Friday, March 31, 2017

Drive the rainy blues away with some rock and/or roll records.

Can you guess which of these is NOT a band I wrote about?
I've mentioned quite a few of these bands on this site in the past, but since it has been so dreary in Chicago the last few days I worked up a Quick Spins feature today focused on energetic, guitar-driven groups. It included The Bombpops, Snowball II, Kestrels, The Courtneys, and CJ Ramone.

Read about all five bands and stream (or download) their albums here.

Happy Friday! Rock out with your, erm, um ... just rock out!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Am I getting old or is Jamiroquai getting better?

I listened to Jamiroquai's new album Automaton yesterday, and to my surprise I found myself playing it—of my own volition!—again today.

Whilst He-Of-The-Big-Hats has shown a knack for writing catchy singles (and producing eye-popping videos) in the past, for the most part his music hit me more as jazz-funk lite and tended to leave me a bit cold.

Well, it's been 7 years since his last album and I think the time off has done him some good. While Automaton isn't exactly the deepest of artistic efforts, it is heavier and more satisfying than anything I've heard him produce in the past. He's traded in his acid-jazzier tendencies for more of a heavy disco vibe, and the result fits him far better than, well, those huge hats he's so fond of.

The stand-out track is easily the one the album is titled after, and it mixes slightly menacing verses shot through with odd squelches and buzz drills that open up into a glorious chorus dressed up in tight, shimmering, low-slung bell bottoms and liquid hips. I actually find myself hoping he extends his current overseas tour to hit our shores. I actually want to see how these tunes pan out live.

Boogie down, y'all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Welcome to the library, Mr. Jones.

There’s a new entry in the Library Of Congress’ National Recording Registry today, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Is this his first entry? The only thing I can currently find in there is a 1988 audio interview with Bowie, so perhaps it is. If so, what took hem so long?!

A bunch of other worthy artists are also now in the Registry’s archives, and you can get the full list here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gorillaz are coming for you.

Gorillaz photo by Mark Allan via the band's Facebook page.
I remember breathlessly running to the Virgin Records in downtown Chicago the day the Gorillaz debut arrived in the import section of the store. I was a massive Blur fan, and since that band was known to most Americans at the time as the “woo hoo” band, Gorillaz arrived in the states virtually unnoticed—at first. They were a po-mo cartoon band; an Archies for a new era. At least that seemed to be the common consensus—again, at first.

Obviously that all changed.

By the time Plastic Beach dropped just under a decade later, Damon Albarn was arguably more internationally famous for his “cartoon band” than his original outfit. Gorillaz was a superstar outifit. But after an exultant tour that saw he and his assembled cast of world class bandmates taking the music out in front of the projections of the cartoon characters for the first time, it appeared the band might be done.

Gorillaz at UIC Pavillion in 2008, photo by me.
So news of Humanz, the first new Gorillas album since 2011’s tour souvenir The Fall—hotel room recordings Albarn made on the road—has everyone going bonkers. Including me. The multi-media rollout is everywhere.

So it’s making things difficult for me.

You see, I want to experience the new album as a whole. So I’m trying to avoid things like the slew of advance singles, and concert footage and the bajillion other things saturating media outlets all around me. I mean, it’s a masterful media plan and it’s great! But I selfishly want to treat this particular release as one I wait with great anticipation without knowing too much. Kind of like the olden days. And it’s kind of fun. As the buzz grows from everyone reacting to the new material it just makes me even more gloriously impatient to hear the whole thing.

Obviously should I be lucky enough to get an advance sent to me I’ll listen to that right away, but again, I want to experience the whole thing fresh. For me, personally, I think it’ll be just so much more satisfying.

How funny is it that a band set in the future and focused on the current state of affairs would trigger such a nostalgic series of behavior from me? Heh.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Who are The DIFF?! You're gonna wanna know.

