Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Like sand in an hourglass with no borders; the shifting perceptions of time.

My coworker (and neighbor from across the street shared the below with me and it is 99% accurate.*

I also just noticed I've slipped on my "posting every weekday" initiative, but between the rapidly disappearing distinction between the week and the weekend and time in general I'm not feeling too badly about that.

I initially thought I'd have much more brain time to write, but the truth is my workday has slowly lengthened, as I'm sure it has for everyone lucky enough to still be employed and working from home right now, and most of my time not working is spent sleeping. Lame! I know. I do find it a little amusing that as everyone else is catching up on their movie and TV viewing right now, I'm falling behind on even my favorite TV shows, much less watching movies long on my to-do list. But this is the new normal, for at least another month and probably longer—so I'm at peace with that.

That said, when I do have free time, what am I missing that I should catch up on? Don't say Tiger King. That, I made time for over the weekend. Priorities!

*I may be in dire need of a shave and a haircut, but I do still get dressed as if I'm going into the office every day,

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Five Six things I think you'll like today.

Just few quick links to help distract you on a Wednesday Thursday* with some quality reading / viewing / listening material!

1. Thanks to goldenfiddle for sharing the below original art since I love Days of Future Past era X-Men and Art Adams so much.

2. Third Coast Review posted this guide to bands on Bandcamp you should check out. I didn't 't contribute to it, but it's loaded with acts I['ve never heard of and look forward to sampling!

3. This completely cracked me up when In first saw it. IKEA is one of the few brands who managed to be effectively cheeky and serious at the same time while dealing with out new reality.

4. Read this excellent essay on dealing with the novel coronavirus lockdown with a newborn.

5. Finally, my friend Steve released his own take on Genesis' Duke for FREE yesterday, and I think it's pretty dang good. Stream it below and stay safe!

UPDATE: 6. I didn't see this until after publishing this morning, but the You Are Beautiful folks are offering collection of coloring pages and stickers for free right now, for everyone stuck at home. And they are kid friendly should you need to occupy some smaller people in your life. Get 'em!

*Gah. Fixed that after publishing, but it it certainly looks like I can't even keep the days straight at this point?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Peel Dream Magazine conjures up a familiar dreamscape.

Photo by Andy Schilling
Peel Dream Magazine is based in New York and led by Joe Stevens. When I recently spun their forthcoming album Agitprop Alterna I noted that it was interesting but seemed unfocused. I didn't realize that the music was the delivery system meant to burrow under your skin and keep tugging at your consciousness.*

Something about the music kept nagging at me—it felt so alien yet so familiar. And then I cracked it! On Agitprop Alterna Peel Dream is stitching together fragments to create a whole a la the more psych-y Elephant 6 bands like Olivia Tremor Control.**

Which begs the question—do I like this because it reminds me of something else or do I like it on its own merits?**** That's a valid question with any band, but in this case I was trying to puzzle out why Agitprop Alterna's songs didn't initially connect until WHAMMO they totally did. My conclusion? I just let go, stopped thinking, and accepted that these tunes have something I can't identify that makes them stick. And sometimes it's better to give into the mystery than it is to think everything through too far.

You can stream the first three songs below. It's not the same as immersing yourself om the full album but it's a good taste of what to expect when you can hear the whole thing upon its release a week from this Friday.

*I am doing everything I can to avoid making some sort of viral comparison with the music infecting you. Even though that's a much simpler way of conveying the feeling I was trying to cpature. But, y'know...

**I just went back and read the press release after writing this (something I tend to avoid doing until after recording my first impressions of a band I'm unfamiliar with) and it noted that the group's first album was "a mysterious, liminal tribute to the hazy end of ‘90s dream-pop" so I don't think I'm too far off here as far as Stevens and his compatriots' intentions.***

***And now you know some of these footnotes are added as I write, and a few get added after I'm done. A peek behind the curtain! Whoo! [Dear reader responds to this with a massive eyeball, sighing.]

****Sorry for "begging the question" but in this instance I went the straightforward route and didn't try and do any backflips in search of a unique way of saying that. Priorities.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Is that a seal? Or what? No matter: I like it!

Apparently a few days ago Taylor Swift and Kanye West's "conversation" from a few years ago that created quite the friction between the two parties' camps leaked online.*

Who cares?

One thing that's gotten under my skin in the last few years has been just how many celebrities remain famous even as their talent fades. They're now famous for being famous and we're supposed to care.** I don't care, really. Do you?

More and more of what seemed so important to people just a week or two ago now seems so ... silly. Even my current griping sounds silly. Who cares that I don't care about Kanye and T-Swizzle's feud? Do you? I didn't think so.

Something delightful is happening though. As this clutter falls further aways as far as its perceived importance is concerned, I find myself with time to appreciate things I've long overlooked. Like the stone statue of a seal (at least I think it's a seal, or some kind of dolphin. You tell me.

So cute!
Anyway, that thing is a whopping 2 blocks from my place and yesterday was the first time I've actually noticed it in almost three years. And I've surely walked past it dozens of times in that timespan. And yesterday I finally saw it. And smiled. And felt honest-to-gosh joy.

Those kinds of things have been happening in greater frequency. Even as I am (we are all) separated from each other physically I've found my attention broaden to the actual world around me, and not the world we've built through social constructs that have created a class of "celebrity" I'm not so certain we should be paying attention to much less looking up to, and passive entertainment desires.

In fact, I think I want to devote far more of my time to appreciating the things I should care about, and be open to discovering new things in that process.

*I literally just found out about it, despite it being the sort of thing I'd probably be reporting on when I was a Senior Editor at Chicagoist. In case anyone's wondering why I'm suddenly mentioning this when it was potentially news you've long known. That's not the point of this piece, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

**I'm not simply grousing about fake celebrities or influencers—annoying though they are, they're too obvious a target and honestly, their influence is far less tangible than they (or their marketing partners) would have you believe—but trying to draw attention to the fact that bona fide artists who have created mind-blowing work have the capacity to run out of ideas and we have the capacity to stop paying attention to them once they do. In other words we can, and should, stop caring.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Pace yourself.

