January 2015 Notebook


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Not the Dean's List

I've been waiting to add Robert Christgau's annual "Dean's List" to my EOY Aggregate file, assuming it would (as has been the case in recent years) be published by BN Review sometime after the Village Voice posted its Pazz & Jop poll results. (P&J has figured large in Christgau's annual summary articles, even after he stopped running the poll.) But it hasn't appeared yet (and I don't really know why, other than that the pace of his not-quite-monthly BN Review essays slowed last year, down from ten to five pieces in 2014). I do know why it hasn't been easy to construct a 2014 list of graded albums from Christgau's website: I have not done the work to stuff the new EW reviews into the database. One reason for that is that Medium insisted on a 90-day delay period so I couldn't post any reviews until they have aged three months. One way to handle that would be to write some additional code to check the age of CG reviews -- something I haven't had much time to do. Another is to only update reviews that have aged sufficiently, but there haven't been many of those until recently.

I've finally started working on adding the new EW reviews, and decided the first step would be to collate a list of all the reviews/grades thus far. That's what the lists below do: they are sorted by release year, then grade, then alphabetically by artist, with various artists within each grade listed last, sorted within grade and year by title. Christgau is rather inconsistent about noting release date years, so in many cases I've had to look those up. (He's also inconsistent about non-label albums, especially mixtapes, but I've given up trying to rationalize those.) The first thing I did with the list was to add his grades to the EOY Aggregate, including an unranked point for everything A- or above. (His grades, like mine, are in the comment field.)


  • Wussy: Attica! (Shake It) A+
  • Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect Park) A
  • Beyoncé: Beyoncé (Platinum Edition) (Columbia) A
  • Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (Warner Bros.) A
  • Drive-By Truckers: English Oceans (ATO) A
  • Kool A.D.: Word O.K. (Bandcamp mixtape) A
  • Miranda Lambert: Platinum (RCA Nashville) A
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions: The Unreleased Recordings (Ace) A
  • Old 97's: Most Messed Up (ATO) A
  • Angaleena Presley: American Middle Class (Saddle Creek) A
  • Withered Hand: New Gods (Slumberland) A
  • Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (free mixtape) A
  • Bring It On Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke (Ace) A
  • Lily Allen: Sheezus (Warner Bros.) A-
  • Atmosphere: Southsiders (Rhymesayers Entertainment) A-
  • Iggy Azalea: The New Classic (Def Jam) A-
  • The Baseball Project: 3rd (Yep Roc) A-
  • Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions (Capitol) A-
  • Boozoo Bajou: 4 (Apollo) A-
  • Toni Braxton & Babyface: Love, Marriage & Divorce (Motown) A-
  • Bushwick Gospel Singers: Songs of Worship Vol. 2 (self-released) A-
  • Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop) A-
  • Chromeo: White Women (Big Beat) A-
  • Chumped: Teenage Retirement (Anchorless) A-
  • The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze) A-
  • Company Freak: Le Disco Social (OpusLabel/Superlatude) A-
  • D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA) A-
  • The Flaming Lips: With a Little Help From My Fwends (Warner Bros.) A-
  • Aretha Franklin: Sings the Great Diva Classics (RCA) A-
  • Golem: Tanz (Corason Digital) A-
  • Hassan Hakmoun: Unity (Healing) A-
  • Hamell on Trial: The Happiest Man in the World (New West) A-
  • Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (Stones Throw) A-
  • Jon Langford and Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters (In De Goot) A-
  • Jenny Lewis: The Voyager (Warner Bros.) A-
  • Bette Midler: It's the Girls! (East/West) A-
  • Nicki Minaj: The Pinkprint (Young Money) A-
  • Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce: Complicated Day (Enja/Yellowbird) A-
  • Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture?) A-
  • Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch) A-
  • The Roots: . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (Def Jam) A-
  • Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth (Lightning Rod) A-
  • Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow (Warner Bros.) A-
  • Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One (ATO) A-
  • Link of Chain: A Songwriters' Tribute to Chris Smither (Signature Sounds) A-
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara (World Music Network) A-
  • Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek (Streamline/Columbia/Interscope) B+
  • Chris Butler: Easy Life (Future Fossil) B+
  • Johnny Cash: Out Among the Stars (Columbia) B+
  • Leonard Cohen: Popular Programs (Columbia) B+
  • Mike Doughty: Stellar Motel (Snack Bar/Megaforce) B+
  • Khun Narin Electric Phin Band: Khun Narin Electric Phin Band (Innovative Leisure) B+
  • Spoon: They Want My Soul (Loma Vista/Republic) B+
  • Tinariwen: Emmaar (Anti-) B+
  • Lucinda Williams: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20) B+
  • Get On Up: The James Brown Story (Polydor) B+
  • Buck 65: Neverlove (WEA Canada) ***
  • Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark) ***
  • The Delines: Colfax (El Cortez) ***
  • Half Japanese: Overjoyed (Joyful Noise) ***
  • Oumar Konate: Addoh (Clermont) ***
  • LeCrae: Anomaly (Reach) ***
  • Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers (Legacy) ***
  • Jonathan Richman: No Me Quiejo De Mi Estrella (Vapor/Munster) ***
  • Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (Masterworks) ***
  • Tricky: Adrian Thaws (False Idols) ***
  • Typefighter: The End of Everything (Huge Witch) ***
  • Pharrell Williams: Girl (Columbia) ***
  • The Rough Guide to Arabic Cafe (World Music Network) ***
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali (World Music Network) ***
  • Rosanne Cash: The River and the Thread (Blue Note) **
  • Cherub: Year of the Caprese (Columbia) **
  • Keyshia Cole: Point of No Return (Interscope) **
  • Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy (Fatbeats) **
  • Flying Lotus: You're Dead (Warp) **
  • Future: Honest (Epic) **
  • Hard Working Americans: Hard Working Americans (Melvin) **
  • Hard Working Americans: The First Waltz (Melvin) **
  • John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (New West) **
  • The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie) **
  • Kool & Kass Are . . . Peaceful Solutions: Coke Boys 5 (Bandcamp mixtape) **
  • Nikki Lane: All or Nothin' (New West) **
  • Modern Baseball: You're Gonna Miss It All (Run for Cover) **
  • Moody Good: Moody Good (Owlsa) **
  • Grant Peeples and the Peeples Republik: Punishing the Myth (Gatorbone) **
  • Skrillex: Recess (Atlantic) **
  • Stick Against Stone: Live: The Oregon Bootleg Tapes (Media Groove) **
  • Lee Ann Womack: The Way I'm Livin' (Sugar Hill) **
  • 1970's Algerian Folk and Pop (Sublime Frequencies) **
  • All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman (Rounder) **
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Palestine (World Music Network) **
  • Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Pinata (Madlib Invazion) *
  • Ghostface Killah: 38 Seasons (Tommy Boy) *
  • Gucci Mane Featuring Young Thug: Purple Album: People Usually Ridicule the Powerful Lead by Example (1017 mixtape) *
  • Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk (Arista Nashville) *
  • Prince: Art Official Age (Warner Bros.) *
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal) *
  • Derek Senn: The Technological Breakthrough (dereksenn.com) *
  • Sam Shalabi: Music for Arabs (Majmua Music) *
  • T.I.: Paperwork (Grand Hustle) *
  • Young Thug, Birdman, Rich Homie Quan: Birdman Presents Rich Gang: The Tour (free mixtape) *

That gives us 46 A-list albums already reviewed. In recent years, Dean's Lists settled into two levels: 2008-10 and 2013 ranged from 65 to 72, while 2011-12 wound up at 92-93. The drop-off from 2012 to 2013 came after MSN cancelled Expert Witness around September, so Christgau had less motivation to find the extra 20 albums that it would have taken to continue 2011-12 levels. Even so, the 2013 list includes 29 records that weren't reviewed in EW. (Eight of those 29 have subsequently been reviewed in the new Medium-based EW -- one of those, Arcade Fire, with a reduced grade.)

Anyhow, it seems reasonable that when/if Christgau publishes a 2014 Dean's List, it will include another 20-25 thus far unreviewed 2014 albums, though probably not the 45-46 albums it would take to reach 2011-12 levels.


  • Burial: Rival Dealer (Hyperdub) A
  • Shaver: Shaver's Jewels: The Best of Shaver (New West) A
  • Brandy Clark: 12 Stories (Slate Creek) A-
  • The Dismemberment Plan: Uncanney Valley (Partisan) A-
  • Kool A.D.: 63 (Bandcamp mixtape) A-
  • Kool & Kass: Peaceful Solutions (Bandcamp mixtape) A-
  • Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band: Take Me to the Land of Hell (Chimera Music) A-
  • Parkay Quarts: Tally All the Things That You Broke (What's Your Rupture?) A-
  • Lee Ranaldo and the Dust: Last Night on Earth (Matador) A-
  • The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album (Howe) A-
  • Kool A.D.: Not O.K. (Bandcamp mixtape) B+
  • Robert Randolph and the Family Band: Lickety Split (Blue Note) B+
  • Young Thug: 1017 Thug (free mixtape) B+
  • Homeboy Sandman: All That I Hold Dear (Stones Throw) ***
  • Jason Isbell: Southeastern (Southeastern) ***
  • Jaipur Kawa Brass Band: Dance of the Cobra (Riverboat) ***
  • Migos: Young Rich Niggas (free mixtape) ***
  • Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven (Warp) ***
  • Wire: Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag) ***
  • Thomas Anderson: On Becoming Human (Out There) **
  • Arcade Fire: Reflektor (Merge) **
  • Big Sean: Hall of Fame (Def Jam) **
  • Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos: Live at the Great American Music Hall (Nonesuch/Perro Verde) **
  • Oblivians: Desperation (In the Red) **
  • Orchestre National de Mauritanie: Orchestre National de Mauritanie (Sahel Sounds) **
  • Mavis Staples: One True Vine (Anti) **
  • Sunwolf: Angel Eyes (El Rey) **
  • Otis Taylor: My World Is Gone (Telarc) **
  • Valerie June: Pushin' Against a Stone (Concord) **
  • will.i.am: #Willpower (Interscope) **
  • Defibulators: Debt'll Get 'Em (Pig Cow) *
  • Mike Doughty: Circles Super Bon Bon (Snack Bar/Megaforce) *
  • Kool A.D.: 19 (Bandcamp mixtape) *
  • John Murry: The Graceless Age (Evangeline) *
  • Swearin': Surfing Strange (Wichita) *
  • Earl Sweatshirt: Doris (Columbia) *
  • Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters of South Sudan (Riverboat) *


  • Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 3 (free mixtape) B+
  • Sunmonx: Power Salad (Interchill) **
  • Rework: Philip Glass Remixed (Orange Mountain) **


  • Jason Derulo: Future History (Warner Bros.) ***
  • Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979 (Analog Africa) ***
  • Young Thug: I Came From Nothing (free mixtape) **
  • Sunny Sweeney: Concrete (Republic Nashville) *


  • Jinx Lennon: National Cancer Strategy (Septic Tiger) ***


  • Jinx Lennon: Trauma Themes Idiot Times (Septic Tiger) A-


  • Jinx Lennon: Know Your Station Gouger Nation!!! (Septic Tiger) A


  • Richmond Fontaine: Winnemucca (El Cortez) A-


  • Jinx Lennon: Live at the Spirit Store (Septic Tiger) **

Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24422 [24392] rated (+30), 497 [493] unrated (+4).

Closed the count out Sunday evening, trying to get a jump on posting this early, but various distractions today will make this as late in the day as usual.

To save some time, I went ahead and rushed out Rhapsody Streamnotes without having tweeted everything. The tweet reviews are meant as advance news, so seemed like a waste of time to make up lost ground below. The records that lost out: Terri Clark, Peter Evans, Porter Robinson, Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako. I was listening to the three Soundway records as I wrapped up Streamnotes, so they're the first of next column's reviews. After that, I was just browsing around for something interesting to listen to, and noticed that Rhapsody has quite a few releases from the American Music label, which was established in the early 1940s to record the older, but then still living, generation of New Orleans jazz musicians.

In the 1930s jazz moved from New Orleans-style groups -- usually five-to-seven members -- to swing, both in big bands and small groups (usually five or less), and in the 1940s jazz moved on to the more self-consciously virtuosic music known as bebop. Bucking this trend was a sudden revival of interest in traditional jazz, especially in San Francisco (with the Yerba Buena Jazz Band) and later in the '40s in England. The new trad jazz musicians were almost invariably white, but as with the folk-blues movement in the early 1960s, scholars and entrepreneurs went back to find what was left of New Orleans' early jazz musicians. The unrecorded Buddy Bolden, of course, was long gone, as was Freddie Keppard (1890-1933), who at least recorded a it in the mid-1920s. But Bunk Johnson (1879-1949) was justifiably ancient, older than King Oliver (1885-1939) let alone Louis Armstrong's slightly older peers, the late Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) and Johnny Dodds (1892-1940), and the still active Kid Ory (1886-1973), Baby Dodds (1898-1959), and especially the trad-minded George Lewis (1900-68).

The only thing I had heard by Johnson was Bunk and Lu, a compilation of sessions with Lu Watters (one of the West Coast revivalists), so the chance to hear the vastly superior sets on American Music is most welcome -- and not just as a respite from 2014. But speaking of 2014, the latest A-list finds turned out to be two very different fringe-country artists, Kelsey Waldon and Bob Wayne. There are undoubtedly more out there, but it's becoming less and less obvious where to look next.

Sometime between now and the end of January I'll call it quits and freeze the year-end list. After last year's relatively early freeze date I added 69 records to the 2013 file. It certainly wouldn't be hard now to construct a list of 2014 releases I would like to have heard, but finding them and getting to them will be harder. And usually the pressures of the new year dim my interest in the old one. We'll see what happens this time.

