Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Is shoegaze-pop a genre? I think Kestrels proves it is.

Of all their promo shots, this was the sunniest. Is there no sun in Halifax?
Here’s another on the “2016 albums I didn’t really get to fig into in 2016 but wish I had” list of entries. I should’ve guessed Kestrels would be pretty great. They’re from Halifax, NS—as is one of my favorite bands of all time Sloan—and it is common knowledge there is something in the water of that town that creates really great bands.

Is shoegaze-pop a genre? It is now, and it applies to this trio. Their new self-titled album is actually their third, but as seems to be the case when bands name an album after themselves, it really does seem like it coalesces all their influences into a mission statement that defines the band. And that mission statement is, “let’s write songs that you could sing along to in the shower or at a campfire and then throw loads of reverb and mind-melty guitars all over them while pushing the drums into “punch through the haze” mode.

It’s great stuff. The sort of thing ‘80s college rock kids, ‘90s Britpoppers, ‘00s indie hipsters, shoe gaze nuts—aw, hell, pretty much anyone—can dig into and enjoy.

Sadly it looks like the trio never really makes it down into the states (looks like they only played Chicago once, and that was at Township which, while I think it’s a groovy venue, might not have exactly resulted in a huge crowd or welcome for their set) but after finally giving this album a couple proper listens I hope that changes soon.

Stream Kestrels below and feel free to buy it and download onto your favorite mobile listening device.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This music is so happy and uplifting I'm Crying.

Crying, photo by Adam Kolodny
Been digging through a couple 2016 releases that trickled in after I finished my list, and stumbled across the new album from Crying, Beyond The Fleeting Gates. I have no idea where it came from—I just scoured my inbox trying to figure out who sent it to me but there is no sign of the original email that accompanied the album—but hey, you can take that as proof that I really do try and listen to just about everything sent my way regardless of who the band knows or uses as a publicist!

So this album I a blast. It is really bouncy power-pop, and while the employ a healthy dose of synths, the guitars are big and monstrous on just about every song. I mean, the whole thing is unexpectedly solid and fun, with sweet vocals that immediately won me over (and had just a touch of that same combo of innocence and experience that Damone channeled a few years ago). At time the tunes are a little over the top, but in all the right ways.

And thank goodness I stumbled across this when I did because as luck would have it the band is actually on tour now (and hits The Metro in Chicago on on March 2)!

Stream the album below, and as usual if you like it as much as I did I think you’ll happily throw the band a few bucks to download it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Well, hi there!

Click the image to embiggen.
Above is the 404 page for the -ist network. It doesn't come up often, but every time it does it brings a smile to my face.

Happy Monday.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Not a rant, just some advice.

It's been almost a month of what I don't think anyone would argue is not a pretty chaotic period in the U.S. And i admit I am one of those people who has found it difficult to step away from the firehose of news around the current administration. But I have been trying. I'm trying to avoid the non-stop deluge and check in on the firehose less often.

First of all, if you're constantly plugged in it is impossible to be able to gain any actual context around events so you're just reacting instead of understanding. And dire as things seem, understanding and putting things into context is important if people are going to resist the more catastrophic tendencies manifesting themselves in politic right now.

I'm also thinking non-stop consumption is getting to be pretty dangerous as far avoiding a fatalistic worldview. When all you're processing is terrible, horrible news your brain will never get a chance to step away and notice just how many wonderful things are going on in the world right now. Both wonderful in the sense that people are drawing together and wonderful in the sense that life in general is just awe inspiring when you open your eyes to it.

Of course I've long been told by people that I give great advice to others, but I am not so good at following my own good advice. But in this case I'm gonna try.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sink into the vintage vibe with Chicano Batman.

Photo by Josue Rivas
Softly psychedelic, warmly recorded, and gently funky; the new album from Chicano Batman Freedom Is Free feels pretty comforting right now.

The whole album feels like a throwback, right down to the sounds of the studio, and it could have turned out pretty cheesy, but I find the results to balance well between a wink and a hug.

Listen to the title track below and order the album if you like it. The band is currently on tour too, including a Chicago stop at Lincoln Hall on April 7.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Humpday is back!

