Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1964-65)

(Parlophone/Capitol 1977)


This, along with its 2016 variant, is the only "official" Beatles live album ever released as of 2018. Professionally recorded by Capitol Records straight to three-track during the band's three Hollywood Bowl performances (one in 1964, two in 1965) and cleaned up for release by George Martin in 1977, this truly is a snapshot of Beatlemania at its absolute height. What that means is that your ears are pretty much bombarded by the sound of teenage screams for the duration, but that shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of the record, particularly given that the hysteria in response to the band is a big part of the story you're signing up to be told here.

The Beatles' own performances are tight and boisterous, even surrounded by chaos and with the absence of decent sound equipment. (Monitors wouldn't become standard for several more years.) The concentration of course is on the early rock & roll material, which is all the better for this as a document of the group as ragged performers of frenzied, relentless pop music. The weak point is the vocals, but even they don't often falter from respectability (John probably puts in the worst of the lot, on "Help!", but that can't possibly have been an easy song to put across live). The 1964 performances tend to be the standout delights, including an impressively complex presentation of the sophisticated "Things We Said Today," plus winning renditions of "She Loves You," "Long Tall Sally," "Roll Over Beethoven" and -- in what may, improbably enough, be the highlight of the album -- "Boys" (starring Ringo). George Harrison and John Lennon's guitars run appealing, adroit circles around each other and are soulfully played with the same sort of economy and precision as on the studio records, without coming off as a stilted duplication. Only "All My Loving" among the 1964 tracks is slightly underwhelming, mostly because the band seems to be rushing through it. (Virtually all of the songs are faster than their Abbey Road counterparts.)

1965's entries, taken from two shows on consecutive nights despite an error on the sleeve claiming otherwise, are only marginally worse for wear. The weariness slips in most obviously on the inane between-song banter, which at one point has John waxing with hilariously evident apathy on the fact that the band had made two films, one in color and one in black & white, and the song they're about to sing is from the black & white one. It desperately needs pointing out, though, that both '65 shows at the Bowl are unmistakably superior to any Beatles live material that's slipped out from the year that followed, and indeed that even in the case of the 1964 concert, while stronger performances exist from that year, none are quite so sonically appealing. (Capitol had declined to release the proposed live album at the time due to fears that buyers wouldn't tolerate the incessant screaming, though this didn't stop them from putting out the only slightly quieter and far more annoying Beach Boys Concert that same year, and netting a #1 record in the process.) I would even argue that both "She's a Woman" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," both bluesier, fresher and more powerful here, are superior to their studio counterparts; "Can't Buy Me Love" has a pretty strong case as well, attaining a spontaneity and rawness absent from the single. This really is the audio presentation of the Beatlemania-era stage show at its best.

If it wasn't strange enough that the Beatles never had a live record on the marketplace in the '60s, once this one finally saw release near the end of the following decade (rushed along by Lingasong's gray-market emission of Live! At the Star Club), it proved highly popular, hitting #2 in Billboard and achieving Platinum status... then failed to make the transition to compact disc and was off the market for three decades, even as the Beatles' popularity remained consistently strong. Perhaps it slipped through the cracks because Capitol and not Apple, nor the disbanded and moving on Beatles, had initiated the project. Either way it was inexplicably difficult to hear except via used bins and in unauthorized digital formats for the majority of the CD era before it was finally reissued in tandem with Ron Howard's Eight Days a Week film; that newly remixed version of the record is reviewed elsewhere in this discography. The original 1977 vinyl struggles with a mildly insubstantial nature (33 minutes, which admittedly is pretty much in line with the length of a usual Beatles LP or a usual Beatles concert), competently expanded over the years by bootleg versions; but it stands as a splendid souvenir of a singular period of enthusiasm and insanity in rock & roll history -- and it's a lot more attractive, aesthetically, than the 2016 rereleased version. All live Beatles material is at an automatic disadvantage because of the volume and behavior of their fans, and because of the obstacles the band encountered to putting on a proper performance as their popularity grew, but their story isn't complete without a good aural examination of what happened -- to them, and to the world -- whenever they stepped on a stage in the mid-1960s.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Beatles: Purple Chick deluxe- Let It Be (1969)

(bootleg [6CD])

The sessions for the Beatles' Let It Be (originally Get Back) album are the most extensively mined by bootleggers over the decades. Nearly everything the Beatles rehearsed and recorded (and even a great many of their conversations) in the hellish, ill-advised early morning sessions at Twickenham and Apple throughout January 1969 is out in the world for us to hear, which in many cases -- especially if you're otherwise a completist for their work -- might not be such a blessing. To experience these dejected, disappointing sessions that culminated in one gloriously spirited moment (the rooftop concert on January 30th) the Beatles fan of whatever degree of obsession has several options. There are the obviously inadequate official releases of Let It Be ("reproduced" by Phil Spector) and Let It Be Naked and the slightly more redeeming Anthology 3. For the slightly less casual and more curious sort there are the numerous versions of Get Back that exist in the world. Those who are willing to listen to the Beatles play just about anything and are curious about the musical depths of the '69 tapes might be interested in the sixteen-disc reel of highlights from the sessions entitled Thirty Days; there are a few sublime moments scattered around that collection, and most of what's been gathered there is at least slightly interesting. Only true scholars and those with ridiculously dedicated archival impulses will want to proceed to the next step, the 83CD complete collection of the Get Back tapes labeled A/B Road (for convoluted reasons we'll explain later) by Purple Chick. That's the nuclear option for those who've completely run dry of Beatles amusement and still need more, more, more; very few people in the world will ever want to struggle through it.

Somewhere between the two extremes thereby outlined is the PC "deluxe" collection for Let It Be, which is in some ways as conceptually flawed as the album it documents and serves a purpose that occasionally seems arbitrary, as if it's just meant to fill out the empty slot for the Beatles' last album in the PC archives even though the music is more properly examined elsewhere. That said, it's an engaging and listenable collection provided you take it a disc at a time, which is more than can be said for A/B Road and even a lot of Thirty Days; and talking of archival impulses, this set does offer sort of a fascinating sociological history of bootlegging. Instead of delving into the recording process of the album, the point here seems to be to explore the ways in which Let It Be's music has variously escaped into the world, and the ways its release and construction was variously considered before the final, unsatisfying product was arrived at. It is made clear in the process, though, that there was enough good music completed within the sessions to make a better album than the one we got, an argument more subtly made prior to this by Anthology 3. Still, if you're enough of an enthusiast to want this collection -- which, taken together, is unnecessarily repetitive, ironic given the 83 discs worth of material that exist to work from -- then you may as well spring for (seek out, rather) one of the longer compilations, which will tell you a lot more about how the Beatles actually worked during this debacle as opposed to the ways in which the band and others considered collating and releasing the results. (Don't forget that the original Glyn Johns mixes of Get Back constitute arguably the second most essential Beatles boot of all behind the full set of BBC sessions; it was in third place before the Esher demos were officially released in 2018.)

We start in the usual straightforward manner. With the A/B Road take numbers (prompted by Doug Sulpy's book about the sessions) helpfully amended, we start with the "masters" for the canonical album as chosen and embellished by Phil Spector in 1970 and follow this with the single versions of "Let It Be" and "Get Back," both vastly different mixes of the LP performances with additional or different material included -- the former lacks Spector's bombastic touches and has a different, quieter, more ornate guitar solo on the 7", while the "Get Back" single includes a bawdy coda from Paul cut on the LP and lacks the dialogue before the intro. Both singles had non-album b-sides, "Don't Let Me Down" inexplicably so as it's the finest song from the sessions; and "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" actually a vintage novelty recording mostly created during the aimless summer of 1967 shortly after Sgt. Pepper was completed -- one participant in the session, Brian Jones, had died between recording and release -- though John and Paul put some finishing touches on it in April 1969. The 45 variation of "Let It Be" was only mixed to stereo, while "You Know My Name" never saw release in stereo until an extended version on Anthology 2 almost thirty years later. "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" was mixed in both mono and stereo, for the UK and U.S. respectively. All versions find a home on the first two discs here. Disc one is rounded out with a series of alternate mixes from various video and DVD releases, including the Imagine version of the rooftop "Don't Let Me Down" (different from the single, recorded two days earlier) and a couple of good, unadorned performances of "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" from the Anthology DVD set, both dating from the very last day of the sessions.

Let It Be, the album, was only released in stereo, but there are semi-official mono mixes of most of its songs from the Let It Be film, which are offered on the second PC disc, though there are a couple of caveats: "For You Blue" comes from different performances, on different days, than the released version. And because neither "Across the Universe" (recorded nearly two years earlier) nor "I Me Mine" (recorded in 1970 without John, though it was played in the Get Back sessions and appears in the film) are actually from the Get Back recording process, we get weird substitutions: a speed-corrected stereo version of "Universe," not a bad idea, and a vague "alternate mix" of "I Me Mine." Just what we need, more confusing variants of these songs. Lastly, the mono single mix of "Get Back" is slotted in rather than the film performance -- which is actually far superior, but more on that later. A few further extracts from the Let It Be film follow, namely a couple of oldies medleys, which come off kind of a drag in the film but do have some enjoyable moments (I love listening to John and Paul gradually remembering the lyrics to Little Richard's "Miss Ann" and starting to groove on it, though anytime their 1969 selves tackle a song from the "early days" like "Kansas City" the results sound forlorn, sometimes endearingly but usually not).

Discs three and four delve into the convoluted history of Glyn Johns' Get Back acetates, which were the sources for some of the earliest Beatles vinyl bootlegs, the first of which -- Kum Back -- surfaced before the band had even broken up. You can read all the gory details of these various compilations here but the essence is that we start off with one that was pretty much just an assembly reel for the Beatles to listen to and evaluate. Again, these performances made up the famous Get Back bootlegs that got considerable press in the later parts of 1969 and were at least partially to blame for Paul's infamous remark that Let It Be was an "old" album by the time it was released. Very few of the performances Johns mixed in late January and gathered here are the same as those on the eventual LP: the exceptions are "The Long and Winding Road," portions of "For You Blue" and one of the two included versions of "Get Back"; the other "Get Back" and the "Let It Be" we get here are actually unique to this acetate. The reel also incorporates a few goofy extracts of this and that and the most contempible and bizarrely ubiquitous song from these sessions, "Teddy Boy," which brings us to one of the biggest obstacles to listening to this set in complete form.

There is so much "Teddy Boy" spread across these discs, folks, and like a lot of what made the cut of McCartney's early solo efforts, it's the writer and performer at his smarmiest and cutesiest -- a fake folk song that's not even a shadow on the already slightly condescending "Rocky Raccoon" -- and on top of there being multiple versions of (nearly without exception) the same performance of the song, that performance runs well over five intolerably trite, repetitive minutes. It's easy to not mind the song when it's treated as a trifle, but when they jam on it for that length of time, never taking it anywhere, it's enough to make you wonder what you're doing here. Conversely, the surplus of variations on the nine "canon" Get Back-era songs does point up the virtues of those that do work, like "The Long and Winding Road," "I've Got a Feeling," "Let It Be" itself, "Two of Us" and "Don't Let Me Down," because they never seem to really wear out their welcome the way "Dig a Pony" and "Teddy Boy" do; really pretty impressive for a band that had issued thirty new tracks a month and a half before all this started.

