left off the tracks.

The Year of Living Musically (Pt. 1): Best Tracks of 2014

cover phototAlthough I spent more time watching live music in 2014 than any previous year (110 shows and counting), I still found the time to slip on my headphones and keep track of many of (and by no means all) the songs released over the past year.  With the growing demise of the “Music Industry” and the transformation of listening patterns, it is difficult to make any sort of grandiloquent statement about a dominant theme or sound.  Of course there were certain genres that dominated my listening habits because of mood and predilections and others that I didn’t spend as much time with. [HINT: To my friends that listen to hip hop and rap, please tell me what I missed, aside from the Run the Jewels album and the return of D’Angelo.] One thing I’ve loved about the rise of the musician driven industry (as opposed to large record label driven industry) of the streaming generation is the how musical genres have become porous and meaningless. When I was growing up, it seemed every artist had to fit into a category (e.g., rock, pop, country, hip-hop, etc.) to succeed.  Being outside the “known” made your music difficult to sell or program. Nowadays, I think there is a far more democratic process: the quality of the music or word supersedes outdated notions of “genre”.  But, in all fairness, this has always been part of music. It is just that now we can appreciate the cutting edge in the moment as opposed to after the fact (i.e., The Velvet Underground or Television, who sold less records then the amount of musicians they inspired).

Okay off the soapbox…

So, when you ask me, what did you listen to in 2014? Simple answer: a lot of excellent and moving music. The playlist below represents the songs that most impressed me in the past year, not simply for their musical creativity but also for their lyrical ingenuity. Many of these songs tell stories about the trials and tribulations of the human condition (e.g., growing up, growing old, looking back, fighting on, love, death, shattered dreams, relationships, epiphanies, etc.). The songs on this list resonated with my thoughts and experiences or sometimes they just made me want to dance (ok too!) or both. Hopefully, you’ll find some of that too. But regardless enjoy. Listen (by clicking) here: TopTrax2014: You’ll Get Better With Age

What follows is a “concise” explanation for why the songs are here. As in years past, I try not to repeat artists on this list to increase the amount of folks on this list.  However, I’d be lying if there weren’t certain artists that could have made multiple appearances. Well I added the extra ones at the end.  It was my compromise.  (p.s. all typos are intentional, except in the few instances in which they are not. Also if you enjoy, please share, don’t hide a playlist away from the rest of the world!) – a.a.

