Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's a SUNBEARS! Christmas!

Jonathan Berlin of SUNBEARS! wishing you holiday cheer!
I've been a fan of SUNBEARS! for quite a while, and I won't pretend one reason wasn't because they sound a lot like a slightly more together version of the Flaming Lips circa 1998. So it didn't surprise me to heat the two bands had become pals. But that's not really germaine to the SUNBEARS! Christmas tunes I'm sharing with you today, although come to think of it, both bands do seem to have a Christmas jones, considering The Lips did a whole freaked out and fucked up movie about Christmas on Mars.

Anyway, SUNBEARS! recorded a bunch of Christmas covers, so play these at the party when everyone is gagging because the host is unironically playing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (unless it's this version of that song). SUNBEARS! also has a new album out that I have yet to get a chance to properly review but it's no letdown and shows the group is only getting better and tighter, compositionally. Maybe all they can pass off that good influence onto their pals The Flaming Lips.


In fact you know what? Here's one of their new tunes to give you an idea of what they sound like when they're not making Christmas songs sound more interesting. And you can download it.

BONUS!
 

Monday, December 15, 2014

A challenge to fellow music writers: save your best of lists for when the year is actually over.

'Did you write your best music of 2014 list yet?"
"No, becasue 2014 isn't over."
"Good."
I know this is an annual complaint of mine, but music "best of" lists should really wait until after year's end to go up.* A few years ago websites started to go into defensive mode and publish their lists earlier and earlier in order to garner the most buzz for their selections. That approach was a dumb exercise in preemptive striking, and it's been made even more so over the last few years, for a number of reasons.

Best of lists have turned alarmingly homogenized. In a time when such a massive amount of material is out there and folks have the power to discover bands not held back by gatekeepers this feels counterintuitive. Leading me to believe most lists are based on a combination combining publicist relationships along with the wish to reinforce readers' believe that their tastes as really awesome. Why rush to release a list that looks like everyone else's?

Artists are increasingly releasing music weeks (or months) after these lists come out. I'm sorry, if you publish your list in November you can't put Beyoncé's December release from last year on a 2014 list. And who just dropped an album at midnight last night? And possibly one of the most anticipated albums since My Bloody Valentine's follow-up to Loveless? D'Angelo. And this trend is only going to grow more popular. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if we saw one or two more high profile surprises drop before Dec. 31, 2014.

How can you call a "best [insert name] of 2014" list before the end of 2014? I mean, aside from my previous two points, this one seems the most glaringly indefensible from the standpoint of people that have already published lists?

This whole practice is sadly outdated, and honestly it's built on a practice that did make sense in the past—most music writers had music through the end of December delivered to them well before December even began so these lists could be built ahead of time. But that practice was rooted in print limitations and those limitations have quickly eroded into pointless habits over the last few years.

It's time for my fellow entertainment writers to get with the times, accept they ain't just a 'changin' but have long changed, and adjust this whole "best of" exercise to actually reflect reality.

I guarantee if you take more time with your lists and don't just cobble them together in hopes of getting them out the door first you'll a) make more selections you won't be embarrassed by in 3 months and b) you identify more unexpected selections that might actually give your readers the pleasure of discovering something new instead of jumping on the bandwagon everyone else already signed up to ride.

*I originally framed this piece to include all entertainment "best of" lists but in some arenas—specifically film, TV and literature—the physical product is still largely limited by mead times music is no longer held back by, so I can see how it's still possible to construct a list for some other sources of entertainment ahead of time in good conscience.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Halfway through the holiday season.

Festive frivolity abounds and while it builds to exhausting levels of time commitments in the end it's all good fun and a good excuse to celebrate friendship and good company.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to handle a holiday party.

I was listening to a story about office holiday parties earlier this week and realized that my company is pretty genius: they allow you to bring a spouse / SO and that generally helps defuse any awkward situations. The upswing? We all have a blast and no one is looking at anyone else with any guilt the next day. Judging from the NPR story this outlay of cash—effectively doubling the bill by allowing guests—seems far more worth it in the long run!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bo and Luke Duke put a whole new weird spin on "Baby It's Cold Outside."