New records rated this week:

  • 2NE1: Crush (2014, YG Entertainment): K-pop group, four girls, title should be a hit, ballads not bad, rap some, drop in occasional hooks in English [r]: B+(**)
  • Ballister: Worse for the Wear (2014 [2015], Aerophonic): free sax trio, Dave Rempis & Paal Nilssen-Love, Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello/electronics in between [cd]: B+(***)
  • Caleb Caudle: Paint Another Layer on My Heart (2014, This Is American Music): country singer-songwriter, fine ear and nice voice for ballads, some pedal steel [r]: B+(***)
  • Terri Clark: Some Songs (2014, Bare Track): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peter Evans Quintet: Destination: Void (2013 [2014], More Is More): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fantasma: Eye of the Sun (2014, Soundway, EP): 5-cut EP with South African rapper Spoek Mathambo mixing something old, something new, else too [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex G: DSU (2014, Orchid Tapes, EP): singer-songwriter with heart on sleeve, not without pop resonance; ten songs, so short they don't add up to LP [r]: B+(*)
  • Gold-Bears: Dalliance (2014, Slumberland): Atlanta "twee-punk" group, no sharp edges with "explicit" vocals buried under guitar roil [r]: B+(**)
  • Tom Guarna: Rush (2014, BJU): jazz guitarist, quintet with Joel Frahm on sax and Danny Grissett on piano, postbop set, a little ripe [r]: B
  • Barry Guy New Orchestra: Amphi/Radio Rondo (2013 [2014], Intakt): two long pieces for large free ensemble, many name players with knack for dense chaos [r]: B+(*)
  • Ali Jackson: Amalgamations (2013 [2014], Sunnyside): drummer-led group (or groups), leans on his LCJO chums (like Wynton Marsalis), plays up Latin tinge [r]: B+(**)
  • Amira Kheir: Alsahraa (2014, Sterns): woman from Sudan, basic instrumental backing, typical of the arid Saharan milieu [r]: B+(*)
  • Kiasmos (2014, Erased Tapes): Icelandic techno duo with Olafur Arnalds (semi-famous), built on loops, approaches ambient but won't shake dance beat [r]: B+(*)
  • The Juan MacLean: In a Dream (2014, DFA): formula works fine: danceable beats, a swish of disco, singers equally functional [r]: B+(***)
  • Meridian Brothers: Salvadora Robot (2014, Soundway): Colombian group, started in salsa but evolved into something else, maybe psychedelia [r]: B+(**)
  • Porter Robinson: Worlds (2014, Astralwerks): [r]: B
  • Reg Schwager: Delphinus (2014, Jazz From Rant): Canadian jazz guitarist, richly melodic paired with Don Thompson's piano, not quite lush but like that [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Jazz Racine Haïti (2012 [2014], Motema Music): tenor saxophonist, dice-ups with Etienne Charles' trumpet sparkle, but singers dominate [r]: B+(*)
  • Skyzoo & Torae: The Barrel Brothers (2014, E1/Empire): nothing to say about this rap record except that I enjoyed a second spin [r]: B+(**)
  • Kelsey Waldon: The Gold Mine (2014, self-released): Kentucky singer, from cotton country not coal but knows down-and-out happens way too much [r]: A-
  • Bob Wayne: Back to the Camper (2014, self-released): real outlaw country, tales of crime that give me the willies, heaven and hell just a joke [r]: A-
  • Nate Wooley/Dave Rempis/Pascal Niggenkemper/Chris Corsano: From Wolves to Whales (2014 [2015], Aerophonic): avant pianoless quartet, sax soars, trumpet? [cd]: B+(**)

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

  • Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako (1975-77 [2014], Sterns Africa, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Muwei Power: Sierra Leone in 1970s USA (1975-76 [2014], Soundway): lost and found, multi-voiced, some highlife guitar, horns, lots of percussion [r]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Bunk Johnson: In San Francisco (1943-44 [1994], American Music): "real negro jazz" treated as a rare artifact in a SF museum, its innovators still real [r]: B+(*)
  • Bunk Johnson: 1944 (1944 [1991], American Music): New Orleans trumpet legend gets a new set of teeth, returns revitalized with the same old chops [r]: A-
  • Bunk Johnson: 1944 Second Masters (1944 [1992], American Music); mostly alternate takes, a bit more relaxed, plus some previously unreleased blues [r]: B+(***)
  • Bunk Johnson: 1944/45 (1944-45 [1994], American Music): more fine sessions from the leading light of the Dixieland revival [r]: B+(***)
  • Bunk Johnson: Bunk's Brass Band and Dance Band 1945 (1945 [1992], American Music): like they did it in the old days before Louis Armstrong rewrote the book [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion: Three Rivers (Richman): February 17
  • Ted Kooshian: Clowns Will Be Arriving (Summit)
  • John Mills: Invisible Designs (Fable): February 17
  • John Petrucelli Quintet: The Way (self-released): February 10
  • Katie Thiroux: Introducing Katie Thiroux (BassKat): February 3


  • The Falcons: The Definitive Falcons Collection: The Complete Recordings (1955-63, History of Soul, 4CD)

Seems like I could construct a rather larger list of 2014 records I know something about and would like to hear. In fact, let's take a first shot at such a list right now (number in brackets is the EOY Aggregate point count):

  • The Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring (Masterworks) [18]
  • The Black Keys: Turn Blue (Nonesuch) [58]
  • Fred Hersch: Floating (MRI) [16]
  • Kira Isabella: Caffeine and Big Dreams (Sony Music Canada) [2]
  • Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Last Dance (ECM) [10]
  • Manic Street Preachers: Futurology (Columbia) [26]
  • Mogwai: Rave Tapes (Sub Pop) [38]
  • Jemeel Moondoc: The Zookeeper's House (Relative Pitch) [15]
  • Morrissey: WOrld Peace Is None of Your Business (Harvest) [32]
  • Kassem Mosse: Workshop 19 (Workshop) [22]
  • Paolo Nutini: Caustic Love (Atlantic) [27]
  • Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters: Lullaby and . . . the Ceaseless Roar (EastWest) [64]
  • Ty Segall: Manipulator (Drag City) [114]
  • Shellac: Dude Incredible (Touch & Go) [39]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Root of Things (Relative Pitch) [10]
  • Shovels and Rope: Swimmin' Time (Dualtone) [19]
  • Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers (Modern Love) [66]
  • Taylor Swift: 1989 (Big Machine) [140]
  • Tanya Tagaq: Animism (Six Shooter) [18]
  • Lucinda Williams: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20) [53]

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Don't have much to show here, but enough to run. I wasn't able to find anything very useful on renewed hostilities in eastern Ukraine: I gather the central ("pro-western") government broke the cease fire, and now they're complaining about civilian deaths caused by Russian rockets. This is one of four major wars from 2014 -- Israel, Iraq, and Syria -- that have been allowed to fester and grow by the inability and/or unwillingness of the US to engage in diplomacy, especially with Russia. That failure is rooted in the kneejerk US belief that foreign affairs is always a test of will where only force matters. In particular, the US has been seduced by the idea that all problems can be solved by killing "bad guys" -- a notion that's rife in American culture, that is the basic idea behind the drone warfare program, that excuses all manner of secret operations. That American Sniper beat out Selma both in the box office and Oscar nominations is par for the week.

I skipped the "Israel Links" this week, not because I couldn't find them but because I didn't feel a need to bother. If you do feel the need, the first place to look is Mondoweiss.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Murtaza Hussain: Saudi Arabia's Tyrant King Misremembered as Man of Peace: Point taken, although the late King Abdullah mostly continued policies of his predecessors, both in savagely repressing any hints of dissent in the Middle East's only real Islamic State and in promoting Salafist fundamentalism throughout the Islamic world, generously subsidizing interference in other nations' political affairs, always with cash and often with guns. On the other hand, maybe he should be remembered as "a man of peace": he was primarily responsible for signing the entire Arab League up behind UNSC Resolutions 235 and 338 as the basis for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Acceptance of that proposal would have been a major advance both for peace and for respect for international law as a means of resolving belligerent disputes. But Abdullah's proposal was simply ignored by US President GW Bush, who preferred giving Israel's Arik Sharon carte blanche to create "new facts on the ground." The episode was detailed in Ron Suskind's book, The One Percent Doctrine, describing an April 2002 meeting between Abdullah and Bush:

    Relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States were in tatters. The Saudis had been stewing for more than a year, in fact, ever since it became clear at the start of 2001 that this administration was to alter the long-standing U.S. role of honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to something less than that. The President, in fact, had said in the first NSC principals meeting of his administration that Clinton had overreached at the end of his second term, bending too much toward Yasser Arafat -- who then broke off productive Camp David negotiations at the final moment -- and that "We're going to tilt back ward Israel." Powell, a chair away in the Situation Room that day, said such a move would reverse thirty years of U.S. policy, and that it could unleash the new prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and the Israeli army in ways that could be dire for the Palestinians. Bush's response: "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things."

    What Abdullah was proposing was exactly what US official policy had been since 1967, so Bush's response must have been shocking -- but Bush was himself half way between 9/11 and invading Iraq, so his faith in force was running at a fever pitch. In one of his notorious malaproprisms Bush later described Sharon as "a man of peace." (Sharon's own autobiography was titled Warrior.) Surely when Bush passes he at least won't be remembered as "a man of peace" -- but obviously such words are cheap to political figures who have so much to bury.

    Also see Glenn Greenwald: Compare and Contrast: Obama's Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez:

    But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally -- which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous monster and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Adrian Bonenberger: There Are No War Heroes: A Veteran's Review of American Sniper: I haven't seen Clint Eastwood's movie, and it looks like the only way I might would be if I went alone -- my wife's reaction to every mention of the movie is so scabrous I doubt I could focus with her present. I don't follow many people on Twitter, but two I do -- Max Blumenthal and Matt Taibbi -- have been relentless in attacking the film (e.g., see Taibbi's American Sniper Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize; I'm finding many rebuttals to Blumenthal's line that "Chris Kyle was just a popular mass murderer" but not the original source). I did read Nicholas Schmiddle's June 2013 piece on sniper Chris Kyle (In the Crosshairs) so have some sense of the story line, notably how he cashed in on his war "service": his bestselling memoir, how he became a "patriotic icon" for the gun crusade, and how he was shot and killed by a PTSD-damaged soldier. A movie of his life would seem to have all sorts of possibilities, and Eastwood showed himself capable of seeing more than one side of a war in his two Iwo Jima films. But one of those possibilities was to invest whole hog in the jingoism (and racism and murderousness) that floated around Kyle -- that made him a "hero" to the powerful people who patronized him. As Bonenberger points out, the controversy predates the film:

    This reflects a truth that the movie itself seeks to avoid: War is political, and a movie about war is bound to make political pronouncements. When you sit down to enjoy American Sniper, you are committing a political act, and your evaluation of the movie, and Kyle as a person, reflects your political attitudes. But it's more complicated than the simple equation that progressives dislike it and conservatives enjoy it. Politics notwithstanding, those who've seen it tend to describe the experience in religious terms: awe-struck congregations of Americans seeing the Iraq War the way it happened, traveling down the path to PTSD together. Ask around: Be it Texas or Williamsburg, it's not uncommon to hear of packed theaters with the patrons filing out in reverent silence after the closing credits.

    The very notion that this movie is "non-partisan" or "apolitical" is the most insidious notion of all. It asserts that fundamentally we all agree on wars that many of us see as very foolish and self-destructive (not to mention criminal) acts. What I fear is that time is being used to cement a mythic memory of the "Terror Wars" -- myths that only pave the way for more war.

    Also see: Peter Maas: How Clint Eastwood Ignores History in American Sniper.

  • Sebastian Budgen & Stathis Kouvelakis: Greece: Phase One: Useful background on the development of Greece's leftist Syriza party, which evidently won big in Greece's elections today. Also see Tariq Ali: Greece's Fight Against European Austerity.

  • Mike Konczal: The 2003 Dividend Tax Cut Did Nothing to Help Real Economy: Supposedly, cuts in dividends would spur investment and (maybe) increase employee compensation but it did neither -- especially if you compare affected C-corporations with unaffected S-corporations. Did lead to more payouts to already rich owners.

  • DR Tucker: Let Choice Ring!: Starts with a quote from Mitt Romney supporting woman's right to choose to abort a pregnancy, something he believed in when running for the Senate from Massachusetts in 1994 but has conveniently evolved his views on since the anti-choice stand has become Republican dogma. Tucker collects that and other links here, and take a strong stand in defense of abortion rights, something more pressing than it's been in many years precisely because it's being so threatened (see A Perilous Year for Abortion Rights, a NY Times editorial.) Unfortunately, Tucker sinks to exploiting various prejudices in support of his position. For instance, his link to the NY Times piece reads: "The radical anti-abortion movement in this country is out own Boko Haram, trying to kidnap women's rights in the name of an extremist and backward ideology." That anti-choice activists and Boko Haram may share a similar psychology about women doesn't justify exploiting anti-Islam prejudice against the former. Tucker goes on to argue that ending medical abortion would result in more "welfare queens" (indeed, a much larger welfare state), as if that might dissuade "your Republican friends." Appealing to bigots may seem like a cute idea, but one doubts doing so would ever do any good. There used to be a strong conservative case for abortion rights: parenthood is a great personal responsibility, and the social order depends on individual commitment to and fulfilling of that responsibility. Commitment derives from choice: a society where people choose to be parents is far stronger than one where it happens by haphazard chance. You don't hear arguments like that any more because Republicans have settled on building a coalition of bigots and haters, and there's still a sizable faction out to keep women in "their place" -- and that seems to trump freedom, responsibility, or any other ideal that fleetingly enters their minds.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rhapsody Streamnotes (January 2015)

Pick up text here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24392 [24347] rated (+45), 493 [503] unrated (-10).

