Thursday, September 12, 2019

Podcast Week: A slightly different view of a subject on many minds...

This week I've been primarily focusing on music podcasts, but now it's time for something a little different. And in Illinois, this topic has been all over the media, so the timing of this relatively new podcast couldn't be more perfect.

The On Something podcast is a joint effort of Colorado Radio and PRX about cannabis and the effects the spread of its legalization is having. But you don’t need to live in a state where it’s already, or soon-to-be, legal to appreciate how it approaches its subject from so many different directions.*

The series begins by investigating just why cannabis was made illegal in the first place—and I admit I fund many of the answers they uncovered pretty surprising—but doesn’t just stick with history or jingoism. Other episodes deal with folks who used to love cannabis and now don’t (Neal Pollack), pot’s carbon footprint, how walking into a legal dispensary at the wrong time can destroy a relationship, and even cannabis’ place in the LGBTQ community (and how those ripple effects have gone on to be felt by just about everybody).

The series debuted in June, and since then I’ve learned something from every episode. I think you will too. Whether you’re a cannabis diehard, have a casual interest, or are opposed to its use, I think there’s something here to interest everyone. Just don’t pick and choose what you want to hear—no matter where you fall in your beliefs—and just take in the whole complicated quilt that covers the discussion of this subject.

Snag the first episode below, or go to the podcast's homepage (or the podcast platform of your choice) and check it out.

DOWNLOAD: Episode One—Why Was Weed Illegal Anyway?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Podcast Week: Falling deep into 'Spilt Milk'...

Let's file this one under kismet.* But first, the beginning.

I've loved Jellyfish since I first saw the video for "The King Is Half-Undressed" and then staked my record store for the cassette tape of their debut, Bellybutton. This being the pre-Internet days, I had no idea when the album would be released so I stalked my local record store(s) for weeks until it finally hit the shelves.** Then I continued to stalk stores for subsequent singles and tracked down everything I could read about the band, which wasn't much at the time. I was also lucky enough to see them play with The Black Crowes (a show that at the time felt like watching The Beatles and The Stones play together), and that was a religious experiences for l'il Tankboy—the dummer was the singer and he played standing up? What was happening?!

I continued to now very little about the band—again, aside from TV promos and scarce articles that focused more on the band's clothes than their music or background this wasn't that unusual in the early '90s. When they finally released their sophomore album, Spilt Milk, the band had grown into an ornately intricate songwriting machine that left me out of breath and a little confused. It'd actually take me a few years to truly appreciate the depth and complexity—both musical and lyrical—of that album.

Years passed, the group disbanded, and I only heard snippets of what the former members were up to. I saw Roger Manning Jr. battle with The Flaming Lips as Beck's backing band on one tour, I heard whispers Andy Sturmer was writing music for cartoons, and Jason Falkner graced the world with new solo albums at an excruciatingly slow pace. And over the years I ran into other deep fans who slowly and surely educated me about the areas of the band magazines and radio interviews never uncovered.

Just last week the folks that own the rehearsal space I rent posted a long YouTube interview with Manning Jr., and just a few days later I stumbled across a podcast (that appears to be now defunct) from 2013 that spent over 3 hours on Jellyfish's history, with a primary focus on exploring the depths of what was behind Spilt Milk's creation.*** In a single chunk of content, this recording does the best job of summarizing the band's entire career and catches you up to what each member is up to now, along with the aforementioned musical deep dive. If you're a fan you will love this. If you're not, this is by far the best introduction to Jellyfish I've encountered and will probably have you digging out everything they ever recorded after you're done listening.

So, without further ado, let's get deep into it, shall we?

DOWNLOAD: The Hollywood Gauntlet - ArenA II: Still Crying Over SPILT MILK

(You can also find it on all your podcast platforms with a little search action on your part.)

* Starting in paragraph 5, I suppose. But read the whole thing, eh?

**For all I know, the album had already long been out and just wasn't a priority on the shops' ordering schedules.

**What's even crazier is that this podcast—The Hollywood Guantlet—actually usually covered film and not music, with the Jellyfish episode being an incredibly out of character outlier!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Podcast Week: Digging you out of '90 music...

O.K., I swear I didn't plan this when I decided this would be podcast week (more on the reason for that here) but the timing is perfect!

I was introduced to the Dig Me Out podcast years ago, though I can't exactly remember how it initially happened. In the early to mid aughts I wrote for the music site Donewaiting, based in Columbus, OH, so I think my connection to bands in that area probably had something to do with it since the hosts Tim Minneci and J Dziak were in The Stepford Five, a band I booked a few times and was a fan of.* They also were both active in their college radio scene in, wait for it—the '90s!

The concept is simple: the duo—with the frequent help of guests ranging from the famous to, well, me—tackle albums or trends from the '90s for re-evaluation. Most of the focus is on the "alternative" and "indie" scenes and they tackle everything from the massive megastars to the tiniest regional successes. And The tragically Hip, who I guess fall into both of those categories, depending on where you live.

They also host roundtable discussions occasionally on topic ranging from city-specific music scenes, sophomore slumps, and various other topics. Minneci and Dziak aren't afraid to wade into waters unfamiliar to them personally, but always bring a reasoned and thoughtful skill set to their evaluations of every act and topic. All of their episodes are available through all the usual platforms, so I would recommend starting off in the archives and snagging episodes on bands and topics that interest you. I guarantee that by the end you'll have ended up listening to their whole run. That's what happened to me.

This week's episode deals with the question of sophomore successes in the '90s, and features some debate over which groups actually meet the standard of outdoing their often lauded debuts. And I happen to be one of the guests on the episode, so a big bonus for you, dear reader!**

So, dig in to Dig Me Out!***

*If you're interested, the band's output is well worth a listen.

***Before you jump down my throat on the "rules" of the discussion, I realized after the fact that Nirvana's Bleach was actually released in June of 1989 so that should make them ineligible for this conversation. So yeah, I got that wrong. However, in my defense, I don't think you can have a conversation about the 1990s and sophomore albums without a nod to the band that arguably changed the decade and the way music evolved after 1991. At least that's the excuse I'm using. (But, I admit my mistake.)

***There's no external streamer / player for these podcasts so click through and start at the link. In case you didn't figure that out.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Podcast week! Kicking off with a deep dive into My Chemical Romance...

As I've been searching for a new job over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to catch up with all my regular podcast subscriptions, so I started hunting for new shows to listen to while I was at the gym.* Most of them have been self-contained runs I can just binge, or one-off episodes about subjects that intrigue me. So I figured this week would be a fine time to share a few of these lesser-known treasures to help enhance your listening pleasure (and possible education).

The first podcast I'd like to highlight is the My Chemical Romance-focused My Chemical Fancast, because it is a fantastic undiscovered gem.

