Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best New Movies I Saw

When it came to movies in 2016, I was kind of lax.

Not so much in terms of seeing movies, although there were some stretches when--due to scant appealing selections, work hours and/or the success of the Chicago Cubs--I tended to watch relatively few.

Altogether I saw about 100 movies, including 44 new releases--whether in theaters or subsequently at home--which isn't as many as some previous years, but not a paltry sum.

But where I was lax was in keeping track.

In each of the past 6 years, I had maintained a Filemaker database in which I entered each movie seen, the date, location and my rating of it on a 0-10 scale.

This year I got lazy and didn't.

I merely kept a list in the Notes app on my iPhone of each movie seen--and whether it was a 2016 release--but with no notations about my reaction.

So even more so than in the past, my Best Films of 2016 will be suspect not only due to my whims and opinions--and the fact that I saw far less than every notable movie--but to a Swiss cheese memory that is bound to give greater consideration to recently-watched films than ones seen early in the year.

Oh, well. It's not like I expect anyone to agree with my rankings anyway. But hopefully I'll point out some movies that may be worth your time.

Because some official 2015 films--for Academy Award purposes--weren't released in Chicagoland until 2016, the main one being The Revenant (and Anamolisa, which I never did see), I am considering anything that was newly available for me to see this year. And unlike some previous years, my list will include (or consider) foreign films and documentaries, rather than ranking those separately.

Also, as in years past, after my list I will include the Top 10 of my friend Dave, who tends to see a wider swath of art films than I do.

With the disclaimers out of the way, as best I can tell or remember, here are my choices of the:

Best New Movies Seen in 2016
(F = Foreign; D = Documentary; A = Animated; 15 = Officially a 2015 release)

1. Manchester by the Sea
2. Sing Street
3. Kubo and the Two Strings (A)
4. Loving
5. Moonlight
6. Hell or High Water
7. 13th (D)
8. Fences 
9. The Revenant (15) 
10. Indignation
11. Jackie
12. Lion
13. Nocturnal Animals
14. Moana (A)
15. Zootopia (A)
16. Mustang (F)
17. 10 Cloverfield Lane
18. Midnight Special
19. La La Land
20. Rogue One

Honorable Mention (in preference order)

Born to Be Blue
The Accountant

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (D)
Love & Friendship
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba
Oasis: Supersonic (D)
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Nice Guys
Edge of Seventeen
Mountains May Depart (F)

Notable 2016 Movies Not Yet Seen
Queen of Katwe, Eye in the Sky, Don't Think Twice, Doctor Strange, Paterson, 20th Century Women, Neruda (F), Sully, I Daniel Blake, The Salesman (F), Toni Erdmann (F), Hidden Figures, The Handmaiden (F), Elle (F), Green Room, Silence, Fits, Little Men, Certain Women

Notable Movies Seen But Not Cited Above
The Lobster, Everybody Wants Some, Captain America: Civil War, Miles Ahead, Hail Caesar!, Jason Bourne, Jane Got a Gun

Dave's Top 10 Movies of 2016

1. Manchester by the Sea
2. The Lobster
3. The Revenant (F, 15)
4. Hell or High Water
5. The Witness (D)
6. Magical Girl (F)
7. Tower (D, A)
8. La La Land
9. Elle (F)
10. Fences

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best of 2016: Some Most Memorable Meals

As with most years, I ate at a lot of restaurants in 2016, and this year I kept a list of every one.

Including restaurant meals eaten at home and branded food court selections in a corporate setting (i.e. during a job assignment), the list had over 300 entries.

And entreés. (Though I didn't keep track of specific meals eaten, other than occasional photos.)

I certainly ate at a lot of places I liked, from old standbys to new discoveries. A few cost a pretty penny, but compared to last year--when I was inspired to try several places on a Zagat Top 50 list for Chicago--there were relatively few steakhouse splurges or gourmet explorations.

So I don't think I need to divide a list out by categories like I did last year, but it also seems odd to try to compare $50 meals with $8 meals, or those eaten this week with some consumed last January.

Hence, I'll do this.

Restaurants I Especially Savored in 2016
Not in ranked order. Primarily based on food and perhaps setting & ambiance; not factoring in companions, occasions, etc.

