Monday, June 20, 2022

Halle Berry ruled the RAZZIE awards almost 20 years ago and she deserves some credit for that!

First off all, I definitely remember hearing about Halle Berry winning a RAZZIE for Catwoman, but I had never actually heard her 2005 acceptance speech until this morning. If this speech had been readily available and easily shared when it happened, I think people would have spent far fewer years teasing Berry for playing the role.* She was clearly in on the joke, incredibly game, absolutely hilarious, and it seems she still feels that way.

The RAZZIE awards are basically the trolls of the movie world, and I hold no love for them, but I applaud Berry for taking them on in person like this. So while I still think Catwoman is an awful, awful, awful, unwatchable film, I have tons of respect for Berry—I just wish I'd seen this speech years ago! 

The real fun starts at about the 2:20 minute mark, but the whole thing is worth your time.

[credz to a rerun of HDTGM for cuing me into this speech!]

*YouTube was just being introduced, so maybe this speech just missed the cutoff before people started regularly using that platform? Either that, or it was widely shared and I somehow completely missed it? Either way—the speech rules. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Bright, summery sounds from Los Saints lighten up a sweltering day.

Photo by Stu Alfano
It's hot in Chicago right now, as we jumped straight from a long dreary stretch of cold weather into a cauldron of a heat wave. But hey, that's Chicago! We could always move somewhere nicer, but we never will.

But if I was gonna move, San Diego is a really nice spot to live, with its beaches and mild but sunny weather. At least it was like that the one time I visited. But if I lived in San Diego, it would also mean I'd've already heard of Los Saints before a few weeks ago! So their latest release Welcome To Confusion is my belated first exposure to the band.

Welcome To Confusion's a sharp and concise EP driven by clean guitars with a fleeting kiss of distortion, and dreamy vox. I'm finding it incredibly perky and peppy stuff; but more like a summer strut and less a full-fledged party. And it's definitely a good time.

Give Welcome To Confusion a spin below, and if you dig it you can pick up the album from your preferred retailer!

Friday, June 10, 2022

It's O.K. if you're finding reentry a little bumpy!

Hi there! Just a quick non-music check in! How're you holding up? We're in a weird stretch where everyone wants to behave as if the pandemic is behind us which a) ignores the fact we're still in a pandemic (even though I realize risks are far lower today than two years ago) and b) as people rush to return to "normal," those of us that have been largely isolated for the last two years may be feeling a little anxiety about reentry.

O.K., maybe a lot of anxiety. Much of it based in a simple conundrum: if you don't live with anyone, the last two years have been incredibly isolating, and even someone like me that had a really robust social existence in the beforetime has absolutely no idea how to reintegrate into the world as it exists now. And people who have been living "normally" for much of that time seem unable too understand why some of us feel completely out of step with the world outside work. (I've mentioned it numerous times before, but thank God I had a job I loved when the pandemic started, since that focus and those people were essential to me keeping busy with purpose and staying sane.)

So it's perfectly fine if you're feeling the same. 

I'll share that I have been more socially active this week than I have been in a very long time—seeing friends for a birthday on Sunday and heading into the office to hang out with colleagues IRL on Wednesday—so the tide is changing! And yeah, it's a little awkward at times since the ol' brain is used to running faster and not having to slow things down to, you know, carry on a discussion outside of my head. But I'm noticing that the time it takes to acclimate to other people shortens a teensy bit the more every time I push myself outside the house to attend a social gathering of some kind. So if you're worried about constantly sticking your foot in your mouth because you're out of practice—you won't. You'll be fine. Just keep it up!

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Post Animal's inspired 'Love Gibberish' is familiar, magnetic, and magical.

Photo by Kevin Allen
Post Animal's last album Forward Motion Godyssey was released in 2020, meaning the band was another in a long line of musical acts on the cusp of a tour that never happened for an album that could have vaulted them to the next level. But instead of just wallowing and feeling sorry for themselves, they started recording various home demos and finally came together at the family farm of one of the band members to capture the album, reportedly over ten days. I don't know about you, but that sounds like one of the better ways to spend some downtime.

And spend that time well, they did! Their new album Love Gibberish, released last month, sounds like a band reaffirming their sound while plumbing the depths of influences from previous decades to help provide structure. Unexpectedly, these influences were more along the wavelength of Supertramp or Toto or any number of mid-'80s rockers slightly past their prime.* And yes, I know that many of the acts I name here eventually suffered from the plodding tempos and over-worked studio tricks of that era.


