Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best of 2018: Digest

*Jazz list.

*Metal list.

*All-genres-in-play list.

*Live list.

*All-genres-in-play top 10 list archive, 2005 through the present.

*Jazz-only top 10 list archive, 2008 through the present.

Thank you as always for your kind attention. Cool things are afoot for 2019 — stay tuned and take care!

Best of 2018: Live

Frank Mullen of Suffocation performs at Gramercy, November 2018.
Suffocation's Frank Mullen. Photo: Ignacio Orellana Alarcon

Some great shows I saw this year:

Dan Weiss / Starebaby
Jan 5, 6 @ the Stone; Jan 13 @ Winter Jazzfest; April 1 at Nublu 151

Demilich + Blood Incantation 
May 4 @ Saint Vitus
At long last. Worth the wait in every way. The openers, a band who hadn't quite clicked with me on record, were pulverizing and awe-inspiring.

Defeated Sanity + Behold... the Arctopus
May 23 @ Saint Vitus
This show was utter mayhem. Defeated Sanity are at the forefront of contemporary prog-meets-caveman death-metal insanity and I have a feeling whatever they release next is going to be a new benchmark in the genre. Behold played their most avant-garde music to date.

The Bad Plus
May 31 @ Blue Note; November 8 @ Village Vanguard
The highest compliment I can pay the new lineup is that these shows were as exuberant and dialed-in as any other TBP gigs I've caught over the years.

40 Watt Sun
June 16 @ Saint Vitus
DFSBP thoughts.

This Is Not This Heat
July 23 @ Pioneer Works
A band I never thought I'd get to see, in any incarnation. They managed to retain both the mystery and the brutality that made the original lineup so great.

Alan Braufman, Cooper-Moore, Ken Filiano, Andrew Drury
BarrSheaDahl 10th anniversary

August 1 @ Greene Space, Market Hotel, respectively
Dual DFSBP write-up.

Newport Jazz Fest
August 3–5

King's X
August 22 @Sony Hall
Such a warm, communal vibe. Humble masters with an enormous catalog that I really got lost in this year. King's X are one of a kind and should not be taken for granted.

Killing Joke 
September 12 @ Irving Plaza

September 14 @ Brooklyn Bazaar

Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Chris Dave
October 7 @ Blue Note
The most state-of-the-art grooves imaginable. Chris Dave, dear God...

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
October 11 at Murmrr Theater
The most "scripted" show I've seen him do to date, and one of the most joyous too. Speaking to Will at length was a highlight of my year.

October 26 @ Irving Plaza

Suffocation + Krisiun
November 16 @ Gramercy Theatre

Makaya McCraven
December 2 @ LPR

Flying Luttenbachers + Reg Bloor / Marc Edwards + Opening Bell w/ Tamio Shiraishi and Rob Mayson
December 7 @ Ceremony
New Luttenbachers were everything a fan might hope for. Rest of the night (that I caught) was a deafening brain-scramble. Loved catching Tamio twice in close proximity.

Esperanza Spalding
December 12 @ Town Hall
A multimedia, genre-transcending tour de force.

Stinking Lizaveta + Azonic
December 17 @ Saint Vitus
I only recently fully grasped how outstanding this veteran band really is. In terms of a grit vs. precision rock-music Venn diagram, they're among the most skilled practitioners on Earth. Buy all their albums. Nice spirit-massage from the openers too.

Clutch + The Messthetics
December 28 @ The Starland Ballroom
Back for more Clutch! There's been a good amount of Fugazi satellite activity going down in recent months, most notably the emergence of the Messthetics. A very cool band on record — call it the post-hardcore version of fusion — that delivered scrappy, undiluted intensity live. I'm really excited to hear where they go next.

Best of 2018: Overall top 10 + songs

Image result for 12 little spells

Here is my all-genres-in-play 2018 top 10, as submitted to two independent year-end surveys — neither of which is online yet — along with links to my coverage of each album.