I thought I'd wrap up 2014 last week, freezing my year-end list and shelving my EOY aggregate, so I made a serious effort to cram in as much last-minute listening as possible. My freeze dates have typically fallen mid-to-late January (25th in 2009, 24th in 2010, 18th in 2011; 2012 was anomalous with January 1, and last year was January 9). I often wait for Pazz & Jop to post (usually later than this year's January 14). I have added the albums data to my file, and a couple dozen individual ballots. The main external event I'm waiting for now is Christgau's Dean's List: he's always based his annual summary on P&J data, and D'Angelo's surprise win -- which, by the way, he predicted several weeks ago -- gives him all the more to write about. (Also, his hiatus from posting CG reviews means he's likely to have more unreviewed records than usual on his list, and he often comes up with stuff no one else notices.)

I wound up posting the previous paragraph as a stub on my usual Monday. Two days later all I'm wrapping up is this post. If you follow my Twitter feed, you've already seen most of what follows. The 2015 records are all things I've picked up in the mail, played when I feel like listening to something that doesn't tie me down to the computer. (Although I'll note that the Red Garland set already picked up a vote in the 2014 Jazz Critics Poll -- someone got excited and jumped the gun. It and the Charles McPherson records are my first A-list finds of 2015.) I haven't checked out any 2015 releases on Rhapsody yet -- not even the Sleater-Kinney album that friends say is so good it might even overcome my usual objections.

Last two days I've still been adding to the EOY Aggregate. I have a checklist mostly derived from this link list and I'm somewhere in the R's, occasionally still picking up things of interest (e.g., the list from Potholes in My Blog). I also took the trouble of constructing a composite list from the individual staff top-tens at Reverb. I factored in a number of genre lists from Rolling Stone and Spin, and wrote quite a bit about them -- some last post and more I didn't bother posting but kept in the notebook. This will come to an end soon, but not quite yet.

Plan is still to freeze the year-end lists when I run Rhapsody Streamnotes, most likely later this week. I'd like to end the EOY Aggregate at the same time, but I do want to include Christgau's Dean's List whenever that finally appears. Last thing I'll probably do is factor in my own A-list: I haven't done that yet because it's always changing and the Aggregate is basically a record of what other people think, but I'd like to recognize a few albums that no one else has noticed, and I suppose I do count for something. (By the way, Milo Miles's late lists added a couple of those: e.g., Free Nelson Mandoomjazz and Duduvudo.)

By the way, the Aggregate remains very close and rather volatile. You may recall that War on Drugs jumped to an early lead, then lost it to FKA Twigs. Then a couple weeks ago, War on Drugs recovered the lead, only to lose it this week to Run the Jewels 2. Currently the top three points are 308-304-298, so they could well flip again. Fourth is St. Vincent at 279. Caribou is still in fifth at 200, but Flying Lotus has narrowed the gap at 196, Aphex Twin at 191, then a tie between Sun Kil Moon and Swans at 184. Swans had been in 6th recently, so I'm a bit surprised (and pleased) to see it slip. Also, Beck has slipped out of his longstanding hold on 10th place: at 163, now tied with Angel Olsen and trailing Sharon Van Etten. Taylor Swift continues to gain (now 18th), also Sturgill Simpson (22nd), Parquet Courts (26th), Azealia Banks (27th), Miranda Lambert (28th), and most of all, P&J winner D'Angelo (30th). I've never consciously played favorites here, but find it rather satisfying how neatly the standings are working out. Currently up to 487 lists with 4285 new records and 637 reissues/archives.

By the way, I haven't talked much about the reissues list, mostly because the actual sample size hasn't been very high. The leader right now has accumulated a mere 23 points -- just enough to tie Lily Allen, Mica Levi, The Juan MacLean, Pharmakon, Thee Silver Memorial Orchestra, Mark Turner, and The Twilight Sad for 163rd on the new list. I would have picked Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes Complete as a priori favorite, and it has a fairly solid lead (23-17) right now over John Coltrane's Offering: Live at Temple University. Beyond that some surprises (Native North America) and somethings that might have been expected (the latest Miles Davis bootleg). Also three Led Zeppelin "deluxe editions" in the top-20, but that was mostly due to the practice of counting each record when listmakers came up with entries like "Led Zeppelin reissues."

I'll also note that among jazz records, Wadada Leo Smith's The Great Lakes Suites has pulled rather clearly ahead of Steve Lehman's Mise En Abime, 34-28 (111th to 138th). I'd say that the Jazz Critics Poll's results are more representative of jazz critical opinion, and Lehman beat Smith in a close race there. Third in the EOY aggregate is Mark Turner's Lathe of Heaven, which was the highest placing jazz album in Pazz & Jop this year, then fourth is Ambrose Akinmusire (second in P&J, followed by Lehman, Marc Ribot, and Bad Plus -- the latter 7th and 6th in my Aggregate).

New records rated this week:

  • African Express: African Express Presents . . . Terry Riley's In C Mali (2014, Transgressive): minimalism in the tropics, a hot desert anyhow, with drums, voices [r]: B+(***)
  • Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires: Dereconstructed (2014, Sub Pop): back-to-basics rock and roll band with a bit of twang, loud and inarticulate [r]: B
  • Jon Batiste/Chad Smith/Bill Laswell: The Process (2014, MOD Technologies): piano trio looks for the perfect groove to float horns, voices, more grooves [r]: B+(***)
  • Elvis Bishop: Can't Even Do Wrong Right (2014, Alligator): at 71 contemplates his own mortality, deciding to keep on doing what he's been doing [r]: B+(**)
  • The Michael Blum Quartet: Initiation (2014, self-released): guitarist backed with piano-bass-drums, has a light touch and tone, well suited for his Jobim [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lukasz Borowicki Trio: People, Cats & Obstacles (2014, Fortune): Denmark-based guitar-bass-drums, wouldn't call it raw but still flexes muscle [cd]: B+(**)
  • Clipping: CLPPNG (2014, Sub Pop): LA hip-hop trio, fairly minimal beats with an industrial clang, monotone raps, could grow on you [r]: B+(**)
  • Richard Dawson: Nothing Important (2014, Weird World): British guitarist-singer produces long, twisted, distorted pieces, musicality hard to access [r]: B
  • Dej Loaf: Sell Sole (2014, World): Detroit girl rapper, sounds young, tends to go deadpan, not without winning charm but doesn't make it easy [r]: B+(*)
  • Akua Dixon: Akua Dixon (2014 [2015], Akua's Music): cellist, first album in her 60s, picks great songs and violinists to lead, sings one, her daughter another [cd]:
  • DJ Quik: The Midnight Life (2014, Mad Science): rapper, working at it since 1991, understands the importance of a good beat as well as street cred [r]: B+(*)
  • The Flaming Lips: With a Little Help From My Fwends (2014, Warner Brothers): "Sgt. Pepper" done mischievously, as if it were really about psychedelics [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Frith and John Butcher: The Natural Order (2009 [2014], Northern Spy): the saxophonist keeps this within jazz, while the guitar sonics try to break out [r]: B+(**)
  • Herb Geller/Roberto Magris: An Evening With Herb Geller & the Roberto Magris Trio: Live in Europe 2009 (2009 [2014], JMood): all the more poignant since the alto sax great died [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Lucien Johnson/Alan Silva/Makoto Soto: Stinging Nettles (2006 [2014], Improvising Beings): tenor saxman from New Zealand comes out in a sparkling avant trio [cd]: A-
  • Manu Katché: Live in Concert (2014 [2015], ACT): French drummer roils the riddims, leading a quintet that turns into a showcase for Tore Brunborg [cd]: B+(**)
  • Justin Kauflin: Dedication (2014 [2015], Qwest/Jazz Village): young, blind jazz pianist, a mix of trio and quartet, the latter adding Matt Stevens on guitar [cd]: B+(**)
  • Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited (2014, Masterworks): various artists remake 1964 album, Kristofferson growls the hit [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles McPherson: The Journey (2014 [2015], Capri): alto saxophonist, tried to launch a bebop revival in the 1960s and is still chasin' that bird [cd]: A-
  • Migos: Rich Ni**a Timeline (2014, Quality Control Music): Atlanta hip-hop trio's long mixtape, asterisks on the cover, where they belong [r]: B+(*)
  • Mindtroll: And That's Just Some of the Good Ones (2013, self-released): 24, if you're counting, and not all good ones, 3 later punched up for EP [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mindtroll: EP #4 (2014, self-released, EP): four songs, three superb, remind me of the early B-52s, but a little odder, as befits the times [bc]: B+(***)
  • PC Worship: Social Rust (2014, Northern Spy): some kind of postrock ennui, exhausted and bewildered, and judging from this rather ear-damaged [r]: B-
  • Pinch & Mumdance: Pinch B2B Mumdance (2014, Tectonic): two Brit dubstep/grime producers, shroud their beats in deep mystery [r]: B+(***)
  • Eric Reed: Groovewise (2014, Smoke Sessions): pianist returns to his originals for a quartet, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake punches them up [r]: B+(***)
  • SBTRKT: Wonder Where We Land (2014, Young Turks): flat on the dancefloor, I'm afraid; second dubstep album loses a lot [r]: B
  • Schizophonia: Cantorial Recordings Reimagined (2014, Blue Thread Music): guitarist Yossi Fruchter rocks the old sacred music, jazzes it up too [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brian Settles and Central Station: Secret Handshake (2010 [2011], Engine Studios): tenor saxophonist's debut album, gets to quintet with extra percussion [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brian Settles Trio: Folk (2013, Engine Studios): another avant tenor sax trio, exceptionally sharp and clear [bc]: A-
  • Vance Thompson's Five Plus Six: Such Sweet Thunder (2014 [2015], Shade Street): a little light for a big band (5 brass, 3 reeds), but enough to swing [cd]: B+(**)
  • François Tusques/Mirtha Pozzi/Pablo Cueco: Le Fond de L'Air (2014, Improvising Beings): [cd]: B+(***)
  • François Tusques/François Toullec/Eric Zinman: Laiser L'Exprit Divaguer (2014, Improvising Beings, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Warpaint: Warpaint (2014, Rough Trade): Emily Kokal sings, slow and moody, posing the question: is this dream pop? or just tired and sleepy? [r]: B
  • Watsky: All You Can Do (2014, Steel Wool Media/Welk Music Group): rapper, started in poetry slams but beats are musical enough, at least for such an awkward persona [r]: B+(**)
  • Anna Webber's Percussive Mechanics: Refraction (2014 [2015], Pirouet): saxophonist but mostly flute here, with clarinet and lots of percussion [r]: B+(*)
  • Whiskey Myers: Early Morning Shakes (2014, Wiggy Thump): southern fried rock band from Tyler TX, a mix of hippie raunch and class consciousness [r]: B+(*)
  • White Lung: Deep Fantasy (2014, Domino): postpunk/riot grrrl band from Vancouver BC, 10 songs, 22 minutes, doesn't feel short, just fast [r]: B+(**)
  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen: Atomos (2014, Kranky): ambient music duo, appealing and unthreatening [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Angola Soundtrack: The Unique Sound of Luanda 1968-1976 (1968-76 [2010], Analog Africa): more like the derivative sound, but nuance counts for something [r]: B+(**)
  • Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distorsions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978 (1969-78 [2014], Analog Africa): with independence looming, lots get rough/risky [r]: B+(***)
  • Red Garland Trio: Swingin' on the Korner (1977 [2015], Elemental Music, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 (1969-70 [2014], Light in the Attic): hoping the magic rubs off on younger, cheaper talent, and sometimes it does [r]: B+(***)
  • The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molam and Luk Thung From Northeast Thailand 1970-1982 (1970-82 [2014], Soundway): with more western pop/rock absorbed, less strange [r]: B+(*)
  • X__X: X Sticky Fingers X (1978-80 [2014], Smog Veil): archivists stretch Cleveland punk band's two singles with rough live cuts, almost get an album [r]: B+(**)

Old records rated this week:

  • Elvin Bishop: Raisin' Hell: Live! (1976 [1977], Capricorn): still cranking out fun new records, but this was his heyday, celebrating an AM hit even [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Bass: NYC Sessions (Whaling City Sound): February
  • Charles McPherson: The Journey (Capri): February 17
  • Lisa Parrott: Round Tripper (Serious Niceness): February 24
  • Reg Schwager: Delphinus (Jazz From Rant)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rap/Avant EOY Lists

Aside from country, the other genre Rolling Stone honored with a 40 Best Albums of 2014 list was rap. I transcribed the list:

  1. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 [**]
  2. YG, My Krazy Life [B-]
  3. Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint [A-]
  4. Young Thug & Bloody Jay, Black Portland [A-]
    Rich Gang, Tha Tour Pt. 1 [*]
  5. Future, Honest [**]
  6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Pinata [***]
  7. Migos, Rich Nigga Timeline
  8. DJ Mustard, 10 Summers
  9. Lil Herb, Welcome to Fazoland
  10. Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste [***]
  11. DJ Quik, The Midnight Life
  12. Lecrae, Anomaly
  13. Your Old Droog, Your Old Droog LP
  14. Clipping, CLPPNG [**]
  15. Step Brothers, Lord Steppington [**]
  16. Kevin Gates, Luca Brasi 2
  17. Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron [**]
  18. Mac Miller, Faces
  19. Rick Ross, Mastermind
  20. Big KRIT, Cadillactica [A-]
  21. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo [***]
  22. Homeboy Sandman, Hallways [A-]
  23. NehruvianDOOM, NehruvianDOOM [**]
  24. Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty [***]
  25. Chief Keef, Back From the Dead 2
  26. IamSu!, Sincerely Yours
  27. Boosie Bad Azz, Life After Deathrow
  28. Serengeti, Kenny Dennis III [A-]
  29. The Roots, . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin [**]
  30. Gangsta Boo & BeatKing, Underground Cassette Tape Music
  31. Ghostface Killah, 36 Seasons [***]
  32. 2 Chainz, Freebase EP
  33. Vince Staples, Hell Can Wait EP [*]
  34. Ana Tijoux, Vengo [**]
  35. Snootie Wild, Go Mode EP
  36. Dej Loaf, Sell Sole [*]
  37. PRhyme, PRhyme [**]
  38. Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy [**]
  39. E-40, Sharp on All 4 Corners: Corner 1
    Sharp on All 4 Corners: Corner 2
  40. Shy Glizzy, Young Jefe

I had heard 24/41 country records (58.5%). Here I've heard 24/42 (57.5%). I had six country albums at A-; five here. Both genres have roughly similar record counts: in my EOY Aggregate files, I break out 243 rap/r&b albums (includes singers not considered here like D'Angelo, Tinashe, La Roux, Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige, and Jason Derulo); my country breakout (includes folk and Americana items, but not all) runs to 176 albums. I've heard 77 of the former (31.6%), 55 of the latter (31.2%). For a comparison, I've only heard 44.2% of the jazz albums in the EOY list (270/610), while blues is 33.3% (12/36). This drops to 20.8% (28/134) for world music, 18.2%, (39/214) for electronica, 13.6% (9/66) for Latin, and 0.0% (0/268) for metal. I have no easy way to calculate rock or any other subset. My guess is that my share is close to 10%.