  1. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” by Future Islands – From the moment I heard this song, I knew it would be on constant repeat for the foreseeable future. I think this about as close as you get to the platonic ideal of a pop song. From the slow soothing opening to the gradual build and the explosive pop catharsis, Future Islands absolutely found musical magic on this one.  … And the bittersweet lover’s pleading and remorse.  What more do you want?
  2. Angel Olsen at Lincoln Hall“Windows” by Angel Olsen – At times we can get so lost in our spiraling isolated thoughts, which can often be unpleasant. We become convinced of our perceived reality and our way of looking at the world and we close ourselves off. For me sadly that often leads to darker places.  This song found me at one of these extended junctures and reminded me with its very simple yet poignant refrain that sometimes we need to shift our perspective and seek the light (in whatever literal or figurative form it takes).  Music has the ability to heal our wounds and inspire.  As Tweedy once said “I was saved by rock and roll”.  There are many who have been.
  3. “Inside Out” by Spoon – Shifting gears. Gosh, this song is so sensual and soothing. Britt Daniel has one of the most unique, infectious voices in music and this song gets me every time.  It’s got that raucous soulful energy of 70s Stones.
  4. “Your Love Is Killing Me” by Sharon Van Etten – Another singer that absolutely enthralls and impresses me with her unabashed openness. SVE lays her soul bare for the listener and makes us see that we all feel the intense and all-encompassing roller coaster of emotions of love. But, in this song, the musical accompaniment is grandiose and epic, a self-contained drama.  You feel spent after listening.  Seeing her perform this live at Pitchfork was one of my favorite moments of live music all year.
  5. “Coffee” by Sylvan Esso — All I can say is this song feels like home. Or the home and nook I want to crawl into with the titular beverage and watch the world go by, gleefully reminiscing on all the wondrous moments of days and years past, and getting up to groove in in its rhythms.
  6. IMG_20140726_135314“Chris Issak” by Lydia Loveless – If you have discussed music with me in 2014, you have probably heard me extol the virtues of Lydia Loveless as one of the finest young songwriters of her generation. Sure Lorde and Taylor Swift are more well-known but neither has yet to write a song with the depth of understanding, heartache, and perspective of this young woman. At 24 years of age, she betrays a lyrical wisdom beyond her years.  This song perfectly captures what I adore about her songwriting:  the romantic longing that fuels love juxtaposed with self-flagellating remorse of desiring against the odds.  And she does this by identifying these specific, yet universal moments (which many of us can relate to) such driving aimlessly around all night listening to a song that reminds of you of a lover.
  7. “Red Eyes” by The War on Drugs – Some folks say Rock n Roll is dead. I think their declarations are premature. “Red Eyes” is a reminder that anthemic guitar rock will always inspire us to burn like firecrackers into the night.  This song is pure unbridled awesomeness. (Yeah, it is a word.)
  8. “Heart Is a Drum” by Beck – Beck doing his best Nick Drake impersonation and finding all sorts of bittersweet hippie-tinged melodic 70s rock.
  9. “Asleep” by Makthaverskan – These punkish Swedes capture the energy and euphoria of New Wave with such perfect precision. I sway and bop to this song every time. Do you hear hints of 80s Cure?  I do and it makes me giddy.
  10. “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent – Annie Clark is unquestionably a musical genius. And, here she also demonstrates her acute sense of cultural critique/observation sandwiched between Talking Heads percussive pop. The mantra of the Insta-generation: “What’s the point of even sleeping?  If I can’t show it, you can’t see me.  What’s the point of doing anything?”
  11. “Trouble is My Name” by the Dum Dum Girls – Dreamy female-fronted indie rock? I am and have always been a sucker for this. The Dum Dums always capture nihilistic romantic ruminations with Lynchian-like haunting beauty.
  12. Lykke Li“Just Like A Dream” by Lykke Li – Hey look, another Swede with an amazing pop song?  Pundits described Lykke’s music as dark and depressing.  I only see a keen observer of the tumultuous emotional roller-coaster of existence dressed in lush, baroque pop accoutrements.   Her voice melts me every time.
  13. “Precious Love” by How To Dress Well – Tom Krell’s last record was filled with sober reflections of loss. On his most recent effort, he brings back his smooth, sparse R&B styling with angelic falsetto to provide odes to the amorous side of life.
  14. “Murmurs” by Hundred Waters – When I went to see Julia Holter some time back, this band from Gainesville opened and I totally fell in love with them at the first note. They melds otherworldly vocals reminiscent of the 4AD 80s sound (aka Cocteau Twins) with a wall of atmospheric electronics beats.
  15. IMG_20141114_083218“Two Weeks” by FKA Twigs – . . . another sultry and sexy R&B saturated electronic Downtempo track for a chill evening.
  16. “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware – Dialing it back to the R&B pop of the late 80s, Jessie Ware has the ability to heal all wounds of love even as she pines for its fleeting nature. (In case you are wondering, yes, I am a hopeless romantic.) But, the choral breakdown at minute 3 is yet another example of that perfect pop crescendo.
  17. “Hot Dad Calendar” by Cayetana – Start your engines and get ready to pump your fists in the air. The teenager in me will always be drawn to energy of lo-fi punk-tinged rock filled with youthful cries of optimism.  The title to this year’s mix serves as reminder to all of us that settling isn’t really an option: “Kid you’ll be okay, you’ll get better with age!”
  18. “Heart Tattoo” by Joyce Manor – The title says all you need to know about the song and the band: sincere honest rock from sensitive boys. Why would anyone dislike this stuff? Perhaps because your soul is dark and you dislike awesome things?  (Just kidding… sort of.)
  19. “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothing – Following on theme of youthful punk observations of the world, another facet.
  20. “Ambassador Hotel (3400 Wilshire Blvd)” by Gabriel Kahane – Full disclosure, Gabe and I are friends. But, this doesn’t limit my ability to be critically appreciative of his music. From his concept record about various famous and infamous locales across Los Angeles, the “Ambassador Hotel” is perhaps the most poignant and heartbreaking piece of all. A sweet melody (that evokes 70s era Paul Simon) hides the underlying sadness of the track’s narrative: the decline and fall of a memorable “home” to Hollywood’s film stars of yore in the wake of Robert Kennedy’s shooting.  Whether the closure is the cause or not, Gabe tells the story of the end of American innocence in the shuttering of a once-venerated building.  How can we gleefully recall the frolicking of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and (the twilight of) American Exceptionalism when many of our leading lights of progress, hope, and equality lie, fallen cold and dead?
  21. IMG_20140721_095727“Interference Fits” by Perfect Pussy – Meredith Graves is one of the most charismatic performers and an amazingly articulate writer. Aside from an unrelenting and furiously dynamic stage presence, she writes with such thoughtfulness about the still prevailing and under-the-surface misogyny and homophobia in music today. See her response to Mark Kozelak’s disgusting song and remarks regarding the War on Drugs.
  22. “Not Mine to Love” by Slow Club – A torch song masterpiece.
  23. “Time to Dance” by the Jezabels – I discovered this band thanks to my friend Gaby, who shares my penchant for dance-infused 80s pop-rock (think: Go Go’s, Bananarama). This song is all about the power of music and dance to rouse one out of a funk. If the Jezabels don’t get you grooving, I can’t do anything for you.
  24. “Gimme Something Good” by Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams is one of my favorite songwriters of all time. Between his Whiskeytown work and Heartbreaker, he could close up shop and I’d be good.  Over the years, I’ve paid less attention to his music as it didn’t resonate with me as much.  But on his eponymously titled record, he once again totally captivated me.  Perhaps being in your late 30s and starting to reminisce about where your life has been (and is going?), this track has particular significance.  Or, maybe it continues a common theme of these songs, seeking something else, something more, something greater.
  25. “Beggin’ for Thread” by Banks – An intoxicating voice, a clever metaphor, a sultry dance beat. I’m sold on this track and on this young LA chanteuse to continue to win new admirers.
  26. “Dangerous Days” by Zola Jesus – I am starting to run out of words to explain how much I adore entrancing female vocals backed by a dance beat. I just want to dance to this song every time it comes on.
  27. “Can’t Do without You” by Caribou – I am reminded of sweaty late 90s dance floors: a pounding dance beat and a slow build towards a late and subtle release. I am over those EDM bass drops. Let’s go back to some real dance music.
  28. “She’s Not Me” by Jenny Lewis – Usually songs told from an ex-lover are filled with longing, regret, and confusion, but here the narrator recognizes why it is over and that there will be no second act: there was passion and intensity but the ex wants something entirely different.
  29. IMG_20140912_175038“Your Deep Rest” by The Hotelier – This might be one of the most Emo lines ever (and I kind of love it): “I called in sick from your funeral, the sight of your body made me feel uncomfortable”.
  30. “Tell Me” by S – Jenn Ghetto’s Cool Choices was introduced to me late in the 2014 game and it has been the soundtrack of my winter. With the journal-like lyricism of Tegan and Sara, a sparse neo-folk rock mixed with electronic samples her music cuts to the core: “Tell me that it’s over. Was it ever really worth it? We can’t always be in love.”
  31. “Call Me” by St Paul & the Broken Bones – Brining back that soulful big band style. Oh it’s good in every fiber of your being.
  32. IMG_20140810_122544“Evil” by PHOX – Wisconsin-based troubadours that evoke a timeless blend of folk and big band flourish. These guys are immensely talented and inspiring set of performers, whose shows are also amazingly life-affirming. See them in person, you’ll be pleased.
  33. “Party Police” by Alvvays – I think I’ve mentioned how I enjoy dream, whimsical pop. Well here’s more.
  34. “MTLOV (Minor Keys)” by A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Seven years ago these guys put out an album Scribble Mural Comic Journal that I thought was a revelation of experimental found-sound, textural genius that combined pleasantly weird qualities of the The Books and art rock of Broken Social Scene. I think this track (along with album) bring their sound to a more accessible and pleasant pop aesthetic.
  35. IMG_20141026_013449“How You Got That Girl” by Ex Hex – These ladies were possibly the most rocking group I saw all year. On this track, Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag) blends a Ramones-like austere punk rock with the sweet pop of the Cars.
  36. “Same Emotions” by Strand of Oaks – It is as if I turned on the radio to lost transmissions from the AM dial of the 1970s.
  37. “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves – You wouldn’t think a singer named Alejandro Rose-Garcia could produce such gritty, earth-worn folk-y Americana, but it makes me feel less alone for my love of this genre. This is a sit-around-the-campfire sing-a-long for long summer nights. But should keep you warm by the winter fire too.
  38. “Pas Les Saisons” by Mina Tindle – I’ll admit I don’t know what Mina is saying because I don’t speak French and didn’t seek out a translation, but boy do I love the breathiness of her voice juxtaposed against the upbeat dance-pop of this song. (She reminds me of Autor De Lucie for those who have a thing for French pop.)
  39. “Day To Day” by The Casket Girls – Both trance and dirge-like with lots of fuzz and minimal percussion, these ladies and drummer (from Black Moth Super Rainbow) cast a captivating stage and aural presence. Imagine if Sleigh Bells met the Shangri-La’s. Yes, an odd combination but so perfect.
  40. “School” by Frankie Cosmos – A whimsical reverie about being sad, young, and anxious. Sign me up!
  41. “Fall In Place” by La Sera — Katie Goodman (formerly of the Vivian Girls) has found the recipe for melding new wave sounds with 80s indie guitar rock reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr.
  42. IMG_20141122_230552“My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit – The Swedish Empire strikes again with their amazing ability to replicate American pop music. Before they worked through a blend of country folk, on this track they get all cosmic and trippy invoking Gram Parsons and 70s mystical rock. Keep on, keepin’ on, my sisters.
  43. “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen – The first repeat artist on this list. Another song about persevering through the challenges that life throws at us. I think this a beautifully concise description of the challenges of language and communication:  “No one’s gonna hear it the same as it’s said/ No one is gonna listen to it straight from your head.”
  44. IMG_20140731_000433“History Eraser” by Courtney Barnett – A latter-day version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kublai Khan”? Courtney fell asleep and wrote a great song in her dream but forgot it. This is what she came up with instead.  If only all our attempts and recapturing our lost thoughts were this brilliant.
  45. “How Can You Really” by Foxygen – The gents of Foxygen are prone to audacious artistic statements (and self-destructive performances), but when they find the right formula, they make you fall into a gorgeous time warp of peace signs and free love daydreams.
  46. “White Sheet” by Bellows – Not sure how I discovered this song (and record) but I become kind of obsessed by Bellows entrancing voice and scattershot lo-fi experimental folk reminiscent of the Moldy Peaches. I want to envelop myself in this song.
  47. “Real Thing” by Tune-Yards – Merrill Garbus is a joy to watch on stage. She exudes enthusiasm and love for her work and audience.   When she sings she can be both playful and scathing, criticizing our cultural hypocrisies.  I like thinking this song is response to the really obnoxious piece Chuck Klosterman wrote about her some years past.
  48. “Happy Alone” by Saintseneca – A pleasant song about accepting solitary wandering. Perhaps I can just relate.
  49. “Bored in the USA” by Father John Misty – I am. Aren’t you? Josh Tillman’s stage moniker is part folk prophet and part parody of a rock star.  A mystical wander that observes the world for both its hypocrisies and reality, all the while recognizing that he as person, artist, and thinker is complicit in perpetuating the illusions and delusions sold to him as part of the “American Dream”.  On this track, he does his best Harry Nilsson impression while questioning (and indicting) what we’ve come to accept in 21st Century America.  Are we really just playing parts in a syndicated reality TV show?  Cue canned offstage laughter.  It isn’t upbeat folk, but it’s honest.  We could use more of that.
  50. “Burning” by The War on Drugs – “I’m just a burning man trying to keep the ship from turning over.”

