left off the tracks.

Archive for the category “Upcoming Shows”

Never Too Old To Dance – Winter/Spring 2014 Concert List (aka Dance Card)

headphonessavemylifeWhat? Is a little cold weather slowing your two step? I hope not. Well, if you are in Chicago, you know this City never really stops. We may sleep but we work through the frost and polar winds. Double digit negatives are nothing. In the words of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, “I don’t mind the weather, I’ve got scarves and caps and sweaters.”

Now, if you really want to build up that inner heat without the extra layers (or doing some yoga but that’s cool too), I recommend getting the blood pumping by shaking those hips, pumping those fists, and moving those legs on the dance floor.  Or perhaps sharing your body warmth with one, two or twenty strangers in a tightly packed, sweaty music venue near you.  

In case, you need some suggestions on what and/or who to see, here you go. These are shows which I’m excited about. It’s not exhaustive so if i missed something, please, please let me know. I’m not musically omniscient. A bit clairvoyant but certainly fallible. …These are only for Chicago, but if the band is referenced here they are likely on tour so check out their site for a tour date near you.  

…and yes I do sleep.  but not much.  see you at the front of the house!

(legend… bold = definitely attending; italics = very likely attending;  hyperlinks for venues; thoughts for giggles)



  • Mar. 1st – Into It. Over It. @ Bottom Lounge
    • Emo-Alert!!!
  • Mar. 1st – Broken Bells & Au Revoir Simone @ the Vic
    • I’d go for ARS; BB put me to sleep last time
  • Mar. 7th – Classixx @ Double Door
    • Dance Party!!!
  • Mar. 13th –16th – I’ll be in Austin, Texas for SXSW… you guys will have to find your own shows for that weekend J
  • Mar. 18th – Lorde @ the Aragon
    • she’s lovely, the venue is awful…i’m kind of over going to all ages shows, be prepared to fight the young ones for a good view
  • Mar. 21st – So Many Dynamos @ Township
  • Mar. 23rd – The War on Drugs @ the Metro
  • Mar. 26th – Future Islands @ Lincoln Hall
  • Mar. 27th – James Vincent McMorrow @ Lincoln Hall
    • soulful, swooning, epic, engrossing vocals to soothe your soul
  • Mar. 27th – Real Estate @ the Metro
  • Mar. 28th – Warpaint with Cate Le Bon @ the Metro
  • Mar. 29th – Shearwater @ The Empty Bottle
  • Mar. 31st – Dum Dum Girls @ The Empty Bottle
    • Swoon… if they play “There is A Light…” I can die happy.



  • May 7th – Woods @ Subterranean
  • May 9th – The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo) @ the Metro
  • May 13th – Neko Case @ the Chicago Theater
    • The lovely mesmerizing voice of Neko, great acoustics and Kelly Hogan?  Does it get any better?
  • May 16th – Mogwai @ the Vic
  • May 17th – Haim @ the Riviera (sold out)
    • These girls rock


One day????

  • The Smiths… I wish.


Listen to Live Music: 2012 Fall Tours!!!

A second but short post to just bring to your attention all the great tours that will be coming through the U.S. in the fall.  Check the “Upcoming Shows” menu at the top of the site for information on who, when and where.

As always links are provided for national tour dates and Chicago venues.  Also here is just a short list to get you excited of some bands on tour:

A Six Pack and a Preview of What is Coming in 2012

As we put the first half of 2012 to rest (but not past us just yet), here are things I’m really excited about in the second half of 2012. But before the preview, take a second to watch and listen to this very summer-inspired video by Nashville’s Jeff the Brotherhood. While I can’t condone all the behavior of the Boys and Girls in this ode to the joys of frolicking, I definitely envy their ability to commune so intimately with nature. And, the song is pretty much a perfect fuzzy, lo-fi guitar rock companion to getting away (with mayhem).


There are lots of great new releases and reissues coming up in the next couple of months. For a full rundown courtesy of Pitchfork, click here. A more concise list of releases (and dates) culled from that list can be found further below but tops on my list are:

  • Cat Power’s Ruins
  • Dirty Projector’s Swing Lo Magellan
  • Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange
  • The Very Best’s MTMTMK
  • Purity Ring’s Shrines 
  • Dead Can Dance’s Anastasis
  • WHY?’s Sod in the Seed EP
  • Four Tet’s Pink
  • Yeasayer’s Fragrant World
  • Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz
  • David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant
  • Calexico’s Algiers 
  • The xx‘s Coexist
  • Corin Tucker’s Kill My Blues
  • The Hood Internet’s FEAT


As many of you know, summer is the time of great festivals but when the summer ends lots of great fall tours also commence. Here are some particular shows/acts, I can’t wait to see!

