- the tanker scam is only the grossest example. It may be the unions: before Boeing carved up their plant in 2005 SPEEA had organized the office workers, giving the Wichita plant (in right-to-work KS) the highest percentage union representation of any Boeing plant. That's no longer true, but Boeing still claims it costs 70% more to do work in Wichita than in San Antonio, where they have a non-union workforce in a fresh government-built plant. Wichita workers aren't used to thinking of themselves as overpaid, but Boeing has no scruples when it comes to screwing over their workers.

Some links:

I skipped over the ones searching for reaction from Kansas politicians. About all they had to say was that they were sad or sorry. In the 1940s the government built McConnell Air Force Base across Oliver Street from the plant they built for Boeing. The two have always had a symbiotic relationship. The reason the Air Force still flies 1950s-vintage aircraft like B-52s and KC-135s is that they've been periodically flown into McConnell and rebuilt by Boeing -- in fact, the KC-135 tankers are based here, even though they're mostly used to support fighters in Asia. Take Boeing away and there's no need for McConnell.

For some reason no one noticed how vulnerable McConnell would be once the KC-135s were replaced. Now if those same politicians are finally moved to salvage some jobs here, they'll do whatever they can to kill the new tankers. They never were a good idea, but now for Kansas at least the jobs excuse works against them.

I sent the following squib to the Eagle's Opinion Line:

Mark these words: McConnell AFB will be closed within five years of the first new tanker delivery. If you care about those jobs, kill the tanker contract. We don't need new ones. The ones we already have get us in too much trouble as it is.

The Eagle is asking for stories telling them "what impact has Boeing had on you and your family over the decades?" They provided a living for my father, although it's also likely that the leukemia that killed him was rooted in the chemical he was exposed to there. They turned into a nightmare for my brother, firing him for being too pro-union and for being a medical insurance liability. By then they liked to brag that "this isn't your father's Boeing." Indeed, they're not. They haven't just tracked the moral rot of the nation; they've repeatedly been the cutting edge.

UPDATE: One more Boeing article: Boeing misses deliveries target; Airbus beats goal. This just reinforces my argument above that in redirecting its business to maximizing its political clout and using that to extort income and financing from government and profits from workers, Boeing has lost its fundamental competency at building airplanes. It used to be that Boeing would build entire planes in one factory, with a great deal of vertical integration. If the advantages of doing so aren't obvious, look at the accompanying picture, which shows a 787 fuselage being loaded into an even larger airplane to be flown to the final assembly plant. As Boeing added more properties (to gain more political angles), and started to do more subcontracting (mostly to screw their workers, although wide supplier networks also helped build political clout), the manufacturing process became vastly more complex, while Boeing's quality control has declined. You see all this in the 787 program, which is about five years (and counting) behind schedule.

The contrast to Airbus should be instructive. You'd think that Airbus, with its government bureaucratic control forcing work to be spread over multiple countries, and its unions not only pushing labor costs up but effectively co-managing the company, should be much less efficient than Boeing, but at least Airbus can concentrate on actually building planes. And while Boeing is constantly whining about how urgently they have to cut labor costs to remain competitive, Airbus not only pays higher wages, they do so in Euros which are much more expensive than dollars. But in the end the ability to deliver planes makes all the difference.

Expert Comments

Got my jazz year piece back from Rob Harvilla. He killed off the political comment at the first -- no big deal, I'll post the original in the blog when it runs. He also asked me to put together a playlist. Since I can't recall any songs, I asked for help:

Francis Davis has run a jazz critics poll at the Village Voice the last five years. He wanted to continue the poll regardless of the Voice, so this year's one will be published at Rhapsody (where Rob Harvilla landed). Francis kept me involved, and I wrote a year-end piece, as I have done almost every year. Results, ballots, and our essays will be posted sometime next week. Got my edited essay back today, but now Harvilla is requesting that I provide a Rhapsody playlist to accompany it. Three problems: it has to all be on Rhapsody (which eliminates about half of my records); I've never made a playlist before (there or anywhere else); and most importantly I have virtually no recollection of tracks in my picks, let alone ideas on how to sequence them. Maybe some of you do? Looking for 12-15 tracks from the 55 records I wound up listing. I'd appreciate the help. Best to mail me directly.

Spoiler alert: The top 10 jazz records of 2011 follow:

  1. Dan Raphael-Rich Halley-Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle)
  2. Avram Fefer-Eric Revis-Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (Not Two)
  3. Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts)
  4. Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (Pi)
  5. Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (Musicnow)
  6. Abdullah Ibrahim: Sotho Blue (Sunnyside)
  7. Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy)
  8. Ellery Eskelin: New York (Prime Source)
  9. Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (Playscape)
  10. De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (Strotbrocck)

As I recall, Halley, Fefer, Lowe, Eskelin, and De Nazaten are not available (but sometimes it's hard to find things) -- the top three especially unfortunate. I'll add the rest of the list in a second post.

And part deux:

Second part of my 2011 jazz list, all A-, listed alphabetically because I finally realized how hopeless it was to maintain rank order. I merely list these in the article, but they're there, so I can pad my playlist with anything from them. (By the way, I do single out Stetson in the following paragraph so that's one to focus on; it has a lot of crossover rock support, in part thanks to Laurie Anderson). I'd guess that about half of these are available on Rhapsody -- sometimes they surprise you. (The David Murray is there, but it's hard to find. Lim was one I accidentally found, while looking for something else by Marc Ducret.) For more info, all of these are reviewed in Jazz Prospecting notes.

  • Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (self-released)
  • Yaala Ballin: On the Road (Gallery)
  • Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (Savant)
  • The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (SteepleChase)
  • James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (Emarcy)
  • Brian Charette: Learning to Count (SteepleChase)
  • Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (Bju'ecords)
  • Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères (TUM)
  • Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (Delmark)
  • Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (Cuneiform)
  • Mathias Eick: Skala (ECM)
  • Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (Concord)
  • FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (TUM)
  • Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (YSL)
  • Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quartet: In Good Company (Capri)
  • Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz)
  • Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (Clean Feed)
  • Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven)
  • Inzinzac: Inzinzac (High Two)
  • Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (AUM Fidelity)
  • Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (Rhombus Publishing)
  • Lim: With Marc Ducret (Kopasetic)
  • Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM)
  • Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (Clean Feed)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (ACT)
  • Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (Jazz From Rant)
  • Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues (Reprise)
  • Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Song) (NoBusiness)
  • Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (Frosty Cordial)
  • David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español (Motéma)
  • Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You (Evening Star)
  • Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (Wide Hive)
  • Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project (Zoning)
  • Side A: A New Margin (Clean Feed)
  • Tommy Smith: Karma (Spartacus)
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform)
  • Starlicker: Double Demon (Delmark)
  • Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (Delmark)
  • Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
  • Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique-I (Pi)
  • Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy (Strick Muzik)
  • David S. Ware: Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity)

Helpful even to just listen to a record and say, hey, this cut has to be included. Very wide range of styles here, except not much run-of-the-mill postbop. For that you can look, e.g., at the JazzTimes year-end list.

Thanks for your help.

Chris Monsen wrote:

Tom: wish I could help, but I only have limited access to Rhapsody (it being US only for plays, I can only do artist and album searches, plus read bios and such. Although I have previously been able to play albums via proxy servers, that no longer seems to work either). My experiences with making playlists elsewhere is that they're usually pretty intuitive, drag and drop songs/tracks into a created "folder" or using a "plus"/add button or something similar (which seems to be the case on Rhapsody). There's a "save playlist" option also, as far as I can see. A shame so many of your picks don't appear to be there, though (my top two weren't either). Here's hoping someone else can step up with a helping hand.

Greg Morton:

Tom: I really can't believe that anything I would contribute could meet your standards, but sheesh, since this morning I downloaded all the A-'s from your current Prospecting column (plus the Michael Bates B+*** because it sounded so interesting) with the plan for this afternoon to collect them all into one file and spend my available time today and tomorrow going through them, I'll let you know what I think.

I have some ideas already from last year's earlier albums (Eick was in the EW PnJ Top Ten I sent to Joey), and will add them at the same time. Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson's "Lyman Place" will be very close to the top of the list.

