Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Everything old is new again, and I see blue skies ahead.

I have noticed a number of what I would consider "old school bloggers" returning to semi-regular posting after, for some, years of leaving those domains untended. My own little website still gets a healthy amount of traffic, which means people actually come here intentionally to read what I write. And I have long maintained I'd rather have a smaller audience that seeks out my work, than a massive audience that only accesses it as bits and bobs of information disseminated through various social media platforms. As those platforms degrade and buckle under their own weight, I believe people are thirsting for content that feels personal and well-thought out, as they grow ever wearier of content that feels more and more diffuse as it becomes less relatable since most social media platforms have evolved to perform best as outrage machines.* 

So bring back the old-timey blogs! Some of us never left, and everyone is welcome!

*While I have always viewed things like Substack and Medium as "nĂ¼-blogging," those outlets still seem to attract writers who think that 1000 words of content with very little meat that is designed for clicks instead of close reads, counts as a post; so many of those "bloggers" have revealed themselves to simply be pretty boring, in my humble opinion.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Bang Camaro returns with "Too Fast To Fall In Love!"

Bang Camaro is back, baby! The group popped onto the scene in the mid-aughts, pairing hard rock guitars threaded with hooks galore, with thundering drums and bass, and a multi-person choir of participants providing the vocals for each song. At the time, I wondered if it was just a joke gone too far, but after seeing the group live at Double Door in 2008 I realized they were the real deal: passionate about the music without even a hint of irony hiding in their approach.

The band disbanded (went on hiatus?) years ago, but when James Gunn used one of Bang Camaro's songs in his Peacemaker series, the group was inspired to quietly reconnect and start recording new music. And this week, the first fruits of their new labor became available, the hard-charging and anthemic "Too Fast To Fall In Love."

The band is hard at work on more new songs, and I'm told we should all keep an eye ion them in the coming months for news about their future endeavors, but since today is Bandcamp Friday, it's the perfect time to pick up the track for yourself, to tide you over as we all wait.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Rockin' My Turntable in 2021.

I don't think I ever waited this long in my life to post a "best of" list for a previous year, so clearly this is more for archival purposes than trying to hype any "recent" releases.* At the end of last year, I created a massive list of all the albums that either scored a 5 or higher ... and then never got around to winnowing it down to 20 albums, through there were a few attempts to narrow the list.

So this time around it was interesting to see a) just how many albums I'd considered had completely exited my memory and b) realize just how different my listening habits are than average (and most not-so-average) people. I mean, who listens to over 700 new releases in a year on top of whatever they decide to revisit form the recent or distant past between all that new music?! And 2021 was a lighter year for me!**

I've been a music critic on and off for over 30 years now, and have been at it pretty steadily for the last 20 of those years, but obviously the last few years threw the brakes pretty heavily on my output. And now I'm beginning to wonder if my music consumption habits even make sense anymore. Why listen to all these new releases when I'm no longer responsible for overseeing the arts and entertainment section of a prominent media outlet? These days I write either for myself or whenever I see something that would fit with Third Coast Review, so I'm no longer actually under any kind of pressure to listen to all this stuff or produce content about it. Y'know?

Yet here I am, still looking for something new every single day of the year. Maybe it would be easier if I was a specialist instead of a generalist, but I find more satisfaction in understanding the bigger picture than burrowing deep on a single niche activity, even if I am aware of and dig into those niche activities when it makes sense. Or if it just piques my personal curiosity! But I've always wanted to be a voice just about any listener of music could trust, so I've kept the parameters very, very, very wide when it comes to what I listen to and what I write about.

So here you go, the 20+ albums released in 2021 that I still think about and play almost a year later. It's less a wet snapshot of that year than it is a clearer photo of what things looked like after the emulsion finally dried and set in place. These are the albums whose presence remains vibrant and special in my little brain.

Neal Francis
In Plain Sight

Neal Francis had been on the Chicago scene for quite a while, but since his segment was more jam and funk, I only became aware of him last year when a friend recommended In Plain Sight, an album rooted in '70s sounds, burnished by Dave Fridmann's distinctive production, and filled with hooks that won't leave your brain.

The Rare Occasions
Big Whoop

This was one of those blind listens that had me hooked in the first minute and only got better on repeated listens. New-wave power-pop for the new millennium? Yes, please!

TV Baby

This gets filed under big crunchy guitars with vocals that cut through the fray. It's also the kind of album I would have died for in the '90s. But hey, better late than never for my ears, right?


Graham Coxon's soundtrack to his graphic novel functions as a Coxon solo album, and pulls from both the guitar rockin' and club dancin' territories in his own musical conversation. I dare say it's even catchier and poppier than any recent releases by the more famous frontman he shares a band with from time to time.

When You Walk Away

TV or Not TV

More big guitar brash pop that locks in and won't let you go. When I met a Supergrass fan asking for new music to listen to today, these were the albums I'd suggest over the last year.


