The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #24

Various, Pop Royale (2011)

This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of:  I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.

Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.

The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.

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

Trio of Praises

I’ve done only one (very casual) Best of 2017 Albums list, so I’m not the least surprised that I just now ran across a couple of releases I should have added to it …

 

Bob Dylan, Triplicate (Columbia) (that’s what he gets for releasing vinyl-only so it could get lost behind a passel of Thelonious Monk albums I brought up for a marathon obit-tribute)

Kendrick Lamar, Damn (Alternative/Innerscope). Crap, I put a selection from this on my Best of the First Half of 2017 mixdisc, but this got switched to a different pile for some unknown reason. Anyway, terrific.

This morning I re-listened to the soundtrack of Linklater’s Boyhood for the first time in a very long while and again marveled at his skill for picking and sequencing songs, in particular making me love tracks (in context) from groups I don’t like at all (The Flaming Lips, for instance).

Sweat Soundtrack #4

(This of course does not include the three items that I had not played in quite a while and that flopped badly. They are already gone.)

Pino Minafra, Sudori (Victo, 1995)

Death Vessel, Island Intervals (Sub Pop, 2014)

Paul Schutze, Third Site (Ryko, 1999)

Milton Nascimento, Maria Maria/Ultimo Trem (Far Out, 2004)

Melvins, Houdini (Atlantic, 1993)

Sly & Robbie, Present Stepper Takes the Taxi (Taxi, 2013)

Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’ (Columbia, 2011)

Peaking Lights, 936 (Weird World, 2011)

Sugar Minott, Hard Time Pressure (VP, 2011)

Gino Stitson, Listen: Vocal Deleria II (Universal, 2013)

Sun City Girls, Funeral Mariachi (?? — Library Copy I bought for pennies out of curiosity — 2011 I believe — and in fact the first album by these willfully weird guys I would plug. Also apparently their final release.)

Archie Bronson Outfit, Coconut (Domino, 2010)

The Shape of Doomjazz To Come, Free Nelson Mandoomjazz/Saxophone Giganticus (Rare Noise, 2013)

Diplo, Random White dude Be Everywhere (Mad Decent, 2013)

 

“Covering” The Scene

As I’ve said before I’ve never been more uncertain that I hear all the releases I should every year. The outlets and information sources have never been so scattered. I’ve never felt so many PR providers have no idea what I cover.

But every year I hit a point, usually around this time or a little later, when I conclude that enough innovative, captivating and durable music is being produced to keep me jiggling for another year. Here’s the three that put me over in 2017 (all played for the first time in the last few days):

Bearthoven, Trios (Cantaloupe) Karl Larson piano, Pat Swoboda bass, Matt Evens percussion/drums. Six piece belonging to the vague New Music category, the only writers I know at all being Anthony Vine. Best effect: breaks ways loose of the often too-cozy tent of piano-trio sound.

Jay Som, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl). Jay Som belongs to the vague bedroom pop category and is a solo project of Melisa Duterte, with a few added voices. A fresh twist of intimacy and a needed reminder that all single-soul projects don’t have to sound stunted or samey.

Migos, Culture (Quality Control). I don’t pretend to keep up with hip-hop like I should, but I’m still abashed this trio slipped under my radar until now. In the grand tradition of Atlanta rappers, they’re rootsy and funny and sensual and casually scary at times. Still probing the personalities.

Bad Week for the Funk

R.I.P. : Clyde Stubblefield. In the Jungle Groove was the last mind-shredder JB anthlogy and Stubblefield was all over it. Too bad about his financial and health problems, but another reason to adore and mourn Prince.

R.I.P.: Junie Morrison. Obviously gregarious and lovable, I’ve found his work more lightweight than some other folks do — Bread Alone is the only item I play every few years. But he enjoyed the advantage of being a bit of a trickster like George Clinton. And when I discovered I did not have a disc with “Funky Worm” on it, I corrected the lapse.