Thursday, May 31, 2018

Feelin' optimistic?

It's been a rough week, but I made some pretty huge decisions that I think will have an immensely positive impact on my life. I'm under tremendous pressure for a variety of reasons, but I've taken steps to at least try and meet head on the multitude of challenges being simultaneously thrown my way.

It's funny how much the trajectory of my life parallels my dad's. He too went from a very successful executive type to almost starting from the ground up due to a series of unfortunate events. And the first half of 2018 has thrown obstacles in my way that almost makes me envy how easy Job had it in the belly of that whale. But I have faith everything will work out. I'm an extremely determined and focused person, and while I've never had to leap so many hurdles placed so ridiculously close together, that doesn't mean I'm giving up on the race and abandoning the finish line.

My former creative director was talking to me a few weeks ago, and shared that he believed everyone goes through a phase like this, only mine seemed a little more daunting than most. But that after it's all over I'll be so much stronger, and find an inner happiness driven by a sense of accomplishment, that the whole thing will eventually be worth it.

I believe him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I NEED to see this band live!

Too funny. This post was drafted on Sept. 9, 2016 and then I never got around to publishing it! I did notice the first time I actually did write about them was even earlier than this. Too funny. My brain is obviously Swiss cheese at times (though I'm working on changing that since I currently have the free time to do so).

Clearly I have seen Beach Slang live since then. But since yesterday's posts was kinda heavy I figured I'd go back through my draft post for something that never made it in prime time, and...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The wedding ring.

I haven’t heard her voice in months, and while that has probably helped it’s also weird to have a decade of your life wiped away like that. We ran into each other recently at a book release party but didn't talk.

So ... I still wear my wedding ring, it’s just on my right hand now. Hey, it’s a nice ring! Seriously, I think I mostly wear it to remind myself of both the good times and to keep in mind the mistakes that were made so I don’t make them again. I hope the ring I gave her might serve a similar function, but for all I know she's already sold it. Which would obviously be her right.

Marriage was hard for me. I kept pulling away and to this day I still am not completely sure why. But that’s what therapy is for, right? And friends willing to tell you hard truths about things you hadn’t noticed about yourself that were apparently obvious to everyone else on the planet. I’ve also managed to keep up with posting positive and not divisive stuff. From what I can tell I definitely lost most of the mutual friends in the divorce, so that just wasn’t being helpful.

My friend last week told me she thought that the fact I still wore the ring was a sign of not letting go. And I thought about it. And thought. And thought. And realized she was wrong. I let go a while ago. And so did Mich. And from what I hear—mutual friends seem to insist on keeping me up to date even though I have zero contact with her—she's doing great. Which makes me happy. She deserves more than what I could give her at the time. I’m also told she’s writing again, which makes me even happier, because she has an excellent voice, and she's witty and insightful, and the idea of her not writing means the world would be missing out on something special.

Today is our third and last wedding anniversary. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear another wedding ring on my left hand again, but to me the current ring on my right hand is both a symbol of the past and a way to focus on the future.

Monday, May 28, 2018

This song always makes me cry.

It's just so good, and if you've ever seen it live you'd understand why I cry.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

16 years.

I started this little blog 16 years ago.

It's gotten me jobs. It's gotten me in trouble. It's gotten me girlfriends. It's gotten me friends. It's made me enemies. It's helped out tons of bands. It probably helped me find my wife. It probably helped me lose my wife. It's been a daily outlet for me. It's driven me crazy. It's helped me keep sane. It's hosted countless photos of kittens and beagles. It's the first place I went to write when my dad died. It's where I've definitely shared TMI.

Here was the original description of the site I wrote in 2002:
Rantings, ravings, short stories and lists of stuff that everyone should own, read or, yeah.
It really hasn't changed much since then, huh?

If you were here at the beginning. Wow. You are really old! But no matter when you stumbled across this site, I'm glad you've been around.

Today I have more readers than ever before. 16 years on that seems really weird to me, but I don't take a single one of you for granted. And not to sound weird, but even if I had zero readers I'd keep writing. But I'm happy you're here. And I hope 16 years from now you still will be.

Because I'm not going anywhere.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Taking a break.

I decided I'd give myself a week to just chill out and figure stuff out. I guess tomorrow is the end of that. And kind of an anniversary, so the timing seems right.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Deadpool 2.

