Friday, September 29, 2017

I decided not to wear a t-shirt of a band I love today because, Trump.

True story. I had this t-shirt on this morning because I freaking love White Reaper, and it's Friday, and I rarely wear t-shirts to the office anymore, so I was excited.

Then, just before I left the house, I thought about the fact it had a flag on it, and "white" was prominent on it, and someone who didn't know they are a kick-ass band might think I was supporting something completely different.*

So I took it off.

Fuck you, Trump. Fuck you for making it so I'm afraid to wear a fucking t-shirt for fear it will be misinterpreted because you have stoked the fires of hatred to run so hot right now.

*The name of their latest album is The World's Best American band, hence the stars and stripes. And they are rocking as can be, hence the faux metal lettering. It's all very tongue in cheek. But, you know, times have changed a lot since I bought it all the way back last May. Which, let's be honest, May feels like it was about twenty years ago by this point.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sick passenger on the train.

In Chicago, when you hear the announcement, or see a message on one of the boards, that trains are delayed due to "a sick passenger" we all know it doesn't mean someone has a severe cold.

We were at the doors of the train, waiting for them to open, when I noticed through a window a guy was sitting on the floor of the car. So I warned Mich to stand back when the doors opened since we'd have to step over him, only to have him leap up and start screaming as soon as the doors did open. We lurched back and away. He was shirtless and sweaty and obviously had taken way too much of something he couldn't handle.

We went to the next car and a girl was standing in the door, refusing to let it close, trying to get the conductor's attention. No one seemed to know what to do, so I slammed the call button inside that car. A few minutes later a CTA employee came down, surveyed the situation, made a call, and stood as far away from the shirtless, sweaty, screaming man as he could.

Very slowly, people exited the car the guy was on, as his screaming continued he was also throwing himself and into walls. I was shocked a how long it took people to actually get away from the guy. I guess we city dwellers are just, like, "whatever."

I mean, what can you do?

He was obviously out of his mind on whatever he was on. But perhaps what shocked me even more were the following two things:

  • People had their cellphones out snapping photos and shooting video of a man in distress.*
  • It took waaaaay too long for help to arrive. 

But help did arrive and a couple firemen managed to get the guy off the train and onto a bench and we all filed back into the cars and made our way home.

I've seen a lot of fucked up stuff on the CTA over the years, but this was definitely the oddest experience.

*You'll note in the photo that accompanies this post I took pains to not get the guy in my shot. I thought it was important to capture the moment the firemen gathered around him and showed genuine concern for his wellbeing. But I could see no reason to capture another human who was clearly in pain in the shot. He deserved his privacy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

You might wanna grab this Josie and the Pussycats vinyl while you still can...

One of my favorite movie soundtracks, and let's face it, great power pop albums, of all time was just released on vinyl! You can get it here.

My only regret is that I didn't have enough money to actually fly to L.A. for the album release party that included a performance of the LP's songs by "voice of Josie" and still electric live performer, Kay Hanley.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Better a bit about Bad Bad Hats super late than never, eh?

Bad Bad Hats
Did I really never write about Bad Bad Hats? That seems really odd, since I remember enjoying 2015's Psychic Reader quite a bit. I have no idea how it got lost in the shuffle.

I haven't heard much from the Minneapolis trio* since this album came out, but it looks like they are currently touring, so that's great news! I feel they may have gotten lost in the mix due to being one of the earlier bands starting to rock out in the vein of the current mixture of '90s indie with more polished pop hooks that is currently all the rage. And every time "Fight Song" or "Cruella" comes on my tankPHONE I'm always confounded by the fact neither one right hit it bigger.

Well, you can stream Psychic Reader below and see if you agree with me. If you do, their label is still allowing you to download the MP3 version of the album for free (WAV, CD or vinyl's gonna cost you though).

*Though judging by this photo they have kept plenty busy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Walter Sipple.

