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The Regrettes-Feel Your Feelings Fool!

January 16, 2017 Leave a comment

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It didn’t take long for 2017 to deliver a great record, and thinking of what’s happening at the end of this week it couldn’t have come at a better time. The LA-based The Regrettes have culled 15 songs that feel universally relevant. If you’re old like me, or young like the band, the themes of Feel Your Feelings Fool! should be something to which you can relate.

Musically, I think the band is far ahead of where most their age should be. They seem to understand the difference between paying homage and ripping something off, and they do a good job of nodding to their influences without copying. There is a lot of garage rock and 60’s bubble gum pop getting mixed together. That’s nothing new, really, but they also bring a real punk energy to the songs, so it feels like The Ramones and Strawberry Alarm Clock decided to collaborate.

Lyrically, and I think more importantly, they talk about a lot of issues that plague so many. They talk about identity and misogyny in songs that can be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the point gets across. The band’s voice does seem a bit inconsistent at times, where individual songs are good, but don’t fit in with some of the other tracks on the album. Nothing wrong with that, but I think if it were more consistent the record would be even better than it already is.

The vocal performance by Lydia Night on “Picture Perfect” has a very 90’s kind of flow, so it’s no surprise they count Hole as a reference point. The manic guitar work by Genessa Gariano adds a punch of verve that makes the brilliance of the tune undeniable. Then there’s the Salt-N-Pepa breakdown that makes it a personal favorite.

The Regrettes have a few shows lined up in California next month after touring last year with Sleigh Bells and Tacocat. You can check out Feel Your Feelings Fool! on Spotify.

 

One-Sentence Reviews: Spotify Top 50 (2017-Week 1)

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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It’s been a while since I talked about the songs Spotify lists as the most listened to in America, so I wanted to bring it back on a more consistent basis. Hopefully labeling this as week 1 will force me to update this more often.

“Bad and Boujee” by Migos feat. Lul Uzi Vert-Pretty good until Lil Uzi Vert’s part comes on.

“Fake Love” by Drake-The backslide started a couple years ago, but I think it could still get worse.

“Starboy” by The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk-This one’s pretty good but I’ll reserve final judgement until I see Tom Cruise perform the karaoke version on Jimmy Fallon.

“Closer” by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey-This is not a good song.

“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift-Neither as irredeemably bad as Fifty Shades movies, nor worth listening to more than once.

“Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmud feat. Gucci Mane-If you can make it past the “Mike Will Made It” drop, you’re a better person than I am.

“Bounce Back” by Big Sean-Come for the monotone delivery, stay for the boring beat.

“Caroline” by Amine-I honestly don’t even know what’s going on in this song.

“Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello-The dude from Fastball has gotta be turning over in his grave.

“I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd feat Daft Punk-The bots in Daft Punk need to settle down and maybe only work with The Weeknd once per album.

“Broccoli” by D.R.A.M. feat Lil Yachty-Pretty fun song, but the line “Gonna turn this shit to Columbine” is not fun and actually kind of disgusting.

“Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-Poor Kendrick.

“Deja Vu” by J Cole-I like this song and most of the album.

“Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber-How is this song still getting this many plays?

“X” by 21 Savage feat Future-Pretty misogynist, which I guess is popular these days (maybe these guys should run for office)

“Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur-Finally an heir apparent to Jack Johnson.

“24K Magic” by Bruno Mars-My only question is what Julio is doing during this song…still looking for that stretch?

“In The Name Of Love” by Martin Garrix feat Bebe Rexha-Actually thought this was “Let Me Love You” for a second.

“One Dance” by Drake-Great beat, everything else is bad.

“Chill Bill” by Rob $tone-Interesting use of Ennio Morricone’s “Twisted Nerve,” though it’s wasted once the first verse comes in.

“iSpy” by Kyle and Lil Yachty-Too much talking before the song starts.

“No Heart” by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin-Hopefully by the end of 2017 rap music will lose this beat.

“Party Monster” by The Weeknd-This song is actually pretty good.

“Side To Side” by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj-The new unholy alliance.

“Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld with Grey and Zedd-Hailee was great in Edge Of Seventeen!

“Sneakin'” by Drake with 21 Savage-Drake sad raps over the most annoying beat ever.

Alessia Cara’s song from Moana-It ain’t “Let It Go,” that’s for sure.

“Heathens” by 21 Pilots-Ugh.

“All We Know” by The Chainsmokers feat Phoebe Ryan-Voices go together well, so this isn’t bad.

“You Was Right” by Lil Uzi Vert-I hope whoever made this beat got paid well because this is like the three thousandth songs I’ve heard it in.

“Mercy” by Shawn Mendes-Like a sorry mix of Sam Smith and Bon Jovi.