Yeah, the is no one on the roads in Chicago...
I should preface this with the fact that I am endlessly appreciative I have the opportunity to do my job from home while so many others do not. I went back and forth about publishing this in fear anyone would read it and get angry I even bring any of this up when their situation may be much more dire than mine. I think we're all trying to navigate the disruptions in our own lives while remaining cognizant of how much more disruptive it is for people that don't have the same opportunities someone like me might have in this particular situation. 

Working from home has plenty of challenges but the one I think is universal in a situation like this is balancing the actual "working" with "living." It's Sunday and I keep feeling guilty for not opening my laptop and getting work done, because I've been so busy that the days blend together. I can't go anywhere so all the usual built in breaks in my regular schedule have vanished so the work day has expanded in my head and now every day feels like a "work day."

This is of course stupid of me.

My company isn't asking me to needlessly work on the weekend. There's nothing I currently have on my plate that has to be addressed on the weekend that can't also be done on Monday. But I've gotten so used to being plugged into virtual work that I'm beginning to be blind to that, already! ALREADY!*

On the bright side, I got my phone screen time report and it is WAY down for the last week. Primarily because I'm in front of my computer working for 8-10 hours a day. No need to leave for lunch (or even commute!) crossed with the self-preservational move to not read all the news all of the time all of the news ALL OF THE TIME though I would usually be tempted to if I still had time on the train or at the gym or (gasp!) eating lunch. That sort of thing.

So, don't be like me. Don't feel bad about not working on a Sunday. In fact, I think I'm going to dig through one of my boxes of Blu-rays and treat myself to a movie that isn't on streaming, and enjoy my Sunday.

Right after I check my work email one last time...

*After all of this I am very curious how companies that had been hostile to employees working from home because they couldn't possibly get the work done remotely are going to deal with entire staffs who will, by then, have proven that ain't completely true. Personally I can't wait to get back to the office since I thrive on humans and collaboration—and, frankly, working with people in-person is SO MUCH EASIER AND EFFICIENT, for me—but I have been delighted to see everyone I work with rise to the occasion and still keep everything moving forward and keeping a team atmosphere, even remotely.

Plus, seeing people's kitties, puppies, and kids popping up in folks' video streams during meetings has been 100% awesome.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

We are up to the challenge.

Pickle supervises me while I WFH.
So ... it's really hard to write right now. We keep hitting limits I didn't think we were capable of hitting. Things have spiraled out of control and we've had to depend on a network of Governors and mayors to keep us safe since the President of the U.S. has proven he is nowhere up to the task, though he's more than willing to take credit for everyone else's work on the ground while spreading confusion and pandemonium with his incapability to reel in his own self-promotion and lies for even a minute.

It's boggling.

I went through some older posts from other historic pain points recently and was almost amused to see how catastrophic I though G.W. Bush was. And he was! But in comparison to what we're experiencing now Bush almost seems like he was a competent commander-in-chief.

But politics politics politics. We're not getting rid of Trump anytime soon, so we'll have to figure out how to work around his chaos. And we are! Communities and organizations and people are all coming together—within a very safe distance—to support each other and provide the essentials that they can. Everyone I know is helping out or offering support in any way they can. So to me the silver lining is that our country is in better shape than I thought it was. Trump and his cronies' incompetence got us in this position, but we will be the ones to lift ourselves out of it. With each others' help.

And of course, a few months from now, Trump will take all the credit for our hard work. But that's later—for now it's up to us.

And we are up to the challenge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Compelling headline goes here! Wait, this IS the headline?

I had planned a series of pieces on musician / band box sets and career retrospectives this week, in order to give people things to listen to (or not) while everyone is mostly stuck at home.

However I've been mentally strung thin this week—I am exhausted after each day of work, but I am not complaining since I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to work remotely while so many of my friends are out of work right now.* And when you're that tired, you end up sleeping a lot, so at least I'm incredibly well rested!

But the point I'm trying to make is my brain has been occupied and kept busy and that is excellent for everyone involved, except for you dear reader, who may be looking for distracting content or fun jams (or warnings of bad jams), since those topics have fallen down the list of priorities.

But humans are incredibly adaptable and I am no different. So, look for those longer pieces in the next couple of days as my mental shelf space allows for extracurricular writing.**

*If you have the means to donate to any of the numerous GoFundMe campaigns put together by your favorite venues / bars / restaurants for their employees, or can buy merchandise from touring musicians stuck at home, please do! I have and will continue to do so as much as I can.

**An odd phrase fro write coming from someone who once said during a discussion while on a panel of music critics that like a cockroach, I would feel compelled to write about and share music even during the apocalypse.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Brett Newski hopes you won't let the bastards get you down.

Photo by Alejandro Albuernes
Brett Newski hails from the desolate north lands of Milwaukee, and how latest album Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down was titled quite a while ago but feels incredibly timely, huh?*

He sounds kinda like Peter Murphy had he latched onto power-pop before turning glam goth.

I won't go into any greater detail, but since I'm sure we could all use any welcome distraction from the torrent of ever-changing news I reckoned we could all use a slice of good music to help us along. And if you dig this taste, make sure to check out the full album when it's released on April 3!

And, clearly, since he lives so close to Chicago I'm hoping to get a chance top catch him live ... sometime in the future.

UPDATE: Newski is generously donating all pre-order proceeds to Doctors Without Borders if you place your order through March 19!

*Totally joking. Milwaukee is a lovely town and a terrific weekend getaway shoaled you be within a few hours drive. Just maybe not right now.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Funny ... for now!

The daily New Yorker cartoon was by Emily Flake, and it made me immediately chuckle ... and then groan.*

I have long been O.K. with working from home occasionally, but working in the creative sector of the advertising business means that I am the kind of person who enjoys collaborating with others, and much of the nuts and bolts work we do is in person, so while the core of this cartoon (so many meetings! why?!) makes sense to me, it misses the "non-meeting" portion of daily work.