First, a little background about my own relationship with My Chemical Romance. I've loved the band for years and years, but my relationship with them has been strictly musical. Even though they rose to prominence during my days as an editor at Chicagoist, I never really wrote about them. I just bought their albums and enjoyed the music. In retrospect it seems odd, since I would usually instinctively do a deep dives into a band whose work I bought religiously, but their background was a blind spot to me. I'd play "Teenagers" when DJing at 4 a.m. / 5 a.m. bars and had no idea it was even a single from the band, much less a hit. And I had no idea Gerard Way had pursuits outside the band until The Umbrella Academy premiered on Netflix and I read the press around it. That is just how intellectually incurious I was about the band outside their actual musical output.

Again, I don't know why this was. Maybe since I just assumed they were part of the emo revival of the aughts, and I avoided most writing about that scene since it was mostly either blindly fawning or fiercely combative and trolling, and therefore missed learning of the band's background.**

So a few weeks ago I decided to see if there were any podcasts out there that might fill in my lack of knowledge and holy moly did I hit the motherlode with My Chemical Fancast. It's hosted by friends Kat and Hallie, who have both been massive fans of the band since their teenage years (and earlier?). They go through the band's entire catalog, song by song, including a wealth of background knowledge and detail that could only be supplied by folks with a deep passion for MCR's music.

But this ain't just a podcast with fans fawning, no! They both appear to have a solid musical background so while they discuss the stories behind the music, they're also adept at picking the actual music apart, focusing your attention on the tiniest of details that really helps the band's catalog blossom with new possibilities.

And the duo is so entertaining and easy to listen to: I blew through the first 25 episodes in less than a week (which means I spent over a full day with their critical evaluations in my head) and never got bored.

My Chemical Fancast has covered all the band's original catalog, and they are currently dissecting the Conventional Weapons releases that were recorded before but released after Danger Days (right, I think? I'm still learning!), so you can binge the whole thing or dole it out as you see fit. However, if you enjoy MCR at all, this is a great way to appreciate just how deep their history and musical acumen runs.

Here's the first episode, but I really recommend just using the app of your choice to subscribe to the whole thing. And, oh yeah, I went through all the old episodes at 2X speed and it sounded just fine, just in case you're the type that likes to pack as much content into as short a period of time as possible.

*Podcasts long ago replaced music as my listening content of choice while working out. I'm not sure why, but it might have something to do with my cognizance of song length and constantly using that to track the time I'm running or doing aerobic work, while spoken podcasts allow me to get more lost in the zone. I dunno, works for me!

**Aside from the knowledge that an acquaintance of mine went to high school with Way and was MCR's first manager.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

A-ha, it seems summer ain't giving up yet!

Hahahaha, talk about speaking too soon. Today's weather was the exact opposite of yesterday's—it was sunny and beautiful and I walked miles and miles outside to take it all in.* While I was walking, a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines On T.V." popped into my head, so as soon as I got home I had to blast it as loudly as I could. Then I remembered I had the extended version of the song and blasted all 8 minutes 26 seconds of that as well. Too many only know a-ha as that one band with the insane video with groundbreaking animation, but they did write more songs than "Take On Me," and "The Sun Always Shines On T.V." is right up there with their best.

So whether this video brings back memories, or it's the first time you've realized a-ha actually wrote more than one song in their long (and still going—they're about to tour Europe and Australia!) career, dig on the above and everything'll be all right.

*I also forgot my Fitbit charging at home before going to the gym, so after I retrieved it, a few of those miles were also in service of getting my steps "officially" in despite already nailing it via treadmill. But hey, any excuse to get outside, right?

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

So long, summer!

Yesterday was Labor Day and the weather was lovely. But it was also the "unofficial" end of the summer and it appears Mother Nature wanted to make that crystal clear by delivering dreary, rainy weather to Chicago starting in the wee hours of the morning today. I'm sure we'll still have stretches of lovely weather over the next few months, but the difference between yesterday and today is both amusing and oddly symbolic.

I was unemployed for about half of the summer, but even so I didn't spend that time at the beach or outside or going out at night. Nope, I hunkered down and established a regular schedule of working out, job hunting, reading, and catching up on various TV shows and movies. Oh, and I treated myself with the occasional trip to the cinema to take in a new release. It's been a positively Dionysian summer for me!

Seriously though, aside from the lack of work, it's been a good few low-key months. Just what the internal spirit ordered, if I'm being honest. I made a few major changes that have improved the quality of my inner life, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do that.

All that said, I'm eager to get back to work—something that appears increasingly likely now that folks looking to hire are both off the extended vacation schedules that naturally occur between May and September and potential clients for those companies are entering the third quarter (a period that frequently loosens up marketing funds). So I'm feeling optimistic!

Also, Riot Fest is in a few weeks, so that means there's still some summer fun left to be had, and based on the music line-up, fun will be had!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Brat Curse delivers a fizzy, bubbly, raucous, wild good time.

Brat Curse's sophomore full-length got a lot of play by me earlier this summer and then got displaced by the realities of currently being unemployed and a bunch of other stuff.* I had put them on the back-burner since I got the album in the spring, but it wasn't due to be released until August. So I offer my apologies for only talking about them now, because they should definitely find a place in your own regular music rotation.

The quartet hails from Dayton, Ohio and—in keeping with my personal experience with Ohio-based musicians dating back to my donewaiting days—Brat Curse's members are also in a slew of other regional bands. Their new album is self-titled, which means either they've jumped the shark or have latched onto a perfect formula for their sound.**

In the case of Brat Curse, Brat Curse is firmly in the latter camp. Thank gawd.

Brat Curse speeds by with 12 songs in 30 minutes without sacrificing subtleties frequently lost by other bands attempting the same economy of songwriting. The guitars buzz and saw back and forth, holding up hooks defiantly nosing their way forward of the din. It's a collection that in a parallel universe would spawn hit after hit after hit, so let's bend our reality to a different plane and make that a reality. If you dig energy that's on the side of controlled musical spasms that expand and contract, rushing you along from one song to the other, you'll love this.

As good as the album is, I get the feeling the band is even better live, though I can't know that for certain since the majority of their "touring" is limited to the Ohio region. Their publicist does saw "the band will tour extensively in the second half of 2019" though, so that opens up hope those of us not in Ohio will have a chance to catch them in the near future.

Until then, give Brat Curse a listen below. It's currently available, along with most of their catalog, as a free download, though if you really dig it, as always, you should throw a couple bucks or more the band's way.

*Speaking of which, if you know of anyone—agency or in-house—looking for an Associate Creative Director or Sr. Copywriter in the Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, or San Francisco areas, please feel free to send every opportunity my way!

**Think of it. Usually self-titled albums that are not a debut are meant to "define" a band, but more often display a group that is stagnant and hoping some new direction will revitalize their work. Just sayin'.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday motivation.

Photo via Carly Rae Jepsen's Instagram
It's a rainy, dreary day in Chicago. The good news is that means my call to wait until today to water the plants at K's house while she's out of town was a good one! (Silver lining FTW.)