The less I know about Sault the greater my enjoyment of their mysterious and often sudden, unannounced releases. If you dig digging through the soul and funk dusties at your local record store, this is essential modern listening.

The Static

I could write an entire essay on this album, and one day I might, but it is first and foremost one of the most powerful albums Hushdrops has released over their decades-long career. It is also the most tragic, sicne it features some of the final recordings including drummer Joe Camarillo before his tragic passing took his talents away from us far, far too soon.

Maximumblastsuperloud: The First 24 Songs

This was a late-December release in 2021, and here we are in November of 2022, and I still dig it. So this one can't be accused of recency bias! But I could be accused as having a bias when I'm a sucker for massive walls of guitars that crush your ears even as the sunny and sweet melodies buried within the tornadoes of sound are some of the catchiest stuff you'll hear this, or last, year.

Daniel Romano
Cobra Poems

I got lost in the rabbit hole that was the astounding number of wildly varied releases Daniel Romano has put out over the last few years. But Cobra Poems was masterpiece of that productive era. Romano and his collaborators create the sort of organic good-time rock that begs to be played in tight quarters for a sweaty, adoring audience. In a year marked by almost no live shows I felt were safe enough to attend, this was the album I'd thrown on when I wanted to pretend I was hearing a band at a most excellent house party.

Emphatically No.

Sharp, taut songs. Incisive, deliciously witty speak-sung lyrics. And yes, I did see them play in 2021, so can confirm they are a highly entertaining live band, though I was half-expecting them to be revealed as simply a sharply funny studio band. This was my go-to all through 2021 (and 2022!) whenever I just needed a smart mood-lightener.

Tamar Berk
the restless dreams of youth

Old Joy
Trash Your Life

To me, these are both Chicago acts—despite Tamar Berk moving to the West Coast years ago—that reveal a lot about different generations of musicians in our little scene. Berk and Old Joy's Alex Reindl both craft deeply personal music that also just happens to explode with musical energy, Which is to say, they both rock. So when I say these albums reveal a lot about the different generations, I think it's revealing how much they have in common, and not any vast differences.

Nous Alpha
A Walk In the Woods

Walk In The Light

Both of these albums are largely instrumental, lightly psychedelic, wholly engrossing, and absolutely dependable metal escapes to another dimension on days this world can seem too dark and/or heavy. The less said te better, as I think these only work if you make your own connections to the music. My words will only complicate that process. I know, weird for a music critic to say, but sometimes less context leads to greater appreciation. See also: Sault.

Danko Jones
Power Trio

The first time I saw Danko Jones play was the late '90s. And I thought he was ridiculously loud and ridiculously fun. Over two decades later, Jones and crew are still managing to mine 3-chord combinations and turn them into deliriously dependable party rockers. 

Bo Burnham
Inside (The Songs)

I played this album a LOT. Clearly it was a coping mechanism. But it's also really quite good. So some may want to file this under "comedy" but it is 100% a pop album.

Naked Raygun
Over the Overlords

Liz Phair

Two Chicago legends returned in 2021. Naked Raygun released an amazing album no one would've expected from a band after decades of no new LPs, but holy heck this is an incredibly solid, and enjoyable album! And Liz Phair never stopped releasing music, and every couple of years we get a "she's returning to her roots" press cycle that never quite pans out, but this time around she came through. However in this case, "returning to her roots" just meant "recording what I want to and saying it how I want to, again." 

Glow On

Look, we all know this band is basically Jane's Addiction plus 311, but it's the best bits of both, so this ended up being an incredibly enjoyable, if unexpected, album last year. Obviously this last year has shown I am not in the minority when it comes to liking what this band is laying down.

Saint Motel
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Harmony House

These are both rock albums from pop bands making albums that sound like rock albums. Wait, that's confusing. These are both bands that sound like they go into the studio to write their albums, meaning the music is at the forefront and individual band member identities are completely obscured. In one way, these both sound like artifacts from a different time, when a band like INXS was a rock band. These days y'all are stuck with Maroon 5 as a "rock" band. So these groups prove all is not lost on that front, quite yet. 

Psymon Spine
Charismatic Megafauna


These are both great albums. And I've bought both on vinyl.But I'd be lying if I didn't admit the greatest draw for both of these lies in the simple fact they're carrying LCDS- and DFA-influenced sounds into a new era—minus the baggage, so it's twice as fun. Pickle the Kitten is not a fan of either, since their beats mean a kitty dance party with dad is soon approaching.


Pearl Charles
Magic Mirror

The spirit of Laurel Canyon called and Pearl Charles answered. And then Charles messed with the formula—even throwing in a dash of ABBA sparkliness to keep everyone on their toes—and shook the Canyon-sound cobwebs off in favor of a more glistening, '00s approach.