● Meson Sabika - Naperville, IL. Excellent tapas in an exquisite setting.
● Del Frisco's - Chicago. A terrific Restaurant Week choice for a hearty steak.
● Pappy's Smokehouse - St. Louis. Legendary BBQ joint with ribs and sides that merit the hype.
● RJ Grunts - Chicago. The original Lettuce Entertain You joint; was there on a night baby back ribs were available and they were great, along with one of the best salad bars anywhere. Also loved the ribs at LEY's L. Woods in Lincolnwood.
● 90 Miles Cuban Cafe - Lincolnwood, IL. Long a fan on their Chicago locations, the Lincolnwood branch didn't disappoint when I finally got there the other day.
● Glenn's Diner - Chicago. Splendid fresh fish preparations in a casual setting on Montrose; has become a favorite in recent years.
● Las Fuentes - Morton Grove, IL. My "go-to" Mexican restaurant, and I haven't tasted better Mole sauce (on the enchiladas) anywhere else. Other Mexican restaurants I quite enjoyed in 2016 include Mercadito (Chicago), El Mariachi (Chicago), Depot Nuevo (Wilmette) and Tortilla Rounds (Washington, DC).
● Sonny's - Philadelphia. Can't say I really got the fuss about Philly Cheesesteaks before going here; now I do.
● Langostinos Nayarit - Mount Prospect, IL. Stumbled on this Mexican seafood restaurant one evening and found it rather unique and quite enjoyable.
● Shapiro's Delicatessen - Indianapolis. Made a point of stopping here on the way home from Ohio; loved the Reuben. Also had a great Corned Beef sandwich at Ontario St. Cafe in Cleveland.
● Luke's Lobster - Chicago. With top-notch lobster rolls on Lasalle near Randolph, it's now my favorite place to eat before theater at the Cadillac Palace. And the crab roll is just as good, for less.
State & Lake Chicago Tavern - Chicago. Was a lot nicer that I envisioned (given the "tavern" in the name) and served some really good seafood.
Phillips Seafood - Baltimore. While I wasn't as smitten by their famous Maryland Crab Cakes as I was probably supposed to be, eating them al fresco on the Inner Harbor was still rather cool.

(of places visited in 2016)

Pizza: Pizano's - Glenview (both thick & thin). Also: Gino's East, Lou Malnatis
Italian Beef: Al's Beef. Also: Johnnie's, Portillo's
Hot Dogs: Poochie's - Skokie. Also: Superdawg, Little Island (Evanston). (Note: Technically, I prefer and tend to eat Polish Sausage.)
Tacos: Big & little's - Chicago. Also: Taco Nano (Northfield); El Carrito (Chicago); Carbon (Chicago); Taqueria Los Comales (Niles)
Chinese: Great Beijing - Lincolnwood Also: Orange Garden (Chicago)
Italian: The Noodle - Wilmette. Also: Maggiano's, Noodles & Co.
Other Ethnic: Kabul House (Afghan) - Skokie. Also: Shokran (Moroccan; Chicago)
Gyros: Dengeos - Skokie
Burgers: Labriola Cafe - Oak Brook. Also: Hackney's (Glenview), Boba Burger (Niles)
Salad: Pizza Capri (Mixed Greens salad) - Chicago. Hated to see Sweet Tomatoes go.
Fast Food: McDonald's. Also: Taco Bell, Culver's
Local Joints: Sarkis Cafe - Evanston. Also: Curt's Cafe (Evanston), Bill's Drive-In (Evanston)
Buffet: Ginza Buffet - Niles
Standby: Bakers Square. Also: Omega, Panera. Sorry to see Ruby Tuesday disappear.
Breakfast: Annie's - Skokie. Also: Alexander's (Skokie), IHOP
Bagels: New York Bagel & Bialy - Skokie. (Also great coffee cake.)  
Ice Cream: Ted Drewes Custard - St. Louis. Also: Chocolate Shoppe (Chicago)
I also want to give shout-outs to Podhalanka in Chicago and Cozy Corner, a nondescript diner I came across in central Baltimore. While the meals themselves didn't merit mention above, both places appeared to be run by older, immigrant women who couldn't have been nicer in taking care of me and all other customers observed. Made for quite heartwarming and memorable visits.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Most Enjoyable & Enlightening Museums, Exhibitions and Attractions I Experienced

The primary impetus for my travels, at least domestically, tends to be a live event: a rock concert, baseball game, theater performance (or several, as on Broadway).

