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 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fifteen years of Tankboy on Blogger.

Regular readers should be familiar with these characters from over the years.
Huh, the month of May seems to be rife with digital anniversaries for me. On May 24, 2002, the very first post appeared on this little site. It was a repurposed email from my Tankboy mailing list* at the time, and I was just testing out the waters.

It’s funny to think that this site has been around that long, outlasting blogging booms and busts, and just sort of trucking along. I never stuck with a single format, mixing MP3 postings with band and DJ promotion, and. cultural reviews. Well, I guess it always has had a single format—it’s always been a journal. And I have to admit I don’t know what drove me to do something like this so publicly at the beginning, or stick with it as long as I have.

Now it’s just a part of me.

A brief trip through those early years is sometimes painful but mostly amusing. In 2003 I decided to start writing a post every weekday and don't think I've missed a day yet.** It’s sometimes uncomfortable to have a pretty complete record of the things I’ve gone through over the years. In some ways I am so different, and in others it is shocking how little I’ve changed. But that’s the same for everyone; I just happen to have a kind of public accounting of it.

Anyway, whether you’ve been with me from the first post or just started reading yesterday; thanks.


*The precursor to this blog was the original Tankboy email, which—I believe—started in 1996. It was a regular summary of thoughts, recommendations, and whatever caught my fancy that I sent out to a slowly expanding network of readers. It started with AOL chatroom buddies and people that had college email addresses, and grew from there. So, in a way, I’ve been regularly “blogging” since 1996. I wonder how many people that read my stuff nowadays weren’t even born then. Mind-blowing.

**I could be wrong. It's possible near the beginning I did skip a day but I'm not sure, and I'm not going back to count. Let's just all agree that the posting has been unusually regular for a really, really long time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Elf Power just keeps trucking along, god bless ‘em.

Elf Power, photo by Sandra Rek
Elf Power, the Elephant 6 affiliated ensemble, has been going strong for over two decades, and while I haven’t really kept tabs on them as much in recent years I did finally get a chance to listen to their just-released Twitching In Time LP.

And it was an unexpected delight. Terrific.

The band’s gentle ‘60s pop is still rubbing shoulders with the lighter of psychedelic shrouds on the new material. Something about it just sounds heftier and more present this time around. I found myself listening to it as background music only to find that whatever task it was soundtracking had moved to the background instead as the music moved its way to the center of my attention.

Unfortunately the band only played a teensy number of tour dates to support the album, so there’s no way for me to see how this stuff translates live. I’ll just have to let my imagination keep running free.

UPDATE: They just posted a bunch of new dates since the original email I was pulling that tour information from!* They play Beat Kitchen in Chicago on July 18!

Naturally, the band decided to release a video for the album’s least accessible tune, "Watery Shreds," and has no music streaming on the Soundclouds or Bandcamps. Accessible or not, it’s still a fine song, though not super indicative of what you can expect from the majority of the new album.



*Good thing I double-checked before hitting publish!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The return of 'Twin Peaks' has been amazing, so far.


There are plenty of hot takes and think pieces out there covering the first couple episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, so I won’t ad to the pile. I’m really just enjoying allowing the show to wash over me.

A word of advice to fans and new arrivals: don’t call the show “slow.” It’s moving at it’s own pace. And it definitely does not feel beholden to make too much solid sense of previous continuity questions. And, honestly, if you don’t dig it, don’t watch it. It isn’t for everyone: don’t feel bad!

The new season feels far more like a David Lynch movie, than David Lynch exploring the medium of television, which is a big difference from the last time he directed the show for TV.

I am loving that Lynch wrote and directed every episode—it’s offering the show a surreal continuity, and while I don’t expect firm answers to ever come from the guy, I do feel like he has a firm vision of just what he wants this run to be. And I am in for the long haul!

Friday, May 19, 2017

One dozen years and counting with Chicagoist: or, watch me get all kinds of mushy.

From an actual 2009 Chicagoist post. No kidding.
Twelve years ago today I started writing for Chicagoist.

Twelve years.

