Here's a short list of artists I've been listening to over the last week or so. Click for additional stats on what else I like lately.

On the upstairs porch, at the Mansion on Judges Hill, Austin, TX, 11/9/07. Lonestar beer is the local swill, and is comparable to a Pabst, Stroh's, etc.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Pitchfork Recap

In past years I've held this notion that festivals must be consumed whole. That in order to make the experience "worth it" a festivalgoer should probably forsake things like comfort, food and bathroom breaks in favor of getting the most out of your ticket price with a good spot up front. (For $65 dollars a day, Lollapalooza is still one of those festivals.)

On the other hand, at $15 a day you can pretty much sit back and enjoy the ride, and that's what most of us did this weekend. 100-degree-plus heat index figures had me favoring shade for the majority of acts. We hung out, listened from afar, played cards, and enjoyed the very reasonably priced $4 beers.

The music lessened my guilt by being mostly mediocre. First day recap:

Hot Machines: Solid noise-rock. I can't believe this band only has one 7" out and they're playing Pitchfork. A sign of good things to come?
Ted Leo: maybe the most high-energy mainstage show all weekend. I still can't get into Ted's albums, but his live show is total hotness.
Band of Horses:. Lead singer Ben Bridwell called the crowd "Dudes" several times, which I liked. BoH's songs have some challenging vocal acrobatics, and he did a fine job singing with power and staying true to the melodies.
Destroyer: Probably the 2nd-most anticipated set for me this weekend. My man Dan just could not keep it together. The band, and the vocals sounded sloppy. Definitely a group to see in a small-room.
Matthew Dear also dropped a fantasticly hot set of punchy, crisp techno at the Biz 3 tent. I'll definitely check him out next time he spins at SmartBar.

Day two, more of the same:

Tapes 'n Tapes: Good songs, but the performance was flat-out sloppy. The band was cleary trying to look like they were rocking though, and the crazy keyboard / tambourine player who constantly bashed the drummer's cymbal felt kinda postured and insincere.
Jens Lekman: (pictured above) Flat-out the highlight of the entire festival. Jens, and his Robert Palmer-esque all-female backing band charmed the socks off the crowd with peppery horn arrangements over finger-snap tunes. Jens has that truly rare talent to make people laugh, sigh, dance, sing-along and just feel joy for 35 minutes. In an era when so few musicians truly entertain, Jens feels like the biggest show in Vegas. If his first couple of releases are any indication, this guy is poised for a Sufjan-like rise to indie stardom once his next LP drops in early 2007.
Danielson: Based on Daniel Smith's live voice, I can only assume it took literally hundreds of takes to nail down the vocals on their latest disc, Ships. The man has one hell of a wretched cackle, and I'm typcially a fan of cacklers.
Aesop Rock: Sounded hot. Unfortanately this was the hottest part of teh day and I was content to kick it under a tree and listen from a distance. I regretted not getting up closer for this one.
Spoon & the National: Again, I just hung back for these two sets, but they sounded good. Did they just play the CDs over the PA?
Liars: I just really don't get their appeal, or how 70 minutes worth of noise constitutes a profound concept album. Unless of course the concept is to sound like sh*t.
Yo La Tengo: Pretty good live, I thought. They did their usual combination of bass-line heavy extended jamming, and short cutesy pop numbers. I'd like to see them again sometime with a smaller crowd, and less drunk.

Aside from Jens' set, I think the Phoenix show at the Double Door on friday was the true highlight of the weekend. They play shamelessly hooky pop that I like to call "the closest I'll ever come to liking Matchbox 20." Look for their new disc, It's Never Been Like That to show up in my favorites of 2006. The show was, simply put, badass.

Pitchfork Recap....

... is on the way soon. I got buried at work today, but hope to get one in tonight or tomorrow. Soon!

Friday, July 28, 2006

I am getting so hot, I'm gun' take my ironic t-shirt off

What the hell are these festival promoters thinking scheduling their multi-day events in the middle of the damn summer? is showing highs of 91 on Saturday and 93 on Sunday for this weekends Pitchfork fest. Those who hit Lollapalooza last year will recall the brutal 100-degree heat. Dealing with this kind of heat all day for 2-3 straight days just sucks all the fun out and turns what could be an awesome experience in to a chore.

Couldn't they hold these things when the weather is a little more forgiving -- say May or maybe September?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Flying Cars - Where are They?

Mike Elgan at Personal Tech Pipeline might have the answers. He makes a strong case that (surprise surprise) even the best automobile drivers would easily kill themselves and likely many other innocent bystanders if given access to a "flying car" -- which he assures us is most definitely an airplane and not a car. It's hard to argue with that.

