Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"This isn't pizza. This isn't even human food!"

The Daily Show is in town taping four episodes in Chicago and Mich and I were lucky enough to get invited to tonight's taping. I should probably make the embarrassing admission that I realized I haven't actually watched a full episode of The Daily Show since Trevor Noah took over (?!). Well, now I have. I've always appreciated his combination of sharp, intelligent humor tempered by laid-back demeanor, and seeing him live—he continued his stand-up approach even during the commercial breaks and kept us all in stitches the whole time—made me appreciate his control of his craft even more.

As for the title of the post, you'll just have to watch the episode to understand why that quote made me laugh so hard, but I'll give you the hint that correspondent Ronny Chieng and I both have a similar view of Chicago deep dish pizza.

UPDATE: You can now read my recap, and watch videos, of the episode on Chicagoist!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wand stopped wandering and found their focus, for now.

Wand, photo by Sofia Arreguin. Which, I guess, makes this a sort of selfie?
On Plum, Wand is less a psych band and more a classic rock band. This ends up delivering a solid album that, for me, doesn't have many highs or lows, but instead feels mostly ... competent. Don't mistake this as a negative observation. The band had been veering around a bit during their first burst of productivity, and the result was unpredictability, but not always of the best kind. Their sound differed from album to album, and I always got the impression the changes were driven more by a search for identity; a drive to flip over new musical stones and dig deeper into one sound or another without really making a commitment.

Plum is the band's first new album in two years, for Wand an eternity, and in many ways it feels more conventional, inasmuch as it profiles a band that seem to be happy with the sound they've chosen. This move allows the band to stand on an album that feels like they finally flipped over a stone and found a mirror that reflected their true intentions back at them.

"Bee Karma" is a scorcher I've got on repeat.

Friday, October 13, 2017

'Legion' is easily my favorite soundtrack of the year thus far. If you're logging that sort of thing.

Note: I just noticed this draft has been sitting around since the first half of this year! I think I remembered it primarily because I was listening to the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack earlier this week and was struck by how great it was when matched against the visuals, and how flat so much of it felt when it was just left to stand on its own merits. Anyway, it's probably better I didn't publish this way back when, because I don't think the Bandcamp page was live at the time, so the only placeI could have directed you was iTunes—where I bought it from—since I don't think it existed anywhere else at the outset. Anyway.

The Legion soundtrack is like a lovely mixture of Vangelis, Pink Floyd and ‘60s Mod. And it works even better than most, since the instrumentals can mostly stand as songs on their own and not just snippets of music to match a 30 second scene or transition.*

Which isn’t to say these compositions didn’t perfectly, perfectly, fit the visuals in the series they were created to complement. They did. They just happen to accomplish the unusual feat of a soundtrack album also being engaging outside its prime reason for existing. Most that do this tend to skew more on the atmospheric side, but for whatever reason Russo’s work here also has a weird prog sensibility that puts it in a slightly different swim lane than you’d expect it to occupy.

You can’t just listen passively to Legion. It digs in and creates its own space within you whether you want it to or not.

*There are a few “snippets” but they act as welcome interludes in the album’s sequencing. Actual interludes!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Liam Gallagher's AMA had some genuinely wistful and emotionally revealing moments.

Photo via Liam Gallagher's Instagram
I know you think I'm kidding, but I'm not. First of all, Liam Gallagher's AMA was remarkably straightforward. There was some humor, to be sure, but he actually went ahead and answered questions thrown his way with a forthrightness usually pretty foreign to these exercises nowadays.

And there were three questions that actually elicited answers that felt, well, emotional, wistful and honestly sentimental.

But of course, because Liam is Liam, there was still this…

Comment from discussion I'm Liam Gallagher. And you are not.

Gallagher's new album, his first 100% solo effort, As You Were is out now. And you know what? It's really great. It makes me even more sad his Lollapalooza set got cut so short this year, because the kid is on a hot run right now.

It might just be my favorite post-Oasis release from either Gallagher brother!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Resurrect summer vibes with WATERS.

WATERS, photo by Cara Robbins
Wow, I really sat on this one. You see, since I have long lists of albums to listen to, I often spin the ones that seem like they might be more "difficult" and save the ones that sound like they'll just be pure fun to take in until later. What this means is that ofttimes albums keep getting pushed further and further back in the line. It's kind of like when you know the bartender but you tend to get passed over for newer customers because they're trying to get them out of the way so they can spend quality time with you. But what actually happens is you end up waiting forever to get a drink.

Such was the case with the WATERS album Something More!, that came out in ... May?! What was I thinking?! Because it's so much fun, and would've made the perfect summer soundtrack for me. But of course, instead, here I am on a dreary October day now dreaming of sunshine powered by huge guitars and group choruses. Let's go straight to the notes I jotted down after first listening to the album at the gym this morning (which, by the way, definitely contributed to me logging 10,000 steps before 10 a.m.!).
If 5 Seconds Of Summer wrote good songs they might sound like this. I can't tell if this is kids with great production or pros who are aiming for super accessible HUGE pop-rock. Ah ... the press release says "Written and recorded over the past year in LA, following big-time touring runs with the likes of Weezer, Tegan and Sara, and Matt and Kim, the album came together after the five-piece band returned home and were forced to confront the day-to-day realities of everyday life." Yup, that sounds about right. 
It's super dumb but super fun and I think I super like it.
I mean, that about super sums it up. Check out two of the LP's tracks below and snag a copy of the album if you like them. If you're looking for a shortcut to blast out ever shortening days with an extra dose of psychic sunshine, this should do the trick.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quick tips to keeping your sanity in an unending political news cycle.