I can still remember sending Scott Smith my first email answering the call for a music writer. And his invitation to do so,  including the ask that I keep writing under the name Tankboy. At the time the new wave of online journalism was still young and the idea of working a "brand" that was already established through years of writing under that name elsewhere still seemed valuable. And the funny thing is I don't regret it, no matter how many times I meet people and say, "My name is Jim Kopeny [blank stare] ... I also write under the name Tankboy for Chicagoist."

"OOOOOH! I know who you are! I've been reading you forever!"

Yeah.

So now I'm creeping on turning 45 and more people than not call me Tankboy.

Thanks Scott.*

ANYWAY.

Chicagoist was one of the first truly original—strike that. THE FIRST truly original-voiced Chicago blog** that—amazingly—maintained some sort of focus despite channeling a dizzying number of truly talented yet insane voices at the time. There were no rules. And we broke them all.

And we still do.

Things are obviously different. Twelve years in most eras would be a long time but in today's media environment that's like saying my genesis with Chicagoist was started sometime in the 1880s. (And that was true even before our current hyper news cycle that's launched into overdrive over the last 6 months!)

One weirdo and one guy that hired the weirdo. Circa 2006.
But Chicagoist is still it's own thing. And it's a thing I'm still proud of. It has managed to not turn into a carbon copy of every other media site trend despite watching countless others do just that over the years. How amazing is that? I  am still deeply proud of the site and amazed at how lucky I am to write for it.

Thank you Jen. Thank you Jake. Thank you to every other editor and writer I've worked alongside over the last twelve years.*** Especially the folks that sent in their initial emails wanting to write for the site, worked with me,  and then gave me the pure joy of seeing you go on to incredible other opportunities after your Chicagoist tenure.

Thank you.

And thank YOU for reading the site all this time. I write because I have to—because if I didn't I would explode—but I get the most enjoyment when YOU walk up to me and let me know something I posted on the site mattered to YOU, and got YOU out to a show or event, or helped YOU become a new band's biggest fan. Or got YOU to an event or to care about something, or change a friend's mind about something.

Thank YOU.

Oh yeah, and I met my wife because of Chicagoist.

I am such a lucky dude.

THANK YOU.


*I actually mean that. Thank you, Scott.
**Chicago Metblogs and Gapers Block were great, but I'm biased. Chicagoist just had it.
***The list is a mind-boggling list of talents. Oh my gosh, SO MANY AMAZING WRITERS.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell.

I shit you not, stomping around a friend's kitchen in 1991, long hair flailing, un-ironic flannels, boys and girls blending together, me DJing with cassette tape and blasting "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" and feeling invincible and like the world was fucking ours. OURS.

1992 at Tinley Park with even longer hair screaming "OUTSHINED OUTSHINED OUTSHINED" into I don't even know whose face.

Then—lost the plot. What the fuck? "Black Hole Sun" puts me to sleep.

Years later. Just moved back into Chicago. Run into the band at Danny's and dance-offs and long, drawn out discussions of Barry White bootlegs ensue and everything is right again.

And then, just no.

Then, conflicted. (And my take NOT well received by fans.)

Then the last time I saw him just fuck yes, again. I could feel my hair creep down my neck as those flannel sleeves cinched my waist. One of the last remaining old school primal rock forces.

These are the things I'll remember.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Seriously, this has gotta stop.

Remember when the news cycle at least started to slow down after 5 p.m. most days?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Do the kids even understand the weirdness?


Did you used to gather in a friends dorm room to watch each new episode of Twin Peaks in college? I did. It is, of just about any TV show, is impossible to convey just what a true aberration this show was at the time.

There was nothing like it that had ever made it through to the mainstream before.

It was nightmarish yet darkly funny. Surreal and hypnotic. A madman's fever dream on network TV. Truly a WHAT THE FUCK phenomenon. I know nowadays a series opening on a pan over a dead body feels cliché but when Twin Peaks started it was genuinely horrifying and confusing. So it's hard to get across just how wild Twin Peaks was. Hell, now "Lynchian" is practically an accepted adjective to define a now accepted aesthetic but back then? Lynchian simply meant THIS IS FUCKED UP AND WHAT IS HAPPENING.

