Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A master class in cut-out animation from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam's cut-out animation for Monty Python were often highlights of quirky, absurdist humor, marked by his distinct visual style and the simple yet elegant style of filming different layers of paper in stop-motion. In the vintage video above, he explains how he creates the cut-outs and give a step-by-step demonstration on how to shoot the animated final product. Fascinating!

Also, that is some amazing hair he's sporting. The dude actually looks good with bangs!

[h/t Boing Boing]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gaz Coombs has "Deep Pockets."

News that Supergrass' Gaz Coombes is releasing a new album is always well received by me. I love Supergrass—and they are one of the few bands I like that I never got a chance to see during their run—and Coombes solo stuff sounds pretty much the same.

The first single is "Deep Pockets" and it's a tight little night drive mixing a driving beat with with shifting waves of guitar wash and synths. Play it on repeat.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Lone wolf.

I'm literally crying right now.

Why, you ask?

Because I can't even handle how many people have reached out to me. I've run solo for a very long time, and I'm overwhelmed by how many friends have picked up on the fact everything is not O.K., and have reached out to me. For a guy who thought he was going it alone it's become obvious I am not alone.

Also, apparently have feelings. Who knew?!

Seriously through, it's been amazing to realize how many people actually care about me. It certainly makes me feel less alone.

In fact, it makes me realize I'm not alone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Getting out of my own way.

There was a recent personal relationship where I kept mentally fighting with another dude for getting in the way of my happiness. Everything that went wrong was his fault, in my mind.

It wasn't until recently that I realized this dude wasn't a bad dude. He is actually probably a pretty good guy! The only person getting in the way of my happiness was me. My own petty and selfish actions were causing all the turbulence, not him.

The last three months have been amazingly difficult for me, personally. But I take moments of realization like this as a sign that I'm progressing and that things will get better. As long as I can get out of my own way.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On remaining positive.

So, I'm only a couple days into this whole trying to stay positive in my social media posts thing, and I can already tell you it really triggers a shift in thinking. When you come across a negative thought or article there is definitely an immediate impulse to share. I'm guessing it's some form of seeking validation, wanting people to align with your discontent and affirm its existence. But when you don't have that immediate release valve it forces you to actually work through the thing that's bothering you.

Which got me to thinking: are we sharing or just unloading on social media? Things have certainly changed over the last decade plus. When I helped create the first brand ambassadors for AXE and Slim Jim it was such a simpler time, and the idea of content sharing, even personal content, was primarily positive. But I fear we've entered an era, now that everyone is online all the time, that we tend to share more things that upset us than not. I mean, c'mon, we all know that to some degree. But it wasn't until I started to self-police what I myself was sharing that I realized how guilty of the negative approach I am!

So while I began this experiment as an attempt to do my little bit to detoxify other people's news feeds, it's had the unexpected effect of making me address these things in real time instead of taking the easy way out and forcing them out into the ether in an attempt to not actually acknowledge the negative elements in my life beyond their initial flashpoint.

I'm gonna keep it up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

'Breaking Bad' in one minute and seventeen seconds.

I remember watching the first episode of Breaking Bad the night it aired and was instantly hooked. It then developed into a show that I shared with my companion at the time on a religious basis, never missing an airing. On-Demand wasn't really a thing when it started, and I didn't own a DVR, so it was perhaps the last time I felt an urgency to actually respect "appointment TV."

The above video was created by AMC Spain to celebrate the series' 10th anniversary. I think it's a) pretty accurate and b) an absolute hoot.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hockey Dad amps up their sound and everything in the world is cool again.

Hockey Dad’s new album Blend Inn reminds me of the kind of music Q magazine would write about in the late’s 90s or early aughts. The thing about Q was, sometimes their descriptions were misleading and you ended up with a band they were buzzing about who simply fell flat. But every once in a while you’d come back from the Tower or Virgin Records import section with a real gem.

Blend Inn falls under the “real gem” category.

The duo is from Australia but their music take a real fuzz-pedal approach to Britpop, with slightly sneered verses  driving into grand chorus after grand chorus. This is another one of those albums I put off listening to because I was worried I’d get sucked into it over and over and—yup, that happened.

Man. This music makes me hungry for summer, when I can sit on my back porch with some friend and just call to some super sharp rock and/or roll.

The album is out on February 9, but they just released the second single, “I Wanna Be Everybody,” to help get you stoked for that date.

Heck, while we’re at it, here’s the first single's video too. It gives you a little idea of how the band manages to display a range within a certain approach to their music.

Videos not your thing? You can stream both songs below, and as always, if you dig them you can click through to pre-order the whole album, in about a bajillion different formats.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A new approach.

