Friday, December 07, 2018

If You Know You Know: The Top Albums, EPs, Songs and Concerts of 2018

The Top 50 Albums of 2018
The 131-minutes of byzantine jazz improvisations that crown my rankings is a reflection of the middling year for long-form recordings.  The real action takes place on the subsequent listing of EPs.

1. Dave Holland- Uncharted Territories
2. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd & SZA- Black Panther: The Album
3. Ambrose Akinmusire- Origami Harvest
4. St. Vincent- MassEducation
5. Rhye- Blood
6. Drake- Scorpion
7. Logan Richardson- Blues People
8. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy
9. Fatoumata Diawara- Fenfo
10. RP Boo- I’ll Tell You What!

11. Migos- Culture II
12. Cécile McLorin Salvant- The Window
13. Eddie Palmieri- Full Circle
14. Brockhampton- Iridescence
15. Bettye LaVette- Things Have Changed
16. Four Fists- 6666
17. Hailu Mergia- Lnala Belu
18. Leikeli47- Acrylic
19. Blood Orange- Negro Swan
20. Ashley Monroe- Sparrow

21. Anderson Paak- Oxnard
22. Ariana Grande- Sweetener
23. Tyshawn Sorey- Pillars
24. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow
25. Vincent Peirani- Night Walker
26. Rosalía- El Mal Querer
27. Bixiga 70- Quebra Cabeça
28. Brad Mehldau- After Bach
29. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
30. Stephonne Singleton- Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

31. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile
32. Halestorm- Vicious
33. Jupiter & Okwess- Kin Sonic
34. Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics
35. Elza Soares- Deus É Mulher
36. Hélène Grimaud- Memory
37. Fantastic Negrito- Please Don’t Be Dead
38. Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud
39. Jorja Smith- Lost & Found
40. Lonnie Holley- Mith

41. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats- Tearing at the Seams
42. Andrew Cyrille- Lebroba
43. Santigold- I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
44. Noname- Room 25
45. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer- Nordub
46. Ben Miller Band- Choke Cherry Tree
47. Rich the Factor- CEO of the Blacktop
48. Matthew Shipp- Zero
49. Anja Lechner and Pablo Márquez- Schubert: Die Nacht
50. Kamasi Washington- Heaven and Earth

The Top 25 EPs of 2018
Kanye West insists that these short-form recordings are albums.  He's wrong.

1. Kids See Ghosts- Kids See Ghosts (23 minutes)
2. Pusha T- Daytona (21 minutes)
3. Nas- Nasir (25 minutes)
3. Radiant Children- Tryin’ (17 minutes)
4. Tigran Hamasyan- For Gyumri (29 minutes)
5. Black Thought- Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (17 minutes)
6. Peter Schlamb- Electric Tinks (24 minutes)
7. Nubya Garcia- When We Are (25 minutes)
8. Vince Staples- FM! (22 minutes)
9. Open Mike Eagle- What Happens When I Try To Relax (19 minutes)
10. Kanye West- Ye (23 minutes)

11. Valee- Good Job, You Found Me (14 minutes)
12. The Alchemist- Bread (25 minutes)
13. 2 Chainz- The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It (16 minutes)
14. Miles Davis- Rubberband EP (26 minutes)
15. Gilberto Gil- Pela Internet 2 (24 minutes)
16. Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs (24 minutes)
17. Chanté Moore- 1 of 4 (19 minutes)
18. Teyana Taylor- K.T.S.E. (22 minutes)
19. Soulive- Cinematics Vol. 1 (18 minutes)
20. Amber Mark- Conexão (17 minutes)

21. Diplo- California (19 minutes)
22. AlunaGeorge- Champagne Eyes (18 minutes)
23. Aphex Twin- Collapse (28 minutes)
24. Ezra Collective- Juan Pablo: The Philosopher (23 minutes)
25. Stik Figa, Ron Ron and Greg Enemy- Are The Wiz Kidz (15 minutes)

The Top 10 Reissues, Compilations and Historical Releases of 2018
Caveat: I haven’t made my way through the new version of The White Album.