Stumbled across a new group through a post by one of the members of Frisbie. And by new, I mean really old and shrouded by the mists of raw and roll time. Apparently, back in the day when they were wee l'il rockers, Frisbie were heavily influenced by The DIFF, a band that, according to their Bandcamp page* “are a Boston-based rock band who had some regional success in 1980.”

The song on that page is a power-pop juggernaut titled “Tanya.” I played the track once, immediately bought it, then spent the weekend trying to figure out more about them. Did they ever release an album? EP? Anything other than this song? Was this song actually released in 1980?!

On one hand it’s refreshing to actually have to chase down info on a band for once. It so reminds me of how it used to be, jeez, oust little over a decade ago. To not have all the info about an artist at your fingertips suddenly feels thrillingly mysterious again!

There is zero about them online that I can find outside this track, and the Frisbie Facebook post.** I reached out to some folks who have blogged about obscure power-pop in the past and no one has ever heard of them. I even tried contacting the band through that Bandcamp page to beg for more material,  but haven’t received a reply. Probably because I’m coming across as a crazy man.

I will get answers though! The reason I’m even hearing about The DIFF is because they are playing International Pop Overthrow in Chicago on April 21 at Red Line Tap! And they’ll be playing on a pretty amazing bill stocked with Frisbie (musical) friends and family including Ravi/Lola, Paul Coady & The Edsel Brothers, The Joypoppers, Gerald Dowd, and Jason Batchko.

Give “Tanya” a spin and just try and tell me my enthusiasm is unfounded.

*OK, despite the claim “there is zero about them online” there is clearly one thing about them online. But this Bandcamp page is it.

**Also note, naming your band "Frisbie" ain't exactly easily searchable online, so maybe Steve and the guys took more pointers from The DIFF than just their music.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stop griping that you see all the same bands at the top of major music festival bills.

Muse at Lolla in 2007, when I clearly needed to work on my "big stage" concert shot game.*
There's actually a good reason for this, and if you are a fan of discovering new music, it actually works in your favor! Here is why.

*I'm being rough on myself. I purposely picked a humbling shot, becasue when I saw it amongst the rest I was like "holy god, how did I think that was good?!"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An instance where Amazon isn't evil, they're just stupid.

When I pre-ordered the Dr. Strange Blu-ray, I noticed that for some reason it wasn’t available on Amazon but it was at Best Buy. I figured maybe, for some weird reason, Best Buy had an exclusive on it or something. So I forked over my cash to Best Buy and didn’t really think about it again.

Until yesterday.

I went to pre-order Rogue One—if you can’t tell from these movie choices I am a nerd about these things—and it was again unavailable to pre-order a physical copy.

So I again checked out Best Buy and lo and behold, you could!

I also checked out a number of other online retailers and Amazon was the only one not offering a pre-order for the Blu-ray. But again, you are more than welcome to pre-order the streaming version of the movie!

Look, I get Amazon has a streaming platform they wanna push, and I use it all the time! But to try and force people to pre-order stuff through it by blocking the ability to do the same with physical relics—something I still prefer to have in my possession when making movie purchases because you never know what the future will bring with any company—they’re just being stupid.

So looks like Best Buy is getting all my pre-order movie dollars from here on out. They’re. Short walk from my office so I can still get the same day “delivery” for free.

UPDATE: My friend Key pointed out the another possible reason for this may be even stupider.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lolla lineup is live.

I took the above photo of Arcade Fire at Lollapalooza almost 7 years ago. Can you believe it?!

Actually the photo is even more impressive if you take into account I was using a pretty basic lens, the stage was a good 15 feet tall and I was in the midst of a photo pit stuffed full of bodies—some of them using step-stools (?!) to get shots.

Anyway, here is the 2017 lineup.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sensitive teeth.

I feel like my mouth is going through electroshock treatment, so if you see me and I start making weird faces, now you know why.

Monday, March 20, 2017

When things don't go a planned.