Can you believe this adorable picture of Pickle the Kitten is from 9 years ago?!
I had a really good weekend. Aside from running some errands and then hanging out with an old friend from high school on Saturday, I mostly just chilled. And thought. And came out the other side of Sunday feeling refreshed, with some new perspective and peace with some things. And at least a better understanding of other things that might be causing me discomfort right now.

I also decided to try an experiment in positivity over the next week in social media. I tend to try and post stuff I think will be helpful, but a look through my feed showed me that there’s more negativity in there than I really want there to be. So I’m going to try and make it a week where I avoid anything from the downer files. It’s rainy and dark outside, and it’s a Monday morning, yet I’m still feeling pretty positive, so I’ll take that as a good sign.

In other good news I just discovered Partner is playing The Empty Bottle on Friday, so I’ll finally have a chance to see them play live! And it’s impossible to be in a dour mood when Partner is playing. Here’s proof. This a a peppy little ditty.

And here's something featuring their harder, chunkier guitar side.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Death warmed over, made better by rock and roll.

Big Sur at The Burlington, photo by me
I was watching Big Sur at The Burlington* last night when I suddenly felt, well, not really good. Fast forward to me taking an Uber home instead of the train, and getting there just in time to begin a night of puking. Lovely!

I suspect it was some pizza I've been nibbling on over the last few days. Whatever it was, it really tore up my stomach. I actually dragged myself in for work since I have a presentation later in the day, but man did I just want to stay curled up in bed.

This is news you need to know, obviously.

Anyway, it's a bummer I missed the end of the set because Big Sur was really good! A really energetic younger trio that name drops Big Star but really has a lot more in common with The Replacements. I had no idea who they were, but I was talking to a friend yesterday who was lamenting she'd have to miss the show, and I guess that spurred me to get out of the house.

They've got a lot of stuff on their Bandcamp page, but you can find their most recent release below. It's certainly helping me take my mind off my stomach!

*Incidentally, going to The Burlington solo makes me feel really old. Especially when no one I know is working. It's weird to think I've been going there since the day it opened, and DJed there for so long, and now just feel so out of place there unless I'm with friends.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Flexing that "American Muscle."

Calamity the Kid's debut  Late Bloomer EP is out next month, and the LA trio released the first single from it, "American Muscle." It's a stomping look at the darker side of America today, grafted onto a a walloping central hook. That means you might not recognize its darkness at the outset, since the song is so eminently hummable.

Sadly my favorite track off the new album, the sweetly catchy if somewhat acidic "Fuckboys," but the song below at least give you an idea where the band is coming from.

There's a video for the tune here, but it felt a little too on the nose so I recommend listening to "American Muscle" before taking in the bands oracular interpretation of the song.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The future is uncertain, but that's OK.

I took down a bunch of photos from the walls this weekend and replaced them with concert shots and tour posters. I meant to do it weeks ago but just never got around to it. It definitely helped reframe the feel of my house.

As any even casual reader would know, it’s been a rough couple of months. But I’m beginning to come to peace with the turbulence. I still make dumb moves, and get sucked into internal wormholes of doubt from time to time, but mostly I’m doing OK.

I’ve been thinking I want another dog, but then I visit friends with dogs and remember just how dependent they are, and how much they can restrict your movement. Which, believe me, is a deal totally worth making! But right now isn’t the right time, so instead I occasionally I force Pickle the Kitten to cuddle with me. And she does, even if it’s just for 5 minutes before she gets annoyed and decides it’s time to move on.

I still keep the house neat, hearing that ghost voice alerting me to clean up anything that starts resembling a collective pile of stuff, and I think that’s probably good. Tidiness is good. Routine is good.

Sorry, am I getting all emo on you?

Here's a good pick-me-up tune from my pals in Textbook. The first time I heard it I was like, this is what Uncle Tuelpo's first album might have sounded like had they gone on the poppier side of punk, instead of the more SST vein. Enjoy it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Outta town.

Got out of town over the weekend to visit an old friend from college and spent pretty much the whole weekend watching Hulu and Netflix in their house. Sometimes distance and doing nothing is just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Over-the-top Paradise.

The core of Paradise is married couple Tamar Berk and Steve Denekas. They live in Portland, but back in the early aughts I used to book Tamar’s band Starball. I didn’t even know she had a new band untilI stumbled across a Facebook post of hers last year about the impending release of Dawn of Paradise. I ordered the vinyl, honestly having no idea what they even sounded like, since I trusted Tamar’s songwriting instinct. Plus, who doesn’t want to support friends’ creative endeavors, right?

Dawn of Paradise may only contain nine songs, but it clocks in at almost an hour, and is fully steeped in the spirit of ‘70s prog with a glint of glam swagger thrown in. The arrangements can be byzantine, but the much never sounds stale.