I don't know if this will help you, but I've found it helps me. Here are a few tips on how to consume political news in a relatively responsible manner that may help you from constantly freaking out.
  1. Don't watch cable news. At all. 
  2. Avoid news sources that either directly align with or contradict your political beliefs. Submerging yourself in either isn't really helpful. (Unless you're a journalist trying to get the full picture of what each side thinks is going on. But the average person should save themselves the blood pressure raising hassle.)
  3. Check in with AP and Reuters throughout the day. Once things filter through those two sources you can be reasonably assured you're getting something real and more balanced.
  4. Don't get your political news from Facebook. It's an echo chamber that will only feed you your own viewpoint, and that is completely useless.
  5. Take up meditation. Even if only in brief bursts.
UPDATE: I added the photo of Pickle to make this a little more inviting. Tips are always better with kittens!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Two new Diane Coffee songs are just making me hungry for more.

Photo by Photo by Cara Robbins Photography from the Diane Coffee Facebook page.
Diane Coffee's new 2 song release, Peel, is out later this month. It glam-tastic. And fabulous. And really makes me wish he was releasing a full album. Here's the A-side, but I assure you the B-side "Get By" is just as excellent.

I've been following Shaun Fleming (they who are "Diane Coffee") and their work for quite a while now and they've progressed from a quirky psych wunderkind into a mini-symphonic stomping genius. If they continue in this direction, I am prepared to get very excited for their next full-length, whenever that might finally arrive.

You can order a copy of Peel today.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Just 4.5 hours away.

I really wish my dad were alive to see the Blade Runner sequel.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Getting heavy with Mothership.

Mothership sounds exactly like this photo looks. Photo by James Villa via the band's Facebook page.
Short, sweet and to the point today.

Mothership, a Texas groovy power trio, bears a lot of similarity to Fu Manchu's skate metal. Their latest album isn't exactly a mindblower, but if you're looking for a sharp, solid collection that will get your head swaying, then this will fit that bill.

"Ride The Sun" is my clear favorite from the LP, so let's use its forward momentum to get us ever closer to the weekend.

Dig it? The band has a short tour out west coming up.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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

On my way to Riot Fest a few weeks ago...
2017 is really shaping up to be a pretty mediocre year, musically. At least based on my personal rating system and the hundreds of albums I’ve listened to thus far. Don't get me wrong, there has been a LOT to like. I'm not hurting for enjoyable tunes. There's just precious little that has been GREAT.

On one hand, it’s a great time to be a sentimental 30- or 40-something, since the indie guitar rock of the late ‘80s and ‘90s has made a roaring comeback. But that ain’t exactly new or groundbreaking, no matter how much it is a direct hit on my pleasure centers.

Pop and hip-hop are dominant, which in no way bugs me, but neither is doing anything new. In fact, due to the Soundcloud and Spotify nation, I’d argue much of this stuff is more disposable since it is literally built without longevity in mind. So as far as snapshots of a moment, this is great! But it evaporates almost instantaneously upon landing.

I have a feeling the above grafs will end up forming the backbone of my year-end piece, so don’t be surprised if you get a sense of déjà vu come December. Anyway, here’s how September shaped up!

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

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in September 2017: 44

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 2

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 31

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 11

Highest rated album: The National’s Sleep Well Beast. Believe me, no one is more surprised than me. I suspect that the new Foo Fighters album will edge up a point or two by year’s end, which would give it the win for September. But as of now it’s the NYC crew by way of Ohio.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Deep State! For so many reasons, I think they actually won September.

Most surprising discovery: Tub Ring has a new album! Who knew they were even still together?! I remember booking them waaaaaay back when. If you need your Faith No More / Mr. Bungle / accessible Mike Patton itch scratched, then grab this album.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tom Petty and me.

Photo by me.
My earliest memories of Tom Petty were of his videos on constant rotation in the earlier days of MTV. I always thought the videos were inventive, but my pre-teen tastes ran more towards poppier stuff, so while I always thrilled to see Alice turned into a huge cake, there were times I tires of watching Petty wander through a wasteland since it meant some of the frothier fare I preferred wasn't on the screen.

In my early teens, I appreciated his work, but thought hm a bit of a fuddy-duddy as I ventured into punk, metal and college rock (what you would now call indie, I suppose). I dug the hits, but didn't dwell on them. I do think it was probably around this time my brothers got hit by the Tom Petty bug though—they latched onto his genius before I really recognized it, that's for certain.

In my '20s I dutifully became aware of his broader catalog, the deeper cuts, and started to delve into unreleased tracks. It was probably about then that something clicked and the guy I thought was a dinosaur when I was a kid suddenly revealed himself as a visionary and a songwriter of almost scarily excellent consistency. My blind spot cleared up and what my brothers had known for years suddenly hit me as well.

I spent the next decade or so in this state, and unusually for me, didn't really do a deep dive into Petty's personal history. I think perhaps that once his genius became apparent to me, that was sufficient. Perhaps I preferred him to be more a cypher and an icon, and less flesh and blood? But in October of last year, my then-co-worker Dave suggested I read Warren Zanes' Petty: The Biography, so I took it on vacation to Florida, devoured it, and spent that week playing nothing but Tom Petty non-stop as I sat my the pool behind the house we rented.

It's only now I realize the irony of reading a Petty biography and gorging on Petty music while in Florida. How did I never make that connection before?! No matter.