  • Wilco + Andrew Bird + Minor League Baseball Stadium + Fireworks! (July 8th)
  • Pitchfork 2012 in Union Park  (July 13th-15th) – Although I will be in absentia, I am still eager to hear the review of this great lineup of acts slated to hit Chicago (and our torrid summer heat) next week. In case you don’t know the lineup, here is a quick highlight: God Speed You Black Emperor, Japandroids, Wild Flag, Hot Chip, Sleigh Bells, Beach House, Vampire Weekend, Feist, Kendrick Lamar, Cloud Nothings, Grimes, Dirty Projectors, Purity Ring, Danny Brown, and many more. For a full list click here.
  • Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field (September) – Two of the America’s great treasures meet in one (er, two) memorable evenings in Chicago and I managed to score seats in the pit!!!
  • Punk Rock Heroes in Humboldt Park at Riot Festival Chicago (September) – An all-star, all-time line-up of Punk Rock (or proto-punk rockers) will be descending on Chicago in September. I mean if the likes of elder statesmen Iggy and the Stooges, Elvis Costello, and the Jesus and Mary Chain aren’t enough to get you excited, then perhaps you’ll find joy in the addition of Alkaline Trio, Promise Ring, NoFX, Gogol Bordello and GWAR. Personally, I’m gearing up to see ‘em all!
  • SLOAN! (September) For those of you who don’t know some of the greatest pop-rockers to come out of Canada, then perhaps you should catch them on their Twice Removed Tour (celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the album’s release).
  • Best Coast, Tennis, The Very Best, Colleen Green, WHY?, and Julia Holter and many, many more. An up-to-date upcoming concerts and tours to follow. (July – September)

Forthcoming Albums (with dates)


  • 07-10
    Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan [Domino]
    Twin Shadow: Confess [4AD]
  • 07-11:  Azealia Banks: Fantasea mixtape [self-released]
  • 07-17
    Frank Ocean: Channel Orange [Def Jam]
    JEFF the Brotherhood: Hypnotic Nights [Warner]
    Nas: Life Is Good [Def Jam]
    The Very Best: MTMTMK [Moshi Moshi/Cooperative Music]
  • 07-24
    The Antlers: Undersea EP [Anti-]
    The Books: A Dot in Time [Temporary Residence] (7 LP Box Set)
    Eternal Summers: Correct Behavior [Kanine]
    Passion Pit: Gossamer [Columbia]
    Purity Ring: Shrines [4AD/Last Gang]
  • 07-31
    Blur: Blur 21 [Virgin] [box set]
    Rick Ross: God Forgives, I Don’t [Maybach Music/Def Jam]


  • 08-07: Niki & The Dove: Instinct [Sub Pop] 
  • 08-09: Dead Can Dance: Anastasis [4AD]
  • 08-14: WHY?: Sod in the Seed EP [Anticon/Slang City]
  • 08-20
    Four Tet: Pink [Text]
    Minotaur Shock: Orchard [Melodic]
    Jessie Ware: Devotion [PMR Records]
  • 08-21
    Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: Mature Themes [4AD]
    Yeasayer: Fragrant World [Secretly Canadian]
  • 08-27: Wild Nothing: Nocturne [Captured Tracks]


  • 09-04
    Animal Collective: Centipede Hz [Domino]
    Cat Power: Sun [Matador]
    The Fresh & Onlys: Long Slow Dance [Mexican Summer]
    Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t [Secretly Canadian]
    Sondre Lerche: Bootlegs [Mona]
    Stars: The North [ATO]
    T.I.: Trouble Man [Grand Hustle/Atlantic]
    The Vaccines: The Vaccines Come of Age [Columbia]
  • 09-11

    A$AP Rocky: LongLiveA$AP [A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA]
    David Byrne and St. Vincent: Love This Giant [4AD/Todo Mundo]
    Calexico: Algiers [Anti-]
    The Raveonettes: The Observator [Vice]
    Sic Alps: Sic Alps [Drag City]
    Thee Oh Sees: Putrifiers II [In the Red]
    The xx: Coexist [Young Turks]

  • 09-18
    Corin Tucker: Kill My Blues [Kill Rock Stars]
    Dinosaur Jr.: I Bet on Sky [Jagjaguwar]
    Grizzly Bear: TBA [Warp]
    The Hood Internet: FEAT [Decon]
    Kid Koala: 12 Bit Blues [Ninja Tune]
    The Sea and Cake: Runner [Thrill Jockey]
  • 09-25

    Dum Dum Girls: End of Daze EP [Sub Pop]
    Yoko Ono with Thurston Moore & Kim Gordon: YOKOKIMTHURSTON [Chimera Records]

  • 10-02: John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood [Double Six]


  • Band of Horses: TBA [Fat Possum/Columbia]
  • Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste [Universal]
  • Crystal Castles: TBA [Fiction]
  • Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes [Warp]
  • Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city [Interscope]
  • Madlib and Freddie Gibbs: TBA [Stones Throw]
  • Matt and Kim: Lightning [FADER Label]
  • Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything [TBA]

Love On A Real Train: somewhere I have never travelled, or did I?

