Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One hundred three.

No end in sight. Photo by me.
As of today I've listened to 103 new albums released (or to be released) in 2015. That's a lot of music. And while I feel it's my responsibility to listen to as much new music that comes my way in hopes of finding stuff others might miss, allowing me to help unearth excellent discoveries and share them with others to make them happier, I do pine for a simpler time. Remember when a new album meant that was the only thing you'd listen to for a week or more, until you could afford another new album? I'm not so certain I miss the narrower distribution channels of yore, but I think I do miss the slowing down of time when it came to living with a new release, or an archival discovery. Would I have become such a huge David Bowie fan if I'd been able to download his entire catalog in minutes, probably prompting me to rush from one album to the next instead of living with each one for an extended period of time before moving on to another LP?*

When the "slow music" movement tried to get off the ground a few years ago—wherein a new album could not be added to a digital player until the most recent one had been fully digested—I respected the thinking driving it while also realizing the times they have a-changed and someone like me couldn't afford that luxury while still dutifully discharging my current duties as a music writer and Senior Editor. Also? I'm not certain I could return to the listening habits of yore; I suspect the way I (and many, many others) experience recorded music has fundamentally changed and our brains are literally re-wired, demanding a different experience.

So, what can I share with you, 103 albums into this new-ish year? There have been a few unexpected surprises (Young Guv! Colleen Green! Cafeine! There are others!), a number of expectedly strong albums (from artists who get lots of press all over the place so I don't feel the need to underscore them here, at this moment), quite a few solid efforts (meaning albums I would listen to again and enjoy even if I don't actively seek them out in my playlist during a down moment), a whole lot of music that isn't bad so much as it's just not interesting to me, and (thankfully) only a handful of albums I would actively categorize as bad (though even that categorization is a personal one and doesn't negate the simple fact that the musicians probably enjoyed making it and there are probably more than  few listeners who are not me that enjoy listening to it).

*Man, do I remember initially languishing in the Young Americans and Station To Station period since my teenage self had a harder time getting into those albums and an even harder time justifying the dough I spent on less than ten songs a piece, a number I felt was chintzy for an album.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Emerging from the cave.

The plus side of two days of training to learn new skills at the 9-to-5 is you walk away with new levels of creative tools to make your work ever stronger. The minus side is that after two days of near seclusion with a handful of teammates, emerging into the sunlight (in this case, fluorescent-ish) at it's conclusion can make you feel like you've been sequestered away for months.

There is a simple solution for that feeling though. And that solution is called ... TACO TUESDAY!

Because it's Tuesday, and we're eating tacos. And all is right with the world.

New skills + tacos = FTW!

Monday, February 23, 2015

TMBG LIVE (on MP3)!


I haven't a clue how long this will be available, so I suggest you snag this immediately. Also, this was the soundtrack of the first semester of my sophomore year of college since it was on never ending repeat in the kitchen of the White Trash House (the locus of many a party and gathering and a location I spent far too much time in to be considered healthy).


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On the same wave length.

Moon King
This year I am fastidiously tracking every album I listen to in a spreadsheet, and logging which songs on each are personal favorites for me. When it came to Moon King's Second Life the immediate standouts were the album opener "Roswell" and the ebulliently explosive (and currently one of my top faves of 2015 thus far song-wise) "Apocalypse." They're both energetic drivers and seem a piece apart from the remainder of the album's material, which tends towards the dreamier and lower key.

Just a bit ago I got an email pitching a performance video by the band where they string together the two tracks into a single live song. An email from the band's publicist says that band member Daniel Benjamin said, "Apocalypse and Roswell were originally one idea that was split into two separate songs. they still share some musical elements and have always been two sides of the same coin."

No wonder I felt so drawn to the two!


The band has a spring tour planned and comes to Chicago to play The Empty Bottle on May 9.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

It's not all about you, or me. It's all about us.

Put yourself in the mindset of others when you grow frustrated. Try and see things from multiple angles that aren't just your personal worldview, since that is by definition centered around yourself and tends to provide a narrow vision. And a narrow vision can box you in and turn internal attitudes negative if you perceive the world as not treating you fairly. But this tends to lead one to treat the people around them unfairly and propagate a negative pattern that taints and gloms onto all activity it encounters like molten carnival nacho cheese that almost immediately hardens into something completely indigestible, all based on what might have only been an incorrect internal perception with no basis in anyone's else's reality at its outset.

I try to think of this to calm myself down when stuck in a line that isn't moving, or a train bursting to capacity, or basically any situation wherein I could grow frustrated by the actions of those around me. It doesn't always work in the moment—I'm human—but when it does it fills me with understanding that cools and quenches the rising fiery negativity at that second, and when not at that second I try to use this view when reflecting further down the road to make sense of that flare up, realizing we're all probably thinking the same misguided notions about everyone around us. And that helps. We're all in this together, right

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ooh la la, le chat.

Is it le chat or la chat? I haven't a clue. So much for that year and a half of French in my first years of high school. Hey! Maybe this guy can answer my question!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

SHOCKER! Dave Grohl finally does something uncool.

This saddens me.
I love Dave Grohl to death. the guy is leading the greatest life and seems like an honestly solid guy. Othet than a few middling Foo Fighters mid-career albums, he's even been on top of his musical game for pretty much his entire life. I thought Grohl was so cool that he could make even the uncool cool.

Until today.

I've just learned Dave Grohl has accepted a position as the official ambassador of this year's Record Store Day, a faux holiday cash grab primarily benefitting major labels and established stars by supposedly supporting record stores but instead making cynical moves to both gain indie cred and charge 3X as much for the re-release of many middling albums of vinyl.