We'll discuss this in the future, but the great fact of the Twickenham sessions was a whole hell of a lot of the Beatles fumbling around trying to figure out what exactly it was they were doing. Ostensibly the film -- initially intended as a TV special -- was to be a documentary about the Beatles recording a new album just like always, only because it was transferred to a movie studio due to unwieldy equipment and staff, it really couldn't be the fly-on-the-wall experience the Beatles and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg envisioned. The subsequent move to their new Apple studio -- after George Harrison's blowup and temporary departure, a depressing and telling situation exacerbated by the constant presence of outsiders -- improved the situation a little but only further confused the project, which had been meant to culminate with the first live Beatles show in three years, an idea half-heartedly tossed aside in favor of the spontaneous, impossibly iconic rooftop concert on January 30th. TV show became film. Album was shelved. Raw "unfiltered" Beatles came to be overdubbed with strings by the father of the Wall of Sound. The notion of spontaneity and unapologetic rock & roll couldn't be captured by force of will, which this band of all bands should have known. But one way in which they tried to force it was in the unpolished, haphazard recording of "oldies" throughout the sessions during various lengthy jams that came out during the excruciatingly long setup process for the film crew or in general downtime. With an eye apparently toward putting some of these on the Get Back album -- which was always apparently intended to include false starts, tossed-off "dialogue" and jokes and such, some of which was awkwardly interpolated on the Spector LP -- the Beatles had Johns prepare mixes of a few of them and prepare an acetate of said mixes at some point, resulting in the Apple disc cryptically labeled Beatles Sunday. That record is included in full on disc two.

It's not just oldies, as it does start with a version of "I've Got a Feeling" and the full eight-minute "Dig It," a four-way composition that runs its very unengaging groove into the ground at great length and is the only Beatles performance to feature any of their children: Paul's stepdaughter Heather on droning background vocals. But after that we get four examples of the session jams of the group wistfully revisiting items they'd have known intimately in the Hamburg days or even earlier. There's not really a feeling, as Anthology tries to posit, of coming full circle -- more of the cruelty of time passing and the attendant aging process, as the Beatles here are sufficiently unhappy that they end up sounding like old men (none of whom had yet cracked thirty). You probably know their versions of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Blue Suede Shoes" from the '90s official release, but if you've never heard 1969 Beatles attempt to reconnect with the magic 1963 Beatles had wrought on Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me," brother, consider yourself lucky; labored, drunk-sounding and obnoxiously flaccid, it's among the worst things they ever put on tape, and makes you grateful for the breakup.

The fourth disc moves on to material we will cover with more devotion elsewhere in this discography, namely the three versions of Get Back that Glyn Johns actually prepared for release, all of which were rejected by the Beatles over the course of the year past the recording sessions, during which time the band recorded and released Abbey Road and unofficially disbanded (John Lennon quietly left the band in September 1969, preceding Paul's official announcement of the breakup by seven months). Johns' second collection of the material (third if you count the initial early 1969 acetate on the prior disc) is the one that was actually on Apple's schedule and came closest to release, and is the source of the vast majority of bootleg editions over the decades, so it understandably leads off this disc, with the slight variants on "Get Back" and "Dig It" from the prior acetate (turned down by the band in the spring) dutifully inserted afterward. This is followed by the additions and alterations for the final Johns mix, which was scrapped in favor of Let It Be sometime in early 1970. This version uses the same performances as the more familiar acetate but adds a few mix and dialogue variations, all preserved here, plus a new 1970 lead vocal on "For You Blue" as well as the addition of "I Me Mine" and "Across the Universe," which would end up making the final cut with some trademark Spector enhancements.

Get Back is obviously a better album than Let It Be, rejected strictly because of the largely fragmented nature of the Beatles in 1969 and their dispirit over the way the January recording sessions had turned out, or perhaps even more than that, the general negative vibe of those sessions. But their apprehension is understandable when hearing any collection of these performances. The problem is the affectation aspect. Returning to the unaugmented rock & roll of their youth is a nice idea in theory, but they're just not great or convincing at this kind of music by this point in their lives -- the blues revival-based "hard rock" that was coming into vogue doesn't really become them, even though a handful of the songs they wrote for this project are incredible, and so are some of the performances. One of the major advantages Johns' theory of the record has over Spector's is the presence of the best of all these, John's astonishingly soulful "Don't Let Me Down," admittedly a record that would not survive the exclusion of a third party, Billy Preston. Still, every time John sings the song on these discs, you can hear how much it means to him -- at last, a break through the sarcasm and goofing off that seems to almost overwhelm the rest of his contributions to the band in this era. Paul too has moments of undeniable passion, which may be less of a shock since he seems the most gung ho (and therefore bossy) about the film project, on "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road," while the two have a couple of shared moments of real harmony on "Two of Us" and "I've Got a Feeling," the latter being one of the few really effective hard rock performances to make the final record. "One After 909," another youthful apparition come back to life, manages to escape the dregs of the oldies medleys, though it doesn't quite have the charm of the long-unreleased 1963 versions of one of the earliest compositions in their repertoire. As for the would-be title track and actually-was hit single, "Get Back," initially written as a satire of Enoch Powell's anti-immigration rhetoric that was politically neutered out of fear of being misunderstood (though props to Paul for using Sweet Loretta's preferred pronouns), never was there a more alarming example of a song not just upstaged but completely trounced into kingdom come by its b-side, "Don't Let Me Down."

There is one outstanding performance of "Get Back" in the archives, the one that finally allowed me to "get" the song after a whole lifetime of not particularly being moved by anything except Preston's brilliant piano solo, but it comes from the rooftop performance of January 30th. One huge mark against both Spector and Johns' interpretations of these sessions is how little they used from this day. Spector employs rooftop versions of "Dig a Pony," "I've Got a Feeling" and "One After 909" for the canon album; Johns only goes for "909." But I would be shocked if anyone hears the version of "Get Back" from the roof in the Let It Be film, preserved here in a few different mixes, and fails to find that ferocious performance by the band to be unquestionably superior to the one included on the album and single. There's simply no contest. That's not quite as true for "Don't Let Me Down," but the wonderfully brutal rooftop version of that song is a gift as well, as good a demonstration that exists of what a tight and emotive live band the Beatles were capable of being at their best -- it's like Hamburg come back to life for just a moment, with a whole different perspective brought along. And the entire rooftop sequence is a remarkable moment of redemption, visually and musically. Suddenly all of the negativity seems to wash away. Songs that were being slavishly worked and reworked on the floor days earlier come out to breathe. Some repeat, and it doesn't even matter. John is relaxed and vicious and full of spark and life, Paul grooves like he's forgotten he's confined to his own body, and George and Ringo play like they know tomorrow will never arrive. It makes the rest of Let It Be, ballads aside, sound like a jokey afterthought.

The last two discs of PC's set are slightly redundant, mostly collecting performances that are readily available elsewhere or alternate mixes of same (the entire sixth disc is comprised exclusively of alternate mixes and is basically useless, in part because half of it is mono mixes that PC admits may just be fold-downs). But I quite enjoy disc five simply because it's a good single disc compilation of some of the best discarded Get Back stuff all in one place, including the two rooftop extracts praised just now. Essentially the premise is that PC is pretending here that the A/B Road session tapes and the many extensive compilations built from those Nagra reels don't exist, and that this was just like any other Beatles LP. So we get the major outtakes and alternates that have slipped out into the world over the years, many officially and many not. Most of it is better explained in other contexts, but it is a highly listenable approach at least, and among the things you might not have heard before, the highlights are an unusually well-performed oldies medley that peaks with a noisy version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and an interesting, lengthy instrumental jam. The nearly infinite base of material from which to work here, however, precludes any sense of completeness; most fans will object to the absence of legendary Get Back jam outtakes like "Watching Rainbows," and there are other quibbles that PC set themselves up for just by including this largely superfluous disc.

Of course, the central problem with all this material is that the most exhaustively complete set of Beatles session tapes we have is dedicated perhaps the least desirable collection of music they laid down in their whole career. Some thrive on exploration of this chapter in their history, but even for those who do enjoy it, there's so much confusion with the numerous takes, rehearsals, performances and proper takes of this material, it can be a nightmare to keep it all straight, or if you're less charitable, to go hunting for diamonds in the mine. Add to all this the band's obviously listless mood; yes, we've been told that they always ran material into the ground while they were rehearsing it, hence the indelible precision inherent to the appeal of their records, but you can't mistake how much timing and setting took a toll on them in this case. All the same, when you want that lonely sad feeling of hearing something in the process of breaking apart -- and sometimes, oddly enough, you do -- or when you do want to share in the fantasy of a latter-day Beatles record as raw and unkempt as their earliest work without the sprawling experimentation of the White Album (which already, in the context of January 1969, sounds like a totally different band), this is a good set to dive into for your Sunday morning sulk. And its matter-of-fact comparisons of the two engineer-mixer-producers' differing approaches does make one surprising point to put in the official Let It Be album's column.

Johns' Get Back pretends that everything is fine, that the big back-to-roots experiment was a success; hell, it's right there in the title and on the cover. It furthers the illusion of the Beatles as an ivory-tower bubble among rock bands. Let It Be deconstructs that illusion, acknowledges the bleakness of the band's collective state of mind, and recommissions this abortive attempt at reconnection as a funeral march. This sober stock-taking is to the album's benefit, to the benefit of its legacy, and maybe even to the benefit of the Beatles' punctured legend. After all, the breakup itself and the images of disarray and discontent captured in Lindsay-Hogg's film are now the stuff of rock & roll mythology just as much as the moptops of A Hard Day's Night were. The ending is baked into the story; they might have wanted "The End" to be the final word, but this portrait of disintegration and ugliness was the finale they couldn't prevent from slipping out. Whatever Let It Be's flaws, the Beatles' narrative and mythos would be diminished by its absence; Get Back was the better album, but Let It Be was the necessary one.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The List of Lists 2018

Archival lists: This is last year in which I'll be working with the master lists I put together in '09, so to empty out the archive and all its attendant data I'm making this an extra long post, containing everything I haven't already posted from that batch of stuff in the previous ten years at this blog. Needless to say, I already find a number of elements of these lists wrong and inadequate, but broadly -- they're basically me, what can I say? No further comments at this time. I'm well into sweeping revisions of all of this stuff, which you'll start to see on the next cycle through them all soon enough.

New lists: the bootleg list, explained further under the header; and favorite 1958 songs and 1968 songs, the results of much plundering and scrounging and remembering. I had a blast as always. Happy new year, everybody.

Because of the next-to-nonsensical way in which boots are put out in the world, especially in the internet-age, this list doesn't necessarily correspond to my ratings per se; for example, until this year the list would have included the Beatles' Esher demos near the top, but I don't have any disc in my collection (and thus rated) that strictly consists of those recordings. As a result, this is a bit of a grab bag but hopefully coherent. As you know, I only go as far as bootlegs for a very small number of bands and artists; and in many cases, like the Beatles and Beach Boys, I'm an avid collector and completist but I can't really hold any particular full discs up as particularly great for casual listening. That said, if you let me put together a compilation of my favorite unreleased tracks by either, they'd surely both score top five spots on this. That's probably true of studio outtakes in general -- there are bits and pieces I treasure all over the place, including from some of these same artists, but larger collections tend inevitably to be hit-and-miss. Also, I'm sure there's some Dylan stuff that belongs here, but I've seen fit to just wait for Columbia to release everything themselves, and so far I've gotten plenty to work with! I've also chosen a representative YLT show but there are so many that I love, especially Freewheelin' shows whose dates I don't have time to look up at the moment -- I'll more carefully rate those in the future and probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about them. (This also goes for Neutral Milk Hotel; almost all of the shows that circulate from the late '90s are remarkable in one way or another.)