This was again true in 2016, when Bruce Springsteen shows took me to Columbus, OH (by way of Cleveland) and Washington, DC (followed by Baltimore and Philadelphia). The Cubs playing in the World Series brought me back to Cleveland. A Paul McCartney show at Busch Stadium prompted a train trip down to St. Louis.

But as these events tend to be at night, my trips also allow for considerable exploration of museums--predominantly art--and other attractions.

Over five days in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia--which included the travel time--I visited 15 museums, plus the White House, U.S. Capitol, Independence Hall and various other attractions, a few of which only from the exterior.

I also got to some places around and near Chicagoland, and this post aims to recall some of the cultural excursions I enjoyed the most in 2016.

As with all of my Best Of lists, there are imperfections in terms of definition and delineation.

It seems apt to split museum and non-museum attractions, but while the latter could theoretically include ballparks, restaurants or live performances, I'm not looping such things in here.

And even in terms of the museum listings, in some cases I cite particularly great Special Exhibitions, while in others simply a visit to the museum itself (or both). The point is more to highlight than to rank these, though in the case of Special Exhibitions, most have come and gone.

In the specific case of the Art Institute of Chicago, I have visited it for so long and so often--including a few times this year--here I will merely consider special exhibits I saw this year, although the museum as a whole could always rank near the top My Favorite Museums list.

My Favorite Museum Visits of 2016

1. Van Gogh's Bedrooms - Art Institute of Chicago (my review)

2. Cleveland Museum of Art

3. National Gallery of Art - Washington, DC

4. National Portrait Gallery - Washington, DC

5. Philadelphia Museum of Art

6. Baltimore Museum of Art
7. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland

8. Barnes Foundation - Philadelphia

9. Vic Muniz exhibition and Eskenazi Museum of Art @ IU - Bloomington, IN

10. American Art Museum - Washington, DC

11. St. Louis Art Museum

Honorable Mention

- Phillips Collection - Washington, DC
- Missouri History Museum - St. Louis
- Walters Art Museum - Baltimore
- Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden - Washington, DC
- Museum at Ford's Theatre - Washington
- Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen - Chicago Cultural Center
- Benjamin Franklin Museum + Benjamin Franklin Court - Philadelphia
- Babe Ruth Museum - Baltimore
- National Constitution Center - Philadelphia
- Indianapolis Museum of Art
- Liberty Bell Pavilion Museum - Philadelphia
- Second National Bank / Portrait Gallery - Philadelphia
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Dayton, OH 
- America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s - Art Institute of Chicago (my review) 
- The New Contemporary - Art Institute of Chicago

- Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem - Art Institute of Chicago
- Pritzker Military Museum & Library - Chicago
- Vanishing Beauty: Asian Jewelry and Ritual Objects - Art Institute of Chicago

Best Non-Museum Attractions Visited in 2016

1. White House Tour - Washington, DC

2. Independence Hall Tour - Philadelphia

3. National Mall - Washington, DC

4. Bristol Renaissance Faire - Bristol, WI (my review)

5. West Side Market - Cleveland

6. Indiana University Campus + Student Union + Lilly Library - Bloomington, IN

7. Inner Harbor - Baltimore, MD

8. Library of Congress (main foyer only) - Washington, DC

9. U.S. Capitol Tour (limited due to construction) - Washington, DC

10. Gateway Arch "Journey to the Top" - St. Louis

11. Carpenters Hall - Philadelphia 
Honorable Mention 

North Park Nature Center - Chicago
Emily Oaks Nature Center - Skokie, IL
Keay Nature Park - Wilmette, IL

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best Musicals I Saw Onstage (with a Hamiltonian caveat)

As I wrote upon seeing Hamilton for the first--and for now, only, though I'm also ticketed for March--time, in October:

"So yes, I have become a full-fledged Hamilton acolyte, don't think any of the hype is overstated--even if the ticketing frenzy and aftermarket pricing seems over-the-top--and, without having seen the show on Broadway, found the Chicago rendition completely sublime, with the only possible diminution being a few instances of vocal timbres not quite equaling those on the original cast recording."

