Friday, June 15, 2018

Little Junior enters with a boisterous 'Hi."

Photo by Calm Elliot-Armstrong
I wrote about Little Junior a while ago, when they released a video for their pretty excellent Carly Rae Jepsen cover, but I just realized their album is finally out and available to stream and buy on Bandcmp (among other outlets).

This album has grown even better in my estimation since I first listened to it back in March, though I don't really have much to add to my initial write up of their music. It's just damn freaking good, in a totally spazzy, swaying way.

Sadly I missed the band's Chicago stop so I'll just have to content myself with the recorded version of their music for the near future.* The good news is now you too can bop along to their high energy debut all you want!

I have a vacation coming up—I have to get out of Chicago for a spell—and this is just the kind of album I want to blast while hanging in a park, or on the beach, under the summer sun.

I think you'll want to do the same.

*How did I miss that show?! Oh yeah, looking at my calendar I see I was in the 'burbs visiting a friend that night. D'oh!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Please bear with me as I talk hair.

Me, the first time I grew my hair long. My dad was not pleased, but got used to it.
Please don't take this as a post steeped in vanity, even though its primary subject regards the stuff that grows out of the top of my head. But I am truly struggling with a serious question!

Should I cut my hair short again?

I didn't plan on growing it out long again. It just sort of happened. In college my hair reached down to my chest—it was the early '90s, so not that weird—and it just became so much of my identity that it took me years and years to finally cut it. I was worried that doing so would cost me countless cred points and I'd suddenly turn back into the dork I was in my adolescence.

This, of course, is absolutely idiotic. But 20-somethings aren't always the clearest thinkers when it comes to self identity.

So here I am 20 years later facing the same quandary, though not nearly as fraught. I like having long hair. But my hair is thick, and curly, and when it grows it sort of stops at the shoulders and grows outward for a long period of time until it hits that critical length and suddenly drapes down my back. And I don't think I have the patience for that this time around, nor do I seriously think I'll look better that way. At the same time, and yes, this is idiotic too, there is always a small whisper related to Samson that crops up every time I seriously consider the shears. This is clearly based in insecurity.

See? Not so bad short, right?
I'm also searching for a job right now, and while with some companies long hair on a creative might be considered a plus, I'm also aware that not everyone finds it aesthetically pleasing, so it could knock me out of the running for a gig I might actually love, and be a perfect fit with. It's just the way of the world.

At the same time It's festival season! And I will admit there's a certain shallow part of me that likes to look the rock and/or roll part at festivals. Again, idiotic, but if we're being honest, I may as well disclose that. Plus, I'd have to go back and update all my dating profile photos though that might work out in my favor. Most of the women that respond seem to love the hair. But I'm betting there are more that probably prefer their dudes and little less shaggy and a little more groomed. So that's a toss up as well.

I guess I could always go short and then grow it out again, right? But what if I cut it off and suddenly start balding and realize that I can't go back again?! I did notice a thinning spot on the top of my head that suddenly appeared, but since I cut out booze and started working on again adopting a healthier lifestyle that seems to be filling in again, so I'm guessing it was probably more a result of stress and a bad diet than anything else.*

I know this is all incredibly self-indulgent, and if you're still here I truly appreciate your putting up with it. As I said at the outset, this isn't about vanity: I'm well aware I look pretty decent with short hair. It's just that a decision like this really does dredge up a whole torrent of insecurities I should have overcome, you know, years ago. But do we ever outgrow basic insecurities? I'm not so certain we do. We deal with them, and handle them, and move on; but they'll always crop back up at times we consider radical change.

Anyway, what do you think?**

KINDA UPDATE: I actually wrote this draft over last weekend, and then ran an Instagram poll on the question to get feedback from my friends a few days later. The result? 87% said to chop it all off versus 13% who said to keep it. At least now I know what most folks think! Of course, once it ended I found myself in the midst of a particularly good hair day so...

