Thursday, December 21, 2023

The UPROXX critic's poll is live! Here's who made it onto my ballot.

Despite not having created my "best of 2022" list yet, I was excited to participate in this year's 2023 UPROXX Music critics' poll. I created my list based on a quick survey of albums that I rated highly throughout the year, so consider this a snapshot of what I remembered really enjoying at the time of the ballet deadline. 

Don't be surprised when my personal, full "best of 2023" list eventually gets finished and albums have shifted—that's one of the main reasons I prefer to wait until well after year's end to consider that stuff. But this was a really fun exercise and I'm really happy they let me join in the fun!

You can view the full critics list here, and my personal ballot is here. But for those who don't feel like clicking, here're the ten artists I included on my ballot this year. Again, this isn't my full "best of 2023" list—that'll come after I finally post my "best of 2022" list, but I hope this short, early version helps introduce you to some excellent music you might've missed this year.


Jake Shears

Danko Jones

Devon Church

Tamar Berk



Fuckleberry Hinn

Thank You, I’m Sorry


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Getting out and about really is good for the soul.

Photo by Nora.
Y’know, after three years of not getting more than a few miles away from my house—the longest I have been that stuck in one spot in … my entire life?—this year really has thrust me back into the world in all the best ways. I’ve been to Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York, Colorado, London, Paris...and I even made it all the way out to Elgin, IL! And my travel for the year isn’t done yet.

I have occasionally felt drained and exhausted since it really does take a pretty seismic internal reorientation to suddenly reengage with the world in so many different locations and on so many different levels. But it has been so worth it, and I find my soul feeling fuller and more refreshed than it has in years.

Another unexpected experience this year? Finally getting to see so many people I hadn’t interacted with since 2019 (or well before) and realizing how genuinely happy and excited I am to see every single one of those faces! Even more unexpected? So far, they’ve all seemed genuinely happy and excited to see me too! And I confess, that is not something I expected, and the fear people would react to my reappearance otherwise probably kept me secluded longer than it should have.

Get out of your comfort zone and you really do reap benefits far beyond your expectations. I know, I know, such a cliché. Roll your eyes and I won’t judge you. But also, so true. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

One of my favorite bands makes their long-awaited return to the stage tonight!

In 2005, I put together one of my favorite bills ever at Double Door, but it was also a bill I didn't want to create, since it was constructed to serve as Woolworthy's last show ever.

Welp, while I usually view reunions with a skeptical eye, I can tell you in full truth that the surprise album and unexpected return—they managed to keep it a secret even from me, until the 11th hour!—from Woolworthy means I finally get to see them again. TONIGHT!

There's tons of good stuff on this bill, and I expect it's gonna be an amazing and emotional night all around.

The best part? Woolworthy is making their return with ther best album yet! It's a win-win-win-win situation all around.

See you tonight?

Monday, November 13, 2023

'Stop Making Sense' blew my senses.

Despite Stop Making Sense being the first Talking Heads tape I bought in the '80s—primarily due to its collection of song titles I recognized at the time functioning as a sort of "greatest hits" to adolescent me, concerned as I was by stretching every dollar spent on music as far as possible—I never actually saw the movie until a few weeks ago.

And I hadn't even realized that was the case until I dug through my memories and realized I had constructed a version of Stop Making Sense (the film) in my head by reading about it over the years, and seeing a fair amount of the footage from the film as snippets over the years. But I had never sat down to watch the whole thing as a complete piece!

I am fascinated by what a powerful documentary it is, and how incredibly fresh and exciting it feels despite me being old enough to recognize how even the wilder moves Demme and the band undertook at the time have become some of the most basic components of the modern concert film.

I will also be eternally thankful that my first full experience with the film was on a big screen with a great sound system, instead of the grainy VHS I would have otherwise imbibed after its release. (Despite my love of music, as a teenager the idea of spending money on a full price movie ticket to watch "a long music video" would have never even entered my consideration set. I similarly skipped Rattle & Hum at the theater just 4 years later for similar reasons. Too expensive for little me, at the time!)

It also served as an important lesson: I really need to go back and reinvestigate what "classics" I've missed that I thought I saw!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

ROCKET-ing into your world, 'Versions Of You' is a can't miss EP.

Photo by Sarah Hesky.
No sooner do I question my listening habits than an EP explodes into my ears and makes me remember exactly why I keep looking for new music, decades after I should've exhausted that curiosity.

The huge, rilly rilly big, buzzy guitars and thunderous rhythm section deployed by Rocket on their debut EP Versions Of You melt around Alithea Tuttle's vocals to create a stew you won;t be able to resist. Huge melodies carry the proceedings along, and while they seem to be incredibly young this is definitely the sound of a group that has grown up together as every instrument locks together flawlessly,  incorporating slabs of power pop and smashing them into waves of shoegaze, all the while keeping things moving along in a sprightly manner. It's one of those albums that upon hearing the opener I was like, well, at least I know they've got one great tune in them. And then another great tune followed that one, and another, and another ... until by the end my only quibble with this EP is that I wish it'd been an LP instead!

