Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Albums

1SoutheasternJason Isbell
2Trouble Will Find MeThe National
3Modern Vampires of the CityVampire Weekend
4We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and MagicFoxygen
5Wakin on a Pretty DazeKurt Vile
6Mikal CroninMCII
7AMArctic Monkeys
8NegativityDeer Tick
9ReflektorArcade Fire
12Ripely PineLady Lamb The Beekeeper
13Lucky LeavesKrill
14Day of the DogEzra Furman
15Lousy With SylviabriarOf Montreal
17NewPaul McCartney
18Tape Deck HeartFrank Turner
19Acid RapChance The Rapper
20New MoonThe Men
21MBVMy Bloody Valentine
22...Like ClockworkQueens Of the Stone Age
23180Palma Violets
24Run The JewelsRun The Jewels
25HummingbirdLocal Natives
26Major ArcanaSpeedy Ortiz
27Floating CoffinThee Oh Sees
29BlowoutThe So So Glos
30Random Acccess MemoriesDaft Punk
31Hesitation MarksNine Inch Nails
32Impossible TruthWilliam Tyler
35I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest DreamsDiarrhea Planet
36Silence YourselfSavages
37The Marshall Mathers LP IIEminem
38KveikurSigur Ros
39This is Another LifeCase Studies
40Country SleepNight Beds
41MelophobiaCage The Elephant
42Pearl MysticHookworms
44BubblegumKevin Devine
45Same Trailer Different ParkKacey Musgraves
46MemorialRussian Circles
47Corsicana LemonadeWhite Denim
48You're NothingIceage
49SleeperTy Segall
50Love's Crushing DiamondMutual Benefit

** Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts came out in 2012. It's been on other 2013 lists incorrectly, and if I were to make the same mistake it would easily by in my top 10, if not top 5**

Friday, January 18, 2013

The High School Bunch

I spend a lot of time sitting at the edge of my bed flipping through rows of albums and scanning across puny CD spines.  These musical artifacts occupy about the same space in my bedroom as they do in my brain, and they sleep more comfortably than I have for the past 20 years.  They exploded into a alphabetical disorder around 10 years ago yet I still know where each and every one lives.  “Hundreds” is an understatement and when scientists are standing over my cold body examining what’s left of my brain I hope they are able to make sense of this spastic dewey decimal system developed by years of passion, boredom, and obsessive compulsion.  Each row has a theme, each rack has a feel.  They are spaced out like any great album - they aren’t front loaded, I often saved the best for last.  The second row from the top may seem like poor placement for The Donnas album left behind by an ex girlfriend, but it sits there to offset the greatness of Dinosaur Jr. and Drive-By Truckers.  It’s not a coincidence that a pristine copy of Quadrophenia is stashed in the back of the hardest to reach row of all - it’s a treat for me when I take the time to thumb through all the Chicago albums.  Nothing is there by accident, and yet there is one row of CDs there at the bottom that isn’t like the others.  I refer to it to anyone who asks (myself) as The High School Bunch.
Lifehouse, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Natalie Imbruglia, Staind, Insane Clown Posse, and Twiztid.  I can’t explain how poor Natalie has been stuck down there all these years with those misogynist pigs.  I’m sure there’s plenty of “Show Your Boobs!” chants echoing in those plastic cases.  
You know - that first Korn album isn’t so bad.  Stanley Climbfall by Lifehouse is strangely a half decent album.  Linkin Park was catchy, Papa Roach was angry, and Staind was commonly on sale at Best Buy.  I was wrong about Limp Bizkit; at least I got out before Chocolate Starfish.  That leaves me with the Psychopathic Family.
If you think the violence depicted in an average Insane Clown Posse song is despicable, you’re lucky you’re not in my head as I gaze down at The High School Bunch.  It’s a war between music credibility and mediocrity.  Do the ten albums recorded by rapping clowns negate the almost 20 years I’ve spent assembling the Bridgeport branch of John Peel’s collection?  Am I a born again musical expert by way of repenting for my Juggalo sins?  Truthfully, I’m not all that distraught about this internal struggle, but it sets the tone for the next few paragraphs where I will attempt to do what not many correctly spelled words and tattoo free fingers have done before.  Convince you that...

