Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Are you losing touch with who you used to be?

Photo via San Cisco's Facebook page
I knew very little about Australia's San Cisco before yesterday. Aside from their new album The Water showing up in my inbox a while ago, the only other thing I had from them was an invite to a 2013 show they were playing in Chicago, which I immediately forwarded to the Chicagoist staff at the time in case anyone wanted to write about it. No one claimed it.

I wish I'd paid more attention to that 2013 email. But I'm glad I finally got around to listening to The Water yesterday since it brightened up my day immensely.

The album is stuffed with fizzy and jaunty rock pop and is way more assured and polished than it should be, given how young the band is. Though perhaps that's not surprising—this is the band's third album and they've been playing together since they were in high school (though those days are not that far behind them). The Water is a self-assured and musically mature effort, while still exuding a bouncy and authentic glow of youth.

Tl;dr—this is 36 solid minutes of undeniable summer jamz that have a darker heart than their sunny sonic composition might immediately convey, but your ears will be too busy smiling to notice until the third or fourth listen and you'll already be hooked.

The best news is that despite being based in Australia, the band is making their way to the States this fall! You can look for me at their Thalia Hall show on August 17. Don't live in Chicago? Check out all their upcoming tour dates here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Everybody started somewhere.


I got hip to Green Day just a titch too late to have seen them in any basements, though I had plenty of friends who did. I love how this video weaves grainy, early 924 Gilman Street footage over Green Day's most recent video off Revolution Radio (a kick ass album, by the way), and reminds the viewer that even mega-international superstars once played DIY clubs for just a couple buck a head for an all ages show.

Man, I wish I'd been to one on those basement or small club shows during the Lookout! days!

Monday, June 19, 2017

I really have to get my reading queue in order.

Photo by veronika_k
I'm almost done with Simon Reynolds' Shock And Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-First Century, which has taken me longer than I anticipated to get though its 600+ pages.* And I have a couple shorter reads I'm ready to tackle that I'm hoping to finish before we move to our new house next month.** But I'm always behind in my reading stack, primarily because I have the tendency to buy new books I hear about on the radio, or on podcasts, or read about online or in magazines. But maybe it's time to pause on that front.

I was reading about David Weigel's The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock in some publication or another, and thought to myself, "I must have that, this sound right up my alley!"

Luckily I got distracted and did not immediately jump onto AmazonSmile and order it. Had I done so, then I would have slapped myself silly just one week later. As I was packing up books to donate yesterday—I get a lot of review copies sent to me and if I don't keep them I donate them to Open Books—I came across, you guessed it, The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock by David Weigel.

Whew!

And yes, I'll tell you how it is once I finish it.

*The book is excellent; the time it's taken me to finish it has nothing to do with length or readability and everything to do with my insanely busy personal schedule.

**I know! WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? More on this later.

Friday, June 16, 2017

This looks like a fun, twisted little game.


I chatted with Pricetitution's creator on Chicagoist.

The game beat it's Kickstarter goal of $10,000 hours before kicking off and now they're hoping to hit $20,000 with a week still to go. Head over to read the article and maybe you'll buy a game for yourself.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A slice of shoegazy Britpop courtesy The History Of Colour TV.

The History Of Colour TV, photo by Tanja Pippi
The History Of Color TV is based in Germany but led by British singer/guitarist Jaike Stambach. So the head-on slam of styles between austere gauzy, rainy guitars and a more languid strain of Britpop the group produces makes total sense. Britgaze? Shoepop? Neither? Neither.

There’s a fair amount of melodrama in this music, and for me that means this is an album for special moments and not heavy rotation, but I know many folks for whom this is the perfect tonic to even the sunniest of days. If you’re in the mood for a band that somehow mixes a dreamy lethargy with soaring volume and mournful melodies, then The History Of Color TV is something to pour into your ears, posthaste.

The strongest track, in my humble estimation, is the opener “Granite Verge of Tears,” a slowly building majestic little slice that puts visions of roaring seas far below a plunging cliff I’m standing on into my head. So stream it below and see what it evokes in your own imagination. And if you enjoy it just keep on streaming or just buy the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What to make of MINKA?