1. John Coltrane- Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
2. Prince- Piano & a Microphone 1983
3. Stax Singles, Volume 4: Rarities & the Best of the Rest
4. Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa
5. Bob Dylan- More Blood, More Tracks
6. African Scream Contest Vol​.​2 - Benin 1963​-​1980
7. Miles Davis- The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
8. Uncle Walt’s Band- Those Boys From Carolina, They Sure Enough Could Sing…
9. The Dur-Dur Band- Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks
10. Joe Strummer- Joe Strummer 001

The Top 25 Songs of 2018
Spotify playlist

1. Drake- “Nice For What”
2. Kanye West with Partynextdoor- “Ghost Town”
3. Kids See Ghosts- “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”
4. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
5. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
6. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
7. Nas- “Cops Shot the Kid”
8. Rosalía- “Malamente”
9. Maxwell- “We Never Saw It Coming”
10. Tracey Thorn- “Queen”

11. Pusha T- “If You Know You Know”
12. The Breeders- “Wait in the Car”
13. Christina Aguilera- “Maria”
14. Four Fists- “Joe Strummr”
15. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
16. Parquet Courts- “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”
17. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”
18. Jimothy Lacoste- “I Can Speak Spanish”
19. Migos- “Auto Pilot”
20. Ben Miller Band- “Akira Kurosawa”

21. Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla Sign- “Psycho”
22. The Go! Team- “All the Way Live”
23. Cardi B- “I Like It”
24. Marsha Ambrosius- “Luh Ya”
25. Doja Cat- “Mooo!”
26. Ashley McBride- “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”
27. E-40, B-Legit and P-Lo- “Boy”
28. Snoop Dogg featuring Charlie Wilson- “One More Day”
29. Childish Gambino- “This Is America”
30. Mopo- “Tökkö”

31. Ariana Grande- “No Tears Left to Cry”
32. Young Fathers- “Picking You”
33. Jlin- “Carbon 12”
34. Atmosphere- “Virgo”
35. Turnstile- “Generator”
36. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”
37. Flatbush Zombies- “Chunky”
38. Art Brut- “Hospital!”
39. Marianne Faithfull featuring Nick Cave- “The Gypsy Faerie Queen”
40. The Nels Cline 4- “Imperfect 10”

41. Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton- “Say Something”
42. La Luz- “Loose Teeth”
43. Carrie Underwood- “Ghosts on the Stereo”
44. Valee featuring Pusha T- “Miami”
45. Jorja Smith- “Blue Lights”
46. The Bottle Rockets- “Highway 70 Blues”
47. Shame- “Concrete”
48. Germán Montero- “Bumper Choque”
49. The Dirty Nil- “I Don’t Want That Phone Call”
50. Willie Nelson- “Something You Get Through”

The Top 50 Concerts of 2018
All performances are in the Kansas City area unless otherwise noted.

1. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center
2. Vijay Iyer Sextet- Gem Theater (Open Spaces festival)
3. Drake- Sprint Center
4. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
5. Anat Cohen Tentet- Gem Theater
6. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
7. Taylor Swift- Arrowhead Stadium
8. Bang on a Can All-Stars with the Kansas City Chorale- Folly Theater (Open Spaces festival)
9. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
10. Four Fists- Riot Room

11. Pink- Sprint Center
12. Lonnie Holley- Swope Park (Open Spaces festival)
13. Injury Reserve- Encore Room
14. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore- Knuckleheads
15. Bill Frisell, Rudy Royston and Thomas Morgan- 1900 Building
16. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)
17. Maxwell- Midland theater
18. Ghost- Kansas Speedway (Rockfest)
19. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
20. The Breeders- The Rave (Milwaukee)

21. Flatbush Zombies- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (Flyover festival)
22. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
23. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
24. Uriel Herman Quartet- Black Dolphin
25. Julien Baker- Vinyl Renaissance
26. Tech N9ne- West Bottoms (Boulevardia festival)
27. Future- Petco Park (Dia de los Deftones festival in San Diego)
28. Kesha- Sprint Center
29. Michael Hurley- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
30. Atmosphere- VooDoo

31. The Project H- Westport Coffee House
32. Shania Twain- Sprint Center
33. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building
34. Randy Bachman- Ameristar
35. Drive-By Truckers- The Truman
36. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- Westin Crown Center (KC Folk Fest)
37. Keith Urban- Sprint Center
38. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin
39. Spoon- Crossroads KC (Middle of the Map festival)
40. Emancipator- Crystal Ballroom (Portland)

41. Kenny Chesney- Arrowhead Stadium
42. Vine Street Rumble- Californos
43. Courtney Barnett- Truman
44. Hermon Mehari Quintet- Gem Theater
45. Giorgio Moroder- Truman
46. Twenty One Pilots- Sprint Center
47. Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn and Marty Stuart’s “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”- Folly Theater
48. Lucinda Williams- Starlight Theatre
49. Edison Lights- Town Center Plaza
50. Billy Joel- Kauffman Stadium

(Original image of Erykah Badu by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

I Got a Rock

At a moment in which the world’s most lauded rock band can’t be bothered to play rock music, I suppose it’s not surprising that the form will make a poor showing in my year-end rankings.  It’s not as if I’m not trying, but I fail to be moved by most rock recordings.  The most exciting music is being made elsewhere.  A few 2018 rock releases that had yet to receive mention at There Stands the Glass are ranked in order of my preference below.

