Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 is almost over...

I'm seeing a lot of people that feel like 2015 was an awful year for them. They want to kick it in the ass. And while I do think 2015 was a years with lots of dark news saturating the media—and that won't get better in 2016 since sensational sells—in general it was a good year. People started to react against immediate outrage. People seems to be trying to connect with each other again (well, most people). So I have hope for the new year. And I don't think, all said, 2015 was a bad year.

I mean, for me in included a marriage, so I have no complaints!

Monday, December 28, 2015

I always make this one same mistake.

I fly right after christmas to get home so I can work as much of the week between the holidays. And every year the airport is bonkers, even though I get there at 5 a.m. At least I've flown so much now that I don't really get nervous about huge lines and slow security, because I have yet to actually miss a flight because of either.

Thought right now we're in the middle of an ice storm, and that did almost keep us from taking off. But I got in just under the wire!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy holidays to you from me and my family!

I hope Santa brought you everything you asked for; you deserve it!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On 'political correctness."

I was an early opponent of "political correctness" as the term rose to become dogma while I was in college in the early '90s. And I am a LONG time liberal. I had multiple piercings. I kissed dudes. I wore dresses. I had super long hair. All pre-Internet, which meant not only was I an outlier, outside my handful of friends I was completely alone in the world with no broader support community.

This was all way back when you'd get pummeled and spit on (and I was, both) for being an outlier. Even with all that, I thought the early usage of "political correctness" was broad-minded bulllshit (with good intentions—attempting to right longstanding wrongs) that ultimately proved to be so over-corrective it was pointless.*

My own tiny personal sample set for this conclusion? You can't be an emotionally accurate, honest writer while self-censoring along politically correct guardrails. Political correctness is often an excuse for failing to delve into real issues and discuss and try to solve gray areas that warrant free discourse, and it's an excuse wielded too far widely.

However, arguing against political correctness does not mean you have agency to be a racist, sexist bully.


*AN ASIDE, SPURRED BY, BUT NOT CONNECTED TO, THE ABOVE: Also, any generation that thinks they're the first when it comes to free self-expression including gender fluidity is a generation of idiots. Those front lines have been long fought, and the fact they're now fought so freely in the mainstream is a testament to previous generations, not some new initiative.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Getting in that holiday mood.

It's been a bust week, but that just means I'll be able to truly enjoy the looooong holiday weekend. I hope you do too!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Three day work weeks can feel like forever, so let's lift our spirits with Beach Slang.

Photo by Craig Scheihing
Philadelphia's Beach Slang have been getting all sorts of critical attention for their kinda sloppy but super energetic and raw take on bar band pop. With a DNA closely matching the threads of early Replacements material it's easy to see why even the stodgy, older music writers are falling just as hard for the se guys as the younger crop of scribes closer in age to Beach Slang.

Simply, Beach Slang makes music that makes you feel young. Is it because their approach is timeless? Youthful abandon tempered by a healthy dose of talent so that even the messiest of compositions still thrums with life and a weird, blurry focus? Perhaps. Or perhaps Beach Slang doesn't make you feel young so much as they make you feel alive. I think that's more accurate.

I suspect the band's full-length debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us will probably make it onto my top 20 albums of the year list. But even if it doesn't, it is one of the best things I've heard in 2015. Listen to my favorite track off the album below and click through to hear more or buy the LP.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Diving "Headfirst" into Secret Someones to avoid any 'Star Wars' spoilers.

Been tearing through albums today as I avoid the internet and possible Star Wars spoilers. Some of it has been painful because a couple ands I'd sort of been sitting on, certain I'd enjoy them, were letdowns.

Secret Someones was not one of the letdowns.

This NYC quartet writes big ol' sing-along chorus power pop, injecting a dash of New Wave melodic sensibilities while still keeping the gears firmly shifted into rock and/or roll.

The only quibble I could possibly have with these folks is that, at 16 tracks, their self-titled debut feels a little long; there are six acoustic renditions of songs that appear earlier on the album that seem rather superfluous. It feels like some label exec was all like, "Well, let's try these more stripped down and see if we catch some AC radio attention," which seems weird but I can see it. Then again, it does also do a nice job of displaying just how well constructed the songs are even after you take away the roaring guitars and driving drums.

In some ways they're like a real-life Josie and the Pussycats (plus one dude). Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

24 hours from now I'll be doing something I at one point thought I'd never do.

I'll be watching a new Star Wars movie. And it won't leave me feeling betrayed and pissed off as I exit the theater.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'I Want To Run' too!

