Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Ice Of Boston" - The Dismemberment Plan

Ah, the great indie novelty hit that wasn't. With funny, self-deprecating lyrics, catchy guitar work, a Gladys Knight & the Pips reference and a chorus just MADE to be sung-along too no matter how drunk you are, "The Ice Of Boston" would seem to have everything that you could ask for in a crossover holiday song. It's not surprising that The Ice Of Boston [EP] was the only thing that Interscope actually put out by the Dismemberment Plan before kicking them back to DeSoto - this was easily the most marketable song the Plan would make, despite Travis Morrison's oddly charming confessions mixed with out-and-out lyrical weirdness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs of 2012 [20-11]

Here's more good music. I mean like, awesome-ass songs. Hope you enjoy. (I also realize that I've been using a lot of baseball metaphors in some of these descriptions. I'm clearly in withdrawal, just go with it.)

See Songs 30-21

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs of 2012 [30-21]

Oh another year, another set of best-of lists. This year, having contributed to both PopMatters and Spectrum Culture (as well as their respective year-end list-making) I've been exposed to more music and forced to think harder than ever before about these rankings. Ignoring for the moment that this entire exercise is, in the grand, or even medium-term, scale of things, fairly insignificant, it's been a humbling experience.

You see, the more I listen to music, learn about music and write about music, the more I realize just how functionally infinite is the pool of recorded creativity and just how little of it any one person can hope to survey to even a cursory degree. With that in mind, my caveat for this year's lists of songs, albums and concerts is even more forceful. These aren't definitive (God knows I'd seriously revise last year's list now, given half the chance), they aren't exhaustive (you know how exhausting it was just to do this one?) and their very premise is riddled with holes, exceptions and other qualifiers.

But what kind of music snob would let quibbles such as those stand between them and a good arbitrary ranking? Not I, good people, not I.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Warmer Music's 10 Favorite Concerts of 2012

Radar Eyes At The Bottle Just Missed My List
But The Camera Didn't Miss Me
One thing about end of the year lists is that there's always this unrealistic patina of omniscient and impartial judgement about them. With the internet, it's now assumed that all music writers (most of whom, like me, do it for nothing more than the exposure and the cheap thrill of being able to spout their opinions publicly) have heard every album on the ever-increasing list of good or potentially good album released in a given year. Not only that, but that they've given each several hearings and formed utterly informed opinions. Not only is that impossible, but it's laughable. Music sites will aggregate their writers opinions, try to form a diverse, yet meaningful selection and yet still end missing much great music and over-hyping other, less-deserving music - it's the nature of the beast.

A nice feature of about live shows is that they're inherently finite. You can't see all the concerts, not even all the bands. Especially not if you want to know the music of the bands you are seeing. Plus there's surprise shows, booking conflicts, unexpected illnesses and any number of factors that make the live experience still something that cannot be truly duplicated or fully "shared" instantly to everyone around the world. 

With that in mind, I present my favorite concerts of 2012. Looking at this list, I'm immediately struck by the lack of hip-hop representation which I chalk up to a combination of my own bad planning combined the unfortunate tendency of hip-hop shows to be washed-out, bass and hype-men heavy messes that one can't fully get behind, no matter how much one REALLY wants to have an amazing show. Still, I'm lucky to live in a city with this much great music and I could have easily doubled this list without running out of amazing musical experiences that made my life better this year. Thanks to the musicians and my audience members for sharing these with me, it was really, really fun.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Party - On Warmer Music's Christmas Mix 2012

Christmas music is easily my most uncritically sentimental music of that year and God bless it for that. Christmas is the one time of the year that I still let myself go all out and try to recreate my childhood (unlike the rest of my generation which seems hell bent on recreating every aspect of their childhood in a bubbling nostalgia bath as soon and as often as possible).

Of course at the same time, so much Christmas music is produced with such insufferably cheeriness that it's, well, insufferable. God knows the holidays are just as much about disappointment, an inability to recreate the past and the passage of time as about blithe celebration. Hopefully this mix will succeed in balancing that hope and alongside songs about the imperfect reality that is more often our lot.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Six Song Six-Pack: Veterans Day

Every year Veterans Day comes and goes and every year it seems like there's less and less of an attempt made to give some sort of weight to the tradition that, for many people, is just a day off for government workers and school children. I'm not one to shake my finger at people about forgetting the old ways, but it does seem to me that the lessons of November 11th are probably worth remembering.

In an era of instant connectivity and information, it's paradoxical that we're often far less connected to reality than were generations of the past. November 11th was originally known as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the most calamitous and pointless wars of the modern era, World War I, which ended on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It was a fittingly pointless ending that cost a final few needless lives, chasing the deaths of needles millions over the preceding five years.

Hailed at the time as "The War To End All Wars," Americans saw their entrance into World War I as a noble enterprise to make the world safe for democracy and ensure that hereafter we would no longer need to send troops across the world into harms way. Most Americans in 1918 would scarcely believe that less than a century later America would become a global hegemon, spending more on its military than the next ten countries in the world combined. Veteran's Day grew out of the Armistice Day celebrations as a way to honor those who had sacrificed their bodies, youth and, potentially, lives in what they saw as service to their countrymen. It was also a reminder of the cost of war and the need to avoid at all cost both conflict and those things which make conflict more likely.

