Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Best Local Music Podcast'

Thanks for voting everybody, we snagged the runner-up for 'Best Local Music Podcast' in the Chicago Reader's 'Best of Chicago' issue, and, I am fucking excited. My email sig is already updated. I celebrated on my 8-10pm CHIRP show last week by only playing artists that we've featured on CHIRP Podcasts. If you're wondering why this is such a big deal for me, it's because I run the CHIRP Podcasts. I've been head of this department for a little over two years now, and it's mostly been a labor of love without reward. To receive a little recognition from the community that I live in and love in is just… boy, it feels nice.

We've featured many more artists, but here's my playlist from last week, with links to all of the features we did. Subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes. I think you're beautiful.

8:01pmTwin Peaks LocalFlavorWild Onion (Grand Jury)
8:03pmThe Pains of Being Pure at HeartToo ToughBelong (Slumberland) 
8:10pmYo La TengoPass The Hatchet, I Think I'm GoodkindI Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador) 
8:20pmThe Orwells LocalThe Righteous OneDisgraceland (Atlantic)
8:25pmWaxahatcheeDixie Cups and JarsCerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)
8:29pmWhite LungDown It GoesDeep Fantasy (Domino)
8:32pmBeverlyYou Can't Get It RightCareers (Kanine)
Frankie Rose's band! 
8:36pmFriendly FiresChimesPala (XL) 
8:41pmMetronomyThe BayThe English Riviera (Because Music) 
8:45pmWild Belle LocalIt's Too LateIsles (Columbia) 
8:51pmSupreme Cuts LocalDivine EcstasyDivine Ecstasy (Dovecote) 
8:57pmWhy?Yo Yo Bye ByeElephant Eyelash (Anticon) 
9:02pmVampire WeekendObvious BicycleModern Vampires of the City (XL) 
9:06pmCalifornia Wives LocalThe New ProcessArt History (Vagrant) 
9:12pmShowYouSuck LocalMake Out King (featuring Hood Internet)Dude Bro EP (Closed Sessions) 
9:15pmSerengeti LocalDennehyDennehy (Bonafide) 
9:19pmQwel & Maker LocalWord To The WiseOwl (galapagos4) 
9:27pmThe Lemons LocalBest DayHello, We're The Lemons (Tripp Tapes)
The Reader's "Best New Band" !! 
9:29pmSlushy LocalTeenage FrankensteinPastime Gardens (Grabbing Clouds) 
9:31pmVerma LocalHologrammerSunrunner (Trouble In Mind) 
9:40pmA Sunny Day In GlasgowGolden WavesSea When Absent (Lefse)
I'm interviewing them at the Empty Bottle next month. Interview to come! Subscribe!!
9:44pmRabble Rabble LocalBrokeBrain Hole (Logan Hardware)
Another on the way!
9:52pmZola JesusDangerous DaysTaiga (Mute) 
9:56pmCut CopyBlink And You'll Miss A RevolutionZonoscope (Modular) 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

get it right, Reader

this isn't even writing, it's just a post for me to tell you what i KNOW are the right votes for this year's Chicago Reader poll.

ok so go here, and do this:

section 1-

best bike shop

best tattoo artist
Max Weber

section 2-

best restaurant name
(if you haven't been there, it's small.)

best cocktail
Dopesmoker at the Whistler

best local brewery
Half Acre

best late night eats
Dimo's pizza

best barista
Emily Beaufort at Gaslight
(seriously, go get a latte from her right now.)

best bagels

best Chinese

best pizza
(it's at Lincoln Park Zoo now!!)

best Thai
Dharma Garden

best vegan

section 3-

best new band

best rock band
Magic Milk
(bring 'em back)

best hip hop artist
(yeah, Chance is cool. but don't vote for Chance.)

best band name

best gig poster designer
(this is 100% the correct answer)

best local music podcast
(don't let me down now.)

best local label
(Steve Mizek runs this shit. it counts)

best party promoter

best music festival

best music venue
Empty Bottle

best dance club
Smart Bar

best new bar
East Room

best dive bar

best barcade
(yeah yeah i know)

section 4-

best established theater company

best improv troupe
(Ross Kimball, people.)

best new visual artist
Chuck Anderson/No Pattern
(he lived in Grand Rapids until now)

best street artist

best movie theater

best film festival
CIMM fest

best filmmaker
Joe Swanberg

section 5-

best athlete
Joakim Noah

best neighborhood park
Horner Park

best dog park
Montrose beach

best organized bike ride
Cynical Mass

best YMCA branch
Irving Park

section 6-

best Chicago ambassador
anybody but Vince Vaughn or Jim Belushi for christ fucking sake

best overall neighborhood

best street

best overall radio station

best radio DJ
Dylan Peterson

guys. i'm serious. 


