Tuesday, January 31, 2017

This makes a rather compelling point, don't you think?

Kudos to Corden for pointing out the obvious. Rather, what should be obvious.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Here's a stylish t-shirt design!

Buy this t-shirt sporting a rather timely design courtesy your and my friends at Chunklet. All proceeds go to benefit the American Immigration Council.

I bought two.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange sounds from a distant star.

I still remember getting the Sound + Vision box set* for Christmas in 1989, a precursor to a large reissue project centered around David Bowie. And it was a glorious collection of Bowie tracks—some popular, many rare—held on a bunch of cassette tapes.

Yup, cassettes. I didn’t make the leap to CDs for another few years. They were so much more expensive, and that didn’t even take into account how much you had to shell out for the CD player itself! Plus, it would be quite a few more years before CDs went mobile via the Discman.

But I digress.

I spent the next couple of years waiting eagerly for the next batch of Ryko reissues of Bowie's catalog from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Before then his earlier stuff was pretty hard to find since it had been out of print. So I had to make do with cobbled together mixtures and the occasional vinyl find. I was finally Abe to enjoy his catalog in all it’s glory!

Most of the reissues had bonus tracks. And I admit when a number of them would be released on the same day I’d go after the ones with the most tracks. Money was tight so choices had to be made! Sometimes it would take months to get my reissue collection up to date! But these were also the days where one would consume a single album over the course of weeks, playing it over and over again until it’s grooves became part of your DNA and coursed through your body, headily rushing through your blood, bypassing your head and going straight for your heart.

Years later I would obsessively collect all the Ryko reissues on CD, not ever even considering that at some time they too would become out of print.** Some Bowie fans complain about the sound quality on them but I don’t mind it. Sure, somewhat confusingly, the original RCA CDs have a warmer sound than the Ryko ones but it’s really not that much of a difference.

Photo via VTGdallas
A couple years ago I realized these CDs were getting pretty beaten up from the bajillion times they had been played so I ripped them into lustrous 160 kbps M4As.*** And then because I am an obsessive I took all the bonus tracks and assembled them into a single compilation—even going so far as to create unique digital art for it—which I saved down to a hard drive and then forgot about.

I rediscovered this arrangement of tracks last night and spent all morning today listening to it. It has the effect of creating a discography from an alternate Bowie universe when you consume them all together. Some of the hits are there, but instead of "Ziggy Stardust"stomping all around it’s a folky ballad, and “John, I’m Only Dancing” loses its glittery snobbery and gets a disco remake. The songs span from 1969 through 1980 and when taken all at once really does create a wonderful experience that feels like it’s being piped in from another universe.

It’s been a nice way to lose myself in a reconstruction that allows me to experience the music in a way that’s a little foreign.**** I think I need to try and find time to do stuff like that more often since it really helps soothe and center me.

A tiny sonic oasis in troubling times, if you will.

*EMI updated the Sound + Vision set in 2003 to bring it up-to-date through the late ‘90s. It was interesting but the original collection will always be my favorite.

**I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve re-bought the Bowie catalog when something gets reissued or remastered or remixed or resequenced or…

***Don’t judge the lower bitrate. Space was at a premium on my iPod at the time!

****Sometimes I can get this effect by throwing the whole Bowie library into a playlist and hitting shuffle. But this was even more interesting because by playing these outtakes and rare tracks in chronological order it really did feel like they were telling a story.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My happy place.

When things feel just too dire, a keep returning to this image. I figured I'd share so you can bookmark it for the times you need relief as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Namaste, it's Humpday!

A photo posted by @shellster129 on

Given the way the world is going right now, I'd say Mich's continuing series of Humpday photos provides welcome—if brief—relief.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is this the best video of 2017?