Chris Drumm:

Don't ask me how I know, but this is how I always did my compilations, preferring to let others do the heavy listening and cop their choices for my own compilations. It could be the title track, perhaps the single, especially the Xgau pick or mention, etc. I can't always listen as closely to all the albums that come my way as I might want, but I did listen to the compilations I would make that came about from such amalgamations. And I liked hearing things for the first time on compilations, rather than trying to ferret them out first. Occasionally something that didn't sit right would have to be either moved or gotten rid of, but I liked it when fortuity ruled. Totally irresponsible and lazy but if I were making a compilation from these albums, the tracks "I" would pick are these (from the last half of the list -- I will go through the others when I can; how many will be available on Rhapsody I don't know, but it might be more than you think):

  • Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues (Reprise) "Layla"
  • Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Song) (NoBusiness) "Crescent City Lullaby"
  • Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (Frosty Cordial) "Rumi We're Losing"
  • David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español (Motéma) "No me platiques"
  • Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You (Evening Star) "Happy Feet (At The Savoy)"
  • Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (Jazzwerkstatt) "Sleep Safe and Warm"
  • Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (Wide Hive) "Moorish"
  • Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project (Zoning) "Blue Ridge in Watercolor"
  • Side A: A New Margin (Clean Feed) "Trued Right"
  • Tommy Smith: Karma (Spartacus) "Land of Heroes," "Star"
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform) "Leroy Jenkins's Air Steps" [22 minutes]
  • Starlicker: Double Demon (Delmark) "Double Demon"
  • Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (Delmark) "Little Big Horse"
  • Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation) "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes"
  • Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique-I (Pi) "Twenty" & "Forty" are the free samples
  • Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy (Strick Muzik) "Portrait of Tracy"
  • David S. Ware: Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity) "Crystal Palace" has YouTube video

Got some mail from Mike Imes at first offering to help, then backing off because he doesn't have Rhapsody (same for Monsen above), so I wrote:

Just to clarify, in response to a couple messages here and more direct, the hardest part for me is identifying the songs from the albums, which would help me get from 50-60 hours of music down to the 12-15 songs I need. If you do suggest something not on Rhapsody, I'll just scratch it off -- no harm unless you wasted a lot of time finding it. But if it's not interesting for you to do on your own, you probably shouldn't bother anyway.

Robert Christgau:

Tom: The physical part of Rhapsody playlists is pretty easy -- drag-and-drop stuff, although changing order once you're done is clumsier than in iTunes, so doing them in order is a good goal. Conceptually, however, Rhapsody playlists, like all playlists, are a bitch. I really believe that most people who do them are [jacking off], not really worrying about how the music flows. One way to finesse that would be to do the tracks in order of album finish, top-to-bottom or vv. Really, don't kill yourself. Lead cuts might be a reasonable default for track choices, too.

Chris Drumm:

Okay, for what it's worth (not much, but I'm going to MOG to see what I can do with these -- I'm curious), here is 'my' stab at coming up with the rest of the picks from Tom's list (which looks darn good -- I sure hope he has the incentive to keep listening and reporting; I know I have plenty of listening to do here now -- including see how much of a MOG playlist I can come up with based on these 'choices' -- which will be a much longer playlist than Tom's and probably entirely different, but I am looking forward to it anyway; if this wasn't of any help, I still enjoyed the exercise and found a few resources in the process):

  • Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (self-released) "Keep Looking Forward"
  • Yaala Ballin: On the Road (Gallery) "Three Little Words"
  • Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine) "Red Is The Color In Jean Michel Basquiat's Silk Blue"
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (Savant) "Convergence"
  • The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (SteepleChase) "Two Steps Out"
  • James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (Emarcy) "The Hard Blues"
  • Brian Charette: Learning to Count (SteepleChase) "Learning to Count"
  • Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (Bju'ecords) "Noneto Iberico"
  • Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères (TUM) "Route de Freres, Parts 1-3"
  • Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (Delmark) "Sketches"
  • Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (Cuneiform) "Terrane/A Phrase"
  • Mathias Eick: Skala (ECM) "Day After"
  • Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (Concord) "Light My Fire"
  • FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (TUM) "Homeward Bound"
  • Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (YSL) "Occult"
  • Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quartet: In Good Company (Capri) "Bopping with Bud"
  • Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz) "Lyman Place"
  • Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (Clean Feed) "Gitar"
  • Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven) "Luminesque"
  • Inzinzac: Inzinzac (High Two) "Chapi Chapo"
  • Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (AUM Fidelity) "E-Gaz"
  • Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (Rhombus Publishing) "Aldebaran"
  • Lim: With Marc Ducret (Kopasetic) "My Flower, Your Power"
  • Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM) "In the Paradise Garden"
  • Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (Clean Feed) "Mutant Free 1"
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (ACT) "Samdhi"
  • Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (Jazz From Rant) "Votivae Noctes"

Joe Yanosik:

I sweat blood and tears on my playlists, listening to the same 16 or 20 songs in at least 5 or 6 permutations before I settle. I have my own "system" that I'm happy to share FWIW. First, I use my database to filter by artist or genre or whatever the theme of the playlist is. Then, I'll do some serious listening to pick my 16 favorites for that particular mix. I'll start off with an anthem, or at least a song that has a "build-up" to get everyone's attention. "I Ran" on my '80s Pop Hits mix is a good example. The second song is typically the bomb: a usually-short-fast smokin' piece of music, whatever genre. Third song like the second, just a few sticks of dyno-mite less. Fourth song is where I'll throw in a surprise, a longer song, not as well known, but just as solid. I try to think of mixtapes as albums with two sides, so I'll wind down "side one" with some slow, beautiful stuff (tracks six, seven) before ending the side (track 8, say) with a longish masterpiece. Track 9 starts off "side two" with a bang -- typically a rocker with "hit" written all over it. Rest of side two follows format of side one. I agree with Xgau that picking lead cuts is usually the way to go. In general, I'd say record companies or producers or whoever's responsible for that stuff know what they're doing when they program a record. Not always, but usually. My two cents . . .

Chris Drumm:

Irregardless of flow, I have now whipped up (off?) a 34-song playlist lasting nearly four and a half hours, keeping the alphabetical segueing, that I for one am looking forward to hearing (http://goo.gl/yIVJ7). A fair number were not findable on MOG, so at least I have some things to look for when my eMusic refreshes. Bonehead that I am, this was fun, even if not useful.

Yes, lead cuts too, me also. I've listened to some compilations over and over again to get sequencing how I like it, when I burned them on CDs, but these virtual comps there's always the gap between songs, so what the heck. I love it when a new song comes in right on top of the old song on the CD, and without a big volume change (cause for many a retooling). The compilations I used to make, I threw together all kinds of music, even classical -- usually adagios because those make a nice break in the action.


Eliyahu is on Rhapsody under Avram Fefer (strangely a search for the title doesn't work). "Song for Dyani" is one of my favourite jazz things of the year, as is Matt Lavelle's "You're the Tonic" (though that one's 19 minutes: uneven track lengths are a hazard of jazz playlisting).

My fave on Road Shows Vol. 2 was "In a Sentimental Mood" [edit: though this has a long talky bit at the end], though the Ornette feature "Sonnymoon for Two" understandably got more press (again though, 22 minutes).

Milo Miles:

Regarding mixtapes/compilation discs and transitions, one hard-to-avoid challenge is working from a restricted playlist -- certainly when you're doing year-end retrospectives. Best you can do is salt unifying sounds throughout the program and try to keep the transitions more surprising-stimulating than wack-jarring. For example, here's a set made from my Top 10 albums and Top 10 tracks of 2011, with three substitutions and, of course, two missing.

  1. Poly Styrene, "I Luv Ur Sneakers"
  2. Paul Simon, "The Afterlife"
  3. Bombino, "Tar Hani" (My Love)
  4. Shabazz Palaces, "An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum"
  5. Serengeti, "Long Ears"
  6. Kiran Ahluwalia, "Mustt Mustt"
  7. Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, "The Slummer the Slum"
  8. Pistol Annies, "Lemon Drop"
  9. Vijay Iyer, "Duality"
  10. Banquet of the Spirits, "Briel"
  11. Tom Waits, "Hell Broke Luce"
  12. Blaqstarr, "Wonder Woman"
  13. Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, "Ice Cream"
  14. The Vivs, "Are You Coming Around?"
  15. James Vincent McMorrow, "Sparrow & the Wolf"
  16. Younger Brother, "Shine"
  17. Battles, "Africastle"
  18. Oneohtrix Point Never, "Andro"

I think only the first three have what I would consider radio-sturdy transitions, but the mode and mood morph cleanly enough for all of it to hang together. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Greg Morton:

Tom H.: Here's my stab at a 2011 jazz playlist. Without question there's tons left out but what's here seems to be pretty top shelf. I hope this helps in some way. Use as you see fit, or not of course.