Insane Clown Posse should be respected.  

Yelling that out in a crowded room is apropos to watching Leno while Kimmel and Letterman are on, but I’m here to tell you it shouldn’t be.  My knowledge of the Dark Carnival is a little rusty, I’m unfamiliar with anything they have released since the early 2000’s, and I probably haven’t listened to a song put out by Psychopathic Records in years.  All I need to know to fuel ranting is that 20,000 people spend a weekend in Bumfuck, IL every year united by their allegiance to two face paint covered forty year old men spraying pop in their eyes while rapping about magic carpet rides to heaven.  And It’s not a victory lap or the crowning achievement of their careers; it is business as usual.
This argument that Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope should be respected is far different from an argument that you should enjoy their music.  It isn’t for everybody, and it’s rarely even for my 28 year old self. Still, to treat them as a punchline like Nickelback is unfair.  Nickelback is forced on those using Top 40 radio as background music and have recorded the same song over and over again to be sure not to stir the pot much.  Insane Clown Posse, for better or for worse, have evolved and shifted and had a spoon in many different musical pots over their long and successful careers.  Fans have to seek them out; they aren’t playing NBA All-Star halftime shows.  It’s not repetition that has built a massive Juggalo following, it’s longevity.  Most people may view them as an ice cube that just won’t melt, but like them or not they’ve built an empire on their own.
The ooooold art versus business argument.  Billboard charts have been around since the 1940s, and have always been ranked by the number of sales.  The “chart” that the majority of the people have used as the status symbol for success in the music business over the past 70 years ultimately comes down to how much money people are willing to shell over to hear songs.  It is my opinion that the average consumer is of below average intelligence and that 50,000 Gangnam Style fans can’t be right, but for every lonely teenager teaching himself guitar in his basement because he loves it there’s an office full of greedy men looking to turn MP3s into $$$s.  It’s undeniable that music is a two sided coin and that no matter what side of the coin you prefer you’d much rather have it in your piggy bank than have it lying in a field in Cave-In-Rock, IL.  
The theatrics of KISS mixed with the DIY ethos of Black Flag and the prolificacy of Robert Pollard all wrapped into a Grateful Dead caliber cult as loyal as Star Wars fans that has been profitable as long as Microsoft.  That statement should get almost everyone’s attention.  Almost. My name dropping won’t turn the heads of those interested in bass dropping, but they’re currently musically hopeless and I pray that one day Deadmau5 is to them what Limp Bizkit is to me.  Also absent from this paragraph’s opening sentence is a reference to a hip hop artist, and since ICP are ultimately a hip hop act that’s inexcusable, but there’s a reason for this.
My hip hop fandom is as casual as the dress code in a Google office on a Friday in mid July.  I know every word to a few Eminem albums and dabble here and there with some of the greats like Jay-Z and The Roots.  El-P’s new album was one of my favorites of 2012, and I was the one that carried the boombox and the Doggystyle cassette to the back of church try to drunk on a 6 foot tall rim back in grade school.  Besides that I pretty much only listen to hip hop when I’m stuck in a car that has 107.5 as the #1 preset on their stereo or an iPod full of album art that was created in 3 minutes using Microsoft Paint.  But there’s one rapper that seems to always be in heavy rotation in those cars, and I actually witnessed live at Bonnaroo.  And I’m here to tell you that the Insane Clown Posse are just as good if not better than him.
If I woke up one day to find a notification on my phone stating I have an email from Consequence of Sound (a great music site, check it out!) that contains a link to an article titled, “Physiological Experiment Revealed by Renown Music Critic” that goes on to explain that for years critics have been giving Lil Wayne positive reviews to see just how much influence a 4 sentence blurb in a popular magazine has on the mind of a consumer, I’d get out of bed and eat my oatmeal without giving the seemingly earth shattering news a second thought.  Not once in the hundreds of songs of his that I’ve heard or the hour and a half “concert” of his that I witnessed did I hear anything resembling a well constructed lyric or song that was any better than an ICP track.  I’m sure 93.1% of you disagree with me, but that just means the experiment is working!  People still think There Will Be Blood is a fantastic movie so either my opinion is odd or these experiments are widespread in all forms of entertainment media.
Lil Wayne is well respected and I suspect it’s because people are conditioned to respect him.  Insane Clown Posse are hated and I believe it’s the outcome of the same cause and effect.  Maybe the story of the Dark Carnival narrated by foul mouthed rapping clowns is a tough pill to swallow, but superheroes and vampires own the box office and our 3D televisions are packed with Harry Potter of the Rings fantasy shows.  The Amazing Jeckel Brothers seems to fit right in.  
And it isn’t the language - hip hop is full of potty mouths and death threats.  Lil Wayne talks about bitches and murder just as much as the clowns.  The reason Lil Wayne is on Barbara Walters’ most interesting people list and ICP are on the FBI gang list is because people have convinced Barbara Walters that Lil Wayne is a respectable artist.  Think about it this way - do you really think Barbara Walters put on Tha Carter IV and enjoyed it?  Neither did most people who call Lil Wayne the greatest rapper alive.  It’s hard to criticize two men for putting removable paint on their faces and sing the praises of a man that has a face covered in permanent tattoos.
Insane Clown Posse are not The Beatles and they don’t strive to be.  They are grouped together in a musical genre that is almost always mediocre and flawed.  But nothing musically makes them different than the next mediocre and flawed rapper that is obsessed with stabbing hookers, slapping bitches, and killing dudes.  The difference is their persistence, a rabid fan base and continued success.  They have been doing this for over 20 years and have sold millions of records around the world.  They play sold out shows everywhere an airplane can land and are responsible for bringing 20,000 plus to a village with a population of 390 each year.  They’ve been mocked for being awestruck by science and went viral for watching “Call Me, Maybe.”  They’ll never be in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, or crack a greatest albums of all time list; but if you can somehow respect Lil Wayne, it shouldn’t be difficult to somehow respect ICP.

