Friday, December 14, 2012

You Missed Out: Japandroids

Before going home to bask in their many "top 10 aoty" honors this year, Japandroids treated Chicago to one more 2012 show at the Metro. It was extra sold out. Even with DIIV dropping out of the opening slot in favor of a David Letterman appearance, the people packed in tight for the two boys from Vancouver.

Celebration Rock is one of this year's best albums, so a Japandroids live show is approached with high hopes. This was my third time seeing the band, second this year (after Pitchfork) and I can now confidently say that this band has a little issue that they're going to have to deal with. Brian's voice.

By the third song, Brian's voice is gone. He told the crowd that they've been touring for four months and only have a couple shows left, and that he needs our help to sing along with the hard songs--I interpreted this as something like, "yeah I know my voice is shot, but gimme a break." At times the crowd obliged, but at other times you could feel the collective drooping of shoulders when Brian went flat at a peak moment.

David, on the other side of the stage, kept them both afloat for 90 straight minutes. He never looked tired, his voice sounded strong on the mic, and his drumming was kick-ass. So even though Brian sings more lead, he has no excuse; he should do better out there. The kids only want to shout with a singer if the singer is shouting. Brian regularly fell into a lull of talk-sing.

This all indicates that the band's greatest strength is their songwriting ability. Both of their full-lengths are a joy to listen to from start to finish. Whether it's a track with that trudging tempo or one with that hardcore punk velocity, these guys have a ton of highly listenable songs under their belts already. Maybe the best thing I can say about the Metro show is that it made me want to go back and listen to Post-Nothing again.

Then again, this is raw music. If everything sounded perfect, it wouldn't be rock and roll. The most honest moment of the night was when a seemingly exhausted Brian sputtered the line, "it's raining in Vancouver, and I don't give a fuck, cuz I'm far from home tonight." He drank beer throughout the set, which obviously doesn't soothe sore vocal chords. He tuned his guitar as long as he needed, and spit wherever. The man did not give a fuck. He was playing rock and roll the way he plays it, and that's exactly what we want the lead singer of Japandroids to do.

So, it's not really a huge problem after all. I don't want this band to be Fleet Foxes or something. Discordant harmonies are okay with these guys. Kids down front still pump their fists, mosh, and crowdsurf. Something about rock and roll just moves us, even when (and maybe especially when) it's blatantly imperfect. Still, David might want to take over lead on a few more songs in those 90 minute sets come the 2013 tour. Couldn't hurt.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Top 30 Tracks of 2012

I complied my favorite songs of 2012, primarily so I can burn them onto a CD for my long car ride to Wisconsin later this month. Gathered alphabetically here, you can play them in whatever order you want. If you want more info on any of these artist, I recommend

Baio    Sunburn Modern    Sunburn EP

Black Dice    Pigs    Mr Impossible 

Blanck Mass    White Math    White Math   

Breakbot    Break Of Dawn    By Your Side    

Chad Valley    Fall 4 U (Feat. Glasser)    Young Hunger
Chrome Canyon    Memories of a Scientist    Elemental Themes  
Crystal Castles    Pale Flesh    (III)  
Dan Deacon    True Thrush    America 
DIIV    Follow    Oshin
El Perro Del Mar    I Was a Boy    Pale Fire  
Here We Go Magic    How Do I Know    A Different Ship  
Japandroids    The House That Heaven Built    Celebration Rock
Jens Lekman    The World Moves On    I Know What Love Isn't 
Kendrick Lamar    Money Trees (Feat. Jay Rock)    Good Kid M.A.A.D City
Kisses    Funny Heartbeat    Funny Heartbeat single
Lemonade    Ice Water    Diver  
Lindstrom    Vos-Sako-Rv    Smalhans
Lymbyc Systym    Falling Together    Symbolyst  
M.I.A.    Bad Girls    Bad Girls single     
Menomena    Capsule    Moms 
Passion Pit    Cry Like A Ghost    Gossamer  
Philip Glass & My Great Ghost    12 Parts, Pt. 1    REWORK_ (Philip Glass Remixed) 
Physical Therapy    Mind You    Safety Net 
Poolside    Kiss You Forever    Pacific Standard Time 
Star Slinger    Chain Dumbin (Feat. Juicy J, Project Pat & Reggie B)     Chain Dumbin single
Supreme Cuts    Belly    Whispers In The Dark  
Tame Impala    Elephant    Lonerism 
Tanlines    Not The Same    Mixed Emotions  
The xx    Tides    Coexist 
Toro y Moi   So Many Details    So Many Details single

I will send you a zip file of the mix if you 'like' the TDvsBL facebook page. Or if you've already done that and still want the mix, just ask me nicely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2012

Top 10 yo.

10. Zammuto - Zammuto 

When grown ups would ask me, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I always answered with confidence. "An artist." I don't think I followed through into my own adulthood, but, I still admire the artist more than any other profession. Nick Zammuto's job is nurturing his childlike wonder about the universe, with dignity and skill, until it takes a shape that has not been seen until his interpretation is delivered. His album is unpredictable, fun, confusing, gorgeous, and rich in this individual's artistic maturity. The scope of Zammuto magnifies supernovas while examining electrons. It's big and small. Grown-up and childish. You won't see it on any other top 10 lists this year, but you won't hear another album like it ever again either.
listen: The Shape of Things to Come

9. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't

Jens is the my favorite songwriter in the world. That's not hyperbole, it's how I feel. Feelings are so textured in his songs, the strength of his emotions outweighing any hype, critic, or publicist write-up. Perhaps the best song he's written, "The World Moves On" performs that rare miracle of matching the music with the lyrics. Warm strings swell at the chorus as he sings "the sun rose over the city," a flute flutters in for "the wind swept through the valley," and the theme of the album proclaims "you don't get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully." Jens' song is about specific personal experiences, but it feels like it could have happened in any city, to anyone--especially whoever happens to be listening.
listen: The World Moves On

8. Chromatics - Kill for Love

The album format is dead. We don't have to argue about that, let's just agree that iTunes and Amazon have reaffirmed the song as king. But Kill for Love is an homage to times past. The music videos end with a title page, like movie trailers from the late 70s. Neil Young is covered to open the album, his 1979 song "Into the Black." The rest of the album drifts like a forgotten dream, long and lazy. Still, I can't listen to one track on its own. I have to start at the beginning, and go the full 80 minutes. It's an album album, one deserving of stereo headphones.
listen: Back from the Grave

7. Chad Valley - Young Hunger

This is the closest I'll come to supporting the R&B revival of 2012. Hugo Manuel has a huge, soulful voice. His live show is just him and his midi controller, but his pipes are so magnificent that the one man show is more than enough to make the girls scream. And then, they dance to his beats. It still has a chillwave vibe, but everyone seems to be growing out of their bedrooms this year. Scoring guest vocals from Twin Shadow, El Perro Del Mar, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, AND Active Child for a debut album is a hell of an accomplishment. I hope the UK is excited about their boy, because he's the best thing I've heard out of Oxford in a long time.
listen: Fall 4 U

6. California Wives - Art History

Chicago album of the year! In a year dominated by garage rock, I'm going with the Vagrant band. Because, sometimes the punkest thing to do is watch John Hughes movies. This new wave throwback is so easy, so confidently executed, so youthful. Catchy melodies and gushing guitar tones, Art History doesn't have anything to prove to the city that bred it, nor to the generation that supports it. About as far from an "important" album as you'll find on a top 10 list this year, what California Wives gave us instead was 11 tracks to fucking listen to like we actually fucking enjoy music. This album is a reminder to get over our bullshit selves and drop the cynicism. God damn, it's like, Obama 2012!
listen: Purple

5. Death Grips - No Love Deep Web

Like an exclamation point (heh) on the death of the music industry, Death Grips punctuate their art with more art. If I can call this the hip-hop album of the year, I will, but I am not sure if that's fair. This is so much more than hip hop--this is a brutal proclamation of independence, raw and violent. It's challenging stuff, exceedingly more so than Odd Future ever was. They even have a track titled "Black Dice." I mean, when rap is inspired by our heroes of underground experimental noise, you know it's a good time to be alive.
listen: full album stream

