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.