I was wrong about Limp Bizkit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Albums

2012 Albums

1 Swans - The Seer
2 Japandroids - Celebration Rock
3 The Men - Open Your Heart
4 Local H - Hallelujah! I'm a Bum
5 Ezra Furman - The Year of No Returning
6 Jack White - Blunderbuss 
7 Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
8 The Walkmen - Heaven
9 Dr. Dog - Be The Void
10 King Tuff - King Tuff
11 Diamond Rugs - s/t
12 Scott Lucas & The Married Men - Blood Half Moon
13 The Henry Clay People - 25 For The Rest Of Our Lives
14 Alabama Shakes - s/t
15 The Vaccines - Come Of Age
16 Titus Andronicus - Local Business
17 Tame Impala - Lonerism
18 The Orwells - Remember When
19 Radar Eyes - s/t
20 Dinosaur Jr - I Bet On Sky
21 Father John Misty - Fear Fun 
22 River City Extension - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger
23 Nude Beach - II
24 Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
25 Grizzly Bear - Shields
26 Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse
27 Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
28 Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light
29 Royal Headache - s/t
30 Justin Townes Earle - Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way I Feel About You Now
31 Tallest man on Earth - There Is No Leaving Now
32 Beach House - Bloom
33 …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead -Lost Songs
34 Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits 
35 Patterson Hood - Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance
36 Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes
37 Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror
38 Bob Mould - Silver Age
39 Shintaro Sakamoto - How To Live With A Phantom
40 The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
41 The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
42 El-P - Cancer For The Cure
43 Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
44 Baroness - Yellow & Green
45 Black Moth Super Rainbow - Cobra Juicy
46 Unknown Mortal Orchestra - s/t
47 Metz - Metz
48 Marilyn Manson - Born Villain
49 Sigur Ros - valtari
50 Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times and the Tides

