Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 In New Music Part 5: 50-and-a-bit Best

50) Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade 

49) Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News

48) Vijay Iyer - Uneasy

47) Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It

46) Matt Ridley - The Antidote

45) Macie Stewart - Mouth Full Of Glass

44) Ruth Goller - Skylla 

43) Diego Pinero - Odd Wisdom

42) Low - Hey What 

41) Ryley Walker - Course In Fable 

40) Caetano Veloso - Meu Coco

39) Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince 

38) Dave Harrington, Chris Forsyth, Ryan Jewell and Spencer Zahn - First Flight Redux 

37) Patricia Brennan - Maquishti 

36) Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime 

35) Allison Russell - Outside Child 

34) Patrick Shiroishi - Hidemi 

33) Claire Rousay - A Softer Focus 

32) L'Rain - Fatigue 

31) Michael Wollny, Emile Parisien, Tim Lefebvre, Christian Lilinger - XXX 

30) James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet - Jesup Wagon

29) Pino Palladino and Blake Mills - Notes With Attachments 

28) Ches Smith and We All Break - Path of Seven Colours 

27) Nate Wooley - Mutual Aid Music 

26) Rachika Nayar - Fragments 

25) Eli Keszler - Icons 

24) Alexis Taylor - Silence 

23) Jeff Parker - Forfolks 

22) Fergus McCreadie - Cairn 

21) Pink Siifu - GUMBO'

20) Daniel Blumberg - The World To Come OST 

19) Henry Threadgill - Poof 

18) Rosali - No Medium/Chokeweed 

17) Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Superwolves

16) Moor Mother - Black Encyclopaedia Of The Air 

15) Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms To Open Us 

14) Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra - Tales From The Jacquard 

13) The Weather Station - Ignorance

12) Daniel Bachman - Axacan

11) Sons Of Kemet - Black To The Future

10) Skee Mask - Pool

9) Rob Frye - Exoplanet

8) Irreversible Entanglements - Open The Gates 

7) Nathan Salsburg - Psalms 

6) Gerald Cleaver - Griots

5) Fuubutsushi - Shiki

4) William Parker - Migration Of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World/Mayan Space Station

3) Sarah Louise - Earth Bow 

2) Wadada Leo Smith - Sacred Ceremonies etc...

1) Yasmin Williams - Urban Driftwood 

2021 In Music Part 5: New Music Longlist 4

 Rodrigo Amarante - Drama (Polyvinyl Record Co.) 

The Brazilian singer-songwriter has produced a vibrant, joyful work. 

Rodrigo Brandao - Outros Espaço  (Groovie Records) 

Absorbing and expansive collaboration with Sun Ra Arkestra. 

Rosali - No Medium (Spinster Sounds) 

Rosali - Chokeweed (Unifactor) 

Two very different albums - the first focusing on strong songwriting and soulfully accompanied by members of the David Nance Group, the second focusing on improvisation and freedom. 

Rose City Band - Earth Trip (Thrill Jockey) 

Languid psychedelic country  

Roy Montgomery - 40th Anniversary 2021 LP Series (Grapefruit)

Marking 40 years of exploratory musical work, Roy Montgomery released four excellent albums over the course of 2021, some exploring voices (Emma Johnston again guests on Rhymes Of Chance), others exploring the wider possibilities of the guitar. For some reason the last album, Audiotherapy, is still not available yet (perhaps production delays?). 

Ruth Goller - Skylla (Vula Viel) 

A magical, glimmering, textural solo work (with contributions from vocalists Alice Grant and Lauren Kinsella) from the bassist, improviser and composer. 

Ryley Walker - Course In Fable (Husky Pants) 

Ryley Walker & Kikagaku Moyo - Deep Fried Grandeur (Husky Pants) 

A thrilling but also more concise collection from Ryley Walker, who now seems to be developing his melodic qualities to match his gift for arrangement and free wheeling musicianship. Deep Fried Grandeur finds him collaborating with the psychedelic band at Le Guess Who in Utrecht, with predictably explosive results. 

Saint Etienne - I've Been Trying To Tell You (PIAS) 

Gently infectious songs capturing the 'optimism' of 1997-2001, including samples from pop songs of the period (Honeyz, Natalie Imbruglia, Samantha Mumba etc). 

Sally Ann Morgan - Cups (Thrill Jockey) 

Another album of contemporary Appalachian folk excellence from the increasingly prolific House and Land member.

Sam Gendel - Fresh Bread (Leaving Records)

Sam Gendel - Valley Fever (Leaving Records)

Sam Gendel - AE-30 (Leaving Records) 

Sam Gendel & Sam Wilkes - Music For Saxofone and Bass Guitar: More Songs (Leaving Records) 

A pretty extraordinary body of work involving a follow-up collaboration, an assembly of cumulative home recordings and soundtrack material. Futuristic electronic jazz. 

Samba Toure - Binga (Glitterbeat) 

Another excellent album from the Malian singer and guitarist. 

Santomimagae - Hanazono (RVNG Intl.) 

Beautiful, drifting, curious ambient folk music. 

Sara Schoenbeck - Sara Schoenbeck (Pyroclastic) 

The bassoon works very effectively as a jazz instrument - both for its melodic and textural qualities. Here it is set in a series of duos. A highlight is the take on Low's Lullaby with Nels Cline. 

Sarah Davachi - Antiphonals (Late Music) 

Sarah Davachi & Sean McCann - Mother Of Pearl (Recital) 

Sarah Davachi continues to make a major contribution to contemporary instrumental music. On Antiphonals, Davachi uses mellotron, electric organ and harpsichord to conjure a fairytale dreamscape. With Sean McCann on Mother of Pearl, she records at home to create shimmering music with no specific brief. 

Sarah Louise - Earth Bow (Bandcamp) 

While Sarah Louise has been veering further from traditional folk templates in her solo work, this progressive, expansive masterpiece still comes as a thrilling surprise. 

Sarah Wilson - Kaleidoscope (Brass Tonic) 

Elevating, melodic contemporary jazz from the trumpeter and composer. 

Scott Hirsch - Windless Day (Echo Magic/Soundly) 

The occasional Hiss Golden Messenger contributor returns with his most assured and enjoyable solo album to date. 

Sean Gibbs - When Can I See You Again? (Ubuntu) 

A great set of compositions with interactive performances from the young trumpeter. Very promising. 

Shackleton - Departing Like Rivers (Woe To The Septic Heart) 

No collaborations this time, just Sam Shackleton at his most immersive, atmospheric and reflective. 

Shai Maestro - Human (ECM) 

Shai Maestro's subtleties of tone and colour fit well with the ECM aesthetic. 

Six Organs Of Admittance - The Veiled Sea (Three Lobed) 

One of Ben Chasny's darker, more imposing works. 

Skee Mask - Pool (Ilian Tape) 

Epic electronica set that gathers four to five years worth of material and traverses wide musical territory. Yet Bryan Muller conceives of Pool as 'a fully conceived project' rather than a compilation of unreleased tracks. It is a compelling listen with a sense of movement and development throughout. 

Sons Of Kemet - Black To The Future (Impulse!)

Comfortably the best Sons Of Kemet album, and perhaps Shabaka Hutchings' overall masterpiece, this is a defiant work drawing from so much musical and cultural experience. 

Space Afrika - Honest Labour (Dais) 

Space Afrika effectively broaden their sound spectrum and scope on this magnificent suite of music. 

Spellling - The Turning Wheel (Sacred Bones)

A lavish, elaborately orchestrated work. 

Springtime - Springtime (Joyful Noise Recordings) 

Raw and insistent collaborative supergroup featuring Gareth Liddiard, the exceptional drummer Jim White and Chris Abrahams from The Necks. 

Squid - Bright Green Field (Warp) 

Agitated, state of the nation urgency. 

St Vincent - Daddy's Home (Loma Vista) 

Annie Clark continues to make elegantly constructed, idiosyncratic, superbly produced pop music that combines an imaginative synthesis of influences with her own personality and concerns. 

Steve Gunn - Other You (Matador) 

Steve Gunn's most languid and contemplative album so far - breezy and hypnotic. 

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner's Mind (Asthmatic Kitty) 

A collaboration resulting in a literate, sensitive and vivid set of songs inspired by films. Strong Simon & Garfunkel vibes on this one.  

Sunburned Hand Of The Man - Pick A Day To Die (Three Lobed) 

Covers the range of Sunburned's musical strengths, from spacious sonic landscapes to motorik grooves. 

Ted Byrnes - Moving My Body Through Space (Arkeen)

Brilliantly frenzied and combative solo percussion. 

Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade (PeMa)

Even without bassist and key songwriter Gerry Love, Teenage Fanclub remain one of the UK's great songwriting teams. Here, Norman Blake and Raymond McKinley continue to assume an equal division of labour, and Endless Arcade effectively develops the striking contrasts between their two songwriting approaches, while achieving a unity through sound and musicianship. It's clear now that this band still has a lot of mileage. 

Thalia Zedek Band - Perfect Vision (Thrill Jockey) 

Another excellent, gritty, raw rock album in a very consistent run. 

The Bug - Fire (Ninja Tune) 

Kevin Martin at his exuberant but dystopian best. 

The Notwist - Vertigo Days (Morr Music) 

Excellent first album in six years from the important group, with pieces built from group improvisations that ebb and flow, and with special guests including Ben LaMar Gay. 

The Weather Station - Ignorance (Fat Possum) 

Tamara Lindeman continues to make her arrangements more expansive and arranged, but without losing the sense of space and stillness that characterises her delivery. These songs, inspired by the context of the climate crisis, are lush, sensuous and gently cascading. The deluxe edition adds some meticulous live takes and the extraordinary ballad Better Now, one of the year's very best songs. 

Thumbscrew - Never Is Enough (Cuneiform) 

One of the most inventive and exciting bands in contemporary jazz. 

Tim Berne, Chris Speed, Reid Anderson and Dave King - Broken Shadows (Intakt) 

A dream line-up of hugely experienced and consistently potent improvisers. Pretty fiery. 

Tirzah - Colourgrade (Domino) 

A life viewed through a murky translucence, full of purposeful wanderings. 

Tonstartssbandht - Petunia (Mexican Summer) 

Bright, gently fizzing pieces with 12 String guitar, drums and exquisite vocal harmonies. 

Tony Joe White - Smoke From The Chimney (Easy Eye Sound/Swamp Records) 

A fine posthumous album assembled and completed with care by Dan Auerbach. 

Toumani Diabate & London Symphony Orchestra - Korolen (World Circuit) 

Beautiful orchestral settings of Diabate's remarkable kora playing poised with longing. 

Tune-Yards - sketchy. (4AD)

Something of a return to Merrill Garbus' core musical values. 

Tyshawn Sorey & King Britt - Tyshawn & King (The Buddy System) 

Lucid and commanding combination of percussion and electronics. 

Ubaldo - Casa (Urpa i mussell)

A beautiful, mesmerising celebration of stillness. 