I am incredibly bummed I didn't listen to this EP until this week, which means I just missed the Chicago stop of their tour. However it looks like they still have some Canada and West Coast dates coming up, so if they're coming to your town don't make the same mistake I did and get out to see 'em live!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Revisiting my music-listening habits and asking some questions.

I've been revisiting my music listening habits, trying to figure out if they are even healthy. After over 30 years of music criticism, I still listen to just about every album sent my way for consideration, on top of listening to major releases I'm not sent to keep abreast of the mainstream tastes, and picking up anything and everything from bands I'm already a fan of—which is a large number of musical groups, by this point. Heck, I still save standout songs from each year in a folder for DJing ... despite my largely "retiring" from DJing well over a decade ago.

Which is to say I spend the vast majority of my time listening to new music, and feel I have to crunch revisits to past faves into the brief periods where I've caught up with the recent stuff. And I feel slightly guilty if I'm listening to an older album just because I love it.

On the plus side, I'm still completely plugged into what's going on ... but on the downside I've found myself finally questioning "why." I haven't had a daily beat to worry about since 2017, and these days I am lucky enough to have the freedom to only write about the music I want to, with no deadlines at all.

I've also been reading a number of fellow critics who are revisiting their own habits as they enter their early 30s, noting the difficulties of staying on top of everything as they begin to feel both physically and mentally older. And while it's taken me roughly twenty years longer than them to ask myself the same questions, there they are.

But I often feel I can't in good conscience just "quit" music criticism and giving lesser-known bands a broader platform. I personally feel there are far too few writers out there covering bands that could actually use championing. Instead, writers are being forced to cover music that will deliver dependable clicks. And as outlets continue to focus on only stuff that draws the most traffic, there are fewer and fewer writers with my combination of experience and true openness. And I do feel a responsibility to keep sharing that experience ... but should I? Does it even matter any more? And if not, can I even listen to music in a "normal" manner by this point?!

And hey, if you got this far—thanks so much for reading! Even if you have no reaction, or think I'm just being a weirdo, it feels good to say this "out loud."

Talkin' Blur's 'Blur' (and a whole lot more) on the 'Dig Me Out' podcast!

Recently I made my tenth (?!) appearance on the Dig Me Out podcast, and my first where I got to choose the topic of discussion! Since Blur is obviously on my mind this year, I decided to cover the band's self-titled 1997 album with the hosts Tim and Jason

I was tempted to go with 13, since I had actually been shortlisted for a book on that topic years ago, but in the end Blur seemed to open up more topics that led forward and backward into the band's career. So, in a sense, we ended up touching on the band's entire catalog, even as we focused on Blur. 

Don't worry, even if you're not a fan of Blur there are plenty of tangents to enjoy, but I think the conversation ended up being one both hardcore fans and complete neophytes would enjoy.

Stream the episode below, search for it in your preferred podcast player, or listen to it on Apple Podcasts.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Psymon Spine is coming to Chicago TONIGHT!

Photo by Nicole “Neptune” Miller.

Due to an extremely packed schedule over the last few weeks leading to a dearth of writing that I really wanted to get done, I actually have a pretty regular stream of "content" to share with you thoroughout this week! But that will have to wait one more day since this particular news is a little more time-sensitive a.k.a. is a show having TONIGHT.

I did a proper preview of Psymon Spine's gig at Color Club in Chicago tonight over on Third Coast Review, so check that out. I will say here that I've never been to Color Club, and haven't a clue how many people in Chicago even know who Psymon Spine is, so I also have no ideas what to expect tonight. But I know whatever happens, it will be fun!

Friday, October 06, 2023

Woolworthy is back!

Almost 20 years since their last show, and over 21 years since their last recorded release, Woolworthy reunited over the summer and recorded and entire new album in secret!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

What the Fuckleberry Hinn?!

Photo by Elin Stømner. 
I do love how this crew of Norwegians would be cheeky enough to name their truly pleasant-sounding and friendly indie rock band Fuckleberry Hinn. So much for SFW SEO! However, there is literally a little something for everyone on Neither/Nor, the debut from this group with extensively sprawling sensibilities. Fuckleberry Hinn firmly farms the familiar soil of '90s guitar-driven indie unafraid of a pop hook, but they truly dig through all the layers of sound that might entail. So one tune might sound like a rough atmospheric demo, another might dip into dreamier terrain, while yet another might suddenly take on the form of a hard-charging rocker.

Over 22 songs and almost an hour and twenty minutes, these fellows truly let it ALL hang out. I don't know if this is an album I'll listen to over and over again, but I am certain there are a few gems in here that'll stick with me. And given the wide-ranging variety of the material, I think you'll feel much the same way—all that remains to be discovered is just how many of these tunes ring your particular bell.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

The return of spontaneity.