1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (review)
2. Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells (review)
3. Haunt, Burst Into Flame (review)
4. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (feature)
5. Voivod, The Wake (review)
6. Wayne Shorter, Emanon (review)
7. Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights (review)
8. Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms (blurb)
9. Harriet Tubman, The Terror End of Beauty (track write-up)
10. Tyshawn Sorey, Pillars (review)

Some of these records also appear on my respective jazz and metal lists; some are unique to the above; all hit me hard. (See here for some thoughts on why the Spalding and Sorey discs did not appear on the jazz lists I compiled, despite their inclusion here.)

Here, for fun, is an archive of all my year-end top 10s stretching back to 2005, the first year I was employed as a staff writer-about-music.

And here is a playlist of some songs I really liked this year, some from the albums I've cited and some not.

Best of 2018: Metal

Image result for burst into flame haunt

Here is Rolling Stone's list of 2018's 20 best metal albums, as chosen and annotated by my colleagues Suzy Exposito, Kory Grow and Chris Weingarten, along with myself. My personal top 10 picks, many of which I wrote up for the main list, are as follows:

1. Haunt, Burst Into Flame
2. Voivod, The Wake
3. Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms
4. Deceased, Ghostly White
5. Immortal, Northern Chaos Gods
6. Turnstile, Time and Space
7. Judas Priest, Firepower
8. At the Gates, To Drink From the Night Itself
9. Portal, Ion
10. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

If I'd heard Messa's Feast for Water before the polls had closed, I almost certainly would have made room for it on my ballot. Really impressive album. Here are a few late-to-the-party thoughts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Best of 2018: Jazz

I was thinking it might be fun to dissect this whole year-end process a bit, for anyone that might be interested in the extremely unscientific, whim-driven process behind the various lists, polls and reckonings I participate in each year around this time.

Let's take the general topic of jazz first. So this year, I both published a top 20 list on behalf of Rolling Stone and also submitted a top 10 list to Francis Davis' annual Jazz Critics Poll, the full results of which I expect will be online soon the results of which can be found here, with the annual round-up essay located here and the full ballot tally here. For me, the RS list — the first time that I know of (though I could be wrong) that the publication has run a year-end list devoted exclusively to jazz — was an attempt to unify my own, often idiosyncratic tastes with a more general-purpose portrait of the "year in jazz," which, at least to some degree, took into account intangible factors like "reach" and "impact" (relevant factors, in my mind, given Rolling Stone's fundamentally mainstream-oriented purview) not to mention the perspective of the publication as a whole. (For example, Kamasi Washington, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Makaya McCraven, the Bad Plus, and the London vanguardists like Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia are all artists that other writers — including Chris Weingarten, Natalie Weiner, David Fricke and Will Hermes, among others — have covered/championed at RS in recent years, and given that jazz is still more or less a niche genre within the larger scheme of RS coverage, that kind of "track record of support" with regard to a particular artist matters, at least in my estimation.) Again, it's an inexact science, but I wanted this list to feel institutional, i.e., representative of the aggregate RS perspective, while at the same time — especially given that it was, in the end, written solely by me — inclusive of my own opinions.

As an illustration of the above principles, here is the RS 2018 jazz top 20 (again, the full annotated list can be found here), followed by the personal 2018 jazz top 10 that I submitted to the Davis poll. You'll note that the rankings do not correspond exactly, and that some titles that ranked highly on the RS list are absent from the Davis one. With the Davis list, there's of course no attempt made to represent anything other than my own tastes, and more specifically, the albums that I spent the most time with this year— specifically/ideally, time that felt purely pleasurable, non-"work"-driven; this is an elusive idea, because the two can absolutely blur together, but over the years, I've come to really privilege and take note of the new music that attains true "escape velocity" within the sphere of my listening, that is to say, becomes part of my collection, as it were; I've found that only a couple of albums a year, if that, really satisfy this criterion in a given year, let alone continue to do so after the year in question has passed. Put another way, my private, purely for-pleasure listening rituals are sacred to me, often centering on old favorites, or lesser-known releases by artists I already love, and it's simply not that often that new music really worms its way into that company. (Not surprising, given how much of this for-pleasure listening centers around artists I've loved for years, if not decades; currently, for example, I'm cycling through the Cannibal Corpse discography for the umpteenth time, apropos of nothing other than that I love the band and "celebrate their entire catalog.")