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goddamn. If you like music, the undercard of this year’s Lollapalooza is as good as a music festival gets. Conflicts are going to be extra painful, but of all the festivals lineups I’ve seen I’ve yet to see one that could be as potentially jam packed from Noon to 8:00 pm as Lollapalooza 2012. I’m still really nervous about what this all means for Sigur Ros, but to complain about having too many great bands in the same place at the same time you’d have to be more miserable than I could comprehend at this point in my life.

As for the headliners, I’m confused. Black Sabbath being listed 3rd on the preliminary lists just seems off to me unless they are fully expecting them to back out. Plus, Ozzy wasn’t the best performer when I saw Black Sabbath at Ozzfest in high school, I doubt he’s been practicing since. The Chili Peppers without John Frusciante are a shell of a band and I don’t expect them to live up to the unexpectedly and absurdly high bar they set for themselves in 2006. The Black Keys deserve it, but if you had the pleasure of seeing them at United Center last month this will be like rewatching the cell phone videos you took at that show (with better sound). From there, who else headlines? Florence and the Machine? At The Drive-in? Justice? Avicii? I’d take Justive from that list of 4, and am still holding out hope that they let Sigur Ros headline a night. It’s not like you can see all 6 headliners anyways, so again, if you like music, you’ll like the lineup this year. Jack White will be one the best headliners to ever perform at Lollapalooza and he’s worth the $75.00, $200.00, $230.00, whatever the hell you paid for your ticket.

Which makes me think... I pretty much haven’t missed a minute of Lollapalooza since its reincarnation in 2005 and have watched 20 headlining sets so far. A festival with a curfew doesn’t rest solely on its headliners, and Lollapalooza has always been about the day time, but here’s my top 5 and bottom 3 headliners of the first 7 years of Chicagopalooza.

The Best:
1a. Foo Fighters
1b. Daft Punk
3. The Strokes
4. Pearl Jam
5. Radiohead (2008)
- if only the sound was better....

The Worst:
18. Rage Against the Machine
19. Kanye West (2006)
20. Green Day

Pulp - Common People

I’ve struggled for the past 15 years or so with the fact that “Common People” by Pulp may very well be the best song ever written. I’m not implying that Pulp should ever be categorized as a guilty pleasure; they have released some of the best pop albums of my lifetime. And it’s not that slumming is a polarizing phenomenon; class hopping doesn’t necessarily bring about the arguments that same sex marriages do. It’s more about my musical identity and the risk of me admitting that the greatest song ever recorded wasn’t done so by The Beatles or Wilco or Frank Zappa or Drive-By Truckers or Radiohead or Bob Dylan or They Might Be Giants. It isn’t a kick-ass, rip-roaring rock song that will validate my masculinity, nor is it a quirky, obscure bedroom recording that will reinforce my indie cred. It’s just perfect.
“Common People” has everything it takes to fill a soccer stadium. It is instantly recognizable after only a few seconds and it takes days to leave your mind. It is repetitive without wearing out its welcome. The lyrics are precise and the subject matter is Hollywood ready. There’s no shredding guitar solo. No rumbling, spastic drum solo. They aren’t joined by any symphony orchestras and it’s still as epic as humanly possible.
The song is essentially a conversation between a wealthy girl and a poor guy and focuses on her desire to be a common person and her inevitable inability to do so. Sometimes you get so lost in the story that it’s easy to forget just how flawless the song is. If the subject matter had been a hippopotamus playing checkers Pulp would be able to pull it off, but it helps that it’s not.
Heralding a song as the best ever is sort of a tiring exercise. Whatever I currently consider 1a is closely followed by 1b through 1z, and from there I’m forced to Google foreign alphabets to lengthen my list. Pulp are back together and playing shows again, and while they are far from some underground cult act that you’ve never heard of, I think most people underestimate just how great they truly are. Tickets might be pricey, but you’ll never get to see George Harrison play, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” live or John Bonham rumble through the solo in, “Moby Dick,” so take advantage of this while you can.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Best concerts of 2011