“Call On Me” by Starley with Ryan Riback-First time hearing this one, and it sucks.

“Scars To Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara-“Sit Still Look Pretty” with different lyrics.

“OOOUUU” by Lil M.a.-A drunken fever dream where nothing makes sense and you wake up in a cold sweat.

“No Problem” by Chance The Rapper feat Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz-Not my favorite off Coloring Book, but it’s fine.

“Love Me Now” by John Legend-Such a nice guy, and smart, and talented-I wish his songs were as interesting as he is.

“Neighbors” by J Cole-Probably the best song on For Your Eyez Only.

“Swang” by Rae Sremmurd-The tempo is too slow to keep my interest.

“Too Good” by Drake feat Rihanna-Sorry Ri Ri, he’s with J Lo now.

“Six Feet Under” by The Weeknd-Not as good as the show, but better than being there.

“Just Hold On” by Steve Aoki-Probably fun to dance to at a wedding of an ex or a friend that you haven’t seen in a long time so you don’t care how drunk you are.

“All Time Low” by Jon Bellion-Decent throwback to better times.

“Cold Water” by Major Lazer with Biebs and Mo-Catchy pop song but how is it still on here it’s like a year and a half old.

“Controlla” by Drake-This is one of the worst Drake songs, but not THE worst.

“Sidewalks” by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar-Dig that guitar opening, and happy that Kendrick could redeem himself after that Maroon 5 song.

“pick up the phone” by Young Thug with Travis Scott-Caribbean feel ruined by that damn drill production.

“Needed Me” by Rihanna-Made my top songs of 2016, so I like this one.

“Rockabye” by Clean Bandit feat Sean Paul-I honestly thought Sean Paul retired.

“Redbone” by Childish Gambino-YES!

“Immortal” by J Cole-It’s number 50, but easily better than 45 of the songs on this list.

St. Lenox-Ten Hymns From My American Gothic

November 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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It’s no surprise to me that in 2016, the best album about America is by a first-generation son of Korean immigrants. Andrew Choi’s music toes the line between bitterness and hope. The exhausting journey to find your path and follow it is hard, but there is a chance it’s all gonna be worth it in the end.

St. Lenox, Choi’s title for his musical project, is as close to a new Paul Simon as we’re gonna get, and frankly he’s better than we deserve. His observations about life are smart and biting, and the delivery can sound sweet while being slyly derisive. After putting out the brilliant 10 Songs About Hope And Memory, Choi could’ve sat back and enjoyed the praises he was getting from people around the globe. Instead he went out and wrote a record that goes even deeper into his own mind. The result is overflowing with great lines about the immigrant experience his parents faced as well as his own hardships trying to make it as a young Korean man.

Choi wastes no time pointing out that the “American Dream” is an illusion, for an immigrant and also most Americans who aren’t born with a silver spoon. There’s some fun had at the expense of Nixon on the track of the same name. He talks a bit about how great it is when things get done right in America on the song “Thurgood Marshall.” But for me, the record really strikes it’s finest chords in the last few numbers, focusing on his parents and their life in South Korea before they came to the States.

On “Korea,” Choi sings about the beauty and hostility of his homeland: “And people will greet with a smile and nod to anyone close to closer*, but it’s guns are ready to storm and blaze at anyone north of the border. And people say that the Kingdom Come will send you higher and higher, but the Mongol blood and the hardened veins is an animal deep inside her.” (*good chance I’m hearing this one part of the line wrong).

The vocals on “Korea” are by far the strongest on the record, with Choi’s range and control each in impressive form. So much of the album’s power comes from how the words are delivered, and it’s just perfection time after time.

My favorite song comes almost all the way at the end, called “What I Think About When You Say South Korea.” It’s all about the social aspect of our history-learning things from your parents or grandparents just by sitting with them and talking. Choi recounts his dad’s stories about his relationship with his mother, people left behind in their native country, time spent in the military. It’s also about losing that cultural part of yourself that seems to vanish as you assimilate into a new land. He ends with the line “That’s what I think about when you say South Korea, lately. That’s why I feel I have to go back again someday.”

10 Hymns From My American Gothic is out now on Spotify and the iTunes store. If you want the vinyl, which I always recommend, you can follow this link to pre-order.

Slothrust-Everyone Else

October 20, 2016 Leave a comment

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It’s been a couple years since I was singing the praises of Slothrust’s debut, Of Course You Do. That grungy instant classic ended up in my top 10 of 2014, and the band’s latest release is looking to repeat or better that offering. Everyone Else improves in almost every conceivable way over Of Course You Do.