Friday, January 03, 2014

As for Film: Her

I love to hear myself talk. It sounds pompous, but if you're a writer, you have to love your voice. Writers are compelled to communicate deep truths, with a sense of duty even. We feel a fire in our bellies that only writing can extinguish. Did I steal that idiom from someone? Probably. But who cares--good writers borrow, great writers steal. If my muse isn't readily available, I'll holler at somebody else's.

In Spike Jonze's surrealist opus, Her, the director has a coming out party of sorts. He has sole writing credit on this film. This is his "writer movie."

But wait, you thought this was a romance about falling in love with technology. You thought this was about Joaquin Phoenix getting frisky with Siri. The Millienial's quandary of not knowing the difference between socializing in the real world versus the internet world. And fine, it's kind of about that if you really want it to be. Jonze was smart enough to give it this topical sheen. But this will not be a time capsule. This film will age well precisely because it is not simply about the 20-teen A.I. blues. Her is about one individual's love story--a writer who forgot how to love himself.

We meet Theodore Twombly at his day job. He's writing a love letter at his desk. Beautiful phrases slip past his lips effortlessly. Then the camera pans through the office and a dozen other people are doing the exact same thing. They're writing letters to strangers, for paying customers. "Beautiful Handwritten Letters" is the name of his company. His clients pay him to write lovely things to someone they care about, but don't have the poetic capacity to express themselves. Weird right? NOPE. Not weird at all. If you're a writer, you know exactly how to do this. You reach down into the depths of your emotions, and create a feeling within yourself. If I wanted to right now, I could invent a relationship about two people, write it out, break your heart, and none of it would even be true. How can I do this, you ask? Cuz I'm a fuckin' writer. It's what I do.

So what is our protagonist's hang up? If he's filled to the brim with emotions, why is his wife divorcing him for being too distant? Why doesn't he respond to his friends' invites to go hang out? Why does he play video games and masturbate in all of his spare time? Hellooooooooo he's a writer! This is one of the great age old questions. Right along with "why is there something rather than nothing" and "what is the meaning of life" there's "what's the deal with writers anyway?" We can be the most detail-oriented, hyper-perceptive romantics, as long as it's all in theory. But in practice, writers rarely live up to the dreams they can tend to express via their minds' eyes.

Great writing comes from these types though. They traverse places the common man has no desire or time to go to. The only real "relationship" a writer needs is the one he has with his muse. His muse. His muse...

Ok, repetition signifies importance. Samantha, the operating system voiced by Scarlett Johannson, is a sci-fi, Jonzian sort of muse in Her. Theodore admits that he's felt everything that can be felt. He knows all of the emotions, and now he's just rehashing everything. Again, if you're a writer, you know this feeling all too well. It feels like your muse retired and moved to Arizona. So what does a writer  with a deadline typically do in this situation? He seeks out something new, a fresh perspective to stoke inspiration. A new love, even a fling. A new city, with different colored bus seats. A new cardigan, without the elbow pads this time. Some sort of new experience will resurrect the muse, right?

But, this can be exhausting, all of this stimulation. Especially for an introvert. (And if you make a living out of imagining things in your brain and developing them with a concrete language every day, you are almost certainly an introvert.) What if a writer could bypass it though? What would that look like? Is there a way that he could keep his muse around and working overtime at the snap of his fingers?

Hey Samantha.

A muse can be anything. A cup of coffee. A film. A woman. A man. Thing is, the muse inspires an individual. Not the other way around. It isn't a "relationship" that we have with a muse, we take from the muse and give nothing back. See how this could become severely problematic if you take your inspiration from another human? Wouldn't it be nice if we writers could look into ourselves, damn our neuroses, and pull out exactly what we needed each time? Wouldn't it be nice if we could be our own muses?

Wouldn't it be nice if we could be our own muses?