  1. "Killer" - Rudresh Mahanthappa - Samdhi: 6:17
  2. "Wishful Thinking" - Avram Fefer, Eric Revis & Chad Taylor - Eliyahu: 7:39
  3. "Keep Looking Forward" - Andrew Atkinson Quartet - Keep Looking Forward (Live): 7:55
  4. "Skull Cave" - Starlicker - Double Demon: 6:34
  5. "Focus, Thrutime . . . time, Part 1" - Muhal Richard Abrams - SoundDance: 8:10
  6. "Day After" - Mathais Eick - Skala: 4:52
  7. "Out Of This World" - Ted Rosenthal Trio - Out Of This World: 8:11
  8. "Calypso Minor" - Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya - Sotho Blue: 6:24
  9. "Occult" - Joe Fiedler Trio - Sacred Chrome Orb: 6:07
  10. "Tabula . . . " - Maikotron Unit - Ex-Voto: 2:38
  11. "Breath Test" - Rich Halley, Dan Raphael &. Carson Halley - Children of the Blue Supermarket: 3:14
  12. "Lord I just can't keep from crying sometimes" - Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: 4:49
  13. "The Hard Blues" - The James Carter Organ Trio - At the Crossroads: 9:53
  14. "Lyman Place" - Kieran Hebden, Steve Reid & Mats Gustafsson - Live At the South Bank: 8:53
  15. "Parakram #2" - Rudresh Mahanthappa - Samdhi: 5:19

Nate Smith:

Here's a start -- some striking cuts from your A-list albums, the ones I've heard anyway.

  • "Calypso Minor" - Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya Sotho Blue
  • "Raincheck" - Sonny Rollins Road Shows Vol 2
  • "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes" - Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. 2 Judges
  • "Walking the Dog" - James Carter Organ Trio At The Crossroads
  • "Otis" - Inzinzac Inzinzac
  • "I Wish I Had A Choice" - Darius Jones Trio Big Gurl (Smell My Dream)
  • "Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden" - Wadada Leo Smith's Organic Heart's Reflection
  • "Careless Love" - Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues
  • "Playing With Stones" - Rudresh Mahanthappa Samdhi
  • "Skala" - Matthias Eick Skala
  • "Headbanger's Bawl" - Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade Brain Dance
  • "25th Street" - Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustaffson Live At The South Bank
  • "Bolt Bus Jitter" - Marcus Strickland Triumph of the Heavy
  • "Duality Is One" - David S. Ware Planetary Unknown

And just in case you find them on Rhapsody:

  • "Appropriated Lands" - Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor Eliyahu
  • "First Car I See Tonight" - Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley Children of the Blue Supermarket
  • "Off Minor" - Ellery Eskelin Trio New York

And a couple of favorites from albums that just missed your A-list:

  • "Spirit Moves" - Dave Douglas United Front Brass Ecstasy at Newport
  • "Lush Life" - Dave Douglas GPS Vol. 1 Rare Metals
  • "Someday We'll All Be Free" - Ben Allison Action Refraction (Monsen's song of the year)
  • "Linger Awhile" - Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project Seriously

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 18)

This will wrap up Jazz Prospecting for a while: until I either convert to a weekly (or more often) blog, or give up. This also wraps up the Jazz CG (28) cycle, which at this point seems unlikely to result in an actual Jazz Consumer Guide post. I posted Jazz CG (27) on December 19, and got virtually no notice or feedback for the effort, so while I have (28) nearly complete, it hardly seems worth the effort to wrap it up. This also wraps up 2011, and good riddance to all that. I still have 100 2011 albums in the pending pile, and I'll get to them when I can -- maybe not the Xmas albums, nor the ones from the US Air Force, but almost certainly nearly all of them.

Still, I did manage to sort through more than 600 new jazz albums during the year. The grade breakdown would graph out as a curve: A: 3; A-: 52; B+(***): 133; B+(**): 203; B+(*): 156; B: 57; B-: 18; C+: 2; D+: 1. Without checking, I'd say this is pretty similar to previous years. I may have a few fewer low grades than in the past, but the deficit is probably in the pending queue. I'm also down a bit from past years on top -- I can think of several possible reasons for this, including the bad mood I developed over the last five-six months, but I did come up with five A- records this installment (three that I didn't receive found on Rhapsody -- one [Lim] a complete surprise after a botched search).

I'll report further on future jazz reviewing when I finally know something. Could still happen on the Village Voice, or could wind up on Terminal Zone. In the meantime, I'll post a Recycled Goods this week, and very likely something on my Pazz & Jop ballot and what I've learned from my metacritic file. Downloader's Diary will be late for January -- probably sometime next week. I have about 30 Rhapsody Streamnotes packed away, so they'll appear sooner or later. So expect a lot of music in the next two weeks.

By the way, the collected Jazz Prospecting file for this round is here. After averaging a little over 200 records per cycle, the total this round was 402. Should have gotten two select Jazz Consumer Guides out of all those records -- five months' work. Not a complete waste because I do have all these notes, but as a freelance writer I have to say that 2011 was my worst since I started writing again.

The Ames Room: Bird Dies (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Sax trio, bills themselves as "minimal maximal terror jazz." Saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet is French, but bassist and drummer (Clayton Thomas and Will Guthrie) have suspiciously Anglo names. Second album, just one 48:20 staccato rumble, daring you to turn the volume up to see if you can discern any changes. I did, a little. B+(**)

Baloni: Fremdenzimmer (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Trio: Joachim Badenhorst (bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax), Frantz Loriot (viola), and Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass). Don't think I've ever run across Loriot before, but he is central here, setting the tone and dynamics, and when he decides to whine and mourn no one else can break free. B+(*)

Michael Bates: Acrobat: Music for, and by, Dmitri Shostakovich (2011, Sunnyside): Bassist, or "bassist-composer" as he likes to say -- as does nearly everyone, which is why I almost never retain the second part, but the balance is worth noting with him, even more so than with such distinguished composer-bassists as Ben Allison and Adam Lane. I must admit I was put off by the Shostakovich theme, unfortunately, regrettably: for one thing, only one (of nine) pieces is by Shostakovich; for another, his postbop orchestration -- a superb group with Chris Speed (alto sax, clarinet), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Russ Lossing (piano, rhodes), and Tom Rainey (drums) -- of "Dance of Death" is a high point here, possibly because it signifies to me more as rock (as Weill does) than as classical. The affinities of the other pieces isn't clear to me, but as tightly composed postbop pieces they are remarkably varied and inventive. Should play this some more. [B+(***)]

Dee Bell: Sagacious Grace (1990 [2011], Laser): Singer, b. 1950 in Fort Wayne, IN; cut a couple records for Concord 1983-85, but nothing since until now. This session was shelved for technical reasons but has finally been cleaned up and dedicated to her late pianist Al Plank. Standards, including a couple jazz tunes Bell wrote lyrics to. Band includes John Stowell on guitar, and (even better) Houston Person on tenor sax. B+(*)

George Benson: Guitar Man (2011, Concord): Guitarist, was so dedicated to Wes Montgomery that he worked Boss Guitar into his first album title, but by the early 1970s had slid into light shlock and in 1976 scored a breakthrough hit with his undistinct vocals. I wrote him off long ago, but I've gotten a few of his recent records -- for some reason this is the only one Concord serviced me with in 2011, and this is the least awful of the last three. For one thing, only three vocals, and his Stevie Wonder impersonation is so uncanny he gets away with "My Cherie Amour"; for another, he takes two cuts solo, and he still has that sweet touch, even on something as moldy as "Danny Boy." On the other hand, his funk isn't even fake, and the best you can say for his string-drenched "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is that the melody is unrecognizable. B-