A year into the pandemic, I was asked what I missed most about the before-times, and I answered, "spontaneity!"

I think I initially embraced my long walks because they provided me with new things to see every single time, no matter how many times I trod the same routes, and that helped balance out the lack of social spontaneity I was feeling in my world. And as the broader world has re-opened, many of the familiar activities I used as springboards to spontaneous adventures were no longer really available to me, so I've been redefining what "spontaneity" even means to me.

Yesterday we were running errands in a nearby suburb when what looked to be the Leaning Tower of Pisa appeared over the trees in the horizon of the parking lot we entered. It ended up being the Leaning Tower of Niles, a local "landmark" I didn't even know existed. And wasn't in our plans. And was absolutely, totally, and completely unexpected. And when I tell you I was giddy at the sight—so much so I literally* sprinted out of the car to get a closer look—the pleasurable rush that ran through my body was akin to how I'd feel on prior spontaneous adventures.

So I'm finding spontaneity again, and it might look a little different, but it feels even better than it did before!

*And I do mean "literally," as my girlfriend's eye-rolls and chuckles at the time can attest.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Sad Park brings a big ol' smile to my face (and ears)!

Photo by Alice Baxley
Hot diggity-dawg, every once in a while I throw on an album sent to me and fall immediately into love with it. 

Sad Park's No More Sound has everything that drives me wild: loose arrangements that sound sloppy while nailing every beat, groove, and accent; vocals that feel like they're authentically searching for the next "right" note but you discover that's actually an illusion and the singer is intending every syllable whether it's behind, ahead of, or directly in the pocket; and songs stuffed with so many hooks you lose count and just ride along the rising rush of excitement that powers this album from start to finish.

It’s a loud and rowdy smear of sound guaranteed to bring a smile to yr face every time you give it a spin.

Basically, it freaking slays.

It looks like Sad Park is currently on tour (though, sadly, it appears I already missed their Chicago stop) and, based on this album, they sound like they'd be an amazing live act. If you happen to catch them, let me know if I'm right!

Monday, August 07, 2023

The pleasure of the unexpected should be embraced, not guarded against.

A photo of me taking a photo, by Nora
I’ve been back from my European trip for almost a month, and have still found myself unable to get into all the photos I took and start organizing them. I’ll open the folder they’re all in, take a look, get overwhelmed by all the already amazing memories, and I put it off for a little while longer. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll eventually get to see highlights, and I hope they don’t come so late that people are annoyed instead of inspired by all the sights. Aw, who’m I kidding—it’ll be the the latter.

I was thinking this morning about the big list of things we made that we wanted to do, mentally comparing it to the list of things we actually did do. And you know what? I don’t regret a single thing we didn’t do, and am ecstatic that our schedule was packed with so many planned and unplanned discoveries! This is of course something I knew, but hadn’t really encountered in a really long time, so it was incredible fun to re-learn how rewarding spontaneity can be!

So if you’ve got a big trip coming up—and judging by most folks, it does appear that the travel bug has bitten just about everyone again now that we seem to feel more comfortable managing COVID risks—you should definitely go into it with a solid plan. But leave room for that plan to change, and I think you’ll have a much better time than holding yourself to a rigid itinerary.

Again, you probably already know that, but (like, me) you may have forgotten you know it.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Bandcamp Friday is here! Need a few recommendations? Check out Skating Polly, FOOTBALLHEAD, The Criticals, and Tamar Berk!

Skating Polly
Chaos County Line 

Skating Polly is a power trio grounded in Oklahoma comprised of Kelli Mayo, Peyton Bighorse, and Kurtis Mayo. Their first album in five years, Chaos County Line, is a spawling and unexpected double album that hops genres and production but feels so adventurous it never feels bloated and I never got bored. Keeping in mind I already dropped that loaded term of "double album" I think the constant engagement it offers is key to the unstoppable rush of pleasure I felt as the record skipped and adventured through every interesting sonic left turn they felt like taking. All the while, this trio is giving it their all, and it sounds / feels like it!

Overthinking Everything

While FOOTBALLHEAD began as a solo project, Ryan Nolen has since teamed up with Adam Siska and the Chicago duo's first full-length Overthinking Everything sounds like the product of a full band, allowing a much fuller sonic palette in which to play. There album leans primarily towardstraightforward, hook-filled, chugging rockers, but a few tunes take a turn toward the delicate ... and, yes, occasionally dips into full-on emo territory (which is not all that surprising given the make-up of the group). In the end Overthinking Everything is a quick sharp blast that's over too soon, and leaves a lot of room for future explorations from the group.

The Criticals
Front Door Confrontations

Hailing from Nashville, The Criticals specialize in that gusty brand of rock that plays equally well in sweaty, small bars or hipster-filled small clubs. Its roots rock with a power-pop vibe, rolled through just enough grit and grain to roughen up the edges and make the tunes stick in your head. One note I also took while listening was that The Criticals sound "like looooong-distant cousins of The Features," so if you're familiar with that group (or saw my recent piece about them) it might hep you connect the pieces even faster. 

