the spin report: january
Welcome to the first-ever spin report! Inspired by my good friend Daniel Bromfield's monthly listening reviews, I've been tracking the records I've been listening to this past month and put together a nice, tidy list for ya to review that includes a quick summary on the record, what I thought about it, and a rating. And seeing as this is the first report, here are the ground rules:
1. This list contains albums I listened to in their entirety, front-to-back. This includes LPs as well as EPs (extended plays) and SPs (single plays), although the latter will only make the report if I lost my mind over them.
2. My rating system: I rate the records I listen to on a scale of 1-6, using this little sword 🗡️ instead of stars (because it looks cooler.) One sword (🗡️) means I didn't like the record, but still found it listenable; If an album achieves three swords (🗡️🗡️🗡️) I enjoyed listening to it, and might recommend it to a friend, but it didn't leave a lasting impact for me; Six swords (🗡️🗡️🗡️🗡️🗡️🗡️) stands for utter perfection. If a record is a six, I've probably been listening to it for days, non-stop, to the annoyance of my partner, roommates, and coworker, and will babble about it for days.
3. If you're here for a savage, crushing critical analysis of why an album sucks, prepare to be a bit disappointed. Though I don't love ALL music, I believe every record speaks to someone, and who am I to judge if you like Carly Rae Jepson? To each their own, I say! But if I don't like something, I promise I will tell you, and explain why. I rarely listen to music I don't enjoy, and if I don't like an album I usually stop listening to it.
4. A note on sources: I really enjoy music history, and I think situating music within its proper context only enhances the listening experience. I consume a lot of music journalism across the board, from Bandcamp to Rolling Stone to Discogs, and I use Wikipedia often; that being said, I simply don't have time to link every source I use in these reports. If I've made an error in release date, line-up, or historical fact, please email me and let me know. I will amend my mistake as soon as possible.
Alright, let's do this! Here is January's Spin Report:
Magic Sam - West Side Soul (1967)
Magic Sam was a legendary West Side Chicago Blues guitar player; West Side Soul is his debut album, and like his guitar, it's electric. Recorded for Delmark Records after he was dishonorably discharged from the military, Sam Maghett - the name Magic Sam came from his childhood friend Mack Thompson during his first recording session for Cobra Records - is smooth, sultry and plays some tasty fucking licks. His voice is bluesy, hollering when he feels it and rocking when he doesn't, and his guitar playing is wicked. This album is fricking fresh ya'll; it has aged tremendously well and exemplifies what the blues should be about: pain, soul, sorrow and great musicianship. Tragically, Magic Sam died of a heart attack at only 32 years old.
Magic Sam - Black Magic (1968)
After listening to West Side Soul, I had such a craving for blues that I went straight to Magic Sam's next record and I wasn't disappointed. A little bit less fuzzed out, with great saxophone courtesy of Eddie Shaw, who led Howlin' Wolf's band the Wolf Gang before and after his death. Just another pristine fucking blues record here. Sam's vocals are a bit cleaner here and with more of a backing-band sound in contrast to the somewhat stripped back sound in West Side Soul. I loved it.
Conway the Machine & The Alchemist - LuLu (2020)
I really liked some songs on this record, and others fell totally flat for me, but I'm not super familiar with Conway the Machine so that might be why. Alchemist's beats are dark and smokey here with Conway's vocals balanced nicely in the mix. Schoolboy Q gets a cool feature here as well.
The Workshop - Jazz Jamaica (1961)
This is as good a time as any to tell you: I love Jamaican music! All of it, from mento to calypso to roots reggae to ska to rocksteady; I am obsessed with it all, and listen to it daily. I've been going through a Jamaican Jazz period recently. Jamaica's Alpha Boys School produced some of the finest, most underrated musicians of the 1940s and '50s, and this compilation (recently re-mastered and re-released in 2015 on Studio One; the original recording was released on the Port O Jam imprint) features many of them, including Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso and Ernest Ranglin. Every song on the record save one is an original composition, and I believe they can go head to head with any other Jazz artist of this era. Drummond was a musical genius (Heather Augustyn wrote an entire book on the subject) and McCook, Alphonso and Ranglin went on to play on almost every record produced in Jamaica until the 1980s. An amazing album.