Ostensibly the album is “a loving homage to the classic rock opera.” Much like Telethon’s album I posted here a while ago, I can’t really parse what the story is, but I don’t really care. It’s just a damn fie listen in a vein you  don’t really see mined all that often. Probably because when you tackle prog there is a very good chance you’ll end up looking either self serious or silly or both. Luckily Paradise is up to the task and takes things just seriously enough, but not too seriously.

So, put on your capes, and grow put your hair, because it’s time to take in the Dawn Of Paradise!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Unlikely Friends may just become your best friends.

You gotta love the old school stylee promo photo.
D. Crane of BOAT and Charles Bert of Math & Physics Club (MAPC) make up the core of Seattle's Unlikely Friends. As a side project Unlikely Friends is a hell of an offering, and has leaped to the front of the pack as far as my favorite records being released in January is concerned.

Crooked Numbers, their new album out January 12, is a collection of of scrappy, fuzzed out indie power-pop that doesn't have a stinker in the bunch. It's been a long and desolate winter, and while their is a yearning to Unlikely Friends' music, it's ultimately the sort of thing that lifts your mood, despite the sometimes downbeat lyrical matter.

If Midwest guitar pop is all about concise hooks and glistening edges, the Pacific Northwest counters that with just as many hooks, but they're delivered in an envelope with slightly worn and ragged edges. And Unlikely Friends has mastered that latter approach. Which means Crooked Numbers is joy to listen to over and over again; and believe me, I have. Every song gets in, makes its mark, and then exits before you have a chance to get tired of it, which means once you get to the end of the 14 tracks every thirty minutes you find yourself doubling back and restarting the whole thing all over again.

Stream two of Crooked Numbers' songs below and then pre-order the album right away. I bet you're going to want to.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Was it just two years ago? It simultaneously feels like yesterday and like forever ago. I woke up to a phone packed with messages sent throughout the night and to a close friend reaching out directly to see if I was OK. And I had no idea what was going on. I was up early to catch a flight to San Miguel De Allende and spend the week with friends in a rental property. I had just written a review of a just-released album I was really proud of so I felt I was leaving town on a high note.

This is my 5,000th post on this site. Wow, I've come a long way since 2002 when I kicked this thing off as an extension of an email newsletter I'd been running since 1995, huh?

I ended up having a wonderful vacation that year, even though I spent most of the evenings crying in bars late into the night and confusing locals with my successful appeals to bartenders to play "Lazarus" over and over again, intermingled with the hits. Thinking about it now I still feel the old orbs expanding and liquid trickles down my cheeks. The locals must have thought I was insane.

At Chicagoist I wrote 2,960 posts, but this is the only place I've posted every weekday, regularly, since 2003. Does that make this site my longest relationship?

It wasn't planned, but it seems fitting my 5,000th post would coincide with the death of the artist that  means the most to me. This has been a space that allowed me to find my voice at any particular moment, allowed me to experiment, allowed me to expose myself, allowed me to cloak myself, and allowed me to turn countless people on to new music and books and movies and whatever weird stuff caught my fancy.

If you've been around since 1995 or 2002 or even just yesterday, thanks for hanging out with me. Thanks for reading and listening. Thanks for being you. Let's see if me and you can make it to 10,000 now. Sound good?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

David Bowie's 50th birthday concert.

Oh wow, I remember listening to this on the radio when it happened. I think XRT broadcast it live? There was a radio in Photogal's kitchen, back when she lived near Grand and Western, and we listened the whole way through. I've had an audio recording of the show for years, but I had no idea there was a video of the event though!

Marvel at the amazing list of folks who come onstage to guest on many of the songs, including Lou Reed, Frank Black, Robert Smith, Sonic Youth, Dave Grohl and Billy Corgan.

[h/t Consequence of Sound]

Monday, January 08, 2018

The sheer brutality of Marriage + Cancer.

Marriage + Cancer, photo from their Facebook page
If Jesus Lizard and In Utero-era Nirvana had a baby it would sound an awful lot like Marriage + Cancer. This quartet from Portland makes a bunch of glorious, crashing, chaotic yet precise, noise on their self-titled debut that comes out near the beginning of next month.

Most bands that attempt this type of sound tend to be unable to bolt the kind of chainlink melodies to the rumbling avalanches of sound that makes the sound unique and not simply derivative. I mean, when I open something with a "RIYL: Jesus Lizard, Nirvana," that's a pretty fucking tall order, right? But Marriage + Cancer earns the comparison.*

I actually got the album last month but kept holding off listening to it because I wasn't sure I was quite ready to strap myself to its brutal and bucking ride, but I finally gave in last week and it's been clanging and banging around my head ever since.