I was supposed to get two fillings today, but here I sit with only one complete and a mouth drooping to one side with a lip that feels like it’s a lazy balloon. After two attempts to get it right, and mostly just feeling like a needle was stabbing into my ear with no painkilling effects of what was actually being injected in there, the dentist decided to focus on one side and tackle the other side later since things were taking so long.

It was the perfect cap to a perfect last couple of days. But when life gets wobbly and things don’t go as planned you can either fall apart or move forward. So I made a second appointment in a few weeks to take care of that other filling, because it ain’t going away so I’m not going to hide my head and pretend like it is. Will I enjoy going back into see the dentist? Nope, but I'm going to do it because in the long run it's the healthy thing to do and I'll be happier for it down the line after the unpleasantness fades away.

Friday, March 17, 2017

White Reaper get their swagger on and it's glorious.

White Reaper, photo by Jesse De Florio
White Reaper is one of those bands that makes visible progress with each album, slowing down and getting more mature without losing any of the spark that makes them special. Their initial EP sounded like an amphetamine-fueled punk take on Mod, while their debut LP tapped the breaks a little to allow the hooks to stick around a little longer. I loved both of those releases.

On The World’s Best American Band, out April 7, White Reaper tried their best to create an album that lives up to its title. And damn if they don’t deliver with this heavy guitar nod to stompin' and swaggerin' 70s rawk.

The Louisville, Kentucky quartet of Tony Esposito (guitar/vox), Ryan Hater (keyboards), Nick Wilkerson (drums) and Sam Wilkerson (bass) show more ambition on the new album, aiming for stadium rafters where they might’ve been content to hit the back of a garage before. But this isn’t a slickening of the band’s sound. Things are still rowdy and raw, it’s just that the songs have more ambition to make their mark on the annals of classic rock than they might have in the past.

White Reaper may be growing up but man do they still know how to throw an awesome party.

Spin the first single below, pre-order the album here and catch the band on tour right now. They hit Chicago to play Beat Kitchen on May 5.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is the 'Hamilton' hype worth it? You bet.

We did it. We finally saw Hamilton: An American Musical in Chicago. It was the most expensive show I’ve ever bought tickets for. And, while I am really going to have budget my money for a while now because of it, Hamilton was totally worth it

Over the last few years, even as the acclaim has grown and everyone was quoting the show, I’d intentionally avoided listening to the show’s soundtrack, figuring that when I did finally get a chance to see the production I wanted to experience it as a fresh, full theater experience instead of as a concert of songs I’d grown familiar with performed live. With something that has garnered as much buzz as this show has I really wanted to approach it with as few preconceived notions as possible. Somehow I pulled it off!

And I am very gad that I did. Aside from the general historical storyline, everything in the show was a delightful surprise. The first few minutes were challenging, since it does take a moment to absorb the rapid-fire rhythmic vocal delivery coming at you, but once you grasp it, its easy to sink back and just let it wash over and into you.

I think the most purely entertaining parts of the show centered around the appearances of King George, played deliciously and perfectly by Alexander Gemignani. I was in stitches every time, and his vocal control was astounding.*

(As if there is a weak vocal performance in the whole show. Because there isn’t.)

And seeing Wayne Brady as Aaron Burr only reinforced what an amazing all around talented performer that man is.

I mean, heck, every single cast member was pretty amazing. The vocal acrobatics and aggressive physicality of the performances could have distracted me had I been able to focus on just how superhuman some of it was, but the actors made it all feel so natural and real and effortless. You truly do get lost in the play. And yeah, I even teared up; so its emotional component is real as well.

Will I turn into some person that sings along to the soundtrack non-stop? Nope. But that ain't the point, kid.

Have I turned into some person constantly humming Hamilton's refrains under my breath, though?


So, yeah, I buy the hype. The ticket prices are worth it. Hamilton really is a triumph and the sort of thing that comes along once in a generation—so now I get why everyone has been hyperventilating over Hamilton since 2015. The show leaves you legitimately breathless.

*Honestly, I know he didn't originate the role I have a really hard time envisioning anyone else other than Gemignani in this role because he was so perfect. So much so now I want a Hamilton spin-off based on King George

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The return of Humpday camel!