I have a few things on the docket, writing-wise, this week. But I've been up since 4 a.m. and am champing at the bit to hit the gym. When you're unemployed, routine is really important—more about that later this week—and starting every day off with a good workout does wonders for my mood.

So for today I figured I'd just share a recent tune that seems to straddle the positives and negatives of today's weather. It's winsome but optimistic, and the chorus is one of those things that gets stuck on repeat in your head and might brighten up your day with it's drive. Plus, it features Carly Rae Jepsen, so it's obviously a win-win of a tune.

Happy Monday, and may this morning set your week up for happiness and success. No Monday blues here, only Monday motivation!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Let's take a peek behind the scenes into why music festivals cost consumers so much money.

I've been marinating on a piece about music festivals—primarily Lollapalooza—and wondering where most of them go from here. I've been thinking about artistic choices made by festival booking agents, but I admit I hadn't really thought about ticket pricing since that doesn't seem to act as much of a deterrent to attendees.*

Luckily for me The Economist comes to the rescue, opening my horizons on the subject with the video above. I would've gotten around to this angle eventually, but they did some of the initial legwork for me. Hee. Check it out as I continue to work on my longer piece about mega-fests in general.

*My primary hypothesis is that line-ups are so similar amongst big fests it's growing obvious music is the secondary draw when it comes to getting people inside the gates, so ticket pricing hadn't really initially registered with me. The interviews with attendees in the video supports that notion, and kinda breaks my heart a little. And makes me thankful there are still a handful, albeit shrinking, number of festivals like Riot Fest that focus on the music as the draw, then provide an experience on the grounds to support fans having a good time. But the main focus at a festival like that is the music, not the party.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Lilacs prove their classic sound will never go out of style.

The Lilacs. Still busy rocking. Still playing clubs with static, single-color stage lights.
Ken Kurson and David Levinsky form the core of The Lilacs, a Chicago power-pop band releasing their first new music in over 25 years. The Lilacs Endure is a 4-song EP that sees the group picking up exactly where they left off, crafting timeless little guitar crunchers that are sticky as warm bubblegum on a hot summer day.

The group’s sound is exactly what you’d expect when you consider Kurson once played bass for Chicago legends Green, and Material Issue’s Jim Ellison provided the band with their name and produced their debut 7” The Lilacs Love You, released way back in 1991.

I’ll admit I’m new to the band, which is odd since they ran—and presumably now run again—in many of the same musical circles I do. But you can certainly count me as a fan now. My initial take on the new material, before I read any of the band’s history, was that they sounded like a slightly more aggressive version of The Pooh Sticks, a Welsh band that was primarily a studio project with a rotating cast of musicians giving voice to the fictional band members a la The Archies or, well, Gorillaz. Theirs was a shaggy sort of pop that had roots in the late ‘70s with multiple nods to other artists, and The Lilacs share some of that musical DNA, albeit with a more focused and organic approach.

It’s wickedly fun stuff.

“Monica” is the lead track off the new EP, and though the video was posted months ago I’m betting you, like me, never saw it. So check out the video below. Want more? Sadly the band seems to be avoiding my streaming player of choice (Bandcamp!) so there’s a Spotify stream below, though those are always wonky once you step outside the player. No matter, it’ll bring you to the EP one way or another … and you want to hear this!

The Lilacs will celebrate the release of The Lilacs Endure at Phyliss’ Musical Inn on October 19 at 9 p.m. The new EP is out now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

In the nighttime.

Photo by Dara
Chicago has been lucky this summer. We're closing in on the tail-end of August so I feel secure I'm not going to jinx us too thoroughly with this observation. While much of the U.S. has dealt with miserable heatwaves and storms, we've had lovely weather most of the time. It's my first time in a decade living somewhere without central air, and I've only had to turn on my window AC unit a handful of evenings this year.

Mostly I just sleep with all the windows of my apartment wide open, inviting in the soft late night breeze and oddly, the sounds of nature.

I live in the city proper, blocks away from both an expressway and an L station, yet if I close my eyes in the middle of the night all I hear is the steady buzz of nature punctuated by the occasional cricket chirps. The thrum of the cicadas is heaviest around dusk and melts away to a pleasant hum by total nightfall. But once I block out any visual stimuli I swear I could be lying in a tent in the middle of a forest in some remote location.

It's peaceful. It's soothing. At times if I really give into the aural quilt it's almost like floating in a sensory depravation tank with a new age soundtrack constructed from the fabric of the outdoors. My breathing slows. My heart rate drops. It's meditative. It balances out the uncertainty of the daylight hours and helps me recharge. So much so that I'm back to waking up at 5 a.m. every morning feeling fully refreshed and eager to make some coffee and bounce out of the door toward my gym as quickly as possible.

And I'm grateful.

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Hey-o! I'm still here! I promise! Just been a busy stretch for me. But that means I have cool music piling up I need to tell you about soon, huh? I'll leave out any personal update for now, but things are going well.

Let's see, I don't want to leave you empty handed, so please enjoy the following. Everyone should be as happy as Bill Hader is at the 1:42 mark...

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Hollywood (Vampies) Heroes.

Yes, I am a David Bowie superfan, but that’s not why I’m sharing this. It’s a perfectly serviceable cover of “Heroes.” Which coming from a band including all the big name musicians in Hollywood Vampires ain’t all that surprising. No, I’m sharing it to ask one and only one question.

What is up with Johnny Depp’s hair?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Trent's "On A Roll!"

You had to see this coming.

Ashley O (a.k.a., duh, Miley Cyrus) proves just how pop Trent Reznor really is. And I don't mean that as some snide aside. The fact Reznor writes such great hooks that they're so translatable into different musical styles is proof of his amazing songwriting abilities!

Also, check out Annie Zaleski's recent piece musing about Reznor's not-so-unlikely pop moment in 2019.

Remember Google Buzz?

Check out the animated chart tracking the growth (and shrinkage) of various social networks over the since ye olde Internet days of 2003. I had kinda forgotten about Google Buzz—even though old posts and conversations from those days still pop up in searches within my Gmail.

Oh well.

[via The Next Web]

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cover me in Bliss.

I’m passing up the chance to see Charly Bliss later this week—believe me, you don’t know how painful the decision was, but it’s only because The Breeders are playing the same night and I agreed to cover their show a while ago.* Dagnabbit, why is it always true that when I am looking for something to do there’s nothing going on, but when there IS something I want to do, there is so much other awesome stuff going on at the same time?! It ain’t fair!

Anyway, Charly Bliss released a new video today so watch it along with me, fall in love with it, and then lament the fact that I’m missing them this time around.** (But not over-lamenting, I am getting a chance to see The Breeders, fer chrissakes.)