Read the whole thing over here. There are links to some flying car prototypes in the works, as well as a case-by-case test drive of each, all of which result in death! Not to be missed.

723 Unique Samples on Herbert's New one

Matthew "Herbert" Herbert's new disc, Scale, has been in rotation a lot recently. I finally got around to reading the All Music Guide review today, and noticed this little segment about Herb's production techniques:
Given Scale's use of sounds that come from associable objects like fuel pumps and coffins, as well as its maker's unflagging devotion to recording methods of greater (and almost Jackass-like) extremes, it would be easy to prejudge the album as dry and joyless. One poor drummer was recorded under water, in a hot air balloon, and in a car driving 100 miles an hour — hey, for kicks next time, why not record his finger cymbals as he grapples a shark wearing a Dick Cheney mask?
Altogether the album boasts some 723 unique samples including meteorites and someone getting sick outside a banquet in London. Eat your heart out, the Avalanches.

Funny that with all the sample mish-mashing the final product product sounds as crisp as a Steely Dan record. I'll post a couple of tracks later.

Monday, July 24, 2006

In the Thicke of it

Do not be alarmed. I am Alan Thicke. Come, my screened-in porch and its warm, fragrant potpourri beckons. Sit down, enjoy the charm and comfort of my wicker furniture. Would care for a refreshment? Perhaps a long, cool glass of Fresca? Excuse me while I remove my pants.

Coupla Jams

(click the song title to download)

TV on the Radio: "I Was a Lover" -- The heavy triplets in this beat make this song beg for some Prefuse 73 remix treatment. While you're at it, throw an MC on 16 bars and you have utter perfection. Even without, this song is still one of 2006's best, and reason alone to check out their new Return to Cookie Mountain.

The Knife: "We Share Our Mother's Health" -- This song is danceable brutality. All this chirp, squiggle, clack and thump says a lot about the future progression of dance(?) music. There's even a slight nod to British grime. Silent Shout sees official U.S. release tomorrow. Click on the photo for Pitchfork's interview with them.

Colts Non-Division Games

Thank the lawd football season is coming up because I'm not sure I can take much more of this Cubs business. Seriously, who loses three straight to the sorry-ass Nationals?

The Colts season is looking like one solid game after another (full schedule). Take a gander at the matchups outside of the regular AFC-South games:

9/10 @ New York Giants
10/1 @ New York Jets
10/29 @ Denver Broncos
11/5 @ New England Patriots
11/19 @ Dallas Cowboys

Counting the two divisional games against Jacksonville, the Colts match up a total of 7 times against 2005-2006 playoff teams: Jags(2), Giants, Skins, Broncos, Pats and Bengals. Also consider the NY Jets and Philly Eagles both made the Playoffs in 2004-2005. Don't forget Dallas, who has cleary made themselves a contender with the additions of T.O. and Mike Vanderjagt. My prediction? 16-0, baby.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wisemen Do Not "Prolong the Time of Defication"

If you haven't been paying attention to 1.21 Gigawatts, for shame. Ronen is back from China, and has provided us all with an insder look at Chinese-to-English bathroom and escalator culture (known in some circles as "Pls no shitting").

DON'T MISS these snaps.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Presidential Poopy and Peepee

So does the FCC fine President Bush because he (sort-of) said the word shit on national television? Should CNN be fined for re-airing it, un-bleeped? CNN is calling it "The shit heard 'round the world." Is this really the story? I know that he and Blair were discussing Lebanon, but clearly the story here is pure shit.

Two things: First, I think the President's public use of the word "Shit" has done wonders for the the pro-shit agenda to which I subscribe. When used tastefully and to add emphasis, curse words fit quite naturally in to cable television and other forms of media.

Second, what if the President's dick accidentally popped out at a press conference? What might be the "fall out" from such an event? Would CNN put out a breaking news alert? Would Fox News have anything bad to say? All I know is that if "Shit" is news, then Presidential trouser snake is potentially period-defining.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Walk On

A lot of resources and company web sites are figuring out extremely cool ways to integrate Google's map technology. The latest one I've found is, which allows you plot your exact movements on a Google Map. Check it out. Here's the walk I took today after work to go buy a new iPod.

Friday list - Chicago Music Venues

Chicago has plenty of places to see a show. I still haven't been to a a lot of them -- United Center, Pritzker, Auditorium Theatre, Park West and the Abbey Pub namely -- but, shit, I need a list this week, so here we go in no specific order!