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m impressed. 


  1. “Madman” by Sean Rowe – As an urban discontent I revel in this line: “In the City there is a way just to make you forget about half the things that you love and stuff you don’t know yet, about the space that is left where nobody talks…
  2. “real” by Wild Moccasins – A little Spanish indie rock about questioning what is real. In life. In love.
  3. “American Horror” by Speedy Ortiz – Punk goodness
  4. “Gouge” by Eternal Summers – Guitar jamming goodness
  5. “Good Man” by Nikki Lane – Country goodness

Baroque pop goodness follows

  1. “Volunteers of America” by The Both
  2. “Talking Backwards” by Real Estate
  3. “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It.” by Kishi Bashi
  4. “Lgbt” by Lowell – A track about celebrating love in all its forms and celebrating that the cultural paradigm shift is on. To quote Dylan, “your old road is rapidly agin’, please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.”
  5. “Parade” by The Antlers – This NY trio always makes spellbinding, shimmering, sumptuous tracks to ease the weary mind.
  6. “Snow in Newark” by Ryan Hemsworth – Two years back, Ryan played an amazing DJ set at Pitchfork filled with the perfect blend of chill Downtempo and groovy dance. On this track, he captures that spirit to perfection.
  7. “Sony” by The Range – Last year the Range dropped an album from out of nowhere and totally has been a constant part of my late night chill sessions. Following in the vein of making layered, intoxicating Downtempo beats, this track is another one for the late night list.
  8. “The Mission” by The Jepettos – A song about the constant searching and the joy of community. (Contrary to popular belief I’m not a curmudgeon . . . just difficult.)

