Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What are the chances? Pretty good, actually. So "let's hear it for love!"

What are the chances that the first song I heard performed by a full band on a big stage with big ol' amplifiers after a year and half would be captured by a friend of said band and posted to said band's YouTube page, and feature me at the moment that my mind is being once again blown by the incredibly emotional realization that music could still make my body and soul sing in ways I had truly forgotten?

Pretty good! See?

I have made efforts multiple times to go to shows over the past few weeks and stayed at home at the last moment every single time. So Sunday I decided that maybe if I posted something publicly about trying to attend a show, it might help hold me accountable and get me out the door for once.

And it worked! Well, not so much the accountable thing and more the lovely responses from friends helped me realize leaving the house was worth it.

So I went to Wicker Park Fest to see Smoking Popes, and as I walked in they launched into "Let's Hear It For Love." I staked out a spot outside the venue I booked 20 years ago—close enough to the stage to see the band but far enough away I wouldn't be blocking anyone's view. I think I welled up near the end of the song, but after that first wave passed and I composed myself then ... the tears really started flowing.

I have a lot more I could say about the experience and it's lasting and positive mental effects, but for now let me simply share that it will take a while to ramp back up to whatever "normal" socializing looks like, but these first steps feel wonderful.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Well, well, well...

How's everyone doing? Everyone's life back to normal yet? Everyone feeling good? Back into a regular schedule and seeing all your friends?

Yeah, me neither.

As part of an attempt to "get back to normal" I've been listening to a lot of shuffle on the tankPHONE to reconnect with acts I once felt passionate about as a method to rediscovering some of that emotional brain space that's taken a bit of a beating over the past couple of years.

I think it works maybe 15% of the time, but each time that connection reignites and blossoms into a pleasurable flame in the center of my brain and spreads throughout my body it makes the effort totally worth it.

And it's happening more often. I've even been able to start enjoying some artists again that just held too much emotional baggage for me to listen to over the last couple of years.

And I'm doing other things. But for now I just wanted to let you know it's still absolutely O.K. to not be O.K. We've all been through one ringer or another—and I'd say the majority of the rational population is suffering from a pretty massive shared trauma—so don't push yourself if it doesn't feel right.

It's going to take a looooooooong time to figure out what the actual new normal is, and there is nothing wrong with you for realizing that and taking it slow.

Also, in a time where many of us might feel largely forgotten, or think no one cares or remembers us, know that I am thinking of you. You are not forgotten. And we'll get through this. Patience, my friend. Patience.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Lost somewhere between the earth and my home today.

I often think of The Geraldine Fibbers, actually. How they shoulda been bigger. How unique they were. How sexy was their sound. How otherworldly Buzolich's voice and how its expanse swallows you and surrounds you with every emotion and stimuli imaginable from within its acrobatic depths. How gnarled and tangled they got those guitars. How their proper full-length debut never stood a chance on a Major label in 1995 and that is just all the more reason to love it. How that debut hasn't aged a day because it was always ahead of its time. How much I fell and am still in love with every new nook and cranny my ears and/or brain discover each time I listen. 

How random it was that I was looking for something to listen to that was meaningful to me on my birthday and when I fired up Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home I also hopped online to see if the band had been up to anything I missed in the last, oh, 20 years since I last checked up on them and whammo-blammo can you believe it they just released Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home on vinyl last year and it includes the first new track from the band in 20 years (!) as a bonus so I immediately ordered a copy of my own and that was pretty exciting.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

If you wanna feel fancy you'll call it 'Oxygène'

I've scraped most of the streaming services for content that can still hold my interest after 14+ months of largely staying home. After my extreme disappointment in the latest Conjuring* movie I was looking for something that might actually be scary, and while Oxygen (titled Oxygène elsewhere) is more thriller than horror, it is very effective at raising your pulse ... even after you've figured out the twist (which, of course, there is a twist but it's reasonably obvious, so it never feels like you've been hoodwinked or anything).

