Jazz Recordings that Changed My Life 1

•May 16, 2019 • 2 Comments

blue note tape outsideDublin, mid 1980s. Synth pop is fading; indie hasn’t really happened yet. I currently hate U2. I have grown tired of heavy metal and new wave. I want a new musical experience. I want to explore jazz. Where do I start? Despite what revisionists will tell you – Jazz was OUT in the mid 1980s. Nobody that I knew knew anything about jazz and those that did, such as my dad, favored the Acker Bilk 1950s British Trad variety. There were no books about Jazz in the library or in the small bookshops of the time. Record shops (this was before the HMV, Virgin, Tower era) sold current hits, (what we now call) classic rock, country and western and compilations. The “jazz” section contained nothing much, usually swing (I once bought what felt like a 90g Benny Goodman album that was likely recorded before the Americans commandeered Ampex from the Germans). Louis Armstrong – that’s jazz – right? I was given a 3 LP Louis Armstrong box, again likely copyright free stuff from the 1930s – hifi it was not. Meh.

water babiesI visited Freebird Records, still going strong – “any jazz?” – I was treated like I was some form of poserish-tosser (I suppose they call them hipsters today) and pointed at a rack that contained tapes from Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. Miles – that’s jazz – right? So I bought a second hand tape by Miles – “Water Babies.” If one was to assemble every recording ever released by Miles Davis and rank them from 1 to 70 (or 80) – starting with “Kind of Blue” (best) and ending with “Decoy” (worst), “Water Babies” is so inaccessible, being leftovers of leftovers – stuff that didn’t even make up padding for padding albums, that it doesn’t make the list. I thought it was, well, shite. The cover, one of the I love (heart) jazz series, was crap – the original at least was a painting of some black kids playing in a fountain! (just a thought – I see that it is on Qobuz, must stream it to see if I still hate the album after 30 years).

In 1986 there was no internet, Google, no Spotify – just a big vacuum of information. That’s the way we lived. It would take one second now to Google “10 best jazz albums for beginners” – every single one of the lists generated would start with “Kind of Blue” – would I be a different person if I had discovered that gem in the mid 80s?

Why was there no great jazz albums in the second hand bins in Ireland in 1986? For the same reason as is the case today – nobody sold  them because very few people knew enough or heard enough to buy high quality jazz albums and those that did sure as hell didn’t need the quick fix money from selling their collection to buy the new Smiths album. I gave up.

One day in 1988 I was wandering through the Virgin Megastore, and remember this was the worst period in popular music history – almost as bad as now,  looking for something decent to listen to. Obviously I couldn’t afford anything on compact disc (staggeringly expensive £15 at the time). However – there was a cassette sale – 3 for £5 –  going on, and, on a whim I bought 3 tapes – one of which was “A Sample of Blue Notes” – a compilation of Blue Note recordings (released in 1987). I don’t thing that I have really ever quite recovered from first hearing that Blue Note tape. I still have it and treasure it. It is the greatest sampler EVER.

blue note tape insideSide one (see picture) starts with “Blowin’ the Blues Away” by Horace Silver, followed by another blues by Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and finishes with the original version of “Round Midnight” by Monk.

Side two is even better: Lou Donaldson, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, and then the extraordinary trio of “Dig Dis” (Hank Mobley), “Midnight Blue” (Kenny Burrell – covered around that time by Stevie Ray Vaughan) and “The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan.

I frequently hear musos complaining about compilation albums and making condescending comments about people who buy them. For my generation, radio was terrible (only hits and weird alternative stuff) and discovering new music was really difficult. This was particularly bad in the 1990s and the early 00s (before satellite radio in the US – literally all you had was classic hits and the current manufactured smooth R&B crap in the charts). The compilation gave us a low risk window into the world (unfortunately, frequently if you bought the album based on hearing one song from the compilation you discovered that it was the only good song on the album).  In fact, so popular were compilations then that they are reissuing some of them now, on vinyl.

Within 10 years I had bought, on cassette or CD, all of the original albums featured on the Blue Note sampler. I’m sure that I have bought them all again on reissued vinyl. There is no doubt that hard boppin’ Blue Note recordings are really accessible jazz – and that is why the brand has such a strong current cachet (and quality used product is unbelievably expensive). You can pretty much pick up any classic era Blue Note recording and will enjoy it.