Instead of his personal history demystifying his musical output, it intensified the work, in my eyes. It was the final piece of the puzzle. I had at last walked through the mirror with deep appreciation on one said and absolute fandom on the other. Sure took me long enough, huh?

Photo by me
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played Wrigley Field the day before my birthday this year. I didn’t have a +1, so I couldn’t bring Michelle, and I seriously considered giving up my ticket because I felt guilty I couldn’t take her.

Then I realized that even after all these years I had never seen Petty play live, and the word was this would be his last “big” tour, so I smartened up and went. It was pouring for the first half of the set, but even though I was soaked I was smiling he whole time.

It’s bittersweet, but I’m glad my only time seeing Petty on stage measured up to all my hopes and expectations. I spent most of yesterday hope, hope, hoping he’d pull through once the initial news reports were debunked, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Sad though today is, the man attained immortality, because his songbook will never go out of style.

Monday, October 02, 2017

How to decipher breaking news.

Below is an incredibly useful guide for translating what is what in a breaking news story. Given the horrific events of the past couple of hours, and the non-stop media coverage that has followed, I know it is tempting to listen to every single development. Personally, I prefer to check in every couple of hours to see what new things have surfaced, but we all have our own methods of dealing with mind-bending events. You should do what's best for you.

However you chose to consume updates, though, I can't recommend enough to keep the below "handbook" in mind as you do.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I decided not to wear a t-shirt of a band I love today because, Trump.

True story. I had this t-shirt on this morning because I freaking love White Reaper, and it's Friday, and I rarely wear t-shirts to the office anymore, so I was excited.

Then, just before I left the house, I thought about the fact it had a flag on it, and "white" was prominent on it, and someone who didn't know they are a kick-ass band might think I was supporting something completely different.*

So I took it off.

Fuck you, Trump. Fuck you for making it so I'm afraid to wear a fucking t-shirt for fear it will be misinterpreted because you have stoked the fires of hatred to run so hot right now.

*The name of their latest album is The World's Best American band, hence the stars and stripes. And they are rocking as can be, hence the faux metal lettering. It's all very tongue in cheek. But, you know, times have changed a lot since I bought it all the way back last May. Which, let's be honest, May feels like it was about twenty years ago by this point.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sick passenger on the train.

In Chicago, when you hear the announcement, or see a message on one of the boards, that trains are delayed due to "a sick passenger" we all know it doesn't mean someone has a severe cold.

We were at the doors of the train, waiting for them to open, when I noticed through a window a guy was sitting on the floor of the car. So I warned Mich to stand back when the doors opened since we'd have to step over him, only to have him leap up and start screaming as soon as the doors did open. We lurched back and away. He was shirtless and sweaty and obviously had taken way too much of something he couldn't handle.

We went to the next car and a girl was standing in the door, refusing to let it close, trying to get the conductor's attention. No one seemed to know what to do, so I slammed the call button inside that car. A few minutes later a CTA employee came down, surveyed the situation, made a call, and stood as far away from the shirtless, sweaty, screaming man as he could.

Very slowly, people exited the car the guy was on, as his screaming continued he was also throwing himself and into walls. I was shocked a how long it took people to actually get away from the guy. I guess we city dwellers are just, like, "whatever."

I mean, what can you do?

He was obviously out of his mind on whatever he was on. But perhaps what shocked me even more were the following two things:

  • People had their cellphones out snapping photos and shooting video of a man in distress.*
  • It took waaaaay too long for help to arrive. 

But help did arrive and a couple firemen managed to get the guy off the train and onto a bench and we all filed back into the cars and made our way home.

I've seen a lot of fucked up stuff on the CTA over the years, but this was definitely the oddest experience.

*You'll note in the photo that accompanies this post I took pains to not get the guy in my shot. I thought it was important to capture the moment the firemen gathered around him and showed genuine concern for his wellbeing. But I could see no reason to capture another human who was clearly in pain in the shot. He deserved his privacy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

You might wanna grab this Josie and the Pussycats vinyl while you still can...

One of my favorite movie soundtracks, and let's face it, great power pop albums, of all time was just released on vinyl! You can get it here.

My only regret is that I didn't have enough money to actually fly to L.A. for the album release party that included a performance of the LP's songs by "voice of Josie" and still electric live performer, Kay Hanley.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Better a bit about Bad Bad Hats super late than never, eh?

Bad Bad Hats
Did I really never write about Bad Bad Hats? That seems really odd, since I remember enjoying 2015's Psychic Reader quite a bit. I have no idea how it got lost in the shuffle.

I haven't heard much from the Minneapolis trio* since this album came out, but it looks like they are currently touring, so that's great news! I feel they may have gotten lost in the mix due to being one of the earlier bands starting to rock out in the vein of the current mixture of '90s indie with more polished pop hooks that is currently all the rage. And every time "Fight Song" or "Cruella" comes on my tankPHONE I'm always confounded by the fact neither one right hit it bigger.

Well, you can stream Psychic Reader below and see if you agree with me. If you do, their label is still allowing you to download the MP3 version of the album for free (WAV, CD or vinyl's gonna cost you though).

*Though judging by this photo they have kept plenty busy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Walter Sipple.