Luckily, my agency has a really robust system for remote work, so communication with my teammates has been thriving, but I already miss sitting with an art director or account partner when working through a project. This wouldn't bother me in a limited sense, but the open-ended nature of our current social restrictions for very valid health reasons is giving me more anxiety than usual.

But we are all in this together and we'll all figure it out. So, enjoy that chuckle the above cartoon immediately elicits now—we need the laughs.

*And not just because The New Yorker still insists on styling "email" as "e-mail," a pet peeve of mine.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Bits and pieces on a quiet Friday.

Huh, well, that was quite a week, huh? Plenty of other people are freaking out / trying to reassure through a kajillion think pieces about everything going on right now, and it's a lot, and I don't think anyone needs me adding to that mix, at least not today.

So instead, go read my review of ROOKIE's most excellent new album. Seriously, this LP is pure fire. I would say it slaps but don't want to tether current slang to a timeless piece of art. Or something like that.

In other news, last night I saw of Montreal and it was also a LOT.

K went with me and I could tell she was getting a little agitated (justifiably so)  as the venue grew more and more crowded. And at the end of the main set, the band threaded a chain of balloons through the audience, ensuring every participant had the chance to manhandle a strip of rubber dozens then hundreds of hands had already touched. I found it amusing (and kept my distance from the GermBalloon™) however K stared at the whole exchange in horror. We both survived. We'll know in 14 days if we survived without getting eventually sick.

Speaing of surviving, are we?

Good luck out there y'all, and stay safe!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

of Montreal IS FUN.

Photo by Christina Schneider
I've had a slightly complicated personal history with of Montreal, so it had been a while since I actively listened to any of their stuff, but their latest album UR FUN absolutely entranced me.

Learn all about it! I reviewed the album and previewed their show tonight at Bottom Lounge for Third Coast Review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Scrub-a-dub and a song I love.

The "wash your hands to a song" generator has blown up over the last few days, though it should be purely used for entertainment purposes and not actually timing that 20 second suggested scrubbing period. For instance, we you to select my choice above to sing to yourself, your hands would be super clean, since you'll be scrubbing away for 1.5+ minutes.

Personally, I've just been singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" softly to myself because I love how everyone around me headbangs at the big break in the middle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Are you ready to rock with ROOKIE?! Well, hold on tight!

Photo by Alec Basse
I'll be doing a proper review about ROOKIE's self-titled debut album for Third Coast Review later this week, but that shouldn't stop you from listening to ALL OF THE MUSIC of theirs that's currently publicly available, including and especially the lead off track from that new LP out on Friday, "Hold On Tight."

I'll keep focused on this tune and not ROOKIE in general, O.K.?

The first time I heard "Hold On Tight" I immediately thought of Sloan's "Money City Maniacs" since ROOKIE utilizes a very similar clear out the stadium a massive party is a-comin' mega-riff on "Hold On Tight." The band is on Bloodshot Records, a label with a history of identifying promising young talent, and in this case I think the label struck massive gold by getting these cats onto the roster.

So, hold on tight and get ready to rock and/or roll with wild abandon!

Monday, March 09, 2020

If you listen to one podcast this week / month / year, make it this episode of 'Reply All.'

It's been a long time since a single podcast episode blew my mind, but last week's episode of Reply All did just that.

I don't want to ruin anything with too much of a setup, but it's such a delight. The premise—tracking down a song no one is even positive exists—is would be intriguing enough (and it is!) but I admit I got some additional shivers of recognition as a few familiar voices popped up over the course of this journey.

So—will you delve into the the case of the missing hit and find out if the mystery actually gets solved?

Friday, March 06, 2020

Shifting opinions are O.K. and a sign you're always growing as a human being.

When this song came out I HATED it.

I now find it HILARIOUS.

So see? Opinions on art can and should evolve, or I would have cheated myself of the pleasure this brings me nearly 30 (?!) years later.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

What started off as a post about haircuts turned into a rumination on just how deeply uncool my style choices are. Oh well!

Some days I feel like I'm finally starting to get it together, and other days I realize I need a haircut and had no idea my longtime salon was closing and my stylist already left for another salon. So now I gotta figure out what to do since I tend to wait until waaaaaay too long to get my hair cut.

Yep, that's right ya'll, it's a post about my hair! Huzzah!

We are, all of us, full of internal contradictions, and it's just that sort of thing that means someone like me probably already knew that news you're just now telling me about a week ago, but I can't manage to put together an outfit more complicated or interesting than  jeans paired with a band t-shirt or solid colored collared button-up and my trusty pair of Doc Martens.*

This was gonna be the kinda post where I outlined more and more of those types of things in a humorous fashion, but after creating out the footnote to that sentence above, I realized that maybe I don't have a lot to say on the matter and my main focus was always going to be that I'm a creature of habit when it comes to my appearance.

At this point the only way I could convincingly update my look / style would be by moving to a new city where nobody knows me and trying to start from there. And I'd probably be back in jeans, t-shirts, and Docs within a week.

So you don't feel like you completely wasted your time reading all this, here is a video of my favorite weatherperson in the nation right at this second.

*I already ordered my back-up pair of Docs and they're sitting by my front door in a box, just waiting for my current pair to develop a hole or become unwearable for some other reason. And on my dresser is a new pair of jeans, exactly like all my other jeans, I bought months ago but haven't put into rotation yet since none of my other jeans are in poor enough shape to retire. That's right, I stockpile jeans and boots, but not in an "I love fashion and need alternatives" kinda way but more a "I found what works and I'll do whatever I can to ensure I always have those items in the replacement queue" way, possibly triggered by the Great Boot Panic of the 2016 when Doc Martens had stopped making my favorite boot and every other reseller was out of stock, forcing me to choose a new boot style after 15 years. The trauma!

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

I was curious and threw this poll up on Twitter.

What do you think? Feel free to vote away if you use Twitter!

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

"Change takes time!"

As we waited for hours in lines for trains to get back home after Obama's first inauguration in D.C., one city transit worker walked up and down the line proclaiming, "Change takes time!" in a plea with all of us to exhibit patience in the situation.