The next three are all about atmosphere, texture, and otherworldly vocals

  1. “Red Dust” by James Vincent McMorrow
  2. “Daunting Friend” by Lost In the Trees
  3. “September Fields” by Frazey Ford
  4. “Body” by Karen O – Lo-fi acoustic story about longing? Smitten at the first chord.
  5. “No Time” by Dub Thompson – Did I just walk into a psych-rock band playing a mix of the Doors and the Wailers? Yes.

Who says the indie rock kids can’t dance and have fun?  Not the next three

  1. “Time Pirate” by Tacocat
  2. “Tongues” by Paws
  3. “Award of the Year Award” by You Blew It! (also great song title)
  4. “Hunger of the Pine” by alt-J – Pitchfork knocked them because they weren’t the next Radiohead. So what they are the only alt-J and there music is otherworldly good.
  5. “Fall In Love” by Phantogram – I skipped Arctic Monkeys at Lollapalooza to see these guys. My soul and feet were very thankful. Yours will be too.
  6. “Today and a Lonely Night” by Justin Townes Earle – Always a place in my heart for a wistful country song. Few do them better than JTE.
  7. “Be Mine” by Alice Boman – Dreamy.
  8. “Don’t Wanna Dance” by Elle Varner – Have to love a song about disliking the songs a DJ is playing.
  9. “Bury Our Friends” by Sleater-Kinney –Oh how I’ve missed Corin Tucker’s piercing vocals and the aggressive staccato punk that exemplifies the SK sound. So glad they are back!
  10. “Shriek” by Wye Oak – More dreamy pop.
  11. “Start Again” by Bishop Allen – Remember when indie rock was poppy and upbeat and inspired foolish carefree dancing? Yeah I miss the early 00s. Bishop Allen brings it back.

Three sumptuous Downtempo tracks follow.  What can I say, a boy needs to groove.

  1. “Form by Firelight” by Jon Hopkins
  2. “Talk Is Cheap” by Chet Faker
  3. “Trust in You” by Tourist

Okay get up and dance for the next couple of tracks.

  1. “Do It Again” by Royksopp & Robyn
  2. “Divinity” by Porter Robinson (with Amy Milan)
  3. “Somebody Loves You” by Betty
  4. “Colour” by Wild Club
  5. “Boom Clap” by Charli XCX – the Goth-y dance queen is ready to take America by storm.
  6. “But” by Dads – Remember how I mentioned my love of sincere, emotional boys singing about relationship? Well here is more of that. Deal with it.
  7. “You” by Alison Crutchfield – Former PS Eliot and current Swearin band member, Alison C. really weaves a spell on me here.
  8. “I’m Not Like You” by Nude Beach –Good old roots rock.
  9. “1000 Seasons” by The Rentals – Matt Sharp gets some help from Jess and Holly of Lucius to spin a web of nostalgic 90s indie rock. You CAN go home again.
  10. “Waterfall” by Fear of Men – Luscious, lullaby-like pop.
  11. “Killer in the Streets” by The Raveonettes – In many ways, these Danes are responsible for bringing back the blend of 60s girl-group pop with a dreamy-shoegazer soundscapes. After all these years, they are still making beautiful, dark, twisted masterpieces. (Kanye, not so much.)
  12. “Love is to Die” by Warpaint – Often a lot of post-rock is simply spartan and cavernous; these ladies infuse a sumptuous groove into the mix.
  13. “Fall Forever” by Honeyblood – Lovely dream pop.
  14. “Jackson” by Cymbals Eat Guitars – Emo-punk rock isn’t known for being epic and brash, but this song has the sort of dramatic, expansive feel of a “Bohemian Rhapsody” of emo.
  15. “Scum, Rise!” by Protomartyr – A wonderful upbeat post-punk number that feels like an unearthed track from the early 80s.
  16. “Forgive” by Porches featuring Greta Kline –Did the Human League reunite?
  17. “push pull” by Purity Ring – … is a new record on the way? The rise of indie-electornic music has made this boy quite happy and these Canadians make tracks I want to crawl inside for all eternity.
  18. “Shining” by Woods – Not enough hippie-jams in our world. I’ll get some sunflowers and we can frolic in the fields.
an angry concertgoer's lament. not me.

an angry concertgoer’s lament. not me.

Those that just missed the cut but I couldn’t leave off.

  • “Not Enough Violence” by Ariel Pink
  • “Lifsins Olgusjor” by Samaris (if Manu Chao and Bjork collaborated)
  • “Talk To God” by Goat (super trippy, avoid the use of drugs when listening to this)
  • “Little Killer” by Merchandise
  • “Sing to Me” by Walter Martin with Karen O
  • “Summer Jorts” by Lockah
  • “New Wave” by Varsity (local Chicago band check them out!)
  • “Blah Blah Blah” by Girlpool (these guys are going to blow up)

Other tracks that would have made it but for my “do not repeat rule”.

  • “Tarifa” by Sharon Van Etten
  • “Head” by Lydia Loveless
  • “Losers” by S
  • “Repeat Pleasure” by How To Dress Well
  • “Champagne Kisses” by Jessie Ware
  • “Cavity” by Hundred Waters
  • “Look of Love” by The Jezabels
  • “Back in the Tall Grass” by Future Islands
  • “No Mercy” by Makthaverskan

Au Revoir! Until the next 2014 year end list. Shows? Albums?  IMG_20140824_170651

Happy Birthday Declan MacManus (aka Elvis Costello)!

Elvis Costello My Aim is True HIGH RESOLUTION COVER ARTToday is the 59th birthday of punk/rockabilly/pop/new wave rock’s true legends, Elvis Costello. In 1977, a then 23-year-old EC put out arguably one of the greatest debut records, My Aim Is True. His run of records with The Attractions starting with This Year’s Model through Imperial Bedroom was one of most inspired and impressive starts to a career that has now spanned five decades. Whether as a solo artist, working with the Attractions, the Brodsky Quartet, or most recently The Roots, Elvis Costello’s career has been one filled with countless memorable moments. For many, he’ll forever be remembered as the quirky, bespectacled young man that fused Rock-a-Billy pop rock with a punk edge, but his musical appetite and explorations have been legion and varied. And, if you have had the pleasure of seeing him live (I was fortunate to on multiple occasions (and once with the Attractions!)), he is an engrossing, captivating, and giving live performer. He is definitely on my desert island list of recording artists. If I only had the EC canon to listen to, I’d be happy island-bound camper.

