Monday, February 19, 2018

A day off.

What a weird weekend. Photogal was awesome and checked in on me daily. I went to a punk rock show and got caught off guard. I got my front tooth chipped by a pitbull headbutt. I made plans to see a hilarious cover band in the suburbs. I cried a lot during the final season of Halt And Catch Fire (and if you can watch it without sobbing you have no feelings) I listened to a LOT of Sloan. My best friend tried to strangle me (but he was drunk so I'm not holding it against him). I lost my debit card on a long holiday weekend even though I wasn't drunk when it happened, which is almost worse than if I was. I made a date, like an old fashioned date. Which was super weird. I saw Black Panther twice and fell asleep both times, which isn't a judgement about the movie, but more the fact that I've just been exhausted.

I made decisions about my future.

How was your weekend?


Friday, February 16, 2018

Finally made it upstairs.

I hadn't slept upstairs since, what, November? October? Things were strained, so I spent time on both the first floor and basement couches. Mainly because I had insomnia, so would watch TV until all hours until my lids pulled a mutiny and closed over my eyeballs.

I can't tell you how many times I woke up to Steve Harvey yelling at me for this or that. The other night it was a rant about the memo about him not addressing anyone on his staff. Or allowing them to look at his face. I'm guessing that was either a rerun, or that dude's got a super slow burn. Also, I had to question if I should look at the TV—if I made eye contact, was Steve gonna jump through the screen and throttle me?

An aside: Almost every girlfriend I've had (save one) still gets along with me. For some of them it took awhile—the longest was almost 20 years until we made peace—but eventually we do get along. I'm a difficult boyfriend at times, and certainly a problematic ex, but ultimately I am a good dude. My long history speaks for itself, yet so many don't know my long history.

Anyway.

So, last week I finally decided it was time. To sleep in the bed. So I did. And it was incredible! Have you slept on a couch for months and months? It is terrible!

More importantly, I'm sleeping upstairs now.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Moaning scratches that itch between shoegaze and pop.


L.A. trio Moaning have been around for a decade but are just now finally releasing their self-titled full length debut. It's a taut collection that mixes shoegaze noise with hooks galore and vocals that cut through the mix. Their press materials describe them as post-punk, but that's not quite right. I mean, it does sound like something 4 A.D. would've released in 1989, but it's far more in the wall of noise family than anything like the spiky angularity that "post-punk" usually brings to mind.

Actually it doesn't matter what you call them; I call them good. I think you probably will too.

You'll have to wait for March 2 until you get to hear the full album, but you can pre-order it and listen to its first three tracks below.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love, love, love, love.



We never “celebrated” Valentine’s Day, but every year I’d “surprise” her with reservations to her favorite sushi restaurant. Tonight will be the first time I haven’t eaten sushi today in a really, really long time. I was trying to think of an appropriate song for today, but didn’t want to slide into the “love stinks” category, or cop out with something saccharine and syrupy. So instead I’ll share one that has always made my heart swell, especially when it hits the bridge. It seems like the perfect mix of positive and negative emotion for a day like today.

I remember being at a party in college, and this came on, and my eyes welled up, and my friend Rich turned to me and then said to the room, "See, Kopeny gets it. He gets it." If you start tearing up I think you probably get it too.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Riding an ocean of emotion with Young Jesus.

Young Jesus
A few months ago I was watching a friend's band at Quenchers, and ran across Young Jesus. Their publicist had sent me their record a while before, and I listened to it, took some notes, and filed it away without writing about it. It was super '90s to my ears—not a huge surprise since they're now on Saddle Creek—and while I dug it I couldn't find an angle in to cover the band. And then I forgot about them. In fact it wasn't until I was looking at their merch table at the show that I recognized the album cover and realized they weren't complete strangers to my ears.

I still recommend the album, but their live show is what converted me and made me realize what a powerful collection of slow building and emotional sonic concoctions the band was capable of creating. I was a bit confused by how huge a crowd they drew until I did a little follow-up research and discovered Young Jesus may now be based in L.A. but got their start in Chicago.

And I call myself a music writer. How did I not know that?