4. Grimes - Visions

Not quite as challenging as Death Grips, but in that same vein of blood-curdling artistic progress, and if I can diss Lana del Rey one more time, Grimes was totally the it-girl of 2012. Young girls looking for a role model in music right now need to give their tumblr award to Grimes. Her voice is mousey, but her beats are gloomy. Everything echoes, but with ecstatic energy. Synths gurgle like muted primary colors. The aesthetic is something like a Gumby short directed by David Lynch. It's vibrantly unsettling. And "Oblivion" really is one of the most brilliant music videos I've seen in years. Visions is a strong argument against that cranky old fart who thinks that making music on a laptop cheapens art. Her vocals should be in the red. The mix should not be too dynamic. Who needs ProTools and an engineer when you have Garageband? At least one girl doesn't.
listen: Genesis

3. Tame Impala - Lonerism

Psych rockers rejoice, this is what it's all been leading up to. It's Rubber Soul on more drugs. It's Dungen in English. It's everything that psych rock can and ought to be, and even better than that. The sound here is so big, it makes me wonder why everyone has been holding back for so long. I'll admit, I've never been a huge psych fan, but, it has never sounded like Lonerism before. The crunchy electric guitar, rollicking drum fills, reverberating keyboards, punctuating bass, soaring falsetto, and melodies that the Kinks couldn't dream up. It's a joy to listen to this album, from start to finish and on repeat. If only it had come out a few months earlier, this is the music we crank as loud as we can at the summer rooftop parties.
listen: Elephant

2. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Two guys rocking out. If I didn't promise an entire paragraph for each album, that's all I'd have to say for this one. So what else can I say? Well, one of the guys rocks out on the drums. The other guy rocks out on an electric guitar. Both of them sing, often shouting in unison. The line that immediately signaled a "best of the year" selection was "We yell, like Hell, to the Heavens!" After I heard that, I pumped my fist. Then the second time the chorus came around I yelled it with them. This is what rock and roll does to us. It encourages us to raise our voices, our hands, our spirits. Japandroids are well aware of the power of rock music too. Kids celebrate life with rock music, and this album might be forever remembered for it's ability to inspire youthful rowdiness. Even amongst those of us who aren't so youthful anymore.
listen: The Nights of Wine and Roses

1. Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

Hints of tropicalia, electronica, and just plain indie rock are all here. Toss in the sneering vocals, the minor chord changes, and the melancholy lyrics, and this music is exactly what its title indicates. It's perfect for falling in love, or breaking hearts. It sounds warm during the winter, but chills out a sweltering beach party. I have absolutely no clue how this dichotomy works so well, but I could listen to Mixed Emotions at any time, in any mood, for any crowd. When I DJ at the Whistler or Rodan, it gets just as good a response as it does when I risk it at the Lincoln Park sports bars. When I saw them live at Lincoln Hall, I was struck hard by their uniqueness. Usually when I hear new music I can say something like, "Oh, this is like a mix of Vampire Weekend and Delorean" etc.. But, I really can't do that with Tanlines. These guys have a sound all their own, and they're the only guys I've heard this year who I can say this about. I've never been so torn as a critic and fan as I have by this music. I don't know how to separate my feelings here, and since that's never happened before I feel no choice but to say that this is the best album I've heard this year. I have mixed emotions about this, for real.
listen: All of Me

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Best Music of 2012

These are my favorite albums of 2012. As usual, I will post 25-11 now, then the top 10 in a week. I'm only writing a sentence for each of these here, but just click the song link to hear what's so good about each artist listed. Of course, top 10 picks will each get a paragraph from me.

25. Chairlift - Something

Female fronted indie pop that should replace Lana Del Rey altogether.
listen: Ghost Tonight

24. Big K.R.I.T - Live from the Underground

Mainstream hip-hop that isn't heard much on the radio for some unfathomable reason.
listen: I Got This

23. El Perro Del Mar - Pale Fire

Basically the female Cold Swedish Winter.
listen: Walk On By

22. Menomena - Moms

The least detrimental lineup shake-up of the year (and surprisingly so, if I might add).
listen: Capsule

21. Chandeliers - Founding Fathers

The finest electro-kraut in Chicago
listen: Le Corsage

20. Why? - Mumps Etc

Yoni Wolf returns to weird-hop form.
listen: Paper Hearts

19. Wishmountain - Tesco

Matthew Herbert making electronic music with sounds he recorded in a grocery store.

18. The 2 Bears - Be Strong

Hot Chip techno house side project.
listen: Get Together

17. Phedre -Phedre

The band that should take the baton from Of Montreal.
listen: Aphrodite

16. Serengeti - C.A.R.

Chicago's deepest rapper, doing his thing.
listen: Geti Life

15. Black Dice - Mr Impossible AND Eric Copeland - Limbo

A two-for-one since Eric Copeland is in Black Dice, and because one album isn't better than the other.
listen: Pigs or Louie, Louie, Louie

14. Poolside - Pacific Standard Time

Relaxing summer disco with 90s' house piano licks and boat party vibes.
listen: Next To You

13. Dustin Wong - Dreams Say...

Guitar loops, as performed by a virtuoso.
listen: Pink Diamond

12. Hot Chip - In Our Heads

Dance or listen or care strongly or get drunk or fly around or take the dog for a walk or....
listen: Flutes

11. DIIV - Oshin

Dreamy surf rock that is almost as good as Real Estate.
listen: Doused

ok see ya next week

Friday, October 26, 2012

Who Missed Out?: YACHT and The Presets

Two bands that I just don't "get": YACHT, and The Presets. Luckily for me, both of them played the Metro tonight, and I was there. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Whenever I hear something that I don't immediately enjoy, I take it as a cue to listen more. It's like the first time you watch Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You don't understand why anything is happening, but you can't dismiss it for that reason alone. So I was looking forward to giving these bands another chance in a live setting.

So YACHT. They're pretty much the B-52s of indie rock. Depending on your taste in music, that's either amazing or horrific. I lean towards the latter. It's raucous and weird, spazzy and frenetic. Lead vocalist Claire Evans does a decent amount of talk/sing, and a lot more dramatic body movements. Oozing with sexual energy, she wiggles and winks, points to everybody and extends her limbs in all directions, all the while wearing the tightest black dress the Metro stage has ever seen. This is all great, she's a hell of a performer. But sometimes it's a bit too much, to a creepy point even. During one song, Evans was putting her hand on the foreheads of people up front, pushing off like she was their faith healer. She later asked the crowd if anyone had any questions. What would David Bazan say? I can't tell how earnest it is. If it's a gimmick, I don't know what I'm supposed to take away from it. But if it's all sincere, then it's a serious case of "trying too hard."

Then there's the message of YACHT, or whatever is going on with their lyrics and banter. When it comes to songs about living your own life, loving yourself and the moment, and spiritual well-being, I just cant' shake the Switchfoot cobwebs. But with exuberance, YACHT sells this super-duper-positive message during and between every song.  The new-agey extroversion of all this is too much for me. I don't really want my forehead touched, nor do I want to ask a band a question during their show. But plenty of people in the crowd seemed fine with it. Nobody stormed off. It all seemed to be in good fun. I just didn't get it.

Then the Presets. As far as Modular bands go, this is the one I've never been able to get into. Something has always sounded off about them. Give me Cut Copy, Sneaky Sound System, or The Avalanches, and I will dance. But the Presets just make me wonder, "what's the angle here?" Imagine if Joy Division still existed, but only played in River North clubs that offer bottle service--this is something like the vibe I get from the Presets. They have all of the elements of an exciting dance pop duo, but they're just not utilizing their tools properly. Their light show must be hugely expensive, but, the stuff on the four matching LED screens just looks like images from a MacBook screensaver. It's like if Dirk Diggler had only just been an underwear model for Hanes. The Presets have so much potential, but I want to see more.