Magdalena Bay
Mercurial World

I debated removing this entry after their "deluxe reissue" of this album came out this year, and managed to actually hurt the legacy of the album in my own head. But the original release was super fun, and buoyed me through some dark days, so once I remembered that (and that I was being a bit of a complainer) I realized that as a singular piece, this LP still slaps.****


Discover Effortless Living

It's less impressive this year when the band Pavement is actively touring, but when I heard this last year it was the first thing in YEARS that I'd heard that even came close to the classic Pavement grooves of yore. 

*OK, last year I waited until September. I swear I'll get the 2022 list up earlier. How could I not?!
**I'm already past the 740 albums mark this year and it's still October, if that gives you an idea.***
***Actually this draft was started in October. As of today, when I finished and published this, it's around 800 albums. But things slow down at the end of the year—thank gawd—as reissues, greatest hits, box sets, and holiday music clog the ol' inbox.
****I think that may be the first time I've used the terms "slaps" in a piece? Which means it is definitely outdated by now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


It's been a while, huh? I've been busy, how about you? Busy in a good way, don't worry.

In the U.S., tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I do have a lot to be thankful for. I may still be pretty isolated, but I've grown closer with the small handful of people I talk with regularly. And I've even made it out and met a few new people! After a long hiatus I started dating again, so that's been interesting. The biggest difference from the last time I was "out there?" At my age I'm discovering that when there are no immediate sparks but you both still find each other interesting when you meet in person, non-romantic but rewarding friendships can actually develop from a simple coffee date!

So that's been nice.

But mostly it's been work, walks, work, and quality time with Pickle the Kitten. Oh! And Andor! But shhhhh....I haven't had a chance to watch the season finale yet, so no spoilers!

Friday, November 04, 2022

Ne'er-do-well could justifiably call themselves Always-do-awesome on 'Fun Days.'

Photo by TLC
While I encourage you to dig deep and follow your interests as you scan Bandcamp for purchases this Bandcamp Friday, I am throwing my own personal recommendation behind a single release, the debut EP from one-man-band Ne’er-do-well, Fun Days.

This EP has been continuously replayed since I received it, partially because I'm convinced there's some sort of mystery at the core to figure out, but mostly because it's just stunning in its execution.

And this EP is all over the place! The songs go from Midwestern rawk, to glam metal, to full-on emo, back to Midwestern brawn, and all the things in-between. I can already hear you saying, "So what?" But the songs LITERALLY completely change genres from tune to tune. As in, it sounds like 5 genuine bands were put together to create the 5 songs on this EP, yet from what I can tell, every single sound is created by a single person, Bryan Rolli.

I can't figure out if Rolli's showing off his ridiculously accomplished range and internalized grasp of multiple genres, or if he just writes in whatever genre fits the song in his head. And the EP plays like an incredibly condensed concept album, but after trying to pin down exactly what the concept was—at one point I was trying to match the songs to the 5 stages of grief, on the off chance that would help unlock some deeper meaning—I've comfortably settled into simply enjoying the album even as I sit in awe at Rolli's flexibility and authenticity.

If Rolli was on stage, I'd imagine him wearing a sleeveless black t-shirt with silver piping, a flannel tied around his waist over blinding neon multi-colored spandex flowing down his legs and into a pair of weathered combat boots, all topped off with a haircut featuring bangs that fall perfectly over one eye or the other as he shakes his head to and fro, singing energetically as he slashes his guitar strings. 

However you imagine the artist in your own mind's eye, or whatever your personal taste in music might be, this is an EP I think will floor just about anyone who hears it, once they realize all these different, fully realized worlds of sound flow forth from a single person.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Getting ahead of ye olde year end list.

I'm testing out a new process right now...

This year I've tried to get a little ahead of the game and have been randomly selecting albums in my pretty long "best of 2022 consideration list" to listen to and see if they are still in the running. If one gets played and is no longer a clear contender I'm deleting it in the hope of culling the list down to a manageable size ahead of time instead of swimming in a sea of 100+ releases and trying to figure it all out at the same time. 

So far, so good! And it will hopefully help me avoid the situation I find myself in right now ... which is rushing to get my best of 2021 list up before the end of 2022!

Actually the 2021 list is made, and most of the formatting and embeds are done, so I'm hoping to get that incredibly delinquent list up this week.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Take a journey with Broke Royals' Local Support.'

For this in the know, the phrase "the latest Broke Royals album Local Support is produced by Bartees Strange," is probably enough for most people to give this a spin. I've struggled with the album myself—the first four songs are hard-charging gems I want to turn up to 11 and dance around to, but the album's swift and extended shift into a lower gear from track five onward was, well, so abrupt I had a hard time figuring out why they didn't just release 2 EPs instead of an LP with such a clear bifurcation of sounds.

But hey, that's why we sit on things we don't immediately understand, right? Despite the apparent binary approach to the album's music, I still found myself putting it on again and again ... and again. And any time I had the urge to "just make it into an EP for me" I realized the second half of the album still got full listens from me, no skips.

