Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Robert Christgau's Going Into the City


Expert Witness: A Trip Down Country Road

New in Expert Witness:

  • The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club (Bloodshot) A-
  • Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free (Southeastern) A-
  • Wussy: Public Domain, Volume 1 (Shake It) ***
  • Daniel Romano: If I've Only One Time Askin' (New West) **
  • Ashley Monroe: The Blade (Warner Bros.) **
  • Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material (Mercury) *

Also a technical note: for some time now, the Random A-List page has been stuck in a rut where the same dozen items appear nearly every time you load the page. This was a consequence of the ISP installing some server-side caching software: a good idea in terms of overall performance, but crippling in this case. I've disabled the caching, so the page works now. I've also added a convenient "reload" link near the top. By the way, the page has a couple options built in: if you add to the URI ?xgr=[ABCDE][mp] you can generate a grade for an exact grade (m for minus, p for plus, so ?xgr=Cp for C+. You can also use ?gr=[ABCDE] for a whole letter grade including plus/minus. There are a few cases with parameterized options like this that have never been properly documented.

Expert Witness: Future Is the Proof We Need That Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

New in Expert Witness:

  • Future: Monster (free mixtape) B+
  • Future: DS2 (Deluxe Edition) (Epic) A-
  • Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment/Quality Control/Atlantic) B+
  • T.I.: Da Nic' (Grand Hustle) ***
  • Drake & Future: What a Time to Be Alive (Cash Money/Epic) **
  • Young Thug: The Barter 6 (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) **
  • Migos: Rich Nigga Timeline (free mixtape) *
  • Future: 56 Nights (free mixtape) *
Expert Witness: Chance the Rapper and Friends Count Their Blessings

New in Expert Witness:

  • Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experment: Surf (Free) A
  • Paris: Pistol Politics (Guerrilla Funk) A-
  • STS X RJD2: STS X RJD2 (RJ's Electrical Connections) ***
  • Akrobatik: Built to Last (Playaktion) **
  • P.K. (Park Kultury): Get Lost (H.S.I.) **
  • Public Enemy: Man Plans God Laughs (Spitdigital) *
Book Events

Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Saturday, September 20:

  • Christgau will appear on the 1PM Modern Families panel, conversation with Kate Bollick and Augusten Burroughs (North Stage) [link].
  • Dibbell will appear on the 5PM New Brave World panel, readings and conversation with Laura van den Berg and Andrew Ervin (North Stage) [link].

They also have an event scheduled for Austin, TX (October 18).

In addition, Dibbell has an event sponsored by the Portland Public Library (October 23) in Portland, OR.

Expert Witness: Exploring Legendary and Overlooked Afropop

New in Expert Witness:

  • Le Grand Kallé: Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music (Sterns Africa) A-
  • Youssou N'Dour: Mballax Dafay Wax (FM) A-
  • Amara Touré: 1973-1980 (Analog Africa) B+
  • Verckys et l'Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (Analog Africa) ***
  • Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian and Ghanaian Recordings From London & Lagos--1954-66 (Soundway) *
Expert Witness: Young Thug's Most Useful Performance Since Black Portland

New in Expert Witness:

  • Jamie XX: In Colour (Young Turks) A-
  • Diplo: Random White Dude Be Everywhere (Mad Decent) A-
  • Shamir: Ratchet (XL) A-
  • Major Lazer: Peace Is the Mission (Mad Decent) B+
  • Funkadelic: First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (The C Kunspyruhzy) **
  • In the Mix: Dancepop Anthems (Astralwerks) **
  • Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü (Mad Decent) **
  • Glitterbeat: Dubs and Versions (Glitterbeat) *
  • Duck Sauce: Quack (Fool's Gold) *
Expert Witness: You'd Think Willie Nelson Wrote the Song About Pot

New in Expert Witness:

  • Boz Scaggs: A Fool to Care (429) A-
  • Leonard Cohen: Can't Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour (Columbia/Legacy) A-
  • Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard: Django and Jimmie (Legacy)
  • Richard Thompson: Still (Fantasy)
  • Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (Columbia)
  • Elvin Bishop: Can't Even Do Wrong Right (Alligator)
Expert Witness: Yo La Tengo Made Their Loveliest Album Ever

New in Expert Witness:

  • Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There (Matador) A
  • Freedy Johnston: Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet) B+
  • Rhett Miller: The Traveler (ATO) ***
  • Giant Sand: Heartbreak Pass (New West) ***
  • Wilco: Star Wars (dBpm) ***
Website Update Status: Working

I attempted an update of the website this afternoon (about 3:30 PM CDT). The flat file part went smoothly, so there are a number of new files and minor programming changes. See Changelog for further information (although I doubt it actually covers everything).

Initially the database failed due to a version incompatibility. I found a workaround for this, so the database is currently loaded and functioning. Sorry for the brief inconvenience. Please send mail to webmaster [@] if you find further problems.

