Friday, May 29, 2020

Echoes of the past pulled into the rolling grooves of the future.

Photo by Marie Renaud
Huh. Must be something about this band because I was looking for something to share today that was short and sweet for a variety of reasons and realized I was just about to write almost the exact same first sentence on a post about Post Animal as I did over a year ago! Maybe I just turn to them in my times of need? Or something like that.

Anyway, to further the "short and sweet"-ness of thus post, I'm just going to share my verbatim notes about this album, written, ohhhhh, a month ago, when I thought what I was listening to hadn't been realized yet and you can see it dawn on me as I recorded my thoughts while listening to Post Animal's amazing new album Forward Motion Godyssey.
This is terrific! Lush and deep and dreamy while remaining powerful and forward moving.* This should be their big breakthrough. Then I realized it came out a few months ago and the COVID-19 thing obviously derailed their momentum behind this (including a lot of canceled dates opening for Cage the Elephant?!).
Yeah, I think you should definitely check out the whole thing. But first I wanted to share this particular track below because I want to see if anyone else thinks there's a pretty clear line from the midsection and the funky segment that follows to another (though much longer) song from some of Post Animal's spiritual ancestors.

And there you go! And I even managed to write this whole post without mentioning the band's connection to a famous actor who is no longer in the band but everyone seems to feel is VERY IMPORTANT to mention in just about every piece about Post Animal. So there. Um. DANGIT!

*After I put all the components of this post together I looked at that line, then the album title, then that line again, and I felt incredibly stupid and obvious.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Downpours can be fun!

Look, I know this is an ad for Lady Gaga's new album Chromatica—which is surprisingly good and indeed a return to her club roots—and the duet she has with Ariana Grande on the album. But seeing these two just being very DIY silly as they deliver a few of the song's lyrics in this promo is genuinely delightful.

But ... does it really never rain in L.A.?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

It's not your day job that gets in the way of your writing, it's you.

One of the many unexpected delights I currently encounter on my long walks. Photo be me.
I just wrote (and scrapped) a post describing the difficulties of focusing on writing during our pandemic times, while having plenty of mental rambles* that would make good material, if only I could stop vacillating on how to approach each and every subject that eventually results in the piece dying because I can't form an internal consensus.

Is this happening to you? I'm incredibly productive at my day job that requires plenty of writing and creativity, but that work is also propelled by creative briefs and group reviews and collaboration and the general all-around smart thinking of the people I'm teamed up with for each project, so the momentum and focus never wanes.

Years ago one of my college writing teachers was Alex Shakar and he gave me the advice to never go into advertising because it would kill any personal writing, since a similar outcome applied to his own experience, leading to his exit from marketing and entry into academia and novel writing.

I understood Shakar's advice for what it was; Alex wasn't telling me to actually never enter ad-land, but he was sharing his own experience to let me know that if you do head down a similar route to his, you have to proactively work to keep the individual projects and outlets going.

And I did! An unusually large number of folks long thought that Chicagoist was my full-time gig due to my output on a wide range of topics alongside the editorial position and influence I held. But the whole time it was my actual 9-to-5 that paid most of my bills. Writing for myself "part-time" wasn't reducing my productivity, it was amplifying it!

Maybe I was more driven back then? I'm not sure, but I don't think so. I think that writing for a site where the vast majority of my output had to be relatively short, focused, and digestible certainly helped knock down some of the barriers I'm now facing. That doesn't mean my writing was any less fully considered in my head back then, but the workflow was certainly different than it is today.

So now, each day I take long walks and come up with lots of great ideas and worry through tons of questions and very occasionally come up with something I believe has value to myself and others.

I hope you got some value out of this today. I know it helped me to get some of this down and out of my head. Of course, now I've unlocked numerous other avenues on how to approach this ... so I'm glad I managed to bang on my keyboard and get this out, even if it's a momentary observation of a particular juncture in my evolution.

Thanks for coming to my TANK Talk.

*In this case I'm using "ramble" in the pleasantly wandering sense, and not the realm of unhinged discourse. Though, with me, I could see how you might confuse the two. Hee.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Why ever graduate 2nd Grade when it's this good?!

Photo by Julia Leiby
I was going to wait until the actual release of the new album Hit To Hit from Philadelphia's 2nd Grade to write about it, but in these times, why wait? Sure, it'll still be 10 days until you can hear the whole thing when it's released on May 29, but at least you can get a few of their songs stuck in your head before then so you can fully appreciate this 24 track monster in its full context in a week and a half. While Hit To Hit is 2nd Grade's debut, bandleader Peter Gill isn't new to the game, having spent time in other bands and releasing music under a number of different names.

2nd Grade lurves the '90s; early indie pop and Teenage Fanclub in particular. And if they don't lurve those things then they've certainly grown an appreciation for them through musical osmosis. The group has the lock on somehow mixing twee rock inclinations with power pop machinations that end up sounding epic and conversational at the same time. I can't tell if Gill and company know just how to push my buttons or if this is just another example of my personal tastes of the past realigning with the music cycle in the present. So if you hear this and immediately think, "This is so familiar, I must have heard this song before!" then the music is successfully doing its job.

You'll still have to wait a bit to hear the whole thing, but getcher feet wet with the handful of tracks below and brace yourself for when this currently-one-of-my-favorite-surpises-of-2020 lands at the end of the month.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I can't offer you any specific answers or reassurance, but I know we will make it to the other side of this.

Despite a torrential downpour last night, the basement in my building dod not flood, and I thank my landlord's efforts at protecting our basement from water.

I wanted to open the week with a positive sentiment, because on all other fronts right now ... I just don't know. Today being the third month since my office closed and everybody was told to work from home.*

I keep seeing that it's O.K. to not feel O.K., and that is certainly true. What's missing is what to do about it.

