Sunday, January 15, 2023

Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41641 [41584] rated (+57), 22 [23] unrated (-1).

Seriously long Speaking of Which posted yesterday (5748 words, 135 links). The Joshua Frank piece, Making Gaza Unlivable, is important, as are the additional points I made last week and this. Also consider the Michael Kruse piece on Trump's long assault on the very notion of justice.

It's painfully cold here in Kansas tonight, or at least that's how I'm feeling it. We haven't been out in several days. I still have to take the trash out tonight, and I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. I'm dreading both. [OK, trash went out. And dentist office decided to shut down tomorrow, so I'm off the hook.] Of course, it's worse north of here. I see where Trump is urging his supporters to vote in Iowa even if it kills you. Easy for him to say. But "voting to kill" has been a Republican tradition, at least since right-wing journo Jim Geraghty used it as a book title (2006, about the 2004 election). [PS: Trump won, but no reports yet on the collateral damage.]

I've been trying to clean up some things, especially with the EOY lists. One big thing I did was to scan through the Pazz + Jop Rip-Off Poll ballots, and count a bunch of them (about 110, out of 338?). Most were names I recognized, mostly from having counted them before (90), but another 20 or so just struck me as interesting ballots. This is one way my subjective bias infects the standings, but the only rooting interest I had this year was for Olivia Rodrigo over Boygenius, and in that my selection didn't help at all.

The more substantive biases in the aggregate are that I follow a lot of jazz critics, and also know many critics (or just fans) who follow Robert Christgau. I've also factored Christgau's grades into the point totals, so his more esoteric picks are generously represented in the totals. (As are my grades, as far as they get you.) Since I regard the EOY aggregate as a tool for prospecting unheard albums, those biases are mostly useful in finding other lists with intersecting tastes. Still, our picks don't have a lot of sway in the upper tiers of the aggregate, and many fall well down the list.

I finally factored my Jazz and Non-Jazz lists into the aggregate, although I haven't picked up all the lesser grades yet. And while I've entered the top results from the Jazz Critics Poll, thus far I've entered very few individual ballots. I'll add some, plus whatever other jazz lists I find. After last week's bumper crop of underground hip-hop, pickings have thinned out a bit this week. Saving Country Music's album of the year (Gabe Lee) got an A- this week, but nothing else made the grade. Sara Petite came from Ye Wei Blog, but other albums I checked from there fell short.

Also, note that three A- albums this week were in Old Music, but not very old. The tip for the South African record came from Christgau's January CG. The other two came in the mail well after I gave an A- to Bill Scorzari's The Crosswinds of Kansas (again, following up on a Christgau tip). Having the CDs helped, but only because the albums were so good in the first place.

No idea how much more of this I'll bother with. I usually wait until the end of February to save off a "frozen" annual list, but my rated count this year is already up to 1549, which if not a personal record is pretty close. And I'm itching to move onto other things, so it's tempting to call it a year. Now, if only it'd warm up a bit.

New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: Singularity 06: Anchor Dragging Behind (2023, The State51 Conspiracy, EP): Guitarist Che Chen and percussionist Rick Brown, draw more on North Africa than on jazz in their instrumental pieces, of which this is one track, 18:42, pleasantly then intoxicatingly ambient. B+(***) [sp]

Daniel Bachman: When the Roses Come Again (2023, Three Lobed): Guitarist, first albums self-released as Sacred Harp, and under his own name since 2011, started out in the American primitive school but has added a drone dimension. B+(*) [sp]

Black Belt Eagle Scout: The Land, the Water, the Sky (2023, Saddle Creek): Alias for Katherine Paul, a "Swinomish/Iñupiaq singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Portland, Oregon." Sounds like a bon bon dipped in shoegaze. B+(**) [sp]