I stumbled across this Flying Lotus remix yesterday. It's everything that Twin Peaks was not; a predictable rehash that breaks no new ground. But hey, it's groovy and will help you kill 3 minutes while you eagerly await the premiere of season 3 of Twin Peaks this weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hall And Oates ... a band I've seen a bunch I never thought I'd see a bunch.


Tonight's Hall And Oates show was pretty great. It flagged a little in the middle—definitely the longest set I've seen them turn in the numerous times I've caught them live—but I was impressed by their fearlessness to mess with their own "classics." My personal highlight? They turned "I Can't Go For That" into a 15+ minute Philly soul funk epic.

It was pretty amazing. Thanks to their and the Tears For Fears people for setting me up pretty last minute. It was definitely worth the drive to the suburbs to catch a show on a Monday night!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Took a sick day.

Threw in the towel. Took the day off work. And while I still worked half a day—time waits for no one—I still managed to also sleep for the other half of the day. And it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Now, I'm not going to push my luck, and am heading straight back to bed. But man, do I feel so much better now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Falling behind.

Do you ever look at your unlistened-to podcast feed and feel filled with anxiety?

Oh, that's just me being a weirdo?

Never mind, Carry on.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I tried to listen to the new Black Lips ALL day today...

But I never got more than 30 seconds into a song. Not because they weren't good, but because I was so busy.

THAT SAID the snippets I heard were weird, wild, and not what I expected. So, tomorrow.

Wow, that's some inside baseball dorkiness, huh?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I feel like a wreck.

I feel like this building looks. Another sad demolition in Bucktown. 
I should have called in sick to work yesterday.

I definitely should have called into work today.

But I couldn’t.

There’s too much going on. I’ve never understood people that call in sick when there’s a deadline (or in this case, deadlines). I don’t judge them negatively. In fact I think I actually envy them a little since the rational response to being sick is staying home and 90% or the time I don’t respond rationally. Actually, those people are clearly smarter than I am.

I guess if I don’t think I’m contagious then I reckon I’m no threat to others’ health, so why should I take the day off?

Whatever, I’m just griping because I feel so cruddy. Maybe tonight I’ll get a good night’s sleep, finally burn through this things and wake up feeling 100 times better.

We’ll see.

Monday, May 08, 2017

'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' is a total nerd flick.

Is it as instant winning as the first Guardians Of The Galaxy? I don’t think it could be. But it’s still wildly entertaining, and unafraid to pick in plenty of ephemera to please the fans of comic book deep cuts. There are a ridiculous number of Easter eggs, and I’m sure I only caught a fraction of them.

Oh and I’m not gonna lie—I got teary-eyed at points. Because I am a big softy.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today. I’ve been under the weather since yesterday and it’s only getting worse so yippee yay me!

Friday, May 05, 2017

White Reaper!



It's no secret that White Reaper's The World's Best America Band is one of my favorite records this year. And tonight I will have a chance to finally catch them live. I am so excited! I feel like a frickin' teenager. It's ridic.

Here is their newest video. It may be the slowest song they've written, not that I'm holding that against them. It's still pretty great.

UPDATE: When they played this Beat Kitchen went bonkers and it carries an unexpected power in a live setting. Just an FYI.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Date night!

Since I was out of town earlier this week, and Mich is out of town this weekend, tonight is date night!

We really need to schedule more of these ahead of time. It’s funny how much less often we go out nowadays. And it’s not like you have to go out of the house for a date, but it sure helps to do just that if you actually want to carve out time to do something more exciting than deciding which movie to stream or what series to catch up with.

Not that I don’t think both of those things can be awfully romantic. They can be!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Whirlwind.


We were in and out of New Orleans in just about 24 hours. It's pretty impressive how much business you can get done in such a brief window of time.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Sixty minute tour.


I'm in New Orleans for a client meeting and had a lucky chance to get out and show a co-worker a brief glimpse of the city outside our hotel. We ate beignets, drank chicory coffee and took in some of the architecture.

I really love New Orleans. We used to come down here at least once a year—usually off season—because we just love the town's vibe. I think Mich and I need to book a longer stay down here again so I can gain 10 pounds eating good food and doing nothing much else aside from walking around and maybe taking a tour or two.