So yeah, watch Oxygen!

*To be fair, I've never watched a Conjuring movie all the way through before, and while I was aware it was a popular franchise I had no idea HOW popular! So I'm probably in the minority when it comes to people that find them terrible.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Hold onto your hats!

While it might seem odd I'm only just now seeing a video from 2016, that's the glory on the internet, right? Discovering old news that feels surprising and new! Well, sometimes. In this instance I had to watch this a few times because I figured there had to be a trick I was missing, but apparently it's just physics at work. 

[h/t Kottke]

Friday, June 04, 2021

The Rare Occasions ask that "You Call Me When You Get There," so put them on speed dial.

The Rare Occasions are based in L.A. and their new album Big Whoop is out June 18, and it is very fun and quite incredible. The video above for "Call Me When You Get There" nicely encapsulates the band's strengths, so if you're expecting a brash and bright power-pop explosion from the rest of the disc, your expectations will be met!

Also, a side note about videos in general, but is anyone else simply floored at how almost every video these days looks great and is as inventive as all get-out? I was reading the oral history of the initial MTV boom and I swear that videos these days produced on shoestring budgets either rival or are superior to the once that cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

All you need is a great idea now, and technology has caught up with how you execute your visions ... so I think that's pretty cool. Even if I am doubtful any video by anyone not a superstar converts into many sales, I'm grateful they're still out there and bands are making them awesome.

You can pre-order Big Whoop here, but if you can't wait you can snag "Call Me When You Get There" below.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

It's been a good week!

I've spent more time in my company's physical office in the last week than I did in the previous fourteen months. I don't know what the future holds, though I am not a fan of the notion we would all resume the  regular pre-pandemic commutes and losing all that time just to be in the office every single day. But I do appreciate having a physical space to use when I need gear that I don't have at home. And now that more and more folks are fully vaccinated, meeting in person occasionally can't be beat when hammering out complicated projects on tight deadlines. There is something about being in a room together, knowing everyone is in the same physical space and working toward the same destination, that even the most robust virtual meeting platforms can't replicate.

Plus, my office rooftop has views like the above, and it's beautiful!

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

LØLØ's killer jamz.

Some days you just need a really big, crunchy guitar, straightforward pop tune that doesn't have any real deeper meaning beyond creating an aggressive head-nodding vibe and the potential to start throwing stuff around your family room while slam dancing with your cat.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Debris slide!

So Saturday I was minding my business when I suddenly had to hear a particular song! This was unusual, since it has been years since my entire system demanded such specific immediate aural and systemic satisfaction, so I listened and dialed up Pavement's "Debris Slide" post haste, with results that surprised even me with their pleasurable force.

The band never made a proper video for the track, but this performance from 1994 very much reminds me of the first few times I saw Pavement play during that era, so here you go. No point here—just fond memories and the hope you find this as pleasurable as I do.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Bachelor's sound is less doom and more sun, but fully both those things.

Photo by Tonje Thilesen

Look, I don't think Bachelor really needs my help in raising awareness about the duo since it's made up of Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte. However, on the off chance you haven't heard of this team up, I hope to rectify that situation.

Elevator pitch? This is the best Liz Phair album of the year ... probably until Phair releases her own album later this year. Which is to say they've got that particular vibe down. And the comparison to Phair is fair inasmuch as Bachelor is definitely surfing on that Matador '90s sound, while tweaking it to fit their own purposes. All with their own unique style and swagger—it's truly a joy to listen to (even when the subject matter is challenging and emotional).

I think this will be one of the big breakout albums of the year. I'm not one to make predictions, but their tunes will fit nicely into the space vacated by the year-long promo campaign of the last Phoebe Bridgers album. So anyone that was worried they'd spend 2021 looking to fill that hole, Bachelor's Doomin' Sun is it.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Throwing a DAGR onto the dancefloor.