A first cut of my own top rap list (including 3-star HMs) looks like this:

  1. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada)
  2. The Green Seed: Drapetomania (Communicating Vessels)
  3. ¡Mayday x Murs!: ¡Mursday! (Strange Music)
  4. Big K.R.I.T.: Cadillactica (Def Jam)
  5. Iggy Azalea: The New Classic (Island)
  6. Kool A.D.: Word O.K. (self-released)
  7. Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (Stones Throw)
  8. Sleaford Mods: Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
  9. Statik Selektah: What Goes Around (Duck Down Music)
  10. Grieves: Winter & the Wolves (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  11. Nicki Minaj: The Pinkprint (Young Money)
  12. Serengeti: Kenny Dennis III (Joyful Noise)
  13. Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (self-released)
  14. Hail Mary Mallon: Bestiary (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  15. Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow (Warner Brothers)
  16. Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect Park)
  17. Atmosphere: Southsiders (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  18. Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up (Ipecac)
  19. Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)
  20. Kool & Kass: Coke Boys 5 (self-released)
  21. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata (Madlib Invazion)
  22. J Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (RCA)
  23. Common: Nobody's Smiling (Def Jam)
  24. Homeboy Sandman: White Sands (Stones Throw, EP)
  25. Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia Demo (Top Dawg)
  26. Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons (Tommy Boy)
  27. The Heliocentrics & Melvin Van Peebles: The Last Transmission (Now-Again)
  28. Calle 13: MultiViral (El Abismo/Sony Music Latin)
  29. Kevin Gates: By Any Means (Bread Winners Association)
  30. Neneh Cherry: Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)

As with country, that conveniently came out to 30 albums. Not clear whether Rolling Stone excluded non-US and non-black rap albums (as far as I can tell, the only one they included was Ana Tijoux's), but I've included them here (with Kate Tempest, Iggy Azalea, and Sleaford Mods near the top). A broader list including contemporary r&b would add: Pharrell Williams, Girl; Jason Derulo, Talk Dirty; D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah; Leela James, Fall for You; Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions; Toni Braxton & Babyface: Love Marriage & Divorce; La Roux, Trouble in Paradise; Tricky, Adrian Thaws; Aretha Franklin, Sings the Great Diva Classics.

I should also note that Spin has a competing 40 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2014 (indeed, Spin's run similar lists for several years). It runs as follows (my grades in brackets):

  1. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 [**]
  2. YG, My Krazy Life [B-]
  3. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Pinata [***]
  4. Homeboy Sandman, Hallways [A-]
  5. Young Thug/Bloody Jay, Black Portland [A-]
  6. Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste [***]
  7. Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty (Sub Pop) [***]
  8. Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron [**]
  9. Vince Staples, Hell Can Wait [*]
  10. Future, Honest [**]
  11. Dej Loaf, Sell Sole [*]
  12. Brenmar, High End Times Vol. 1
  13. Young Fathers, Dead [*]
  14. Serengeti, Kenny Dennis III [A-]
  15. Ab-Soul, These Days [**]
  16. GoldLink, The God Complex
  17. Atmosphere, Southsiders [***]
  18. Low Pros, EP1
  19. Migos, No Label II
  20. Ratking, So It Goes [B]
  21. Big KRIT, Cadallactica [A-]
  22. Le1f, Hey EP [**]
  23. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo [***]
  24. Theophilus London, Vibes
  25. The Roots, . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin [**]
  26. Buck 65, Neverlove [**]
  27. Ka, 1200 BC
  28. Hail Mary Mallon, Bestiary [***]
  29. Nehruviandoom, Nehruviandoom [**]
  30. Remy Ma, I'm Around
  31. Akrobatik, Built to Last
  32. Sage the Gemini, Remember Me
  33. Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint [A-]
  34. Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy [**]
  35. Ghostface Killah, 36 Seasons [***]
  36. ASAP Ferg, Ferg Forever
  37. Mick Jenkins, The Water[s]
  38. Kevin Abstract, MTV1987
  39. Sicko Mobb, Super Saiyan Vol. 1
  40. Rich Gang, Tha Tour Part 1 [*]

The Rolling Stone and Spin lists have 19 albums in common. Migos is on both lists but with different mixtapes. Spin picked up some UK rappers (Young Fathers, Theophilus London) and Buck 65 from Canada, whereas RS's only venture abroad was Ana Tijoux (from Chile). Spin was more likely to pick from the alt/underground (Atmosphere, Akrobatik, Ka, Hail Mary Mallon, Le1f, although RS had Step Brothers and Clipping). I've heard 27 records from Spin's list, 67.5% vs. 57.5% of Rolling Stone's list -- almost all explainable by my greater underground interest (and tendency to be unimpressed by street thug bravado).

Rolling Stone also published another genre list: 20 Best Avant Albums of 2014. Unlike the country and rap lists, this was the work of a single critic, Christopher R. Weingarten (whose own lengthy EOY list is worth consulting[*]). "Avant" is a pretty wide domain here -- my own experience is overwhelmingly tilted toward avant-jazz but I only count 4 of Weingarten's 20 albums as jazz (not that I have any idea what a couple are). The list, with my grades in brackets:

  1. Ben Frost, Aurora [**]
  2. Craig Leon, Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music, Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting [A-]
  3. Richard Dawson, Nothing Important [B]
  4. Vicky Chow, Tristan Perich: Surface Image
  5. Kevin Drumm/Jason Lescalleet, The Abyss
  6. Jon Mueller's Death Blues, Non-Fiction
  7. Wadada Leo Smith, The Great Lakes Suites [A-]
  8. A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Atomos [**]
  9. Untold, Black Light Spiral
  10. Stine Janvin Motland, OK, Wow
  11. James Hoff, Blaster
  12. Golden Retriever, Seer
  13. Marc Baron, Hidden Tapes
  14. Arne Deforce & Mika Vainio, Hephaestus
  15. Otomo Yoshihide & Paal Nilssen-Love: Otomo Yoshihide & Paal Nilssen-Love
  16. Africa Express, Terry Riley's In C Mali
  17. Brotzmann/Adasiewicz/Edwards/Noble, Mental Shake
  18. Ian William Craig, A Turn of Breath [*]
  19. Rose Buried in Sand, Excision
  20. Mica Levi, Under the Skin (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

So I've heard 6 of 20, 30.0% (counting a different but for all practical purposes identical edition of Craig Leon), way below my share of the country and rap lists. I won't bother trying to come up with my own "avant" list, since it would turn on "what is avant" rather than differences of opinion within a commonly accepted category. Plus, although I know avant jazz as well as any non-specialist critic, I haven't followed the post-classical strains -- the things Tom Johnson and Kyle Gann wrote about in the Village Voice -- since I was a dabbler in the late 1970s, so what little I know there is especially spotty.

[*] Evidently Weingarten is a controversial figure, for reasons I don't begin to understand. But the noise did motivate me to "score" Weingarten's EOY list (100 long, includes all 20 of his avant albums). I've heard 42 of them, graded: A- (8), *** (7), ** (13), * (5), B (3), B- (3), C+ (2), C (1) -- i.e., a slightly left-shifted bell curve. The things he likes on the low end of my grade scale is almost all stuff I find overbearing -- Swans, Skrillex, Little Big Town, Scott Walker. The things I haven't heard are mostly obscure but a couple veer toward metal. His list does include quite a bit (and roughly equal quantities) of country and hip-hop -- the former tend to be solidly commercial, the latter lean toward obscure mixtapes. About 5% of his list is jazz, but none of that is mainstream. To sum up: a critic who listens widely, often tackling very difficult music, and finding his own way to be rigorous about very different things.

I couldn't make sense of the controversy, but did find this bit of interview, where he says:

I would love to one day have a Robert Christgau-style consumer's guide of 10,000 record reviews I wrote over the course of a decade. I think that would be a beautiful 40th-birthday present for myself. I guess that's going to depend on whether Twitter survives. I would like to continue doing this for the rest of my life, because it helps keep me in touch with music. Even if one day I have to be a zookeeper or a janitor or a failing coffee-shop owner, this is going to help me keep in touch with what's going on and make me feel like I am making my own decisions about music instead of just following other people's opinions on it. Even if I'm shoveling shit, I can be confident that I'm forming my own opinions on music instead of just swallowing the hive mind.

By the way, I ran a set of comparisons based on P&J data to see which critics were most similar to me. The test was simple: I took 166 records I had rated A- or higher and jotted down who had voted for them (87 got no votes, not hugely surprising given that my list was about half jazz, but obviously some of those shut out weren't jazz). Weingarten was one of 52 critics with 3 A-list albums on his ballot (Miranda Lambert, Craig Leon, Charli XCX) -- 33 critics had more (of 612, so about 5.3%) had more, so he would wind up at about 90 percentile. (Note that our similarity scores as Glenn McDonald calculates them should be 0 because I didn't vote for any of those three albums, nor did we intersect on the singles ballot. Top-tens don't tell you much.)

For the record, the critics who picked more than three of my A-list records on their P&J album ballots were:

  1. Michael Tatum (1)
  2. Robert Christgau (1)
  3. Matt Rice, Dan Weiss (2)
  4. Jason Gubbels, Chris Herrington, Steve Knopper, Jon LaFollette, Christopher Monsen, Phillip Overeem, Cam Patterson (7)
  5. Thierry Cote, Joey Daniewicz, Keith Harris, Kevin John, Ryan Maffei (5)
  6. Michael Barthel, Christopher Barton, Stuart Berman, David Cantwell, Traviss Cassidy, Nick Farruggia, Matt Gewolb, Geoffrey Himes, Thomas Inskeep, Todd Kristel, Tom Lane, Cameron Macdonald, Jim Macnie, Brian McManus, JT Ramsay, Michael Robbins, Alfred Soto (17)

A lot of familiar people on that list: roughly half are people I read and/or who are known to read me. One of the main effects is that there are relatively few records that these 33 critics picked that I haven't heard. For instance, Monsen has 72 records on his EOY list. I've heard 64 of those 72, so 88.8%. (At least 6 of the 8 records are not on Rhapsody. Robert Plant is, but not enough to base a review on. I'm not sure about DJ Quik, but I've never been impressed by him.) Jason Gubbels has a list of 150 records: I've heard 122, or 81.3% (and happen to be playing one of the missing as I write this). Dan Weiss has a list of 68 (posted on Facebook): I've heard 48, for 70.5%. Matt Rice has a list of 50: I've heard 44, so 88.0%. Tom Lane has a list of 30: I've heard 27, so 90.0%. Shorter lists, of course, are easier to cover.

Lower similarity almost always means less intersection in listening. Jason Gross, like Weingarten, has three A-list records on his P&J ballot (Sleaford Mods, Mursday, and Charli XCX). He has a list of 66 records: I've only heard 27, for 40.9% -- similar to the 42% with Weingarten. One more example: Sasha Frere-Jones' list of 50: I've heard 29, so 58.0%. He didn't vote in P&J, and didn't rank his list, so I don't know how those intersections play out.

Spin also did Metal and Pop lists. No point bothering with the former, but I also transcribed Spin's 20 Best Pop Albums of 2014, where they effectively delimit pop not as shorthand for popular but as yet another deviant cult niche (like, you know, metal).

