Rest assured that once the longlist has been winnowed down to my top 20 I'll be repeating last year's exercise in music-critic-masturbation and detailing each of my picks with the "Also rans" kicking things off.
For now, here are my "fuck I loved these records, if only I'd let myself count them" selections:
Timber Timbre - Timber Timbre [Out Of This Spark / Arts & Crafts]
**See comments one through three below to see why I striked this.**
Eau Claire Memorial Jazz 1 feat. Justin Vernon - A Decade with Duke [Jagjaguwar]
Speaking of Justin Vernon, he went back to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to perform with his old high school jazz band and the result is A Decade with Duke which features two Bon Iver songs and a half-dozen jazz standards, including "Miss Otis Regrets" which is a really spooky tune when you listen to the lyrics.
Crush Buildings - Surrender Sleep [Independent]
I know I just wrote about this Ottawa band mere minutes ago, but the album apparently came out in 2008 and only recently made its way outside of the capital city and into my inbox. Still worth a listen. "Ghoul Pounds" remains on heavy rotation 'round these parts.
The Wilderness of Manitoba - Hymns of Love & Spirits [Independent]
Another group I've already written about that finds itself on this here list - but not because it actually came out in '08. No, Hymns of Love & Spirits is on here because it is an EP. I honestly can't remember when exactly I established my criteria, but the gist of not counting an EP is because it's conceivably easier to write a few good songs and release a solid EP than it is to write a strong full-length record. In fact, a few mediocre records could have the fat trimmed from them and be really lean, mean EPs in my mind. Now it may in fact be just as difficult to write a strong EP as LP, but them's the breaks.
Death - For The Whole World To See... [Drag City]
This one took me back to one of my first posts here on Ear To The Sound. They sound totally different, but it's another one of those records I can't believe was canned after it was first recorded and that still sounds as fresh and exciting decades later. The weed must have been really good back then.
Various - Forge Your Own Chains, Vol. 1: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges 1968-1974 [Now Again]
Leave it to Egon (he of Stones Throw) to unearth these gems and release them in a gorgeous looking double-LP. Who knew psychedelia was so funky? Some of these are behemoths - like bookends "Song Of A Sinner" and "Somebody's Calling My Name" (by Top Drawer and Baby Grandmothers respectively), but some of them are summer-fling brief. All of them are quality.
Various - Tumbélé! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean, 1663-1974 [Soundway]
Kudos to my boss and friend, Jared McKetiak, for putting me on to this one. Covering some of the same period as Forge Your Own Chains, this is an entirely different sound. Soundway is one of those labels doing fantastic work that goes largely unsung - they dig away at music from the far corners of the world and bring it to ears desperate for new sounds (or at least new to them).
Various - Brownswood Bubblers 4 [Brownswood Recordings]
I'm not wishing I had a different life from the one I'm leading, but if I could have anyone else's career, it would be Gilles Peterson. Dude has a fantastic radio show on the BBC, has run a couple dope labels, digs for records like a fiend, and has been responsible for a whole whack of fantastic compilations, including this one. Vol. 4 in his series of spotlights on the Brownswood label (his own, natch) has some known quantities (Mayer Hawthorne, El Michaels Affair) and some new names that are now on my "ones to watch" list (yU, Souleance, Floating Points). I dropped a couple selections from this album at the UMFM Christmas party last week and it went over like gangbusters.
El Michaels Affair - Walk On By: A Tribute to Black Moses [Truth & Soul]
Speaking of El Michaels Affair, their tribute to Isaac Hayes definitely deserves a spot on the shoulda-been-a-contender list. Taking a break from covering the Wu-Tang Clan, the instrumental group tackle "Bumpy's Lament" and "Shaft" among others. Originally a download-only release, Walk On By is apparently now available on vinyl.
24 Carat Black - Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday [Numero Group]
Another year, another Numero Group release on one of these lists. Those dudes in Chicago know what they're doing when it comes to reissues and compilations and as usual, they put as much care into the packaging and liner notes as they do into the music itself. 24 Carat Black's first record, Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth [Enterprise, 1973] has been sampled by the likes of Jay-Z and Digable Planets and was thought to be the only recording the band put to tape. But it turns out that for "35 years, the sketches for 24-Carat Black’s sophomore release hibernated in keyboardist and session engineer Bruce Thompson’s basement below the south side of Chicago." Some of the recordings were lost to damage, but Numero Group was able to salvage six songs, collected on Gone.
Pax Nicholas & the Netty Family - Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef [Daptone]
Daptone - the label that brought you Sharon Jones - is known primarily for releasing contemporary albums that sound like they could be unearthed treasures from yesteryear. But as they did with the excellent Bob & Gene reissue, with Teef Know De Road Of Teef they're bringing an amazing album recorded decades ago to the attention of current audiences. Nicholas Addo-Nettey was a Ghanian-born artist who performed in Fela Kuti's Africa 70. As it's told in the Daptone annals, Kuti heard Teef... and immediately demanded the record be buried. I guess the dude was threatened by how good a record this is.