The band's most recent album S/T was digitally released last November, but Saddle Creek will issue it again later this month in physical form, so hopefully that additional promotional push will get the band put on the road and in front of more people, because their live show is really where it's at. That being said, immediately after their show I did go home and bought every single one of their other releases off Bandcamp and never regretted it.

The track below is the final song on S/T, and it's not the most accessible thing on the album, but it is the song that hit me square in the chest with all the feels when they played it at Quenchers. And on a chilly, grey day like today it feels like the right thing to share.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Half a house.

When I started dating Mich I had a two bedroom across from Humboldt Park that was pretty sparsely furnished. A futon on the floor and a dresser in the bedroom, and a couch and a couple chairs in the family room (insert Marcus "family room" joke here). What you couldn't see was the second bedroom that was filled floor to ceiling with drum kits, books, CDs, records, and all kinds of other things. But I always kept the door closed. It wasn't until she moved in that she even realized there was another room and she admitted she heaved a sigh of relief.

"For the longest time I couldn't figure out how someone who was so into music and writing didn't have anything that was connected to it. I almost wondered if you were a serial killer!"

Over the years we both accumulated a lot of stuff. And when we moved into the new house we finally got rid of anything we had doubles of. Goodbye other couch. So long other kitchen table. Who needs that mattress? That sort of thing.

When we moved in the house was perfectly full. Sure, there was still a lot of stuff in boxes, but furniture-wise it was perfect.

When she moved out of the house she was totally fair and even sent me an itemized list of what she was taking. But it was still a shock to walk in the door and see that exactly half my house was gone. So many of the walls were bare too, though I did notice she decided to leave all the wedding photos up and didn't take those. That hurt more than the fact that I no longer had a dining room table.

So it appears I'm back to that spartan existence. And while I've entertained a few friends in the house I don't think it was until last week that I started to realize that if a stranger walked in here they would probably be very confused. So I've started a list. A list of things I need to start collecting to make the shell I've been living in a home again. Because Mich took the "home" part of this house with her.

In many ways, this place now looks almost exactly like that Humboldt apartment from a decade ago. Just bigger. It's time for me to change that.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Remember when we used to be friends with music videos?



I recently bought a Chromecast and fell into a rabbit hole of watching music videos on YouTube on a big screen. First, I was stunned that it’s been so long since a laptop has been my primary viewing port for such a thing, and how ridiculous that was. I mean, a few music channels still play a video or two between their seemingly endless streams of various festival footage, but those are usually new and not of huge interest to me. And I’ve probably already seen them on YouTube anyway.

So I went through a ton of bands I liked over the weekend, and one of the funnels was straight down into The Dandy Warhols universe, and ended up with the video for “We Used To Be Friends,” a song I had always viewed as a kiss-off but now across as more sweetly melancholic. (I also went deep into a bunch of videos and live footage from Superdrag.)

Anyway, if you too can project on a nice big screen instead of relying on your laptop, I recommend a trip down your own personal musical memory lane. It is really satisfying, if a bit sentimental.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The new release schedule is finally picking up—here's a few highlights for this week.

There are a ton of new releases tomorrow, but there are a few on the list that have already risen above the bunch, so if you’re looking for recommendations on what to stream of buy first tomorrow, you probably won’t go wrong with any of the album’s below

Franz Ferdinand’s Always Ascending has been in constant rotation over the past few weeks. I’ve yammered about it to anyone who would listen, and now you can finally hear it too. There’s plenty of the ol’ Franz Formula of pop hooks galore, but there’s a new sinuousness to the music that shares even more DNA with club music … without sounding at all like "club music." I’ve also had the one-two punch of “Lois Lane” and “Huck And Jim” that pops up right at the album’s midpoint on constant repeat. In fact, I'm sure Pickle the Kitten is probably sick of me making her dance around the house along to those. Well, the whole album. She might not be a Franz fan, but who cares, she's a cat.