I've thought about that moment a lot over the years, because that transit worker was mostly correct—positive change, change that tries to replace broken systems with something productive, takes a LOT of time.

Think of it this way: every year Lollapalooza comes to Chicago and for weeks they build the equivalent of a small metropolis in the middle of Graht Park. That construction takes quite a bit of time, every single year.

Do you know how long it takes to dismantle most of that temporary metropolis each year? A couple of hours.

Destruction is easy. Building something new is not.

The U.S. elected a President in 2016 that is very good at implementing change, as long as that change is reversing progress and destroying basic rights. The next person to occupy that office isn't going to be able to fix just that damage in their first four years, much less make much progress on the raft of transformative plans many of the people running for that office right now are promising.

Vote your heart, but don't vote for someone simply promising you a better, new world that will solve all of your problems, because I think we're a long way from that. We need to elect people who are thinking about the generations after us, and slowly start to build a better world for them.

So when you vote, keep that in mind. Ultimately though, you should vote for who you think is best. And if you want to support that person and try to convince other people that your candidate deserves their vote, by all means, please do so! But maybe, just maybe, we could support the candidates we want in a single party without viciously attacking any candidate from that party that we don't support.

Make positive arguments. Be part of the change. Don't be part of the destruction.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Why I will survive the coronavirus / COVID-19.

Attack cat!
I mean, I’ve always been good about the whole hand washing thing. And the fact that so many articles seem to focus on how to properly wash your hands frightens me primarily because that means so many people simply don’t wash their hands properly. Ew! But they ain’t gonna get me that!

And the face touching thing—I’ve gotten pretty good about being aware of when I’m touching my face because I own a cat and enjoy petting my cat but don’t enjoy inviting the risk of pink eye or other maladies into my life. So I’m very good about keeping the ol’ hands away from my face when they aren’t freshly washed. For the most part. I still occasionally have to rub my temples or slap my forehead in real life situations, but at least I’m not randomly sticking my digits into my mouth or constantly rubbing my eyes or wiping my nose with the back of my hand.

I have no current international travel plans, and due to the hard work of one DFW you’re not gonna find me on a cruise ship any time soon (or probably ever, unless someone wants me to write a lesser sequel to his original).

I no longer drink alcohol, I get 30+ minutes of physical activity 7 days a week (supplemented by at least 5+ days at the gym each week), and I get 8+ hours of sleep a night now. In other words, my immune system is probably in the best shape it’s ever been. In fact, I’m a relative freaking superhuman specimen right now!*

Despite the looks from my neighbors who doubted my decision to begin a construction project during a Chicago winter, the moat around my apartment building is almost complete. I changed my plans to fill it with lava, so it’s currently filled with egg shells.*** Sharp little egg shells! No one’s walking across those.**** And just wait until all that creates a fertile bed for thick vegetation to densely grow in, blocking all access to my building via conventional means. Genius!

And of course, Pickle the Kitten is a trained attack cat, so I’m covered there if anyone manages to make it across that moat.

So I’m safe! How are your preparations going for the end of the world as we know it?

*Until I look in the mirror shirtless each morning as I get ready and ponder if more time at the gym is in order and at all possible. Who cares abut the underlying state of the system when my vanity is at risk?!**

**Truly spoken like someone not facing a life-threatening illness, yet.

***It pays to read

****The only way into my building is via secret underground tunnel, and I bet you thought I would slip and tell you where the entrance to said tunnel lies above the ground. I wasn’t born yesterday!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

100 ringtones?

I am not surprised 100 gecs' "ringtone" got such a massive pop-friendly remix with so many high profile guests. The song was a standout already, and this version merely reinforces my belief that the chaos of the gecs is grounded in a melodic sensibility that makes their music accessible even as it appears inscrutable to many upon first encounter.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

When your morning commute goes from O.K. to AWESOME, MAN!

It is an excellent time in Chicago music right now for so many reasons, and Ratboys just added another reason to that list. I started listening to their latest album Printer's Devil earlier today and dropped my jaw, literally it did. I've got more to say on the matter but am saving that for a show preview and album review later this week over on Third Coast Review.

However, you should not have to wait until then to also experience the glory of the new Ratboys, so stream away below and buy buy buy a copy for yourself!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tonight's can't-miss show is Stonefield at Sleeping Village!

Photo by Nathan Stewart
I previewed the Stonefield show at Sleeping Village tonight, so read that piece for a deeper dive into what to expect from this Australian quartet.

You can also listen to the album below if your click finger is broken and you can't be bothered to click the above link. But you really should. Here's another chance! <— click that link!

UPDATE: My friend Chip shared an interview he did with the sisters in Stonefield last year when they opened for King Gizzard, and it's an excellent read. Now I'm triply stoked for tonight's gig!

UPDATE 2: I ended up never getting out of the house and I slept through the show. I am SO SO SO bummed. And old, apparently.

Monday, February 24, 2020

It only seems fair.

I feel like there should be a law or a rule that dictates anyone who buys an album of music when it's released automatically gets downloads of any additional materials the artist releases in a "deluxe" or expanded edition of that album within 18 months of its initial release.

I can NOT figure out why so many artists essentially punish fans for buying music right away through their efforts to increase sales of the same product with a few small additions to the tracklisting further down the line.

File that one under a random Monday maverick notion that probably deserves deeper inspection at some point or another. Or file it under "Things on my to-do list should I inherit the mantle of Ruler of All Human Civilization at somme point." Just sayin'.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Speed Babes hate to say they told you so, but true love will find you in the end if you are a bugman.

That headline was too easy. As I sit here fretting about existential delimnas brought upon by the disappearance of my Fitbit, my mood was lifted by the unexpected release of a trio of covers by Chicago's Speed Babes. I can't think of a band better suited to attack Blur's "Bugman" like they do, and they follow it up with a spirited rendition of The Hive's "Hate To Tell You So," before closing out with an uncharacteristically naked and sensitive (and quite touching) version of Daniel Johnston's "True love Will Find You In The End."