Umlaut Big Band - Mary's Ideas (Umlaut Big Band Plays Mary Lou Williams) (Umlaut)

Substantial, very enjoyable big band reworkings of the great Mary Lou Williams. 

United Bible Studies - Divining Moments (Bandcamp)

Celebrating their 20th anniversary year with music characterised both by its freedom and by its connections to landscape and custom. 

Vanishing Twin - Ookii Gekkou (Fire) 

Further adventures in a cinematic sound world - for fans of Stereolab and Broadcast. 

Various Artists - Indaba Is (Brownswood) 

The album that got 2021 off to a great start - a collection of specially commissioned contemporary South African jazz. 

Vijay Iyer - Uneasy (ECM)

The most restlessly interesting album of Vijay Iyer's ECM run so far. 

Wadada Leo Smith with Milfred Graves and Bill Laswell - Sacred Ceremonies (TUM)

Wadada Leo Smith - Trumpet (TUM) 

Wadada Leo Smith Great Lakes Quartet - The Chicago Symphonies (TUM)

Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette, Vijay Iyer - A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday (TUM)

Wadada Leo Smith, Douglas Ewart & Mike Reed - Sun Beans Of Shimmering Light (Bandcamp)

Three box sets and two albums: an extraordinary body of work to have produced at any time, never mind all in one year, a year that also happens to have been Smith's 80th birthday year. Age and experience only seem to sharpen his purpose and presence, and his acknowledgement of the impact of space and silence remains crucial too. 

Walt McClements - A Hole In The Fence (American Dreams) 

An accordion work as you've never heard the instrument before. 

Wau Wau Collectif - Yaral Sa Doom (Sahel Sounds) 

A collaboration between Swedish musician Karl Jonas Winqvist and Senegalese engineer Arouna Kane, with the performing skills and expressive qualities of many local musicians, combining influences from a range of regions and traditions. 

Wendy Eisenberg - Bent Ring (Dear Life) 

Banjo and voice, percussive textures, nuance and articulate communication. 

Wild Up - Julius Eastman, Vol. 1: Femenine (New Amsterdam) 

This new performance of Femenine is the first in a proposed seven volume anthology of new settings of Julius Eastman's work from this outstanding musical collective. 

Will Guthrie - People Pleaser Vol. 2 (Kythibong) 

Second, tremendously fun instalment of the Australian percussionist's inventive opus. 

William Parker - Migration Of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (AUM Fidelity) 

William Parker - Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity) 

William Parker - Painter's Winter (AUM Fidelity) 

Another absurdly productive and consistently individual body of work that demands to be celebrated far into the future. The Migration Of Silence... box set is a colossal celebration of Parker's work as a composer, the other two albums celebrate his work as an improvising performer. Mayan Space Station is a dazzling guitar trio album with the excoriating Ava Mendoza in outrageous form. 

Yasmin Williams - Urban Driftwood (Spinster)

An acutely felt, beautiful album of solo guitar, often played in radically idiosyncratic ways and yielding moving results. 

Yola - Stand For Myself (Easy Eye Sound)

Another rich and informed Dan Auerbach production on these stellar soul songs. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 In Music Part 4: New Music Longlist 3

 M Sage - The Wind Of Things (Geographic North) 

A fully acoustic paen to windswept landscape and waters of Nebraska and Lake Michigan, realised beautifully by an articulate and dynamically aware ensemble. 

Macie Stewart - Mouth Full Of Glass (Orindal) 

Ornate, intricate and sophisticated guitar based songwriting, with rich arrangements. 

Madlib - Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion) 

A flowing, coherent arrangement of Madlib productions by Kieren Hebden. 

Maggie Nicols - Creative Contradiction (Takuroku) 

Astonishingly, the illustrious improvising vocalist's first solo album has turned out to be a lockdown work, recorded on a computer at home using Garageband. It's a wide ranging, surprising, quirky and emotional delight. 

Makaya McCraven - Deciphering The Message (Blue Note) 

A sincere and honest deconstruction and reassembly of moments from the Blue Note archives, in which drummer, composer and producer McCraven combines samples with newly recorded material, often in ways where it is hard to be sure which is which. 

Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O - Umdali (Mushroom Hour Half Hour) 

Created in the midst of grief, Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O's debut work as a bandleader is still life affirming and fully present. 

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog - Hope (Yellowbird)

Recorded carefully in isolated booths in the studio in May 2020, Ribot's latest captures the tension and anxiety of the time, as well as celebrating the triumph of the creative impulse in the face of adversity. As usual, Ribot scythes through a range of genres with both irreverence and informed understanding. 

Margo Cilker - Pohorylle (Loose) 

Searing and stirring country and blues tinged songs. 

Maria Elena Silva - Eros (BIG EGO) 

I'm baffled as to why this rich and rewarding record hasn't received more attention this year. Its combination of sensuality, flamenco-influenced guitar playing, improvisation and adventure make it a real standout. 

Maria Rosenfeld - Teenage Lontano (Room40) 

Fascinating reimagining of Gyorgy Ligeti. 

Marisa Anderson & William Tyler - Lost Futures (Thrill Jockey) 

A guitar duo collaboration every bit as sensitive, melodic, atmospheric and evocative as you would expect. 

Mary Halvorson & Sylvie Courvoisier - Searching For The Disappeared Hour (Pyroclastic) 

An intimate, but not necessarily comfortable collaboration, exploring new and effective ways of integrating piano and guitar. 

Mason Lindahl - Kissing Rosy In The Rain (Tompkins Square) 

Circling, enveloping finger picked guitar. The kind of recording where you can hear nails against string and string scrapes, but they are made to feel warm and part of the sensuality of the whole. 

Mathias Eick - When We Leave (ECM) 

Gentle, ruminative and melodic jazz compositions. 

Matt Mitchell & Kate Gentile - Snark Horse (Pi Recordings) 

A box set of concise 'one bar' compositions designed as a springboard for improvisation. One of this year's many gargantuan but somehow necessary projects. 

Matt Ridley - The Antidote (Whirlwind Recordings) 

The composer and bassist's third album as leader is his best, filled with strong writing, distinctive grooves, emotional range and risk taking improvising. 

Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Superwolves (Drag City) 

Long awaited return of this empathetic partnership brings some incisive songs and an expansive approach to the music. 

Maurice Louca - Satt El-Hazz (The Luck Hour) (Northern Spy)

The Egyptian musician collaborates with the 'A' Trio and uses modified instruments to create something otherworldly and magical. 

Maxine Funke - Seance (A Colourful Storm) 

Sensitive and softly delivered songs. 

Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime (Matador)

Roaring contemporary Saharan psychedelic rock. 

Mega Bog - Life, And Another (Paradise of Bachelors) 

Eccentric and richly imagined surrealist songs. 

Michael Wollny, Emile Parisien, Tim Lefebvre & Christian Lilinger - XXXX (ACT) 

Michael Wollny is a musician who seems to be able to occupy almost any kind of creative space and still make something striking and distinctive. This is a bold electric collaboration that constantly surprises, disorientates and delights. 

Mind Maintenance - Mind Maintenance (Drag City) 

Meditative minimalism from Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor. 

Monocled Man - Ex Voto (Whirlwind Recordings)

A welcome return from Rory Simmons' project - a small ensemble that takes new leaps into the unknown with each release. Here, all band members expand into recording and producing their parts in isolation, with Simmons and drummer Jon Scott working closely on the final mix. The result is a vivid, cinematic musical world that really reels the listener in. 

Moor Mother - Black Encyclopaedia Of The Air (ANTI-) 

Moor Mother's highly individual combination of poetry, electronics and uneasiness continues to grow in impact. 

Myriam Gendron - Ma Delire - Songs of love, lost & found (Feeding Tube/Les Albums Claus) 

Haunting and transporting folk songs. 

Mzylkypop - Kiedy Wilki Zawyja (Discus Music) 

A dystopian vision of England in 2030 - or much closer to England right now than we'd care to admit? 

Nala Sinephro - Space 1.8 (Warp) 

With a group from the vanguard of mainstream UK jazz (including Nubya Garcia, Eddie Hick and Shirley Tetteh), Nala Sinephro has crafted a dreamlike, detailed sound. 

Nashville Ambient Ensemble - Cerulean (Centripetal Force) 

It is remarkable how well suited the pedal steel guitar can be to wildly unexpected contexts, whether it be the improvisation of Susan Alcorn, or the mysterious, languid, droning hums of this ambient group. It works really very well. 

Natalie Jane Hill - Solely (Dear Life) 

Hill's second album brings an openness to sharing and collaboration, drawing other musicians into her inward looking world. The songs are softly expressive and detailed. 

Nate Wooley - Mutual Aid Music (Pleasure Of The Text)

Music as community action. Vital. 

Nathan Salsburg - Psalms (No Quarter) 

Nathan Salsburg follows up his fascinating experiment with 78rpm records by recording a set of new arrangements of Hebrew psalms. Salsburg is a musician deeply invested in traditions, but capable of drawing something personal and contemporary from them. 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Barn (Reprise) 

Like most of Young's recent albums, Barn oscillates wildly between the transcendent (Heading West, Welcome Back), the awkward and earnest but enjoyable (Canerican) and the occasional terrible knock-off (Shape Of You). But Barn is interesting for being the album to most successfully integrate his pastoral reflection with his questing rock improvising since Sleeps With Angels. 

New Bums - The Last Time I Saw Grace (Drag City) 

Ben Chasny's duo with Skygreen Leopards' Donovan Quinn is his most relaxed, loose and humorous work. 

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - Carnage (AWAL) 

Apocalyptic preaching and keening heartache combine brilliantly here. 

OK Aurora - Only In Autumn (Ubuntu) 

Drummer Rod Oughton produces a warm and inviting set of jazz infused pop songs, with great horn and vocal arrangements. 

Okkyung Lee - Na-Reul (Corbett vs. Dempsey) 

Okkyung Lee's contribution to the Black Cross Solo Sessions series - a strong and often distressing work made following a period of time spent apart from the Cello at the start of the pandemic, caring for her dying father. 

Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp - We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway (Bongo Joe) 

A brilliant large ensemble celebration of turbulence, instability and unpredictability. 

Padang Food Tigers - God's Plenty (Shhpuma) 

More chimerical, haunted ambient folk from the brilliant duo of Stephen Lewis and Spencer Grady. 

Patricia Brennan - Maquishti (Valley Of Search) 

Magnificent, spacious, sometimes spooky solo percussion compositions. 

Patrick Shiroishi - Hidemi (American Dreams) 

Superbly arranged multi-tracked solo saxophone album exploring the personal experience of Shiroishi's grandfather after getting out from a Japanese -American concentration camp. After a brutally abrasive opening, the result is at once mournful, agile, graceful and hopeful. Shiroishi has been a hugely important musician for me over the past couple of years (see also the Fuubutsushi project). 

Pauline Anna Strom - Angel Tears In Sunlight (RVNG Intl.) 

Strom's first album in over 30 years is also unfortunately her last (she passed away in December 2020) - but this glowing, captivating work has enough depth and detail in it to resonate into the beyond.