Luckily for us, Post Animal works from the ethos of keeping what works, tossing the fluff, and adding their own magical touches, so Love Gibberish tends to sound like an album from another time, but it's a time that never existed. There isn't a beat of self-indulgence to be found in any of the tracks, even though the music is lush and washes over you with such force that if the initial beats don't get you, the insistent undertow of thew band's sound will draw you in, no matter how much you resist. And in this case, I think you should be glad that resistance will hopefully prove futile.

Post Animal is coming back to their hometown of Chicago to play The Metro this Friday, June 10. You can snag tickets here OR try your luck and enter the giveaway Third Coast Review is running for the show(after you read Julian's excellent review of the album, of course.)

Friday, June 03, 2022

Time to snag two high-energy releases out today—Extra Arms and Supercrush!

It's Friday, it's sunny, and summer is still settling into Chicago. And I've got two killer new releases to recommend today! I'm keeping this quick because I have a hard time believing you won't be interested both albums if you simply listen to one song a piece. You'll have to hear the rest, So today, instead of going into detail about what makes these releases terrific, I'll just let the music speak for itself.

First up is the new album from Extra Arms. While Ryan Allen has tirelessly been releasing a number of albums and EPs since the beginning of the pandemic, What Is Even Happening Right Now? is the first proper Extra Arms release since 2019. And it slays—buzzy guitars, crunchy drums, and what appears to be a bag filled with roughly a zillion hooks, Allen and company are back in full and marvelous face-blasting form.

Supercrush did release a full LP in October 2020—it also slays—but have been largely silent since then. (Who could blame 'em? October 2020 sucked. But that album was great and wasn't heard by enough people!) But I woke up this morning to see they released a new EP, and man-oh-man is Melody Maker pretty dang good too! 

Is there a genre called turbo-charged slacker power-pop? If not, this should help define that movement. 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

A collaborative benefit album that actually works as an album!

Photo by Midnight Piper Forman
I know a lot of musical acts found different ways to weather the first phase of the pandemic, but this project from Erica Dawn Lyle and Vice Cooler took a few chances and really stands out as one of the better experimental uses of some unexpected downtime. Lyle was all set to play guitar, and Vice Cooler was to be the drum tech, for the much-anticipated Bikini Kill 2020 tour. Clearly that didn't happen.

So instead the duo set about making what would become the Land Trust: Benefit For NEFOC compilation—and I'm honestly fascinated to learn more about the intricate details of the process—but it appears Cooler would lay down a drum track, send it to Lyle to add guitar lines, and then hone that into a song. When they had a few songs in good shape, they started to reach out to an astounding array of guest vocalists to help complete the songs with the duo. And I do mean an astounding array of vocalists, including Three Ks of indie rock royalty on different songs: Kathleen Hanna, Kelley Deal, and Kim Gordon. And for the youth, we have a huge number of up-and-coming musicians, including the absolutely-worth-all-the-buzz combo The Linda Lindas. But seriously, every guest vocalist slays on this collection; not a weak link in the bunch.

The strangest thing about this compilation is ... it doesn't sound like a grab-bag of ideas at all, but instead functions as a pretty solid album. Despite the large canvas of collaborators, the entire project maintains a consistent musical viewpoint, even as each songs bends around the strengths of a different singer. 

I can't tell whether this began as a benefit album or developed into one as the project evolved, but however it happened, this is the rare benefit album that actually works as a whole while generating funds for a good cause, the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust (NEFOC). Are you as unfamiliar with NEFOC as I was? Probably! According to the press release:
NEFOC is an Indigenous and POC-led grassroots organization that seeks to connect POC farmers to land to grow healthy foods and medicines for our communities. We plan to accomplish this by acquiring and returning land to Indigenous nations and respectfully connecting Black, Asian, and Latinx and other POC farmers and land stewards to land while centering and respecting Indigenous sovereignty.
The full collection is out tomorrow, so you can sample a few songs today and pre-order it, or just snag the whole thing tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

REVEALED: How to get Radiohead to record a new Radiohead album

Photo by Alex Lake
So this is partially tongue in cheek* but it does appear that the best way to get Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood to team up and record a new Radiohead album is to record under a different name.

I mean, come on! The Smile sounds more like latter-era Radiohead than some actual latter-era Radiohead songs do!