In hopes of escaping the mistaken paradigms both of those who blame the warriors for the wars, as well as those who would equate questioning the mission with demeaning honest service, On Warmer Music hereby presents a series of songs that I hope will help, in some tiny way, illustrate the burdens of war and how they are born by those who fight.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wilco's Summerteeth (or "How I Didn't Learn To Stop Worrying And Love The Electoral Process")

As I write this this we are exactly a half hour away from Election Day 2012 here in the President’s adopted home city of Chicago. I wasn't planning on writing this tonight, indeed, there are many other things that I should be writing, but I can’t seem to think about anything else. I guess what this all comes down is an overly-long justification for a confession that I can’t decide if I’m proud or embarrassed of.

I’m listening to Summerteeth right now and it’s the right album for a number of reasons. I’ll save you my amazing Zaltzman-style pun-run (the electoral tension? “I Can’t Stand It!”) and say that Wilco’s drugged-out neo-Wilsonian masterpiece is fitting because it perfectly balances optimism and despair, the dark night of the soul and the bright shining hope and that’s about as good an analogy for my attitude towards recent politics as any.

So about that confession… yeah. For those who know me this is probably pretty hard to believe but now, as of 11:41 on Monday November 5, 2012, I, John Michael Tryneski am still an undecided voter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Covering Our Bases: The Complete Titus Andronicus Covers

It's no secret how much I love covers. I mean, if I had an kickass rock band, God knows that I'd spend a lot of time kicking out my favorite jams. I think that most musicians are also music nerds and although they get to have the fun of getting up their and making music while I just write about it, when I see them geek out over some Modern Lovers song a band that no one's heard of I can see that we're not so different, they and I. I've had Titus on the brain, what with listening to their latest record non-stop, so I decided that I might as well get all those covers in one place throw, slap a bow on it and send it your way.

New Jersey's finest Newly-minted New Yorkers Titus Andronicus (does it pain you to read those words as much as it did me to write them?) have always been particularly generous with their covers. Between the tour singles, free mixtapes and raucous live singalongs, they've amassed quite the list. Fortunately for you, dear reader, On Warmer Music has them all right here, just for you.

Titus cuts a wide swath of musical territory with their cover choices. The list runs the gamut from punk icons to jukebox favorites. There are bands I needed to look up (and could barely find anything on), mid-level cult acts, as well as a healthy swath of alt cannon from the Reed to Richman, Westerberg to Cobain. They even play with their audience at times (I mean, Coldplay and Lana Del Ray - honest appreciation, hipster baiting or both?) but it's all in good fun. The quality of these recordings varies greatly from nearly-unlistenable bass-heavy messes to studio masters and everywhere in-between.

So enjoy and remember, they may not all be the best recordings you've ever heard, but there are undeniably a lot of them. And they're free.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Warmer Music's Official Halloween 2012 Mixtape

I have mixed feelings about Halloween. Although I do love autumn and have a strong appreciation for cheap Gothic horror, the glee with which my fellow Millenials have embraced the holiday does give me pause. There's something about the mixture of premature childhood nostalgia, wittier-than-thou ironic costuming and hardcore drinking that makes the whole thing smack of the Peter Pan Syndrome that is one of my generation's least-appealing qualities. (Insert Peter Pan costume joke here.)

Of course, at a certain point you either have to shit or get off the pot and I know that the combined forces of candy lovers, costume mavens and a consumer society in desperate need of a post-back-to-school, pre-Christmas cash cow means that Halloween as we know it is here to stay, so I might as well enjoy it. With that in mind, I'm hereby presenting you with your official Halloween party mix. Take an hour and sample a celebration of serial killers, infanticide, kosher lycanism and cerebral consumption.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Album Review: Yoni Gordon - The Hard Way

One of the things about running a music blog, even a small blog like mine, is that at some point you start getting unsolicited albums. Generally I take a look at the band bio, maybe play a track or two to decide if they're worth the investment of time. The hit-to-miss ratio isn't great, but I've not yet been able to totally ignore someone who took the time to reach out to me. So this spring when I got an email from some dude named Yoni Gordon sporting just a scrappy website and an intriguing email, I wasn't too sanguine on the chances that I'd end up liking the music. Still, I thought it deserved a chance so I grabbed the album, cued up the first track, pressed play and sighed.