I really hope this is real, because if it is it's a) absolutely hilarious and b) shows Young Thug has a healthy sense of humor about himself. The director talked to Rolling Stone about it:
Do you have a sense if Young Thug has seen the video yet? 
I believe he has, especially since it's on his YouTube. I know that there were a couple rounds of revisions on some of the writing and legal stuff throughout. They would say, "We're sending it to his management," or whatever, but I have not seen any direct response from him yet. I know that Wyclef tweeted the video out today, so that was exciting. I wonder if [Young Thug] is pissed off at me or if he's like, "This guy really pulled something out of his ass and it worked out pretty damn well" and is psyched about it. I think it's just as much making a mockery out of the production world and the industry of music and celebrity. 
So on that note, I'll just use this to distract me from the firehose of bad news that just won't stop coming today.

Monday, January 23, 2017

We’re all in this together.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, both personally and in world wide affairs. This weekend it came to a head with dizzying highs and really low lows. I have to keep reminding myself that as long as we have good support networks that in the long run things will be O.K.

For me that means remembering to actually reach out to my support networks instead of thinking I need to shoulder all of this alone. So I’d like to take a moment to thank my wife for reminding me of that as I teetered on full blown despair on Sunday. I’ve spent much of my life feeling like I have to shoulder everything solo and in the past few months I’ve learned that’s not the case—or really all that healthy.

So thank you, Mich, for getting me back on track by reminding me we are all in this together.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How was this NOT on my radar?

In the past I would've never missed a bill including Farewell Captain and the Cells. And this is even more amazing because The Addisons are a supergroup of sorts made up of members of Not Rebecca,  Tom Daily, Textbook and The Sonnets. What?!

Unfortunately I can't make it tonight so this stream of their debut single will have to do for now.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Doing the robot, running into naked people, and Gorrilaz—my day so far.

It’s been an interesting morning.

On the way to work Mich and I broke outing did the robot while at a stop light downtown. Then I looked to my right and saw two deputies in a sheriff’s car laughing at our little dance. That was actually fun—bringing a little unexpected delight into the day.

Then a few minutes later I was coming out of a Starbucks by my office and saw a naked woman walking down the sidewalk towards me. In broad daylight. It was surreal. Before I could ask her if she was OK—I honestly couldn’t tell if this was art or if he was just out of it—other passersby started talking to her and then a squad car pulled up to handle it.

So, it’s been an interesting morning. Some laughs and some confusion. Oh, and a new Gorillaz video.

I’m deeply curious to see how the day continues to develop from here on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dude York aren't the band we deserve, but they are the band we need.

Dude York, photo by Sam Gehrke
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.

Their new album Sincerely is out February 24 but I wish it was coming out this week, because 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.

Check out "Tonight" for a taste of what makes this band great. Every time England sings, "holy cow, the air feels so fucking good" it makes the hair on my arms stand on end and I truly believe her. It does feel so fucking good.

The band kicks off a U.S. tour in February and hits Chicago on April 1, playing Cobra Lounge.

UPDATE: The album is now out, so buy it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nine years ago today I joined Twitter.

And I've only sent out a few tweets that were entirely embarrassing. Or meant to be direct messages. Oops.

One of my favorite Chicago artists resurfaces, just in time for these times.

Photo by Jim Newberry
Bobby Conn doesn't play live all that often any longer, which is truly a shame. I've been a longtime fan of the man, and just noticed he's doing a show at Hideout this weekend, um, spurred by recent political events.

I've written about his music for what seems like ever now, and remember buying his new releases from Quaker Goes Deaf back in the day when you had to hunt down indie records from store to store because you weren't sure who actually got any delivered from time to time. He's never gotten the respect I think he deserves, but maybe that's just in Chicago. I remember seeing him do a SXSW set in the early aughts where he played to a bigger crowd than I had ever seen assembled for one of his hometown shows. So obviously more than just me and a small midwestern cadre are fans.

Anyway, here's an oldie but a goodie from the man; a song that I think balances his talent at manipulating earwigs from past soul / glam / pop / avant sources to deliver a discomfiting message. This is an approach he developed and refined further over the years, but this is one of his earliest successful experiments at lacing a dire warning with a sugary center.