Maybe I'm not being fair. Or, maybe it's just not my thing. Either way, it's hard for me to say where these two acts belong right now in the world of music. I don't hate either of them, but I can't figure out how to enjoy what they're doing. I guess I still can't watch Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas all the way through either.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You Missed Out: Grimes

(published at Heave Media)

We've all seen these electronic musicians that press play on their laptop and dance around on stage. We're never impressed. Nor we should be, because it's a cop-out (especially in EDM. But that rant is for another time). Grimes does plenty of knob-twisting, but she is actually something much more than another hack artist. She's just an artist.

Stuffed animals are strewn about the stage as Grimes comes out to her sold-out crowd. Two backup players open the set with her, two girls wrapped in something like cellophane on either side of the stage. A couple songs in, two more girls crawl (literally) out onto the stage wearing nightshirts and pink and teal wigs, with black makeup on their faces. As Grimes sings one of her hits, "Circumambient," the girls crawl toward each other. They meet in front of Grimes' keyboard, one starts playing with a stuffed dolphin while the other brushes her hair. By the next song, the two are engaging in some light choreography, standing to dance to the chorus of "Oblivion." For the lyric, "see you on a dark night," they point out to the crowd then smack their ass in unison on "night."

It might sound a little bit weird, but the performance aspect of the art made the Metro stage an interesting place to look at. The music had a similar effect, melodies that were fairly off-kilter but beats that were easy to dance to. Grimes moved around a lot, loosening up her crowd more and more as the night went on. About halfway through her set, half a dozen burly, bearded gay guys started dancing really hard in front of me. Half of them took their shirts off; proud bears having unrelenting fun. Pretty soon after, the entire main level of the venue was hands in the air, jumping up and down, going all out nuts for the art.

I went upstairs to try another view for "Genesis." On my way up, I accidentally stepped in a puddle of puke. A Metro employee apparently tried to tell me, but it was too late. We both shrugged and I peered over the crowd at the balcony. At some point during the puke incident, I missed a bunch of balloons that were thrown into the crowd. The opening acts were now on stage with Grimes too, dancing and tossing the stuffed animals around. Various Pokemon and Teletubbies nearly tapped the ceiling. And the audience was out their minds. It was one of the most enthusiastic Metro crowds I've ever seen.

Grimes didn't talk throughout the entire set until the end, and by the time she did her crowd was screaming for ecstatic joy. It was probably the loudest I've heard it in there since I happened to see the All-American Rejects during their "Swing Swing" peak. Sorry, not to be a downer there. Grimes' show was worth the thunderous applause. After introducing her band, she explained to the crowd that she doesn't like how bands go offstage and then come back for an encore, so she said that she would just play her encore song and then end the show right then and there. The crowd cheered. I cheered. Who are they kidding with encores anymore? When it was over everyone left so satisfied that not a single "one. more. song." chant was on anyone's mind.

We need more artists at the Metro. Chicagoans love art. And we really love Grimes.

Monday, September 10, 2012

You Missed Out: Why? and Serengeti

Remember when music critics wondered if Conor Oberst might be the next Bob Dylan? And then when that didn't happen it turned into Sufjan Stevens. Then after much embarrassment, we realized how silly the idea was in the first place. Another Bob Dylan will never happen, nor should it. Bob Dylan is the only Bob Dylan, and that's the end of a very boring conversation.

But what was it about Bob Dylan that makes us want to find another artist like him? What virtuosic brilliance did does he encompass that no other musician before or after has ? And what in the hell am I doing bringing this up in a review of a Why? concert?

First of all, I think Bob Dylan is special because he struck at timelessness in his music. Sure, some think "60's" when they hear "Blowin' in the Wind," but I don't. I hear justice and compassion, things that did not come and go in a decade. Why?'s Yoni Wolf does something very similar. Take the lyric, "on my fixie with the chopped horns turned in, trailing behind your biodiesel Benz." It takes a specific type of person to understand what any of this means. Yet, the details aren't important at all. Somewhere behind the details, a blurry image of anxiety and cowardice is clearer.

Yoni's honesty is alarming. Even when it's fiction, his songs strike deep into the psyche of a listener. Over clattering of glockenspiels and drumsticks, his croaky voice touches all of us who've felt that dread. When we are assured that Heaven does not exist, only the place we were before we were born, that's when Why?'s music gets real. Yoni's work is about life, death, and all the funny and depressing stuff in between. It's not always pretty, but pleasure is never constant.

Lincoln Hall was sold out with young faces last night. A bunch of back-slidden pastors kids, hanging on every word that came out of Yoni's mouth. He clownishly danced around the stage while two drummers kept perfect odd time on either side. Two female voices accompanied him, giving the band a bit of a Dirty Projectors look. When Yoni lifted his arms, so did the crowd. It's a new church, but Yoni isn't the deity.

Rapping about reality isn't always the best way captivate a hip hop fan. But Why? isn't hip hop. It's something timeless. It feels as real now as it did six years ago. It's not bad poetry. The kids never lie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

CHIRP Podcasts

I have some great artist interviews coming up for CHIRP. Listen to my show tonight at 8:45 to hear my discussion with Bowerbirds, and stay tuned in in the weeks to come for my interviews with Serengeti, Dr Dog, and Star Slinger.

I'm going to take this moment to post a couple other podcasts I did for CHIRP, including what might be the most enjoyable audio interview I've ever had the pleasure of conducting. Nick Zammuto is one of my all-time favorite artists, and he was kind enough to give CHIRP an exclusive interview about the death of The Books and birth of his Zammuto project. Download these and listen whenever, however. Podcasts are cool like that:

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Local Mix (Chicago edition)

My friend Jim Joyce asked me to make him a mix CD. So this is for him first, but everyone else who cares about Chicago's local music scene too. If you've felt yourself falling behind, listening to this will get you back up to speed. And sorry if your band isn't on here, but don't take it personally. It's not a very long mix, but these are the twelve local acts I'm most excited about these days. Enjoy the Chicago music.

1. Magic Milk- So Cool
2. Cave- W U J
3. California Wives- Marianne
4. Maps & Atlases- Fever
5. A Lull- Weapons For War
6. YAWN- Take It With Me
7. Chandeliers- le Corsage
8. Dawn Golden & Rosy Cross- Blacks
9. Serengeti- Go Dancin
10. Supreme Cuts- Belly
11. yourfeetstoobig- Speckle Belly
12. Young Man- 21


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012 (so far anyway)

Even now, my laziness is screaming at me to stop writing. But I feel a duty to the 17 people who care about this blog to share some opinions. It's mid-July, and I'm finally giving the mid-term. This is two months late, but whatever. I am not opening my front door today. I can't deal with 96 degrees anymore. So here's the best stuff I've heard so far (not including Fiona Apple cuz that's too obvious):

Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

I saw the duo perform at Lincoln Hall this past Sunday, and hearing them live secured this album at the top for me. The singer has a sniveling voice that we shouldn't dance to, but it happens anyway. The tropicalia rhythms and somber synths mix so perplexing well, like a tiny tree planted in a cinder block. The title of the album says it all though. It's still unclear what this band is exactly, and that excites the bejeezus out of me.
listen to All of Me

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Fireworks open and close this ideal summer album, recalling either blankets on vast lawns, or city rooftops and alleyways. The rock and roll in between the sound clips is what makes this one of the best albums of the year though. These two guys are fist pumpers, head bangers, girl kissers, chair kickers, beer guzzlers, and romantics. By celebrating the moment for whatever it happens to bring, they've found that rare sound that is pure rock and roll.
listen to The House That Heaven Built

Dustin Wong - Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads

I'm a sucker for loops. Dustin Wong loops guitar harmonies like it's his job (oh...). This mostly wordless music builds and crescendos until it's suddenly cut off for a new track. On the graph of the song's story, there's never a conflict resolution. Maybe this is what's so intriguing about Wong's style. He leaves possibility in his compositions. The art of the possible was always politics, but Dustin Wong might take it back for the musicians before long.
listen to Pink Diamond