*Since I started working out regularly again, my stress levels have dropped through the floor. Heck, in the last couple of weeks my resting pulse has dropped 17 beats-per-minute! And I feel great. I mentioned it before, but the human body is truly amazing once you start giving it the good stuff it wants!

**With the understanding that, by the time you read this, there's a good chance I've gone and gotten myself shorn anyway.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Well, this certainly makes me feel inadequate as a drummer.

This is Yoyoka Soma, and she is 8 years old. And she is already a better drummer than I will ever hope to be. Amazing.

Now excuse me, I have to go upstairs to my office and start practicing so I can be 0.001% as good as she is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Rating the dating apps.

I know, you're like, "Dude, I'm surprised ANYONE swipes right on you!"
After a few months of being "actively" single, and going through a number of different dating apps, I feel like I have some key learnings* to share with anyone else also navigating these turbulent waters. I've only used a handful, but they're varied enough that, despite most people's assumptions to the contrary, they each do have their own specific flavor.

So here are my experiences using a few of the more popular apps, though I'm well aware that if you're not me, your experiences may be wildly different. The times they are a'changing, so I've been open to profiles that are looking for everything from traditional LTRs to non-monogamy to existing open relationships to just about whatever.** My only real app turn-offs are a) no bio at all or b) profiles inundated with group photos so you have no idea who the poster is. What the heck?!

It should also be noted that I purposely have a kinda goofy photo as my first shot in most of my profiles—included in this post—since I reckon that immediately weeds out the people that probably wouldn't "get" me in the first place. So that may have an effect on people swiping right / hitting "like." C'est la vie!

Tinder: The OG of dating apps. I know it began as a hook-up app but those days are long behind it. I've had reasonable luck getting a couple of dates through Tinder, but nothing that really lasted all that long. If you're a woman, I understand the number of dudes swiping right on you can be overwhelming, but if you're a dude it's totally manageable. I dunno, my personal jury is still out on this one, but it is one of the easiest to use.

Bumble: Don't call them "the other Tinder." The big difference here is that when you match with someone, they have to start the conversation. I like that since it puts the power in the hands of the other person to get things rolling, but it also means that when you match with someone, if they chicken out, there's not much you can do about it. And if the 24-hour window in which they can chat starts to close, Bumble will bug you to pay money to extend the window. No thanks. I see a lot of the same women on Tinder also on Bumble, but the Bumble dates I've gotten have been more "quality," and even if things haven't worked out romantically, I still chat with many of the folks I've matched with on Bumble. I dig it.

Zoosk: The UX on this app ain't great, and responses are few and far between. From what I can tell, this is the preferred app of suburban single moms, and there is zero wrong with that. However, I don't own a car, so that's not really my scene. Also, the distance parameters constantly go out of whack, so it keeps trying to match me with people who live 50-75 miles away! But if you live in the 'burbs, by all means, this may be the app for you! Me? I'm deleting it.

CasualX: I tried this out based on a Mashable recommendation a few months ago. It is 100% a hook-up app, and it also has a terrible UX, and I'm still not sure exactly how it's supposed to work. And a pure hook-up really isn't my thing anyway. There are also already existing communities out there much better at supporting this approach, so I would skip this app and try those out if that's your thing. For me, CasualX is a full on delete.

Match: If Tinder is the OG of dating apps, Match is the OG of online dating. I only recently started trying it out. Since it's populated primarily with folks looking for long term relationships, I avoided Match for a while, but decided to stick my toe back into its waters. (I first had a Match profile in, what, 2001 or 2001 during a period Photogal and I had broken up?) The response rate still isn't great, but it's a pretty mellow experience overall if you're in no rush (and I am in no rush).

Also, I've also found another approach that works: introduce yourself to someone when you're out at a bar or show [gasp!]. I've had some luck with that as well. Just don't be intrusive, and be prepared to beat a polite and hasty retreat if the person you're talking to obviously isn't into it. It's not that hard to pick up on (though it appears there's an epidemic of men, in particular, who either can't or choose not to see that).