… you know the feeling when you hear something that takes you on an aural journey that sounds strangely familiar, yet somewhat alien? As though you heard it in a dream1 or in some other life (if you can countenance that notion)? Or perhaps, it is an amalgam of previously heard songs, sounds, and ideas that evoke and/or create something recognizable.

Love On A Real Train is just that sort of recording. It’s a beautiful collaboration amongst family and friends with a keen ear for harmony and a wide musical palette – clever, well-orchestrated, joy-inducing ethno-musicology. The album/project is the  “brainchild” of Joachim Cooder, the son of famed guitarist, soundtrack producer, and all world music-lover Ry Cooder. If you are having trouble placing the name, here is a hint, he helped make “Chan, Chan” famous. Still not sure? Okay, aside from his countless film credits, Ry Cooder’s most recent “claim to fame” was being the producer and a guitarist on The Buena Vista Social Club‘s eponymously titled album and the “solo follow-up” by Ibrahim Ferrer (a member of the BVSC).

Joachim assisted on The Buena Vista Social Club project and clearly his familiarity, appreciation and love for Global and non-Western musical traditions is evident on Love On A Real Train. Take the opening track “Space Shells“, the song blends West African and South Amerindian musical rhythms, evoking Ennio Morricone’s phenomenal soundtrack to The Mission (a small sample here), and adds a quasi-choral vocal track reminiscent of a minimalist composition by Steve Reich. Then, you have the dance-infused dream pop of “Pointed Into Zoom” with some gorgeous Far East Asian sounding chimes and Inara George‘s ethereal voice– I dare you not to smile while listening. Or, borrowing from a more modern tradition, “Being Alone” with Robert Frances feels as though it could easily be a collaboration between Sigur Ros (psst they have a new album!) and Bon Iver – with a subtle vocoder effect like on BI’s “Woods” from the Blood Bank EP.  (Two equally otherworldly sounding musical groups.)  Of all the tracks I adore,  my favorite is easily “Strike Up Your Matches” sung by Matt Costa and built around a traditional Incan arrangement (with those amazing woodwinds) combined with rhythm of an older folk song from the British Isles.

One additional note about the record, the musicians on each track or not consistent throughout and, yet, there is no question that a singular (yet eclectic and diverse) aesthetic permeates the entire album. Also, this is definitely an album that makes excellent background and/or work meditation2 music, it’s calming, rich, and fluid, plus the vocals are used for their sonic attributes over their narrative value — for those in the crowd that can’t listen to vocals while working.  Without any further comparisons or digressions, join Joachim and his friends on a trip into another distant, yet familiar realm.

Listen to Love On A Real Train in its entirety here (via Spotify) or select songs played by members of the group on World Cafe here (via NPR)

If you like the general feel of this record, you might also enjoy the brilliant album released last year by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins’s Diamond Mine (listen here) that went under everyone’s radar (except for Bob Boilen’s).

Chicago Folks a reminder:

Do Division Fest this weekend featuring (among others) the Antlers (Sun), BBU (Fri), JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound (Fri), Craig Finn (Sat), and Besnard Lakes (Sat).  (Bring sunscreen and water.  It should be another hot one.)

Hasta Manana!


1 I’ve been told it is impossible to (a) hear things in one’s dream and (b) see colors. I definitely think I’ve experienced both perhaps i was either confused by my own mind or delusional.  Hmm…neither option is promising.

2 “Work Meditation” is essentially my term for a variation of “flow” or a Zen state of focus.

Hot oL’ Baltimore Part 1: Lower Dens’ Nootropics

Charm City, indeed. Maryland’s most populous (and well recognized) city is making a name for itself in the indie-rock world. No longer just the setting for David Simon’s much beloved The Wire, B’more is rapidly become home to a burgeoning indie-rock scene led by the likes of the Lower Dens, Beach House, and Wye Oak. (Now not all the members of the bands were necessarily born and breed in or around Baltimore, but, then again, how many of the rockers now living in the Borough of Brooklyn can claim it as their ancestral home?) Not only is the City of Firsts filled with great young bands but even their long suffering baseball team is perched atop their division (as of this writing anyways). Perhaps there is something in the water, something that breeds musical ingenuity and creativity? (You know like why they claim a slice of pizza or a bagel from New York is better than anywhere else? I’ll agree to the latter and would kill for an H&H bagel right now. Alas.)

