Tuesday, July 28, 2020

My "glamour shot."

A few months ago one of those posts challenging you to type in your name followed by "glamour shot" was making the rounds, and when I took part the image above was the number one result.

Every time I look at it I laugh, hence my sharing it with you.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

You need some Jeff Rosenstock in your life right now.

While 2020 has already offered us a ton of new music, some of the albums that are really sticking with me are coming from unlikely artists. Let's take Jeff Rosenstock as an example, since he's a musician I've long known about and appreciated, even if his torrential output of music rarely really hit hoe with me.

That all changed with NO DREAM, as Rosenstock fearlessly flaunts he and his band's technical skills  by cramming intricate progressions into a garage rock squall. At first it just sounds like a band bashing out some extremely loud, extremely catchy tunes, and I clearly remember the shock as it locked into place and I realized the dexterity it took to pull all this off while making it sound effortless.

Rosenstock released a video for the album's latest single "Scram!" and it's a terrific entry point for anyone unfamiliar with Rosenstock's work in general, and the genius of NO DREAM in particular. Check out the video and stream the album below.

As always, I endorse buying the tunes if they hit you as hard as they did me. In fact, I think I've bought the album twice already (once digitally and later when I purchased the vinyl, as it became apparent NO DREAM would probably make it through as one of the albums to really emotionally / physically move me in 2020)!*

*If you can't afford the album, and these days I can totally understand that being the case, Rosenstock is a staunch DIY kinda guy and offers free downloads of NO DREAM for those that can't afford to buy it (though there is an option to donate money to various charities through his label).

Monday, July 20, 2020

A cover new to me, and how the Hushdrops became an "Overnight Sensation."

I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for a band photo before realizing any photos I had were deep in a back-up drive, and the band is seemingly allergic to posting photos of themselves, so I'm resorting to these color bars instead.
I've known John San Juan for well over two decades now, and have been a huge fan of all his musical endeavors, including his primary outlet The Hushdrops.* I've long had tons of stuff from the band, much of it various tapes and CD-Rs of tunes in various states as they were recorded, as well as their two "official" album releases.

A few months ago San Juan finally threw up all the band's music on Bandcamp (thank god!) including a few live recordings and a compilation of non-album releases and various tidbits "from the vaults."

In that compilation sits a cover of "Overnight Sensation" that was recorded for a mid-'90s tribute album to The Raspberries that I had never heard before and it blew me away. It's massive and epic in all the right ways, with a lyric delivered with the knowing wink of people in their 20s that simultaneously believe a hit record is dumb while clearly really wanting one anyway.

"What was the story behind this?!" I wondered. Some of the vocals were clearly not San Juan or drummer Joe Camarillo (and I don't think bassist Jim Shapiro was officially "in" the band yet), so who was singing at times? And seriously, how had I never heard this?!

Sometimes the universe aligns just right, and as I did a brief check to see what I could learn online about the tune—something I didn't have a lot of confidence in finding since The Hushdrops, while deserving of it, have never gotten the "cover every move" type of press other Chicago up-and-comers tend to get—but lo and behold, there was a podcast episode dedicated to the recording of that song and featuring San Juan as its guest just last month!

What are the chances?!

So I invite you to fall in love with this cover, and then get the story behind it. And then you'll play the cover again. And again. And probably a few more times after that.

Also, and I hope it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, be sure to check out the band's whole catalog. The albums are must-haves, but the price for their entire catalog is so low you should just hoover up everything they've got up there so far.

*It is no exaggeration when I say that San Juan is one of the most naturally gifted musicians I have ever known. The man's abilities are astounding. Like, mind-boggling. Just had to say that.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Some of the best music of 2020 ... so far.

Photo by Anders Printz.
Last week I was thinking of a quick and easy post about my favorite albums of the year thus far, based entirely on the spreadsheet rankings I use to track each year's listening.* I thought I could just grab anything rated over a 7 and build out a list of ten albums, easy.

And then I realized I had forgotten just how much excellent music has been released this year. Which is not terribly surprising given our warped sense of time right now. I mean I forgot one of my favorite active bands, Peter Bjorn and John, put out an album this year ... the week everything shut down because of the pandemic (March 13).

I've already been publicly musing about my concern over so much great new music just disappearing into a black hole this year, with no tours or shows or any of the usual means to get the word out. It's scaring the living daylights out of me, if I'm being totally honest.

