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.