Carlos Bica & Azul: Things About (2011, Clean Feed): Title listed above artist name, so it can flow as one, even into the smaller print "featuring Frank Möbus and Jim Black" (guitar and drums). Bica is a bassist, from Portugal, has at least seven going back to his 1996 album Azul (with Möbus, Black, and a couple guests -- and there seem to be a couple more Azul albums in the meantime. Möbus has a record/group called Der Rote Bereich -- AMG shows one album, but his website lists six. He's a disarmingly unfancy player, so it takes a while to sink in how charming he is. And it's good not to overwhelm the bassist, who has plenty to contribute on his own. B+(***)

Ran Blake/Dominique Eade: Whirlpool (2004-08 [2011], Jazz Project): Piano-voice duets. Blake cut his first album in 1961, calling it The Newest Sound Around, and has thirty-some records since, most either solo piano or duets with vocalists (most notably Jeanne Lee; recently with Christine Correa and Sara Serpa). Eade was b. 1958 in England, met Blake when she studied at New England Conservatory. She has six albums since 1992 (counting this one). Her voice is right on target, so clear it needs little dressing, and Blake makes more out of less as well as anyone. B+(***)

Bobby Bradford/Mark Dresser/Glenn Ferris: Live in LA (2009 [2011], Clean Feed): Cornet, bass, trombone respectively. Bradford, b. 1934, has a long, and relatively unheralded, avant-garde career -- I've missed virtually all of it myself, including his famous work with John Carter. Ferris I know even less about: b. 1950 in Los Angeles; played early on with Don Ellis, Harry James, and Frank Zappa; has six albums since 1995, mostly on Enja; goes back a long ways with Bradford. With bass but no drums, this takes its time getting anywhere, wallowing in murky depths, which seems to be the point. B+(**)

Michael Cain: Solo (2011, Native Drum Music): Pianist, b. 1966, AMG lists seven albums since 1990 (but missed this one, and who knows what else). Google really wanted to dispatch me off to some British actor. Solo piano and a bit of electronics: slow, gentle, has some appeal. B+(*)

William Carn: William Carn's Run Stop Run (2011, Mythology): Trombonist, b. 1969, from Canada. First album, although AMG lists a few dozen side credits. Quartet, with guitars (Don Scott), basses (Jon Maharaj), and drums (Ethan Ardelli). Both Scott and Maharaj contribute songs, as does producer David Binney. B+(*)

Corrie en de Grote Brokken: Vier! Het Beste van de Grote Brokken (1997-2004 [2011], Brokken): Dutch guitarist Corrie van Binsbergen released this to mark her 25th anniversary, but the sampler narrows in on a relatively short stretch with a big, brassy band -- trumpet, trombone, typically three saxes, vibes or marimba, fronted by singers Bob Fosko and Beatrice van der Poel. Lots of flashy guitar, most of it closer to rock than to jazz, but knowing nonethless -- I'm reminded of some of Roy Wood's early-1070s stabs at neoclassic rock and roll, but the vibes suggest Zappa if only I'd paid him any heed. B+(**)

Shirley Crabbe: Home (2011, MaiSong): Standards singer, studied at Northwestern and Manhattan School of Music. First album. Has a full-featured band including Brandon Lee on trumpet, Dave Glasser on sax, and Donald Vega on piano -- but even with Glasser on hand she wrangled Houston Person for two guest shots (his "Lucky to Be Me" solo a highlight). Songs jump around, ranging from "Summertime" to Sondheim and Carole King ("Far Away"). On the right song she can be very striking -- "Detour Ahead" seems to always be the right song. B+(**)

John Daversa: Junk Wagon: The Big Band Album (2011, BFM Jazz): Trumpet player, also EVI. Second album, both Big Band; has pretty scattered side credits -- Burt Bacharach, Fiona Apple, Kim Richmond, Yellowjackets, Andrae Crouch. Title cut leans toward hip-hop, but backs away, and I don't have any idea what he really wants to do, other than be a bit different. "Cheeks" is an example that delivers both on textures and solo, which is what you hope for in a big band. B+(*)

Yelena Eckemoff: Flying Steps (2010 [2011], Yelena Music): Pianist, born and raised in Moscow, with one of those rigorous Soviet educations in classical music. Moved to US in 1991. Classical music dominates her discography, but she's edged into jazz and produced several more-than-credible trio records. This one includes Darek Oleszkiewicz on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. B+(**)

Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet: Frog Leg Logic (2011, Clean Feed): Plays alto sax, soprano sax, and flute, leading a quartet with James Zollar (trumpet), Hank Roberts (cello), and Michael Sarin (drums). Strong interplay for most of the way -- the flute, of course, is the weak link. Zollar usually lurks in the background, but when he gets a solo shot he reminds you how underrated he is. B+(***)

Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (2011, Yellow Sound Label): Trombonist, based in New York (since 1993), fourth album since 2005. First was a daunting tribute, Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff. This is a trio with John Hebert and Michael Sarin, the sort of thing that puts the horn constantly on the spot. And he proves to be as inventive as his German mentor, while avoiding the squawk and whine that suggested to me horses being slaughtered. A-

Hal Galper Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic (2011, Origin): Veteran pianist, b. 1938, has thirty-some albums since 1971, including some real gems -- some I've noticed: Portrait (1989), Just Us (1993), Art-Work (2009). Trio with his label's ace rhythm section: Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop on drums. Three originals, four covers ("Guess I'll Hang Out My Tears to Dry," "Be My Love"). B+(*)

Dennis González/João Paulo: So Soft Yet (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Duets, González on trumpet and cornet, Paulo (full name: João Paulo Esteves Da Silva) on acoustic and electric piano, also accordion. They did this once before, in 2009's Scape Grace, but this works better, partly because Paulo's rotation keeps it from settling into a rut, but mostly charm and intimacy. B+(***)

Hybrid 10tet: On the Move (2011, BBB): Cover also mentions, in small print, "braam": that would be pianist Michiel Braam, who put this group together and wrote their pieces. Group is built from a classical string quartet (Matangi Quartet), a rowdy rock rhythm section (bass and drums, anyway, plus the pianist, and you might also factor in Carl Ludwig Hübsch's tuba), plus some avant-jazz brass (Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Nils Wogram on trombone). The mix is often spectacular -- as on the tango-ish "Cuba, North Rhine-Westphalia" and the funk-noise of "Fat Centered Gravy" -- but sometimes not. (I initially suspected the strings, but it's not quite that simple.) The pianist, as usual, has fun. B+(**)

Tony Jones/Kenny Wollesen/Charles Burnham: Trio: Pitch, Rhythm, and Consciousness (2011, New Artists): Only released on LP, although I'm working off a CD-R. Jones plays tenor sax -- only time I've run across him before was on a record by his wife, alto saxophonist Jessica Jones. Burnham plays violin, and Wollesen drums. Free, but slow and moody, the violin receding into bass range. B+(*) [advance]

Jan Klare/Jeff Platz/Meinrad Kneer/Bill Elgart: Modern Primitive (2010 [2011], Evil Rabbit): Klare plays alto sax/clarinet/flute, has four albums since 2001; Platz guitar; has a couple albums; Kneer double bass, one previous album; and Elgart drums, also with a couple. Not quite a supergroup, but finely balanced for jousting, the guitar throwing sax-like leads as well as rolling with the rhythm, such as it is. B+(**)

Lama: Oneiros (2011, Clean Feed): Trumpet-bass-drums trio; respectively, Susana Santos Silva (b. 1979), Gonçalo Almeida, and Greg Smith. Santos Silva has a record (Devil's Dress) and a few side roles, including EMJO. Almeida wrote 6 of 8 pieces -- one each for the others. Dense, heavy, bunched-up in the lower registers, doesn't move much but goes where it wants. B+(*)

Steve Lipman: There's a Song in My Heart (2010-11 [2011], Locomotion): Sinatra without the voice -- what, the hat isn't enough? Good thing he kept his day job: a dental practice in Windsor, CT. On the other hand, his band -- no one I've heard of, although the type is so illegible it's hard to make out any names -- swings gracefully, and his overbite has a certain comic charm. When Google offered a squiggle on "a comic career" I entertained the possibility of a put-on, but turns out there's another Steve Lipman, who got his start during the ancien regime, offering: "I'm 11 years old, and I've learned to tie my shoes really well. So if President Bush ever comes to town, I'll teach him too." B

