Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Covering Our Bases - The Ted Leo Covers Mix

There are some bands or artists that you just grow up with. They're seminal to your musical development and act like cool older siblings, showing you the musical ropes, opening your mind and pointing out other cool things worth checking out along the way. To me, Ted Leo is certainly an artist who fits this bill. Sure, I was waned on the Beatles, cut my teeth on the Clash and first held indie rock's hand with the Pixies, but all those bands were gone before my time and traded in a lot of classic touchstones I'd grown up with. Ted, on the other hand was still hitting his stride as I got into him (even if he was already into his second decade of his career) and thus he came to serve a my guide to a number of musical and intellectual worlds.

Leo's catholic musical taste (no, not in the religious sense), voracious appetite and seemingly natural playing aptitude have mad him a voracious cover-er of songs, such that his number of recorded covers has now topped the quarter-century mark. Along the way he's hit everything from classic rock to dance pop to rap and Top 40. Oh, and soul. And reggae, and folk, and alternative, and... well you get it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Six Song Six-Pack - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday. Think about it. You get a long weekend, there's very little commercialization, you aren't bombarded with decorations and jingles for months beforehand. In fact, all this day is about is seeing people you care about eating a lot of food, watching football and being happy about it. Could there be a better way to spend a Thursday?

Although Thanksgiving doesn't have the wealth of holiday songs that either Christmas or even Halloween can boast, it does have a few gems floating around which don't get much love, so I thought I'd share a few.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Fred Jones, Pt. 2" - Ben Folds

There are certain times in our lives when we're just perfectly wired to GET music. Times of change and upheaval, times of questioning and times when we're unsure of ourselves leave us vulnerable and searching. We search for answers, for reassurance, for something that can ground us and pop music is an ever-ready, sympathetic companion with whatever answer you want (or hopefully need) to hear.

I don't know much about Ben Folds' personal life, but it seems to me that he must have been in some state of change while writing his debut solo album, Rockin' The Suburbs. If he wasn't, then his characters sure as hell were, with almost every song but the title track featuring people breaking up, moving, giving up, having kids, etc. It was just the sort of album that is almost dangerous to give an eighteen year old kid, wrapped in the narcissistic melancholia of getting ready to go to college. It can lead to prolonged mopeyness, exaggerated attempts at ennui and occasionally a few worthwhile reflections on life. I speak from experience here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Concert Review - tUnE-yArDs at Lincoln Hall, November 9, 2011

If you've seen Merrill Garbus live then you already know what I'm talking about. The woman is a presence, a force to be reckoned with onstage who commands your attention and delivers a performance that is equal parts intimate charm and shock and awe. In a musical landscape saturated with critically-acclaimed touring acts and comeback tours to beat the band, she creates a unique live experience that feels miles away from and above anything else out there.

I knew all this coming into tonight's show, having already seen Garbus fronting tUnE-yArDs during a glorious, sun-dappled Friday afternoon set at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. It was curiously placed on a side stage, which was packed to the gills by 4PM on a workday and everyone there knew from the first song that it would be a festival highlight. What remained to be seen for me, however, was how that experience would translate to a small club like Lincoln Hall.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wayback Machine: Naked Raygun - Throb, Throb

Chicago punk never really made a national name for itself. I understand, I don't take it personally. We never had the trendy nihilism of the LA scene, or New York's CGBG's hookups, never mind the authenticity of London punks or the artiness of Manchester. But Chicago did come up with a few corkers in its time, bands that are too often overlooked. Though few have as much love in their heart for band like the Effigies as I, it's hard to argue that Chicago's biggest punk act wasn't Naked Raygun. They once described their sound as "aggressive, melodic, intense, chanty music... bat cave funk, zydeco bop, twist and ground flailer, closet Motown", which probably sums it up as well as anything.

Raygun was one of those punk bands that had something for everyone. Oh wait, no, not something for everyone in that Clash "oh look, they write love songs and dance hits too" kinda way. I mean they had something for every punk niche. They were loud, chanting and angry enough for the hardcore kids, their attitudes towards sex would please the straight-edgers and they were weird and challenging enough for the pretentious punks and students. Not only did they hit all the punk highlights, but these were huge fucking midwestern dudes playing loud, angry music in a way that even pulled in some of your dive-bar hard rock fans. As my grandfather would say, they were the real deal.