The Replacements Reunite!

Riot Fest Chicago – Day 3 in Photos

The Replacements

Pixies

The Dismemberment Plan

Peter Hook and the Light

AFI

 

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PHOTOS: Riot Fest Chicago – Day 2

 

Blondie

Rancid

 

[Black] Flag

Guided By Voices

Dinosaur Jr.

X

Pennywise

The Selecter

Devotchka

 

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PHOTOS: Riot Fest Chicago – Day 1

 

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Screeching Weasel

Smoking Popes 

Danzig

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Forget Miley… Let’s Talk Macklemore

Scene-Stealing VMA Perf. Punches Homophobia In the Face

The original title of the Beastie Boys’ sterling 1986 debut “License to Ill” was “Don’t Be a Faggot.” Who knows why the change of heart, but just the fact that they were even considering that title is pure homophobia.

Too $hort’s song “CussWords” off 1988’s “Life is… Too $hort” contains the lyric “’Cause he’s worse than a fag or a Frisco dyke.”

And just this year, rapper J. Cole released a disgusting track called “Villuminati” that said “My verbal AK slay faggots.” No doubt, hip-hop still has a problem with homophobia. But is it waning?

The slang is still alive. For example, a phrase like “I love you fam, no homo” can be heard throughout the hip-hop community. And the genre is still drenched in hypermasculinity.

Enter Macklemore – the sensitive Seattle-based rapper with a social conscious.

 

His homage to gay relationships at last night’s VMAs was tenderhearted and inspirational. Though he is heterosexual himself, the rapper sympathizes with the gay cause, for one, because his uncle is gay.

“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me,” he raps. “Have you read the YouTube comments lately?” He’s referring to the many who still use the phrase “that’s so gay” on message boards online. Macklemore sets the right example. It’s a positive message. That’s why the “Same Love” video has more than 70 million views on YouTube. A new anthem for the gay-rights movement. 

According to a recent Pew Research Poll, a whopping 70 percent of 18-32 year-olds favor gay marriage.

If hip-hop artists want to thrive and survive they must drop the anti-gay rhetoric and culture. Or lose fans. Their choice.

Watch the music video for “Same Love” below. It won a Moonman for “Best Video With A Social Message.”

 

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The Cure’s Manic-Depressive Set – Lollapalooza Day 3 in Photos

DIIV Emerge as This Year’s Demigods

The Cure

It was happy. It was sad. Happy. Sad. Everyone thinks The Cure are exclusively depressing, but half their catalog is a bright and sappy swimming pool of sunshine.

Early in their set at Lollapalooza, Robert Smith and his band played “Pictures of You,” proceeding to play half of their 2-hour headlining set with songs oozing with joy. From “Friday I’m In Love” to “Just Like Heaven” it was one spine-tingling hit after the other.

Flip the coin and you’re down in the dumps with songs like “One Hundred Years” and “The Hungry Ghost.” That was the second half. Nonetheless satisfying if not bone-chilling. Robert Smith reminds you that if you’re feeling moody, you’ve come to the right place. Thrilling. 

Which brings us to: DIIV…

 

DIIV

Is this Kurt Cobain? No it’s Zachary Cole Smith – frontman of DIIV. And no big surprise, DIIV says they are heavily influenced by – but sound nothing like – Nirvana.

Wearing old lady clothes like a jean vest and a floral print skort, Smith was romping about the stage, hair-in-face – playing the band’s jaw-dropping mostly instrumental tunes. A young band with a brilliant future. The demigods of this year’s Lollapalooza. 

 

Tegan And Sara

Wild Nothing

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The Postal Service Reach Greater Heights, The National Stuns Crowd – Lolla Day 2 in Photos

 

The Postal Service

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard’s electro side project earned the hearts of hipsters back in 2003. The debut album “Give Up” by The Postal Service became an instant classic that left fans begging for more.

During the band’s headlining set at Lolla Saturday night, fans reveled in the chance to see this band for the first time in a decade. They delivered… ahem… an incredible set.

 

 

The National

The National absolutely blew me away. I had written them off as a humdrum band but live they were anything but boring. It was a symphony of indie rock complete with a horn section in addition to the guitar-bass-drums. Astonishing. And eye-opening. I think you guys have a new fan.