This is perhaps not exactly breaking news. And it did take me a while to actually listen to the album since I worried it was just gonna be another noodly affair with ethereal vocals avoiding any semblance of a hummable melody. But nay! This stuff is (relatively) catchy! And—yes—sounds like Radiohead!

I bought the album on Bandcamp** after hearing it, so have no clue how many songs are streaming to those who haven't, but whatever is showing up for you in the player above should help make my point.

So smile, it's like we've got a new Radiohead LP in 2022!

*Or should that be "tng in chk?"
**I'm pleased to see more and more huge acts releasing their stuff on Bandcamp as well as all the other usual streaming outlets. Smart move!

Friday, May 27, 2022

A break in previously scheduled programming.

I had planned on a series of posts about writing, my own history with writing, and the changing landscape I've observed over the last 32 or 33 years since my first critical piece about popular music was published. You know, drawing comparisons between then and this little blog, as well as some of the shifts I've seen and how I personally approached them.

But the day this site turned 20 another unspeakable tragedy struck in the U.S, yet another in a long line of horrors we are all just supposed to deal with these days, with little or no relief from anyone "in control" in sight. That was followed by an attack on a Chicago man that left me truly doubting if my hopes for my fellow man have truly been long overblown. And the rising refrain I'm hearing from more and more people (like me) that have always endeavored to improve the world and do right ... is that we are all losing hope.

So it didn't seem appropriate throughout the week to dwell on something as relatively dumb as my own thoughts about writing. Maybe later; but right now I'm just trying to find some way to move forward without being cloaked in utter despair about our world's future.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Happy 20th birthday to this here little website!

Pretty accurate "about" section, eh?
20 years ago today, the first post appeared on the Tankboy blog!

What started as a potential archive for my previous years of Tankboy email newsletters turned into a website where I posted every week day for over 15 years, before slowing down a bit in late 2018. But I've never put the site on  a hiatus, once regular posts began.

The Tankboy site is also a space I've never run ads on or tried to monetize. So from the get-go, that space was always meant to be just for me and you. No distractions.
20 years later I'm not certain what the Tankboy site will be like in another 20 years. Heck, I'm not sure what it'll look like next year, at this point. But it's meant to evolve so I don't worry about it.

And 20 years later, I'm starting to think we might be moving back towards the blogging mindset, as platforms are choked by the demand for new content, people actually do like to hear personal thoughts not driven explicitly by press releases or the media cycle.

So happy 20th birthday to the Tankboy blog! How you and I have kept going is a bit of a mystery, but I'm glad we did!

And  thanks to EVERYONE out there—whether you've only visited the site once or you've been a regular reader, you're important to me—so thank YOU!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Woodsy walks are good for the soul.

15 minutes from my house? Yes!
Some days you get outside and forget about all the problems and are just overtaken. I was never a nature boy before; despite being an Eagle Scout, and even living on a farm at one point in the distant past, I've always been drawn more to the city and city things. But the last couple years flipped that on its head* and these days I find myself actually wondering where my camping gear went, now that I could see myself actually using it for enjoyment, and not just a tolerable burden of an excursion someone else asked me to do with them!

O.K,  I may be getting a little ahead of myself there. But I have grown to really treasure time in the woods, earbud-free, and clear eyes wide open.

*Though, really, has anything not been flipped on its head the last couple of years? I may be stating the painfully obvious with that line. Sorry!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sephoria! You know, like 'Euphoria!'

While I've never been particularly squeamish about running errands for significant others, this short had me in stitches because I have definitely called Sephora "Sephoria" in the past. 

Also, this just reminds me how dumb most guys are when faced with anything un-dude-ly, and that makes me chuckle too.

Also also, if Netflix ever created this, it's one reality program I might actually watch for entertainment!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Just waiting for those rhythms of life to pick back up.

I confess I've been struggling in my more personal writing endeavors. The last couple of years have thrown everyone's lives into turmoil, so I can't sit here feeling sorry for myself. But it's still frustrating.

If I just write about music that feels too constricting. Plus, I really want to write more for Third Coast Review this year, so I've started to identify what might be more appropriate for that venue while keeping my more personal musical recommendations going here. 

But this site was never meant to be only about one thing. 

