Tuesday, November 19, 2019

'Cuz I know when you're in my heart you're in my mind.

I woke up this morning ultra early yet still managed to utter around my apartment long enough that I didn't have time to write in this here place before heading to the gym. Luckily I did have enough time to whip up a quick preview of Jonny Polonsky's Chicago show tonight for Third Coast Review

So head on over and read it to discover what makes tonight's show a little bit more special than usual.

I haven't seen Jonny in years, so I'm looking forward to a late afternoon cup of coffee so I can stay awake long enough to head on out and see him play!

Monday, November 18, 2019

The power in letting go.

Rowe, photo by Simon Filip
Rowe (a.k.a. Becky Filip) released her debut single "Tired Love" last week, and it's the kind of slinky and slow groove that finds its home deep within you. I know it's stuck with me and bubbled to the top of my consciousness a number of times over the weekend since I first listened to it.

Filip's song is borne out of the newfound freedom driven by the realization that "being alone was not the same thing as being lonely." That feels powerful to me. But also incredibly vulnerable. And those two things come together the song's bridge when Filip sings "So you can write me letters / And you can write me songs / But it won’t make it better / You can’t keep a heart you broke."

It's such a simple statement, but it's also the kind of truth that takes people just so long to truly embrace and understand. On the surface, "Tired Love" appears to be a lament, but I think that at its core it's a statement of strength through self-acceptance.

I'm curious to hear what Filip has planned next under the Rowe moniker.

Friday, November 15, 2019

You'll believe a cat can fly!

Viktor the cat, photo via Mikhail Galin's Facebook page
In a week (month? year? years? has it always been this bad?!) of garbage news, one story rose up to save us all.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sometimes, first thing in the morning, you can literally only talk about the weather.

Sheez, it is cold in Chicago.

I'm not really complaining, since the freeze is something you just grow used to around these parts. However we usually have a little more time to ease into it, and it really does feel like we've hit the deep freeze range of temps we are usually more acclimated to in February.

For example, most of the radiators in my apartment don't work. Or they do, but only for something like 15 minutes a day, at 5 a.m. And the two or three that stay heated longer than that do so intermittently, ad are in areas of the apartment I don't reguarly occupy (like my library or the room where my drum kit is set up). So it can get unusually cold in my place, but I tend to just wear extra layers and crawl under blankets. But last year "unusually cold in my place" didn't really manifest until, you guessed it, February. This year it started creeping toward that territory in October and is now firmly ensconced in the land of not-comfy chill already in November.

I planned on just dealing with it but my upstairs neighbor just told me that everyone in the building is having heating issues already, so maybe this year they'll get taken care of! My landlord is actually very cool, I'm just the sort of person that always just deals with these things quietly rather than bothering someone else to actually fix them. Lame, I know. But I hate feeling like I'm putting people out! I don't wanna do that.

So there you go. Another fascinating update from the Midwest on, you guessed it, the weather. Hey, I promised I'd return to writing something every day, I just never promised it'd all be genius.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Lou Barlow stars in The Get Up Kids' "Lou Barlow" and we continue to reach new heights of self-referential indie awesomeness in today's media landscape.

Continuing the trend of current bands paying tribute to their '80s indie rock idols, and then recruiting their '80s indie rock idols to participate in some manner in that tribute, The Get Up Kids have released the video for their song "Lou Barlow," and it stars Lou Barlow.

In the accompanying press release, Barlow confirmed in an official statement that “I acted the shit out of that.”

I concur.

Also, worth noting, the album "Lou Barlow" is pulled from, Problems, is an excellent album and you should listen to it and buy it and go see The Get Up Kids live and buy all their merch and all of that, while you're at it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Fantasy Island was a lot scarier during its original run than you probably think it was.

"Welcome to my island—I hope you survive!"
When I was a kid my family would watch The Love Boat, and to my little brain the biggest draw there was the celebrity quests and the fact all there adults seemed to be having a pretty good time on that boat. After that show, Fantasy Island aired, and I remember preferring it over The Love Boat, while also being super scared of it. In retrospect the series was pretty creepy at times, even if all that spooky stuff was often in support of teaching the guests a lesson that would imp[rove their lives. But the tales themselves would unsettle my little brain and cause me sleepless nights.*

I had no clue Blumhouse was launching a film reboot of Fantasy Island until seeing the trailer for it before Doctor Sleep this weekend.** And while I suspect quite a few people who came up on the series through reruns (if at all) may be surprised to see the latest incarnation firmly rooted in the supernatural realm of Blumhouse terrors, it makes total sense to me!

Mr. Roarke never was a mortal human, and while the TV series did accent Roarke's more merciful tendencies and opportunities for mentorship, there was always a real danger lurking below his island's surface. While I don't know if Roarke will ultimately end up being a hero or a villain in the reboot, I have no issues with his presentation as a dangerous entity introducing peril into visitors' lives.

*This is probably why my parents tried to keep me away from horror films at the same time they would allow my youngest brother to take them in. I think he was always more practical about being able to separate fantasy from reality. This may also explain why he's now a very successful lawyer and I'm a creative in advertising.

**Yes, I gave in and decided to see this sequel to The Shining. It was fine, but unless you're a Stephen King superfan I think you can wait for it to hit cable or the streaming service of your choice. Trust me.

Monday, November 11, 2019

You don't have to read this stuff in order to enjoy 'Watchmen' but I think you really should.

I've really been enjoying the Watchmen television series, and think it's done a fabulous job of treating the source material with respect while building exciting new tales from the original DNA. Heh, that sentence could be viewed as darkly humorous given a few of the plot development s in last night's episode. But I digress.

In the original comic book, there was always supplementary material at the back of the book in the form of book excerpts, articles, and the like. For the TV series, the creators originally wanted to do something is similar, and build post-credit sequences that would serve a similar purpose. However they couldn't find a way to make it quite work within the show. So I believe that's what spurred the creation of the Peteypedia files, a collection similar in purpose to the additional material in the comics. It's the sort of thing that can expand your understanding of what's happening in there main story, but isn't essential.

Here is where you make the argument that the show must stand on its own, without additional required reading, and this is certainly true. When 14-year-old me read the original series as it was being released—I worked in a comic book store in the mid-'80s, marking me a super uber nerd*—I admit I often skipped the "boring stuff" at the back of the book. It wasn't until re-reading Watchmen a few years later, probably bored in my college dorm room and avoiding homework, that I pored over the extra stuff and realized just how much color it added to the story!

The Peteypedia files do the exact same thing.

They release "new" files each week, and while they aren't essential to the central story, they do add to it, and it continues to show what a fully considered world Damon Lindelof and his collaborators have created. Everything here means something, and the attention to detail (and ability to not take everything so seriously**) really does make for fuller immersion into a world so foreign and familiar.