Give yourself a chance to revisit some of his classics starting with the fitting opening of My Aim Is True.

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – This Year’s Model

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Trust

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Imperial Bedroom

Happy Birthday EC! Hopefully there will be many more to come and great tunes to share.

Chi-Live Music Fall Preview: Shows to Warm the Body and Soul as the Weather Heads South

I spent a summer wasting…”* my time at rocks shows that morphed into dance parties, watching the young minds of another generation relishing, gyrating, and breathing in the beats and rhythms of indie, punk, pop, dance, electronic (and sundry other eclectic styles) music’s past, present, and future. It was totally life-affirming. Despite seeing more live shows than ever (77 shows and counting), I’ve yet to tire of the experience and euphoria. #therewillbeplentyoftimeforsleepinglater

Highlights?  So many but to name a few…

  • Watching the ladies (and gents) of Lucius embrace a late night crowd, wooing us with their harmonies, impressing us with their backwards crowd surfing duet, and serenading us with an intimate acoustic set. They didn’t need to steal any hearts, we gave them willingly. 
  • Sharon Van Etten on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon at Pitchfork bearing her deeply intimate songs and weaving a magical spell on a crowd of attentive and thankful listeners.
  • Lykke Li whose onslaught of dense, layered pop and flair for the dramatic put to shame (for this listener) the headlining efforts of Eminem and Arctic Monkeys who despite the billing felt dated and sleepy.
  • Watching The Front Bottoms bring a room of 500 teens and 20-somethings to feverishly sing and shake with every note; confirming that the kids still love rock n roll.
  • Angel Olsen returning to Chicago casting us in her gorgeous dream-like world.
  • The National (as always) getting the entire crowd at the Chicago Theater revved up with fists in the air, voices to the wind, and reminding me that they are the best live act out there.

Despite this pleasing past as prologue, the Fall offers some equally grand potential. See the list below. I’ll definitely be at the “Purple Bold” ones but strongly considering all other dates. Feel free to make me join you for more…



26th – Anthony Saint and the Downers @ Schubas

27th – the Lemons at Empty Bottle

2930 – North Coast Music Festival at Union Park



4th – Owen Pallet at the Metro. 

5th – Hideout Block Party Day 1 w/ Death Cab For Cutie & Hamilton Leithauser (from the Walkmen)

6th – Hideout Block Party Day 2 w/ War on Drugs, Dismemberment Plan, Marc DeMarco, Sylvan Esso, Valerie June, etc.

12th – Riot Fest Day 1 w/ Jane’s Addiction, Pussy Riot, NOFX, Gogol Bordello, Pity Sex, The Hotelier . . .

13th – Riot Fest Day 2 w/ The National, Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang, Taking Back Sunday, Get Up Kids, The Afghan Whigs, Dashboard Confessional, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Orwells, The World is a Beautiful Place…, Lemuria

14th – Riot Fest Day 3 w/ The Cure, Weezer, Tegan and Sara, Patti Smith, Superchunk, Billy Bragg, The Hold Steady, Lucero, Kurt Vile, The Front Bottoms, Dads….

16th – Spoon and EMA at Chicago Theater

19th – Bonobo (DJ Set) at Metro

21st – Andy Stott an Demetre Stare at Thalia Hall

23rd – Justin Townes Earle at the Vic or Ty Segall and La Luz at Thalia Hall

25th – Slow Club at Schubas



5th – Tennis & Pure Bathing Culture at Lincoln Hall

6th – Buke & Gase at Empty Bottle

7th – Banks at the Metro

8th – Lucius at the Metro

10th – Sharon Van Etten with Tiny Ruins at Thalia Hall

13th – Charli XCX at Lincoln Hall

16th – Foxygen at Lincoln Hall or Ryan Adams at Chicago Theater

22nd – Tune Yards at the Riv

25th – Rhye at the Vic or Speedy Ortiz at the Empty Bottle

27th – Courtney Barnett & San Fermin at the Metro

30th – St. Paul and The Broken Bones



2nd – Alt-J at the Riv

13th – FKA Twigs at the Metro 

14th – Peter Hook at the Metro

21st – Stars at the Vic

22nd – First Aid Kit at the Vic

28th – Lydia Loveless at Lincoln Hall


See you at the venue!

Obsession of the Week: Alvvays s/t

alvvays-alvvaysNothing feels better than listening to a record that feels like a perfect discourse  between the present and past.  Alvvays’ self-titled release on Polyvinyl is this sort of record that instantly feels like a familiar friend returning to say hi.  Molly Rankin’s vocals spin a sweet and dreamy quality over tracks that recount feelings of heartache, frustration, uncertainty, and confrontation. Sometimes we tell stories to either understand or dispel our thoughts, Alvvays’ song fill like a little of both — relishing in the general satisfaction of shared tragedies (of the daily variety, though no less agonizing at times).  For those looking to get a sonic equivalent, the Toronto quintet evokes the sort of lo-fi quirky pop quality of the short-lived, though much beloved Heavenly or the northwest’s Velocity Girl mixed with the dream-pop composition of Veronica Falls or Dear Nora.

Listen here:  Alvvays – Alvvays

If you live in Chicago, they are playing at Beat Kitchen later tonight. It should be a lovely evening.


PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Un-Abridged)

A tradition unlike any other… the Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago) Primer


It has been awhile since my last musical missive. Why? Did I stop listening? Turn away from the sound?  Find my way into some ostensibly more mature passion, like wine or crotchet? No. Nothing of the sort. If anything, 2014 has been the year most filled with juvenilia and regression to adolescence than ever before. Perhaps attending too many rock shows (62 to date) combined with needing to maintain some semblance of a sensible work/life balance and sleep has cut into my writing.  Scratch that… it most definitely has. The nerdy music obsessive gene has not left the body; it’s just strolling around the venues rather than on the interwebs. Hopefully this will mark a return to form. But, let’s cut to the core.