So there ya go, a 1...2...3...let's go! start to your Friday and the beginning of what I hope is a glorious weekend for each and every one of you.

The band kicks off a brief tour at The Empty Bottle on March 10 if you wanna see these tunes performed live. Bend their arms and force them to do it—they love it!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Tiny Fighter shares "The Strangest Thing" and the result is comfortingly familiar.

Photo by Marcos Engman (a.k.a. Mecno)
What do you get when you mix a truck driver from Sweden with a doctor from Australia? Apparently the answer is "Strangest Thing," the first single off Tiny Fighter's impending debut Going Home.

On "Strangest Thing" Therese Karlsson (the truck driver) and Tim Spelman (the doctor) work all the familiar tropes of '90s alt-rock into a song that does sound from another time. I can imagine the chorus spreading out from terrestrial radio stations into car stereos then spreading out over the curbs, beaches, and parking lots filled with lazy folks just taking in the tunez and the vibez and feeling allllllright.

I'm hoping the rest of the album is as satisfying, but we'll all have to wait until late March to find that out. But why wait when this first single so satisfyingly scratches a certain kind of itch and can transport you back to a simpler time?*

*Clearly my nostalgia for a past decade is making me more susceptible to this particular sound, but there's a universal approachability and yearning that I think makes my own response fit into a communal expectation you may well fit within too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Chicagoish are your Chicago Media Bowling League champions!

Photo by Ryan Smith
Chicago is a media town, and we've had a media bowling league for years, and Chicagoist has had a presence in the league from the get-go. Back in the early days, we were frequently at the bottom of the standings since we were a bunch of writers just bowling to have fun.* Over the years the league shifted and changed along with the local media environment, and while many folks rolling still write for media outlets, few of us are still connected full-time (or at all) to outlets our teams were named after. This year Chicagoist was represented by team Chicagoish, and it was the first year in a long time that I didn't roll once all season long, instead checking in and cheering on from the virtual sidelines of emails and social media posts.**

This is a long way of saying that this is all presented to make it perfectly clear that I had zero influence on and no physical contributions to the facts in the next sentence.

Chicagoish are the champions of this year's Chicago Media Bowling League! Woo hoo! Champions champions champions! They're number one! They're number one!

It was a bittersweet victory, since Rob Winn—who took over active captain duties from me this season—couldn't make the playoffs due to a scheduling conflict, and he 100% deserves to share in the glory that is the Chicagoish championship!

So, sorry about that Rob, but congratulations to the team that brought home the trophy / sword last night—Samantha Abernethy, Lukas Ostrander, Jessica Mlinaric, and Anne Demey! Way to go, folks! You are all winner winner chicken dinner in my book!***

*Don't worry, many of the other teams were plenty competitive enough to make up for our feeling less than invested in assuring win after win during those early days.

**We were actually going to be Chicagoish last year, but the name change didn't make its public debut on the bowling rosters until the start of the 2019-2020 season. Why change the name? Despite having a role in the process that eventually saw Chance the Rapper buy up Chicagoist and its archives, it just didn't feel right using the "Chicagoist" name, and repeated attempts to text Chance last year and clear it went unanswered.

***Unless you are a vegetarian, in which case please substitute a tasty plant or non-animal foodstuff in place of chicken.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The grooviest dog you ever did see.

Yesterday was a holiday in the U.S., and it's one of those holidays that some people get off work, many still need to go in, and postal carriers and school children frolic all the day long. And I was in the group that got the day off!

I didn't waste the day, per se. I did make it to the gym. And did a little shopping. And then returned home where I dedicated my day to reading books and watching TV and not doing any other dang thing. And it was so great! I woke up this morning refreshed and raring to go—just the way one should feel after a three day weekend.

I also listened to a few new albums and various other tunes that have been kicking around my playlists awaiting my attention, which is how I (far too long after the release of his initial tunes) found myself listening to some of Billy Ghost's output.

Billy has a real last name, and he uses that when fronting Chicago's The Kickback, but for this project he's just a Ghost. A hip-hop ghost? Sampledelic? Ghostledelic?

Whatever it is, it's mellow and the perfect soundtrack to an early sunrise after a night out, or just a chill soundtrack to surfing on your own couch with your favorite kitten and a killer pair of headphones. Something like that.

Get a taste below, then move on to all his other releases.

Friday, February 14, 2020

An old standby.

Today is the first day this winter I can legit trot this cartoon to the front of the line. It is true, funny, sad, and a fact of Midwestern life that arises each year to make me question my sanity for continuing to live here.* I was introduced to this particular panel a few years ago, and while I certainly do equate it with the person that initially brought it to my attention, it is a universal truth!

*There is PUH-lenty out there to help me question my sanity, so this should come as no surprise.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Beach Bunny is ready for their moment in the sun.

Has it really been less than two years since I saw Beach Bunny opening a show for VARSITY at The Empty Bottle, and shyly congratulating bandleader Lili Trifilio on an excellent set? I didn't (and don't) personally know Trifilio, so this was a little out of the ordinary for me, but I had never heard of the band and was totally bowled over by their potential. But I also admit at the time I never really considered they'd expand their influence outside the indie rock landscape.

A few months later I realized the band might have that spark that would allow them to bloom and spread their music far beyond their initial "scene." I was at Riot Fest with a friend who walked away from the weekend telling me Beach Bunny was their favorite set of all three days. Considering my friend was the type to follow jam bands whose tastes largely did not align with mine, this was a clear indicator that there was something in Beach Bunny's music that could touch the masses.*

And I promptly filed that away and moved on, hearing little from the band until I got an email from their new label to expect a full-length debut in February of 2020.** Which is now!

Said debut, Honeymoon, is fucking fantastic. Yes, it's a female-led band with a clear debt to '90s guitar-based indie pop with seemingly somewhat unsteady vocals that are actually really strong and precise but manage to convey vulnerability nonetheless. Trifilio's vocal instrument is really something to behold in person, and the album manages to capturer that wonderfully.