But though I think it can be counted among the best musicals ever created, so too can Cabaret, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Evita, The Producers, Man of La Mancha, Company and Spring Awakening, all of which I saw stellar productions of in 2016.

Certainly, my rankings of the best live musicals I saw this year are based not only on the source material, but the quality of the productions I witnessed. And given that Hamilton isn't just playing Chicago on a National Tour but staying in the Windy City conceivably for years on end (as a "sit-down" production), it has been lavishly staged at full-tilt.

Which is my way of explaining the top of my list below--not that it should come as much of a surprise--even if I still may consider other musicals "better" than Hamilton, including ones I saw in pretty resplendent fashion over the past 12 months.

All told, I saw 31 live musicals, and at least in terms of professional productions, I enjoyed all of them. Including those that didn't quite make the cut here, such as Finding Neverland, The SpongeBob Musical, Bullets Over Broadway, 42nd Street and Heathers: The Musical. But the following were:

The Best Musicals I Saw On Stage in 2016:
(Note: My rankings are based on my enjoyment of the particular productions, but blend in the quality of the source material as well. All theaters in Chicago proper unless noted; in some cases the theatrical company is cited rather than venue. New shows are denoted with an *)

1. Hamilton* - The PrivateBank Theatre  
(my review)
2. Cabaret - The PrivateBank Theatre  
(my review)
3. Company - Writers Theatre, Glencoe  
(my review)
4. Come From Away* - Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC (brief review within this piece)
5. The Sound of Music - Cadillac Palace (my review)
6. Man of La Mancha - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
7. In the Heights - Porchlight Theatre 
(my review)
8. The Producers - Mercury Theatre  
(my review)
9. Matilda - Oriental Theatre (my review)
10. West Side Story - Paramount Theatre, Aurora (my review)
11. Far From Heaven* - Porchlight Theatre (my review)

Honorable Mention
In preference order

Fun Home* - Oriental Theatre(my review)
Wonderful Town - Goodman Theatre (my review)
Sister Act - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
Spring Awakening - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
War Paint* - Goodman Theatre (my review)
Bat Boy - The Den Theatre (my review)
The King and I - Lyric Opera (my review)
Hazel*- Drury Lane Oakbrook(my review)
Mary Poppins - NightBlue (my review)
Evita - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best of 2016: My Favorite Songs of the Year -- A Spotify Playlist

The exact rankings of selections on my recent Best Plays, Best Albums and Best Concerts of 2016 lists, and the upcoming Best Musicals and Best Movies aren't all that important. 

Even to me.

Sure, I spend a fair amount of time trying to sort out what I liked a bit more and a bit less--of creations or performances I enjoyed--but not only aren't the berths all that meticulously calibrated, when I look back at past years I'm sometimes surprised to see works I've continued to cherish ranked below others I've largely forgotten. 

The lists themselves are fun for me to peruse long afterwards to recall my artistic highlights from a given year, but exactly what I ranked where becomes even more superfluous as time goes by. 

Which doesn't exactly explain why, as opposed to most of my other year end lists, my choices of Best Songs of 2016 are not presented in ranked order.

Principally, it's because thanks to Spotify, this list is presented in a way so that you can listen to all my choices. And although I could, theoretically, sequence the songs in a ranked order, especially given what I explained above, I prefer to compile them in a way that makes for nice listening.

So hopefully I have.

You can listen directly through the Spotify player embedded below, but you can also find (and bookmark) the playlist through the following URL (i.e. web address) anywhere you have internet access--desktop, laptop or mobile. You must be a registered Spotify user (or become one) but it is both Free and easy.

But since you're already here, for now you can just click play and hear some groovy tunes as you go about your day. Again, the songs are not ranked in any order, but sequenced for what I hope is a pleasant listen.

My Favorite Songs of 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best Rock Concerts I Attended

There's been considerable caterwauling in certain parts--say, like, upon this blog--about how 2016 has been a rather distressing year for rock music.

Certainly, far too many superlative talents left our midst, and far too few have made themselves newly known, at least to me.

Though I came across a number of decent albums--as ranked in this recent Best Albums of 2016 post--and songs, relatively little in the way of recorded music really excited me.