Old Town School of Folk Music - If MTV Unplugged filmed in Chicago, this would be the spot. OTS is even more intimate than your Caeser's Poconos of the world, in all their oversized champange glass-bath tub glory. The main floor is not more than 8 rows deep at any point, and there's only 3-4 rows in the balcony.

Metro - The sound here is gloriously loud and clear. My only real complaint is that sold out shows force you to show up early to get a decent spot. And of course you have to stay there all night to keep it. The sight lines can really be horrible once the place fills up. Maybe the best sound in town though.

Andy's Jazz Club - Small bar with high ceilings and as little amplification on the band as possible. Loopers should definitely check this place out after work. Lots of small tables, and a great view from the bar. Good bands too.

Empty Bottle - This is probably my favorite venue in town, just because they book awesome shows and they be counted on for the $10 cover (plus lots-4-free) and $2 PBR. It's cramped, but you can always find a good spot by navigating along the wall towards the front. You always feel like you're seeing somehting special at the Bottle.

The Riviera - This place is kind of dark and dungeon like, but I love the way they have it laid out. The cascading floors in front of the stage make it easy to see from just about anymore. Plus, there's tons of seating in the balcony. The Riviera, simply put, is a good place to stand or sit for a few hours.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shows coming up / Sufjan Bashing

The shows listed on the sidebar got some much-needed updating this morning and some key shows caught my eye. Foremost, f*cking Dr. Octagon in the house at Abbey Pub, Thursday August 10! Where did this come from? I know at least one of you is down for this. We need to talk about tix.

I'm also completely psyched for the recently annouced Okkervil River two-night stand at Schubas, Saturday and Sunday, October 7-8. I completely missed the boat on 2005's masterful Black Sheep Boy -- one of the most inspired concept albums in recent memory I would argue. I bought it in January and in retrospect it's probably my true favorite album of 2005.

UPDATE: How could I forget the upcoming show from the newly-symphonic Sufjan Stevens, Tuesday, September 28 at the Riviera. Tickets go on sale this Saturday at 10am CST.

And speaking of Sufjan (I promise no more for a while after this) - All Music Guide honcho Stephen Thomas Erlewine takes a few swipes at him in this piece, and ends up with a classic case of "critic-itis" -- or the burning sensation caused when a critic's previous endorsement becomes a little too popular for their own rep. Signs of infection include excessive whining (Erlewine-ing), "I was there when"-ing, and other rep-saving / self-differentiating patchwork.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Deep Cuts

Pitchfork Music Fest is right around the corner. In the next few weels, I'll plan to drop tracks from some of the bands that will be taking part.

First up, a cut from Destroyer's most recent disc, Rubies -- still hanging strong in my top 5 of 2006. This song is notable for a couple of reasons: the biting, off-kilter guitar riff, and Dan Bejar's heavy vocal double-tracking, a la 1970s John Lennon. This one's a real pleezer.

Destroyer - "3000 Flowers"


The new job is awesome so far. All day I research hotels, find the good deals and write about them. One of the many fringe benefits of this job is just how scandal-icious some of these resorts can get, especially with their "Romance Packages." Case it point, this goddamn 7 ft. tall champagne bathtub, located in the middle of each suite at Caesar's Poconos.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bad day for public transportation all over the world. I guess here in Chicago we can be thankful we have a faulty mass-transit system, rather than one that gets bombed (knock on wood).

Good thing I didn't leave work early today, since my trian caught on fire and what have you. I watched three completely full buses pass by before I called a co-worker to see if she wanted to come downstairs and share a cab. This was 2 hours after the fire started, which should give you an idea how long some of those people were waiting to get on those packed buses.

Any blue line riders out there have a story?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Indies - They'll Leave the Lite On

Indie rock in the year 2006: most of us can agree that the 80s post-punk and electro things are beginning to sound a little tired. There was so much more to 80s music than striaght 8th-note guitar lines, brooding vocals and New Order snare claps. Like counter-clockwork, popular indie artists are falling back on lite rock / adult comtemp / smooth jazz-rock leanings. Call it progressive regression. Sit back and get sedated.

First up, this smooth track from Ambulance LTD channels our old friends, Hall & Oates. My personal highlight from this post, and true proof of just how 1970s the 2000s can be:

Ambulance LTD - "Arbuckle's Swan Song"

Though it's a couple of years old, this Feist track is deliciously Sade -- possibly with imaginary Steely Dan backing.

Feist - "One Evening"

Last up, enjoy this cut from the recent Herbert disc. There's more than a little Burt Bacharach going on in here:

Herbert - "We're In Love"

Good stuff!