In other words, like the original, HBO's Watchmen stands on its own, but why not take advantage of the expanded world both versions offer in order to create an even richer experience?

*Not as much of a nerd as my coworker at the time who pegged who the villain was in Watchmen before anyone else.

**Also, how else would you learn that Ezra Klein is the White House press secretary for Robert Redford? Tell me that isn't pretty funny stuff.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Winter living.

In Chicago we had the season of "fall" last for, oh, a few days before we got buried in snow all day Halloween. Yesterday was downright frigid and right now the temperature is in the teens, with only a smidge of hope that'll it'll move upward much over the course of the day. This weekend we should poke into the 40s (Fahrenheit, for anyone not lodged in that temperature system) and I guarantee I'll see people walking down my block in shorts and hoodies. It's just how Midwesterners roll.

During my job hunt this year, due to the state of the Chicago market at the time, I had finally opened myself up to relocation to Warner climates after years of resisting such a move. Maybe I should have focused more on that!

Aw, who am I kidding? By this point I'm probably a Chicagoan until my death. I mean, I'm way too old to take up surfing or something like that. And I grew up in South Texas so I know what it's like to have 360 days of summer—and 5 of "winter" where people wore heavy coats as the temperature dropped to a freezing 60° F (ha!). So it's not like I've had to suffer in the freezing cold all of my life.

Plus, a move would so confuse Pickle the Kitten. Right now she's got her seasons down, as far as where she hangs out during the day: spring is when she sleeps on the couch, summer is when she sleeps on the footstool or windowsill (wherever the sunbeam is at the time), and winter is when she actually puts forth the effort to make the leap upward and sleep in my bed. I've finally got her fit enough to make that jump, so I don't want to risk it by relocating her somewhere she'll inhabit a windowsill year-round!

So, Chicago it is.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The best Replacements cover band in all of the land.

When I saw Beach Slang play a last-minute show at Liar's Club in late 2016, James Alex busted out "Bastards Of Young" (among a bevy of other covers) and admitted that his outfit could easily be viewed as a Replacememnts cover band. And he had no issue with that. And hey, when you're ripping off such terrific source material with such earnest love, I ain't gonna judge. It doesn't change the fact that Alex writes terrific songs and has a live presence that makes you fall in love with rock and/or roll over and over again.

Beach Slang has a new album coming out next year, and the latest taste of what to expect is ... "Tommy In The '80s." Featuring Tommy Stinson. Sounding like late-'80s Replacememnts complete with a dated synth horn blast. It should be a disaster but it's not.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Rocking out at House On The Rock.

How has no one else (that I've seen, yet) not used that headline for their news pieces on the latest video from The Raconteurs? Seems like a miss to me. The video was filmed at the Wisconsin tourist trap / state treasure / living fever dream that is House On The Rock, a location I finally visited in person earlier this year. Having lived in Illinois and vacationed in areas of Wisconsin over the last couple of decades, the name House On The Rock was familiar to me, but for some reason the mental image that accompanied it was always more Frank Lloyd Wright in nature. Wow. I was way off on that one.

Even crazier is that I saw House On The Rock featured on American Gods last year and just assumed they had CGI-ed the joint within an inch of its life. Again, way off on that one too.

In fact, House On The Rock is a sprawling series of buildings that takes at least a day to get through, and even then you feel as if you've rushed through and only caught a fraction of the weirdness it has crammed into its confines.

So, take in the video above, and realize that as strange as it appears, it's only barely scratching the surface of the location its filmed in. Dreams and / or nightmares for months!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

What would the odd do, indeed.

Photo by Vanessa Castro
According to the band, Guerilla Toss' new EP What Would The Odd Do? was driven by singer/bandleader Kassie Carlson's recovery from opioid addiction and open heart surgery to remove a blood clot caused by said addiction. So you would think the music resulting from that experience would be either loudly harrowing and disturbing or quietly claustrophobic. I mean, right?


Instead What Would The Odd Do? Is a swirling, giddy, danceable concoction that skirts genres. I'll take the band's word for it that the album deals with a post-addiction mindset, because the lyrics are largely elliptical, creating poetic impressions that avoid specificity. Carlson comes across as more interested in creating moods through rhythmic constructions of her words, and this leaves an impression of cohesion from a distance. But if you dig into it line by line, you could get lost in the maze of phrases that double back on themselves to create a vertiginous rush.

It's one of the more weirdly enjoyable things I've heard this year. I plan on digging into their back catalog and am curious if that stuff will be just as enhancing and life-affirming as What Would The Odd Do? feels to me. Only one way to find out!

The band is on tour now (they open for Battles at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on December 8). Based on this EP, I think they're worth checking out. I know I'll be there when they hit my town.

Monday, November 04, 2019

It was 75 years ago...

My dad would have been 75-years-old today.

On this day I always revisit the thoughts my brother Sean put together for my dad's funeral 15 years ago. Wow, that seems like forever ago, but at times it also feels like yesterday. I could've really used my dad's perspective and advice over the last 2 years, since some of the things he struggled with at times probably most closely approximated some of my own struggles.

This is one of those posts that has gone through a bunch of different variations since I started writing it after waking up this morning. So here are a few snippets that survived, that didn't end up being too depressing, or self-centered.

In some ways we were very, very different people, but as time has gone by I am often struck by parallels in both history and actions that can't be denied. My dad was the first to teach me parents are human and fallible, but that only gave me perspective on life and never stopped me from looking up to him, no matter what our differences were.

Losing a parent sucks. Since my dad left I've seen plenty of other friends lose parents and I'm always tortured by the understanding that there is nothing I can do or say to lessen their pain, aside from letting them know everything they are feeling is valid, and terrible, and crushing, and that while it will never disappear, the pain will grow more manageable.

I'd still like to think that at my darkest moments over the last few years, he was the one looking down on me and offering me the tiny pushes that kept me from completely giving into the abyss. I certainly took his example of perseverance, no matter what life throws at you, to heart. He was human, but he always did whatever was needed to keep our family afloat, even in the most financially challenging times.

Sean's piece quotes something I wrote that year, and it still does a really good job of encapsulating my feelings, even 15 years later. So go read that, and help me celebrate my dad for all the positive impact he had on his family and friends. I'm no longer sure at all what kind of legacy I'll end up leaving behind—too much is still in flux for me, and I'm kind of starting over from square one—but I hope whatever I end up leaving behind would make my dad proud.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Should you super duper want the new deluxe reissue of R.E.M.'s 'Monster'? Let's discuss.