Samantha is a program, designed specifically to give Theodore Twombly a sense of self-worth and confidence. She is not an individual, he is. He takes from her, exactly what he needs to get to the next level in his career, social development, whatever (whether he realizes it or not). She affirms him when he tells her, "I used to think I was my favorite writer." She encourages him to feel this way again. She tells him what he wants to hear. She even sends his old letters to a publisher without informing him, and a book is printed without Twombly even having to deal with the anxiety of putting himself out there again. Because, you know, a writer has to pitch. It's terrifying enough to be vulnerable in the real world, but when rejection comes, the pain can be numbing. Can you imagine if some invisible program sent your favorite work to exactly the right person and you woke up to a physical copy of it in your mailbox? What a dream.

Decades from now, when we all shake our heads at how goobery we were about social media and it's potential effects on the culture at large, we'll still have writers. We'll still be exactly the same at our core. We'll still want to express our individuality. We'll want others to care about the stories we have to tell. And that's why Her will hold up. We'll view this tale the same way we view other surreal films about writers. Naked Lunch, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York, and Barton Fink all have that timelessness. Her now joins those ranks.

The film superficially takes place in a future L.A., but time might not have anything to do with it. It might just be an otherworldly L.A.. An L.A. that could just be within the life of the mind of its writer. After all, this is Spike Jonze we're talking about. He knows meta--thanks be to Charlie Kaufman.

A writer's struggle is one of constantly having the strength within himself to tell a vibrantly ugly truth. This film tells a love story about one person. "Her" (Samantha) is not another individual. Getting Jungian proper, Jonze has Twombly's kind co-worker tell the protagonist that he writes with a sweetly feminine sensitivity. "It's like you're a man, AND a woman." This is every writer. The anima and animus are constantly at battle. What would it look like if the two decided to get intimate? It would look like Theodore Twombly and Samantha. It happens in the real world too. It leads to books, music, and films (all the time). And Jonze did it here. He did what writers do. He wrote Her.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Non-Album Tracks of 2013

Good songs, released in the year of our lawd 2013:

Ducktails - Letter of Intent (the Mark McGuire 'Road Chief Remix')
The feels. The feels! I can't move!

Phoenix - Trying to Be Cool (Breakbot remix)
DJ go-to all year. Works well right before "I Want You Back"

Sufjan Stevens - Take Me
I'm excited for Sisyphus. Serengeti and Son Lux are good for Sufjan's health.

Nils Frahm - You (Teen Daze rework)
Minimalist classical music and minimalist electronic music, making love.

The Range - Promises (edit)
Strap those fuckin' headphones on and fuh. kin. vibe.

Laurel - Blue Blood (demo)
How is this even a demo. Just leave it, it's perfect.

Tycho - Awake
Does this not count since it'll be on an album next year? I don't care!

Sigur Ros - Rafstraumer (Cyril Hahn remix)
I don't want to listen to Sigur Ros anymore, now I want to listen to Cyril Hahn.

Charli XCX - You (Ha Ha Ha) (Goldroom remix)
Get that tired old Gold Panda beat outta here, let Goldroom do it.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor) (Chad Valley remix)
The best song on the new Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. album, made even better by Chad Valley.

Poolside - If We Make It
Still a pretty big "if."

Jens Lekman - Olivia and Maddy
Hurricane Sandy grounded Jens Lekman in NYC, but strangers Olivia and Maddy offer a car ride to Boston, so he writes a song about/for them. BEST DUDE.

Miguel - Do You… (Cashmere Cat remix)
Cashmere Cat is my favorite DJ/producer right now.

Rhye - Open (Ryan Hemsworth remix)
You know what? We're ok.

Chela - Romanticise
You're so unsurprised it hurts. Video because look at her.

Chela - Romanticise (Official Music Video) from Chela on Vimeo.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Hanging gardens run the jewels when you free your mind. Looking for true romance along the way like cupid, deluxe days are gone. We're modern vampires of the city, bankrupt without anything in return.

10. Cut Copy - Free Your Mind
First listen through this album I thought, "this is sex." Sure enough, when I interviewed Ben before Free Your Mind released he confirmed: "It is totally about losing your inhibitions." So whether it's physically letting yourself go to jump and dance around to this psychedelic acid house, or softly kissing a spot you've never touched before, that's what this music is about.
listen: We Are Explorers

9. Charli XCX - True Romance

She played at Schubas this year, a venue she will never play again. This girl does Lady Gaga so much better than Lady Gaga ever did, she paved the way for Lorde to be dark, young, and poppy, and is kinda insanely hot. Her hit of 2013 was disguised as an Icona Pop song, but everything on True Romance is just as compelling, with even more emotion and dynamic songwriting.
listen: What I Like