Oliver Sipple
This week’s Radio Lab about the story around Walter Sipple is a must-listen. Sipple is the man who foiled an assassination attempt on Gerald Ford in 1975, and subsequently had his life ruined because the reporters covering the story happened to also out him as a gay man, even though it had zero to do with what he did.*

The whole piece grapples with what journalists should and should not reveal in a story, and as a writer who sometimes covers news, this is an issue I personally wrestle with. At the core, I’m a music writer, (even and arts and culture writer!) so much of my writing is driven by historical context and opinion. So I’ve always felt uncomfortable when a fellow writer includes information in a piece that isn’t really relevant, but will add color. And I can’t say that’s completely wrong, but my personal instincts do not flow that way. It’s a really tough line to balance on.

Anyway, I found this long and thorough discussion around the topic to be really great.

*I feel it should be made clear that he was out about his sexuality as far as the scene and city he was living in, but he wasn't out to his family, who lived 3/4 of a country away from him. And please remember that being gay in 1975 was far different than it is today. This context is clear in the recorded piece, but I feel I should mention it just in case someone younger has some sort of gut reaction along the lines of "Well, he should have been out in the first place." I think even Dan Savage would agree that this way of doing it was pretty out of line.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It’s been a week. Wait, it’s not Friday yet?!

In that case, I’m just gonna dive into this song and not come back up for a bit, if that’s OK with you.

Mainly because every time I hear it I'm back at Lollapalooza watching Brandon Flowers strut around the stage like a latter-day* Elvis and, I don't know, that makes me happy.

*I just realized that could be taken as a pun. It is not.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Long hair, don't care?

It's actually even longer now, but I really love this photo.
I think my hair officially identifies as "long" again. In fact I don't think it's been this long since, say, the late '90s. And when you hit a certain age, and you realize your hair can actually be long again, without obviously thinning or being overly embarrassing, there's a part of you that is definitely loathe to get in its way. At the same time you are plagued by the question, "Do I look like an idiot?"

I know I'm unrecognizable to anyone that hasn't seen me in a long time. It's weird.

My boss told me the other day I'm about three months away from going full Robert Plant. Can I last that long? Winter is coming, and I survived summer without giving in and chopping this mass off my head, so we'll see. No matter what happens, at least I got to be a "long hair" one last time. And this time around, I just let it do what it wanted to do. Every time I had long hair in the past I kept trying to tame it, and force it to be straighter or more coiffed or, just, not look what I thought to be insane. This time around I'm letting the volume go, the curls grow, and I've just stopped worrying about it.

Sorry, this is totally self-indulgent, but I just wanted to get it out there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I was exhausted but am glad I went out last night anyway or I would have never been introduced to the amazing music of Deep State.

Deep State.
Last night I went to go see a friend’s band, but of course I misjudged the time and completely missed their set. I satire around anyway, to catch Deep State, a band I didn't recall hearing of. They were touring and the Monday after Riot Fest doesn’t exactly attract the largest crowds. So I paid my cover and stuck around with the small handful of other music die-hands at The Burlington that evening so they would at least have a few people to play to. (Playing to an empty room can be a real soul-sucker.)

And was promptly blown away. I bought everything the band was selling by the close of their show. How had I not hear of these guys?! They're style of music went big, mixing classic with indie rock and/or roll with a rusty swagger. I dug through my email and sure enough, a publicist had reached out to me about the band, but since it didn’t include a download of their music I filed it away, figuring maybe I’d look into them later.

They’re on a pretty wide-ranging tour through the middle of October (they’re even playing the corner of the world I spent my earliest years, Mcallen, TX, not exactly known as a musical mecca) so if you have a chance to see them, you really should.

You can listen to their new album below; it’s good but doesn’t quite capture the band’s live power. If I was you, I would do what I did, and buy everything the have on Bandcamp. I certainly don’t regret it!

Anyway, last night was one of those times that reminded me, yet again, of the importance of just sticking around for every band whether you’ve heard of them or not. You never know when one will become one of your new favorites.

Oh heck, here's their debut LP too. Buy it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Another Riot Fest is in the books!

Peaches prepares for a little crowd walking.
I can't even go into how fun this weekend was, or how many great bands I saw, or just how ridiculously happy I was by the close of Sunday night.

But at least here's a tastes of what Stephen, Arron, Annie, and I saw!

Photos: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry Bring Industrial Catharsis To Riot Fest's Day 1 Scorcher

Photos: Queens Of The Stone Age Make It Wit Chu At Riot Fest Day 2

Photos: Jawbreaker Finally Have Their 'Revenge,' Paramore Dazzle At Riot Fest Day 3

Friday, September 15, 2017

Just in time for the weekend!

Getting amped up for the weekend with a little slice of new CRJ video goodness. Here we go!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Riot Fest is nigh! Are you ready?!

You never know who you'll run into at Riot Fest, photo by Tyler LaRiviere
It's almost time and the countdown clock is on to my favorite Chicago (anywhere in the world?) music festival!

Here are a few suggestions on who you could see, but really, you can't go wrong no matter where you end up in Douglas Park over the weekend, just as long as you end up in Douglas Park.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One down, only 24,749 (give or take) to go!

Well, whaddya know! No sooner do I wonder what it would be like if all those bands from the pre-full digital age but post-label domination phase would start posting their work from that time to Bandcamp  in hopes that it doesn't just disappear than one of my fave late '90s to early aughts Chicago bands Today's My Super Spaceout Day does just that!

Enjoy their sophomore album—I think it's a fine entry point—then check out the rest of their catalog if you like.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get real groooooovy with The Heavy Blinkers.

The Heavy Blinkers, photo courtesy of the band.
I won’t pretend for one second that when The Heavy Blinkers came on my headphones as I was listening to my massive 2017 Albums To Review playlist that I park all music as it comes in so I eventually get around to it and don’t lose it in the shuffle—oh wait, am I over-explaining?