Monday, May 01, 2017

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

Looks like April was a little slower as far as plowing through the new music queue. I was on vacation for part of the month, and spent most of that time reading instead of listening. I’ve also made that new pact with myself to slow down the firehose, so maybe this is an effect stemming from that as well?

I mean, this is still more music than the average fan, or even critic, listens to in a month, so I’m not exactly beating myself up. I do admit I’m beginning to question my practice of listening to every album all the way through instead of skipping the ones that are obviously not going to hit home with me. It’s the same problem I have with books; I can’t just bail a few pages in, and end up feeling like I’m required to fight through t the bitter end.

Part of the reason I listen to things all the way through is in hopes of discovering a single gem of a song on an otherwise lackluster album. I may have to refine this practice, but for now it stays in place!

Anyway, here are the April stats!

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

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in March 2017: 57

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 5

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 38

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 14

Highest rated album: Gorillaz - Humanz (Shocker! Not.)

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: What Gives - Feel Good. I'll write more about this Chicago band later, but RIYL: all things Weezer, pop-punk, emo-pop, power pop, big crunchy guitars—but all those things inclusively and not all of those things exclusively.

Most surprising discovery: I knew Sweet Spirit's St. Mojo held promise, but I admit that it kinda gave me a left hook. I listened to it when I first got it and was, like, meh this is good and fine. Then gave it another while writing a preview of their Chicago show and something just clicked. Goes to show why if something shows promise you should always give another listen.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gorillaz and 'Humanz' and me and you and...

Gorillaz in Chicago in 2010, photo by me.
My review of the first new Gorillaz album in 7 years is on Chicagoist! Read it!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sound of a generation, sound of the millennium?

Ryan Leas’ 33 1/3 tome examining LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver ended up being a  really satisfying read.

I won't delve deeply into the generational disassociation I initially felt since Leas begins from the vantage point of a high school LCD fan and I'm closer to Murphy's age, because the book swiftly moved past that and uncovers a deeply thoughtful investigation into the album and its deserves cultural significance.

The final chapter is worth the purchase price alone. It's a tour de force—greatly expanded from a 2013 essay—that does a terrific job of capturing the seismic changes we've undergone when it comes to experiencing art (or anything, really) and why that's both troublesome and totally O.K.

And the timing of me hitting that final chapter couldn’t have been more appropriate.

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!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Am I getting old or is Jamiroquai getting better?


I listened to Jamiroquai's new album Automaton yesterday, and to my surprise I found myself playing it—of my own volition!—again today.

Whilst He-Of-The-Big-Hats has shown a knack for writing catchy singles (and producing eye-popping videos) in the past, for the most part his music hit me more as jazz-funk lite and tended to leave me a bit cold.

Well, it's been 7 years since his last album and I think the time off has done him some good. While Automaton isn't exactly the deepest of artistic efforts, it is heavier and more satisfying than anything I've heard him produce in the past. He's traded in his acid-jazzier tendencies for more of a heavy disco vibe, and the result fits him far better than, well, those huge hats he's so fond of.

The stand-out track is easily the one the album is titled after, and it mixes slightly menacing verses shot through with odd squelches and buzz drills that open up into a glorious chorus dressed up in tight, shimmering, low-slung bell bottoms and liquid hips. I actually find myself hoping he extends his current overseas tour to hit our shores. I actually want to see how these tunes pan out live.

Boogie down, y'all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Welcome to the library, Mr. Jones.



There’s a new entry in the Library Of Congress’ National Recording Registry today, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Is this his first entry? The only thing I can currently find in there is a 1988 audio interview with Bowie, so perhaps it is. If so, what took hem so long?!

A bunch of other worthy artists are also now in the Registry’s archives, and you can get the full list here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gorillaz are coming for you.

Gorillaz photo by Mark Allan via the band's Facebook page.
I remember breathlessly running to the Virgin Records in downtown Chicago the day the Gorillaz debut arrived in the import section of the store. I was a massive Blur fan, and since that band was known to most Americans at the time as the “woo hoo” band, Gorillaz arrived in the states virtually unnoticed—at first. They were a po-mo cartoon band; an Archies for a new era. At least that seemed to be the common consensus—again, at first.

Obviously that all changed.

