Monday, January 8, 2018


Music Week

Music: Current count 29150 [29119] rated (+31), 368 [364] unrated (+4).

Expected rated count would be a bit higher, given that I've mostly been working off EOY lists, but it checks out fairly well. Some quick numbers: rated count for 2017 releases: 1048; length of Jazz A-List: 80; length of Non-Jazz A-List: 55; number of new albums in EOY Aggregate: 1936; number of total albums in Music Tracking List: 2895.

The ratio of Jazz/Non-Jazz A-list always starts out high, but usually balances out around by the end of January. Last year it wound up 75/67 (52.8% jazz, up to 59.2% jazz this year). If I recall correctly, in previous years it was closer to even, sometimes even favoring non-jazz. Most likely explanation is that my ratio of jazz/non-jazz grades is higher than usual: currently 673/296 (69.4% jazz), vs. 689/358 (65.8% -- closer than I expected, but still likely to explain part of the greater split).

Someone pointed out on Facebook that I hadn't given a single A grade to a new release in 2017. I think it's safe to say that's never happened before, although the numbers have been declining, especially the last few years: from 2010 on { 15, 6, 7, 6, 12, 2, 3, 0 }. Several reasons occur to me: the number of physical CDs I've received has been dropping, and I've almost completely stopped buying CDs; I only listen to streamed or downloaded material while working on the computer, and when I do so it's almost something I haven't rated yet. For instance, back in 2010 I rated 133 A/A- records, of which 36 (27.0%) were streamed. This year I have 136 A/A- records, 79 streamed (58.0%). The increase in the top 30 is even more extreme, going from 2 (6.7%) in 2010 to 14 (46.7%) in 2017. Also note that the jazz split in the top 30 increased from 12 (40.0%) to 19 (63.3%).

I've always thought that part of the definition of an A (vs. A-) record was that it held up over many plays over time. Indeed, in past years I routinely promoted 4-6 albums from A- to A at EOY time. This year I got crushed at deadline time and hardly replayed anything, leaving little but memory and notes to help me compile my ballots. It's probably also true that my listening time has declined a bit -- although the number of records processed this year is similar to 2010 (1009 new + 73 old music, vs. 968 new + 81 old in 2017), so maybe I'm rushing more?

Of course, there are other possibilities. While it seems unlikely that there is less good music being released these days, it may well be harder to find. More likely is that my own interest is flagging, whether due to age and creeping infirmity or to general depression. Back in my twenties I discovered music to be a psychic refuge from all sorts of everyday ordeals, and that's a big part of the reason I got so deep into it. While I don't think my taste or erudition or even my memory have declined much, it does seem that music has lost a bit of its magic for me. I wouldn't be surprised if I listen to less and less in the future. But I do note an uptick in unpacking this week, so that may keep me going.

I meant to write more about the EOY Aggregate files (link above), which I've kept adding to. Major adds in the last week include close to forty top-ten lists from the Facebook Expert Witness group, which has produced major spurts for Jens Lekman, Jason Isbell, Waxahatchee, and Alex Fahey (the only one without a Christgau A grade). I've also added Christgau's grades next to mine, so a mutual A- gets an 8 point boost regardless of how obscure (e.g., Matt North, Conor Oberst, Robt Sarazin Blake, Swet Shop Boys, Starlito & Don Trip, Chuck Berry). Neither of these tweaks, nor anything else, has had much impact on the top of the list, which remains: Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, SZA, LCD Soundsystem, St. Vincent, Vince Staples, The National, then a tight knot of (105-100 points): Jay-Z, Sampha, War on Drugs, Slowdive, and Perfume Genius.


New records rated this week:

  • Wali Ali: To Be (2017, Mendicant): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jeff Baker: Phrases (2017 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Blanck Mass: World Eater (2017, Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cigarettes After Sex: Cigarettes After Sex (2017, Partisan): [r]: A-
  • EABS: Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda) (2017, Astigmatic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Hillary Gardner/Ehud Asherie: The Late Set (2017, Anzic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Perfect Giddimani: Live My Life Again (2017, Giddimani): [r]: B+(*)
  • Natalie Hemby: Puxico (2017, GetWrucke): [r]: B+(**)
  • LeeAnn Ledgerwood: Renewal (2016 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniele Luppi and Parquet Courts: Milano (2017, 30th Century/Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mad Professor/Jah9: Mad Professor Meets Jah9 in the Midst of the Storm (2017, VP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marker: Wired for Sound (2017, Audiographic): [bc]: B
  • Michete: Cool Tricks 3 (2017, self-released, EP): [sc]: B
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Discussions (2016 [2017], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(**)
  • Youssou N'Dour: Seeni Valeurs (2017, Jive/Epic): [r]: A-
  • Evan Parker/Mikolaj Trzaska/John Edwards/Mark Sanders: City Fall: Live at Café Oto (2014 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Protomartyr: Relatives in Descent (2017, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
  • As Is Featuring Alan & Stacey Schulman: Here's to Life (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Thiefs: Graft (Le Greffe) (2017 [2018], Jazz & People): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tricky: Ununiform (2017, False Idols): [r]: B+(*)
  • Valley Queen: Destroyer (2017, self-released, EP): [r]: B-
  • Ken Vandermark: Momentum 2 & 3 (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston/Alison Blunt/Hannah Marshall: Dialogues With Strings: Live at Café Oto in London (2017, Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)

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

  • Airstream Artistry: Jim Riggs' Best of the TWO (1991-2008 [2017], UNT, 3CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gary Husband: A Meeting of Spirits (2005 [2017], Edition): [r]: B+(*)
  • Legacy: Neil Slater at North Texas (1982-2015 [2017], UNT, 4CD): [cd]: B
  • Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II (1972 [2017], Strut/Art Yard): [r]: B
  • The Revelators: We Told You Not to Cross Us [20th Anniversary Edition] (1997 [2017], Crypt): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • EABS: Puzzle Mixtape (2012-15 [2016], self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The Revelators: Let a Poor Boy Ride . . . (1998 [2009], Crypt): [bc]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • As Is Featuring Alan & Stacey Schulman: Here's to Life (self-released): February 16
  • Jeff Baker: Phrases (OA2)
  • Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): advance
  • Harley Card: The Greatest Invention (self-released): January 12
  • Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: D'Agala (Intakt): January 19
  • Danny Fox Trio: The Great Nostalgist (Hot Cup): January 19
  • Satoko Fujii: Solo (Libra): January 26
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live From San Pedro (Capri): February 18
  • Musique Noire: Reflections: We Breathe (self-released)
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren (Cuneiform): advance
  • Dan Pugach Nonet: Plus One (Unit): February 16
  • Jamie Saft: Solo a Genova (RareNoise): January 26
  • Mark Wade Trio: Moving Day (self-released): February 2
  • Weird Beard [Florian Egli/Dave Gisler/Martina Berther/Rico Bauman]: Orientation (Intakt): January 19