But in looking back at the concerts I attended, in terms of my own music fandom I have to say that this has been an highly fulfilling, even phenomenal year. (Save for the sad losses of irreplaceable artists like David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey and Merle Haggard, all of whom I'd previously seen and enjoyed live.)

Be dubious if you must, but in 2016 I went to 33 rock concerts and pretty much loved them all.

It's no secret how much I love Bruce Springsteen--who I even got to briefly meet this year--but not only did I find all five shows I saw with him and the E Street Band to be truly sensational, somehow each one seemed even better than the last.

And sure, I saw "good as ever" shows by old favorites like Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam (twice),
AC/DC and Bob Mould, but I was also delighted by highly enjoyable free summer shows by the likes of Michael McDonald, The Wallflowers, Blue Oyster Cult and Living Colour.

There were 16 gigs I gave @@@@@ (out of 5) to on the Seth Saith ratings scale, another 8 merited @@@@1/2 and each of the remaining nine earned @@@@.

Even in allotting just one berth each to Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the reunited Guns N' Roses, who I also saw twice, it's pretty difficult to discern among my top 11 and even all the rest, which I'll also list ostensibly in preference order.

So despite insinuations to the contrary, rock isn't dead, especially with these and other acts still more than delivering the

My Favorite Rock Concerts of 2016
Artists seen multiple times ranked just once; venues in Chicago unless noted. Co-headliners (denoted by "and") both factor into ranking; opening acts (denoted by "w/") do not.

1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - January 19, United Center (my review); March 3, Bradley Center, Milwaukee (my review); April 12, Schottenstein Center, Columbus; August 28, United Center (my review); September 1, Nationals Park, Washington

2. David Gilmour - April 4, United Center (my review)

3. Guns N' Roses (w/ Alice in Chains) - July 1 & 3, Soldier Field (my review) 

4. Pearl Jam - August 20 & 22, Wrigley Field (my review)

5. Black Sabbath - January 22, United Center (my review)

6. Paul McCartney - August 13, Busch Stadium,
St. Louis
(my review)

7. AC/DC - February 17, United Center
(my review)

8. Adele - July 10, United Center (my review)

9. Bob Mould - May 6, Metro (my review) 

10. Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire - April 1, United Center (my review)

11. Duran Duran (w/ Chic) - July 8, Ravinia, Highland Park, IL (my review)

Honorable Mention (in preference order)

Sting and Peter Gabriel - July 9, United Center (my review)
The Cure - June 10, UIC Pavilion (my review)
Coldplay - July 24, Soldier Field (my review)
Bryan Ferry - August 6, Ravinia (my review)
John Fogerty - August 25, Ravinia (my review)
Ash - September 28, Lincoln Hall (my review)
Phish - June 26, Wrigley Field (my review)
The Who - March 10, United Center (my review)
Peter Wolf (w/ Ike Reilly) - May 21, Park West
(my review)
The Smashing Pumpkins (w/ Liz Phair) - April 14, Civic Opera House (my review)
Wilco - August 21, Pritzker Pavilion (my review)
Michael McDonald - July 26, Elk Grove Village Green (my review)
The Wallflowers - July 2, Frontier Days, Arlington Heights, IL (my review)
Blue Oyster Cult - August 26, Backlot Bash, Skokie, IL (my review)
Living Colour - August 27, Backlot Bash, Skokie, IL (my review)
Tribute to Curtis Mayfield - October 1, The Promontory (my review)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best Plays I Saw

I saw several stellar plays in 2016, from writers known and new, in theaters with less than 30 seats and more than 2,000.

Trying to compare them, some many months later, is fraught with fallibility--even in having written reviews and maintained a database of shows seen.

And perhaps it seems suspect that the play I saw most recently wound up at the top of my list.

But that one and the #2 selection are the only non-musical plays--the Best Musicals I saw in 2016 will come in the days ahead--that I awarded a full @@@@@ on the Seth Saith ratings scale.

And picks #3-6 are the only plays I gave @@@@1/2.

So while precise rankings--and heck, all of my opinions--should always be taken with a grain of salt, these are:
The Best Plays I Saw in 2016
All were in the Chicago area. New/recent works are denoted with an *.