The only thing weirder than the stars of The Dukes Of Hazard—Tom Wopat and John Schneider—putting out an album of Christmas standards together is their taste in song selection. The usually super creepy "Baby It's Cold Outside" is slightly retitled, without losing any of its more unsettling lines, to cast Bo and Luke in an interesting new light. Me? I think it's hilarious that these two dudes have obviously decided to tweak the song by keeping the uneasiness intact, hopefully making apologists for the more, um, traditional arrangement of a man entreating a women to stay the night, squirm as the lyrics stand in a starker light.

I mean, I'm assuming this is intentional on their part, right?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Happy birthday to my favorite girl!

The birthday girl in her natural habitat: warm, summer sunlight.
When she turned 30 I took Mich on a trip to a tropical island because she hates the cold and is always sad her birthday is in the middle of winter. I couldn't do anything quite so grand this year since we're saving for, you know, a wedding and all, but I'm hoping that between dinner, friends and good tidings sent her way throughout the day her heart will know the warmth of all the love coming her way for birthday today.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Party animals of a certain age OR we still know how to have a good time and thanks for all the memories!

This is how we started our Saturday.
Saturday was one of those days and long evenings we should be far too old to fall prey to but manage to do so every couple of months any way.

OUr day time adventures included our annual pilgrimage to the Christkindlmarket for spiced wine and souvenir mugs. We then spent many, many hours tracking down my birthday gift to Mich since no outlet had exactly the color and specifications she desired, and I got it into my head she had to have her gift before her actual birthday on Tuesday. We returned home in victory, gift acquired, but that also meant we had no downtime ahead of what promised to be a busy evening.

The evening began with a holiday party in Oak Park which was in our friends' beautiful new house and had all the trappings of an adult soiree including many toddlers, but also including an incredibly—and deliciously—potent bourbon-based punch. I perhaps had one or two more than I should have before downshifting to the beer.

I left early in order to catch two of my favorite local band play at Metro in Wrigleyville, and of course missed my connecting stop coming back from the suburbs, adding another 30 minutes to my travel time. Luckily I made it to Metro just in time to catch the first bad  I wanted to see. After their set I got another drink and proceeded to take a power nap in the balcony of the club, missing a segment of the set performed by the second band I really wanted to see. Whoops!

Then it was off to a bar on the far north side (all of these stops throughout the evening were separated by great distances but don't worry, I don't own a car so it was all public trans and cabs for this stumble-y dude).

And then of course it made total sense to go to The Corner bar since it is a hundred feet from my back door, whereupon I proceeded to have a generally genial time that I remember through a haze as being a goodnatured time of old fashioned fun (not necessarily fueled by Old Fashions).

Annnnd Sunday ... these party animals are pooped.
The next day? I felt fine but Mich had one of the worst hangovers she's suffered in 2014 so I let her relax and even picked up some carryout for her to help nurse her back to health. A dozen hours of napping on and off through the day and she was right as rain by nightfall so all's well that ends well.

And to everyone whose path I crossed on Saturday night I want to extend my genuine thanks at making it a really fun evening of many stops filled with many people I see far less often than I'd prefer.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Snowglobe.

I am extremely proud of closerlook's holiday video and the team I worked with to make it a reality. I won't say anything beyond that but I urge you to watch it. And then watch it again, because I think you'll want to.

This is awesome.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

"A Quick One..."

This has always been one of my favorite Who songs, and it also holds the status of being the song that I think made Mich fall in love with Keith Moon behind the drum kit via the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus version. I guess I didn't realize they hadn't played the shong live since the early '70s and while only half the band is even around to bash it out any longer I'm pleased they resurrected it and did it justice, even if it oly ends up being for one show.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Bowling! Yay!

