Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I was exhausted but am glad I went out last night anyway or I would have never been introduced to the amazing music of Deep State.

Deep State.
Last night I went to go see a friend’s band, but of course I misjudged the time and completely missed their set. I satire around anyway, to catch Deep State, a band I didn't recall hearing of. They were touring and the Monday after Riot Fest doesn’t exactly attract the largest crowds. So I paid my cover and stuck around with the small handful of other folks so they would at least have a few people to play to. (Playing to an empty room can be a real soul-sucker.)

And was promptly blown away. I bought everything the band was selling by the close of their show. How had I not hear of these guys?! They're style of music went big, mixing classic with indie rock and/or roll with a rusty swagger. I dug through my email and sure enough, a publicist had reached out to me about the band, but since it didn’t include a download of their music I filed it away, figuring maybe I’d look into them later.

They’re on a pretty wide-ranging tour through the middle of October (they’re even playing the corner of the world I spent my earliest years, Mcallen, TX, not exactly known as a musical mecca) so if you have a chance to see them, you really should.

You can listen to their new album below; it’s good but doesn’t quite capture the band’s live power. If I was you, I would do what I did, and buy everything the have on Bandcamp. I certainly don’t regret it!

Anyway, last night was one of those times that reminded me, yet again, of the importance of just sticking around for every band whether you’ve heard of them or not. You never know when one will become one of your new favorites.

Oh heck, here's their debut LP too. Buy it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Another Riot Fest is in the books!

Peaches prepares for a little crowd walking.
I can't even go into how fun this weekend was, or how many great bands I saw, or just how ridiculously happy I was by the close of Sunday night.

But at least here's a tastes of what Stephen, Arron, Annie, and I saw!

Photos: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry Bring Industrial Catharsis To Riot Fest's Day 1 Scorcher

Photos: Queens Of The Stone Age Make It Wit Chu At Riot Fest Day 2

Photos: Jawbreaker Finally Have Their 'Revenge,' Paramore Dazzle At Riot Fest Day 3

Friday, September 15, 2017

Just in time for the weekend!

Getting amped up for the weekend with a little slice of new CRJ video goodness. Here we go!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Riot Fest is nigh! Are you ready?!

You never know who you'll run into at Riot Fest, photo by Tyler LaRiviere
It's almost time and the countdown clock is on to my favorite Chicago (anywhere in the world?) music festival!

Here are a few suggestions on who you could see, but really, you can't go wrong no matter where you end up in Douglas Park over the weekend, just as long as you end up in Douglas Park.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One down, only 24,749 (give or take) to go!

Well, whaddya know! No sooner do I wonder what it would be like if all those bands from the pre-full digital age but post-label domination phase would start posting their work from that time to Bandcamp  in hopes that it doesn't just disappear than one of my fave late '90s to early aughts Chicago bands Today's My Super Spaceout Day does just that!

Enjoy their sophomore album—I think it's a fine entry point—then check out the rest of their catalog if you like.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get real groooooovy with The Heavy Blinkers.

The Heavy Blinkers, photo courtesy of the band.
I won’t pretend for one second that when The Heavy Blinkers came on my headphones as I was listening to my massive 2017 Albums To Review playlist that I park all music as it comes in so I eventually get around to it and don’t lose it in the shuffle—oh wait, am I over-explaining?

So The Heavy Blinkers. When their album The Night And I Are So Young came on at first I thought I had filed a reissue in the the wrong playlist but lo and behold the album is from the 2004, ergo not some ‘70s time capsule! Why did I think it was such a relic, you ask? Allow the notes I took while listening explain that to you:
Sounds like groovy hippy cult choir music from the '70s. With Beach Boys overtones. Which, I guess given the Manson connection that group had, makes total sense.
I was picturing robes and long flowing hair and all that, so imagine my surprised when I dug out the band’s press kit and saw they looked totally (see above photo) normal! What the eff?

So I don’t know if they’re going for kitsch, or if it’s a long running joke or what, but whatever it is, it’s lovely late summer music.* So, get groovy?

*It should also be noted that the main reason The Night And I Are So Young is only now crossing my radar is because it is finally getting the vinyl treatment from the aptly named Label Obscura records. Also, it appears only one member of the band involved in this album is active in the group currently. But at least the group is currently active, right? That's pretty cool.