With my favorite R.E.M. shows I run into the same trouble I have with the Beatles' live material that I appreciate: I think they're fun for me because I love the band; without that existing relationship I don't know how much value the recordings would have. That isn't true at all for the Prince and Television shows listed here.

1. Prince: Small Club [live 1988-08-19 Paard Van Troje, The Netherlands]
2. Talking Heads: Stardust Room, Las Vegas [live 1979-09-26]
3. The Clash: Going to the Disco [live 1976-09-05, The Roundhouse, London]
4. Television: Live @ the Whisky A Go Go [live 1977-04-05/14, Los Angeles]
5. Stevie Wonder: Live in NYC 1975 [live 1974-12-06 Madison Square Garden, NYC]
6. Prince: City Lights [live 1985-01-04 The Omni, Atlanta]
7. The Velvet Underground: Live at End Cole Ave. [live Oct. 1969, Dallas]
8. Television: Piccadilly Inn [live 1975-07-25, Cleveland]
9. Prince: The Work, Vol. 1 [boxed set of studio outtakes]
10. The Beatles: Get Back [Glyn Johns' third assembly] / The Beatles: The Complete Rooftop Concert [live 1969-01-30 Apple Studios, London]
11. The Clash: Agora 1979 [live 1979-02-13, Cleveland]
11. Talking Heads: Sharp Objects [live 1977-12-03, Old Waldorf, San Francisco]
12. Yo La Tengo: Hanukkah with Andrew Bird [live 2012-12-14, Maxwell's, Hoboken]

1958 SONGS
A new list, heaps of good times; probably 40 A+ tunes here. In addition to what I already knew and loved, I queued up hundreds of songs I couldn't recall or didn't know on Youtube, found several that really stood out and tried to rank them as best as I could; though the standard caveat applies with material that's new to me, meaning that this list will probably look very different in another year or two. Rockabilly got sexy in '58. Anyway, as with 1956 and '57, one of the best years ever for American singles; the Everlys' masterpiece "Problems" being as low as #12 says a great deal, I think. Favorite new discoveries this round: "Jennie Lee" by the Dominoes, and the Musical Linn Twins' "Rockin' Out the Blues," one of the most rapturously primitive records I've ever heard. The vocals sound like fucking Alan Vega! (Special note also to "Lover Boy" by the Cleftones for taking up what may be permanent residence in my head.)

1. Chuck Berry "Sweet Little Sixteen" (Chess)
2. Little Richard "Good Golly Miss Molly" (Specialty)
3. Johnny Cash "I Still Miss Someone" (Columbia)
4. The '5' Royales "Don't Let It Be in Vain" (King)
5. Screamin' Jay Hawkins "Alligator Wine" (OKeh)
6. Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode" (Chess)
7. Chuck Berry "Reelin' and Rockin'" (Chess)
8. The '5' Royales "The Slummer the Slum" (King)
9. The Staple Singers "I Had a Dream" (Vee Jay)
10. Little Richard "Ooh! My Soul" (Specialty)
11. Jerry Lee Lewis "High School Confidential" (Sun)
12. The Everly Brothers "Problems" (Cadence)
13. Link Wray "Rumble" (Cadence)
14. Screamin' Jay Hawkins "There's Something Wrong with You" (OKeh)
15. Eddie Cochran "Summertime Blues" (Liberty)
16. Buddy Holly "It's So Easy" (Brunswick)
17. Jackie Wilson "Lonely Teardrops" (Brunswick)
18. Chuck Berry "Around and Around" (Chess)
19. The Everly Brothers "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (Cadence)
20. Buddy Holly "Think It Over" (Brunswick)
21. The Teddy Bears "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (Dore)
22. Buddy Holly "Early in the Morning" (Coral)
23. Elizabeth Cotten "Freight Train" (Folkways)
24. The Everly Brothers "Devoted to You" (Cadence)
25. Peggy Lee "Fever" (Capitol)
26. Buddy Holly "Rave On" (Coral)
27. Lloyd Price "Stagger Lee" (ABC-Paramount)
28. Johnny Cash "Guess Things Happen That Way" (Sun)
29. The Coasters "Yakety Yak" (Atco)
30. Connie Francis "Stupid Cupid" (MGM)
31. Carl Perkins "Lend Me Your Comb" (Sun)
32. Cannonball Adderley "Dancing in the Dark" (Blue Note LP: Somethin' Else)
33. Duane Eddy "Rebel Rouser" (Jamie)
34. Chuck Berry "It Don't Take But a Few Minutes" (Chess LP: One Dozen Berrys)
35. Howlin' Wolf "Poor Boy" (Chess)
36. The Everly Brothers "Down in the Willow Garden" (Cadence LP: Songs Our Daddy Taught Us)
37. Carl Perkins "Glad All Over" (Sun)
38. Buddy Holly "Look at Me" (Coral LP: Buddy Holly)
39. Brenda Lee "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (Decca)
40. Chuck Berry "Carol" (Chess)
41. Dion & the Belmonts "I Wonder Why" (Laurie)
42. James Brown "Try Me" (Federal)
43. Hank Mizell "Jungle Rock" (Eko)
44. The Everly Brothers "Claudette" (Cadence)
45. Kip Tyler & the Flips "She's My Witch" (Ebb)
46. The Big Bopper "Little Red Riding Hood" (Mercury)
47. Huey 'Piano' Smith & the Clowns "Don't You Just Know It" (Ace)
48. Billy Ward & the Dominoes "Jennie Lee" (Liberty)
49. Buddy Holly "Maybe Baby" (Brunswick)
50. Chuck Berry "Beautiful Delilah" (Chess)
51. Duane Eddy "Ramrod" (Jamie)
52. The Silhouettes "Get a Job" (Junior)
53. The Musical Linn Twins "Rockin' Out the Blues" (Blue Feather)
54. Bobby Day "Rock-in' Robin" (Class)
55. Tarheel Slim "Number 9 Train" (Fury)
56. Clyde McPhatter "A Lover's Question" (Atlantic)
57. The Champs "Tequila" (Challenge)
58. Curley Jim & the Billey Rocks "Rock & Roll Itch" (Metro)
59. The Collins Kids "Whistle Bait" (Columbia)
60. Esquerita "Rockin' the Joint" (Capitol)
61. Muddy Waters "Close to You" (Chess)
62. Howlin' Wolf "Moanin' for My Baby" (Chess)
63. Jerry Butler & the Impressions "For Your Precious Love" (Falcon)
64. The Staple Singers "Low Is the Way" (Vee Jay)
65. Big Danny Oliver "Sapphire" (Trend)
66. Ritchie Valens "Come On, Let's Go" (Del-Fi)
67. Little Willie John "Talk to Me, Talk to Me" (King)
68. The Platters "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Mercury)
69. Jerry Lee Lewis "Down the Line" (Sun)
70. Little Richard "Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" (Specialty)
71. Buddy Holly "I'm Gonna Love You Too" (Coral)
72. Dale Hawkins "Tornado" (Checker)
73. Cadillacs "Oh Oh Lolita" (Josie)
74. Al Casey "I Got the Teen-Age Blues" (Highland)
75. Johnny Otis "Willie and the Hand Jive" (Capitol)
76. Dee Clark "Nobody But You" (Abner)
77. Sam Cooke "Win Your Love for Me" (Keen)
78. Buddy Holly "Well... All Right" (Coral)
79. Howlin' Wolf "Change My Way" (Chess)
80. Ray Charles "Talkin' 'Bout You" (Atlantic)
81. Jody Reynolds "Endless Sleep" (Demon)
82. Magic Sam "Easy Baby" (Cobra)
83. Larry Williams "Slow Down" (Specialty)
84. John Lee Hooker "I Love You Honey" (Vee Jay)
85. The Big Bopper "Chantilly Lace" (Mercury)
86. Huey 'Piano' Smith & the Clowns "Don't You Know Yockomo" (Ace)
87. Jimmy Lloyd "I Got a Rocket in My Pocket" (Roulette)
88. Ritchie Valens "La Bamba" (Del-Fi)
89. The Bobbettes "Zoomy" (Atlantic)
90. The Olympics "Western Movies" (Demon)
91. Duane Eddy "Cannonball" (Jamie)
92. Bo Diddley "Dearest Darling" (Checker)
93. Howlin' Wolf "Sitting on Top of the World" (Chess)
94. The Monotones "Zombi" (Argo)
95. Jerry Lee Lewis "Breathless" (Sun)
96. Ray Charles "Rockhouse" (Atlantic)
97. Jimmy McCracklin "The Walk" (Checker)
98. The Coasters "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass" (Atco)
99. Duane Eddy "Movin' N Groovin'" (Jamie)
100. Kip Tyler & the Flips "Jungle Hop" (Challenge)
101. The Diamonds "The Stroll" (Mercury)
102. The Cleftones "Lover Boy" (Gee)
103. Jerry Byrne "Lights Out" (Specialty)
104. The Cadillacs "Peek-a-Boo" (Josie)
105. Cliff Richard "Move It" (Columbia)
106. Chanters "My, My Darling" (DeLuxe)
107. Ronnie Self "Bop-a-Lena" (Columbia)
108. The Chordettes "Lollipop" (Cadence)
109. The Fiestas "So Fine" (Old Town)
110. Bobby Hendricks "Itchy Twitchy Feeling" (Sue)
111. The Magnificents "Don't Leave Me" (Vee Jay)
112. The Big Bopper "Old Maid" (Mercury)
113. Sam Cooke "Lonely Island" (Keen)
114. Buddy Holly "Heartbeat" (Coral)
115. Bill Allen & the Back Beats "Please Give Me Something" (Imperial)
116. The Everly Brothers "Bird Dog" (Cadence)
117. Roy Hamilton "Don't Let Go" (Epic)
118. Noble 'Thin Man' Watts & His Rhythm Sparks "Hard Times (The Slop)" (Baton)
119. Fats Domino "Coquette" (Imperial)
120. Eddie Fontaine "Nothin' Shakin' (But the Leaves on the Trees)" (Sunbeam)
121. The Silhouettes "Headin' for the Poorhouse" (Ember)
122. Ruth Brown "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'" (Atlantic)
123. Sonny Boy Williamson "Your Funeral & My Trial" (Checker)
124. Ritchie Valens "Framed" (Del-Fi)
125. Mamie Bradley "I Feel Like a Million" (Chess)
126. Wanda Jackson "Mean Mean Man" (Capitol)
127. The Quin-Tones "Down the Aisle of Love" (Red Top)
128. The Monotones "Tom Foolery" (Argo)
129. Billy Smith "Tell Me Baby" (Red Hed)
130. Chuck Willis "What Am I Living For" (Atlantic)
131. Lattie Moore "Why Did You Lie to Me" (Starday)
132. Jackie Wilson "To Be Loved" (Brunswick)
133. Allen Page "She's the One That's Got It" (Moon)
134. Lazy Lester "I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter" (Excello)
135. Dion & the Belmonts "Teen Angel" (Laurie)
136. Ruth Brown "Why Me" (Atlantic)
137. Sonny Boy Williamson "Born Blind" (Checker)
138. Johnny Cash "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (Sun)
139. Tarheel Slim "Wildcat Tamer" (Fury)
140. Kip Tyler & the Flips "Rumble Rock" (Ebb)
141. B.B. King "That Ain't the Way to Do It" (Crown)
142. Rosco Gordon "Sally Jo" (Sun)
143. Larry Williams "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" (Specialty)
144. The Cleftones "My Angel Lover" (Classic)
145. Conway Twitty "It's Only Make Believe" (MGM)
146. Jody Reynolds "Fire of Love" (Demon)
147. Chuck Berry "Run Rudolph Run" (Chess)
148. The Deltones "Early Morning Rock" (Vee Jay)
149. Steve Carl "Curfew" (Meteor)
150. The Edsels "Rama Lama Ding Dong" (Dub)
151. Bobby Freeman "Do You Want to Dance" (Josie)
152. Elvis Presley "I Got Stung" (RCA)
153. Buddy Holly "Fool's Paradise" (Brunswick)
154. The Olympics "(I Wanna) Dance with the Teacher" (Demon)
155. Ricky Nelson "Believe What You Say" (Imperial)
156. Sam Cooke "You Were Made for Me" (Keen)
157. Janis & Her Boyfriends "Bang Bang" (RCA)
158. The Students "I'm So Young" (Note/Checker)
159. Jack Scott "Goodbye Baby" (Carlton)
160. Duane Eddy "Stalkin'" (Jamie)
161. Lucille Star & Bob Regan "Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe" (Ditto)
162. The Solitaires "Embraceable You" (Old Town)
163. Wanda Jackson "Honey Bop" (Capitol)
164. Chuck Berry "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" (Chess)
165. The Shirelles "I Met Him on a Sunday" (Decca)
166. Gene Vincent "Baby Blue" (Capitol)
167. The Spotlighters "Please Be My Girl Friend" (Aladdin)
168. Patsy Cline "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)" (Decca)
169. The Musical Linn Twins "Indian Rock" (Blue Feather)
170. Priscilla Bowman "A Rockin' Good Way" (Abner)
171. The Videos "Trickle, Trickle" (Casino)
172. Ray Smith "So Young" (Sun)
173. Elvis Presley "Don't" (RCA)
174. Luther Dixon "Feeling of Love" (Chess)
175. Don Gibson "Oh Lonesome Me" (RCA)
Kip Tyler & the Flips "Ooh Yeah Baby" (Challenge)
Otis Rush "Double Trouble" (Cobra)
Scotty Moore "Have Guitar, Will Travel" (Fernwood)
LaVern Baker "I Cried a Tear" (Atlantic)
The Danleers "One Summer Night" (Mercury)
Tyrone Schmidling "Honey Don't" (Andex)
Ersel Hickey "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" (Epic)
The Kodaks "Oh Gee, Oh Gosh" (Fury)
Danny & the Juniors "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" (ABC)
Cozy Cole "Topsy" (Love)
Bobby Darin "Splish Splash" (Atco)
The Turbans "I Promise You Love" (Red Top)
The Champs "El Rancho Rock" (Challenge)
Hank Locklin "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On" (RCA)
The Platters "Twilight Time" (Mercury)
Chick Floyd & His Orchestra "Hana Maui" (Liberty)
Chanters "Angel Darling" (DeLuxe)
Dion & the Belmonts "No One Knows" (Laurie)
Chuck Berry "Merry Christmas Baby" (Chess)
The Five Blobs "The Blob" (Columbia)
Oscar McLollie & Jeanette Baker "Hey Girl - Hey Boy" (Class)

