It’s a rainy Sunday morning, April 5th, 2020. The quarantine in our city officially began on Thursday, March 19th, but the writing was on the wall so for all intents and purposes we began our lockdown on Monday, March 16th. So we are three full weeks in. There have definitely been challenges, most of which involve the adjustment to online learning for our two boys, ages 12 and 14. But we have food, clothing, shelter, a backyard, and, for the time being, our health. I am grateful to be living in a progressive state (California) with progressive leadership at both the state and local level that put us on lockdown ahead of most of the Country.

I’m concerned about the future because at every turn during this crisis we seem to have been caught flat-footed. I was marveling at the fact that I was at a business meeting just a few weeks ago, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly.  It was noon on Wednesday, March 11th. A few hours later Trump would give his garbled Oval Office Speech stating that travel (and movement of goods) from Europe would be halted as of Friday the 13th.  Then things began to go South quickly.

But I did manage to write a song a week or so ago, so there is that….


I made Robert Christgau’s “Deans” list!

Well here we are in January 2020 and I just found out that Robert Christgau, the “Dean” of American Rock Critics, put my album How Could A Man on his “best of”  list for 2019. There were 76 albums on the list and mine came in at #51.  I’ll take it. Christgau is a great writer/critic who used to write for the Village Voice back in the halcyon days of the NYC weekly, and now he writes a subscription only newsletter.  He reviewed my album in his December 2019 newsletter and now this.  So yay. And what I am most proud of is my album was the ONLY one that was self-released.  Well, Chance the Rapper self-released his, but he is massively famous so whatever.
Since I do not have a record label or a distributor or a publicist or any of that stuff, I do most everything myself.  I get help from an engineer/producer when I make my albums and I hire musicians to help bring my songs to life, but so much of what I do is DIY.  I write the songs and make the demos and self-finance the recordings and choose the album artwork (most of which are my own photos) and when the album is finished I am the one who addresses and stuffs the envelopes that go to radio stations and reviewers and those who buy my album.  I spend a lot of time researching places to send the album that might play it or review it.  I sent a lot of copies of this latest album to radio stations across the USA, but that ended up being a huge waste of time.  Nothing against radio stations, but I think they get so many submissions, many of which come from publicists representing well known artists, and there are just so many songs they can play, so I am pretty sure that the promo copies sent by people like me end up in the trash heap.  But fortunately there are reviewers out there who will take the time to listen to the albums of the little people and some of them actually write a review. And sometimes those reviews are actually read by the music-loving public and sometimes the music loving public buys your album from said review or steams your songs from said review or tells a friend.
I was very fortunate this time around to be reviewed by several publications; Twangville, Minor 7th, Lonesome Highway, Americana UK, New Times, Folking, Take Effect Reviews, Johnny’s Garden (Dutch) De Krenten Uit De Pop (Dutch) and Robert Christgau.  And several publications that I sent albums to did NOT review me. Bottom line, there is still hope out there for the DIY musician with no label, no publicist, and paltry Spotify stats. Thank you to those who took the time to review my music and play my music.
And here is Robert Christgau’s list:

Dean’s List 2019

The 76 best albums of the last year (or so)

Robert Christgau January 26, 2020

Find hereabouts my 45th Dean’s List, a tradition that goes back to the first (yes, first) Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll in 1971, when I published the full top 10s of 40 working critics (fans’ lists were also tallied that year, but not reproduced) after appending my own top 30, not yet dubbed the Dean’s List, to an earlier Consumer Guide. In 1974, when I returned to the Voice from Newsday and resumed Pazz & Jop, I continued to publish a longer list of my own, which I expanded from 30 to 40 in 1979 and to an indeterminate length in 1981; the shortest subsequent one checked in at 49 in 1985 (by an odd coincidence, the year my daughter was born) and the longest in 2011, when I located 107 A records.