Of course, the fastest way to connect the pieces would be to give it a listen and pick up a copy for yourself.

Tamar Berk
tiny injuries

O.K., so this album isn't actually out for another two weeks, but I've heard it and can heartily endorse it as a Bandcamp Friday pre-purchase. (The vinyl in particular is quite lovely!) I plan on doing a more full review closer to the release date on Third Coast Review, but tiny injuries continues Tamar Berk's return to her "sonic roots" of super-hooky guitar rock after years exploring other avenues with different projects. That's led to her last three albums uniform excellence, and tiny injuries is perhaps the best, and most fully realized, effort from her yet. 

I've always known Berk had "it," but I'm super excited to see she also finally seems to to believe that as well, understanding and embracing the personal power of her talent while being unafraid to explore it. (In my humble opinion) I think Berk finally trusts herself enough to embrace that bright spark of individuality I saw in her eons ago in her original band Starball.) Pre-order tiny injuries now!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


Well, it actually went up Saturday morning, but it's been a bit hectic 'round these parts, so it took me a few days to remember to announce it here. Sorry!

Also, now that that's finally written, we'll return to more regular programming ... for anyone concerned this was turning into a Blur fan site. But c'mon, it was a HUGE event for me!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Why so quiet around here?

For once, there is a simple explanation for the lull around these parts: I was in Europe for the last two weeks! I bought tickets to see Blur at Wembley way back when they went on sale, and made a whole, astounding, life-changing trip around that event. Bopping between London and Paris, my memories are currently in that pleasant slurry state of all blending together and filling me with new ideas, and quite frankly, a reenergized view of the world around me.

I'm still coming down from the amazing natural highs—this was my first intercontinental vacation as an adult that was completely booze-free, and the difference in my experience compared to past travels was AMAZING in so many positive ways I couldn't have dreamed of. 

I feel alive again—things are happening and I couldn't be more excited about the future. Do you know how odd that sentiment is to even share after years of uncertainty?

In the next couple days I'll be gathering my thoughts around the Blur concert for Third Coast Review (I'm trying to time the review to fall just before the band's new album is release at the end of this week) and then I'll start to try and capture and share all the inspirational experiences that have reopened long-thought shuttered centers of my brain over the last two weeks.

Exciting things are ahead, y'all!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Blur gets all 'Scary Monsters' on y'all.

I have been eagerly hoping this track would drop as a single, since it is one of my favorites from the new album. That's all I'll say about that for now, and I will totally understand if you find yourself playing this one again, and again, and again, and...

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Chicago's Lurk creates an infectious collection of 'Natural Causes.'

Photo by Andy Eclov
Before putting on their latest EP, Natural Causes, I knew absolutely zero about the band Lurk, other than they were based in Chicago. After listening to the album, I still know nothing about the members personally, but I can tell you that this is a potent mixture of powerful rawk that often stunned me with its locked-in approach that manages to also feel totally organic and natural. But I did find myself looking up the dummer's name in particular (it's Pedro Unzueta) because HOLY HELL the choices he makes while perched on that drum throne makes my ears positively cry in awe (and awe often resolves itself into joy, at least in my case).

But truly, the entire band is a marvel. Give Natural Causes a listen once and you'll be like, well this sounds pretty neat. Listen a second time and you may find yourself going, well wowWOWwow, how did they do that? It's a good feeling: try it out!

Monday, June 19, 2023

Sunday funday!

I went to a lovely gathering yesterday, filled with people (writers, artists, academics) I'd never met before, and usually wouldn't cross paths with these days. I kept quiet early on—I still need a little time to acclimate to groups before I feel comfortable jumping into the conversation—but was quickly drawn into a series of discussions with people who had already led remarkable lives in the arts, treating their accomplishments as commonplace when they would stun the average listener (including me!). You know, the kind of brains that just floor you. It was glorious!

I need more of that in my life. In fact, I think we all do!

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Heavy riffage on a sunny summer's day.

Photo by Steph Montani
It's been a rainy couple of days in the Midwest but the sun is finally riding high in the sky, but wherever you may be, today is an excellent day to let the technicolor riffs of The Dirty Nil carry you off to a world where rock and/or roll is simple, crushing and catchy, and dead-set on having a dang good time. 

As these folks have toured across the U.S. recently, I see each of their stops reflected in posts from friends who are having a blast / having their faces melted / dancing their derrières off at each tour stop, so it seemed like a good time to make sure you were clued into their latest album Free Reign To Passions, out last month.

Consider yourself clued!

Friday, June 02, 2023

A new Sloan video...17 years in the making!