It was good. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Concert Review - Jennifer Hall at Metro, August 31st 2012

Used to be that Labor Day celebrated not only the end of summer and the hopes of Chicago's baseball fans but the end of festival season. 2012, however looks to be different. Not only has the outdoor music season firmly implanted itself into at least mid-September with North Coast, the Hideout Block Party/AV Club Fest and an outdoor incarnation of Riot Fest, among others, but this year, local musician/artist/gadabout, Tom Schraeder is putting on a month-long salute to local musicians, comedians and artists at Lilly's, called Chicago, I Love You. With all music swirling around the city, it was fitting with that the newly-thirtysomething Cabaret Metro decided to kick off the holiday weekend with a trio of local acts on Friday night, headlined by songwriter and chanteuse Jennifer Hall.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vinyl Vacation: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Singles

Once again I must apologize to On Warmer Music readers for my de facto summer vacation  (although it really wasn't so much a vacation as a "work somewhere else time" which has less of a ring to it and paid just as nothing as this blog). As a way of easing myself back into the ol' bloggin' mode, I thought that I'd share with you a smattering of what's been gracing my turntable these past few months as I've been pleased (and my wallet's been dismayed) to dive further and further down the fetish-property hole that is vinyl music. The more I listen the more I sound like one of those people you hate who tell you how great it is to be able to own a physical artifact and how much better the records sound and blah, blah, blah. So I'll just say that while all that is true, every song here sounds pretty baller, even if you're cuing it up on the most electronically-created iPod playlist know to man. Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Quick Note & Reveiws - The Ad-Libs and BBU [PopMatters]

Hey internet, sorry for the long absence, August has proven no less busy than July. I've been busy writing but less so here at OWM. Fortunately, I can promise that September I will be back with some more great amazing concert reviews including Jennifer Hall and the Hideout Block Party as well as some reviews (did someone say Spider Bags?), a mix and more of my barely-coherent ramblings.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Six Song Six-Pack: Wake Up!

I can still remember those early summer mornings. My parents would wake me up around four or five, before it was even light out and I'd grab the bag I'd packed the night before and hurry downstairs and out to the car. August always meant a vacation when I was growing up, which meant a road trip and when you were driving from Chicago to South Carolina, a road trip meant getting up early. Usually a surly and unwilling riser even at much more reasonable hours, I would be actually be a little buzzed on these mornings, excited to leave the house. Inevitably my father would keep my mother and I waiting in the car at least twenty minutes grabbing last-minute items before we could roll onto the road.

Sitting the backseat of the car, happily munching on some McDonald's breakfast (a rare and wonderful treat during my childhood), I remember feeling just how surreal yet satisfying it was to watch the sun actually come up and rouse the world into action. As I would later discover while mowing golf greens before the sun came up, watching the world awake provides an strangely settling and serene feeling, like you know something that everyone else doesn't by the mere fact that you conscious while they slumbered. Today's six-pack gives you six songs to perfectly soundtrack those early-to-rise days (and here's hoping they remain a novelty for all my readers, bless your souls). Next time you have a long road trip, early appointment or good old-fashioned insomnia, this playlist might help you take the heeding of Ben Franklin's annoyingly industrious advice to heart.

Concert Review - Pitchfork Music Festival (Saturday) [PopMatters]

The second day at Pitchfork 2012 was wet, steamy and lacking in heavy hitters. Fortunately, I brought my rapier-like wit to keep everything in perspective. Check out a sample below, then get your full fix at PopMatters.
I was kicking myself for lollygagging as I walked into Union Park Saturday afternoon because it meant that I had lost a good 15 minutes of the Cloud Nothings. When I arrived on-scene the Cleveland punks were carrying-on like demons had possessed their guitars. Unfortunately after seeing only two songs, rain once again began coming down in earnest. Although started as a drizzle, it quickly escalated to a soaking downpour. The band, bless their foolish hearts, decided to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the gods of weather and worked their way into a blistering guitar jam that seemed to get heavier in equal proportion to the rain’s intensity. For a while, it was a thrilling act as those in the crowd thought “who will win, these guys, or the weather?” Sadly, it wasn’t those guys. The group refused to heed stage techs as they screamed “step away from your electronic instruments unless you want your flesh to be fried into a permanent part of the stage” or something in a similar vein. Eventually the sound cut out and the Could Nothings were forced to flee to safety, leaving spectators impressed but thoroughly soaked. Thus began day two.
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Concert Review - Pitchfork Music Festival (Friday) [PopMatters]

The good people at PopMatters were nice enough to send me to the Pitchfork Music Festival and, in exchange, I wrote some words about it. Check out a sample below, then get your full fix at PopMatters.

Another year, another three days of sweating to odd time signatures and buzzy guitars in Union Park—that’s right, it’s time for the great indie gathering that is the Pitchfork Music Festival. Because a little needless competition makes everything better, this year PopMatters decided to break down the festival into geographic teams based on each band’s home city. Every set was judged on a “win, lose, draw” system based on a complex system that factored in timing, instrumentation, energy, delivery, personal grooming and how their music made me feel inside. Like any umpire’s ruling, the decisions may be rushed, based on bad information or just capricious but they are final, although feel free to argue and kick dirt if it makes you feel better.

On Friday morning it was announced that the entire state of Illinois was officially experiencing drought conditions. So one might assume that it was good news that a wall of clouds rolled into Chicago Friday afternoon to deposit some much-needed rain on the city. Of course, this being an outdoor music festival, it wasn’t good at all and by the time the gates opened the rain had departed but left the the fields muddy, created visible clouds of sticky moisture and left the grounds with a mildly fetid odor. No matter though, dryness, comfort, a festival goer cares not for these things and so it was with a light heart and damp shirt that I entered the fray for another year.
Full article here. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Album Review: Kelly Hogan - I Like To Keep Myself In Pain [PopMatters]

Hey y'all, I know it's been longer than I'd like between posts and I know what y'all are thinking - "oh, uh sure, I guess if you say so." Anyway, my intention is not to derive you of the self-obsessed ramblings you've come to love, but rather to clean them up slightly and force them onto others!