 

Matt And Kim

Matt And Kim’s usual antics were on full display earlier that afternoon as the duo played covers of Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” as well as DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” in addition to their own hits “Daylight” and “Lessons Learned.”

 

The Lumineers

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New Order Schools Nine Inch Nails – Lollapalooza Day 1 in Photos

 

New Order

Forget about Nine Inch Nails for a second. The true legends of Lollapalooza Day-One were New Order. With a veritable sonic boom of hits that lasted the entire set, the new-wave-electro band proved that an artist like Nine Inch Nails wouldn’t be who they are today without New Order.

Frontman Peter Hook sandblasted the crowd with hit after hit after hit. From “Blue Monday,” to “Bizarre Love Triangle.” “Temptation” to “Ceremony.” “Regret” to “True Faith.” Even a couple Joy Division songs – “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” I kept thinking, “This band’s gonna run out of hits.” But they didn’t. The set was jam-packed entirely with hits.

 

Nine Inch Nails

On to NIN. OK set. They played everything you’d think they would minus “Down In It” and “The Perfect Drug.” A spooky rendition of “Hurt” ended the set. Haunting indeed. 

 

Crystal Castles

IO Echo

Icona Pop

 

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M.I.A.’s Carnavale Motif, Slimeballz R. Kelly Performance – Pitchfork Day 3 in Photos

M.I.A.

 

R. Kelly

 

Foxygen

 

Yo La Tengo

 

Chairlift

 

 

El-P

 

 

M.I.A.’s Stage

 

 

 




Belle & Sebastian’s Dance Party, Breeders Do ‘Last Splash’ – Pitchfork Day 2 in Photos

Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian are notorious for boring shows. Sleepy. Aloof. Blah. I was worried about them as a festival headlining act. But the twee pop band from Glasgow, Scotland annihilated the crowd during their Saturday headlining performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival.Frontman Stuart Murdoch invited fans up onstage to dance during “Boy With the Arab Strap.”

This was no quaint and quiet affair.  With 12 musicians onstage including the usual guitar, bass, drums – plus violin, cello, trumpet, flute, keyboards and more. It was nothing but sleepy. It was an energy drink of animal magnetism. Blindsiding and brilliant. More pics of everyone who played below. 

 

The Breeders

 

Pissed Jeans

 

 

METZ

 

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

 

Parquet Courts

 

Phosphorescent

 




Bjork’s Weirdo Getup, Joanna Newsom’s Gorgeous Harp – Pitchfork Day 1 in Photos

 

Bjork

We all know it. Bjork is bizarre. In a good way. The Icelandic singer-songwriter zipped onstage wearing an airglow silver dandelion spacewoman getup. Her entire head was covered in long, shiny “pins” alá Pinhead from “Hellraiser” but to the extreme. The singer’s show came complete with a dozen or so dancing choir performers who bolstered Bjork’s nuanced voice.

The energetic “Army of Me” was the highlight of the night. And we didn’t get to hear her other hits – “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Big Time Sensuality,” “or “Human Behaviour.” Why? With a thunderstorm a-brewin’ Pitchfork organizers called off the show 20 minutes too soon.  Major bummer.

But still, this day-one headlining showstopper performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival was absolutely fun-tastic. More photos from Day 1 of the Pitchfork Music Fest below. 

 

 Wire

 

Mac DeMarco 

 

Angel Olsen

 

Joanna Newsom




The Cult of Mountain Goats

 Latest Tour a Godsend for Superfans

 

When I showed up at Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s now-former house in Ames, IA in 2000, it was epic – long before everyone oversaturated that adjective. I was a student at Iowa State University and I was there to interview him for the school paper. But actually, it was more of a hangout.

As red wine flowed, we listened to some Norwegian death metal, a longtime obsession of his. Of course, John’s acoustic folk rock is the absolute opposite of black metal. However, he often strums his guitar just as violently as any member of Mayhem ever would.

He showed me boxes and boxes of cassette tapes filled with original songs he recorded on his trusty boombox. In those days, John performed solo and recorded all of his music on that boombox. Now he rocks a full band, complete with a horn section. He even performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this year.