I hadn’t a clue what to expect from MGMT’s Little Dark Age. I still remember when they released an album a while ago(pretty sure it was Congratulations), I took it to a friend’s house, and we spent an hour trying to figure out if it was really MGMT or if I’d mistakenly been given a different download. Well, this is definitely MGMT, and they’re back in the realm of actually writing catchy, dancey songs more in the vein of their debut. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of weirdness and they haven’t jettisoned all their psych tendencies, but this is definitely the most accessible thing they’ve probably ever released. Definitely file this under an unexpectedly pleasant surprise since I was predisposed MGMT would just throw another mind-fuck our way. Well, to be fair, this is a bit of a mind-fuck, but in the pleasurable sense.




I confess it wasn’t even until yesterday that I hadn't heard Fu Manchu even had a new album coming out, Clone of The Universe. I’ve always been a fan of the band, especially their ripping live shows, and a cursory listen to the album shows the band is still in fine form. However it doesn’t quite have some of the wallop of their best work so I’m going to guess this is aimed primarily at existing fans, which is cool since after this many years of being able to be in a sustainable band I’m guessing the group has little interest in leaving the niche they’ve carved out for themselves. To be honest? The lyric video below pretty much lets you know exactly what you're in for, almost cartoonishly so.




And of course Twin Peaks’ Sweet ’17 Singles compilation is out tomorrow, but I’ve already written about that. Same goes for Hockey Dad’s Blend Inn; wrote about that too. Both are worth your time too.

One album I’m super excited to finally hear tomorrow that I haven’t yet? The Kendrick Lamar-produced Black Panther soundtrack. I don’t usually get stoked for soundtracks but I can’t imagine this won’t be amazing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Sloan is back!



The news actually broke Monday, but I've been a little distracted so am only getting to write about it now—Sloan is back this spring with their twelfth release, creatively titled 12! The first single, "The Day Will Be Mine" is in their hyper-charged rocker mode, but the album will feature the usual wide variety of styles you get when all 4 band members are comfortable in the lead songwriter role.

You can snag the single or pre-order the album here. Ans the best news is that they're embarking on a big ol' tour behind the album, hitting Bottom Lounge in Chicago on June 23, just ahead of my birthday!

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Working through it all.

So some of the most traumatic things we can go through are getting married, buying a house, losing a job, and getting divorced, and I’ve had all those things happen in the last 2 1/2 years. And it’s taken its toll. I’ve pushed away the people that try to help me while clinging to the ones that aren’t healthy for me.

And that’s got to stop.

I was talking to an old friend on Monday, and he was giving me good advice while also not pulling any punches. He said it was OK to not be OK, and that while things will never be the same, there is a certain peace in finally accepting that. And I’m trying to. Both find peace and acceptance. But neither comes quickly or easily.

I mean, I still have Michelle’s photos on my desk at work. Though I’ve finally started telling people at work what’s up, so should probably take them down.

I don’t know why I write about this publicly. I think I’ve been doing this for so long it just feels like the best way to work through it? Looking through some super ollllld posts here showed me that I’ve always been bluntly honest. I think I went through a stretch in the late aughts when I curated my image more than being simply direct, but that always felt like cheating.

My stomach is always in knots and the corners of my vision are dark. But both of those will pass, in time.

I’ve been a public person for so long I don’t think I know how to be private. I’ve toyed with the idea of just unplugging. Going away. Stopping writing here. But the one constant in my life for the last 15 years has been posting daily on this site. And I feel I need that anchor.

I got married to one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. I am heartbroken that it’s over, but I am heartened to think she may find a new beginning and be happier. I’m hoping I can do the same. It’s one of the reasons I went public with what’s going on last week. It was time to stop pretending like it wasn’t happening. And I was growing weary of always having to answer questions about why she wasn’t around and such.

Eventually I will figure this all out. There’s still some mourning to do, but I feel a corner’s been turned.

I just took her photos off my desk.

Your love alone...



I've always loved this song but I don't think I ever really listened to it until recently. Since becoming single I've noticed I hear lyrics more than I have for decades. The tune is so uplifting, but there's also a pragmatic sadness buried within it that's absolutely heart-wrenching.

I love it.

Also, double bonus points for the double drummer action. Very hot.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Rockin' My Turntable In 2017.