Sometimes you just have to let go in order to start to fully understand something, so I now view this LP as being front-loaded with bait so tasty you just have to keep listening, and once that hook is in, the remaining music feels like its more transportive to another state of mind than the speed bump it might initially be read as. This is the album Broke Royals intended to make, and you've just gotta trust them and allow its' charm to take grip.

Monday, October 24, 2022

It's WILD how much I love 'ILYSM,' and I think you will too.

Over the years I have built up a healthy resilience to what I view as bands overly-hyped by segments of the music press, but I've also always maintained that any band can surprise me at any given time, so I never write them off entirely. So that's how I came to order the latest release from Wild Pink on vinyl—one listen and it became obvious to me this was the album I think everyone had been describing in the past, but the band hadn't yet accomplished. But this LP is a real thing of beauty, and fits firmly in the "you've gotta listen to the whole thing, every time it starts playing" category for me.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

That scene where two people are running in the rain/sunny field/crowded concert venue, finally finding each other.

Lissie is one of those artists I've followed for years that seemingly always bubbled just under the surface, always working hard and putting in the time, and I respect that. But she keeps my attention because she's routinely displayed true flashes of brilliance, and the first time I heard "Hearts On Fire" all I could think was, "This should be the soundtrack to every scene in a teen dramedy when the star-crossed lovers' fates finally align and race to be in each other's embrace!"

Also? The song just really makes me happy.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Snag this now, and I'll explain later.

The Backset Lovers is a band I think may be about to explode (in the really good way). So while I await the release of their major label debut—something that still feels weird to type about a good band in the year 2022—to share my thoughts on it with you in more detail, I highly recommend you snag their 2018 debut EP and get a little taste of their sound. I recommend this EP because a) it's free! and b) it's really good, and feels more like the precursor to the new album than the one other LP the band has released in the interim.

Consider this your advance notice to do your homework and get ready for what I think is a pretty remarkable album, Waiting To Spillcoming atcha October 28.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Dear me! Have you checked out Dear Boy yet?

Photo by Jonathan Weiner
Somehow managing to drift easily amidst multiple similar swim lanes between Britpop and clearly American sounds like Bishop Allen or Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Dear Boy's debut Forever Sometimes is a fresh and clear sound I've been thirsting for! The L.A. quartet combines crisp hooks and sunny melodies that had me doodling sunshine raybeams and smiley hearts all over the cover of my Trapper Keeper. Which, to my mind, is the appropriate response in the face of something both new and timeless.

Check it out, and don't forget this week has a Bandcamp Friday in it if you're interested in your own copy of this fabulous LP!

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Taking a breath to reflect.

This morning I stepped outside at my normal waking hour and found myself slightly depressed by the fact it was still dark outside, but the clocks turn back soon and sunshine will return to my mornings. This year I'm more bothered by the evening's curtain falling in the late afternoon, since if I don't get out for a lunchtime walk I kinda depend on the lowering sun to recharge before the end of the day.

Man, my schedule and way of looking at the world is so completely different than it was before I intentionally began to slow things down in 2019. I was in a non-stop activity loop, and barely paid attention to stuff like "the outdoors" and "mental health" and "pacing yourself." My life is much less exciting these days, but at least I stopped doing damage to myself (and other people)—such a pace inevitably extracts a heavy toll at some point. Even from those that seem unstoppable. So I'm grateful for the reframing my life has undergone, even if the circumstances that led to it were extremely painful. But I've learned a lot over the past couple years, and look forward to applying what I've learned to the outside world, so I'm hoping all that pain is worth it in the long run. I think it will.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

30 years now vs 30 years then.

When I was a teenager, the notion of a rock band lasting 30 years was still a hypothetical. Literally no "rock" band had lasted that long! I mean, The Who and The Rolling Stones were both still going, but their albums delivered sharply diminishing returns through the '80s (with The Who faring slightly better due to having a single primary songwriter who was restless in his own solo work). And my senior year of high school saw both those bands rolling across the planet on massive world tours—The Who's guest-star-studded Tommy tour and the Stone's slowly rusting Steel Wheels tour—that mostly mined material from much earlier periods of both bands' careers for their setlists.

But hey, no band had ever lasted that long yet, so what could you expect, right?

So it's kinda fun to me that these days as newer bands from that time are coming up on their own 30th anniversaries, they're often releasing albums as good as—and sometimes even better—than the ones during their original glory years.* And most of those bands touring play with a fire and passion that keeps them fro falling into some modern-day nostalgia circuit.

Turns out you need neither burn out NOR fade away after all!

Friday, September 23, 2022

Spotted in the wild—ME!

Photo by Joseph Harnish
I've largely been a hermit for ~2.5 years, so it's still a bit of a shock to see a recent photo of me that wasn't taken by me!

I was standing in the back of a packed crowd for GWAR last Saturday at Riot Fest—two of my friends ventured a little closer but I'd found a spot I knew my height wasn't blocking anyone's sight—when I saw a bright, purplish light appear to the side of me. But after a decade-plus shooting bands in the photo pit, it takes a lot to actually get me to look at a distraction when I'm framing a photo at a show, even if only on my phone. But once I got my shot I looked to my left and there was my friend Joe, grinning from ear to ear, a smile I quickly matched when I realized it was Joe!