Anyway, here goes…

Rolling Stone's 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2018:

1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker)

2. Cécile McLorin Salvant, The Window (Mack Avenue)

3. Wayne Shorter, Emanon (Blue Note)

4. Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings (International Anthem)

5. Brötzmann/Leigh, Sparrow Nights (Trost)

6. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens (Blue Note)

7. Various Artists, We Out Here (Brownswood)

8. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi)

9. Ray Angry, One (JMI)

10. Houston Person and Ron Carter, Remember Love (HighNote)

 11. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor, Radiant Imprints (Off)

12. Harriet Tubman, The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside / Early Future)

13. Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Sound Prints, Scandal (Greenleaf)

14. Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth (Young Turks)

15. JP Schlegelmilch, Jonathan Goldberger and Jim Black, Visitors (Skirl)

16. Hailu Mergia, Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

17. Anteloper, Kudu (International Anthem)

18. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn, Octopus (Pyroclastic)

19. Andrew Cyrille, Lebroba (ECM)

20. Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley and Brian Blade, Still Dreaming (Nonesuch)

My personal 2018 jazz top 10, plus supplementary categories, as submitted to Francis Davis' annual Jazz Critics Poll:

New Releases

1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker)

2. Wayne Shorter, Emanon (Blue Note)

3. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi)

4. Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights (Trost)

5. Ray Angry, One (JMI)

6. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens (Blue Note)

7. James Brandon Lewis / Chad Taylor, Radiant Imprints (Off)

8. Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings (International Anthem)

9. Cécile McLorin Salvant, The Window (Mack Avenue)

10. Houston Person and Ron Carter, Remember Love (HighNote)

1. Charles Mingus, Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden (BBE) 

[see review here]

2. John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse)

[see review here]

3. Beaver Harris/Don Pullen 360° Experience, A Well-Kept Secret (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

[see tweet here and related post here]

Cécile McLorin Salvant, The Window (Mack Avenue)

Ray Angry, One (JMI)


A few notes on the above. Just to drive home how arbitrary this whole year-end-list process is, how governed by moods, whims, memory lapses, etc., I'm already wishing I could revise the Davis list above, to bring it more in line with my actual "year in music," i.e., to make it just a bit more reflective of that "listening for pure pleasure" concept I cited above. To be clear, I very much enjoyed all the albums I listed above, but there are others from the RS Top 20 pool that probably hit me harder on a personal level, one being the Schlegelmilch/Goldberger/Black disc (see RS entry here) and another being the Harriet Tubman (see RS entry here). Don't quote me on this, but I think at the time I submitted the Davis list, I was feeling some compulsion to get a little stricter re: what I did and didn't consider to be "jazz," though now I realize that deeming both of those albums — which, very much to their credit, don't fit comfortably into any kind of genre-centric reckoning — to be "jazz" for RS purposes and not for Jazz Critics Poll purposes seems flat-out absurd.

Oh, well! Again, I can't stress how make-it-up-as-I-go-along this whole process is, and in a way, I celebrate that fact, as it only drives home how ultimately subjective and, in a certain sense, pointless these kinds of reckonings are. The one sense in which they aren't pointless, I'd argue, is that they actually do allow for some kind of spotlighting of great/worthy music made during a given time period, which, given how short everyone's cultural memory is these days, can't really be viewed as a bad/detrimental thing.

Anyway, yes, those two albums are outstanding, and if I had the opportunity to resubmit the Davis poll, I'd probably find a way to include them. While we're on the subject of exclusions, I ought to mention that two of the albums on my all-genres-in-play top 10, which I'll discuss in a subsequent post, were made by artists who have been known to work in the "jazz" field but who, in these particular cases, seemed to transcend it to the point that labeling these records "jazz" just didn't feel right to me. I'm referring to Esperanza Spalding's 12 Little Spells and Tyshawn Sorey's Pillars. I think that my reviews of each, linked in the prior sentence, give a pretty good idea of why I think these records transcend not only jazz but any kind of idiomatic thinking. (If pressed, I'd call the former some kind of baroque art pop — honestly, I'm not sure there's a single moment of improvisation on it, which, to me, is maybe a dealbreaker in terms of it being labeled "jazz" — and the latter some kind of long-form ambient trance improv?)