Grimes - Visions

I missed her set at Pitchfork, but hope to be at the Metro in a few months for that show. That will inform a lot of what I decide for my year end list with Visions. It was an early frontrunner, but I find myself listening to it less and less lately. Maybe the weirdness is just that, and doesn't have good bones after all? The live show will tell me more about Grimes. Until then, I still think this album is brilliant.
listen to Oblivion

Zammuto - Zammuto

Nick Zammuto was the lead singer of my favorite band in college. The Books don't exist anymore, and Zammuto is a family man, making art to support his wife and kids. Growing up is strange, but this album slams a fist down on the dinner table and says "play with your food!" At times it's even zanier than The Books, but also more refined. And Zammuto's live show is the best I've seen this year. No brainer/all-brainer here.
listen to Too Late to Topologize

Hot Chip - In Our Heads

Didn't expect this one. Maybe it has something to do with the DJ I've become, but this is the music I want to hear at every party I step into this summer. It's pop music for anybody who loves another catchy melody but doesn't really want to do another Irish car bomb.
listen to Motion Sickness

Chromatics - Kill For Love

A long, sultry night drive of an album right here. Images of a clean cut Ryan Gosling flash back and forth in the mind's eye, neon lights peripheral, trails of haze fading too slow out of focus. Don't expect too much of Chromatics, that's not what this is about.
listen to Lady

Black Dice - Mr. Impossible

The loudest show I've seen in a while happened at Bottom Lounge a few months back. Black Dice surrounded my aura and roughed it up a bit. These songs are supposed to be heard live, but if this album can at least remind of that, it's an easy top 10 pick.
listen to Pigs

Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't

You'll hear it soon enough. Jens is so boyish and precious, but not at all insufferable. He has a great sense of humor and self-awareness, and just knows how to write a good pop song. His songs are all timeless in quality, and this new album only adds to his impressive resume.
listen to The End of the World is Bigger Than Love

Phedre - Phedre

You know I like weird, especially the sort that doesn't take itself too seriously. This is the music for art school kids who don't "get it," they just get it. Of Montreal should open for Phedre someday.
 listen to Aphrodite

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Missed Out: Destroyer and Sandro Perri

(published at Heave Media)

As I hopped off my bike in front of the Gingerman, I noticed Dan Bejar sauntering towards the side alley of the Metro. His unkempt hair and beard are unmistakable, especially contrasted against his frocky white shirt. "Dan Bejar!" I yelled instinctively, "Have a good show tonight." He managed a smirk and acknowledged my remark with a slight hand gesture. He didn't say anything, and continued on his way.

Bejar is a rare persona in indie rock. His lazy demeanor (vocally and aesthetically) is somehow a supplement to his rock star aura. If the young Bob Dylan always kept his mouth shut, until a bottle of liquor approached his lips, it would be something close to what Bejar's mystique accomplishes. Of course, the only other time he opens his mouth is to sing his songs. And thank God for that.

Before Destroyer took stage, Sandro Perri opened the night with what was a hybrid of late 80s' SAIC avant garde pop and Evanston Space approved soft rock for your uncle. Playing originals from their excellent album, Impossible Spaces, and closing with a John Martyn cover, it was the perfect opening act for the band that would soon play tracks off of 2011's yacht-pop masterpiece, Kaputt.

I'm beginning to think that Sandro Perri might have released the most underrated album of 2011, especially now that I've heard what he's capable of doing with his compositions in a live context. He is a critic's dream in that he is both artist and musician, and not one more than the other. Slow and steady works to his benefit, not obligating listeners to get too riled up for his clanky guitar solos or grating synth lines. Jazzy drum fills and meandering flute licks keep Steely Dan fans happy, and the odd time signatures bring out the Dirty Projectors kids. He will almost certainly gain new fans after this stint with Destroyer, maybe even a headlining tour before the end of the year.

Destroyer's lineup was eight men strong, Bejar in the middle of a phenomenal backing band. A trumpet player with noise effect pedals and an electric clarinet were two things I had never seen before. I wasn't surprised to see either of these things at a Destroyer show, but unfortunately I couldn't say the same for a couple of people in the audience. After a droning noise solo by the trumpeter, some jerk in the balcony yelled, "what was that?!" And a moment later, a girl shouted up to the stage, "you look so fucking bored!" At the time I wanted to find these audience members, and show them the door. But to be fair, I didn't "get" Destroyer for years either. For the first five years I just couldn't understand how it wasn't a metal band. We can have a little patience for art's sake.

But for the most part, Destroyer's Chicago crowd was polite. I only noticed a couple camera phones taking pictures. I actually can't remember the last time I saw so many people enjoying the moment of a concert so unabashedly. This is how it should be though, because Dan Bejar is one captivating individual.

Bejar kept his mic stand waist high, perfect for either leaning on like a cane, and even better as a halfway meeting point between his mouth and drinks lined on the stage floor. Every moment he wasn't singing was spent crouching near his alcohol. He had bottles of beer, and cups of other stuff. He appeared drunk, but it's also difficult to say for sure. He might just have that drowsy look going all the time. Either way, it is the perfect visual for a guy talk-singing, "You've been wasted from the day, and now you know, oh. Suffering idiots all of your life and this is what you get."

Playing a balanced mix of new and old songs, everything sounded rowdier with the huge band. Trumpet and sax blare-outs raised the treble level painfully high at times, but then brought it right back down. Bejar kept the vibes chill, again, whether it was intentional or not is unclear. But isn't that what the best artists always do? Creativity and ambiguity in tango, personified in dreary Dan Bejar. It's the poetry so many artists seek but never find, Bejar appears to be so comfortable penning it that it could kill him. He even holds his skinny mic with his fingertips like it's a writer's pen. That or cigarette. Is music his muse or his vice? Possibly both.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spencer Krug interview for AV Club

Moonface's Spencer Krug

Fans of Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, and Frog Eyes all know Spencer Krug. With all of those bands on hiatus, the Montreal king of indie rock is now concentrating all of his creative ambitions on his sort-of-solo project, Moonface. Heartbreaking Bravery, Krug’s latest full length, was recorded with Finnish post-rock band Siinai, and he tours in support of the record this summer stopping Saturday, June 16 at Lincoln Hall. The A.V. Club talked to Krug about perpetually shifting artistic ambitions, increasingly challenging music, and love of Dan Bejar.

The A.V. Club: Heartbreaking Bravery sounds so much bigger and dynamic compared to your previous Moonface material. Is that because of Siinai? 

Spencer Krug: The bigger, more dynamic sound of this record as compared to the first two Moonface releases is mostly due to the fact that I was working with a full band in a large studio, instead of working at home by myself, using mostly digital percussion and key-based instruments. And yes, Siinai has a huge, sort of lush and melodramatic sound. It was what I was drawn to initially and one of the main reasons I wanted to work with them. We tried to embrace those elements on this album. And the producers were very much into creating a huge sound with a lot of ambiance and space, so they helped a lot to exploit the dynamics of the giant room in which we recorded. Everyone was on the same page.

AVC: Did you write the music with Siinai or just add lyrics to their compositions?

SK: We wrote the music together—at least the broader strokes. The details within the parts—the general riffs, beats, and stuff—was mostly Siinai, as far as their own instruments were concerned. They started working on that end of things before I got to Helsinki, sending me MP3s while I was still in Montreal. I listened to these and started thinking about lyrics, and how to structure the riffs into songs that would work with the vocals. When I got to Helsinki, we started putting it all together, talking as a group about how the songs should be structured, which details needed to be changed, and what I would be adding with my playing and vocals, basically just taking a bunch of loose ideas we had come up with on two separate continents and sculpting together once we were all finally in the same room. In the studio, further changes were made, group decisions made in the sauna, as well the writing of entire new songs that were born out of late night jam sessions.
None of us let any of our ideas be too set in stone before I got to Helsinki. We wanted things to stay open right up until they were recorded. And nobody had any expectations about what kind of record we would be making, as in what genre, if any at all. I think in those ways the album was allowed to become what it “wanted” without a struggle. In the end, I'd say the album was very much created by a group working as one toward a single goal. It was not just a layering of one person's ideas over top those of another.