  1. Betty Who, Take Me When You Go [*]
  2. Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear [B]
  3. ASTR, Varsity
  4. Taylor Swift, 1989
  5. Lana Del Rey, Untraviolence [***]
  6. Charli XCX, Sucker [A-]
  7. Lykke Li, I Never Learn [**]
  8. Royksopp & Robyn, Do It Again [***]
  9. La Roux, Trouble in Paradise [***]
  10. Yelle, Completement Fou [**]
  11. RAC, Strangers
  12. various, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  13. Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
  14. Clean Bandit, New Eyes
  15. Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds [B]
  16. Jason Derulo, Talk Dirty [A-]
  17. BenZel, Men
  18. Bleachers, Strange Desire
  19. Jesse McCartney, In Technicolor
  20. Lily Allen, Shezus [A]

More Rolling Stone Lists

Rolling Stone also did a 20 Best Pop Albums of 2014, with 7 of the same 20 songs:

  1. Charli XCX, Sucker [A-]
  2. Taylor Swift, 1989

  3. Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence [***]
  4. Maroon 5, V
  5. Ariana Grande, My Everything [**]
  6. 2NE1, Crush
  7. Lykke Li, I Never Learn [**]
  8. various, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  9. Kimbra, The Golden Echo
  10. Ed Sheeran, X
  11. "Weird Al" Yankovic, Mandatory Fun
  12. Pharrell Williams, Girl [A-]
  13. La Roux, Trouble in Paradise [***]
  14. Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour [B-]
  15. Calvin Harris, Motion
  16. Kitten, Kitten
  17. Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
  18. One Direction, Four
  19. Shakira, Shakira [A-]
  20. Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear [B]

Then there was 20 Best EDM, Electronic and Dance Albums of 2014 (I've heard 70%):

  1. Flying Lotus, You're Dead [***]
  2. Skrillex, Recess [B-]
  3. Caribou, Our Love [**]
  4. Aphex Twin, Syro [A-]
  5. Todd Terje, It's Album Time [A-]
  6. Bunji Garlin, Differentology [**]
  7. Moodymann, Moodymann [*]
  8. Andy Stott, Faith in Strangers
  9. Fatima Al Qadiri, Asiastisch [**]
  10. Traxman, Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2
  11. Joey Anderson, After Forever
  12. Bassnectar, Noise vs. Beauty
  13. Big Freedia, Just Be Free [*]
  14. Duck Sauce, Quack [*]
  15. Lee Bannon, Alternate/Endings
  16. Lee Gamble, Koch [*]
  17. Basement Jaxx, Junto [*]
  18. The Bug, Angels and Devils [*]
  19. Arca, Xen [B]
  20. Dillon Francis, Money Sucks, Friends Rule

Rolling Stone's 20 Best Reissues of 2014 (I've heard %):

  1. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
  2. The Beatles, The Beatles
  3. Mike Bloomfield, From His Head to His Heart to His Hands
  4. The Allman Brothers Band, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings
  5. Chuck Berry, Rock and Roll Music: Any Old Way You Choose It
  6. Sly Stone, I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 [***]
  7. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, CSNY 1974
  8. The Posies, Failure
  9. The Seeds, Singles A's and B's 1965-1970
  10. Bob Carpenter, Silent Passage
  11. King Crimson, Starless
  12. various, Native North America Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country 1966-1985 [*]
  13. The "5" Royales, Soul & Swagger: The Complete "5" Royales 1951-1967
  14. Rory Gallagher, Irish Tour '74 (40th Anniversary Edition)
  15. Nils Lofgren, Face the Music
  16. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin III (Deluxe Edition)
  17. Captain Beefheart, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972
  18. Wilco, Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014
  19. The Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition)
  20. various, Bowie Heard Them Here First

Country EOY Lists

Bits are cheap, so some folks at Rolling Stone scratched their heads and came up with a list, 40 Best Country Albums of 2014. It's one of those things you have to click through one album per page (and of course, the pages don't fit within a browser window so you have to scroll too). I did all that work as part of folding the data into my EOY Aggregate, but having written down the list, I thought I'd just save you the trouble and post it. (Of course, if you do click through you'll get the album covers and some reviews.) It's a decent list as these things go: I counted similar country lists from All Music Guide, Billboard, Baltimore City Paper, Exclaim, Huffpost Music Canada, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, PopMatters, Rhapsody, Something Else, The Telegraph, The Village Voice, and Wondering Sound. I think it's the deepest such list (Telegraph went to 37, and AMG is close to that) -- deeper even than the specialists. And quite properly it includes what's commonly called Americana, which is to say rock with a little country (or blues) seasoning as well as some more folkish sorts.

For a little added value, I'll include my grades in brackets (where I have them, 60% of the time; stars are shades of B+):

  1. Miranda Lambert, Platinum [A-]
  2. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music [***]
  3. Eric Church, The Outsiders [*]
  4. Hurray for the Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes [**]
  5. Litle Big Town, Pain Killer [C+]
  6. Lee Ann Womack, The Way I'm Livin' [A-]
  7. Dierks Bentley, Riser [B-]
  8. Rosanne Cash, The River & the Thread [**]
  9. Sunny Sweeney, Provoked [*]
  10. Willie Nelson, Band of Brothers [A-]
  11. Nikki Lane, All or Nothin' [*]
  12. Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 [*]
  13. Kenny Chesney, The Big Revival
  14. John Fullbright, Songs [*]
  15. Sam Hunt, Montevallo [B]
  16. Lori McKenna, Numbered Doors
  17. Angaleena Presley, American Middle Class [A-]
  18. Shovels & Rope, Swimmin' Time
  19. Robert Ellis, The Lights From the Chemical Plant [B]
  20. Country Funk Volume II: 1967-1974
  21. Doug Paisley, Strong Feelings
  22. Eli Young Band, 10,000 Towns
  23. Sundy Best, Bring Up the Sun and Salvation City
  24. Lee Brice, I Don't Dance
  25. Jennifer Nettles, That Girl [B]
  26. David Nail, I'm a Fire
  27. Tim McGraw, Sundown Heaven Town
  28. First Aid Kit, Stay Gold [B]
  29. Mary Gauthier, Trouble & Love [A-]
  30. Garth Brooks, Man Against Machine
  31. Brad Paisley, Moonshine in the Trunk [B-]
  32. Billy Joe Shaver, Long in the Tooth [A-]
  33. Lera Lynn, The Avenues
  34. Dolly Parton, Blue Smoke [*]
  35. Justin Townes Earle, Single Mothers [**]
  36. Lady Antebellum, 747
  37. Lucinda Williams, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  38. Cory Branan, The No-Hit Wonder [*]
  39. Jerrod Niemann, High Noon
  40. The Secret Sisters, Put Your Needle Down

Only record on the list I was serviced was Dolly Parton's -- not likely to happen again. Only one I bought was Miranda Lambert's, so everything else came my way via Rhapsody (or didn't, for Williams, McKenna, Brooks, Doug Paisley, Country Funk II, and several others I looked up. Some I didn't look up -- never before heard of Sundy Best, hadn't registered much about Niemann or Brice, and I've heard way too much Lady Antebellum already.

I didn't exactly grow up with country music, but I grew up close enough I could relate. My folks watched a lot of Hee-Haw, and somehow I watched a lot of Porter Wagoner. My mother was a devoted fan of George Jones; my father was more into comics like Jimmy Dickens and Minnie Pearl. So when peers like Harold Karabell and George Lipsitz tried to steer me toward Gram Parsons and Merle Haggard, my resistance melted pretty quickly. George Jones even helped repair my schizophrenic relationship with my mother. In the 1990s I made a serious effort to catch up with every major figure in jazz, blues, and country. While that led to my Jazz Consumer Guide gig, there was also a brief period when I was getting 20-40 alt-country releases a year, and I'd usually find 3-5 very good records hardly anyone else noticed. That doesn't happen any more, but the experience gives me some hints to work from.

Not sure how many country-folk-bluegrass-Americana records I heard last year -- probably close to 100. Enough to put together, well, not a top-40 list, but maybe a top 30 (dipping down into the high HMs, which if country is your thing isn't a bad idea). A first pass on such a list looks like this:

  1. Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (Masterworks) *
  2. Miranda Lambert: Platinum (RCA Nashville) [**]
  3. Angaleena Presley: American Middle Class (Slate Creek) **
  4. Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions: The Unreleased Recordings (1970s, Time-Life) **
  5. Rodney Crowell: Tarpaper Sky (New West) **
  6. Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop) **
  7. Lee Ann Womack: The Way I'm Livin' (Sugar Hill/Welk) **
  8. Dave Alvin/Phil Alvin: Common Ground (Yep Roc) [**]
  9. Doug Seegers: Going Down to the River (Rounder) **
  10. Mary Gauthier: Trouble & Love (In the Black) **
  11. Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters (In De Goot/Relativity) **
  12. Tami Neilson: Dynamite! (self-released) **
  13. John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (New West) **
  14. Amy LaVere: Runaway's Diary (Archer) **
  15. Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers (Legacy) **
  16. Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (Yep Roc) **
  17. Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers (1928-37, Dust-to-Digital) **
  18. Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth (Lightning Rod) **
  19. The Delines: Colfax (El Cortez) **
  20. Matt Woods: With Love From Brushy Mountain (Lonely Ones) **
  21. Johnny Cash: Out Among the Stars (1981-84, Columbia) **
  22. Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain) **
  23. Scott H. Biram: Nothin' but Blood (Bloodshot) **
  24. Karen Jonas: Oklahoma Lottery (self-released) **
  25. Rod Picott: Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail (Welding Rod) **
  26. Jack Clement: For Once and for All (IRS Nashville) **
  27. Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis: Our Year (Premium) **
  28. Amy Ray: Goodnight Tender (Daemon) **
  29. Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971, Tompkins Square) **
  30. Alice Gerrard: Follow the Music (Tompkins Square) **

Scheinman may not be country enough for you, but that's where the social realism fits: the genre-cross -- she is one of the world's greatest jazz violinists -- seems to have thrown everyone. Langford, Hiatt, Tolchin, the Delines, and possibly others tend to be treated as alt-rock but they're close to the fuzzy line. My original sort also picked up The Baseball Project, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas, and Hard Working Americans, but to get down to 30 I decided they were outside the lines. Common Ground is explicitly a blues album, but you tell me the difference. In previous years I've tried explicitly grouping blues and and gospel with the country albums: had I done that here, you'd pick up: Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story (1956-63); Leo Welch, Sabougla Voices; Bushwick Gospel Singers, Songs of Worship Vol. 2; Benjamin Booker; Sleepy John Estes, Live in Japan (1974); Danny Petroni, The Blue Project; John Nemeth, Memphis Grease.

I also have 2-star HMs for (including blues): Elvin Bishop, Can't Even Do Wrong Right; Carlene Carter, Carter Girl; Rosanne Cash, The River & the Thread; Davina & the Vagabonds, Sunshine; Brigitte DeMeyer, Savannah Road; Justin Townes Earle, Single Mothers; Hurray for the Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes; EG Kight, A New Day; Link of Chain: A Songwriters' Tribute to Chris Smither; Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else; Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy; John Schooley, The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World; Peter Stampfel, Better Than Expected; Randy Travis: Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am; Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited. At this level I'm not doing much more than random sampling.

Next stop, perhaps, Rolling Stone's 40 Best Rap Albums of 2014. Probably about as solid. Much more problematic is likely to be RS's 20 Best Avant Albums of 2014, but then one person's avant is another's breakfast gruel.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Daily Log

Got all the Pazz and Jop albums data entered into the EOY aggregate list, adding it in the comment field, ahead of my grades. As such, it didn't really count for anything, other than as a comparative reference. (I could see adding Metacritic ratings as well, but that would be a horrible lot of work -- not that P&J wasn't -- took me two full days.) Found a few counting errors and apprised Glenn McDonald. Main such errors were when voters picked a single in the albums category instead of the album it appeared on. I suppose it's possible that some people edit the metadata on their iPods to that effect, but even so, why not vote for the single on the singles ballot? I added all of those cases back in (but didn't try to rejigger the standings), but thus far McDonald hasn't followed suit and updated the Voice website.

One extra thing I did was to go through my 2014 A-list and check who voted most frequently for my records (including compilations and reissues). Thanks mostly to Black Messiah, I wound up with 414 critics (of 612, so 67.3%) picking at least one A-list record (79 out of 166). Without Black Messiah the voter count drops to 355, or 58%; dropping all records that got 25 or more votes -- roughly speaking the top 40 overall, specifically the most popular 10 from my list -- the voters count drops to 182, or 29.7%.

One thing I did with this data was to figure out which voters were most likely to pick records on my A-list. Aside from my own perfect ten, the leading lights are:

  1. Michael Tatum (1)
  2. Robert Christgau (1)
  3. Matt Rice, Dan Weiss (2)
  4. Jason Gubbels, Chris Herrington, Steve Knopper, Jon LaFollette, Christopher Monsen, Phillip Overeem, Cam Patterson (7)
  5. Thierry Cote, Joey Daniewicz, Keith Harris, Kevin John, Ryan Maffei (5)
  6. Michael Barthel, Christopher Barton, Stuart Berman, David Cantwell, Traviss Cassidy, Nick Farruggia, Matt Gewolb, Geoffrey Himes, Thomas Inskeep, Todd Kristel, Tom Lane, Cameron Macdonald, Jim Macnie, Brian McManus, JT Ramsay, Michael Robbins, Alfred Soto (17)

Beyond that there are 52 critics with 3, 133 with 2, and 195 with 1 -- an almost picture-perfect distribution. McDonald only considers the 10 albums on my ballot (well, also 10 singles, but I don't take them all that seriously), so he finds fewer alliances: my "centricity" score is .061 (ranked 538 of 601). The ballots most similar to mine are from Gubbels (.174), Ted Cox (.141), Tatum (.128), Jim Farber (.110), Robert Nedelkoff (.102), Weiss (.101), Michael Fournier (.096), Christgau (.088), Lyndsey Parker (.083), Roy Traykin (.083), Maureen Miller (.081), Carol Cooper (.079), Rice (.079), and Carlo Wolff (.079). Subjectively, I'd say my method is better than theirs: the intersection is much stronger because it's based on more data (166 albums instead of 10), and I'm much more familiar with my list.

The number of other voters for my album picks were: 28 (Wussy), 7 (Lily Allen), 5 (Kate Tempest), 3 (Steve Lehman, Strypes), 1 (Paul Shapiro), and 0 (Duduvudu, Green Seed, Jenny Scheinman, and Revolutionary Snake Ensemble).

I'm tempted to extend my method to subtract any album I graded B- or below from the critics' positive counts -- which will most likely put half of the list under zero. (That would only involve checking about 60 albums, but they do include some relatively popular ones -- Sharon Van Etten (15), Beck (16), YG (25), Jack White (44), Ariel Pink (52), Perfect Pussy (56), Scott Walker (58), Sam Smith (75), Kelis (88). At the top end of my list, this wouldn't have much effect: Tatum's only non-A-list vote was for Drive-By Truckers, which I have at B+(**) -- a good record, just not one I really recommend. Christgau also voted for Drive-By Truckers plus Azealia Banks, in my book a B+(***). (I have, by the way, replayed both of those records without regrading them. I would, however, have split more had I not raised the initial grades I gave to Withered Hand and Black Portland (listed by both Tatum and Christgau).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Daily Log

Updated website late Monday night with 385 lists counted (3909 new records, 593 old). Curious as to trends as I add new lists, but I haven't done a good job of keeping track of how the standings have evolved, so I thought I'd start with keeping these basic stats.

Pazz & Jop came out today. D'Angelo won the albums poll -- something Christgau had predicted but I thought impossible, given its late release, and that on most of the lists that did include it, it didn't finish all that high. Beyond that, the next four slots went to the top four records in my aggregate: Run the Jewels 2, The War on Drugs, St. Vincent, and FKA Twigs. On the other hand, the spread was much greater than I ancitipated -- especially how much FKA Twigs dropped relative to the others. (I expected Run the Jewels to win, so that it finished way ahead of War on Drugs and St. Vincent was less of a surprise.)