Of course, until recently, writing about a myriad of subjects was easy because I was always submerged in a number of different worlds at any given time. But those worlds have shrunk, and these days most of what I experience is either through a digital screen, outside my home-office window, or in my head. While I have grown to really value my long walks and all the mental work that gets done during those jaunts ... there is nothing to replace the human interactions and unexpected discoveries that arise from people just talking through even the simplest topics with each other. 

And while I've long strove to be a confident voice in the topics I write about, I am not interested in merely espousing my views honed from singular, internal discussions. I need people, man!

So, I'll keep pushing through this, and at some point I am sure it will all start to fall into place as new life rhythms pick up the pace. 

And, as always dear reader, I am thankful you're still sticking around to see where this all ends up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

We're coming up on 20 years since the first post in this here space.

My first post on this site was 20 years ago this month, though I didn't start writing almost daily until the following year. But it's a bit odd to realize I have an unbroken record of my life in one spot over the last 20 years. And if you were to tack on the Tankboy email newsletter, you'd have a pretty solid view—from one perspective—of my life since the mid-'90s! 

More on this later this month as the actual anniversary approaches, but I've been looking around for other uninterrupted, long-running independent, personal sites that have never been ad-based in any way, and you know what? There ain't a lot of them. So I'm thankful my own little project that began as an intended repository for my email newsletters turned into something completely different that has gone on for almost two decades now.* It seems a little unreal—20 years ago often feels like 20 months ago to me—but I'm glad this site exists. And will continue to exist as long as I want it to, which, right now, remains open ended.

*I also take a little pride in never posting an "I'm gonna quit blogging!" announcement, or having to write the requisite "I've decided to start blogging again after shutting this blog down" post.

Friday, May 06, 2022

'start at the end' with Tamar Berk this Bandcamp Friday!

I met Tamar Berk in the very late '90s when she was still fronting the fuzzy, power-pop Chicago power-trio, Starball. I really dug Starball, and even booked a few shows with them eons ago, but the band never quite got the acclaim I thought they deserved. Berk took off for sunnier weather out West a few years ago and I didn't hear much from her musically during that time, aside from a stint in a prog rock combo I found really enjoyable. But in the last couple of years, Berk picked up her guitar and decided to focus on her own songs (and has a healthy stable of amazing musicians to back her up, as needed).

Berk just released her second solo album in two years, start at the end, and it takes the youthful buzzy blast of her solo debut the restless dreams of youth and focuses it on more serious concerns without losing an ounce of excitement or energy. 

I just got my vinyl copy of the album in the mail, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is and not just blowing hot air here; this is music you will really dig. Check it out!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Wherein Post Animal crosses into personally sentimental sonic territory previously carved out by The Pursuit Of Happiness.

Photo by Courtney Sofiah Yates
I'm working up a full album review of Post Animal's latest release Love Gibberish that will run closer to its May release date for Third Coast Review, but had to share this track because it's stuck in my head for an entirely personal reason I just had to share.

In the late '80s I was big fan of The Pursuit Of Happiness. Moe Berg and his crew hit on the perfect blend of noise and pop and angst on that group's debut that ensnared my teenage brain right away. And the new Post Animal album bounces around approaches to its songs quite a bit, and one of their new tunes is very reminiscent of early TPOH to these ears.* That riffage and that speak-sing delivery—in this particular ratio those elements jettison me right back to junior year in high school. Yipes, but also fun!

So, I present to you, "No More Sports!"

*There is actually quite a bit of '80s-influenced sonic territory covered on Love Gibberish that I think many will find both surprising and refreshing. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Particle Kid's 'Time Capsule' gleefully rips free of time's bonds.

Photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger
The less you know about Particle Kid, perhaps the better. That way Time Capsule can unravel and reveal itself on its own terms.* I will note that the "Kid" is J. Micah Nelson—son of Willie Nelson—and I share that ahead of time so you don't listen and find that out afterward and feel like you've been had. While his last name certainly seems strong enough to pull in some heavy duty guest appearances, the album is weird and wooly in ways that can't just be attributed to a close proximity to fame. In fact, I still believe my initial response after my first listen is all you really need to know.

I will admit that late in the album, there is one track I would have probably removed—I won't tell you which one but it's got a real Funstyle flair to it—but even that song makes sense as far as the natural trajectory of the album is concerned. So I guess that's a long way of saying I probably would not remove it after all, eh?

Strap on some headphones and get ready for a ride, ya'll.

*As a 26-track double album, letting it reveal itself on its own terms is kinda key. Y'know?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

On the edge of a new world.