Among other things (switching apartments, working longer hours, taking up Tuvan throat singing, etc.) I've also been sending some of my words to the good folks at PopMatters who have agreed to post them on their site, provided that I return their families unharmed.

One of my records of the year so far has been Chicagoan and lovely human being, Kelly Hogan's record, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, which you can sample a bit of my review here:
Kelly Hogan is not the kind of singer who has many casual fans, only devotees. Nor has her music career followed anything like a straight line. Indie guitarist, radio DJ, backup singer, bartender—she’s done it all.  Along the way, she’s worked with musical heavy hitters such as Neko Case, Andrew Bird, Vic Chesnutt and John Wesley Harding, but rarely in a way that grabbed the spotlight for herself. She had the misfortune to release her first solo album, Because It Feels Good, just after 9/11, where it, along with her subsequent tour, was lost in the midst of a national crisis. So perhaps it’s fitting that she has titled her second album I Like to Keep Myself in Pain.
Now that you've had your sweet taste, I know you'll be hopelessly addicted so head over here to read the full review.

Like the idea of my writing elsewhere but want more? I expect to have several other reviews as well as coverage of the Pitchfork Music Festival published there in the coming months.

Hate the idea of me writing elsewhere but love the blog? I'll still be throwing up covers, Six Song Six Packs, random musings and anything else too unfocused or unmarketable for mass consumption here.

Like the review but wish it contained more swearing, personal asides and esoteric youtube links? I wouldn't be a plugged nickel against this little album cruising its way back onto my radar come December.

Which brings me to my final point - this album is like REALLY good. Buy it for yourself. Then buy it for your parents, buy it for your pastor and buy it for your pet boa constrictor, Reggie. And if they don't like it strongly consider getting new parents, a new system of beliefs to organize existence and a less outlandish pet with a less anthropomorphic name.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Covering Our Bases - Pixies

So I'll just say it - the Pixies are the indie rock version of the Beatles. I know there are some many aspects of this statement that can be quibbled with but here we have a four-person band that came out of nowhere to shoot to the top, had a brief but incredibly intense and fruitful run, only to retire, leaving a legacy that loomed incredibly large for all the bands to follow them. Without the Pixies, massive bands like Weezer, Nirvana and Radiohead would have all sounded drastically different.

My own personal Pixies experiences cut deep as well. They were the first real "indie" band that I got into, mostly because all my friends at school liked them and I was tired of not understanding their conversations (and God bless them for that). After a childhood spent listening to classic rock and pop, the Pixies gave me just enough melody to go with their yelping, pounding drums, screeching guitars and surrealistic imagery to teach me how to find beauty in dissonance and open my mind to more challenging music (and God bless THEM for that). In this installment of Covering Our Bases we look at the best of the released Pixes covers as a way to remember the musical capital-G "greatness" of the band as well as their absolute love of fun a music. Enjoy!

**On Warmer Music Exclusive Premiere**  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Concert Review: Ultra Violet Petting Zoo, July 1, 2012

"It's basically just a group of artists who are fed up with the music industry."

I was talking to Jackie Lancaster, someone I knew from high school who was now helping run the second annual Ultra Violet Petting Zoo. Organized by Tom Schraeder, she explaining to me that most of the bands performing at the event were friends who collaborated and performed often together before the festival. It was clearly a labor of love as this was a festival that gave the word "basic" a whole new meaning. Despite the fact that beautiful Horner Park was less than twenty feet behind the stage, the UVPZ was in a hastily fenced off area of the parking lot for a wire supply company which featured little shade, a devastating heat island effect and a steady supply of cars and trucks passing just beyond the gate. It was if to say "yeah, we're just here for the music and the people, deal with it."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bootleg: Wilco Live In Grant Park, July 4, 2001

Fourth of July is a holiday that sparks mixed emotions from many of the liberal arts-educated set that I run with. On the one hand there's something about the knee-jerk, Lee Greenwood-style that makes you wanna grab every red, white and blue bandanna'd person you see by the scruff of the neck and force them to read Howard Zinn. On the other hand, most people I know, no matter how discouraged they might be with "America" as it's force-fed us also recognize that they're inescapably American. Whether it's the "fuck you" independent spirit, the burning desire to be the best or the fact that we've found more new places to put cheese on a pizza than God itself, there's something impossible not to indentify with about our country. Plus, everyone loves getting a day off work to light explosives and play with fire while all day long.

It's these contradictory feelings, I believe, that always lead me to turn to Wilco at some point on every Fourth of July. They're quintessentially American but in the oddball, restless, lefty kinda way with one foot planted squarely in tradition and the other trying to kick dirt over that tradition and mess it up. Particularly I like to play, their fourth album and career masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a record that it was said "conjures a classic rock radio station on Fourth of July weekend". Not only does the music tackle feelings about place and conflicted loyalties ("Ashes Of American Flags" anyone?) but it the way it's bathed in layers of shimmery, staticy noise practically screams "American summer".

