Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Constant velocity?

Perhaps I should adopt the mantra, "Be like the Pickle."
I’ve been seriously considering if I need to change my relationship to how I listen to music. I’ve grown so used to searching out the new and exciting to share that I’ve lost the ability to just sit with the albums that I like for extended periods of time. This isn’t a hard rule—for instance I’ve given the new Gorillas album Humanz a ton of spins over the last few weeks so I can write something meaningful on it to publish on Friday—but since I write fewer longform reviews I don’t always have that “forced” luxury.

This isn’t unique to me. We’ve all changed how we consume all media. We choose at which rate and how much and what pieces we want to chew on more than others. And amidst the non-stop flow of the new I don’t even think most of us even consider the idea of sitting on one thing or another beyond the amount of time it takes to initially experience it.

As I type that, though, I also realize I am an extreme outlier. Many people do wait for their favorite album to come out and then listen to nothing but that for extended periods of time. Of course that still happens. But outlier though I may be I do believe my own questions are those everyone faces, even if at slightly less at tidal wave of content levels.

The digital world is seeping into my real world!
The view of our place through the Gorillaz AR app. 
And so that has led me to ponder why exactly I do this. It’s not new to me. One of the weird things about me is that I’m old enough to remember pre-internet  as my primary way of life. But I’m also a weirdo that leapt into digital way early and has just always kept up while I’ve seen other around me dip in and out at various points, while I’ve always ben in the middle of things. It’s gifted me with a perspective firmly rooted in both history and innovation, and I speak a rounded language I honestly think few possess. It makes me a valuable commodity in a number of ways, and I like that.

But.

It can be exhausting.

I know this started as a question about how I experience music but it’s obvious there is a deeper question here: do I need to reconsider how plugged in I am in general? Most people my age are happy to step back, slow down on all their media consumption, and chill the fuck out.

So the bigger question is: can I even reconsider how plugged in I am? And do I need to? It’s so hardwired into how I function I’m not sure I could or should.

Here’s what I’ve decided (in the time it’s taken me to write this I realize the decision was already there, I just hadn’t surfaced it yet) and that is to start to slow down. I’m starting to devote time to reading books in the morning before work, instead of catching up on all my feeds and networks. I’m starting to focus more on mindfulness and meditation* in order to at least slow the non-stop whir that is my brain down a titch; I can’t stop it but the gears can stand a break from their usual high velocity. Maybe not listening to every single episode of every single podcast I’m subscribed to. Going for walks and leaving the headphones at home.

Little things like that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


*Who IS this guy?!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cheap Trick live in their own universe.

Photo from the Cheap Trick website by Ethan Gillikin
Think about it.

Cheap Trick's first three albums are nigh perfect yet if it wasn't for a fluke live album of a Japanese concert they might never have become famous. Their most popular song is one that sounds the least like them from the '80s. When they got dropped by their major label in the '90s they went in the studio with Steve Albini, and while those sessions haven't surfaced they started down the DIY route and basically never looked back. Decades into their career the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame could no longer ignore them and while that roster surrounds them with many acts who sound like they're treading water—if they're treading at all—the year the band was inducted Cheap Trick went and released an album full of teenage fire.

Robin Zander's voice is still a marvel.

Rick Nielsen's guitars still pound out chords that make the earth shake.

Tom Petersson's bass still rumbles while nimbly punching out rhythms that dance around Daxx Nielsen's drumming. (And all props to the legacy of Bun E. Carlos and his own inventive drumming style that built much of the band's foundation.)

None of this should be happening, yet it does and still is. The band has never stopped.

And may they never stop.

[h/t to this morning's Dig Me Out Podcast for spurring these thoughts today.]

Monday, April 24, 2017

The proper way to plot a graph.



Stumbled across this and it felt like a lovely Monday morning eye-opener.

Friday, April 21, 2017

One of my favorite albums of the year is out today! Check out Charly Bliss!

Charly Bliss, photo by Jacqueline Harriet
I mentioned Charly Bliss a while ago, and their length debut Guppy is finally out today. It is easily one of my favorite albums of 2017, and if you are a fan of sunny harmonies and fuzzed out guitar pop featuring female vocals, then you will also love this too.

The New York quartet is on tour all over and hits Chicago to play Schubas on May 13, a show I am positive will sell out.