In 1989, the now resurrected Blue Note issued another sampler – the Blue Note 50th Anniversary Sampler. Hmmm. This release followed the now familiar approach of stuffing in recently released and truly mediocre output (side 1) with classic Blue Note recordings (side 2). I’m pretty sure that I listened to side 1, once.

Below is a list of 10 Blue Note Albums that I would strongly recommend to anyone who is just “getting into” jazz (no surprises here). The best versions currently available (but hurry) are the 33rpm releases from Music Matters.

1. Something Else – Cannonball Adderley

2. Moanin’ – Art Blakey

3. Midnight Blue – Kenny Burrell

4. Maiden Voyage – Herbie Hancock.

5. GO – Dexter Gordon

6. Song for My Father – Horace Silver

7. Open Sesame – Freddy Hubbard

8. Soul Station – Hank Mobley

9. Blue and Sentimental – Ike Quebec

10. Blues Walk – Lou Donaldson

I could list another 100.

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The Tribulations of the European Vinyl Jazz Fan

•April 25, 2019 • 6 Comments

In 1954 Sarah Vaughan released her eponymous album “Sarah Vaughan” on EmArcy records (picture on right above). A NM copy of the original album will set you back £200, at least. My first copy, a CD bought in 1990 or 1991, was called “Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown (picture on left above)” – Brown being upgraded from accompanist to co-lead (for reasons that are unclear to me). I have loved the album since I first heard it. However, I have always found the vocals to be quite “thin” and sibilant on the CD. I recently bought a reasonably affordable Japanese print from 1974. The record sounds completely different to the CD – Vaughan’s vocal is deeper and clearer and more, dare I say, analogue. There is a richness and punch to the mono production that I had not heard before. The album has had a couple of digital remasters that I have not heard, including an SACD reissue. Strangely, when I went to catalogue my purchase, I discovered, to my horror, that I had two copies already. The first, a 2008 Jazz Track and the second, a 2016 copy from the wonderful De Agostini jazz at 33 vinyl LP series (the majority of which I have obtained – both UK and Ireland and Italian versions, which had different releases). I decided to play the records side to side. The Jazz Track record, of course, sounded exactly the same as the CD – but used the original artwork. The De Agostini version sounded exactly the same as the Jazz Track, similar cover but with the original labels. Both of these records were likely sourced from the CD. And therein lies the problem.

Under European law, pre 1963 recordings are copyright exempt. In general, this is a good thing for music lovers, as most of the artists are now dead, and the record companies made hay re-issuing CD of historic recordings in the 80s and 90s and selling them for top dollar prices. Now you can happily pick up classical and jazz CD box sets for €10 to €15 that contain 8 to 10 albums. Presumably, the CDs are digital clones of the official releases. Occasionally, the manufacturers boast that the recordings have been 20 or 24 bit remastered, which is a little ridiculous without the master tapes.

However, when it comes to vinyl, the copyright exemption has led to a vinyl version of Greshams’ law: bad vinyl is pushing good vinyl out of circulation. I have been in dozens of record shops all over Europe over the past decade, and crate after crate of jazz records are chock full of copyright free (i.e. CD sourced) reissues by – Jazz Wax, Jazz Tracks, Vinyl Passion, DOL, Vinyl Lovers, Not Now, Panam, Doxy etc. If you get lucky, there are a few Rhino, Impulse or Atlantic reissues and of course new pressings from ECM and Blue Note – but literally nothing else. If you visit Amazon’s european sites, most of the 1950s and 1960s jazz vinyl on offer is the same rubbish. Take, for example – Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section – a true classic from 1957. If one goes to Amazon.com – you are offered a 2011 Original Jazz Classics pressing for $22. If you go to Amazon.co.uk – you are offered a 2013 Waxtime pressing for £20. It is possible, that both of these pressings derive from the same 16 bit files, but at least OJC own the original master tapes (they may be all analogue), and presumably pay some reasonable attention to mastering. The point is that, for basic vinyl reissues, European jazz enthusiasts are being subjected to second rate CD sourced junk, and it is very difficult to source the good stuff.

It might be worth noting that CD sourced 180g virgin pressings may sound a lot better than the 27th repress of a 1950s recording on 120g vinyl from the 1980s.

