Tuesday, December 9, 2008
They're new to me...
The December '08/January '09 issue of Stylus hit the stands yesterday (and it's also on the completely revamped website where my interview with past Ear To The Sound subject Azeda Booth can be found) and it features Top Ten lists from a handful of the magazine's contributors, but it doesn't have one from me.
I try to wait as late as possible before assembling my year-end list (say, around year-end...) and the early November deadline for Stylus leaves nearly two full months of potentially overlooked music. Last year, I submitted a list of my Top Ten Reissues of the year because I never include reissues in my 'official' list (nor do I include compilations, best-of's or soundtracks for that matter) and this year I submitted my list of "Top 10 Discoveries of 2008 that aren't from 2008."
The list didn't make the cut however and wasn't included in the issue so I figured I'd post it here, along with a trio of albums that would likely have made my 2008 Best Of list were it not for the fact that I'm a stickler for rules and have disqualified them from eligibility because I've discovered they were released in 2007 (and re-released in 2008).
Number 10: Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To My Lovely?
I owe Wes Anderson a debt for bringing this album to my attention - the short Hotel Chevalier that preceded The Darjeeling Limited featured the title track to this 1969 album from Indian artist Sarstedt (who curiously enough, grew up near Darjeeling). It's a lovely little bit of folk-pop a la Donovan and the rest of the album is as enchanting.
Number 9: Exuma - Exuma
Do you read Wax Poetics? Kudos if you do, but if you don't you should seriously get on that shit. Some of the best writing about jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop to grace the printed page. I found out about this 1970 album in the re:Discovery section of their rock issue and it is a crazy mixture of blues, funk, African rhythms and rock. Frighteningly good.
Number 8: Roy Milton - Instant Groove
I picked up a copy of this record on vinyl for $.99 at Dusty Groove in Chicago this summer and it was a stellar find - blues, r&b and jazz recorded in 1977 (and reissued on CD in 2004) by this in-the-pocket drummer and his combo.
Number 7: Clifford Brown - Study In Brown
I owe jazz artist Elizabeth Shepherd thanks for putting me on to this record. I had asked her in a lengthy interview about her favourite jazz records and she immediately mentioned Study In Brown (she's even written lyrics for some of these tracks with the hopes of eventually "covering" the album). An amazing hard bop record from 1955, it features Max Roach on drums and was one of the last albums Brown recorded before his untimely death at 25 in 1956.
Number 6: Quinteplus - Quinteplus
Released in 1972 on EMI, this Argentinian quintet's soul-jazz session was reissued by the fine folks at Vampisoul last year, with a vinyl reissue early in 2008. If you like Horace Silver or Lou Donaldson, then this album's for you.
Number 5: The Montgomery Express - The Montgomery Movement
"Steal Away" from this 1974 record makes my soul ache every time I hear it. The entire album is a beautiful blend of southern soul and gospel. The album was released on Folkways and it's a fitting home for this, the folk music of the American south.
Number 4: Salah Ragab & The Cairo Jazz Band - Present Egyptian Jazz
A compilation of material from 1968-1973 released in 2006 on Art Yard, this is some fantastic stuff. Ragab was a drummer and bandleader who worked with Sun Ra at one point and he incorporates Middle Eastern influences into existing jazz structures to create some pretty compelling and original spiritual jazz material. This is the record I alluded to in my Karl Hector & the Malcouns review in the last issue of Stylus.
Number 3: Margie Joseph - Margie Joseph
Pitchfork are a bunch of haters but I read them begrudgingly. Pop Matters doesn't rock the hate quite so much so I visit that site with less trepidation. Early this spring they rewarded my readership with a fantastic article on a forgotten soul vocalist who was supposed to be the next Aretha Franklin (Atlantic Record's words, not mine). Didn't quite happen but Joseph did put out some amazing records that have been reissued this year. Her self-titled 1973 album featured a cover of "Let's Stay Together" so good that the Reverend Al himself wrote her a congratulatory note.
Number 2: Bowerbirds - Hymns For A Dark Horse
Yeah, I think I've covered this one enough already.
Number 1: Daniel Johnston - Four original Stress-released cassettes.
This is a bit like putting Radiohead in Germany on your Top 5 Shows list - great for you but basically bragging to everyone else. But what can I say - I hit a stoop sale in Brooklyn this summer and found four original Daniel Johnston cassettes, including the fantastic Retired Boxer, and the dude sold me them for $.50 each. For two bucks I've got some great, rare cassettes and a story to brag about. Let the hating begin. So. Either go on eBay to look for these or pick up The Early Recordings issued on DualTone.
That's the list I submitted, with my added embellishments.
What I didn't submit and want to touch on now are the trio of albums I've disqualified from my 2008 Top Ten list that were so good I have to acknowledge them somehow:
Shugo Tokumaru - Exit (Almost Gold)
I was under the impression that Exit was released this year until a good friend informed me that it had been released in Japan last year and was picked up by Almost Gold (home to Peter, Bjorn & John among others). A zany mixture of children's toys, electronic loops and pop hooks so barbed they will stay lodged in your brain for weeks, Exit is a brilliant album. Too bad I didn't hear it last year.
Quasimode - The Land of Freedom (Sonar Kollectiv)
Reissued by the good Germans of Sonar Kollectiv this year, this is another record that was originally released in 2007 in Japan. Here's what I wrote in a review that also discussed Jun Miyake's Stolen From Strangers in the last issue of Stylus:
Quasimode ... come from Japan's vibrant club jazz scene (which includes the incredible Soil & "PIMP" Sessions), where the ebullience and energy of Ellington's orchestra, and Basie's bounce come together in modal party music that moves feet on the dance floor. After a brief 'intro-lude' Quasimode hit the ground running with "The Man From Nagpur" – a track that seems like they're setting the bar impossibly high for the rest of the album. Horns scorch like the heat from the rising sun, and Takahiro Matsuoka's channelling of Candido on percussion, with Yusuke Hirado's piano adding to the percussive pulse. Hirado really shines on the next cut, "Object In the Mirror," which features the great Carmen Lundy on vocals. It's no surprise that Quasimode's German label, Sonar Kollektiv chose it as the single. The band understands that audiences can't last on the dance floor forever and so they slow things down on the Latin-infused "Last Nine Days," offering a restrained respite before launching back into the melee with "Time Is Love."
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
It broke my heart to disqualify this one - fitting since listening to songs from the album like "Skinny Love" also break my heart. This is on a lot of people's Best of 2008 lists and has even taken the top spot among some people I know. Released on Jagjaguwar (a label that had a phenomenal year in my opinion), For Emma... apparently had a limited life prior to that as an independent. Recorded in a cabin in Wisconsin it's an album perfectly suited to a Winnipeg winter like the one that has arrived recently. I might not be including it on my New Year's countdown on UMFM, but I'll be playing it over the holidays nonetheless.
Here's "Skinny Love" live on Jools Holland to take us out:
Thanks for reading, now start listening...