And that's the story of the first photo of me by another human in quite a while. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Tuscadero resurfaces!

Tuscadero used this promo photo for forever if I recall correctly. Photo by Will Weems.
One of the more pleasant byproducts of our current era in music is the ability for unsung or under-recognized bands from decades past to get their music back out there. Olds like me get a chance to snag some things that were either long lost to history or provide a new glance into what the band was doing at the time. And everyone else? I'm guessing most have no clue who is and isn't active when they're streaming music, so it reintroduces bands to the cultural conversation after sitting on ice for a while.

At the beginning of the pandemic I had started planning a whole series covering these resurfacing groups, and those plans never died so much as they just kept getting shunted aside. So while this isn't technically part of the series I planned, maybe it'll spur me to start sharing more of these discoveries with you.

Tuscadero was a band out of the D.C. area that could be both twee as all get out and muscular as fuck when they played live. I saw them a few times and watched them grow from a shaky but fun indie act into an excellent live act that could could command a room and still feel more nuanced even as the volume of the music increased. 

Tuscadero pretty much disappeared after their Major Label debut, and I always suspected their years on the indie Teen-Beat label were probably more fun for the band. Maybe if I was smarter I would've asked them that when I interviewed them in the mid-'90s for one of the Chicago dates they played. For a while they were one of my favorite bands, and I still return to their albums every once in a while. But I never expected to hear from Tuscadero ever again.

But then!

This morning I stumbled across a live release from the band's 1996 tour, which might've been the tour I interviewed them on (though I am having a hard time remembering, and the UIC newspaper digital archives for that era don't exist). But more importantly it clued me into the fact that Tuscadero had a Bandcamp page and there was music there I'd never heard before! It appears the group is sharing their early Teen-Beat EPs and singles for now, so if you are new to the band I would HIGHLY recommend starting with those.* But the 1996 NYC show below is a brand new discovery of a time capsule for me, containing a nice overview of their material as the band was starting to stretch beyond their original comfort zone. 

A word of caution to set context—this is a show recorded at an indie club in the '90s. Back then, most of the time, if you wanted a live recording you just patched into the soundboard. And that seems to be the source of this recording. So this doesn't sound like you might now expect a professionally recorded gig these days, and it misses some of the more nuanced bits with the flatter board mix, but to my ears it's a glorious revisiting of a different time. And it brings back all the feels. Hopefully we'll hear more from the band, but if not this was a nice coda for me.

*In fact, I'm reasonably sure someone at Teen-Beat started the Tuscadero Bandcamp page, but I'm not 100% certain. I don't really care who started it as long as it gives other people a chance to fall in love with this little band too!

Friday, September 09, 2022

Dianel Romano's Outfit shoots for the moon.

Photo by Colin Medley
I personally discovered Daniel Romano early in the pandemic, stumbling across one of his albums and then going down the rabbit hole that is his sprawling catalog. But it was 2021's Cobra Poems that made me realize what a restless genius Romano and his merry crew (dubbed the Outfit) truly were. In fact, that album is on my list of the best releases in 2021.*

On La Luna, Daniel Romano's Outfit tackles the always challenging concept of a—ahem—concept album composed of a single song broken into multiple movements. In lay terms, it's a really long song that never gets boring.

I have found that listening to this album on my own terms has revealed a deeper and deeper engagement with the music on every listen, so I don't want to color your perceptions in that arena. I think it's better if you just let yourself sink into the sound and make sense of it for yourself.

And if that sounds challenging; it is not! Yes, it's a single one song cycle, but it's filled with hooks and emotional transitions and Romano's Outfit always endeavors to keep your attention, so there's no filler to be found here, even in the transitional segments.

*No, you didn't miss it. I have yet to actually publish the final list. But I will!

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

The solitary shoot desires to become part of the forest again.

I'm still trying to find my way back to whatever "normal" will be. I've got the solitude and self-reflection parts down—the things that should set me up for a positive re-entry—but worry I've somehow missed my re-entry window after so many false starts. And now that most people are living their lives as if the pandemic never happened, those of us that stayed isolated to keep ourselves and others safe are still trying to navigate a world we find both startlingly different in many ways, and depressingly familiar in others. But how do you explain to people that you need a few days to mentally prepare for social interactions any time you want to leave the house?

Instead I spend all my free time walking and reading and playing Best Fiends, and confess I'm often lost in deep mental labyrinths that are healthy and necessary explorations ... but it does make one feel like a hermit that's trapped in their seclusion after a while. 