By the time Plastic Beach dropped just under a decade later, Damon Albarn was arguably more internationally famous for his “cartoon band” than his original outfit. Gorillaz was a superstar outifit. But after an exultant tour that saw he and his assembled cast of world class bandmates taking the music out in front of the projections of the cartoon characters for the first time, it appeared the band might be done.

Gorillaz at UIC Pavillion in 2008, photo by me.
So news of Humanz, the first new Gorillas album since 2011’s tour souvenir The Fall—hotel room recordings Albarn made on the road—has everyone going bonkers. Including me. The multi-media rollout is everywhere.

So it’s making things difficult for me.

You see, I want to experience the new album as a whole. So I’m trying to avoid things like the slew of advance singles, and concert footage and the bajillion other things saturating media outlets all around me. I mean, it’s a masterful media plan and it’s great! But I selfishly want to treat this particular release as one I wait with great anticipation without knowing too much. Kind of like the olden days. And it’s kind of fun. As the buzz grows from everyone reacting to the new material it just makes me even more gloriously impatient to hear the whole thing.

Obviously should I be lucky enough to get an advance sent to me I’ll listen to that right away, but again, I want to experience the whole thing fresh. For me, personally, I think it’ll be just so much more satisfying.

How funny is it that a band set in the future and focused on the current state of affairs would trigger such a nostalgic series of behavior from me? Heh.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Who are The DIFF?! You're gonna wanna know.


Stumbled across a new group through a post by one of the members of Frisbie. And by new, I mean really old and shrouded by the mists of raw and roll time. Apparently, back in the day when they were wee l'il rockers, Frisbie were heavily influenced by The DIFF, a band that, according to their Bandcamp page* “are a Boston-based rock band who had some regional success in 1980.”

The song on that page is a power-pop juggernaut titled “Tanya.” I played the track once, immediately bought it, then spent the weekend trying to figure out more about them. Did they ever release an album? EP? Anything other than this song? Was this song actually released in 1980?!

On one hand it’s refreshing to actually have to chase down info on a band for once. It so reminds me of how it used to be, jeez, oust little over a decade ago. To not have all the info about an artist at your fingertips suddenly feels thrillingly mysterious again!

There is zero about them online that I can find outside this track, and the Frisbie Facebook post.** I reached out to some folks who have blogged about obscure power-pop in the past and no one has ever heard of them. I even tried contacting the band through that Bandcamp page to beg for more material,  but haven’t received a reply. Probably because I’m coming across as a crazy man.

I will get answers though! The reason I’m even hearing about The DIFF is because they are playing International Pop Overthrow in Chicago on April 21 at Red Line Tap! And they’ll be playing on a pretty amazing bill stocked with Frisbie (musical) friends and family including Ravi/Lola, Paul Coady & The Edsel Brothers, The Joypoppers, Gerald Dowd, and Jason Batchko.

Give “Tanya” a spin and just try and tell me my enthusiasm is unfounded.



*OK, despite the claim “there is zero about them online” there is clearly one thing about them online. But this Bandcamp page is it.

**Also note, naming your band "Frisbie" ain't exactly easily searchable online, so maybe Steve and the guys took more pointers from The DIFF than just their music.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stop griping that you see all the same bands at the top of major music festival bills.

Muse at Lolla in 2007, when I clearly needed to work on my "big stage" concert shot game.*
There's actually a good reason for this, and if you are a fan of discovering new music, it actually works in your favor! Here is why.

*I'm being rough on myself. I purposely picked a humbling shot, becasue when I saw it amongst the rest I was like "holy god, how did I think that was good?!"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An instance where Amazon isn't evil, they're just stupid.

When I pre-ordered the Dr. Strange Blu-ray, I noticed that for some reason it wasn’t available on Amazon but it was at Best Buy. I figured maybe, for some weird reason, Best Buy had an exclusive on it or something. So I forked over my cash to Best Buy and didn’t really think about it again.

Until yesterday.

I went to pre-order Rogue One—if you can’t tell from these movie choices I am a nerd about these things—and it was again unavailable to pre-order a physical copy.


So I again checked out Best Buy and lo and behold, you could!


I also checked out a number of other online retailers and Amazon was the only one not offering a pre-order for the Blu-ray. But again, you are more than welcome to pre-order the streaming version of the movie!