So The Heavy Blinkers. When their album The Night And I Are So Young came on at first I thought I had filed a reissue in the the wrong playlist but lo and behold the album is from the 2004, ergo not some ‘70s time capsule! Why did I think it was such a relic, you ask? Allow the notes I took while listening explain that to you:
Sounds like groovy hippy cult choir music from the '70s. With Beach Boys overtones. Which, I guess given the Manson connection that group had, makes total sense.
I was picturing robes and long flowing hair and all that, so imagine my surprised when I dug out the band’s press kit and saw they looked totally (see above photo) normal! What the eff?

So I don’t know if they’re going for kitsch, or if it’s a long running joke or what, but whatever it is, it’s lovely late summer music.* So, get groovy?

*It should also be noted that the main reason The Night And I Are So Young is only now crossing my radar is because it is finally getting the vinyl treatment from the aptly named Label Obscura records. Also, it appears only one member of the band involved in this album is active in the group currently. But at least the group is currently active, right? That's pretty cool.

UPDATE 9/13/17: I admit when I first read this band’s bio I thought it might be an elaborate joke. How is it possible I wouldn’t have heard of them at all? And some great, undiscovered album of 2004 would only catch my attention now? But of course, The Heavy Blinkers are the real deal, and this was kind of the album that broke the original band, from what I can tell. Now they’re basically a rotating cast of musicians centered around one guy, and they still make music, and they are still pretty safely ensconced well north of the border and don’t seem to really tour (from what I can initially divine).

If you remember back to the heady days of 2004, that was just as the blogging nation was gaining real steam by heralding indie acts that would usually get niche exposure and turn them into acts that would become mainstream superstars. But the froth was just starting so bands from before that era that were amazing have often been lost to time, since they also had a minimal digital footprint. Heck, I can think of dozens of Chicago bands that would have thrived if they were to debut now, but were never able to quite capitalize on the emerging critical internet buzz machine that was just getting really revved up at the time.

 Which then made me wonder: wouldn’t it be great of all those undiscovered bands of that era were to put up all their stuff on band camp so at least the world now could have the option to hear them? Heck, even I don’t have hi-fi files of some of the acts I absolutely loved in the first half of the aughts. Nowadays it would seem to at ;east mean something to release the music, even for free, to help keep true diamonds from getting ground up in the digital dustbin.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Makes you think.

I wrote the following this morning, and it's been poking at my brain through the day so I thought maybe it was worth sharing here as well.

‪It's amazing how many things about us that might help or fascinate others never surface because our personal histories seem so ancient and unremarkable to us.‬

That's it.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The new album from The National finally won me over.

The National, photo by me.
I won't go into it here, so read my review. Suffice to say after years of feeling pretty ambivalent, The National's new album Sleep Well Beast has finally made me a fan of the band.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Check out Brad's video.

I've known Brad Peterson a long time, and have always really enjoyed his music. He's sort of been off the scene for a couple of years, but he's finally returning with The Ellipsis Album, later this month. As one would expect, it's quite lovely, and I'm sure I'll write more about it closer to its release date, but here's a taste of what can you expect in the form of the first video, "Unbroken."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ooky spooky!

Photo via the Lore Facebook page
It's never too early for Halloween prep!

So, I just recently stumbled across the Lore podcast to help get in the mood. All the episodes are pretty short, and they're filled with scary stories and unsettling tales, so dig in!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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

August is usually a month of slow news everywhere but in the music community. Some of the bigger releases began rolling out over the month, and it’s a couple weeks that are also full of music festivals. Yet, I still managed to listen to a fair amount of new music, even if much of it was firmly in the “I respect this but am not personally blown away by this” range. So, here’s a snapshot into my month.

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

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in August 2017: 47

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 2

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 34

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 11

Highest rated album: It’s a tie! Partner’s In Search Of Lost Time and LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream scored highest! Which isn’t a surprise given my thoughts on the Canadian duo and the dance-rock combo outta NYC.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Secret Drum Band’s Dynamics is an album of all drums, all the time—it has a kinda tribal feel with some jazz flourishes. Mostly importantly, it just grooves, though.

Most surprising discovery: That The Cribs managed to secretly record their latest album 24-7 Rockstar Shit in Chicago with Steve Albini and actually managed to keep it a secret until the LP’s unexpected release!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Chance the Rapper is everywhere, and I am not complaining.

The Cool Kids with Chance the Rapper, photo by Tyler LaRiviere for Chicagoist
Chance the Rapper came out on stage with The Cool Kids yesterday and it was pretty great. I was at the set because I really used to dig The Cool Kids and was eager to hear what their new material sounded like. (Spoiler alert: It's excellent and I can't wait for the new album to come out later this month.)

Chance was just icing on an already delicious and filling cake. Honestly, Chicagoans are pretty spoiled by the amount of Chance we get to see. Personally, I love it.

See more photos of Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed, Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll, and Chancellor Bennett—along with some of my general thoughts on the fest and photos of may of the other bands performing over the weekend—on Chicagoist.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The new LCD Soundsystem is very, very good. And I will tell you why.

Of course James Murphy looks tired, LCD Soundystem is a lot of work! Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
Like 98% of the music loving population I took news of LCD Soundsystem's "reunion" with a bit of skepticism. Was I happy one of my favorite bands would be creating new music again? Of course! Did it seem weird they were getting back together so soon after a long public goodbye? Sure it did! Was I worried my fandom would be tested when they debuted "call the police" and "american dream" on Saturday Night Live? I'd be lying if I said I didn't!