That said, this is just one writer's opinion; I've seen these albums popping up on many jazz lists thus far and expect to see both represented somewhere in the Davis poll, to which I say, cool! However anyone wants to classify them, they're worthy of celebration, and to sweat the details seems, again, petty and absurd. I just feel compelled to mention them here by way of explaining why these titles, both of which I loved, are nowhere to be found on the "jazz" lists that I personally compiled.

There's a lot of music cited above, so I'm not going to get too deep into an exhaustive honorable-mentions list this time around. But I will say that I wish I had been able to spend more time with Jon Irabagon's Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics, an outstanding, suite-like album of long-form compositions for "postbop" quintet (maybe something like the 2018 version of Wayne Shorter's All-Seeing Eye?) that, like, pretty everything Jon does, reveals new facets of his border-less, frequently revelatory art. If the chips had fallen just a little differently, this could easily have ended up among the titles named above. Listening back to it now, I'm remembering how compelling and compulsively listenable this record really is. Related: Do not miss this fascinating interview with Jon on Jeremiah Cymerman's invaluable 5049 Podcast, in which he discusses this recording in some depth.

P.S. Speaking of the whole categorization question, I'm not sure I'd call Middle Blue's Love Chords and Brandon Seabrook's Convulsionaries "jazz records" either, but I really dug both!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Best of 2018: Quick links

*Here is the year-end jazz top 20 I put together for Rolling Stone.

*And here is RS' annual metal top 20, a collaborative venture that I contributed a few blurbs to.

More to come on year-end matters, including notes and honorable mentions re: the above, before too long!

Monday, December 03, 2018

Lately (12/3/18)

A couple articles on the intersection of jazz and the wider world of mainstream, or at least non-insular, music:

*Warren Smith reflects on Astral Weeks, 50 years later. See also earlier interviews with producer Lewis Merenstein and bassist Richard Davis dealing with these same sessions.

*Makaya McCraven, Shabaka Hutchings and the new wave of jazz-you-can-dance-to.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Year-end jazz top 10 lists: 2008 through the present

The below is an un-annotated survey of Hank Shteamer's jazz-only "Albums of the year" top 10 lists, stretching back to 2008, compiled for various polls and outlets. All-genres-in-play top 10 lists from 2005 through the present can be found here.

Best jazz albums of the decade: 2010–2019.

1. Mendoza Hoff Revels, Echolocation (Aum Fidelity)
2. James Brandon Lewis, Eye of I (Anti-)
3. Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Prime (Mack Avenue)
4. Joe Farnsworth, In What Direction Are You Headed? (Smoke Sessions)
5. John Zorn, Full Fathom Five (Tzadik)
6. Jason Moran, From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes)
7. The Schrimps, Ain’t No Saint (Intakt)
8. Ambrose Akinmusire, Beauty Is Enough (Origami Harvest)
9. Kate Gentile, Find Letter X (Pi)
10. jaimie branch, Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (​(​world war​)​) (International Anthem)
11. Leap Day Trio, Live at the Cafe Bohemia (Giant Step Arts / Little (i) Music)

Read more.
1. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus (Edition)
2. Zoh Amba, O, Sun (Tzadik)
3. Makaya McCraven, In These Times (International Anthem / Nonesuch / XL)
4. Tyshawn Sorey, The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi)
5. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, MSM Molecular Systematic Music - Live (Intakt)
6. Eubanks-Evans Experience, EEE (Imani)
7. The OGJB Quartet, Ode to O (TUM)
8. Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, LongGone (Nonesuch)
9. Karl Berger and Kirk Knuffke, Heart Is a Melody (Stunt)
10. Tumi Mogorosi, Group Theory: Black Music (Mushroom Hour Half Hour / New Soil)
Read more.
1. Jason Moran, The Sound Will Tell You (Yes/self-released)
2. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Code of Being (Intakt)
3. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises (Luaka Bop)
4. Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki, Music for Drums and Guitar (Cygnus)
5. Francisco Mela, MPT Trio Volume 1 (577)
6. Artifacts, …and Then There's This (Astral Spirits)
7. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor, Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)
8. The Cookers, Look Out! (Gearbox)
9. William Parker, Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity)
10. Chris Potter, Sunrise Reprise (Edition)

Read more.