So when I fired up the spreadsheet and put the albums in their ranked order I was shocked to see so many rated an 8 or more on my personal scale of 10. Usually by this point of the year there are maybe one or two albums in that region, but we're already up to six in 2020. There is a good chance all of these will hold on until the year-end list of 20 albums, but I can already see one that might slip down a notch since my initial scoring, so you never know.

Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
Local H - LIFERS
2nd Grade - Hit To Hit
Jeff Rosenstock - NO DREAM
of Montreal - UR FUN

This next batch are all 7s, but in my head any of these could end up on the year-end list. It's usually this sector that provides sleeper favorites that may launch upward to a higher rating. But again, I'm withholding any editorializing or score adjustments until I have the whole year to consider. So, at the very worst, you now have a list of terrific albums to dip into if you need any new music in your life.

Peter Bjorn and John - Endless Dream
Soccer Mommy - color theory
Ratboys - Printer's Row
Beach Bunny - Honeymoon
Kesha - High Road
Lily Konigsberg - It's Just Like All The Clouds
Lizzy Farrall - Bruise
Locate S,1 - Personlia
Grouplove - Healer
Brendan Benson - Dear Life
Nada Surf - Never Not Together
Selena Gomez - Rare
Sunshine State - The Mess
Sweet Spirit - Trinidad
Buth Walker - American Love Story
Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated Side B
Fire In The Radio - Monuments
Badly Drawn Boy - Banana Skin Shoes
Run The Jewels - RTJ4
The Sounds - Things We Do For Love
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

I noticed after putting this together that Heart Bones' Hot Dish—the excellent new project from Har Mar Superstar and Sabrina from A Giant Dog / Sweet Spirit—and ROOKIE's amazing self-titled debut were not in the 7s, which is why I stress this list is by the numbers only for now. At year's end the task turns towards the editorial as rankings are used to help group consideration sets, so numeric scores are not the ultimate arbiters of what makes the list and what doesn't.

What's rockin' your turntable so far this year?

*Here's a refresher on how I view my own numerical rankings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Taking a brief disco break, so let's dance!

Earlier I was working on a list of albums that have ranked high in my personal estimation thus far in 2020, which reminded me how much I adore Dua Lipa's latest LP, Future Nostalgia, leading me to see what she's been up to most recently, resulting in my discovery of this playful new video for her latest single, which I hope brightens your day and lifts your mood.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Lees Of Memory take their 'Moon Shot' into the musical stratosphere.

I listen to tons of new music and am often searching for under the radar stuff to turn you onto, but this is an example of how there is so much out there I can miss releases by bands I already love! Luckily the Dig Me Out crew mentioned The Lees Of Memory recently released a new album so I paid to download it right away.

The Lees Of Memory features John Davis and Brandon Fisher of Superdrag, along with drummer Nick Slack. Their last release was 2017's The Blinding White Of Nothing At All, a sprawling double album exploration of the group's groovier and psychedelic pop inclinations.* I loved it, but it was a lot to take in.

This year's Moon Shot pulls the focus back in and (I hope Davis doesn't hate me for saying this) is the most "Superdrag" sounding thing the group has done so far. My impression is that The Lees of Memory began as a broad playground for the trio to indulge all their various interests, but on Moon Shot the band is ready to rock and have picked a unified direction for doing so, and you're in for a thrilling ride.

Stream the whole album below, but if you want an immediate adrenaline hit, fire up "Crocodile Tears." It manages to stuff all the band's strengths into a single tune, and it honestly made the hair on the back of my neck stand up the first time heard it. Literally.

*If you dig the vibe of The Blinding White Of Nothing At All I highly recommend you check out the entire Hushdrops catalog that recently made it's way onto Bandcamp as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

New neighbors!

I stepped outside last week and was startled when a bird flew past my head, only to discover she was flying away from a nest she'd built in an upper corner of the porch. This morning I discovered she has some new nest companions—two baby birds!

My initial reaction to this was pure joy. When happiness strikes unexpectedly it is sometimes far more overwhwlemong and delicious a sensation. I suddenly loved that mama and her two babies.

Almost as immediately, I started to worry about their wellbeing, and envisioning all the potential disasters that lay in wait for this new trio. I wanted to build a fence around the nest, or at least stand sentry for the next few weeks a la a British palace guard to see them through the most dangerous times.

Why can't I just enjoy a small miracle without allowing it to be tainted by paranoia? I don't have that answer, but for now I'm gonna cheer those birdies on and hope for the best!