*YOU can still see Charly Bliss in Chicago though! Tickets for their Lincoln Hall show Saturday night are still available. They are SO good live!

**Speaking of Charly Bliss videos, they’ve been crushing it with content promotion-wise for this latest album. And in most other bands’ hands this would be annoying, but they are so vibrant and creative I’m left jaw agape at the sheer output of excellent stuff instead of being agog with annoyance with so much PR. Case in point? See below.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Kerchief proves they're no 'Fluke.'

Photo by Liesa Cole

Chattanooga's Kerchief is built around the vision of core songwriter and guitarist Britt Hill. Kerchief's debut Machines And Animals is a pleasant listen, but feels a tad faltering, as if the group is still trying to figure out what direction they wanted to go in. Smooth pop? Prog? Angular blasts of old skool indie? They were all fine explorations, but it felt less like a statement than an ongoing exploration.

On the band's sophomore effort Fluke, Hill replaced the rotating cast of touring musicians employed previously with the full-time rhythm section of siblings Tommy and Trevor Nicholson. The trio took the time to work on the new material together, so Fluke sounds like anything else other than its name might employ. The songs are musically more muscular and focused, and Hill's lyrical melodies are more effectively refined. And I'm pleased to say that the band follows the current trend of smarter artists releasing albums that are only as long as they need to be—in this case they kick out eight songs in 30 minutes, not wasting a single minute on a flawed exploration or filler material.

There's a glint glam sprinkled into Fluke, but it's primarily an exercise in honing focus to streamline the hooks and pack each tune with as potent a punch as each can carry. That is to say when it's time to pull back, Kerchief knows it. And when it's time to lean in, Kerchief really knows it.

Kerchief has no current tour dates, so you'll just have to content yourself with the new album (below) until they decide to leave Tennessee for the wide open road.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Weekend report, since there is actually something to report!

I decided it was time to break out of the house for once and actually made the solo trek over to a street festival to check out a few bands. After a month of rarely venturing out I decided it was time! And it was a lovely time. It was far enough away that I got some some quality listening and reading in on the CTA. But it was also far enough away that by the time I got home I realized I was pressed for time and I'd have to Uber to The Empty Bottle to take in another band I'd been wanting to check out.
So I grabbed a bite and then walked down to the karaoke bar at the end of my block to grab smokes and wait for my ride. The bartender looked at me in slight shock and admitted they thought I had moved since it had been so long since I had been by! I guess that's a good sign that I've been picking healthier ways to spend my free time?

I arrived at The Bottle a bit later and suddenly remembered how brutal the beginning of the summer can be for club shows. During the weekend so many folks are fest-ing or BBQ-ing that but the time the evening rolls around, most are less interested in catching a few bands, even if the headliners, Acquaintances, are a bit of a supergroup made up of some pretty high profile musicians. It didn't detract from the show—all three bands on the bill did great—but I did find myself wishing more people had been there to see the show.

Sunday night was the opposite, displaying how larger touring acts can still pull 'em in on the final night of the weekend. It also didn't hurt that said band, Superchunk, is always an absolute killer live. It put a big ol' smile on my face, that's for sure. More on that show tomorrow.

And here we are on a Monday morning, work week stretching ahead, and I'm a little more tired than usual for the beginning of the week but I'm also in a great mood after so much good music (and a fair amount of sunshine). It was just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Sleater-Kinney + St. Vincent = YES.

I love Sleater-Kinney when they're creating walls of sound (The Woods was a masterpiece) but holy heck did the news that St. Vincent was producing their new album got me really excited. And now that I've heard the first taste of this sure-to-be-legendary team-up, I can confirm that my (and your) excitement was incredibly well founded. "Hurry On Home" introduces a somewhat different sound for S-K, without discarding any of the urgency that makes their best work so great.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Claim emerge from an obscure (to me, maybe not to you) past with an album focused on the future.

Photo by Ruth Bowker

Usually when something shows up in my inbox saying this is the first release from a band in almost 30 years, and I’ve never heard of the group, my expectations are usually pretty low. Most of the time it’s a sleepy or uninspired retread of a dated sound perpetrated by a little known (to me) group of folks who just can’t let the past go. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but that’s often the way it is. However I am all for groups willing to make another go at it, even decades later, so I give everything a chance.*

The Claim, based in Kent, only put out two albums in the ‘80s, and their last single was released in 1992. However, their new album, The New Industrial Ballads, sounds like it could have come out and stood atop the Britpop revolution that followed shortly after they went on their long hiatus.

In other words they completely crushed any and all fears I might've had this might be some band past their prime mired in sentimentality. The music on the new album is beautifully constructed and works wonderfully as a counterpoint to the lyrical approach that skips between the political and the personal.

Nothing in their press release really explains why the group came back together, however they did recently release their 1988 album Boomy Tella, so perhaps that reignited the spark? Whatever the reason I'm glad they did reunite to create this surprising little gem of a disc in 2019. Listen below and you'll see what I'm talking about.

It's worth noting, and this is a post I've had in the works for a while, that we are currently in a good era for dormant bands to return and create really vibrant work. It seems many are now viewing that task as a chance to build upon their past instead of wallowing in familiarity worn smooth by too much glossy polish as a stand-in for songwriting.**

**I'm not knocking well-crafted music expertly recorded in a studio. I'm knocking music that uses studio production as a crutch to hide lackluster writing in the first place.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Almond looks, that chill divine.

Richard Lowenstein directed just about every INXS video you are familiar with (I think he actually handled every one between 1984 and 1993, but please correct me if I'm wrong) as well as 2 Max Q videos (Michael Hutchence's side project with Ollie Olsen). So it makes sense that he'd be behind the new documentary focused on Hutchence's life. The first trailer was released today ahead of the film's July 4 release, though I haven't a clue where it's playing in the States, if at all. It may be another instance where I'll have to wait for forever before it comes out digitally or something. Boo to that.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Lizzy Farrall amps up the pop without sacrificing the rock.

Lizzy Farrall may have grown up in "a rural village in North Wales," but there is nothing remote or pastoral about her sound. On the Barbados EP, Farrall is swinging for the pop bleachers, without losing the rock and/or roll heart that beats in the midst of her music and keeps things from getting too glittery. Even the subtle vocal effects in a pre-chorus of the title track—a move that might mask other singers' transitions with technical pomp—serve as a subtle production touch that helps set up the more effusive and glorious aspects of the song's chorus. It's not masking a delinquency; it's serving the tune, straddling artifice and authenticity. That may sound grandiose, but it's actually just the effect of an artist taking control and care in their song craft.

All this sounds awfully highfalutin, and maybe I'm attempting a verbal back-bend to justify the sweetness at the core of her music without discounting the careful craft at play that balances the sweet with the sour (and in this case the sour is lyrical reality and authentic presentation—not an actual puckering of the ear canals).