UPDATE 9/13/17: I admit when I first read this band’s bio I thought it might be an elaborate joke. How is it possible I wouldn’t have heard of them at all? And some great, undiscovered album of 2004 would only catch my attention now? But of course, The Heavy Blinkers are the real deal, and this was kind of the album that broke the original band, from what I can tell. Now they’re basically a rotating cast of musicians centered around one guy, and they still make music, and they are still pretty safely ensconced well north of the border and don’t seem to really tour (from what I can initially divine).

If you remember back to the heady days of 2004, that was just as the blogging nation was gaining real steam by heralding indie acts that would usually get niche exposure and turn them into acts that would become mainstream superstars. But the froth was just starting so bands from before that era that were amazing have often been lost to time, since they also had a minimal digital footprint. Heck, I can think of dozens of Chicago bands that would have thrived if they were to debut now, but were never able to quite capitalize on the emerging critical internet buzz machine that was just getting really revved up at the time.

 Which then made me wonder: wouldn’t it be great of all those undiscovered bands of that era were to put up all their stuff on band camp so at least the world now could have the option to hear them? Heck, even I don’t have hi-fi files of some of the acts I absolutely loved in the first half of the aughts. Nowadays it would seem to at ;east mean something to release the music, even for free, to help keep true diamonds from getting ground up in the digital dustbin.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Makes you think.

I wrote the following this morning, and it's been poking at my brain through the day so I thought maybe it was worth sharing here as well.

‪It's amazing how many things about us that might help or fascinate others never surface because our personal histories seem so ancient and unremarkable to us.‬

That's it.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The new album from The National finally won me over.

The National, photo by me.
I won't go into it here, so read my review. Suffice to say after years of feeling pretty ambivalent, The National's new album Sleep Well Beast has finally made me a fan of the band.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Check out Brad's video.

I've known Brad Peterson a long time, and have always really enjoyed his music. He's sort of been off the scene for a couple of years, but he's finally returning with The Ellipsis Album, later this month. As one would expect, it's quite lovely, and I'm sure I'll write more about it closer to its release date, but here's a taste of what can you expect in the form of the first video, "Unbroken."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ooky spooky!

Photo via the Lore Facebook page
It's never too early for Halloween prep!

So, I just recently stumbled across the Lore podcast to help get in the mood. All the episodes are pretty short, and they're filled with scary stories and unsettling tales, so dig in!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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

August is usually a month of slow news everywhere but in the music community. Some of the bigger releases began rolling out over the month, and it’s a couple weeks that are also full of music festivals. Yet, I still managed to listen to a fair amount of new music, even if much of it was firmly in the “I respect this but am not personally blown away by this” range. So, here’s a snapshot into my month.

As always, here’s a guide to my rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in August 2017: 47

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 2

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 34

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 11

Highest rated album: It’s a tie! Partner’s In Search Of Lost Time and LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream scored highest! Which isn’t a surprise given my thoughts on the Canadian duo and the dance-rock combo outta NYC.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Secret Drum Band’s Dynamics is an album of all drums, all the time—it has a kinda tribal feel with some jazz flourishes. Mostly importantly, it just grooves, though.

Most surprising discovery: That The Cribs managed to secretly record their latest album 24-7 Rockstar Shit in Chicago with Steve Albini and actually managed to keep it a secret until the LP’s unexpected release!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Chance the Rapper is everywhere, and I am not complaining.

The Cool Kids with Chance the Rapper, photo by Tyler LaRiviere for Chicagoist
Chance the Rapper came out on stage with The Cool Kids yesterday and it was pretty great. I was at the set because I really used to dig The Cool Kids and was eager to hear what their new material sounded like. (Spoiler alert: It's excellent and I can't wait for the new album to come out later this month.)

Chance was just icing on an already delicious and filling cake. Honestly, Chicagoans are pretty spoiled by the amount of Chance we get to see. Personally, I love it.

See more photos of Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed, Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll, and Chancellor Bennett—along with some of my general thoughts on the fest and photos of may of the other bands performing over the weekend—on Chicagoist.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The new LCD Soundsystem is very, very good. And I will tell you why.