1. Alan Braufman, The Fire Still Burns (Valley of Search)
2. Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger, Force Majeure (International Anthem)
3. Immanuel Wilkins, Omega (Blue Note)
4. Josh Johnson, Freedom Exercise (Northern Spy)
5. Pat Metheny, From This Place (Nonesuch)
6. Chicago Underground Quartet, Good Days (Astral Spirits)
7. Eric Revis, Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (Pyroclastic)
8. Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela, Rejoice (World Circuit)
9. Aquiles Navarro and Tcheser Holmes, Heritage of the Invisible II (International Anthem)
10. Peter Evans, Being & Becoming (More Is More)

+ two "honorable mentions" that easily could have made it on:

Joel Ross, Who Are You? (Blue Note)
John Zorn, Beyond Good and Evil — Simulacrum Live (Tzadik)
Read more.


1. Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle (International Anthem)
2. Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh)
3. The Messthetics, Anthropocosmic Nest (Dischord)
4. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, To Whom Who Buys a Record (Odin)
5. 10³²K, The Law of Vibration (self-released)
6. Joel Ross, KingMaker (Blue Note)
7. Chris Lightcap, SuperBigmouth (Pyroclastic)
8. Blacks' Myths, Blacks' Myths II (Atlantic Rhythms)
9. Steve Lehman Trio & Craig Taborn, The People I Love (Pi)
10. JD Allen, Barracoon (Savant)

Read more.


1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker)
2. Wayne Shorter, Emanon (Blue Note)
3. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi)
4. Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights (Trost)
5. Ray Angry, One (JMI)
6. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens (Blue Note)
7. James Brandon Lewis / Chad Taylor, Radiant Imprints (Off)
8. Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings (International Anthem)
9. Cécile McLorin Salvant, The Window (Mack Avenue)
10. Houston Person and Ron Carter, Remember Love (HighNote)

Read more.


1. Vijay Iyer Sextet, Far From Over (ECM)
2. Ornette Coleman & Various Artists, Celebrate Ornette (Song X)
3. Kate Gentile, Mannequins (Skirl)
4. Jason Moran and the Bandwagon, Thanksgiving at the Vanguard (Yes)
5. Matt Mitchell, A Pouting Grimace (Pi)
6. Chris Speed Trio, Platinum on Tap (Intakt)
7. Borderlands Trio, Asteroideia (Intakt)
8. Craig Taborn, Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
9. Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)
10. Roscoe Mitchell, Discussions (Wide Hive)

Read more.


1. Jack DeJohnette / Matt Garrison/ Ravi Coltrane, In Movement (ECM)
2. Jason Moran, The Armory Concert (Yes)
3. Ethan Iverson, The Purity of the Turf (CrissCross)
4. Peter Evans, Genesis (More Is More)
5. Masabumi Kikuchi, Black Orpheus (ECM)
6. Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM)
7. Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies, Yellow Red Blue (self-released)
8. Andrew Cyrille, The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM)
9. Billy Mintz, Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note)
10. Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit, Ana (PNL)

Read more.


1. Milford Graves & Bill Laswell, Space/Time Redemption (TUM)
2. Jack DeJohnette, Made in Chicago (ECM)
3. Henry Threadgill, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi)
4. Mary Halvorson, Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
5. Joshua Redman & The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch)
6. Stanley Cowell, Juneteenth (Vision Fugitive)
7. Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg, Celestial Weather (TUM)
8. Kirk Knuffke, Arms & Hands (Royal Potato Family)
9. Jon Irabagon, Behind the Sky (Irrabagast)
10. John Zorn, Inferno (Tzadik)

Read more.