The new Mates Of States EP that came out earlier this year was a welcome return by the band after being largely absent from the music scene the last 4 years or so. Brevity is their friend and by releasing only 5 songs, the tracks never turn boring or overlong.

The clear standout track is the exuberant "I Want To Run," all rushing synths and vocals that sound formed by smiles built on actual and pure happiness.

It's fucking beautiful.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let the Quiet Hollers flood over you.

Quiet Hollers, photo by SarahWilde
Quiet Hollers are out of Louisville and sound like it (in a good way). Their self-titled sophomore album was engineered and mixed by a guy that's worked with My Morning Jacket, Murder By Death, Grace Potter, and White Reaper and sounds like it (in a good way). Actually, just look at the band photo above and they sound exactly like you think they would (still, in a good way!).

Listen to the songs below and you'll see exactly what I mean (in a good way).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Our company holiday party was last night so there will be no post today.

I will say most of the company DID make it into the office today, because we are a dedicated—if fun-loving—crew.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The closerlook holiday video is up!

Another exciting year and another creative video! It was a lot of fun working with the whole team on this one. Can you spot me in the video and pick up on the running joke my character carries through?

Also, doing an animated video is possibly more stressful than working on a live shoot. Kudos to our director Dan Pedersen for pulling quite a few days of very long hours to make sure our story came to life!

After watching the video visit our website and download some holiday screensavers. Also, we're looking for good people to join our team so check out our job openings too!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Album number 540.

Laura Stevenson, photo by Kenneth Bachor
I've been keeping a spreadsheet of all the new albums I've listened to this year, partially to help with my year end list at the beginning of January and partially to help me remember what albums not in my top 10 made an impact on me. As the year draws to a close I'm still trying to ingest all the music that was sent to me (if you send it, I'll take the time to listen) and one of the nice byproducts of this is the discovery of bands I've been sitting on for months. Like I said, I'll listen to everything but things do get pushed back in the queue.

So while many feel December is a dry period, for me it means I'm stumbling over all kinds of great albums! Case in point: Laura Stevenson's Cocksure. It's a super catchy and accessible blend of rock and pop, but she's got a bite that keeps things from feeling formulaic or middle of the road. And her songwriting is so fully realized that I broke into a wide smile halfway through the album's opening track. And that smile grew wider on tracks three and four and five and so on as I realized this wasn't an album with one good song and a lot of dross, but a bunch of great songs with no filler.

I can't find any streams to embed, so you'll have to make do with a video instead. You'll still fall in love with the song.

Aw heck, she's so good you should watch both videos she has for the current album!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Flying way under the RadaR.

RadaR's second single "Confidence" is one of those I could never really figure out how to write up on Chicagoist. They weren't coming through town (they appear to exclusively tour the East Coast close to the home in Washington D.C.) and I couldn't find another hook to justify a write-up. Which is a shame, because it's just this sort of unexpected, totally under the radar (no pun intended) gem that makes music writing so rewarding: you know people are going to get turned onto something they probably would have never heard and their lives would be just a teeny bit less colorful for it.

So let's add a dash of color to your day. And don't hate me when you're humming this under your breath a few hours from now. You'll learn that's a good thing.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Run for the hills! (Or at least the rolling hills of Michigan.)

Mich and I are taking a quick trip up to Michigan for the weekend to celebrate her birthday a little early since it falls in the middle of next week. It's also out first road trip in our week old new (used but honestly looks and behaves like new from whatI can tell) car.

Road snacks, here we come!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A must read.

Matt Taibbi's recent editorial / opinion / essay is titled America  Is Too Dumb For TV News but it could have just as easily been titled America Is Too Dumb For News. And the blame for this goes all around. Creators and consumers are both guilty for the current state of media.

There has to be a way out but fuck if I know what it is right now.

Anyway, read the piece.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Let's hear it for Hiccup!

Via the Hiccup Facebook page
Let's keep this a short and sweet and punchy as the music I'm about to tell you about.

Hiccup's debut single is grunged out power-pop heavily reminiscent of The Smoking Popes, IMHO. The Brooklyn trio escapes all the darker clich├ęs of their fair borough and claps together something sunny and sharp. The 2 songs are over too quickly—clocking in at just over 4 minutes—leaving you panting and hitting replay while you hope and wait for more singles to flow in the near future.

Listen to the single below and if you like it I think you'll find $2 is a more than fair price to hand over to the band in exchange for your ownership of said songs.*

*I definitely mean "said" not "sad" so don't go writing to tell me I made a typo.