DAGR, bringing the dance party outdoors

I was listening to DAGR's forthcoming debut recently, playing it in the background and kind of enjoying their decision to freeze their sound circa 2007, and midway through the album one track broke through the scrim and popped a little louder than the others. When I went back I discovered the title of that song was ... 'Tank Girl." I laughed out loud. Of course!

But the other track that immediately leapt out to me is also the first single from the album and it features ... Uffie?! Further substantiation for my theory the production team behind this—Ceci G and Veronica Jane—are locked into the party soundz of '07-'10 and are trying to pull their favorite elements into '21 and beyoooooond! 

I'd tell you where to pre-order DAGR's self-titled debut, but I can't seem to find any link to that yet. But I'll update this once I do! Until then, go ahead and follow the duo on Bandcamp.

Friday, May 07, 2021

5 albums to snag on this (potentially) final Bandcamp Friday!

I've been meaning to write about a few of these albums for a while now—though there is one surprise in here, even to me!—and rather than let the final Bandcamp Friday (for now) pass by I wanted to alert you to their existence in hopes you'll dig them too and give the artists all the dough. SO....

PONY's TV Baby was one of those albums I found in a weird corner of the internet, listened to, and immediately bought a physical copy of it because it absolutely slays. All really big crunchy guitars, great vox, and super catchy. LOVE IT. It's short, sharp, focused, fun. DO NOT MISS OUT.

I was going to save the "surprise" for the end, but I'm just too excited—Analog Radio finally released a new EP! The group got their start in Chicago, and were on a loooooong hiatus, but the members managed to come together (virtually, I assume?) from their various locations and started making new music again last year. But I didn't expect this to drop today! Also, for Bandcamp Friday, they are matching all proceeds and donating everything to the NAACP legal defense fund. So hop to it!

Tamar Berk played in a bunch of Chicago bands and led her own project Starball, before heading west. She's kept making music, most notably heading down the slightly prog classic rock route of Paradise. On this new album the restless dreams of youth sees her returning to a grittier power-pop, and it is fantastic. She also just announced a limited vinyl release of the album, so pick that up too if you dig it!

What would happen if Ted Leo and Joe Jackson started a band together? It would sound like Proper Nouns' Feel Free. This is an absolute furnace blast of frenetic guitars and impassioned vocals that are buried in so many hooks nothing ever sounds melodramatic. It just feels real, and big, and excellent.

Sparked by his break-up with his Rubblebucket bandmate, Tōth worked through it by writing music. And the first song that leapt out to me while listening was "Guitars Are Better Than Synthesizers For Writing Through Hard Times," which I discovered turned out to be the starting point that led to the rest of the album. And it's a lovely album, managing to weave in the occasional horn line and other little sonic flourishes that just make the ol' ears perk right up. Perfect for getting lost in or winding down with.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Wanna see live music again? Get vaccinated!

 I posted this on my Facebook page a few days ago, and realized it was worth sharing beyond that circle. Mainly because I admit my personal social circle seems to have no issues getting vaccinated ASAP, so maybe this will help sway one or two readers of this site to take the plunge and get poked in the arm. Trust me, it is so worth it.

So, you want summer music festivals? Then tell every single person you know who believes they don't need to get vaccinated to do so ASAP.


All the current headlines last week were joyously announcing the return of summer festivals in Chicago in 2021, but the capacity limits in place won't make any of them profitable enough to actually happen. 

15 people per 1,000 square feet is not a ton of people, really. And if you want those limits raised—something I believe every single fest currently planning to happen this year is counting on—the vaccination rate needs to be higher and the infection numbers have to keep dropping.

If we don't? While something like Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park with only ~10K people would be lovely, it simply wouldn't be able to pay for itself.

So don't just sit on your laurels thinking your vaccination card is the entry ticket for a world of wonder this summer, because it'll be worthless if capacities aren't high enough to justify actually having a large, live event.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The day I became a man.