And the band is in cracking fine form, tight as can be, turning on dimes, spinning out webs to entangle ever ear that sound waves can reach, and generally functioning as a single extension of Trifilio's vision. Which is incredibly remarkable for any young group, but even more so considering Beach Bunny was for years a solo bedroom project and the band wasn't assembled, from what I can tell, not too long before I fist saw them play. The studio can fix a lot of things and create mirages of perfection out of snippets of individual achievements, but on Honeymoon Beach Bunny sounds like a band that was grown up and lived together forever.

Honeymoon is out tomorrow and there are events celebrating its release over the next two days in Chicago before the band hits the road to spread the good word both across our nation and in international settings.

*My friend and I would trade off—I would take her to see a band like Sleigh Bells and she would gamely grimace through their set, and then we'd see something like a Grateful Dead member's side project where I would remain as open as possible (but would often also grimace), and so on and so on. The point being that if there was something we both liked it was a clear sign that there was something appealing to a brand palate going on there.

**Here is where I admit that until this morning I knew nothing of the band blowing up on TikTok through the use of their song "Prom Queen." Which might explain the label interest and such, but also goes to prove that their appeal is pretty damn wide, no matter on what platform the first steps to world domination might be taken. Also, more on the whole TikTok thing here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Work travel.

I actually love business trips. I know most everyone positions their responses to an upcoming business trip as "ugh, I gotta do this" but I think that is a false response and deep deep down most people are like me and love the opportunities this traveling affords, especially the face-to-face time with clients / collaborators / etc. I was thinking about this as I landed at O'Hare earlier today, legs cramped from a middle seat definitely NOT made with a 6'2" frame in mind, but head full of new ideas and that tingling pleasure that follows any super-productive period of time.

A business trip also always ends with me getting home and opening the door to be met by Pickle the Kitten, followed by a rare show of honest affection from her that lasts precisely 2 minutes before she says "enough" and puts me back to work tending to her food and comfort needs. An added bonus!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Feelin’ a bit bookish around these parts.

I kicked off 2020 with a goal of reading at least 40 books this year and I’m currently on pace to beat that. Of course, we’re barely 2 months into the year and there’s a whole summer just sitting in wait to distract me for a few months, so we’ll see what ultimately happens.

However K  has also taken up this goal, and she tends to be pretty competitive, so her taunts as she races towards 40 books may keep me in line. Like I said, we’ll see!

However, if you would like to keep up with what I’m reading on a regular basis, then go on and visit my Goodreads profile.* And if you use the service, feel free to add me and I can keep up with what’s on your shelf (either virtual or physical) as well!

*I didn’t even realize it until grabbing the link for my profile that I’ve been using Goodreads since 2008!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Oscars.

I have no hot take. I didn't tweet during the ceremony. I avoided Facebook. And I'm even skipping most of the recaps this morning, because why bother?

I'm not sure why there were so many musical numbers for a show celebrating film. But when Parasite won Best Screenplay I knew the odds were out the window in a number of the categories, and that certainly made for a more exciting watch (in 30 second to 2 minute bites).

Tl;dr—The broadcast show was even more boring than usual, but the winners were more exciting than I expected. That's an OK trade-off as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Concert attendance is down this year (for me).

I can count the number of concerts I've been to in the last 6 months on one hand. I know! What?! But what can I say? I rarely go out. However the coins months will see a large number off bands coming through Chicago so I guess I'll just have to force myself off the couch, our my front door, and into a number of live music venues while said bands are going through to play actual shows and not festival dates. In other news, I'm really on the fence about which festivals to attend this year. I'd be snarky and say "if any" but there is no way I'm missing My Chemical Romance at Riot Fest this fall!

Other summer fest, though? We'll see.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

One of those simple things that makes me deliriously happy.

I had no idea who Joe Pera was until a fellow music fan mentioned how much they love the episode of Pera’s Adult Swim show where he discovers The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” The ramifications of this new music entering into Pera’s life is simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming. His style is so subtle and human that you could be in stitches making fun of his ‘character” but ultimately find his own delight transfer through the screen and into your life (wherever you may be watching this).

Watch the whole episode—it's only about 11 minutes long so it won't take much time, but I think you'll really enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Still catching up on 2019 albums and had an obvious thought that is now far too late to be funny, but I'm gonna share it with you anyway.

Why did everyone have their knickers in knots over how awesome / bad Great van Fleet was in 2019, as if they were the only option for people looking for new music that reminded you of a certain era / style / particular other band's stomping grounds when we could've all just agreed that the new Wolfmother kicks ass?

Now, let me get this out of the way and admit that the first year we had "celebrity" kickball at Lollapalooza, the Wolfmother gents were teammates of mine. But I assure you that has zero influence on me as far as giving their new music a huge thumbs-up! If those sorts of things affected my judgement I would never be able to watch Breaking Bad or enjoy a hobbit-central movie again since those people were always on the opposing teams, the few years this particular kickball tradition lived on (3? 4?).

And with that I think I've proven that I must be steadily moving to a better place internally since we have all obviously just witnessed the return of a patented and not very subtly humblebrag executed to avoid writing about much of anything else going on in the world.

You're welcome!

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Monday, February 03, 2020

Analysis paralysis.

The only analysis paralysis Pickle encounters is determining which part of the couch is most comfy at any given moment.
I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me—wondering why I have a million thoughts and ideas, but I can't seem to get any of them out right now. It's certainly not writer's block, so I've been struggling over how to approach it since it's a relatively new experience for me. Last week I heard the phrase "analysis paralysis" and realized that is probably the best way to describe this right now.*

If it's work-related, all my old skills are still in fine form and I know how to address challenges and come up with the required solutions. And clearly, in this space in particular, focusing on music and recommendations and such is also still a dependable skillset. So in the professional fields of my life, this isn't really a burden.

But when it comes to my internal world, and trying to navigate the personal, I'm getting tripped up. Even now I can feel my fingers slowing down as I struggle to find the pathway to the next sentence to try and describe this and work out the underlying problem.

