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Year in Review

Friday, January 5, 2018

Peter Margasak’s 40 favorite albums of 2017, numbers 10 through 1

Posted By on 01.05.18 at 07:00 AM

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The fourth and final part of this year's countdown begins below. You can read about picks 40 through 31 here, 30 through 21 here, and 20 through 11 here.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Peter Margasak’s 40 favorite albums of 2017, numbers 20 through 11

Posted By on 01.04.18 at 07:00 AM

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Part three of this year's countdown begins below. You can read about picks 40 through 31 here and picks 30 through 21 here.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Peter Margasak’s 40 favorite albums of 2017, numbers 30 through 21

Posted By on 01.03.18 at 07:00 AM

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Part two of this year's countdown begins below. You can read about picks 40 through 31 here.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Peter Margasak’s 40 favorite albums of 2017, numbers 40 through 31

Posted By on 01.02.18 at 07:00 AM

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Today through Friday, I'm counting down my 40 favorite albums of 2017. The usual caveat applies: I love all this music, but you should take my rankings with a grain of salt. And please bear in mind that I'm not trying to be definitive.

As big a pain as it is to compile this list—and as skeptical as I am of the practice of ranking albums—I do love this time of year. By reading other peoples' lists over the past couple weeks, I've already discovered a slew of records. Of course, that only underlines how arbitrary this practice is—a month from now, after reading a few more, my own list would probably be different.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ben Sachs’s favorite films of 2017

Posted By on 12.20.17 at 01:13 PM

Toni Erdmann
  • Toni Erdmann
A few caveats to this list. Since, according to Reader rules, I can include only movies that received their Chicago premieres in 2017, I'm unable to list two of my favorite films to have received local runs this year. Terence Davies's A Quiet Passion and Alain Guiraudie's Staying Vertical both premiered here at the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival, which makes them ineligible for inclusion here. I didn't see either one until this spring, however, and both made a substantial impact on my moviegoing year.

A Quiet Passion strikes me, after repeat viewings, as a masterpiece,  one of Davies's best films. More than a biopic of Emily Dickinson, Passion considers the misogyny of 19th-century American life through the perspective of a woman who managed, in certain ways, to rise above it. The movie is also a beautiful representation of the art of poetry, with Davies's graceful style providing a visual analogue to Dickinson's verse.

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Peter Margasak’s favorite jazz albums of 2017

Posted By on 12.20.17 at 12:26 PM

JD Allen's Radio Flyer
  • JD Allen's Radio Flyer
This morning NPR Music published the results of the annual Jazz Critics Poll organized by Francis Davis—it's been hosted by NPR Music for the past five years, but it started in 2006 at the Village Voice. Though only one album from my personal top ten landed in the upper echelons of the poll, I can heartily recommend all of the consensus picks, especially the new albums by Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Nicole Mitchell, and Roscoe Mitchell. You can find the entire list here.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

The best overlooked Chicago hip-hop of 2016

Posted By on 12.29.16 at 04:31 PM

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Say what you will about 2016 as a whole—the cover of our Year in Review issue sums it up—but Chicago hip-hop had a great year. And while December has traditionally been a quiet month for musicians, no one around here seemed to get the memo. Just look at the past week: Chance the Rapper and Jeremih released a joint Christmas mixtape buoyed by collaborations with Chicagoans from a diversity of scenes, including street-rap phenom Lud Foe and Teklife producers DJ Spinn and Gant-Man; King Louie dropped the long-gestating (by his standards, anyway) Tony 2 on the first anniversary of his near-fatal shooting; and Vic Spencer put out his second full-length in two months, The Ghost of Living, produced by Internet sensation Big Ghost. And the past month has seen wonderful releases by Chicagoans with lower profiles but plenty to say—among them Walter J. Liveharder's We Buy Gold, Lin Z's Awetumn EP, and Sage, the 64th Wonder's Sagewav LP.

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Stuff we read—and liked!—in 2016

Posted By on 12.29.16 at 01:20 PM

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One of the strangest parts of this extremely strange year for me was that for roughly six weeks, between the end of September and the aftermath of the election, I was completely unable to read a book for pleasure. Instead of losing myself in another world, or in someone else's brain, which is the reason I usually read, I kept groping for my phone to check the news. There was too much happening and too much to be anxious about. It felt irresponsible to abandon the real world even for an hour or two. I could miss something important. (Individual at-bats during the World Series qualified.)

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Leah Pickett’s top ten films of 2016

Posted By on 12.22.16 at 11:30 AM

Moonlight
  • Moonlight

This past summer, a few articles appeared that called the Fate of Movies into question. "Why has this summer blockbuster season been so bad?" asked Benjamin Lee of the Guardian. "Could this be the year that movies stopped mattering?" pondered Wired's Brian Raftery. The May-to-September season was indeed underwhelming, especially for comic book fans, and a string of disappointing reboots and superhero movies (Deadpool was a surprise exception) strengthened the argument that 2016 has been a subpar year for film in general. But I disagree with that assessment—I watched many features I liked or admired, only a few I loathed, and at least ten I loved. Several were independent productions, some arriving through nontraditional channels like Netflix and ESPN. The best of the bunch pushed at the boundaries of their form—they challenged viewers' comfort levels and attention spans.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Peter Margasak's favorite albums of 2015, numbers 10 through 1

Posted By on 12.31.15 at 10:00 AM

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Here's the final installment of the year-end countdown of my favorite albums from 2015. Read about numbers 40 through 31, 30 through 21, and 20 through 11.

10) Michael Pisaro, A Mist Is a Collection of Points (New World)
On this recording from Michael Pisaro, the most celebrated American member of the Wandelweiser composers' collective, sparsely charted resonant notes hang in the air like the mist of its title. The three-part work—performed by pianist Phillip Bush, percussionist Greg Stuart, and Pisaro himself adding sine-wave tones—provides a series of perspectives on how sounds spread, disperse, and interact, focusing on the acoustic phenomena that occur after each individual note arrives and on the shaping of music by the space around it. 

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