1. Mark Turner, Lathe of Heaven (ECM)
2. Frank Kimbrough, Quartet (Palmetto)
3. Kenny Barron & Dave Holland, The Art of Conversation (Impulse)
4. Sarah Manning, Harmonious Creature (Posi-Tone)
5. David Weiss, When Words Fail (Motéma)
6. Johnathan Blake, Gone but Not Forgotten (Criss Cross)
7. Dave Douglas & Uri Caine, Present Joys (Greenleaf)
8. David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM)
9. Us Free [Bill McHenry / Henry Grimes / Andrew Cyrille], Fish Stories (Fresh Sound New Talent)
10. Louis Hayes, Return of the Jazz Communicators (Smoke Sessions)

Read more.


1. Black Host, Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)
2. Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran, Hagar's Song (ECM)
3. Aaron Parks, Arborescence (ECM)
4. David Ake, Bridges (Posi-Tone)
5. Aaron Diehl, The Bespoke Man's Narrative (Mack Avenue)
6. Matthew Shipp, Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)
7. Dr. Lonnie Smith, In the Beginning, Vols. 1 & 2 (Pilgrimage)
8. Kirk Knuffke, Chorale (SteepleChase)
9. Harris Eisenstadt, The Destructive Element (Clean Feed)
10. Kris Davis, Massive Threads (Thirsty Ear)

Read my Pitchfork review of the Black Host album.


1. Billy Hart, All Our Reasons (ECM)
2. Steve Lehman, Dialect Fluorescent (Pi)
3. Jim Black, Somatic (Winter & Winter)
4. Darius Jones, Book of Mæ'bul (Another Kind of Sunrise) (AUM Fidelity)
5. Federico Ughi, Songs for Four Cities (Skycap)
6. Henry Threadgill, Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (Pi)
7. Joel Harrison & Lorenzo Feliciati, Holy Abyss (Cuneiform)
8. David Virelles, Continuum (Pi)
9. Tim Berne, Snakeoil (ECM)
10. The Cookers, Believe (Motéma)

Read more: parts I, II and III.


1. Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)
2. Gerald Cleaver, Be It as I See It (Fresh Sound New Talent)
3. New Zion Trio, Fight Against Babylon (Veal)
4. Ben Allison, Action-Refraction (Palmetto)
5. Honey Ear Trio, Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven)
6. Jeremy Udden, If the Past Seems So Bright (Sunnyside)
7. Bill McHenry, Ghosts of the Sun (Sunnyside)
8. Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)
9. Wadada Leo Smith, Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform)
10. Tin/Bag, Bridges (MabnotesMusic)

Read more.


1. Dan Weiss, Timshel (Sunnyside)
2. Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Deluxe (Clean Feed)
3. Harris Eisenstad, Woodblock Prints (NoBusiness)
4. Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note)
5. Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys, Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity)
6. The Cookers, Warriors (Jazz Legacy)
7. Weasel Walter, Invasion (ugExplode)
8. The Bad Plus, Never Stop (E1)
9. Jon Irabagon, Foxy (Hot Cup)
10. Chicago Underground Duo, Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey)

Read more.


1. Ran Blake, Driftwoods (Tompkins Square)
2. Chad Taylor, Circle Down (482 Music)
3. Jon Irabagon & Mike Pride, I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues (Loyal Label)
4. John Hollenbeck, Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside)
5. Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy (AUM Fidelity)
6. Henry Threadgill, This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (Pi)
7. Borah Bergman, Luminescence (Tzadik)
8. Jim Black's Alasnoaxis, Houseplant (Winter & Winter)
9. Charles Evans & Neil Shah, Live at Saint Stephens (Hot Cup)
10. Loren Stillman, Winter Fruits (Pirouet)
[seven new releases, three archival]

1. Harris Eisenstadt, Guewel (Clean Feed)
2. Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet, Tabligh (Cuneiform)
3. Ideal Bread, The Ideal Bread (KMB Jazz)
4. Eivind Opsvik, Overseas III (Loyal Label)
5. Bill Dixon, 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur (Aum Fidelity)
6. Ari Hoenig, Bert's Playground (Dreyfus)
7. Fieldwork, Door (Pi)
8. Andrew Hill/Chico Hamilton, Dreams Come True (Joyous Shout)
9. Anthony Braxton, The Complete Arista Recordings (Mosaic)
10. Don Cherry, Live at Cafe Montmartre 1966, Vol. 2 (ESP)

Year-end top 10 lists: 2005 through the present

The below is an un-annotated survey of Hank Shteamer's all-genres-in-play "Albums of the year" top 10 lists, stretching back to 2005, compiled for various publications and polls. Jazz-only lists from 2008 on can be found here.