Blockhead: The Aux (2023, Backwoodz Studioz): New York hip-hop producer Tony Simon, has a couple dozen albums since 2001, more production credits. Fifteen tracks here, features start with Billy Woods, Navy Blue, Quelle Chris, Aesop Rock, Koreatown Oddity, Open Mike Eagle. B+(***) [sp]

Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble: Elegy for Thelonious (2022 [2024], Sunnyside): The leader claims "all compositions and re-compositions," the latter producing titles like "Wrinkle on Trinkle." An impressive piece of work, the orchestrations complex and occasionally striking, the vocal bits unnecessary fluff but fleeting. Feels like a major bid for the high ground in seriously serious music. But while multiple plays didn't increase my irritation, they did leave me uninterested. B+(**) [sp] [03-08]

CASisDEAD: Famous Last Words (2023, XL): British grime rapper, started as Castro Saint, first studio album after a decade of singles, EPs and mixtapes. Some confusion over caps, which I could do without. Attractive groove album. B+(**) [sp]

Cat Clyde: Down Rounder (2023, Second Prize): Canadian singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

CESVR/Fleevus/Febem: Brime! (2020 [2021], Butterz/Beatwise, EP): Title signifies Brazilian Grime, six song, 20:15 EP, various sources show different covers, labels, artist order, but same batch of songs, with only Cesar Pierri (CESVR, co-founder of Beatwise Recordings) seemingly well established. Does sound like UK grime, but in Portuguese, a bit less stiff, much as the concept promises. B+(***) [sp]

CESVR/Fleezus/Febem: Brime! (Deluxe Edition) (2020-23 [2023], Butterz/Beatwise): Tacks on five extra tracks, total 39:15. More, but not much better. B+(***) [sp]

Christine and the Queens: Paranoia, Angels, True Love (2023, Because Music): French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, "assigned female at birth," fourth album since 2014, "the second part of an operatic gesture," the title a nod to Tony Kushner's Angels in America, running 96:49 over 3-LP. B [sp]

The Rob Dixon/Steve Allee Quintet: Standards Deluxe (2023 [2024], self-released): Tenor/soprano saxophone and piano, quintet adds trumpet (Derrick Gardner), bass, and drums. Singer Amanda King joins for first six tracks, getting a feature credit on the cover, as does Gardner, for the back six (five Dixon pieces, but a reprise of the opener "Caravan." That gives us two rather distinct albums: a better-than-average standards showcase (mostly because the songs are so sure-fire), and an upbeat and rather luxe postbop combo set. B+(**) [cd] [02-01]

Jason Eady: Mississippi (2023, Old Guitar): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Mississippi, based in Texas, ten albums since 2005, in a steady, low-key career. B+(**) [sp]

Easy Star All-Stars: Ziggy Stardub (2023, Easy Star): New York-based reggae collective/label, active since 1997. First one I've heard, but title (and cover) should have been a giveaway, as is a back catalog of Dub Side of the Moon, Radiodread, Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band, and Easy Star's Thrillah. So, a slightly amusing covers band? B- [sp]

Mayer Hawthorne: For All Time (2023, P&L): Soul/funk singer-songwriter Andrew Cohen, took his middle name and added the street he grew up on, debut 2009. [sp]

Anna Hillburg: Tired Girls (2023, Speakeasy Studios): Bay Area singer-songwriter, third album, has a nice flow. B+(*) [sp]

Hope D: Clash of the Substance (2023, self-released): Indie band from Australia, or maybe just short for Hope Defteros. First album, rather catchy. B+(**) [sp]

Hozier: Unreal Unearth (2023, Island): Irish singer-songwriter Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, third album since 2014. Seems like a good guy, with grand ambitions both musical and lyrical. Perhaps a little too grand, for my taste. B+(**) [sp]

Mon Laferte: Autopoiética (2023, Universal Music Mexico): Singer-songwriter from Chile, based in Mexico, ninth studio album since 2011. This has some remarkable parts, mixed up in a pastiche that I can't begin to comprehend, but only start to doubt with the terminal dirge. But is that really the end? A- [sp]