Of course James Murphy looks tired, LCD Soundystem is a lot of work! Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
Like 98% of the music loving population I took news of LCD Soundsystem's "reunion" with a bit of skepticism. Was I happy one of my favorite bands would be creating new music again? Of course! Did it seem weird they were getting back together so soon after a long public goodbye? Sure it did! Was I worried my fandom would be tested when they debuted "call the police" and "american dream" on Saturday Night Live? I'd be lying if I said I didn't!

In the end, all my doubts and fears were laid to rest. Read my review of LCD Soundsystem's American Dream.

Also! Here is a bonus! The band released a 13 minute instrumental track that isn't on the album, and you can download it for free (for now)!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I let my subscription to 'The Economist' lapse.

I really love The Economist. I'm not completely politically aligned with all their editorial views, but their thoughtful coverage of current events is excellent. Unfortunately, since they're built primarily as a print publication, by the time the new issue comes out (digitally) on Thursdays, much of what's in it feels, um, outdated already. So instead I stalk AP and Reuters nowadays when I'm looking for something I can count on being trustworthy.

Hopefully The Economist will still be around for me to subscribe to once Trump finally leaves office and the news cycle returns to a relatively normal pace again.

Sorry Economist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back on track!

Summer cold finally gone? Check.

Back on a regular gym schedule? Check.

All systems returned to 100% productivity? Check.

Library of books unpacked? Check.

Caught up on all my new music listening? Well, ummm...

It's nice to be feeling human again!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Gaga for Gaga (and for good causes).

Photo by me. Lady Gaga knows how to make an entrance!
I saw Lady Gaga at Wrigley Field on Friday and the show was great. And our seats were amazing.

It was funny, many folks I see shooting shows were seated near me (along with the usual music writers) and I couldn't help but wonder if it was to make u[ for the fact that Gaga wasn't allowing any pro photographers to capture the show. If that was the case, it was an awfully nice gesture.

Read my review on Chicagoist.

Yesterday I also volunteered for a dunk tank at the Do312 birthday party. It had booths based on the "seven deadly sins" and each one was raising money for a different charity. The dunk tank was "wrath" and I helped raise money for Girl Rock Chicago! Did I enjoy constantly being submerged in water? Not so much; but I'd happily do it again for a good cause!

UNRELATED: Happy birthday to my little (who actually stands a good 2-3 inches taller than me, and I am not short!) brother Jason!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Green Day are always a blast to see live.

Who wouldn't want to front Green Day, even for a minute?! This was awesome. Photo by me.
Check out my photos and review from last night's Green Day show at Wrigley Field!

I've been thinking about something related to show reviews a lot, lately One reason I always wait until the next day to write is when you transcribe an experience immediately afterward you have no way of processing what you've seen in a meaningful way. Sure, you can spit out a take that will probably deliver most of your preconceptions going into the show, but you won't be able to actually think about what you've just seen in a really meaningful way.

That's not me throwing shade at anyone in particular—I think most reviews I read that have immediate post-show deadlines are just fine! It's more me showing gratitude that I have the freedom to give it just a little more time to sink in before I have to write my own reviews.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A turning point.

One year ago today I made a big decision to try and improve my life. I know 2017 has been rough on everyone but, personally, 2016 was a far, darker year for me. It’s been a journey of great progress, with only a few minor setbacks since then, and I still have a lot of work to do on the front of patience and just chilling out more, but I can definitely tell you I am in a much happier place today.

So, since I’m in a happier place today, here’s a happy tune for you. This morning I happened to be listening to the remix below and when I got into work I realized it’s the kind of tune everyone could use to start their day in a great mood.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can you turn the creative off?

If you get a project do you ever find yourself emailing yourself idea snippets at 3 a.m., or taking a break from a group dinner to take down some notes before you forget? Or are you an “ideate at the office” type? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either approach, it’s just something I’m curious about.

(I’m the 3 a.m. / break from group type, by the way. When I’m given a creative project / problem it keeps tapping me on the shoulder at unexpected times.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Be brief. Be bright. Be gone!

