Thursday, October 29, 2020

The band may be named Gloom Balloon, but their new album is anything but gloomy!

Photo by Joelle Blanchard
I’d been waiting for the “right time” to write about Gloom Balloon’s latest LP So Bergman Uses Back To Get His Point Across, I Feel Like I Have Chosen Rock But At What A Cost, but it's such an odd album I've decided any time would've been the right time to share it with you, and that any time that's the right time is now.

And that opening sentence should give you an idea of how dense and knotty this new album is. Hell, the album title alone would've done that, right?

So how do I describe this in a way that'll make sense to you? The quickest route, the elevator pitch, would be to imagine early Bright Eyes recordings traveling over the terrain usually dominated by Broadway musicals. 

I've listened to this album a dozen times and I confess I still I have no idea what to make of this as a whole. It's not challenging, but it is beset by a fractured ambition that makes listening to this akin to watching someone paint themselves into a corner and then consistently find a way to navigate the room and reach a pleasing conclusion.

Sonically, it runs the gamut of bedroom DIY to grand studio-sounding productions, complete with strings and choirs, all in service of what sound like snippets from some future musical standards, but I haven't a clue if they're actually connected or that's the just the impression the music gives. And I'm not convinced it matters.

But the reason this is the any time now being the right time to share it with you is because it is a winding and complicated musical journey that's still incredibly accessible, and will allow you to get lost along its twisting corridors and escape the world, at least for about 40 minutes at a time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Have you heard Slow Pulp's 'Moveys' yet?


Photo by Alec Basse

I did a piece for Third Coast Review about Slow Pulp's excellent debut album Moveys so on the off chance you haven't heard of the band or that album yet, I try and make a convincing argument to change your mind. 

FRESH POTS PART II! The story of Dave Grohl's fight against coffee's nigh irresistible pull continues!

Ten years ago Dave Grohl blessed the world with FRESH POTS! But while we were all laughing, he was dealing with the realities of his love of all things coffee. 

Until FreshPotix came to his rescue.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

How to survive the next 7 days.

How do we survive the next 7 days, and potentially longer, depending on how long it takes to tabulate all the ballots? 

That is the bajillion dollar question, isn't it?

And I don't have an answer to it.

But I do know you need to take care of yourself. 

I voted last Friday and it felt awesome, resulting in a natural all-body high that was fleeting but felt oh-so good! If you've already voted too, there's not much you can do now aside from making sure all your friends and family votes as well. It's not fair that in order to remove Trump we need to win by a landslide, and even then he will try and win the election through the electoral college or, now, steal it with the help of the Supreme Court, but that's how it is. 

But all you can do about that is vote.

And then take care of yourself. If you need to unplug, do it! Doom scrolling isn't going to do you any good now.

If I could climb into this blanket burrito with Pickle for the next seven days, I would! It looks soooooo cozy!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Jammin' in the streets?

I’ve been sitting on this for weeks because I have been trying to find anything constructive to say about this update of Tom Petty’s “Jammin’ Me” by the Supersuckers’ Eddie Spaghetti and Street Walkin’ Cheetahs’ Frank Meyer. It reminds me of Bowie and Jagger’s “Dancing In The Streets” update, especially when they adjust the lyrics to reflect “contemporary” concerns, which is a nice effort, but there’s something tone deaf about still railing against Paris Hilton, in my mind.

Anyway, in their defense, Bowie and Jagger made their "misstep" two decades into their careers, so at least Eddie waited three decades before doing the same?* Either way, it’s a little lame and old dad-is in its vitriol, but it’s at least entertaining. 

And who knows, you may love it, so I may as well share!

*"Misstep" is a relative term here, since both performances have their flaws but neither is a "failure."

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

So is it "animated give" or "animated gift?" You tell me!

I saw this last week and saved it in case I thought it was still funny and wasn't just hitting me at the right time. But I can now confirm it's funny no matter when you read it!

[h/t xkcd]

Monday, October 19, 2020

Some worries countered by an uplifting collection of tunes.