So what am I missing? Should I be trying something else out? And what have been your own experiences with dating apps?

*Sorry, I couldn't resist using that marketing buzzword. It's funny!

**Almost whatever. When friends or ex co-workers (or just plain exes) pop up in my feed I swipe left out of courtesy, and to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Well, except for one, but that's only because I knew she'd find the humor in it, and she did.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Work on the basement has begun!

After months of wrangling with the insurance company and having to reschedule start times due to events beyond anyone's control, the basement is finally being repaired from February's flood!

I'm viewing this as the beginning of a new chapter in my life—a landmark moment—and the final stage of a particularly challenging (that's an understatement if there ever was one) year.

I'm pretty exited by this.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

O.K., just try and tell me this song by The Fratellis doesn't sound like an outtake from James' 'Laid.'

It's Sunday, so let's keep it short. And as you can see, the title of this post tells you all you really need to know. But am I right, or am I right? Here's a sample of James from the era I'm referencing on the (incredibly unlikely) chance you don't know what I'm referring to.


Friday, June 08, 2018

Weekend plans!

If you're going to any of these events, let me know! If you want to go to either or both of the first two events, let me know! (Sorry, I can't get you into Liz Phair though, so please don't even ask.)

Looks to be a fun weekend in Chicago, so don't let it pass you by!

Friday, June 8

The Kickback at Sleeping Village (9 p.m.)

Saturday, June 10

Do312's Rock'N'Roll Market behind East Room ( 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.)

Liz Phair at The Empty Bottle (9 p.m.)

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Let's all "Start Again" with Bishop Allen.

Photo by Matt Petricone
I've been vacuuming up new music lately, one of the "benefits" of having free time whilst unemployed, but I've also been digging through albums I don't listen to enough. And of course Bishop Allen's most excellent 2014 release Lights Out falls firmly into the latter camp.

Bishop Allen is another one of those wonderful bands who have been swallowed up by the internet. Their Facebook page has seen zero action since 2015, their Soundcloud is empty, and their last album isn't even on Bandcamp. But you can still get it!

If you missed them the first time around, I'm sorry. They put on terrific live shows, and wrote the kind of perfectly taut indie pop with just the right amount of bite that so many bands have attempted but few have perfected. And Lights Out was the band's masterpiece. It's perfect from beginning to end.

The band had written amazing, timeless tunes in their past ("Rain," anyone?) but Lights Out was just, well, just, well...


Here's the first track off Lights Out. And believe me when I say it only gets better from here. We're almost at the weekend, so hopefully this will brighten your Thursday and get you prepped for the good times ahead.

Don't wanna sit through the video? Stream the song here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Against all odds.

I saw the doctor for my yearly physical yesterday and, astoundingly, I'm in really good shape. My cholesterol is a little high, but hey, I'm middle age and where is the surprise in that? But it's still not out of control. Everything else is, somehow, working perfectly. In six months of bad news this was one welcome piece of information!

I've cut booze out of my diet and hit the gym daily, so I'm granting much of the credit to those two things. Especially since my diet is still that of a 12-year-old's, and primarily revolves around meat and different pastas. And cheese. I do really wish I was more of adventurous eater, and could actually enjoy most vegetables, but I have come to terms that my palate is what it is.

I'm sharing this because it wasn't all that long ago I was convinced my body was falling apart. But a few simple changes have made all the difference. The human body is a miraculous thing and, in many cases, will reset itself to baseline health in a pretty short period of time.

Next up? Quitting smoking! But maybe not just quite yet...

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Street Dogs prove that sometimes you just need a bunch of accessible yet politically motivated and aggressive punk sing-along anthems.

Street Dogs return with their first album in eight years on June 22. I admit, that means little to me since their new album Stand For Something Or Die For Nothing is the first I've heard of these Bostonians. And I admit I went into the album with zero expectations; so few in fact I thought I'd listen to it once, note it in my spreadsheet, and never listen to it again. But it's just so earnest and compelling while somehow managing to be ridiculously catchy I find myself going back to it again and again.