While unpacking, I found my Insights Discovery blocks from a previous job—they were big on the program—and the resulting order from "Yes, this is how I best communicate!" to "This works, but isn't optimal" are surprisingly accurate.

  1. Red—Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone
  2. Green—Show Me You Care
  3. Yellow—Involve Me
  4. Blue—Give Me Details

I admit I found the program useful, especially when communicating with colleagues, since a glance at the blocks o their desks at least uncovered some basic truths, if not their individual nuances. Our facilitator the day we went through the program was not so great though. Maybe she needed some work on reading a room on how best to communicate?

But hey, I still have my blocks!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quick thoughts on various things I watched over the last few days.

Seriously, nice scarf dude. Marvel's The Defenders, photo by Sarah Shatz/Netflix
The Defenders
Just about the right length, and I liked seeing Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and even Iron Fist, all together. I still heaven’t finished the first season of Iron Fist and now I don’t need to. Still, it took a little too long to get the whole gang together.

T2 Trainspotting
Still holds up. Turns out the reason I liked it the first time wasn’t just nostalgia, but because it’s a pretty good flick!

Game Of Thrones
Way too much is suddenly happening that makes no sense, and that’s worrying when you realize the series is basically wrapping up. Also, I called that whole twist at the very end (because it couldn’t have been telegraphed any more broadly.

Twin Peaks
HOLY MACKEREL THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT. Loved the latest episode. Just loved it.

This just aired so the only thought I’ll share is that this show keeps getting better and better and if for some reason you’re not watching it, you really should start.

Kidding! I have zero interest in ever watching this show.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What if a metal band crashed into an 18-wheeler of synth-pop?

Come on, how AMAZING is this Arcadea promo shot? Photo by Jenny Bishop
Aside from sharing that excellent new Varsity track on Wednesday, I fear my posts have been on a bit of a bummer run lately.

I don't often just copy a bio from a press release, but in the case of Arcadea, I don't think I can improve on its blend of epic goofiness:
5 billion years after the last great extinction, the galaxy Andromeda spins headlong into the Milky Way with three intergalactic travelers in tow. Drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor (Mastodon), Guitarist/keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda, Gaylord) and Keyboardist/guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab) are said pioneers, the space wizards of psychedelic soundscapes where organic drums collide with synthetic keys to create an infinite transmission from an event horizon. They go by ARCADEA and their otherworldly brand of psyche-electric, synth-driven, metallic madness sounds alien yet somehow familiar.
I mean, come on, doesn't that sound exactly what you need right now?

Crank it up and let's take an intergalactic trip together.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

No matter how tired you get, you can't really sleep.

I’m just so tired and sluggish so much of the time lately. Yes, part of it is a summer cold that won’t quit, but I’m beginning to think I’m starting to just grow weary to my bones about so many things I feel powerless over.

The past year plus has been a real wake up call for my belief that people are basically rational and good. I still think the vast majority of people are good, but the amount of misinformation people believe, primarily because they are not driven by any sort of curiosity that challenges their own world view, is staggering. And I don’t mean that in an overly simplistic “people that don’t agree with me are dumb” sort of way. But I do think a large part of the problems we are having right now is that people don’t want to ever look beyond their own perceived self-interest, or consider anything that challenges that particular perception, even when their actions are clearly not in support of their own self-interest. I know, it’s dizzying. And as someone who thrives on being a communicator it’s triply frustrating to not be able to clearly convey these things in ways that sway other people to at least consider a different way of thinking.

Look, I am not perfect. And I’m smart enough to realize that the older I get the less I know. And that’s not because I’m getting dumber (though I’m sure my wife and close friends might giggle a little at that claim of “not getting dumber”), but because I see the world as less and less a two-sided affair of right vs. wrong or us vs. them or whatever and more as constantly shifting tableaux where I wish people would work on constricting a balanced way of living and not a beachhead from which to constantly wage war.

So, yeah, I’m just getting worn down. Maybe I’m sluggish because I’m fighting so hard against withdrawing; realizing I have to continue to engage. It really is just bone-crushingly exhausting, but there really is no other way.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hey VARSITY, just settle down!

