Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Struts are back!

My love for The Struts runs deep. They craft the perfect kind of big ol’ fashioned rock and/or roll that makes boys fall in love with boys and girls fall in love with girls and everyone just fall in love with each other. They believe in scarves and floppy hats and skin-tight leather. They worship at the altar of Queen and the idea that every single show is supposed to be a really good time.

The group is in the studio working on their new album, the always fraught sophomore effort, but if this first taste of the new material, the single "One Bight Only," is any indication of what to expect from the rest this band will safely avoid any slump.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to be a rock critic.

Erik Jensen's channeling of Lester Bangs is both eye-opening and mind-blowing.
No, this isn't an entry of how to be a rock critic, but rather to recommend you see the play How To Be A Rock Critic playing in Chicago that's been extended through the end of the month. I saw it a few weeks ago, and highly recommend this one-person show based on the life and writings of Lester Bangs.

And no, you don't have to know who Bangs was, or even a fan of rock music, to really get a lot out of this show.

Read my review and then go get some tickets!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The close of P4K Music Fest always feels like the last day of summer camp to me.

This was perhaps one of the mellowest, most pleasant Pitchfork Music Festivals I've ever experienced. I am sore as heck from all the standing and walking, but the corwds, music, and overall vibe of the weekend was pretty great.

Here's all the coverage I contributed to if you'd like to catch up on what went down over the last couple of days in Union Park!

Photos: LCD Soundsystem Throw A Helluva Non-Retirement Party At Pitchfork Day 1

Photos: A Tribe Called Quest Brings The Stripped-Down Heat To Pitchfork Day 2

Photos: An Empowering Solange & Hometown Heroes Won Pitchfork Day 3

Photos: The Best Fest Fashion Seen At Pitchfork 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

The 2017 Pitchfork Music Fest is here!

Let's get magical, photo from last year's P4K by Annie Lesser for Chicagoist
I'm excite by this year's Pitchfork Music Festival bill, and am looking forward to seeing some old favorites and making some new discoveries. If you need some suggestions on who to see—aside from the headliners everyone is already going to see—I out together a guide with a few acts each day I'm most excited about.

But I'm most excited about the prospect of being surprised by acts I'm less familiar with!

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Today we move into our new house. I am SO EXCITED. And terrified. But mostly excited.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I wish Carly Rae Jepsen would play a small, private show in Chicago every night of the week.

Carly Rae Jepsen played a small show last night, and Mich and I were lucky enough to attend. And it turned out to be the first time she's ever performed "Cut To The Feeling Live" so it's like we got to experience a little slice of pop history in the making! Read all about it and peep the action in motion.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Busy week, but this brief respite is for me.

Amidst all the insanity of moving and such, this evening will provide a musical bright spot when I get the chance to see Carly Rae Jepsen play a small, private show in Chicago. And afterward, I will return home and continue to pack in prepartion for our impending move. But for a blip of time, I'll just be in pop heaven and won't worry about all the stuff looking over me that I have to get done.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gorillaz kicked off their world tour in Chicago and I was there.

Photo by me.
These days, I don't often get truly nervous about getting on a guest list or not. I figure I make a request, and if it's accepted that's great and if not, that's O.K. too. But anything Damon Albarn related is a whole 'nother story! Luckily for me the publicity gods and goddesses smiled on me, though, and granted me access to Saturday's Gorillaz show at Northerly Island in Chicago.

This show also brought me out of "live concert photography retirement," so you can read my review and see a ton of photos I took on Chicagoist today.

If the band is coming through your town BUY TICKETS. Gorillaz mutates every time the entity tours, and while this version isn't as quirky as, say, the Plastic Beach tour, it is a spectacle.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Last day of "vacation."

These stairs used to be covered in carpet!
That title up there is pretty tongue in cheek, since there wasn't a whole lotta resting and relaxing going on this week.* What there was a lot of was grunting and sweating and cursing and taping of boxes shut and moving heavy stuff from one end of a room to another and meeting contractors redoing floors and ceilings and walls and all kinds of fun stuff.

And there's still another week of this to go.

I think Mich and I are already looking forward to next summer so we'll have those handful of warm Chicago months to actually enjoy and not fritter away amidst a sea of stress and too much to do in too little time.

Let's hear it for being homeowners! Huzzah!

*O.K., I did bona fide pamper myself once, treating myself to an early screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier today, and it was fantastic! Possibly my favorite Spidey flick yet, and another hopeful entry in the superhero movie canon of films filled with excitement and optimism and virtue and not saddled by angst and gritty cinematic textures. Mich hasn't seen it yet, so I suppose I'll have to force myself to see it again so she doesn't have to watch it alone.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

This song belongs over the closing credits of a 'Master Of None' episode.