David Larsen: The Peplowski Project (2022 [2023], self-released): Saxophonist, from Spokane, several albums since 2019, credits scarce but cover photo shows him with a baritone, and Discogs photo adds a tenor (also note a previous album called The Mulligan Chronicles). Ken Peplowski plays clarinet, and suggested some Al Cohn tunes. B+(**) [sp]

Gabe Lee: Drink the River (2023, Torrez Music Group): Nashville native, parents immigrants from Taiwan, fourth album since 2019. Anyone who doubts the power of the American melting pot is in for an object lesson here. A- [sp]

Jim Legxacy: Homeless N*gga Pop Music (2023, (!)): Debut mixtape, from the London-based rapper/singer/producer. B [sp]

Carin León: Colmillo De Leche (2023, Socios/Oplaai): Mexican singer-songwriter, plays guitar, third studio album since 2019, many more live albums. His style depends on you understanding the words, but even if you don't, he makes it clear that he does. B+(**) [sp]

Nils Lofgren: Mountains (2023, Cattle Track Road): Debut at 20 as leader of Grin, one of the better country-rock outfits of the early 1970s, followed by an acclaimed eponymous solo album in 1975. I rated those highly, but didn't file any more of his solo albums until 2019 -- with no gap more than five years, looks like I skipped 25. Meanwhile, he played with Crazy Horse/Neil Young, and since 1986 with Bruce Springsteen. This sounds promising for a while, then runs low. B [yt]

Machine Girl: Neon White Soundtrack Part 1: The Wicked Heart (2022, self-released): Electronica duo, Matt Stephenson and Sean Kelly, discography starts in 2012, with a debut album in 2014. As Neon White is some kind of video game, the music is designed not for dance but for speedrunning, giving it a cartoonish air, that can be extended indefinitely. This one proved the point by hanging on to 83 minutes, and dropping a notch in the process. B+(**) [sp]

Machine Girl: Neon White Soundtrack Part 2: The Burn That Cures (2022, self-released): Of course, there's more: 33 more tracks, 66 minutes. B+(*) [sp]

Melenas: Ahora (2023, Trouble in Mind): Spanish indie rock band, from Pamplona, third album since 2017, keyboard thick. B+(**) [sp]

Memphis LK: Too Much Fun (2023, Dot Dash, EP): Melbourne, Australia DJ/producer/vocalist Memphis Kelly, Paul Kelly's daughter, several albums and more EPs since 2019. Five tracks, 14:01. Fun, but not too much. B+(**) [sp]

Memphis LK: True Love and Its Consequences (2023, Dot Dash, EP): More fun, or maybe just faster beats. Five songs, 13:16. B+(***) [sp]

Hailu Mergia: Pioneer Works Swing (Live) (2016 [2023], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Ethiopian keyboardist (also plays accordion and melodica), had a couple albums there before moving to America, where he drove a cab before (and probably well after) someone took an interest, reissuing old albums, adding new ones, setting up gigs like this one in Brooklyn. B+(**) [sp]

Moka Only: In and of Itself (2023, Urbnet): Canadian rapper Daniel Denton, based in Vancouver, co-founder of Swollen Members, many albums since 1995. Easy underground beats. B+(***) [sp]

The Mountain Goats: Jenny From Thebes (2023, Merge): Singer-songwriter John Darnielle, been at it a long time, reports are that this is a sequel to his 2002 All Hail West Texas and/or a "soft rock opera." Sounds like another batch of probably smart songs that skitter past too quickly for me to get a handle on, albeit with more ballast than usual in the background. B+(**) [sp]

Nas: Magic 2 (2023, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, prolific since his 1994 Illmatic breakthrough, but seems like he's run dry on titles recently, since Nasir (in 2018) going with three volumes each of King's Disease and Magic. This one is strong, but short (31:54). B+(**) [sp]