8. Classixx - Hanging Gardens

Chill out and dance. Does that make sense? It will when you listen to Hanging Gardens. Instead of relying on those ridiculous time cutting build-ups that every ridiculous DJ does, these two guys structured their electronic music like a well-paced Fleetwood Mac single. It's easily my 'summer album' of the year. But, it still sounds pretty chill late into the year too.
listen: Supernature

7. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Weird fashion. Dev was hanging out at Rodan when I DJed with Chairlift for my P4K after-party. "Hey, I like your shirt, where'd you get it?" he asked me. Embarrassed, I muttered, "Urban Outfitters." But then I heard his album and Caroline was singing on the first track and, man, everything felt fine. This is like Prince doing Kaputt. And yeah, it's as awesome as that sounds.
listen: Chamakay

6. Mark Mcguire - Along the Way
I feel some sort of pain when this is on. Mark McGuire loops guitars and synthesizers until it's a mountain of sound, with clouds dancing around the peak, and a sun setting slowly behind them. It's ambient, but so engaging. Some of these chord changes make me want to die of sadness. Give me this hyperbole, music this gorgeous can handle it.
listen: In Search of the Miraculous

5. Toro y Moi - Anything in Return
Toro y Moi sounds better live every time I see them. Last time I saw Chaz, he was playing a secret loft party on Halloween. During soundcheck, he asked my wife for a pop song. After some noodling on his keyboard, the band figured out "Baby One More Time," and killed it for her. They were dressed liked the Power Rangers (Chaz was the black ranger...), and, really, proved again how rad Toro y Moi truly is. If you've seen the videos released this year, you already know this. If you listened to Anything in Return, you already know this. Toro y Moi is rad. This is duh.
listen: So Many Details

4. Run the Jewels - self-titled
Rap album of the year. El-P and Killer Mike gave me one of my favorite interviews ever this summer, and for me, that goes a long way. I can't stomach joyless music fans or critics (or musicians for that matter). The Run the Jewels guys are completely in love with what they're doing with their lives, and it's goddamn beautiful. So whether they're mocking hip-hop culture, beating up old ladies in music videos, or going hard as motherfuckers on their verses, this is exactly what rap should be. I want a D-Rose 2013 highlight reel on YouTube set to "Get It" ASAP.
listen: Get It

3. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
By far Vampire Weekend's best album, Modern Vampires of the City was surprising in all the right ways. The weird pitch bends in "Ya Hey," the religious themes, and the startlingly catchy choruses--this was all you needed this year really. The critic in me said that this was technically the best album released in 2013, and history might also say so for decades to come. The only thing keeping it at number three for me is a couple other albums that hit me on a deeper and more emotional level. Seriously though, this one is practically flawless.
listen: Step

2. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
2013 was a crazy year for me. Crazy in ways I can't explain. In ways I can't talk about. But this album says everything for me so I don't have to. It's not even Phoenix's best album, but it's the one that hit me precisely when I needed it. I connected with every lyric. And, they put on the best live show I saw this year. Sorry if you don't think that should matter, but it does. I'm not just ranking collections of songs here, but bands as products. In 2013, the Phoenix product was highly valuable for me. I felt confusion when I was with them, eagerness, excitement, wonder, and sadness. If you didn't connect with Bankrupt!, that's okay. But for me, I needed this album. It's not something that I hear when one of these 10 songs comes on, but a pair of eyes that I see. Or it's a taste. Or something in the pit of my stomach. These new memories that I'll have forever, this was the album that was with me when I was making them.
listen: Chloroform

1. Haim - Days Are Gone

Surprised? Yeah, me too. But after turning on Days Are Gone for the hundredth time in less than a month I started to think, "oh, I guess I really like this album." I listened to my heart, and my heart told me that this is the one. It really shouldn't be a surprise either. This is the best pop album I've heard in years. And honestly, I don't care that they're all girls, a family, or whatever. That's fine and all, but what I really care about is the guitar solo during the bridge of "Falling," the quiet vulnerability of "Honey & I," and the Shania Twain meets Amy Grant audacity of "The Wire." Haim found the sweet spot in 2013. For the past few years we've seen artists like Grimes, Destroyer, and Bon Iver take ironic swipes at pop music with a tongue-in-cheek fondness for their subject matter. Haim did grow out of that same soil, but without the irony. This is pure, sincerely emotive pop-rock. The electric guitars are not winking. This is music to love. And, I do.
"Always keep your heart locked tight."
listen: The Wire