Peggy Seeger - First Farewell (Red Grape)  

Interviewing Peggy Seeger over Zoom was one of the highlights of the year for me - and this endearing, witty, direct and honest album gave us plenty to talk about. 

Pendant - To All Sides They Will Stretch Out Their Hands (West Mineral Ltd.) 

Alter ego for Huerco S - similarly shifting and unsettling music. 

Perila - How Much Time Is It Between You and Me? (Smalltown Supersound) 

Captivating ambient avant garde music and an impressive debut album. 

Pink Siifu - GUMBO'! (Dynamite Hill) 

Simmering warped soul and hip hop. 

Pino Palladino and Blake Mills - Notes With Attachments (Verve/UMG)

One of the great musical sidemen finally steps out to illuminate his melodic and compositional side, together with the justifiably in demand multi instrumentalist and producer Blake Mills and saxophonist Sam Gendel. This album packs such depth and detail into its short running time. 

Piroshka - Love Drips and Gathers (Bella Union) 

A spectacularly rich, gleaming production from the supergroup of 90s stalwarts (Lush's Miki Berenyi, Elastica's Justin Welch, Mick Conroy from Modern English and KJ "Moose" McKillop) - this feels like a fresh reinvention rather than pure nostalgia. 

Plankton Wat - Future Times (Thrill Jockey) 

Slow burning majesty from Dewey Mahood. 

Powers/Rolin Duo - Strange Fortune (Astral Editions) 

Meditative music it's all too easy to get lost inside. 

Princess Diana of Wales - Princess Diana of Wales (A Colourful Storm) 

Laila Sakini's mischievously monikered project deals in eerie vocal manipulations and unnerving sonic detail. 

Punkt.Vrt.Plastik - Somit (Intakt) 

The trio of Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh and Christian Lilinger produce a second exemplary album of musical lattices and puzzles. 

Rachel Musson - Dreamsing (577) 

Striking, sometimes confrontational solo saxophone. 

Rachika Nayar - Fragments (RVNG Intl.) 

Rachika Nayar - Our Hands Against The Dusk (NNA Tapes) 

Two albums for two different labels, with different approaches to tactile minimalism. 

Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi - They're Calling Me Home (Nonesuch) 

Second highly impressive duo collaboration album. Giddens' project of reclamation continues to yield overpowering results. 

Richard Dawson & Circle - Henki (Domino) 

An unlikely collaboration between ramshackle folk and a Finnish metal band exploring historical flora and fauna. No, really. And it's tremendous. 

Ripatti - Fun Is Not A Straight Line (Planet Mu) 

Reorganised fragments from electronic wizard sometimes known as Vladislav Delay. 

Rob Frye - Exoplanet (Astral Spirits) 

Partially developing transcribed birdsong, this is music of aspiration and ascension from the Bitchin Bajas musician. 

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe - Candyman OST (Waxwork)

Perfectly unnerving and unsettling score. 

Robert Finlay - Sharecropper's Son (Easy Eye Sound/Concord) 

I've not listened to much of Finlay's music before, but this is a superbly rendered modern soul and blues album. 

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raise The Roof (Warner Music) 

Very welcome follow up to Raising Sand, mostly traversing similar ground, but doing so with an effortless blend of voices and honesty in delivery. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 In Music Part 3: New Recordings Longlist 2

Editrix - Tell Me I'm Bad (Exploding In Sound)

Wendy Eisenberg's restless and terrifying electric progressive power trio. Brutal and turbulent. 

Eiko Ishibashi - Drive My Car OST (Newhere Music / Space Shower Music) 

In another good year for original film soundtracks, this one stood out for its nuance, delicacy of touch and plaintive feeling. 

Electric Jalaba - El Hal / The Feeling (Strut) 

Simo Lagnawi is one of the UK's leading exponents of Gnawa music and this exciting music recorded in London draws together a wide range of global influences and comes with a strong sense of movement and activity. 

Elephant9 - Arrival Of The New Elders (Rune Grammofon) 

A sometimes more considered, organised and pensive set from the Norwegian improvising trio. 

Elephant Micah - Vague Tidings (Western Vinyl) 

Another beautiful collection from underrated singer-songwriter Joseph O'Connell (very much in the Jason Molina, Will Oldham, Bill Callahan mould but less frequently mentioned), inspired by a tour of Alaska. 

Eli Keszler - Icons (LuckyMe) 

The percussionist and composer continues to forge a unique and personal path, meticulously interweaving acoustic and electronic sound worlds. 

Elori Saxl - The Blue Of Distance (Western Vinyl) 

This album exploring technology and our relationship with nature seemed perfect for this second pandemic year. 

Emma-Jean Thackray - Yellow (Movement) 

A neat fusion of jazz, funk and psychedelic soul. 

Endless Boogie - Admonitions (No Quarter)  

Maximum mesmeric riffage. 

Equinoxx - Basic Tools Mixtape (Equinoxx Music) 

Great collage based hip hop/R&B/dub fusion. 

Erika De Casier - Sensational (4AD) 

Brilliantly produced R&B set bursting with rhythmic invention and acute hooks. 

Eris Drew - Quivering In Time (T4T LUV NRG) 

Superb, fully formed debut album from the DJ and Producer.  

Faye Webster - I Know I'm Funny haha (Secretly Canadian) 

Soulful, country tinged songs delivered with both poignant vulnerability and an acerbic sharpness. 

Fergus McCreadie - Cairn (Edition) 

Stunning, beautifully evocative piano trio album tinged with Scottish folk melody. 

Field Music - Flat White Moon (Memphis Industries) 

The ever-prolific Field Music continue to develop their intelligent, idiosyncratic contemporary pop sound.

Fire! - Defeat (Rune Grammofon)  

The Swedish group again reshape their sound and approach, with Mats Gustafsson now focusing on flute (in addition to baritone saxophone and electronics). The superb Goran Kafjes also joins on trumpet. 

Foodman - Yasuragi Land (Hyperdub) 

Japanese footwork master's first album for Hyperdub is bass-less, but still rhythmically inventive and compelling. 

Fruit Bats - The Pet Parade (Merge) 

Fruit Bats - Siamese Dream (Merge) 

Eric D. Johnson's song craft project produces a winning, ingratiating album and a strangely satisfying softer, warmer reinterpretation of the Smashing Pumpkins classic. 

FUJI​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​TA - Noiseem (33 33) 

Fascinating record that finds Fujita working with amplified water, manipulating a series of water tanks that become their own instrument.

Fuubutsushi - Shiki (Cached Media) 

A collection of the four seasons themed albums from Sage, Jussell, Prymek and Shiroishi - beautiful, evocative, rustling, bristling, bright, eerie, crepuscular. 

GAS - Der Lange Marsch (Kompakt) 

Another welcome celebration of pulse and musical hypnosis from Wolfgang Voigt. 

Genesis Owusu - Smiling With No Teeth (House Anxiety/Ourness) 

One of the year's most impressive debut albums. 

Gerald Cleaver - Griots (Positive Elevation/Meakusma) 

A masterful, meticulously constructed electronic work from the outstanding jazz drummer that deserved more widespread attention. 

Gerycz/Powers/Rolin - Lamplighter (American Dreams) 

Improvising roots trio continues to expand its palette. 

Ghost Rhythms - Spectral Music (Cuneiform) 

Recorded remotely during the pandemic, yet still carefully interactive, this music explores themes of remoteness, isolation and connection. 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - G_d's Pee At State's End (Kranky) 

It is harder to listen to Godspeed now that it feels that the end times may have indeed come, but this may be the best of their albums since returning to action. There is, as usual, a sense of collective hope amidst the doom. 

Green-House - Music For Living Spaces (Leaving) 

Bright, empathetic and spacious music. 

Greentea Peng - Man Made (Universal) 

Absorbing modern soul music. 

Grouper - Shade (Kranky) 

Liz Harris continues to enthrall with her static-heavy textures and mysterious, manipulated songs. 

Growing - Diptych (Silver Current) 

Lilting, drifting ambient experimental music from the legendary duo, released on Ethan Miller's label. 

GS Schray - The Changing Account (Last Resort) 

Guitar-lead compositions revelling in unpredictability and surprise.  

Hafez Modizardeh - Facets (Pi Recordings) 

The saxophonist works with two of the most imaginative and skilled piano players currently at work - Kris Davis and Craig Taborn - with Tyshawn Sorey (better known as a drummer but also an impressive, characteristically thoughtful pianist) also contributing. The piano here is retuned to an unexpected temperament, leaving the players free to explore tonal spaces unusual to the western experience of the instrument. 

Hand Habits - Fun House (Saddle Creek) 

Meg Duffy's most wide ranging and impressive album as Hand Habits - melodic and enticing songs with impressively crisp production. 

Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Ding Dong You're Dead (Rune Grammofon) 

Norwegian jazz/rock trio veers between scything aggression and eerie contemplation. 

Helado Negro - Far In (Private Energy/4AD) 

The kind of album that offers space for calm and reflection, but still gently grooving too. 

Henry Parker - Lammas Fair (Cup and Ring) 

Brilliantly executed folk rock - think Fairport meets Ryley Walker. 

Henry Threadgill - Poof (Pi Recordings) 

Concise but typically adventurous music from he great saxophonist, composer and improviser. There's an intuitive relationship between the musicians that allows them to find their own spaces. 

Herbert - Musca (Accidental) 

Billed as the third album in a 'domestic house' trilogy (following Around The House and Bodily Functions), this celebration of domesticity and intimacy doesn't quite reach the heights of its classic predecessors. However, it's an impressively agile combination of musical contributions recorded in isolation (including contributions from Nick Ramm, Tom Herbert, Tom Skinner, Leo Taylor and Finn Peters alongside 8 vocalists). 

Hiatus Kaiyote - Mood Valiant (Brainfeeder) 

Welcome return from the much admired and dazzling Australian groove eccentrics. 

Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It (Merge)

Hiss Golden Messenger - O Come All Ye Faithful (Merge) 

More than fulfilling his commitment to release something every year, MC Taylor not only released a typically inspired set of original songs neatly addressing the contemporary moment, but also graced us with a fine seasonal holiday album (Hung Fire particularly stands among his best songs and transcends the functional context of the album). Quietly Blowing It included his most expansive and detailed arrangements yet, accompanying graceful and lyrical songs. 

Howie Lee - Birdy Island (Mais Um Discos)

Elaborate, sophisticated, invigorating sound design based around the idea of a floating theme park. 

Injury Reserve - By The Time I Get To Phoenix (Injury Reserve) 

Genuinely innovative contemporary hip hop, combining a freedom of wordplay with an improvisatory approach to sound. 

Irreversible Entanglements - Open The Gates (International Anthem) 

This brilliant band continue to go from strength to strength, presenting the combination of poetry and improvisation as a battleground force. 

Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few - Cosmic Transitions (Division 81) 

Five part suite offering a take on 'spiritual jazz'- not wildly original but certainly intense and genuine. 