In the end, all my doubts and fears were laid to rest. Read my review of LCD Soundsystem's American Dream.

Also! Here is a bonus! The band released a 13 minute instrumental track that isn't on the album, and you can download it for free (for now)!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I let my subscription to 'The Economist' lapse.

I really love The Economist. I'm not completely politically aligned with all their editorial views, but their thoughtful coverage of current events is excellent. Unfortunately, since they're built primarily as a print publication, by the time the new issue comes out (digitally) on Thursdays, much of what's in it feels, um, outdated already. So instead I stalk AP and Reuters nowadays when I'm looking for something I can count on being trustworthy.

Hopefully The Economist will still be around for me to subscribe to once Trump finally leaves office and the news cycle returns to a relatively normal pace again.

Sorry Economist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back on track!

Summer cold finally gone? Check.

Back on a regular gym schedule? Check.

All systems returned to 100% productivity? Check.

Library of books unpacked? Check.

Caught up on all my new music listening? Well, ummm...

It's nice to be feeling human again!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Gaga for Gaga (and for good causes).

Photo by me. Lady Gaga knows how to make an entrance!
I saw Lady Gaga at Wrigley Field on Friday and the show was great. And our seats were amazing.

It was funny, many folks I see shooting shows were seated near me (along with the usual music writers) and I couldn't help but wonder if it was to make u[ for the fact that Gaga wasn't allowing any pro photographers to capture the show. If that was the case, it was an awfully nice gesture.

Read my review on Chicagoist.

Yesterday I also volunteered for a dunk tank at the Do312 birthday party. It had booths based on the "seven deadly sins" and each one was raising money for a different charity. The dunk tank was "wrath" and I helped raise money for Girl Rock Chicago! Did I enjoy constantly being submerged in water? Not so much; but I'd happily do it again for a good cause!

UNRELATED: Happy birthday to my little (who actually stands a good 2-3 inches taller than me, and I am not short!) brother Jason!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Green Day are always a blast to see live.

Who wouldn't want to front Green Day, even for a minute?! This was awesome. Photo by me.
Check out my photos and review from last night's Green Day show at Wrigley Field!

I've been thinking about something related to show reviews a lot, lately One reason I always wait until the next day to write is when you transcribe an experience immediately afterward you have no way of processing what you've seen in a meaningful way. Sure, you can spit out a take that will probably deliver most of your preconceptions going into the show, but you won't be able to actually think about what you've just seen in a really meaningful way.

That's not me throwing shade at anyone in particular—I think most reviews I read that have immediate post-show deadlines are just fine! It's more me showing gratitude that I have the freedom to give it just a little more time to sink in before I have to write my own reviews.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A turning point.

One year ago today I made a big decision to try and improve my life. I know 2017 has been rough on everyone but, personally, 2016 was a far, darker year for me. It’s been a journey of great progress, with only a few minor setbacks since then, and I still have a lot of work to do on the front of patience and just chilling out more, but I can definitely tell you I am in a much happier place today.

So, since I’m in a happier place today, here’s a happy tune for you. This morning I happened to be listening to the remix below and when I got into work I realized it’s the kind of tune everyone could use to start their day in a great mood.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can you turn the creative off?

If you get a project do you ever find yourself emailing yourself idea snippets at 3 a.m., or taking a break from a group dinner to take down some notes before you forget? Or are you an “ideate at the office” type? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either approach, it’s just something I’m curious about.

(I’m the 3 a.m. / break from group type, by the way. When I’m given a creative project / problem it keeps tapping me on the shoulder at unexpected times.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Be brief. Be bright. Be gone!

While unpacking, I found my Insights Discovery blocks from a previous job—they were big on the program—and the resulting order from "Yes, this is how I best communicate!" to "This works, but isn't optimal" are surprisingly accurate.

  1. Red—Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone
  2. Green—Show Me You Care
  3. Yellow—Involve Me
  4. Blue—Give Me Details

I admit I found the program useful, especially when communicating with colleagues, since a glance at the blocks o their desks at least uncovered some basic truths, if not their individual nuances. Our facilitator the day we went through the program was not so great though. Maybe she needed some work on reading a room on how best to communicate?

But hey, I still have my blocks!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quick thoughts on various things I watched over the last few days.

Seriously, nice scarf dude. Marvel's The Defenders, photo by Sarah Shatz/Netflix
The Defenders
Just about the right length, and I liked seeing Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and even Iron Fist, all together. I still heaven’t finished the first season of Iron Fist and now I don’t need to. Still, it took a little too long to get the whole gang together.

T2 Trainspotting
Still holds up. Turns out the reason I liked it the first time wasn’t just nostalgia, but because it’s a pretty good flick!

Game Of Thrones
Way too much is suddenly happening that makes no sense, and that’s worrying when you realize the series is basically wrapping up. Also, I called that whole twist at the very end (because it couldn’t have been telegraphed any more broadly.

Twin Peaks
HOLY MACKEREL THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT. Loved the latest episode. Just loved it.

This just aired so the only thought I’ll share is that this show keeps getting better and better and if for some reason you’re not watching it, you really should start.

Kidding! I have zero interest in ever watching this show.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What if a metal band crashed into an 18-wheeler of synth-pop?