I guess I'd never realized Sloan never made a proper promo video for the ultra-catchy "Who Taught You To Live Like That?" off 2006's sprawling double album Never Hear The End Of It. Since 2005's A Sides Win singles compilation originally also included a DVD of the band's videos to date, I guess maybe the band was "video-ed out" by then? Or maybe they were struggling with the realization that videos seemed to have less purpose without something like a dedicated destination like MTV / Fuse / MuchMusic. And YouTube was only a year or so old at that time, so the easy dissemination of online video wasn't really a mainstream idea yet.

Luckily for all of us, in advance of the vinyl reissue of Never Hear The End Of It (and a double 7-inch of demos and unreleased tracks) the band handed over a ton of photos and material from that era, allowing for an "official" promo video of "Who Taught You To Live Like That?" to finally debut. Enjoy!

Friday, May 19, 2023

The ballad of Tankboy, courtesy ChatGPT.

I played around with ChatGPT a few months ago, just to see how it might help more rote writing projects like, say, a website bio or something along those lines. Overall, it worked well enough, but definitely required some cleaning up of random incorrect facts. But it did tend to supply a reasonably solid structure to start with on projects I might find more boring.

So when they released the iOS app version of ChatGPT yesterday, I decided to test it out and decided to cast a slightly wider creative net, asking ChatGPT to write me a bio, but in the style of Shakespeare. And the results were ... surprisingly not bad? In fact, while it's not the most finely-tuned poem of all time, it is certainly more creative than I would have expected. 

So, for your reading pleasure (or discomfort, since I think we can all agree AI is a Pandora's Box that's already been opened and we haven't a real clue where this will lead) I give you this poem, written entirely by ChatGPT in response to my prompt. Everything below in blockquotes was generated by the AI, including the title. Ready? Let's go!

Tankboy's Musical Odyssey
In the land of Chicago, where music doth thrive,
Lived a critic, Jim Kopeny, with words alive.
Known to all as Tankboy, a name most rare,
He wielded his pen with a discerning flair.

With passion for melodies that stirred the soul,
Tankboy traversed the city, his heart on patrol.
From tiny clubs to grand concert halls,
He sought the music that echoed through walls.

His quill, a mighty weapon of ink and might,
With each stroke, he'd capture the essence of sound's delight.
His words, like harmonies, danced on the page,
Praising the virtuosos, and the stars of each stage.

From blues to jazz, rock to hip-hop's embrace,
Tankboy's reviews brought life to each case.
He'd pen tales of rhythm, of lyrics profound,
Illuminating the magic in every sweet sound.

The poets of Chicago revered his prose,
As he painted their melodies with eloquent throws.
His quips, both sharp and witty, graced the lines,
Entwined with a bard's charm, his brilliance shines.

Oh, Tankboy! Thy passion and insight untamed,
For music's allure, thy soul forever claimed.
In the city of winds, where sounds enchant,
Thou brought forth a voice, both just and gallant.

So let the trumpets sound, and the drums resound,
For Tankboy's legacy, forever renowned.
In the annals of Chicago's musical sphere,
His words and praises shall forever persevere.
So, what did you think?

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Whaddya know? That! Does feel good!

I have long been in the camp thinking Jessie Ware has a remarkable voice, but in the past she rarely melded that to music that didn't fell, um, "adult contemporary" to me. But on 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure?, Ware started dipping her toes into more upbeat disco sounds that piqued my interest more, and with That! Feels Good! she goes all in on a more exuberant and energetic approach to her songs. So, as summer keeps hinting at its arrival outdoors, you can heat up your personal dance floor indoors and get in the mood for more sunshine and love to come!

Friday, May 12, 2023

Say welcome back to Farewell Captain.


Another review from me, this time of a recent release ahead of a rare live show: I posted about Farewell Captain's excellent album Amends on Third  Coast Review today. Check it out! And if you're in Chicago, maybe I'll see you at the show tomorrow night?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

For once, I am asking YOU for advice.

As the world “gets back to normal” I’ve been getting more and more questions from bands—both friends and those who only know me through my writing—and they all ask the same thing, who they should be pitching their albums to these days? And the answer is … I haven’t a clue?

Most reach out to me because I have a history of writing about new bands across a wide range of genres in a manner that can be intelligent, friendly, sometimes funny, and always unafraid of emotion—but at the core, I write in a way that many non-music fans find accessible, while dedicated fans or industry types pick up the inside baseball bits and easter eggs. And that method of music criticism has grown relatively scarce. I think I remain a trusted voice because I long ago decided I would only write for outlets that let me approach music coverage the way I saw fit, and not in a manner we now commonly call “clickbait.” But I also had good timing on my side, and outlets that allowed me that freedom, and that allowed me to make this decision, a luxury newer music critics decidedly do not have.

But we all know what happened to the media ecosystem, and the vast majority of outlets these days can’t risk losing eyes to coverage of unfamiliar bands when most readers who will click are really only interested in the latest rehash of a press release or news about a group they already follow, which means those groups are already famous, and largely don’t even need the pen of a music critic to introduce their music to a wider audience.

