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!