Look, I get Amazon has a streaming platform they wanna push, and I use it all the time! But to try and force people to pre-order stuff through it by blocking the ability to do the same with physical relics—something I still prefer to have in my possession when making movie purchases because you never know what the future will bring with any company—they’re just being stupid.

So looks like Best Buy is getting all my pre-order movie dollars from here on out. They’re. Short walk from my office so I can still get the same day “delivery” for free.

UPDATE: My friend Key pointed out the another possible reason for this may be even stupider.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lolla lineup is live.


I took the above photo of Arcade Fire at Lollapalooza almost 7 years ago. Can you believe it?!

Actually the photo is even more impressive if you take into account I was using a pretty basic lens, the stage was a good 15 feet tall and I was in the midst of a photo pit stuffed full of bodies—some of them using step-stools (?!) to get shots.

Anyway, here is the 2017 lineup.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sensitive teeth.

I feel like my mouth is going through electroshock treatment, so if you see me and I start making weird faces, now you know why.

Monday, March 20, 2017

When things don't go a planned.

I was supposed to get two fillings today, but here I sit with only one complete and a mouth drooping to one side with a lip that feels like it’s a lazy balloon. After two attempts to get it right, and mostly just feeling like a needle was stabbing into my ear with no painkilling effects of what was actually being injected in there, the dentist decided to focus on one side and tackle the other side later since things were taking so long.

It was the perfect cap to a perfect last couple of days. But when life gets wobbly and things don’t go as planned you can either fall apart or move forward. So I made a second appointment in a few weeks to take care of that other filling, because it ain’t going away so I’m not going to hide my head and pretend like it is. Will I enjoy going back into see the dentist? Nope, but I'm going to do it because in the long run it's the healthy thing to do and I'll be happier for it down the line after the unpleasantness fades away.

Friday, March 17, 2017

White Reaper get their swagger on and it's glorious.

White Reaper, photo by Jesse De Florio
White Reaper is one of those bands that makes visible progress with each album, slowing down and getting more mature without losing any of the spark that makes them special. Their initial EP sounded like an amphetamine-fueled punk take on Mod, while their debut LP tapped the breaks a little to allow the hooks to stick around a little longer. I loved both of those releases.

On The World’s Best American Band, out April 7, White Reaper tried their best to create an album that lives up to its title. And damn if they don’t deliver with this heavy guitar nod to stompin' and swaggerin' 70s rawk.

The Louisville, Kentucky quartet of Tony Esposito (guitar/vox), Ryan Hater (keyboards), Nick Wilkerson (drums) and Sam Wilkerson (bass) show more ambition on the new album, aiming for stadium rafters where they might’ve been content to hit the back of a garage before. But this isn’t a slickening of the band’s sound. Things are still rowdy and raw, it’s just that the songs have more ambition to make their mark on the annals of classic rock than they might have in the past.

White Reaper may be growing up but man do they still know how to throw an awesome party.

Spin the first single below, pre-order the album here and catch the band on tour right now. They hit Chicago to play Beat Kitchen on May 5.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is the 'Hamilton' hype worth it? You bet.

We did it. We finally saw Hamilton: An American Musical in Chicago. It was the most expensive show I’ve ever bought tickets for. And, while I am really going to have budget my money for a while now because of it, Hamilton was totally worth it

Over the last few years, even as the acclaim has grown and everyone was quoting the show, I’d intentionally avoided listening to the show’s soundtrack, figuring that when I did finally get a chance to see the production I wanted to experience it as a fresh, full theater experience instead of as a concert of songs I’d grown familiar with performed live. With something that has garnered as much buzz as this show has I really wanted to approach it with as few preconceived notions as possible. Somehow I pulled it off!

And I am very gad that I did. Aside from the general historical storyline, everything in the show was a delightful surprise. The first few minutes were challenging, since it does take a moment to absorb the rapid-fire rhythmic vocal delivery coming at you, but once you grasp it, its easy to sink back and just let it wash over and into you.

I think the most purely entertaining parts of the show centered around the appearances of King George, played deliciously and perfectly by Alexander Gemignani. I was in stitches every time, and his vocal control was astounding.*

(As if there is a weak vocal performance in the whole show. Because there isn’t.)