For years, American audiophile labels such as Analogue Productions, Music Matters, Org, Org Music, Analogue Spark, Mobile Fidelity etc. have reissued AAA versions of, often, hard to find recordings that likely sound as good as the first pressings. Unfortunately, these are not widely sold in Europe. And although one can buy many, but not all, through reputable sources such as the Vinyl Gourmet, there are very few record shops that stock these records. When they do, the double taxation makes these audiophile records prohibitively expensive. Pure Pleasure and Speakers’ corner records are manufactured in Europe – and available online at a reasonable price, but rarely have I ever found their products in a record store. Thankfully, Universal Music have internationalized the “Tone Poet” Blue Note re-issue series. Unfortunately, they are charging top dollar for albums that most of us wouldn’t necessarily choose if we were starting a Blue Note collection. I am excited about the prospects of a UK based AAA Blue Note reissue label Wallinbink.

The Jazz Workshop is a Spanish reissue label. I have a number of their releases – all of which I have enjoyed immensely.  I have no idea of the provenance of these recordings – except for a record shop owner in Salzburg telling me that they were all analogue and audiophile. The records in question are beautifully presented and difficult enough to find on CD.

Finally, there is the used market. Again, I have been in dozens of used record shops across Europe and, everywhere you go, it the same stuff: crappy 1970s and 1980s Italian pressings of classic records in weird jackets on thin vinyl. Anything remotely decent is up, on the wall, at staggeringly elevated prices. This, for me, is the ongoing problem of used record stores: as soon as any new high quality stock arrives it is cherry picked by the staff, regulars, lucky browsers etc. such that most of what fills the crates is fairly ordinary. Yes, you might pick up a much wanted replacement of “Nightflight to Venus” for €1, but forget about finding a first or second pressing of an american jazz classic. Indeed, my own experience is that even a first UK or German pressing can be very very expensive.

So, what about the internet? Let’s face it – Discogs is the greatest thing that has happened to vinyl in the internet era. Apart from the fact that virtually every release is catalogued properly, the marketplace give one the opportunity to source and price records with a fair amount of safety. Unfortunately, over-grading is epidemic. It is remarkable how many “near mint” records I have bought with what turned out to be “good+” sleeves. At least you can contact the seller to warn them that you are going to give them a bad review – usually resulting in a bit of a rebate. Record shops that sell directly do not have that feedback system: I was recently badly burned with a copy of Bill Evans’ Interplay – that was sold to me as first pressing VG+ NM sleeve and record. The cover was Good (at best – big split in the top) and there were audible scratches on both sides. Oh and it was a 1966 repress (I should have spotted this by the photo of the record label). Of course, it’s my own fault – the record price (€40) was too good to be true – I should have consulted Popsike before buying.

The major problem with buying used jazz on discogs (or ebay) is that most of the records on offer are in the USA and buying them risks the wrath of customs and VAT – currently applied on anything that costs more than €22 – often the price of shipping a few records alone. Consequently, one is usually forced to accept later European or Japanese pressings (which often sound great).

Of course, a sensible person wouldn’t spend a penny on vinyl and just enjoy the music – every possible album out there is available on multiple streaming platforms at CD and often high res bitrates.

 

Record Store Day

•April 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

RSD_2019Every year, about this time, the media make a big splash about “Record Store Day” and nerdy middle aged men pile into record shops everywhere to (select from below):

  1. Support their local recorded music retailer – and hope that they will stay in business for another year.
  2. Snag a couple of RSD exclusives, these being records that you always wanted and/or didn’t know what you wanted, to be loved and cherished.
  3. Snag a couple of RSD exclusives, and then sell them on E-Bay at a massive profit.
  4. Complain to anybody within ear reach about how RSD is just a big corporate rip-off, and wander out of the shop having annoyed everybody and bought nothing.
  5. Silently complain to yourself that RSD has become a corporate rip-off, but buy a couple of items to support your local shop.
  6. Pay outrageous amounts of money for (not very collectable) tat.
  7. Pay outrageous amounts of money for stuff that would have been released, likely at a lower price, anyway.
  8. Ponder paying outrageous amounts of money for a “limited release” record that might or might not sell out rapidly – a lot of last year’s RSD releases are piled up on shelves in record shops around the world, and often find their way to Amazon – seriously discounted.

I consider RSD to be transactional – I know I am paying far too much for any record that I buy – some of which I would never have bought – but I see it as a direct subsidy to my local record shop to provide me with the pleasure of “crate digging” intermittently for the next 12 months.