R.E.M. photo by Jim Cohen
I could've sworn it was an R.E.M. "anniversary" release years ago triggered a salty post from me years ago, but no amount of digging through my own archives or the pages of Donewaiting has uncovered it, so that means it's either a) in my own head or b) actually ran in my weekly email newsletter that predated this site. Either way, I've long been suspicious of "deluxe editions" as far as expanding the historical record while simultaneously finding myself unable to resist them.

In plain terms, in my head special editions are often good only for superfine and pointless otherwise. Mostly. There are exceptions! And that list of exceptions has grown and grown, so I do believe we're moving past the point of these reissues being simple each-ins for labels or bands trying to extend their catalog's lifespan. Hell, one of the first series of remasters I remember making a real difference were when The Who re-released their whole catalog and you could suddenly hear Keith Moon's drums so much better on everything pre-1972 in the band's work. And there bonus tracks actually expanded the story. And and and ... I could go on and on, but suffice to say that series began to soften my stance.

As years have passed the number of special editions has spiked, and most are still pathetic cash grabs but the ones that actually try and make a case for their existence can be tremendous gifts.

This brings us to R.E.M. and today's release of the 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of 1994's (in case you couldn't do the math) Monster.

Monster is often viewed as R.E.M.'s reaction to the 1994 "grunge" explosion.* That's because it was. And because of that I think lots of people didn't give it a fair shake at the time. It didn't hurt the band's popularity at all, they would mount a massive tour behind the album that did really well, but the album itself was often derided, especially in "cool" circles like the snobs I hung out with. However I liked the volume of "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" And spent a few hard-earned bucks from flipping burgers and DJing to get my own copy of the CD. And I liked it enough. I certainly did not not like it. Little did I know would be the last great R.E.M. album recorded as an album, if not the last great R.E.M. album, per-se.**

History has been kind to the disc. The band's reintegration of distortion always felt more glam than grunge to me, and I think the intervening years have served to support that opinion. The songs are solid, and there are even a few tearjerkers in there. If you don't get at least a little misty in response to Michael Stipe's plaintive wail on "Let Me In" you need to loosen up and, um, let 'em in.

Sooooo, let's just agree Monster was a fine album. Is a fine album. But does it warrant a super duper deluxe reissue? It breaks down into fur primary components:
  1. The original album, remastered
  2. Demos from that time period
  3. The original album, remixed, presumably now to producer Scott Litt's satisfaction
  4. A live concert in CHICAGO!***
So, let's be honest and take these each separately.

The remaster is just fine, if not really necessary, since it sounds almost identical to the original release. But hey, you can't add that "super" to "deluxe" without remastering something.

The demos are interesting, though you'll probably listen to the once and never again. As always with these things, they're snippets of ideas or half-baked thoughts that offer insight into what was going on behind the scenes. But again, more of historical interest, IMHO.

The remix is where the value-add starts to be obvious, though it's the sort of thing you will wither love or find super annoying. It's basically a whole new album, akin to viewing the original from an alternate dimension, opening things up and adding in different takes and basically rebuilding from the ground up. I've listened to it a bunch of times and I still find the alternative presentation fascinating; a re-imagining of what might have been, if you will. It doesn't change the way I feel about the original album one whit, and it doesn't expose or fix any weaknesses of the original recording, but it's an interesting exercise. And I think it's a valid way to re-approach the material. It's probably only of real interest to superfine, but by this point there are plenty of R.E.M. superfine to support this release. Even if most people I know barely seem to remember R.E.M. any more.****

And the live concert. It's a live concert. I do remember watching the Road Movie concert film they released from this tour (also included in this box set) and thinking the band was in viciously fine form, and this recording does nothing to change that appraisal—though I had forgotten how delightfully loopy Stipe's between song banter has always been. Again, it's the sort of thing I'll listen to once or twice and probably never again. Maybe you're different.

It occurs to me that by this point my thoughts on this super deluxe primo box set seem less than glowing. The fact of the matter is that I think it's pretty great, but I'm trying to process it the way an average consumer would, and give the facts based on whether or not that person wants to lay down a bunch of dollars for this. Do you need it in your library?! Do you really need it?

If you are the average fan, I would lay out the dough for the two-disc version that has the 2019 remaster and the new Scott Litt remix, since I do think that's required listening and something you might play over and over again. Who knows, maybe the remix will become your favorite version of Monster! But two discs should keep you covered.

If you are the above average fan, then by all means grab the deluxe set. You are the type that will listen to the demos over and over again. And dig into the video content (which is content I have not. Covered here outside the Road Movie mention, since it was not included in my review download). And you will play the Chicago concert recording over and over again in hopes that it's transmission might draw the band back to a stage near you. It won't, but you gotta dream. But dreams or not, the reality is that you'll love this set.

*Look, I'm not gonna argue over the use of the word "grunge." If you were in college in the early '90s we all called it "grunge," revisionist history be damned. You know what I'm talking about.

**New Adventures In Hi-Fi was recorded on the road and felt more like a really great odds and sods collection more than an "album," though I think in the grand scheme of things I still rate that as the last great R.E.M. album, with Monster coming in under it, quality-wise. Anyway.

***I didn't realize until recently that until Monster the band hadn't done any touring since I saw them in 1989. For some reason I thought they were always on the road, but I guess despite the massive success of the intervening albums Monster was the one that got them back out there? Weird. In my defense, I was living in a Central Illinois college town so most of my news came from discussions at the bar or the record store, or Rolling Stone and Spin, when I could afford them.

****Which, BTW, WTF?! Seriously?!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Getting unstuck.

This is what happens when you post every single weekday for over 16 years and then switch to sporadic updates. That regular posting schedule, putting something up no matter what, helped keep the gears greased. It also kept me from double-thinking or getting in my own way when it came to my creative output here. That ended up being a double-edged sword once I hit a period in my life where perhaps authenticity and sharing of my feelings were best kept to myself. It took too long for that to really register, but once it did the gates slammed down and I decided to suspend the daily regimen in favor of less frequent posts focused more on the exterior world than my interior one.

It was the right move.

But now enough time has passed that I've been trying to return to a daily schedule again, and I'm having a hard time doing so. There's a new inner wariness to my output that I'm grappling with and trying to figure out how to deal with. For instance, this post you're reading has been started no less than five times in the last week, only to have each draft trashed. I keep starting to go down one path of ideas or another and then I freeze, worried that what I'm saying could be taken the wrong way. This is a ridiculous response to have when you're writing about a song you like or a movie to check out or even the Halloween decorations in your neighborhood, but I think I've gotten so gun-shy that it causes me to overthink every single word. And that's even dumber because, in the end, people read what they want to read into whatever they're reading. Once you put it out there, it's free game for interpretation, right? It's a central part of the compact between creator and participant, ferchrissakes!

