Instrumental Album of the Year Discovered in Spam Folder
Article Runs Under Editorial Protest
By Matthew Kauffman Smith
[Ed. note: Upon returning to the office after the holidays, staff discovered the following article in the magazine’s email spam folder. The piece appears at first to depend on a mid-November context, but via a conceit so flimsy that running the piece in January hardly damages readability. Also: our IT specialist asked us to run a test article to check whether a new server is functioning. Clarifying notes have been inserted in the article where possible.]
checked the eMusic catalog every week for the first three months of 2016, hoping that the new album by Wintersleep, my favorite band from Nova Scotia, would magically appear. Wintersleep’s album Ho Hum finished 12th in the 2012 edition of Album Bracketology, so naturally I was excited for their first new material in four years. Then, it happened: In March I searched “Wintersleep” again and an album named “Dreams” popped up. Without consulting any reviews or referencing any videos or information about the album, I bought it. I expected songs like this:
Instead, I got this:
Apparently there is a Philadelphia ambient music maker who goes by the name Winter Sleep. In my defense, eMusic spelled it the Nova Scotia all-one-word way, Wintersleep. We here at Album Bracketology (and Propeller) believe that every album deserves a chance, regardless of circumstances. [Ed. note: No one at Propeller has ever established any Album Bracketology policies. The author is an independent contractor whose music tournaments do not reflect the values or musical tastes of the editorial staff.] If you’re accidentally invited to the show, you still get to perform. Winter Sleep’s unlikely placement in the tournament to crown the top album of 2016 created an opportunity.
Propeller has long scoffed at the notion that an album of the year should be announced in November or December. We believe in careful discernment and ample time to listen to all 100,000 albums released every year—or at least 128 of them. To coincide with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament every year, we hold a double elimination tournament to crown a champion and award the Album Bracketology Cup (ABC) to the album of the year.
Album Bracketology recognizes, however, that readers crave the immediate. They want news NOW, even if it’s misguided or wrong. We hear you, readers, and have decided that we will be the only publication in the nation to bring you the first album of the year reveal, as well as the last. [Ed. note: The editorial staff was at first cheered by the previous sentence, mistakenly believing it suggested this would be the author’s last column. After discussion about the various ways in which the sentence does not work as a piece of communication, however, the staff realized its meaning is indeterminate and may in fact threaten a future piece of writing.]
“The Winter Sleep Incident,” as it is referred to in the Propeller offices, reminded us of the early season tournaments in college basketball that happen in places like New York, Anchorage, and the Bahamas. [Ed. note: The author has never been invited to the magazine’s offices.] Maybe these tourneys don’t really matter, but they always produce a surprise team that wins a tournament, finds itself ranked, and then struggles to live up to its early season success. Still, these tournaments do crown champions, and teams play for trophies. Since ESPN College Hoops Tip-off marathon, which features thirty straight hours of men’s and women’s basketball games, started Monday. [Ed. note: The copyeditor declined to attempt correction of the previous sentence.] The annual event unofficially signifies the beginning of the season, so we decided now is the time to anoint a new champ. If you’re unable to watch Niagara versus Hartford at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, then our side tournament offers an alternative. [Ed. note: Upon reading the use of both second-person and first-person plural in the previous sentence, the copyeditor filed a formal complaint. The remainder of the article appears under official editorial protest.]
So, without further ado, Propeller presents the 2016 Album Bracketology Early Season Tournament to Find the 2016 Instrumental Album of the Year with an eight-album, single-elimination tournament to be played right now from the beautiful island of Maui.
fter seven years of seeding the tournament by play count, this year Album Bracketology is shaking things up. A glitch with Apple products has skewed the play counts the past two years, but more importantly, a new direction keeps things fresh. This year, we’re playing the tournament out in alphabetical order. There is still some discussion whether to alphabetize solo artists by first name or last name, but we don’t need to make a decision yet because, as you’ll see below, William Tyler would be in the same spot anyway. Let’s meet the contestants and go down to the court for the first-round action.