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time* - Oriental Theatre (touring production) 
written by Simon Stephens; directed by Marianne Elliott
(my review)

2. Mary Page Marlowe* - Steppenwolf Theatre
written by Tracy Letts; directed by Anna Shapiro
(my review)

3. The Women of Lockerbie - AstonRep  
written by Deborah Brevoort; directed by Robert Tobin
(my review)

4. Yasmina's Necklace* - 16th Street Theater 
written by Rohina Malik; directed by Ann Filmer
(my review)

5. Mothers & Sons - Northlight Theatre
written by Terrence McNally; directed by Steve Scott
(my review)

6. #LOVESTORIES* - Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre
written by Tania Richard, Gloria Bond Clunie and Marsha Estell; directed by Tim Rhoze 
(my review)

7. The Flick* - Steppenwolf Theatre 
written by Annie Baker; directed by Dexter Bullard
(my review)

8. Marjorie Prime* - Writers Theatre
written by Jordan Harrison; directed by Kimberly Senior
(my review)

9. Death and Harry Houdini - House Theatre
written & directed by Nathan Allen
(my review)

10. American Buffalo - Mary-Arrchie Theatre 
written by David Mamet; directed by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia
(my review)

11. A Small Oak Tree Runs Red* - Congo Square Theatre
written by Lekethia Dalcoe; directed by Harry Lennix
(my review)

Honorable Mention

The City of Conversation* - Northlight Theatre
written by Anthony Giardina; directed by Marti Lyons
(my review)

The Few* - Steep Theatre Co. 
written by Samuel D. Hunter; directed by Brad Akin
(my review)

Between Riverside and Crazy* - Steppenwolf Theatre
written by Stephen Adly Guirgis; directed by Yasen Peyankov
(my review)

The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window - Goodman Theatre 
written by Lorraine Hansberry; directed by Anne Kauffman
(my review)

Dying City* - The Comrades
written by Christopher Shinn; directed by Elizabeth Lovelady
(my review)

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best New Albums I Heard

2016 will undoubtedly go down as one of the saddest years in pop music history.

This is principally due to the passing of many legendary, groundbreaking artists across various genres, including David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire), Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane), Sharon Jones, Buckwheat Zydeco and Leon Russell, among several others.

In a recent post, I listed many of these losses, only for the rock world to soon suffer another with the recent death of Greg Lake, sadly following his Emerson, Lake & Palmer bandmate, Keith Emerson, earlier in the year.

And at least per my purview, it's also been a rather distressing year in regards to new music in a pop/rock realm. (I did however see several great concerts, the subject of an upcoming Best of 2017 post.)

Certainly, there has been some good music recorded and released, as I'll cite below, but not only did there not seem to be any galvanizing, zeitgeist-achieving albums--even beyond those I might have favored--according to Billboard nobody sold more CDs in 2016 than...

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Certainly, the way music is heard, distributed and purchased has vastly changed, with streaming on services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal combining with paid downloads via iTunes, Amazon, etc., to generate more revenues for record companies than physical CDs.

But although I do quite a bit of listening through Spotify--roughly an hour a day, on average--for which I pay $120/yr. for their Premium service, I am old school enough to only consider those albums I purchase on CD as those I actually "own."

And in 2016, I only bought three CDs of new music.

One was David Bowie's Blackstar, which was released on his 69th birthday, January 10, which wound up being just two days before he died. Bowie is one of my all-time favorite artists, and the album is a rather astonishing last testament. (Another stellar new album by an iconic artist, Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker, preceded Cohen's death by just a couple weeks.)

Although I'd say I admire Beyoncé's artistry and voice (on multiple levels) beyond my personal fandom, I was intrigued enough by her lyrically-candid Lemonade album--which was accompanied by a video album--to purchase it, especially as it isn't on Spotify.

And I bought Eric Clapton's I Still Do, which I quickly lent to a friend and am not sure I ever saw again.

So although I listened to a good number of new albums, including recently, primarily they were the latest releases of artists I've long enjoyed (and typically well short of their career best).