Come on, how AMAZING is this Arcadea promo shot? Photo by Jenny Bishop
Aside from sharing that excellent new Varsity track on Wednesday, I fear my posts have been on a bit of a bummer run lately.

I don't often just copy a bio from a press release, but in the case of Arcadea, I don't think I can improve on its blend of epic goofiness:
5 billion years after the last great extinction, the galaxy Andromeda spins headlong into the Milky Way with three intergalactic travelers in tow. Drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor (Mastodon), Guitarist/keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda, Gaylord) and Keyboardist/guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab) are said pioneers, the space wizards of psychedelic soundscapes where organic drums collide with synthetic keys to create an infinite transmission from an event horizon. They go by ARCADEA and their otherworldly brand of psyche-electric, synth-driven, metallic madness sounds alien yet somehow familiar.
I mean, come on, doesn't that sound exactly what you need right now?

Crank it up and let's take an intergalactic trip together.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

No matter how tired you get, you can't really sleep.

I’m just so tired and sluggish so much of the time lately. Yes, part of it is a summer cold that won’t quit, but I’m beginning to think I’m starting to just grow weary to my bones about so many things I feel powerless over.

The past year plus has been a real wake up call for my belief that people are basically rational and good. I still think the vast majority of people are good, but the amount of misinformation people believe, primarily because they are not driven by any sort of curiosity that challenges their own world view, is staggering. And I don’t mean that in an overly simplistic “people that don’t agree with me are dumb” sort of way. But I do think a large part of the problems we are having right now is that people don’t want to ever look beyond their own perceived self-interest, or consider anything that challenges that particular perception, even when their actions are clearly not in support of their own self-interest. I know, it’s dizzying. And as someone who thrives on being a communicator it’s triply frustrating to not be able to clearly convey these things in ways that sway other people to at least consider a different way of thinking.

Look, I am not perfect. And I’m smart enough to realize that the older I get the less I know. And that’s not because I’m getting dumber (though I’m sure my wife and close friends might giggle a little at that claim of “not getting dumber”), but because I see the world as less and less a two-sided affair of right vs. wrong or us vs. them or whatever and more as constantly shifting tableaux where I wish people would work on constricting a balanced way of living and not a beachhead from which to constantly wage war.

So, yeah, I’m just getting worn down. Maybe I’m sluggish because I’m fighting so hard against withdrawing; realizing I have to continue to engage. It really is just bone-crushingly exhausting, but there really is no other way.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hey VARSITY, just settle down!

VARSITY, photo by Aleia + Alex
I can’t remember how I got into Chicago’s VARSITY in the first place. It feels like I might have either stumbled into an opening set of the band, or maybe they were recommended to me by Keep. Or did i ever try and book them at some point? No clue.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything new from the band, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a Bandcamp email this morning alerting me that they had a new song!

Given the dire mood of the past couple days, this blast of pop hits the spot, even if its own lyrics aren’t quite as filled with sunshine as the music.

It looks like they also shot a video for the tune, if you feel more visually inclined today.

It looks they are also on tour! Happyface! Though it appears I missed their Chicago show. Sadface.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I've been offline most of the day, home sick with a summer cold that just won't let go, and of course as soon as I logged on this evening I was met with this news. Not that I should have been surprised. But what is it going to take for Republicans as a whole to turn on this guy and just remove him from office before he systematically dismantles and crushes an entire nation through his own willful ignorance?

Monday, August 14, 2017

I’m speechless.

Every time I think things can’t get any worse, that the U.S. must have finally hit bottom bottom, I am proven horrifically wrong.

I don’t even know what to say.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kesha's 'Rainbow' is finally out.

You should buy it now.

I mean, I am certain I will spill a couple hundred words on it within the next few days but trust me when I say this is definitely worth your hard-earned cash. You won't regret picking it up.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Huge, fuzzy, chunky power-pop thy name is Partner.

Partner, photo by Colin Medley
Oh my god oh my god oh my god file this debut by Partner under one of those albums you happen to play as soon as you get it and it totally makes your day and possibly becomes your instantaneous favorite album of the month and you then wonder how you made it this far into the summer without this album existing because it is sunshine and it is smiley faces and it is everything upbeat and positive and almost blinding in its pinpoint pop sensibilities (with the only misstep being the dotting of there trackless with some skits but hey you can delete those after an initial listen and once you do the album that was nigh perfect is even more so) and you want everyone to hear the whole thing RIGHT THIS SECOND but OH NO IT ISN’T OUT UNTIL SEPTEMBER 8 so you resign yourself to sharing a single song and simultaneously pity both everyone around you who isn’t listening to the whole album along with you and yourself for having to enjoy this piece of wonder in solitary because something like this is meant to be listened to with all your friends past, present, and future and JESUS this is really good and thank you Josée Caron and thank you  Lucy Niles for creating this album and making this the absolute best Thursday this Thursday could be.

Oh yeah. Partner plays Township in Chicago on September 28. Oh, and in Palatine at Dirty Nellie’s (?!) with PUP (???!!!I might have to travel to the homeland???!!!) on October 3.

Here's another song on the album that's not streaming on the album but available in single form so you can at least get another taste of the delicious brew this Canadian duo has concocted.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Oh. Did I mention I saw Parry Farrell sing with Foo Fighters in one of my favorite concert venues of all time last weekend?

Oh, I didn't? Well, I did.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I shot this without being that annoying guy at the show holding his phone above his head and blocking everyone’s view. Instead I was in the back of the room, against a doorway (it was packed in there) with no one directly behind me.