Early in the pandemic I would text friends to check in on them, but as time passed I worried my honest concern might be interpreted as being needy in some fashion, so I stopped texting anyone who didn't reach out to me first. And now even when someone does text me it can take me days to reply. In my attempt to not be a bother I think I accidentally secluded myself even further. So I come off a long holiday weekend like this last one feeling I covered a lot of mental ground and filled my brain with beautiful, peaceful scenery while doing so, but I also feel I've made no progress in the realm of acclimating myself to social events and interactions beyond the professional.

So yeah, this is more a check in than anything else. I wish it was a chirpier, happier check in, but if anyone else is feeling this way I think it's important that they know they are not alone. I know that would help me.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Living Hour's sound swells and expands and fills your head with light.

Photo by Adam Kelly
It's Bandcamp Friday so it's a good time to pick up anything from your favorite artists you may have been sitting on buying. But it's also a day to support music that may be brand new to you, right? So if you're looking for something to sample and potentially buy today, Living Hour's new album just dropped and I think it's worth your time.

Don't be fooled, while Someday Is Today starts with hushed tones it grows deeply engaging as it unspools. The album slowly blossoms and opens up, and next thing you know you're covered in its bittersweet pollen and don't want to escape.

Living Hour isn't unafraid to build up walls of guitars around their tender missives, but the sound never overwhelms—somehow all the elements remain balanced and it's a remarkable trick to these weathered ears. 

It's a lovely album to soak in as you sit in a park or wander along on a woodsy walk this holiday weekend.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Celebrating Joe.

I previewed a celebration of Joe Cassidy that is happening at Metro this Sunday.

I still think about Joe every single day.

If you want to skip the preview and just pick up tickets, you can do that here

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Gimme some Fletch—I'm ready!

While I will always wonder what a Fletch movie would've been like with the actor Kevin Smith once told me he wanted to cast in the role, I think Jon Hamm is gonna do a mighty fine job. I was already feeling positive about this movie, but the scene in the trailer where Fletch is being compared to his ID photo ... well, that sealed this deal for me. 

Fletch lives!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Get lost in the meadow with Eli Miller.

Photo by Julia Dratel
There's not a ton for me to say about Chicago' Eli Winter’s self-titled album that's out this Friday, other than I highly suggest you check it out. I'm not a person who usually gravitates towards the folkier side of the spectrum, but the intricate guitar work here elevates this onto a different plain. And as I've found myself drawn to music that is truly transporting—that will remove me from the current moment and plop me in the middle of another world for 30-50 minutes—this seems like a lovely culmination of all the things I like when it comes to playing in that arena. Or occupying that meadow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Keep For Cheap delivers a bundle of tunes soaring above the Midwestern prairie.

Keep For Cheap, looking mischievous yet subdued, photo by Morgan Winston
Everything I've been sent from Keep For Cheap includes the line "Prairie Rock out of Minneapolis, MN" and I have to agree that the band saved weary music critics from having to come up with their own, less accurate definition of the band's sound.

Bundle is the band's debut full-length, following a series of singles and EPs that clearly define the group's progress over the years from a gifted almost-folk act into their current confident balance of softer sounds, energetic rhythms, and voices that blend as if bonded by blood.

I'd been waiting to write about the band in hopes of linking it to a Chicago show, but it appears the group is currently playing shows only in the Minneapolis region. But today, the band released a video for their latest single off Bundle, "Hide My Emotion," a song that runs along the band's softer contours of sound.

I can see you sitting there (or standing there) watching the video above and asking yourself, "Well this is nice, and I can see why he likes the video, but what else can they do?"

So here's the second-most-recent single off Bundle, currently on YouTube with the caption "The Time is Keep for Cheap's third and final single off their debut album." So I'm happy that turned out to not be true and they had another single / video in 'em! So give this a peek and you'll see the energetic side of the group that clearly also hits me directly in my aural happy spot. 

See? Between these two videos, I think you can see what it is I find so alluring about this group, and I really hope they do tour a little farther from their home base in the near future because I'm eager to see what their live shows are like.* But in my head, they are super fun.

You can give the whole album a spin below, and snag physical** or digital copies of Bundle if Keep For Cheap knocks you off your feet as clearly and cleanly and they did me.

*Private message to Keep For Cheap: C'mon, come play Chicago!
**I picked up the 12" Red Swirl vinyl for myself, just in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Thinking of you, thinking of Bloods, and wanting to dance in the sun.

Bloods hails from Sydney, Australia and applies equal parts pop sheen and rock grit to their danceable tunes. They've got that thing where the band can sound poppy as all get out, but you also get the impression they've played in a few rough bars along the way and wouldn't stand for anyone calling them soft. Maybe it's the continent—INXS had a similar vibe to them in the earlier days they never fully lost despite becoming mega-stars in the late '80s—but whatever it is, it's working for Bloods.

Their new album Together, Baby! is out next month, but the track "Thinking Of You Thinking Of Me" is 110% a summer bop, and it seems criminal for you to not enjoy its pleasures immediately. So give it a listen, put it on repeat, and deploy as needed to either enhance (or make up for lack of) a summery sunshine day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Midwestern-sounding power-pop via Sweden? That's Capricorn!