I can feel it in the air. FINALLY. A change is coming. Spring is actually near. I'm cautiously optimistic major waves of the COVID epidemic may have finally subsided (even if there is absolutely no way to predict the future on that front, yet). I'm on a 300+ day step streak and am looking forwards to the majority of that walking moving outdoors instead of pacing in my apartment. Despite my inability to actually get out of the house and attend a show so far this year, I have not given up hope and want to remedy that within weeks if not days. 

Even if I'm not entirely sure how, I am 100% devoted to exiting my hermitage of the last couple of years. I've accepted that whatever insane human drive I had, that just allowed me to pile on activities far beyond what should have been a reasonable breaking point, was interrupted by my social isolation and is never going to return at that volume. (This is actually a relief. I don't think I knew how exhausting that was until all that nervous energy had nowhere to go when I stopped. It's taken a few years, but I've finally settled into a more realistic, human, mortal approach to what it means to be "active.") 

And here I sit, on the precipice again, waiting for the sign it's time to drop my metaphorical skateboard into the bowl and start to LIVE again. I've spent a lot of time in my head over the last 3 years, and while it's still not an entirely fun place to be all of the time, I've grown more comfortable being an unadulterated version of  me all of the time. I can be intense and earnest and sometimes throw people off with my weird energy, but I think the core ME—the one who has always been there since the earliest days of wandering South Texas farmlands and orange groves solo looking for adventure and living in a world of imagination—that me is one I like being around. Can't wait for you to meet him again too!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Primer's brainy but fun 'Incubator' is a perfect fit for these (and all) times.

Photo by Rik Horoky
Alyssa Midcalf performs under the Primer moniker and her debut album Incubator is just the laser beam of synth-driven sunshine we all need right now. Especially if you're in a region where spring appears to completely resists springing, for now.*

There have been a few pop albums that sprung up throughout the pandemic that delivered solid, positive, uplifting (but not vapid) touchpoints to hold onto amidst a sea of desperation and depression. Incubator is the latest entry in this more personalized musical genre of mine, but I believe its appeal to be universal!

Tl;dr—this is a ton of super-duper solid electro-pop, bursting with burbling and bubbly rhythms bouncing underneath Midcalf's sweet and assured but unshowy vocals.

Highly recommended!

*Ahem, Chicago.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

That's a mighty fine set of steak knives, Man's Body!

Man's Body has a show coming up in Chicago playing with Hushdrops. I had planned on seeing Hushdrops the next time they played, so I took a swing through the Man's Body 2021 release A Set Of Steak Knives to see if I should plan on sticking around late enough to catch their headlining set.

The answer? A resounding YES!

Man's Body packs A Set Of Steak Knives with music that's catchy and buzzy in the earlier indie rock vein, and was honestly a surprise to me. Based on the band bio I thought this would be more of a "middle-aged dude" album* but this is almost power-pop in a scuzzier form. Lotsa those riffs that chunk-a-chunk-a-buzzsaaaaaaaaaaw all over the place, and that's the kinda thing that hits me squarely in the solar plexus of vibez.

So I'll definitely be sticking around to catch their later set when they play The Burlington on April 22!

*NO offense meant to middle-aged dude albums, though!

Thursday, April 07, 2022

2022 is shaping up to be a mighty fine year for new music.

I think the logjam created by the pandemic slowing down releases has finally broken. After two years of weeks and weeks where there was really only one or two really interesting releases amidst a sea of reissues and compilation albums and live albums and whatever anyone could create to keep the music moving even when there was little motivation to create new music. And even less motivation to promote it in a world where touring was impossible for the longest stretch of time in my own lifetime (if not ever).

I look through my spreadsheets from the last couple of years, and very, very, very few albums rose above a 5, while this year there are already an unusual number of 6s, 7s, and 8s. (FYC: A handy reminder of how I personally rate music as I track albums each year.) So that's great news!

I still haven't seen a live concert in 2022 though, so that's not-so-great news. But I like to balance that with the fact that whatever old sense of FOMO I ever had is still completely absent in my life, and I don't think it will ever return. So that ain't so great as far as creating blast-off levels of anxiety over missing something to get me out of the house, but it's awesome as far as avoiding those heightened levels of anxiety over, basically, nothing. So it balances out in the end.

I will tell you this though: I am determined to see a show in the month of April!