So I'm making a pact with myself to return to daily writing and get over this inner blockage. That may mean some days I'm back to just posting a video or sharing some music, and others ruminating on more personal reflections. But, to me, the most important thing is returning to that regular schedule since I think that, for most of the time I've been writing publicly, that's the secret to keeping my mental gears well-oiled and turning. And while I never ever take you, dear reader, for granted, this is definitely something I'm doing for me more than I'm doing it for you. Hopefully you'll reap some benefits—even if it's just mild enjoyment or the occasional new cultural discovery—but I'm the one that'll benefit the most.

Thanks for your patience, and most of all for sticking around. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sunshine times and streaming thoughts with Dark Thoughts.

There is no hidden meaning to this photo. It is just a random shot that's been sitting on my phone and I have had no idea where to use it, so here seemed as good a place as any.
I was at the gym the other day and out of podcasts, but far enough along in my workout that I didn't want to start listening to music since I knew I'd be in the mood for a full album without the time to give it the proper attention before it was time to go home. This was on a weekend. So I could've started listening to an album, but I'm weird and it just didn't seem like the right time. So instead I dug through one music writer's podcast I found via mailing list, and upon discovering the episodes ended with a discussion of "best of" 2017 records I reckoned said podcast was now largely defunct. But I also knew this particular writer considered themselves a rabble-rouser, so there was a good chance their focus on "best" music would either be darkly entertaining at worst and illuminating in the manner of introduction to bands unbeknownst to me at best.

As a whole, the podcast was both the best and worst at times.

This is all a long winded way of saying that the one act this discussion did introduce me to that was worth my time was Dark Thoughts. I can see from the internet that they are from "Philly" and they are "punk rock." Neither of those "facts" matter—the "punk" bit is not so much a fact as it is a weak genre assignment, though I'm assuming the "Philly" bit is—and I admit I have little interest learning of their motivations, belief systems, or even what they look like. They seem uninterested in all that as well, which is totally cool with me.

The album the podcast recommended was titled At Work, and I enjoyed it. It was fun. It is fun. And it is below and available to you for free, though I'm sure their little punk rock hearts would throw in a few extra pitter-pats were you to kick them a few bucks for the download. I'm actually surprised I've never heard of this band since their label compares them to Dear Landlord, and Kip loves that band so he must know about these cats as well. And he never told me about them? The nerve!

I've also included Dark Thoughts' latest single, which is also free, since it was released this month. It appears they are playing a release show for the 7" on November 1 at Boot And Saddle. Since they are from "Philly" I thought it would be safe to assume that Boot and Saddle is in Philadelphia, and a quick Google search proved that to be correct. If you live there, go to the show, and let me know how Dark Thoughts are live and in concert. Please, and thank you.

The 2017 album that started my interest in the first place!

The 2019 single that proves they are still an ongoing effort!

There is also a self-titled debut, but if you want that I'm going to ask you to please click through to their Bandcamp. What? Do you think I'm gonna hand you every single thing n a silver platter? C'mon, do a little work!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Productivity to resume soon, because this situation is just my type.

"I see you!"
I am slacking this week, but for once I have an excellent reason—I started a new job Monday!

[Insert cheers, crowds doing the wave ‘round and ‘round a massive stadium, puppies and kittens rolling around in bright green grass in delight.]

This is terrific on a personal level, but not so great when I realized I am a week behind reviewing the memorable Starcrawler show I saw last week, and the ebullient Miss June show I saw this Monday. Tonight. Tonight I swear I’ll chain myself to my computer to get those thoughts out and up over on Third Coast Review. I swear!

Until then, I feel the need to share something with you, so lessee. Hmm, I actually just recently listened to the new Saint Motel EP—the first of three they're releasing in the next few months to create a full album, though if that's the case why not just release the album? It's not like they're Robyn or anything. Anyway, I dig the EP, but there's no good embed to share (I hate Spotify and their Soundcloud cuts each tune after 30 seconds, so, meh*) so instead let's just jam out on their initial hit from a few years ago, all prettied we're groovy spies, and get down and have some fun. The weekend is almost here!

*Seriously, why doesn't everyone just use Bandcamp already?! It's the best.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Listen to this "ringtone" and read this stuff about not writing stuff as I accidentally actually write stuff, though not the stuff I intended. Or did I?

Photo by me.
This is what procrastination looks like.* There's a show preview I've had percolating n my head that I keep putting off, and there's a show review that I have tons of notes on but just can't bring myself to crank out. I have a post on "how to survive being unemployed" I have a personal deadline of Friday to finish. I have most of my "favorite albums of 2018 (finally!) list that I just need to finish fleshing out and formatting. It's just that there's a bunch of really exciting stuff going on in my life right now, and I think that's contributing to my inability to focus on these things.**

There's a difference between writer's block (nothing is coming! what should I write?!) and this. This is not a terrible problem to have. But it is a problem and one I've gotta lick in the next 12 hours. So while I tackle that, here's a song about young love that feels very real, if a little dark. I imagine this is a reasonable facsimile of what goes on in the head of one struck by that almost crippling infatuation that accompanies the first handful of romantic partners. It also manages to showcase both the vulnerability and the sometimes overpowering paranoia that state tends to cultivate.

It's also worth noting this is one of my favorite brand new bands of the moment.*** Which reminds me, I've gotta write a more robust piece about them in the future as well! Oh well, back at it...

*No, not the photo above this line. I just picked that because I like it. Funny thing about the photo is that it's a fine detail of a larger image I plan on writing about at another point of time as an example of beauty in unexpected places, but that's really beside the point. All this writing is what procrastination looks like. But you knew that.

**What could it be?! I'm not telling ... yet!

***Funny, how when you avoid writing you sometimes end up writing despite your initial intentions, huh?

Monday, October 14, 2019

That time I "sang" with Les Savy Fav.

Les Savy Fav played the Frenchkiss Records 20th anniversary party over the weekend, and to promote it the band got together to play "Let's Get Out Of Here" on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Why "Late Night" in particular? It certainly didn't hurt that the 8G Band's Syd Butler is also the bassist in Les Savy Fav and the founder and owner of Frenchkiss Records. Synergy!

Their appearance reminded me of a memory I had largely forgotten. Years ago Les Savy Fav was playing a street festival in Wicker Park, at a time when indie bands I actually liked were just starting to infiltrate and take over those bills from the usual regional cover bands. During the set, singer Tim Harrington ran through the crowd towards the open door of the building right next to the stage I happened to be standing next to, and as he passed me to run through that door he handed me his microphone. I stood there confused for a half second before deciding I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity and immediately started to improvise vocals over the vamp the band was doing as Harrington ran rampant. Eventually he popped out of a window of one of the apartments on the second floor and everything went completely bonkers. I kept singing until he finally came back down to collect his microphone and they finished the set.

