Thursday, June 27, 2019

Crickets?


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!