1. The Beatles (Apple) A+
2. The Kinks: The Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise) A+
3. The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia) A+
4. The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat (Verve) A+
5. The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle (Date) A+
6. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (Warner Bros.) A+
7. The Beach Boys: Friends (Capitol) A+
8. The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia) A+
9. The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (London) A
10. Sly & the Family Stone: Life (Epic) A
11. The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco) A-
12. The Everly Brothers: Roots (Warner Bros.) A-
13. The Guess Who: Wheatfield Soul (RCA) A-
14. Sly & the Family Stone: Dance to the Music (Epic) A-
15. Simon & Garfunkel: Bookends (Columbia) A-
Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E (Epic) A-
George Harrison: Wonderwall Music (Apple) A-

1968 SONGS
Another new list, and I'm blown away by a lot of the psychedelia and soul I listened to in order to make it; I also revisited a lot of "classics" that remain a total drag, but where has the Shocking Blue's "Send Me a Postcard" been all my life? Also, the incredibly risky and fragmented "Whirlybird" by Silver Apples is just as weird and wild as the Musical Linn Twins song noted above. Also, quick reiteration of the rules for these past-year lists: only one song per album but with a loophole whereby any song that was released as a single is eligible. That's why only one White Album cut but nearly every track from White Light/White Heat is here.

1. Marvin Gaye "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (Tamla)
2. The Beatles "Dear Prudence" (Apple LP: The Beatles)
3. Archie Bell & the Drells "Tighten Up" (Atlantic)
4. James Brown "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" (King)
5. Aretha Franklin "The House That Jack Built" (Atlantic)
6. The Beatles "Hey Jude" (Apple)
7. Dusty Springfield "Son of a Preacher Man" (Atlantic)
8. The Byrds "Hickory Wind" (Columbia LP: Sweetheart of the Rodeo)
9. The Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" (London LP: Beggars Banquet)
10. Otis Redding "Hard to Handle" (Atco)
11. Desmond Dekker & the Aces "Israelites" (Uni)
12. The Kinks "Days" (Reprise)
13. The Band "The Weight" (Capitol)
14. Tommy James & the Shondells "Crimson and Clover" (Roulette)
15. The Zombies "A Rose for Emily" (Date LP: Odessey and Oracle)
16. Van Morrison "Sweet Thing" (Warner Bros. LP)
17. Dusty Springfield "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart" (Philips LP: Dusty... Definitely)
18. Aretha Franklin "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" (Atlantic)
19. James Brown "Give It Up or Turnit A Loose" (King)
20. The Zombies "Care of Cell 44" (Date)
21. The Byrds "Wasn't Born to Follow" (Columbia)
22. The Box Tops "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (Mala LP: Cry Like a Baby)
23. Archie Bell & the Drells "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown" (Atlantic)
24. The Velvet Underground "Sister Ray" (Verve LP: White Light/White Heat)
25. The Kinks "Village Green" (Reprise LP: The Village Green Preservation Society)
26. Big Mama Thornton "Ball and Chain" (Arhoolie)
27. The Rolling Stones "No Expectations" (London)
28. Simon & Garfunkel "April, Come She Will" (Columbia)
29. Otis Redding "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (Volt)
30. Stevie Wonder "For Once in My Life" (Tamla)
31. The Zombies "Time of the Season" (Date)
32. Gram Parsons/the Byrds "You Don't Miss Your Water" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
33. Aretha Franklin "See Saw" (Atlantic)
34. Sly & the Family Stone "Sing a Simple Song" (Epic)
35. Simon & Garfunkel "Mrs. Robinson" (Columbia)
36. The Beach Boys "Busy Doin' Nothin'" (Capitol LP)
37. The Temptations "Cloud Nine" (Gordy)
38. Gram Parsons/the Byrds "The Christian Life" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
39. The Velvet Underground "I Heard Her Call My Name" (Verve)
40. Shocking Blue "Send Me a Postcard" (Olga)
41. James Brown "Licking Stick-Licking Stick" (King)
42. The Byrds "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Columbia)
43. Tammy Wynette "Stand by Your Man" (Epic)
44. The Kinks "Starstruck" (Reprise)
45. Love "Your Mind and We Belong Together" (Elektra)
46. Simon & Garfunkel "America" (Columbia LP: Bookends)
47. The International Submarine Band "Blue Eyes" (LHI)
48. The Turtles "Elenore" (White Whale)
49. The Supremes & the Temptations "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (Motown)
50. The Byrds "Dolphin's Smile" (Columbia LP: The Notorious Byrd Brothers)
51. Dave Davies & the Kinks "There Is No Life Without Love" (Pye)
52. The Byrds "I Am a Pilgrim" (Columbia)
53. Brenda Lee "Kansas City" (Decca)
54. Aretha Franklin "Think" (Atlantic)
55. Sam & Dave "I Thank You" (Stax)
56. The Rolling Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (London)
57. The Impressions "Fool for You" (Curtom)
58. Donovan "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (Epic)
59. Tommy James & the Shondells "Mony Mony" (Roulette)
60. Barbara Acklin "Love Makes a Woman" (Brunswick)
61. The Box Tops "Cry Like a Baby" (Mala)
62. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell "You're All I Need to Get By" (Tamla)
63. The Kinks "Wonderboy" (Reprise)
64. Aretha Franklin "Ain't No Way" (Atlantic)
65. The Love Affair "Everlasting Love" (CBS)
66. The Foundations "Build Me Up Buttercup" (Uni)
67. The Delfonics "La-La Means I Love You" (Philly Groove)
68. Dionne Warwick "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (Scepter)
69. Toots and the Maytals "Do the Reggay" (Pyramid)
70. Wilson Pickett "Hey Jude" (Atlantic)
71. The Beatles "Lady Madonna" (Parlophone/Capitol)
72. The Supremes "Love Child" (Motown)
73. Sly & the Family Stone "Everyday People" (Epic)
74. Silver Apples "Whirlybird" (Kapp)
75. The Beatles "Revolution" (Apple)
76. The Staple Singers "Long Walk to D.C." (Stax)
77. The Temptations "I Wish It Would Rain" (Gordy)
78. Gladys Knight & the Pips "I Wish It Would Rain" (Soul)
79. Glen Campbell "Wichita Lineman" (Capitol)
80. Clarence Carter "Slip Away" (Atlantic)
81. The Ventures "Hawaii Five-O" (Liberty)
82. The Impressions "We're Rolling On" (ABC)
83. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (Tamla)
84. Sly & the Family Stone "Into My Own Thing" (Epic LP: Life)
85. The Box Tops "I Met Her in Church" (Mala)
86. Eddie Floyd "Big Bird" (Stax)
87. The Rascals "A Beautiful Morning" (Atlantic)
88. Loretta Lynn "Fist City" (Decca)
89. The Meters "Sophisticated Cissy" (Josie)
90. MC5 "Looking at You" (Atlantic)
91. Johnnie Taylor "Who's Making Love" (Stax)
92. Jackie Lomax "Sour Milk Sea" (Apple)
93. The Turtles "You Showed Me" (White Whale)
94. Dusty Springfield "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" (Atlantic)
95. The Byrds "It Happens Each Day" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
96. The Beach Boys "Wake the World" (Capitol)
97. Etta James "Security" (Cadet)
98. Martha & the Vandellas "I Can't Dance to That Music You're Playing" (Gordy)
99. Sly & the Family Stone "Higher" (Epic LP: Dance to the Music)
100. The Beach Boys "Little Bird" (Capitol)
101. Percy Sledge "Take Time to Know Her" (Atlantic)
102. The Byrds "Pretty Boy Floyd" (Columbia)
103. The Zombies "Maybe After He's Gone" (Date)
104. The Velvet Underground "White Light/White Heat" (Verve)
105. The Sweet Inspirations "Sweet Inspiration" (Atlantic)
106. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "Driftin' Blues" (Duke)
107. The Kinks "Picture Book" (Reprise)
108. Otis Redding "Amen" (Atco)
109. Archie Bell & the Drells "Love Will Rain on You" (Atlantic)
110. James Brown "I Got the Feelin'" (King)
111. The Monkees "Porpoise Song" (Colgems)
112. The Beach Boys "Friends" (Capitol)
113. Nazz "Open My Eyes" (SGC)
114. Booker T. & the MG's "Soul Limbo" (Stax)
115. The Isley Brothers "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" (Tamla)
116. 1910 Fruitgum Co. "1-2-3, Red Light" (Buddah)
117. The Velvet Underground "Here She Comes Now" (Verve)
118. The Pretty Things "Talkin' About the Good Times" (Columbia)
119. Ray Charles "Eleanor Rigby" (ABC)
120. The Staple Singers "The Ghetto" (Stax)
121. Elvis Presley "A Little Less Conversation" (RCA)
122. Tammy Wynette "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" (Epic)
123. Archie Bell & the Drells "I Can't Stop Dancing" (Atlantic)
124. Tim Buckley "Once I Was" (Elektra)
125. Love "Laughing Stock" (Elektra)
126. Jeanne C. Riley "Harper Valley PTA" (Plantation)
127. The Creation "Bony Moronie" (Hit-ton)
128. The Rolling Stones "Street Fighting Man" (London)
129. Clarence Carter "Too Weak to Fight" (Atlantic)
130. Johnny Cash "Daddy Sang Bass" (Columbia)
131. Nina Simone "Ain't Got No, I Got Life" (RCA)
132. Dusty Springfield "The Windmills of Your Mind" (Atlantic)
133. The Monkees "Valleri" (Colgems)
134. The Flirtations "Nothing But a Heartache" (Deram)
135. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles "Yester Love" (Tamla)
136. Otis Redding "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum-De-De-De-Dum-Dum)" (Atco)
137. The Temptations "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" (Gordy)
138. Jackie Wilson "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" (Brunswick)
139. The Turtles "Surfer Dan" (White Whale)
140. The Beach Boys "Do It Again" (Capitol)
141. The Creation "How Does It Feel to Feel" (Planet)
142. Jerry Butler "Never Give You Up" (Mercury)
143. The Classics IV "Stormy" (Imperial)
144. The Everly Brothers "Empty Boxes" (Warner Bros.)
145. The Byrds "Lazy Days" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
146. Aretha Franklin "Groovin'" (Atlantic LP: Lady Soul)
147. Herb Alpert "This Guy's in Love with You" (A&M)
148. Arthur Conley "Funky Street" (Atco)
149. The International Submarine Band "Luxury Liner" (LHI)
150. Stevie Wonder "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" (Tamla)
Simon & Garfunkel "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" (Columbia)
Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues" [live] (Columbia)
The Kinks "Polly" (Reprise)
Aretha Franklin "My Song" (Atlantic)
Booker T. & the MG's "Hang 'Em High" (Stax)
1910 Fruitgum Co. "Sticky Sticky" (Buddah)
The Creation "The Girls Are Naked" (Polydor)
The Byrds "Reputation" (Columbia)
The Beatles "Child of Nature" (Apple, unreleased until 2018)
Gram Parsons/the Byrds "One Hundred Years from Now" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
The Doors "Touch Me" (Elektra)
The Byrds "Pretty Polly" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
The Seeds "900 Million People Daily All Making Love" (GNP)