And I was left with a pretty fun story about "that one time I was the singer for Les Savy Fav."

I dug through the Chicagoist archives and realized one of our writers actually wrote about it in our round-up of our favorite music moments of 2011, so I'm not crazy. It actually happened.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

This "Roadkill" is filled with super tasty licks from People Years.

I admit I went back and forth with that headline. The joke was just too easy, so I hope you'll forgive me.

So, People Years. The four gents in the band are based in Birmingham, Alabama and apparently each member plays in a bunch of other bands as well. I've never heard of any of the other bands, but that's not surprising—I'm not really well versed in the Birmingham scene. But if People Years' debut single is any indication of what the Birmingham scene is producing, I need to get far more familiar with it.

"Roadkill" takes it's sweet time to build up over the course of its six-plus minutes. Things start out spacey until the drums kick things up a notch at the 45-second mark, and then things get even more interesting as a David Gilmour-esque guitar line that would fit right in on Pink Floyd's "Breathe" continues to suggest a spiraling inner journey that tugs against the brisk beats. Dreamy vocals kick in around 2 minutes later, and then the tune dips and grooves swoons and crashes into a thundering crescendo. Just strap in and listen—the lyrics are minimal so this is really one of those compositions that's pretty wide open for you to create your own space within.

The band's debut album is still in the works and isn't due until early 2020—assuming we're all still around by then—but this should wet your whistle for what's to come.

If video is more your thing, then you can watch the accompanying video below. Personally, I prefer it when my mind runs free on songs like "Roadkill," but to each their own!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Big sounds from a Tiny Desk courtesy Charly Bliss.

Photo by Beth Eisgrau-Heller/KEXP
We were trying to remember a show from last winter we were both at, and K kept telling me, "You know their name. They're your favorite band! You played them all the time when we were in my car back then!"

We finally remembered the band in question was Charly Bliss, and based on how much I have listened to them over the past few years, K categorizing them as my "favorite band" seems accurate, even if at the time my brain immediately leapt toward the groups with longer histories I'd usually jump to based on that description.

Charly Bliss recently stopped by the NPR studios and today they've released their own contribution to the excellent Tiny Desk Concert series. So, everyone, enjoy this unconventional show from my favorite band!

Friday, October 04, 2019

Which Joker is your Joker?

I just saw the new Todd Phillips movie Joker, and I have thoughts, but I'm not going to share them right now.* But it did get me to thinking about what people expect when they encounter the Joker in either print or film.

I think it's safe to say that for most people, the way they expect the Joker to behave is heavily influenced by the manner in which they first encountered the character. That would explain why folks have such strange feelings about each incarnation.** If it doesn't hew to their initial imprint, they're going to view this or that Joker as intrinsically "wrong."

For me it was the 1973 story "The Joker's-Five Way Revenge" by Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil. Until recently I didn't even realize this was the first time he really returned to the comics as a homicidal mad man after years and years as more or less comic relief, albeit of a criminal nature, in the comics. To my little still-forming mind—I had to be between 6- and 8-years-old when I read it, probably in one of those miniature DC digests I habitually begged my mom to buy from the grocery store magazine section—this Joker was CUH-REEPY. And I loved it.***

Over the years, I've absorbed the other Jokers, and it's no surprise the ones I like the best are the Jokers of The Killing Joke graphic novel and the film The Dark Knight, since both of those share quite a bit of DNA from that 1973 Joker that first caught my eye.****

Anyway, "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" just happened to pop into my head again on my way home from viewing the Joker film, and I just wanted to revisit it for a second (and recommend it to you on the off chance you've never read it).

How about you? When did you first encounter the Joker, and is that still the image you hold all other appearances of the character to?

*One, I'm still digesting. Two, I spent a lot of time over the last month avoiding all spoilers, so I don't want to be the one to spoil it for anyone else. I will say I think all this handwringing over its violence or possible uptake by far right groups or any of that other stuff is overblown. Will idiots adopt its tale as their own? Probably, but I don't think that's a fault of the film. Idiots will twist anything to suit their purposes, in my experience. I can say that Joaquin Phoenix is terrific, even if he still doesn't top my list of favorite Jokers.

**Speaking of strong feelings, I am still confused over the fact many will espouse Mark Hamill as the definitive Joker. However I was never really into the Batman animated series, so that just goes to underscore my point. Why would I think he's the best? In my mind, he's the last one I' would've encountered in the role! He does do great voice work though. Can't argue against that.

***A few panels have always stick with me; the Joker's face seen through a shark's jawsJoker about to crush an unconscious Batman's neck but holding back because that would ruin all his fun, a final scene of him beaten by Batman's fist with dirt and sludge dripping off his face, and of course that amazing opening shot of him driving and laughing (seen within this post).

****They are also both amazing portrayals of the character that just about everyone agrees upon, so it's not like I'm making any grand statements here. Duh.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Hood Internet returns!

My Hood Internet buds have resurfaced from their hiatus (not like neither has been musically active at all under other guises, but THN is obvs their most famous face) with a video of 50 songs from 1979 mixed into a single supercut. They promise additional years every Thursday through the rest of October.

Get down and dig it!

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Need a pick-me-up? Cruise on down "Paradise Drive."

Gotta be honest, these folks do look like they know how to have a good time!
Just a quick hit of musical dopamine for you today. Flamingods' "Paradise Drive" off this year's Levitation is an undeniable groove that would probably get you pulled over for a speeding ticket, but hopefully its sunshine vibe bouncing out your car's speakers would compel the officer to tear up their ticket book and join you in a get-down dance party on the side of the road.

Naturally, cowbell plays a prominent part of this formula.

Try it out and tell me how it goes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hey there, I think it's time for a check-in!

In case you missed it, THIS happened last week and every time I look at it a smile crosses my face.
Via @hallandoatesoffical.
You would think I'd have tons of free time to write since I'm still looking for a new job, but for me unemployment is a full time gig. As in, looking for a job takes up a lot of my time. I'm actually putting together a "how to" (now know as an "explainer") on surviving bouts of unemployment, but it's not ready for prime time consumption yet.

Another irony is that despite having no steady work, I very rarely make it out of the house for social engagements or shows. Don't get me wrong, I do get out, but it's mostly for things like the gym, or hanging out with my partner, or exulting in the true rare luxury that is watching a movie in the middle of the day with a tray full of nachos. So I'm not exactly a hermit, it's more that the night life has less allure for me than ever before. That said, I'll be drinking a pot of coffee after dinner tonight to try and make it to this fabulous show in Chicago featuring some of my favorite local bands Pink Frost and Touched By Ghoul, along with a new-ish (?) project from some longtime friends and current practice space mates.

