The Year In Spin
From local to national releases, 2010 was a rich year for sounds
by Cory Frye
ALBANY — Can I be honest with you? I hate lists. They’re the bane of my existence. But, unfortunately for me, I love being a critic (grouser for profit), and for my species, lists are a necessary evil.
They tend to be disseminated in increments of five or 10 because, for whatever reason, that’s how we like ’em. They seem complete, somehow. “Top 10 Songs of All Time” — that’s a pretty standard one, perfect for hit-bait and heated confrontations.
For the more serious among us, there are specific lists, like, say, “Top 5 Album Openers Ever,” which ideally demonstrates the writer’s geeky depths and helps fuel stalemates between stubborn proponents of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days,” Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts I-IV” and Pink Floyd’s “Speak to Me” (correct answer: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”). If you’re really good, you can go super-meta: “Top 10 Songs Where the Singer Goes ‘Chaaah.’ ” Don’t touch that one yet; it’s a work in progress.
But the absolute worst are the year-enders, where you chum through 12 months of accumulated entertainment in a futile attempt to condense everything into a satisfactory coda. From a single-minded perspective, you have to somehow create something definitive and universal. The punchline, of course, is that you can’t win. You’ll always miss something vital and second-guess every excision and inclusion until the thing’s been typeset for embarrassing posterity — and still you won’t be satisfied.
It’s excruciating enough to winnow a master list of 100 or more items into a more reasonable number. Because of those 100, there’s always at least one you’ll regret losing in a fit of impetuous slash or a temporary loss of clarity.But it doesn’t matter how carefully you prune: You’ll still field weeks of e-mails from members of the Whadabbout tribe, each wounded by some criminal omission.
I’m definitely not man enough to declare an Album of the Year. I tried it in the Entertainer once, about a decade ago, with the Flaming Lips’ “The Soft Bulletin.” Although I championed the disc with passion and still love it today (“Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” — brrr!), I was never convinced I was right. There was just that, y’know, professional obligation. David Fricke had an Album of the Year, why not lil’ ol’ me?
So rather than contend with the madness and migraines of this imperfect science, I’ve ixnayed the imperious “Top”-this jazz and “Best”-that jive and called this list “The Year in Spin.” It is exclusive to me (as most lists are to their creators) and includes albums from 2010 that I think you should hear. My sole criteria: I played the hell out of ’em.
[ed note: other reviews removed – but some good stuff; check out the full article at the link below]
Chandler Travis Philharmonic, “Chandler Travis Philharmonic Blows!” (Sonic Trout)
They don’t mean “blow” in the way you think (although the title’s a deliberate pun) but in the way jazzbos would describe explosions that flattened dance halls to firewood. Discs like this restore my love for sound and the written word. With its pickled Dixieland ebullience, wicked irreverence and demented melodic sparkle, “Blows!” is unbridled joy clasped between two covers (both of which, incidentally, are hilarious).
Titles like “You and Me, Pushing Up Daisies” (sweetly silly), “The Day the Casuals Went to Sweden” and “Fruit Bat Fun” (the words “fruit” and “bat” bounced ‘round whimsy) front jazz-thrashed whirligigs of inspired lunacy shaped by genuine freaks be-fleshed as accomplished musicians. Lock ’em up and hope they invite you in. (www.chandlertravis.com)