Mark Alban Lotz & Istak Köpek: Istanbul Improv Sessions May 4th (2010 [2011], Evil Rabbit): Flute player, b. 1963, Dutch but grew up in Thailand and Uganda. AMG credits him with six albums since 1994 -- certainly an undercount, although I'm at a loss as how to sort the 35 albums he lists on his website (I'd certainly credit him with the six albums by Lotz of Music, but his role in Cachao Sounds: La Descarga Continua is likely minor). Here he plays with Turkish group Islak Köpek (two tenor saxes, guitar, cello, and laptop; three names look Turkish and two Anglo). Lotz ranges from piccolo to bass flute, and the latter gets a lot of use here. Considerable sonic interest here, especially when they get loud and dense, which is their preferred mode -- although improv being improvised they sometimes swing and miss. B+(**)

Metta Quintet: Big Drum/Small World (2011, Jazzreach): A project of Jazzreach, a 501(c)(3) non-profit "dedicated to the promotion, performance, creation and teaching of jazz music." Third album I'm aware of under this name: bassist Joshua Ginsburg and drummer Hans Schuman are the constants, with piano and horns rotating -- currently, Marcus Strickland (tenor and soprano sax), Greg Ward (alto sax), and David Bryant (piano). They play five pieces: one by Strickland, the others by name players not in the band -- Omer Avital, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Yosvany Terry, and Miguel Zenón. First-rate postbop, well within the lines but I suppose you have to be when trying to be educational. B+(**)

Yoko Miwa Trio: Live at Scullers Jazz Club (2010 [2011], self-released): Pianist, b. 1970 in Kobe, Japan; moved to US in 1996 with a Berklee scholarship. Fourth album since 2001, a trio with Greg Loughman on bass and Scott Goulding on drums. Three originals, five covers starting with "This Could Be the Start of Something" and including Lou Reed's "Who Loves the Sun." Most convincing at high speed -- dazzling might be the word. B+(***)

Leszek Mozdzer: Komeda (2011, ACT): Pianist, b. 1970 in Poland, classically trained and as likely to turn in Impressions on Chopin as this set of solo piano meditations on the patron saint of Polish jazz, Krzyzstof Komeda. Solo piano never does much for me unless it has a big rhythmic kick; this doesn't, but otherwise it's hard to fault. Need to play it again, maybe in the context of other Komeda tributes (which seem to be far easier to score than the old albums are). [B+(**)]

Mozik (2010 [2011], self-released): Boston group, led by Brazilians Gilson Schachnik (keyboards) and Mauricio Zottarelli (drums), with flute (Yulia Musayelan), guitar (Gustavo Assis-Brasil), and bass (Fernando Huergo). Zottarelli insists he didn't like Brazilian music until he moved to Boston. I detect an air of respectful reunion, winning out over a mischievous desire to mix things up. Three Jobims, one each from Monk and Hancock, two originals (by Schachnik), one more ("Canto das Tres Raças"). B+(*)

David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole en Español (2010 [2011], Motéma): More inspired by than based on Cole's 1958-62 Spanish-language records, En Español and More En Español. Cole took backing tracks from a small Cuban group and dubbed in his sweet vocals -- one story is that the 1958 revolution prevented him from finishing the album in Havana. Murray is at least equally circuitous, recording his Cuban band in Buenos Aires with tango singer Daniel Melingo -- as rough as Cole is smooth -- then dubbing in strings in Portugal, mixing the album in France, and mastering it in the UK. Even with Melingo on board, the vocals are trimmed way back, leaving more room for the sax, as imposing as ever. A-

Josh Nelson: Discoveries (2011, Steel Bird): Pianist, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2004. Wrote all but one of the pieces, naming them for things like "Dirigibles" and "Tesla Coil" -- with featured quotes inside the package from Mark Twain and H.G. Wells, his interest in new things is curiously dated. Group is spread out with three horns, but the most satisfying parts lead with the piano. B+(*)

Nordeson Shelton: Incline (2011, Singlespeed Music): Alto sax-drums duo -- drums by Kjell Nordeson, sax by Aram Shelton. Shelton passed through Chicago on his way to his current base in Oakland, which sharpened his instincts for developing a distinct tone and style, but that's never been more clear than in this basic context. Nordeson's credits include Mats Gustafsson (AALY Trio) and Paul Rutherford, Atomic and Exploding Customer. B+(***)

Bill O'Connell: Triple Play Plus Three (2010 [2011], Zoho): Pianist, b. 1953, studied at Oberlin; has eight or so records, with an early one in 1978, another in 1993, the rest since 2001 as he moved more into Latin jazz. I was tempted to attribute this to Bill O'Connell Plus Three, but changed my mind after checking and finding another Triple Play album. The core group is O'Connell and Richie Flores (congas). The "plus three" are Paquito D'Rivera (clarinet), Dave Samuels (vibes), and Dave Valentin (flute), who take turns filling out a trio. The rotation avoids any ruts, but I rather prefer the guestless stretches where O'Connell pushes harder and breaks up his flow. B+(**)

The Oscuro Quintet: Music for Tango Ensemble (2010 [2011], Big Round): Based in Philadelphia: Alban Bailly (guitar), June Bender (violin), Benjamin Blazer (bass), Shinjoo Cho (accordion, bandoneon), and Thomas Lee (piano). Bailly composed the five-part "Five Procrastinations"; the rest draws on Argentine masters. AMG (and others) tend to file this as classical, probably for the same things that turn me off. Still has its charms -- "oddly OK" was the judgment from the other room. B+(*)

Florencia Ruiz: Luz de la Noche (Light of the Night) (2011, Adventure Music): Argentine diva, or maybe I just mean torch singer, projects a lot of drama and emotion, although for all I know she could be as vapid as Enya -- a comparison I've seen, though meant to be more flattering. Hugo Fattoroso (piano) and Jaques Morelembaum (cello) are cited as "featuring" -- must be big names in Argentina, because they only show up for one and two cuts here. B+(*)

Dred Scott: Prepared Piano (2007-08 [2009], Robertson): Pianist, originally from St. Louis, went to college in Ohio, spent 10 years in Bay Area, then moved to New York in 1999, which makes him how old? Extensive discography on his site goes back to a 1991 record with Anthony Braxton (8+3 Tristano Compositions), but aside from his three trio records I've heard of nothing else he's done. He played drums on that Braxton record -- probably the right orientation for prepared piano ("Funky" sounds like it's mostly percussion). Mostly short pieces, discreet building blocks ready to add up to something. [My impression is that this is being reissued on Ropeadope, but my copy looks like the old, original edition.] B+(**)

Dred Scott Trio: Going Nowhere (2010 [2011], Ropeadope): Can't find any evidence that Dred Scott isn't the pianist's given name. Like his famous namesake he is from St. Louis, but the resemblance ends there. With Ben Rubin on bass and Tony Mason on drums. All originals except for a shrewdly deconstructed "7 Steps to Heaven." I am duly impressed, but don't have much to say. B+(**) [advance]

Sara Serpa: Mobile (2010, Inner Circle Music): Singer, b. 1979 in Portugal, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory, based in New York. Has a duo album with Ran Blake, at least three under her own name. This one is spare, mostly done with just bass and drums (Ben Street and Ted Poor), with piano added on 4 (of 10) cuts (Kris Davis) and guitar on three of those (Andre Matos). Texts are evidently taken from lit -- Homer, Herodotus, Melville, Steinbeck, Naipaul, Kapuscinski -- although I can't make any of them out and suspect she's just scatting. B

Jen Shyu/Mark Dresser: Synastry (2009-10 [2011], Pi): Vocalist, b. 1978 in Peoria, IL; parents from Taiwan and East Timor; based in New York. Has several albums since 2002, a research interest in "Taiwanese folk and aboriginal music" extending to Chinese-Cubans, but is best known for her work with Steve Coleman's group. Dresser, of course, is one of our foremost bassists, so these are voice-bass duos. I have a tough time when jazz singers get arty -- a primal case of opera-phobia, I'm afraid -- but this somehow slips through. B+(**)

