I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

December 04, 2016 - 2:21 p.m.

Best Albums of 2016

Today's the day I announce my top albums of 2016. That seems absurd as the year isn't over yet. Usually I wait a little longer but the WFUV staff has announced their picks and I'm staff even if they don't pay me or even know that I'm staff. I will hold off a little longer just in case a new album is released in the next few minutes and write a bit about my day. For the benefit of those of you who don't care about my day (i.e. heartless monsters) you can just skip down to the horizontal line.

There were three great concerts to go to last night, Chris Smither was up at Common Ground Community Concerts, M Shanghai and The Lords of Liechtenstein at Jalopy, and Ian Fitzgerald at Bowery Electric. Which did I choose? None, I needed a day off from music. Instead I planned on shopping at three different places. I, as is my want, put it off way too long and never go to Stop and Shop. I did make it to the Union Square holiday market and Trader Joe's. While I explored the entire market the reason I went was to pick up my annual supply of the No Chewing Allowed hot chocolate mix. I got addicted to their truffles years ago. When they introduced the hot chocolate, I had a cup that they made there. They put a truffle in it. I posted on Facebook, "I just drank a cup of orgasm." I still feel that way. I haven't checked them out but other years you could also get it at the markets at Bryant Park and Columbus Circle. What I bought at Trader Joe's was not as exciting but I had a great conversation with the checkout guy. I made my usual joke, the bill was $18.81 and I said, "A very good year." He asked what happened then? I said, I don't know, I just like saying that. I felt bad because I couldn't think of anything that happened that year. But he said, he does the same thing if it's a year that had something memorable happen. He had one for $19.68 and he took a college course called "The Sixties." So, we discussed the events of 1968 and 1969 and then went on to when did the Sixties end. His prof said 1968; I said, "They ended with Watergate." He agreed as did the woman at the next check out. And that conversation is why you shop at Trader Joe's.

Now on to my top albums of the year. This is always difficult. I leave off albums I loved. I don't pick a fixed number though it usually ends up being near ten. At some point, it's either add five albums or none and that's where I stop. I think this is the first year I had no overlap with John Platt. Remember best of lists are purely subjective, except for mine which are absolute truth. Within the groups the order is alphabetical. Ranking would be arbitrary. These are only full albums, no Eps.

There are four albums I want to choose as album of the year. When I got these I had to listen to them over and over again. They are too different to put one ahead of the other. The funny part is that the Irish artist did not make the Irish album. You might call it cultural appropriation, I call it art.

  • Honor FinneganRoses and Victory: I got this album early in the year, maybe February. I had heard Honor do many of them live and knew this would make my year end list. I listened to the album and I knew it would make the top tier. You know the cliché, "It made me laugh, it made me cry?" It's true about this album. It succeeds on every level, great songs with great arrangements sung by a great singer. I don't do a best song list but Swimming is the song of the year. I didn't want to choose but I will. This is album of the year.

  • House of HamillWide Awake: This is the only album by a band I've never seen but I have seen each member of the duo, Brian Buchannan and Rose Baldino. Brian is in Enter the Haggis and Rose in Burning Bridget Cleary. I know Rose and BBC well and asked her to send me the CD when it was released. It's the Irish album, at least partially. Let me see how I classified it, "Unknown Genre:" I guess I couldn't decide when I ripped it. Or I just forgot. I love BBC and I love ETH so I had high expectations yet Wide Awake managed to exceed them. There are instrumentals you can dance to, they each sing lead on songs, they harmonize. Like Honor's album I immediately knew it was making the top of my best of list.

  • Michael DavesOrchids and Violence: Michael Daves is the king of the New York Bluegrass scene. He had what I call an ambitious project, and what he calls a crazy idea. He made a double album, with exactly the same songs in the same order on both discs; The first as acoustic bluegrass and the second as electric rock. He surrounded himself with great musicians, all virtuosi as is Michael on guitar. He sounds like an old-time country singer, someone who would be friends with Hank Williams. I'm going to see him tonight in a trio show with Brittany Haas and Chris Eldridge. They are going to both come up again on another album that made the list. I had to listen to just a few seconds of the playing to know this album was making the list.

  • Villa PalagoniaRhythm and RootsI have heard almost every live performance VP has done in the New York area. I got an advanced copy of the album. VP is Allison Scola and Joe Ravo. The album explores Allison's Sicilian roots in both the old country and New York. There are sensual dances, lively tarantellas, social commentary, and history. I have listened to this album.

Now for the albums that I hate not including in the first list. You have heard me rave over some of these. There were a few that were on the first list then removed. They are all albums you need to hear and if you can afford it, buy. They are essential parts of my music collection

  • The Belle HollowsMiller's Creek: I just discovered these guys at NERFA and have not had as much time to digest it as the others but it still makes my list. I've been listening to my NERFA music on shuffle and whenever one of the songs from the albums pops up I take notice.

  • The BombadilsNew Shoes: I discovered this Canadian band at last year's NERFA and this year they gave me their new album which is even better than the last one. Much of their music is what people that don't know bluegrass call bluegrass. It's beautiful string music with harmony vocals and flute thrown in for good measure. They even took their name from one of my favorite literary characters.

  • Burning Bridget ClearyThese Are The Days: BBC has been one of my favorite bands since I met them at my first NERFA. They just keep getting better and better, not surprising as Rose was just a teen when they started. Remember Rose, she's also in House of Hamill. This is an Irish album that lands right on my sweet spot.

  • Jordan TiceHorse County: Jordan is a classically trained old time/bluegrass guitarist. The album is a mix of 6 songs and 5 instrumentals. He has an amazing band that includes Brittany Haas (Crooked Still), Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers), and Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers) who also co-produced it. This is music I close my eyes and lose myself in it. You might also want to dance to some of it. It's hillbilly music with elements of Bach and rock and roll. <

  • Scott Wolfson and Other HeroesWelcoming the Flood: This is another album I got early and knew would make the cut. Scott hates when people call it Folk Rock but it's what it is. It doesn't sound like the Byrds or Fairport Convention, but they didn't sound like each other. It's Folk Rock because it has rock instrumentation and the beat but folk lyrics. I'm listening to each album as I write about them and just got a charge listening to Never Going Back Again

  • Sharon GoldmanKol Isha (A Woman's Voice: I've known Sharon for ages but with this album she takes it to a new level. It celebrates her Jewish heritage and her feminism. The songs are powerful, soulful, and sometimes subversive.

I wasn't going to list the honorable mentions but it's killing me; They deserve to be mentioned. They are better than 95% of the music out there. They are great.

I'm afraid to see who I left off this year by accident. One year it was Spuyten Duyvil. This year I caught Michael Daves and No Fuss and Feathers after I thought I had finished. Someone is going to say, "What about The Act? Where "The Act" is filling in for any act I don't like and I wonder; "Has this person ever talked to me? Do they just assume everyone's taste is the same as theirs? This is peeve of mine. More often it's someone asking me if I'm going to see The Act like there is a good chance I will be. They have never seen me at a show by The Act. They act surprised when I say, "no." So don't ask me if I'm going to see Dawes or expect to see them on best of list. They are for people's brains who have been addled by wearing too much argyle. It's nice having someone I don't know to use as a mocking example. They are probably nice guys but they don't know me an won't read this and if they do they'll say, "yeah, but we are hits."

This took me forever. Now I have to make my brunch at 2 PM. No wonder I'm so hungry.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile December 04, 2016
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