1. The Velvet Underground (MGM) A+
2. Sly & the Family Stone: Stand! (Epic) A+
3. The Kinks: Arthur (Reprise) A+
4. The Beatles: Abbey Road (Apple) A+
5. The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M) A+
6. Miles Davis: In a Silent Way (Columbia) A+
7. Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic) A+
8. Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia) A+
9. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (London) A
10. The Beach Boys: 20/20 (Capitol) A
11. Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Reprise) A
12. Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island) A
13. The Guess Who: Canned Wheat (RCA) A-
14. The Meters (Josie) A-
15. Leonard Cohen: Songs from a Room (Columbia) A-
Alexander 'Skip' Spence: Oar (Columbia) A-
George Harrison: Electronic Sound (Zapple) A-
Elvis Presley: From Elvis in Memphis (RCA) A-
David Bowie: Space Oddity (Mercury) A-

1. Big Star: Third/Sister Lovers (PVC) A+
2. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire) A+
3. Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear (Tamla) A+
4. Wire: Chairs Missing (Harvest) A+
5. The Jam: All Mod Cons (Polydor) A+
6. Blondie: Parallel Lines (Chrysalis) A+
7. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance (Blank) A
8. Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove (Warner Bros.) A
9. Brian Eno: Music for Airports (PVC) A
10. Television: Adventure (Elektra) A
11. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (Warner Bros.) A
12. The Only Ones (Epic) A
13. Brian Eno: Music for Films (Antilles) A
14. X-Ray Spex: Germ-Free Adolescents (EMI) A
15. Blondie: Plastic Letters (Chrysalis) A
16. The Cars (Elektra) A
17. Flamin' Groovies Now! (Sire) A
18. The Rolling Stones: Some Girls (Atlantic) A-
19. The Stranglers: Black and White (United Artists) A-
20. The Ramones: Road to Ruin (Sire) A-
21. Lou Reed: Street Hassle (Arista) A-
22. Patti Smith: Wave (Arista) A-
23. Neil Young: Comes a Time (Reprise) A-
24. Pere Ubu: Dub Housing (Chrysalis) A-
25. The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope (Epic) A-
Tubeway Army (Beggars Banquet)

1. The Clash: London Calling (Epic) A+
2. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (Epic) A+
3. David Bowie: Lodger (RCA) A+
4. Gang of Four: Entertainment! (Warner Bros.) A+
5. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (Sire) A+
6. Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Warner Bros.) A+
7. Wire: 154 (Warner Bros.) A
8. The B-52's (Warner Bros.) A
9. Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise) A
10. The Jam: Setting Sons (Polydor) A
11. Pere Ubu: New Picnic Time (Chrysalis) A-
12. The Records: Shades in Bed (Virgin) A-
13. The Only Ones: Special View (Epic) A-
14. Blondie: Eat to the Beat (Chrysalis) A-
15. The Searchers (Sire) A-
16. Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle (Atco) A-
17. XTC: Drums and Wires (Virgin) A-
18. Leonard Cohen: Recent Songs (Columbia) A-
19. The Only Ones: Even Serpents Shine (Epic) A-
20. The Stranglers: The Raven (A&M) A-
Lou Reed: The Bells (Arista) A-
The Police: Reggatta de Blanc (A&M) A-
Van Morrison: Into the Music (Warner Bros.) A-
Tubeway Army: Replicas (Atco) A-

1. Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Columbia) A+
2. The Go-Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane (Capitol) A+
3. Pixies: Surfer Rosa (4AD) A
4. Pet Shop Boys: Introspective (EMI Manhattan) A
5. Galaxie 500: Today (Rough Trade) A
6. Ultramagnetic MCs: Critical Beatdown (Next Plateau) A-
7. The Smithereens: Green Thoughts (Capitol) A-
8. Pere Ubu: The Tenement Year (Enigma) A-
9. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Def Jam) A-
10. My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (Sire) A-
11. Prince: Lovesexy (Warner Bros.) A-
12. R.E.M.: Green (Warner Bros.) A-
13. Boogie Down Productions: By All Means Necessary (Jive) A-
14. Erasure: The Innocents (Sire) A-
15. Living Colour: Vivid (Epic) A-
Information Society (Tommy Boy) A-
Run-DMC: Tougher Than Leather (Profile) A-

1. De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy) A+
2. Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique (Capitol) A
3. Galaxie 500: On Fire (Rough Trade) A
4. Pixies: Doolittle (4AD) A-
5. Fine Young Cannibals: The Raw and the Cooked (I.R.S.) A-
6. President Yo La Tengo (Coyote) A-
7. Lou Reed: New York (Sire) A-
8. XTC: Oranges & Lemons (Virgin) A-
9. Pere Ubu: Cloudland (Fontana) A-
10. Tears for Fears: The Seeds of Love (Fontana) A-
11. Madonna: Like a Prayer (Sire) A-
12. Boogie Down Productions: Ghetto Music (Jive) A-
13. Lou Reed & John Cale: Songs for Drella (Sire) A-
14. Erasure: Wild! (Sire) A-
15. John Cale: Words for the Dying (Warner Bros.) A-
16. New Order: Technique (Qwest) A-
17. The Smithereens: 11 (Capitol) A-
18. Paul McCartney: Flowers in the Dirt (Capitol) A-
19. The Jesus & Mary Chain: Automatic (Warner Bros.) A-
20. Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation 1814 (A&M) A-

1. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge) A+
2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Columbia) A
3. Outkast: Aquemini (Arista) A
4. Elliott Smith: XO (DreamWorks) A
5. The Smashing Pumpkins: Adore (Virgin) A
6. Air: Moon Safari (Caroline) A-
7. eels: Electro-Shock Blues (DreamWorks) A-
8. Jay-Z: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (Def Jam) A-
9. The Cardigans: Gran Turismo (Mercury) A-
10. Mono: Formica Blues (Mercury) A-
Madonna: Ray of Light (Maverick) A-
Cat Power: Moon Pix (Matador) A-

1. The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (Merge) A+
2. Ben Folds Five: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (550 Music) A+
3. The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin (Warner Bros.) A
4. Moby: Play (V2) A
5. The Roots: Things Fall Apart (MCA) A
6. Old 97's: Fight Songs (Elektra) A
7. Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret (Warner Bros.) A
8. Blur: 13 (Virgin) A-
9. Wilco: Summerteeth (Reprise) A-
10. Pavement: Terror Twilight (Matador) A-
11. Jay-Z: Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter (Def Jam) A-
12. Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage (Flydaddy) A-
13. The Chemical Brothers: Surrender (astralwerks) A-
14. Beulah: When Your Heartstrings Break (Sugar Free) A-
15. Everything But the Girl: Temperamental (Atlantic) A-
16. XTC: Apple Venus Vol. 1 (Cooking Vinyl) A-
17. Asylum Street Spankers: Hot Lunch (Spanks-A-Lot) A-
18. Luna: The Days of Our Nights (Jericho) A-
19. Missy Elliott: Da Real World (Elektra) A-
20. Loudon Wainwright III: Social Studies (Hannibal) A-
Gus Gus: This Is Normal (4AD) A-
Matthew Sweet: In Reverse (Volcano) A-
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication (Warner Bros.) A-
Muse: Showbiz (Maverick) A-

1. The Tallest Man on Earth: Shallow Grave (Mexican Summer) A
2. The Walkmen: You & Me (Gigantic) A
3. Hot Chip: Made in the Dark (astralwerks) A
4. TV on the Radio: Dear Science (Interscope) A
5. The Magnetic Fields: Distortion (Nonesuch) A
6. Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak (Def Jam) A
7. Love Is All: A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (What's Your Rupture?) A
8. Kaki King: Dreaming of Revenge (Velour) A-
9. Crystal Castles (Last Gang) A-
10. Chatham County Line: IV (Yep Roc) A-
11. Mates of State: Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk) A-
12. The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note) A-
13. Teddy Thompson: A Piece of What You Need (Verve) A-
14. The Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride (4AD) A-
15. Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (Nettwerk) A-

1. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz (Interscope) A
2. The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (Columbia) A
3. Gossip: Music for Men (Columbia) A
4. Condo Fucks: Fuckbook (Matador) A
5. The Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Warner Bros.) A-
6. tUnE-yArDs: BiRd-BrAiNs (Marriage/4AD) A-
7. The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele (Paw Tracks) A-
8. Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador) A-
9. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come (4AD) A-
10. Pet Shop Boys: Yes (astralwerks) A-
11. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Vs. Children (Tomlab) A-
12. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Fat Possum) A-
13. Yoko Ono: Between My Head and the Sky (Chimera) A-
14. Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch) A-
15. M. Ward: Hold Time (Merge) A-
Pink Martini: Splendor in the Grass (Heinz) A-


Back this weekend with more Beatles nonsense. Regular reviews of new records resume at the beginning of March!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Beatles: Let It Be (1970)



Phil Spector did not ruin Let It Be. Sure, he ruined "The Long and Winding Road." But if anything ruined this album, this multimedia project, it was the Beatles' ambivalence with it and the discomfort of four intensely (and increasingly) private people dealing with having their every move filmed and recorded. Embarking on this odd journey barely two months after wrapping up the White Album and emptying a huge backlog of songs could not have helped morale. In fact, we know it didn't -- because again, all of this, including every fucking embarrassing moment of insider bickering, was captured on tape and often on film throughout these January 1969 sessions at the Twickenham film studio and then the newly constructed (and botched) Apple Studios,. Everything the Beatles had recorded at this point was on its way to becoming, in some large or small way, iconic; now their petty arguments would enjoy or suffer the same fate.