Of course, the underlying problem is the result of a new clarity and a constantly adjusting worldview, so it's totally fair to expect a period of reorientation, but the knowledge that this is normal doesn't make it any less frustrating.

Has anyone else had to deal with this, particularly as a new obstacle to overcome? If so, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and let me know what you did.

*Not a new term, by any means, but it's one of those that popped up out of nowhere to perfectly encapsulate a current quandary as if by Divine Intervention.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Sometimes you just need to embrace the peace and quiet.

I got up, sat in front of the computer for about two minutes, and decided you know what—I'm still on vacation!

Relax and enjoy the weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Vacation laaaaaaziness.

My 9-to-5 is moving offices over the weekend and I decided to use some of my rollover vacation time during the move. No big plans, aside from being lazy at home. So I'll look for something fun to share tomorrow, but today was just dedicated to nothing beyond a trip to the gym and then running the risks of growing roots out of my butt and into my couch as I caught up on movies that have been in my watch queue for forever.

Oh, and the finale of The Good Place. Though it took me a few times to get through to the end since I was so exhausted from my day of doing nothing!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Everyone IS gonna be okay!

I get the impression Shana Falana has seen a few things, and over the course of Darkest Light she snares snippets and pockets of her observations with us.

Her music's sound is hard to pin down from song to song: some of it is dreamy, other tunes are dirge-y, and then there's "Everyone Is Gonna Be Okay," which is certifiably 100% a total jammy jam that coulda been sung by The Darling Buds back in the day.* Bonus points for tossing in a nod to "Bull In The Heather"-stylee delivery in the song's back half.**

So triple scores all around.

*Crawdaddy is still one of my favorite albums of all time. For serious.

**While I'm making comparisons, it also occurred to me the intro is also quite structurally similar to Sloan's "Unkind," which perhaps mad me even more vulnerable to the charms of "Everyone Is Gonna Be Okay" on a subliminal level.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020

On unexpected songs taking the place of intended thoughts.

Photo by Michael Wolever
Kicked out a stream-of-consciousness post this morning as an exercise to rev the mental engine and then sat on the results all day until I decided that, at this moment, I didn't feel like sharing where that ended up.

Luckily, this afternoon I stumbled across this little piece of twee and sprightly indie pop with just the right amount of sadness licking at its edges. To be honest, all of Sean Henry's A Jump From The High Dive is worth your time and listening instruments, but "Touch The Sun" leapt out at me, its mere existence improving the tenor of my day. Even if lyrically the tune does appear to have a bit of a depressing twist ending, if you hear it that way. But like I said, it did improve my day, on the musical enjoyability scale.

Maybe it'll do the same for you whenever it is you happen to stumble across this post and give it a listen.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Nothin' PHONY going on here!

Photo by Vanessa Valadez
I guess that while PHONY frontperson Neil Berthier is currently based in Boston, he was also a Chicago resident no too long ago. So that means I'm kicking myself twice as hard for only now firing up PHONY's recent debut, Songs You'll Never Sing.

Loud sloppy and tuneful, PHONY ain't afraid to let guitars rip and crash into each other, fighting to be heard above crescendos of drum racket, alongside see-sawing from low-key melodic vocals that tear into screaming peals of emotion, punctuating the music with a visceral slash through the heart.

There are elements of a bunch of other genres threaded throughout Songs You'll Never Sing, but Berthier is clearly indebted to what we easily identified as "indie rock" in the "college rock" days, before the descriptor grew so amorphous as to not be a clear indicator to set expectations.

Sadly I missed PHONY touring behind this last winter, but hopefully Berthier will hit the road again in the not-too-distant future, since I'm dying to hear how this stuff plays out live.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Slip and slide into NovaBound's currents and you'll be delighted.

NovaBound is a one-man band led by Andrew Michael Agulto and augmented by a rotating cast of guest musicians in the studio and n the road. Agulto's latest album, Sevenths, was built out of refreshed demos that originated after his first bad relationship break-up in 2015.

NovaBound inhabits an intimate '70s vibe without feeling small at all. The music is finely structured and is incredibly well thought out without sacrificing a certain flexibility that allows the songs to breathe and shift. Styles blend throughout the album, building off that base. For instance, the second track "Shattered Eyes" feels like an early Brendan Benson nugget until a guitar solo backed with a chorus of oooohs and ahhhhs comes in straight out of latter-era Pink Floyd. And so on and so on.

Part of me wishes the album lasted longer than its 7 songs, but ultimately that's probably the perfect length for this piece, and Agulto knew it.*

*Those 7 songs are stretched out over 40 minutes, and most break the 6 to 7 minute mark, but they never feel long.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dancing with the clairvoyants.

I've been a huge and unapologetic Pearl Jam fan from the get-go (the number of bootlegs I burned onto cassette tape in the first half of the nineties was ridiculous in my efforts to grab every piece of music that I could*) but have gradually lost touch with the band over the years as they slowed down the pace of new albums and focused on their (always excellent) live shows.

This new song off their soon-to-be-released Gigaton seems to indicate that era may be ending as the band appears to be opening up their sound more than they have since Vitaology dropped and confused many (while, I would argue, delighted many more).

*I remember when the Soldier Field show was released in a couple of Chicago indie record stores, I begged Photogal to lend me the money to pick it up since she had a "big money" job and I was still slugging it out part-time creating designs for a company that sold trophies both big and small. "I was at that show!" I said. "It's only fifty bucks!" I said, at a time when $50 was prohibitively expensive for something like a compact disc, illegal or not, and I was definitely not making enough money to justify such a huge expenditure on my own. I did eventually get it all on my own, and it was worth every penny.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Moving and shaking with Mover Shaker.

Well, I was all set to write about this one band, but then realized they had no tunes in my preferred sources for music embeds. So I’ll write about them at a later time. No biggie.

But that means I sat down right here expecting to have “content” to share, and now I have none. None prepared, anyway. I have tons to write about, but none of it feels right for right now. Waitaminnit, I just remembered this!