Straight out of Baltimore comes Nootropics, the second full-length album by the Lower Dens. This group caught my ear at the beginning of last year with their phenomenal debut record Twin Hand Movement, which was described to me by a friend as ChillWave – undoubtedly a term coined to allude to the 70s/80s New Wave phenomenon and to perhaps beget the notion of a “movement.” (Without digressing too much, in my opinion, “ChillWave” is basically an updated version of Shoegazer rock that adds the production/synth elements of New Wave and layers in some early English Downtempo and TripHop. Is it a movement? Only time will tell.) The distinguishing characteristic of Twin Hand was the mix of the haunting vocals of Jana Hunter (the band’s lead singer), a sleepy, layered guitar section tinged with a Southwestern flair, and a Lo-Fi drone – or the sound of contemplation. Thus, when I ventured to see them earlier this year at the Subterranean, I was expecting to be soothed into an almost dream-like rapture. Nothing could be further from what I witnessed. Showcasing the new tracks from their forthcoming album, Jana and crew played loud, distortion heavy tracks that went on for what felt like an eternity, which was a pleasant surprise. (I do enjoy it when band turns up the volume.)

Welcome to the world of Nootropics, a break from the more languid Twin Hand Movement towards a fuller, robust and heavy sound with increased synthesized and electronic elements. It’s as though the Lower Dens had a musical muzzle removed from their instruments. The record begins with the dream-like prologue, “Alphabet Song”, and already you hear a more polished and precise sound, where before songs wandered, now they flow towards a definite point. If you listen closely, you might hear a striking resemblance to Portishead’s (comeback) Third and recent Danger Mouse produced records. Things then turn decidedly up-tempo on “Brains” and “Stem”, heavy on, and almost foregrounding, the percussion (an element in sparse quantities on the first record). With Jana’s, at times, Nico-esque vocals, “Brains” has the unique feel of a neo-psychedelic folk song that builds into a strange gothic dance track, and, then, it shifts gears straight into “Stem” with its high electronic piano chords, eerily reminiscent of some bizarre circus tune. (Because I’ve been listening to the digital version there is this unfortunate two to three second lag between tracks suggesting that the two songs are really supposed to blend into each other but there is the digital rub.)

If this is beginning to sound as though the record is a journey into an odd, dark world, then I’m achieving my goal. Although I have yet to read anything to this effect, Nootropics feels like a concept album in sound and theme. After repeated listens, I feel as though I’m passing through layers of human consciousness and experience. Perhaps, this is intentional as the title of the record refers to foods, (herbal) supplements, and drugs that enhance memory and cognitive function, otherwise known as, “smart drugs”. (For the language nerds, “Nootropics” comes from the Greek words nous, or “mind”, and trepein, “to bend or turn”.) The opening feels heady, as in located in the head or mind, and then moves towards the guttural and the base, i.e., the body. At the midpoint, the record appears to take us outside the mind and body, starting with the two part “Lion in Winter“. The first “movement” is dirge-like and evokes a passage towards. The second part shifts tempo and evokes an awakening, along with a very Kraut-rock sounding synth line. (It also reminds me a little of LCD Soundsystem from the last album.) The journey concludes with two slow, pensive (and some might say) sleepy tracks. On the whole, I think this is a fascinating listen. Is it for everybody? Probably not. I worry it might sit on the darker side for most, but if you enjoyed the last Portishead record and the work of bands like God Speed You Black Emperor, I think the Lower Dens newest adventure will resonate with you.

Listen to Nootropics in its entirety here.

In more light-hearted news:

  • “I’m Getting To Old for This” (truncated version):
    • Andrew Bird at the Roosevelt Auditorium, May 12th, 2012 – What can I say, I sat with my friends in a gorgeous old world style proscenium stage theater and marveled (yet again) at the power and beauty of Andrew Bird’s music. Playing mostly tracks off his new album, the band was pitch perfect and precise. Despite being many rows up, it sounded and felt like Andrew was singing to me in the intimate haunts he used to frequent in Chicago. The “worst” part about the show was having to sit through the entire set, especially when so many of the songs on the new album are infused with that giddy and mirthful energy that makes your body want to move and shake. Alas, I’ll have to save all those dance steps for July when he opens for Wilco at a minor league baseball park in Geneva, Illinois. This time there will be not only snacks but fireworks too! (Beats Tippecanoe and Tyler). P.S. He ended with stirring rendition of perhaps my favorite song, “Fake Palindromes.”
    • La Sera at Township, May 15th, 2012 – In Chicago there is this saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes”, or just deal with it. (Foolishly) Riding my bike up to see La Sara (aka Katy Goodman and crew), I could see thunder and lighting and a steady wind slowing my progress. Chilled by the brisk ride, I welcomed the tiny venue’s warmth only to find myself sweating profusely within in minutes. A boy can’t win. But I wasn’t alone, the Los Angeles based La Sera found the tiny venue to be quite sauna-like, in fact Katy asked the crowd for a towel mid show. (Note to self: bring handkerchief next time. Yes, not only do I own a handkerchief but multiple ones. It reminds me of my grandfather, who used one to dry his brow while he was painting.) Despite the heat, La Sera shone through and Katy even ventured into the crowd to play a solo on bended knees in true rock star style. (For those not familiar with La Sera, their music is more peppy and whimsy than guitar rock so it was definitely unexpected.) The show was an energetic anodyne and Katy definitely had a great time chatting with the crowd. If you get a chance, definitely, check them out. You will be smiling afterwards.
  • Check out this great conversation between St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and tUnE-yArDs (Merrill Garbus) brought to my attention by 70dayweekend.com: click here.
  • Riot Fest! Is a festival that has been going on in Chicago for some years now geared more towards the fans of Punk and Alt-Metal. In the past, they’ve had some great bands in their lineup but 2012 is far and away the best: Elvis Costello, Iggy and the Stooges, Alkaline Trio, Promise Ring, and the Jesus and Mary Chain! Check out the full bill here.  It’s like they raided my adolescent/college-era mixtapes! Plus they are expanding to Philly!