My mom texted me the other day, worrying about me as moms are wont to do, and I assured her that despite my unease over what the future holds for me, I am also in the best physical and mental place I've been in far too many years. Ergo my in-the-works "guide for the unemployed" since there have been definite steps I've taken to ensure that continues to remain the case, and said step might help others out. I'm all about helping out others.

I imagine you'll also see more regular writing from me on a regular basis very soon since we're about to enter the month of October, which means it's also Rocktober and the festival season is over and the quality of local shows swells into a tidal wave of rock and/or roll goodness that spurs me to proselytize about the beneficial effects going to see this band or that band will clearly have on you.

So yeah, there you go. As always, if you have a job lead for a copywriter / creative director / strategy person like myself, please feel free to send it my way! Every little bit helps.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Mizzerables most definitely do not suck.

Every scene has 'em: the bands that quietly put out music that's much better than lotsa stuff in the same genre that gets widespread acclaim. They clearly just enjoy creating and while they'd love some more attention, just getting their music out there seems to be enough for them.* From a distance, this is how Chicago's The Mizzerables seem to be operating.** And I couldn't respect them more for it.

On their latest, Whatever... This Sucks, the trio blasts out 14 pop-punk numbers coated in sweat and then rolled around in a fine grit to add just enough bite. The band has been refining their successful writing formula since their debut caught my (and my respected colleague's) ear in 2013, releasing one other full-length and a spate of EPs and singles since then. But Whatever... This Sucks is probably my favorite thing they've put together yet.

Yadda yadda yadda, Jim, just get to it and give us the music! O.K.! I will! Stream or download Whatever... This Sucks below. As I always say, if you like it as much as I do, consider supporting the band's efforts with a few bucks.

*I would argue this is how the majority of Chicago's really great under-the-radar bands are operating. We're a city of music lover; not glory seekers.

**It occurs to me this statement could be interpreted as the band being slackers and not caring about "professionalism" but this couldn't be further from the truth. The recordings are top notch, their visual identity beats most bands on major labels, and they take great care in how they present their work. But this seems to be more a result of their love of creation than some sort of bid for superstardom. Not that I would begrudge them a higher level of exposure—they certainly deserve it!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Podcast Week: Improv musical theater that pops...

Wrapping things up for this podcast week is a crossover episode between one of my longtime favorites Switched On Pop, and another fantastic podcast unbeknownst to me until this week called Off Book.* I've been onboard with Switched On Pop since the beginning, and they're already relatively popular, so I hadn't planned on highlighting them, but this team-up changed that equation! Off Book creates musical theater pieces through improv, which sounds really difficult because it is. But holy wow are they really good at it. And the Switched On Pop crew comes in to add some color commentary from the commercial music world as it applies to the magic this musical created from scratch. It's edutainment that will have your brain cranking and your sides in stitches.

Trying to further explain what happens in the episode below is just going to take you time to read it, when you should be listening to it. So prepare to set sail on an adventure in a hospital the likes of which you've never seen heard.

*And believe me, Off Book has since found a place in my regular podcast subscription queue!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Podcast Week: A slightly different view of a subject on many minds...

This week I've been primarily focusing on music podcasts, but now it's time for something a little different. And in Illinois, this topic has been all over the media, so the timing of this relatively new podcast couldn't be more perfect.

The On Something podcast is a joint effort of Colorado Radio and PRX about cannabis and the effects the spread of its legalization is having. But you don’t need to live in a state where it’s already, or soon-to-be, legal to appreciate how it approaches its subject from so many different directions.*

The series begins by investigating just why cannabis was made illegal in the first place—and I admit I fund many of the answers they uncovered pretty surprising—but doesn’t just stick with history or jingoism. Other episodes deal with folks who used to love cannabis and now don’t (Neal Pollack), pot’s carbon footprint, how walking into a legal dispensary at the wrong time can destroy a relationship, and even cannabis’ place in the LGBTQ community (and how those ripple effects have gone on to be felt by just about everybody).

The series debuted in June, and since then I’ve learned something from every episode. I think you will too. Whether you’re a cannabis diehard, have a casual interest, or are opposed to its use, I think there’s something here to interest everyone. Just don’t pick and choose what you want to hear—no matter where you fall in your beliefs—and just take in the whole complicated quilt that covers the discussion of this subject.

Snag the first episode below, or go to the podcast's homepage (or the podcast platform of your choice) and check it out.

DOWNLOAD: Episode One—Why Was Weed Illegal Anyway?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Podcast Week: Falling deep into 'Spilt Milk'...

Let's file this one under kismet.* But first, the beginning.

I've loved Jellyfish since I first saw the video for "The King Is Half-Undressed" and then staked my record store for the cassette tape of their debut, Bellybutton. This being the pre-Internet days, I had no idea when the album would be released so I stalked my local record store(s) for weeks until it finally hit the shelves.** Then I continued to stalk stores for subsequent singles and tracked down everything I could read about the band, which wasn't much at the time. I was also lucky enough to see them play with The Black Crowes (a show that at the time felt like watching The Beatles and The Stones play together), and that was a religious experiences for l'il Tankboy—the dummer was the singer and he played standing up? What was happening?!

I continued to now very little about the band—again, aside from TV promos and scarce articles that focused more on the band's clothes than their music or background this wasn't that unusual in the early '90s. When they finally released their sophomore album, Spilt Milk, the band had grown into an ornately intricate songwriting machine that left me out of breath and a little confused. It'd actually take me a few years to truly appreciate the depth and complexity—both musical and lyrical—of that album.

Years passed, the group disbanded, and I only heard snippets of what the former members were up to. I saw Roger Manning Jr. battle with The Flaming Lips as Beck's backing band on one tour, I heard whispers Andy Sturmer was writing music for cartoons, and Jason Falkner graced the world with new solo albums at an excruciatingly slow pace. And over the years I ran into other deep fans who slowly and surely educated me about the areas of the band magazines and radio interviews never uncovered.

Just last week the folks that own the rehearsal space I rent posted a long YouTube interview with Manning Jr., and just a few days later I stumbled across a podcast (that appears to be now defunct) from 2013 that spent over 3 hours on Jellyfish's history, with a primary focus on exploring the depths of what was behind Spilt Milk's creation.*** In a single chunk of content, this recording does the best job of summarizing the band's entire career and catches you up to what each member is up to now, along with the aforementioned musical deep dive. If you're a fan you will love this. If you're not, this is by far the best introduction to Jellyfish I've encountered and will probably have you digging out everything they ever recorded after you're done listening.

So, without further ado, let's get deep into it, shall we?

DOWNLOAD: The Hollywood Gauntlet - ArenA II: Still Crying Over SPILT MILK

(You can also find it on all your podcast platforms with a little search action on your part.)