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Concert Preview: Ultra Violet Petting Zoo

Tom Schraeder is, by all accounts, a busy dude. Besides being the driving force force behind the band Tom Schraeder and His Ego, he's made films,  and even hosted his own prom. But it's hard to find a better use of his time than helping to curate the Ultra Violet Petting Zoo for this, his second year in a row. Co-hosted last year by the wonderful people at Chicago Mixtape and this year by, Ultra Violet Petting Zoo is party of the Boys and Girls Club Carnival which is the main fundraising event of the year for the Boys and Girls Club in Chicago. It all goes down this Sunday, July 1st at 2501 W. Irving Park Road (which is Irving, just west of Western for those who can't count) from 2 to 10pm.

Don't kid yourselves people, between the Republican House, the largest state budget deficit in the country and a mayor more likely to send tax dollars to development corporations than public schools or social programs, our city's youth are in dire, dire need for programs like those provided by the Boys and Girls Club. I don't exaggerate when I say that it's hard to find a better way to spend a dollar than by investing it in a child's development.

So what can you do? For five dollars, less than the cost of a (good) beer (plus tip, cheapskate) you can come out, experience twelve great local bands, food, drinks and, of course, rides to ensure that those substances don't stay in your stomach for long. Considering the estimated 400% return rate on investments in the Boys and Girls Clubs, that's like giving $20 to charity yet still having $15 left for beer! There's no Hold Steady or Dinosaur Jr. to distract you so come rock some Chicago tunes and help make your city a better place. Below, I've got a little bit of what you can expect to hear on Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Concert Review: Billy Bragg at Old Town School Of Folk Music, June 22nd 2012

Billy Bragg came to town Friday night to play the first of his two sold-out shows at the Old Town School Of Folk Music and I was excited. It's not often that the old Brit makes his way out to Chicago and, my personal financial situation had been massaged, money saved in advance, to swing the $40 asking price for a ticket. I feel like I'm not alone in this - especially in America he's one of those cult artists you either connect very personally with or mostly ignore. It's a tough situation for an artist to live up to such projections but Bragg's reputation as a charming and skilled live performer had me heading in with high hopes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Concert Review + Pictures: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Millennium Park, June 21st 2012

I've always romanticized the idea of the local band. There's something about giving your heart to the local group that's so liberating. You never know what's going to happen. You could be like Liverpudlians in the Cavern Club watching the Beatles on their lunch hour or Floridians grooving on Petty before her made it bid. Alternately, you could be pledging allegiance to a group that will never really make it out of your town or state or region, a group whose star is destined only to shine for those who know them. You might well spend many nights of your future waxing on about that group that never quite found its national audience to fellow bar-goers who nod politely and then leave when there's a convenient pause in the rant.

As I took in my fourth JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound performance of the last year at Millennium Park tonight, I couldn't help but think how fortunate I was that THIS was one of those local bands that I get to champion, because I know it's not just me who thinks that they're the real deal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Jeff Davis County Blues" - Mountain Goats

I'm sweating as I write this. Even sitting next to my propped-open window as it clamps down tight to cradle a humming box fan, I can still feel the day's trapped heat leaking out of streets and sidewalks. Living with heat like this wasn't a skill I learned growing up, as I was always ensconced in the artificial chill of air-conditioning at home or school. It wasn't until I started driving in high school that I really began to dig the heat. I'd drive to my baseball games or, later on, home from work on a grounds crew and, even though I was already soaked with sweat, I'd leave the windows down. After a while I would start to thrive on the heat, enjoying the way it surrounds you like a physical medium and how it allows you to live intensely in the moment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Warmer Music's Summer 2012 Mix

Now the thing about summer mixes is that no matter what you chose, you're guaranteed to have more good songs that you had to leave off than you could include. For someone like me, this can be vastly frustrating unless you can make yourself see it as ultimately liberating - no matter what you're gonna have to skip things so you might as well just pick what you like. It's an incredibly rich vein from which to mine pop culture as youth, America, writers and nostalgia all tend to trade strongly in summer images. Everyone loves either reliving their past glories or just reveling in the warm bounties of their present situation.

Within this mix you will hear: an "r" rolled for over five seconds, complaints about work, an ode to insects, more horns that you might expect, a great Irish song called "Dancing In The Moonlight" NOT by Van Morrison, a mind-blowing unreleased Mountain Goats song, Wilco get raunchy(ish) and probably some people expressing fondness for increased amounts of sunshine. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

"It's A Bit Complicated" - On Art Brut And Aging

I have a depressingly bad memory when it comes to moments in my life that I really should be able to recall. Ask me about a meaningless baseball game from over a decade ago there’s a good chance I can give you the particular. However when I try to think back to the night of my first kiss or what I was thinking the first time I ever went to a funeral, I could only give you the broadest generalities. But for some reason, this night I remember well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Album Review: Screaming Females - Ugly