The rest of the top-10 caught me more or less by surprise. The one I most expected was Taylor Swift (19 on my list, jumped to 7), and Angel Olsen (12 to 8) and Spoon (13 to 9) were certainly possible. Sturgill Simpson (26 to 6) made a bigger jump, as did Against Me (32 to 10). Still, those two records had been running strong lately. Also making large gains (31 to 12) was Miranda Lambert -- about what I expected -- and Azealia Banks (33 to 14). But the real surprise gain in the top-20 was Ex Hex (51 to 11), and beyond that New Pornographers (73 to 23), Wussy (76 to 25, but we knew that was coming), Rosanne Cash (86 to 33), and Charli XCX (87 to 34). Two Christgau favorites only made modest gains: Black Portland (101 to 85) and Withered Hand (108 to 92). My own favorite, Lily Allen rose from 170 to 137.

Those gains came at the expense of other albums: Caribou (5 to 21), Sun Kil Moon (6 to 18), Swans (7 to 19), Aphex Twin (8 to 17), Flying Lotus (9 to 13), Beck (10 to 16), Sharon Van Etten (11 to 15), Future Islands (14 to 30), Todd Terje (15 to 32), Damon Albarn (16 to 86 -- pretty heavy UK/Europe bias here), Mac DeMarco (17 to 54), Perfume Genius (18 to 28), Ty Segall (21 to 27), Jack White (22 to 44), Freddie Gibbs/Madlib (23 to 35), Real Estate (25 to 42), Cloud Nothings (27 to 37, Shabazz Palaces (28 to 50), Wild Beasts (29 to 131). The latter is the highest EOY aggregate place to not make P&J's top-100 (followed by: Temples, Alt-J, Sleaford Mods, Royal Blood, Arca, Ought, Metronomy, GOAT, Jessie Ware, Jungle, Ben Frost, The Bug, Kate Tempest, Interpol, Mastodon, Young Fathers, East India Youth, La Roux, Iceage, Banks, Schoolboy Q, Timber Timbre -- most are UK, a couple Canadian, Iceage from Denmark).

Highest finisher in P&J not already on my list: Split Single: Fragmented World (Inside Outside) at 162-60-6.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24347 [24286] rated (+61), 503 [505] unrated (-2).

It's been cold outside, and I've done very little but cram new lists into the EOY Aggregate File and listen to marginal list picks -- some well-regarded (and often awful), some quite rare (and occasionally wonderful). And this time they've really piled up: the 61 in the count above includes a couple corrections for bookkeeping omissions, but there are still 58 records listed below -- eight per day on average, with all the A- records getting at least two spins (although few of the ***-HMs got a shot to improve their lot -- the best prospects are Karen Jonas, Tom Trio, Matt Woods, and Wild Rockers 3). I will admit I saved a few minutes by hitting the reject on Ariel Pink -- graded it leniently as a hedge against missing something, although I hope you don't bother to call me on it. I did make it all the way through Scott Walker but playing them back-to-back was a big mistake. For the record, both are tours de force, conceptually brilliant and catchy in perverse ways -- I can see why some people love them, or at least find them amusing, but they perturb the universe in ways I find appalling. Not a lot of jazz in the list below, although I'm most of the way through the Polish Fortune (or ForTune or For Tune) albums -- surprisingly diverse for a label I had pegged as strictly avant.

The Kinks was a diversion. Their albums are gradually coming out in bonus editions, and I had written up the first three a while back. I was looking for a new 2-CD compilation on Legacy, but found a 5-CD box and a 1-CD best-of instead, and didn't really feel like bothering with either, but I found five more 1966-71 albums -- four I could swear I once had on LP but only Muswell Hillbillies had been recorded in the database (B+). For some reason, Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the English Empire) (1969) isn't available (and it looks like only about half of it is on the 5-CD box). I lost interest in the group shortly after Kink Kronikles (1972), with only Everybody's in Showbiz (1972: B) and Low Budget (1979: B+) in the database.

The EOY lists are still a work in progress, but one that should come to an end soon -- I'll add in Pazz & Jop when it appears later this week, Christgau's Dean's List whenever that appears, and maybe I'll drop in my own list (just to give Lily Allen a boost). Usually at this point the top ranks are stabilizing, even spreading out a bit, but a funny thing happened when I sorted the list a few days ago: War on Drugs (the early leader) edged back ahead of FKA Twigs for the top spot (the current margin is 272-268, with Run the Jewels a close third with 260, St. Vincent a solid fourth with 246). The other thing that's happened is that after Caribou, the 6-9 slots have tightened up and are pretty much dead even at 170-169-167-167 for Sun Kil Moon, Swans, Flying Lotus, and Aphex Twin. Beck is well back with 148 for 10th, and the next dozen or so albums have been pretty stable even though the deltas are pretty tight: 145 (Sharon Van Etten), 142 (Angel Olsen), 139 (Spoon), 130 (Future Islands), 125 (Todd Terje), 123 (Damon Albarn), 120 (Mac DeMarco), 116 (Perfume Genius), 109 (Taylor Swift), 103 (Lana Del Rey), 102 (Ty Segall), 97 (Jack White), 93 (Freddie Gibbs/Madlib). The only order change there was Del Rey passing Segall. Below that the list is a bit more dynamic, with a three-way tie at 88 between Parquet Courts, Real Estate, and Sturgill Simpson. Further down at 68, D'Angelo is still rising, most recently passing Scott Walker and Ariel Pink (two of the year's most horrible albums, by the way).

I haven't been scoring lists, but one I was struck by was David O'Brien's at Atlanta Constitution Journal: his top-50 includes 13 of my A-list albums (D'Angelo, Spoon, Leonard Cohen, Big KRIT, Mary Gauthier, Dave & Phil Alvin, Ought, The Delines, Statik Selektah, Parquet Courts, Thurston Moore, Angaleena Presley, and Cloud Nothings -- make that 14 with Tami Neilson), plus 3 more in the HMs (Rodney Crowell, Miranda Lambert, Billy Joe Shaver). I also count 7 3-star B+ and 8 more 2-star -- that's where the median lies. He likes some records I don't (Swans, Sharon Van Etten, Beck, Jack White, YG), has a minor interest in metal (Mastodon and YOB in the HMs), doesn't show any jazz or electronica (not even Caribou), or any of the more narrowly Christgauvian cult items (absence of Wussy almost certainly means he hasn't heard them).

One more announcement: I've added Francis Davis' annual list of jazz (and some other) musicians who passed away in 2014 to the Jazz Critics Poll website: Always Say Goodbye.

Expect a Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week. I've started to play some 2015 jazz, but mostly I'm still trying to mop up late finds from 2014.

New records rated this week:

  • Alt-J: This Is All Yours (2014, Canvasback/Atlantic): British neo-prog group, makes beguiling chamber pop, pretty, pleasant, the future of elevator music [r]: B
  • Grazyna Auguscik Orchestar: Inspired by Lutoslawski (2013 [2014], Fortune): vocalist backed mostly by strings, not something I go for, but not so bad [cd]: B+(*)
  • Courtney Barnett: The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (2012-13 [2014], Mom + Pop Music): Australian singer-songwriter, not much of an accent [r]: B+(*)
  • Gorka Benitez: Gasteiz (2012 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): tenor sax trio, sweetened by replacing the bass with Ben Monder's guitar, in turn brings out the flute [r]: B+(**)
  • Beverly: Careers (2014, Kanine): lo-fi pop duo, singer-guitarist Drew citron helped out by drummer-singer Frankie Rose (Dum Dum Girls, etc.) [r]: B+(*)
  • Jonatha Brooke: My Mothers Has 4 Noses (2014, Bad Dog): songs from a one-woman play, as a daughter faces her mother descending into dementia [r]: A-
  • Bushwick Gospel Singers: Songs of Worship Vol. 2 (2014, The Church of Universal Knowing): Peter Stampfel insists he's just a fan, but they sound/play/weird like him [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Childs: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (2014, Masterworks): pianist + strings + 10 singers + more retread 10 songs, 2 not so bad [r]: B-
  • Theo Croker: AfroPhysicist (2014, Okeh): deliriously scattershot, with Dee Dee Bridgewater singing three, but the trumpet does stand out [r]: B+(*)
  • First Aid Kit: Stay Gold (2014, Columbia): Swedish sisters ease up on their folkie act, settle for generic pop, prisoners of their harmonies [r]: B
  • Lee Gamble: Koch (2014, Pan, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Gunn: Way Out Weather (2014, Paradise of Bachelors): could be way too smart for the folkie singer-songwriter he presents himself as, but hard to tell [r]: B+(*)
  • The Heliocentrics & Melvin Van Peebles: The Last Transmission (2014, Now-Again): spoken word should be more riveting; still sets the spacey beats [r]: B+(***)
  • Arve Henriksen: The Nature of Connections (2014, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian trumpet player leads string-laden sextet, chamber jazz quick frozen [r]: B
  • Honeyblood: Honeyblood (2014, Fat Cat): two Glasgow girls, rough enough for noise-pop, but the lyrics I caught were mostly cliches, not even camp [r]: B
  • The Hotelier: Home, Like Noplace Is There (2014, Tiny Engines): punkish group with higher ambitions but hard to decipher, maybe not worthwhile [r]: B+(*)
  • Jachna Tarwid Karch: Sundial (2013-14 [2014], Fortune): flugelhorn-piano-drums trio, slow even for chamber jazz, hoping the harmonies flower [cd]: B+(*)
  • Karen Jonas: Oklahoma Lottery (2014, self-released): Virginia singer-songwriter, has poise and a knack for spinning country stories [r]: B+(***)
  • Kenosha Kid: Inside Voices (2014 [2015], self-released): Pynchon-reading guitarist from Athens GA leads a sextet, three horns, some kind of postbop [cd]: B
  • Khun Narin: Electric Phin Band (2014, Innovative Leisure): Thai group, lead instrument is a 3-stringed lute called a phin, plus bass and three drummers [r]: B+(**)
  • Leszek Kulakowski Ensemble: Looking Ahead (2014, Fortune): third-stream pianist, not that classical and jazz mean anything different anymore [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Lawrence Arms: Metropole (2014, Epitaph): Chicago post-punk group, perhaps mellowed with age but can still talk the talk, er, rant [r]: B+(**)
  • Little Big Town: Pain Killer (2014, Capitol Nashville): wouldn't you expect Nashville's Mamas & Papas to have family values? what about personalities? [r]: C+
  • Jan Lundgren: All By Myself (2014, Fresh Sound): bebop-oriented Swedish pianist rehearses fourteen standards, played solo, straight, lovely [r]: B+(**)
  • Magnolia Acoustic Quartet: Cinderella (2012 [2014], Fortune): Polish group, pianist Kuba Sokolowski de facto leader, plus sax, bass, drums [cd]: B+(**)
  • Microwaves: Regurgitant Phenomena (2014, New Atlantis): Pittsburgh noise/post-punk group, songs short, vocals buried so deep they hardly matter [r]: B
  • Myrczek & Tomaszewski: Love Revisited (2013 [2014], Fortune): Wojciech M., a Sinatra-ish crooner, backed by pianist Pawel T., do standards and scat [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tami Neilson: Red Dirt Angel (2008, self-released): New Zealand's country princess faces Nashville demons and slips in "Missin' the Groom" joke [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tami Neilson: Dynamite! (2014, self-released): short but diverse: honky tonk, rockabilly, folkie duet, paean to Texas, title cut beyond category [bc]: A-
  • Charlie Parr: Hollandale (2014, Chaperone): folk guitarist in the Fahey-Kottke tradition throws in a little Son House for resonance [r]: B+(*)
  • Perfect Pussy: Say Yes to Love (2014, Captured Tracks): maybe if they hadn't formed to play a band in a movie they'd try to be more, you know, musical [r]: B-
  • Ariel Pink: Pom Pom (2014, 4AD): lo-fi eclecticism yields fantastic range of upbeat kitsch, not without humor but I'm less sure of humanity [r]: C-
  • PRhyme [Royce da 5'9"/DJ Premier]: PRhyme (2014, PRhyme/Universal): classic turntablism, but the bitch rants, money grubbing, and don't-give-a-f take their toll [r]: B+(**)
  • Protomartyr: Under Color of Official Right (2014, Hardly Art): Detroit post-punk, hooks similar to the Fall's, but lacks the accent/class analysis [r]: B+(**)
  • Royal Blood: Royal Blood (2014, Warner Brothers): leave it to the aristocracy to make such utterly basic, chord-crunching rock & roll [r]: B
  • Ruby: Waiting for Light (2014, Fireweed): UK singer-songwriter Lesley Rankine carries on, eclectic, means sometimes it works, unpredictably [bc]: B+(**)
  • Linda Sharrock: No Is No: Don't Fuck Around With Your Women (2014, Improvising Beings, 2CD): 45 years after debut, band supplies old avant, she adds attitude [cd]: B+(***)
  • Emilio Solla y La Inestable de Brooklyn: Second Half (2013 [2014], self-released): Argentinian tango meets Brooklyn horns and Meg Okura's violin [cd]: B+(**)
  • St. Paul & the Broken Bones: Half the City (2014, Single Lock): more than Sam Phillips was shopping for in the '50s, but that value has depreciated [r]: B+(*)
  • Sylvan Esso: Sylvan Esso (2014, Partisan): singer Amelia Heath, electronics wiz Nick Sanborn, America's answer to trip-hop, meaning no sense of impending doom [r]: B+(*)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: Area J (2013 [2014], Wide Hive): fusion brought indoors, call it "garage jazz," a rockish platform for Kamasi Washington's sax [r]: B+(**)
  • Tom Trio: Radical Moves (2013 [2014], Fortune): Tomasz Dabrowski's avant trumpet trio -- Nils Bo Davidsen on bass, Anders Mogensen on drums [cd]: B+(***)
  • Trzy Dni Pozniej: Pokoj Jej Cieniom (2014, Fortune): vocal trio, three Polish women, backed by electronics and viola, serious but not cloying [cd]: B+(**)
  • Viet Cong: Cassette (2014, Mexican Summer): [r]: B
  • Scott Walker + Sunn O))): Soused (2014, 4AD): insufferably operatic singer emotes over the ambient drone of horror movies; is this a joke? [r]: C
  • Don Williams: Reflections (2014, Sugar Hill): back on Sugar Hill, the perfect retirement home for a guy who never made a hit look like work [r]: B+(*)
  • Hank Williams III: Ramblin' Man (1999-2010 [2014], Curb, EP): third post-contract album Cub put together, 7 cuts, shit they'd hate if they didn't own it [r]: B+(*)
  • Matt Woods: With Love From Brushy Mountain (2014, Lonely Ones): Knoxville country singer, goes out of his way to make his career difficult [r]: B+(***)
  • Waclaw Zimpel To Tu Orchestra: Nature Moves (2014, Fortune): works minimalist themes into something sublime, then adds free jazz energy [cd]: A-