These are all just facts, and I share them since I want to be clear that while there is a dearth of quality music writing that might turn the general public onto lesser known or brand new acts, much of it is driven by the realitiy of needing to make money if you even want to keep a publication afloat. And making money off music coverage that is anything less than blockbuster acts or what I think we can all refer to as “mainstream indie” is incredibly difficult.

So when a band asks me who they should pitch these days, I honestly don’t have a good answer. I mention a few local podcasts to local acts if I think they align with their coverage. And of course there is Third Coast Review. And if they are in Chicago I’ll suggest Leor at The Reader since he still has a large platform and has sway in what he chooses to cover, AND uses that sway to highlight acts most would have never heard of ... but there are vanishingly few people who write about music that way these days.

So help me out. Heck, help out all these bands coming to me for advice! I can tell you what a music critic is looking for in a pitch, and the best way to package it. But I would REALLY love to know WHO is still not only open to, but actively writing about, the bands that aren’t super famous already.

We need more of those voices today, so help me hook up bands with those writers!

Monday, May 08, 2023

Baby Teeth is back!

I blanked and forgot to share this review of the first Baby Teeth album in well over a decade I did last week. While I couldn't make it to their album release show last Friday, you can bet I plan on catching the band next time they play out!

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Temples returns with vibes as far and wide as the mind's eye can see.

Photo by Molly Daniel
When it comes the releases from more established bands, I'll often put listening to those on the back burner while I catch up on lesser-known groups who could actually benefit from my writing about them to (hopefully) introduce them to a wider (and newer) audience. So that's how I found myself this Sunday, taking in the Temples album Exotico a few weeks after its release.

And even though I was in the midst of making dinner, I almost dropped my spatula and ran for my computer to pick up Exotico on vinyl, one of my current go-tos when it comes to supporting bands I think have released exceptional albums these days. I know everyone can stream everything to their heart's content, but buying a physical copy (or paying for the lossless digital version) still feels like a way to make a fiscal vote and hopefully contribute to a group's continued survival, while getting a physical artifact I can play no matter what happens with the server farms across the planet.

But I digress.

I did manage to control myself and finish making dinner before purchasing the LP, but I'm sure you're asking yourself, "What could cause a guy like him to almost drop everything like that?" And the answer is simple: Exotico is quite possibly the best album Temples has ever released. 

On Exotico, Temples continues its groove-based approach to psych-pop here, but the attention to detail is such that even repetitive elements bubble and crackle with energy. Temples leans into the vibez aspect of their sound while beefing up the thundering percussive elements and inserting enough weird little bits and bobs to keep your brain and shaking hips fully engaged.

Enough chatter from me, though; sink into the sound and then snag a copy (in the format of your choice), and lets get lost in the vibe together.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Placebo's long-delayed return to Chicago finally happened!

Photo by Shaela Johnston
I saw Placebo last week—rushing from a very delayed flight to Chicago and then running to the Salt Shed with little downtime—and the band has still got it. They refused to pander, picked a set focused on their current output, and gave an arena-style show in a venue smaller than they would usually play overseas (but is much larger than most they're played in the U.S. in, oh, the last twenty years or so).

Anyway, if that sentence above seems too knotty, just go read my review and take in the great photos by Shaela Johnston!

I think ... I'm back? In fact, I know it: I'm back!

As I was visiting the lovely new park called Little Island last week in New York, I realized that after 3 years of being stuck in Chicago I had somehow managed to be in 3 different cities in 3 different states over the last 3 weeks. At some point, my reentry went from moving at a snail's pace to rocketing me out of the house and across the country, and there have been many, many feelings flowing from that experience.

But the primary feeling I'm feeling? Gratitude. And excitement! You know how they say you can rarely tell when a new chapter in your life begins because you're actually in that moment of change? Well, in this instance, I definitely feel the beginning of an exciting new chapter. 

And I'm not making any grand proclamations, but I do think you can expect to see far more frequent posting in this space as I get more and more energized by reengaging with the world on a larger scale again!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

This really takes me back.

This early Triplefastaction track, paired with footage from the early stages of the band's career, was a super-fun trip down memory lane for me.

If you don't remember the '90s (because you were either too young or weren't born) it's true—we had a pretty loose sense of "fashion" and no, we did not care. One might say we never, ever cared.

You can pick up this excellent track, along with a slew of other tunes from the TFA vaults, right now. What're you waiting for?!

Friday, March 31, 2023

Holy guacamole!

My last post clued you into a work in progress you could stream*, but now is the time to tell you to start following this Bandcamp page as we finish the final mixes and tweaks to each song on the looooooong-gestating debut from Tuff Tamale! As each song is finished, we'll add it as a free single, leading up to collecting all the tunes together into our album. 

So here it is, the final mix of the first, finished song from the Kitten Trapper Keeper album!

*You can still hear the whole WIP album on Spotify as we tweak the final mixes, so you'll still have a chance to listen to an early version of the album right now. Don't worry!