God bless New Jersey for not letting the world forget about the second word in the phrase when we talk about "indie rock". In recent years bands from the Garden State such as Titus AndronicusVivian Girls, The Gaslight Anthem (since lost to New York) and Screaming Females have started making noise (both figurative and literal) and reminding people that, while alternative music will always need it's weirdos, nerds and mopers, the modern indie scene was built on a foundation of loud, angry bands creating music both intelligent AND visceral. While perhaps garnering the least amount of critical and popular success of any of the bands mentioned, Screaming Females have quietly put out more top-quality music in the last five years than any of them and show no signs of slowing down.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Like Dreamers Do" - The Radiators

This weekend was a bizarre time to be in Chicago. Ours was a schizophrenic city with its attention divided between baseball, beer and batons (in fact, perhaps the only thing we in the city didn't obsess over was the actual substance of the NATO summit). Twitter feeds and news cameras may have runneth over with downtown protestations but in most neighborhoods people were more concerned with finding a cool place to lounge about in the luxuriant mid-90s swelter. It was a sentiment that, after a few hours of watching NATO coverage I myself shared - the need to step back, exhale and live in the moment with what's in front of me, unconcerned with external events. As you might expect, I achieved this most easily with aid of music.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Musical Salute To Chicago Brewing

Tonight at 5:30 pm I was at Garfield Park Conservatory with a few hundred other committed geeks and aficionados quaffing locally-made beers to mark the kickoff of Chicago Craft Beer Week. It's a glorious, eleven day (that's right, a week can be eleven days when there's beer involved) celebration of Chicago brewers and Chicago bars that celebrate great beer. Not just in the city but throughout the suburbs there will tap takeovers, special brews, beach parties, mini-golf and almost any manner of beer-related merrymaking that you can think of - a hophead's dream come true.

Craft beer was a part of my life for years before I touched the stuff thanks to my father dragging my mother and I to brewpubs across the country throughout my childhood. By the time he left me at college with the instructions "When you drink, drink good beer," I was hooked. It's not coincidental that I was also getting pretty seriously into music around the same time as beer makes music sound better and listening to music is a perfect opportunity to drink great beer. With that in mind, I decided to make a minor contribution to #CCBW with an esoteric musical salute to the brewers that make Chicago such a great beer city.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Bridges, Squares" - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came...                                                                                                                       - William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey 
There's something about Sunday nights that always make me reflective (as does the changing of the seasons), so you'll forgive me if I wax a little poetic. You see, this evening I went for a walk and, as so often happens when I go for a vernal constitutional, I put on "Bridges, Squares" and let my mind wander. When it wanders, my thoughts inevitably turn to my own aging, William Wordsworth, the progress of human history and Francis Fukuyama. To say the least, this is an incredibly evocative song with more going on than initially meets the eye.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Six Song Six-Pack: All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose

"When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis 
Famously Jeff Tweedy didn't go into the Mermaid Avenue sessions with Billy Bragg too excited about the prospect of recording old material. He felt that there wasn't much relevance in reclaiming songs about fascists and union marches from the Great Depression. He felt that Woody was more than that and that living in the past would do him a disservice. As a child of Bush II, of Abu Gharib and "enhanced interrogation", of the Family Research Council and American apartheid, basically someone who came of age under Reagan II and has seen far too little rollback since, I have always strongly gravitated towards messages in those songs that Tweedy sees little reason for.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Artist Primer: Fountains of Wayne In Five Songs

I don't know how many times I've heard it:
Me: "Yeah, I've been listening to a lot of Fountains of Wayne lately, you check out that mix I made you?
Other Person: "Uh, yeah. I checked out a couple of songs it's ok..."
Me: "..."
And so it goes. Fountains of Wayne isn't a hipster band. They have no edge, they're goofy, nerdy, over-the-top poppy and shamelessly suburban. Basically, it's everything that you went to college to avoid. If there were an anti-Cure or Talking Heads this band, with their lack of self-seriousness or pretensions, would be it. Sure, they love to pay homage to the 80's, but they were rockin' Ric Ocasek back then, not D. Boon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Six Chicago Records To Soundtrack Your Spring

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this but for a long time I never really did my homework when it came to the local Chicago music scene. When I first got into "cool" music in high school, I was living in the suburbs and focusing on the big musical guns - your Clashes, your Pixies, your OutKasts. As I went through college, I began to delve deeper but, living away from my hometown as I was, I didn't get much beyond Kanye, Wilco and a few other Chicago heavy-hitters. 

Since moving into the city after college I've worked my way way deeper and deeper into the city's pool of local artists like an old man slowly lowering himself into a steaming hot bath and it's been equally invigorating. Although I know I'm just scratching the surface, I've loved having the chance to start seeing groups multiple times around town, discover new artists and generally start to feel the sense of community that scenes build. It takes a certain kind of artist to choose to make it in Chicago. Working out of the coastal spotlight one has to have a bit of humility. The winters require fortitude and both the frenetic nature of local gigs and the difficulty to be noticed sure require a good work ethic. It's all these traits that help tie Chicago musicians of various stripes together. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vinyl Vacation: "Talking About My Baby" - The Impressions

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.

Now's right about the time when you mutter to yourself, "as if the whole 'indie music blog' thing weren't bad enough, now he's upping his pretentiousness game with some paen to vinyl?"

And to you, fair reader, I can only answer honestly, "Yes, yes! A thousand times, yes!" Well, at least those three times.

