Thursday, December 14, 2017

The United States of Pop, 2017 edition.

I've always really enjoyed DJ Earworm's mash-ups, and while this year's "United States of Pop" isn't quite as awesome as previous years—let's face it, it was a pretty weak year for pop—he makes the best of it and still manages to crank out another, well, earworm.

Stream or download via the above player and let's all go POP!

Spoiler alert: I sobbed through the entire final quarter of this movie.

I was lucky enough to catch a screening of David Bowie: The Last Five Years when it played CIMMfest last November, and it is just as excellent and heart-breaking as you'd expect it to be.

I can't wait to watch it again when it finally hits HBO next month.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Diamond not-so-in-the-rough.

Hannah Diamond
PC Music popster Hannah Diamond just surprise released a new EP, Soon I won’t see you at all. It’s a lovely little glittering piece of pop that feels like a blast on sunshine shooting across the tundra. The best part about it? You can download the whole thing for free.

On a dreary Midwestern day this slice of shiny and sleek music feels like the perfect antidote to the winter blahs.

You can listen to the opening tack below, but I’m not sure why you’d do that when the whole EP is available for zero dollars.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Nefarious Fat Cats helped me remember that rock and/or roll is meant to be loved.

Photo by Patrick Houdek
It's been a rough year, and sometimes I start to doubt whether I really have much to say about the rock and/or roll anymore, but Sunday's show at Liar's Club reaffirmed my belief that rock can save your life. (So can a DJ, but that's neither here nor there.) The Nefarious Fat Cats (Scott Lucas, Jake Burns, John Haggerty, Mark DeRosa, Herb Rosen, and Joe Haggerty) played a benefit for KT's Kids at Liar's Club Sunday night, and I can't remember the last time I had that much fun being in the middle of a raucous crowd that was just so in love with the music.

Here's a taste of what it was like.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Surprise! It's Lemuria!

I think Lemuria is one of those bands that's kind of just always been around that I never really got around to checking out. They're surprise releasing a new album, Recreational Hate, this week and I had a chance to listen to it this morning. I can assure you I'll be checking out more Lemuria in the future!

The band made the announcement on their website:
Thanks to everyone who took a gamble and purchased the "secret LP" we put up for sale back in August. We're excited to unveil that the LP you ordered is our new studio album, “Recreational Hate”.   Your trust and subsequent purchase enabled us to achieve some great feats with this release, including working with the 4-time Grammy winning producer and engineer Chris Shaw. We chose to work with him, in part, for his very eclectic discography, including the Weezer “Blue” album, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ice Cube, Wilco, Public Enemy, Modest Mouse, A Tribe Called Quest, Ween and Lou Reed.  You also gave us the opportunity to launch Turbo Worldwide, our new record label and home base for all things Lemuria.
Folks  that ordered blind are getting the album this week. Everyone else will have to wait until February of next year.

Crunchy guitar hooks and a variety of song treatments with interesting little musical touches really made my day this morning. And further makes the case for not putting together "year end" lists until the year's actually ended! If you dig The Rentals or early Weezer I think you'll dig this.

Check out the first single below, and you can get the whole album on their website once the pre-order goes live. It's really good.

Friday, December 08, 2017

It's been a week!

There have been highs, there have been lows, and there's been much to think about. But the one thing I'm certain of is that I am ecstatic it's Friday!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Debbie Harry and Joan Jett in a video together? Hell yes!

Joan Jett helps Debbie Harry out at the anchor desk in the new video for Blondie's "Doom Or Destiny" of this year's Pollinator. And it kicks so much ass!

Also, if you haven't checked out Pollinator yet, you really should. Blondie is one of those bands who aren't phoning it in post-reunion, and would instead prefer to create albums that, well, still ick ass.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

MAMA makes the grade.

MAMA, photo by Amanda Olbrys from their Facebook page
A friend recommended I check out Chicago’s MAMA a few months ago and I went in without having checked out any of their music ahead of time. Sometimes I like to be totally surprised, and I definitely walked out of the show surprised.

They were playing in the back room of one of Logan Square’s diver dives, so I was expecting to hear some sloppy but good garage rock. Instead I was treated to something that had far more in common with someone like Thin Lizzy—all manic drumming, tight guitar lines, and vocal melodies anchored by hooks galore.