Dude-vision update - Installment III

Is it just me, or is Entourage incredibly uncentered and shifty? After 4 weeks of the show I found myself saying, "What the hell happened to Turtle's hip hop management career thing," and then they drop an entire episode to pick up the slack. Episodes 3 and 4 this season were devoted (almost) entirely to this new Dom character, who was no where to be seen last night. His absense was definitely my favorite chunk of plot development, I don't know about you.

Beyond that, I'm a little dissapointed that "Biggest movie star in the world" -success only gets flaunted at Aston Martin dealerships. Where are the parties, the club V.I.P. rooms, the coke? Vince Chase's mega-star status is awfully vanilla.

I missed most of Lucky Louie, but think Rob makes a valid point that it's Curb Your Enthusiasm with poor people. That's accurate -- but don't forget all the dicks flopping around and higher than average F*cks, Sh*ts and C*nts, etc. Raunchy humor was long overdue for a comeback.

Tourgasm - this show continues to self-destruct more and more each week, and I grow increasingly desperate to convince myself that Dane Cook is in fact a comedian. The part about how he walks around stage and throws his arms around and stuff is understandable, so I'm good there. What's next?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Suf-er Sweet News

From a recent press release:
For the first time in over a year, Sufjan Stevens is going on tour, bringing with him a talented group of musicians and friends including a small string ensemble and brass section. They will perform a repertoire of familiar songs from Seven Swans, Michigan and Illinois in a new symphonic context... Sufjan would also like to take this opportunity on tour to debut you a few new pieces.
(Ahem... excuse my temporary fan-boying) New context? Do I feel a live release coming on? This sounds like a can't-miss show. I for one thought he would be always be the kind of artist who performs his most current material exclusively (as previous tours have demonstrated), so I'm really happy that this will be a full retrospective AND include new tunes. I wonder if he's leaning towards more of a string-dominated sound for future states records?

I also expect that he will annouce his plans for the next state records (EPs???) before the start of this tour, since the new tunes may inevitably give it away.

Revenge of the Friday list

Our new place is steps from the McDonalds on Western and Armitage. I walk by it every day on my way to the train. Two more McDonalds clog my route to work, making it even more difficult to pass unappetized. When counted roundtrip that's a total of six McDonalds on an average day.

Top 5 McDonald's Menu Items:

5. Chicken McNuggets
4. Big Mac
3. Sausage, Egg & Chee Biscuit
2. McDonald's Coke***
1. French Fries

Honerable mention goes to two deals: (1) Two apple pies for $1 and (2) Double cheeseburger for $1, which is actually $0.05 cheaper than a single chee. Dishonerable W.T.F. awards go out to the Filet O'Fish and the McRib. I can't believe McD's had the audacity to toss out a double Filet O'Fish.

*** Here are some interesting theories on why McDonald's fountain Coke is so much more delicious than any other Coke form. Theories seem to boil down to a few common points:
  • Wider straws offer increased flow creating the illusion of better taste
  • McD's has higher maintenence standards for their machines and clean them more often
  • McD's sells a lot of Coke, therefore the syrup is always very fresh.
As for my own thoery, I've been told from a friend who worked 4+ years at McD's that they have a special cooling system for their syrup which heightens the quality of the taste. In my opinion Coke probably created a special formula, exclusive to McDonald's. One thing's for sure, that's some good-ass Coke!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

come up in my grill and get served, friend

Apologies up front for the lack of post moves lately. As some of you heard, my Mom's house got struck by lightening and caught fire late last week. The quick update is that she's ok, has plenty of insurance, and, even though about 60% of her house has to be completely rebuilt, is starting to look at this tragedy as more of a blessing (shopping spree?) in disguise. Bottom line: it is, or will soon be, all good.

On to less important things -- the true calling of this blog -- Aaron and I are throwing a big ole juicy BBQ this coming Saturday. Featured at this gathering of elite intellectual minds will be an appearance by everyone's favorite entertainers: beer keg and chicken leg. Key stats:
  • Who: You fine people
  • Where: 2337 W. McLean Ave, Apt 3 (map) - take Blue Line to Western, or hop one of the Western, Armitage, or Milwaukee buses, OR just hail a damn cab. Drivers will find parking-a-plenty.
  • When: like I said, Saturday. Let's go 6pm, hoping that most of you will see it in your heart to show up by 7pm
  • What to bring - Your A-Game, and anything else you want that's not beer or chicken, or maybe hamburgers
We'll plan to head out in Wicker Park / Bucktown later that night.
This blog hosts original music and recordings by Mike Hicks.
Click here to access all of the the songs that have been posted thus far. Please feel free to comment, or email me.

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