Ernest Ranglin - Jazz Jamaica (1964)
Did I mention I love Ernest Ranglin, Jamaican guitar player extraordinare and over all god?? The dude CRUSHES this album; his guitar playing is incredible, his melodic lines incredibly well thought out, the piano and drumming is equally amazing, and the record was produced by Ken Khouri, the owner of Federal Records, the first recording studio in Jamaica and a founding father in his own right. Do yourself a favor and listen to this record.
Navy Blue - Song of Sage: Post Panic! (2020)
I've enjoyed most of Navy Blue's releases, but this project is something else. Blue's lyrics are lashing, precise and elucidating. It's a slow simmer, this album; Blue takes a deep dive into his relationships with his family, his self-image, popular culture, attachment and love. This is underground hip-hop at its finest. Navy Blue produces for rappers like MIKE and Armand Hammer and has a really interesting back story; originally a pro skater on Fucking Awesome, he handled the art direction for Earl Sweatshirt's 'I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside' and founded his own record label Freedom Sounds in 2020.
Takuya Kuroda - Fly Moon Die Soon (2020)
I've been a fan of Kuroda ever since I heard his rendition of the Roy Ayers classic 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine' on 'Rising Son' (2014) from Blue Note and his latest record is pretty killer. A mixture of jazz, funk, soul and a dash of RnB, Kuroda plays with Jazz fusion loosely, a la Herbie Hancock but with a sharper, percussion-forward sound on this record. There's a surprising amount of sampling here, perhaps due to Kuroda's work with DJ Premier's BADDER Band, and the album took over two years to create. It was worth the wait.
Otis Rush - Cold Day In Hell (1976)
More blues here; Otis Rush, along with Magic Sam, is considered one of the founder of West Side Chicago blues and was an influence on artists like Eric Clapton. This record was recorded on Delmark as well, and it's HOT. Lots of long, drawn out jamming with that minimalist blues guitar you know and love. Organs and a backing band are tastefully balanced here, but Rush's guitar is what's on display and I WANT MORE.
Albert King and Otis Rush - Door to Door (1969)
Albert King was known as one of the 'Kings of Blues' and this recording with Otis Rush has some of my favorite Albert King and Otis Rush tracks, including 'Wild Women' and 'Im Satisfied.' I think this album was mixed slightly differently than other blues records of the era, although I have no evidence of this being true. The backing band is louder here than in other records, and the horns and piano trickle through even when King is wailing. A great party album!
Otis Rush - Right Place Wrong Time (1976)
This is considered one of Rush's finest recordings, although it was released five years after it was recorded. Strangely enough, I liked 'Cold Day in Hell' more, although I couldn't tell you why. I think the backing band here doesn't do as much for me as it did on Cold Day in Hell, and there's a bit of organ overlay that I liked but just made me hunger for his stripped down guitar more.
Coubo - Homewards and Take Two (Both released in 2020)
My coworker showed me this record, and I was surprised to find that I knew Coubo from a 2016 EP he recorded on Melody Soul called 'Savour.' The Russian electronic artist rides the lofi wave here, but their use of synth and more bass-forward drumming helps them stand out in an ocean of lofi electronic music.
The Stylistics - Let's Put It All Together (1974)
I originally found this record through the track 'Love is the Answer' on this record. The Stylistics are a Philadelphia soul group who made it big in the 1970s, after forming in 1968. Lots of nasal, tenor-forward singing here. I was into Love is the Answer, but the rest of the record didn't really resonate with me, though it was some great soul music for sure.
Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full (1987)
Eric B and Rakim were the dream team in 1980s hip-hop, the real deal. Meeting through Rakim's brother, they recorded their debut single 'Eric B is President' in 1986 before recording 'Paid In Full' at Power Play Studios in New York. Named after the Paid in Full posse that counted Kool G Rap and Freddie Foxxx among its members, the album immediately jumped to the Billboard Top Ten Hip-Hop/Rap charts and was certified Platinum by 1995. This is a hip-hop masterpiece and a foundational recording.
Louis Jordan - Jack, You're Dead (2007)
A really fun compilation of jazz musician and singer Louis Jordan's works on Blue Label, including hits like 'Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens' and 'Saturday Night Fish Fry.' I enjoyed it so much I listened to it three times in a row; Jordan's lyrics are clever but simple enough to sing along with, and his subject matter ranges from young love to racist cops and of course chickens. The song 'Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own' features Ella Fitzgerald, although she goes uncredited in the track listing.