So of course as soon as I went home I bought their entire catalog on Bandcamp.

Their first releases have the core of what makes the band great, but I think last year’s Eye In The Sky is where they found the perfect balance between abandon and precision that I saw in that bar that night a few months ago.

The group is playing LiveWire tomorrow night (Dec. 7). If you bring bring in a non-perishable food item for the Greater Chicago Food Depository you can check out the show for free. Otherwise there’s an $8 cover. However you gain entry, I highly recommend you do. If you can’t make the show, the band gigs pretty frequently so I’d join their Facebook page so you can check them out next time they play.

Here’s some music to convince you. But it’ll be seeing MAMA live that’ll make you a full convert.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How much new music did I listen to in November 2017? Let's find out!

When I'm feeling blue, looking at this adorable photo of Sasha the Cat helps.
Yeah, this was a miserable month for me. I'm pretty certain November 2017 will long be remembered as a personally really dark period. Because of that, when I did listen to music, which wasn't terribly often, I tended to go straight for comfort food.

I wish I could say I'm optimistic December will be different, but considering the current state of things, coupled with what appears to be the appearance of absolutely miserable winter weather, I'm not getting my hopes up.

As always, here’s a guide to my rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in October 2017: 19

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 1

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 14

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 4

Highest rated album: Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Rest took the title this month.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Telthon’s The Grand Spontanean epic punk opera caught me totally off guard. You should check it out too.

Most surprising discovery: Ana Scent’s slinky electro pop was recommended to me by a friend, and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. They only have 3 songs right now so I’m curious to hear more.

Monday, December 04, 2017

I've barely touched my email or social media since last week.

I've been on vacation since Thursday, and have avoided most things digital over that time. Since Chicagoist shuttered I've been feeling like maybe I don't have to be so plugged in all the time. But that also means I've been spending a lot of time with "me," in my own head, without the immediate escape that would be offered scrolling through my feeds. There's a lot going on right now and I think it's better if I do focus on myself. It's much harder work, but I think I'll be better for it.

Naturally, I'll always keep up on my weekday posts here, but if you notice a little (or a lot) less of me in other digital corners, now you'll know why.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pretty light month for me, music-wise.

We still have another day to go, but my list of albums listened to in the month of November is looking pretty slim.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Kickback melts an outdoor patio with 'Rube.'

The Kickback
I keep meaning to write a proper review of The Kickback’s Weddings & Funerals, but each time I was going to try and tie it to one of their shows, said show would get canceled. As I’m sure singer Billy Yost would say, “What did you expect?” Since it’s definitely one of my favorite albums of the year I guess I’ll finally get to write a capsule review of it when it inevitably ends up on my “best of” 2017 list in the next week or so.

I mean the furthest I got was a blurb back in May reading:
The new music finds frontman Billy Yost processing his recent divorce, and the result is an album of sometimes harrowing but always excellent work. It also sees the band as a whole pushing their sound in new directions without abandoning the left-of-center hooks and melodic sensibility that made us fall in love with them. Misery rarely sounds this entertaining, and we like it.
Here’s a live rendition of the band preforming “Rube” on the patio of Parson’s Chicken and Fish. Which, of all the things I’ve seen the band do over the years, might be is definitely one of the weirdest settings I’ve ever seen them play.

It could have been painfully awkward, but Yost and the band manage to mentally transport themselves to another space entirely and rip out a searing version of a song that already started of as scalding. I've been playing the album an awful lot lately for personal reasons, and it still stands up just as powerfully as it did the first time I heard it, so you should probably pick up your own copy if you haven't already.

[h/t CoS]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wisconsin's Telethon goes all in with a brand new, full-length, punk rock opera that might blow your mind.

I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I’m only slowly starting to get back into the groove of listening to new music. After the events of November 2, it’s taken me a while to even want to write at all again, much less listen to new stuff. But I am who I am, and of course it was only going to be a matter of time before I started digging through the inbox with anything resembling life again.

So what timing! The subject line in an email I got yesterday read “The 90-minute, 30-track punk rock opera that just might be your new favorite record….” And hot damn if that doesn’t sound like something I would love, right? Of course the danger is that often a promise like that falls really flat—but I couldn’t resist giving it a listen.

