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Best Albums of 2016

The uniting factor among the albums that made my Best of 2016 list is that every one of them actively seeks to blur boundaries of genre. Devoted readers of my Best of lists will not be surprised by this, as musical curiosity and willingness to infuse different styles are some of my most desired traits in music. I can’t claim that I listened to a lot of music this year, but this list is fairly diverse, with styles ranging from country to jazz. Below is my list of (an increasingly arbitrary number of) favorite albums for the year:   12) Angel Olsen, MY WOMAN – Chicago folk artist Angel Olsen amps up the energy considerably in her latest effort. WOMAN is still guided by her intimate and pained vocals, but the music here benefits from an increased range of styles, ranging from the aching balladry of “Intern” to the punkish rancor of “Shut Up, Kiss Me” to the flat-out epic rock of “Sister”.   Essential listening: “Sister”, “Heart Shaped Face”     11) Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book – Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper punctuated his rise to public and critical acclaim with this neo-gospel/hip-hop album, which synthesizes his admiration more »

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Out Through the In Door: Analyzing the Dissonance in Ingrid Jensen’s Solo from “Transit”

The title is ultimately a Led Zeppelin reference (not too surprising, seeing as how one of my previous blog entries was an analysis of the alluded album), but it is relevant here for a couple reasons. First, Infernal Machines – the debut CD from New York-based big band Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – is heavily influenced by rock acts such as Led Zeppelin. Second, it is emblematic of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen’s approach towards using dissonance. She plays out, but she does so in a densely logical way.   Like many songs from Infernal Machines, “Transit” is a predominantly spacious composition that is driven by an ostinato vamp. This ostinato can essentially be reduced to a two-measure syncopated octave figure in the bass, which establishes both the piece’s rhythmic vitality and its D minor tonic (E minor for the Bb trumpet – since the transcription is in the trumpet’s key, I will refer to tonic as E minor from this point forward). This figure evolves beyond its simple gesture, and while the harmony does not always adhere to the E pedal, it is still unchangingly modal throughout. The harmony that develops tends to be the result of counterpoint in the more »