at least there was good music this year

Despite all the mayhem and mismanagement of 2018, I was able to enjoy some great live music this year, including that fantastic performance of Ogresse, Angela Hewitt’s virtuosic marathon of the second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, and a couple great Bill Frisell sets. Now that the year is mercifully coming to an end, I’m picking through albums that have held up over a bunch of listens. In no particular order:

Charles Mingus — Jazz in Detroit:

The never-before-recorded track “Dizzy Profile” is a tune that I just can’t get out of my head, even after several months. It’s a beautiful waltz, especially on the trumpet and on a melodic piano that tosses in some Art Tatum-ish runs. This five-disc release has long, long tracks, all with tons of little things to listen for here and there. You won’t be bored.

Prince — Piano and a Microphone 1983:

The second “newly discovered” release on this list, I picked up this album on the recommendation of a friend from college. Like Jazz in Detroit above, Piano and a Microphone lacks the glisten of hyper-produced pop: the first track starts with Prince calling out “Is that my echo?” and “Can you turn the lights down some in here?” shortly before singing “Good God!” and sort-of-beatboxing over his piano chords. “Turn the voice down a little,” he interrupts at 1:30–unvarnished stuff. How refreshing to hear someone working through songs at the keyboard, not the iMac kind.

Orquesta Akokán (self-titled):

Cuban music is normally off my radar, and I can’t quite remember how I found myself listening to this debut album, but it’s so fantastic from start to finish. All original songs, and you’ll want to change into dancing shoes by the second track. The production on this one stands out: it’s a big band sound that has a little grittiness to the horns and pianos exactly where you’d like it, and you hardly notice you’re listening to something released in 2018.

Minami Deutsch — With Dim Light:

The self-titled debut Miniami Deutsch a few years ago was just fine, but this six-track sophomore album is a lot tighter. Japanese krautrock, but with a dash of punkier Stereolab or My Bloody Valentine-ish vocals, and the first track (“Concrete Ocean”) dabbles in something like math rock. The most interesting actual rock album I came across this year, for sure.

Ivan Ilić — Reicha Rediscovered, Vol. 2:

Tipped by this write-up in the Times, I started listen to the music of Anton Reicha this year. Released as the second of Ivan Ilić’s five-disc series of Reicha’s piano works, these fugue(ish?) tracks really grabbed me–perhaps because this disc sometimes sounds completely non-fugal. The last track, for example, from Reicha’s “36 Fugues” has a playful, even ‘boingy’ feel to it, totally unlike what you’ll hear in the Well-Tempered Clavier.