The Noise FM-“Next To You” (Video)

February 4, 2016 Leave a comment


This is one of the best videos I’ve seen in a while, so I thought I’d share it with you. The Noise FM‘s take on The Police tune “Next To You” is good, but the stop-motion video they’ve created to accompany it is brilliant. It features WCW wrestler Sting as the frontman of the band, and he falls for April O’Neill of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She gets kidnapped and taken to Magneto, so Sting enlists the help of The X-Men, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, TMNT, Batman, and Spawn to get her back.

Stop-motion animation is a painstaking process, so I know they put a lot of work into this. It turned out great and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The band plays at Schubas with Hemmingbirds on February 26th. Tickets available here.

Christopher The Conquered-I’m Not That Famous Yet (EP)

February 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Chris Ford is poised to drop an album I already have penciled in as best of 2016 in a couple months. But first, he’s teasing out a few songs to introduce Christopher The Conquered to the public at large. Many probably haven’t heard his brilliant Fate Of A Good Man record. Or seen him perform, which is a must if you enjoy his music. He’s found a formula in his songs that can cure the soul from any ailment-heartache, loss…he can even make the sun shine on an otherwise gloomy day.

Three of the four songs you’ll find on I’m Not That Famous Yet appear on the full-length, with “God Plays The Tenor Saxophone” the only one not repeated. I think Chris made the right choices with these songs, as each gives you a glimpse of different things he can do.

“What’s The Name Of The Town” is the storyteller at work-Jim Croce for the new millennium, if you will. A very fine tune stripped down to just the piano and vocals, here the electric guitar and strings  really make it soar.

The dynamic shifts to a more honkytonk jam on “God Plays The Tenor Saxophone.” It’s a bit like some of Elton John’s more rollicking tunes from the 70’s, and it blasts off to Heaven when the sax solo comes in. If you’re looking for a song to get the party started, look no further.

“On My Final Day” is the ballad of the EP, but it doesn’t get bogged down in the usual sadness of songs about death. It’s more about acceptance and doing the best you can while you’re around. The bebop jazz rhythm in the final verse really changes the feel as he sings “I waited around to find out how it’s done, but the only thing I learned was which way to run so, there won’t be much to say on my final day-ay-ay.” Then the chorus of voices rejoins him and it lifts you up like only great music can.

The solo version of “I’m Not That Famous Yet” is a nice treat to close the EP, and a stark contrast from the version on the full-length. If nothing else, it puts it all on Christopher’s voice and piano and you get to hear how skilled he is in both areas. The last minute or so of the song could be a masterclass in breath control and pitch.

You can hear I’m Not That Famous Yet on Spotify right now, and keep an eye out for I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll coming soon!

On a personal note…with Kate Epps

February 1, 2016 Leave a comment

“Fear and Loathing”, Marina and the Diamonds

From Electra Heart, 2012.


I fell in love with Marina when she released The Family Jewels back in 2010. At the time I was a little preoccupied with reading Marilyn Manson’s autobiography and listening to Nine Inch Nails, but I loved Marina all the same. “Obsessions,” “Numb,” and “Rootless” drew me in, emotionally raw in their simplicity and honesty.

When I heard “Fear and Loathing” for the first time in late 2011, I was coming to the end of my first relationship. Things were getting nasty and my self-esteem and self-image were taking a beating. I was 17 and I’d never felt so uncertain of who I was, and whether I liked me or not. I’d spent over a year moulding myself into something for someone else, only for that projection of myself to be rejected and to crumble, leaving something uncertain and cracked underneath. It’s something I’m sure you can relate to, even if you’re not as dramatic as I am.

“Fear and Loathing” is somewhat a contradiction – it’s like a full circle in itself. It’s the first song that Marina shared from Electra Heart – and in a way, a taste of what was to follow in the next year or so – but it closes the album itself. Listening to it without the context of the album evokes feelings of new beginnings, of resolution, of determination; with the rest of the album preceding it, the full story emerges of a battle for identity gone wrong, of defeat, of “I’m done.” It’s sparse and hollow; but it builds, swells and deepens, just like the narrative character of the lyrics.