Seriously, this album has been in my personal high rotation for months and I've been eagerly waiting for the time everyone else can tell me how good they think it is as well, so get to it and get Guppy right now!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mindfulness.

Riding the CTA is now a time to relax instead of get steadily more angry about the quality of the commute. Driving in traffic has turned into something far more tranquil. Even the cable going out turns into quiet problem solving instead of a "why does Comcast hate me" moment.

I think one of the best things about trying to stay more in the moment is that you realize there is suddenly no vast global conspiracy intent on annoying or tormenting you.

It's a good place to be.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sometimes I wonder if I miss DJing.

I still organize music as if I'm DJing, though I admit that the days I moved from CDs ti tankPODs probably marked the beginning of the end for me. Sure it was way easier to travel with a ton of music, but there was something relly enjoyable about flipping through books to find just the right next song. I think it might have led to more happy accidents. But, I mean, the way we even experience music now is so different than, say, even five years ago. Things were bound to change. And kudos to my fellow DJs who actually soundtrack nights for still slogging it out.

Will I ever DJ again? Probably. Will I ever be as good a DJ as I once way (and make no mistake, my sets—when they hit—were a LOT of fun)? How could I" I'll never be the same kind of DJ because I'm not the same person?

And as people can attest, road trips or trolly rides or house parties I'm at always seem to end up featuring some kind of impromptu set ... whether it's invited or not, because I simply can't help myself.

So I guess I do miss DJing, I just don't miss doing it 3 to 7 nights a week. Now it's more like, 3 to 7 nights a year. Maybe closer to to 3 to 5.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saw The Flaming Lips last night.

Photo by me.
As usual they pretty great. Not as per usual, I actually got to see them play their own concert instead of in a festival slot, and that's something I haven't had the chance to do in years. Over a decade, maybe? That's nuts.

Anyway, they were freaking great.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A lovely trip out of the city.

A post shared by Tankboy (@jkopeny) on

We spent the weekend in lovely St. Joseph, MI at one of our favorite B&Bs. It was a our first time in Michigan that didn't include any winery, distillery, or brewery visits and we still managed to find plenty to keep ourselves pleasantly occupied. I already want to go back!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!


Whether you celebrate this holiday or not I think we can all agree on one thing—this photo rocks.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Randomizing.

Sometimes the most banal can reveal the most unexpected rewards. Sometimes you just have to commit.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fist impressions.

The much vaunted Rolling Stones exhibit landing in Chicago is heavy on artifice and light on context. In other words it feels like an extended RRHOF exhibit plopped down at he far end of Chicago's Navy Pier. Fun? Sure. Illuminating. Nope.

People will love it though.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ten arms discuss 'Eight Arms To Hold You.'


The lovely folks at the Dig Me Out podcast had me on with a couple other music aficionados* this week to discuss whether or not Veruca Salt's second album, Eight Arms To Hold You, was a sophomore slump.

For once I think I made some good points and actually added some useful historical context to the conversation, so yay me! Also, the album has aged far better than I thought it would. I still give it a couple of spins each year but to prep for the episode I actually actively listened to it again and was pleasantly rewarded for it.

Anyway, give the episode a listen and let me know what you think!

Oh yea, also, once you've listened to the episode this tweet will make a lot more sense.


*A fancy word for "nerd."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Whips like it large and loud.


Whips is a Milwaukee "supergroup" featuring members of The Academy Is..., Red Knife Lottery, Space Raft, Hot Coffin, and Call Me Lightning. And yea, The Academy Is... is the only name I recognize on that list.

Whips' sophomore effort The Ride came out last Friday and it's subterranean cavern-rock vibe is really growing on me. Singer Ashley Smith has some serious pipes that get a full workout against her bandmates' caterwauling wall of sound. There's still a bit o' bop carrying through the songs, but the keywords the group seems to live by are "live, loud, and large."

Listen to the album and tell me you don't get the same vibe. It doesn't look like Whips have any Chicago dates in the near future so I may just have to roadtrip north to see how they pan out live.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Sonny Falls is why you should get to shows early and check out openers you've never heard of.