MINKA
Sometimes the opening line of a press bio actually does nail what you can expect from a band:
MINKA is a dance band. They live, breathe, and procreate in Philadelphia. They will play your roof or basement, warehouse or venue. They will play the bottom of your swimming pool. Dick Rubin, leader of the band, has been known to perform fully nude.
Once you throw in that the title of their new EP is Born In The Viper Room, you have a really good idea what to expect, but Oingo Boingo and The Cars rub shoulders with the imagined LA scene in MINKA’s version of The Viper Room. So this is what The Viper Room would sound like if it relocated to Philadelphia?

Actually they do remind me of quirky, urgent groups from the late ‘90s, like Ima Robot. Not a bad thing.

The EP jumps all over the place—the band’s sound is there but it feels like a group of musicians who are a little too accomplished to be able to stay in one place. The opening track “ I Can’t Shake This Feeling” is pure new wave, followed by the disco-lite “Josephine,” which is followed by the David Bowie-influenced “Gravity.” Actually, “Gravity” sounds more like a straight up Bowie imitation (which is actually vocally spot on) and I honestly can’t decide if I really like it or if the straight up Black Tie White Noise-era rip is really annoying.

And then there's the Cars meets Queen "Company Man" followed by the—uh, is that a Prince vibe?—dancey "Still Waiting" ... the point is the EP is all over the place, but at five songs this musical ADHD is OK. I do suspect they are probably a 100% fun live, party party, band.

Check out the whole EP below and tell me what you think. You can either stream it or download it for free / pay what you want.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dan Auerbach's new album is the burst of summer you're looking for.

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen
So I admit that I’d been avoiding listening to the new Dan Auerbach album. I don’t have anything personal against the dude, but I’d grown a little tired of him. I’ve been a fan since the earliest days of The Black Keys. When I met Mich I think they might have actually been one of her own personal top five bands at the time. I’ve seen him grow from tiny clubs like The Empty Bottle to selling out Metro to working their way up through various Lollapalooza line-ups and selling out massive halls.

I think the turning point might’ve been a Lollapalooza after show at The Metro. Sine she loved the band so much I let Mich use my photo pass to shoot the band—and she did a fine job, she does know how to use a camera! But the crowd was so full of aggro drunk dudes who wanted to fight anything that moved, people so far removed from what I thought the band’s fanbase was, that it gave me pause and I took a few steps back. Funny how shitty concert experiences can change your perception of a band sometimes. It’s not their fault they started attracting asshole fans, but once that happens it’s hard to separate the two.

And yes, I’ve admired Auerbach’s solo work and collaborations on the production side with other artists (mostly*) but much of it didn’t have the spark early Black Keys material had and felt too polished.

And then comes along his new album Waiting On A Song, which is certainly polished, but only inasmuch as it feels so fresh and well realized it’s slowly growing irresistible. It totally mixes earthy ‘60s and '70s vibes as Auerbach mixes Southern Cali vibes with Motwon swing, and super catchy pop cores.



It totally doesn’t hurt that he recruited a bevy of legends to come in the studio and monkey around on the songs. When you’ve got John Prine, Duane Eddy, Jerry Douglas, Russ Pahl, Pat McLaughlin, Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman on your team there’s a good chance the game is gonna end with you winning by a pretty large margin.

And Waiting On A Song is a winning album, as in winning me over, as in winning the early starting gun for summer vibes, and as in winning me back into the camp of Auerbach. His stuff in The Arcs pointed at the direction this second proper solo album would take, but it didn’t have quite the same tight approach of the songwriting on Waiting On A Song.

I heard an interview on a Rolling Stone podcast this morning where Auerbach said that when writing this he unplugged from pretty much everything—the web, the media, other music—and just wrote tunes with the folks he was collaborating with. So that probably explains the neat economy of the mostly perfect realizing of the tunes on the final tracklist. And with a running time of 33 minutes there ain't a second of filler.

Huh, I meant for this post to be a quick paragraph or two and two videos. I guess I had more thoughts on Auerbach in general than I realized!