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

  • Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers (1928-37 [2014], Dust-to-Digital): enticing pickings from unknowns, the scratch groove feels like my roots [r]: A-
  • Keb Darge & Little Edith's Legendary Wild Rockers (1958-64 [2011], BBE): 2011 comp started annual series, rockabilly hot but a little weirder [r]: B+(**)
  • Keb Darge & Little Edith's Legendary Wild Rockers 3 (1956-66 [2013], BBE): third volume of crackling obscurities edges slightly into stoned surf [r]: B+(***)
  • Native North America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 (1966-85 [2014], Light in the Attic, 2CD): 2cd survey of Native American musicians, not that different [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra and His Blue Universe Arkestra: Universe in Blue (1971-72 [2013], El Saturn): two good cuts (one a black power anthem), three were they get lost [r]: C+

Old records rated this week:

  • The Kinks: Face to Face (1966 [2004], Sanctuary): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Kinks: Something Else by the Kinks (1967 [2004], Sanctuary): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Kinks: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968 [1998], Sanctuary): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Kinks: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970 [2004], Sanctuary): [r]: B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gene Argel: Luminescent (Origin): January 20
  • Joey Calderazzo: Going Home (Sunnyside): March 31
  • Chamber 3: Grassroots (OA2): January 20
  • George Colligan & Theoretical Planets: Risky Notion (Origin): January 20
  • Hypercolor (Tzadik): advance, January 20
  • Renaud Penant Trio: Want to Be Happy (ITI Music)
  • Denia Ridley & the Marc Devine Trio: Afterglow (ITI Music): January 20
  • Marc Seales: American Songs Volume 3: Place & Time (Origin): January 20
  • Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Hat and Shoes (Between the Lines): February 10
  • Joanna Wallfisch with Dan Tepfer: The Origin of Adjustable Things (Sunnyside): March 3

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Keb Darge & Little Edith's Legendary Wild Rockers (1958-64 [2011], BBE): B+(**) [rhapsody]
  • Keb Darge & Little Edith's Legendary Wild Rockers 3 (1957-66 [2013], BBE): B+(***) [rhapsody]

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekend Update

The big news of the week was the massacre in the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where ten journalists (mostly cartoonists) and two police were gunned down. This was followed by a shooting of a police officer at Montrouge, and an attempt to take hostages at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, resulting in four more deaths (five counting the assailant). French officials hunted down and killed the two Charlie Hebdo shooters, but the story doesn't end there. Whereas mass shootings by non-Muslims in Europe and America (including one in Norway in 2011 that killed 77 people) are typically treated as "lone wolf" aberrations, any such violence committed by Muslims automatically triggers a chain reaction where all the usual reactors resume the positions they took after 9/11, mostly to escalate US, European, and Israeli violence against Muslims. The effect is much like watching a train wreck, where no matter how clear every detail seems, one is helpless to prevent or even affect the crash.

The most immediate response has been a huge outpouring of racist rhetoric from Europe's right, especially from the strategically placed, shamelessly opportunistic Marine le Pen. And as rightists almost reflexively respond, this has already resulted in a number of attacks against mosques in France. Meanwhile, more respectable elites have tended to the propaganda campaign. In particular, Charlie Hebdo has become an icon of free speech, championed by people who spend billions of dollars every year to shape public discourse to advance their own agendas. Over the longer term they will use this attack as an excuse to launch -- actually, to continue -- many more of their own. Moreover, those attacks -- indeed, this week's mosque attacks -- will scarcely raise a ripple in the western press, or a twinge of conscience in the belligerent elites.

Needless to say, this kneejerk reaction is insane. If, say, one suffers and barely survives a heart attack, the normal response is to take a look at your own life and see you can do better -- stop smoking, eat differently, exercise more, take a daily aspirin, whatever. It's not to go out and bomb Afghanistan, or burn down a convenient mosque. And this is not because you feel personally culpable for the heart attack. It's more because the only change you can make is to yourself. Yet terror attacks, which for nearly everyone are mere impersonal news, are never allowed to evoke a moment's self-examination. There's a complex psychology behind this, but it's ultimately because the elites (especially the right-wingers who predominate) have something to hide, and much to fear if this is ever discussed rationally.

The attackers in Paris, for instance, identified themselves as affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda was effectively invented in the 1980s when the United States recruited Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to raise an Islamist army ("the mujahideen") to sabotage the Soviets in Afghanistan. The US was arguably naive to do so, but American Cold Warriors had often (and successfully) used religion against "Godless Communism," and colonial powers had routinely recruited Islamic clerics to help control the masses -- in fact, the US used Iranian clerics to organize the mobs that helped overthrow Iran's democracy in 1953. So what could go wrong? (This was, after all, the Reagan administration, where naivete was little less than a worldview.)

When recruited by the US, the Saudi monarchy and Pakistan's Islamist dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq built their Afghan war machine with the clerics they had in hand -- the fundamentalist Wahhabi and Deobandi sects, militantly orthodox especially in their excoriation of heretics (especially Shiites) and used to using their religious beliefs as a platform for war -- nor did they limit their scope to Afghanistan: since its founding, Pakistan has been obsessed with India, while Saudi Arabia was locked in a long struggle with secularizing, socialist, and nationalist forces throughout the Arab world. It was only a matter of time before the muhahideen turned their venom against their patrons, especially the infidel ones.

Still, jihadism was never more than a sliver movement within Islam. If you read Gilles Kepel's definitive history of jihadism up to 2000 (Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam), you will see that before 9/11 the movement had largely burned itself out. In that context, 9/11 was a "hail Mary pass" -- an effort not to strike the enemy so much as to provoke a monster, which would then invade the Land of Islam and drive the faithful to take up arms. Thanks to the ignorance and ego of GW Bush, Bin Laden was successful in his provocation. His only disappointment was in how few Muslims rose to fight alongside him. But a small number did, joining the ranks of those caught up in local wars -- some like Iraq the result of US imperial adventures, others like Syria only slightly removed -- adding a religious fire to those conflicts. And very rarely, as in Paris last week, the blowback comes home.

All this has been plainly obvious for many years, even as a succession of presidents (and both apologists and antagonists) have been oblivious to the consequences of their actions. And by consequences I don't mean the rare blowback event -- I mean the obviously direct consequences of aerial attacks and covert operations, of sanctions and propping up cruel dictators, of repeatedly proving to the world that US leaders have no respect for foreign lives, least of all Muslim ones. There are a great many reasons why the US should withdraw from such behaviors. Fear of reprisal (of blowback) is a relatively minor one, but even it isn't as silly as refusing to do the right thing, and insisting on repeating past mistakes, for fear of looking like you're giving in to terrorism. Elites like to brand terrorists as cowards, but the real cowardice is failing to do the right thing for fear of looking weak.

Only by changing our ways will this problem ever go away.

Some more links and comments follow (some on other topics):

  • Juan Cole: Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris: This is a variant, or complement to, my argument above. I'll add one small note on return on investment. Al-Qaeda sacrificed three (maybe five, or a bit more) fighters on this operation. How many people they killed may matter as a provocation, but this isn't a war of attrition. So it really comes down to recruitment: how many new fighters will flock to Al-Qaeda after this? That, in turn, depends on how many Muslims are alienated by France's reaction (and any other countries where right-wingers use this to try to advance). The number doesn't have to be very big to make the action worthwhile. But also understand that they're starting from a deficit, because this act itself is as offensive to most Muslims as it is to everyone else.

    The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

    Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination. [ . . . ]

    The only effective response to this manipulative strategy (as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani tried to tell the Iraqi Shiites a decade ago) is to resist the impulse to blame an entire group for the actions of a few and to refuse to carry out identity-politics reprisals.

  • Teju Cole: Unmournable Bodies: Since the massacre, I've seen many Charlie Hebdo cartoons in my twitter feed -- a good many offensive, stupid, or both. I have no idea how representative they are -- I've read that the magazine is non-partisan, analogous to Mad in the US, so there must be a mix (if not a balance) of views. And I know there's no lack of offensive and/or stupid cartoons on the right in America, and that (especially where Obama is concerned) these all too frequently slump into blatant racism. Of course, if you go back in history you can find even worse: see, for a relevant example, the cartoons reproduced in John W. Dower's War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War for shockingly racist depictions of Japanese during WWII -- war always brings out the worst in people. None of this is meant as excuse: as Hamas put it in their PR reaction: "differences of opinion and thought cannot justify murder." But we shouldn't forget that Charlie Hebdo wasn't singled out for attack because it represented a free press; it was singled out because it had allowed itself to become a propaganda organ in a virtual war against (at least one strain of political) Islam.

    More than a dozen people were killed by terrorists in Paris this week. The victims of these crimes are being mourned worldwide: they were human beings, beloved by their families and precious to their friends. On Wednesday, twelve of them were targeted by gunmen for their affiliation with the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Charlie has often been aimed at Muslims, and it's taken particular joy in flouting the Islamic ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. It's done more than that, including taking on political targets, as well as Christian and Jewish ones. The magazine depicted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a sexual threesome. Illustrations such as this have been cited as evidence of Charlie Hebdo's willingness to offend everyone. But in recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations, and its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy, and mockery of the victims of a massacre. It is not always easy to see the difference between a certain witty dissent from religion and a bullyingly racist agenda, but it is necessary to try. Even Voltaire, a hero to many who extol free speech, got it wrong. His sparkling and courageous anti-clericalism can be a joy to read, but he was also a committed anti-Semite, whose criticisms of Judaism were accompanied by calumnies about the innate character of Jews.

    This week's events took place against the backdrop of France's ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab. Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine's cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations. [ . . . ]

    But it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech. It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions. The A.C.L.U. got it right in defending a neo-Nazi group that, in 1978, sought to march through Skokie, Illinois. The extreme offensiveness of the marchers, absent a particular threat of violence, was not and should not be illegal. But no sensible person takes a defense of those First Amendment rights as a defense of Nazi beliefs. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were not mere gadflies, not simple martyrs to the right to offend: they were ideologues. Just because one condemns their brutal murders doesn't mean one must condone their ideology.

    Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech -- as so many commentators have done -- it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.'s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.

    Since the attacks, money has poured into Charlie Hebdo, and with all the publicity the next press run will be bumped from the usual 60,000 to one million copies.

  • Michael S Schmidt/Matt Apuzzo: Federal prosecutors recommend charges against ex-CIA chief David Petraeus: Allegedly, Petraeus disclosed top-secret files to journalist Paula Broadwell, who was sleeping with him as well as writing a fawning hagiography. The key point here is that Obama and Holder have prosecuted leakers to an unprecedented degree, so what kind of favoritism would it be if they let Petraeus off the hook? A pretty obvious one, I'd say. But much as I'd like to "send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison," I'd rather see pardons for Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and all the others who have been or would be prosecuted for disclosing what the CIA and NSA has been doing with our tax dollars. The difference is that Petraeus didn't do the public any favors with his leaks. He did them purely as an act of self-promotion -- coincidentally his only real accomplishment during his long tenure in the Army and at the CIA.