Ivo Neame - Glimpses Of Truth (Whirlwind) 

A brilliant, powerful large ensemble album exploring the chaos, conspiracist modern times in which we live. It is at once turbulent and playful and Neame is one of the best composers and arrangers we have. 

Ivo Perelman Trio - Garden Of Jewels (Tao Forms)

Ivo Perelman & Nate Wooley - Polarity (Burning Ambulance)

Bold, risk taking trio set with Matthew Shipp and Whit Dickey. It's also fascinating to hear Perelman in a duo with Nate Wooley on Phil Freeman's new label. It feels as if duos, always an interesting format in which to create and improvise, are beginning to receive more interest through recordings. 

Jack Cooper and Jeff Tobias - Tributaries (Bandcamp) 

Compositions described as 'systems' and inspired by Essex tributaries of the river Cam. I would have liked to include the Modern Nature projects here too, but they are only available on ludicrously expensive vinyl and, I'm sorry, but I'm just not biting. 

Jacky Naylor - The Industrial Suite (Ubuntu) 

Beautiful, assured, richly melodic jazz suite telling the story of industrialisation (and post-industrialisation) in the North of England. I feel this deserved more attention this year. Commissioned by the Lancaster Jazz Festival. 

James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet - Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms) 

James Brandon Lewis Quartet - Code Of Being (Intakt) 

An extraordinarily productive year for the saxophonist. Jesup Wagon is my favourite of these two works. 

Jamire Williams - But Only After You Have Suffered (International Anthem) 

Ingenious sound montage. 

Jana Rush - Painful Enlightenment (Planet Mu) 

Abrasive, disorientating and disruptive electronic sound design. 

Janet Simpson - Safe Distance (Cornelius Chapel) 

A superb, cohesive set of modern country rock songs. 

Jason Moran - The Sound Will Tell You (Bandcamp) 

Inventive solo piano set inspired by Toni Morrison and making creative use of the 'DRIP' effect. 

Jeff Parker - Forfolks (International Anthem)

Subtle, drifting solo set from the exploratory, adaptable guitarist. 

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma & Ilyas Ahmed - You Can See Your Own Way Out (Devotion) 

Spectral, haunting combination of guitar, field recordings and electronics. 

Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue - Zero Grasses: Ritual For The Losses (Pi Recordings) 

Sublime multi-tracked vocals together with an astute ensemble, combining East Asian musical traditions with western improvisation. 

Jerusalem In My Heart - Qalaq (Constellation) 

An album with a title that may translate as 'deep worry' feels particularly acute for 2021. This is a fascinating and wide ranging work, involving numerous collaborators but retaining a coherent identity and approach. 

Jihye Lee Orchestra - Daring Mind (Motema) 

One of the most striking and resonant large ensemble jazz albums of 2021. 

JJJJJerome Ellis - The Clearing (NNA Tapes) 

A wonderful, highly original sound work exploring speech disfluency as a source of potential and promise.

Joan Armatrading - Consequences (Giftwend/BMG)

We don't talk about Joan Armatrading enough - and this is a confident album highlighting her observational and melodic qualities as a songwriter.  

Joan As Policewoman, Tony Allen & Dave Okumu - The Solution Is Restless (PIAS) 

Remarkable, original songs created from a series of improvisations between Joan Wasser, the late legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and The Invisible guitarist Dave Okumu. 

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints - Other Worlds (Greenleaf) 

Quintet inspired by the extraordinary, pioneering legacy of Wayne Shorter. This time, the track list consists exclusively of originals, but Shorter's guiding presence is still felt within the music, which is also imprinted by the individual approaches of these leading musicians. 

John Zorn - New Masada Quartet (Tzadik) 

Reaching back into the Masada repertoire, but delivered with a fierce spontaneity and risk taking adventurousness by this outstanding new quartet. In keeping with Zorn's principles, there is no easy way to hear this online, so I've linked to Boomkat where you can hear samples of each track. 

Johnathan Blake - Homeward Bound (Blue Note) 

Nuanced and intriguing music from the drummer/composer, delivered with an inspiring lightness of touch. 

Joseph Shabason - The Fellowship (Western Vinyl) 

An intimate and rewarding album with a fascinating story - the music encapsulates Shabason's family history in a dual Jewish-Islamic household. 

Josh Sinton - b. (FiP)

Solo album played exclusively on Baritone Saxophone. 

Julian Lage - Squint (Blue Note) 

Lage is a flexible musician, able to play in highly adventurous, radical situations or often making more melodically accessible music within a clear modern jazz lineage, as here. 

Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra - Tales From The Jacquard (Whirlwind) 

A superb (and thrilling) modern big band work from one of our most important musicians. 

Jupiter & Okwess - Na Kozonga (Zamora/Studio Gouv) 

Joyful, uplifting and energetic music from the DRC. 

Ka - A Martyr's Reward (Iron Works) 

Ka continues to be one of the most original and distinctive rappers at work. 

Kasai Allstars - Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound (Crammed Discs) 

Beware The Fetish is a former ILWP album of the year and still means a great deal to me. This work is not quite pitched at the same feverish level but is interesting in and of itself by broadening their sound world with electronic elements and inspirations from nearby regions. 

Kelman Duran - Night In Turana (Scorpio Red) 

First release on Duran's own label Scorpio Red - this is a subliminal, haunted synthesis of hip hop, jazz, electronica and ambient atmospherics. 

Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkeybirds - Swing From The Sean Delear (In The Red) 

A limited release EP that is already hard to come by, but (for now at least) is still up on YouTube. It's scintillating and a lot of fun. 

Kiran Leonard - Trespass On Foot (Bandcamp)

A long album split into two parts - the first half is Leonard working alone, the second half finds him operating with an ensemble. This is brilliantly constructed, densely allusive and fascinating music. 

Kit Downes & Lucy Railton - Subaerial (SN Variations) 

Another instalment in a long running musical collaboration, this subtle Cello and organ work may be the most fulfilling yet from Downes & Railton. 

Klein - Harmattan (Pentatone) 

A very different, occasionally unnerving set from this open minded producer, drawing together strands from contemporary classical, minimalism, drone and jazz. 

KMRU - Logue (Injazero) 

Another step forward from a key figure in ambient and electronic music. 

KUU! - Artificial Sheep (ACT) 

Angular, brain melting jazz rock with a punk-ish energy and directness. 

L'Rain - Fatigue (Mexican Summer) 

A thoroughly designed and intoxicating sound world from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taja Cheek - and one of the year's most unique and overwhelming albums. 

Lake Street Dive - Obviously (Nonesuch) 

Cheesy? Uncool? Well, yes, probably. Irresistible? Certainly. A terrific band. 

Lambchop - Showtunes (City Slang)

This seems to have been oddly overlooked come the year's end. While it may be slight in terms of length, it's another impressive reconfiguration of Kurt Wagner's core musical values. 

Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over The Country Club (Universal)

Lana Del Rey - Blue Banisters (Universal) 

The acerbic observations continue to get more and more acute. The languid pacing can be a bit oppressive over the course of two albums though. 

Laura Mvula - Pink Noise (Flamingo/Atlantic) 

Mvula continues to reinvent herself with each new album. This is a triumph of day glo production values coupled with great songwriting and musicianship. 

Li Yilei - 之 / OF (Metron) 

Sound collage with each piece presented as 'a short, scattered poem - a moment that I captured to represent each hour'. Informed by pandemic experience, including time in a quarantine hotel, this music often feels hermetically sealed, but also strangely comforting. 

Linda Fredriksson - Juniper (We Jazz) 

A reflective work that Fredriksson describes as 'a singer-songwriter album performed by an instrumental jazz band'. Exactly my vibe, then. 

Lindsey Buckingham - Lindsey Buckingham (Warner)

Who needs Fleetwood Mac?!

Linkwood - Mono (Athens Of The North) 

Modest, homely electronica. 

Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert (AGE 101/AWAL) 

Articulate, fluent and sharply insightful. 

Lonelady - Former Things (Warp) 

Former Things is Julie Campbell's most assured and complete album to date, retaining her preference for wiry, scratchy grooves but developing form, melody and detail. 

Loren Connors & Oren Ambarchi - Leone (Family Vineyard) 

The first album bringing these two guitarists together - two individual pieces and a duo piece. Richly empathetic and thoughtful. 

Loscil - Clara (Kranky) 

Compelling, unsettling work reconstituted from a single orchestral performance in Budapest. 

Low - Hey What (Sub Pop) 

Like Double Negative before it, this is an excellent experiment in texture and radical abrasion, but this time with Alan Parker and Mimi Sparhawk's gloriously symbiotic harmonies left mostly untouched and at the forefront. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

2021 In Music Part 2: New Recordings Longlist 1

Below is part 1 of a longlist featuring a large cross section of music I have enjoyed during 2021. It is hard to overstate how important recorded music has been during this very uncertain period where life feels like it has been repeatedly stopping and half resuming. I have to thank everyone who has contributed to my weekly new music threads on Twitter - I heard a lot of music that would otherwise have passed me by that way.  Links to Bandcamp or Spotify where possible. TL;DR - Yes I will be picking a shortlist of 50 or so if you have neither the time nor the inclination to explore all this!  

Artifacts - ...and then there's this (Astral Editions) 

The combination of Mike Reed (drums), Tomeka Reid (cello) and Nicole Mitchell flute makes for a fascinating and unusual improvising trio on this kinetic, engaging album. 

Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt - Lucy & Aaron (Hanson) 

Unsettling sounds, loops and textures in a highly effective, modern sounding collaboration. 

Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra - Resonant Bodies (Metarecords) 

A guitar ensemble featuring some of the most individual and innovative guitarists currently at work (Liberty Ellman! Nels Cline! Miles Okazaki!) with pieces named after stars in the Cygnus cluster. The way these guitars are orchestrated to adopt different functions within the ensemble is so interesting. 

Adeline Hotel - The Cherries Are Speaking (Ruination Record Co.) 

Adeline Hotel - Good Timing (Ruination Record Co.) 

Two excellent albums - one solo, one with considered arrangements for an ensemble. 

Alasdair Roberts & Volvur - The Old Fabled River (Drag City) 

A combination of Roberts originals and Scottish and Norwegian songs in this fruitful, evocative combination of folk traditions. 

Alchemy Sound Project - Afrika Love (Alchemy Sound Project) 

The core of this group is a quintet with three horns, bass and piano. Chad Taylor guests on drums. The music has an urgency and potency. 

Alexander Hawkins - Togetherness Music (Intakt) 

A dramatic and enthralling work for sixteen musicians, featuring Evan Parker and Riot Ensemble and a valuable addition to one of the most impressive recorded catalogues in contemporary British improvised music. 

Alexis Taylor - Silence (Domino) 

Alexis was kind enough to send me an advance stream of this album while I was in hospital with pancreatitis back in early spring. Although the songs are in many ways either sad or melancholy, I also feel a degree of solace and consolation, in the spaces as much as the sounds, so this made an ideal soundtrack to my recovery. Alexis' best solo album so far for me. 