Some people feed that space with anger.
Some people feed that space with fear.
Some people fill that space with hope.
Some people fill that space with despair.
Some people fill that space with humor.
Some people fill that space with a tragic focus.
Some people fill that space with an optimistic resolve.
Some people don't know what to fill that space with because all of it seems so uncertain right now.

I don't know what to tell you to do about it. I kept intending to write a guide to dealing with isolation based on my own experiences over the years, but I don't feel anything I'm doing is especially different or offers additional guidance to anyone.

I suspect I'm doing the same things as many of you: staying home, walking a lot around my neighborhood, working from home with few time boundaries, wearing a mask in public when indoors or outside if it's impossible to stay distant from others, and having trouble at times differentiating between days.

The anxiety levels are high, but for me they are manageable because I am taking all the steps I can in order to keep myself and others safe.

We'll make it to the other side, eventually, I promise.

*I will be eternally grateful I was blessed with a job that was able to keep us all employed and working remotely during this pandemic. I know how incredibly lucky I am to be in that position.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Enter the multi-faceted world of Jeff Lescher.

Jeff Lescher was in Green, one of those Chicago area bands long known to music fans. Green was one of those groups everyone thought would break big, but they never quite did. Regardless, their influence remains. Lescher's solo album All Is Grace is 20 tracks sprawling all over the place. Some of it is lovely Midwestern power-pop and other segments fray and unravel with the excitement of a DIY bedroom project. It's even got a song I swear is a tongue-in-cheek nod to Guns 'N Roses' "November Rain." There is A LOT to take in.

The opening track, the chug-chiugging "Can't Do It Without You" caught my ear from the get-go, and but album's end I was still feeling its pull, so give it a spin below and then allow yourself to get sucked into the remaining 19 songs. It's a ride!

Friday, May 08, 2020

Worriers' "Relentless Noise" grabs you and won't let go. And you'll love it.

I was listening to the excellent new album from Lauren Denitzio's Worriers, You or Someone You Know. It was released just before the world shut down, so I don't believe it's received the acclaim it warrants, and would have received in different times. I hope that changes once this is all over, but I'm beginning to fear that 2020 will be the year of great music too few people hear. No tours and no festivals, paired with a news cycle that is (justifiably) focused on more life and death matters, means there are just so many non-blockbuster releases in the music world that aren't getting the blockbuster attention they deserve.

Tl;dr—You or Someone You Know is one of those albums that definitely deserves your time, and I hope it breaks through on a bigger scale once we start returning to whatever normal is going to be in the future.

My favorite track on the album is "Relentless Noise." Lyrically it's just, well, almost too much for me emotionally. Something about Denitzio's phrasing and word choice feels like they're in my head, which also means they managed to find something so specific it has universal appeal. I mean, that enough would have me head over heels with this tune—even more impressive since I'm not always a big lyrics guy—but then there are some dual guitar riffs that just slay, without sacrificing the authentic emotional urgency of the song. In other words, to me, "Relentless Noise" in an impressive piece of rock and/or roll alchemy that blends the fist-pumping with the tear-jerking.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

When dreams come true...

I fell asleep on the couch Sunday night and had a weird half-dream that John Oliver had retooled his weekly show for a cat audience. I woke up Monday morning, just thinking "how weird was that dream?"

Last night, after work, I sat on the couch with Pickle the Kitten to watch the latest episode of John Oliver I had slept through the previous evening and discovered CAT WEEK TONIGHT WASN'T A DREAM!

Monday, May 04, 2020

You bet your Ash this compilation is terrific!

Sometimes a review is hard, and you spend a lot of time trying to craft a convincing stance with the hopes of the reader checking out something new.*

During these pandemic times, I had the notion this would be an ideal opportunity to review a couple collections and/or box sets for people that might not be fans of a band, but might find these collections and/or box sets useful and perhaps even pleasurable and for sure illuminating.

Today's was an easy-to-write quick review because the item in question is a no-brainer.

Everyone has heard of Ash. Even if you don't know Ash, you know Ash. Either you heard their song for the Danny Boyle film A Life Less Ordinary titled "A Life Less Ordinary" or you've heard "Girl From Mars." Trust me, you've heard them.

While Ash is relatively unknown in the U.S. these days, they are still a force overseas, so while longtime fans here have access to all their work, we  don't tend to have fans around us to share or discuss said music with. And Ash has released a few "career compilations" over the years, and unlike other compilations they don't seem tailor made to annoy with each iteration of the "greatest hits" since the compilations tend to add tracks instead of removing one or two tracks that are on every other compilation.

So this year, when Ash announced yet another collection off their music titled Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash I was like, O.K., this seems fine, even if I'm not sure how they'll expand on the previous "greatest hits" I had, until I clocked the 3 disc version of the compilation stuffed with all the hits and a bunch of rare goodies.** Plus, this is the cover!

So Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash wins my complete endorsement. If you already own a ton of other collections from Ash, or all their singles and b-sides ... you'll still find this delightful. And if you are a casual fan or passive Ash listener, this is an excellent argument for devoting more of your time to discovering Ash's genius with loud guitars and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hooks.

Yeah, this one gets a thumbs-up!

*Even more rarely they attempt a convincing stance on why the reader should not check out something new, but these days those reviews are far less frequent and in today's environment—IMHO—less helpful. In this instance, some of my reviews mentioned in the following paragraph will be "warnings" to all but the most fervent fans.

**In fact the only letdown was discovering that disc 3's final track, hidden but entitled "Devil’s Haircut," is not a Beck cover. That would've been neat.