Enoch Smith Jr.: Misfits (2011, self-released): Pianist, b. 1978 in Rochester, NY. Second album, a piano trio plus vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles -- although there are also uncredited male vocals. Seems like too much singing at first, especially once Smith finally opens up some space for his unconventionally percussive piano. Mostly originals; covers include "Caravan" and "Blackbird" (one song I wish the jazz world would just give up on). B+(*)

The Taal Tantra Experience: Sixth Sense (2011, Ozella): German-based Indian music group, led by tabla player Tanmoy Bose, with a mix of German and Indian names in the microscopic credits text. The tabla is impressive enough, but the fusion tends to even things out, as if the jazz component was smooth. B

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Frère Jacques: Round About Offenbach (2009 [2011], ECM): The leaders play clarinet and accordion, respectively. Trovesi, b. 1944, made an early mark in the avant-garde (mostly on alto sax), but since he joined ECM he's been picking around in his classical training, previously teaming with Coscia for a Round About Weill (and earlier, In Cerca di Cibo). Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) was born in Cologne, son of a synagogue cantor, moved to Paris to study and remained in his new country, mostly writing popular operettas. About half of the music here comes from him, the rest by Trovesi and Coscia, much of it explicitly paired to an Offenbach piece. B+(**)

Ursa Minor: Showface (2011, Anthemusa): New York rock group fronted by singer Michelle Casillas, had a previous album in 2003. Doesn't belong here but someone sent me a copy, guitarist-producer Tony Scherr has something of a jazz rep, not sure that drummer Robert DiPietro doesn't ring a bell somewhere, and some of the guests definitely do (e.g., trombonist Ryan Keberle). The strings and French horns do little to alter the fact that this is a guitar band, the singer is mostly affectless but on a slow one turns on the charm. Seems like a nice group going nowhere. B+(*)

The Tommy Vig Orchestra 2012: Welcome to Hungary! (2011, Klasszikus Jazz): I have an advance CD, and a fairly thick booklet which is probably a proof copy, but which is so jumbled up I can make no sense of who plays what or what's going on here. Vig plays vibes, was b. 1938, studied at Bela Bartok Conservatory, fled Hungary in 1956, cut some records in US that seem to be regarded as instrumental pop. This is a big band with cimbalom and tarogato and a lot of horn power -- the guest performance by David Murray towering above all. Six bonus cuts without Murray show the band to be loud and brash, but not all that interesting. In order to rise above the background, Murray is little short of titanic. B+(*) [advance]

Ricardo Villalobos/Max Loderbauer: Re: ECM (2009 [2011], ECM, 2CD): Two electronics producers. Villalobos, b. 1970 in Chile, has more than a dozen albums since 2002. Loderbauer has nothing under his own name, but several dozen composer/producer credits. Both based in Berlin. This isn't a remix of ECM material; more an attempt to construct electronics frameworks around musical structures from various ECM records, starting on the classical end of the spectrum (Arvo Part, Alexander Knaifel) with a few jazz sources (Louis Sclavis, John Abercrombie, Paul Motian the best known). First disc leans toward industrial sounds but not intense; second is more pastoral until it eventually works in some choral voices. B+(*) [advance]

These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype, often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the record.

Rez Abbasi's Invocation: Suno Suno (2010 [2011], Enja): Guitarist, from Pakistan, eighth album since 1995, not counting his work with Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition -- a trio with Dan Weiss on drums that is expanded to five here, adding Vijay Iyer on piano and Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, only here the compositions are all Abbasi. The star power of Mahanthappa and Iyer is undeniable, but it comes off as unduly heavy, jerky, dramatic -- impressive in its own right. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

David Berkman: Self-Portrait (2011, Red Piano): Pianist, b. 1958, sixth album since 1998 -- the inevitable solo one. Mix of standards, starting with "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and originals, four of them designated sketches. Self-assured, balanced tone, runs on cold logic, impeccable as these things go. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

The New Gary Burton Quartet: Common Ground (2011, Mack Avenue): What's new about this Quartet, as opposed to the one he recorded a live album with in 2009, is replacing guitarist Pat Metheny and bassist Steve Swallow with Julian Lage and Scott Colley: younger players, most likely cheaper too, plus they contribute songs, so the leader is down to one in ten. (Drummer Antonio Sanchez, who pitched in two songs, was kept over.) Probably a smart move for Burton, but not as smart as letting Lage take the lead, and adding a little something instead of vying for top dog. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Gerald Cleaver/Uncle June: Be It as I See It (2010 [2011], Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, from Detroit, has a half dozen albums since 2001. No idea where the group name comes from, but it's basically a sextet with two horns (Andrew Bishop on flute, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor sax; Tony Malaby on soprano and tenor sax), piano (Craig Taborn), viola (Mat Maneri), and bass (Drew Gress), with occasional voices and a bit of guest guitar or banjo. Can be rough and noisy, smoky, or stretch out into an orchestration that is almost Ellingtonian. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Larry Coryell: With the Wide Hive Players (2010 [2011], Wide Hive): One of the original fusion guitarists -- by the way, the answer to my question about Gary Burton's earliest quartet -- plugs in with the avant-funk house band of Gregory Howe's Berkeley label. Sax and 'bone flesh out the heavy riffing. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Adam Cruz: Milestone (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Drummer, b. 1970 in New York City, has a lot of side credits since 1991 (Eddie Palmieri, Chick Corea, Edward Simon, David Sanchez, Danilo Pérez, Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Ray Barretto are only some of the names; 70-some albums), but this is his first under his own name -- and a big one: wrote all eight pieces (long ones, add up to 75:49). He's joined by Potter (tenor sax), either Wilson (soprano sax) or Miguel Zenón (alto sax), Simon (piano), Steve Cardenas (guitar), and Ben Street (bass). Brash contemporary postbop, the horns stellar, especially when one or the other finds some solo room. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Joseph Daley Earth Tones Ensemble: The Seven Deadly Sins (2010 [2011], Jaro): First album by Daley, although his discography goes back to 1971 and most of it points this way. He plays tuba and euphonium here, with a little trombone and other low register horns on his resume. Has mostly worked in big bands -- Gil Evans, Sam Rivers, Carla Bley, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Gruntz, Bill Dixon -- with side roles in Howard Johnson's Gravity and Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble. Huge group here, lots of guys you know -- Marty Ehrlich, Scott Robinson, Lew Soloff (I presume, notes say Lou), Eddie Allen, Craig Harris, Vincent Chancey, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Warren Smith, Satoshi Takeishi, and a quorum of the tuba players union, including Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart. Fast, slick, complex, oh so deep. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Empirical: Elements of Truth (2011, Naim Jazz): English quartet: Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Lewis Wright (vibes), Tom Farmer (bass), Shaney Forbes (drums); Farmer does most of the writing, followed by Facey (2) and Wright (1). Third album since 2007. Sax lines are cutting edge postbop, the vibes adding a light and flighty contrast. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Vinny Golia Quartet: Take Your Time (2011, Relative Pitch): Plays the whole range of clarinets, saxes, and flutes; b. 1946, has been very prolific since 1977, releasing almost all of his work on his own Nine Winds label, but occasionally strays -- Greetings From Norma Desmond is a personal favorite. Plays soprano/alto/tenor sax here, with Bobby Bradford on cornet, Kin Filiano on bass, and Alex Cline on drums. This group generates a lot of heat, and while Golia's riffing sometimes seems a bit pat (by which I mean I've never cared for that Charlie Parker up-and-down shit), Bradford always hangs in there and adds something interesting. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Danny Grissett: Stride (2011, Criss Cross): Pianist, from Los Angeles, studied at Cal Arts, based in New York. Fourth album since 2006, a trio with Vincente Archer on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Has very little swing, let alone stride, to his style; basically a straight-up postbop player with a deft touch. Three originals, five covers range from Chopin to Tom Harrell and Nicholas Payton. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Sir Roland Hanna: Colors From a Giant's Kit (1990s-2002 [2011], IPO): Pianist from Detroit, lived 1932-2002, has a couple credits in 1959 but his discography picks up in 1971 and he remain productive to the end. Solo piano, something he did at least a dozen albums of, from various sessions -- annoying that I can't find a detailed accounting. Mix of originals and covers. Can be dense and even dazzling, but I can't latch onto anything as especially interesting. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: The Sweet Science Suite (2011, Mutable/Big Red Media): Subtitled: "A Scientific Soul Music Honoring of Muhammad Ali." Baritone saxophonist, b. 1957 in Palo Alto, CA, of Chinese descent, has built a notable career out of bridging African, Asian, and American musics, and charging them with political immediacy, working especially in a big band context -- the last few years he's called his group the Green Monster Band, and they usually live up to the name. Numerous strong passages here, but also a few rough spots, and the vocals near the end didn't connect. [Don't have recording date. Ho has been fighting colon cancer since 2006, and at least some of his recent spate of records predate his illness, but there's some reason to think this is more recent.] B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: Year of the Tiger (2004 [2011], Innova): Pre-illness, unreleased at the time, I'd guess, because it's a hoary mess, although it has inspired moments, ridiculous ideas, and such an enthusiastic implementation it's hard to carp. There's a big suite called "Take the Zen Train," offering "Optometry for the Vision-less" and critiquing "The Violence of Virtuosity." There are medleys of Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix -- the Jackson descends into a long sequence of horror movie sounds on "Thriller" that cry out for video. There's a huge people's chorus on "Hero Among Heroes" -- reminds me of Maoist mass propaganda although I wouldn't claim that it is. B [Rhapsody]