I was all set to write a piece about coping with the pandemic using delayed gratification techniques—an extension of the "treat yourself" philosophy, but with a little more structure to space rewards and maximize impact—but I got up late this morning (after 6 a.m.!) and it's so dreary outside in Chicago I admit to feeling all inspiration drain from my frozen fingers.* So no pandemic tips this evening.

I've gone back and revisited some things I wrote around the 2004 and 2016 elections, and it's odd how little has changed as far as feeling like Armageddon is right around the corner. Only this time around you really do get the feeling that the end times could be drawing nigh. Again.

However, since it looks like I've got a few more decades on this planet ahead of me, I refuse to believe that we'll go the doomsday route. At the same time, I've also already started to accept that while the current resident of the White House has no chance of winning the popular vote, the electoral college system could still potentially save his bacon and give him a second term. If that happens I have absolutely no idea what to do.

But I do think we'll survive. I have to believe that, even if my brain can't conceive of another four years of isolationism, racism, turbulence, and death. We must do better.

Well, that was cheery, eh?

You're not gonna just leave us with that, are you?

Did you think I'd drop something so dreary as the above without some sort of balance? Of course not! 

GRiZ released this Chasing The Golden Hour, Pt. 3 EP last month and it has been my go-to for afternoon and evening walks. It's upbeat and energetic enough to keep you smiling and moving, but its laidback vibe will keep you feeling mellow as you ride its forward momentum. Repeat as many times a day as needed.

*The heat in my place is a little spotty right now. I'll survive. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A minor update on how there is not much to update as far as day-to-day living goes.

Some much needed humor spotted on one of my walks.
It's Thursday, which is odd because I've felt like every day this week was Thursday, so to finally have the perception of the day on the actual day feels ... odd. 

I have slowly been starting to occasionally see other humans I know in (safe!) social settings outside of my house and that's provided a few technicolor bursts of new activity, but for the most part I'm still stuck in the same weird sense of flat time as everyone else I know. 

It's all wake up, work, walk, coffee, work, work, eat, work, walk, work, work, work, walk, eat, listen to music / podcasts, read, watch TV, walk, sleep. Every single weekday. 

Weekends are only different in that additional walking takes up the spots I'd be working during the week.

It's hard to make plans though. When I'm done with work most days I'm pretty drained, so the notion of traveling around the city to do anything in those evening hours I'd otherwise be listening to music / podcasts is exhausting. Honestly, the thing I miss most these days is relaxing on a couch with someone else and either watching TV or just talking about all the things going on inside each of our heads. But we're not really at a point where that feels safe, outside a committed partner or close friend(s) / family member(s). Right?

I've also caught myself daydreaming about what I wish these days looked like if we lived in a world where we were in the midst of reelecting the first woman President of the U.S.A., and the pandemic had been handled by adults who care about humans. That is the world we should be living in right now. 

So, yeah.

Minor and completely unrelated rant: Is anyone else having a hell of a time with autocorrect lately? I swear I watch properly typed words transform into completely unrelated words as a I hit the space bar. and it's mystifying. While I can't figure out for certain what's causing it my suspicion is it's a combo of a crap "AI"-ish experience coupled with the truly terrible butterfly keyboards Apple foisted on us (and have since figured out might not be so great). 

Sorry, it's annoying.*


Anyway! Time is flat, it's Thursday, we're all in this together, and blah blah blah because I know all of you have already heard this before—most likely from inside your own head—so I'm not certain why I am writing about it again. Strike that. I do know. I just have to remind myself from time to time.

*Seriously. And it's one of a thousand reasons why I love the older but oh-so-so sturdy MacBook Pro I own versus the MacBook Air I've used for work over the last few years. Thank goodness Apple is killing that butterfly keyboard though!

Monday, October 12, 2020

These Mav Karlo and Free Energy songs have a lot in common, so you may as well become a fan of both!