VARSITY, photo by Aleia + Alex
I can’t remember how I got into Chicago’s VARSITY in the first place. It feels like I might have either stumbled into an opening set of the band, or maybe they were recommended to me by Keep. Or did i ever try and book them at some point? No clue.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything new from the band, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a Bandcamp email this morning alerting me that they had a new song!

Given the dire mood of the past couple days, this blast of pop hits the spot, even if its own lyrics aren’t quite as filled with sunshine as the music.

It looks like they also shot a video for the tune, if you feel more visually inclined today.

It looks they are also on tour! Happyface! Though it appears I missed their Chicago show. Sadface.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I've been offline most of the day, home sick with a summer cold that just won't let go, and of course as soon as I logged on this evening I was met with this news. Not that I should have been surprised. But what is it going to take for Republicans as a whole to turn on this guy and just remove him from office before he systematically dismantles and crushes an entire nation through his own willful ignorance?

Monday, August 14, 2017

I’m speechless.

Every time I think things can’t get any worse, that the U.S. must have finally hit bottom bottom, I am proven horrifically wrong.

I don’t even know what to say.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kesha's 'Rainbow' is finally out.

You should buy it now.

I mean, I am certain I will spill a couple hundred words on it within the next few days but trust me when I say this is definitely worth your hard-earned cash. You won't regret picking it up.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Huge, fuzzy, chunky power-pop thy name is Partner.

Partner, photo by Colin Medley
Oh my god oh my god oh my god file this debut by Partner under one of those albums you happen to play as soon as you get it and it totally makes your day and possibly becomes your instantaneous favorite album of the month and you then wonder how you made it this far into the summer without this album existing because it is sunshine and it is smiley faces and it is everything upbeat and positive and almost blinding in its pinpoint pop sensibilities (with the only misstep being the dotting of there trackless with some skits but hey you can delete those after an initial listen and once you do the album that was nigh perfect is even more so) and you want everyone to hear the whole thing RIGHT THIS SECOND but OH NO IT ISN’T OUT UNTIL SEPTEMBER 8 so you resign yourself to sharing a single song and simultaneously pity both everyone around you who isn’t listening to the whole album along with you and yourself for having to enjoy this piece of wonder in solitary because something like this is meant to be listened to with all your friends past, present, and future and JESUS this is really good and thank you Josée Caron and thank you  Lucy Niles for creating this album and making this the absolute best Thursday this Thursday could be.

Oh yeah. Partner plays Township in Chicago on September 28. Oh, and in Palatine at Dirty Nellie’s (?!) with PUP (???!!!I might have to travel to the homeland???!!!) on October 3.

Here's another song on the album that's not streaming on the album but available in single form so you can at least get another taste of the delicious brew this Canadian duo has concocted.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Oh. Did I mention I saw Parry Farrell sing with Foo Fighters in one of my favorite concert venues of all time last weekend?

Oh, I didn't? Well, I did.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I shot this without being that annoying guy at the show holding his phone above his head and blocking everyone’s view. Instead I was in the back of the room, against a doorway (it was packed in there) with no one directly behind me.

The handful of times I have filmed whole songs of bands—the very last one ever performed by The Postal Service is one of the other very few (which was exactly four years to the day from the Foo Fighters' show!)—I hold my phone against my chest if I’m not against a wall.

So no, don’t worry, I’m not that guy.

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

An unexpected media vacation courtesy Lollapalooza really hit the spot.

From Thursday through Monday most of my digital activity was in the realm of producing content via both my personal social channels and public articles on Chicagoist. One side effect of Lolla is you have almost no cell reception throughout the entire weekend, and when you do get a bar or two of signal I tend to use it to send out observations and reports and not waste it sucking down content. So that meant I read news stories in one or two windows of time a day (usually at home in the morning right after I finished writing and in the late afternoon via the wi-fi in the media area) and boy was that a nice change of pace.

I would love to say I learned something from this brief respite, like that I would continue to stagger consumption, but I know I won't.*

I'm jut going to appreciate how nice it was, even for such a brief period of time.

*Although, truly, if these keeps up, I will have to start rationing. We keep saying this can't keep up, and it does. Even with Trump ostensibly on vacation (incidentally not a move I consider it worth criticizing him for since everyone is due a vacation, even a President I don't care for, and in the President's case there is no real such thing as a vacation nyway so stop trying to use this as lame excuse to paint Trump as lacy, in this respect) the news cycle is running at a rate that would send a hamster wheel into hyperspace.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The fourth day of Lollapalooza was ... the last day.