So yeah, I held off listening to the new Dan Auerbach album, and that was a huge mistake. Don't make the same mistake.



* I still don't really dig that Lana Del Rey album. So sue me.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Do you remember The Atomic Numbers?

The Atomic Numbers operated out of Detroit in the late '90s and is one of those bands that I remember seeing for the first time and thinking "oh my god they are in my head how do they know to make this exact sound?!" So needless to say I was a fan.

A friend of mine was their booking agent, so they were high on my list of band I wanted to play The Note when I became talent buyer there. Most bands were resistant—it took me a while to convince people the venue was a viable place for the "cool rock bands" to play—but The Atomic Numbers were one of the first bigger name acts to agree to a show after I'd established a few months of music that proved I wasn't kidding about what I wanting to turn the club into.

If I remember correctly they only played The Note once, and I think the band broke up shortly after that (or went on a hiatus they never returned from), which bummed me out mightily. It's not easy to find much of their stuff online based on the time period they existed in, and the fact I don't think they really broke out of being a regional act. But man they were good. And heck, it even looks like Amazon still has one copy of the band's full-length you can buy!

If you can't snag that in time, I stumbled across Jeff Hupp's, the band's bassist, Soundcloud page which graciously has that whole, excellent, debut album streaming.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Trying to stay on the positive side of things.

A while ago someone asked me why they haven’t read a review from me slamming this band or that in a very long time. And the obvious reason is that today, unless it’s a really big band making really terrible noise people should be warned about, what’s the point? I’d rather spend time turning people on to music I think they’ll like. And wouldn’t you rather read about music you might like?

That isn’t to say that a sharper, darker wit never slips into my writing, or gives shit to even the subjects I am behind. But I’ve definitely been trying to keep things positive.

The way things are in the world right, I’d rather not add to the doom and gloom if I don’t have to

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Series finales I have experienced watching in real time that were perfect.

In no particular order, and these all rank for just being, you know, just satisfying and perfect. Resolution need not apply:

  • Newhart
  • Breaking Bad
  • The Leftovers
  • M*A*S*H
  • Mad Men
  • Battlestar Gallactica
  • Angel
  • Dream On (I know, what?!)
Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Still the sexiest couple in rock and/or roll.

Boss Hog, photo by Jeri Lampert
I was supposed to see Boss Hog last weekend but life and work got in the way. I haven’t seen the band since they played The Metro in the late ‘90s (1995? 1996?) and I was really looking forward to it. But hey, what can you do. Hopefully they’ll come around when the release their next album in another 17 years.*

The band still has it on the new album Brood X, and Cristina Martinez + Jon Spencer sparks are still white hot. You have to love a couple that has been together this long as both lovers and collaborators, and still vibe off each other with such heat. And for such a public duo, the two are still shrouded in mystery and cool and attitude and that whole inscrutable and impenetrable layer that seems to settle over anyone who is a living legend.

Let’s get down and get gritty.



*This is a joke. Their last album came out in 2000. That would be lost on anyone not already a fan. Sorry 'bout that!

Monday, June 05, 2017

My photos and review of the mind-blowing Takashi Murakami exhibit is up!

...and this is one of the smaller pieces! Photo by me.
As alluded to Friday, I went to the amazing press preview for Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg at the MCA in Chicago. I can't recommend it enough. I was familiar with Murakami's work—primarily through Mr. DOB and work he's done with Kanye West—but I had no idea just how large most of his pieces are, or how intricate.

I fully intend to spend more than a few afternoons diving back in to the exhibit over the summer, that's for sure.

Read my review and browse through the photos I took to get psyched.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Thursday, June 01, 2017

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

I know. The hair's getting out of control.
Hm, May seemed pretty below average, music-wise. I listened to less albums, and most of the ones I did scored on the lower end of the spectrum. I don't know what that means, exactly. It does seem to indicate we've hit a slight lull in the releases for the year. Of course there a bunch on the back burner, so maybe if I spend more time enjoying my porch on the weekends in June I'll have a better chance of finding some new discoveries that tickle me a bit more.

So, the stats.