AVC: When Moonface plays live, are all Spencer Krug projects fair game, or would playing a Sunset Rubdown song be taboo? 

SK: My first impulse is this: There are no rules! It's all just tunes! But that can't always be true.
Anything is fair game, sure, but playing a Sunset Rubdown or Wolf Parade song with Siinai would feel like a step backward. I guess it would be a “cover,” because any Sunset or Wolf Parade songs worth playing are ones I wrote with other people. I couldn't call them Spencer Krug songs, let alone Moonface songs. But I have no desire to do anything like that right now, and I doubt Siinai would have any desire to learn any of that stuff. In fact most of Siinai have never even heard Sunset Rubdown, which I think is pretty cool. Right now we're still just interested in how this latest album can sound on stage. Then, after these tours in 2012, we might make another record together. Maybe add some new people.

AVC: Would you play a Siinai song with a different band on stage? 

SK: No, I wouldn't play a Siinai song with another band. That would feel weird. Musically there's too much Siinai in these songs for me to take any license with them. But speaking lyrically, I'd feel fine setting the words to different music, if a situation called for it which will almost for sure never happen.

AVC: If you could have a Spencer Krug clone, would he go back to working on Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, or would he help you with Moonface? Does a part of you want to keep up the old creative projects, or are you totally devoted to what you’re doing now?

SK: If I could have a Spencer Krug clone, I'd ask him to go get a real job and secure some sort of future for the two of us while I continue chasing every musical pipe dream I have. Maybe he could buy us some land. I keep hearing that's a smart thing to do.
I don't need any help with Moonface and Moonface definitely doesn't need any more of me. I have no desire at all to resurrect Wolf Parade or Sunset Rubdown. Those bands have both run their course, and were, I believe, creatively spent by the end. I am much more excited about the future than I am about anything from the past, and Moonface is the only thing I have on the horizon. It feels simple and right and it's the only way I want to be on stage right now.

AVC: Is Moonface a culmination up to this point where you’re utilizing all that you’ve learned for this sole project, or is it more like a totally blank slate?

SK: I'm much more comfortable on stage nowadays than I used to be and in the studio as well. That comfort translates into confidence. I care much less now about what other people think than I used to. I think that sort of candor, that disregard for anything except the song itself, helps to make music that is absolutely sincere, which is the best kind of music—more rewarding for both myself and anyone listening.
But more than anything else, what I've taken away from past projects is the knowing of what I don’t want to do: I don't want to form a "band," in the shitty sense of the word.
I want to avoid getting stuck in a musical rut, where I am expected by my bandmates or record label or listening audience to maintain a certain kind of sound. So, more than Moonface itself being a blank slate—which it hopefully is—I'm trying to make each album a blank slate—though that might be impossible. I would love for each album I make to be listened to and loved or hated objectively for what it is and not be compared to other things I've made in the past. But it hasn't happened yet. Maybe one day. For now, allowing myself the freedom to change things up keeps me interested in making music. Like everyone else, I am always changing. My inspirations and tastes always fluctuate, and so naturally I want to go in different directions. I think it's absurd to expect myself, or any sort of artist, to stay on one path. It's lazy and boring, for both the artist and the critic.

AVC: In an interview you did with Under The Radar, you mentioned interest in writing fiction. Do you have any plans for a book? 

SK: I have an interest in writing fiction, yes, but that's not to say I'm any good at it. I used to write more often just for myself, for the joy of it, but now it's only something I poke at every few months or so. I haven't had any real time yet to figure out if it's something I'm truly capable of. So, no, I have no plans for a book. I do hope that one day, maybe in another five or 10 years, I'll be able to sit down and properly try my hand. Once I do that I'll better know if publishing fiction is an aspiration.

AVC: Have you gleaned much from Dan Bejar from your time together in Swan Lake? 

SK: Dan is a sort of role model for me. Sometimes I think of him when I'm recording. He's one of those few people about whom I wonder if they'd approve. I think everyone has a few people like that in their lives: quiet mentors they keep in the back of their head.

AVC: Would you like to be regarded as a great lyricist like Dan?

SK: His is a standard that I'll probably never meet. Bejar writes poetry, and then somehow sings the stuff. I write lyrics designed to be sung. And whereas I would probably, on some juvenile level, like to be regarded as a great lyricist, I know that I am not. Bejar, on the other hand, is already a great lyricist, and probably couldn't care less about whether or not he is regarded as such. It's a telling difference, I think. Hopefully, I'll bend more in his direction as I get older.

AVC: What do you hope is the legacy of Spencer Krug?

SK: When I think of the projects I've been in and the assortment of songs I've put out, I see an image of myself standing on a big pile of random objects. These objects are piled up to make a sort of half-disgusting pedestal. Some of the objects are nice, like shiny toy cars and candle holders and maybe even a pearl or two, some of the objects are neutral, like a kitchen faucet or a half-full bottle of whisky, and some are gross, like fish heads and apple cores and cigar butts. Part of me would love to take away all the apple cores and fish heads, but it's too late. They're there for good. All I can do now is try to think that they are charming. Hopefully others can do the same. That's about the best I could hope for in terms of a legacy.

AVC: Do you feel prolific? Is music a lot of hard work, or does it come naturally for you?

SK: I don't feel prolific, no. I've been in a lot of bands, yes, but for the most part they only ever existed in a meaningful way one project at a time. I don't think I work any harder than any other musician, especially us lazy rock musicians.
And no, I don't find music to be hard work. It's complete enjoyment, and the thing that comes to me most naturally. It's my favorite pastime. In that way I don't think of it as hard or easy, or measured in any way. It's just a thing that I like doing, like going swimming.

AVC: This question came from Wikipedia, so it might not be totally accurate, but for the page on Swan Lake, it reads, “The band originally wanted to call the album Before The Law, a parable by Franz Kafka, however they changed it to Enemy Mine out of fear of furthering their reputation as 'literary.'” And in The A.V. Club review for that album, you were referred to as “lit-rockers.” What’s wrong with being literary?

SK: I don't remember wanting to call the album Before The Law. If that's true, then it was more of a Mercer/Bejar idea. But I myself wouldn't call anything I've done “lit-rock.” I am not well read enough for it to be true. I don't think there's anything wrong with being literary, as long as it doesn't make the music completely inaccessible. If you're putting music into the world then there is little point in putting out things that only English majors can relate to. I think it's fair for music to be challenging, but even challenging music should be able to be understood simply through repeated listening, without the need for reference material. I think music should speak for itself.

AVC: Would you rather challenge yourself or your audience?

SK: I think if I challenge myself then it will automatically challenge some other people. And I can't challenge anyone who is musically beyond the things that I find challenging. Really, I make music for myself first, with the knowledge that if I get something out of it, then probably some others will as well.
The value in challenging music is the same for both musician and audience—to not become bored or stagnant, to continue moving forward. I believe in trying to make modern music, without being completely inaccessible, and sometimes nodding to the past in hopefully relevant ways. But this also means taking risks, sometimes failing in other people's eyes, and living by the notion that if you've made something that pleases everyone then you've probably made something stupid.

AVC:What is the difference between what you’ve been doing compared to chameleonic artists like Bob Dylan or Damon Albarn? Do you feel pretty comfortable in your own skin regardless of whatever project you happen to be working on?

SK: There's not a lot of difference between me and someone who has worked only under his or her own name. If I had, until now, been working under the name Spencer Krug then absolutely I would just continue to work under that name in anything and everything I'm involved in. But that hasn't been the case. I've been in bands with band names, names that represented not just me but a set group of people. Can you imagine if Marimba and Shit-Drums was released as a Wolf Parade record? Anytime I've ever changed the moniker for music I'm working on it has been because the group of people I was working with has changed. Maybe I could have called Moonface “Sunset Rubdown,” but I think it would have been unfair to the members of that band that helped me build it up, and confusing for Sunset Rubdown fans. On top of that, I wanted to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with a name that had no particular sound attached to it.
That said, I would really like to just stick with Moonface from now until the end. To me, it's not a band name, but an alter-ego, allowing me to work as Moonface even if I'm invited to the next “We are the World” recording session.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This EDM Thing...

