RIDE release “Catch You Dreaming” from upcoming EP.

Shoegaze rock legends RIDE, fresh off the success of their excellent return album The Weather Diaries, are already preparing a new EP, Tomorrow’s Shore, due out this February 16th.  The newest single from it, “Catch You Dreaming,” is out now and mixes dreamy riffs with their uplifting lyrics.  2018 is already setting up to be a good year for shoegaze.

Keep your mind open.

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Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 25 – 21

Who made the top 25?  Read on!

#25 – Dion Lunadon – self-titled

As the story goes, Dion Lunadon was restless during a break that his band, A Place to Bury Strangers, was taking in-between tour dates.  He focused that restless energy into this powerhouse of a record that mixes everything from noise-rock to psychobilly grooves.  Thank heavens for eager artists.

#24 – The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics

A band that started out as a fictional joke between Sean Lennon and members of Fat White Family ended up putting out one of the wildest records of 2017.  It’s a great mix of psychedelia, electro, disco, and otherworldly chaos.

#23 – Jake Xerxes Fussell – What in the Natural World

Good heavens, this album is beautiful.  It’s somewhere between blues and outlaw country and is most Jake Fussell and his acoustic guitar singing heartbreaking songs about being broke, lost loves, and the bravery of river men in old times.  It will leave you wondering why you hadn’t heard of him before now.

#22 – Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

Ron Gallo is working damn hard to remind you that rock and roll isn’t dead (We are, however, according to him.), so it would do you good to pay attention to his Stooges-inspired riffs, vocals, and attitude.  He’s already planning a release early next year, so get on this now and hear the buzz.

#21 – The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

The Flaming Lips continue their journey through other dimensions and exploration of death, life, and love with this weird mix of psychedelia and shimmering power pop.  The addition of guest vocals by Miley Cyrus is a nice touch as well.

Next up, the top 20!  Come back soon!

Keep your mind open.

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Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 30 – 26

I reviewed close to 60 albums this year.  Post-punk made a big comeback for me this year, as did electro.  Let’s get this countdown started!

#30 – Ancient River – O.D.D.S. II

I’ve been listening to this psych-rock duo for years now, and they deserve to be better known to the world at large.  O.D.D.S. II was a wild, crazy record with heavy fuzz, vocals covered in so much reverb as to make them almost incoherent, and a mix of live and electronic beats.

#29 – Tinariwen – Elwan

These Tuareg musicians make music for desert landscapes, yet it fits in anywhere you are.  You could be in Antartica, the Amazon, or at the middle of Randolph and Michigan in downtown Chicago and this album’s haunting vocals and superb craftsmanship will make you feel your surroundings in a different way.

#28 – Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor – Lavender Blood

In a perfect world, this Detroit psych-rock trio are headlining music festivals.  This album, heavily influenced by a near-death experience shared by all three members during a flight to Greece, is their trippiest so far and might be the best Velvet Underground album never released.

#27 – Partner – In Search of Lost Time

This is probably the best debut album of 2017.  Josee Caron and Lucy Niles come out guns-a-blazin’ with this fine piece of power pop that contains heavy riffs, fun lyrics, and razor sharp song craft.  It’s loud and proud.

#26 – RIDE – The Weather Diaries

RIDE came back this year with one of the best albums, shoegaze or otherwise, I’d heard in a long time.  Shoegaze is enjoying a great resurgence right now, and it’s due in part to albums like this.  It’s a stunning piece and a record we didn’t realize how badly it was needed until we heard it.

Who’s in the top 25?  Stay tuned!

Keep your mind open.

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The Duke Spirit – Sky Is Mine

How do you follow up one of the best shoegaze records of 2016?  Well, if you’re the Duke Spirit, you do it by releasing a deeply introspective record called Sky Is Mine, which keeps some of the shoegaze elements of Kin, but also ups the dream-pop.  Lead singer Liela Moss was pregnant during the recording of Sky Is Mine, and she’s admitted in interviews that carrying a new life definitely influenced her songwriting for this record.

It begins with “Magenta,” a one-two punch of fuzzed out guitars and Moss’ echoing siren-like vocals.  “Who knows where the heart goes?” she asks, wondering how far love can reach when one is separated from a lover.  “Bones of Proof” is proof that Ms. Moss is one of the best vocalists of her generation.  She has a way of making a song sexy, sad, and slightly scary all at the same time.  “Go now and seek the truth, you’ll know it when the bones of proof press against your body warm, the skin, the form, the idea born,” she sings, and you can’t help but think she wrote those lyrics while pregnant.  The guitar in this is like a gentle buzzsaw.  I know that’s an odd description, but you’ll understand once you hear it.

“See Power” moves from dream-pop verses to bold shoegaze choruses and back again like, well, waves of the sea.  The heavy bass of “In Breath” mixes with ghostly guitars and hints of Celtic magic.  “Houses” has Moss’ reverbed vocals bouncing off each other as the band churns out a solid shoegaze groove behind her.  “How Could, How Come” is the stuff of dream-pop dreams and possibly a lost Cowboy Junkies track.

