This is a good time for a listen back. I don’t claim this is comprehensive by any means — just favorites and you have to stop digging through the stacks at some point if you want to finish the collection. As I noted just below, this is a strong year for vets and relative newbies and if those *@!!+% Parquet Courts had allowed their disc to be copied, they would also be included. (Yes, a couple tracks are longtime delights I rediscovered recently.)
CARPE NOCTEM 2018
- Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, “Ladilikan”
- Gilberto Gil, “Refavela”
- Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, “Modul 36”
- Bettye LaVette, “Things Have Changed”
- Ry Cooder, “You Must Unload”
- Tracey Thorn, “Sister”
- Superchunk, “Break the Glass”
- Yo La Tengo, “Above the Sound”
- Lori McKenna, “You Can’t Break a Woman”
- Victoria, “C’Est Un Tombeur”
CARPE NOCTEM 2018
- Ben LaMar Gay, “Uvas”
- Ana Moura, “Fado Dancado”
- Superorganism, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous”
- Jon Hopkins, “Singularity”
- Laura Veirs, “Seven Falls”
- Mast/Monk, “Misterioso”
- Anita Harris, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
- Low Cut Connie, “Hey! Little Child”
- Grant Green, “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself)”
- Ana Moura, “No Expectations”
- John Prine, “When I Get To Heaven”
Don’t have a lot to say other than his work was always admirable and versatile.
And that his contributions to pop albums were exceptionally sophisticated in the right down-home way.
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.
- Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
- Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
- Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
- Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
- Serengeti, “Long Ears”
- Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
- Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
- Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
- Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
- Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
- Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
- Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
- Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
- The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
- James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
- Younger Brother, “Shine”
- Battles, “Africastle”
- Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”
These are vintage mixdiscs I made that held up exactly as well as I remembered.
ROCK FOIE GRAS (2007)
Not all stompers, but no conventional, lightweight, ye-ye pop, either. Tried to emphasize hard beats or eerie.
- Francoise Hardy, “Point”
- Jacques Dutronc, “Et Moi, et Moi, et Moi …”
- Caralie Clement, “Indecise”
- Les Hurlements D’Leo, “La Chambre”
- Dominique A, “Antonia”
- Francoiz Breut, “Ma Colere”
- Autour de Luce, “Les Ciels de Traine”
- Mathieu Boogrerts, “LTout a L’air du Toc”
- Francoise Hardy, “Le Crabe”
- Saint Etienne, “La Poupee Qui Fait Non” (I know, a ringer)
- Spookie, “Lettre a France” (ditto)
- Francoise Hardy, “Mode D’Emploi?”
- Dominique A, “Nous Reviendrons”
- Michael Polanareff, “Voyages”
- Michael Polnareff, “Ne Dans Un Ice-Cream”
- Francoise Hardy, “Fleur de Lune”
- Jacques Detronc, “Le Plus Difficile”
- Neppu Tokyo Salon, “Tam Tam”
LE JAZZ COOL 2010
Intended as a relaxing but alert program. Yeah.
1. Jason Moran, “Crepuscule with Nellie”
2. Danilo Perez, “Providencia”
3. Henry Threadgill Zooid, “Extremely Sweet William”
4. Rudesh Mahanthappa & Bunk Green, “Playing with Stones”
5. The Microscopic Septet, “Pannonica”\
6. Mary Halvorson Quintet, “Sea Seizure (No. 19)”
7. Ben Kono, “Castles and Daffodils”
8. Vijay Iyer, “Macaca Please”
9. Vinicius Cantuaria & Bill Frisell, “Briga de Namorados”
10. Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden, “For All We Know”
- Jaimie Branch, “Jump Off”
- “Theme 101”
- Jonas Fujiwara, “Diving for Quarters”
- Camille, “Sous le Sable”
- Anouar Brahem, “Persopolis’s Mirage”
- Paul Jones, “Clean”
- Ran Blake/Dominique Eade, “It’s Alright, Ma”
- Ron Miles, “I Am a Man”
- Alma Micic, “Cry Me a River”
- Mary Halvorson Quartet, “Rachmiah” (John Zorn)
- Alice Coltrane, “Rama Rama”
- Wadada Leo Smith, “Adagio: Monkishness — A Cinematic Vision of Monk Playing Solo Piano”
What these records have in common is that I checked them out more than twice during 2017 and they finally snapped into place as pretty damn good after the year was over. (I mean, Top 40 maybes.)
- Reina del Cid, Rerun City (self-released). Unadorned music and careful songwriting that works on all but a couple tracks. Observations about love and behavior as well as fantasy and portraits. This is one do-it-yourself I’m more than glad came to be. “Beverly” (which contains the title phrase) is the best song about the redemptive power of movies in quite a while.
- The Domestics, Little Darkness (tktktktktk). The vigorous two voices and scattered strong lines became a more solid program in the last few days. Informed by personal anguish and hard times, no question. Then I found out they were victims of one of the most unbelievable promotional muck-ups ever. When this finds a home, seek it out.
- Jolie Holland & Samathan Parton, Wildflower Blues (Cinquefoil). The only Be Good Tanyas album that got to me was the debut, which features contributions by Jolie Holland even though she had already left the group. This reunites her with another ex-Be Good. Let’s start with three brilliantly realized covers: Townes Van Zandt’s “You Are Not Needed Now,” Michael Hurley’s “Jocko’s Lament” and Boob Dylan’s “Minstrel Boy” (with added lyrics by Holland). Then add that while the Van Zandt leads off the program, the original title number makes a perfect pairing. And the new-song writing doesn’t let up. Damn, this might be a Top 20.
- Roscoe Mitchell, Before There Was Sound (Nessa, 2011). This just sat (idiotically) on a listen-to-again shelf for five years or so. Includes Fred Berry, trumpet and flugelhorn, Malachi Favors, bass and Alvin Fiedler, drums. Recorded in mid-’65 and of course the parts are not in place, but a rich pleasure for me over the years is to follow the growth and flowering of the Art-Ensemble related Chicago soniverse. A must for fans. And who wouldn’t want the earliest version (I think) of Favors’s “Akhenaten”?
- Nick Photinos, Petits Artefacts (New Amsterdam). Not surprised this took a while to come into focus. Pretty eccentric. This saves me an all-too-wordy explanation. Let’s just say that after enough exposure, all the little pieces fit together.