I visited a number of shops in an around RSD 2019 – mostly selling the same stuff. There were a number of records that I would have bought – if they had been priced reasonably – Yazoo, the Rolling Stones (Big hits volume 1 & 2), the Emmylou Harris box set, Frank Black’s solo albums, Tangerine Dream, CSNY,Fleetwood Mac, Badfinger, Frank Zappa, Charlie Parker with strings (outtakes), Black Rose by Thin Lizzy – probably the only one that I regret not buying (all in excess of Euro 30). There were a couple of albums released as picture discs that I would have bought on standard vinyl (I only have one picture disc – Lateralus by Tool, they generally sound terrible). I would have like the Bill Evans live in Ronnie Scott’s 2 x LP release, but it didn’t come our way. The Roxy Music remixes were

Anyway this year I bought (none of this terribly collectable):

  • The King – Teenage Fanclub
  • Steve McQueen Acoustic – Prefab Sprout
  • Honeyman (live in 1973) – Tim Buckley
  • Astral Weeks Outtakes – Van Morrison
  • Cold Trumpet – Chet Baker
  • Us and Us Only – Charlatans

The major disappointment about RSD is the sheer volume of “dad rock” – i.e. music targeted at the classic rock audience, with very little material from bands & artist from the past 20 years. Also, where is all the jazz?

ROON + QOBUZ = Sublime+

•April 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

roon logoSitting on my sofa I realized that I have spent the past 40 years collecting vast quantities of LPs, tapes and CDs, not to mention Blu-Ray audio discs, SACDs, DVD-A and high resolution files – and all I have to show   it is a lot of clutter and an empty wallet. Once  you acquire Roon integrated with Qobuz – you have reached sight of digital audio nirvana. While there are few things as pleasurable in life as listening to, for example, a perfectly pressed Music Matters Blue Note LP, the ability to stream the same recording in high res straight into your hi fi system is pretty close. Of course, with Roon you can stream it to any wireless device in the house (including your tv); with any of the premium streaming services you can bring a compressed version with you on your smartphone. It is simply stunning.

By the by – my current Roon set up is an Intel NUC mini-computer (about 600 euro), connected directly to my router, connecting to my DAC by a cubox-I mini computer programmed with Roon (about 300 euro or less if you use a Raspberry Pi). You can buy a decent DAC, such as the wonderful Project Dac box pre for 300 euro – plugged into a quality power amp (or you can buy an amp with digital inputs) and speakers and you have a really good hi-fi system for less than 2 grand. A lifetime Roon subscription is $500 and worth every penny. Of course you could spend thousands on a “network steamer” – the majority of which seem to be relatively empty boxes with a single motherboard – don’t believe the hype – 1s and 0s have no audio signature – how information goes from the internet into your DAC is irrelevant as long as you have bandwidth.

The greatest resource for music information during the internet age has been the Allmusic Guide. I actually have the Allmusic books – Jazz, Rock etc. from the 1990s, which appear quaint now. Although Wikipedia does list and give information on most music releases, allmusic sets the context, the backstory and reviews the recording. It is invaluable and it is fully integrated into Roon. Better than sleevenotes.

A Qobuz substription with High Res Streaming runs at euro 250 per year (300 if you want to buy – and of course I do – seriously discounted high res downloads). That works out at about 1/3rd of the price of a cup of gourmet coffee per day. Colleagues of mine baulk at this – it is the price of about 20 CDs, 15 LPs or 2 mobile fidelity one-step vinyl releases. If you are disciplined – you never have to buy or own music again. No clutter. No thousands of CDs gathering dust in the attic.

Art Pepper & Contemporary Records

•April 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

jazztrainDue to the sheer crapness of modern rock, indie, folk, electronic music, I spent the winter and early spring listening almost exclusively to jazz. I principally listened to a number of artists whose music I had accumulated but to whom I had given little focus: Eric Dolphy, Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz and Bill Evans. For some reason I have long been slightly prejudiced against west coast jazz – due to its whiteness and purported “cool” vibe. Big mistake. The trigger for my interest was a CD box set that I bought several years ago – called Jazz Train – Concord Records 30 CD Jazz Collection (Original Jazz Classics). Over the years I have obsessively listened to Blue Note, Prestige, ECM, Impulse, Columbia Jazz, Prestige etc. but not Contemporary Records – the LA imprint of Lester Koenig. However, I read a posting by Michael Fremer  about Sonny Rollin’s “Way Out West” – a record that I have enjoyed for many years on CD and vinyl, and became intrigued by the record label and its output. And that’s when I discovered that I had the crown jewels in the Concord box set.