The headline pretty much says all you need to know, huh?

But here's a smidge more background for you: the tune is by Dublin's Tiny Magnetic Pets and appears on their new LP Deluxe / Debris, out next month. The album reminds me of the dance rock, synth pop movement that flashed in Chicago in the early aughts, mixing beats and programmed lines with something that feels a bit askew and human. I've only given it a single listen, but my first impression is that it's a slow charmer of an album.

But this song, "Here Cmes The Noise (White)" caught my attention in its first 5 seconds, and I could immediately envision it as the cathartic release at the end of a particularly emotional episode of any of that genre of programming making intelligent attempts at deciphering big city survival by a generation of twenty- or thirty-somethings. Maybe even a segue from a long single camera shot into the credits. You know?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

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

A drenched but happy post-Tom Petty concert June photo.
A few days late, but the breakdown is in—I picked up the pace in June and was rewarded with an unusually high number of pretty meh albums. But hey, the majority were pretty good! So let's just dive into the stats.

Oh, and in case you need it, here's a guide to making sense of my personal rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in June 2017: 83

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 6

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 50

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 27

Highest rated album: San Cisco’s The Water. I recently gushed about how the fizzy and jaunty rock-pop this Australia group specializes in has helped kick my summer up a notch.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Nana Grizol. On Ursa Minor this Athens band with Elephant 6 affiliations plays tunes that flirt with orch pop (it kind of reminds me of the more upbeat-era Belle and Sebastian stuff, and maybe a bit of Beulah).

Most surprising discovery: Dan Auerbach’s Waiting On A Song still surprises me with how simple and straightforward it is, and how genuinely likable I still find it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy independence (film) day!

I've gotta say, Keitel and Roth are still lookin' pretty fine.
The movie starring a bunch of the guys in the photo above, gathered in a reunion shot to celebrate said film, just came on the cable TV running in the background of our family room, prompting the cheeky title of this post and giving me something to write about today tangentially—ever so, so—related to the name of the holiday if, in fact, having really nothing to do with the reason we celebrate the 4th of July in the U.S.A.; this is not because I think we have nothing to celebrate today, because we, in the grand scheme of things, most certainly do, but more because goddamn is this still a good movie.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Fast Romantics slather 'American Love' with feel-good stadium hooks.

Fast Romantics photo by Jen Squires
Toronto's Fast Romantics have been around a while, but they're new to me. I played a game with Mich to see if she had the same reaction to the opening bars on the first song off their latest album American Love, and sure enough, she did.

"It sounds a lot like Bruce Springsteen."

And then the next few bars hit and starts to turn that initial read on its head. And then the vocals come in and you realize there's more to the band than Springsteen worship.

After a few songs I shared my mental musical equation regarding the band's sound:

It's like if Arcade Fire went to band camp with the E Street band, and then picked up the love child of Neil Diamond and Brandon Flowers to front the resulting sound.* And it totally works.

Here's a sampler of the new LP. You can buy the whole ting through the link in the player.

*I also admit thinking, "Is this the Canadian version of Steel Train?" But I like my initial equation better.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Fig. 1
First of all, I would like to thank Jay-Z for dropping his new album, the first of his I actually think is worth all the hype that's usually showered on him, on my birthday so I could kick off my day with its sounds. It's nice to know you're thinking of me, dude. But I am a little worried about my sleep schedule last night (see Fig. 1) perfectly aligning with that album's title. Is Jay-Z truly part of the Illuminati and capable of mind control from hundreds of miles away?!

I would also like to thank Bong Joon-ho for dropping his latest film, one I've been anxiously anticipating, just in time so I could watch it this afternoon. Okja did not disappoint. It made me laugh. It made me recoil in horror. It made me think. It made me feel. Thank you.

I would like to thank Popeye's chicken for still being there to deliver my customary birthday dinner. I ate too much and it was all delicious.
Fig. 2

Edgar Wright also deserves a big slab of thanks for releasing his latest movie just in time for me to thoroughly enjoy it in the theater this evening. No spoilers! But it's really good.

I would like to thank the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for "Bellbottoms," a song that still excited me as much today every time I hear it as when I first encountered its mind-blowing power 23 years ago.

Thank you to my coworkers who had no idea who The Chemical Brothers are, making me feel suitably ancient.

Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers deserve a round of applause from me as well, since they provided the soundtrack that kept me in a cheery mood late last night and into my 45th year.

I'd like to thank David Bowie. That's it. I just want to thank David Bowie.

I'd like to thank my wife for buying me Juul Pods as a birthday gift in hopes I will smoke actual cigarettes less and live longer. I'm trying, honey.

And thanks to all of you who read this, and everyone who sent me birthday wishes, for making this big doofus (see Fig. 2) feel pretty special today.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sprinkle some glitter onto your summer with Matt Springfield.

Here’s an unexpected little gem from French artist Matt Springfield that popped up in my mailbox today. “Poplife! (Single Mix)” is a musical tweaking of a track that original appeared on Springfield’s 2012 album Erase All Data. A few extra synths in the intro and some shifting of dynamics within the song turns what was an excellent slide of danceable power pop into a new wave tank of a tune.

I’m only now making my way through Springfield’s earlier stuff, but so far all I’ve listened to is similar enough to “Poplife!” that I’m still hooked and digging deeper.

While I dig, you go ahead and enjoy this.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Monumental and gargantuan.

You’re faced with what feels like a million decisions all at once, and no answer feels right because this is YOUR FUTURE you’re deciding on. Everything from changing locks to replacing floors to tearing out a ceiling to discover that the weird covering is actually glued to the plaster beneath and there is a hundred years of black dust raining down on you as you make the discovery.

Through all of this I’m been super busy at the 9-to-5 due to a really cool project that’s launching very soon (that I can’t wait to turn you on to!) which is totally doable, but at the same time, Mich’s office is also in the midst of a huge project she’s heavily involved in, so our time is spread pretty thin. Amazingly, she is somehow managing to do all her office work and wrangle the many, many contractors coming through with estimates and doing work.

I don’t know how she does it. It’s impressive.

Next week will be interesting—I’m taking most of the week off to finish packing and preparing the new place for our move. Schedules are tight, but luckily I booked this time a while ago.* I know, not much of a vacation, but it’ll be nice to have a couple additional free days to take care of all of this stuff. I hate moving. Hate it, hate it. I’m, a middle-aged man who has managed to accumulate a lot of stuff over the years, so packing is just so, so painful.** And then there’s figuring out where everything will go in the new place, and…


But aside from that “ugh” and the insanity and the stress and all the other fun stuff that goes along with being a homeowner, there is also this: awe. I am still in shock that the beautiful house with the gorgeous little yard I’ve been wandering around periodically over the last few days is ours. Ours, ours, OURS! And for all the headaches owning property is raining down on both me and Mich, it’s still a thrilling feeling.

To create our home.

*In my line of work, I always feel like there is never a good time to take any vacation time. I don’t know if that’s just my overwhelming guilt at actually using time off I have coming to me, or it’s just the speed and non-stop momentum of the career I picked. Probably a little of both. But I am jealous of people in my industry who seem to be able to take vacation time and just unplug, figuring everyone else can handle whatever comes up in their absence. How do you do that? I want to learn!

**Not to mention, boy are the cats in for a surprise!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A quick thought on the perceived wisdom of who constructs the best movie soundtracks from pre-existing pop songs.

After listening to the Baby Driver soundtrack, it's obvious Edgar Wright has taken the mantle of Master Movie Mixtape Maker™ from Quentin Tarantino. Not a clunker in the lot, If you've got Spotify, stream the magic below.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A quick shot of (Charly) Bliss while things are still settling down.

Everything is still upended by Friday's big purchase so please enjoy this relatively new video from one of my favorite bands of 2017.

Like the song in the video? Then download it for free in exchange for a Facebook follow!

(Which, by the way, while I enjoyed judging the battle of bands I skipped their show for, I am still smarting over missing that show. I bet it was amazing. Maybe the best show of the year. They better come back through Chicago soon!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

I own a backyard now.

Still in a bit of shock. And got pulled into work over the weekend so I haven't had time to properly process everything that happened this morning. But I promise more pictures once we take possession of our new home tomorrow!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Today is my last day as a renter.

This time tomorrow, I will be a homeowner.

It's aiming to be one of the most exciting, thrilling, terrifying, paralyzing, euphoric, confusing, confounding, transformative moments in my life.

I almost feel like I'm turning into a grown-up!

In the face of such a huge, momentous event that is arriving from over the horizon at an alarming speed, allow me to distract myself with one of my favorite one-and-a-half minute songs of all time.

Ahhhhh, that's better. Now I feel relaxed again.

Bring on the paperwork!