The scene was Annapolis, Maryland, in a Catholic high school freshman english class, sometime around 1986. As the teacher went around the room calling roll call on the first day of class, we were supposed to answer with our preferred nickname, if we had one.

TEACHER: James [start trying to pronounce my last name]

ME: I go by Jimmy.

TEACHER: Boys are named Jimmy, men are named Jim.

ME: Jim it is!

And that is how I became a man.

Friday, April 09, 2021

St. Vincent's got me very stoked about her new album.

It's been a week since I heard the second song teasing St. Vincent's forthcoming Daddy's Home, and it's still stuck in my brain. Maybe it's the obvious Bolan + Bowie nods mixed with a weird psychedelic California vibe that makes me such a sucker for this track? Which is a little funny since the album is supposed to be very "New York," at least according to the narrative around it. But who cares? It sounds great! 

My personal history with Annie Clark goes back years and years to my initial shrugs at her early singer-songwriter, more straightforward indie efforts, but ever since her fourth self-titled album I have loved experiencing each step of her evolution. Early signs point to this being the album I always wanted from St. Vincent, even if I never knew it before now. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Dancing in the sunshine with Psymon Spine.

Photo by Rachel Cabitt
Psymon Spine just really, really wants you to dance yrself ... into a frenzy. 

I've been trying to write about this album for months now, and kept running down an LCD Soundsystem rabbit hole since Psymon Spine clearly considers Murphy and his crew—and the general NYC scene of the early aughts—major influences. But music criticism 101 basically states that it's lazy to bring up other bands when making comparisons, so I kept struggling. It's not that Psymon Spine isn't their own band, with their own sound, but there is no way a tune like "Currents," which fires up halfway through the album, isn't gonna make you do a double-take and wonder if this is an unreleased LCD Soundsystem b-side.

Now that we've got that out of the way, it is important to state again that while Psymon Spine may have obvious influences, they are wholly their own band. And on Charismatic Megafauna they take you on a very particular journey. Lots of wobbly synths paired with steady rhythms initially dominate the music, but this ain't easy listening. They're just buttering you up and getting you comfortable so that when the dance party kicks in, your limbs are all relaxed jelly and ready to go with the beat. It's like a sunny autumnal mood slowly giving way to a hot summer night party, and you are ALL IN.

But this is also an album for the headphone set! There are all kinds of little production touches, creating the sensation you're really in a shared space and sounds keep popping out from various sonic corners to tickle your ears. It's a delight.

I just picked this up on vinyl this week, so if none of the above sways you, maybe the knowledge that even I plunked down my hard-earned cash for this album will be a strong endorsement to get you to give it a listen!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Spring awakening in the brain.

Weird things have been happening in my brain, and I realized my personal creative sparks were returning and I didn't quite recognize them any more! During the pandemic I've had to protect what goes on inside my head from becoming too overwhelming, and quite honestly my 9-to-5 has gotten pretty much all of my creative focus. And that's O.K.! It's been my lifeline over the past year and at least kept the creative juices flowing! But on my recent long walks the origins of short stories are starting to unexpectedly pop up, and music ideas, and illustrations have started building in the brain and leaking out through my hands, and (UGH!) even lines of poetry that'll probably turn into lyrics at some point are making an appearance. I've been keeping tons of notes and voice memos of disparate thoughts over the last year to keep the idea machine going, but I'm beginning to see the old doors crack open again, revealing an endless landscape of infinitely engrossing opportunities for exploration. And the connections are starting to make sense again.

So that's good.

What about the music writing, Jim? Didn't you say you'd keep that up just to keep those muscles working? And yes, it's coming. But I don't think I can quite explain how much my own relationship to music (and the arts) has changed in the last 3 years. I didn't even notice it until I had, you know, a year pause from any music writing that had any sort of actual deadline. I just lost the fire. So yes, I kept trying to turn you onto new stuff over the past year but also yeah, it'd gotten really emotionally hard. I've been doing this for over 30 years now, and most folks have problems keeping it up for 3 months, so I think I'm allowed a period of reflection, right?