Say it ain't so, Grohl!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Britpop roundtable!

Photo of Damon Albarn by me during a decidedly POST-Britpop Gorillaz show.
Last week I taped an episode for the Dig Me Out podcast and was part of a panel of folks talking about the Britpop era. I really enjoyed participating in the discussion, and now you can hear the whole thing below or on the podcast's website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Super Happy Fun Club's super happy free download.


Chicago's Super Happy Fun Club writes songs that sound just like their band name would suggest. It's been a while since they released any new tunes, so I'm pleased to see their latest, "Let's Get Out Of Here," is not only super punchy and catchy and happy and fun, but it's also free! Who doesn't love free?

Also, bonus points for containing a huge singalong group chorus. Now suitable for parties!

You are welcome.

copy

Monday, February 09, 2015

Father John Misty is the knock yer socks right off real deal.

FJM at TVH on Saturday night, photo by me.
I saw a solo show by Father John Misty a.k.a. Josh Tillman on Saturday night in a tiny room at The Virgin Hotel—thanks, Blake, for the awesome invite—and was blown away. I was warned the guy was kind of a tool or a dick or at the very least just kind of all around rude but I found him charming, not that he couldn't have gotten away with rude, because when you've got the goods like he has the goods you can get away with rude.

Anyway, read my review of the show.

Then buy a copy of his new album I Still Love You, Honeybear when it comes out tomorrow. You'll thank me for it. And I say that as a dude who might have just slept on this release were it not for Saturday's show and am now reeling at the thought I might have missed out on its gorgeousness.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The '90s filled you with grit and gumption!

In the past few days I've received new albums from both Local H and The Juliana Hatfield Three. Don't call it a comeback though since both Scott Lucas and Hatfield never went away. How many bands can claim solid careers like that? Not many.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Brotherly air drumming.

This made my morning and saved my mood after a gloomy commute. Thanks to Mich for sharing it with me!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Coming soon: Britpop roundtable discussion!

Just finished recording a roundtable about Britpop for the Dig Me Out podcast and it was loads of fun! I hope I get to do more stuff like that. It goes live next week so I'll give you full details then, but if you want to get familiar with the podcast itself start digging through their deep archive!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Why? So? Serious?

According to Nationwide this kid
will never grow up 
to watch
an entertaining Super Bowl ad.
Man, it's gotten to the point where you don't even want to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials anymore, Am I right? Brands seem to have gone over board on the "we want to include dads" stuff to the point that they've tried to turn them into the new "thank you mom," which is all fine and good except why does every "dad ad" have to be so fucking depressing? Way to miss the marketing mark AGAIN.

The larger issue is that Super Bowl ads used to be memorable and none of the ones this year were. Well, except for the Clydesdales pining over and then protecting a lost puppy. Everything else? Too dire or too disposable. The biggest marketing moment of the year now takes itself so seriously it's a veritable snoozefest of unmemorable moment after moment.

Is this because digital ads / video are now top dog when it comes to taking chances and doing inventive stuff on a regular basis? Do the big boys feel their big broadcast ads need to be gargantuan affairs fraught with meaning and symbolism? I suspect that's part of the problem, but I also think clients want something that feels epic for the amount of money they're spending, but they do this at the expense of anything that remains authentically engaging. Which basically renders those millions of dollars they throw at agencies and into ad buys the equivalent of throwing that money into a paper shredder.

The only thing people will remember about this Super Bowl six months from now? Katy Perry's sharks.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Snow day.

I'm working from home today, thank goodness. After spending an accumulated 4 hours in a car yesterday and then another 1.5 hours trying to find parking—all during a blizzard that resulted in frequent whiteouts and every single street being covered in snow whether it be interstate or Chicago side street—and then another 2 hours this morning digging out and returning said car and shoveling our walk—all before 9 a.m.—the idea of then trudging a mile to the train over sidewalks with 16 inches of snow and then waiting for trains and buses that were all running late and at capacity .... well, let's just say I really appreciate the 9-to-5 allowing folks to work from home at times like this.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fueling up with Cafeine.

Xavier Cafeine, photo by Elias Tahan
I feel like the same thing happened around this time last year, but my inbox has been bursting with some great fucking music over the last week or so. Most of the albums are coming out late February or March, so as tempted as I am to spill all of the beans I will refrain. But I will continue to give tastes of the truly outstanding releases to get you excited for their imminent arrival!

Xavier Cafeine in Canadian and performs under the simple moniker of, wait for it, Cafeine. He's already a few albums into his career, and one listen to New Love—out on February 17—means I'm going to have to track down his older material STAT. New Love bristles with energy and power pop of the most caffeinated degree. The tunes make you want to dance one second and then pogo all over the room the next.

This is fan-fucking-tastic. Vroom vroom life affirming stuff that makes your heart go pound pound pound.

Apparently Xavier just moved to L.A. so here's hoping that scene doesn't suck the magic out of him, but I kind of suspect he's up to the challenge.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crushing on new music from Colleen Green.

Photo by Eric Penna
I'll save my more comprehensive thoughts on the new Colleen Green album I Want To Grow Up for a full review on Chicagoist when it's released later next month. However I can tell you that the album really excites me. Green obviously has a big '90s album collection, and this LP see her turning her guitars to 11 for most of the record, while her sweet vocals cut through the noise to deliver biting lyrics wrapped in huge hummable melodies. There's a healthy dose of early Veruca Salt and Juliana Hatfield going on here, so if those bands are your thing, then I Want To Grow Up will hit all your pleasure centers.

Here are two songs for you the stream or download so you can see just how right I am.