Every week we bowl with the media league, and by "we" I mean Team Chicagoist (adoringly also known as "Team Don't Fuck Up"), and by bowl I mean I sit and drink beer and bourbon and watch Mich and my fellow writers bowl. But this year there's a rule that says all players need to be there by a certain time so I've been getting to the lane's earlier and occasionally actually bowl to fill a space while we wait for other writers to show up.

But last night a fourth never showed up so I ended up bowling all three games. And got really high scores in all three (one of them I think might have been a personal best or close to it, though I think there was once a game a decade or so ago I broke 200, but that might be a wishful dream more than an actual memory).

And Team Chicagoist won last night too! Which, to be fair, this season is shaping up to be one where we're looking pretty competitive.

Anyway, my takeaway was that sometimes I think I actually do like being a participant and not just an observer of things.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Too much negativity. Let's counter that!

It's dark outside all the time and I think that's just adding to my grumpiness, transforming be into a borderline real life curmudgeon! Yikes! I need to counter that, STAT! So here is a cute picture to get you and me through the rest of the day.

As long as we don't look at each other, we can pretend the other one's not there...

Friday, November 28, 2014

To shop or not too shop?

Face it, Black Friday is no longer really a shopping holiday so I have a hard time feeling one way or the other about it. Most sales now extend all through November and anyone really looking for bargains knows to wait a few weeks and pick them up when retailers really start to get desperate. So what's there to get upset about?

Stores opening on Thanksgiving.

That is fucking ridiculous. If doing that isn't going to actually give you a financial jumpstart—and I have yet to see any stat that supports that it does—why drag employees away from a family meal on one of the few days folks might have to spend together as a full family. I don't know what we can do about it at this point? But I do think that just sucks.

Thus endeth my less than persuasive argument without a solution.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving!

2014 is certainly a year I have more to be thankful for than not. I won't go into the litany of positivity, but 2014 has treated me about a million time better than 2013 did.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quentin Jones and 'Miley' might melt your mind.

Still from “Miley” by Quentin Jones
This one is for those who still doubt Miley Cyrus isn't open to more than a dash of the truly avant, courtesy a video collaboration she did with Quentin Jones (which supposedly plays during her live show, but I must have missed when I saw her play in March).


[h/t SBSG]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This was one of my favorite bills at the Metro.

Yup, I still have the shirt and it still fits!
Mike Watt with Foo Fighter and Hovercraft (Eddie Vedder's band with his wife at the time) at Metro in June of '95 was one amazing bill. Foo Fighters were just starting out, Vedder was in mid-Pearl Jam explosion and really seemed to love playing the act of sideman in Watt's backing band along with Grohl. And Pat Smear is motherfucking Pat Smear.

Here's what they looked like live, courtesy an appearance on the Jon Stewart show during that tour.



[h/t COS]

Monday, November 24, 2014

Who are the people who are Lana Del Rey fans?

Who is actually a fan of Pitbull?
Or Imagine Dragons? 
Or One Republic?
Or Mumford And Sons?
Or Sam Smith?
Or Iggy Azelea?

Just to name a few.

Who are these people?

Like, who really finds any of them interesting?

I try to be respectful of others' tastes, but there mainstream is once again clogged with bands that make dry white toast seem like the choice for an adventurous palate.

Friday, November 21, 2014

TGIF.

The other night I watched Car Wash, at 3 in the a.m., not Thank God It's Friday, and was shocked that I had totally forgotten about George Carlin as the cab driver. Which then led me to wonder, had I actually ever watched Car Wash before, or had I just assumed I did since I was a child of the early '70s?

I honestly don't know, now. And if that's the case, how many other cultural touchstones have I taken for granted that I may not have not actually experienced (or if I have, have no honest recollection beyond the surface belief I've experienced it)?

History is a weird thing when you realize how unreliable it actually is.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Faith No More's new song does NOT disappoint!

Photo via the Faith No More Facebook page
Sounds pretty sweet to me. I can't wait for the new album!

And the motherfuckers had BETTER play Chicago!