So I thought of throwing in the towel. I mean, are my opinions relevant or valuable at all any longer? But that's obviously a leading question, since obviously I think they are both those things and I wouldn't be writing this otherwise.


I was thinking about the fact that my first email newsletter started 25 years ago (and introduced "Tankboy" to the world, so no, the nickname has never had any connection to Old School or drinking or any of that and if you're still confused you can read this) and then came this blog and nowadays everyone has moved to email newsletters and are moving back towards blogs, so I'm so far ahead of that game by never leaving it'd be a shame to do so now!

So, I'm not going anywhere, and there's gonna start to be a lot more to come!

Thursday, March 04, 2021

It's a "Winter Western" with Local H and friends!

Whenever I get to my best-of list for 2020, Local H's LIFERS is one of the few albums that snagged its spot early and never let go.* So while I'm still agonizing on how to cut it down to 20 entries—and I will, sometime this month, I sweartagawd and am setting a deadline to force me to make some hard choices when culling albums—this tune is definitely on an album that will definitely make the list and this video is definitely not what I expected and definitely far more entertaining because of that. 

I mean, this video combines the talents of four artists I really respect and enjoy—Scott Lucas and Ryan Harding, Juliana Hatfield, and  Rachel Lichtman—and extrudes them through the filter of iconic imagery from a massively successful children's television show to create something simultaneously very now and very always. And very entertaining.**

*I believe I personally have two copies of LIFERS that I purchased, in addition to the promo sent before its release, so my money is literally where my mouth is with this one.
**It's The Electric Company. The massively successful children's television show I'm talking about is The Electric Company. I was just trying to be grandiose and/or funny and I'm not sure that phrase was either, but there you go.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Looking back on an amazing Alex Lahey album I totally missed!

This amazing photo via Alex Lahey's Facebook page, and how could I NOT use it?!

I was going through ye olde tankPHONE over the weekend, digging through old playlists for albums I might be able to finally delete and open up a little space, and of course instead of finding stuff to cut I stumbled across artists I had lost touch with and ended up adding more than I deleted.

Alex Lahey was one of those artists, and as I rediscovered 2017's I Love You Like A Brother on my phone I wondered what happened to Lahey.

I was sent a couple earlier releases from  Lahey when they came out but I had forgotten all about her and a little digging revealed she had been far from quiet the whole time. I must have fallen off whatever PR list serviced her 2019 album, The Best of Luck Club, so even though I missed that one a quick listen to some of its content had me spinning the album on repeat ASAP. So the end result was that I had the pleasure of discovering a fantastic "new" album to add to my collection!

It's also an album that had I heard it in 2019 would have had a pretty good chance of ending up in that year's best-of list. Sample a few of the tunes Lahey has made available from that album below, and then I think you'll find yourself doing the same thing as me, feeling you just have to own this album.

And me? I think I may have to check out some of the other releases of Lahey's I missed out on over the years since I last wrote about her. Wait. What, I've never written about Lahey before?! How is that possible?!

My bad! Go listen to and buy all her music so I don't feel so badly about waiting this long to tell you about this fantastic Australian import!

Monday, March 01, 2021

Big Kids wants to thank you...

To reassure all that things are fine around these parts despite a dearth of posts in the month of February—I mean, c'mon, we've been locked down for almost a year so...—here is a fun song I stumbled across. 

It's a song from a Chicago eatery thanking patrons who have decided to support them.

I do not have any personal experience with Big Kids, though I have confirmed they do indeed appear to be a Chicago restaurant, but after hearing this song I will have to pay them a visit when things open back up even more. 

Also, private to the Big Kids crew, maybe include a link to get food from y'all from the Bandcamp page. Just a suggestion!