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 coming 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.