The Concord Music Group actually owns the output of a wide variety of great labels – but whoever put this box together is a genius. Every CD is fantastic – and makes the basis of a top notch music collection. There is also an Impulse box, a couple of Columbia boxes, a French “American” records box etc. that were tremendous value 6 or 7 years ago when the CD era was fizzing out. Indeed, the Concord box contains CDs from many of their labels, not just Contemporary – quite a few are on Riverside (about which more in later post).

I decided to work my way sequentially through the box set and give each CD my undivided attention. And then I heard “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section.” OMG! Apparently Pepper was so strung out on drugs that he was unaware that he was booked to play with Miles Davis’ band that morning, had nothing prepared and his saxophone was gummed up. Rarely in history has such beautiful spontaneous music been produced. For a generation, like mine, who have principally grown up listening to honking tenor sax – Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Gene Ammons, Hank Mobley etc. – the alto seems like it comes from a different instrument family. Instead of the sheer dynamic range and power of the tenor, the alto requires speed and finesse – and a greater sense of melody. Art Pepper plays with a great sense of lyrical beauty. I became obsessed.

Fortunately, Art Pepper’s recorded output is relatively limited – unfortunately that was because he spent much of his life in jail for taking drugs. His autobiography, Straight Life, is one of the most harrowing reads I have ever encountered. He details his development as a young musician in the racially mixed Central Avenue of LA, being discovered by Benny Carter and his involvement with the Stan Kenton Orchestra (before and after WW2). His solo output commenced in the early 1950s – but this period coincided with escalating drug abuse and a concomitant zero tolerance policy by law enforcement. One wonders if Pepper would have been better off emigrating to Europe circa 1955 – like Bud Powell or Dexter Gordon. He stayed on the West Coast and spent much of his peak years in San Quentin. Eventually he went into a rahab facility/alternative lifestyle group, Synanon, in the early 1960s – met his third wife, Laurie, and entered a methadone programme. He died of a brain haemorrhage (“stroke”) in 1982 at the age of 56.

There are no bad Art Pepper albums – everything is good, much is extraordinary. His career can be divided into three phases- the 1950s – when he was with Contemporary: Rhythm Section, Getting Together, Intensity, Smack up and Art Pepper + 11 are all superb. The early 60s were non productive. In the mid to late 60s, Pepper switched to Tenor and attempted to ape John Coltrane, not very successfully – I can see the reason – for a whole generation the tenor was considered the sexy and commercially viable instrument. Fortunately, there is little recorded output from that time. He then joined Buddy Rich’s big band in the late 1960s, which restored his confidence.

Once his life stabilized in the 1970s, there was a Pepper renaissance and everything he recorded at that stage is worth a listen. I particularly enjoy his return to Contemporary records – Living Legend. This was now music of the 1970s, darker, more emotional – the work of a man who lived a hard life. His live recordings at the Village Vanguard (3 or 4 albums) are terrific, but my most treasured acquisition is a 7 LP box set of Pepper playing at Ronnie Scott’s in 1980.

It is scandalous that there are no recent vinyl audiophile reissues of Art Pepper’s great albums – Meets and +11. Early pressings and the Analogue Productions reissues (from 2003) are extremely expensive. The best new pressings are OJC US reissues, likely digitally sourced – but excellent sounding, from 2011. European buyers beware – all of this stuff is pre 1963 copyright free material – CD sourced and released on Jazz Wax, Waxtime or DOL: avoid. Just buy the CD. Concord could do a lot worse than handing Kevin Grey the master tapes of the 5 albums listed above and releasing an audiophile Pepper box.

The later recordings are easy to come by from Discogs, however a 16 CD mammoth box set – the Complete Galaxy Recordings (1989) – is savagely hard to find and expensive. A good selection of albums are available on SACD  – Meets the Rhythm Section, …The Way it Was, New York Album, Intimate and a few more. The only one I can find on hi res PCM is +11. Analogue Productions are selling a few of the Pepper SACDs as DSD downloads (Meets is only at single rate but I would be strongly confident that, for $25 you will never hear a better version). If you are rich or obsessed – they are selling the New York Album on ¼ inch tape for $450.