A post shared by Michelle Kopeny (@shellster129) on

I saw Hamilton last night and definitely have thoughts to share, but they will just have to wait to make way for the latest Humpday appearance from Mich's camel!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I know how you feel, Stephen.

I’ve been making it a habit to watch the Colbert and Meyers monologues nightly. It’s cathartic, and I love that two broadcast shows are so willing to speak truth to power and still manage to make me laugh. And last night Colbert had a really great segment that I think that (now) the majority of American can identify with.

The whole monologue is great, but fast-forward to 7:15 for the really stellar stuff.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Who's the cute blonde girl in the middle? Hey, wait a minute!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Guess what I just saw?

I saw the original in the theaters the week it came out because everyone I knew was so excited to see it and it was one of those movies that had a big impact on my life at that moment.

Tonight I got to see the sequel and witness a Q&A afterward with director Danny Boyle and the man who created the whole universe these characters live in, Irvine Welsh.

Look for the review (including bits of the Q&A) in Chicagoist closer to the film's U.S. release date but I can tell you this—it does not disappoint. I was worried, but I needn't have been.

In fact Mich had never seen the original and walked out loving the sequel, so it works as both a standalone for neophytes and a film that acts as a worthy successor to the original for fans.

So, get stoked.

Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh!!!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Bombpops' long-in-the-making debut LP is pure power-punk perfection.

Seriously, The Bombpops are great. Listen to them now!
The Bombpops formed in 2007 but they’re only just now getting around to releasing their debut album, Fear Of Missing Out. And holy shit did they spend that time honing this first album to be absolutely perfect, hard candy-shelled power-punk.

Look, if Josie and the Pussycats had a bad-ass punk rock sister band with a couple tattoos it would sound like this. And anyone who knows how much I love Josie and the Pussycats knows that is a high compliment.*

When I listen to albums I usually take a few notes, and if any songs in particular pop out to me I write them down for possible inclusion on a year end list. It’s way easier to do it as you go along then try and remember every good tune you heard come December. Anyway, with this album I realized I was writing down every track as it played.

Co-frontwomen Jen Razavi and Poli van Dam have voices that were meant to blend with each other, and—Jesus!—those hooks. Total ear candy. It think what I’m trying to convey, unless I’m being too subtle, is that this album is a blast from start to finish. And in these times anything that can deliver such a sustained rock and roll hard sugar high is a valuable commodity.

The band is on tour now and, though it fells like way too long to wait for me, they play Cobra Lounge in Chicago on May 12. Now, listen to the album below and get just as addicted as me.

*And if you click that link and read my original post on donewaiting you should also check out the Idolator post that was written by Maura in reaction to it since it shows I’m not crazy. Not completely crazy, at least.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Modern problems.

The pain of having to dodge podcasts in your feed because they’re already dissecting the prestige TV shows you missed the night before.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Checking in.

Hey there. How are ya? How’s it going?

Oh, with me?

Pretty good. Things seem to be chugging along. I mean, I’m juggling a lot, but when has that not been the case?

And yeah, the whole politics thing, that’s been kinda hard. But Mich and I have instituted a “no 24-hour news channels at night” rule an that seems to be helping. Prior to November 8 I almost never watched FOX News or CNN, but afterward I started watching both, at different hours of the day, to try and get a handle on each channel’s biases and such. More to get an actual feel for what people on one side of the political debate or the other are mostly seeing.

To my surprise CNN is pretty even-handed in it’s news coverage, and if there’s a bias there it’s toward giving both sides of a story to a fault at times. In fact at times it almost feels like they’re going out of their way to normalize our situation because they just can’t believe it either.

FOX News also surprised me with most of their actual news reporting, since it did have a bias but wasn’t afraid to occasionally call Trump or other Republicans out for bullshit. Now, when you get to their shows that comment on the news it’s a whole different story, and it’s a story rooted in some alternate reality that is hugely concerning—especially if its driving the decisions of viewers, one of them being Trump.