Farrall is on tour right now and hits Chicago this weekend. It's an early show, so if you're reading this you're probably not part of the usual 17+ crowd 7 p.m. doors draw, but if that is the case I urge you to step outside your comfort zone and check Farrall out. The best thing that could happen is you walk away a fan, and the worst? You'll be out early enough to still grab drinks with friends or check out another gig elsewhere in town.

UPDATE: Farrall is no longer on the bill. I'll let you know if I hear of a rescheduled date for her.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Rise and shine!

Hey ya’ll, it’s the first Monday in June! Gotcher summer plans all in place? Have you already been living it up and enjoying all this awesome weather?!

Yeah, neither have I.

I swear and I promise I fully intended to hit up my first street festival of the season—bands I really like were playing every day this weekend at Do Division—but in the end I opted for the gym, walks around my neighborhood, and Good Omens.

I know. I’m lame.

A friend also came over to pick up some items they left at my house, and I actually did make it out to my nephews’ bowling birthday party, so it’s not like I was a total hermit. I just couldn’t get up the motivation to dig into something as meaty as huge public gatherings.

I'll tell you this—I think Pickle the Kitten is starting to look at me funny for spending too much time at home. I mean, we share the couch but I know she prefers to treat that piece of furniture as her personal giant cat pillow. She tolerates me and all, but I know she's just counting down the minutes until I have to either leave for gym or my freelance gig.*

Oh hey! My birthday is coming up! And we're going on the second year in a row where I could not care less. Well, I do care to the extent that my age ticks up yet another digit, thereby making me one year less attractive to potential partners. But what can you do? I ain't gonna lie about my age and I ain't getting younger. At least (fingers crossed) I still don't completely look my age. And since I've begun healthier eating and activities a few of the things I had been worrying about on the aging front have actually started to reverse. So it's never too late to make improvements and see some results!

I'm gonna make that last sentence into a shareable piece of content with a sunrise or something behind the copy.**

I was actually going to write about a musical artists I've really been enjoying ahead of their Chicago appearance later this week, but as you can see I distracted myself before I could even get to that and went off on a tangent. So, tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll write about this person. Hey, it's something to look forward to!***

She still meets me at the door every time I come home, and is pretty vocal in her greetings (even when she has plenty of food!) so I suspect her occasional side-eye re my taking up couch real estate may not be 100% genuine, and maybe a little bit of attitudinal playacting.

**No, I'm not. Though as an interesting aside I have actually begun to enjoy at least a few of the motivational bromides that clog Instagram and Facebook from a number of friends and online acquaintances. I think it's a sign of my decreasing pessimism and depression that I am actually finding some of these, um, motivational.

***One other thing; now that I'm getting a solid 8-9 hours of sleep every night, and am up early for the gym I am not minding at all the fact that the sun is bathing my bedroom in light first thing in the morning. Bring it!

Friday, May 31, 2019

25 years ago Beastie Boys told me and you and Ma Bell they had the 'Ill Communication.'

This is another in a continuing series of "JESUS CHRIST I'M GETTING SO OLD' posts. The one bright side to these posts is hearing all my friends echo the same refrain. The funny thing about getting old is I still, in many ways, feel like the kid that first heard Beastie Boys' Ill Communication the day it came out in 1994. If I remember correctly I ran straight to Appletree Records when they opened (midnight sales seem to have fizzled out by this time period for some reason) and played the album non-stop.

I don't remember, but I probably played it at The Gallery that weekend (it cam out on a Tuesday but I usually didn't DJ until Fridays by that point).

Anyway, enjoy the short documentary above and pull the album out for a celebratory listen, if yu haven't already.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Just because your past haunts you doesn't mean you need to keep living in it, right?

I think I've looked at this cursor blink a couple hundred times a I sit here in the early morning light trying to figure out what I want to say as a cat's light snores make their way through the doorway behind me.

I've spent some serious time eradicating the unhealthy tendencies from my life, and I've mentioned them here before—daily workouts, 7-8 hours of sleep (unheard of in the past!), knocking out 99.99% of any alcohol consumption, a return to reading books instead of scrolling through my phone in those down moments, and so on.

So I should feel fabulous, right?

Well, physically, yes. I let myself go over the last year and a half and it feels incredibly good to get back into shape. I should hit my summer weight, oh, halfway through the summer—but at least I'll get there. And that makes me happy. But body is just a beginning, no?

Yesterday stirred up a lot of emotions and memories and things I thought no longer affected me, but obviously do. A year ago I was unemployed and used the day as an excuse to get plastered and feel sorry for myself. What a difference a year makes! This time around I just went about my business as best I could and instead dealt with every emotion and memory as they came along, trying to learn from them and put them to rest. Just because your past haunts you doesn't mean you need to keep living in it, right?

Huh, I just realized its been two weeks since I left the house to do anything social. In that time I've just worked, caught up on TV, read, and gone to sleep earlier and earlier. (That last bit might seem odd, but after averaging 2-3 hours of sleep for months it's actually a positive sign, to me.)

Sorry, this is rambling. And that cat just stopped snoring and got off her stool, so it's clearly time to scratch her behind her ears just the way she likes as she enjoys her breakfast. It's a good moment to get lost in.

I'll figure all this other stuff out later.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Ritualists transport you to a world surging with dark waves both dramatic and familiar.

Photo by Sam Keeler

The Ritualists mixes early Cult with early Suede. At least that's what I'm hearing in the first couple of seconds I started testing out. On their new album Painted People, out August 2, the band sounds like an industrial kitchen mixer of glam, hard rock, and melodramatic pop influences. Listen to the album's first single "Ice Flower" below and tell me I'm wrong.

But that's lazy of me, no? The honest fact is that this album appeared in my inbox just this afternoon, and as usual I started to play a few seconds of a few songs in order to properly label it for eventual upload to Ye Olde tankPHONE once I got home this evening.* Only a funny thing happened, and I found that instead of hitting fast forward or "NEXT!" I settled in and listened to the whole thing right away.

Why did this happen? It's not because the album is amazingly groundbreaking or anything like that. I think it had more to do with how alien it sounded. I mean, the tropes are familiar, but its been so long since I've heard much of a band's machinations that could easily feel arch come off as sincere. Perhaps that's the band's talent? For all I know, front-person Christian Dryden and his very band of musicians could be total scene poseurs. If that's the case, they know their scene better than any faker, and come awfully close to sounding sincere. So if it's a pose, it's an incredibly well struck one.

In the band's latest press release Dryden speaks of "being inspired by larger-than-life characters such as David Bowie, Simon Le Bon, Bryan Ferry and Marc Bolan" and Painted People certainly channels that inspiration proudly and openly.** The Ritualists takes these touchstones and cast them into a crystalline pond, subsequently skimming its surface for a collection of glistening songs that actually feel like the band means what they're saying. Whether that's true or not doesn't really matter though—this is an unexpected pleasure straight out of left field that I'm glad I neglected to hit pause upon and instead swallowed whole.