I won't get into the boring specifics of how I listen to the music I'm considering for review, but one component is allowing albums to play in the background during my work day. Since my brain has grown adept at picking out the little things that can elevate an LP from a single listen, through to me thinking of writing about it, this works pretty well. I think part of this is also tied into my years DJing, since songs that popped up above the surface waves of noise were sometimes the exact thing I was looking for to expand a set. 

And sometimes you realize just how similar two songs sound. When this happens I don't jump to the "who wrote it first" argument since the nature of music, and rock music in particular, means there's going to be similar melodic repetitions, and sometimes those structures are very similar for no other reason than both songwriters just happened to stumble across similar progressions on separate occasions. 

Which is a really long way of me saying that this brand new Mav Karlo song...

...reminds me a LOT of this Free Energy song from 2010!

So I did a little digging and found this on the Free Energy Facebook page (that I hadn't checked in a really, really long time since the band basically disbanded years ago):

Hi Friends, it's been awhile. Everyone doing okay?

Our longtime pal, tour brother & all-around good guy Menno Versteeg from Hollerado is releasing a solo record as Mav Karlo in October. Produced by Chris Coady (Beach House, Future Islands), the record features Hollerado’s Nixon Boyd, Vivian Girls’ Katy Goodman, Dizzy's Charlie Spencer and Free Energy’s own Nicholas Shuminsky.

Yes, it took a looooooong way to get there, but in the end the reason these tunes sounded so similar is perhaps not such a mystery! Again, I'm not judging or viewing this as a negative issue in the least—heck, if this helps turn on a Free Energy fan to Mav Karlo, or the other way around, everyone wins!

Also, don't forget to check out the entire Mav Karlo album "Wirewalker" is on, Strangers Like Us, when it's released this Friday, October 16!

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The fizzy, buzzy, beauty of Supercrush's 'SODO Pop' is an effervescent tonic for your ears and soul.

Photo by Brandynn Leigh.

Dang, sometimes I write a headline that sort of makes whatever follows seem redundant, huh? But I'll try and improve upon it with additional information meant to get and hold your attention while directing you towards music that will improve your life.* Simple! So let me introduce you to Supercrush.

What I first learned is that one doesn't try to pigeonhole musician Mark Palm, the creative force driving the insanely catchy power-pop that Supercrush relentlessly doles out. If you go to Palm’s Discogs page, it’s clear Supercrush is the odd band out amidst a bunch of much, much heavier and punkier and metal-ier projects.

So Supercrush has primarily served as an outlet for Palm to release his power-pop in drips and drabs over the last few years, assumedly whenever the hard-candied muse of melody bent his ear from a slightly happier and more pleasant dimension of existence. And while I hadn't heard any of Supercrush's earlier EPs or singles, the band's debut SODO Pop arrived out of the blue last week at the exact right time.

If you're looking for a tonic to treat the malaise that currently envelops you, SODO Pop will quaff your thirst and feed your soul, leaving any free millimeter of internal space filled with sunshine and puppies. But cool puppies. "We've still got attitude, maaaaaan. We just leave you feeling good about it," they happily bark.

O.K., that covers the casual music fans, but what if you need landmarks to judge your own interest or point of entry? If that's you, imagine Teenage Fanclub is standing next to the Wannadies and suddenly a rip in reality appears between them and out pops Supercrush saying, "Here we are, and we love you, and hope you will love our music." And you will.

SODO Pop is out this Friday, October 9, so sample a few tracks below ahead of time and add it to your Bandcamp wishlist or pre-order it today!

*Results may vary.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Miranda Winters steps into the spotlight for her new solo single.

Photo by Lenny Gilmore.

I'm a fan of Melkbelly, the somewhat genre-less and thrilling Chicago-based band that Miranda Winters sings and plays guitar with, so when I heard she had a debut single coming out you could color me intrigued. After hearing it, you could color me quite pleased indeed.

All-Purpose is the name of her double-sided single and these two songs allow her to showcase her singular musical voice in a less frenzied setting than her band usually occupies. It's nice, mellow little indie stuff that definitely has some sneakier grander ambitions.* So it's well worth your time. 