The handful of times I have filmed whole songs of bands—the very last one ever performed by The Postal Service is one of the other very few (which was exactly four years to the day from the Foo Fighters' show!)—I hold my phone against my chest if I’m not against a wall.

So no, don’t worry, I’m not that guy.

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

An unexpected media vacation courtesy Lollapalooza really hit the spot.

From Thursday through Monday most of my digital activity was in the realm of producing content via both my personal social channels and public articles on Chicagoist. One side effect of Lolla is you have almost no cell reception throughout the entire weekend, and when you do get a bar or two of signal I tend to use it to send out observations and reports and not waste it sucking down content. So that meant I read news stories in one or two windows of time a day (usually at home in the morning right after I finished writing and in the late afternoon via the wi-fi in the media area) and boy was that a nice change of pace.

I would love to say I learned something from this brief respite, like that I would continue to stagger consumption, but I know I won't.*

I'm jut going to appreciate how nice it was, even for such a brief period of time.

*Although, truly, if these keeps up, I will have to start rationing. We keep saying this can't keep up, and it does. Even with Trump ostensibly on vacation (incidentally not a move I consider it worth criticizing him for since everyone is due a vacation, even a President I don't care for, and in the President's case there is no real such thing as a vacation nyway so stop trying to use this as lame excuse to paint Trump as lacy, in this respect) the news cycle is running at a rate that would send a hamster wheel into hyperspace.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The fourth day of Lollapalooza was ... the last day.

Time to go home, until next year, *sniff, sniff*
Arcade Fire was great. Lollapalooza was great. It was my 18th Lolla, and Mich's 13th. I know, WHAT??

Check out the wrap-up of Sunday's music and mayhem on Chicagoist.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The third day of Lollapalooza was ... just right!

I like this photo of Chance I took. Little Chance flanked by two BIG Chances!
Finally! We got awesome weather!

Oh yeah, and the music was good too. Read all about Saturday's Lolla goings on at Chicagoist.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The calm before the storm.

For once the title is literal. Bracing for rain today. Is Lollapalooza a Lollapalooza if there isn't some sort of crazy weather warning going into it? I would like to think, one year, the answer will be yes.

But this isn't that year and I am packing a poncho!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Lollapalooza 2017 is almost here! Are you prepared?

This anxiety-inducing photo is courtesy of Soaring Badger Productions. It’s not as scary from ground level, I promise.
Four days of music, parties, afterparties, writing, more writing, more music, and trying to remind myself I need to eat some food then realizing it's 9 p.m. and I haven't had lunch, much less dinner!

Anyway, to help everyone get prepared here are some helpful posts I worked on that you should check out if you want to make the most of the coming looooong weekend.

Our Lollapalooza 2017 Survival Guide & Cheat Sheet

Lollapalooza 2017: 21 Acts We're Looking Forward To This Weekend

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

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

"Hey, what're you listening to?"
Huh, judging by the numbers, July was truly the cruelest month. I definitely found myself digging more into back catalogs of favorite artists as the more recent releases piled up scores of 2s and 3s.

Also, I bought and moved into a house, so that ate into my usual listening time. So, there's that.

Here’s hoping that after Lollapalooza I’ll be facing a new stream of more excellent releases!

In case you’re new to these monthly recaps, or need a refresher, here's a guide to making sense of my personal rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in July 2017: 52

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 0

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 35

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 17

Highest rated album: Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. I know it’s getting slammed left and right, but I liked it. That said, it only warranted a 6 so it didn’t strike me as a grand artistic achievement, just a fun listen. As I get older I could care less whatWin Butler is saying; I’m just glad the music fund its groove again. I guess that’s why most people hate it? Not serious enough? Whatever.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Aye Nako’s Silver Haze hits all the right button in me. It’s all '90s sloppy indie guitars and slurry vocals.Honestly, I need to give this another listen to see if I like it because it presses the right buttons or because it stands on its own. But for now, it counts as catching me off guard.

Most surprising discovery: That Lana Del Rey is capable of a few good songs. What isn’t surprising is she ruined the chance to do something great by releasing an overstuffed LP when and EP of duets would have been a better choice.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My limbs are all a-tinglin', feelin' like Needles//Pins.

Sometimes my immediate notes in my spreadsheet where I track everything I listen to, tell you everything about a band you really need to immediately know. Case in point these musings on Needles//Pins as I listened to their latest album, Good Night, Tomorrow.
Gravely, growly, shout-y punk rock. Sounds like lots of arms around shoulders, swaying and almost breaking into a pit populated by late-40-ish-year-olds remembering the old days and having a genuinely good time. In fact they're a younger trio out of Vancouver. Cool!
If I was gonna pick a "hit single" off the disc, it'd be "Miracle." Dig it.

Oh well, whaddya know! As I was typing this I dug back into my email for any other info I should include and it looks like the band agrees with me on "Miracle," since they made it into a video!

Boy, am I swift or what?

The band plays Quenchers in Chicago on August 13, and even though I no longer live around the corner from there, there's a good chance that's where you'll find me that evening.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Arcade Fire let their hair down.

Arcade Fire photo by Guy Aroch
The new Arcade Fire album is fun. Some people appear turned off by that in fear the band has traded their authentic intensity for marketability—listen to the lyrics and you'll se that's not the case, and in fact this is probably an intentional blend of art and accessibility that in the end I didn't really care about one way or the other as long as it kept the vibe going—but I find I keep playing it because it sounds good and makes me feel good. What a concept!

Read my full review of Everything Now on Chicagoist.