*For the unfamiliar, when I get music during the day I prep it to transfer to tankPHONE in an "albums to review" playlist each evening. I figure out the genre and standardize how the music displays as well as ensuring every album has the correct cover. Nerd stuff.

**There are a TON more influences as well, but I've already relied too heavily on "sounds like" terminology, so listen up and figure out your own connections to the rest.

Monday, May 27, 2019

What did I do during my extended holiday weekend?

Here's a shocking answer to the question posited above—not much!

Aside from daily trips to the gym and the store I stayed in for most of the weekend. I did venture out to watch a matinee of Brightburn, but aside from that it was a lot of reading and a lot of catching up on streaming movies and series.* I honestly had to motivation to hit the bar scene, or hunt out a BBQ, or be all that social at all. It was nice to spend a weekend in. Yet another outgrowth of my trend wherein booze is avoided and regular sleeping schedules and daily exercise dominate.

If you had one, how was your holiday weekend?

*So, about Brightburn. The movie is exactly what you'd expect and I enjoyed it, but I went in expecting what I got. It's premise is simple—what if Superman was a bad guy—and its gore is plentiful when it occurs. I can't see this movie making the cut when it comes to a mid-day "there's nothing else on cable" watch, but it was entertaining enough for a single  viewing to see the premise, thin as it may be, play out.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A condensed blast of Tin Machine.

It's common knowledge that I think Bowie's time in Tin Machine is seriously underrated. The first album from the band is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year (I still remember picking up the cassette from Sound Warehouse in high school the day it came out) so hopefully that means some of the material from the time might see a re-release?

My curiosity is piqued because the above compilation video is a new release by the Bowie camp. According to the YouTube description, “To promote the album the band, along with the director Julien Temple, filmed nine riotous performances of songs from the record at the downtown New York City rock club The Ritz, which have remained unreleased commercially until now.“

Now I’m not sure how much of that is true—I’ve definitely seen videos for a few of the songs, and whoever uploaded it couldn’t get their stuff together enough to notice that when they listed the songs included in the video description, they totally forgot to not “Under The God,” the clip that closes out this mini-compilation. So this could just be some social media associate looking for content to fill a possible anniversary and that’s all that it is.

Either way, this material definitely deserves the deluxe reissue treatment. And I know there’s an amazing Chicago show recording that exists out there that caught the band when they were on fire after that debut. So stuff is out there that deserves to see the light of day again (or for the first time).

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Roll a twenty-sided die of RAWK with Gygax!

Photo by Cliff Montgomery

Every once in a while a line from a band's PR-approved biography absolutely nails what to expect from them, and in the case of Gygax that line is, "drenched in influence from the likes of Dungeons & Dragons and Thin Lizzy." I admit I haven't dug into their lyrics enough to confirm the first half of that statement, but the fact the group is obviously named after Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax is enough for me.* And though Gygax characterizes themselves as metal, their music has plenty of heavy groove, swing and soul—along with some killer dueling guitar lines—that firmly supports the later half of that claim.

Gygax's third album, High Fantasy, is out later this June, and the band keeps things admirably tight, delivering 9 songs in just over 30 minutes. This is very much a wham-bam-thank-you-man effort that kicks you in the head from the get-go and leaves you flat on your ass by the final drum fill in the last seconds of the closing track. Through it all there's a melodic approach that makes even the heaviest moments slide down with a satiating sweetness.

Here's the only track they've released publicly thus far, but like I said I've heard the rest so you can click that li'l pre-order button in the player with the knowledge the rest is just as good.

*Since I wrote this initial draft I went back to listen more closely to the lyrics and yup, these dudes love them some swords and sorcery stuff.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

2 parts Get Up Kids + 1 part Anniversary + 1 part Gadjits/Architects = 1 massive Radar State.

So let's untangle that faux equation of a headline and clarify that Radar State is made up of The Get Up Kids’ Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic, Josh Berwanger of The Anniversary (who I just recently teased out a new track from), and Adam Phillips of The Gadjits and  The Architects.

Now that that's out of the way.

I saw Radar State a few months ago at Cobra Lounge in a packed room and their show raucous fun. For some reason I didn't write about them back then, but their debut LP Strays recently snuck its way into regular rotation on my playlist, after a brief late-winter hibernation period. I suspect I was saving them for the summer months as far as sharing with you, dear reader, but since summer has still not decisively landed in Chicago I grow short in patience and feel the need to turn you onto the folks today; right now.

The sound is all energetic, classic riffle and sing-along prompts that you'll fall prey to halfway through any given chorus. It's the sound of four people who share enough of a common background to keep things cohesive, but are different enough that none of this sounds like a rehash of their own bands.

They've got no tour dates, but they did play Riot Fest in 2017 (and Riot Fest presented that Cobra Lounge gig I saw), so maybe they can be (or are in the midst of being or have have already been) coaxed back to Chicago by those folks.

Anyway, pretend the warmth of the summer grass is filling your nose as a light breeze plays with your hair and settle in for a good listen. Stream Strays below, and always buy yourself a copy if you like it. (If you wanna go straight to mainline sunshine, skip ahead to "Making Me Feel" (fronted by Berwanger? I'm not sure?). But if you do that, don't be a slouch—rewind to track 1 and play through the whole party.

UPDATE: When I wrote this post it was still dawn and it was chilly and pretty dreary outside. Since then it's turned into a beautiful, warm, and sunny day. I give this album full credit for influencing the weather and turning things around!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Finally catching up.

I swear I actually started writing up my favorite albums of 2018 post. It's not done yet, but at least I got around to it. At this rate The Wrens will have a new album before I end up recapping the 20 albums released last years that kept me afloat!

Thank you for your patience.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Someone I know directed another Juliana Hatfield video!

Photo by Stacee Sledge
I admit I haven’t seen Rachel Lichtman in quite a few years—she left Chicago for warmer, Western climes a while ago—but I’ve really been enjoying her experimental and delightfully quirky films on her Network 77 platform. We ran in the same social circles, but she was always part of the group that was a little above my pay grade when it came to the cool quotient, so it's no surprise she's still kicking out amazing work that is effortlessly, well, cool.

Earlier this year Lichtman received acclaim for her video treatment of "Lost Ship" off Juliana Hatfield's latest (and quite excellent) album Weird. It was dreamy and felt more like a feeling than a story, which suited that song well.

Lichtman and Hatfield collaborated on a second video from the album, and released it today. Whereas their first visual collaboration, "Lost Ship," was more a meditative and stately affair, the new video for "Broken Doll" take a far different route, mood-wise. From the opening introduction courtesy Pat Sansone (who has appeared in previous Network 77 shorts) you kinda have an idea that you're in for something a little (seemingly, but is it really?) lighter this time around. Check it out and you tell me what you think.