Pitchfork Music Festival begins today (tomorrow as of this writing but when you read…) and the lineup is filled with an exciting array of acts from legends of my youth (e.g., Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel) to the next generation of musical visionaries (e.g., St. Vincent and Tune-Yards). Pitchfork’s annual festival has always been one of my summer highlights. In three music-and-sun-drenched days, you can legitimately see almost every performer on a bill that spans a wide range of upcoming musicians and heroes of yesteryear from almost every genre (indie to hip hop to electronic to experimental/indie electronic/[fill-in-the-genre) and there will always be at least a couple of killer dance party worthy moments (e.g., LCD, Robyn, Major Lazer, Cut Copy, B&S, MIA, to name a few…). Okay enough with the extended-LP intro… here is what I’m excited about by day, hour, and (stage). (For a condensed/abridged version of this go here.) (For the full lineup go here.)

But, while you read listen to this playlist as prep: PitchforkFest 2014 (Playlist)

Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

I saw HW open for Julia Holter a couple of years back at Schubas and they blew me away.  And, their newest record. The Moon Rang Like a Bell, is easily one of my ten favorite records of 2014. It is a sensual embrace of angelic vocals and lush electronic compositions. This should be a moment of afternoon beauty.

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

After one listen, I was totally entranced.

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

Sharon Van Etten’s music will to the attentive ear cut you to the quick. She speaks the emotional truths and questions we all contemplate in our search for understanding and meaningfulness. Her voice has the haunting beauty that will lull you to a euphoric reverie. And, she’s got an amazingly endearing stage presence. Don’t Miss!

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

…aka Mark Kozelek. His music I’ll admit is an acquired taste. It is a mix of storytelling and/or speak singing monologues over Lo-Fi folk-rock (think Neil Young but more poignant). SKM tell darkly comedic and disarmingly heartfelt stories from Mark’s personal life and observations of the world.

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

El Perdidor!  To be honest, I want to hear Beck play Morning Phase, his new record, from start to finish.  It is just that amazing and gorgeous of a record.  But, he won’t do that because many folks will want to hear the songs from Odelay and Midnight Vultures, admittedly not my favorite albums, and he should because life-long fans deserve that.  Regardless of what he plays, he is such a brilliantly talented musician and I’ll just sit or perhaps lay and revel in awe at the quirky and odd mix of mellow and psych folk mixed with soul and disco that he has cobbled together over the years.

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk song of same name  (and arguably a lot of what they did/do).

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

I saw her at the Moog Showcase at SXSW and was pleasantly surprised. She combines a Grimes experimental groove vibe with an M.I.A. like presence.

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

Get ready for some fist pumping and adrenaline churning punk infused indie rock! If there is any band that has found the way to channel and replicate the unique sub/urban-ennui punk and indie-rock/pop sensibilities of the Replacements, Cloud Nothings is my pick. There are angsty dirges, anthemic epiphanies, and heart-on-sleeve proclamations throughout, which is basically what growing up feels like.

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

The Range’s Nonfiction was one of the most exciting revelations of 2013. His music is a throwback to the early days of electronic dance music that is filled with rich, intricately layered grooves and samples.  Another performer I saw at SXSW, who totally captivated me.  Plus, post set, we chatted and he is a really smart and genuine dude.  Check him out!

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

Dance party alert!!! Merrill Garbus writes with a keen, critical, and comical vibrancy. Her music exudes life and energy and will infect even the dourest of listener.  While you groove to the beats listen to her keen wit.

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The mirthful and quirky maestro of Detroit descends on the Chi. XXX was the first rap record in years that completely captivated me. His rhymes float and flutter with a lyrical ease and his beat will keep you grinding.

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

There are talented artists and their next level visionaries. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is the latter. Perhaps her art and commentary fly over the heads of many (see post SNL internet comments), but her self-titled 2014 album is on another level of genius (which is not to say her previous records weren’t great, which they were, see Strange Mercy).  But does her “art-rock” translate?  Hell, yeah.  I saw her perform earlier this year and it was a truly brilliant orchestrated piece of stage craft that blended authentic and carefully styled thematic tableaux.  In St. Vincent you will trust.


8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

For a generation of kids, NMH was “the band that got away”. We heard them as they were hitting their stride and then they disappeared.  It was young geek love lost. In the Aeroplane Over Sea is a masterpiece of dream-like hallucinatory imagery and heart-wrenching emotional brutalism. Jeff Mangum is a mystical poet and his return is a delight to all us geeks and weirdos that believe life is filled with every day magic.


Also worth checking out: The Field @ 615 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

Ahh… such a struggle!  I’m going to see MB because they sport a multi-member band of exceptional musicians with angelic vocals that play mesmerizing melodies. Prepare to be seduced by sirens…  But if you want to start your day with an adrenaline kick, Speedy Ortiz are just the musical hair-of-the-dog your mind/body ordered.

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

DIIV (pronounced “Dive”) blend the melodic Brit-Pop of the Stone Roses with the sprawling expansive Shoegazer rock of Slowdive (see below).  Although on record they sound precise and composed, their live set is dynamic.

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

I saw maybe three minutes of these guys at SXSW and found that aural amuse-bouche electrifying. They are loud, brash, aggressive, and captivating.  Yes please!  Don’t get there late or you’ll miss their set.

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

These ladies spin dark-black seductive dreams with hints of new wave, 60s girl group pop, and Smiths-like ecstatic dreariness. For those with a penchant for (David)Lynch-esque moments of devilish anachronism, check out the Dum Dums and their spellbinding sounds. I will swoon if they play “Trouble Is My Name.”  Is it your name too?

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

JH is a phenomenal electronic composer that produces pieces that go from folk-tinged meditations to floor thumping bangers.

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

Their sound is evocative of a West Coast surfer/slacker rock with the pleasant and mirth inducing whirl-in-the-grass jangle pop perfect for a summer festival.