Expert Witness: Hopping Along Into a Girlpool

New in Expert Witness:

  • Hop Along: Painted Shut (Saddle Creek) A-
  • The Go! Team: The Scene Between (Memphis Industries) A-
  • Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home (Hardly Arts) **
  • Lizzy Mercier Descloux: Press Color (Light in the Attic) **
  • Joanna Gruesome: Peanut Butter (Slumberland) **
  • Girlpool: Before the World Was Big (Wichita Recordings) **
Expert Witness Returns

New in Expert Witness:

  • Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (Capitol) A-
  • Miguel: Wildheart (RCA) A-
  • Jason Derulo: Everything Is 4 (Beluga Heights/Warner Bros.) A-
  • Tinashe: Aquarius (RCA) ***
  • Oceaán: The Grip EP (Rough Trade) **
Perfect Sound Forever

Robert Christgau was guest editor for the August/September 2015 issue of the online music magazine, Perfect Sound Forever. In his introduction, Christgau wrote:

Like its predecessors (2008 & 2011), the third NYU/Tisch Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music edition of Perfect Sound Forever is dominated by final papers, mostly by sophomores, in my required Artists and Audiences history and writing course. The ringers are papers written for the '50s Rock and Roll course I taught in the spring, two of them are also by sophomores (from Steinhardt and Gallatin) and one of them by a ReMu senior. As before, I think these students have done critical work that deserves the kind of public presence PSF can provide--writing at least as good and often better than professional work I've edited.

Expert Witness at Cuepoint/Medium

It took a while, as new business models cough-cough always do, but as of June 25 what had seemed increasingly likely ever since my June 5 submission was put on hold became official: 10 months in, Expert Witness's run at Cuepoint/Medium is over. Editor Jon Shecter compensated me well and always gave me the freedom he'd promised, for which I'm very grateful--it felt so right to be reviewing (and grading) albums after a year's hiatus. But let me emphasize that both the compensation and the institutional home were part of the satisfaction--I like earning money for my work and I like being part of a top-edited periodical.

As with MSN in 2013, I have not been singled out here. Where MSN offed its entire freelance sector, Shecter's bosses have apparently decided that their music "vertical" will now feature what web publishers like to call "reader-provided" copy. Me, I think the term "unpaid" is more to the point. Having made a living as a journalist for more than 50 years now, I don't regard writing as a hobby, or as "self-expression." It's a job, and better for it. Having taken a teaching post in part because it's hard out there for a freelancer, I expended most of what little spare time remained between September and May keeping EW afloat. One sad thing about the timing of the Medium reboot is that with the spring term over I was going back to stuff I'd never fully borne down on and seeking out titles I'd missed. It was interesting--in fact, kind of exciting.

I'm still listening to current music all day and writing occasional reviews, but with less organizational purpose--often as a way to get my head around something I've immersed in deep enough. My basic theory hasn't changed. My working assumption is that popular music is of lasting artistic value, that the album format remains an excellent way to realize that value, that an album's potential often becomes more vivid when it's a physical object, and that my little reviews have proven of some importance in a complex historicizing process. If somebody wants to pay me to continue to publish these reviews, I'll definitely consider it, and it's possible the Witnesses, as I call the amazingly articulate fan base that crystallized when MSN turned the Consumer Guide into Expert Witness in 2010, will persuade me to go it alone in some format yet to be determined, although I have reservations about every one so far proposed. I can't see any way, however, that such a development will come to fruition before Carola and I take a two-week European vacation set to commence three weeks from today--although I do admittedly have a dozen reviews in the kitty and may even turn out a few more before we leave.

It's conceivable I'll see you in September--even August. Just in case, though, I figure I owe the Witnesses at least one small thing--the final listing in a file called EWMDEX in my WP51 files. It goes:

6/5 scaggs/cohen//nelson-haggard/giant sand/springsteen/bishop

Ornette Coleman

Robert Christgau reviewed Ornette Coleman's last live performance (he believes) for Billboard almost exactly a year ago: Ornette Coleman in Prospect Park, June 12, 2014.

Website Charset Errors

UPDATE: I believe that the following problem has been fixed. Please let us know if it hasn't, or if you see other problems. Thanks.

The website was recently migrated to a new server with more recent software releases of PHP, MySQL, etc. The effect of this change is that the software now defaults to the UTF-8 character set, instead of the previous default, ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1), in effect way back when the website was originally built. All of the text/data in the website is encoded according to the old standard. However, when the new software processes the old data, it tends to drop strings when encountering characters that are encoded differently (mostly characters with accents used in French, Spanish, German, and other West European languages).

New in Expert Witness:

  • Parkay Quarts: Content Nausea (What's Your Rupture?) A-
  • Slutever: Almost Famous (self-released) A-
  • Wire: Wire (Pinkflag) ***
  • White Lung: Deep Fantasy (Sub Pop) **
  • Total Babes: Heydays (Wichita) **
  • Spider Bags: Frozen Letter (Merge) **

New in Expert Witness:

  • Tamikrest: Adagh (Glitterbeat '10) B+
  • Tamikrest: Toumastin (Glitterbeat '11) A-
  • Tamikrest: Chatma (Glitterbeat '13) A-
  • Imarhan Timbuktu: Akal Warled (Clermont Music) ***
  • Tamikrest: Taksera (Glitterbeat '15) *

Other recommended links:

New in Expert Witness:

  • Cracker: Berkeley to Bakersfield (429) A-
  • The Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ (Merge) A-
  • Sun Kil Moon: Benji (Caldo Verde) B+
  • Modest Mouse: Strangers to Ourselves (Epic) ***
  • Clem Snide: Girls Come First (Zahpwee) **
  • Mac McCaughan: Non-Believers (Merge) *

Other recommended links:

New in Expert Witness:

  • Young Fathers: Dead (Anticon) A-
  • Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada) A-
  • White Mandingos: The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me (Fat Beats) A-
  • Death Grips: The Powers That B (Third Worlds/Harvest) B+

Other recommended links:

New in Expert Witness:

  • Huey "Piano" Smith: Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu (Hallmark) A
  • James Booker: Gonzo (RockBeat) A-
  • Cracking the Cosimo Code: 60s New Orleans R&B and Soul (Ace) B+
  • Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It (Even More of the Best) (Westside) **

Other recommended links:

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