* Starting in paragraph 5, I suppose. But read the whole thing, eh?

**For all I know, the album had already long been out and just wasn't a priority on the shops' ordering schedules.

**What's even crazier is that this podcast—The Hollywood Guantlet—actually usually covered film and not music, with the Jellyfish episode being an incredibly out of character outlier!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Podcast Week: Digging you out of '90 music...

O.K., I swear I didn't plan this when I decided this would be podcast week (more on the reason for that here) but the timing is perfect!

I was introduced to the Dig Me Out podcast years ago, though I can't exactly remember how it initially happened. In the early to mid aughts I wrote for the music site Donewaiting, based in Columbus, OH, so I think my connection to bands in that area probably had something to do with it since the hosts Tim Minneci and J Dziak were in The Stepford Five, a band I booked a few times and was a fan of.* They also were both active in their college radio scene in, wait for it—the '90s!

The concept is simple: the duo—with the frequent help of guests ranging from the famous to, well, me—tackle albums or trends from the '90s for re-evaluation. Most of the focus is on the "alternative" and "indie" scenes and they tackle everything from the massive megastars to the tiniest regional successes. And The tragically Hip, who I guess fall into both of those categories, depending on where you live.

They also host roundtable discussions occasionally on topic ranging from city-specific music scenes, sophomore slumps, and various other topics. Minneci and Dziak aren't afraid to wade into waters unfamiliar to them personally, but always bring a reasoned and thoughtful skill set to their evaluations of every act and topic. All of their episodes are available through all the usual platforms, so I would recommend starting off in the archives and snagging episodes on bands and topics that interest you. I guarantee that by the end you'll have ended up listening to their whole run. That's what happened to me.

This week's episode deals with the question of sophomore successes in the '90s, and features some debate over which groups actually meet the standard of outdoing their often lauded debuts. And I happen to be one of the guests on the episode, so a big bonus for you, dear reader!**

So, dig in to Dig Me Out!***

*If you're interested, the band's output is well worth a listen.

***Before you jump down my throat on the "rules" of the discussion, I realized after the fact that Nirvana's Bleach was actually released in June of 1989 so that should make them ineligible for this conversation. So yeah, I got that wrong. However, in my defense, I don't think you can have a conversation about the 1990s and sophomore albums without a nod to the band that arguably changed the decade and the way music evolved after 1991. At least that's the excuse I'm using. (But, I admit my mistake.)

***There's no external streamer / player for these podcasts so click through and start at the link. In case you didn't figure that out.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Podcast week! Kicking off with a deep dive into My Chemical Romance...

As I've been searching for a new job over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to catch up with all my regular podcast subscriptions, so I started hunting for new shows to listen to while I was at the gym.* Most of them have been self-contained runs I can just binge, or one-off episodes about subjects that intrigue me. So I figured this week would be a fine time to share a few of these lesser-known treasures to help enhance your listening pleasure (and possible education).

The first podcast I'd like to highlight is the My Chemical Romance-focused My Chemical Fancast, because it is a fantastic undiscovered gem.

First, a little background about my own relationship with My Chemical Romance. I've loved the band for years and years, but my relationship with them has been strictly musical. Even though they rose to prominence during my days as an editor at Chicagoist, I never really wrote about them. I just bought their albums and enjoyed the music. In retrospect it seems odd, since I would usually instinctively do a deep dives into a band whose work I bought religiously, but their background was a blind spot to me. I'd play "Teenagers" when DJing at 4 a.m. / 5 a.m. bars and had no idea it was even a single from the band, much less a hit. And I had no idea Gerard Way had pursuits outside the band until The Umbrella Academy premiered on Netflix and I read the press around it. That is just how intellectually incurious I was about the band outside their actual musical output.

Again, I don't know why this was. Maybe since I just assumed they were part of the emo revival of the aughts, and I avoided most writing about that scene since it was mostly either blindly fawning or fiercely combative and trolling, and therefore missed learning of the band's background.**

So a few weeks ago I decided to see if there were any podcasts out there that might fill in my lack of knowledge and holy moly did I hit the motherlode with My Chemical Fancast. It's hosted by friends Kat and Hallie, who have both been massive fans of the band since their teenage years (and earlier?). They go through the band's entire catalog, song by song, including a wealth of background knowledge and detail that could only be supplied by folks with a deep passion for MCR's music.

But this ain't just a podcast with fans fawning, no! They both appear to have a solid musical background so while they discuss the stories behind the music, they're also adept at picking the actual music apart, focusing your attention on the tiniest of details that really helps the band's catalog blossom with new possibilities.

And the duo is so entertaining and easy to listen to: I blew through the first 25 episodes in less than a week (which means I spent over a full day with their critical evaluations in my head) and never got bored.

My Chemical Fancast has covered all the band's original catalog, and they are currently dissecting the Conventional Weapons releases that were recorded before but released after Danger Days (right, I think? I'm still learning!), so you can binge the whole thing or dole it out as you see fit. However, if you enjoy MCR at all, this is a great way to appreciate just how deep their history and musical acumen runs.

Here's the first episode, but I really recommend just using the app of your choice to subscribe to the whole thing. And, oh yeah, I went through all the old episodes at 2X speed and it sounded just fine, just in case you're the type that likes to pack as much content into as short a period of time as possible.

*Podcasts long ago replaced music as my listening content of choice while working out. I'm not sure why, but it might have something to do with my cognizance of song length and constantly using that to track the time I'm running or doing aerobic work, while spoken podcasts allow me to get more lost in the zone. I dunno, works for me!

**Aside from the knowledge that an acquaintance of mine went to high school with Way and was MCR's first manager.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

A-ha, it seems summer ain't giving up yet!

Hahahaha, talk about speaking too soon. Today's weather was the exact opposite of yesterday's—it was sunny and beautiful and I walked miles and miles outside to take it all in.* While I was walking, a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines On T.V." popped into my head, so as soon as I got home I had to blast it as loudly as I could. Then I remembered I had the extended version of the song and blasted all 8 minutes 26 seconds of that as well. Too many only know a-ha as that one band with the insane video with groundbreaking animation, but they did write more songs than "Take On Me," and "The Sun Always Shines On T.V." is right up there with their best.

So whether this video brings back memories, or it's the first time you've realized a-ha actually wrote more than one song in their long (and still going—they're about to tour Europe and Australia!) career, dig on the above and everything'll be all right.

*I also forgot my Fitbit charging at home before going to the gym, so after I retrieved it, a few of those miles were also in service of getting my steps "officially" in despite already nailing it via treadmill. But hey, any excuse to get outside, right?

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

So long, summer!

