Combined Birthday Vacation/Morning Workout Soundtrack

  1. The Black Lillies, Hard to Please (2015) — Americana mix with a welcome fondness for r & r. Inspired me to check out an earlier release which was meh.
  2. Hard Working American, We’re All in This Together (2017) Only complaint is that it’s so long my road player wouldn’t read the disc.
  3. Go Sailor, S/T (originally recorded 1994-95). Look ’em up.
  4. Jupiter Apple, Uma Tarde Na Fruteira (2007) Droll Italians — lead-off song title: “A Marchinha Psicotica de Dr. Soup”
  5. Jupiter & Okwess, Kin Sonic (2017). Gotta listen some more but maybe yet another new African style. Tuff. Tight.
  6. Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, Agrima (2017) Of course improves on all the Indo-Pak borrowings of vintage jazz-rockers.
  7. Maneige, Ni Vent … Ni Nouvelle (1995 reissue of 1977 LP) A Montreal prog outfit I had never heard of but now play at least once a week. Warning: contains flute, but sort of as a sweet, warm-up-the-introduction routine.
  8. Alma Micic, That Old Feeling (2017). This is the album of American songbook vocals that beat down my resistance. I wasn’t as charmed by an earlier record, but this has a certain flintiness that cuts through all the retro fog.
  9. Motorhead, Under Cover (2017). Utterly inspired memorial for Lemmy. Again, the finest metal outfits are also superb outright rock and rollers.
  10. Various, Listen … OKA! (2911). A fusion album featuring Bayaka pygmies that does mesmerizing other straight recordings of similar styles never do for me.
  11. Quicksilver Messenger Service, live at the Fillmore, June 7, 1968 (2015). Yeah, yeah, I’m a Cipollina nut. So stone me. Ran across this and hadn’t listened in a long while.
  12. Oneohtrix Point Never, Rifts (2012). Like I’ve said, somehow this guy was fully formed from the first track: Betrayed in the Octagon has more churning moods, Russian Mind a never-content’s version of ambient. Zones Without People a bit of both.
  13. Peace Worshipers, S/T (2015) One of the many raga-fusion albums to come out this year, with more consistent mood and momentum and deep calm than others. Sorry I still feel too ignorant to write about it.
  14. Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, Ladilkan (2017) A triumph at the heart of several trends key to this year. A must.
  15. UNKLE, The Road, Part 1 (2017). Not your uncle’s UNKLE or even their earlier selves’. Uneven, but I’m captivated by the determination to keep re-inventing.
  16. Various, Afrobeats Hot Hits (2017) See (and hear) my review.
  17. Various, Gentle Giants: the Songs of Don Williams (2017). Very peculiar anthology in a way. Williams did not write these songs. Only some of those paying him homage try to replicate his style. More of a tribute to his taste in tunes and kind heart.
  18. Laura Veirs, The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae (2001). The earliest album (her second) Veirs has kept in circulation. Her career is a fascinating study in the interaction of precise songwriting and subtle but insistent production. The one show I saw was a pallid dud. Maybe it was an off night. Maybe her work needs the massage of the machines. This argues for the former.

Expert Witness Comment for the Week

About an item from last week’s, actually.

Now that I’ve listened to the American Epic box, I have to underscore that you need to get it for the sound alone. This is the way I’ve always wanted these vintage sides to be. I’ve never heard the voice-to-voice and voice-to-instruments relationships so natural and consistent. They’ve been cleaned up and clear before, sure, but voices and instruments in particular seemed out whack even so. Not here.

I’m not enough of a tech head to have anything to say about the methods used on the recordings, and it may be too late in the game for the recording industry in general, but at least these sides are here.

R.I.P.: Gord Downie

If I had to recommend one album it would be Fully Completely, which I played obsessively for a couple years after it came out. Then suddenly it wore out a bit for me and I haven’t listen to anything by group or solo in years. Much admired his ideals and commitment to Canada-ness — the intensity ensured that I was not as able to get inside it as northern residents.

Expert Witness Comment of the Week

Trio da Kali & Kronos Quartet

I’ve been kicking myself for weeks since I’ve been too tangled up in non-writerly matters to get a review done for this standout. It’s the second classical-strings-fusion miracle this year, following Carl Craig’s Versus. The secret in both cases, I would say, is tweak and practice tweak and practice. Ten years to perfect the Craig. And Trio de Kali and Kronos have been working out the kinks in live performances since 2014.