A post shared by Michelle Kopeny (@shellster129) on
Our wandering friend took a week off, but now he's back in action!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oh, it's that day again.

I’m not a big celebrator of Valentine’s Day. This year Mich and I are just ordering in and watching a movie—nothing fancy. And I usually don’t really care about it one way or the other. But this year I worry a little about single people who do put some sort of value into this “holiday” since this is not a good time to fell like you are “alone.”

So if anyone is feeling that way, even if you don’t have a “Valentine” you are not alone. We’re all in this together and I’m thinking of you, no matter who you are.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Our emo POTUS.


You know what? I need some levity. And this did the trick. You might need some levity too.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ancient history.

For giggles I looked in my drafts folder for this blog to see what has been sitting dormant or didn't make the cut, and the earliest draft is from January 21, 2005.


Wow. Blast from the past indeed!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

You know you're getting old when...

I have no idea what is happening here, so it must be new since I last saw the show ... in 1997.
...you are going to see Blue Man Group for the second time in your life and you realize the first time you saw it was almost 20 years ago. What?!

I can't remember precisely, but we saw it right after it opened in Chicago because my friend Bernie made it to one of the final auditions as a drummer for the troupe—but did not get the final gig—and they either offered him free or deeply discounted tickets right when it opened in Chicago. I'm gonna guess if they cost money Photogal paid for them because at that time I would've still been cobbling a bunch of jobs together in order to make enough money for rent, food and beer.

I will say this about that memory: I still can vividly envision segments of that Blue Man show and am curious to see which bits are still in there two decades later. I'm seeing it because it just underwent a pretty major revamp, including a new finale, but I'm sure I'll recognize a good portion of the show.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Early '80s space disco from Latvia? Yes, please!



I simply can't keep this to myself when it could be improving your life too! Jam out to Zodiac!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Grown up stuff.

House hunting is stressful! I am certain many of you out there that have already bought houses are heartily laughing at that statement while throwing knowing winks my way.

Mich and I have entered the exploratory stages of house hunting. We love our current place, and our current location and our current landlord but it’s also getting to be that time when we’re shining of raising kids and settling down and all the adult stuff most folks started doing when they were 15 years younger than I currently am!

There are a few things we refuse to do. We won’t enter into a bidding war. We won’t pay more than list price. We won’t move to the suburbs. And we won’t buy some place that results in mortgage payments that forceus to live on a shoestring budget for the next 30 years.

SoI think we’re setting ourselves up for success in the long run, but it doesn’t make the actual hunt any less stressful. We’ve already felt the heady rush of deciding we like a place and then realized it was already off the market, or had something else pop up that got in the way. I’m trying to keep a level head and not get too attached to any place, but of course that isn’t always easy.

So, wish us luck!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Here is something life affirming.



Take a break from the news. Rock out. Bathe in the obvious joy these folks are channeling.

Think I can talk them into touring?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Comic books, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.

I've noticed a renewed interest in myself for all three.

I'm guessing it's a self-defense mechanism.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

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

Oh, those omnipresent earbuds.
So I’m going to start a regular check-in to share how many new albums I’ve listened to each month. I keep track of these in a constantly growing spreadsheet and think it will be fun to share my progress and select tidbits about what I’m listening to.

For the purpose of this list I am only counting albums that are or will be released in 2017. So it’s not really everything I’m listening to, just the new stuff. The other requirement is that I had to have listened to the entire album from start to finish.*

I also rate the albums to help me make my year-end list, so to give you an idea of how that works, a 5 is a solid album. It’s the kind of record that I wouldn’t skip if it came up again on shuffle or I was in the right mood for it. So it’s not really “average” it’s more “this is a solid piece of work.” Many, many discs are 5s.

Going up the scale increases in difficulty. There is more space between a 9 and a 10 than there is between a 6 and a 7, you know what I mean? It’s incrementally more difficult to move up the scale so there are very, very few 9s or 10s, if any.

Same applies for going down the scale. A 4 isn’t terrible, and might be kept on if it pops up on the radio or something, but 3 and below means it’s probably nigh unlistenable as far as I’m concerned. But it could also mean it’s just not my thing too! It’s not a judgement on a band, it’s a measure of how I enjoy (or am challenged) by the music. So my 2 could very well be an 8 to you, right?