Plus, if you don't dig it, it's just two songs, right? But you will dig it. You will.

*Listen to the gently building towers of swirling synths on "Double Mirrored Light" and prepare to gently swoon, or the quiet restraint of "Little baby Dead Bird" and you'll feel that ambition pulsing just below. You'll see what I mean.

Friday, October 02, 2020

20 years ago today I threw an unlikely Radiohead midnight release party...

Painting by Finkusaz via reddit

I wrote a version of the below earlier as a Facebook post, but after reading it I decided to park a slightly edited version here as well. It was kind if a landmark evening and is worth saving outside of that particular platform. Sooooo...

Twenty years ago today—well, technically beginning at 10 p.m. last night—my first "official" event as the new talent buyer for The Note* was the release party for Radiohead's Kid A.

The previous talent buyer had left me with a nice cushion of other quality bookings I oversaw after she left, but this was the first one I had booked that was happening on the calnder. And it was a massive success, far exceeding my expectations, but it was very weird at the time. The notion of Reckless Records teaming up with The Note for a Radiohead release was unusual enough to bring a lot of people into the club who had never entered the room before. It took me a while to convince Reckless of the pairing, but it worked! So I set up an evening of movies, a spin of the new album at midnight, and DJ sets until 4 a.m.

I had to work at Kamehachi** that night, so got to the event late and walked into a room full of people watching my DVD of the Meeting People Is Easy tour documentary projected onto a screen and played through the club's sound system. 

And I immediately noticed something was off. It sounded weird. Once I got to the soundboard I saw whoever had plugged the movie into the system hadn't noticed the reverb was turned all the way up, creating a wash of sound that was barely intelligible. Yet people had been watching the movie without complaint for at least an hour! 

It was then I realized that the fans drawn in by 'OK Computer' were willing to believe anything by the band was intentional. The "new" fans packed around me were hipper and cooler than the fans of the band's earlier albums I had known. So this truly marked the dividing line in my head for the band—from here on out people would accept everything they did as genius just because they're Radiohead. Which is fine—to each their own, and there are far worse acts to give a musical pass to than Radiohead! And I remain appreciative of every single person who attended the event.

ANYWAY, I just realized that anniversary was today. And the fact it happened 20 years ago makes me feel MASSIVELY ancient. But it is a very fond memory and I cherish it. 

*Which would eventually become The Flat Iron (R.I.P. Flat Iron).

**I was still working two jobs at the time, restaurant manager and talent buyer, but that would end soon because even I needed to occasionally sleep no matter how young and energetic I was.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Bringing something new to Bond...

I don't know when I turned into enough of a James Bond fan that I bought the entire library of movies on Blu-ray years ago, but over the years I got more invested in the different storylines that run from movie to movie. I'm so dumb I didn't realize as a kid that the villain was sometimes the same character played by a different person, or just how long the SPECTRE plot line stretches back (basically the "Hail Hydra" of spy films).

Maybe it's in my blood? My dad loved Bond films, though I suspect he was most interested in the girls, gadgets, and cars (not necessarily in that order because my dad LOVED cars). But I'm guessing his enthusiasm took root in my and didn't take root for many years. But once it did I was in! Daniel Craig's performance as Bond is also now my favorite so that didn't hurt either.

When it comes to Bond themes, I know the genre is supposed to be iconic, but most fall into a familiar patterns, and the "No Time To Die" theme from Billie Eilish is no different in that regard. However her theme is striking in its restrained maturity and the additional of a new vocal vulnerability to the Bond catalog without simply relying on a steamroller "bring the roof down" kind of approach. So in that sense, it is a unique addition to the canon. I think you will agree, so enjoy!

UPDATE: The day after they released this, it was announced the studio would be holding the new Bond film until 2021. So this is the second time the marketing machine started to spit out content to excite potential movie-goers to see the film only to have to halt it again. By the time the movie actually comes out the marketing budget will only have a tweet or two left in it!