Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Warm some cider, throw a log on the fire, and settle in for the epic tale of 'The Christmas Socks.'

Last weekend's Saturday Night Live had a real high school "let's put on a show!" vibe to it in the face of the rise of the Omicron variant. Since they had to lean on pre-taped sketches we lost the planned musical performances from Charli XCX, but we were gifted a lot of weird in the show when it came to new material. Given that I tend to really enjoy the oddball sketches that tend to sit near the tail-end end of the show's runtime,  I was fully welcoming of the weird.

And an unexpected bonus? While we didn't get a live Charli XCX performance, we did get a new, timeless holiday classic, featuring some unforgettable fly-by support from Ms. XCX.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Kady Rain is definitely someone to look forward to hearing more of in 2022!

Photo via Kady Rain's Facebook page

As 2021 draws to a close, albums coming in 2022 are already occupying my mind, and Kady Rain's self-titled full-length debut is one thing you should definitely have on your radar in the new year.

Kady Rain is from Austin, and is a bit of a musical chameleon as far as being able to bend disparate sounds to both her unique will and sense of fun. So that means Kady Rain is full of hooks and big ol' sing-along pop choruses, but it's been a while since I heard someone force the genre to fit their needs so well. That is to say, there is nothing prefabricated about this sound, and I suspect Rain's tunes would sound just as impressive whether she's singing them to a backing track or was performing with a three-piece rock band. In either scenario, I think her sound would prevail.

The first single from the debut, "Got Away," was released a few months ago, but I'm guessing it will probably be as new to you as it was to me just a day ago. On "Got Away," Rain flexes a little more rock than pop, and it's an excellent example of how dizzying a ride her voice can take you on. In general, the album skews a little more pop than this, but the swagger and attitude remains, no matter the sound of the song.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this taste of Kady Rain ahead of the album's January 21, 2022 release.

Monday, December 20, 2021

My spoiler-free review of 'Spider-Man: No Way Home!'

It is impossible to talk about this movie without spoiling it! And given the current climate it's probably going to take a while for people who really want to see this movie to do so. So I'm actually keeping my trap shut on the review front for now, but if you haven't seen it, you are in for a real treat. And if you have—I'm dying to talk about it, so let me know!

I will say this, this is the first time in two years I felt I really saw a movie movie on the big screen. It felt like ... home?

The times are right for a 'Slow Xmas.'

This time of year the air is filled with holiday music. For just under one month—for those of us in the more rational camp of thinking—sleigh bells and warm fires rule the musical roost. It's also the time of year for about a zillion holiday music compilations, and while I am definitely the sort to play Vince Guaraldi on Christmas morning, I'm always looking for ways to freshen up the mix. We can't all be Andy Cirzan, y'know.

Yesterday, as I was listening to my usual Sunday morning podcast, I learned of Slow Xmas, a compilation of holiday tunes by current artists that follows a definite theme but is throwing their heart into it. When a cacophonous group that is often barely able to contain the musical maelstrom they are capable of creating  like Gymshorts turns in a version of "The Chipmunk Song" that feels more like a hymn than a joke, you know you're onto something a little different when it comes to conjuring the holiday spirit.

So here you go, a greatest holiday hits compilation from an alternate universe, Slow Xmas. Better yet? It's totally free to download!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

When bands collide—the exquisite beauty of Polyvinyl's 'Exquisite Corpse.'

Last fall, Polyvinyl released a truly interesting collaborative compilation featuring many of their past and present recording artists.

The liner notes describe the process used to create this album:
Eleven teams of four or five musicians were assembled more or less at random, bringing together artists that had in many cases never met, much less worked on music together. Remotely, each team worked from scratch to create an original song, a reworked sonic adaptation of the game where each player adds to a collaborative drawing. 
The results are ... really, really good. So good, in fact, I'm here writing about the album well over a year after its initial release! So if you missed this back when it came out—totally understandable—now's your chance to catch up with something exciting!

*Seriously. When else are you going to come across an album with various members of Pedro The Lion, American Football, Nick Wilkerson, Dragon Inn 3, Yumi Zouma, Pet Symmetry, Gus Lobban, Shugo Tokumaru, Diane Coffee, Will Knauer, Aloha, Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!, Jeff Rosenstock, Palehound, Rainer Maria, SNST, Vice Cooler, Wampire, Anamanaguchi, Xiu Xiu, Squirrel Flower, Fred Thomas, The Get Up Kids, Katy Goodman, Owen, Matt Pond PA, Keil Corcoran, Bob Nanna, Psychic Twin, Islands, Ladyhawke, Radiation City, Chris Farren, Post Animal, and Dusted randomly collaborating?

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Pom Pom Squad throws in their bid to be "Popular."

I know many may find this tidbit shocking, but once upon a time the band Nada Surf was considered a one-hit wonder. Decades later it's clear that was a clear underestimation of the band's depth of talent and longevity, but that never changed the fact that once upon a time they wrote a song that was ridiculously popular.

Um, I swear there was no pun intended there.