Clearly these varying lengths reflect my own diligence and workload: in 2019 the Consumer Guide was out of business all summer as I transitioned from Noisey to And It Don’t Stop, and I also sunk below 80 in 2014, when I was transitioning from MSN to Medium. But the earlier expansion from 30 to 40 and beyond was fundamentally a function of how much music was out there. In the ‘90s I began pointing out that there were more hours of recorded music released every year than there were hours in a year, and in the Soundcloud/YouTube age the disparity has become incalculable. In 2019, the 46th or 47th Dean’s List ended up honoring 76 A albums that include three EPs, and also 13 long-players released in 2018 and even before.

Leading the list you’ll find two albums I pegged as certain top 10s from the time I reviewed them in March and April, although their one-two finish seemed unlikely with most of the year to come: Billie Eilish’s flighty, electro, best-selling When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and Todd Snider’s earthy, primitivist, fans-only Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3. But down below things got messier. It took diligent summer listening for me to decide that Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day was a backlash victim and enjoyable winter listening to conclude that it belonged at number three. I was a late convert to my number-four Purple Mountains. And although I was on Carsie Blanton’s fifth-place Buck Up before it was officially self-released in March, I didn’t even hear Kalie Shorr’s ninth-place September self-release Open Book until 2020.

And then there was everything else. Of the 76 albums that made the cut, I’ve played or replayed all but a dozen since I began getting serious in December. When I did, some records bounced up (Ex, Tagaq, Mark) or down (Nassif, Saadiq, Capaldi); B plus Jamila Woods rocketed to 50 while A minus 6lack fell off the list altogether. And though these judgments have more muscle on them now than when I wrote my reviews, they’re unlikely to remain final. I’m diligent about not jumping the gun on the grades I parcel out, but albums do continue to grow or diminish for those they touch. They’re living things.

It should surprise no one that few of the albums in my top 10—Billie Eilish, Purple Mountains, and Kim Gordon, to be precise—made much of a dent among the deciders at Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, which with Pazz & Jop kaput now host the year-end album lists of record. Nor is it any surprise that only three of my finishers are under 30 and four are past 50. I’m 77, and while I identify with the young more than most of my cohort, my life issues are radically different from theirs. Without excavating the details, I’ll note that though there are plenty of women on my list, most of them aren’t on other people’s—Angel Olsen’s overbearing banality, to choose a prominent example, completely escapes me (although I reserve the right to end up upping Lana Del Rey’s September ***). It would appear that I’m not quite the big hip-hop fan I once was either, though I expect that blip to right itself once I bear down a little.

Then again, while time and again I’ve decried the paucity of political music in the most politically fraught year since Hitler took cyanide and then shot himself (you go, Adolf), there was more than I sometimes feared and I latched onto what I found. Snider, Blanton, Tagaq, Delines, Ex, McCalla, Sleater-Kinney, Furman, Rapsody, Woods, Slowthai, Priests, Saadiq, and Quelle Chris all focused their wit, rage, fellow feeling, and hooks on racism and sexism, the wages of wealth and the rape of the planet. It should also surprise no one that I hope there’s more in 2020, and that it makes a difference. Everyone reading this could use a happier newer year, and music alone can never guarantee that.