All for now, I’ll be back soon with another band from Baltimore creating some buzz.


Sweet Treats: Allo Darlin’ and fun.

…and now for something completely peppy. For your consideration (and listening pleasure), two bands and songs to brighten your day.

Also, see above ↑  for a new banner heading for upcoming shows with a list of who is on tour around the country and visiting Chicago in the near future.

Allo Darlin’s “Capricornia” (via You Tube) 

What is not to like about this song? Elizabeth Morris’ dreamy vocals against a really catchy series of guitar chords make this just pure pleasure. The thing about Allo Darlin’ is that they aren’t reinventing the wheel, in fact, you’ll probably feel like you’ve heard it before, playing somewhere in some car or porch on a day you remember fondly. It’s happy mood soundtrack music. Allo Darlin’ who met in London are two parts English and two parts Australian and make smirk-inducing pop music in the vein of latter-day Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Velocity Girl, and Dear Nora. Elizabeth Morris’ voice reminds me a great deal of the early 90s Australian group Frente, which is more obvious on the acoustic track that follows “Capricornia” (on the NPR mini podcast here). If you need more of Allo Darlin’ infectious pop, then listen to their 2010 self-titled release here and keep a look out for their new record in 2012. (Plus, clearly they have good taste because their favorite Weezer song comes from the classic and brilliant Pinkerton. Can you name the tune?)

Also, Allo Darlin’ is currently on a U.S. tour, go check them out!  They will be playing Chicago on Tuesday, May 15th at Schuba’s. I’d go but will be attending the La Sera show on the other side of town. I haven’t yet discovered how to be in two places at once, but will continue to work and report back. If you have any insight on how to accomplish this and/or replicate one’s self, please do share.

fun. – “Carry On” (via You Tube) 

Perhaps I am the last person in the U.S. to actually listen to this band. It appears these guys scored a number 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 a couple of months back. #behindthetimes. In retrospect, I recall seeing their name and some images earlier this year but for whatever reason (probably because I was obsessing over the Sharon Van Etten and Sleigh Bells albums) I totally missed the boat on this band. Well, I owe a debt of gratitude to the NPR All Songs Considered for adding this song (a live version though) to their podcast.

“Carry On” starts slowly, a simple melody played on piano with the lead singer intoning a pensive narrative; however, don’t let the opening deceive you. From a tune of recollection, it slowly builds and explodes into an anthemic, arena rock song evocative of Queen, REO Speedwagon, Styx, and Supertramp, with a very 80s guitar rock riff three quarters of the way through the song. In other words, there are a lot of operatic and dramatic elements with a Prog Rock influence elements at play. Nothing about this song is heady or lyrically transcendent, in fact it appears to be mostly about overcoming the hurtful minutiae of everyday life, but there is value in that too! It is pure youthful, pop goodness, easily a musical guilty pleasure. (Note: To me there is more REO Speedwagon than Queen but you wouldn’t still be reading if I started my list with REO Speedwagon. The Queen comparison stems mostly from the lead singer’s Freddie Mercury like vocals.) (Does anyone hear the faint similarity at times to Rod Stewart’s “Rhythm of My Heart”? Or am I crazy? When in doubt take the latter.)

As for the rest of the record, I am not going to write an extensive post about it. I find it a pleasant listen, but I admit it doesn’t deliver on the promise of “Carry On”. It is a curious collection of pop motifs of the last decade, the late 70′s, and 80′s (for some reason the 90s doesn’t exist in their musical lexicon). For example, “It Gets Better” has strains of Piebald, Blink 182, Angels and Airwaves (Tom DeLonge’s follow up project to Blink 182) and Built to Spill – a hard driving pop-rock with a hint of Emo (If you haven’t already, you are likely to stop reading now, I said the “E word.”). “Some Nights” starts with another arena rock allusion to Kansas (“Carry on My Wayward Son”) then adds a Paul Simon Graceland-era percussion, all the while the lead singer intones his best Freedie Mercury imitation, culminating in a vocoder-laden choral symphony. I’m not gonna lie, despite the strange combination, it really works and makes me smile. Other tracks, definitely betray the influence of popular indie-rock bands with enough argyle clout to appear on the OC or Gossip Girl like Vampire Weekend, Discovery, and Passion Pit. Don’t get me wrong, I really like those bands; I just find fun.’s version less fresh. Also, apart from the excellent chorus, “We Are Young”, their first single, doesn’t really move me. A final point about this band/record, there is startling and seemingly unabashed sincerity to fun.’s music. Despite my proclivity towards sarcasm and double entendre, I really appreciate the wide-eyed idealism, the exuberance, and epic sound of the record and, for this reason alone, would suggest giving it a spin, click here.