Yesterday was Labor Day and the weather was lovely. But it was also the "unofficial" end of the summer and it appears Mother Nature wanted to make that crystal clear by delivering dreary, rainy weather to Chicago starting in the wee hours of the morning today. I'm sure we'll still have stretches of lovely weather over the next few months, but the difference between yesterday and today is both amusing and oddly symbolic.

I was unemployed for about half of the summer, but even so I didn't spend that time at the beach or outside or going out at night. Nope, I hunkered down and established a regular schedule of working out, job hunting, reading, and catching up on various TV shows and movies. Oh, and I treated myself with the occasional trip to the cinema to take in a new release. It's been a positively Dionysian summer for me!

Seriously though, aside from the lack of work, it's been a good few low-key months. Just what the internal spirit ordered, if I'm being honest. I made a few major changes that have improved the quality of my inner life, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do that.

All that said, I'm eager to get back to work—something that appears increasingly likely now that folks looking to hire are both off the extended vacation schedules that naturally occur between May and September and potential clients for those companies are entering the third quarter (a period that frequently loosens up marketing funds). So I'm feeling optimistic!

Also, Riot Fest is in a few weeks, so that means there's still some summer fun left to be had, and based on the music line-up, fun will be had!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Brat Curse delivers a fizzy, bubbly, raucous, wild good time.

Brat Curse's sophomore full-length got a lot of play by me earlier this summer and then got displaced by the realities of currently being unemployed and a bunch of other stuff.* I had put them on the back-burner since I got the album in the spring, but it wasn't due to be released until August. So I offer my apologies for only talking about them now, because they should definitely find a place in your own regular music rotation.

The quartet hails from Dayton, Ohio and—in keeping with my personal experience with Ohio-based musicians dating back to my donewaiting days—Brat Curse's members are also in a slew of other regional bands. Their new album is self-titled, which means either they've jumped the shark or have latched onto a perfect formula for their sound.**

In the case of Brat Curse, Brat Curse is firmly in the latter camp. Thank gawd.

Brat Curse speeds by with 12 songs in 30 minutes without sacrificing subtleties frequently lost by other bands attempting the same economy of songwriting. The guitars buzz and saw back and forth, holding up hooks defiantly nosing their way forward of the din. It's a collection that in a parallel universe would spawn hit after hit after hit, so let's bend our reality to a different plane and make that a reality. If you dig energy that's on the side of controlled musical spasms that expand and contract, rushing you along from one song to the other, you'll love this.

As good as the album is, I get the feeling the band is even better live, though I can't know that for certain since the majority of their "touring" is limited to the Ohio region. Their publicist does saw "the band will tour extensively in the second half of 2019" though, so that opens up hope those of us not in Ohio will have a chance to catch them in the near future.

Until then, give Brat Curse a listen below. It's currently available, along with most of their catalog, as a free download, though if you really dig it, as always, you should throw a couple bucks or more the band's way.

*Speaking of which, if you know of anyone—agency or in-house—looking for an Associate Creative Director or Sr. Copywriter in the Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, or San Francisco areas, please feel free to send every opportunity my way!

**Think of it. Usually self-titled albums that are not a debut are meant to "define" a band, but more often display a group that is stagnant and hoping some new direction will revitalize their work. Just sayin'.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday motivation.

Photo via Carly Rae Jepsen's Instagram
It's a rainy, dreary day in Chicago. The good news is that means my call to wait until today to water the plants at K's house while she's out of town was a good one! (Silver lining FTW.)

I have a few things on the docket, writing-wise, this week. But I've been up since 4 a.m. and am champing at the bit to hit the gym. When you're unemployed, routine is really important—more about that later this week—and starting every day off with a good workout does wonders for my mood.

So for today I figured I'd just share a recent tune that seems to straddle the positives and negatives of today's weather. It's winsome but optimistic, and the chorus is one of those things that gets stuck on repeat in your head and might brighten up your day with it's drive. Plus, it features Carly Rae Jepsen, so it's obviously a win-win of a tune.

Happy Monday, and may this morning set your week up for happiness and success. No Monday blues here, only Monday motivation!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Let's take a peek behind the scenes into why music festivals cost consumers so much money.

I've been marinating on a piece about music festivals—primarily Lollapalooza—and wondering where most of them go from here. I've been thinking about artistic choices made by festival booking agents, but I admit I hadn't really thought about ticket pricing since that doesn't seem to act as much of a deterrent to attendees.*

Luckily for me The Economist comes to the rescue, opening my horizons on the subject with the video above. I would've gotten around to this angle eventually, but they did some of the initial legwork for me. Hee. Check it out as I continue to work on my longer piece about mega-fests in general.

*My primary hypothesis is that line-ups are so similar amongst big fests it's growing obvious music is the secondary draw when it comes to getting people inside the gates, so ticket pricing hadn't really initially registered with me. The interviews with attendees in the video supports that notion, and kinda breaks my heart a little. And makes me thankful there are still a handful, albeit shrinking, number of festivals like Riot Fest that focus on the music as the draw, then provide an experience on the grounds to support fans having a good time. But the main focus at a festival like that is the music, not the party.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Lilacs prove their classic sound will never go out of style.

The Lilacs. Still busy rocking. Still playing clubs with static, single-color stage lights.
Ken Kurson and David Levinsky form the core of The Lilacs, a Chicago power-pop band releasing their first new music in over 25 years. The Lilacs Endure is a 4-song EP that sees the group picking up exactly where they left off, crafting timeless little guitar crunchers that are sticky as warm bubblegum on a hot summer day.

The group’s sound is exactly what you’d expect when you consider Kurson once played bass for Chicago legends Green, and Material Issue’s Jim Ellison provided the band with their name and produced their debut 7” The Lilacs Love You, released way back in 1991.

I’ll admit I’m new to the band, which is odd since they ran—and presumably now run again—in many of the same musical circles I do. But you can certainly count me as a fan now. My initial take on the new material, before I read any of the band’s history, was that they sounded like a slightly more aggressive version of The Pooh Sticks, a Welsh band that was primarily a studio project with a rotating cast of musicians giving voice to the fictional band members a la The Archies or, well, Gorillaz. Theirs was a shaggy sort of pop that had roots in the late ‘70s with multiple nods to other artists, and The Lilacs share some of that musical DNA, albeit with a more focused and organic approach.

It’s wickedly fun stuff.

“Monica” is the lead track off the new EP, and though the video was posted months ago I’m betting you, like me, never saw it. So check out the video below. Want more? Sadly the band seems to be avoiding my streaming player of choice (Bandcamp!) so there’s a Spotify stream below, though those are always wonky once you step outside the player. No matter, it’ll bring you to the EP one way or another … and you want to hear this!

The Lilacs will celebrate the release of The Lilacs Endure at Phyliss’ Musical Inn on October 19 at 9 p.m. The new EP is out now.