I realized I'd been sitting on this album since January, waiting for its release, and then never ever posted about how awesome Capricorn is! But holy shit, this track sounds like old Tom Petty meets Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty;" high-energy stuff that's polished but never plastic, and I can feel the sweat hitting the guitar strings as they push the good times forward.

The video above is just for the opening track, but the whole album fires at this level. And you can sample the full-album playlist on YouTube or go ahead and order yourself a copy of the band's excellent For The Restless LP.

Monday, August 08, 2022

A 100% guaranteed musical shot of joy.

Today marks a number of important anniversaries in my life, and that made me think of the songs I always turn to when I need a dependable boost. One of those, I Was A King's "Norman Bleik," has worked for me 100% of time when I needed it, but it's been hard to track down in an easily sharable form, so I've always kinda kept it for myself, despite believing its power may be strong enough to energize anyone within listening distance.* It's not just one thing about the song that works—not the lyrics or melody or arrangement alone—it is the song working as a perfect whole that gives it rejuvenating powers.

But today I ran across it as a track in a label sampler, so if you don't want to dig through used record stores for your own copy of the band's 2009 self-titled album (or the actual single!), this should do the trick when you have need of a pick-me-up!**

And while I think many would argue this song is well known and helped the band break through to a wider audience, in my mind it has never reached the influential heights is power should've imbued the song with the power to do.

*Keeping in my mind I prefer to not share Spotify or Apple Music or Tidal or any of those kind of streaming links. Once, this is my interpretation of "easily sharable."
**Naturally, I will always prefer having a copy of the actual album, and highly recommend it!

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Hello, hi—you'll definitely want to stick around!

So, while I've always enjoyed Ty Segall's stuff, I confess it's always fit more in the "I dig it, bit it doesn't really stick with me" category of music. But the nice thing about that category is that when something does hit, it hits hard! And with "Hello, Hi" Segall made me into a believer. Heck, as you can see above, I even shelled out hard-earned dough for the vinyl of this album!

On "Hello, Hi" Segall mixes lower-key acoustic numbers with some real '70s chugging, choogling rockers. The whole thing is tight, flows perfectly, and actually sounds like an album I'd've asked my mom to play in the '70s. I won't go into all the influences I hear here, you should enjoy the fun in that instead of me spelling it out for you, but this is a really, really lovely standout of an album.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Bastien Keb's 'Organ Recital' is a dusty and tender slice of future-funk-lite.

Photo by Max Finnis
On Organ Recital, Bastien Keb fashions a funky soundtrack for a forgotten era. Maybe "forgotten" isn't the right word, since the music on this album feels like a mushy mash of various idealized timespans, where maybe the music developed along a slightly different path than it did in our world.

So let's call this "cool stuff from another dimension," since to me Organ Recital also sounds like a soundtrack to a future season of High Maintenance that will never happen. And its rubbery, woozy, sexy vibe may act as if it's unsure of itself, but that's only because Keb knows if you stick around past the first song, he's got you for the whole run. And as that run progresses, things actually seem to get progressively more chill, making this a lovely album for a late weekend afternoon outside, supine in the shade.

Enough words; this is one where just listening to it is probably the better bet when it comes to convincing you of its merits. So tap below and listen away!

Friday, July 22, 2022

In Chicago and looking for some weekend activities?

Keeping it short and sweet today, but I did a little piece on Local H ahead of their headlining set at Wicker Park Fest this evening. So check that out (and go to the show, if you're up to it)!

Tomorrow, The Handcuffs—who I also recently wrote about—play a show at Liar's Club with TAFKAV and Poison Boys. I can tell you from personal experience two of the three bands are a dependably awesome time when they play, and I listened to a few Poison Boys songs and think they'll more than be able to deliver the goods. I mean, I haven't seen them play yet, but all signs point toward them being a raucous good time and an excellent fit.

Good times ahead, I hope!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Ian Blurton's Future Now's new album fits perfectly, just like a ... 'Second Skin!'

Photo by Rick McGinnis
The first time I played Second Skin, the new album from Ian Blurton's Future Now, I wasn't sure I was in the mood for heavy tunes. Then Blurton and crew proved to me that their heavy tunes are right for just about any time.

Second Skin opens with a taut rocker to set the stage before the title track kicks in with its 7+ minute journey through mind-twisting landscapes driven by this hard-charging bunch. The group may be a quartet, but the sound they emit could come from a rock and/or roll army and it was from this point on I was hooked and just strapped in for the ride. 

The swirl of sound laps upon the shores of multiple genre tweaks and turns, so as long as you're a fan of well-constructed tunes, most played at maximum volume without sacrificing shades of delicate melodic shifts, this will hit you directly in yr soul-ar plexus and leave you—quite happily—gasping for air.