Highlighted titles are ones that have really "lived on" for me beyond the year in question — each is an album I feel comfortable calling a modern classic.

Best albums of the decade: 2010–2019


1. Richard Inman, Inman
2. Scream, DC Special
3. Foo Fighters, But Here We Are
4. Queens of the Stone Age, In Times New Roman…
5. Mendoza Hoff Revels, Echolocation
6. Khanate, To Be Cruel
7. Jeromes Dream, The Gray in Between
8. John Zorn, Full Fathom Five
9. James Brandon Lewis, Eye of I
10. Tomb Mold, The Enduring Spirit 

+ Metallica, 72 Seasons [late but necessary add…]

Read more.


1. Gospel, The Loser
2. Fleshwater, We're Not Here to Be Loved
3. Chat Pile, God's Country
4. Meshuggah, Immutable
5. Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel
6. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus
7. Messa, Close
8. Afghan Whigs, How Do You Burn?
9. 40 Watt Sun, Perfect Light
10. Zoh Amba, O, Sun
11. Hammered Hulls, Careening  

[couldn't narrow this down to 10, or more accurately, saw no reason to!]

Bleed, Somebody's Closer [favorite release of the year but left off above b/c it's an EP and technically came out first in 2021]

Read more.


1. Turnstile, Glow On
2. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises
3. Mastodon, Hushed and Grim
4. Assertion, Intermission
5. Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Superwolves
6. Willow, Lately I Feel Everything
7. Jason Moran, The Sound Will Tell You 
8. Amyl and the Sniffers, Comfort to Me
9. Leo Nocentelli, Another Side
10. Carcass, Torn Arteries


Bo Burnham, Inside (The Songs) [honorary inclusion]

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1. Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger, Force Majeure
2. AC/DC, Power Up
3. Kirk Windstein, Dream in Motion
4. Undeath, Lesions of a Different Kind
5. Alan Braufman, The Fire Still Burns
6. Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways
7. Josh Johnson, Freedom Exercise
8. Gulch, Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
9. Erica Freas, Young
10. Mr. Bungle, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

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1. Moon Tooth, Crux
2. Tomb Mold, Planetary Clairvoyance
3. Arch/Matheos, Winter Ethereal
4. Sheer Mag, A Distant Call
5. Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle
6. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You
7. The Messthetics, Anthropocosmic Nest
8. Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
9. Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains
10. Hole Dweller, Flies the Coop

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1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II
2. Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells
3. Haunt, Burst Into Flame
4. Dan Weiss, Starebaby
5. Voivod, The Wake
6. Wayne Shorter, Emanon
7. Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights
8. Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms
9. Harriet Tubman, The Terror End of Beauty
10. Tyshawn Sorey, Pillars

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1. Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love
2. Vijay Iyer, Far From Over
3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
4. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand
5. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
6. Code Orange, Forever
7. Jason Moran, Thanksgiving at the Vanguard
8. Cheer-Accident, Putting Off Death
9. Morbid Angel, Kingdoms Disdained
10. Chris Pitsiokos Unit, Before the Heat Death

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1. Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution
2. The Hotelier, Goodness
3. Bob Mould, Patch the Sky
4. Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke
5. Metallica, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct 
6. Deftones, Gore
7. 40 Watt Sun, Wider Than the Sky
8. Crying, Beyond the Fleeting Gales 
9. Billy Mintz, Ugly Beautiful 
10. Meshuggah, The Violent Sleep of Reason

