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".