The strange thing about Art Pepper is that you can play any record at any time and it fits any mood. This is possibly true also of Bill Evans. When one listens, particularly to the 1950s output, it is hard to tie together the strung out junkie to the wonderful sound emanating from the horn.

Thanks Art Pepper for brightening up my winter.

Dynamic Pricing On Amazon

•December 13, 2018 • 4 Comments

Last week, I came across an interesting Stan Getz album on amazon UK and put it in my shopping basket – subsequently “saved for later” at £27.99. I didn’t buy the record because it was too expensive. By Monday the price had increased to £29.9x. Yesterday it was £32.xx and today it is a spectacular £50.13. As the website assures me that there are only 2 copies left in stock, and has done so since last week, I have to presume that I am the only customer mulling over buying this product. I presume that the pricing algorithm that sees a “surge” in interest in this particularly unpopular (ranks greater than 76,000th most popular jazz album) – is coming from me and that because of my intense interest (or lack of) they have doubled the price, and Christmas is coming – I must be willing to pay twice the price of last week to put it under the tree for myself (or wait 2 weeks and buy one of the two copies or and original pressing from discogs for € 20). I am curious, though: if something is sitting in my basket for 8 to 10 days, surely they should be giving me a nudge by dropping the price a little to make me bite. At the moment, it looks like I am competing with myself for the product (that I can stream for free on Deezer)!

Vinyl records are very expensive on Amazon UK – so much so that Paul, who runs superdeluxeedition.com, lists the prices of desirable new releases, and the UK price, despite very low VAT rates in the UK, are always among the highest. I find myself increasingly ordering from Germany, despite having to pay for postage (not being able to use my prime account there).

Anyway, I am long associated with the dynamic pricing model. Amazon’s is nicely explained here. In the meantime, two weeks before Christmas, I am taking my purchases off line, as better value is likely to be had in-store (and that might keep the shop open through the next holiday season).

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2018

•December 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2018

I’m putting up an albums of the year list here, but, honestly, this has been the worst year for popular music that I can remember.

  1. Villagers ‎– The Art Of Pretending To Swim
  2. Bodega – Endless Scroll
  3. Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl
  4. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino
  5. The Lemon Twigs – Go To School
  6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
  7. Harmony Rockets With Special Guest Peter Walker – Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos
  8. Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – With Animals
  9. Hugh Cornwell – Monster
  10. Ash – Islands
  11. Jonathan Wilson – Rare Birds
  12. Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
  13. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
  14. Gretchen Peters –  Dancing with the Beast
  15. Pistol Annies – Interstate Gospel
  16. George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s
  17. Prince – Piano & A Microphone
  18. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers
  19. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake
  20. Ry Cooder – The Prodical Son
  21. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
  22. Suede – The Blue Hour
  23. Laura Viers – The Lookout
  24. Elvis Costello – Look Now
  25. MGMT – Little Dark Age

I enjoyed the following, but they are not of the same calibre as the artist’s best work:

  • Muse – Simulation Theory
  • Field Music – Open Here
  • The Vaccines – Combat Sports
  • John Grant – Love Is Magic
  • Cowboy Junkies – All That Reckoning
  • The Jayhawks – Back Roads And Abandoned Motels
  • Paul Weller – True Meanings
  • Cat Power – The Wanderer

JAZZ

  1. John Surman – Invisible Threads
  2. John Scofield – Combo 66
  3. Tomasz Stanko  – December Avenue
  4. Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley, Brian Blade – Still Dreaming
  5. DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield – Hudson
  6. Andy Sheppard Quartet – Romaria
  7. Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
  8. Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
  9. Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth
  10. Lee Konitz & Dan Tepfer – Decade
  11. Chick Corea – Chinese Butterfly
  12. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
  13. John Coltrane – Two Directions at Once
  14. Eric Dolphy – Jazz Prophet
  15. Miles Davis/John Coltrane – The Final Tour (Bootleg Series Vol. 6)

 

I haven’t had a chance to listen to these but suspect that they are really good:

  • Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On
  • Phoshopescent – C’est La Vie
  • Shame – Songs of Praise
  • JD Allen: Love Stone
  • Wayne Shorter – Emanon

For the life of me, I couldn’t get into “Double Negative” by Low, even though it was one of my most anticipated albums of the year. I’ll listen again, probably.