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1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
2. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
3. Henry Threadgill Zooid, In for a Penny, in for a Pound 
4. Title Fight, Hyperview
5. Blind Idiot God, Before Ever After
6. Krallice, Ygg Huur
7. Black Star Riders, The Killer Instinct
8. Laddio Bolocko, Live and Unreleased 1997–2000 
9. Mary Halvorson, Meltframe 
10. Revenge, Behold.Total.Rejection

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1. Future Islands, Singles
2. Antemasque, Antemasque
3. Alvvays, Alvvays
4. La Dispute, Rooms of the House

5. Juan Wauters, N.A.P. North American Poetry
6. Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else
7. Mitski, Bury Me at Makeout Creek
8. Mark Turner, Lathe of Heaven
9. Run the Jewels, RTJ 2
10. White Lung, Deep Fantasy

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1. RVIVR, The Beauty Between
2. Haim, Days Are Gone
3. Carcass, Surgical Steel
4. Diarrhea Planet, I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
5. Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork
6. Suffocation, Pinnacle of Bedlam
7. Black Sabbath, 13
8. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
9. The Men, New Moon
10. Gorguts, Colored Sands

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1.  Christian Mistress, Possession
2. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
3. Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind
4. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
5. Propagandhi, Failed States
6. fun., Some Nights
7. Loincloth, Iron Balls of Steel
8. Billy Hart, All Our Reasons
9. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
10. Corin Tucker, Kill My Blues

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1. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra
2. Anthrax, Worship Music
3. Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
4. Drake, Take Care
5. Deceased, Surreal Overdose
6. Gerald Cleaver’s Uncle June, Be It as I See It
7. The Strokes, Angles 
8. Disma, Towards the Megalith
9. New Zion Trio, Fight Against Babylon
10. Ben Allison, Action-Refraction

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1. Francis and the Lights, It'll Be Better
2. Drake, Thank Me Later
3. The Bad Plus, Never Stop
4. Buke and Gass, Riposte
5. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
6. Graham Smith, Accept the Mystery
7. Ludicra, The Tenant
8. Sia, We Are Born
9. Charred Walls of the Damned, Charred Walls of the Damned
10. Dan Weiss Trio, Timshel

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1. Propagandhi, Supporting Caste
2. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
3. Ran Blake, Driftwoods
4. Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young
5. Chad Taylor, Circle Down
6. Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures 
7. Dinosaur Jr., Farm
8. Sean Kingston, Tomorrow
9. Jon Irabagon with Mike Pride, I Don’t Hear Nothin’ but the Blues
10. Heaven and Hell, The Devil You Know


1. Graham Smith & KGW, Yes Boss
2. Cynic, Traced in Air
3. Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blue [reissue]
4. Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy
5. Krallice, Krallice
6. Andrew Hill and Chico Hamilton, Dreams Come True
7. Metallica, Death Magnetic
8. Josh Fix, Free at Last
9. Randy Newman, Harps and Angels
10. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend


1. Pissed Jeans, Hope for Men
2. Muhal Richard Abrams, Vision Towards Essence
3. Sigh, Hangman’s Hymn
4. Thurston Moore, Trees Outside the Academy
5. Deerhoof, Friend Opportunity
6. Zs, Arms
7. Rob Crow, Living Well
8. Levon Helm, Dirt Farmer
9. Tyshawn Sorey, that/not
10. Ween, La Cucaracha


1. Baby Dayliner, Critics Pass Away
2. Ocrilim, Anoint
3. Xiu Xiu, The Air Force
4. This Heat, Out of Cold Storage [reissue]
5. Melvins, (A) Senile Animal
6. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar
7. The Lemonheads, The Lemonheads
8. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
9. Nels Cline, New Monastery
10. Joanna Newsom, Ys


1. Deerhoof, The Runners Four
2. Orthrelm, OV
3. Matthew Welch, Dream Tigers
4. Sicbay, Suspicious Icons
5. Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Matt Sweeney, Superwolf
6. Big Business, Head for the Shallow
7. Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mostly Other People Do the Killing
8. Sunn O))), Black One
9. The Locust, Safety Second, Body Last
10. Coptic Light, Coptic Light