Photo by Travis Wiens
Yup, it’s February, but with the demise of Chicagoist I felt no need to rush this list. And then I felt no need to really expound on each choice. So I was left with the simple quandary of what do I write?

Below are the albums that got me through 1917, arguably the worst fucking year of my 45-year existence. I mean, truly a terrible year. And I think that’s reflected in the music I clung to. Even a cursory glance establishes that I returned to my comfort food roots. Most young indie bands grew up on the indie bands I listened to in college and young adulthood. Only these new bands also grew up on hip-hop and pop so while much of the music I liked when I was younger certainly had hooks, they weren’t often as sugar filled as the approach these new kids take.

There’s also a marked absence of hip-hop and pop, which is unusual for me. But both those genres are running ever faster for the word of streaming ingles and Soundcloud, and avoiding albums, so if you think about it their absence isn’t so strange.

Also, there’s the usual caveat: these are the albums I liked the most and I’m making no artistic judgement on “the most important” or “the actual best for all listeners.” Also, I literally shuffled them in an iTunes playlist to determine their order, because order doesn’t matter. These were all just really fucking good. And they made a difficult year a trifle better every time I listened to them.

These are literally the notes from the spreadsheet I keep throughout the year, so welcome to an inside look at how I initially write stuff

Dude York - Sincerely
Dude York—the Seattle trio of bassist/singer Claire England, guitarist/singer Peter Richards and drummer Andrew Hall—write RAWK songs. Big guitars, big choruses, big feelings, big cymbal crashes; there is nothing subtle about this band. And I love it. Now more than ever is when we need music like this. Joyful, loud, timeless, and reminding us that sometimes a band's job is to make a euphoric noice that connects us to the moment and makes us forget about the world around us, if even for only three minutes.





Foxygen - Hang
Full on orchestra on this album. Lush and lovely. A complete departure from their trainwreck of a last album. VERY swinging sixties groovy.





Cayetana - New Kind Of Normal
Power pop at maximum volume. Trio that tours with bigger punk bands but has more a '90s alt-rock indie guitar vibe.





Snowball II - Flashes Of Quincy
Whoa, major Teenage Fanclub and Nada Surf vibes! Noisy and apparently mostly a 1-man band in the studio. So impressive layers of guitars and harmonies going on here. Sounds like sunshine.





Charli XCX - Pop 2
Icy pop that still remains fun. Packed with guest vocalists. Even if she won't release "albums" any more, these mixtapes are great.





New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions
The new album delivers on the promise of a band you can depend on to deliver the hooks, but it surprises by packing the album with no missteps and plenty of surprises. Because of this the band feels reinvigorated. After seven albums, even a supergroup can fall prey to falling into a rut, and while much of their recent output was strong it still felt a little overly premeditated. On Whiteout Conditions the band comes across as if they’ve awoken from a comfortable slumber with the intention of mining those corners of their talents that drove their earliest and most honest artistic explorations. In other words, The New Pornographers got their groove back.





Woods - Love is Love
Recorded November - January 2017. Six new songs in 32 minutes. A reaction to the election, but instead of anger the band is exploring love. A beautiful little document. The lyrics are pretty potent and really reflect the uncertainty but do so i n a way that tries to uncover hope where there seems to be only despair.





Dan Auerbach - Waiting On A Song
'60s and '70s vibes as Auerbach mixes Southern Cali vibes with Motwon swing.





San Cisco - The Water
Fizzy  and jaunty rock pop from Australia. SUPER young. And this is WAY more assured and polished than it should be, while still exuding a bouncy and authentic glow of youth.





Broken Social Scene - Hug Of Thunder
Fine return! Excellent album. Still lots of smeary walls of noise but there's also a new crispness to the songqriting. It's like they tarted drinking coffee while still smoking enough pot to keep 'em lose. Not sure who all is in the lineup, no liner notes or credits came with the album.





The Foo Fighters - Concrete And Gold
Perfectly serviceable. Has bits and pieces of the last two albums so it doesn't feel like a complete success though. Needs a few more listens from me... UPDATE: It's a grower. Now I really kinda like it!





Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest
Electro based French pop that's super sexy and catchy. One of my faves from this month.





The Bombpops - Fear Of Missing Out
If Josie and the Pussycats had a sister band with a few tattoes it would sound like this.





Charly Bliss - Guppy
Heavy guitar indie pop with great female vocals and tremendous hooks. Scuzzy around the edges soundwise to keep things feeling sharp and not slick. Love this.





White Reaper - The World's Best American Band
Stomin' swaggerin' punky take on '70s rawk. Excellent. Lives up to its title, just about.





Gorillaz - Humanz
A party for the apocalypse.





Partner - In Search Of Lost Time
EXCELLENT! Super crunchy power pop a la Weezer from Canada, female duo, so so so so good.





LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
Darker and more intense than their other stuff. It's fucking intense. But don't worry you can still dance to it while you shiver and cry.





The National - Sleep Well Beast
Berninger is the face of The National, and his mumbling baritone is an unmistakable part of the band’s personal power. But it appears that bringing his wife Besser into the mix has opened new vistas of vulnerability and sheer truth to the group’s work. It’s hard to pinpoint the power of her influence, but Berninger and the band have never sounded so appealingly vulnerable and honest as he does here.





Warbly Jets - Warbly Jets
Blur + Super Furry Animals + The Verve + Primal Scream = Warbly Jets. I REALLY LIKE THIS.



Friday, February 02, 2018

20 years.

The post you've all been waiting for.

It's been 20 years since I was single. There was a period Photogal and I were apart in the early aughts, but we were still hanging out all the time so I don't really count that.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Luckily I'm still good looking enough that I entertain plenty of relationships, but I'm so out of practice they all crash and burn.

Being single nowadays sucks. But it doesn't suck nearly as much as making my soon-to-be-ex-wife single. That pains me the most. How in god's name do I right that kind of wrong?

So I'm wracked with guilt.

I had what to everyone else looked like a perfect life. But it wasn't. Or was it? I was too blind to accept it.

This is the post I've been alluding to for months. And avoiding for even longer.

Michelle and I are done. Finito. Final. And it wasn't until she screamed at me over the phone yesterday I truly believed it. But we are. Done.

I actually appreciated her screaming at me. It made me realize there is no route back. And I finally got it.

I was an excellent boyfriend. But not a great husband. I don't blame her. At all.

Not. At. All.

Now what?

Thursday, February 01, 2018

How much new music did I listen to in January 2018? Let's find out!

New year, new music! Sometimes I’m not sure why I still am taking in so much new music since I’m not constantly pumping out Chicagoist content, but then I look back through the past few months and realize about just how many bands I’m writing about here. In fact, this site more resembles it’s earlier days, with a mixture of the personal and the musical. And judging by the steadily growing traffic I’ve been seeing here, there appears to be a pretty big appetite for that mix. So thank you for sticking around, and thank you to all the new readers.

I also mentioned last night I’d be revamping the rating system. Here’s my rating system from last year:
I also rate the albums to help me make my year-end list, so to give you an idea of how that works, a 5 is a solid album. It’s the kind of record that I wouldn’t skip if it came up again on shuffle or I was in the right mood for it. So it’s not really “average” it’s more “this is a solid piece of work.” Many, many discs are 5s.   
Going up the scale increases in difficulty. There is more space between a 9 and a 10 than there is between a 6 and a 7, you know what I mean? It’s incrementally more difficult to move up the scale so there are very, very few 9s or 10s, if any.

Same applies for going down the scale. A 3 or 4 isn’t terrible, and might be kept on if it pops up on the radio or something, but 2 and below means it’s probably nigh unlistenable as far as I’m concerned. But it could also mean it’s just not my thing too! It’s not a judgement on a band, it’s a measure of how I enjoy (or am challenged) by the music. So my 2 could very well be an 8 to you, right?
So the same rating system will apply, but I’ll be breaking out the numbers more granularly, as you’ll see below, to give a better idea of where albums falls.

Ready, let’s dig into January!