Maybe it's my freakishly completist nature run amok but I have recently come close to burning out on music. The seemingly upstanding desire to stay informed can, when combined with the seemingly beneficial creation of a vehicle for delivering near-infinite music day or night, become a cruel curse.

I have to just admit it - there's always going to be more good music out there than I can listen to. By an increasingly widening margin. This fact may be a mixed bag in terms of how we consume music but it seems immutable, at least until we're bombarded by Chinese EMPs or something. My reasons for not turning to vinyl (the cost, the pretentiousness, the bulkiness, the COST) were utlimately outweighed by the fact that I knew it would help me slow down and narrow my musical focus. Let's just say that after many years of resistance, I was finally forced to concede a point to my high school economics teacher, the limited nature of physical product has not only increased its value to me, but been a sanity-inducing limit I so desperately need.

Therefore, after a long struggle I finally gave in, bought a garage sale stereo, asked for a turntable for Christmas and myself the hip new bourgeois fetishist collectible. The Vinyl Vacation feature here at On Warmer Music will be my outlet for sharing the fruits of my stroll down the garden path of outdated musical technology, tempting you with the, if not forbidden, then at least forbidding fruits of 45's and 33 1/3's.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Concert Review + Pictures - Fucked Up at Lincoln Hall, April 9, 2012

"So then I get home from the office and am trying to finish my work when remote server kicks me off while I'm in the middle of something and then I just say 'You know what? I need to go to a punk show.'"

At the time that struck as just about the best possible way that Matt could prepare himself for a concert like this. Forget pre-gaming, just build up an undercurrent of white collar anger and frustration. It's the emotional powder keg that Fucked Up's three-guitar attack was specifically designed to set to spark. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

How A Resurrection Really Feels - The Hold Steady

I was at a show last weekend and I mentioned to an acquaintance that I'd given up beer for Lent when he looked at me, a little surprised and said "don't take this wrong way but you're not the kind of person I expected to be religious." Leaving aside my beliefs about the equivalency between belief and metaphysics, the positive power of organized belief or any other religious justifications, let me just say that I took his statement as a compliment.

Yes, I'm a Catholic. Not even of the "lapsed" variety (at least not entirely), which might be a bit more common in the music world, Craig Finn and I have that in common. Without sounding too much like some guy with an acoustic guitar who wants to tell how how Jesus is the biggest "rock star" of all time, I would like to argue that religion and rock are just as natural bedfellows as foes. While at best, most people might cop to being "spiritual but not religious", organized religion and music subcultures fill a lot of the same basic needs. They're centered around ways of trying to understand the world each with it's own group worship sessions and holy books/songs to be mediated upon at home. In the same way that cops and criminals often end up with more similarities to each other than to others they know, I feel like religion and rock (or "underground culture" in general) are often just doing the same thing differently. Anyway, that's the kind of thing I often think about this time of year as I punch up The Hold Steady on my headphones for it's annual heavy Lenten/Easter rotation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Concert Review: Nada Surf at Metro, April 2nd 2012

I'd started to doubt Nada Surf. Mea culpa.

I had been hemming and hawing about going to this concert for a while, which surprised me. I fell in love with these guys the first time I saw them play one snowy March evening at the Metro in 2006. At the time they were bubbly over the fact that they'd sold the place out, something they'd make a habit of in the coming decade. Since then I'd seen them enough to collect autographs, shake hands and even have them dedicate a song to my then-girlfriend as an anniversary present the last time they played the Metro in 2008. Now, I found myself falling into the "it's good, but not great"-trap when thinking about their new album and wondering if I really needed to see the latter-day group touring off it.

This was foolish, I see that now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Six Song Six-Pack - #WeAreTrayvonMartin

With each new twist, I can't decide what the worst part is. Obviously the shooting death of seventeen year-old Trayvon Martin by an over-zealous gated community vigilante is tragedy enough by itself. But each new detail seems to make it that much harder to swallow. Whether it's the fact that that 911 instructed him to stop following Martin or the fact that despite multiple recorded phone calls including one where Martin is shot asking his attacker to stop, no arrest has been made. Of course, I know that every year there are dozens of other Trayvon Martins with equally shocking stories, he's not unique. And yet, the fact that this story has grabbed national headlines, that every ounce of available evidence save the killer's own testimony, points to directly to manslaughter if not murder and yet still nothing has been done makes it all the more atrocious.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Album Review: Titus Andronicus LLC MIxtape Vol. 1

"Okay #FUCKTHEBULLSHIT it's almost time to do something to prove that I actually love you" - thus did Titus Andronicus' front man Patrick Stickles announce, via one of his trademark boldly hastagged tweets, that the band would be releasing their new single as part of a free mixtape at 12:19 am early Monday morning. It was a move totally in keeping with the group's idealist punk ethos and love of the all-access world of the 21st century (remember, this is a band that will occasionally remind its Twitter followers to #calltitus). Labeled Titus Andronicus LLC Mixtape Vol. 1, it's clear that there was care and effort put in assembling, arranging and labeling the mix as a thoughtful freebie when they could have just as easily culled the best tracks and slapped them on a new "deluxe version" release of their last album instead, how refreshing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Album Review: bell hooks [mixtape] - BBU

Last Tuesday I had one of those rare and wonderful musical experiences that comes from hearing something great for the first time and feeling the excitement just course through your veins. I was basking in an obscenely sunny day off, about to head out for a walk when I ran a across a Reader review of a new mixtape from some Chicago rappers that seemed worth checking out. From the opening beat of the first song I was blown away at the audacious and righteous power of the music and I found myself reveling so deeply in the joy of discovery that I got a little giddy as each new song came on, anxious for each new song like a kid on Christmas Eve.