Oh yeah, Hatfield is on tour right now and hits Chicago for the outdoor Out Of Space event in Evanston on June 22. It's SUPER sold out—Hatfield is sharing the bill with Liz Phair—but maybe you can find tickets on the resale market if you're really lucky.

Still ramping up.

I’ve listened to more new music this month than I did January through April combined. I liken the feeling to getting your appetite back after you've been rundown with a long illness that killed your desire to consume anything at all because your body can't even muster the energy to process it. May has been a particularly introspective month for me personally, but it's also been the month that I changed my schedule up and instituted some major lifestyle changes that have taken hold in a number of healthy ways.

I'm still working on regaining my old vim and vigor when it comes to music and arts and cultural writing—the last 2 years took a particular emotional toll in that segment of my productivity. While my day-to-day 9-to-5 writing has remained strong I think that's because the section of my brain responsible for that has stayed sharp and focused no matter what my current personal situation has been. In some ways I've probably strengthened that section of output since it both allowed me to be creative and avoid inward thinking. Writing in the service of something outside of you can be really great when you're trying to avoid negative periods in your life.

Anyway, here's a peppy video about "bad vibrations" for you to enjoy off Josh Berwanger's forthcoming album Watching A Garden Die, out June 28. I'll share more on this closer to its release date, but it seemed just the right mixture of upbeat negativity for a Monday morning post built on the self-reflection of rebuilding positivity out of darker times.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Soft Bulletin was released 20 years ago today…

The Flaming Lips in 1999 looking almost presentable!
Most of you probably didn't hear The Soft Bulletin the day it came out, since the May 17, 1999 release date was for the UK version (the US version, with a slightly different track listing, wasn't released until June 22). It took me a week to finally track down the import version after stalking every indie record shop in Chicago on a daily basis.*

I had heard The Flaming Lips debut their new direction a few months earlier at La Zona Rosa in Austin during SXSW. I believe it was only their second live set as a newly configured trio (they played two days earlier in Dallas as a test run) and they went on well after their supposed 1 a.m. start time. I remember being confused by Steven Drozd being set up behind a bank of keyboards and VCRs. I had heard Zaireeka, but was expecting the band to play as a power trio, full of Wayne Coyne guitar squalls, Michael Ivins thunder bass and Drozd's monster drumming.

That was obviously not what happened.

The trio played three of their older "guitar" songs, reconfigured to match the new aural direction the band was headed, instead relying on one Zaireeka cut and a slew of material no one in the room had ever heard, including "Race For The Prize" and "The Gash." The band was still kicking out psychedelic anthems, but there was a whole new dimension and tenderness that flowed through the new songs that BLEW ME AWAY.

The piece I turned in recapping that year's SXSW for The Chicago Flame isn't online, and one day I'll dig through my hard copy collection of my writing to find it, but I do remember no one in the office believed The Flaming Lips would sound the way I described them. At the time they were still only known to mainstream audiences as the "She Don't Use Jelly" band who appeared briefly on an episode of 90210. And my music friends who had been following the band along with me since the late '80s didn't believe it either.

Obviously The Soft Bulletin is now lauded as a modern classic, and that Austin show I saw bore the genesis of Coyne's turning to theater props to help convey the weight of the music since he no longer had a guitar to bash away at. Back then the DIY stage show aesthetic had always been a part of the band's DNA—their shows were visual spectacles even if it was merely through draping every piece of gear with Christmas lights and setting up a bunch of strobes they carried in themselves—but in The Soft Bulletin era they took the visual component up a notch. And since then have taken it up about 10,482 notches with varying degrees of success.

I'm older, so to me I'll always prefer the albums of the pre-Bulletin Lips when considering my favorite portion of their body of work—it's just the stuff I heard first that hardwired the band into my brain, I'm totally O.K. with folks who only love the era Bulletin kicked off—but I don't think they ever released anything in that period, or are likely to do so in any later period, that caught me so totally off guard and filled me with so much melancholic joy.

*This was back in the days when music wasn't immediately online for bands like the Flaming Lips, so all I had between the show and the album's release was the memory of the music (I hummed the melody of "Race For The Prize" on a daily basis between that March and May, for sure—it was all I had). Yes, Napster and its compatriots were certainly rising, but they were still depending on more mainstream releases pilfered from CD packaging plants and the like to fill their online offerings. The Flaming Lips didn't qualify as a band early pirates felt the need to obtain and disseminate online. Yet.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Checking in.

Looking toward a brighter future!
One year ago today I was in the the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. It was the second time in less than a year I found myself in that same emergency room with the same fear that I was surely dying. The first time Mich was by my side, but this time I was totally alone. It turned out my ticker was fine, but my stress levels were through the roof, and they weren't going to come down any time soon. One year later I'm in a much better place, but my life is still far from perfect. Though I do keep a gratitude journal to remind me that good things do happen to me every day.

But I'm still filled with the deepest sadness that I lost her. In the month leading up to her deciding divorce was inevitable I honestly thought I'd be able to turn it around. To my (minor) credit at least I didn't harangue her to change her mind for months on end. I made a few attempts to dissuade her from ending the marriage, but for the most part I accepted her decision.

Maybe somewhere deep inside I was still in denial.* Maybe? I'm sure I was.

A little over a year ago was probably the toughest period of time in my life for a number of reasons I no longer feel the need to rehash. But I do remember it was right about now that the more public-facing evidence of the destruction of my life had started to ebb and I began to focus more on making things right with myself for the sake of my future. (The timing couldn't have been better since I was about to lose my job to a company merger the day after my heart attack scare. What timing!)

I've thinking about the future, and am struck that I am at the almost exact same place I was 20 years ago. 20 years from now I should be ostensibly retiring (though I don't see how that can possibly happen at this point). I thought I led a charmed life, and the fact of the matter is that I really did. And then I squandered it, blew things up, and threw myself all the way back to square one.

Therapy helped me identify a few milestones that led me to where I am now, and of course now that I see them clearly I wish I'd noted those warning signs and adjusted my decisions accordingly. The period between buying our house and the sudden closing of Chicagoist was probably the steepest downward slope that found me skiing out of control and straight into losing the best thing that had happened to me up until that point in my life. Other people probably saw the signs more clearly than me. I remember having a "wake" for Chicagoist at our house and I'm pretty sure most people in attendance could tell something was wrong with my relationship before I did. I was too wrapped up in my own selfishness to truly be able to self-evaluate, that's for sure.

So where am I now? I live across the street from the house we once owned, in an apartment that's too big for a single person—no single dude really needs 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, but I just wanted to move and make it as simple as possible. But it is the right size for me to at least fit all my stuff into instead of renting a storage unit. I've settled down after months of heavy dating—and by that I mean many "getting to know you" dates; this isn't some sort of hook-up humblebrag. I have a nice freelance gig at an agency I really like, but of course would prefer the security of a permanent job. I've made a lot of changes regarding what I eat and drink, along with physical activity, and am enjoying feeling more clearheaded and energetic than I have in far too long. I'm grateful for the friends who stuck around, since I lost most of them during the course of the divorce. I don't blame them, but it still hurt.