Oliver Sipple
This week’s Radio Lab about the story around Walter Sipple is a must-listen. Sipple is the man who foiled an assassination attempt on Gerald Ford in 1975, and subsequently had his life ruined because the reporters covering the story happened to also out him as a gay man, even though it had zero to do with what he did.*

The whole piece grapples with what journalists should and should not reveal in a story, and as a writer who sometimes covers news, this is an issue I personally wrestle with. At the core, I’m a music writer, (even and arts and culture writer!) so much of my writing is driven by historical context and opinion. So I’ve always felt uncomfortable when a fellow writer includes information in a piece that isn’t really relevant, but will add color. And I can’t say that’s completely wrong, but my personal instincts do not flow that way. It’s a really tough line to balance on.

Anyway, I found this long and thorough discussion around the topic to be really great.

*I feel it should be made clear that he was out about his sexuality as far as the scene and city he was living in, but he wasn't out to his family, who lived 3/4 of a country away from him. And please remember that being gay in 1975 was far different than it is today. This context is clear in the recorded piece, but I feel I should mention it just in case someone younger has some sort of gut reaction along the lines of "Well, he should have been out in the first place." I think even Dan Savage would agree that this way of doing it was pretty out of line.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It’s been a week. Wait, it’s not Friday yet?!

In that case, I’m just gonna dive into this song and not come back up for a bit, if that’s OK with you.

Mainly because every time I hear it I'm back at Lollapalooza watching Brandon Flowers strut around the stage like a latter-day* Elvis and, I don't know, that makes me happy.

*I just realized that could be taken as a pun. It is not.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Long hair, don't care?

It's actually even longer now, but I really love this photo.
I think my hair officially identifies as "long" again. In fact I don't think it's been this long since, say, the late '90s. And when you hit a certain age, and you realize your hair can actually be long again, without obviously thinning or being overly embarrassing, there's a part of you that is definitely loathe to get in its way. At the same time you are plagued by the question, "Do I look like an idiot?"

I know I'm unrecognizable to anyone that hasn't seen me in a long time. It's weird.

My boss told me the other day I'm about three months away from going full Robert Plant. Can I last that long? Winter is coming, and I survived summer without giving in and chopping this mass off my head, so we'll see. No matter what happens, at least I got to be a "long hair" one last time. And this time around, I just let it do what it wanted to do. Every time I had long hair in the past I kept trying to tame it, and force it to be straighter or more coiffed or, just, not look what I thought to be insane. This time around I'm letting the volume go, the curls grow, and I've just stopped worrying about it.

Sorry, this is totally self-indulgent, but I just wanted to get it out there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I was exhausted but am glad I went out last night anyway or I would have never been introduced to the amazing music of Deep State.

Deep State.
Last night I went to go see a friend’s band, but of course I misjudged the time and completely missed their set. I satire around anyway, to catch Deep State, a band I didn't recall hearing of. They were touring and the Monday after Riot Fest doesn’t exactly attract the largest crowds. So I paid my cover and stuck around with the small handful of other music die-hands at The Burlington that evening so they would at least have a few people to play to. (Playing to an empty room can be a real soul-sucker.)

And was promptly blown away. I bought everything the band was selling by the close of their show. How had I not hear of these guys?! They're style of music went big, mixing classic with indie rock and/or roll with a rusty swagger. I dug through my email and sure enough, a publicist had reached out to me about the band, but since it didn’t include a download of their music I filed it away, figuring maybe I’d look into them later.

They’re on a pretty wide-ranging tour through the middle of October (they’re even playing the corner of the world I spent my earliest years, Mcallen, TX, not exactly known as a musical mecca) so if you have a chance to see them, you really should.

You can listen to their new album below; it’s good but doesn’t quite capture the band’s live power. If I was you, I would do what I did, and buy everything the have on Bandcamp. I certainly don’t regret it!

Anyway, last night was one of those times that reminded me, yet again, of the importance of just sticking around for every band whether you’ve heard of them or not. You never know when one will become one of your new favorites.