1. Wilco – Metro - 12/16
2. Paul McCartney – Wrigley Field – 8/1
3. Foo Fighters – Lollapalooza - 8/7
4. Pearl Jam – Alpine Valley - 9/4
5. Fleet Foxes – Pitchfork Festival - 7/16
6. Wilco – Civic Opera House - 12/12
7. My Morning Jacket – Bonnaroo - 6/10
8. Tune-Yards – Pitchfork Festival - 7/15
9. Deer Tick – Reggies – 11/14
10. Titus Andronicus – Reggies – 8/6
11. Girls – Lincoln Hall – 9/29
12. Cage The Elephant/Sleeper Agent - Vic - 2/27
13. Kurt Vile/J Mascis – Subterranean - April 1st
14. Arcade Fire/National – UIC - 4/25
15. Hold Steady/Donkeys – Metro - 8/25
16. Coldplay – Lollapalooza – 8/5
17. Bright Eyes – Lollapalooza - 8/5
18. Guided By Voices – Pitchfork 7/16
19. Justin Townes Earle – Millenium Park - 5/30
20. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Bonnaroo - 6/11

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chicago is spoiled. Not only does every major tour stop at one of our venues included on an already impressive and growing list, but we also have local/semi-local bands that remain very loyal throughout their careers and continue to treat Chicago fans to special experiences. Wilco and Local H are the two that have gone above and beyond over the years to make me glad to be born and raised in the second city. Between the two, I've been to nearly 70 concerts (who can count at this point) and I can genuinely say that I've yet to see a bad show from either. Whether it's a 7 night stand, a 5 night progressively shrinking city tour, or just booking and tearing the house down at venue upon venue throughout the city, it seems like Wilco and Local H take advantage of the musical equivalent to a home field advantage.

To say I needed these Wilco concerts this week is an understatement. To keep this more about music and less about me, I'll just say that 2011 has not been a very good year. It has had its highlights for sure, but as a whole I'd like to forget about it as soon as it's over. For months the anticipation was building for these shows, and I was setting myself up for a huge let down thinking that 5 measly concerts were going to change anything. Now that I've walked in and out of the Civic Opera House, Riviera, Vic, Metro, and Lincoln Hall I realized that I've underestimated Wilco. The difference these 5 concerts and a great Christmas celebration with friends have made in the past 7 days is probably incomprehensible to most, but to say my mind is in a better place this Monday morning compared to last Monday morning is an understatement.

100 different songs in 5 nights. This isn't the first time they've done it, but this time was the better of the 2. The intracity aspect of the tour made it special, and instead of being confined to the Riviera like last time, they moved on to smaller and better places. It makes it hard for one of these shows to stand on its own when a band is doing it's best not to repeat songs from night to night, but taken as a whole no band can do anything close to what Wilco did over the past week. The Civic Opera House was probably the best stand alone show, but if you mix the Metro show and Lincoln Hall show, you have the definitive Wilco concert through December 2011. And that's leaving out the Vic show, which I walked out of thinking it would be extremely difficult to top later in the week. The Riviera show was the only one that seemed ordinary, but ordinary by Wilco's standards is extraordinary for everyone else.

I'm being asked which show was the best by just about everyone I told that I was seeing some band 5 times in one week, so here is how I see it. There's a fine line between these shows, and being at the bottom of this list is like being the poorest billionaire.