When someone asks me what I do, the answer out of my mouth is always "writer". But when friends introduce me to people, most of the time I'm their "DJ friend". I have some serious aversions to that, even if it's a fair label. I do DJ in Chicago every weekend, whether it's somewhere cool and fun like Whistler, Rodan, Simone's or Burlington, or an awful Lincoln Park sports bar where it's Top 40 mashed up with 90s rap. And, I often DJ weddings, and have done a few music festivals too. So fine, I can be a DJ. I'm ok with that.

The reason I have this aversion is because of the insane hugeness of EDM right now. DJs are today's rock stars. Deadmau5, Skrillex, and Calvin Harris headline summer music festivals. These are single individuals, pressing buttons and twisting knobs. But the crowd doesn't care about whatever they're doing behind the laptop, it's all about the drop. And it makes them crazy.

What I do when I DJ is nothing close to what these individuals do. I mix songs together, in whatever order I deem fit for the occasion. I don't flail my arms around like a Pete Townsend of the decks, hell I don't even scratch. And I absolutely refuse to ever take a DJ name. For me, DJing is just a supplement to my career. I'm a writer first, the DJing is just another dimension of my "music guy" persona.

I share music with people, in one sense or another. I studied communications in college, and I want to emphasize the audio aspect in what I do. When someone comes up to the booth and asks what track I'm playing, I smile big. It means I've done my job well if I've introduced someone to something they enjoy enough to ask about. People are making great art in music right now, and I am happy to be a middle man. I'm a communicator, not an entertainer.

Now the thing about these EDM guys, they are entertainers. Nobody is supposed to ask questions, everybody is just expected to "go fucking mental." These guys put on shows. I put on one show in my life, when I played bass in a last-second hardcore band with my two high school friends at the Manhattan Irish Fest. I jumped all over the stage, missing every note, while pasty white kids screamed and moshed to the noise. I wasn't sharing anything worthwhile here. I wasn't communicating anything. It was pure entertainment.

As for the reason I'm writing this blog post now, well, I'm just freaked out by EDM's intrusion into my world of communication arts. People are writing cover stories about Skrillex. Pitchfork (Ryan Schreiber himself, even) gave an Avicii song a "Best New Track" honor. The New York Times published an article about DJs who don't know how popular the song they just played is. Vocalo interviewed a panel of turntablists who bitch about how the art of DJing has been lost in technology. EDM, and DJing, is a big stupid thing right now. And I'm a DJ. So, now what?

I guess I just want to keep the distinction clear. The turntablists remind that scratching is an art, DJing is just playing songs. I have nothing to do with the former. Guys like Skrillex and Avicii are producers, not DJs. I don't make my own beats, and have no intention to. I am a DJ. I play songs. That is all.

It was years ago when Girl Talk said that he wasn't a DJ. And this might've been the floodgate. Since around the same time, I've been honing my skills on Traktor. That is, beat matching while fiddling with EQ. If a guy who mashes up 10 tracks in a minute is NOT a DJ, then hell, I can be a DJ. And I'm not the only guy who felt this way. Thousands of kids took to their laptops, asking friends if they could "spin" at their next house party. People became interested in electronic music and, more importantly, the software and hardware that makes electronic dance music possible.

When you figure out how to set a loop, kill the bass on a vocal track and lay it over the beat, it's thrilling. But right now, it is way too easy to do. It was five years ago when Hank Hill asked, "Is everyone a DJ?" and Peggy rightly answered, "yes." All of the years of compiled interest in easy mixing is paying off now, for a few lucky individuals.

The chasm really freaks me out. Skrillex is making millions of dollars, but millions of kids like me are playing songs in bars on a weekend for 100 bucks. The 99 percent are communicating great art to a crowd still, while the 1 percent are thumping nonsense to glitzed up sorority girls for football stadium concerts. And on top of this, the small/no-name DJs in the bars are sometimes expected to play the actual tracks of the Ultra DJs. Isn't that kind of weird? Just a little bit?

I was DJing in Lincoln Park a couple weeks ago and a bro came up to me and said, "how about some house music?" I asked him what he wanted to hear. I'm thinking Frankie Knuckles, or more likely something like Felix da Housecat. But of course he answers "Some fuckin' Kaskade, yo!" I blame all of this on Daft Punk. French repetitious assholes in their pyramid.

So yeah, I am a DJ. But hopefully now you can understand why I prefer to be known as a writer. I don't make dubstep, I just tell you why to stay away from it.

(post-dubstep is still ok though)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

You ask me, "what's some cool new music I should listen to this summer?" I tell you, "'like' my blog's page on facebook, download this mix, feel good about life." I promise there's less chillwave in this year's edition.


1. Star Slinger- Mornin'
2. Chairlift- I Belong In Your Arms
3. M83- Midnight City (Man Without Country remix)
4. Neon Indian- Polish Girl
5. Grimes- Oblivion
6. The Cool Kids- Get Right
7. Black Dice- Spy Vs Spy
8. AU- OJ
9. Zammuto- Too Late to Topologize
10. Here We Go Magic- How Do I Know
11. Kisses- Midnight Lover
12. Tanlines- Not the Same
13. Chromatics- At Your Door
14. Friendly Fires- Hurting (Tensnake remix)
15. Toro y Moi- Freaking Out
16. School of Seven Bells- The Night
17. Memory Tapes- Trance Sisters
18. The 2 Bears- Work

Thursday, May 10, 2012

School Of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza on the art of the ghost story

(originally published at AV Club Chicago
Shoegaze-pop duo School Of Seven Bells has always wafted of a hazily numinous aesthetic, but the band goes all out dream-goth on its latest album, Ghostory. Out earlier this year, the album is just what its title says—a ghost story. In preparation for the band’s show at Lincoln Hall Saturday, April 28, The A.V. Club talked with Alejandra Deheza, one half of the ghostly duo, about what makes ghost stories so captivating, the Holy Ghost versus the Holy Spirit, and the difference between ghosts as metaphors and the ghosts you hear truckers call in to talk about at 3 a.m. on Coast To Coast AM.

The A.V. Club: What are the key elements that make up a good ghost story?

Alejandra Deheza: I think the scariest angle has always been to demonize the unknown, keeping it as faceless and as hungry as possible.

AVC: Is there any particular ghost story you remember from your childhood that has stuck? Anything that really brought the nightmares? 

AD: Two things terrified me as a kid—the devil and dark mirrors. I think I needed electroshock therapy after I watched Poltergeist III. It took me years to get over it—I kid you not. Lucky for me, I had a huge mirror right in front of my bed for most of my childhood. Good times.

AVC: School Of Seven Bells’ sound is pretty cinematic. As an adult, what are your favorite ghost story movies? 

AD: Lost Highway, Twin Peaks. Those stories, to me, epitomize the idea of “as above, so below.” No layer of existence is inaccessible. There’s no illusion of separateness, no facet that can be successfully ignored. They’re all exposed and all susceptible to the elements for better or for worse. I have a friend who had an epiphany on salvia once. The epiphany was “Popsicle.” The idea that when you bite into a Popsicle, there are all of these layers going on simultaneously. Now, this would have to be a Creamsicle maybe, but you get the idea.

AVC: Would you want to score a film? 

AD: That’s definitely something I could see us doing. I’d like to take a crack at re-scoring What About Bob? or Groundhog Day. They’re so brilliantly funny and dark, but I just don’t get what’s playing in the background.

AVC: Ghostory is about a character named Lafaye. What kind of ghosts is she dealing with in the story?