Oh heck, here's their debut LP too. Buy it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Another Riot Fest is in the books!

Peaches prepares for a little crowd walking.
I can't even go into how fun this weekend was, or how many great bands I saw, or just how ridiculously happy I was by the close of Sunday night.

But at least here's a tastes of what Stephen, Arron, Annie, and I saw!

Photos: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry Bring Industrial Catharsis To Riot Fest's Day 1 Scorcher

Photos: Queens Of The Stone Age Make It Wit Chu At Riot Fest Day 2

Photos: Jawbreaker Finally Have Their 'Revenge,' Paramore Dazzle At Riot Fest Day 3

Friday, September 15, 2017

Just in time for the weekend!

Getting amped up for the weekend with a little slice of new CRJ video goodness. Here we go!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Riot Fest is nigh! Are you ready?!

You never know who you'll run into at Riot Fest, photo by Tyler LaRiviere
It's almost time and the countdown clock is on to my favorite Chicago (anywhere in the world?) music festival!

Here are a few suggestions on who you could see, but really, you can't go wrong no matter where you end up in Douglas Park over the weekend, just as long as you end up in Douglas Park.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One down, only 24,749 (give or take) to go!

Well, whaddya know! No sooner do I wonder what it would be like if all those bands from the pre-full digital age but post-label domination phase would start posting their work from that time to Bandcamp  in hopes that it doesn't just disappear than one of my fave late '90s to early aughts Chicago bands Today's My Super Spaceout Day does just that!

Enjoy their sophomore album—I think it's a fine entry point—then check out the rest of their catalog if you like.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get real groooooovy with The Heavy Blinkers.

The Heavy Blinkers, photo courtesy of the band.
I won’t pretend for one second that when The Heavy Blinkers came on my headphones as I was listening to my massive 2017 Albums To Review playlist that I park all music as it comes in so I eventually get around to it and don’t lose it in the shuffle—oh wait, am I over-explaining?

So The Heavy Blinkers. When their album The Night And I Are So Young came on at first I thought I had filed a reissue in the the wrong playlist but lo and behold the album is from the 2004, ergo not some ‘70s time capsule! Why did I think it was such a relic, you ask? Allow the notes I took while listening explain that to you:
Sounds like groovy hippy cult choir music from the '70s. With Beach Boys overtones. Which, I guess given the Manson connection that group had, makes total sense.
I was picturing robes and long flowing hair and all that, so imagine my surprised when I dug out the band’s press kit and saw they looked totally (see above photo) normal! What the eff?

So I don’t know if they’re going for kitsch, or if it’s a long running joke or what, but whatever it is, it’s lovely late summer music.* So, get groovy?

*It should also be noted that the main reason The Night And I Are So Young is only now crossing my radar is because it is finally getting the vinyl treatment from the aptly named Label Obscura records. Also, it appears only one member of the band involved in this album is active in the group currently. But at least the group is currently active, right? That's pretty cool.

UPDATE 9/13/17: I admit when I first read this band’s bio I thought it might be an elaborate joke. How is it possible I wouldn’t have heard of them at all? And some great, undiscovered album of 2004 would only catch my attention now? But of course, The Heavy Blinkers are the real deal, and this was kind of the album that broke the original band, from what I can tell. Now they’re basically a rotating cast of musicians centered around one guy, and they still make music, and they are still pretty safely ensconced well north of the border and don’t seem to really tour (from what I can initially divine).

If you remember back to the heady days of 2004, that was just as the blogging nation was gaining real steam by heralding indie acts that would usually get niche exposure and turn them into acts that would become mainstream superstars. But the froth was just starting so bands from before that era that were amazing have often been lost to time, since they also had a minimal digital footprint. Heck, I can think of dozens of Chicago bands that would have thrived if they were to debut now, but were never able to quite capitalize on the emerging critical internet buzz machine that was just getting really revved up at the time.