Still don't feel like writing, but if you want meta meta po-mo meta, you will enjoy Deadpool 2.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Big life changes. Even more than usual. More later.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Here comes the summer.

How does Cheap Trick keep being so good while other bands their age sound so flabby and uninspired?!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I'm gonna need a minute here.

Stay tuned. I'm not going anywhere, but the original post I was going to write today no longer makes any sense.

If you're in Chicago, it's beautiful outside. If you can get out and enjoy the day, you really should.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Soft Science returns with gauzy guitars that pack a wallop.

I thought these folks sounded familiar! I reviewed Soft Science’s Detour back in 2014, and dang if much of what I said then doesn’t still hold true. Woozy, smeary, heavy guitars are stabbed through by Katie Haley’s ethereal, dreamy vocals and it’s 1993 all over again on their forthcoming new full-length Maps. (Or maybe 1990?)

Soft Science doesn't shy from breaking out the ol' shoe gaze elements; there’s a pretty big MBV influence on the opening track “Undone” as one blasting, wavering guitar line hangs over the whole proceeding like Damocles’ Sword. Only things break into more pure pop territory on the next song “Breaking.” Though even here the ears trick you, because what sounds like a bright brass section is probably treated synths or a heavily tweaked guitar; I can’t tell which. But you’ll have to wait until the album is out on June 1 to hear that track.

But what I'm saying is they like the guitars loud but they ain't a one-trick pony. Give into the melodies buried in the blankets of noise.

Until the album comes out, check out “Undone” and the band’s earlier single “Sooner” below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Allow me to clear my throat.

I'm going in for an upper endoscopy tomorrow; basically having a little camera shoved down my throat to check everything out in there. Given my history of smoking and such, and my dad having died from esophageal cancer, these things always make me a little nervous. But hopefully everything is O.K.! The only downside is that they need to knock me out—well, sedate me, I'll probably conscious and just not remember it—so I'm going to be largely useless for most of the day.

On the plus side, hopefully everything will come back hunky dory and I'll have some peace of mind.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Different timelines and alternate realities.

I was watching the latest episode of Legion, the one where they posit that every decision you make creates a different timeline in an alternate universe, and it got me to thinking. If I’d stuck with the original plan we made when we started house hunting, what would that reality look like?

I would’ve stopped going out as much and concentrated on projects around the house instead. Around Halloween would be the time time we told our families (but no one else, not yet) that we were expecting. Our first Thanksgiving and/or Christmas in the new house would’ve been celebrated with visits from one or both of our families. New Year’s Eve at The Corner Bar would be the last time we celebrated that holiday outside of the house for a number of years. I would’ve stopped going out completely after that, unless it was a date night or a show we both really wanted to see. The basement flood wouldn’t have been a disaster, but a challenge we tackled as a team. All our credit cards would be paid off and we'd have a really healthy nest egg. I’d be at my goal weight even as she got bigger and bigger. I would've stopped smoking. And right now I’d be a dad and sleep deprived and probably cranky, and we'd both be getting on each other's nerves because she'd be getting even less sleep, but our house would be a true home.

But would I be happy? Is that the life I wanted? Even as difficult a time this is for me, would that be the path I was meant for?

I’ll never know. All I can know is that the life I’m living now is the one I’m stuck with, so I have to make the best of it because this is the timeline I’m in.

But that episode of Legion? It really did make me think…

Friday, May 11, 2018

A sunny song for a sunny day from Billy & Dolly.

Trust me, their music is cheerier than this picture would suggest. Photo by Andres Ramirez.
I almost didn't listen to this album.

I hopped around a few tracks when it showed up Wednesday and it didn't really hit me. But then yesterday it was still on my computer so I decided to give it a spin, and that was yet another moment that reminded me that I should give every band a chance. Because Five Suns is fabulous.

Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez form the core of Billy & Dolly, he on guitar and she on Wurlitzer / Moog / various other keyboards, and I imagine as a duo they could sound pretty lovely. But they added drummer Elliott Kiger and bassist Charley Hine, turn up the amps without losing the lovely vocal melodies, and the result is something that feels fresh yet familiar. There's definitely an Elephant 6 vibe going on here, at times equal parts '60s sunshine and 70s stomp. Oh wait, they're from San Francisco. That makes total sense.