It might have been easy for the casual radio listener to dismiss Electra Heart. Its biggest singles, “Primadonna,” “Homewrecker,” and “How to be a Heartbreaker” were tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, almost parodical – Marina herself said that Electra Heart was the “antithesis of everything I stand for”. But, based on hearing these songs alone in a shopping centre, it would have been easy to believe that Marina had abandoned her kooky indie roots in favour of slick Hollywood submission. And who could blame her? But the songs on the rest of the album – fan favourites like “Teen Idle” and “Starring Role,” were darker explorations of bitter love and shaky self-image packaged in sparkly synth production. (If you warm to “Fear and Loathing,” I’d recommend you check those out next.)

“Fear and Loathing,” and Marina’s wider songwriting, has had a genuine impact on the way I write. When I started writing songs aged 15, I wrote about bizarre topics and relied on what I considered (emphasis on considered) “clever” wordplay. I wasn’t saying anything. (And I do believe 15 year olds have the capacity to say something!) This time around, when I picked up the songwriting pen again aged 20, I had a burning desire to write something that was true. In the last year, I must have written close to 50 songs that I abandoned completely at or before the demo stage because they weren’t authentic. No matter how much work I did on them, I couldn’t get to believe the lyrics. They were just words mashed together with rhythm and rhyme – and I believe songs have the potential to be so much more than that. To me, it’s even more important that I learned this from Marina – that I learned not to settle until I had expressed what I was feeling, and to embrace vulnerability as a topic to tackle – because for all intents and purposes, Marina writes pop songs. Marina’s work opened my eyes to the limitless ways that pop music can be used to connect with others, to express yourself; honesty, self-loathing, authenticity and rawness wrapped up in a clean-cut, well-packaged, slickly-produced #1 pop album.

“Fear and Loathing” is one of many songs that made me realise that I didn’t have to hide or bury darkness in order to write a good pop song and that in fact, sometimes, those elements can be embraced and harnessed to challenge what we have come to expect from our pop songs, and ourselves as writers of them.

Josh Ritter Felt Right At Home In Chicago 1/29/2016

January 30, 2016 Leave a comment

IMG_6482Last night was the ninth time I’ve seen Josh Ritter live, including solo and live band sets. Each time I’m overwhelmed by the quality of his songwriting. One thing that’s changed over the years, though, is the trust he has in the band backing him up. Since the departure of Austin Nevins, and the arrival of his replacement Josh Kaufman, the shows feel looser. I thought Nevins was a great guitarist, but it’s obvious Kaufman fits better with Ritter’s vision for the Royal City Band.


Last night’s show at The Riviera was opened by Elephant Revival. I’d never heard their music, but I thought it was fun. Any time you get a performer who splits time between the washboard and the cello, you know you’re in for an interesting set. The crowd was super into it, so when they came to the end and said “We have time for one more,” only to add on another song after that one, the applause was uproarious. (scroll to bottom of page for photos.)

With a new album out last year, I wasn’t sure what kind of mix to expect from the night’s Josh Ritter set. The worst part about your favorite artist putting out new music is that the concert will feature less of your old favorites. On this night there would be no “Wolves,” no “Girl In The War,” no “Rattling Locks.” We didn’t even get “The Curse” (one of the finest songs written in the last 20 years in my opinion).


The good news for Ritter fans is none of that matters. Once he takes the stage and starts singing “Idaho,” you’re locked in ’til he decides he’s done playing. He’s got that infectious enthusiasm that radiates through the crowd, turning even the most casual of music listeners into super fans.

The setlist was a surprisingly balanced collection of songs, with Sermon On The Rocks material scattered throughout the show. With Springsteen out touring The River, that cover was replaced with Roger Miller’s “Engine #9,” with Frank Ocean’s hook from “No Church In The Wild” making an appearance during a rollicking version of “Birds Of The Meadow.”