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in January 2018: 47

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 3

Number of those releases that rated 5-6: 12

Number of those releases that rated 3-4: 26

Number of those releases that rated 1-2: 6

Highest rated album: Franz Ferdinand’s Always Ascending. This got lots and lots of play near the end of the month, and probably got in the way of me listening to more new music because I was enjoying it so much.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Unlikely Friends are the easy front runners hear. Another album that got lots of play in January.

Most surprising discovery: Local H’s Live In Europe is an excellent document of the band's current sound, mixing a few hits with the deeper cuts populating their set lists lately. Why is this surprising? It’s hard to accurately capture a band’s live sound, but this does a great job of doing so.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A master class in cut-out animation from Terry Gilliam.



Terry Gilliam's cut-out animation for Monty Python were often highlights of quirky, absurdist humor, marked by his distinct visual style and the simple yet elegant style of filming different layers of paper in stop-motion. In the vintage video above, he explains how he creates the cut-outs and give a step-by-step demonstration on how to shoot the animated final product. Fascinating!

Also, that is some amazing hair he's sporting. The dude actually looks good with bangs!

[h/t Boing Boing]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gaz Coombs has "Deep Pockets."



News that Supergrass' Gaz Coombes is releasing a new album is always well received by me. I love Supergrass—and they are one of the few bands I like that I never got a chance to see during their run—and Coombes solo stuff sounds pretty much the same.

The first single is "Deep Pockets" and it's a tight little night drive mixing a driving beat with with shifting waves of guitar wash and synths. Play it on repeat.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Lone wolf.

I'm literally crying right now.

Why, you ask?

Because I can't even handle how many people have reached out to me. I've run solo for a very long time, and I'm overwhelmed by how many friends have picked up on the fact everything is not O.K., and have reached out to me. For a guy who thought he was going it alone it's become obvious I am not alone.

Also, apparently have feelings. Who knew?!

Seriously through, it's been amazing to realize how many people actually care about me. It certainly makes me feel less alone.

In fact, it makes me realize I'm not alone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Getting out of my own way.

There was a recent personal relationship where I kept mentally fighting with another dude for getting in the way of my happiness. Everything that went wrong was his fault, in my mind.

It wasn't until recently that I realized this dude wasn't a bad dude. He is actually probably a pretty good guy! The only person getting in the way of my happiness was me. My own petty and selfish actions were causing all the turbulence, not him.

The last three months have been amazingly difficult for me, personally. But I take moments of realization like this as a sign that I'm progressing and that things will get better. As long as I can get out of my own way.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On remaining positive.

So, I'm only a couple days into this whole trying to stay positive in my social media posts thing, and I can already tell you it really triggers a shift in thinking. When you come across a negative thought or article there is definitely an immediate impulse to share. I'm guessing it's some form of seeking validation, wanting people to align with your discontent and affirm its existence. But when you don't have that immediate release valve it forces you to actually work through the thing that's bothering you.

Which got me to thinking: are we sharing or just unloading on social media? Things have certainly changed over the last decade plus. When I helped create the first brand ambassadors for AXE and Slim Jim it was such a simpler time, and the idea of content sharing, even personal content, was primarily positive. But I fear we've entered an era, now that everyone is online all the time, that we tend to share more things that upset us than not. I mean, c'mon, we all know that to some degree. But it wasn't until I started to self-police what I myself was sharing that I realized how guilty of the negative approach I am!

So while I began this experiment as an attempt to do my little bit to detoxify other people's news feeds, it's had the unexpected effect of making me address these things in real time instead of taking the easy way out and forcing them out into the ether in an attempt to not actually acknowledge the negative elements in my life beyond their initial flashpoint.

I'm gonna keep it up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

'Breaking Bad' in one minute and seventeen seconds.



I remember watching the first episode of Breaking Bad the night it aired and was instantly hooked. It then developed into a show that I shared with my companion at the time on a religious basis, never missing an airing. On-Demand wasn't really a thing when it started, and I didn't own a DVR, so it was perhaps the last time I felt an urgency to actually respect "appointment TV."

The above video was created by AMC Spain to celebrate the series' 10th anniversary. I think it's a) pretty accurate and b) an absolute hoot.