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 in 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.