The album was originally called Get Back, with Glyn Johns on the dials, and was correspondingly touted as the Beatles' "back-to-roots" project. The problem with this logic is that the Beatles had already redeemed any psychedelic overindulgence they'd suffered via the White Album, which had some back-to-roots material but didn't totally abandon studio wizardry, thereby giving a full and unforced picture of the Beatles in 1968, not one diluted through some sort of preconceived notion of what type of music they should release. The band's own lack of enthusiasm for the results of the Get Back project is borne out by the full year-and-change it took to actually see any kind of release (singles aside), both in cinemas and on disc, by which time two versions of the record had been counterfeited and the group had given the mass of tapes to star producer Spector to attempt a remix and "reconstruction" for a coherent LP. It was an unenviable task, and it may not have been possible to do much better than he did, though in comparison to the spontaneity of many of the performances of these same tracks later preserved on Anthology 3, the record often seems flat and charmless. It was thrown out on the market almost as an afterthought a month after the band's official breakup, with its new and newly loaded title.

That said, anyone who's a sucker for basic rock & roll was bound to be somewhat lured in by the hype, and the songs that aren't labored or studied or boring here are pretty good; moreover, the distinctively raw sound of the undoctored tapes, not to mention the immortal Billy Preston's frequent presence on piano and organ, helps quite a bit. (Preston had toured with and befriended the Beatles when they opened for him as part of Little Richard's touring band in 1962; George Harrison is said to have brought him into these sessions to try and break some of the considerable studio tension. He also contributed to two songs on Abbey Road.) No other Beatles material sounds like this, presumably because of Johns' methodology as an engineer being so different from George Martin's (Martin was still present as an advisor, and by some accounts including his own, coproduced the sessions, though his role was never clearly defined, nor was Johns'); it's the only chance we really have to hear the band properly interpreted by anybody else. And make no mistake: after the tortured genesis of all this, the sound of the group running through several songs on top of the Apple building in London -- following the cancellation of lofty plans for a proper live show -- is indeed a moment of full-on triumph, even without the iconic visuals; if only Spector had seen fit to include more of that performance.

"I've Got a Feeling" and "Two of Us," two John-Paul duets, are beautiful in every sense and are among the Beatles' most moving, straightforward recordings since Revolver along with "Don't Let Me Down." McCartney would never again match the direct power of "Two of Us," a gorgeous paean to simple true love dedicated to his new partner, soon-to-be wife Linda Eastman; nor would he come close to the anthemic glory of "Let It Be," as much an ode to private introspection as the Beach Boys' "In My Room," as much an ode to the pain of solitude as "Eleanor Rigby," as much a love song -- to his mother rather than a partner -- as "Two of Us." The single version feels thin next to Spector's powerful remix, which allows the guitar solo to almost violently cut the song in half, to provide a cathartic peak to its emotional exorcism. It's a song that sounds like neither the Beatles nor any other mortal could have created it, save perhaps Aretha Franklin (if she qualifies as a mere mortal), who simultaneously released a brilliant cover version and took the song to unfathomable heights on stage.

Paul also brings us the deliberately low-key rocker "Get Back," one of the most unorthodox of the Beatles' hits, lifted up greatly by Preston's stellar work and on the LP, John's famous closing joke and career summary ("I hope we passed the audition") to an audience of wives and intimates. America also ate up Paul's "The Long and Winding Road," released here as a single and buried by Spector in strangling string and choral overdubs that render it unlistenably, infamously sugary. In its original incarnation, reproduced later on various releases and in the film at the time, it's one of the most chilling things the man's ever written -- a breakup ballad as mournful and powerful in its fashion as "For No One," but less distant, less ideological, more sparse and fragile and yearning. Improbably, Spector transforms one of Paul's finest, barest compositions ever into one of the Beatles' absolute worst studio masters. Paul himself was disgusted by the result, and probably bewildered by the reaction in the U.S. (it wasn't a single in England), the always-good-for-a-laugh country where more people bought More of the Monkees than Something Else by the Kinks.

That's the key to the album's problem; call it mission creep or confusion (the band's relative lack of interest was fatal), or just material and producer running at inexplicable cross-purposes. It's not that I mind string overdubs, it's just that they seem like a bad idea on these songs for which part of the point is their stripped-down nature, a point underscored by Spector's interpolation of between-take chatter and dicking around (dominated by John with non-sequiturs like "queen says no to pot-smoking FBI members"). And of all the songs to augment, "The Long and Winding Road" simply doesn't need the help of Spector or anyone else to be grand.

Although I presume he was saving all his good stuff for his first solo album, still the greatest post-1969 work by any Beatle and actually superior to several classic Beatles albums, I still wonder where John Lennon is throughout this record. His contributions (his best song of the era, "Don't Let Me Down," didn't make the cut) are lazy and fun but seem like supreme b-side material, nothing of great longevity or significance. The fifty-second "Dig It" (composed by the whole band but led by John; it was supposed to be a six-minute jam) and the even shorter take on the traditional "Maggie Mae" speak for themselves, while although "Dig a Pony" may have its moments, the song drags with the lumbering sound of late-'60s British blues-rock nonsense, just what John had recently mocked on "Yer Blues" with a great deal more energy.

Lennon also provides, with Paul, the fine rocker "One After 909," given a splendidly manic performance during the rooftop show, but that was written before Beatlemania existed. Then there's "Across the Universe," which he'd been trying to get on a Beatles record for about three years by this point. It had been thrown onto a charity collection with awful choir and wildlife overdubs. Spector's schmaltzy B-movie strings (the man's "wall of sound" simply is not made for stereo speakers) aren't a big improvement, but they are an improvement, and the song wouldn't get respectable treatment on disc until 1996.

George offers the bizarre "I Me Mine," subject of the very last (Lennon-less) Beatles session in January 1970, which seems to go on forever despite its scant length -- Spector looped a whole verse to make it more substantial -- though in the film John and Yoko's concurrent and just as odd dance sequence is one of the few highlights; and "For You Blue," probably his best upbeat song ("Old Brown Shoe" is the only runner-up). It's a bouncing blues number with John on ruthless slide guitar, and it's joyous and sexual enough that it could be reimagined as the soundtrack to a hardcore porn flick. No reason not to like it, then.

Much like Michael Lindsay-Hogg's messy film Let It Be, a currently lost artifact that's far more of a slog than the mythology that's grown around its unavailability would imply (again, apart from the rooftop scene, when the Beatles take to the London skyline to deliver a missive to an unsuspecting public, a moment of high-stakes harmony and glory, and brilliant music, theater and filmmaking), the album is just too erratic to make much of an impression, too muddled and incomplete, which is significant because nearly everything else in the band's catalog is nothing if not decisive and precise. The Beatles were dissatisfied enough to shelve it and record another LP, Abbey Road, but once they ceased to exist the music couldn't stay unreleased for long.. Spector's work, the third attempt at a final sequence and mix after two of Glyn Johns' were rejected by Apple, has endured decades of criticism, much of it deserved, but despite the beautiful idea behind these sessions, the underlying problem here is just that despite certain expected highlights, the wealth of material was shapeless and uninspiring. The Beatles were worn out and the dream, as John later said, was over.


[Fleshed out from a 2003 review of the album.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Best Albums of 2018

you are here

I don't really have much to say this year; here's the music I dug in 2018, blah blah. Instead I want to take some time out to level some accusations at every actual publication's list that I happened to see: you can't hide your apathy anymore. Nothing is being promoted on the basis of the fact that it's interesting or probing or fun. The people charging that rock/pop criticism has been overcome by "IDpol" or whatever are obviously full of shit and have ulterior motives, and the reactionary attitude they exhibit is a big source of the problem. But if it was really about demographics then it wouldn't come down to the fact that there are the "right" artists to praise, and the "wrong" ones -- or if not the wrong ones, then at least the ones without the "right" degree of publicity muscle behind them. I have some pretty dark suspicions about the actual reasons behind all this, and you can probably read them into that last sentence. Almost forty years ago David Byrne sang "someone controls electric guitar." Someone still controls it, and now that control is minutely targeted with eerie precision, steeping us in an echo chamber of doom for eternity. Yet I don't get the impression that the writers and editors who still have an important role to fill, who still have power even if it's diminished, are doing anything to stem this tide. The terror of clinging to survival has persuaded the rags to play along, and I think it's bullshit. There is nothing wrong with universal praise for a record; indeed, several in my top ten were heavily plugged throughout the year by a lot of mainstream and semi-mainstream outlets. What scares me is the lack of idiosyncrasy, and the degree to which artists that completely ignore the idea of an outside narrative being imposed on them are shunned and cast off.

Then again, perhaps it was ever thus, and I only notice now that I'm keeping an eye on things.

I could waste time asking why this is the case or naming specific points of reference, why this and not this etc., but my intention is not to cast doubt on people who really truly love and want to champion music I find befuddling. What I can tell you, though, is that I had the time of my life putting A Productive Cough on and doing something akin to "rocking out" to its liberating, dumb performances; and whether I can justify that on objective critical grounds or not, whether I can connect it to some nebulous zeitgeist or not, it betrays the lack of a theme to all this. This is not a list of the most generous PR firms or a list measured to balanced perfection, it's a list of what a real actual human being listened to and loved the most throughout this year.

Albums reviewed in 2018: 242, up from 208 in 2017. Additional albums sampled and rejected: 207. Total: 449, up from 413 in 2017.

On another note: in the late '80s, Chuck D called hip hop the CNN of black America. Not to co-opt such a powerful concept, but I remembered that quote when I realized that as of the second half of the year, music is now my only connection with the present, at least apart from my career that often leaves my head in its own kind of busy bubble -- in the library field, helping and being engaged in the world is a process, not an "act." Privately, I'm falling away from the broader life around me. My free time is spent reading old news, watching old films, steeping myself in events and art of the increasingly distant past, absorbing myself in it and applying my own slower rhythms to it. Whether this will change I don't know; I've only just gotten past asking if it's responsible and healthy (with the help of a physician and a therapist). In the new music I hear, though, the story goes on like quick shots of happiness and misery seen through the window of a subway car as it speeds up or slows down. My whole life I've felt like an outside observer and regardless of the heaviness of my involvement, this sensation never seems to change. But the world happens on subway trains too. My #2 record rides with me, rolls it eyes along with me. My #1 record invades the quiet car -- my face is the front of shop -- and screams in my face, gleefully until I pay attention, like the dancers at Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. And only after it shuts up do I realize how much I needed it. Yet the wheels stop turning and I don't get out. Did I mention I don't even live in a city?