Leah Wellbaum’s guitar sounds better, the lyrics are better, the overall sound of the album is more cohesive and accessible to virgin ears-literally every facet of Everyone Else seems to be prepared in order to launch the band into the mainstream. That’s a shame and a blessing for music fans. Most of what gets written and talked about amongst blogs, major publications, newspapers (eek!) sounds the same to me. Hopefully I’m not alone, because if you’re down for something new Slothrust is going to be right up your alley.

I was introduced to the band through a random email from Bada Bing Records. I’d never received anything from them before, but I’ve never been more thankful for a correspondence that may have been sent to me by mistake. I instantly loved the record and caught the band live at Township, which was awesome (especially considering their next show in Chicago, Nov 19th is at the much larger Bottom Lounge). It’s been a long wait for something new from the band, as Wellbaum kept busy with other artistic endeavours, and October 27th Everyone Else will be available for all to hear.

A couple singles have already been released to get you excited. None of them are my favorite from the record, but of the ones out there for you to hear now, I have to say “Like A Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone” is the one you need to check out.

After an instrumental opening that sounds like a sunny California day as viewed by the goth kids from South Park, “Child” throws you right into the dark world that Wellbaum’s lyrics inhabit. There’s a jaunty guitar riff and bouncy bass line that makes the song sound a bit more cheery than it actually is. And the solo that she slaughters halfway through the song absolutely destroys any assumptions you might have about where the song is going to go.

There are a lot of lyrics on the album about water-sea creatures, drowning in it, birth…It’s a fixation that comes in and out, holding the record together like a strong foundation. “I think my face looks like glass, but my body feels plastic-melt me into a bottle. I wish that I was a baby, sucking on myself. Boogie down to the water, I thought that maybe I could be the lake’s daughter. Because I float like an infant inside of it. Weightless in the lake-it’s got nothing to take from me.”

“Rotten Pumpkin” gets a little closer to the sound on their first record, just a bit more polished. It’s loud and fast without taking away from the feeling of pain and despair. “Horseshoe Crab,” a single from the album like the other two songs mentioned so far, is a slower song that allows Wellbaum to stretch her vocal range. At over 5 minutes, it goes on a bit longer than other tracks, but remains one of the better ones. The guitar work here, that swirls around Wellbaum’s voice through the bridge to great effect, is not something all bands can pull off well, but Slothrust nail the balance between too much and just enough added production.

My favorite song comes all the way at the end with “Pigpen.” It’s far too short for my liking, but it’s too good to not mention. It sounds like a front porch version of a RHCP song, with it’s nimbly plucked strings that feel a bit pushed back so they don’t stand out too much. Wellbaum sings “You’ve got an open mouth, and I have got an open wound. Wanna suck the poison out. Will you suck the poison out? And I would spread my wings, if they weren’t so goddam heavy. Yeah I would spread my wings, if they weren’t coated in honey.”

The song ends the album on a disturbingly upbeat tick. Everyone Else contains a lot of darkness, but there’s a steady optimism that things must improve-maybe not now, but someday.

You can pre-order the album on vinyl (or CD?) if you’d like right here. That link will also allow you to see tour dates, which started today and will be making their way across some of the south, the eastern seaboard, and the midwest through November 19th.

 

AJJ at Double Door 10/1/2016

October 2, 2016 Leave a comment


About 5 minutes into the AJJ show last night, after “The Michael Jordan Of Drunk Driving” and halfway through “Gift Of The Magi 2: Return Of The Magi,” a fight broke out right in front of the stage. Sean Bonnette stopped the band and asked those involved what the deal was. As usual with fights at shows it was over something dumb and the band told them they’d have to go to the back of the venue if they wanted to watch the rest of the show. It was the first of many times AJJ would call for some kind of order while the audience jumped and screamed and moshed their way into one another. It wasn’t a mad kind of scolding, but I kept waiting to hear “We aren’t upset we’re just disappointed.”

As with all AJJ shows I’ve been to (4), there are those that want to get rowdy up closer to the stage and those, like me, that hang toward the back. I still got run into a few times during “American Tune,” but for the most part people were respectful.


While their can be some tension in the air with all the bodies knocking around, I still prefer a crowd like these to a show where the disconnect between players and spectators makes it hard to watch. People weren’t playing on their phones or talking loudly to each other-everyone was paying attention and enjoying the music.

AJJ just put out The Bible 2, which is a very good album. It’s in my top 25 of the year so far and should have no problem maintaining their slot. The songs take on even more urgency live, where the band plays everything a little faster. “The Brain Is A Human Body” felt much more alive than it does on the record.

This was an early show, which was kind of weird. AJJ went on at 7 and played for an hour and a half. By the end the room was so hot I was running for the exit just to cool off a bit. All that sweaty skin rubbing together up front must have been scorching when the final note was played. With the night over by 9, it was a tough choice between going out for drinks or just going home to bed. AJJ shows are exhausting.

