The Album Bracketology Field is Reduced to Forty-Eight
Part One: Expanded Confusion
Part Two: Cute Metal
Part Three: Live Look-Ins
Part Four: An Empty Head
Part Five: Lots of Colons
Part Six: Champion Determined
By Matthew Kauffman Smith
ack when I was still trying to be a positive influence on my kids (then they started reading this series and I lost all inside-the-house street cred), I used to listen to the Heartless Bastards frequently. When they asked who I was listening to, I said, “The Hearty Ba Bas.” Something vicious became super cute. The Hearty Ba Bas received heavy airplay around the house with their bluesy rock, led by the smoky vocals of Erika Wennerstrom. While the Bastards can rock and shred, their music isn’t as mean as their band name. They sound more hearty than heartless, more baba than bastard. [Ed. note: The following music video is dumb.]
Cheeky, harmless video. Deceiving band name. They have finished in the top 15 in Album Bracketology twice, and are poised to do so again. Most importantly, they are the No. 12 seed in this year’s tournament. In the other tournament, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the No. 12 seeds have beaten the No. 5 seeds about fifty percent of the time since 2008. It happened again the first weekend of the tournament, as University of Arkansas Little Rock defeated Purdue, and Yale—yes, that Yale—defeated Baylor. Yale, the cute little Ivy League school with a vicious mascot, the Bulldog. Just like the Heartless Bastards, Yale will fool you.
There is a trend—some may say fad—in Japan over the past couple of years called Cute Metal. Sure, a 12-seed beats a No. 5 and it’s interesting. But half of them win? Now it’s a trend. BABYMETAL came on the scene and it was, well, cute. They said they wanted to start a Cute Metal movement. Then LADYBABY and DOLL $ BOXX arrived. Now it’s a trend. Childish band names are in all caps, and just like the genre, cuteness is screaming at you. Note: this following video is just as good (or better) muted.
All of this is to say No. 5 Alabama Shakes, should they advance, needs to be aware of the Hearty Babas. No top seed, even in a fictitious tournament to decide the album of the year, is safe. Upsets, just like Japanese trends, are difficult to predict. They’re lurking.
This year, however, Album Bracketology has started out along chalk lines. The top nineteen seeds all won their first two rounds and No. 20, Seattle’s Supersuckers, were the highest seed to falter in the first two rounds. Brandi Carlile, No. 85, and No. 99 Screaming Females are the lowest seeds into the top thirty-two in the winners bracket. We take a break to salute the ultimate underdog, the Screaming Females, a.k.a. the Middle Tennessee State of rock and roll.
Speaking of underdogs, Briana Marela, the lowest seed in the tournament at No. 128, advanced through the loser’s bracket to reach the top sixty-four. She was one of three artists to make the Top 69 after advancing out of the STBTRM (Sub Tournament Before the Tournament that Really Matters), joining Girlpool and FFS.
[Ed. note: As must be explained every year, the author has already played this tournament out on paper and in his tortured head. What he fails to mention in this piece is that he is describing what happened in his “tournament” retroactively. Because the author apparently has unlimited free time, there is a loser’s bracket we learn little about, but this piece implies the following: the author has decided matches in the loser’s bracket, as well; some bands survive in the loser’s bracket, but others have lost there, and have thus been eliminated from the tournament; the teams that have been eliminated are given a final ranking; the author's taste in music is exceedingly narrow. WE APOLOGIZE FOR ALL OF THIS.]
And with that we reveal the brackets and, with the elimination of some bands, the final rankings at the bottom of the top 69 so far.
69. Mynabirds: Lovers Know
68. Hop Along: Painted Shut
67. Girlpool: Before the World Was Big
66. Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material
65. Rayland Baxter: Imaginary Man
64. Oh Wonder: Oh Wonder
63. Tamaryn: Cranekiss
62. Tame Impala: Currents
61. Briana Marela: All Around Us
60. Death Cab for Cutie: Kintsugi
59. Amason: Sky City
58. Radical Dads: Universal Coolers
57. Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People
56. Motopony: Welcome You
55. Shovels & Rope: Busted Jukebox, Vol. 1
54. Mikal Cronin: MCIII
53. Wolf Alice: Creature Songs
52. Kelela: Hallucinogen
51. Protomartyr: The Agent Intellect
50. Andra Day: Cheers to the Fall
49. FFS: FFS
[Ed.note: The brackets below are included as sent to us by the author. All Propeller editors or designers are either on vacation or have declined to do any work on the brackets. Apologies, as usual. This is what we're dealing with.]
THE DECEMBERISTS BRACKET
THE GRIMES BRACKET
THE GUSTER BRACKET
THE SLEATER-KINNEY BRACKET
Matthew Kauffman Smith has made a convincing case for Weird Al Yankovic's inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.