Time to go home, until next year, *sniff, sniff*
Arcade Fire was great. Lollapalooza was great. It was my 18th Lolla, and Mich's 13th. I know, WHAT??

Check out the wrap-up of Sunday's music and mayhem on Chicagoist.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The third day of Lollapalooza was ... just right!

I like this photo of Chance I took. Little Chance flanked by two BIG Chances!
Finally! We got awesome weather!

Oh yeah, and the music was good too. Read all about Saturday's Lolla goings on at Chicagoist.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The calm before the storm.

For once the title is literal. Bracing for rain today. Is Lollapalooza a Lollapalooza if there isn't some sort of crazy weather warning going into it? I would like to think, one year, the answer will be yes.

But this isn't that year and I am packing a poncho!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Lollapalooza 2017 is almost here! Are you prepared?

This anxiety-inducing photo is courtesy of Soaring Badger Productions. It’s not as scary from ground level, I promise.
Four days of music, parties, afterparties, writing, more writing, more music, and trying to remind myself I need to eat some food then realizing it's 9 p.m. and I haven't had lunch, much less dinner!

Anyway, to help everyone get prepared here are some helpful posts I worked on that you should check out if you want to make the most of the coming looooong weekend.

Our Lollapalooza 2017 Survival Guide & Cheat Sheet

Lollapalooza 2017: 21 Acts We're Looking Forward To This Weekend

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

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

"Hey, what're you listening to?"
Huh, judging by the numbers, July was truly the cruelest month. I definitely found myself digging more into back catalogs of favorite artists as the more recent releases piled up scores of 2s and 3s.

Also, I bought and moved into a house, so that ate into my usual listening time. So, there's that.

Here’s hoping that after Lollapalooza I’ll be facing a new stream of more excellent releases!

In case you’re new to these monthly recaps, or need a refresher, here's a guide to making sense of my personal rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in July 2017: 52

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 0

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 35

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 17

Highest rated album: Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. I know it’s getting slammed left and right, but I liked it. That said, it only warranted a 6 so it didn’t strike me as a grand artistic achievement, just a fun listen. As I get older I could care less whatWin Butler is saying; I’m just glad the music fund its groove again. I guess that’s why most people hate it? Not serious enough? Whatever.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Aye Nako’s Silver Haze hits all the right button in me. It’s all '90s sloppy indie guitars and slurry vocals.Honestly, I need to give this another listen to see if I like it because it presses the right buttons or because it stands on its own. But for now, it counts as catching me off guard.

Most surprising discovery: That Lana Del Rey is capable of a few good songs. What isn’t surprising is she ruined the chance to do something great by releasing an overstuffed LP when and EP of duets would have been a better choice.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My limbs are all a-tinglin', feelin' like Needles//Pins.

Sometimes my immediate notes in my spreadsheet where I track everything I listen to, tell you everything about a band you really need to immediately know. Case in point these musings on Needles//Pins as I listened to their latest album, Good Night, Tomorrow.
Gravely, growly, shout-y punk rock. Sounds like lots of arms around shoulders, swaying and almost breaking into a pit populated by late-40-ish-year-olds remembering the old days and having a genuinely good time. In fact they're a younger trio out of Vancouver. Cool!
If I was gonna pick a "hit single" off the disc, it'd be "Miracle." Dig it.

Oh well, whaddya know! As I was typing this I dug back into my email for any other info I should include and it looks like the band agrees with me on "Miracle," since they made it into a video!

Boy, am I swift or what?

The band plays Quenchers in Chicago on August 13, and even though I no longer live around the corner from there, there's a good chance that's where you'll find me that evening.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Arcade Fire let their hair down.

Arcade Fire photo by Guy Aroch
The new Arcade Fire album is fun. Some people appear turned off by that in fear the band has traded their authentic intensity for marketability—listen to the lyrics and you'll se that's not the case, and in fact this is probably an intentional blend of art and accessibility that in the end I didn't really care about one way or the other as long as it kept the vibe going—but I find I keep playing it because it sounds good and makes me feel good. What a concept!