Ari Hoenig: Lines of Oppression (2009 [2011], Naïve): Drummer, from Philadelphia, part of the Smalls retro bop crowd -- cut a good album for them in 2004, The Painter. I was looking for one called Punkbop: Live at Smalls, and found this one instead. Quartet with Tigran Hamasyan on pianos, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, and either Orlando Le Fleming or Chris Tordini on bass, with various of them vocalizing, sounding rather like tapdance. Best at high speed with everyone pounding away. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Oliver Lake & Jahi Sundance: Lakes at the Stone (2008 [2011], Passin Thru): Lake, b. 1942 in Arkansas, plays alto sax, has more than 30 albums since 1971, many more credits including his long tenure with the World Saxophone Quartet. I suspect that Jahi Sundance is his son, hence the plural Lakes. He pops up occasionally as a producer, and Discogs credits him with three albums. No credits on what he does here, but he's basically a DJ, manipulating turntable, maybe laptop samples, mostly percussion to mix with what is otherwise solo sax, but someone works in a right-on rap on "If I Knew This," and another on "Where You Is, Is Where You At." B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Lim: Lim With Marc Ducret (2010 [2011], Kopasetic): AMG files this under a French "hardcore rapper" who likes his upper case ("LIM") and has titles like Triples Violences Urbaines, Le Maxi Délinquant, and Voyoucratie -- an SFFR, I'd say, but a miss here. This group is a Swedish sax trio preferring lower case ("lim"), led by Henrik Frisk (various saxes, writes all the songs), with David Carlsson (electric bass) and Peter Nilsson (drums). The three play an admirable brand of free jazz where the rhythm section keeps everything interesting. Ducret is a French guitarist who's played most notably with Tim Berne, which is to say he's right at home here, always quick to zag when the sax zigs. A- [Rhapsody]

René Marie: Black Lace Fredian Slip (2011, Motéma Music): Singer, b. 1955, cut her first album in 2000 after raising a couple of kids. I belatedly checked out her second, the Penguin Guide crown-winning Vertigo, just before this one, with its striking standards interpretations, guest horns, swing and scat. None of that is particulary evident here, where she wrote 10 (of 13) songs, works with a rhythm section I've never heard of, has unknowns guest on two songs (harmonica and guitar). Still, even without the scat she's are remarkable singer. Too early to tell about the songs (e.g., "Rim Shot"), but the title is a salacious opener, and "Tired" is a blues that buttons the record down tight. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Christian McBride Big Band: The Good Feeling (2011, Mack Avenue): One of the unwritten rules of jazz these days seems to be that everyone wants to (and gets to) lead a big band sooner or later. McBride's reportedly been working on his charts for years, but his ideas are pretty stock: conventional five reeds (plus Loren Schoenberg on two cuts), four trumpets, four trombones, piano, bass, and drums (no guitar), with singer Melissa Walker featured on a few cuts. Fine band, a mix of name soloists and guys who show up in everyone's big band. B+(*)

Christian McBride: Conversations With Christian (2011, Mack Avenue): Thirteen songs, each a duet between the bassist and someone else: four singers (Angelique Kidjo, Sting, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Gina Gershon), five pianists (Eddie Palmieri, Dr. Billy Taylor, Hank Jones, George Duke, Chick Corea), Regina Carter (violin), Russel Malone (guitar), and Ron Blake (tenor sax). No dates, but Jones and Taylor died in 2010. It's hard to get any sort of consistency or momentum out of this sort of thing, especially when the constant is the bass, but the vocalists are spread out, the piano-bass connecting tissue rather than filler. Also helps that McBride talks along on two vocal cuts, drawing Gershon out and keeping Bridgewater from falling over the top. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Gretchen Parlato: The Lost and Found (2010 [2011], ObliqSound): Singer, b. 1976, third album since 2005, writes most of her own material. Has a slight whisper to her voice which is generally appealing but isn't enough to carry a song a cappella (as she attempts in "Alô, Alô"), so a good band should help. She has Taylor Eigsti (piano), Derrick Hodge (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums), and sometimes Dayne Stephens (tenor sax), all toned down to fit her demure style. One cut that works: "All That I Can Say." B- [Rhapsody]

Nicholas Payton: Bitches (2011, In + Out): Trumpet player from New Orleans, solidly grounded in the tradition, which got him a gig with Kansas City, a Louis Armstrong tribute, and a super record with Doc Cheatham, but his more modern moves haven't worked out as well -- some jazztronica, here a move into vocal-heavy 1970s-retro r&b. Like Stevie Wonder, he plays all of the instruments, leaning heavily on the keybs, although only his trumpet remains distinctive. His croon ranges from competent to annoying, occasionally supplemented by guest females -- not clear if they are the intended subject of the title, or some other form of malapropism. B [Rhapsody]

Potsa Lotsa: The Complete Works of Eric Dolphy (2009-10 [2011], Jazzwerkstatt, 2CD): Complete comes to 27 pieces, dispatched in 95 minutes over two discs. The group is led by alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard, who arranged the pieces for two brass (Nikolaus Neuser on trumpet, Gerhard Gschlobl on trombone) and two saxes (Patrick Braun on tenor, Eberhard on alto). Dolphy usually played with other horns, so there is some similarity, and the pieces to managed to evoke all facets of his range. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (2011, Wide Hive): Trombonist, b. 1940 in Indianapolis. A founder of the Tribe, in Detroit in the early 1970s, and much later Build an Ark in Los Angeles, community-centric groups which bridge avant-garde and populist sensibilities. Front cover proclaims: "With Henry Franklin and Big Black"; Franklin plays bass, was also b. 1940, has a couple dozen albums and a hundred side-credits but isn't a name I recognize; Big Black (Danny Ray) plays conga, is even older (b. 1934), is someone I've run across a few times before. Both have sweet spots here, but so does everyone else, with Kamasi Washington (tenor sax) and Mahesh Balasooriya (piano) most prominent, also Louis Van Taylor (bass clarinet, alto flute), Tony Austin (drums), and a couple more percussionists. Ranelin wrote all the pieces, and sets the pace, his trombone leads rough and rugged but pitched into grooves, with vamps all around. My kind of party. A- [Rhapsody]