 Which then made me wonder: wouldn’t it be great of all those undiscovered bands of that era were to put up all their stuff on band camp so at least the world now could have the option to hear them? Heck, even I don’t have hi-fi files of some of the acts I absolutely loved in the first half of the aughts. Nowadays it would seem to at ;east mean something to release the music, even for free, to help keep true diamonds from getting ground up in the digital dustbin.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Makes you think.

I wrote the following this morning, and it's been poking at my brain through the day so I thought maybe it was worth sharing here as well.

‪It's amazing how many things about us that might help or fascinate others never surface because our personal histories seem so ancient and unremarkable to us.‬

That's it.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The new album from The National finally won me over.

The National, photo by me.
I won't go into it here, so read my review. Suffice to say after years of feeling pretty ambivalent, The National's new album Sleep Well Beast has finally made me a fan of the band.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Check out Brad's video.

I've known Brad Peterson a long time, and have always really enjoyed his music. He's sort of been off the scene for a couple of years, but he's finally returning with The Ellipsis Album, later this month. As one would expect, it's quite lovely, and I'm sure I'll write more about it closer to its release date, but here's a taste of what can you expect in the form of the first video, "Unbroken."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ooky spooky!

Photo via the Lore Facebook page
It's never too early for Halloween prep!

So, I just recently stumbled across the Lore podcast to help get in the mood. All the episodes are pretty short, and they're filled with scary stories and unsettling tales, so dig in!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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

August is usually a month of slow news everywhere but in the music community. Some of the bigger releases began rolling out over the month, and it’s a couple weeks that are also full of music festivals. Yet, I still managed to listen to a fair amount of new music, even if much of it was firmly in the “I respect this but am not personally blown away by this” range. So, here’s a snapshot into my month.

As always, here’s a guide to my rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in August 2017: 47

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 2

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 34

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 11

Highest rated album: It’s a tie! Partner’s In Search Of Lost Time and LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream scored highest! Which isn’t a surprise given my thoughts on the Canadian duo and the dance-rock combo outta NYC.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Secret Drum Band’s Dynamics is an album of all drums, all the time—it has a kinda tribal feel with some jazz flourishes. Mostly importantly, it just grooves, though.

Most surprising discovery: That The Cribs managed to secretly record their latest album 24-7 Rockstar Shit in Chicago with Steve Albini and actually managed to keep it a secret until the LP’s unexpected release!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Chance the Rapper is everywhere, and I am not complaining.

The Cool Kids with Chance the Rapper, photo by Tyler LaRiviere for Chicagoist
Chance the Rapper came out on stage with The Cool Kids yesterday and it was pretty great. I was at the set because I really used to dig The Cool Kids and was eager to hear what their new material sounded like. (Spoiler alert: It's excellent and I can't wait for the new album to come out later this month.)

Chance was just icing on an already delicious and filling cake. Honestly, Chicagoans are pretty spoiled by the amount of Chance we get to see. Personally, I love it.

See more photos of Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed, Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll, and Chancellor Bennett—along with some of my general thoughts on the fest and photos of may of the other bands performing over the weekend—on Chicagoist.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The new LCD Soundsystem is very, very good. And I will tell you why.

Of course James Murphy looks tired, LCD Soundystem is a lot of work! Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
Like 98% of the music loving population I took news of LCD Soundsystem's "reunion" with a bit of skepticism. Was I happy one of my favorite bands would be creating new music again? Of course! Did it seem weird they were getting back together so soon after a long public goodbye? Sure it did! Was I worried my fandom would be tested when they debuted "call the police" and "american dream" on Saturday Night Live? I'd be lying if I said I didn't!

In the end, all my doubts and fears were laid to rest. Read my review of LCD Soundsystem's American Dream.

Also! Here is a bonus! The band released a 13 minute instrumental track that isn't on the album, and you can download it for free (for now)!