Anyway, here is the list for the past 31 days!


Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in January 2017: 82

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 4

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 68

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 10

Highest rated album: Dude York - Sincerely

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: I was going to say Dude York before I realized they were also the highest rated album on the list! So I'll give it to runner-up The Courtneys' The Courtneys II.

Most surprising discovery: Bell Biv Devoe - Three Stripes (Who even expected them to ever release an album again???!!!)


*I still work under the notion that if a band is going to take the time and / or money to send stuff my way, if it makes it into my queue it deserves at least a full listen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

This makes a rather compelling point, don't you think?



Kudos to Corden for pointing out the obvious. Rather, what should be obvious.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Here's a stylish t-shirt design!


Buy this t-shirt sporting a rather timely design courtesy your and my friends at Chunklet. All proceeds go to benefit the American Immigration Council.

I bought two.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange sounds from a distant star.

I still remember getting the Sound + Vision box set* for Christmas in 1989, a precursor to a large reissue project centered around David Bowie. And it was a glorious collection of Bowie tracks—some popular, many rare—held on a bunch of cassette tapes.

Yup, cassettes. I didn’t make the leap to CDs for another few years. They were so much more expensive, and that didn’t even take into account how much you had to shell out for the CD player itself! Plus, it would be quite a few more years before CDs went mobile via the Discman.

But I digress.

I spent the next couple of years waiting eagerly for the next batch of Ryko reissues of Bowie's catalog from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Before then his earlier stuff was pretty hard to find since it had been out of print. So I had to make do with cobbled together mixtures and the occasional vinyl find. I was finally Abe to enjoy his catalog in all it’s glory!

Most of the reissues had bonus tracks. And I admit when a number of them would be released on the same day I’d go after the ones with the most tracks. Money was tight so choices had to be made! Sometimes it would take months to get my reissue collection up to date! But these were also the days where one would consume a single album over the course of weeks, playing it over and over again until it’s grooves became part of your DNA and coursed through your body, headily rushing through your blood, bypassing your head and going straight for your heart.

Years later I would obsessively collect all the Ryko reissues on CD, not ever even considering that at some time they too would become out of print.** Some Bowie fans complain about the sound quality on them but I don’t mind it. Sure, somewhat confusingly, the original RCA CDs have a warmer sound than the Ryko ones but it’s really not that much of a difference.

Photo via VTGdallas
A couple years ago I realized these CDs were getting pretty beaten up from the bajillion times they had been played so I ripped them into lustrous 160 kbps M4As.*** And then because I am an obsessive I took all the bonus tracks and assembled them into a single compilation—even going so far as to create unique digital art for it—which I saved down to a hard drive and then forgot about.

I rediscovered this arrangement of tracks last night and spent all morning today listening to it. It has the effect of creating a discography from an alternate Bowie universe when you consume them all together. Some of the hits are there, but instead of "Ziggy Stardust"stomping all around it’s a folky ballad, and “John, I’m Only Dancing” loses its glittery snobbery and gets a disco remake. The songs span from 1969 through 1980 and when taken all at once really does create a wonderful experience that feels like it’s being piped in from another universe.

It’s been a nice way to lose myself in a reconstruction that allows me to experience the music in a way that’s a little foreign.**** I think I need to try and find time to do stuff like that more often since it really helps soothe and center me.

A tiny sonic oasis in troubling times, if you will.


*EMI updated the Sound + Vision set in 2003 to bring it up-to-date through the late ‘90s. It was interesting but the original collection will always be my favorite.

**I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve re-bought the Bowie catalog when something gets reissued or remastered or remixed or resequenced or…

***Don’t judge the lower bitrate. Space was at a premium on my iPod at the time!

****Sometimes I can get this effect by throwing the whole Bowie library into a playlist and hitting shuffle. But this was even more interesting because by playing these outtakes and rare tracks in chronological order it really did feel like they were telling a story.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My happy place.


When things feel just too dire, a keep returning to this image. I figured I'd share so you can bookmark it for the times you need relief as well.