Allison Russell - Outside Child (Birds Of Chicago) 

A bold and beautiful survivor's suite of songs. Overwhelmingly moving at times. Nightflyer and Persephone are two of my favourite songs of the year. 

Altin Gun - Alem (Bandcamp) 

Altin Gun - Yol (Glitterbeat) 

Jasper Verhulst's project with Turkish musicians produced two captivating albums this year. 

Amethyst Kiah - Wary + Strange (Rounder) 

Together with Allison Russell and Rhiannon Giddens and Leyla McCalla, Amethyst Kiah is part of the Our Native Daughters collaboration (and she powerfully revisits the strident Black Myself from that project here). Here, her own voice and presence dominates with clarity of purpose and conviction, but without losing subtlety and nuance in communication and dynamics. 

Amir ElSaffar Rivers Of Sound - The Other Shore (Outhere) 

This is ElSaffar's eighth album, but his second large scale project with the Rivers Of Sound orchestra, brilliantly fusing approaches from improvised music with Arabic musical content and culture. 

Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News (ECM) 

The great jazz drummer is making some of his best work in his 80s, in a quartet with David Virelles (piano), Bill Frisell (guitar) and Ben Street (bass). Delicate, controlled, lyrical and gently haunting music. 

Andrew Scott Young, Ryan Jewell & Ryley Walker - Post Wook (Husky Pants) 

Atmospheric jams. 

Andrew Tuttle and Padang Food Tigers - A Cassowary Apart (Bedroom Suck Records) 

A pandemic collaboration between two of my favourite artists, made in home studios in London and Brisbane and developed over email. There's an obvious kinship between Tuttle and PFTs and A Cassowary Apart feels impressively effortless. Much like Tuttle's superb Alexandra album from last year, it's very evocative of place and environment. 

Andrew Wasylyk - Balgay Hill: Morning In Magnolia (Clay Pipe Music) 

A musical compendium of lockdown walks and all the more beautiful for it. 

Andy Stott - Never The Right Time (Modern Love) 

More mechanistic, alienating electronica. 

Anika - Change (Invada) 

Nico-esque vocals over minimalist, tense and edgy grooves. 

Anna Webber - Idiom (Pi) 

Two discs of exploratory and challenging improvisation and composition - one for a trio (without bass) and one for a larger ensemble. 

Anthony Braxton - Quartet (Standards) 2020 (Bandcamp) 

Anthony Braxton - 12 Comp (Zim) 2017 (Firehouse 12) 

A vast and unmanageable body of work to add to an already vast and unmanageable body of work! Braxton's discography is foreboding, but worth grappling with given the insight and innovation it yields. A deeply serious and hugely important musician. 

Anthony Naples - Chameleon (ANS Recordings) 

Bright, fluid electronic music with an emphasis on texture. 

Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark (Rock Action) 

A hugely welcome return, with the duo's qualities of wry, often sleazy observation and intricate musical detail very much still intact. 

Archie Shepp & Jason Moran - Let My People Go (Archieball/YES Records) 

An intuitive and empathetic intergenerational collaboration. 

Archipelago - Echoes To The Sky (New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings) 

Striking integration of contemporary jazz and alternative rock influences. 

Arlo Parks - Collapsed In Sunbeams (Transgressive) 

Acute, well observed songs on this impressive, Mercury prize winning debut album. 

Armand Hammer & The Alchemist - Haram (Backwoodz Studios) 

The Armand Hammer body of work is increasingly one of the most original and inspired catalogues in contemporary hip hop. 

Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince (Verve/Universal) 

Absorbing and compelling third album from the Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer, with intriguing instrumentation. 

Arushi Jain - Under The Lilac Sky (Leaving Records) 

Beautiful work combining ambient electronics with Indian traditional music approaches. 

aya - im hole (Hyperdub) 

Abstraction meets frank honesty in these unsettling sound worlds. 

Ayanda Sikade - Umakhulu (Afrosynth) 

Melodic, life affirming jazz from South Africa. 

BadBadNotGood - Talk Memory (XL/Innovative Leisure) 

Perhaps the most sonically and formally elaborate work from the Canadian hybrid jazz group. 

Badume's Band/Salamnash Zemene - Yaho Bele/Say Yeah (Ton All Produksion/Innacor) 

Spectacular, powerful Ethiopian rock music. 

Becca Stevens & Secret Trio - Becca Stevens & Secret Trio 

The ever versatile Becca Stevens continues to demonstrate her enthusiasm for a range of settings. While her solo albums have moved in a poppier direction, here is an intimate and distinctive modern chamber music set - the trio consists of oud, kanun and clarinet. But even this line-up doesn't preclude exploring Stevens' love of groove and rhythm, as Bring It Back ingeniously attests. 

Ben Chasny - The Intimate Landscape (Drag City) 

Chasny is one of the year's clutch of seriously hardworking artists - having produced this warm and enriching solo acoustic guitar album alongside a darker Six Organs Of Admittance album and an album with The New Bums. Solo guitar music has been in diverse and inspiring health this year - and this is a substantial contribution to that trend. 

Ben Goldberg/Todd Sickafoose/Jordan Glenn - Thought Out Vol. 1 (BAG Production)

Ben Goldberg - Everything Happens To Be (BAG Production) 

The first release is part of an intended series started by Todd Sickafoose and Ben Goldberg and features a two part improvisation with both musicians in a trio with Jordan Glenn, brilliantly exploring sound and space. Glenn's sonic range in the percussion contribution is a marvel. Everything Happens To Be is more arranged and finds Goldberg in an inspired quintet with Mary Halvorson, Ellery Eskelin, Tomas Fujiwara and Michael Formanek. 

Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms To Open Us (International Anthem) 

A synthesis of so many influences and ideas that it can only sound like itself. Features superb contributions from a number of idiosyncratic musicians, including some also nestling elsewhere in this overview - Macie Stewart, Tomeka Reid and Rob Frye. 

Bendik Giske - Cracks (Smalltown Supersound) 

A deeply engaging, forward thinking, tactile and sensual solo saxophone album inspired by queer theory, particularly Jose Munoz's Cruising Utopia.

Benoit Delbecq - The Weight Of Light (Pyroclastic) 

Benoit Delbecq - Gentle Ghosts (Jazzdor Series) 

Another excellent release from Kris Davis' excellent Pyroclastic label - this time pianist Benoit Delbecq's first solo recording in more than a decade - using percussive prepared piano very effectively. 

Gentle Ghosts is a quartet recording with Mark Turner, John Hebert and Gerald Cleaver. 

Bex Burch and Leafcutter John - Boing! (Vula Viel) 

Strange and alluring combination of percussion and synths. 

Bicep - Isles (Ninja Tune) 

Emotive, melodic electronic examination of island life. Also now available in a deluxe edition with three bonus tracks. 

Bill Mackay & Nathan Bowles - Keys (Drag City) 

Bill Mackay can now add this timeless and haunting collaboration with Nathan Bowles to his growing CV of duo collaborations. Brilliantly informed and communicated contemporary American folk music. 

Birds Of Maya - Valdez (Drag City) 

Highly welcome return after eight years for the relentless, churning, riff heavy Philadelphia band. A fabulous blast of noise. 

Bitchin Bajas - Switched On Ra (Drag City) 

A celebration of Sun Ra very much refracted through the Bajas' meditative, ambient lens. 

Black Country, New Road - For The First Time (Ninja Tune) 

Impressive, potent and urgent debut from the precocious art rock band. Reminds me a lot of Diary, a band legendary amongst their modest following, who used to regularly play at the Bull & Gate when I was a teenager.

Black Twig Pickers - Friend's Peace (VHF) 

Brilliantly executed Appalachian folk from the supergroup (current line-up Sally Anne Morgan, Mike Gangloff, Nathan Bowles, Isak Howell). 

BLK JKS - Abantu / Before Humans (Glitterbeat)

Another forthright, groove heavy and impressive album from the South African rock group - emboldened by the crisp horn section. I really hope to get the chance to see this band live at some point. 

Bobby Lee - Origin Myths (Tompkins Square) 

Cinematic electric Americana improvisations recorded directly to four track. 

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Bill Callahan - Blind Date Party (Drag City) 

Compilation of the fun and spirit-raising online collaboration between two of the greatest contemporary singer-songwriters, mostly taking on the work of others. Featuring a raft of special guest contributions. 

Borderlands Trio - Wandersphere (Intakt) 

Double disc set of confident, crackling improvisations from the trio of Stephan Crump, Kris Davis and Erin McPherson. 

Brandee Younger - Somewhere Different (Impulse!) 

Heavy astral grooves from the promising harpist, emboldened by the depth and detail of Marcus Gilmore's drumming. 

Caetano Veloso - Meu Coco (Sony) 

More usually a natural collaborator, the pandemic has prompted Veloso to work on a new album of original songs - staggeringly, the first album consisting entirely of his own original songs in his career. A major late period work. 

Cameron Knowler - Places Of Consequence (American Dreams) 

Cameron Knowler & Eli Winter - Anticipation (American Dreams) 

A beautiful duo album between two young masters of modern American folk guitar, and then a debut solo album from Knowler, brilliantly soundtracking the American Wes with both guitar and banjo. 

Carlos Nino & Friends - More Energy Fields, Current (International Anthem) 

Transcendent, healing music from the percussionist and his other illustrious contributors. 

Carter Tanton - Carter Tanton (Western Vinyl) 

Slow, ruminative but eerily present songwriting. 

Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview On Phenomenal Nature (Ba Da Bing!)

A concise and focused album of softly delivered but piercingly sharp songs. Jenkins is a real songwriting talent, and Josh Kaufman of Fruit Bats and Bonnie Light Horseman serves the music well as producer. 

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels - Tone Poem (Blue Note) 

Charles Lloyd continues to enjoy a magnificent late career period, with music that is elevating and passionate. 

Charlotte Keefe - Right Here, Right Now (Discus Music) 

The trumpeter captured solo, in duo and quartet and with various members of the London Improvisers Orchestra. 

Ches Smith and We All Break - Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic) 

A fascinating and thrilling octet line up including Smith on drums, Miguel Zenon on saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, vocalist Sirene Dantor Rene and three hand drummers, drawing on Smith's study of Haitian cultural and musical traditions. 

Chris Brokaw - Puritan (12XU)

A grandiose and resplendent rock record from the Codeine and Come guitarist and songwriter, now on something of a diverse hot streak. 

Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt - Made Out Of Sound (Palilalia) 

A typically expressive and cascading collaboration between two master musicians. 

Chris Schlarb & Chad Taylor - Time No Changes (Astral Spirits) 

Another questing, exploratory guitar and drums duo, with Schlarb sometimes using Moog or Hammond organ. 

Chris Sharkey - Presets (Not Applicable) 

Magnificent, playful, confrontational solo electric guitar album. 

Chuck Johnson - The Cinder Grove (Tak:til) 

Magnificent recontextualisation of pedal steel guitar and a 'suite of requiems for lost places' (see also Susan Alcorn from last year and the Nashville Ambient Ensemble album for more in this rich seam). 

