Ok – 2016 is wrapped, so what were the best damn albums last year you ask? No problem, here we go!
1. Bowie – Black Star/ Lazarus. Everybody knows the Bowie death story – Black Star is great. The surprise was Part 2, the stage play/musical Lazarus, featuring adaptations of his songs. They are quite good. It features several Bowie songs that exist nowhere else, plus a bonus disc with his last three songs done post-Black Star.
2. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression. It’s been a while since the Ig made an album that was worth a damn. This one is. And amazingly – it was #1 in America. Oh my.
3. Beyoncé – Lemonade. Never even listened to a Beyoncé album before this one. My daughter made me do it. It is very good indeed.
4. Mary Lee Kortes – The Songs of Beulah Rowley. This was a Pledge Music (think Kickstarter) project I signed up for because Hal Wilner was doing it. The Songs of Beulah Rowley is based on the songs of a Depression-era songwriter who died tragically young and unknown, and whose sheet music was in a piano bench bought by Mary Lee’s family when she was very young. Good story, good songs, cool project.
5. The Monkees – Good Times! Wha??? New Monkees album? And hey, it’s great! Super catchy, super old school. Even has Davey who has been dead for a few singing a number. Hey Hey!
6. B’shnokestra – Global Concerts. Sam Boshnack is a Seattle composer/trumpet player and this is one of her fine projects. This is a live recording of a show I had the pleasure of attending. The show was pretty formal in terms of composition (there was a conductor), five pieces built around five very different soloists. Fine show, fine disc. https://samanthaboshnack.wordpress.com/
7. Zhongu – Zhongu. From their site: “Zhongyu is an American band with a Chinese name and an attitude that encompasses the full spectrum of musical sounds and sources. Composer Jon Davis teams up with three members of Moraine and an experienced jazz drummer to create a sound that blends influences from Rock in Opposition (Univers Zero and Present), progressive rock (King Crimson), jazz (electric Miles Davis and composers such as George Russell), and Asian music. Whether it involves plugging a traditional Chinese instrument into a modular synthesizer or running a bass clarinet through a wah-wah pedal, pushing boundaries (or denying their existence) is the core of the band’s identity.” Pretty cool.
8. Andrew Cyrillie Quartet – The Declaration of Musical Independence. Eighty-six year old avant garde drummer who used to play with Cecil Taylor makes mood-ring record. What’s not to like?
9. The Westerlies – The Westerlies. Second album from former Seattlites – brass quartet – two trumpets, two trombones. Gorgeous stuff.
10. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels. Had not even heard this album before I got my Grammy ballot. Did not expect to like old Bob doing a bunch of old Tin Pan Alley tunes, but damn, I do. It’s charming!
Garretson & Gorodetsky – My Skin Craves Soil. This came out in 2015 but I just heard it this summer. This is a singer and a somewhat outside guitar player singing songs about creatures in the back yard. I love this record! You will too.