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”
(Includes music discovered, not released, this year)
- Vincent Nguini, “Spirit” (2006)
- Kasai Allstars, “Quick as White” (reworked by RAMZI)
- Oumou Sangare, “Bena Bena”
- Alune Was & Harold Lopez-Nussa, “Aminata”
- Cheikh Lo, “Jeunesse Senegal” (1999)
- Kondi Band, “Without Money, No Family”
- Awa Poulo, “Noumou Foli”
- Jupiter & Okwess, “Ofakombolo”
- Sonia Aimy, “Husband in Canada”
- Fabrizio Cassol, “Didodi Horns” (feat. Baba Sissoko)
- Bokante, “Jou Ke Ouve”
- Seyi Shay feat. Wizkid, “Crazy” (re-mix)
- Youssou N’Dour, “Jeegel Nu (Forgiveness)”
- Trio-Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, “Kanimba”
RELATED INTERNATIONALS – 2017
- David Lopato, “Ladrang”
- Joyce/Dori Caymmi, “Joaozinho Boa Pinta”
- Hermeto Pascoal, “Mavumvavumpefoco”
- Pandang Food Tigers, “Barely a Breath In Your Parenthesis”
- Sabrina Malheiros, “Em Paz”
- Miguel Zenon, “Academia”
- Lila Downs, “Urge”
- Anat Cohen/Marcello Goncalves,“Otra Coisa”
- Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, “Alap”/”Snap”
- Amjad Ali Khan/Amaan Ali Bangash/AyaanAli Bangash/Elmira Darvarova, “Gentle Sunset” (Raga Marwa)
Two perfectly offsetting music-listening phenomena today.
Tried two albums from the archives for my pre-coffee floor workout and they were both stinkers (admittedly from the must-listen-to-more shelves), which half-wrecked the workout.
The reverse energy came from listening in the car.
Reina del Cid’s Rerun City (self-released) charmed me the first time through but the second listen convinced me there’s only a couple ordinary tracks on it and that “Let’s Begin” is a tender masterwork. Albums released in December get lost but I’m going to write a plug for her show on Feb. 24 at Atwood’s. Boston locals should go.
I had all these objections to 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red) by Pere Ubu the first time I heard it. Songs too short. David Thomas is going through the motions. I could hear the arty punk but not the party punk. This time through, all that just vanished. Strong Top 20 candidate and will be on the year-end discs.
The results are in.
My selections were a lot closer to the second 10 choices …
Best New Releases
Various, Celebrate Ornette (Song X)
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Incidentals (ECM)
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Small Town (ECM)
Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa (TUM)
Paul Jones, Clean (Outside Music)
J.D. Allen, Radio Flyer (Savant)
Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM)
Ron Miles, I Am a Man (Yellowbird)
Kirk Knuffke, Cherryco (SteepleChase)
Greg Abate, Road To Forever (Whaling City Sound)
Reissues or Historical
The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)
Thelonious Monk Quintet, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (soundtrack) (Sam/Saga)
Dominique Eade/Ran Blake, Town and Country (Sunnyside)
Jaime Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)
Miguel Zenon, Tipico (Miel Music)
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).