And yes, the song this is based on is obvious, but it's not a ripoff, it's a recasting of the familiar to deliver the disturbing.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Today is one of those twilight days.

It’s cold and rainy and dreary, and it feels like the world is caught in limbo. Due to the holiday many folks are off work, which means downtown Chicago is a relative ghost town. And atop that there seems to be a general sense of unease and dread in the air as this week drives toward a political handoff in a few days that has the majority of the country feeling a growing sense of unease.

I’m trying to remain optimistically pragmatic while not giving into accepting anything is “normal” right now. And I get the feeling that there are many—on all bands of the political spectrum—who feel similarly right now. The best advice I’ve heard thus far is that we can doubt the intentions, and even the skills, of our elected leaders, but that the spirit of the people is a constant that’s gotten us through uncertain times in the past.

Despite our disagreements I want to believe that most people really do want what’s best for everyone around them. And while we may not all be on the same page about what that looks like or how we’ll get there I do believe that in the long run we’ll find a middle ground that truly is in the interest of landing on the right side of history.

Remember that—the majority of people truly want everyone to succeed and be happy. So if we don’t be sidelined by fear, and work towards that goal the best we can, at whatever level available to us, we’ll get there.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Tom Hanks has a new career—game show host.

Tom Hanks fills in for Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”, at a live taping of the program on Thursday, January 12, 2017 at the Chase Auditorium in the Chase Tower in Chicago, photo by Andrew Gill/NPR
I was lucky enough to attend last night's taping of this week's episode of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! with very special guest host Tom Hanks. I know, what?!

Here's some behind the scenes info on what went down and how it came about.

Listen to the episode this week; I am dying to see what from the 2+ house of material makes it into the roughly 50 minute final! show! And of course I am hoping against hope they eventually release a "director's cut" of all the material because there was some great stuff in there I am sure will not make it to air...

UPDATE: And here's the full episode!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

If you see my enemies, tell 'em I wanna be friends again.

The new Rubblebucket EP is out next week, and it's quirky, herky-jerky dance rock is just the tonic I need right now.

There's a weird disconnect when everything is going great in your personal life but you legitimately fear that an armageddon you have no control over may be right around the corner just waiting to crush your happiness with orange fire.

So sometimes you just gotta dance and be in the moment. Honk and skronk horns, take it away!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Humpday strikes again!

A video posted by @shellster129 on

I will never get tired of this series Mich has started up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

From poison to medicine.

Photo by Nicole Brody
Blak Emjoi's Intro EP is a promising start. Straddling the line between dark pop and driving R&B, it mixes and swirls it's influences into a brief burst of tunes that has me intrigued for more.

Kelsey Warren is Blak Emoji and "Poison To Medicine" is the standout on his debut; a slow build that somehow transforms dread and tension into joyful release anchored by a darkness at its core that keeps the affair from feeling frothy or cliché.

I don't know—there's a dark theme at the core of this tune that should, by all right, fuel despondence, but instead I hear something hopeful sparking within its darkness. Maybe you'll hear it too.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Wanna be your vampire teenage boyfriend.

I mean obvs The Lost Boys had a huge effect on me as a kid, coming out while I was in high school and mixing vampires with ‘80s cool. I can’t even begin to tell you how badly I wanted one of those hanging earrings Kiefer Sutherland and his tribe of hot bloodsuckers sported throughout the film.* So I wasn’t surprised to see a reference to the flick pop up in one of Black Mirror’s more celebrated new episodes "San Junipero" in the form of a massive billboard advertisement (that, since it was at the very beginning, threw me off the way it was supposed to since at that moment we don’t realize we’re in a different decade yet). And that made sense since writer and show runner Charlie Booker is right around my age.