“Yo Yo” has wicked beats and sneaky, tricky guitars throughout it as Moss sings about (in my opinion, at least) staying in the present despite outside forces constantly pulling us back and forth.  “The Contaminant” is textbook shoegaze, and the closer, “Broken Dreams,” wraps around you like a warm fog with Moss’ lyrics about peaceful patience and hypnotizing percussion.

This album doesn’t rock as hard as previous Duke Spirit albums like Neptune or Kin, but that’s okay.  It’s the band’s further exploration of dreamscapes.  It’s ideal for wandering, sitting, and looking up at the night sky, which is mine, theirs, yours, and ours.

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 25 – 21

Who cracked the top 25 of my live shows I saw this year?  Read on!

#25 – Temples – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ March 11th.

Temples were the last band to play on the Desert Daze lineup at the VIVA PHX music festival.  It was my first time seeing them in a small venue, and they nailed it.  They sounded perfect and delivered a solid set that earned them many new fans.

#24 – The Damned – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

I’d wanted to see punk rock legends the Damned for a long while, and this show was pretty much what I’d hoped it would be.  The crowd was a fun mix of punks, goths, and horror film fans, and moshing to “Neat Neat Neat” with the Damned only a few feet away was a delight.

#23 – Thundercat – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 25th.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Thundercat prior to seeing him live at this music festival, and he didn’t disappoint.  He and his two-man backing band played a great jazz fusion set in the middle of a festival mostly devoted to electronic dance music.  He’s an amazing bass player, and seeing him shred live makes you appreciate his skill even more.

#22 – Marian Hill – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 24th.

Speaking of Mamby on the Beach, Marian Hill were one of the best bands we saw there.  They played a great set of sexy dance rock that might be the best new makeout music you need to hear.

#21 – Goblin – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL October 25th.

This performance from Italian prog / horror rock masters Goblin had a criminally light attendance, but they didn’t care.  As usual, being at a Goblin show is like being in a giallo film.  The whole atmosphere is creeping and fascinating.  They also played a nice tribute to the late George Romero.  Shame on you if you missed this one.

Who cracks the top 20?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 30 – 26

I’ve arrived at the end of my live music year for 2017.  I saw over 60 performances this year, and the majority of them were a fun time.  There were some that might’ve had lame crowds or that just didn’t thrill me, of course, but 2017 was good for live music.  To save time (and my sanity and your patience), I’m counting the top 30 live shows I saw this year.  Here are the first five.

#30 – A Place to Bury Strangers – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL May 11th.

I’ll see APTBS at any opportunity, and seeing this set where they opened for the Black Angels was a no-brainer for me.  It was also the first time they played Thalia Hall, and they sounded great in there.  I was lucky enough to chat with front man Oliver Ackermann before and after (along with the rest of the band – Dion Lunadon and Lia Braswell) the set, so that made the show extra special.

#29 – Joe Walsh – Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO May 12th.

Joe Walsh had a fun time opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  He joked with the sold-out crowd, played every hit you’d want to hear at one of his gigs, and had a huge, excellent backing band.  He also showed that he could still shred on guitar, and his performance of “Take It to the Limit” brought my wife to tears.

#28 – Bebel Gilberto – City Winery – Chicago, IL December 20th.

The last show I saw this year turned out to be a delightful night with bossa nova legend Bebel Gilberto.  It was a lovely set in an intimate venue.  Everyone needs to see Ms. Gilberto at least once, and hear her often.

#27 – Bleached – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

If you’re in a band, I wish you could’ve seen Bleached with me twice within six months because you’d have seen a perfect example of how to step up your game.  This show, which had them opening for the Damned, was the second time I’d seen them in that time period.  The first was at a gig in Cleveland in October 2016.  I thought they were good then, but this performance left me gobsmacked.  They’d become tighter and stronger in just half a year.  It had been at least a couple years since I saw so much improvement in one band.

#26 – Partner – Schuba’s – Chicago, IL January 22nd.

This was Partner‘s first gig in Chicago, and one of their first in the United States.  Shame on you if you missed it, because they are now indie rock darlings and their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, is one of the best of 2017.  This show was an absolute home run and wowed everyone there.

Stay tuned for #’s 25 – 21!

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Diagonal – self-titled (2016)

Chicago-based psych / shoegaze rockers Diagonal play an intriguing mix of both genres.  Their self-titled album, currently only available on cassette or digital download, starts with a meditative, almost ambient, nearly instrumental song called “Aura.”  I listened to this on a frosty northern Indiana morning as the sun rose over harvested corn fields.  It was perfect.

“Wide Eyed” teases you with a bit of drone sludge before breaking into a heavy shoegaze riff.  “Inside Your Mind” is so steeped in psychedelic tea that you can pretty much see rear projection oils when you hear it.  “Where to Go” ups the fuzz and races by you almost before you realize it’s happening (and I love the trippy fade-out).