AD: There’s a quote at the beginning of The Devil’s Backbone that sums it up pretty well. It goes, “What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”

Ghostory is about Lafaye confronting these relationships, and these experiences that continue to follow her. It’s gotten to the point where she can’t even hear herself think. They won’t leave her alone until she gives them a voice. There you have it.

AVC: Have you ever experienced a real ghost? Our favorite radio show is Coast To Coast AM, especially when people call in with ghost stories.

AD: I’ve seen ghosts plenty. A couple of my cousins grew up kind of witchy, and they were always taught to speak to ghosts. One ghost would constantly switch her ceiling fan on and off, and her mom just told her to tell the ghost to stop. The ghost behaved ever since. Who’d have thought they’d be so compliant, with nothing to lose? To any ghosts that are reading over my shoulder right now, that’s a compliment. 

AVC: Are there musical ghosts? Ghosts of bands that are no more? Is [bandmate] Benjamin [Curtis] ever haunted by the ghosts of Secret Machines or On!Air!Library!?

AD: No one’s a ghost yet. Hope it stays that way for a while.

AVC: Would you say that your music has a particularly haunting quality? 

AD: I would say it does, for the simple fact that I tend to write about things that I didn’t know were haunting me until that moment. When I begin writing lyrics for songs, that’s when the spirits come out. I realize how much they’ve been steering my life. And how much every movement and decision was influenced by experiences that I wasn’t consciously channeling, things that I had supposedly put behind me. It’s kind of like being possessed.

AVC: One of our favorite School Of Seven Bells songs is Prince Of Peace.” Speaking of Biblical allusions, what do you think of the Holy Ghost?

AD: “Prince Of Peace” is actually one of my favorites too. The Holy Ghost always seemed so morbid to me. Like something serving a sentence. Funny how you’re taught to be scared of ghosts and then something like the Holy Ghost pops up. Holy Spirit always sounded better to me. Spirit sounds inspired. That idea actually seems cool to me. Holiness equals purity plus inspiration. I can get behind that. Then again, “giving up the ghost” sounds like a sweet relief, whereas “giving up the spirit” sounds like it would be sad. I could go on for hours about this. I’ll spare you.

AVC: What are the most overrated types of ghosts? 

AD: The ones that spook you. I feel like people only think about those ghosts.

AVC: Then how about the most underrated ghosts?

AD: The pervy peeper ghosts. Being a ghost seems like it would be perv heaven. Makes sense to me. Simultaneous layers, see?

AVC: What’s so ghostly about your record label [Ghostly International] anyway?

AD: Maybe they can walk through walls? Wow. If I was a music writer, that would be a pretty killer metaphor, don’t you think? I think I’ve had too much coffee. In all seriousness, Ghostly is an amazing label. I couldn’t have thought of a better place for us to experiment and grow as a band.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Maps & Atlases for AV Club

Maps & Atlases’ world tour pamphlet, or where to get vegetarian food in Prague

Should any readers find themselves touring with Maps & Atlases, they can expect a food-centric experience, unforeseen adventures with the locals, and loud polyrhythmic indie rock. The band officially kicks off its North American tour at the Metro on May 11. Frontman Dave Davison assembled an exclusive world tourist pamphlet for The A.V. Club, just in time for Maps & Atlases’ globe-trotting tour in support of their new album, Beware And Be Grateful.

Dave Davison: Each time in Berlin, we’ve stayed in a hostel called Rock ’N’ Roll Herberge, which is super affordable, comfortable, is in a good walking neighborhood, and the people who work there are really nice. In addition to that, they have good music-themed meals, a lot of which are vegan-friendly. I recommend the Jello Biafra breakfast.

DD: We played one of our wildest shows ever in Austin a couple years ago at a coop that had people hanging from rafters during our set and it was a perfect balance of frightening and fun. Austin has so many great things to do, such as going to Barton Springs, going to see the bats at the Congress Avenue bridge, eating at Bouldin Creek or Mothers, both of which are fantastic! Both Halcyon and Thunderbird are great coffee shops. The Chilantro food truck is really good too.

DD: Once on the way to Philadelphia a tire fell off our van in the mountains and we ended up stranded for several days in a small town, but it ended up being fine. As for the city itself, Honey’s Sit ’N Eat is a place that we always stop, even if we’re just passing through Philadelphia. As for music stores, Delfino Guitars is definitely worth checking out.

DD: When playing in Copenhagen last, we played in an area of the city called Christiania that is a pretty incredible place that somehow has its own laws independent of the EU. There is amazing art and graffiti all over the area and we were taking pictures and some guy ran and jumped into our van freaking out, threatening to take our phones. Apparently because of government crackdowns and spying they are really sensitive to photography in the area, but it’s a really interesting place regardless.

DD: We’ve only been to Prague once and unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time there, but we did eat in some kind of strange cafeteria where these old men made us vegetarian Czech dishes that were delicious.

DD: Outside of Denver, we’ve gone hiking in Estes Park, which was a great experience. The Mercury Café is definitely my favorite spot to eat and hang out in Denver. Everyone is nice there, the food is great, there are a bunch of interesting activities going on there and they also have a bunch of books that you can take. Last time I got Lance Armstrong and Alan Alda’s biographies and thoroughly enjoyed both. Watercourse Foods in Denver is also good. If you’re passing through Fort Collins definitely eat at Tasty Harmony and go to the Bean Cycle for coffee.

Mexico City
DD: Mexico City is incredible and there is an endless amount to do and see and it’s a great walking city. Coyoacán is a really interesting neighborhood and there is a great coffee shop there called El Jarocho that serves Veracruz-style coffee. Caravanserai is a fantastic tea house in the Colonia Roma neighborhood. I also really enjoyed eating this baked sweet potato-type vegetable that people sold on the street called camote.

DD: There are so many good food trucks and delicious Stumptown coffee everywhere!

DD: There are so many excellent places to go in Chicago and it’s tough to narrow down, so here is a list of places we love:
To eat: Irazu, The Spice Thai, Karyn’s, Lula, Bite, Native Foods, Handlebar, El Cid, Flying Saucer, Soul Vegetarian, Big Star
For coffee: Intelligentsia, Café Mustache, Wormhole, Star Café, Filter
Venues: Schubas, The Hideout, Lincoln Hall, Empty Bottle, Metro, Subterranean
Record Stores: Reckless Records, Saki, Permanent Records, Logan Hardware, Dave’s Records, Laurie’s Planet Of Sound

DD: My two favorite things about Amsterdam are the multiple games of [giant street chess] I’ve witnessed while there, as well as the gigantic swans everywhere.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Five Years of Photoblogging Chicago's Music Scene

I've been going to concerts since I was 12, and even then I would always take one picture of the band with a disposable camera. Guardian, Slick Shoes, and Danielson prints are probably still in my mom's basement in some moldy box. Maybe I'll go hunt them down someday, and scan some photos of Cornerstone 1999 for all our nostalgic needs. But the best I can do right now is go back through my Flickr accounts.

Since I've been receiving payments for music writing (five years now), I've continued the habit of displaying one picture in each show review. Whether it was for Relevant, Heave, or just my good old blog here, these pics always supplemented my show review. But looking over my old pics, I realized that they actually tell a better collective story now compared to what they were each originally intended for. Let's go:

Menomena @ the Empty Bottle. March 2007

The oldest pic in my Flickr. That's me, just a part of the crowd... bright eyed before my favorite band, who had just released my "album of the year" a month earlier (Friend and Foe). I still have that black hoodie. I wore it today actually. I think this was right after the smoking ban went into effect in Chicago, and I no longer had to worry about my clothes smelling like cigarettes if I went to an Empty Bottle show. It was my last semester at Moody Bible, and I was so ready to go.

Jens Lekman @ Logan Auditorium. November 2007

My favorite Jens Lekman show, oddly enough at the tin box that is the Logan Auditorium. He played Cold Swedish Winter at this show, and his band was a bunch of pretty girls in white dresses. At this time, my wife and I had been living in Logan Square for about half a year, married a little less than that. She got sick at the show, and I had to move to back of the room to sit on the ground with her.