In short? Second Skin's got a real lived-in feel while striving toward epic heights, so I think there's a little something here for just about anyone of any age. The album's out tomorrow, and you can either snag the CD, vinyl, or digital copy from the band; or turn to their label if colored vinyl is more your thing.*

*I opted for the color spatter version of the vinyl. In case you were curious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Post-staycation check in!

When exactly did I turn into such a nature boy?
As mentioned last week, I didn't "go" anywhere for my vacation, but I still packed a lot into it. And yes, I did manage to blow up my routine enough that by the end I was truly growing relaxed and enjoying—you guessed it!—the ability to spontaneously pursue whatever I felt like doing. And while that was mostly just keeping on the move, general freedom from the more constricting views of time really does help me recalibrate and emerge refreshed.

A handful of highlights included, but were absolutely not limited to, the following:
  • Did a lot of walking; my apologies to anyone who's FitBit friends with me since I kind of blew up the leaderboard with over 60 miles of walking in the first week off work alone
  • Got a bunch of original art framed (and realized it was the first time in my life I was getting something framed as opposed to everything in frames on my walls right now having been a gift at some point in the past) 
  • Visited the Chicago Botanical Garden and wondered why it had taken me so long to visit and holy heck I'd buy a membership if I thought I'd make it out that way often enough ... but it's gonna be a regular spot to visit for me in the future!
  • I got my first haircut in almost 2 years, and while I honestly never expected to grow my hair out again so it seems like I should enjoy it before it's all gone. So while it's still long it feels so light and bouncy on my head now that layers of frizz acting as velcro have been removed. And a HUGE shout out to my stylist since she has to deal with a customer who doesn't wash his hair or use any hair products, but still wants his naturally curly / wavy hair to behave and look nice, and if you think that's "simple" I think it is the exact opposite
  • I went to the beach! Maybe I'll eventually learn how to dress for the beach
  • Spent more time regularly talking to my mom than I have in years. Spent time with my entire immediate family on my actual birthday. Hung out with my mom even more after that, and I am really enjoying being able to see my family more often (though I still self-test for COVID before seeing my mom, because mom must be protected at all costs!)*
  • Bought a new phone and absolutely abused the wide-angle lens (because it is totally normal to do that for the first week of having a new lens, right?)**
  • Bought tickets to a few concerts I wanted to attend and skipped all of them due to my personal discomfort with the current COVID variant spike, but I felt good about at least trying to go and still being able to financially support those acts, even from a distance
  • Spent a lot of time in neighborhoods both familiar and new as I wandered the city on certain days with no defined path or end point and it was so refreshing and freeing to move about unconstrained by time or expectations
I think it's that last point that sums up the true highlight of my staycation. After years where time has felt both meaningless and oppressive at the same time, approaching it from an unstructured direction devoid of real-world pressures helped redefine my mental relationship with time in a healthier and more sustainable direction. So, despite not getting more than a couple dozen miles outside Chicago at any given time, I feel this vacation was a total success!

*An aside: I did notice that when I was masked in an enclosed space I was often the only one, but that was fine by me. Though in those situations I've been increasingly harassed by non-mask wearers for wearing one ... which I absolutely can not understand.
**Was secretly happy I didn't have the new phone until after my Botanic Garden visit, otherwise I might still be there shooting pictures of all the amazing tableaux.

Emergency Sloan post!

Stop the presses!* There have been rumblings for a while now that Sloan might be nearing completion of their 13th album, and this morning it was confirmed finished and we got our first taste of what to expect when its released later this year! The album is titled Steady and the first single RAWKS.

You can pre-order Steady (out Oct. 21) right now. Me? I already reserved my purple vinyl version of the album. Can't wait!

*Check back tonight after 5:30 and the post that was originally scheduled for today will be up. This has been a true emergency rock and/or roll broadcast.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Mid-staycation check in!

It's just a 15 minute walk from the front door of my apartment to here!
Hey there! Been quiet around here, huh? There is a reason for that—I am on vacation! Well, technically it's a staycation, but...

One plan for my vacation was to map out a rough list of goals but leave lots of room for spontaneity, since that's something that has been in very short supply for me since the spring of 2019. If it makes sense, I'm trying to blow up my regular routine so I can rebuild a new routine that fits better into this new reality that includes the potential for actually seeing people again (and takes into account my personal feelings of safety*). And while daily posts here were in the running of those initial goals, I eventually jettisoned the idea since it felt little too regimented for what I'm trying to accomplish during my time off.

But hey, clearly I had to check in! And now you know why I've been so silent for an extended spell. The funny thing is, it's so ingrained in me to not discuss an upcoming vacation since it could alert stranger danger of an unattended house but obvs such a tactic is not really needed if your vacation has you staying at home. So next time I'm gonna go silent during a staycation I'll be sure to mention it ahead of time!

*As of today at least, I've still not caught COVID and while I'm sure I eventually will, I am really trying to keep that at bay for as long as I possibly can. Hopefully I didn't just jinx myself for publicly admitting I've not caught COVID yet!