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!

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.


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?

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 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.

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!"


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

Thanks Scott.*


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.


*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


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.


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.]