Nas: Magic 3 (2023, Mass Appeal): A third volume, following the 2021 EP and in short order after this year's Magic 2. Perhaps wrapping things up, this one runs a healthy 45:43. B+(**) [sp]

The New Pornographers: Continue as a Guest (2023, Merge): Canadian indie group, debut 2000, with the departure of Dan Bejar the songwriting is down to Carl Newman, although singer Neko Case remains. B+(*) [sp]

Nostalgia 77: The Loneliest Flower in the Village (2021 [2023], Jazzman): British jazz producer Benedic Lamdin, has nearly a dozen albums under this alias since 2004, not clear how nostalgic and/or jazzy they are, but this recalls the South Africans who were such a large part of British jazz in the 1970s. B+(**) [sp]

Atle Nymo Trio: Circle Steps (2023, Arc): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, best known for the quintets I.P.A. (6 albums since 2009) and Chrome Hill (4 albums since 2008), also plays bass and contrabass clarinets, trio with bass (Mats Eilertsen) and drums (Michaela Antalová). B+(**) [sp]

Joell Ortiz & L'Orange: Signature (2023, Mello Music): Brooklyn rapper, debut was The Brick: Bodega Chronicles in 2007, had his biggest success with Slaughterhouse. With producer Austin Hart, who usually works with underground rappers, whereas Ortiz is closer to gangsta (but getting out). B+(*) [sp]

Pest Control: Don't Test the Pest (2023, Quality Control HQ): British punk/thrash metal/hardcore group, from Leeds, first album. Tolerable enough. B+(*) [sp]

Sara Petite: The Empress (2023, Forty Below): Country singer-songwriter, from rural Washington via San Diego, seventh album since 2006, promises "the intersection of country twang and roots-rock bang." Delivers too, with an embrace of low-life and high-times. A- [sp]

Pipe: Pipe (2023, Third Uncle): Punk/hardcore band from North Carolina, three albums 1994-97, now a fourth 26 years later. They describe it as "a scorching new album and a lament for affordable living." I put it on, stopped it after 20 seconds to ask whether I wanted to bother with this, then decided against trying to pick something else, and wound up glad I heard it through. B+(**) [sp]

Andy Pratt: Trio (2023 [2024], Thrift Girl): Jazz guitarist, plays standards with some retro swing and Perez Prado to spice up the rhythm, sings some, can't quite cut it as a crooner but tries to slip by with a grin. Name threw me at first, reminding me of a much-hyped singer-songwriter from 1973, still active at least through 2015. B+(*) [cd]

Prince Kaybee: Gemini (2022, self-released): South African house producer, I know very little about him, but this long (15 songs, 76 minutes) set has been identified as his fifth album. B+(**) [sp]

Queens of the Stone Age: In Times New Roman . . . (2023, Matador): Rock band from Seattle, tempted me 25 years ago but proved too hard and too dull to sustain interest. I wouldn't bother now, but as of this writing, they're the top-rated unheard album in my EOY aggregate (71, but in AOTY's more metal-friendly aggregate they only rise to 64; second on my list is Hozier at 94, or 52 at AOTY). Not so heavy after all, but not much good either. B- [sp]

Reneé Rapp: Snow Angel (2023, Interscope): American pop singer-songwriter and actress, first album (not counting a 2022 EP which expanded to 24:48 on a "Deluxe Edition"), songs co-written by guitarist Alexander Glantz, and often others. B [sp]

Jason Rebello/Tim Garland: Life to Life (2022 [2023], Whirlwind): British piano and sax duo, the latter playing tenor, soprano, sopranino, and bass clarinet, both composing (with covers of Chick Corea and trad). B+(**) [sp]

Ishmael Reed/West Coast Blues Caravan of All Stars: Blues Lyrics by Ishmael Reed (2023, Reading Group): Spoken word from the legendary novelist, backed by a band featuring David Murray (tenor sax) and Ronnie Stewart (guitar), with Art Halen (trombone), Gregory "Gman" Simmons (bass), Michael Robinson (keyboard), and Michael Skinner (drums). A- [bc]