Amsterdam Klezmer Band - Fortuna (2020)
I love klezmer, I really do. I hosted a two hour radio special in December of entirely klezmer music in honor of Hannukah, and I have memories of listening to the Klezmer Conservatory Band growing up at my grandma's house. Amsterdam Klezmer Band's latest release blends klezmer with a melange of electronic, world and traditional klezmer music to create a sound all their own, and Fortuna is a fun romp.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo (2020)
Arguably one of my favorite hip-hop records in the past two years. Alchemist is in top form here, with a mixture of sinister piano-driven beats and laid-back smoke that compliments Gibbs' super fresh rhymes. Like a retro-futuristic post-modern gangster, Gibbs addresses racism, killing cops, raising a family and the dichotomy of being who you want to be and who you are. Tyler the Creator, Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher all get features here and each of them bring the heat. This album was nominated for a Grammy people, it's FANTASTIC!!
Madlib - Sound Ancestors (2021)
Compiled by Four Tet (Kieren Hebden) this album was interesting for me. I love Madlib, I've listened to his entire discography multiple times and I went into this album fully expecting to love it unequivocally. Featuring a mixture of classic Madlib beats, stripped back drums and guitar and sonically spacious sounds and textures, my only reservation when I was listening to this was that the album was credited to ONLY Madlib. Four Tet curated, edited and arranged the tracks on this record from hundreds of songs that Madlib had sent him over the years, and he didn't even receive an artist billing? In an interesting reversal of Madlib's traditional(?) creation process, Four Tet becomes the sampler, and Madlib the source recording. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it (especially the punk samples, they had me bouncing off the walls) but this is a mysterious entry in Madlib's legendary catalog for me.
Coxsone Dodd - Coxsone's Dramatic and Music Centre (1961)
Re-releasing this record was one of Coxsone's final projects before his death in 2004. Marking his first entry into the LP format and one of the first LPs produced in Jamaica, this album features legends like Clancy Eccles, Clue J and the Blues Blasters and more. An excellent collection of early Jamaican RnB.
Soul Jazz Records - New Orleans Funk Vol. 4 (2016)
Nothing super fancy here, I'm just a sucker for these kinds of compilations. Obscure soul and funk artists I've never heard of? Check. A local music scene that was previously undocumented? Check. A collection of 45s previously thought to be worthless now elevated to cult-following status? Double Check. Interested? I can't turn myself away.
Deantoni Parks - Technoself (2015)
An incredible drummer and record producer, Parks is a savant for sure; he's a professor at the Berklee School of Music, has 10 solo records alone and his discography is an interested mixture of experimental, new wave, and avant garde music. Technoself contains three tracks recorded from a live performance at a fundraising show for LA radio station DubLab, and every track on the album was recorded in one take. No overdubs, no loops. This is a pretty cerebral record, but his drumming is so hypnotic I found myself listening to it twice just to revel in his mastery of the drums.
YUNGMORPHEUS x Fumitake Tamura - Mazal (2019)
Many of my friends are huge fans of YUNGMORPHEUS, but I'll be real here; I didn't really enjoy much of his MCing on this record. However, I really liked the backing beats, and upon listening to the album as an instrumental beat tape instead of a vocal release, it grew on me a bit.
Soul Jazz Records - Coxsone's Music: The First Recordings of Sir Coxsone The Downbeat 1960 - 1962 Record B (2015)
Another amazing compilation of early Jamaican music from Coxsone Dodd. I loved the selections on this record; lots of Jamaican jazz and RnB, plus some early rocksteady and just overall feel good music. Unbeatable on wax, highly recommend.
Lee Perry and The Upsetters - High Plains Drifter; Jamaican 45s 1968 - 1973 (2012)
This compilation was released by one of my favorite labels ever, Pressure Sounds. Lee Perry was in the prime of his career during these five years, after achieving a UK Top 5 hit with 'Return of Django' and working with Bob Marley at Black Ark Studios. The cuts on this record are funny, original and overall impeccable. Enlisting mento artist Count Sticky to voice some of the tracks, the total effect achieved is a perfect image of an artist who helped shape the sound of reggae.