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

Yes!!! The band that to me epitomizes Shoegazer…. extended jams of ethereal and distortion-laced soundscapes. Sit back and take in the sprawling “wall of sound” that Slowdive weave… The Return of the Shoegazer Kings! Reclaiming the sound that has bred so many disciples.

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

Another… Dance Party Alert. Finally!!! I’ve been dying to see Claire Boucher for way too long and keep missing her when she passes through Chicago. Her blend of experimental upbeat electronic jams and performance art –like compositions get the body grooving and the mind wandering. #theperfectblend

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The good kid brings his backseat freestyle to the W.I.N.D.Y. city.  Start up that Maserati…   End of the fest/night smooth beat and grooves to relish and remember three days of musical brilliance. #dontkillmyvibe

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage or Majical Cloudz @5:45 at Blue Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,


p.s. Aftershows?  Seriously?  Okay…

  • Friday Bottom Lounge – Deafhaven, Perfect Pussy, Pink Frost;
  • Saturday Bottom Lounge – Dum Dum Girls, Ex Hex, and Speedy Ortiz
  • Sunday Lincoln Hall – Majical Cloudz and Hundred Waters
  • If you can get in… DIIV at Empty Bottle Friday (currently sold out) or Cloud Nothings at Schubas, Friday (also sold out).

PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Abridged)

…for those with a short attention span or who prefer not to read extensive ruminations, an abridged version of the bands/performers to catch at Pitchfork 2014. (Or, if you need to find me this is where I’ll be…)

And a playlist: PitchforkFest 2014


Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk of same name.

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

Also worth checking out: The Field @ 6:15 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,


2014 in Quarter Time (a playlist) + Obsession(s) of the Week – Heart-On-Sleeve Rock

One more post before I go… to Austin.

This week’s listening has waxed nostalgic (see below), but, before showing my age, here is a playlist of tracks from the first quarter of 2014  (ok, not quite there yet but i make the rules here)  that have totally captured my heart, mind, and ears. There are multiple tracks from certain artists because, well, they’ve released amazing tracks and records. Pass the playlist along and/or dig through the full albums (there are some true gems).

2014 in Quarter Time – A Winter ’14 Mix


The past week has been a heavy dose of digging back through old projects by new favorites like P.S. Eliot’s Introverted Romance in Our Troubled Minds (prior project of Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee) and Allison Crutchfield (of Swearin‘) note, both currently touring!) and Tancred’s s/t record (side project of Jess Abbott of Now, Now) and falling in love all over again with emo-tinged releases like The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There.  


All three records harken back to the mid to late 90s, which brings this boy extreme amounts of joy, and feature a mix of biting, pensive, sincere, and passionate lyrics — which is refreshing in a landscape of often banal and trite sentiments. All of the records have elements of lo-fi, stripped down production and a punk and indie-pop sensibility. P.S. Eliot, aside from having one of the best band names ever (says the bibliophile and English Lit major, full disclosure), plays an aggressively infectious style of pop punk that is sinfully sweet and painfully bitter. Tancred’s self titled album has the feel of unabashed confessional that recalls those feelings of longing and isolation we all feel and felt throughout growing up.

the hotelier

And, The Hotelier, well, this is just pure pensive adrenaline rock — fist pumping, conscience stirring, and gut wrenching (think Piebald meets Taking Back Sunday).  What more do you want?


p.s. if you can’t access Spotify from the links above, each band has a bandcamp page too, simply use your favorite search engine or that newfangled google.

Weekly Obsessions: on the edge of (spring’s?) awakening

The rising temperatures (multiple days in the 20s and 30s!!!*) and the realization that next week I will be in Austin running around listening to many bands (in shorts no less) brought a decided cheer to my weekly listening. Or, at least, maybe the decidedly melancholic inclination of my recent listening has started to wane… Not really, though, the real difference is in the ostensible emotional quality of the sound — a lot more high tones and power chords.  But, a clever songwriter ensconces deep, dark truthful tidbits in the most upbeat sounding compositions; The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian were always deft at this art. The challenge for the listener is as always to listen carefully….

* a relative heatwave when compared with the 0s and negative temperatures

lovesitLoves It! – All We Are – A duo from Austin, Texas, that create gorgeous classic country songs tinged with elements of bluegrass and folk.  The dueling and intertwining vocals wooed me instantly.  They are melodic, yet soulfully idiosyncratic at the same time; emotions and meaning seeping out with each note.  Their music will strike the ear as familiar at times serenading you to a peaceful reverie and at times leading to foot stomping enthusiasm.  Whatever your inclination these two musicians will likely as their name suggest win your heart and please share the it.

Get their music here: http://lovesit.bandcamp.com/

asafAsaf Avidan – Different Pulses – From Austin to Jerusalem, a logical transition… A discovery courtesy of the finely curated taste of NPR’s Bob and Robin, Asaf Avidan makes bone-chilling electronic soul music. His music reminds me of the pre-Play work Moby did in the 90s, epic soundscapes with old school R&B or soul saturated vocalists spliced into the mix, which was really a trend borrowed from the early days of dance, house, and trip-hop music. The vocals lie somewhere between a falsetto-like Nina Simone and Macy Gray or the earthen grit of Skylar Grey.  It will totally arrest you.

More info: http://www.asafavidanmusic.com/

the brinkThe Jezabels – The Brink – From the moment I saw Hayley Mary belt “Disco Biscuit Love” at Schuba’s a couple of years back, I fell unabashedly in love with these Aussies. They make baroque, lush pop-rock music for the kids (like me) that believe music should literally move you. And to see them perform live is to remember why pop and rock music captured the hearts of many – it is an immediate and emotional connection with people (many strangers) in a shared space. There is the truth (for many of us) that the rock shows and the dance floor is the one place where the world seems to make sense and inspire hope and belief. The Jezabels music though not superficial in content (see “Disco Biscuit Love” and “Electric Lover”) inspires the euphoric and cathartic bliss of a great pop music. The Brink, their latest offering, is a continuation of their thoughtful brand of energetic pop and the perfect antidote to the darker days and feelings. Note: Chicago folks they will be playing Chicago in April. Their live shows are not to be missed, if only for the sole purpose of watching me dance with complete abandon.  