  1. Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Darkroom/Interscope)
  2. Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (Aimless)
  3. Chance the Rapper: The Big Day (self-released)
  4. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (Drag City)
  5. Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (Carsie Blanton)
  6. Kim Gordon: No Home Record (Matador)
  7. Danny Brown: uknowwhatimsayin? (Warp)
  8. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008 (Matador)
  9. Kalie Shorr: Open Book (Kalie Shorr)
  10. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (Bar/None)
  11. Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (Columbia ‘18)
  12. Salif Keita: Un Autre Blanc (Believe/Naive)
  13. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian)
  14. Big Thief: Two Hands (4AD)
  15. 75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real (Glitterbeat/Tak:til)
  16. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside ‘18)
  17. black midi: Schlagenheim (Rough Trade)
  18. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer (Six Shooter)
  19. The Delines: The Imperial (Decor/El Cortez)
  20. Chai: Punk (Burger)
  21. Lee “Scratch” Perry: Rainford (On-U Sound)
  22. The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex ‘18)
  23. that dog.: Old LP (UME)
  24. Tyler Childers: Country Squire (RCA/Hickman Holler)
  25. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues (PIAS America)
  26. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold (Mom + Pop)
  27. Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring (Don Giovanni)
  28. Alex Chilton: From Memphis to New Orleans (Bar/None)
  29. Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (Bella Union)
  30. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (Atlantic/Nice Life)
  31. Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (Kafou Music)
  32. Miranda Lambert: Wildcard (RCA)
  33. Craig Finn: I Need a New War (Partisan)
  34. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (Barsuk)
  35. Little Simz: Grey Area (Age 101)
  36. Ariana Grande: Sweetener (Republic ’18)
  37. Rapsody: Eve (Jamla/Roc Nation)
  38. The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD)
  39. Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years (Dualtone ‘17)
  40. Youssou Ndour: History (Naïve/Believe)
  41. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain (Naïve/Believe)
  42. Taylor Swift: Lover (Republic)
  43. Hama Sankare: Ballébé (Clermont Music ‘18)
  44. Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (Polyvinyl)
  45. Malibu Ken: Malibu Ken (Rhymesayers)
  46. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (Suicide Squeeze)
  47. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid (Shake It)
  48. Oumar Konaté: I Love You Inna (Clermont Music)
  49. Epic Beard Men: This Was Supposed to Be Fun (Strange Famous)
  50. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar)
  51. Derek Senn: How Could a Man (self-released)
  52. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (Out Here)
  53. Amber Mark: Conexão EP (Virgin EMI ’18)
  54. Nicki Minaj: Queen (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic ‘18)
  55. Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD)
  56. Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (Method)
  57. Tyler Childers: Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (Thirty Tigers/Hickman Holler ‘18)
  58. 100 gecs, Dylan Brady & Laura Les: 1000 gecs (Dog Show)
  59. Sudan Archives: Athena (Stones Throw)
  60. Thiago Nassif: Três (Foom ‘18)
  61. Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (Sister Polygon)
  62. Saba: Care for Me (Saba Pivot ‘18)
  63. Madonna: Madame X (Interscope)
  64. The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard: Original Soundtrack (GNP Cresendo/Big  Beat)
  65. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (Columbia)
  66. Khalid: Free Spirit (RCA)
  67. Quelle Chris: Guns (Mello Music)
  68. Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts: Milano (30th ’17)
  69. Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (Capitol)
  70. Jealous of the Birds: Wisdom Teeth (Atlantic)
  71. Dua Saleh: Nūr (EP) (Against Giants)
  72. Sneaks: Highway Hypnosis (Merge)
  73. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar)
  74. Alex Chilton: Ocean Club ‘77 (Norton ‘15)
  75. Serengeti: Dennis 6e (People ‘18)
  76. Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock (Merge)

Thank you!

Well here we are in 2020 and I thought I might as well start off the year by writing a blog post, since it has been about 9 months since I wrote anything.  That is not to say that nothing has happened. I released my new album How Could a Man in May 2019 and things took off from there. I got some really nice reviews, I had a great CD release show where so many wonderful friends and supporters showed up, I played the Live Oak Music Festival, and I got to open two sold-out shows for Jeff Bridges.

I am a DIY musician and there is A LOT of work that goes into recording, releasing, and promoting an album. I do not have a publicist or a label or a manager or anything. I do all my own promotion, shipping, booking, etc. It is a lot of work. Therefore, I would like to send out a huge THANK YOU to the people out there who review albums, write blogs promoting music, or put together playlists that help get the music out there.  These people are not doing it for the money.  They do it because they love music, and if it were not for them I would be doing all this in a vacuum. But instead I now have listeners across the globe because there are lots of cool people out there who love music and love to turn other people onto music they like. So thank you reviewers, bloggers, playlisters.  And thank you to those of you who bought my album. And thank you for streaming it.  Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring.  It means a lot and, most importantly, it motivates me to write and record more music so I can put out another album so we can do this all over again. THANK YOU!