Shame- Songs of Praise
It’s taken me all year to grasp Shame’s rowdy exceptionalism.  Here’s “One Rizla”.

Art Brut- Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!
Eddie Argos is still the funniest man in rock.  The cautionary “Hospital!” is among the songs that compel me to laugh out loud.

Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
Garage rock done right.  “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” is close to perfect.

Drug Church- Cheer
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve always liked Puddle of Mudd.  Drug Church combine the Kansas City band’s commercial post-grunge with the geeky mania associated with Weezer.  Here’s “Unlicensed Hall Monitor”.

Snail Mail- Lush
Lindsey Jordan is a sad sack.  I ordinarily don’t have much patience for whiners (unless I’m the one doing the fussing), but I can relate to her bad mood.  “Heat Wave” is among the songs that kinda/sorta rock.

Idles- Joy as an Act of Resistance
The breathless praise heaped on this entirely ordinary album is a classic case of embarrassing group-think.  Blood-and-thunder songs like “Colossus” are merely adequate.

Oh, and that new 1975 album?  While it has its moments, I continue to maintain that the British band sounds like One Direction in the midst of a month-long bender.

I yacked about a few of my best-music-of-2018 selections on 90.9 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty last week.

I ponder Pat Metheny’s de facto boycott of Kansas City at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Album Review: Elvis Costello- Look Now

It’s not him, it’s me.  Many of my insightful peers insist that Elvis Costello’s Look Now is his best album in more than a decade.  While they’re probably right, I’m just not in a proper frame of mind to appreciate his baroque throwback pop.  There’s simply too much free jazz, contemporary pop, African funk, Chicago footwork and grimy hip-hop demanding my attention at the moment.  I look forward to revisiting Look Now when I’m in rocking chair mode.  RIYL: Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick’s greatest hits, Jimmy Webb.  Here’s “Suspect My Tears”.

I reviewed a concert by Bob Seger and Blue Water Highway for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed a concert by Twenty One Pilots, Awolnation and Max Frost for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks at Plastic Sax.

I’ll inflict my taste on unsuspecting listeners of KTGB, 90.9 The Bridge, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 27.

The Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Patrick Mathé, the founder of New Rose and Last Call Records, has died.  (Tip via SS.)

The British folk prosthetizer Roy Bailey has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Good intentions and outstanding musicianship don’t always result in worthwhile music. The heartfelt sincerity of Marcus Strickland’s People of the Sun is corny.  RIYL: Robert Glasper, disappointments, Bilal.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Album Review: Leikeli47- Acrylic

Appreciation of laudable art is often hard won.  I almost gave up on Leikeli47’s Acrylic when references to high fashion on the eighth selection “Post That” and Greek life at H.B.C.U.s on the sixth track “Roll Call” (a knockoff of T.I.’s 2003 hit “Rubber Band Man”) irritated me the first time I played the album.  The mind-bending production compelled me to stick with Acrylic.  My perseverance paid off.  Repeated plays of the wide-ranging album revealed that the extremely bright, audaciously funny and vigorously feminist New York rapper is as wonky as Dessa, as accessible as Brandy and as deliriously unhinged as Cardi B.  Yet it’s the consistently surprising sonic textures that include pure pop, murky grime, lovely R&B and spare footwork that make Acrylic one of my favorite albums of the year, even if it took some time to get my head around it.   Here’s “Girl Blunt”.

My review of Ernest Melton’s The Time of the Slave Is Over is at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Roy Clark has died.  Not only was Hee Haw a big part of my cultural education, I recall seeing a few of his albums in my dad’s collection.

Alec Finn of De Dannan has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

The Hawaiian slack key guitarist Cyril Pahinui has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Anderson Paak’s astounding Oxnard is a throwback to the Death Row era.  Paak delivers SoCal
gangsta rap with a knowing wink.  RIYL: Doggystyle, coming to terms with horrendous misogyny, The Chronic.  Here’s “Tints”.

Even though the Rubberband EP consists of five remixes of a single Miles Davis track from a suppressed 1985 session, the repetition never becomes stale.  Context for the oddly compelling project is available here.

The most surprising aspect of Rudy Royston’s Flatbed Buggy is that the drummer’s frequent collaborator Bill Frisell doesn’t make an appearance.  Even so, the worthy project fits squarely in the instrumental folk-jazz realm associated with the guitarist.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Concert Review: Maxwell at the Midland Theatre

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to, but I think I make ‘em like they used to,” Marsha Ambrosius told an audience of more than 1,500 at the Midland theater as she opened for Maxwell on Wednesday.  The British star with a colossal voice specializes in recreating the sound and feel of Michael Jackson’s ballads.  (She co-wrote his 2002 smash “Butterflies.”)