Josh Ritter at Thalia Hall 9/26/2016

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Last night Josh Ritter stopped in Chicago for his second headlining date of the year in support of his album Sermon On The Rocks. The first show was at the very cavernous and not-so-great-sounding Riviera, and this concert was at the much-preferred Thalia Hall, with it’s fantastic sound system and intimate atmosphere. The diehards made it out despite the double whammy of the Presidential debate between future Commander-In-Chief Hilary Clinton and some schmuck who thinks saying “Women-you gotta treat ’em like shit” is an okay thing to do, and also a high-profile Monday Night Football game. Well, after looking at the score and watching the debate on DVR, going to the show was definitely the Right Move(s).

The setlist was pretty fun-straying away from the most recent album quite a bit to play some classics. He still played plenty of tracks from Sermon On The Rocks, including “Henrietta, Indiana,” “Where The Night Goes,” and “Getting Ready To Get Down,” but he also played a lot of fan favorites, kicking the show off with “Monster Ballads”  and “Me & Jiggs” from Animal Years and Golden Age Of Radio. There were a couple brand new songs thrown in as well, which sounded good.

The band was a little different this time around-no Sam Kassirer on keys (no keys at all), no Josh Kaufman on guitar (replaced by Marty something who could really wail), and no Liam Hurley on drums (Ray Rizzo subs while Liam is caring for his new baby). Zachariah Hickman was on bass, of course, but played the stand-up version for the whole evening. The songs had more of a country vibe with this arrangement, which I imagine has something to do with the upcoming dates opening for Jason Isbell. It was a nice change of pace, though, and I enjoyed these versions thoroughly.

I didn’t write down the setlist, and there hasn’t been an update made to Setlist.FM yet, so here’s how I remember it…very likely it’s wrong:

Monster Ballads, Me & Jiggs, Cry Softly, Henrietta Indiana, Long Shadows, Bonfire, A Certain Light, Young Moses, Right Moves, Myrna Loy (In The Darkness), Snow Is Gone (solo), Girl In The War, Wolves, Cumberland, Where The Night Goes, Folk Bloodbath, Getting Ready To Get Down, Kathleen ENCORE: New Song, Lillian, Egypt

Brian Fallon and the Crowes at Park West 9/20/2016

September 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Earlier this week I got to check out my second Brian Fallon show of the year, this time at the slightly more intimate Park West. As he noted early in the show, it’s great to be so close because he’s no better than me, I’m no better than you, we all just want to enjoy some music. The audience, sparse when I arrived around 7:15 but packed in fairly tight by the time Ryan Bingham’s set ended, seemed to agree and the evening was very much a positive exchange of vibes between transmitter and receivers.

The set list was pretty similar to the first time, with the exception that he opened with Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” featuring Ryan Bingham and also having his co-headliner join for “Handle With Care” toward the end of the set. The two make for a great pair of songwriting buddies who get the best out of each other.

While Bingham got a little political during his set, Fallon took the opportunity to clear the air. Before he went into “Long Drives” he called attention to the fact that many music critics like to write that his songs take place in a nostalgic 50’s that doesn’t exist anymore. To that he says, “No. My songs take place today. All of them do.” And then he mades some jokes about owning a Volkswagen and a Mini Cooper and neither of them are vintage. He admitted that he tends to talk a lot in between songs, which he does, but he’s a talented storyteller so it doesn’t take away from the show at all.

Painkillers is currently in my top 25 records of the year, and the song “Smoke” is right up near the top of my favorite songs, so hearing a lot of those tunes, “Smoke” included was a treat once again. The singalong aspects of “Steve McQueen” and “A Wonderfull Life” adds to the living room feel, with all those voices singing together as one. He does a great job of creating an environment where everyone feels welcome.

I like the fact that he doesn’t play any Gaslight Anthem songs. When I saw the band play during the summer of 2014 it was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to last much longer. So if he’s burnt out on those songs, I’m glad he trusts his fans enough to not feel like he has to play those older tracks to please them. Honestly, I like the songs on Painkillers more than I ever liked the Gaslight Anthem songs anyway.

Only a handful of US dates remain for Brian Fallon this year. He’s doing some east coast shows and then heading overseas for a run in November. You can check out his site for all tour dates.

 

Setlist

Won’t Back Down (with Ryan Bingham)

Nobody Wins

A Wonderful Life

Long Drives

Georgia

Steve McQueen

Honey Magnolia

Painkillers

Smoke

Open All Night

Crush

Mary Ann

Rosemary

Behold The Hurricane

Handle With Care (with Ryan Bingham and Paul Cauthen)

Linoleum

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