Yes, that’s right folks.  My new CD, “titled How Could a Man” is available for purchase on my WEBSITE so head on over and order your self a copy.  It is a thing of beauty, with 12 new songs, a lovely cover, and a liner note booklet with all the lyrics.  Please note that this release will NOT be available on streaming services until May 10th, 2019, so the only way to hear it  before then is to get the CD!  So go on!  Now!


My new Album is (almost) here

OK, so it is Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 and my CD’s are supposed to be arriving TODAY! My new CD’s that is, my new album!!  It is called HOW COULD A MAN and there are twelve tracks.  It will not be live on all the streaming services until March 10, 2019, but if you want it before then I suggest you head on over to my website  DEREKSENN.COM and order yourself a copy!  I’ll get it in the mail right away.  This is the cover:


I have a new album coming out

Hi!  I think it has been well over 2 years since I last posted.  Sorry that is pathetic.  But let me explain; When I released my last album in 2016 (Avuncular) I was getting ready to commence a home improvement project that ended up taking almost 18 months to complete.  In a nutshell, I knew the improvement project would require 100% of my extracurricular time, and i was correct.  So when I released Avuncular, I made an announcement that I had a new album out and sent some copies to reviewers but that was about it.  It landed with a bit of a thud and I only have myself to blame.  I was fortunate to get some good press, but I was unable to play out and promote the album.  I didn’t even do a CD release show.  So Avuncular simply did not get the love it deserved, but the home improvement project  did.  Now here we are a couple years down the road and the home improvement project is in the rearview mirror.  After finishing it I got a hankering to get back in the recording studio, so I booked some time locally at Laurel Lane studios here in San Luis Obispo, CA  with Damon Castillo.  It was a departure from my other albums, where I absconded to the Bay Area to record with John Vanderslice at Tiny Telephone studios.  Those analog recording sessions were brief an efficient.  Both sessions took 6 days each and we hammered out a whole album in that time.

It was not in the cards this time to head up to the bay area, so this time I was able to stretch out the recording process over several months, since Damon’s studio is about 3 miles from my house, as opposed to Tiny Telephone, which is 250 miles away.  I also recorded to Pro Tools (digital software rather than analog tape) this time.  Having recorded both analog and digital I must say that there is not a right way or a wrong way.  They both have their charms and I feel very lucky to have experienced both processes.

Bottom line, I am finished with my new album.  It has been recorded, mixed, and mastered, and now my friend Joe Koenig is working on the album art.  I am aiming for a release date sometime in the spring of 2019.

I am proud of this album.  It has a bit of everything.  There are a couple bare, solo acoustic tracks, there are a couple tracks that are quiet and mellow but with some production, and there are some rocking, groovy tracks.  It has a bit of everything.  And it is coming your way.  The title is “How Could a Man”, which is also one of my favorite tracks.  Stay tuned!

Marketing the new album

So let’s see.  I posted an event on Facebook letting everyone (all 192 of them) know that my CD is now available, and I posted something on Twitter and Instagram, and I sent out an email to the 27 people on my mailing list.  And I sent copies to reviewers, but you know how that goes.  It is very hit or miss.  Last time around I got lucky and had a few hits.  This time, we shall see.

But in the end I am not sure where to go from here.  How does a guy with a day job and no plans to tour expand his audience?  Well, I suppose I can start local.  I am super busy right now but I need to play some gigs.  Hell, I didn’t even have a CD release show, save for a private hoedown at my house.

So, marketing the new album.  What to do?


How about make a rudimentary music video!  OK, here you go…

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/182795326″>Fifty-Fifty Shot</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user56649527″>Derek Senn</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>