Circuit Des Yeux - -io (Matador) 

It's quite an achievement - but this may be one album where Hayley Fohr's extraordinary voice doesn't quite dominate - set as it is amidst dramatic, turbulent strings and horns on one of her most theatrical works. 

Cities Aviv - The Crashing Sound Of How It Goes (D.O.T.) 

A fearless and inventive production that consistently disorientates and surprises. 

Claire Cronin - Bloodless (Orindal)

Ghostly, warped American songwriting. 

Claire Rousay - A Softer Focus (American Dreams) 

Claire Rousay & More Eaze - An Afternoon Whine (Ecstatic Recordings) 

The two highlights of Claire Rousay's wildly productive 2021, brilliantly incorporating field recordings and mundanities into her contemplative, immersive sound worlds.

Clairo - Sling (Fader) 

A more melancholy and classic influenced second album. 

Cleo Sol - Mother (Forever Living Originals) 

Second album of retro-modernist soul. 

Colleen - The Tunnel and the Clearing (Thrill Jockey) 

Impressively arranged, lucid and striking work centred on Cecile Schott's organ, made in the face of challenges from extreme fatigue. 

Craig Taborn - Shadow Plays (ECM)

Typically breathtaking, wide ranging, technically dazzling solo piano performance from one of the modern masters of the form. 

cr-ow tr-io - Hold Music (Luminous) 

Massively enjoyable, disruptive and mischievous improvised music from Cath Roberts, Otto Wilberg and Tullis Rennie. 

dal:um - Similar and Different (Eastern Standard Sounds) 

Korean duo creating strange and crepuscular sound worlds from traditional stringed instruments. 

Damon Albarn - The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows (Transgressive) 

Albarn at his more low key, observational, pensive and melancholy. 

Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble - NOW (International Anthem) 

A brilliant, rhythmically propulsive cross-genre expression of urgency and defiance. 

Dan Nicholls - Mattering and Meaning (We Jazz) 

Ostensibly a solo piano record, but one that retains Nicholls' longstanding fascination with electronic production, utilising loops and field recordings and recorded with a mobile phone voice recorder. It's a curious celebration of the creative process. 

Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki - Music For Drums and Guitar (Bandcamp)

Further evidence for the drums and guitar duo being one of the intriguing formats for improvising musicians in 2021. This is the product of real depth of kowledge and skill, but also a substantial freedom in the moment. 

Daniel Bachman - Axacan (Three Lobed) 

An intense, brave and bewitching album from the increasingly innovative guitarist. 

Daniel Blumberg - The World To Come OST (Node) 

Daniel Blumberg continues his successful foray into more abstract musical territory with this vivid, unsettling soundtrack work. 

Darius Jones - Raw Demoon Alchemy (A Lone Operation) (Northern Spy) 

Untethered and imposing solo saxophone.  

Dave Harrington, Chris Forsyth, Ryan Jewell and Spencer Zahn - First Flight Redux (Harrington Dub) (Algorithm Free) 

Dave Harrington brilliantly manipulates, reconstructs and radically transforms the First Flight performance. 

Dave Holland - Another Land (Edition) 

Now in a trio with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire, Another Land continued to explore Dave Holland's preoccupations with rhythm and asymmetry, but also explored space too. 

Dave Okumu - Knopperz (Transgressive) 

Astonishingly, this is Dave Okumu's (The Invisible) first solo project, and there is a lot to take in from its refracted and unusual sound worlds. 

David Crosby - For Free (Three Blind Mice/BMG)

Another impressive, richly imagined late period solo work. 

David Grubbs & Ryley Walker - A Tap On The Shoulder (Husky Pants) 

One of four albums involving Ryley Walker this year, proving his restless artistry is as good as his banter.

Dean McPhee - Witch's Ladder (Hood Faire)

Another melodic,  mesmerising and transporting solo guitar record from the dependably excellent artist. Dean's sound continues to become more and more distinctive and effective.   

Dean Wareham - I Have Nothing To Say To The Mayor Of LA (Double Feature) 

Dean Wareham's first new songs since 2014 are wry and grizzled. 

Deerhoof - Actually, You Can (Joyful Noise Recordings)

Another set combining wit, invention and madcap energy. One of the great bands. 

Desertion Trio - Numbers Maker (Cuneiform) 

The band's first 'true trio' release, without guests, and brimming with ideas drawn from psychedelia, funk, rock and the avant garde. Recorded live in front of an audience at the Firehouse 12 studio. 

Diego Pinero - Odd Wisdom (ACT)

An insanely good band with Donny McCaslin, Ben Monder and Scott Colley - making for one of my favourite jazz albums of the year. 

Dinosaur Jr - Sweep It Into Space (Jagjaguwar)

You know what you're getting (the opening song is called I Ain't!!). Lou is also on good form here. 

Divide & Dissolve - Gas Lit (Invada) 

A pulverising noise record aimed right at the core of white power. 

Donald Beaman - Sunlight On The Platform (Bandcamp)

Cass McCombs-esque dusty, minimalist songcraft. 

Donor Lens - Error Area (My Pet Flamingo) 

Second album of well constructed chill wave and soulful electronic pop from the duo and guest vocalists. 

Dr. Joy - Dr. Joy (Idee Fixe) 

Vivid and hallucinatory collaboration between Toronto band Mr. Joy and Matthew 'Doc' Dunn. 

Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg (4AD)

I avoided this for a while, expecting to find it over-hyped, but actually there's lots to enjoy in these scratchy, wiry antics. Inevitably boxed in with the other sprechgesang bands (Black Country, New Road and Squid) but actually quite different. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2021 In Music Part 1: Reissues, Compilations, Lost and Found Albums/EPs, Live Albums

Below is an overview of the many great reissues, compilations, rediscovered albums and live recordings released in 2021. I would love to include embeds - but it takes forever and makes the page very slow to load for some people, so I've added links instead. I hope they all work! 

Air - 10, 000 Hz Legend (PLG UK) 

Air's follow up to Moon Safari perplexed people on its original release, but I've always enjoyed its combination of attention to detail, gleaming textures and playful parody. Its highlights (People In The City, Don't Be Light) still cut through. 

Alice Coltrane - Kirtan: Turiya Sings (Impulse!) 

Slightly controversial in that, rather than simply making the original Turiya Sings recordings (the first devotional music Alice Coltrane made alone after withdrawing from the wider musical world) available widely, this reissue presents us with a radically different version. The music here is stripped of the synthesisers and strings that adorn the original, leaving just Coltrane's voice and Wurlitzer. In part, this seems to be because the family have been unable to locate the original synthesiser masters, but it also seems to be both a musical and aesthetic choice too. It's certainly a fascinating alternate version - meditative and consoling music with a transcendent quality that is particularly valuable in these difficult times. I would still have liked a package that placed both versions side by side, however, even if improving the audio quality of the original wasn't an option. 

Archie Shepp - Live In Paris (1974) (Transversales Disques) 

A stunning live set - with Shepp playing with a band of musicians I really don't know enough about (Noel McGhie on drums, Bob Reid on bass, Siegfried Kessler on piano, Pablo Kino on percussion). Things Have Got To Change is a circling, hypnotic tour de force. 

Aretha Franklin - Aretha (Rhino) 

Predictably magisterial four disc box set of the Atlantic era. 

Arthur Russell - Another Thought (Be With) 

Arthur Russell - Iowa Dream (Rough Trade) 

Another Thought is one of the strongest Arthur Russell collections, foregrounding both his songwriting and distinctive cello playing - now widely available on vinyl thanks to the efforts of the excellent Be With records. Iowa Dream is a mostly song based 2019 compilation now easy to find on physical formats in the UK. 

Autechre - LP5 / Chiastic Slide (Warp) 

Vinyl reissues of characteristically twitchy 1997 and 1998 albums. 

Beatriz Ferreyra - Canto+ (Room40) 

Collects work from over 40 years of Ferreyra's working life as a composer, highlighting her interest in the voice. 

Benitez and Valencia - Impossible Love Songs From Sixties Quito (Honest Jon's)  

See also 'The Paths Of Pain' compilation. Music filled with longing. 

Bheki Mseleku - Beyond The Stars (Tapestry Works)

An immensely welcome previously unheard solo studio album from the great South African pianist. These performances are bursting with joy, exuberance, melody, rhythm and invention. 

Billy Bang - Music From The Film 'Lucky Man' (BBE Music) 

Not really sure where this should be categorised, in that it consists of previously unheard field recordings, spoken word fragments and music - but it dates back to a return trip to Vietnam improvising violinist and veteran Billy Bang bravely conducted in 2008. This is an immensely powerful document that demands to be heard. The film is available to watch online too. 

"Blue" Gene Tyranny - Degrees Of Freedom Found (Unseen Worlds) 

I'm not very proud to admit I knew nothing about 'Blue' Gene Tyranny until delving into this remarkable, multi-faceted box set that encompasses avant-garde composition, extemporising piano playing and much else besides. Much of the material has real emotional depth. 

Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan 1970 (Columbia) 

Bob Dylan - Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985 (Columbia)  

As is the rather frustrating way with the Bootleg series now, every archive Dylan project seems to come in multiple different versions, with the full shebang inevitably being prohibitively expensive. It was nice that the 1970 set (with George Harrison on some recordings) got a wider release this year, although it's sadly not on streaming services. Springtime In New York doesn't quite rehabilitate Infidels for me (an album I've always found somewhat overrated), and certainly not Empire Burlesque, but it does again serve to underline how much excellent material was bafflingly left out from the final tracklists of Dylan's 80s albums. Too Late is a profoundly brilliant song - so full of ideas and clearly communicated. It's also delivered in a much more subtle, less clunky band performance than Foot Of Pride, the song it eventually became.  

Bola Sete - Samba In Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (Tompkins Square) 

This captures three nights of the excellent Brazilian guitarist and his trio. The playing is often daring and exhilarating. 

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts (Columbia) 

A great live album, of course, but the real value here is in the accompanying film. It is remarkable how little live video there is of the E Street Band, particularly as it is in the world of live performance that Springsteen's lasting reputation is surely most clearly cemented. The intensity of the E Street Band at their peak is extraordinary. There will no doubt be fan complaints that this is a composite, rather than a complete set of both performances, but as a way of introducing curious listeners and viewers to the illustrious history of this band, it is ideal. 

Bush Tetras - Rhythm & Paranoia: The Best of Bush Tetras (Wharf Cat) 

Mobilising wiry punk-funk. 

Calvin Keys - Shawn-Neeq (Black Jazz) 

Urgent, propulsive jazz fusion - 1971 debut as a leader from the guitarist. 

Can - Live In Stuttgart 1975 / Live In Brighton 1975 (Spoon Records/Mute Artists) 

The opening up of the Can live archive has been most welcome. 

Carroll Thompson - Hopelessly In Love 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Trojan) 

Enticing, rapturous Lovers Rock. 

Castlemusic - Live At The Music Gallery (Idee Fixe) 

Excellent early live performance from Jennifer Castle. 