1. Metro
2. Civic Opera House
3. Lincoln Hall
4. Vic
5. Riviera
One Sunday Morning
One By One
In A Future Age
Country Disappeared
When The Roses Bloom Again
Why Would You Wanna Live
Cars Can't Escape
Rising Red Lung
At My Window Sad And Lonely
Someday, Some Morning, Sometime
Not For The Season
Open Mind
Dash 7
Remember The Mountain Bed
You And I
I'll Fight (w/Fred Armisen on maracas and tambourine)
Born Alone
Spiders (Kidsmoke) (acoustic arrangement)
Whole Love
Art Of Almost
Someday Soon
Airline To Heaven
Passenger Side
It's Just That Simple
California Stars
I Must Be High
Dawned On Me
War On War
I Might
On And On And On (dedicated to Lounge Ax)

  • This was Wilco playing at Lincoln Hall, I think that says enough.
  • A dream setlist for any real Wilco fan, and they played a perfect set for a room of 500 people. So many surprises (Not For The Season! Cars Can't Escape! Acoustic Spiders!)
  • A much more subdued show compared to the Metro. If you combine this show with the Metro, you have a definitive Wilco show.
  • The whole band (as they usually are in Chicago) were in high spirits. Mike keyboard solo during California Stars using his new patch was especially hilarious to Jeff.
  • "Does that mean we're going to hear Christ Can't Explain?" - Lady in the crowd "We're going to take 5 and go write that one." - Jeff
  • Crowd was very respectful and quiet for the delicate songs. The only exception was the crazy lady during Spiders, and the fact that someone got thrown out of a concert for talking and being obnoxious restores my faith in humanity. I think I'm going to start making a "citizens arrest" in these cases in the future.
  • "What was that lady screaming about?" "She was mad that you weren't going to play Hummingbird." "She did know the show wasn't over, right? And we aren't, so it's a good thing she got kicked out."
  • This show being 50 or so feet from the stage at Lounge Ax definitely set the tone for the night. A great choice to close out a fantastic week. Wilco had 5 chances this week to convince me that they weren't the greatest living band on the planet, and they failed miserably.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

1) sunken treasure
2) wishful thinking
3) art of almost
4) i might
5) i am trying to break your heart
6) one wing
7) company in my back
8) ashes of american flags
9) shouldn't be ashamed
10) either way
11) born alone
12) capitol city
13) war on war
14) how to fight loneliness
15) too far apart
16) red eyed and blue -->
17) i got you
18) dawned on me
19) i'm always in love
20) hummingbird

crowd sang happy birthday to jeff's son spencer for his 16th birthday
21) whole love
jeff: "the band chipped in together and got this for spencer....the first chord of a hard day's night". they tried 3 or 4 times and finally got it and that chord rang out as the intro to...
22) heavy metal drummer
23) box full of letters
24) ELT
25) standing O
26) kingpin
27) a shot in the arm

28) dreamer in my dreams

  • If this wasn't the best Wilco show I've seen in my life, it is definitely in the top 3. You start to run out of superlatives when seeing Wilco 5 times in a week.
  • The first show Wilco has ever played at the Metro. Uncle Tupelo never even played the Metro. The fact that this happened in 2011 is what makes Wilco the best band in the world for the past 10 years.
  • Some repeats from other nights, but they were all very welcomed ones. I've seen IATTBYH and A Shot in the Arm so many times live, but seeing them performed at the Metro was just mind blowing.
  • Dreamer in My Dreams! Looks like they payed attention to my request on wilcoworld. Or they just realized that the song was a perfect way to end a show at the Metro. Either way.
  • Kingpin was extra special in a small room. It also added a lot to Ashes - Nels totally killed the solo at the end of that one.
  • "That's the best we've ever played that on at the Metro" - Jeff, after many songs
  • Playing the first chord of A Hard Day's Night for Spencer's birthday took some work, but the 4th attempt was passable.