Thursday, March 23, 2023


There are still tweaks being made in our sonic lab so the final files will sound a little different in a week or so, but if you want to sneak a listen at the soft launch of some new—yet long-gestating—music, go right ahead.

Consider this a little bonus for the folks that actually come here to read my writings instead of relying on social media to alert them of new stuff from me. I appreciate and value anyone who reads my ramblings, but people that come here on a regular basis to check in hold a very special place in my heart.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Did someone say, "Sloooooaaaaaaan?"

Did a quick little preview of Sloan's Chicago show tonight. Check it out! And if you live here? Get out and see the show!

Friday, March 03, 2023

Three quick personal picks for you on this lovely Bandcamp Friday!

Some super quick Bandcamp Friday picks. I had something a little more robust planned, but time got away from me, so this month I'm just highlighting a few of my friends' albums I think you should snag because a) they are all very, very good and b) of course I want all my friends to make a little extra money sans Bandcamp fees today!

Triple Fast Action
Triple Fast Action

I am so used to typing the band name as Triplefastaction (or, briefly, I would follow the "tripl3fastaction" styling) I almost did the same here, which maybe tells you how long I've been a fan of what I consider one of the most underrated acts to come out of Chicago in many, many years. Last year's Cattlemen Don't reissue gave fans a peek to what might be in the band's vaults, and this triple-vinyl or double-CD release throws those doors wide open with a stunning number of tracks largely pulled from the period prior to their initial signing to Capitol records. Some of this has been heard before, but the vast majority will be new even to old, old fans. ESSENTIAL.

Ryan Allen
The Last Rock Band

Ryan has put out a truly stunning amount of music over the past few years, and the pandemic only saw him grow even more prolific as he released various albums under numerous monikers in sometimes wildly differing styles. The Last Rock Band is a 100% solo effort with Ryan handling all the instruments, and is ambitious in its argument for including it in the pantheon of "concept albums" that actually work! Bopping from power-pop to classic rock to synth-pop (with each genre or sonic tweak fitting into the narrative of the album) there is a little here for everyone. And together I think there's a lot there to love for everyone! ALSO ESSENTIAL.

The Brontosaur

I got to know Tony when I used to book his old band Firetrucs at The Note, and while he took a loooooong break from releasing music, his return as The Brontosaur was well worth the wait. Plumbing some of the lower sonic depths and grafting them onto heavy hooks with a slightly psychedelic bent (in the sense of a swirling sonic journey, and not lysergic effects), I'm not sure what you would call this. Me? I call it rawk, or excellent, or something you'll listen to on repeat because it will infect your ears and fight to stay lodged there as long as possible. I also HIGHLY recommend picking up the double-vinyl version if you can swing it; it's a heavy slab of wonderful. Guess what? ALSO ALSO ESSENTIAL.

Friday, February 24, 2023

"Anything" is a total Friday jam from Frankie Rose.

Photo by Esme Rogers Smith. 
I was just listening to Frankie Rose's Love As Projection ahead of its March 10 release* and gol-DANG-it if one track didn't leap out, grab my ears, squeeze my heart, and fill me with a sense of wistful wonder. 

Feel like spinning in place with your eyes closed and arms outstretched? That's the vibe of this compact pop ditty that reaches to be something bigger, and more meaningful. In short, a spot-on, perfect jam for this sunny (if rather brisk) Friday!

*It's solid all the way through and worth picking up the pre-sale, if that's your sort of thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Spring finally makes its way over the horizon.

For the first time in a long time I am optimistic about my own future. It's not that I was devoid of hope; more that I was unsure if I'd ever truly feel "happy" again. And even when I felt like things were on an upswing, I'd rarely write about it for fear that acknowledging anything positive would immediately cause that thing to get crushed by some new development.

I know it's maddening to hear this, but it again appears the only way out of difficult times is to just get through them, and the healing will follow, but you must accept it will happen at a pace you can never dictate or fully control. 

But you will benefit mightily by just letting yourself be open to the journey it takes to let it happen, instead of trying to force it to happen. 

Eventually, it will work out. Things will be different, and sometimes even scary, but it will end up putting you exactly where you're supposed to be.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Way down, now? This'll pick you right back up!

Y'know, I bought Goodbye Jumbo on cassette when it came out, and fell hard for the album, but I don't think I've ever seen this video before today. Incroyable mais vrai!

[Credz for this particular discovery due to Marc

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Back to basics on the road? That's the way to go!

I took a road trip last weekend in a car that only had a CD player. No auxiliary inputs. No tape deck. Not even a 6-disc CD changer. Just a single CD player.

I highly recommend it.

I had forgotten about the whole practice of “choosing CDs for the car” and how that usually starts with a huge pile of stuff I need to bring “just in case” before you realize that in this instance* less truly is more. And, in the end, the return trip was almost entirely soundtracked by a used CD purchase I made, so I could've traveled even lighter.