Fresh Cut Orchestra defeats Explosions in the Sky: It is fitting that the first game of the day features a band from Philadelphia (Fresh Cut) against an Austin band (EITS), since half of the tournament features acts from either Philly or Austin. Explosions in the Sky are one of the most successful instrumental indie rock bands of the last decade, while ten-piece Fresh Cut Orchestra just released its second album this year and is a mix of jazz with some Latin influence. The young upstarts secure the upset.
Oddisee defeats The Olympians: Washington, D.C., rapper Oddisee finished No. 7 last year in Album Bracketology with The Good Fight, and returned this year with an EP, Alwasta, and The Odd Tape, an instrumental groove with some mellow beats. He proved his versatility and that his run to the top last year was no fluke. The Olympians (Winter Sleep alert: there is a band in London called Olympians) is another stalwart band on the Daptone label, which also released albums from Album Bracketology contenders Charles Bradley and Lee Fields this year.
Progger defeats Tycho: By past tournament rules, these two acts would have been the top two seeds based on play count, but this is a new era. While it is highly probable that both albums end up in the prestigious top fifty in the larger tournament in March, Austin jazz/rock band Progger move on.
William Tyler defeats Winter Sleep: Winter Sleep was an interesting story for a while. William Tyler, the finger style guitarist, moves on.
Now that you know the contestants, let’s just breeze through the semifinals.
Oddisee defeats Fresh Cut Orchestra
Progger defeats William Tyler
Before we go back to Maui for the championship, here’s a quick look at some preseason Album Bracketology storylines:
The search for a repeat champion: For the past seven years (we were independent for four years before signing a thirty-year contract with Propeller three years ago), Album Bracketology has never crowned the same champion twice. The eighth edition could yield similar results. Out of past winners, only 2010 champion Dr. Dog released an album in 2016. [Ed. note: The copyeditor cites the previous three sentences as evidence of the impropriety of being asked to edit this article. The "for the past...has never" construction is not standard, but alterations to either side of the construction yield little improvement. The second sentence suggests a "similar result" despite the fact that the first sentence refers to "never," which means that, technically, the second sentence promises a repetition of something that has never happened. The third sentence might be fixed by cutting the word out, but after the violation of rational thinking introduced by the second sentence, nothing can be certain.]
Kishi Bashi’s quest: While there has been no repeat champion, there has been a repeat runner-up. Kishi Bashi finished second in 2012 and 2014, and returns with the 2016 album Sonderlust. Is this the year?
More potential breakthroughs: In addition to Kishi Bashi, other past runners-up to release albums this year include Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and the Head and the Heart. This year, there are also eight unique artists to finish in the top five in the past, and fifteen unique artists who have finished in the top ten. [Ed. note: Here, the writer could just have easily asserted that there are six duplicate artists to finish in the bottom ten in the future, and twelve duplicate artists who will occupy the top five. The sentence would be equally nonsensical.]
2015 returns: Bucking the trend of waiting a couple of years to put out a new album, 2016 Album Bracketology will feature four acts who all placed in the top ten in 2015: Oddisee, Beach Slang, Skinny Lister, and Chance the Rapper (with Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment) all return to the 2016 tournament after finishing in the top ten last year.
We now return to Maui for the tip-off between Oddisee and Progger. As is tradition in Album Bracketology, we take a look at the finalists.
Maybe it’s the Maui vibe and the days of the Propeller staff spending time on the beach in between covering the tournament. But the chill vibe of Oddisee fits the preseason mood. Due to only budgeting for one championship cup, Propeller can’t afford to give Oddisee any sort of trophy for his victory. But he does enter the March tournament with momentum. And he can sleep through winter knowing that whatever the future holds, he is a champion.
Matthew Kauffman Smith has made a convincing case for Weird Al Yankovic’s inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.