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!

 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So long Double Door.


I wrote this a few days ago but figured it was worth sharing here too.

I admit I spent a lot of tike thinking this wouldn't happen. But the owners, staff, and even Alderman did all they could do—but nothing could stem the shortsighted lunacy of the building owner Brian Strauss.

I feel like I've lost a limb. It is impossible to overstate just what a huge role Double Door has played in my musical history in Chicago. I hope they get the new spot up and running in Logan Square ASAP, and look forward to a new era in the club's history, but nothing will ever be able to completely replace the magic of the original space.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sick day redux.

I would like to ay I’m sick over, well, pretty much most of what’s going on in the world right now.

Come to think of it, I am! But I’m also still just sick as in immune system breakdown.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sick day.

I would like to ay I’m sick over the monumental mix-up at last night Academy Awards only I am not because the sight of Moonlight taking he wind out of La La Land’s sail was just deeply satisfying on a whole bunch of levels.

Nope. I’m just sick as in immune system breakdown.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The (reconstituted) New Constitution


The New Constitution was a Chicago band that showed a lot of promise in the early aughts, only to break up before their time due to (lack of) label issues. With heavy Brit influences and that kind of manic Mod energy of the late '60s crossed with some heavier '70s power-pop tendencies, it's no wonder I was a fan.

They're reuniting for a single evening at Subterranean this Saturday, so I highly recommend you get out of the house and catch their show if you're in Chicago. It's taken them 12 years to play another show and it could be even longer until the next one, if there ever is another one.

Spin through their only full length and and their final EP below.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sometimes I can be a jerk.

I've mentioned I keep a spreadsheet of albums I listen to with brief nots and such so I can keep track. Just came across this little beauty that I forgot I wrote.

I swear I'm not usually that mean!*

Click to enlarge for easier reading.

*But come ON, I have a point.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Well, hi there!

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

Happy Monday.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Not a rant, just some advice.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sink into the vintage vibe with Chicano Batman.

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Humpday is back!

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oh, it's that day again.

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Our emo POTUS.


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

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ancient history.

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


Wow. Blast from the past indeed!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

You know you're getting old when...

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

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



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

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Grown up stuff.

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

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

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

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

So, wish us luck!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Here is something life affirming.



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

Think I can talk them into touring?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Comic books, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.

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

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

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 4

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 68

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 10

Highest rated album: Dude York - Sincerely

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

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


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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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



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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Here's a stylish t-shirt design!


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

I bought two.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange sounds from a distant star.

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My happy place.


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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Namaste, it's Humpday!

A photo posted by @shellster129 on

Given the way the world is going right now, I'd say Mich's continuing series of Humpday photos provides welcome—if brief—relief.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is this the best video of 2017?



I really hope this is real, because if it is it's a) absolutely hilarious and b) shows Young Thug has a healthy sense of humor about himself. The director talked to Rolling Stone about it:
Do you have a sense if Young Thug has seen the video yet? 
I believe he has, especially since it's on his YouTube. I know that there were a couple rounds of revisions on some of the writing and legal stuff throughout. They would say, "We're sending it to his management," or whatever, but I have not seen any direct response from him yet. I know that Wyclef tweeted the video out today, so that was exciting. I wonder if [Young Thug] is pissed off at me or if he's like, "This guy really pulled something out of his ass and it worked out pretty damn well" and is psyched about it. I think it's just as much making a mockery out of the production world and the industry of music and celebrity. 
So on that note, I'll just use this to distract me from the firehose of bad news that just won't stop coming today.

Monday, January 23, 2017

We’re all in this together.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, both personally and in world wide affairs. This weekend it came to a head with dizzying highs and really low lows. I have to keep reminding myself that as long as we have good support networks that in the long run things will be O.K.

For me that means remembering to actually reach out to my support networks instead of thinking I need to shoulder all of this alone. So I’d like to take a moment to thank my wife for reminding me of that as I teetered on full blown despair on Sunday. I’ve spent much of my life feeling like I have to shoulder everything solo and in the past few months I’ve learned that’s not the case—or really all that healthy.

So thank you, Mich, for getting me back on track by reminding me we are all in this together.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How was this NOT on my radar?


In the past I would've never missed a bill including Farewell Captain and the Cells. And this is even more amazing because The Addisons are a supergroup of sorts made up of members of Not Rebecca,  Tom Daily, Textbook and The Sonnets. What?!

Unfortunately I can't make it tonight so this stream of their debut single will have to do for now.