Some months after Hookworms' Microshift received effusive praise from these quarters and many others, their leader MJ was revealed to be a creep; the group's statement on the matter is here. Believe it or not, this was the first time I've really dealt with something like this with a currently operational "list candidate" on any big scale, and given that we are known to praise the works of Jerry Lee Lewis and Michael Jackson here it would have seemed cheap and hypocritical to just ignore the record at year's end. But in my view, celebrating an artist whose historical place sits firmly in a very different (and worse) time is quite different from promoting one who stands in any small way to gain from your attention. (When Surfer Blood's major label bid Pythons was released, I mentioned here being kind of relieved that it sucked.) There's also the fact that, in revisiting the album to make this list, while I still liked it a greal deal, I can't deny that its placement probably reflected some new discomfort. To be honest, I would have considered omitting it altogether if the rest of the band had not made the wise and commendable decision to disband and suspend all operations immediately, which makes me feel much less guilty about including the record here, though whether time will be kind to the album or to any attention once afforded it, I obviously can't say.


50. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic)
49. Skee Mask: Compro (Ilian Tape)
48. Jlin: Autobiography (Planet Mu)
47. Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (Famm)
46. MGMT: Little Dark Age (Columbia)
45. Screaming Females: All at Once (Don Giovanni)
44. Mouse on Mars: Dimensional People (Thrill Jockey)
43. Lonnie Holley: MITH (Jagjaguwar)
42. Buddy: Harlan & Alondra (RCA)
41. Maylee Todd: Acts of Love (Do Right!)
40. Cindy Wilson: Change (Kill Rock Stars)
39. Cities Aviv: Raised for a Better View (s/r)
38. RP Boo: I'll Tell You What! (Planet Mu)
37. Swearin': Fall into the Sun (Merge)
36. Odetta Hartman: Old Rockhounds Never Die (Memphis Industries)
35. Georgia Ann Muldrow: Overload (Brainfeeder)
34. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (Impulse!)
33. Camp Cope: How to Socialise & Make Friends (Run for Cover)
32. Hookworms: Microshift (Domino)
31. Dean McPhee: Four Stones (Hood Faire)
30. Nas: Nasir (Def Jam)
29. Beyoncé & Jay-Z: Everything Is Love (Roc Nation)
28. Daniel Avery: Song for Alpha (Mute)
27. Colter Wall: Songs of the Plains (Thirty Tigers)
26. The Wave Pictures: Brushes with Happiness (Moshi Moshi)
25. Rhye: Blood (Loma Vista)
24. Lotic: Power (Tri Angle)
23. Pinkshinyultrablast: Miserable Miracles (Club AC30)
22. Kids See Ghosts (Def Jam)
21. Vince Staples: FM! (Def Jam)
20. The Last Poets: Understand What Black Is (Studio Rockers)
19. Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg (Last)
18. Helena Hauff: Qualm (Ninja Tune)
17. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)
16. U.S. Girls: In a Poem Unlimited (4AD)
15. Titus Andronicus: A Productive Cough (Merge)
14. Pusha T: DAYTONA (Def Jam)
13. Angelique Kidjo: Remain in Light (Kravenworks)
12. Noname: Room 25 (s/r)
11. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs (Sub Pop)

10. Wye Oak: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs

(Merge) | A- | review

9. Tierra Whack: Whack World
(s/r) | A- | review

8. Jean Grae x Quelle Chris: Everything's Fine
(Mello Music) | A- | review

7. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
(Mom + Pop) | A | review

6. Yo La Tengo: There's a Riot Going On
(Matador) | A | review

5. Tirzah: Devotion
(Domino) | A | review

4. The Wave Pictures: Look Inside Your Heart
(Moshi Moshi) | A | review

3. Robyn: Honey
(Interscope) | A | review

2. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer
(Bad Boy) | A | review

1. SOPHIE: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
(Future Classic) | A+ (upgrade) | review


51. Matthew Dear: Bunny (Ghostly)
52. Adult.: This Behavior (Dais)
53. Nao: Saturn (RCA)
54. Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)
55. Kanye West: ye (Def Jam)
56. Tracyanne & Danny (Merge)
57. DJ Koze: Knock Knock (Pampa)
58. Orquesta Akokan (Daptone)
59. Teyana Taylor: KTSE (Def Jam)
60. Yoko Ono: Warzone (Chimera)
61. Thom Yorke: Suspiria OST (XL)
62. The Low Anthem: The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea (Joyful Noise)
63. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (Strut)
64. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
65. Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo (Shanachie)
66. G-Eazy: The Beautiful & Damned (RCA)
67. Anthony Joseph: People of the Sun (Heavenly Sweetness)
68. A.A.L. (Against All Logic): 2012-2017 (Other People)
69. Andrew Bird: Echoloations: River (Wegawam)
70. Shannon and the Clams: Onion (Easy Eye Sound)
71. Miss Red: K.O. (Pressure)
72. Czarface/MF Doom: Czarface Meets Metal Face (Silver Age)
73. Kali Uchis: Isolation (Virgin)
74. Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance (Partisan)
75. Leon Vynehall: Nothing Is Still (Ninja Tune)
76. Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear (Anti-)
77. Phonte: No News Is Good News (Foreign Exchange)
78. Sidney Gish: No Dogs Allowed (s/r)
79. Neko Case: Hell-On (Epitaph)
80. The Nels Cline 4: Currents, Constellations (Blue Note)
81. Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound)
82. Ezra Furman: Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union)
83. Saba: CARE FOR ME (Saba Pivot)
84. Tracey Thorn: Record (Merge)
85. Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo (Night Time Stories)
86. CupcakKe: Ephorize (s/r)
87. LUMP (Dead Oceans)
88. Frankie Cosmos: Vessel (Sub Pop)
89. Sunflower Bean: Twentytwo in Blue (Lucky Number)
90. Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville (Easy Eye)
91. Anna von Hausswolff: Dead Magic (City Slang)
92. Princess Nokia: 1992 Deluxe (Rough Trade)
93. N.E.R.D.: No One Ever Really Dies (Columbia)
94. Richard Thompson: 13 Rivers (New West)
95. Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs (Columbia)
96. Tangents: New Bodies (Temporary Residence)
97. Simian Mobile Disco: Murmurations (Wichita Recordings)
98. Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
99. Natalie Prass: The Future and the Past (Caroline)
100. St. Vincent: MassEducation (Loma Vista)

Jeff Tweedy: Warm (dBpm)
Advance Base: Animal Companionship (Run for Cover)
Go-Kart Mozart: Mozart's Mini-Mart (West Midlands)
James Holden & the Animal Spirits: The Animal Spirits (Border Community)
Pram: Across the Meridian (Domino)
Virginia Wing: Ecstatic Arrow (Fire)
Beach House: 7 (Sub Pop)
Black Milk: Fever (Mass Appeal)
Cut Worms: Hollow Ground (Jagjaguwar)
Blawan: Wet Will Always Dry (Ternesc)
Lykke Li: so sad so sexy (RCA)
Stuck in the Wheel: Follow Them True (From Here)
Sarah Blasko: Depth of Field (Universal)
Dedekind Cut: Tahoe (Kranky)
Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (Warp)
The Field: Infinite Moment (Kompakt)
The Essex Green: Hardly Electronic (Merge)
Laurel Halo: Raw Silk Uncut Wood (Latency)
Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (Capitol)
Jon Hopkins: Singularity (Domino)
Proc Fiskal: Insula (Hyperdub)
Israel Nash: Lifted (Desert Folklore)
Kandace Springs: Indigo (Blue Note)
Arp: ZEBRA (Mexican Summer)
QTY (Dirty Hit)
SOB X RBE: Gangin (Empire)
Fucked Up: Dose Your Dreams (Merge)
Robert Finley: Goin' Platinum! (Easy Eye)
Stef Chura: Messes (Urinal Cake)
First Aid Kit: Ruins (Columbia)
Novelist: Novelist Guy (Mmmyeh)
White Denim: Performance (City Slang)
Cat Power: Wanderer (Domino)
Tinashe: Joyride (RCA)
Marlon Williams: Make Way for Love (Dead Oceans)
Empress Of: Us (XL)
Ital Tek: Bodied (Planet Mu)
Nils Frahm: All Melody (Erased Tapes)
Rival Consoles: Persona (Erased Tapes)
Haiku Salut: There Is No Elsewhere (Prah)
The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (Wichita)
Modern Studies: Welcome Strangers (Fire)
Low: Double Negative (Sub Pop)
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)
Sauna Youth: Deaths (Upset the Rhythm)
George Fitzgerald: All That Must Be (Double Six)
Xylouris White: Mother (Bella Union)
Exploded View: Obey (Sacred Bones)
Anna Calvi: Hunter (Domino)
Joan Baez: Whistle Down the Wind (Proper)
Mr. Twin Sister: Salt (s/r)
Red River Dialect: Broken Stay Open Sky (Paradise of Bachelors)
Shame: Songs of Praise (Dead Oceans)
Tim Hecker: Konoyo (Kranky)
Mary Lattimore: Hundreds of Days (Ghostly)
Daniel Bachman: The Morning Star (Three Lobed Recordings)
MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk (World Galaxy)
Pariah: Here from Where We Are (Houndstooth)
L'Orange: The Ordinary Man (Mello Music)
Joey Purp: QUARTERTHING (s/r)
Lucy Dacus: Historian (Matador)
Sarah Davachi: Gave in Rest (Ba Da Bing!)
Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois (Planet Mu)
Calexico: The Thread That Keeps Us (Epitaph)
Chilly Gonzales: Solo Piano III (Gentle Threat)
Gwenno: Le Kov (Heavenly)
Jim James: Tribute to 2 (ATO)
Charli XCX: Pop 2 (Atlantic)
Graham Parker: Cloud Symbols (100%)
Shopping: The Official Body (Fat Cat)
Tunng: Songs You Make at Night (Full Time Hobby)
Chris Carter: Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 (Mute)
R+R=NOW: Collagically Speaking (Blue Note)
Ariana Grande: Sweetener (Republic)
Oliver Coates: Shelly's on Zenn-La (RVNG Intl.)
Essaie Pas: New Path (DFA)
Gas: Rausch (Kompakt)
Denzel Curry: TA13OO (Loma Vista)
Field Music: Open Here (Memphis Industries)
Interpol: Marauder (Matador)
Call Super: Arpo (Houndstooth)
Vessel: Queen of Golden Dogs (Tri Angle)


Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (Human Re Sources)

Jenny Hval: The Long Sleep (Sacred Bones)
Iglooghost: Steel Mogu (s/r)
Iglooghost: Clear Tamei (s/r)
Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyio (Merge)
Aphex Twin: Collapse (Warp)
Wussy: Getting Better (Shake It)
The Mountain Goats: Aquarium Drunkard's Lagniappe Session (Merge)
Daniel Avery: Diminuendo (Phantasy Sound)


Our Beatles project continues throughout 2019. An expanded List of Lists on its usual date. The last year of the full-on new release grind opens up in February; you can expect a first-draft decade retrospective in the summer, as I will be starting work on it over the break. And to all a good night.

here you are

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Best Songs of 2018

While not noticeably above average in terms of album releases, 2018 was totally overwhelming when it came time to rank and present a list of songs; this is as huge a list as the longest of the archival ones I've made for "classic" years. There is so much infectious and exciting material -- emotional popcraft and probing experimentation alike -- here to choose from, it was hard to know where to even cut off my annual playlist since I felt like I was overdoing it last year at a mere fifty. I even considered expanding to two playlists, a part one and a part two in the style of those great James Brown singles too locked in a groove not to bleed onto the other side. In the end I kept it to fifty -- the top 40 plus ten from further down that I thought fit very well -- but it actually hurt... which is very unusual for a project like this! Anyway, you can listen to the results here and I hope you enjoy.