I think fun.’s sartorial aesthetic would make Whit Stillman happy.

A Swedish Reverie: We Are Serenades’ Criminal Heaven

About a week back I posted, the closing track from We Are Serenades’ new album Criminal Heaven, “Walking Home” because the hand clapping just got me up in a tizzy. Well, I’m back to tell you there is more to this Swedish group than simply a catchy song.

Following in the vein of albums filled with mirth, Criminal Heaven is a ten song collection of indie-pop gems.  A burst of pure fun from start to finish (and only 30 minutes long), the record evokes the genre-hop-scotching of electro-dance groups like Passion Pit and MGMT. From the outset they set out to build up and counter expectations.  On the opening track, “All the Words”, the song starts with a slow choir-like harmony that transitions at song’s end into a quirky electro-R&B coda reminiscent of the side project of Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmandglij and Ra Ra Riot‘s Wesley Miles, Discovery; a blend of old world melody through a modern filter. Following in the old world vein, “Birds” is a fully orchestrated and layered pop-chamber piece underscored by the bands gorgeous falsetto harmonies, which continue with a brilliant cascading effect into “Come Home” a surf-rock tinged piece reminiscent of Brit-pop balladeers Luna (Dean Warham) as well as the shoegazer jams of Mojave 3 – the song is pure ear-candy. But, this record isn’t all precious and tender, the group speeds up the percussion and rhythm on “Weapons” creating an up-beat dance number in the vein of Passion Pit’s “Moth’s Wings”. There is also the curious “Oceans” with its trance-like pscyh-rock feel, similar to the what MGMT was doing on their second record Congratulations, which I admit I enjoy as a whole work better than the first – even though “Kids” might be one of the best dance song ever written, not hyperbole, I’ve been saying this for years now. And, yes, the album closes with the exquisite “Walking Home” that stirs an urge to go forth and explore, even though the title perhaps suggests the opposite! The song reminds me a lot of the folk-gospel elements of Iron and Wine‘s song “Walking Far From Home” (a sort of reverie of the state of the world that recalls Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” – although the world Dylan was soothsaying was the cultural (and literal) wars of the 60s) and MGMT’s “Love Always Remains”.  It captures an epic, transcendental feeling in simple yet grandiose way, a nutshell of the record as a whole.  As always, though, don’t take my word for it….

Go listen to all of We Are SerenadesCriminal Heaven record here.

More on We Are Serenades at their website here.

Also, check out their U.S. Tour Dates in May here.  (On quick glance, I see NYC, SF, DC, Boston, Philly, and Chicago.)


Further Listening (if you like the above):

  • Shout Out Louds - Our Ill Wills
  • Luna - Bewitched
  • Passion Pit – Manners
  • MGMT – Congratulations
  • Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala


This is a Warning: A Hot Chip Mix (plus some “Trendy Tracks”)

…a couple of weeks back, I heard the exciting news that Hot Chip was releasing a new album (In Our Heads on June 04, 2012), which always brings me great joy. In case you don’t know Hot Chip or their work I’ve created a mix of my favorite tracks from the four records they’ve released to date.  (They also have one DJ Kicks album.)

Click here for the Hot Chip Mix:  All the People I Love Can’t Hear.

But, if you want a quick preview here goes:

Hot Chip is a band of dance music loving geeks. (I am a proud card-carrying member of this group.) Wry and sardonic, this group of Brits is the 21st Century British Pop and Dance-House Culture scene’s answer to the Smiths. Lead singer and songwriter Alexis Taylor is a bespectacled, red head who often sports collared shirts fully buttoned (Urkel-style) while shaking around the stage shifting between Prince-like falsettos and a deep Brit-Pop MC-like bass. Part pranksters, part sentimentalists but all about getting you to shake your hips, Hot Chip produces some of the most clever and precise dance music for those who enjoy a great dance beat along with tongue-in-cheek, witty lyrics. A Hot Chip show is basically a giant dance party for the geeky-set who like talking about video games, T.S. Elliot, and professional wrestling. Don’t worry you don’t need to get the references because the songs are just a pleasure to listen to regardless of the lyrics.

This is a warning… Hot Chip will get you into the groove.