Accompanied only by her keyboard and an intrusive hype man, Ambrosius ran through a handful of old favorites and excellent new material like “Luh Ya”.  I was disappointed that she entertained only 30 minutes but I was absolutely infuriated when Maxwell and his six-piece band walked off the stage after playing 90 minutes.

I expected more.

Maxwell’s 2008 concert at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City is one of the most rousing exhibitions of soul music I’ve witnessed, and I’ve attended shows by legends including James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and Prince.  My glowing memory of his 2008 appearance caused me to merely flinch when I discovered that the least expensive ticket at the door last night was $60.

I barely got my money’s worth.

I was among the majority of the people in the “cheap” seats who never stood to dance during the 32nd installment of Maxwell’s 50 Intimate Nights tour.  Anticipating transcendence, I settled for satisfaction.  The absence of a horn section was a nasty surprise, but I was gutted that the setlist didn’t include “We Never Saw It Coming”, a protest song that's the “What’s Going On” of our time.

As much as I love Maxwell’s party material like “Sumthin’ Sumthin’”, “We Never Saw It Coming” is the type of song that differentiates Maxwell from hackneyed nostalgists.  I love Maxwell partly because he’s not a corny mimic of old-time R&B.  He keeps the music vital by giving it a contemporary edge even as he honors soul’s traditions.  Sadly, Maxwell’s concert at the Midland was slightly stale.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Album Review: Tyshawn Sorey- Pillars

Leaf blowers and Pillars are incompatible.  My plan for the daylight hours last weekend was to absorb Tyshawn Sorey’s four-hour epic while doing yard work.  The rudimentary process of gathering and bagging the deep bed of leaves that covers my yard would have allowed me to focus on the intricacies of Sorey’s new triptych.

No dice.

Equipped with blaring leaf blowers, my diligent neighbors glared at me as I made my first attempt of the season to clear my yard with a rake.  The infernal racket of their machines drowned out the hushed segments of Pillars.  I retreated indoors.  Hearing Sorey’s crucial work is far more important to me than keeping up appearances.  Although Sorey is best known in jazz circles, Pillars is in the tradition of classical-based compositions by the likes of Anthony Davis and John Cage. 

The irony of my travails: a few of the most abrasive passages of Pillars resemble the grating drone of leaf blowers.

Recently at Plastic Sax: I reviewed OJT’s New Originals for the Green Lady and experienced an astonishing epiphany at the Kansas City debut of Kamasi Washington.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Unlike many jazz devotees, I don't revere Roy Hargrove.  I was nonplussed the first time I saw him at a St. Louis club in the early 1990s.  And he was a mess the last time I caught him at the 2014 edition of the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.  When he was on, however, Hargrove was among the best artists I’ve witnessed.  I reviewed Hargrove’s band at the Folly Theater for The Kansas City Star, a show that I ranked second on a list of my favorite concerts of 2007.  Hargrove died November 2.

The Residents’ Hardy Fox has died.

Elle King often sings about the people who do her wrong.  She should direct her righteous fury at the knob-twiddlers responsible for the wrongheaded production of Shake the Spirit.  Much as the recordings of Fitz and the Tantrums sterilize the band’s retro-soul attack, Shake the Spirit is rendered lifeless by a sound field that makes her Wanda Jackson-esque attack sound like Pat Boone.  Here’s “Shame”.

Even though I have little patience for astrology, Nao’s pseudo-science themed Saturn captivates me.  RIYL: Janet Jackson at her weirdest, horoscopes, Frank Ocean at his most conventional.  Here’s “Make It Out Alive”.

After Caroline, 43 minutes of delicious skronk by Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isadore, is RIYL Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet, Evan Parker.

Vince Staples’ FM! mixtape is disappointing.  Here’s “Fun!”.

A commendable album is hiding underneath multiple layers of sticky varnish on Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty.  Here’s “Love Wins”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Top Ten Albums of 2018 by Kansas City Musicians

Musicians associated with Kansas City released dozens of albums in 2018.  A few of the most prominent projects aren’t included here.  Rather than acting as a barometer of parochial groupthink, my list contains the ten albums with the most artistic merit.

1. Logan Richardson- Blues People

2. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow

3. Stephonne- Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

4. Rich the Factor- CEO of the BlacktopCEO of the Blacktop 2 and CEO of the Blacktop 3

5. Janelle Monáe- Dirty Computer

6. The Project H- Everyday, Forever

7. Chen Yi- Concertos for String Instruments

8. Stephen Martin- Vision

9. Tech N9ne- Planet

10. Calvin Arsenia- Cantaloupe

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)