So, yesterday I was driving around and listening to Detroit’s Mover Shaker in my quest to finally get through the playlist of albums released in 2019 I have on ye olde tankPHONE, and realized that what I was listening to was kind of a weird little album. So let’s get meta and just take a gander at what I scrawled as notes while listening to their Another Truck Stop album, with no background knowledge of the band (other than they are from Michigan).
Punk? Math? Pop punk? Indie Guitar Rock? These cats move all over, but the one connecting thread is INTENSE delivery. Sound like music/band nerds that got volume pedals. And now have gone to town giving those pedals a workout while challenging each other with who can write the gnarliest chart for a song.
So, at this point I could delve into the group's actual bio—since writing the above I have scanned it, doing my own due diligence—but I think perhaps, if the half-sensical notes above hit a chord within you, it makes sense to just jump in and make up your own mind. Maybe it's more accessible and straightforward than I originally thought? You tell me.

Oh hey, look! Mover Shaker is playing Subterranean in Chicago on February 3! (And touring elsewhere if you're not in Chicago.) What timing!

Friday, January 17, 2020


Spotify wants to provide the soundtrack for your pet's days of lazing (or jumping) around your home. You enter a few basic parameters based on your pet's personality, and then Spotify spits our a playlist they thing your pet would approve of.

So, of course this led me to explore just what Spotify would answer when asked "What would Pickle listen to?"

Since the results are supposed to be a blend of your own tastes and your pet's presumed preferences, I was curious to see what would happen, primarily because even though I had an account on Spotify before it was even available in the U.S. (one of the benefits of working for a marketing firm focused on digital back in those oh-so early days, resulting in various potential partners giving me early access to exclusive situations—woo hoo!) I almost never use the platform.

So, with all that in mind, let's see what Pickle wants to listen to!

I'm still listening to it myself, but I'm pleased to see Chicago's Ratboys—Pickle did once bring me the present of a dead mouse three living situations ago—made the list! And she does enjoy herself some Bleachers. I have to say I'm not so sure she'd enjoy the eerier noises peppered throughout Sophia Kennedy's "William by the Windowsill" though. Doesn't seem like the sleepytime kitty music I believe Pickle prefers.*

*I confess Pickle and I have never had a deep discussion to dig into her musical tastes, which is pretty surprising given the fact I both write about and create music. But, based on her reactions to my forcing her to dance around the apartment when I play more upbeat numbers I think she probably leans toward—though not exclusively—lower key fare. Just a guess.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Waiter, there's a toe in my drink.

I was listening to this week's Slate Political Gabfest, and David Plotz shared a Canadian drink as his cocktail chatter.

I hope you are laughing and gagging just as much as I was when I learned this little factoid.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The return of The House Of Love!

Photo via the band's Facebook page
My very first show at The Metro was seeing The House of Love in 1990, something I celebrated when I was invited to speak at the venue's 35th anniversary party. That was also the year that the

Yesterday Keep sent me an excited text letting me know the band had just announced they would be returning to the road and will be in Chicago this coming May to play Subterranean!

The band hasn't toured the U.S. since 1992, so this is a really big deal! Well, to me, at least, And, I'm certain, many other folks that were Anglophiles in the late '80s and fell in love with the band way back then.*

At the time their "big" single (probably at the time only played on 'XRT) was "The Beatles And The Stones," but I always though "Hedonist" and "In A Room" were superior. In a different world they would've been bonafide hits singles. Well, my perfect world.

For this tour The House Of Love will be playing their self-titled debut album, which should not be confused with their self-titled sophomore effort that spawned the tracks I referenced above. I know, it's confusing, but such were the time for a British band in America back then! Anyway, that means this is another one of those "classic album" tours, but I imagine they'll have to play stuff off the second album as well, since they haven't been around here in so many decades.

Don't miss out! Tickets go on sale today.

*And, honestly, probably everyone whose stumbled across the band between now and then. It's hard not to fall in love, if not a really deep like, with them after hearing their music.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

"You're a bunch of boys! You don't have anything under control!"

I finally watched Damien Chazelle's First Man last week. It was a movie I'd meant to take in since I respect the director's previous work, but admit it wasn't a priority because how many movies about the early years of the "Space Race" do we really need?

But First Man does something remarkable and reframes the story in realism that somehow makes a greater impact than any other movie I've seen before on the same subject. I was a space kid—who grew up ion the '70s or '80s and didn't dream of going to Space Camp* while being obsessed with rockets and space shuttles?—and I've seen all kinds of spacecraft up close and in person. But I don't think it ever hit home just how dangerous and relatively rickety** those earlier craft were! Even the training materials feel life-threatening!

Most stories about the U.S. space program focus on lofty patriotic ideals, but First Man puts you in the midst of daredevil number-crunchers and pilots who seem to barely break a sweat under the most insane of circumstances, which of course forces you to confront just how insane one must be to undertake something like launching into orbit and flying high above the Earth.***

It's early in the morning and I'm not doing this justice. I'm trying to describe just how Chazelle took something so burrowed into my own consciousness and made it feel vital and new, instilling an even deeper respect for the people that quite literally put their lives on the line to get us into space.

It's stuck with me.

*An ex of mine went to Space Camp and I was (am) always soooooo jealous.

**Something that goes to space and back isn't "rickety" but I mean this stuff was all experimental and no one could be sure and WOW every other depiction of take-off has people smushed in their seats but never before have I seen something that puts you IN those cramped seats and shuddering aircraft so viscerally.

***Plus, Ryan Gosling! Hubba hubba.

Monday, January 13, 2020


You know what? it's a Monday and it's kinda grey* outside and I don't feel much like writing. But I did want to celebrate something positive to kick off the week.

I have had a few things happen over the last couple of days that reminded me that there are people out there that value my contributions to their lives, both personally and professionally, and the timing was perfect since I was threatening to descend into an existential spiral questioning whatever legacy I might leave. It reminded me that having an impact on people's lives in a positive manner is probably one of the most rewarding things in my own life.

So that was nice.

*LONGSTANDING INTERNAL DEBATE: Grey or gray? I can never decide.