As much as I missed some of the old songs, the new ones fit in great. Particularly the singles “Where The Night Goes” and “Homecoming.” The best moment of the night was probably the opening of “Bonfire” where Josh accidentally launched into the lyrics of “Cumberland” despite playing it a few songs previous. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “I have never done that before in my life. You guys don’t deserve that.”

Despite the screw up, the show was absolutely great. Ritter and his band are entertainers of the highest quality. This was the final show of their winter tour, but they’ll be back out on the road in a couple weeks. Check out Josh’s website for further details.



Birds Of The Meadow (No Church In The Wild)

Young Moses

Right Moves

Still Beating

Henrietta, Indiana

A Certain Light

Seeing Me ‘Round


Where The Night Goes

The Stone

Snow Is Gone-solo

Temptation Of Adam-solo

Engine #9 (Roger Miller)-solo



Getting Ready To Get Down



Change Of Time-solo

To The Dogs Or Whoever


Good Man



Jenny Gillespie-“No Stone”

January 29, 2016 Leave a comment

static1.squarespaceJenny Gillespie‘s last album, the critically-acclaimed Chamma, was recorded here in Chicago. On Cure For Dreaming (out today), she took the process out to California. The album doesn’t include the kind of sunny beach vibe you get from some west coast transplants, but there is definitely a difference in the sound.

If you like this song, you can check out the whole record on Bandcamp, where you can purchase either digitally or on CD/vinyl.

Man Called Noon-The Bad Guy

January 25, 2016 Leave a comment

Man Called Noon is a Chicago-based rock octet long on talent and creativity. Their new record, The Bad Guy, features some really fun tracks with a danceable beat and great instrumental work. The melodies are very pop-friendly, so you could compare them to bands like Maroon 5 (Maroon 8 in this case), or The Lumineers (except MCN is good), and you wouldn’t be too far off.

The Bad Guy comes out almost exactly two years after their last release, Edge Of The Night. The latter was built on a lot of great energy and talent, which makes for a fun listen. The new one focuses more on craft and dynamics. Both are well done, but I’ll take well-constructed tunes over pretty much anything else, and The Bad Guy has them in spades.

From the dirty bass line that opens the record, you know you’re in for a good time. Tony Giamichael delivers his lyrics with an earnestness that makes you want to come along for the ride. The band also provide some great musical references for you so it feels a little familiar (check out the “Oye Como Va” drums on “Hold On”).

The Bad Guy is a record that gets better on repeat listens, but also gets better as you’re listening. Song by song it gets stronger, all the way to the end. “Born To Want More” starts off like one of Matchbox 20 (Twenty?)’s popular ballads, but shifts gears to finish on a satisfying upbeat rock vibe.

The record is up for stream and purchase over on Bandcamp. You can catch Man Called Noon headlining House Of Blues on Friday January 29th with Band Called Catch, Burnside & Hooker, Big Wig Mechanic, and Leo Kidd.

The Besnard Lakes-The Plain Moon (Video)

January 20, 2016 Leave a comment

I saw The Besnard Lakes live at Maintenance Shop in Ames, Iowa way back in 2007. I was a big fan of their record Are The Dark Horse, which was a surprise because it didn’t sound like anything else I was listening to at the time. I was a little disappointed by their set, which was highlighted by an impromptu blues jam when a piece of equipment broke and they had to stall until it was repaired.

Since then I’ve kind of gone away from their music, but I’m happy to know that they’ve been gaining momentum again. Their new record, A Coliseum Complex Museum, is due out on Friday and sounds closer to the music I enjoyed 8 years ago.

The video for “Plain Moon” isn’t the greatest video in the world, but it does the trick. The images match up well with the drone-y, atmospheric, nothing-too-specific vibe of the tune.

The band have a few North American dates lined up between now and their UK/European tour in March. Check out full dates on their website, and hear the full album early on NPR.


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