Hence, I can't really suggest this list is all that holistically exploratory or revelatory, but for whatever it's worth, here are:

My Favorite New Rock (Mostly) Albums of 2016

1. David Bowie - Blackstar (Spotify link)

2. Bob Mould - Patch the Sky (Spotify link)

3. The Rolling Stones - Blue & Lonesome (Spotify link)

4. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (Spotify link)

5. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression (Spotify link)

6. Dinosaur Jr. - Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Spotify link)

7. Beyoncé - Lemonade (not on Spotify)

8. Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct  (Spotify link)

9. Elton John - Wonderful Crazy Night (Spotify link)

10. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (Spotify link) 

11. Twin Peaks - Down in Heaven (Spotify link)

Honorable Mention

Eric Clapton - I Still Do (Spotify link)
Paul Simon - Stranger to Stranger (Spotify link)
Savages - Adore Life (Spotify link)
Drive-By Truckers - American Band (Spotify link)
Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book (Spotify link)
The Hamilton Mixtape (Spotify link)

Special Mention

Truth be told, the new "albums" I listened to and liked the most this year aren't represented on the above list. I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and while the Boss didn't release any new music in 2016--save for the Chapter & Verse companion to his Born to Run autobiography, which includes five early, unreleased songs from before he was known, along with several familiar tunes--he did put out official recordings of every concert he performed with the E Street Band this year.

These shows can be purchased and downloaded at (CDs are also available). I got several and loved them all, including:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
● Chicago 1/19/16*
● Milwaukee 3/3/16*
● Columbus 4/12/16*
● Brooklyn 4/23/16
● Milan 7/5/16
● East Rutherford 8/23/16
● Chicago 8/28/16*
● Washington, DC 9/1/16*
* = shows I attended

Pearl Jam has also long released official bootlegs of their concerts--which can be found here--but for whatever reason have not issued the two shows I saw at Wrigley Field this year. I imagine several of their other 2016 gigs were quite stellar, but I haven't downloaded any.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Best of 2016: Sights Seen and Photos Taken (Cities & Travel)

(Note: This is a cover image for The Best of 2016 series;
it is not a photo I took)
For those new to Seth Saith, the end of each year brings a barrage of "Best of" posts.

These principally involve me giving my opinions of what I liked best in the main categories of Albums, Songs, Concerts, Plays, Musicals and Movies.

I also might chronicle arenas such as TV, Books, Restaurants, Museums, Experiences and more, and as I'm doing here, post some of the better photos I've taken over the past 12 months.

Unlike certain categories, this is not meant as a ranking, but simply a gallery.

It's also an unscientific blend meant to highlight sights seen and also to share photos I like for photography's sake. 

Keeping it to the realm of cities & travel, I won't include shots of concerts, ballgames or indoor art, which I might include in a separate category. As you'll see, I only traveled within the U.S. in 2016, and mostly in the Midwest, but still saw and captured some pretty terrific sights. (I live in the Chicago suburbs and also included some choice local shots here.)

The White House - Washington, DC
Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western University (designed by Frank Gehry) - Cleveland
Soldiers and Sailors Monument - Indianapolis
Skyline from Adler Planetarium - Chicago
Library of Congress - Washington, DC
Statue of John Howard - Baltimore
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum - Cleveland
Independence Hall - Philadelphia
Independence Hall - Philadelphia
Indiana State Capitol - Indianapolis
Writers Theatre (designed by Jeanne Gang) - Glencoe, IL

Gateway Arch - St. Louis
West Side Market - Cleveland
Wind Turbines - Northwest Indiana
Buckingham Fountain - Chicago
Wright Bros. Testing Field - Dayton, OH
Joan of Arc Statue - Philadelphia
The Thinker (by Rodin) - Cleveland Museum of Art
The Thinker - Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard - St. Louis
City Hall - Philadelphia
USS Constellation - Baltimore
Metro Station - Washington, DC
Liberty Bell - Phildadelphia
Assembly Room, Independence Hall - Philadelphia
Washington Monument - Washington, DC
Part of Five Brushstrokes by Roy Lichtenstein - Indianapolis Museum of Art
Corner of Charles & Madison - Baltimore
Sonny's Cheesesteaks - Philadelphia
Staircase within White House - Washington, DC
Lincoln Box, Ford's Theatre - Washington, DC
Benjamin Franklin - Philadelphia
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Cultural Center

Indiana University - Bloomington, IN

Bromo-Seltzer Tower - Baltimore
All photos by Seth Arkin, copyright 2016. Please do not repost without permission and attribution.