Listen to "Everything Is Off below for a taste of the sunshine, then stick around for the other preview track "Bobby" for a bit of the stomp. Then pre-order the album or come on back when it gets released on June 8.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My current Swedish addiction? Tove Styrke.

Photo by Emma Svensson
Tove Styrke's album number three, Sway, plays with odd syncopations under thunking beats and lyrical delivery that slides atop like so much sweet syrup. It's a lean 27 minutes long, which means Styrke never gives you a chance to tire of her. As if you could with such a tightly commanding collection of tracks.

Lyrically it ain't the deepest stuff—primarily love songs of one sort or another—but there's a sophistication in her delivery that elevates the subject matter into something that resembles an emotionally sonic experiment.

For a 25-year-old who released her first album when she was 18 it's pretty impressive stuff.

On the production end, I admit that before I read the album credits I suspected this was another Jack Antanoff project but it's actually Elof Loelv, who has done a couple more recent things with folks like Icona Pop, Katy Perry and Mikky Ecko.

Anyway it's Thursday, and to some tonight is the early start to the weekend, so laying a couple Tove Styrke songs seems like the right thing to do. The album came out last Friday so if you enjoy the tunes below head on out to stream or buy it.

(For the record my favorite tracks are "I Lied" and "On A Level" but there aren't any easy embeds to share those.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Check out this blast of chunky, fuzzy, guitar pop from Dott, and get ready for more to come.

Irish indie poppers Dott have waited 5 years between full-length albums, and Heart Swell is a triumphant return. Much like other recent music caught in in my ears recently, it’s a crunchy, bouncing hard charge into early ‘90s guitar pop.

I went back to listen their debut, I admittedly was unfamiliar with the band's earlier work, and it’s got more of a jangling, garage vibe. It’s still really good, but having heard Heart Swell first, I can definitely hear the progression in their sound. They are more confident, their textures are more sophisticated, and their overall approach is just more self-assured without losing hooks or the rough edges that make them stand apart.

The first single “Like A Girl” is getting some attention since Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz adds in some guest guitar licks, and while I’m happy her presence is raising Dott’s profile ahead of the album’s release on June 8, it blends right in with every other song. So if you like it, you’ll like the whole album. It’s also one of the more political songs on the album, and according to a statement from the band, “the video highlights the faces of several women who have been working to get the vote for reproductive rights reform in Ireland.”

I can’t find any pre-order info on the album, so feel free to stalk the band’s Facebook page, or the Graveface Records shop looking for that news to arrive!

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

How much new music did I listen to in March and April 2018? Let's find out!

Man, I really missed it on this one and totally forgot to post a list last month, so this one doubles up! As you can see by the numbers below the vast majority of whatI listened to was kinda meh, but the stuff that stood out really stood out.

As always, the revamped rating system is here.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in March and April 2018: 51

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 2

Number of those releases that rated 5-6: 12

Number of those releases that rated 3-4: 35

Number of those releases that rated 1-2: 2

Highest rated album: Kinda cheating, but it was the Liz Phair's Girly-Sound To Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Box Set. The original album is still perfect and the cleaned up demos are terrific.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Marmalakes’ Please Don’t Stop is just delightful indie pop I can’t stop listening to.

Most surprising discovery: Just how much Soccer Mommy’s Clean is a delightful listen. And shares a lot of DNA with Liz Phair, which makes sense since she’s opening for Phair's shows.

Monday, May 07, 2018

The unexpected pleasures of a pretty great weekend.

So my friend had a release party for her book yesterday (a book you should totally buy) that I went to. She’s had other events leading up to the release but I avoided going to those since I figured my ex might be there. But I couldn’t miss the actual party! And of course my ex was there, which was totally fine, though it was weird since I haven’t even seen her in person since early January. But I did the right thing, and left her alone, aside from briefly talking to a mutual friend she happened to be standing next to. I reckon when she’s ready to engage with me again, if she’s ever ready to, she’ll let me know.

It helped that a close friend of mine went to the party with me, and she’s known me a very long time, and my whole story, so it was nice to have that support. I’ve spent too many months trying to navigate these waters through my own sheer will and am learning that help from friends is not a bad thing, though it’s not the sort of thing I ask for naturally.

