- Darius Jones Trio: Big Gurl (Smell My Dreams) (AUM Fidelity) - Darius Jones debut, Man'ish Boy (a Raw and Beautiful Thing), was stunning. A riveting and deeply moving album by a saxophonist with a distinct voice, both in terms of his playing and his compositions. His new record, Big Gurl (Smell My Dreams), may lack some of raw emotion of his debut, but it makes up for it in power and groove. Replacing multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore and drummer Rasid Bakr in the trio is Adam Lane on bass, an original musician and composer in his own right, and Jason Nazary on drums, who both played on the debut's "hidden track". Big Gurl is full of hard hitting, groovy free-bop sprinkled with more contemplative pieces, such as the haunting "I Wish I Had a Choice". Jones alto sound is stirring, sometimes piercing, and he is wont to leaps and shrieks, but always maintains a strong sense of melody and theme. Adam Lane plays thick, powerful, syrupy yet somehow nimble lines and riffs as only he can, while Nazary glides in and out of the beat. The opener "E-Gaz" and the menacing closer "Ol' Metal-Faced Bastard", with it's rhythmically stumbling sections, come charging at you with swagger and purpose, while the above-mentioned "I Wish I had a Choice" and "My Special 'D'" are quieter, more reflective pieces. There's also a reworking of "Chasing the Ghost", one of the center pieces of Man'ish Boy. While much of the allure of he original version was how Jones sounded like he was losing his way on this headlong chase, here, augmented by Lane's stubborn bass lines, it sounds galvanized, more confident, as if with a renewed sense of mission. Somehow very fitting, I think. 9*
- Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc) - 7*
- Girls: Father: Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther) - 8*
- Jens Lekman: An Argument With Myself (Secretly Canadian) - 8*
- Mekons: Ancient and Modern: 1911-2011 (Bloodshot Records) - 8*
- Kanye West & Jay-Z: Watch the Throne (Def Jam) - 8*
* Grades are tentative, based on three or four listens, though quite often a few more. Much of the writing is done during listens, and should be considered notes rather than final reviews.