The guide to understanding my rating system is here, if you're interested.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in May 2017: 41

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 0

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 30

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 11

Highest rated album: Paramore's After Laughter. And wow, did this catch me off guard when I realized it was actually the new album I probably listened to the most this month. Especially considering I’ve never really been a fan!

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Well, I’ve heard of the members of BNQT, but was ready to write them off as yet another indie supergroup with (mostly) lesser known players from famous bands. But their debut Volume 1 is really good!

Most surprising discovery: Just how good Elf Power still is on their new album Twitching In Time. I expected something pleasing, but not this satisfying.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

While we're feeling nostalgic...

I mentioned Arlo got a lot of play over the last week or so, but I was just traipsing through my Last.fm account and realized the Direct Hit! got A LOT of play over just the last weekend.

Here's the album to help soundtrack your own summer when you need a pick-me-up.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sgt. Pepper's at 50.

Image via The Beatles' Facebook page
I’m not even gonna dip my toe into the never-ending argument over the merits of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band versus other records in The Beatles’ catalog. I do know it was the first vinyl album I ever bought (along with the KISS Ace Frehly solo picture disc), so it obviously means a lot to me on a personal level. At the time we only had a full stereo system with no headphones—this was the late ‘70s, after all—so I didn’t realize that the stereo mix was all hard-panning and not “true” stereo.

As the years progressed and I graduated to the wide world of the cassette Walkman, I realized just how crazy the mixing sounded on Beatles albums. I actually found it pretty cool … until I started DJing and realized how weird the songs sounded if the speakers were in wildly different areas of a room. This prompted me to switch the mixer to mono whenever I wanted to play a Beatles song.*

So enter this 50th anniversary of the album, rebuilt and remixed by Giles Martin from master tapes, many of which were original and not the bounced-down versions needed to fit as many tracks into a mix. The result is truly enjoyable, expanding on my memories of the album while beefing up the sound a touch and adding the touch of true stereo to help unify all the bit and pieces into a united whole instead of splitting them between ye olde ear holes.


NOTE: The bonus material is for hardcore fans only. The various takes of the songs as they grew into their final shapes are interesting, but in no way essential. So if you want to take them in my suggestion would be to stream them and not waste your dough on the deluxe version of this reissue. The single CD new mix of the actual album is 100% worth your dough though.


*This was long before the mono mixes were ever available to me. Or, more accurately before I even realized they existed!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Is this going to be the summer of sickness?

I'm coming down with something again. For a guy who was always pretty hale and hearty, the fact I've been ill so often in the last year or so really has me starting to doubt my immortality!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Remember Arlo?



My friend Bernie kew the guys in Arlo and took me to a few of their shows. I was an instant convert to their wild performances, full of crackling energy and undeniable power-pop hooks.

Stab The Unstoppable Hero was the album that most closely approximated their live sets, but even it can't fully convey what an amazing live act the band was.

Here are two tunes from that album to help you kick off the long holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Harringtons are blowing my mind. Yours is next in line.



The Harringtons are a power trio out of the U.K. Yeah, blah blah blah, so what?

Here's what.

They are a trio of teenagers channeling explosive hooks with straight roots to the family tree The Who planted decades before this kids were even born. But it ain't a tribute; they're just tapping into the vein. Their debut EP CHANGE IS GONNA COME is one of those short blasts of pure chaotic euphoria that raises my pulse to levels that tease on a threatening heart attack.

In 14 minutes these impeccably coiffed fellows deliver four salvos that, at their age, should not be a fraction as potent as they are. This is the equivalent of walking into a American VFW hall only to discover every wall is lined with amps surrounding a singer whose veins are thrust inches from his neck while he strains to stay in key.

It's a physical force.

It is a blast of fun.

Below a taste of an early version of one the band's songs. On the EP it carries even more weight and attacks with a barely contained chaos that will scrape a wide smile across your face. Since their album isn't due until July 14, this will have to do for now.

Get down on your knees and pray right now that someone more flush with money than I hears these sounds and bankrolls a trip to the U.S.A. for the band, because, I for one, can not wait to hear what this maelstrom sounds like in a fucking live setting.