Read my full review of Everything Now on Chicagoist.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here's a new tune from Waltham to brighten your day!

I am bonkers busy today so I'll keep this short.

Waltham are masters of the power power-pop genre, and it's been far too long since their last musical outing, 2014's Wicked Waltham EP. Hopefully the new "Summer Nights," featuring backing vocals by ex-Damone singer Noelle Leblanc, is a sign that the band is back in production mode. But even if there's nothing more new forthcoming, this is a welcome treat from the band.

Peep the video above, download (pay what you want or free!) the track below.

Oh, and everyone give thanks to Keep for making sure I was aware of this as soon as it made its surprise appearance earlier today!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Paul McCartney last night? It's turning out to be a pretty jaw-dropping week for live shows for me.

Photo by me
I've seen Paul McCartney three times over the past few years, and each time I keep expecting him to start coasting on the nostalgia and phone it in, and every time he only puts on a more energetic show than the last. I strongly suspect that since he returned to touring in 2003 and locked in with his current band, and hasn't really stopped since, being on the road is the thing that just charges his battery and keeps him from growing any older. In fact, he might be aging in reverse!

Read my full review of last night's show on Chicagoist.

Also, last night was the closest I've been to the man—17th row, just off center—and I'm still feeling a little awestruck.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I finally saw Roger Waters and it was amazing.

Photo by me
Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands of all time,  and was one of the groups that not only got me through high school but sent me firmly down the road of music collecting as I searched out rare pressings and bootlegs of everything they put out. And I am also a big fan of Roger Waters' solo work—I believe The Pros Ad Cons Of Hitchhiking is terribly underrated and still listen to it frequently, and the original version of Radio KAOS was much more interesting than what was eventually released (even if it is hampered by '80s production tricks and tropes)—so it seems unbelievable that I had never seen him perform live.*

Sunday night I finally righted that wrong and had amazing seats to see an amazing show. You can read my full review of it over on Chicagoist. It includes video of local singer Eddie Vedder joining Waters for "Comfortably Numb" that was a pleasant surprise but not even nearly the greatest thing about the show.

I shouldn't even need to say this, but if you get a chance to catch this tour you need to BUY TICKETS RIGHT NOW if you still can.

*I've never seen Pink Floyd either, but for some reason not having seen Waters has always bothered me more.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy birthday Metro! Here's to 35 more years ... at least!

I still can't believe I happened across this and was able to snap a photo on my way in Saturday night. 
The Metro is celebrating it’s 35th anniversary this year, and last weekend was it’s official birthday party. It was a fun-filled evening of DJ sets from people with deep ties to the venue, film retrospectives of various eras of the club’s history, and a number of folks were invited ahead of time to share some of their own memories of what the club has meant to them. For some reason I was asked to join that latter esteemed group (I could not have felt more honored to be able to participate).

As I thought back to my own history with Metro I was amazed, though I really shouldn’t have been, how entwined out musical histories are. I tried to share some of the my personal firsts and highlights as I hit the stage for my allotted five minutes; which, of course, I sped through in three … how punk rock of me! Here's a video of it!* Oh yeah, and the intro got cut off, so magine Don Halls over-the-top energy when readig the following.

DON HALL: Our next speaker says about his first show at Metro, “If I remember correctly my first Metro show was House Of Love in 1990, and the venue had me thinking it was the hugest, coolest place to eve see a show. Obviously as the years have passed its still the coolest, but now I realize how awesomely intimate the space is.” Please welcome Jim Kopeny to the stage.

Now that you’ve seen what I actually said, here re my unused notes from the night. I had planned to go onstage and refer to my phone to make sure I didn’t miss any pertinent highlights. That was my plan until one of the earlier speakers, a teenage poet, went up there and absolutely stayed with an excellent pom he had memorized, with nary a cheat sheet or note card in sight. So I caved and braved it sans notes. And of course in doing so, missed a couple memories I wish I hadn’t skipped over.

