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!