Luckily for my fragile and recovering soul, Milwaukee’s Telethon delivers on that subject line’s promise with their new album The Grand Spontanean: A Tale Told In Five Acts.

See? They're not all serious all the time.
Much like their neighbors Tenement, Telethon are ostensibly “punk rock” but veer all over the place genre-wise on The Grand Spontanean. The album comes with a meticulously put together playbill that outlines the troy within, but I’ll admit that since I’ve only had the music since yesterday I honestly have no idea what the grand storyline is. The grand, sweeping collection of music is probably bolstered by the album’s concept, but it stands completely on its own (so don’t let the term “punk rock opera” turn you off if you’re afraid it’s wither too high concept or prog to digest).

And I'm reading some press calling these folks "emo." Don't believe that either. It's just really good fucking rock and roll that isn't afraid of bursting expectations and boundaries in service of each song's specific wants and needs.

Throughout the album there are "fake" punk rock bands within the band (The New Improbables); guest stars galore including Laura Stevenson, Franz Nicolay, Roger Lima, Chris Farren, and Peter Hess. And the whole thing was prodcued by Jack Shirley, who has also been behind the boards for other recent faves of mine from Jeff Rosenstock and Joyce Manor (and I guess he’s also worked with Deafheaven, but I confess I’ve never really been able to get into them, so I’m less familiar).

The most amazing thing about this musical feat is that the band is currently offering the album for free or pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp right now. So you would be an absolute fool to not even just check it out.

Sadly, they don’t appear to have any shows currently scheduled, but after seeing where they’ve been playing in Chicago it appears MPShows is still way ahead of the curve and have already done a handful of events with the band, so hopefully it won’t be long before they make it back through town. Should they venture into your neighborhood though, I suspect theirs is a live act very much worth checking out.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A new soon-to-be holiday classic from Dude York!

I’m noticing more groups are releasing holiday theme albums populated by original material, giving me hope that while folks will always love the “classics” perhaps the canon has some room for a little growth and modernizing.

Dude York’s Sincerely came out near the beginning of the year and remains one of my favorite releases of 2017, but the group hasn’t rested on those laurels, oh no! They’ve kept busy touring throughout the year and yet still found time to record a new album of festive new tunes with a holiday bent.

Enjoy the video for the lead single “Break Up Holiday” above, and visit the player below to pick up the whole album and put t little grit into your Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus / etc.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Slinky, sexy fun Swedish pop from Tove Lo, just for you.

Tove Lo
Let's brighten things up a bit today.

I'm really enjoying Tove  Lo's new album, BLUE LIPS (lady wood phase II). It's smart and edgy pop,

Her music is dirty, sexy stuff, mining that “I am the rebel of mainstream pop and dangerous!” thing. And I definitely appreciate she has so much songwriting credit through the whole album. She's not someone else's mouthpiece, or only talented because of her appearance or voice. I’ve caught her live as well, so can vouch that she’s the real deal and super entertaining even outside a studio.

You've probably already listened to or seen the video for the first single "Disco Tits," so here's one of the more mellow, slinky cuts off the album.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

It's getting really hard to be thankful, these days.

I am thankful for these goofballs.
The year of 2017, in particular the month of November, has been pretty much awful. So as I read feeds full of posts about how thankful everyone is for everything, I'm having a hard time identifying.

I've spent most of today going over what I am thankful for, though, and did manage to come up with a few things:
  • The support and love of family and friends during trying times.
  • Pickle the Kitten and Sasha the Cat, who always seem to know when I need them.
  • I finally got to see Tom Petty. 
  • My house.
It's not much, but it's all I could muster. Here's hoping this is just the lowest point and things start looking up after this. Here's hoping for a strong finish to the year with December!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Take this song and run with it.

Charlotte Gainsbourg's Rest is really helping be get through today. May favorite track is probably "Sylvia Says," but that doesn't seem to be a single (yet?), so here's another upbeat favorite.

The whole album is really great. I recommend it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

It's going to be a long winter pt. 2.

Does it just seem like nothing is getting any better, anywhere? It's really starting to get to me. I was hoping after a year of this I'd finally be in a place where it felt like progress was being made, but instead I feel like I'm right back at square one. I know I have no choice but to keep moving forward but it's hard.

The world feels like a very dark place right now. I'm hoping there's sunlight right around the corner.