1. Janelle Monae "Make Me Feel" [Dirty Computer]
2. N.E.R.D. ft. Rihanna "Lemon" [No One Ever Really Dies]
3. Camp Cope "I've Got You" [How to Socialise & Make Friends]
4. Shannon and the Clams "The Boy" [Onion]
5. Tierra Whack "Cable Guy" [Whack World]
6. DJ Koze "Pick Up" [Knock Knock]
7. Ezra Furman "Love You So Bad" [Transangelic Exodus]
8. Charli XCX feat. MØ "Porsche" [Pop 2]
9. SOPHIE "Immaterial" [Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides]
10. Yoko Ono "Imagine" {John Lennon cover} [Warzone]
11. Courtney Barnett "Sunday Roast" [Tell Me How You Really Feel]
12. Joey Purp ft. Queen Key "Fessional/Diamonds Dancing" [QUARTERTHING]
13. The Wave Pictures "Hazey Moon" [Look Inside Your Heart]
14. Robyn "Between the Lines" [Honey]
15. Angelique Kidjo "Crosseyed and Painless" {Talking Heads cover} [Remain in Light]
16. Titus Andronicus "Crass Tattoo" [A Productive Cough]
17. Lykke Li "Deep End" [so sad so sexy]
18. The Last Poets "Rain of Terror" [Understand What Black Is]
19. Courtney Barnett "Houses" {Elyse Weinberg cover} [Spotify Singles series]
20. Czarface/MF Doom "Bomb Thrown" [Czarface Meets Metal Face]
21. Let's Eat Grandma "Hot Pink" [I'm All Ears]
22. Jon Hopkins "Emerald Rush" [Singularity]
23. Novelist "Better Way" [Novelist Guy]
24. Soccer Mommy "Your Dog" [Clean]
25. Tirzah "Holding On" [Devotion]
26. Buddy "Real Life Shit" [Harlan & Alondra]
27. Maylee Todd "From This Moment" [Acts of Love]
28. Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj "The Light Is Coming" [Sweetener]
29. Odetta Hartman "You You" [Old Rockhounds Never Die]
30. Miguel "Pineapple Skies" [War & Leisure]
31. U.S. Girls "Pearly Gates" [In a Poem Unlimited]
32. Jean Grae x Quelle Chris ft. Your Old Droog "Scoop of Dirt" [Everything's Fine]
33. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever "Talking Straight" [Hope Downs]
34. Wye Oak "It Was Not Natural" [The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs]
35. Princess Nokia ft. Wiki "Saggy Denim" [1992 Deluxe]
36. Jamie Isaac "Maybe" [(4:30) Idler]
37. Jorja Smith "Blue Lights" [Lost & Found]
38. Meshell Ndegeocello "Waterfalls" {TLC cover} [Ventriloquism]
39. Beach House "Black Car" [7]
40. Yo La Tengo "For You Too" [There's a Riot Going On]
41. Miss Red "Dagga" [K.O.]
42. Tracey Thorn ft. Corinne Bailey Rae "Sister" [Record]
43. Kali Uchis "Killer" [Isolation]
44. Joan as Police Woman "Warning Bell" [Damned Devotion]
45. Haiku Salut "Occupy" [There Is No Elsewhere]
46. Cardi B "I Like It" [Invasion of Privacy]
47. Jenny Hval "Spells" [The Long Sleep EP]
48. Young Fathers "Border Girl" [Cocoa Sugar]
49. The Wave Pictures "The Little Window" [Brushes with Happiness]
50. Black Thought "9th vs. Thought" [Streams of Thought Vol. 1 EP]
51. Rhye "Please" [Blood]
52. Stef Chura "You" [Messes]
53. Sunflower Bean "Memoria" [Twentytwo in Blue]
54. Ben Howard "Towing the Line" [Noonday Dream]
55. First Aid Kit "Postcard" [Ruins]
56. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats "Tearing at the Seams" [Tearing at the Seams]
57. Mr. Twin Sister "Power of Two" [non-LP single]
58. Kids See Ghosts "4th Dimension" [s/t]
59. Sons of Kemet "My Queen Is Angela Davis" [Your Queen Is a Reptile]
60. Parquet Courts "Tenderness" [Wide Awake!]
61. Sidney Gish "Not But for You, Bunny" [No Dogs Allowed]
62. Nas ft. Kanye West "White Label" [Nasir]
63. Lucy Dacus "Timefighter" [Historian]
64. Marlon Williams "Beautiful Dress" [Make Way for Love]
65. Richard Thompson "The Storm Won't Come" [13 Rivers]
66. Dream Wife "Kids" [s/t]
67. Charles Watson "You've Got Your Way of Leaving" [Now That I'm a River]
68. Pinkshinyultrablast "Dance AM" [Miserable Miracles]
69. Neko Case "Bad Luck" [Hell-On]
70. Cut Worms "Coward's Confidence" [Hollow Ground]
71. Troye Sivan "Lucky Strike" [Bloom]
72. Phonte "Euphorium (Back to the Light)" [No News Is Good News]
73. Virginia Wing "Relativity" [Ecstatic Arrow]
74. Mouse on Mars ft. Amanda Blank & Zach Condon "Foul Mouth" [Dimensional People]
75. Daniel Bachman "Sycamore City" [The Morning Star]
76. Colter Wall "Calgary Round-Up" [Songs of the Plains]
77. Teyana Taylor "Gonna Love Me" [KTSE]
78. MGMT "Me and Michael" [Little Dark Age]
79. Maribou State ft. Holly Walker "Nervous Tics" [Kingdoms in Color]
80. Pusha T "The Games We Play" [DAYTONA]
81. Lankum "What Will We Do When We Have No Money?" [Between the Earth & the Sky]
82. CupcakKe "Spoiled Milk Titties" [Ephorize]
83. Simian Mobile Disco ft. the Deep Throat Choir "Hey Sister" [Murmurations]
84. Kanye West "Ghost Town" [ye] ALSO: "No Mistakes"
85. Natalie Prass "Short Court Style" [The Future and the Past]
86. Shame "Angie" [Songs of Praise]
87. Matthew Dear ft. Tegan & Sara "Bad Ones" [Bunny]
88. Beyonce & Jay-Z "Summer" [Everything Is Love]
89. Hinds "Soberland" [I Don't Run]
90. Swearin' "Dogpile" [Fall into the Sun]
91. The Goon Sax "Sleep EZ" [We're Not Talking]
92. Black Milk "True Lies" [Fever]
93. Adult. "Violent Shakes" [This Behavior]
94. Cindy Wilson "Things I'd Like to Say" [Change]
95. Georgia Ann Muldrow "Play It Up" [Overload]
96. Andrew Bird "Distant Stations" {Mountain Goats cover} [I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats]
97. Noname ft. Smino & Saba "Ace" [Room 25]
98. Tracyanne & Danny "Alabama" [Tracyanne & Danny]
99. Frankie Cosmos "Duet" [Vessel]
100. G-Eazy ft. Madison Lowe "Love Is Gone" [The Beautiful & Damned]
101. The Mountain Goats "Song for Ted Sallis" [Hex of Infinite Binding EP]
102. Shannon Shaw "Goodbye Summer" [Shannon in Nashville]
103. J Balvin "Mi Gente" [Vibras]
104. Modern Studies "Mud and Flame" [Welcome Strangers]
105. Earl Sweatshirt "Veins" [Some Rap Songs]
106. Advance Base "Dolores & Kimberly" [Animal Companionship]
107. The Midnight Hour ft. Cee-Lo "Questions" [s/t]
108. Vince Staples "Get the Fuck Off My Dick" [non-LP single]
109. Wussy "Nomenclature" [Getting Better EP]
110. Khruangbin "Evan Finds the Third Room" [Con Todo El Mundo]
111. Fatoumata Diawara "Negue Negue" [Fenfo]
112. Lotic "Nerve" [Power]
113. Gabe Gurnsey "Heavy Rubber" [Physical]
114. SOB X RBE "Anti-Social" [Gangin]
115. Nao ft. Kwabs "Saturn" [Saturn]
116. Jeff Tweedy "How Will I Find You" [Warm]
117. Helena Hauff "It Was All Fields Around Here When I Was a Kid" [Qualm]
118. Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA "All the Stars" [Black Panther OST]
119. Nabihah Iqbal "Zone 1 to 6000" [Weighing of the Heart]
120. Screaming Females "Glass House" [All at Once]
121. Hookworms "Each Time We Pass" [Microshift]
122. Denzel Curry ft. JID "SIRENS | Z1RENZ" [TA13OO]
123. The Low Anthem "Give My Body Back" [The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea]
124. PRhyme ft. Dave East "Era" [2]
125. Thom Yorke "Unmade" [Suspiria OST]
126. Anthony Joseph "He Was Trying" [People of the Sun]
127. Curtis Harding "Till the End" [Face Your Fear]
128. Our Girl "I Wish It Was Sunday" [Stranger Today]
129. Yo La Tengo "Time Fades Away" {Neil Young cover} [Spotify Singles series]
130. Skee Mask "Rev8617" [Compro]
131. Vince Staples "Run the Bands" [FM!]
132. Kandace Springs ft. Roy Hargrove "Piece of Me" [Indigo]
133. Cat Power "In Your Face" [Wanderer]
134. Rhye "Summer Days" [b-side]
135. R+R=NOW ft. Omari Hardwick "Needed You Still" [Collagically Speaking]
136. Ibibio Sound Machine "A Forest" [Eyio EP]
137. LUMP "Curse of the Contemporary" [s/t]
138. Luluc "Spring" [Sculptor]
139. Cities Aviv "Age" [Raised for a Better View]
140. RP Boo "Back from the Future" [I'll Tell You What!]
141. The Essex Green "Waikiki" [Hardly Electronic]
142. Dedekind Cut "MMXIX" [Tahoe]
143. Mitski "Old Friend" [Be the Cowboy]
144. The Mountain Goats "Song for Sasha Banks" [non-LP single]
145. Chvrches "Get Out" [Love Is Dead]
146. James Holden & the Animal Spirits "Each Moment Like the First" [The Animal Spirits]
147. Empress Of "Love for Me" [Us]
148. Fucked Up ft. Alice Hansen "How to Die Happy" [Dose Your Dreams]
149. Field Music "Share a Pillow" [Open Here]
150. The Decemberists "Cutting Stone" [I'll Be Your Girl]
Tune-Yards "Who Are You" [I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life]
White Denim "It Might Get Dark" [Performance]
Cut Copy "Ocean Blue" [non-LP single]
Daniel Avery "Sensation" [Song for Alpha]
Ciara ft. Tekno "Freak Me" [non-LP single]
Graham Parker "Girl in Need" [Cloud Symbols]
Israel Nash "Rolling On" [Lifted]
The Mountain Goats "Blood Bank" {Bon Iver cover} [Aquarium Drunkard's Lagniappe session]
Blood Orange ft. A$AP Rocky & Project Pat "Chewing Gum" [Negro Swan]
Paul McCartney "Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link" [Egypt Station]
Alexis Taylor "Oh Baby" [Beautiful Thing]
Pram "Shadow in Twilight" [Across the Meridian]
Ty Segall "Every 1's a Winner" {Hot Chocolate cover} [Freedom's Goblin]
Azealia Banks "Treasure Island" [non-LP single]
Oneohtrix Point Never "Toys 2" [Age Of]
No Age "Squashed" [Snares Like a Haircut]
Phosphorescent "New Birth in New England" [C'est la vie]
Low "Disarray" [Double Negative]


Albums list will follow as soon as possible, probably sometime in the middle of the week!