More on the Jezabels at: http://thejezabels.com/. Also if you haven’t go back to their early EPs start here: The Jezabels – The Man Is Dead

Tycho-Awake-200x200Tycho – Awake Oh man, oh man, have I been waiting with baited breath for this record. If you could bottle chill and groovy into one container, Scott Hansen has discovered the formula. Dive his last record plays with continuing frequency on my stereo, quickly become an addition to the rotation of classic electronic downtempo albums such as Four Tet’s Pause and Rounds, Aphex Twin’s  Richard D. James Album and I Care Because You Do, or Boards of Canada’s Music Has a Right to Children. The latest offering from Tycho is more sprawling and layered upbeat electronic beats perfect as backdrop, soundscape or texture for relaxing… however you may choose to do this. Enjoy.

More on Tycho: http://tychomusic.com/awake/#new-album

…and if the week is really getting you down and you need a pick me up, here an upbeat (perhaps dance?) mix that I use to get me going: Upbeat IndieDancePop Mix.

happy weekend,


electroGroove… Holly Herndon’s “Chorus”

…today I find myself repeatedly looping and returning to this intertwining lush series of electronic loops and juxtapositions by Holly Herndon.  It has that dual yet rare quality of inspiring a blissed-out attentive hypnosis (oxymoron?) and pulsating danceable rhythms.  both engrossing and calm inducing, i can’t help but returning to and disappearing into its all-encompassing groove. for those that love the intersection between minimalist music, experimental electronica, and dance beats, this is for you… think Glass & Reich meets Grimes. perhaps you’ll fade into it too…

for more info about and music by Holly go to: http://www.hollyherndon.com/projects/chorus.html


Weekly Obsessions: Something Old. Something New. Something Borrowed. Something Blue.

…because I have realized that my writing or chronicling cannot keep pace with all the things that I routinely find myself obsessing about I figured I would try my hand at doing a weekly roundup of things that are musically tickling my fancy. Perhaps this will help me clear out the personal backlog of discoveries and oddities I wish to share.

jepettosSomething New → The Jeppettos Troubles  – How I wandered into the rabbit hole that led me to the discovery of this gorgeous collection of songs by these Irish collective is unclear but what a serendipitous discovery! It was love at first vocal.

beckSomething Blue → “Blue Moon” from Morning Phase by Beck. Like many of my peers who were born in the 70s and raised in the 80s, I was a child of the MTV generation and was first introduced to Beck via the tongue-in-check slacker anthem “Loser” that debuted as “Buzz Cut” almost twenty years ago. Though still not well-versed in literary or musical history, I recognzied and relished in the Dadaesque nature of his prose and the genre-defying quality of his bizarre lo-fi, urban, funky, folk. It was strange yet earnest. He was the Beastie Boys of Indie-Folk. Over the years, I never felt the same connection with Beck’s music as i did to Mellow Gold until Sea Changes, another sincere yet far less stylistically challenging collection of songs about loss and transformation. The album mirrored my own transitions: leaving college, working in a foreign country, and getting through a challenging end of a relationship. It felt like a fitting soundtrack to my days of alternating discovery and melancholia. The first single off Beck’s newest album in some time, Morning Phase, “Blue Moon” returns to the intimacy and introspection of Sea Changes yet with a more expanded, melodic and epic sonic backdrops.  Where Sea Changes was about the day-to-day transformations, Morning Phase feels an existential reawakening.  (And, no there isn’t any dogma attached, at least not that i can discern.) It recalls a similar lunar-titled record and style by the late, great folk wunderkind Nick Drake and sweet 70s grooves. It is truly worth sinking into.

marijuana-deathsquads_oct2013-300x300Something Borrowed → Marijuana Deathsquads – Oh My Sexy Lord – Last week a friend dropped Rage Against the Machine on the turntable I found myself longing for their vocally piercing and politically incendiary sounds. Perhaps the universe sensing my need to fill the void drew my eyes to the fact that Marijuana Deathsquads was playing a show in Chicago in March. I’d heard “Ewok Sadness” back in the fall and was totally taken by their bizarre sound. Listening more intently and closely to Oh My Sweet Lord, I find myself relishing their unique fusion of artsy-metal and rock with smooth, EDM-like electronic layers. It fulfills the Rage longing along with recalling Mars Volta but this piece de resistance is the melding of atmospheric electronica provided by members of Polica and Bon Iver (see “Sunglasses and Bail Money”) and floor thumping dance beats reminiscent of araabUZIK (see “Dissolve”). It is a sonic blender of competing and seemingly contrary styles that meld into a trippy distraction.

faithless streetSomething Old → Whiskeytown. Speaking of sinking or drowning really, I found myself stumbling down Faithless Street after a passing conversation with a touring musician about working with Ryan Adams. After asking him whether he’d heard Adams’ Whiskeytown records, I went on the typical sycophant’s elegy of the crazy tortured genius of Whiskeytown (and Uncle Tupelo). My relapse into Adams’ early days was fueled by another new discovery (to follow in a separate past), but it made me realize that if folks have heard or listened to these albums… well they should.  These guys bring a smile to my face every time.  Whiskeytown from start to finish…

…if you end up on a musical alt-country bender, i’ll take full responsibility for the inspiration not the consequences or casualties.

Concert Update →fter a banner 2013 of live music, 83 shows and over 140 bands, I find myself ahead of last year’s scorching pace. So, any accusations that I’m the Brady Anderson of concert going can easily be dispelled. And, feel free to check my hat size, still a 7 1/8. Fifteen shows to date and double booking this weekend (Cloud Cult and Into It Over It) with highlights including the Flat Five at The Hideout (with the sensational Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor), stellar sets by friends Now Everybody and Sons of the West, and a reunited Neutral Milk Hotel bringing In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to life. Check out the upcoming concerts above.

Oh and who wants to join the Classixx dance party next week at Double Door?

hasta marzo,


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