The party itself was a huge success! It was wall-to-wall packed and there was quite the line to get my author friend to autograph copies of her book. It’s been fun to see her doing her media tour to support the book. And a ton of previous Chicagoist writers were there too, so it was nice to see so many familiar faces.

Come to think of it, this weekend was pretty great all around. On Friday, I saw The Joffrey Ballet’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with the same friend who went to the release party, and it was mind-blowing. Mich stopped taking me to the ballet a few years ago since I tended to start snoozing by the second act, and would instead bring friends of hers who could really appreciate what was going on. But this ballet was just bonkers, wild, and weird, all in excellent ways. It shared much more with modern dance and a stage play than with a conventional ballet. I’m only sorry I waited until almost the end of its run because now I just want to tell everyone to go see it.

Saturday started of with a friend of mine coming over to give a painting estimate on some work I need done in the house, and that stretched into an all day hang that ended with another friend’s birthday show at Liar’s Club. It was a totally unexpected way to spend Saturday but I had a lot of fun, and again, learned that sometimes just talking to other people in person about the stuff going on in your life helps a whole lot.

So yeah, I'm going to say this weekend was a pretty much full win all around.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Now you can watch the mind-blowing theater production of Roberto Bolaño's '2666' from the comfort of your couch.

From my original review of The Goodman Theatre's production of Roberto Bolaño's 2666:
With a running time of 5 hours and 30 minutes, 2666 is an act of physical endurance—for the audience to watch, and for the 15-actor cast to perform. The actors take on almost 80 roles between them, jumping backward and forward in time through the inventive use of lighting and intricate, multimedia sets.
It was at times grueling to sit through the whole thing, but I'm still glad I was able to experience it in person. My primary regret was that so many people didn't get a chance to see this outrageously audacious adaptation of what appeared to be an un-adaptable book. But adapt it they did!

Well, luckily for everyone, The Goodman filmed the production and just released the entire play online, so now you can take the whole thing in. Heck, it might be easier to watch in chunks (they've divided it up into four videos below).

So get comfortable, and prepare to go on one wild ride.

[h/t Third Coast Review]

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Nectars want it now.

New Jersey's The Nectars are a little glammy, a little trashy, and a little No Doubt-y. The sound on their debut, Sci-Fi Television kind of veers all over the place. It's not a perfect album, but it is a pretty spirited first step for the band. I tend to enjoy the harder rockers over the poppier excursions, but that's merely a matter of personal taste. And that's probably just because I prefer singer Jessica Kenny's vocals more when they are thrashing and scratching on those heavier numbers. "I Want I" is definitely in that camp.

If you like it, Sci-Fi Television is out on May 25, but you can pre-order it now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


It's been pouring and thundering and lightning for hours now, so of course all I can think of is how many times I need to check the basement because I'm so paranoid of flooding. Usually I would love a summer storm like this, even though it's supposedly still spring—though I've seen no evidence spring ever arrived this year.

At least Pickle the Kitten seems to be enjoying the storm.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

On violence.

I've seen a number of aggro posts on the Facebooks and Twitters recently and it reminded me of one main thing.

I hate fighting.

When I was security at bars I got punched in the face a few times. My response? I took the drunk down as quickly and gently as possible, and sat on their chest. I have zero interest in hurting another human being. I've had drinks thrown in my face and I've only responded with words.

I hate fighting.

I'm big, and can be imposing, but physical fighting has always seemed like a terrible idea to me. So I avoid it at all costs. I'm a gifted talker so I always try that first. If a fist flies I will be the first one sitting on your chest asking you to chill out. But I won't hit back. If a 300+ lb guy can clock me and I can keep my cool, I can handle most anything.

In one of my previous lives I was the first to pull security off the wayward drunk. Physical violence is never the answer. I detest it.

Am I an outlier?


I have good days and bad days. Some days are easier than others, and some are harder. I’ve stopped fretting about it because the traumas I’ve gone through over the last 5 months show I’m simply human. That doesn’t mean I’m not actively working on making more good days than bad (yay, therapy!) but it still happens. When I open my trap it often feels like I am trying to put out fires with gasoline. No matter how careful I think I'm being, or how many times I read and re-read something I've written.

Home with a stomach bug today, but today is one of the better days. Feeling optimistic.