There are still a few special people that bring flashes of color to my life when they're around—there's one person in particular that entered my life over the winter that makes me especially happy, and I hope I'm doing the same for her—but for the most part I still feel as if my world has largely turned grey when I'm alone. I suspect it will be for a while longer, and even though it seems like it will never return to the Technicolor glory I enjoyed not all that long ago, I'll keep holding on hoping for that more permanent saturation of color to manifest.

There's really no other choice.

*If we're going by the traditional 5 stages of grief I think it's worth noting I went through all of them except "anger." I'm definitely now in acceptance, but that doesn't mean I'm not still depressed by what happened. I don't think the sad part will ever totally go away.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

American Football isn't playing games, they're playing moods.

Photo by Atiba Jefferson
I know it’s gonna sound blasphemous, but I was never a huge American Football fan. That's probably got more to do with timing than anything else since they seem to be fervently adored by folks just a few years younger than me, for the most part. Even though I wasn't following their every move, though, I did enjoy their music.

On their third self-titled album the vibe remains subdued, the lyrics are still introspective, and the song-craft is meticulous as ever. American Football isn't a group about letting loose their inhibitions, they draw inward to create miniature pockets of air intent on unraveling inner mysteries.

The album came out in March but I'm choosing to share this song today because it matches by mood as of late. I wouldn't say the lyrics wholly connect to my actual feelings—though there are snippets of truth in there—but the tone of the song as a whole does. Often I take music as more the whole sound of all its parts rather than dissecting vocal meaning, and this is certainly an instance where that inclination of mine of driving my fondness and finds this song popping u on my daily playlist more often than not.

American Football is on tour now, so if they come through your town you probably want to see them since they said on a recent podcast that this could be the end of the line for the band, at least as far as live shows go.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I'm still "Falling" for Dude York, that's for sure.

Photo by Eleanor Petry

Dude York's new album Falling isn't out until July 26, so you'll have to wait until closer to that date for my full review. What I will say is that the band continues to grow artistically at an astonishing rate.

I was a big fan of 2017's Sincerely, and their Happy In The Meantime EP, released earlier this year, proved the band was moving in a more refined direction. Don't take "refined" as meaning polite or any less urgent than their previous work. Instead the trio has continued to hone their approach, resulting in sharper songs and evolving melodies. The first single "Falling" sees the band working their strengths as Peter Richards' guitar zooms right along as Claire England's vocals twinkle and shine, all driven by Andrew Hall's pop-along drumming.

Stream the single below, and if you like it consider pre-ordering Falling since you'll immediately get a download of the tune to take with you on-the-go.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Get A Life, get a job, get a band.

Photo by Anthony Flores

Get A Life is the one-person band conceived by Chase DeMaster, and his debut This Band Could Be Your Life Or Debt is a lo-fi but engaging listen. Apparently the first song he wrote that ended up sparking the project as a whole was "Get A Job," whose refrain of "I'm going nowhere fast" gives a pretty good idea of the direction of both the song's interests and the album as a whole.

Yuuki Mathews of The Shins produced the album, though to my ears that is more in the interest of connecting a "name" to the release of an unknown indie rock endeavor. Maybe Matthews cleaned things up a bit? From the press release it seems like he may have played more of a mentor / encouraging role than anything else. Whatever—if it helps get the album to more ears then that's a good thing!

Anyway, here's the song that started it all. It looks like Get  Life just wrapped a short tour with TV Girl, but here's hoping they've got something in Chicago coming up since I'm really curious to see how these songs take shape on stage.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Oh, there's the big twist!

Watching a late night host prove to his writers that a bit isn't going to work has never been funnier.

[h/t Slate]

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Walking Bicycles return to take you on a dark ride.

Walking Bicycles disappeared from the Chicago scene for five years before returning with last month’s Chooch. In the world of independent rock and/or roll that is an eon and a half. So does this quartet that's been kicking around since 2004 warrant a heralded comeback?

Hell yes.

I was never a close follower of Walking Bicycles—in the Chicago scene I'm not even sure which clan they fell into back when they were active the first time around. I feel like I probably put them on a bill I did at some point in the mid-aughts when I was still actively booking and promoting shows, but they could have been added at the request of one of the other bands. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that the band as it currently exists is worth your attention.

The music is dark, but it ain't depressing. It just feels like a heavy, warm, wet and woolen blanket is draping the sound and suffocating you with its weight. Singer Jocelyn Summers yelps and sneers throughout the claustrophobic maze of sound as the instruments fight against barriers and attempt to break free. Check out the wandering bass lines that bump up against the guitar drone and waves of drums on "Statutory Basement" for an obvious example of this, though it is a characteristic of the band's sound as a whole.

There is also something refreshingly simple in their approach; in this instance repetition isn't hypnotic as much as it's bracing. So open the hatch, climb down the ladder into Walking Bicycle's subterranean sound, and enjoy the band's unexpected return.

You can catch Walking Bicycles at The Hideout this Friday, May 10, so getcher tickets here.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Snowball ii returns with a short blast of new songs (and I want to hear more).

Jackson Wargo of Snowball ii
It's been two years since Snowball ii last released an album, so the arrival of the Eaton Super 10 EP is quite welcome. The Los Angeles-based group is led by  Jackson Wargo, who handles most of the instruments here with the exception of the drums and one of the bass parts. So, much like 2017's Flashes Of Quincy this is largely a one-person affair.

Eaton Super 10's five tracks fly by far too quickly. It's not that they're unusually short, most clock in between 3 to 4.5 minutes so that feels pretty average, but each time the EP ends I find myself wanting more. Opener "What Pressure?" starts off delicately, largely driven by sparse sparkling guitars interrupted by occasional crescendos of noise that mirror the narrator's inner journey. It's rumination that gives way to exclamation, and it's a slightly more nuanced approach than much of Snowball ii's previous work.

From the point on we're back in more familiar territory, with guitars courting melodies that sway back and forth between sweet and slinking atonality that never grows jarring. Listen to the dazed-n-confused guitars winding their way through "The Air In The Mean Time" and you'll see what I'm talking about.

"Lost in Juarez" flirts with shoe gaze tropes without ever tripping over them, before depositing us in the soft borderline psychedelia of "Spring Breaks Eternal," another sonic departure from the band's past. Don't get. Too cozy though, closer "Which Way To The Egress?" ensures you leave Snowball ii's latest collection in a wash of sonic fury.

Eaton Super 10 is currently available to stream or download for free (see below), although if you like what you hear it's always a good idea to throw a band a little dough through ye olde Bandcamp interface. Sadly it looks like the band never really gets far from California tour-wise, which is a real bummer because I bet these songs slay live.