But on his current tour, John Darnielle is paired solely with now-veteran bassist Peter Hughes, sporting an old-school vibe in intimate venues.

 

At his gig last night at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, Darnielle performed a myriad of quiet songs that were deep cuts from albums that leaned more to the obscure. “You Were Cool,” a fan-favorite that is unreleased was a highlight, as was “Ox Baker Triumphant,” from 2006’s esoteric “Babylon Springs” EP.  

At moments, it was so quiet you could hear the fizzle and pop of a beer can opening. It was like an opera concert, with everyone in the audience not making a peep, except to applaud at the end of each song. That’s how intimate the fan’s relationship is with John.

Whether they were lip synching or singing at full volume, the crowd enjoyed every minute of it. And rightly so. His ultra-fanatical followers snap up and memorize every EP, every B-side, every album (there are 14, not including the stuff he used to release on cassette tape only).

The only “hit” he played was the encore – “No Children” – a fast, singalong lyrical masterpiece from 2002’s “Tallahassee.” But it didn’t matter. The Cult of Mountain Goats knew every single song. And every single song sounded great.

 

TOUR DATES

June

19 – Kansas City, MO – The Record Bar [SOLD OUT]

20 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House

22 – Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree [SOLD OUT]

23 – Gainesville, FL – High Dive 

24 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room

26 – Charleston, SC – The Charleston Pourhouse

27 – West Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern

28 – Wilmington, NC – The Soapbox

July

6 – Durham, NC – Festival for the Eno

26 – Newport, RI – Newport Folk Festival

28 – Asheville, NC – Bele Chere Festival

September

13-16 – Miami, FL – Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival

October

7 – Bristol, UK – St. Georges

8 – London, UK – Union Chapel

9 – Manchester, UK – Royal Northern College of Music

10 – Glasgow, Scotland – Arches

12 – Gent, Belgium – Handelsbeurs

13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – People’s Place

14 – Cologne, Germany – Luxor

16 – Paris, France – La Gaite Lyrique

18 – Madrid, Spain – Teatre Conde Duque

19 – Barcelona, Spain – Caprichos de Apolo 

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PHOTOS: Japandroids at The Metro in Chicago

 

In their fourth and final Chicago appearance for their Celebration Rock tour, Vancouver duo Japandroids go hardcore, winning over the sold-out crowd with their arena-sized garage rock. As the band likes to say: “Stay Crazy Forever!”

 

 

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Screaming Smiles of Joy: Thermals in Chicago

 

 

The Thermals bleed happiness. Even their latest album “Desperate Ground” – which is about killing and death and fear and darkness – screams cheer.

The Portland trio’s show last night at Lincoln Hall in Chicago was a blitzkrieg of loud, super-fun serendipitous music.

Fast power chords and fuzzy distortion pedals embody the band’s signature sound. For the uninitiated, The Thermals are like a hipster version of Weezer, but better.

Their fans are zealous – hollering along to every single song.  Songs like “Here’s Your Future” and “Born to Kill” were massive singalongs.

Indeed The Thermals have an extremely intimate relationship with their fans. There is no third wall. Frontman Hutch Harris jumped into the crowd at one point, spinning around with his guitar, rocking out surrounded by his followers.

The friendliest mosh pit ever erupted early on in the show, rearing its head intermittently throughout the performance. Like every Thermals show, it consisted mostly of people bopping around and pogo-ing.

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PHOTO: Digitalism in Chicago

 

Reach For the Sky

In the home of house music, German electro-house duo Digitalism thumped their way through the Bottom Lounge in the Windy City. Dance music at its finest. 




A Spoonful of Backpacker Hip-Hop

 The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 11

 

Bitches. Bling. Ho’s. Guns. Drugs. Gangs.

Once upon a time, there was hip-hop that wasn’t about all those things.

Of course the beginnings of hip-hop in the late ‘70s were all about the trifecta of MC’ing / scratching, breakdancing and graffiti.

But in the early ‘90s, Dr. Dre, NWA and Snoop took over with their gangsta rap. Hip-hop had grown up to become a monster. Not to demonize Dre and the like, but the very heart and soul of hip-hop was lost in the early ‘90s.

