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Year in Review

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The best overlooked Chicago hip-hop releases of 2015

Posted By on 12.30.15 at 03:00 PM

One of the top five
  • One of the top five
"What are your favorite overlooked Chicago hip-hop releases of 2015?" I posted that to Twitter as I listened through my own choices for the year, and the wide range of responses I got reminded me that my question isn't as simple as it seems. Some folks named projects I'd considered well-loved and thoroughly covered, among them Sicko Mobb's first mixtape of the year, Super Saiyan Vol. 2, which earned praise from Pitchfork. In the Reader, Gossip Wolf covered Super Saiyan Vol. 2 when it dropped in April, and I previewed Sicko Mobb's Subterranean performance in May.

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Peter Margasak's favorite albums of 2015, numbers 20 through 11

Posted By on 12.30.15 at 10:00 AM

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Read about picks 40 through 31 and 30 through 21.

Part three of this year's countdown:

20) Mette Henriette, Mette Henriette (ECM)
Young Norwegian reedist and composer Mette Henriette released one of the year's most distinctive and assured debuts—a double CD on the prestigious ECM label—and I hope it portends a great deal more to come. Henriette grew up focusing on improvisation, but she spent many nights composing at home by herself, writing delicate miniatures (mostly between one and two minutes) that serve as vessels for spontaneous, richly textured playing both serene and turbulent. She made the first disc with a nimble trio featuring pianist Johan Lindvall and cellist Katrine Schiøtt, and the shapes of its songs frequently recall the music of Erik Satie; the second disc, for which she enlisted the Cikada Quartet and a slew of Norway's best jazz artists (among them trumpeter Eivind Lonning and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen), opens up much bigger spaces. The intimacy and power of Henriette's playing comes through clearly in both settings.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Peter Margasak's favorite albums of 2015, numbers 30 through 21

Posted By on 12.29.15 at 10:00 AM

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The countdown continues. Read about numbers 40 through 31 here.

30) Ricardo Dias Gomes, -11 (RVNG Intl.)
On his low-key solo debut, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Dias Gomes—known best, by those who know him at all, as bassist in the excellent band Caetano Veloso has led for the past decade or so—creates a weirdly hermetic sound world, alternating between tender, introspective ballads, rude electronic grooves, and dissonant ambience. I sometimes wish for more follow-through, but I’ve come to love the album's diaristic intimacy and rawness.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Peter Margasak's favorite albums of 2015, numbers 40 through 31

Posted By on 12.28.15 at 10:00 AM

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Starting today and continuing through Thursday, I'm counting down my 40 favorite albums of 2015. The usual caveat applies: I truly love all this music, but take the rankings with a grain of salt. And please bear in mind that I'm not trying to be definitive. (Also, I consider D'Angelo's excellent Black Messiah to be a 2014 release, which is why you won't see it here anywhere—due to a poorly timed move, though, I didn't manage to make a list last year.)

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Monday, December 21, 2015

The best jazz recordings of 2015

Posted By on 12.21.15 at 12:00 PM

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Today the results of the annual jazz critics' poll organized by Francis Davis were published on NPR's A Blog Supreme, the poll's home for the past couple years. (The poll started at the Village Voice, then moved to Rhapsody before landing at NPR.) Rudresh Mahanthappa and Maria Schneider tied for top honors. Below is the ballot I submitted for the poll, which includes several selections that landed in the top ten.

Ten best albums:

1) Henry Threadgill Zooid, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi)
2) J.D. Allen, Graffiti (Savant)
3) Jack DeJohnette, Made in Chicago (ECM)
4) Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi)
5) Josh Berman Trio, A Dance and a Hop (Delmark)
6) Mary Halvorson, Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
7) Vijay Iyer Trio, Break Stuff (ECM)
8) Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Epicenter (Clean Feed)
9) Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi)
10) Eve Risser, Des Pas Sur la Neige (Clean Feed)

Historical:

1) Miles Davis, At Newport: 1955-1975 (Columbia/Legacy)
2) Bengt Nordström, Sven-Åke Johansson & Alexander von Schlippenbach, Stockholm Connection (Umlaut)
3) Staffan Harde, Staffan Harde (Corbett vs. Dempsey/SJR)

Vocal:

Cecile McLorin Salvant, For One to Love (Mack Avenue)

Debut:

Mette Henriette, Mette Henriette (ECM)

Latin:

Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba: the Conversation Continues (Motema)


Today's playlist:

Johnny Taylor, Taylored in Silk (Stax)
Various artists, Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distortion & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978 (Analog Africa)
Joëlle Léandre & George Lewis, Transatlantic Visions (Rogue Art)
Robert Ashley, Wolfman (Alga Marghen)
Raoul Björkenheim, Ecstasy (Cuneiform)


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Monday, December 29, 2014

The late news from 2014: Lucas Museum, Vivian Maier, Steven Salaita, and more

Posted By on 12.29.14 at 07:00 AM

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  • Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

In its latter months and days, 2014 kicked out a few surprises. Besides Cosby, Cuba, and North Korea’s near conquest of Sony Pictures, at the end of the year:

The Lucas Museum looks worse now that we’ve seen it. Never mind the lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks to keep the Lucas project off those lakefront parking lots (next court date: February 26), the proposed big white zit design for the building, by Beijing-based architect Ma Yansong, looks like it could sink the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art all by itself.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

More of the best books I read this year

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 03:30 PM

There are books I read because I think Reader readers would find them interesting, and there are books I read because they fulfill some sort of personal need or curiosity. Sometimes the two categories overlap. Here, in no particular order, are a few books I read or reread in 2014 that particularly resonated with me (though only a few were actually published in 2014).

How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis (out in the U.S. in February, 2015) because some of us measure our lives by the books we read.

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead because some of us also measure our lives by reading the same book over and over.

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Beer and Metal's best of 2014, chosen by you

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 02:00 PM

I didnt review all that many packaged beers this year. These are most of them, in fact.
  • I didn't review all that many packaged beers this year. These are most of them, in fact.

I wrote 32 Beer and Metal posts in 2014, down from 42 last year, but the Chicago craft community was busier than ever. Though I like to think I made up for the drop in quantity with an increase in quality (and I did break a few stories, in my own way), I definitely overlooked some solid breweries. When I finally meet Clint Bautz from Lake Effect, I'm going to feel like apologizing to the guy.

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A look back at the great repertory film programming in Chicago in 2014

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 01:00 PM

Block Cinemas revival of the silent classic The Wind featured live music as well as live sound effects.
  • Block Cinema's revival of the silent classic The Wind featured live music as well as live sound effects.
Chicago has such a tremendous repertory film scene that every year we get to see as many great old movies as new ones. So in addition to compiling a list of my favorite Chicago premieres, each December I make another list of the year's best revivals and rediscoveries. I'll acknowledge right out the bat that this list is incomplete—as much as I try to keep up with all the city's worthwhile programming, inevitably there are screenings that pass my attention. Please contribute to the comments section if you feel there are any important shows I missed. And to any local programmers reading—keep up the great work.

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The best overlooked Chicago hip-hop releases of 2014

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 12:30 PM

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As I mentioned in my Year In Review piece on "the best things about Chicago music," the hip-hop scene's empire is full of exciting, vital music. It often feels excessive, and there's stuff that always falls through the cracks. With that in mind here are five great local hip-hop releases from 2014 that I thought were overlooked in one way or another—this isn't definitive, but these five definitely deserve your attention.

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