Come - Don't Ask Don't Tell Expanded Edition (Fire) 

Crisp sounding remaster of intense and raw rock record - with bonus disc of extras. 

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Rhino) 

The best recorded release from CSNY expanded to include all manner of extras - highlights include an early demo version of Neil Young's Birds. 

David Bowie - Brilliant Adventure 1992-2001 (PLG UK Catalog) 

A very welcome compendium of generally neglected later Bowie, including the previously held back Toy set of interpretations. Also a timely reminder of the wide-ranging imagination of 1. Outside particularly. 

Dinosaur Jr. - Emptiness At The Sinclair (Jagjaguwar) 

Blistering live set from one of the greatest (and loudest) guitar bands. 

Don Cherry - The Summer House Sessions (Blank Forms Editions) 

Don Cherry's New Researches featuring Nana Vasconcelos - Organic Music Theatre: Festival de Jazz de Chateauvallon 1972 (Live) (Blank Forms Editions) 

1968 sessions in Sweden featuring Cherry with a group of Swedish musicians alongside Turkish percussionist Bulent Ates and the New York Total Music Company group. Intuitive and ebullient music making. 

1972 debut performance from Organic Music Theatre. 

Donald Fagen - The Nightly: Live (UMC) 

Fagen's first and best solo album reconstructed lovingly in full at The Beacon Theatre. It's still a shame that his 'solo' focus tours have not reached the UK. 

Eboni Band - Eboni Band (We Are Busy Bodies) 

Great, celebratory EP of West African soul music. Features some Motown session players and Fred Wesley alongside musicians associated with Eboni Records in 1970s Ivory Coast. Effortless groove. 

Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles / Porcupine / Heaven Up Here / Ocean Rain (Rhino) 

Vinyl reissues of the Bunnymen golden period, up to the point where hubris set in. 

ÉVÉ - Canto Aberto (Komos) 

Sole recording from the Brazilian guitarist and composer, made in France. 

Wildly expanded version of the wild film soundtrack, melding orchestral composition, ingenious arrangement, thrilling rock band performances and bawdy humour. 

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary (Beatles Solo/Universal) 

Not sure how many times this needs to be reissued, or whether you really need the deluxe version - but it remains one of the towering achievements of a solo Beatle, with or without the Phil Spector contribution. If you're interested in the genesis of the album, the various takes and demos are worth the time investment at least. 

Gideon Nxumalo - Gideon Plays (Matsuli Music) 

The South African pianist and composer's great lost album, previously a collector's prize. 

Goldie - Timeless (25 Year Anniversary) (London) 

A belated anniversary celebration of this great piece of modern soul music, now expanded to three discs with various remixes and bonus tracks. 

Hailu Mergia & The Walias - Tezeta (Awesome Tapes From Africa) 

Rediscovered 1975 album from the Ethiopian group, featuring a mix of standards and then-popular compositions. 

Harari - Rufaro (Happiness) (Matsuli Music) 

Great Afro-rock set from the South African group (see also the entry for The Beaters, as they were previously known). 

Henry Franklin - The Skipper (Black Jazz/Real Gone Music) 

Henry Franklin - The Skipper At Home (Black Jazz/Real Gone Music) 

Intense, swashbuckling 1972 and 1974 albums from the bassist. The whole of the reissued Black Jazz catalogue is really worth exploring. 

Hiroshi Suzuki - Cat (We Release Jazz) 

Sublime 1976 Japanese jazz-funk fusion. 

His Name Is Alive - A Silver Thread: Home Recordings 1979 - 1990 (Disciples) 

Collating eleven years of home recordings, previously released across three individual releases last year, and adding a bonus fourth disc. 

Ian Carr - Belladonna (Mr. Bongo) 

Ian Carr Double Quintet - Solar Session (Jazz In Britain) 

Ian Carr's Nucleus - Roots (Be With) 

It's been a good year to improve an Ian Carr collection - with new vinyl reissues from Mr. Bongo and Be With and a previously unreleased session from Matt Parker's excellent Jazz In Britain label. 

Iron & Wine - Archive Series Vol. 5: Tallahassee Recordings (Sub Pop) 

This superb series featuring previously unreleased recordings from one of the great contemporary songwriters here focuses on some rough and rustic early works. 

J Dilla - Welcome 2 Detroit 20th Anniversary Edition (Bbe Music) 

The debut, producer-driven album from the then Slum Village rapper, with abundant influence from West African and Brazilian music. 

Jackie Leven - Straight Outta Caledonia (School Daze) 

Excellent, if slightly short, primer for this still underrated singer-songwriter. 

Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die Live (International Anthem) 

Incandescent live set from Zurich in January 2020. 

Japan - Quiet Life (BMG)

Vinyl reissue from the pioneering 80s band. 

Jeanne Lee - Conspiracy (Moved By Sound) 

The great improvising vocalist is probably known best for her duo work with Ran Blake, but this is an excellent, consistently surprising ensemble record. 

Joan Shelley - Ginko (No Quarter) 

Debut album from the sublime, beautifully clear singer-songwriter, on vinyl for the first time. 

Joe Harriott - Free Form & Abstract Revisited (Ezz-Thetics) 

We don't talk enough about Joe Harriott. 

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme Live In Seattle (Impulse!) 

Something of a holy grail. 

Joni Mitchell - The Reprise Albums 1968 - 1971 (Rhino) 

A valuable record of Mitchell's ongoing artistic development at the time, concluding with her first masterpiece 'Blue'. What came after this is arguably her greatest period, however. 

Joseph Spence - Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (Smithsonian Folkways) 

1965 archival recordings from the great Bahamanian guitar player. 

Julius Hemphill - The Boye Multi-National Crusade For Harmony (Anthology Of Recorded Music)  

One of the true highlights of the year - a really vital collection of Hemphill's work across seven discs. Enough work in itself to soundtrack close listening for the entire year. 

Karen Black - Dreaming Of You 1971-1976 (Anthology Recordings) 

Maybe more familiar to many from her work as an actor (in a number of Robert Altman's films particularly), Karen Black was also a fine singer and songwriter, as this compilation attests. 

Keith Hudson - Flesh Of My Skin, Blood Of My Blood (VP) 

The reggae producer and singer's foundational fourth album from 1974 - reissued on CD and vinyl and now available to stream for the first time. 

Khan Jamal - Infinity (Jazz Room) 

Tremendous 1984 album from the vibraphone player, also featuring free improvising drumming legend Sunny Murray. 

Laura Nyro - American Dreamer (Madfish) 

Great box set of one of the most crucial recorded artist catalogues - from the bold and vibrant arrangements of Nyro's early pop material to the overwhelming intensity of New York Tendaberry and beyond. 

Lee Morgan - The Complete Live At The Lighthouse (Blue Note/Capitol) 

8 discs of Morgan's July 1970 performances. 

Leo Nocentelli - Another Side (Light In The Attic) 

The Meters guitarist's excellent lost solo work with a Bill Withers-esque vibe. 

Les Filles De Ilighadad - At Pioneer Works (Sahel Sounds) 

Tremendous recording across two live shows in New York during 2019. 

Leslie Winer - When I Hit You - You'll Feel It (Light In The Attic) 

A wide-ranging compendium from across this musician, poet and author's career. 

Lewis Taylor - Lewis Taylor (Be With)

Vinyl reissue of the excellent, lush R&B album.  

Lilys - The 3 Way (Sundazed) 

Another vinyl reissue - and a great reminder of this band's brilliant combination of 60s pop influences with more contemporary 90s alternative production values. 

Linda Smith - Till Another Time 1988-1996 (Captured Tracks) 

Brittle, lo-fi pop songs. 

Mario Rui Silva - Stories From Another Time 1982-1988 (Time Capsule) 

A beautiful collection of music from the 80s work of the Angolan guitarist 

Mary Lattimore - Collected Pieces II (Ghostly International) 

Compendium of new, previously released singles and previously unreleased work from the composer and harpist - haunting, beautiful and moving music. 

Mike Gibbs - Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes (Jazz In Britain) 

A prototype take on one of the key works in the catalogue of this excellent and underrated musician. 

Mike Taylor - Trio, Quartet and Composer Revisited (Ezz-Thetics) 

Includes compositions for Cream. 

Miriam Makeba - Keep Me In Mind (Strut) 

Makeba's final album for Reprise includes a stellar version of For What It's Worth among many other great songs. 

My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything / EPs 1988 - 1991 / Loveless / m b v (Domino) 

Domino not only reissued this most influential of catalogues on vinyl, but also brought it to streaming services. This provided a great and convenient opportunity to revisit this still striking and confounding music. It's hard to believe the m b v album is already eight years old! 

Nancy Sinatra - Boots (Light In The Attic) 

Nancy Sinatra - Start Walkin' 1965-1976 (Light In The Attic) 

One of Sinatra's key albums and a satisfying compilation. 

Natural Information Society and Evan Parker - Descension (Out Of Our Constrictions) (Eremite)

Very fruitful collaboration live at Cafe Oto between Joshua Abrams' group and the legendary free improviser. 

Neil Ardley - Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows: Live 1975 (Jazz In Britain) 

Live performances of Ardley's most important work as a composer from the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1975. 

Neil Young - Young Shakespeare (Reprise) 

Neil Young - Carnegie Hall 1970 (Reprise) 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Way Down In The Rust Bucket (Reprise) 

Just the four Neil Young releases this year, then, including a new album with Crazy Horse and these two acoustic sets. The highlight of them all, however, must be Way Down In The Rust Bucket, which could well be the finest live recording of Young with Crazy Horse that is legitimately available. It's absolute dynamite. Also a reminder that Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze is fantastic. 

New Age Steppers - Avant Gardening (On U Sound) 

An On U Sound reggae gem. 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - B Sides & Rarities: Part II (BMG) 

Long awaited second instalment of the deep cuts compilation. 

Nick Lowe - The Convincer 20th Anniversary (Yep Roc) 

Nick Lowe's Brentford Trilogy of albums is one of the great examples of a tremendous mature period in a singer-songwriter's catalogue. The Convincer may actually be my favourite of the three, its smoky country soul arrangements work perfectly for Lowe's wry delivery. Lowe's original songs sound like standards. Bonus tracks include an excellent Chi-Lites cover. 

Nico - Drama Of Exile (Modern Harmonic) 

A rare rock album from Nico - considerably less abrasive and confrontational than her most notorious work, but still with a sense of mechanistic doom. A close cousin of The Walker Brothers' Nite Flights, perhaps. Includes robotic takes on Waiting For The Man and Heroes. 

Nirvana - Nevermind 30th Anniversary Edition (UMC) 

Repackaged for the umpteenth time with a bonanza of live recordings. 

Oregon - 1974 (Moosicus) 

Bremen live recording from the great supergroup. 

Oren Ambarchi - Live Hubris (Black Truffle) 

Captured over three dates at London's Cafe Oto - a superb, entrancing live album with numerous collaborators. 

Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ Choir - I Shall Wear A Crown (Numero) 

An incredible, largely euphoric box set of the preacher and civil rights activist's gospel recordings. 