But at the same time, a new hip-hop genre emerged – backpacker hip-hop. This strain of hip-hop was the kind of music that graffiti writers would listen to. It was cool. Fresh. Dope. Underground.

The name comes from the backpacks graffiti artists would carry around with their spray paint cans. It was a back-to-basics style characterized by artists like Wu-Tang Clan, The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest.

There’s even a revival happening now with artists like Common, Lupe Fiasco and Aesop Rock. All with the conscientious lyrics that have defined the genre.

This playlist marries the old with the new. Wu-Tang Forever. Backpacker Forever.

If you don’t have Spotify, you can download and listen for free at spotify.com. 

Who did I miss? Leave a comment below.

 

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Triple Hype Tuesday – The Flaming Lips, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Thermals

 

The Flaming Lips – The Terror

 

To say “The Terror” is experimental is an understatement. At best, it’s a challenging listen that will grow on you. At worst, it’s 55 minutes of torture.

What happened to the Flaming Lips? Well, frontman Wayne Coyne has reached the point where he can do absolutely anything he wants and people will buy it.

“The Terror” is weird but not in a Flaming-Lips-of-yore way. Coyne is no stranger to avant-garde wackiness – see the Boombox Experiment and the four-disc “Zaireeka.” “The Terror” is downtrodden, monotonous and depressing, with little to no guitar.

The pretentious album sounds like a transmission from outer space. This is coming from a critic who has seen the Lips 8 times, beginning with a show in 1993 in which they opened – yes opened – for the Gin Blossoms.

However, you can give credit to the Flaming Lips for this: there is nothing like “The Terror” on the music scene now. Maybe it’s better on vinyl? Under the influence of weed?

1 spoon out of 5

 

 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

 

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have evolved drastically since their loud and crazy first LP “Fever to Tell.” As the Brooklyn band enters its teenage years – the YYYs formed in 2000 – singer Karen O., guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase mostly move away from that supercharged rock sound, trading it for more subdued vocals and melodies.

“Mosquito” is notably different. Not as fun, but equally creative. Rather than scream her heart out like in the past, Karen O. sings softly, echoing the soothing styles of recent singers like Lykke Li and First Aid Kit’s Johanna and Klara Soderberg.

Lyrical motifs include religion and death. But it’s not all slow tempo. The band does rock out on songs like the title track and “Area 52,” throwing a bone to fans of the freakout rock version of the band.

3 spoons out of 5

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Top 10 Most Badass Women Rockers Today

 

Rock ‘n’ roll don’t need no binders full of women.

There’s an avalanche of incredible female rockers making music right now.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth record “Mosquito” comes out tomorrow. There’s no doubt that Karen O. screams with the best of ‘em. But who’s the next Karen O? Here are some contenders.

 1. Sleigh Bells – Alexis Krauss

 

She struts her stuff like a lioness devouring her prey. Alexis Krauss’ singing voice is pure gold. On Sleigh Bells’ recordings and even live, it sounds so thick, you would think there were two women singing at once.

And she’s got style. Rocking anything from a studded black leather jacket to tank tops to sunglasses and sleeve tattoos, Alexis is truly a Joan Jett for her generation. Two distorted guitars and a drum machine make this band sound unlike any other.

Sleigh Bells’ “Infinity Guitars” is in 3 current movie trailers – “The Bling Ring,” “Pain & Gain” and “Kick-Ass 2.” Fame and fortune await.

2. Matt And Kim – Kim Schifino – drummer

 

Kim Schifino is the happiest drummer on earth. Her smile is endless, endearing and contagious. And her beats are spot-on. As the better half of duo Matt And Kim, she complements Matt Johnson with her witty stage banter.

“I’m feeding off your energy,” she once told a Cleveland crowd. “I eat that shit for breakfast.” Hoisting herself atop her kickdrum at every show, she shakes her booty like it’s her job. And it is her job – to entertain at all costs. Kim is also an avid crowd-surfer. But she doesn’t crowdsurf like most people – she actually walks on the crowd. Matt And Kim’s indie synthpop is nothing but fun and it’s Kim’s unabashed enthusiasm that exudes it.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Amanda Palmer

 

One of the most ambitious women in rock today, Amanda Palmer ditches her vaudeville-style act from the past decade – Dresden Dolls – on her latest project, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. The band’s debut came out in the fall of last year and it resonates to this day. It features a near-symphony of indie-rockers including guitar, bass, drums, horns, strings, banjo, ukelele and more.