But it is what it is, and I felt I had to watch it to at least try to understand it. And I do not understand it. But I had to try. And at least now I can see why a large number of voters went for Trump and the Republican Establishment. If I was them and FOX News was my main news source, I’d be terrified about the stuff supposedly happing in the country and the world as a whole too!

Anyway, thanks for asking.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Movie madness, made even more mad but how good they both were!

We went to see Logan on Friday and Get Out on Saturday. While it’s rare that Mich and I see one movie a week, much less two, I simply can’t remember any time both movies we saw ended up being this good!

Logan gets the character of Wolverine 100% right, finally, which isn’t surprising since it’s predecessor The Wolverine was helmed by the same writer director. And it appears that since this is Hugh hackman’s final appearance as the character they gave them a ton of creative freedom.

Believe me, the movie more than ears its R rating, but none of the violence feels gratuitous. The simple fact is the character of Wolverine has always been a pretty bloody one, even if the studio’s (and even original comics) got squeamish about showing the actual aftereffects of what would happen each time he popped those claws of his.

Oh, and Mich was crying at the end. In fact I think the strongest endorsement for seeing this movie is that it truly works as a stand-alone film that’s just damn good. Don’t like comic book movies? Afraid you’ll need to know Wolverine’s history to make sense of the film? Think it’s just a bunch of dumb action? The answers to those questions are no, nope, and no way.

An Get Out is a pretty perfect movie, period. Ostensibly a horror movie, it’s also a deep and cutting social satire. And it’s a film I think will easily fall into my personal category of “bears repeated watching on a regular basis.” I won’t say much more about it than that. O.K., I’ll say I can see this entering the syllabus for film classes in the coming years. It is that rich and rewarding; and that well technically constructed.

I can’t believe it’s a directorial debut for Jordan Peele—it’s stunning.

Indulge yourself and spend the dough to actually see both of these in the theater. I'm gald we did.

Friday, March 03, 2017

How much new music did I listen to in February 2017? Let's find out!

I wonder what I'm listening to here.
Time for that monthly check-in wherein I share the numbers and a few nuggets related to the new music I listen to.

February saw a bit of a dip, and not just due to the shortened month. Current political events are wearing on me and I find myself turning more and more to reassuring music from my past to help refill the ol’ emotional tank. Don’t worry, I still managed to fit a bunch of new records into my listening schedule.

I explain my ratings here, if you're interested.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in February 2017: 45

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 4

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 31

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 13

Highest rated album: Charly Bliss - Guppy (Surprise!)

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: The Bombpops. Total power-punk ear candy.

Most surprising discovery: That there is such a thing as a boring Sleater-Kinney live album.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

You should be very excited for this Charly Bliss album.

Photo Credit: Beth Eisgrau
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember how I first heard of Charly Bliss and just remembered they opened for Veruca Salt back in the summer of 2015 at Beat Kitchen. I loved their set and was sad that they only had a couple singles on Bandcamp, and even those didn’t quite catch the infectious energy of their set.

Next month they finally release their full-length debut, Guppy. And It’s an album I’ve been turning to frequently as a pick-me-up. Yes, yes, yes it is very indie guitar-pop ‘90s—and I am a sucker for that— but when the songs are this good I don’t think you'll care where the style is sourced from.

Here’s a new video from the band. And here is where you can pre-order the album. Do it now!


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So long Double Door.

I wrote this a few days ago but figured it was worth sharing here too.

I admit I spent a lot of tike thinking this wouldn't happen. But the owners, staff, and even Alderman did all they could do—but nothing could stem the shortsighted lunacy of the building owner Brian Strauss.

I feel like I've lost a limb. It is impossible to overstate just what a huge role Double Door has played in my musical history in Chicago. I hope they get the new spot up and running in Logan Square ASAP, and look forward to a new era in the club's history, but nothing will ever be able to completely replace the magic of the original space.