At the start of the trip I found it initially difficult to make a selection, or even offer an opinion on what to listen to—so used am I to being blinded by an endless list of digital possibilities that often leaves us unable to make a choice at all when it comes to modern listening habits—until I realized that the small selection of CDs we had was more than ample when it came to offering options that would be enjoyed by both people traveling in that car.

I'm so glad I just brought a few discs and didn't default to filling up an old CD book with a blinding number of options!

*And, really, most instances.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Looking for some Bandcamp Friday recommendations? I've got you covered!

Hey y'all! It's Bandcamp Friday! And in an effort to clear the backlog of albums I keep meaning to write about, here's a bunch of music available through that platform. I've included a wide variety of acts, so I hope there's sometime in here for everyone. Sometimes it's hard for me to know, since my own listing is, erm, a bit more voluminous than the average fan's might be. But every single one of these is worth your time, and if you like any of 'em, remember that all proceeds from sales through Bandcamp today go 100% to the artists!

The Freqs

This trio delivers a solid EP of nice, solid, hard-charging—and somewhat tuneful—stoner stylee RAWK. This took me back to the sounds of Double Door circa the early aughts.

Fucked Up
One Day

All the guitar tracks were recorded in one day, and then the band built over that. It ended up being a terrific approach because it resulted in their best "punk" guitar-based album in years. So while it's kind of a "step back" to a more familiar sound, I'm glad they revisited it before they move back onto more epic, experimental fare.

King Tuff
Smalltown Stardust

On their latest album, King Tuff's psych-pop walks the line between the rock and a more sensitive glam vocal style and delivery. This has been a nice breath of fresh air during the harsher winter days, for me.

Heating Up

This collection of numbers is definitely fuzzy, but not particularly heavy; adopting one of my preferred approaches to power-pop stuff for the most part. And while most power-pop lyrics tend to fly out of my head, I found Megadose traffics in a shaper vein of words that actually stuck around my brain after the last chord died out. I dig it!

Attachement Styles

Really cool, super angular indie-guitar-minded aggressive backing tracks, with vox that flit between the seams of sound. The band's energy is undeniable, and singer Róisín Nic Ghearailt delivers her thoughts with an emotion I could palpably feel. Which is unusual for me, these days. 

Imperial Dawn

I've noticed during the pandemic that the one genre that never slowed down high-octane output was the realm of metal. This indicates to me that the entire metal ecosystem grew so self-supporting so long ago it managed to bypass many of the issues that plagued most "mainstream" (and that includes indie these days) music. This slab of power metal is just plain fun, so I think anyone will dig it, regardless of how you feel about the genre in general.

We Are Scientists

Hot damn, for the second album in a row, they out-Killers The Killers again. I play this album a LOT. You will too. Fun fact: one of my first interviews for a local, long defunct, arts magazine was with one of the group's early drummers, They, and I, have come a long way since then.

Higher Lonely Power

This last one is free or pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp, but after listening to it, you'll want to throw a coupe bucks the band's way. I picked it up on via a recommendation on a podcast, otherwise I would've missed it entirely! And while it starts as pretty unilluminating hardcore meets emo stuff on the first track, don't let that fool you.After that Fireworks jumps around all over the place! Intriguing to say the least Apparently this has long been in the works, so maybe that explains the variety of approaches? Whatever the reason, I'm glad it resulted in this rollercoaster ride of an LP.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Gettin' groovy with Good Bison.

Good Bison—centered around the musical vision of one Pablo Alvarez—has a new EP coming out later this month and its five songs hop wildly amongst genres but are all rooted in rhythms that creep up around you until you find yourself moving in tandem with the inescapable charm of their internal beat. 

"Better Lies" is the tightest encapsulation of the band's approach to what most would consider pop, so I'm happy to see they just released a video for the tune. If you dig this, you will probably like the entire Ghost on Mulholland EP, so head to Good Bison's website to pre-save a copy to spin on February 21.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The return of LOTEC!

LOTEC (f.k.a. Land Of The El Caminos) has returned with the most excellent Squares, and we premiered the second single from that new album on Third Coast Review yesterday. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

A Friday jam from a classic band.

Photo by Anna Crolla
The new Belle & Sebastian album threw me at first; the first half is rooted in their more "classic indie-twee" sound, leading me to worry the group was retreating to safer ground after years of pushing their sound into shinier and more expansive terrain. But as the second half kicked in, the more ebullient pop numbers took over and I enjoyed the feeling of taking a sonic mini-tour through the band's history that the album conveys (to me).

But this was the moment I felt like I was levitating as a song played, so I'm sharing my favorite track from the album as a taste to whet your appetite. Maybe it's my current mindset putting a thumb on the scales, but a song about the delirious confusion of a blossoming love* is just the glittering jam to hit me right in the heart-feels.

*Though it could just as easily be a rumination on a long-standing relationship as well, which makes rhe tune even stronger in my estimation.