And seeing Wayne Brady as Aaron Burr only reinforced what an amazing all around talented performer that man is.



I mean, heck, every single cast member was pretty amazing. The vocal acrobatics and aggressive physicality of the performances could have distracted me had I been able to focus on just how superhuman some of it was, but the actors made it all feel so natural and real and effortless. You truly do get lost in the play. And yeah, I even teared up; so its emotional component is real as well.

Will I turn into some person that sings along to the soundtrack non-stop? Nope. But that ain't the point, kid.

Have I turned into some person constantly humming Hamilton's refrains under my breath, though?

Yup.

So, yeah, I buy the hype. The ticket prices are worth it. Hamilton really is a triumph and the sort of thing that comes along once in a generation—so now I get why everyone has been hyperventilating over Hamilton since 2015. The show leaves you legitimately breathless.

*Honestly, I know he didn't originate the role I have a really hard time envisioning anyone else other than Gemignani in this role because he was so perfect. So much so now I want a Hamilton spin-off based on King George

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The return of Humpday camel!

A post shared by Michelle Kopeny (@shellster129) on

I saw Hamilton last night and definitely have thoughts to share, but they will just have to wait to make way for the latest Humpday appearance from Mich's camel!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I know how you feel, Stephen.



I’ve been making it a habit to watch the Colbert and Meyers monologues nightly. It’s cathartic, and I love that two broadcast shows are so willing to speak truth to power and still manage to make me laugh. And last night Colbert had a really great segment that I think that (now) the majority of American can identify with.

The whole monologue is great, but fast-forward to 7:15 for the really stellar stuff.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Flashback.


Who's the cute blonde girl in the middle? Hey, wait a minute!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Guess what I just saw?


I saw the original in the theaters the week it came out because everyone I knew was so excited to see it and it was one of those movies that had a big impact on my life at that moment.

Tonight I got to see the sequel and witness a Q&A afterward with director Danny Boyle and the man who created the whole universe these characters live in, Irvine Welsh.

Look for the review (including bits of the Q&A) in Chicagoist closer to the film's U.S. release date but I can tell you this—it does not disappoint. I was worried, but I needn't have been.

In fact Mich had never seen the original and walked out loving the sequel, so it works as both a standalone for neophytes and a film that acts as a worthy successor to the original for fans.

So, get stoked.

Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh!!!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Bombpops' long-in-the-making debut LP is pure power-punk perfection.


Seriously, The Bombpops are great. Listen to them now!
The Bombpops formed in 2007 but they’re only just now getting around to releasing their debut album, Fear Of Missing Out. And holy shit did they spend that time honing this first album to be absolutely perfect, hard candy-shelled power-punk.

Look, if Josie and the Pussycats had a bad-ass punk rock sister band with a couple tattoos it would sound like this. And anyone who knows how much I love Josie and the Pussycats knows that is a high compliment.*

When I listen to albums I usually take a few notes, and if any songs in particular pop out to me I write them down for possible inclusion on a year end list. It’s way easier to do it as you go along then try and remember every good tune you heard come December. Anyway, with this album I realized I was writing down every track as it played.

Co-frontwomen Jen Razavi and Poli van Dam have voices that were meant to blend with each other, and—Jesus!—those hooks. Total ear candy. It think what I’m trying to convey, unless I’m being too subtle, is that this album is a blast from start to finish. And in these times anything that can deliver such a sustained rock and roll hard sugar high is a valuable commodity.

The band is on tour now and, though it fells like way too long to wait for me, they play Cobra Lounge in Chicago on May 12. Now, listen to the album below and get just as addicted as me.



*And if you click that link and read my original post on donewaiting you should also check out the Idolator post that was written by Maura in reaction to it since it shows I’m not crazy. Not completely crazy, at least.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Modern problems.

The pain of having to dodge podcasts in your feed because they’re already dissecting the prestige TV shows you missed the night before.

I know. SO TRAUMATIC!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Checking in.

Hey there. How are ya? How’s it going?

Oh, with me?

Pretty good. Things seem to be chugging along. I mean, I’m juggling a lot, but when has that not been the case?