Seablite: Lemon Lights (2023, Mt. St. Mtn.): Indie pop band from San Francisco, second album, Wikipedia redirects to "Suaeda," a genus of seepweeds. B+(*) [sp]

Caitlyn Smith: High & Low (2023, Monument): Country singer-songwriter, based in Nashville, third album. B+(*) [sp]

Joe Stamm Band: Wild Man (2023, self-released): Country rock band, from Illinois, fourth album since 2018. B+(*) [sp]

Willie Tea Taylor & the Fellership: The Great Western Hangover (2023, self-released): Alt-country singer-songwriter, from Oakdale, California, which claims to be the "cowboy capital of the world." B+(**) [sp]

Tele Novella: Poet's Tooth (2023, Kill Rock Stars): Texas-based "indie psych" band, principally Natalie Ribbons and Jason Chronis, third album. B+(*) [sp]

Hank Williams IV: Honky Tonk Habit (2023, Lone Star Reserve, EP): Original name Ricky Fitzgerald, his claim to great-grandson status follows the assertion that Lewis Fitzgerald was Hank's illegitimate son (b. 1943, when Hank would have been about 19). So not as clear as Coleman Williams (dba IV), who goes back through his father Shelton Williams (aka Hank III) and Hank Jr., who was three when his already-estranged father died. Still, he does a fair approximation of the voice, and his "Hank Williams Ghost" is an inspired, touching, and pathetic reprisal of "Living Proof." Five songs, 16:39. B+(*) [sp]

Jaime Wyatt: Feel Good (2023, New West): Country singer-songwriter, second album. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Ary Lobo: Ary Lobo 1958-1966 [Limited Dance Edition No. 19] (1958-66 [2023], Analog Africa): Brazilian singer, from Belém in the northeast (1930-80), this picks up 15 early recordings, more upbeat and salsa-like than the samba and bossa nova that was becoming popular at the time. B+(***) [bc]

Oscar Peterson: Con Alma: Live in Lugano, 1964 (1964 [2023], Mack Avenue): More from the Trio, with Ray Brown (bass) and Ed Thigpen (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Yo! Boombox: Early Independent Hip Holp, Electro and Disco Rap, 1979-83 (1979-83 [2023], Soul Jazz): Only groups here I recognize are Funky Four Plus One More and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, but twelve others cop the same funky beats with the same sea-sawing round of vocals, all in long, 12-inch versions that take 14 songs to 101 minutes. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Native Soul: Teenage Dreams (2021, Awesome Tapes From Africa): South African duo, teens, programming amapiano beats that keep coming at you like game music, twelve pieces, 82 minutes. Christgau added Amapiano to the title, but I'm not seeing any hint of that on the cover scans. A- [sp]

Bill Scorzari: Through These Waves (2016, self-released): Singer-songwriter from New York, turned from law to music after his father ("a preeminent New York Trial Attorney") passed. Second album (but first of three he sent me). Vocals sound like Dylan at first, but give him time and they're soon his own, as are the stories and views. A- [cd]

Bill Scorzari: Now I'm Free (2019, self-released): Third album. Long, songs mostly about relationships, considered and carefully assembled, especially the long "Yes I Can." Took me quite some while, but may be his best. A- [cd]

Bill Scorzari: Just the Same (2015, self-released): First album, last heard. He's got his basic sound, some harmonica, some songs that ramble but don't stick with you. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Stix Bones/Bob Beamon: Olimpik Soul (BONE Entertainment) [01-12]
  • Commodore Trio: Communal - EP (self-released, EP) [02-01]
  • Jose Gobbo Trio: Current (self-released) [02-05]
  • Tucker Brothers: Live at Chatterbox (Midwest Crush Music) [02-01]

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