Fly Anakin & Pink Siifu - FlySiifu's Records & Tapes (2020)
Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu are heavyweights in the underground hip-hop scene; Both MCs write witty, cutting lyrics that are at once contemporary and timeless. I think this collaborative EP was more fun than anything for them; featuring a large amount of interludes and make-believe ads for their fantasy record shop, FlySiifu is hazy hip-hop in the best way, and has some incredible production credits and features, including Liv.e, Ohbliv and Madlib. One of my favorite records to chill to right now.
Gavsborg - Quality Time Sound System (SP) (2020)
The only SP to make this list! Gavsborg is apart of the Equinoxx Collective out of Jamaica, innovators of dancehall, dub and electronic music alike. Although their discography is largely dancehall, electronic and dub-based, this single by Gavsborg has a lovely strain of house that ties the entire eight minute track together, and manages to be both dub, electronica and house at once. I liked this single so much I bought it on the spot and the t-shirt that came with it.
Tubby Isiah - Rising High (2020)
I found this record while searching for some new dub music to bump while I work; Isiah does a great job of paying homage to classic dub techniques while also putting his own, original spin on it. Bonus points for a really cool album cover.
Gi Gi - Lumino Pleco (2021)
Oh god I listened to this release while I was taking a bath after being sick for two days straight. An amazing piece of ambient music: melodic, everlasting and supremely immersive. I promptly listened to nothing but Gi Gi and other ambient music for the rest of the day, and I emerged from my musical cocoon later that week hopeful and brimming with calm assurance for a full 15 minutes. For the vibes? FOR THE VIBES!
Uyama Hiroto - Freeform Jazz (2016)
If you're looking for more lofi hip-hop beats to study and relax to, don't listen to this. Hiroto is a contemporary of Nujabes and this record sees him combine incredibly complex and masterful beats with innovative and mind-blowing freeform jazz recordings. I'm unsure of the source of the jazz, whether he sampled it or played it himself, but either way this release makes my list of one of the best beat-tapes I've listened to in years.
Jahari Massamba Unit - Pardon My French (2020)
More Madlib! This time with jazz drummer Karriem Riggins! I enjoyed this record, but it was almost exactly what I expected: woozy drum beats ala Riggins and some crisp, artful sampling from the legendary Otis Jackson Jr. Although they've worked together as Jahari Massamba Unit before, this is their first full-length project under the name. All the tracks are in French, making the album an exercise in deciphering not only the music but the language itself.
Cultures of Soul - Saturday Night - South African Disco Pop Hits - 1981 to 1987 (2021)
This album was a bop, all the way through. Six golden years of Disco, Bubblegum (and African-techno-pop genre that rose in popularity as the 80s progressed) and overall feel good music. If all 80s music sounded like this, I would definitely listen to more of it. A mixture of boogie and funk but almost entirely synthesized, which could sound campy but doesn't. Perfect on a sunny day and when you're in the mood to groove!
R.A.P. Ferreira - bob's son: R.A.P. Ferreira in the garden level cafe of the scallops hotel (2021)
The latest from the great R.A.P. Ferreira. This album sees him take inspiration from beat poet Bob Kaufman, who inspired Allen Ginsberg and a slew of other famous beat poets. Kaufman was a poet in the oral tradition, rarely wrote down his work and featured jazz and bebop prominently in his work. This slew of jazz-inspired oral poetry seems to be what Ferreira is drawing upon, lyrics like a breathless flute in a laid-back jam session. Produced under his moniker scallops hotel, the beats here were developed to serve Ferreira's poetry. Art rap lovers take note!
Chester Raj Anand - Strawberry (2020)
Chester Raj Anand is the the real name of Lord Raja, an electronic artist best known for his experimental ambient and electronic music rooted in hip-hop. But on 'Strawberry' Anand strives for a classic sound, it seems; this is ambient music rooted in the veins of Boards of Canada and Vladislav Delay. Composed of sounds he collected while on a trip to Tokyo, I really enjoyed this album at sunset, when dusk was beginning to gather.
That's all there is, folks! I hope you found something new in these 32 albums and if you have any recommendations for music I should be listening to, shoot me an email. Thanks for reading, be safe, and stay tuned for more.