So, now that you’ve seen the video, read the original notes below and you can probably fill in the missing pieces with my voice.
Thoughts on Metro - 7.22.17
Relative newcomer to the The Metro. I've only been coming here for 27 of its 35 years. 
Didn't get out much in the '80s, too busy collecting and building shows in my own head 
House of love - Guy Chadwick guitar string almost took my eyes out
Moved south so missed the early '90s
Hovercraft / Foo Fighters / Mike Watt - May 1995 (FF album July 4) - 1st show back in Chicago
Alanis Morrissette -1st photo pass - July 1995
Tuscadero - danced to rock music in SmartBar
Sloan - heard the heavy rock in their live sound made them one of my favorites 
Sarge - First band interview in green room (Elizabeth didn't recognize me ha!)
Flaming Lips through all various incarnations freaky 5-piece guitar band to trio
First celebrity meet and greet - Afghan Whigs 98 or 99 (learned celebrities hate meet and greets)
Naked Raygun - taste of what I missed the first time around
Triple Fast Action final show
Wife photographing band for first time
Carly Rae - broke perfect record of never getting kicked out of a show (misunderstanding over press pass and let back in)
Foo Fighters again - full circle
Written about and photographed so many bands and I felt lucky to witness every one even the ones I ended up not liking at the time 
Jane's Addiction - met Barb Glomski through Mich later and learned just how legendary that night was
Gish album release
Those are my only regrets. Why? Because Metro is the best rock club in the world. Everyone wants to play here. 
And the simple reason is every show here is special. I know that sounds like a cliche at worst and disingenuous at best, but it's true. 
There's a magic in the walls. A vibe in the room. An inescapable feel that everything in here MATTERS whether it's to a room of 5 or packed to overflowing. 
Oh yeah. Tonight is another first. This is the first time I've ever stood on stage in this room, looking out. Metro did it again. Always surprising me with new things no matter how long I've been coming there. 
Thank you again to all The Metro staff I’ve encountered since the first day I walked into that amazing room. And thank you most of all to Joe Shanahan, the man behind the legendary room. It is not an understatement to say that without Joe, your understanding of modern music might not have been the same. I’m not kidding. When you see the list of bands that have played that room, often before they were popular and still needed nurturing from the handful of clubs that could help sustain nascent touring careers, you will find you have to agree with me.

And the astounding thing is the man is a pioneer and you still see him in the balcony at shows more times than not, because the guy is just that in love with music.

Happy birthday Metro. I wouldn't be who I am now without you.

*Yes, it's shot vertically. Get over it. It was shot as a favor for me so if I can live with it so can you. Now if you want to complain about the dude talking, I can't do much for you there.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Quick thoughts on the new Lana Del Rey.

One of the major downsides to the new way of releasing music, to avoid digital leaks, is that music writers ten to have zero time to process any substantial thoughts as they race each other to be the first to post their reviews. I have largely avoided that trend, insisting that if I do review something the day it drops, it's only because I've been able to live with the album ahead of time.

But in this case, I am not really a Lana Del Rey fan—my review of her set at last year's Lolla reflects that—and don't plan on writing a full review of her new album, so I don't feel bad sharing my rough notes on Lust For Life straight from my spreadsheet that tracks all the music I listen to each year.
The first couple songs are actually good and the standouts are all duets. Overall it just gets mired in the downtempo melisma she seems mired in. In the end it still feels like more posturing than actual emoting. But I will admit there are more moments I enjoyed on this album than in any of her previous efforts. This would have actually made a really good EP.  
I also SWEAR she sang some of these songs at last year's Lolla because they sound exactly the same, but she didn't. Here work is just that repetitive.

Need further reinforcement? After I played the album for Mich (on the way to a Kesha concert that was unfortunately canceled to do dangerously bad weather) her immediate response was, "At least I never need to listen to that again. But at least I can say I gave it a try."

We both did.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Things I am doing this weekend that make me feel very lucky, indeed.

I'm going to see Kesha for the first time since 2009 on Friday, attend a neighborhood block party on my new neighborhood block party Saturday afternoon, then attend and speak at the Metro 35th anniversary party on Saturday night, and then see Roger Water live for the first time in my life on Sunday!

It's not gonna be a slow, relaxing weekend, but all of those things are awesome and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Maybe I'll even try and unpack a box or two so I feel like I'm not just spoiling myself with fun stuff the entire time.

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!