Amanda is still quite theatrical – hence the album’s title “Theater Is Evil” – and her Grand Theft Orchestra is packed with over-the-top vocals and hyperbolic musical arrangements. No stranger to controversy, Amanda got in hot water when she raised more than a million dollars – the highest ever for any Kickstarter campaign. Did she really need that much cash?

 4. Halestorm – Lizzy Hale

 

This punk/metal band features scratchy yet melodic vocals by the definitely badass Lizzie Hale. The band won Best Hard Rock / Metal Album at this year’s Grammy Awards for their album “The Strange Case of…”

 5. The Joy Formidable – Ritzy Bryan

 

The Joy Formidable come from Wales. It’s a very rural, quiet part of the UK, where you can make a lot of noise without disturbing anyone. The band’s fuzz-noise sound is reminiscent of early Smashing Pumpkins.

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Grateful ‘Dead’

Evil Dead 2013 vs. The Evil Dead 1981 – Equally Good

 

It’s not like Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” – which tackled the classic word-for-word, shot-by-shot, frame-by-frame. That would’ve been boring. “Evil Dead” (2013) is anything but boring.

I watched both the reboot and the classic this weekend. But how does the new one compare to the stellar original?

“The Evil Dead” (1981) has earned its place in history as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The cult classic was directed by Sam Raimi who would go on to helm the early 2000s “Spiderman” flicks starring Tobey Maguire, in addition to the recent “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Raimi returns as a producer on the new movie.

Made on a shoestring budget for $90,000 – “The Evil Dead” (1981) combines classic blood and gore with spot-on cinematography and cheesy special effects. It’s also funny.

Both films have a rather trite storyline, but it doesn’t matter. Twentysomething friends drive to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to stay at a dilapidated cabin in the woods. When they discover the mysterious Book of the Dead in the cellar, they mistakenly read its incantations out loud, causing demons to possess their bodies one at a time.

While the 1981 version is filled with laughs, “Evil Dead” (2013) is genuinely scary. There’s even more blood and gore and plenty of nails-on-the-chalkboard, cringeworthy scenes involving knives and razorblades. So pack up your chainsaw and head to the megaplex, or chill out at home and watch the 1981 original on Netflix Instant. Both these films get the Sonic Cereal stamp of approval.

 




R.I.P. Roger Ebert – The Best Film Critic Ever

 

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The Joy Formidable in Chicago – Pure Bliss

 

The crash of a gong. Lightning-fast guitar. Tenderhearted acoustic moments. These were the elements that characterized Tuesday night’s sold out Joy Formidable show at the Vic in Chicago.

The Joy Formidable is a fairly new Welsh rock band led by frenetic frontwoman Ritzy Bryan. This year – with “Wolf’s Law” – a record that will surely be vying for one of this year’s best, the band justified their status as phenomenal breakout stars.

 

 

It’s music that is of this era, but hearkens back to the sound of ‘90s alternative bands like Smashing Pumpkins or The Breeders.

While the chit-chat between songs went mostly misunderstood due to Bryan’s thick Welsh accent, the music spoke for itself. Pure bliss. 

 

PS: Opening act Kitten killled it! Check ’em out. 




March Rewind – Can’t Miss Albums

Sometimes it takes a while to digest new records. That’s why each month, Sonic Cereal reviews albums in retrospect. Here’s a look at the best records of March 2013 that get the Sonic Cereal stamp of approval. Don’t let these pass you by.

 

1. Justin Timberlake – “The 20/20 Experience”

After a show-stopping, film-noir-ish performance at the Grammys in February, Justin returns with his first full-length since 2006. It was hands-down the most highly anticipated release in March, even knocking out David Bowie.

The horn-punctuated single “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay-Z is ambling and ethereal. This summer’s baseball and football stadium tour with Jay-Z will certainly be a highlight of the summer for many, along with Lollapalooza and Pitchfork.