And yeah, the whole politics thing, that’s been kinda hard. But Mich and I have instituted a “no 24-hour news channels at night” rule an that seems to be helping. Prior to November 8 I almost never watched FOX News or CNN, but afterward I started watching both, at different hours of the day, to try and get a handle on each channel’s biases and such. More to get an actual feel for what people on one side of the political debate or the other are mostly seeing.

To my surprise CNN is pretty even-handed in it’s news coverage, and if there’s a bias there it’s toward giving both sides of a story to a fault at times. In fact at times it almost feels like they’re going out of their way to normalize our situation because they just can’t believe it either.

FOX News also surprised me with most of their actual news reporting, since it did have a bias but wasn’t afraid to occasionally call Trump or other Republicans out for bullshit. Now, when you get to their shows that comment on the news it’s a whole different story, and it’s a story rooted in some alternate reality that is hugely concerning—especially if its driving the decisions of viewers, one of them being Trump.

But it is what it is, and I felt I had to watch it to at least try to understand it. And I do not understand it. But I had to try. And at least now I can see why a large number of voters went for Trump and the Republican Establishment. If I was them and FOX News was my main news source, I’d be terrified about the stuff supposedly happing in the country and the world as a whole too!

Anyway, thanks for asking.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Movie madness, made even more mad but how good they both were!

We went to see Logan on Friday and Get Out on Saturday. While it’s rare that Mich and I see one movie a week, much less two, I simply can’t remember any time both movies we saw ended up being this good!


Logan gets the character of Wolverine 100% right, finally, which isn’t surprising since it’s predecessor The Wolverine was helmed by the same writer director. And it appears that since this is Hugh hackman’s final appearance as the character they gave them a ton of creative freedom.

Believe me, the movie more than ears its R rating, but none of the violence feels gratuitous. The simple fact is the character of Wolverine has always been a pretty bloody one, even if the studio’s (and even original comics) got squeamish about showing the actual aftereffects of what would happen each time he popped those claws of his.

Oh, and Mich was crying at the end. In fact I think the strongest endorsement for seeing this movie is that it truly works as a stand-alone film that’s just damn good. Don’t like comic book movies? Afraid you’ll need to know Wolverine’s history to make sense of the film? Think it’s just a bunch of dumb action? The answers to those questions are no, nope, and no way.


An Get Out is a pretty perfect movie, period. Ostensibly a horror movie, it’s also a deep and cutting social satire. And it’s a film I think will easily fall into my personal category of “bears repeated watching on a regular basis.” I won’t say much more about it than that. O.K., I’ll say I can see this entering the syllabus for film classes in the coming years. It is that rich and rewarding; and that well technically constructed.

I can’t believe it’s a directorial debut for Jordan Peele—it’s stunning.

Indulge yourself and spend the dough to actually see both of these in the theater. I'm gald we did.

Friday, March 03, 2017

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

I wonder what I'm listening to here.
Time for that monthly check-in wherein I share the numbers and a few nuggets related to the new music I listen to.

February saw a bit of a dip, and not just due to the shortened month. Current political events are wearing on me and I find myself turning more and more to reassuring music from my past to help refill the ol’ emotional tank. Don’t worry, I still managed to fit a bunch of new records into my listening schedule.

I explain my ratings here, if you're interested.


Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in February 2017: 45

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 4

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 31

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 13

Highest rated album: Charly Bliss - Guppy (Surprise!)

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: The Bombpops. Total power-punk ear candy.

Most surprising discovery: That there is such a thing as a boring Sleater-Kinney live album.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

You should be very excited for this Charly Bliss album.

Photo Credit: Beth Eisgrau
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember how I first heard of Charly Bliss and just remembered they opened for Veruca Salt back in the summer of 2015 at Beat Kitchen. I loved their set and was sad that they only had a couple singles on Bandcamp, and even those didn’t quite catch the infectious energy of their set.

Next month they finally release their full-length debut, Guppy. And It’s an album I’ve been turning to frequently as a pick-me-up. Yes, yes, yes it is very indie guitar-pop ‘90s—and I am a sucker for that— but when the songs are this good I don’t think you'll care where the style is sourced from.

Here’s a new video from the band. And here is where you can pre-order the album. Do it now!