So it doesn't surprise me that Pom Pom Squad would cover the tune, years later, and keep its punch intact. Hell, the song is practically a part of the band's sonic DNA. Oh, and did I mention the cover includes Nada Surf's Matthew Caws as well? It's a nice little unexpected fun left turn from the band and a nice parting gift as we exit 2021.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Oh, how I miss travel.

Stunningly accurate, yet I still miss hotels like this after almost two years of being stuck within a few miles of Chicago. Also, I too would have a very difficult time keeping a straight face with Kate McKinnon in the same room, much less right next to me.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Get into something new with Old Joy's 'Trash Your Life.'

From what I can gather, Old Joy is Alex Reindl, aided by a troupe of likeminded musicians, and while Trash Your Life was recorded over a long-ish span of time, the result is a pretty tight album Reindl self-describes as "scum-pop." And I guess that's as fitting a descriptor as any. 

Reindl is clearly a fan of the scrappier yet melodic sides of guitar indie rock, but likes too keep you on your toes. For example, the opening of "Watcha Doin?" is basically a lift of Nirvana's "Sliver" before taking an abrupt left-turn into a more organic jam that feels like the band building on ideas in a practice space. And I think that vibe is very intentional as Old Joy seems happy to nod to influences without simply parroting them.

I've never met Reindl, but based on his lyrics and snippets of what I've learned of him over the past year, the most impressive thing about this album is how much it sounds like a joyful yawp when it could have been mired in much darker sounds. But the friction between the melody and the intent is what sets this apart from any other scum-pop album out there right now.

On top of all that, this album is basically a sonic love letter to what I would recognize as '80s to '90s underground alternative and indie. So duh, I like it. But there's a deepness to the sentiment that raises it above tribute into something all its own. Get into it!

Friday, December 03, 2021

It's Bandcamp Friday! Need a few suggestions? I've got 'em!

It's another Bandcamp Friday, which means the dough you spend on music today from that platform goes right to the artists. So here are a few more recent releases for you to consider picking up! This took a little longer than expected since a few albums dropping today I had planned to feature haven't shown up on Bandcamp yet. But there's tons of good stuff to consider below.


Touched By Ghoul is back! The Chicago band has been relatively quiet since 2016's Murder Circus, and they return with the blistering new collection Cancel The World. In the years since their last album it appears they've continued to tighten their focus while turning up the volume of the material, to create my favorite album from them thus far. Do not sleep on this! It's out today.

This is one album that's been out for a few months and I am ecstatic it finally made it onto Bandcamp! When Naked Raygun's first new album in decades, Over The Overlords, was released earlier this year, it was with little fanfare and was primarily available only through the Wax Trax! site.But now it's just a click away for immediate download (or ordering). GET IT NOW. I can't emphasize how amazing this album is, and am somewhat perplexed it hasn't made a bigger splash this year. Hopefully its wider availability will help.

Some bands say they embrace all genres of music, while few actually do. With Pepe Deluxé's Phantom Cabinet Vol. 1, the band proves their dedication to the whole no musical boundaries thing to deliver a genre-agnsotic shapeshifter of an album. Soul, carnival music, rock, theater, funk, dub, electronic dance, and just about everything else you can imagine makes an appearance. They may have had electronic roots at some point, but now  Pepe Deluxé have become archival constructionists of mismatched sounds that blend when they shouldn't. Super fun.

I don't want to really describe Black Light Animals' Playboys Of The Western World to you, since that would rob you of the unexpected nature of the music within. But I will tell you this band creates beautiful, multi-layered, transporting soundscapes while still hitting all the melodic needs of the soul. Really nice stuff.

I saw You, Me, And Everyone We Know play a few months ago and never reviewed the show because I simply didn't have anything positive to say about the band's live performance. Which has bugged me since I think their "comeback" album Something Heavy is so freaking tight! The album comes across as a theater kid who can absolutely slay a power-pop tune, and was the complete opposite of their concert vibe. So I guess I'm suggesting you give this a spin but don't pin your hopes in seeing these songs come satisfyingly to life in a live set any time soon.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Eschewing modesty for exuberant pop, The Modesty Blaise returned in 2021!

As we head into December and I am finally fully caught up on listening to all the 2021 releases that have come my way, I'm revisiting music I listened to waaaaaaay back at the beginning of the year to see how it holds up without any recency bias. Which brings us to Modesty Blaise's fist album in over 20 years, The Modesty Blaise, released last March. 

Fist of all, this is all very 1998 Britpop-sounding, which is oddly comforting but hardly surprising given the two decades of down time between LPs.* 

And the songs on The Modesty Blaise are exquisite, whether featuring whirring mixes of bass, horns, and whizzing synths on something like "Catwalk Queens," or getting downright glittery retro on something like "Rollerdisco." But overall this is a work of pristinely produced pop, much of it the jangly variety but with plenty of fuzz thrown in to keep things rockin'.

So does it still hold up? Hell yeah!

*And, you know, they are British.