Trendy Tracks (or at least ones I currently enjoy, click on song title to listen):

Santigold‘s “This Isn’t Our Parade – This song is the opposite of everything I’ve come to love from Santigold. Both “Creator” and “You’ll Find a Way” are aggressive blasts mixing up-tempo-House Beats with punk rock and New Wave, respectively (think Debbie Harry (of Blondie) fronting Sleater Kinney and they decided to make a Dizzee Rascal song). Her music is about as eclectic as it gets, borrowing from various musical styles, a Benetton of beats. (To me, Santigold represents everything that fans of No Doubt and M.I.A. hoped those artists would become – yes, that is a slight knock against both of them.). “This Isn’t Our Parade” is a far mellower, slower quasi-dub-reggae number – an uncomplicated percussive beat with a simple synth line. I adore this song because it exhibits the subtle power of Santigold’s voice, which in this track is filled with an overwhelmingly uncertainty and curiosity that totally sucks me in. (Remember full album streaming at NPR.)

Sarah Jaffee “Glorified High – Although slightly faster-paced than the Santigold number, this song is also a more subdued track built around the lead singer’s vocals but is a brilliantly conceived unassuming dance number — give it like thirty seconds (or so) and you’ll see what I mean. For some reason she reminds me a lot of St. Vincent covering Robyn (which would be awesome but not as cool as when Dismemberment Plan covered Robyn’s “Dancehall Queen” last year). Also, this reminds me a lot of “Anti-Anti” by Snowden if that rings a bell.

Jack White “Missing Pieces – I’ll be honest, ever since White Blood Cells, I’ve been sort of nonplussed about Jack White’s work. I know that is sort of anathema among music lovers but that is how I feel. However, this opening number from his new album reminds me a lot of those elements of the early White Stripes records that I (and so many of us) feel for years ago.


P.S. Also this weekend-ish (in Chicago):

  • SaturdayTortoise plays the Empty Bottle at 7 and 10 pm.
  • Monday: Frankie Rose is playing Township in Logan Square.

Whistling Down Memory Lane: A (Personal) Preview of S.F.’s Outside Lands Fest

A couple of weeks back, a good friend asked me if she might be able to either guest post or offer up a mix. To which, of course, I responded enthusiastically with a double “Yes”. (Literally I answered “Yes, Yes” because I wanted to make it clear that I was down with both ideas.) And, lo, what follows is my friend’s first post about her excitement over the bands performing at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival taking place in San Francisco between August 10th and 12th. It’s a preview of the Festival’s fabulous acts told as a musical Bildungsroman (literary geek speak for “right of passage” story — Germans are so much better at truncating language).
Enjoy and I’ll be back with some albums on the morrow.
- a.a.

First Guest Blog Post on LOTT (kind of loving the abbreviation, a.a….), and I’m feeling sentimental. I think it has something to do with the lineupannouncement from the crew putting on Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park this August.  I’ve heard a lot of naysayers complain about the headliners (Metallica, Foo Fighters, Skrillex, whaaa??).  But, I say this: the bands aren’t the only thing that matters when it comes to Outside Lands. There, I said it. San Franciscans love any opportunity to be outside (in fact, it’s part of our rent), even if it’s usually freezing in August (yes, Chicago, I’ve gotten soft) and Outside Lands is a phenomenal concert in our city’s best park, so relax, sit on the grass and enjoy the music in the park! That being said (I know, I know, I’m kind of contradicting myself here), I’m stoked about the lineup this year because it pretty much tracks my personal musical journey. (As you read, feel free to check out a (musical) sampler of the line-up via Spotify!)

First Stop, Wonder-Land:  We start with Stevie Wonder. I remember watching that episode of The Cosby Show in 1986 where the Huxtables make that quirky synthesizer song with Stevie and then they all sing “I just called to say I love you” — click ← to see on YouTube.  (God, I kind of want to have a total side-post on 80s television now… okay, I’ll keep going.) Well, that’s obviously not his best song (ed.’s note, Jack Black agrees), but I remember hearing that song, inquiring about it, my parents playing the record for me, and then we explored their extensive record collection as a family. I could honestly stop there, I had no choice but to love music after the records came out. Ah, just kidding, I’m not done yet…

Bogey to the Bayou: Another one of my young musical influences was the music of New Orleans, which was a love of my father’s and a big part of the music I grew up listening to as a kid. Here we’ve got the Dirty Dozen Brass Band representing at Outside Lands. I saw them at the Rock n Bowl on my second trip to Jazz Fest, and while I’m missing the Fest this year, I’m glad we get a little NOLA in the Park this year.

A Metal Education: Okay, so then we’ve got Metallica. Now I’ve never seen Metallica, but they represent the next period of music, 80′s rock bands, which I discovered on my own and my parents thought were crap—an important phase in any kid’s life. We got MTV during that period and I remember going to the record store asking my mom to buy me Guns ‘N Roses Appetite for Destruction on (cassette) tape with the newly minted Parental Advisory Label, followed by Poison, Warrant, Skid Row and Metallica, all of which would listen to while rollerblading – that’s called a compound dated reference.