  • Other Charlie Hebdo links:

    • Mat Taibbi: Cartoons Are Worth Fighting For: "The answer here isn't more self-censorship, but standing on the principle of everyone learning to calm down, get a life, and tolerate the occasional weird idea." Yes, but tolerance, while vastly preferred over intolerance, isn't the real goal. The goal should be to get to a just and equitable society, and to do that we need to get to the truth. Free speech and a free press are necessary to facilitate that.
    • Diana Johnstone: What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say?: "Along with taking innocent lives, they have surely deepened the sense of brutal chaos in this world, aggravated distrust between ethnic groups in France and in Europe, and no doubt accomplished other evil results as well."
    • Tariq Ali: Maximum Horror: "Charlie Hebdo sees itself as having a mission to defend republican secular values against all religions. It has occasionally attacked Catholicism, but it's hardly ever taken on Judaism (though Israel's numerous assaults on Palestinians have offered many opportunities) and has concentrated its mockery on Islam. French secularism today seems to encompass anything as long as it's not Islamic. [ . . . ] Defending its right to publish, regardless of consequences, is one thing, but sacralising a satirical paper that regularly targets those who are victims of a rampant Islamophobia is almost as foolish as justifying the acts of terror against it. Each feeds on the other."
    • Arthur Chu: Trolls and Martyrdom: Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: "Shooting people is wrong." But that doesn't mean that the people who shouldn't be shot are all right. (For some reason that is a principle a lot of Americans have trouble with: we live in a society that seems to want to settle every dispute with a gun, somehow believing that problems go away when you kill the people most identified with them.) Interesting factoid: "They're only even called Charlie Hebdo as an inside joke after the original publication, Hara-Kirk Hebdo, got shut down for mocking former President Charles de Gaulle immediately after his death."
    • Josh Marshall: Is There a Future for French Jewry? There are about 600,000 Jews in France. In 2013 a bit more than 3000 emigrated to Israel (at least according to the figures here). After events like the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last week, as well as "a series of attacks on French Jews over recent years," Israeli sources expect more to emigrate to Israel next year. Marshall somehow took the bait and is projecting the collapse of the entire community. This is a meme that pops up every few years -- see Tony Karon: Where do France's Jews Belong?, published in 2004 when Sharon was offering French Jews a safe haven in the midst of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. One thing that's missing here is stats on the other side of the coin: I've seen estimates that over 700,000 Israelis have moved abroad, and while the US and Germany (!) are the most frequently cited destinations, France cannot be far behind. (Most of the Israeli jazz musicians I'm familiar with live abroad, and France is a popular base.)
    • More Guns: The Cure-All? After 9/11, I remember Eric Raymond arguing that we should allow passengers on airplanes to carry guns so they could defend themselves, as if the hijackers wouldn't have been the first to take advantage of that option. So no surprise that someone should come forward with the idea that if only the office workers at Charlie Hebdo had been packing heat . . . (not that the dead police weren't). No need to read this article for that, but you might be interested in how a Kansas gun shop owner was shot dead and robbed. Steve M. also pays more attention to David Brooks' take on Charlie Hebdo than you should.
    • Philip Weiss: Don't let's go to the war of civilizations again: "Speaking of double standards, our obsession with radical Islam overlooks the incredible peacefulness of most Arab societies [ . . . ] and the wide destruction we've wrought in the Middle East. Steve Walt used to keep a counter on how many Muslims we've killed -- over 200,000 Muslims a few years ago. Bill Kristol and George Packer and Roger Cohen seem to think the answer is to undertake actions that will kill more, because we are now in a civilizational clash. That will just radicalize more Kouachis and make us all more unsafe."
  • Israel links:

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Max Blumenthal: Politicde in Gaza: How Israel's Far Right Won the War: In a scholarly journal, with footnotes, a first draft at the history of the 2014 war. Sample quote:

    With rocket sirens sounding around the country, calls for genocide by Israeli public figures grew more frequent and forceful. Moshe Feiglin -- one of ten deputy speakers of the Knesset so extreme that Likud employed a series of legal tricks to boot him from its 2009 electoral list -- issued a detailed plan to "exterminate" or "concentrate" all residents of Gaza.57 Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the religious nationalist settlement, Kiryat Arba, issued an edict declaring that Jewish law supported taking "crushing deterring [sic] steps to exterminate the enemy."58 Meanwhile, Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer on Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, opined in an interview on the day after the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found that the only way to deter young Palestinian men from militant activity was to rape their sisters and mothers. "It sounds very bad, but that's the Middle East . . . [y]ou have to understand the culture in which we live."59

    Incitement at the top emboldened Israeli teens flooding social media to spin genocidal fantasies of their own. David Sheen, an independent Israeli journalist, translated dozens of frightening Twitter posts by adolescent Israeli women alternating between revealing selfies and annihilationist rants. "Kill Arab children so there won't be a next generation," wrote a user called @ashlisade.60 Another teenage female Twitter user, @shirzafaty, declared, "Not just on summer vacation we hate stinking ugly Arabs, but for the rest of our lives."61 On a mortar shell that was to be launched into a civilian area in Gaza, a young Israeli soldier complained about a boy-band concert that was scrapped because of the fighting: "That's for canceling the Backstreet Boys, you scum!" he wrote.62

  • Stephen Kinzer: Joining the military doesn't make you a hero: Certainly one reason not to join the military. Of course, there are many more.

Miscellanous tweets:

  • Tom Hull: Re Voltaire on Jews, Maher on Muslims, note how people who lose their religion still feel most confident dumping on others' beliefs.
  • Max Blumenthal: Netanyahu wants Jews to leave France and move to the nation he describes as the key target of anti-Semitic terror: [link]
  • Matt Haig: Rupert Murdoch thinks all Muslims should apologise for terrorism. So on behalf of white people, I'd like to apologise for Rupert Murdoch.
  • Max Blumenthal: Netanyahu could not address the Paris killings without mentioning Hamas and Hezbollah and insinuiating some connection [link]
  • Matt Taibbi: Bush was like an ordinary mean Republican politician with a tiny FunnyBot hiding in his frontal lobe.
  • Matt Taibbi: I think Bush's paintings are kind of cute. It's like art for dogs or some thing.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24286 [24247] rated (+39), 505 [509] unrated (-4).

A bit out of sync here, having closed the count last night but adding two incoming discs today -- otherwise last week was pretty barren at the mailbox. Actually, I could have posted this early, but what's held me back was stuffing the EOY aggregate list -- now up to 310 lists, 3470 new records, 524 reissues/comps/vault jobs. I'm getting close to wrapping that up -- the last step is usually to fold in the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop album results, or Christgau's Dean's List, whichever comes last. I've picked up some more jazz lists, including the Jazz Critics Poll (down to 150), and I've also picked up a cluster of lists from the Christgau-focused Expert Witness group -- close to two dozen ballots to Odyshape's Expert Witness Pazz & Jop album poll (see below), plus some longer lists from that direction (including 150 albums from Jason Gubbels). The top twenty albums in Odyshape's poll, followed by their bump in my aggregate file:

  1. Wussy, Attica!: +30 (9 to 39), 254th place to 67th
  2. Withered Hand, New Gods: +21 (9 to 30), 253 to 93
  3. Miranda Lambert, Platinum: +38 (36 to 74), 54 to 26
  4. Old 97's, Most Messed Up: +23 (8 to 31), 278 to 83
  5. Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans: +15 (11 to 26), 202 to 106
  6. Lily Allen, Sheezus: +13 (4 to 17), 456 to 167
  7. Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste: +27 (44 to 71), 38 to 28
  8. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: +33 (44 to 77), 39 to 25
  9. D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah: +41 (13 to 54), 171 to 42
  10. Angaleena Presley, American Middle Class: +14 (16 to 30), 137 to 91
  11. Young Thug & Bloody Jay, Black Portland: +17 (14 to 31), 169 to 86
  12. Tune-Yards, Nikki-Nack: +19 (33 to 52), 64 to 46
  13. Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce: +12 (12 to 24), 185 to 116
  14. Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty: +10 (4 to 14), 497 to 204
  15. Run the Jewels 2: +63 (150 to 213), 4 to 3
  16. Taylor Swift, 1989: +23 (71 to 94), 21 to 19
  17. Jenny Lewis, The Voyager: +21 (47 to 68), 34 to 32
  18. Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues: +22 (42 to 64), 43 to 34
  19. Spoon, They Want My Soul: +33 (81 to 114), 18 to 13
  20. Sisyphus: +4 (3 to 7), 790 to 422

The EW voters aren't the only factor here: Run the Jewels has been gaining ground steadily for several weeks, and D'Angelo has picked up speed after a very late start. Nor is their (or should I say our?) representation untoward: I expect that close to two dozen critics will vote in both Odyshape and Village Voice polls, so if they/we weren't counted here, that would introduce a skew there. Even so, it's likely that a dozen or more of this list of twenty will place higher in P&J than in my aggregate.

There's probably a lot more interesting data that could be mined from the aggregate chart, but the one thing I want to point out here is that the top four have narrowed: the points are 236-223-213-205 (with Run the Jewels passing St. Vincent). Fifth place Caribou is down at 159, followed by 152, 144 (twice), 138, and 125. Usually at this point the top few slots are spreading out, so this is about as close a top bunch as you'll ever see.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Alvvays (2014, Polyvinyl): Toronto alt-rock group, gets pop kudos for singer Molly Rankin plus a good dea of jangle mixed in with the guitars [r]: B+(*)
  • Basement Jaxx: Junto (2014, Atlantic Jaxx): had big albums c. 2000, but steady streaming product now; they do know how to keep a dance beat running [r]: B+(**)
  • Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions (2014, Capitol): a real pro r&b singer, past her angst, past her divadom, gets guests and passes them too [r]: B+(***)
  • Benjamin Booker: Benjamin Booker (2014, ATO): no bluesman, a rocker so straight up he cites Jack White, but actually is fuzzier, crankier, grungier [r]: B+(***)
  • Peter Brendler: Outside the Line (2014, Posi-Tone): bassist-led two-horn quartet, Rich Perry on the inside, Peter Evans quantum leaping outside [r]: B+(***)
  • Hollie Cook: Twice (2014, Mr. Bongo): reggae spawn of Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and Slits may or may not aim for minisculism but hits it [r]: B+(*)
  • Ian William Craig: A Turn of Braeth (2014, Recital): trained as an opera singer, makes lovely abstract music with tape loops of voice samples [r]: B+(*)
  • Chet Faker: Built on Glass (2014, Downtown): Australian singer-songwriter/electronica producer, crafts songs as tidy as Beck, but less pat [r]: B+(**)
  • Bunji Garlin: Differentology (2014, RCA/VP): soca star from Trinidad, favors hard ragga over lilting calypso, works sometimes, can be too much [r]: B+(**)
  • Polly Gibbons: Many Faces of Love (2014 [2015], Resonance): Brit standards singer's US debut packaged like a big deal with DVD, but same old same old [cd]: B+(*)
  • GOAT: Commune (2014, Sub Pop): Swedish band appropriates world musics but won't get nailed down to tribal specifics, prefer feeding their amps [r]: A-
  • Leela James: Fall for You (2014, J&T): a soul singer for today, neither retro nor nu, just at ease working out problems of everyday life [r]: B+(***)
  • Luke James: Luke James (2014, Island): R&B singer from New Orleans, takes sweet time connecting until his falsetto flares to the heavens on the single [r]: B+(**)
  • Jungle: Jungle (2014, XL): indulging all the usual stereotypes, a Brit Earth Wind & Fire -- falsettos less fluid, beats a bit grimey [r]: B+(**)
  • Nikola Kolodziejczyk Orchestra: Chord Nation (2011 [2014], Fortune): Polish big band plus extra reeds and strings, snappy as many more I could name [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lee Scratch Perry: Back on the Controls (2011-13 [2014], Upsetter Music, 2CD): seems to have forgotten that the producer's job is to mint hits, so doubles down on the dub [r]: A-
  • Adam Pieronczyk Quartet: El Buscador (2008 [2010], Jazzwerkstatt): Poland's premier tenor saxophonist, flanked by Adrian Mears' trombone, with Latin tinge [r]: B+(***)
  • Adam Pieronczyk Quartet: A-Trane Nights (2008-09 [2014], Fortune): same group, same dynamic, but only one night on my promo -- where's disc 2 [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Adam Pieronczyk: The Planet of Eternal Life (2013 [2014], Jazzwerkstatt): solo soprano sax, easy on the ears when played this methodically, but, you know [r]: B+(**)
  • Quraishi: Mountain Melodies (2014, Evergreene Music): an Afghan rubab master, his instrument a poor cousin to the sitar, makes something out of poverty [r]: B+(**)
  • John Schooley: The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World (2014, Voodoo Rhythm): old-timey banjo shrouded with real metal machine music [r]: B+(**)
  • Shamir: Northtown (2014, Godmode, EP): 5-cut, 19:58 EP for a very young soul man, growing up way too fast [r]: B+(*)
  • Sonny Simmons & Moksha Samnyasin: Nomadic (2011 [2014], Svart): alto sax blows way over French sitar-bass-drums trio's exotic but sturdy rhythm [r]: B+(***)
  • Sly & Robbie: Underwater Dub (2014, Groove Attack): dub stripped down to bare basics, just beats/accents/echoes, but in such hands who needs more? [r]: B+(***)
  • Sly & Robbie: Dubrising (2014, Taxi): but if you do want more, this adds vocals on timeless topics like war and the effects shoot up the sky [r]: A-
  • Betty Who: Take Me When You Go (2014, RCA): Aussie teen-pop starlet hits the fast ones just fine but has a little trouble with the ballad [r]: B+(*)
  • Ksawery Wojcinski: The Soul (2013 [2014], Fortune): bassist turned one-man-band, singer too, ending with a gorgeous bit of gospel chorus [cd]: B+(***)

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

  • Bring It On Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke (1959-76 [2014], Ace): Trayvon Martin wasn't the first killed by a confused/stupid white with a gun [cd]: A-
  • Chris Butler: Easy Life (1970 [2014], Future Fossil): in fact, confused/stupid armed whites with guns have been known to kill their own, like in Kent OH 1970 [bc]: A-
  • Chubby Jackson Big Band: New York City 1949: Ooh, What an Outfit! (1949 [2014], Uptown, 2CD): big band will swing or bop, whichever's fastest/hardest [r]: B+(***)
  • Bill Jennings: Architect of Soul Jazz: The Complete Early Recordings 1951-1957 (1951-57 [2014], Fresh Sound): guitarist's early combos, with singers, honkers, organ players, a vibraphonist [r]: B+(**)
  • Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych From Peru's Radical Decade (1968-74 [2014], Tiger's Milk): or the real garage bands of Lima learn to play "Hey Joe" [r]: B+(*)
  • Junior Wells: Southside Blues Jam (1969-70 [2014], Delmark): near-classic Chicago blues with Buddy Guy and Otis Spann, but a little short on jam [r]: B+(***)
  • Wilco: What's Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014 (1994-2014 [2014], Nonesuch, 2CD): can't recall any of these 38 tunes, nor did I mind hearing any, nor will I soon [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Raiders of the Lost Dub (1981, Mango): dub never did Black Uhuru any favors, but this early Sly & Robbie effort puts them into the flow [r]: B+(**)
  • Arthur Russell: World of Echo (1986, Audika): [r]: B+(**)

Grade changes:

  • Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth (2014, Lightning Rod): [was B+(**)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jovan Alexandre: Collective Consciousness (Xippi): February 24
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls (ACT): February 10
  • Mark Wade Trio: Event Horizon (self-released): February 17


  • Big K.R.I.T.: Cadillactica (Def Jam)
  • Bring It On Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke (1959-76, Ace)
  • Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture?)
  • Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada)
  • Verckys/Orchestre Veve: Congolese Funk Abrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969 (1969, Analog Africa)

Dec 2014