Thax Douglas and Chin Up Chin Up @ Double Door. November 2007

Remember Thax? Remember Chin Up Chin Up? This show was one of the last times I saw Thax read a poem for a local band. And it actually might have been the only time I bothered taking a picture of him. I'm glad I did though. I miss the guy. I haven't run into him on the bus or around town in what seems like five years.

The Terrible Twos @ Schubas. December 2007

Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids) has a kids band called the Terrible Twos, and I reviewed them for Relevant. It was awkward being that weird guy taking pictures of dancing children by myself, I was the only non-parent at this show... but just look at those kids! I've never seen crazier dancing at a concert in my entire life. They didn't even care that this man was in the Get Up Kids, they just wanted to move around and have fun. This was a pretty important show for me. I saw the essence of music here. And I still measure most every concert against this standard today.

Sleeping at Last @ House of Blues. December 2007

My first time in a photo pit. Sleeping at Last were friends of mine, so they put me on the guest list with a camera pass. If you've been to this tight-ass venue, you know how awful the staff is when it comes to taking pictures. If you have any kind of camera with you, you basically need a photo pass or they won't let you into the show. So, here's the stupid shot I took since I was able to lean my elbow on the stage for blog pics. That little Nikon Coolpix did alright in the pit. It was an exciting first anyway.

Ecstatic Sunshine @ Schubas. January 2008

This is from the first Tomorrow Never Knows festival, a fest I still don't quite understand the point of. Either way, before Lincoln Hall existed, the whole fest took place over a few nights at Schubas. Ecstatic Sunshine was probably my favorite act of the whole thing, which also included White Williams, Cadence Weapon, and Ohmega Watts. This pic actually got a ton of views because SFGate picked it up at some point for an article on the band. They gave me my first real photo credit. And yknow, now that I look at it, it is a pretty cool picture.

Yeasayer @ Schubas. February 2008

Yeasayer and MGMT. At Schubas. Somehow it happened. And they actually weren't very good live. But this is one of the fun things about being a music writer. You take it all in, all the hype, all the buzz. Sometimes it's fool's gold. Sometimes it's Ecstatic Sunshine. It's how I roll my dice. This picture represents the overrated nature of my music scene. But hey, it's just part of the territory. Not anything to fuss over.

Iron and Wine @ Wheaton College. February 2008

I remember a lot of comments for the review I wrote of this one. It was a weird show. One guy and a guitar, at a Christian college, editing out his swear words. I still haven't seen a show like it since. Just that the school ASKED him to self-censor his art is still baffling to me. I don't think Wheaton has shows like this on campus anymore. Art and Christianity really don't mix. It took me too many years to accept this...

Pterodactyl @ AV Aerie. March 2008

Now here's a venue Chicago really misses. This old factory was perfect for Pterodactyl and Parts & Labor. Always a suggested donation. Always a good crowd. This pic is just an homage I guess. God, it still looks so cool.

Citay @ the Hideout. March 2008

The oh-so-rare film photo. I hardly ever shot with film. Only Citay, Stars of the Lid, and Lymbyc Systym have the honor. But the Hideout looks great on film. It's a cozy venue and doesn't do well on digital. It's either film or nothing at this place.

Public Enemy @ Pitchfork Fest. July 2008

I've been to every Pitchfork Fest, and both Intonation Fests. But this moment right here was probably the most starstruck I felt throughout them all. I don't know why. I don't even care about Flavor Flav. But just being right in front of that big clock necklace was humbling. You know that feeling you get at the Lincoln Memorial when you look up at Abe and feel the weight of individual responsibility and duty to your fellow man? Yeah, same deal.

Les Savy Fav @ Pitchfork Fest. July 2008

This pic is so "music journalist." I'm telling you the story of an entire weekend with one little shot. You weren't there, but now you can know what it felt like. Ugh. I hate it. But, it was so cool that this [indie] rock star was giving teenagers a bunch of terrible haircuts. So I love it.

Girl Talk @ Lollapalooza. August 2008

Hooboy. What a weekend this was. Girl Talk's crowd jumped on this ice cart, started ripping open the bags and throwing the ice everywhere while girls danced with the workers while they blew their whistles in rhythm with the mashups. Big fun. I was an intern for Sound Opinions, which enabled me to go to Lollapalooza for free for the first time. This was also the weekend Relevant's owner asked me to move down to Florida to be an editor for his magazine. It was the most exciting weekend of my life at that point in time. I called my dad while Explosions in the Sky roared through Grant Park to share my excitement with him. He was happy for me.

She and Him @ WBEZ. August 2008

Honestly, I am not crazy about Zooey Deschanel. She was cool to hang out with, but really this pic was only taken to make my friends jealous. I never ask for pictures with celebrities. I think the only other "Dylan-smiling-with-celeb" pic that exists is my phone wallpaper with Bill Wennington (Bulls' backup center, 96-98), and I treasure that one. But this shot with Zooey is the only visual document of my time at Sound Opinions, which was without a doubt the best professional experience I've had so far in my young career. I wish I could've spent more than just a summer with them, but Relevant pulled me down. I still tune in to Jim and Greg though, and chat with them whenever I can.

Here We Go Magic @ Metronome Fest. June 2009

Did you notice that huge leap? Went from August 2008, to June 2009. That's because for half a year we lived in Orlando, where I worked as the editor of a Christian culture magazine for 3 months or something. I still don't understand exactly what happened, but they fired me without giving a proper reason. It was easily the scariest, most depressing thing I've experienced. I know, sounds so dramatic. Well, Orlando is a phenomenally lousy city, with its culture based entirely around tourism and amusement--a shallow place that doesn't have neighborhood street fests. So this picture is important. It is a small street fest in my neighborhood of Logan Square (yes, we came back when we moved back home), where about 20 people are watching a band called Here We Go Magic who, at this point, only have a short EP out on Western Vinyl, but we're all loving it. This was the kind of stuff that brought me back to normalcy, out of depression, and confident in my self again.

I'm not going to post anything from there until 2011. It was a hell of a year and a half in which I went to therapy, wrote every day on this blog (mostly NOT about music), and lost my faith. It's not that I want to forget this time, but, I kinda do. It was a major transitional time. And looking back, I see how it was necessary. I had to explore a lot of myself through writing, in different styles and voices, while always keeping warm in Chicago's music venues. By the end of 2010, things really looked up for me when I got a shift on CHIRP. Throughout 2011, I used my CHIRP cred to DJ at bars around town, and found a new value within my community of Chicago. 2011 was an awesome year, so let's have a look at the new Flickr account.

Cut Copy @ Riviera. April 2011

Back in the photo pit. Still with a tiny camera. But somehow, this one just feels so much livelier, doesn't it? I fully understand now that I am a music guy. What I'm doing is this Chicago music scene, for my sake AND yours. So of course I'm going to take quality pictures of Cut Copy, they put on one of the best live shows you'll see. Feel the love.

Bonnie Prince Billy @ Millennium Park. May 2011

You know it's summer when you're on the lawn at Millennium Park with friends, drinks, and good music. I told my friend Nick Spiese to stand up for this shot. He's smiling, because he is happy to be there enjoying Will Oldham play a free show for us Chicagoans. Concerts are never just about stage performances, the crowd is vital to the experience. Keep it in perspective rockers!

Sondre Lerche @ Lincoln Hall. June 2011

Chicago's newest and best venue. We feelin' born again up in here. Welcome home indeed.

Andrew Bird @ MCA. December 2011

I'll make this my last one, because I think the end of 2011 also marked a new beginning for me. My first piece for The Onion's AV Club published shortly hereafter, and Jaclyn and I bought our first property in Chicago. I feel more at home now than I've ever felt in my entire life, childhood and grandparents' homes included. So here I end with our hometown hero, Andrew Bird, doing his thing at the locals' favorite museum. It was a great show, capping off a great year. But hey, this was just five years worth of work. I'll see ya again in 2017.