I don't see any tour plans for the band outside a show in their hometown, but the first single is below. If it sucker punches you and leaves your head ringing in painful joy, you can pre-order the album from the band's label.

*I am not they are as beautifully brutal as the bands I'm comparing to, I'm saying that they don't embarrass themselves when I bring up their name in that company.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

5 years.

The one, the only—Betty the Beagle.
This is always a rough day for me. I can't believe it's been five years ago today  since I lost my little girl.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Are you feeling The Cabin Fever? I know I am.

The Cabin Fever, photo by AmeliaLyon
The Cabin Fever are out of LA but their moody tunes feel more like they sprang from some Midwest forest that just happened to have been plopped down in the middle of an Icelandic plain. But there's a sweetness to the band’s melodies that keeps this from feeling at all oppressive, and the raspy, husky vocals of singer S. Moriarty (a pseudonym) feel inviting and warm. The trio, which includes J. Bedolla on guitar and Tripp Beam drums (both also pseudonyms) up the mystery factor by always appearing in masks and not revealing their true identities. This could come across as super lame, but the EP is such a delight I think it’s allowed. According to their bio, they came up in punk and hardcore bands, so the made up identities feel pulled straight from the more experimental corners of that scene.

Of course there’s no way to tell if they’re lying about their background, but who cares? They could be some secret punk supergroup for all I know. But that doesn't change how good the EP is one way or the other.

The trio has a new EP titled Exercise the demon out at the beginning of February, and you can sample the title track below. Of course if you like what you hear you can always pre-order the album (digital or vinyl!) from the group's Bandcamp page.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

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

I had a lot going on in December—between work, the holidays, and all that stuff—so I guess it’s not surprising I listened to so little new music last month.

I’ll include my final tally for the year when I finally get around to writing that elusive “Best Albums of 2017” list, but at least the year ended more strongly, with a couple 6s and 7s, and only two that were under a 4.

It was also, as usual, a month that had a few surprise releases that caused me to chuckle at the poor writers that are forced to publish their year-end lists in November, a practice I think is actually starting to die out. Hopefully.

As always, here’s a guide to my rating system. I’ll probably, be updating it for 2018 music.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in October 2017: 17

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 1

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 14

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 2

Highest rated album: Lemuria’s  Recreational Hate takes that honor. I really hope they tour in the new year!

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Hannah Diamond’s icy pop was unknown to me before her free EP unexpectedly arrived this month.

Most surprising discovery: The fact that I would personally rate Miguel’s War & Leisure above Bully’s Losing truly shocked me. And was something I didn’t even notice until I did the final tally. One nice thing about doing this spreadsheet thing as I go along is that it keeps me honest.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

If this year is going to get better, it's on me to make that happen.

Only three days in and already 2018 is shaping up to be even worse than 2017? Some of it is external, but some of it is just based on poor choices I made. It's the latter part that stings more than anything.

I don't believe in resolutions, but I do believe that I can focus on improving my personal life. I also know the multiple kicks in the pants I've received the last couple days has filled me with a renewed sense of the importance of self-improvement (and self-care) that needs to be undertaken to pull back the control of the possibility of a better 2018.

And you know what? i'm going to do just that.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

It's pretty quiet in the office today.

It's my first day back at work after the holiday break and it's pretty quiet around these parts. I'm sure some folks are still on vacation, but the negative degree weather outside probably has a lot to do with it too. Let's just say my morning commute was pretty bracing!

I also realized I still haven't post my favorite albums of 2017 list. I've been distracted by a cople other more pressing issues, but will get around to it. To hold you over, here are the top 10 songs I listened to most often in 2017, according to my page, which is probably not totally accurate but does seem to be pretty close.
  1. The Harringtons — Carry You
  2. The Harringtons — Made
  3. The Harringtons — Everybody Knows
  4. Taylor Swift — Getaway Car
  5. Carly Rae Jepsen — Cut to the Feeling
  6. The Harringtons — Scootch
  7. The Killers — The Man
  8. White Reaper — Judy French
  9. White Reaper — Little Silver Cross
  10. White Reaper — The World's Best America

Monday, January 01, 2018

Kind of a Facebook repost, but it bears repeating.

I’ve been going though a lot lately I’m not comfortable sharing on social media, which given my 20+ years of digital TMI is kind of ironic. But I have been deeply touched by how much my friends and family have been there for me. For a dude that tends to function as a lone wolf, it’s reassuring to know the people I need will be there for me when I actually decide to reach out to them for support.

I'm really hopeful that for me 2018 is a better personal experience. I can't do anything about world politics, but I am looking forward to making my personal life more positive.