I was surprised when listening to The Courtneys’ new album, The Courtneys II, and found my foot tapping along to this driving song that was very slowly building and building into what would prove to be a satisfying crescendo. I was enjoying the ride and not really focusing on anything but the vibe when suddenly the lyrics locked into focus and triggered a strong filing of deja vu. A glance at the song title, “Lost Boys,” explained why. I’d been enjoying the album as a whole—and you’ll probably want to grab a copy when it comes out on February 17—but for some reason this connection just tickled me. Especially since I'm pretty sure no one in the band was old enough to remember (if they were even alive) when The Lost Boys first came out.** Which I think is kinda cool, for some reason.

The album as a whole is built on winning riffs delivered in a knowing, slightly lo-fi envelope. It really reminds me of what Tuscadero sounded like the period between their super early indie single and their more polished and heavier Major Label stuff. This is a perfect bullseye in that style.

And hey, what do you know, they just happen to have a video for “Lost Boys!”

*I am certain this was probably one of the tings that led to me being the first guy in his high school to get his ear pierced. It should be noted that my own piercing was not met with awe spurred by sudden cool cache but instead prompted push-linty of bullying and teasing by teenage dudes who couldn’t fathom why another teenage dude would pierce his ear. Ah, the ‘80s.

**On July 31 of this year it will be the 30th anniversary of the release of The Lost Boys. What?!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

What a lovely surprise.

David Bowie's birthday is today, and despite making his final exit last year it appears we can still expect the unexpected to poke out from behind that final curtain. The No Plan EP, with three songs previously only available on the Lazarus soundtrack, just magically appeared.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Four years ago...

You know, it still sometimes feels like she's still here. Maybe just at doggy daycare to give the cats some peace. Or maybe just sleeping under the bed and I can't find her. Or maybe, just maybe, eating some cheese she's hidden in the couch. I still miss my little beagle.

Anyway, the photo above is a trip in the wayback machine to when Mich and Betty were still getting acquainted. It makes me smile.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Was thumbing through my INAUGURATION 2009 Gmail folder today.

We were so excited and couldn't believe our luck. Mich and I had only been dating a while and decided to take this road trip together. We ran into the Hideout bus full of friends and musicians on the way. We waited quite a while for our tickets but the Congressman's office was pretty and his staff was really nice. We almost thought we weren't going to get into the Inauguration because the lines were backed up so far and the entrances were all clogged, but my years of attending rock shows and festivals came in handy we navigating around people and getting us in. Obama was a tiny little speck in the distance and we definitely couldn't see Marcus but we could definitely see Aretha's hat and it was awesome. And we were all so happy and hopeful and even when it took hours upon hours to get home amidst the crowd choked streets—my fest navigational superpowers were helpless in the face of that much people congestion—and all the public transportation was hours behind and everyone was hungry because no place was open the vibe was still amazing and magical and, yes, filled  with an all caps feeling of HOPE.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Happy humpday!

A video posted by @shellster129 on

Mich and her sister have a long history of making camel jokes on Wednesdays—I can't even remember what initially spurred this—and this Christmas her sister took it to the next level by sending Mich a stuffed camel.

And now Mich has taken it to the next next level.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Ready for the next phase? Hell, yes!

New Day by Christopher.F Photography
I was laid off from my 9-to-5 a month ago, and instead of taking the holidays off (like a sane person would) I actually started my job search right away. I figured nothing would come of it but I may as well get my name out there and hope to land a few interviews after the holidays.

Well, instead I ended up with a flurry of interviews almost right away, and a great job offer before the holidays. The only downside of this is that the week between the offer and starting work I got deathly ill so couldn't even enjoy that sliver of time off where I no longer had to worry about anything!

Anyway, today I start the new 9-to-5 and I am really excited. It's filled with opportunity and the people I've met are smart, funny and very fast-paced; all qualities that spark with me, for sure!

So yeah, I'm stoked. Happy new year indeed!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Every day should be a holiday.

From here on out I decree that both new year's day and the day after new year's day should be holidays!