This is turning out to be a good year for politically motivated music. And I don't just mean music with political lyrics and anemic backing one tolerates due to the message, but gut-busting anthems that you want to listen to on repeat. And somehow Street Dogs managed to craft 47 minutes of just that kind of music.

In their press release that accompanied the advance of the album frontman Mike McColgan says, “The dumbing down of America is a reason to write songs in 2018. People need to wake the fuck up and realize the rich won’t drain the swamp or look after the working man and woman.” If that soundalike something you can get down with, you're going to love this album.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Secret Someones; gone but not forgotten.

I rediscovered Secret Someones over the weekend, thanks to Ye Olde tankPHONE shuffle, and wanted to share their album with you today even though it came out a few years ago. Sadly the only embed I could find was Spotify, so, yeah. I always prefer Bandcamp but what can you do?

Their Facebook page is still up, but the last post is about the group disbanding. And their website is gone. Their Bandcamp page is only selling a t-shirt, and their Soundcloud page is super outdated with the last post being over 4 years old. And they're not even that old a band!

This, I guess, is one of the perils of the digital age.

You can see my first post about the band here, that has their best song, "Headfirst," which is the aural equivalent of those first few weeks of love. Though it's also of an intensity that is difficult to keep up with, much like that first flash of infatuation.

The big bummer is Secret Someones were just a little too ahead of their time. Had they surfaced now, the whole HAIM and Aces camp of fans would love them. (And they were on an Interscope subsidiary even!) But, ah well.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The ridiculous rush to review albums within hours after their release, and a few possible alternatives.

Photo by Don Linville
O.K., I've been guilty of reviewing albums minutes after their release. But that was, like, eleven years ago! And I'm pretty sure if you dig you can probably find a couple rush reviews in my own past besides that, but it was something I fought pretty hard against during my time at Chicagoist.

I realize part of this problem is that now we live in a time where many major artists no longer send out preview copies of their new albums, and many are launching surprise releases. But that's still no excuse to rush a review just to grab pageviews.

Rush reviews are even more pointless because with streaming, the general public are going to be able to listen to the entire album a few times before the first hastily types review even comes out, so what is even the point?

Plus, they all read almost exactly the same. I follow a LOT of music websites in the RSS feeds and it's almost laughable how the exact same posts from different sites pop up within seconds on each other saying the exact same thing. We're moving past the days where maximum eyes matter and the quality of the readers are more appealing to advertisers (if that's your focus which, gasp!, of course it's not (it is, there's no way around it since someone has to pay the bills since readers, for the most part, aren't doing so)).

Here are a few alternative ideas. Consider these thought-starters, and not ultimate solutions. But there's gotta be a better way.

  • The easiest? Follow the Consequence of Sound model and immediately post a quick blurb with a link to the stream. (Though I have issues with CoS constantly embedding Apple Music players since they are pointless unless you're a subscriber to that service. And, of course, CoS is also guilty of the rush review. But I have always liked their practice of that initial, "here's the stream" post. Again, don't embed a subscriber service though. Ugh.)
  • When you know something is coming, like Kanye West's release this week, have a package ready to go that ranks all his previous albums. Once the review is written you can both run the review and republish the ranking article with the new album's place in the oeuvre. No, this isn't perfect since you probably can't accurately rank where an album falls without the benefit of more time, and of course "ranking posts" are always dubious, but at least it's kinda fun and buys you some time.
  • Run a writer's roundtable of first impressions so you get various viewpoints, but don't have to pretend it's a comprehensive critical review. I like this because you're not granting the piece the validity of a single critical eye and are admitting, "Hey, we're all hearing different things this first time around. Get back to us in a week!"
  • Just refuse to run a review until you've had a few days to digest the album. Period.