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Montreal Parade (2011, 482 Music): Dave Rempis, best known as the Vandermark 5's junior saxophonist, leads, the group name reflecting that the quartet has two drummers (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly). Even with double the drum solos, Rempis is fast and furious out front. The other member is bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, of Vandermark's School Days project (and many more). Two long pieces, free jazz blowouts. (Wonder whether another spin or two would push it over the top -- this is the third straight RPQ album with the same grade, which makes me suspect at least one should go higher.) B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Poncho Sanchez/Terence Blanchard: Chano y Dizzy! (2011, Concord Picante): Reasonable headliners for a recital of a prime slice of jazz history, but Blanchard won't risk losing his cool so has no way of touching Gillespie, and Sanchez couldn't be crazier than Pozo if his life depended on it. Starts with a medley -- "Tin Tin Deo," "Manteca," "Guachi Guaro" -- then "Con Alma" before letting Blanchard and others in the band peddle their wares. Winds up being a real nice groove album, with equally nice ballad spots, not that I understand why. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Alex Sipiagin: Destinations Unknown (2011, Criss Cross): Trumpet player, b. 1967 in Russia, moved to US in 1991, started in big bands, has more than a dozen albums since 1998. Bright tone, dynamic, runs in fast company with Chris Potter and David Binney on sax, Craig Taborn on keyb, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. A little fancy for hard bop, or basic (meaning hard-charging) for postbop. The long set closes with a ballad. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (2011, Constellation): Saxophonist -- plays most reeds, French horn, flute, cornet, but is most noted for the big bass sax -- originally from Ann Arbor, based in Montreal where he works with Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre. AMG lists four albums, including New History Warfare Vol. 1 in 2008. This is billed as "solo horn compositions" but some percussion is evident, one song is labeled a Bell Orchestre remix, and there are occasional vocals -- Sheila Worden somewhere, Laurie Anderson spoken word on four pieces. Circular breathing turns the horn vamps into continuous tapestries, patterns repeating with various dissonances, and everything else just adds to the sonic interest. A- [Rhapsody]

Colin Stetson: Those Who Didn't Run (2011, Constellation, EP): Two ten-minute pieces. Don't have credits, but sounds like circular breathing sax vamps shagged by extra electronics, the rhythm in the repetition, the dissonance all over the place. Impressive, but on the way to wearing out its welcome when it ended. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Ben Williams: State of Art (2011, Concord Jazz): Bassist, electric as well as acoustic. Won a Monk prize which came with a Concord record deal, and this debut is the record. Annoying that I can't find cut-by-cut credits, since he shuttles horns in and out, has John Robinson rap on one piece, uses a string quartet elsewhere. This leans toward easy electronic grooves, with Gerald Clayton favoring the Fender Rhodes, and possibly the leader his electric bass, but they're friendly and rather fun, with Jaleel Shaw and/or Marcus Strickland picking up the level on sax. I'll even applaud Christian Scott's trumpet solo on "The Lee Morgan Story" -- not because it reminds me of Morgan so much as because the rap puts me in a good mood even though the story is tragic. Just hard to think of Morgan without smiling. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Legacy (2011, Mack Avenue): First glance at the title had me wondering why at 92 he's finally looking back, but the legacy he plumbs here is built on pilfering bits of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Puccini. In that he's as clever as ever, but the latter half holds more interest: a seven-part suite called "Yes, Chicago Is . . ." -- logically, this follows on from his marvellous Detroit suite. His Orchestra keeps swelling -- six reeds, six trumpets, more solo power than he can possibly use. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Some re-grades as I've gone through trying to wrap things up and sort out the surplus:

Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (2010 [2011], Not Two): [was: A-] A

Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11 [2011], Music & Arts): [was: A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last few weeks:

  • Available Jelly: Plushlok, Baarle-Nassau, Set 1 (Ramboy)
  • Available Jelly: Plushlok, Baarle-Nassau, Set 2 (Ramboy)
  • Jon Balke/Batagraf: Say and Play (ECM): advance, February 7
  • Meredith D'Ambrosio: By Myself (Sunnyside): January 31
  • Bill Barner: Ten Tunes (Bill Barner): January 10
  • Pat Battstone and Richard Poole: Mystic Nights (Bat's Tones Music)
  • Hans Glawischnig: Jahira (Sunnyside): January 31
  • Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well (ECM): advance, February 7
  • Jürgen Hagenlocher: Leap in the Dark (Intuition)
  • Holshauser, Bennink & Moore: Live in NYC (Ramboy)
  • Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990, High Note): January 31
  • Don Mark's Fire Escape: In a New Light (Nibomi)
  • Michael Moore Quartet: Easter Sunday (Ramboy)
  • Michael Moore Quintet: Amsterdam (Ramboy)
  • Michael Moore Quintet: Rotterdam (Ramboy)
  • David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español (Motéma)
  • Giovanna Passi/Susanna Wallumrød: If Grief Could Wait (ECM): advance, February 7
  • Jeremy Pelt: Soul (High Note): January 31
  • Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise (Capri): Jan. 17
  • Talking Cows: Almost Human (Morvin/Jazz Sick): February 28
  • Steve Turre: Woody's Delight (High Note): January 31
  • The Wee Trio: Ashes to Ashes (Bionic): January 1
  • Tom Wetmore: The Desired Effect (Crosstown): January 19
  • Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts: An Attitude for Gratitude (Palmetto): February 14


  • Afro Latin: Via Dakar (Syllart, 2CD)
  • Afro Latin: Via Kinshasa (Syllart, 2CD)
  • Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc)
  • BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse (Out Here)
  • Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead)
  • Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds)
  • Larkin's Jazz (Proper, 4CD)
  • The Mekons: Ancient & Modern 1911-2011 (Bloodshot)
  • Nigeria 70: Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife and Juju From 1970s Lagos (Strut)
  • Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (Strut)
  • Teddybears: Devil's Music (Big Beat/Atlantic)
  • Terakaft: Aratan N Azawad (World Village)
  • Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-)
  • Neil Young: International Harvesters: A Treasure (1984-85, Reprise)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Music Week

Music: Current count 19212 [19174] rated (+38), 829 [834] unrated (-5). Insane jazz week, trying to get ballots and year-end piece together for Rhapsody poll. Victim of bad information: Francis told me it would go up on January 2, but now it looks like January 10 is the real date. Anyhow, what's done is done. Will probably post Jazz Prospecting tomorrow (rather than today) -- not sure what that buys me, other than unpredictability, whch has already been suggested by not posting anything since Jazz CG on Dec. 19. On the other hand, response to that was so underwhelming I'm not sure the world wants (much less deserves) to hear from me again. Feeling like the contempt is mutual.

  • Steve Lacy: Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (1981 [2006], Jazzwerkstatt): The most important soprano saxophonist of the latter half of the 20th century, by a margin that's hard to conceive of, takes a few pieces solo, unfettered by anything but his imagination; the results are often astonishing, but the narrow range and stringent tone of the horn itself can wear on you. B+(**) [Rhapsody]
  • Steve Lacy: Five Facings/Five Pianists (1996 [2008], Jazzwerkstatt): Duo pieces with five avant pianists; Marilyn Crispell warms him up; Misha Mengelberg pitches Monk tunes that are softballs for both; but Ulrich Gumpert pushes the soprano saxophonist into his top level, and Fred Van Hove joins him there, while the finale with Vladimir Miller winds down admirably. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Expert Comments

Bradley Sroka suggests the following "history of jazz" track list:

  1. Louis Armstrong, "Hotter Than That" (1927)
  2. Duke Ellington, "Rockin' in Rhythm" (1931)
  3. Fletcher Henderson (with Coleman Hawkins), "Queer Notions" (1933)
  4. Billie Holiday (with Lester Young), "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" (1937)
  5. Charlie Parker, "Moose the Mooche" (1946)
  6. Thelonious Monk, "Epistrophy" (1948)
  7. Ella Fitzgerald, "Night and Day" (1956)
  8. Sonny Rollins, "I'm an Old Cowhand" (1957)
  9. John Coltrane, "Naima" (1959)
  10. Ornette Coleman, "Ramblin'" (1959)
  11. Charles Mingus, "Original Faubus Fables" (1960)
  12. Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd, "Desafinado" (1962)
  13. Miles Davis, "Footprints" (1966)
  14. Keith Jarrett, "Silence" (1977)
  15. Dave Douglas, "The Gig" (1995)
  16. David S. Ware, "The Freedom Suite: I." (2002)

Christgau had a less formal jazz list:

For sure give him Horace Silver's Song for My Father (Steely Dan), Ellington's East St. Louis Toodle-Oo and some other early Ellington (ditto), and something by Mingus, don't ask me what (Mitchell). Early Miles (So What if he's really ignorant) and late Miles (I propose something funky from the Philharmonic set, though Honky Tonk might do). Parker's Ko Ko or Now's the Time or both, probably Night in Tunisia, One O'Clock Jump and In the Mood, and of course In Walked Bud from Misterioso plus maybe the solo Tea for Two.

Dec 2011