In terms of introductions, I think that the group themselves does it best on their Bandcamp - "Epic, Illekt, Jasson Perez, and DJ Esquire are the creative force behind BBU (short for Bin Laden Blowin! Up or Black, Brown, and Ugly, depending on the day), and they're committed to making socially conscious rap that doesn't sacrifice an ounce of fun." I didn't know it at the time, but I'd heard their local dance hit "Chi Don't Dance" before which certainly showcased their adeptness at creating unbearably catchy songs. What blew me away was how well they could marry that kind of off-the-wall danceability with lyrics containing more humor, pathos, anger and urgency than anything I'd heard in a while.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The "Happy 175th Birthday Chicago!" Mix

Wow, it sneaks up on you, doesn't it old girl? One minute you're a makeshift metropolis just making its way in the world, the next you're the fourth most powerful city in the world, blowing out the candles on your 175th birthday cake. Yup, Father Time can be a tricky bastard, you've got to stay on your toes.

I just want you to know that I didn't forget your birthday, I was just busy and I couldn't find uh... internet stamps. The point is, it's the thought that counts and I put a lot into your present. You're a complex city, not easy to pigeonhole and I tried to reflect that here. Sure, there's some outright love songs from Lupe, Frank and others, but there's more than that. I've got radio hits from Power 92 and deconstructionist jams for the XRT crowd. You're getting love from all sides North, West and, of course SOUTH. We've got orchestral folk pop and punk rock polka, country-rock and standards. Most of your major music movements from Chicago blues (and some wankers from London ripping it off), 80's indie & hip-hop. I'll admit that I'm still not strong on my house or industrial music but there's time for that in the next 175 years. I even threw in some instrumentals to say what words couldn't.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I think you're special. You're a world-class city without all the pretension that normally implies. Your cuisine is amazing because you don't call it "cuisine", your (metro area) beers are the best in the world and only getting better and you're also pretty good when it comes to art, architecture, music, and parking space retention. In short, the world is a better place because you're here. So Happy Birthday (Belated) 175th Birthday Chicago and remember, you're only as old as you act!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Covering Our Bases - Bob Dylan

I've already gone on at length about Bob Dylan's cult of inscrutability and mercurial musical career, so I won't bore you with further description. However, despite this reputation his catalog of work due to its amazing depth and breadth has led to him being the second most covered artist after only the Beatles. In recent years multi-disc tributes such as 2007's I'm Not There Soundtrack and this year's Chimes Of Freedom have wrangled nearly everyone whose anyone from the indie rock world (not to mention your odd Miley Cyrus or Jack Johnson) into putting their stamp on one of Dylan's 500+ songs.

On Warmer Music likes nothing better than a good cover and I thought this onslaught of new Dylan tributes warranted a look back at some of my favorite memorable, important or underlooked Dylan covers. As always with these lists, it was a tough choice, especially given the breadth of musical love that Dylan gets but here are ten songs reimaginings of his work that won't leave you hanging.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Album Review: Want More - JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Yesterday was one of those blustery March late-winter days whose oppressive grayness just makes you want to stay inside swathed in artificial heat and light. So it was with some reluctance that I dragged both myself and my girlfriend away from hearth and sunny, spring training baseball on TV to make a chilly walk down Fullerton. The only reason that I made that trek was that local record store Saki was hosting a free concert (which was recorded for download on Epitonic) by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound whose new record I hadn't stopped listening to all weekend.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celebrate Leap Day With Chisel!

Sometimes spring is just as much a state of mind as a season and today was one of those days. Chicago may have had an historically warm winter this year but that doesn't mean that it was an easy one. Personally speaking, this season has been more than its usual grind. So it was without shedding a tear for my beloved snow that never fell, that I awoke to nearly 60 degree temperatures with a smile on my lips and spring in my step. On these early spring-like days I'm a sucker for two things - driving with the windows down and relentlessly energetic music. So with my trebly speakers blaring out the open windows, I headed off to work this morning, my ears full of Chisel and my head full of Leap Day cheer.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Six Song Six-Pack - Valentine's Day Is Over

"Men can stop domestic violence."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a cliche, we all know that, we don't need the lecture, blah, blah, blah. It's easy to dismiss messages like this because we feel like they're self-evident and no one WE know would do something like that. But the thing is, that's just not true. Almost two-thirds of women reported being the victims of rape, domestic violence or other forms of harassment in the past year. That means that every person reading this knows someone whose been a victim or perpetrated such actions. Of course most people who do such things aren't out there bragging about it and a lot probably don't even think that what they're doing is wrong. The system (if it can be called that) isn't working.