Pelt - Reticence Resistance (Three Lobed) 

Typically explorative and thoughtful live performance over two nights in 2016 at London's Cafe Oto. 

Phuong Tam - Magical Nights: Saigon Surf, Twist & Soul 1964-1966 (Sublime Frequencies) 

One of the first singers to perform rock and roll in Vietnam. 

PJ Harvey - Is This Desire / Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea / White Chalk / Uh Huh Her (UMG) 

Continuing the excellent reissue campaign, with accompanying collections of demos for each album. 

Prince - Welcome 2 America (NPG/Sony) 

Long awaited lost album turns out to be just fine - not top tier Prince but with plenty to enjoy. 

Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia (XL)

Two albums I still have something of an ambivalent relationship with, but which definitely work best when combined. 

R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi Fi (Warner Bros) 

One of R.E.M.'s finest, this on the road document is the band at their most unmediated and powerful. The extras (covers and live recordings) are of limited value unfortunately, although the alternate version of Leave is intriguing and a signpost to where they would go after Bill Berry's departure. 

Roots - Roots (Frederiksberg Records) 

Lovely 1975 debut album from the South African jazz ensemble. 

Roy Brooks - Understanding (Reel To Reel/La Reserve) 

Superb live set from the drummer-bandleader with a quintet also featuring Woody Shaw, Carlos Garnett, Harold Mabern and Cecil McBee. 

Seefeel - Rupt & Flex (Warp) 

Comprehensive anthology reviving out of print albums and EPs. One of the Warp acts to have got away somewhat. 

Sly & The Viscaynes - Yellow Moon: The Complete Recordings 1961-1962 (Ace) 

Early teenage doo wop from the future Sly Stone. 

Splinters - Inclusivity (Jazz In Britain) 

Drawn from Trevor Watts' own tapes - a brilliant ensemble of classic British jazz talent - with Tubby Hayes, Kenny Wheeler, Phil Seamen and and John Stevens on drums (panned left and right), Stan Tracey and Jeff Clyne. Includes the complete 100 Club concert and the Grass Roots concert. Essential. 

Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies / Pure Phase / Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space / Let It Come Down (Fat Possum) 

If later Spiritualized works have not had much impact for me, this reissue series provided a great opportunity to remember Jason Pierce at his best - when he was as interested in sound as in classic songwriting tropes. The first three albums still sound tremendous and, although the obvious turning point (particularly lyrically), Let It Come Down has some striking moments too. 

Spirits Rejoice - African Spaces (Matsuli Music) 

A key album in South African jazz, as musicians engaged with trends in jazz rock and fusion. 

Star Lovers - Boafo Ne Nyama (Hot Casa) 

Great Ghanaian high-life. 

Steely Dan - Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live (Nightfly Productions/UMG) 

A crackling and predictably meticulous live recordings compilation. The tracklist deviates quite substantially from recent Dan performances in the UK - Rikki, Glamour Profession, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Things I Missed The Most, A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry all appear here. 

Stereolab - Electrically Possessed: Switched On Vol 4 (Duophonic) 

An excellent fourth volume of Stereolab rarities, soundtrack commissions etc. 

Squarepusher - Feed Me Weird Things (Warp) 

Welcome remaster for one of Tom Jenkinson's best. 

Sun Ra - Lanquidity (Strut) 

Perhaps the most accessible Ra - not necessarily my favourite, but still an important part of a vast catalogue. Expanded with an alternate mix. 

Supergrass - In It For The Money (The Echo Label/BMG) 

Still one of the highlights of the Britpop era. Expanded with demos, B sides, alternate versions and a live set. Richard III still hits hard and Cheapskate is one of the best should-have-been-singles of the 90s. 

Susanna & David Wallumrød - Live (SusannaSonata) 

Typically glacial covers set recorded live in 2019. 

The Band - Stage Fright / Cahoots Anniversary Editions (Capitol/UMG) 

Continuation of the expanded reissues programme. Stage Fright is immensely enjoyable, Cahoots a little more scattershot. Both come with fantastic live recordings. 

The Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower and Surf's Up Sessions 1969-1971 (Brother/Capitol) 

A treasure trove of material from one of my favourite periods of Beach Boys history. Includes both albums, live material, a variety of mixes highlighting different aspects of the creative process. 

The Beaters - Harari (Matsuli Music)

Another excellent 1975 recording from South Africa. The Beaters would go on to adopt the album title as their band name.  

The Beatles - Let It Be Super Deluxe (Apple Corps) 

Yes. Again. But valuable listening alongside Peter Jackson's Get Back documentary. 

The KLF / Justified Ancients Of MuMu - Solid State Logik 1 / Come Down Dawn / Solid State Logik 2 / The White Room 1989 Director's Cut (KLF Communications) 

Revised versions of the KLF catalogue (presumably to only contain authorised samples) so that they can make their streaming debut. 

The Replacements - Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash Deluxe Edition (Rhino) 

Yet another reissue of The Replacements' brash and uninhibited debut, now across four discs with demos, alternate versions and a complete 1981 live set. 

The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You Super Deluxe (Polydor) 

Not sure anyone would argue that Tattoo You represents The Stones at their very best, but it's mostly a lot of fun, certainly has its moments (not least Start Me Up), and some of the bonus tracks here are surprisingly strong too. 

The The - The Comeback Special (Absolute) 

One of the year's most welcome releases - The The's brilliant return to the live stage (at London's Royal Albert Hall) captured in various formats including a Blu Ray edition. 

Tori Amos - Under The Pink (Rhino) 

Comfortably my favourite Tori Amos album, now reissued on vinyl. 

Trashcan Sinatras - I've Seen Everything (Last Night From Glasgow)

Reissue of 1993 second album from the very endearing Scottish indie rock band.  

Ultramarine - Folk (Foam On A Wave) 

Vinyl reissue of gently burbling, uncategorisable combination of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. 

Various Artists - Back Up: Mexican Tecno Pop 1980-1989 (Dark Entries) 

A reminder that musical trends travel everywhere - and we tend to prioritise some contributions over others. 

Various Artists - Belong To The Wind (Foraged Sounds) 

Brilliant collection of obscure psychedelic folk, soft rock and soul 45s from the 1970s. 

Various Artists - Bugunda Royal Music Revival (Nyege Nyege Tapes) 

A fascinating project documenting the Buganda music tradition by collecting older recordings from the 1940s-1960s alongside more recent recordings. 

Various Artists - Cameroon Garage Funk (Analog Africa) 

Reliably focused and enjoyable compilation from Analog Africa. 

Various Artists - Choctaw Ridge: New Fables of the American South 1968-1973 (Ace) 

A typically superb, judiciously selected and well annotated compilation from Bob Stanley. CD only, but an enterprising person has made a Spotify playlist. 

Various Artists - Country Funk III (Light In The Attic) 

Third instalment in Light In The Attic's outstanding series. 

Various Artists - Darone Sassounian Presents Silk Road: Journey of the Armenian Diaspora (1971-1982) (Terrestrial Funk) 

Outrageous Armenian disco pop compilation. 

Various Artists -  Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1(Analog Africa) 

Funk and high life hybrid that emerged from Benin City. 

Various Artists - Essiebons Special 1973-1984: Ghana Music Power House (Analog Africa) 

Excellent compilation in honour of producer Dick Essilfie-Bondzie's 90th birthday. 

Various Artists - Everybody Makes A Mistake: Stax Southern Soul Vol. 2 (Craft Recordings) 

A fantastic selection of emotional Stax deep cuts. 

Various Artists - Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds at Studio One (Soul Jazz) 

Another essential set of Studio One reggae gems from Soul Jazz. 

Various Artists - Habibi Funk 015: An Eclectic Selection Of Music From The Arab World (Habibi Funk) 

A personal selection from the great Habibi Funk label of less well known artists. 

Various Artists - Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-Field Pop From The CD Age 1989-1996 (Music From Memory) 

The vinyl at Bandcamp has now sold out but this intriguing, atmospheric collection is fortunately also available to stream.  

Various Artists - Journeys In Modern Jazz: Britain (Decca)

Super primer - it is so good to see the rich history of British jazz being celebrated again. Includes Kenny Wheeler, Don Rednell, Neil Ardley, Mike Westbrook and Michael Garrick. 

Various Artists - La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism (Bongo Joe) 

Sequel to La Contra Ola - this compilation explores ambient Spanish electronic music. 

Various Artists - Naya Beat Vol. 1: South Asian Dance and Electronic Music 1983-1992 (Naya Beat)

One of many excellent compilations focusing on 80s and 90s dance music from various parts of the world - this one focuses on South Asia. 

Various Artists - One Night In Pelican: Afro Modern Dreams 1974-1977 (Matsuli Music)  

Compilation celebrating the music associated with Soweto's first nightclub. 

Various Artists - Psychedelic Soul - Produced By Norman Whitfield (Kent) 

An excellent compilation celebrating the super producer's innovative contribution to soul music - including some obvious but necessary tracks alongside less well known sides. 

Various Artists - Ritmo Fantasia: Balearic Spanish Synth Pop, Boogie & House 1982-1992 (Soundway) 

Collection of Spanish underground electronic music. 

Various Artists - Satisfaction Guaranteed - Sound Of Philadelphia Vol. 2 (United Soul)

Vinyl box set of complete Philadelphia International albums (celebrating the 50th anniversary) - includes Billy Paul, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Three Degrees and The O'Jays' essential classic Ship Ahoy. Part of an ongoing project to reissue and collect the complete Philadelphia International studio albums. 

Various Artists - Saturday Night: South African Disco Pop Hits 1981 - 1987 (Cultures Of Soul) 

It's not only the jazz from South Africa that has been available for rediscovery in 2021 - also this hugely enjoyable set of groove based pop music. 

Various Artists - She Wants You! Pye Records' Feminine Side 1964-1970 (Ace) 

Resplendent, opulent 1960s girl pop. 

Various Artists - Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Soul of Japan (Light In The Attic) 

Another great instalment in Light In The Attic's essential Japan series. 

Various Artists - The Paths Of Pain: The CAIFE Label, Quito 1960-68 (Honest Jon's) 

One of the best compilations of the year. 

Various Artists - Tokyo Glow: Japanese City Pop, Funk & Boogie Selected by DJ Notoya (Wewantsounds) 

Great compilation of Japanese pop and fusion. 

Various Artists - You Gave Me Reason To Live: Southern and Deep Soul From Louisiana (Kent) 

This works as a great companion to the Stax Southern Soul compilation. The tradition of Dave Godin's compilations lives on. 

Walter Bishop Jr. - Keeper Of My Soul / Coral Keys (Black Jazz) 

More stirring selections from the Black Jazz catalogue. 

Whipping Boy - Heartworm (Sony) 

Expanded reissue of intense and underrated 90s rock album. 

Willie Dunn - Creation Never Sleeps (Light In The Attic) 

One of the best rediscoveries of the year. 

Yello - Yello 40 Years (Datasound/Universal Music) 

Compelling career overview from the perennially quirky and innovative electronic duo. Includes fourth disc of remixes.