“Waterloo” is another rocker that puts in enough reverb to almost make it a weird dream that eventually turns into a crazy psychedelic nightmare.  “Come Down” reminds me of early Black Angels material with its distorted yet somehow crisp guitars and lyrics lost in layers of reverb.  The album ends with “Cave” – a loud, wild, feverish freak-out that swirls around you like a tornado full of broken, dead trees and shattered houses.

It’s a solid release, and Diagonal is definitely a band to watch and hear.  They have the chops to be serious players in the psych-rock game.

Keep your mind open.

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Bootblacks – Fragments

Brooklyn’s Bootblacks (Alli Gorman – guitars, Barrett Hiatt – synthesizers, Roger Humanbeing – drums, Panther MacDonald – lead vocals), play an interesting mix of post-punk, shoegaze, goth, and synthwave, and their new album, Fragments, is a showcase on how well they float between those genres.

Lead track “Hold & Dissolve” instantly plunges you into creepy synthwave with a good mix of live and processed beats.  It reminds me of some of A Place to Bury Strangers‘ tracks, but with vocals that sound more like Peter Murphy than Oliver Ackermann.  “The Longest Night” seems to be a song about the first night after MacDonald’s lover walked out on him.  Hiatt’s synth work on it blends so well with Gorman’s guitar riffs that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart.

If there’s any justice in the world, “Memory Palace” is currently tearing up goth and industrial night clubs throughout New York City and will soon be catching on across the country.  It’s like a Joy Division track if they had decided to be a dance band.  “Sudden Moves” is a journey down a wet road under a gray sky with occasional bursts of sunlight through the clouds (mainly from Hiatt’s synths).  “A Pale Fire” is a fast, almost poppy electro track, and “Reincarnate” is something that could be spun by a replicant Los Angeles dance club DJ in 2049.  I like how Gorman knows when to fade back and let the synths take the lead and when to step back up and shred.  She’s quickly becoming one of my new favorite guitarists.

“For You (Lois)” might be a love letter to Lois, or it might be an ode to Lois, or it might be a cynical takedown of Lois.  I’m not sure, but it is a cool cold wave track.  The closer, “Gone,” has definite Depeche Mode influences (especially in MacDonald’s vocal stylings) and synths that sound like something from a rare krautrock single.

My thanks to Bootblacks’ label, Manic Depression Records, for letting me know about this band.  They weren’t on my radar until MDR contacted me.  I’m glad they did because this is one of the most interesting finds of the year for me.

Keep your mind open.

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Honey – New Moody Judy

I rarely buy an album based on a single track, but Honey’s new album, New Moody Judy, was an exception to the rule. I heard the first single, “Dream Come Now,” and thought, “Damn, I need to hear more of these cats.” and then pre-ordered the record.

It was a wise decision. New Moody Judy’s opener, “Wage Agreement,” blares out of your speakers with a wild mix of Stooges and Mudhoney influences. The guitars are loud, fuzzed, and urgent. “Urgent” might by the best word to describe the entire record, really. Every song wants to grab you by the arm and shake you until you snap out of it (whatever “it” is for you).

The sharp angles and explosive drums of “Dream Come Now” could power a rocket to the moon, or the scrawniest person to knock down someone three times as big as them. The title track throws in dashes of cosmic stoner rock and Nick Cave vocal styling. “Speed, Glue” isn’t, I’m sure, about people who can stick things to other things in a quick manner. The fuzzy bass and warped guitars are at the forefront of this amazing instrumental.

“Hungry” almost spins out of control with heavy bass, avalanche drums, and crazy guitar that sounds like something you’d hear on an out of control UFO. The band’s Mudhoney influence is front and center on “Bagman,” which sounds like something Mudhoney might’ve unleashed on a Seattle bar’s dilapidated stage in 1992. That means it’s a killer rock track, by the way. “Power” brings back the Stooges influence and MC5 touches as well. It never lets up from the first chord, which is the type of rock we need right now. The closer is “Peggy Ray” – a fierce garage-punk assault that you’ll want to play during your next free-run, skate, or even casual stroll around town.

This is one of the best rock records I’ve heard all year. I need to see these cats live. You need to see these cats live, and we all need this record.

Keep your mind open.

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Blacktop Records to release 12th anniversary compilation. Kill Surf City’s track on it now available.

Blacktop Records has recently signed Kill Surf City with a cassette tape release planned for later this year. To celebrate the signing and the 12th
anniversary of Blacktop Records the label will be releasing a compilation album Oct 27th on compact disc/digital featuring a brand new unreleased
song from Kill Surf City titled “Transistor.” The compilation also features tracks from Kevin Seconds (7seconds) Jonah Matranga (onelinedrawing) Open Hand, Wheatus, MC Lars and Green Jelly.

Keep your mind open.

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