Sonny Falls
When Sonny Falls took the stage before Dude York last Saturday I had no idea what to expect. The band had just the right amount of a redneck hipster vibe going on that I wasn't expecting much.* However the drummer's kit was really nice and his hair was just right, so I reckoned they might have a few tricks up their collective sleeve.

The sound at Cobra Lounge isn't exactly great—they're been working on it but it's still basically a concrete box of a room—but even with a bad mix burying the singer I could immediately tel the band had something special going on. The aforementioned drummer was terrific; a hard hitter with a really great swinging vibe and perfect fills. And the guitars were big and crunchy, kicking out hook after hook, and admittedly catching me off guard since I was expecting something more country and less pop, based on the band's look and name.

I bought their EP off Soundcloud when I got home and holy shit was I right that the band showed promise. I played it for Mich and she couldn't believe it was the same band until she listened a little more closely and recognized some of the guitar licks. What a difference a decent mix makes!

There's No Magic Left in This World is six wonderfully constructed songs, and while singer and guitarist Ryan Ensley was barely audible when the band played live, on this record he proves he's got a really lovely voice and a knack for lyrical phrasing. In fact, he plays every instrument on this album, save the drums, which are handled by Calvin Schaller and verify my initial impression that the dude has great chops.

Give the album a spin and if you like it, download it for yourself.



*You know what I mean.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Sunny tune for a rainy day.

I dug last year's Bleached LP, and their new EP Can You Deal? further sharpens their fuzzed out pop chops into a four song blast of heat and toothy smiles. The weather in Chicago right now consists of sustained blasts of wind driving needles of rain so deep into the skin that you feel like a dripping, wet, human pincushion. These four new songs provide a veritable mental forcefield against the physical suffering that walking outdoors is, right now.

They play Chicago on April 23 at House of Blues and you can bet I'll be there.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

How much new music did I listen to in March 2017? Let's find out!

Me and one of my listening companions.
After a relatively quiet February, I kicked back into high gear during March.

The release schedule seems to be picking up in general and that, coupled with me feeling a little more even-keeled and less likely to retreat into familiar and sentimental listening coves, helped spark this uptick.

And I took full advantage of the brief respite SXSW offers from the non-stop delivery of new albums to my inbox. God bless publicists and bands in general, but I am thankful for that week or so when they all have their hands full and are less likely to be online or promoting anything outside a 1 miles radius of Austin's 6th Street.

Anyway, I knocked out a fair amount of the backlog that was building up. Check out the monthly stats below.

And, as always, your guide to understanding my rating system is here.


Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in March 2017: 89

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 6

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 58

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 25

Highest rated album: White Reaper - The World's Best American Band

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Snowball II, a.k.a. "if Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub had a baby."

Most surprising discovery: That Bush is still releasing new music!

Monday, April 03, 2017

I appeared on a panel over the weekend.

My official bio from the program, click in to enlarge and chuckle.
Saturday morning, I appeared on a panel titled Issues in Music Journalism, as part of the 2017 MEIEA Educators Summit, alongside my friends and colleagues Jim DeRogatis and Althea Legaspi. It was moderated by Justin Sinkovich, who did a wonderful job or reigning us in and redirecting the conversation whenever we skirted too close to a rabbit hole.

And even though we were up against another panel discussing both The Beatles Catalogue and Paul McCartney's Quest to Recapture His Rights and Virtual Or Otherwise: Music in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Other New Technologies and its Relationship to Copyright Law*, we still manages to get an excellent, engaged crowd in the room.

And late ron that evening while watching Dude York at Cobra Lounge, I ran into one of the attendees, who was at the show because Jim and I had, in an aside, raved about the group. So not only did I feel like we passed along some knowledge about music writing, but while doing so accomplished one of those things music writers often hope for—helping people discover excellent new music.

*Two very sexy topics, despite the cumbersome titles, actually.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Drive the rainy blues away with some rock and/or roll records.

Can you guess which of these is NOT a band I wrote about?
I've mentioned quite a few of these bands on this site in the past, but since it has been so dreary in Chicago the last few days I worked up a Quick Spins feature today focused on energetic, guitar-driven groups. It included The Bombpops, Snowball II, Kestrels, The Courtneys, and CJ Ramone.

Read about all five bands and stream (or download) their albums here.

Happy Friday! Rock out with your, erm, um ... just rock out!