I’m on a Plain, I Can’t Complain: Foo Fighters. Beck. Now it’s middle school and I’m listening to a lot of Nirvana and Beck. Okay, I have to admit I’m not really a fan of the Foo Fighters, but Dave Grohl was in Nirvana, and well, they are a touchstone and an important part of my musical journey, so I’m sure I’ll check out part of their set. Somehow I’ve never seen Beck live, yet through him I discovered and found (more) indie music, which changed the trajectory of my musical preferences.

Napster Built the Internet Star: Dispatch came to prominence during my college days and were a great band that I never had the opportunity to see. But, I remember illegally downloading their music on Napster and college acapella bands covering the General.  Okay, I couldn’t help but do another compound dated reference.  (Eds. Note: We’ve changed our ways towards musical consumption – no more “peer-to-peer sharing”, now we purchase.)

(My) Roaring Twenties: Next is the musical period during my twenties, with representatives from my exploration of world music (Amadou & Miriam, the blind couple from Mali, and Jovanotti, who I discovered when I studied abroad in Italy), experimental and alternative rock (Sigur Ros, the Walkmen and Franz Ferdinand) and great female rockers (Santigold and Sharon Van Etten).

Destination, Dance Yourself Happy: Last, I’ll be checking out the new indie bands churning out upbeat electronic 80s-throwback, dance hook laden tracks, which are currently in heavy rotation: Yellow Ostrich, Tanlines, Geographer, Washed Out, Passion Pit, Justice, Of Monsters and Men. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give Fun. and Skrillex a chance?

 …And we’ve come full circle, back to the start, an echo of my beginnings in the 80s!  It should be a great festival. Sentiment now replaced by anticipation!

 - rsw

p.s. For ticket information click here.

Updated Concert Information!!

…as promised an updated slate of concerts for the next couple of months.  As always, links to tour dates are embedded in band name and links to purchase tickets for Chicago dates embedded into venue name. (Note:  Shows in Bold are those for which I already have tickets and will be in attendance.)

P.S. If you see any glaring omissions or shows you are excited about let me know via the Comments.  I’ll add!

I Can’t Wait For:

Run! Don’t Walk To See:

4/20 – Cults @ Metro

4/20 – the Jezabels @ Lincoln Hall

4/22 – Record Store Day @ Your Local Record Store (← for closest venue or The Vinyl District a GPS based App for record stores)

4/24 – Lambchop (the band) @ Lincoln Hall

4/28 – Tortoise @ Empty Bottle If you’ve never seen these Chicago stalwarts, you NEED to see them if only to witness one of the finest and most captivating drummers/percussion sections of any group out there.

4/30 – Frankie Rose @ Township

5/3 Spiritualized @ the Metro

5/4 M83 @ the Riviera - (Sold Out) Saw M83 four years ago at the Empty Bottle, I’ve rarely been so tired from dancing or drenched in sweat (except for LCD Soundsystem) as I was that evening

5/5 Carolina Chocolate Drops @ Lincoln Hall

5/9 Childish Gambino @ the Riviera

5/10 – Justin Townes Earle @ Park West

5/10 – Ty Segall and White Fences @ Lincoln Hall

5/11 St. Vincent @ the Vic Theatre (SOLD OUT)

5/12 Andrew Bird @ Auditorium Theater Rumor has it that there will be snacks.

5/16 – We Are Serenades @ the Empty Bottle

5/16 – The Cranberries @ the Riviera Theatrethey seem to be waltzing back into our lives.

5/16 — Active Child and Balam Acab @ Lincoln Hall

5/17 – Xiu Xiu @ Lincoln Hall

5/20Kurt Vile and the Violators @ Lincoln Hall

5/21-22 – The Beach Boys @ The Chicago Theatre

5/24 – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros @ the Riviera Theatre

6/1-6/3  – The Antlers, BBU and more @ Do Division Festival (Division and Damen)

6/15-17 – Pitchfork Music Festival @ Union Park  featuring: Vampire Weekend, Feist, Godspeeed You Black Emperor, Cloud Nothings, Grimes, Kendrick Lamar and many more!

6/22 – Dinosaur Jr. @ Subterranean (Sold Out)

6/23 – Dinosaur Jr. @ Green Music Fest (Damen b/w North and Schiller) FREE!

6/24 – the Raveonettes @ Green Music Fest (Damen b/w North and Schiller) FREE!

7/8 – Wilco, Andrew Bird and fireworks! @ The Kane County Cougars ballpark in Geneva, IL

7/10 — Radiohead @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheater (Tinley Park, IL)

7/27 – Best Coast @ the Vic Theatre

8/3-5 – Lollapalooza @ Grant Park featuring Jack White, Black Sabbath, The Black Keys, the Weeknd, Justice, the Alabama Shakes (ed. note:  not thrilled with lineup but will keep you posted about midnight shows!)

8/10-12 – Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco

9/7 – Bruce Springsteen @ Wrigley Field

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