2. David Bowie – “The Next Day”

David Bowie is one of those artists with so many hits it’s not even fair to call him a legend. He is beyond legendary. I challenge you to pick up one of his greatest hits records, listen to it and see how many songs you know. You’ll surprise yourself. 

His first studio album in ten years features bite-sized songs that are mostly downbeat compared to his past material. Strong stuff.

3. They Might Be Giants – “Nanobots”

They Might Be Giants always do-it-up fun. Twenty-five tracks – some as short as six seconds – populate this 17th album from the Brooklyn Rockers. Double yay.

 

4. The Strokes – “Comedown Machine”

Where’s the fun? What used to be a genuine rock band has taken a turn deeper toward the likes of electronic beat-heavy Hot Chip and Cut Copy. The jury’s still out on whether this is a good thing or not. My take: boring.

 

Also Out In March

Lil Wayne – “I Am Not A Human Being II”

Depeche Mode – “Delta Machine”

Bon Jovi – “What About Now”

Low – “The Invisible Way”

Suede – “Bloodsports”

Dido – “Girl Who Got Away”

OneRepublic – “Native”




Bleeding Rainbow Upstage Cave Singers

Chicago Show Illuminates Up-And-Coming Band

From Santigold to Diplo, Philadelphia produces some of the best talent in indie music. The same could be said for Bleeding Rainbow, a noise-pop quartet from the City of Brotherly Love.

Lead singer Sarah Everton rocks a voice as sweet as whipped butter, contrasting the band’s noisy aesthetic. At the band’s opening appearance last night at the Empty Bottle in Chicago on Easter Sunday, Bleeding Rainbow upstaged headliners The Cave Singers stealing the show. If you’re new to the band, check out their video for “Waking Dream” at the bottom of this post.  

 

 

 

 

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PHOTOS: Frightened Rabbit In Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And now it’s just you and me.” So said Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson as he tiptoed into a sweet solo acoustic number all by himself on a large stage in Chicago. It was a moment that characterized the entire show Saturday at the sold-out 2,500 capacity Riviera Theater.

And really the whole show felt so intimate that it could’ve been held at a tiny bar like the Empty Bottle. That’s how strong the connection is between the band and their fans.

Frightened Rabbit is a five-piece indie folk band from Glasgow, Scotland. At their show in Chicago on Saturday, the group wove a tapestry of thrilling indie-pop from their four albums and two EPs.

Hutchinson’s thick Scottish brogue shone through on songs like the now-classic “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and the newer track “Acts of Man” from the band’s latest “Pedestrian Verse.”

The sign of true artistry is when a band’s live show is completely different than their records. So is the case with Frightened Rabbit, who took their mostly mild music and turned it into a symphony of thick, rugged, loud indie rock. The first truly significant concert of the spring season. 




A Spoonful of ShamROCKS

 Unexpected Irish Tunes That Rock – The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 10

 

Imagine you’re sitting at a touristy pub on the Emerald Isle. You’re hearing cliché songs like “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” You’re annoyed as hell. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I could’ve gone that route for this playlist, but instead, I dug deep to find the best Irish songs that rock.

Early in this mix, you’ll find some unconventional Irish-style gems like Buck-O-Nine rocking out with a ska-punk tune called “Irish Drinking Song” and Metallica’s take on “Whiskey in the Jar.”

Later in the playlist are rock bands that hail from Ireland and some of their best songs that have no Irish vibe at all. So hoist a pint or two of Guinness and listen to this mix. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

If you don’t have Spotify, you can download and listen for free at Spotify.com.




February Rewind – Can’t-Miss Albums

 

 

 

Sometimes it takes a while to digest new records. That’s why each month, Sonic Cereal reviews albums in retrospect. Here’s a look at the best records of February 2013 that get the Sonic Cereal stamp of approval. No major pop releases this month, so we’re focusing on the indie. Don’t let these pass you by.

1. My Bloody Valentine – “m b v”

The 21-years-in-the-making followup to the classic 1991 record “Loveless” finally came. Feb. 2 was Christmas for hipsters and audiophiles alike. And its release was announced online the day-of. “m b v” was all anyone could talk about for two weeks. Then they’d moved on to other music. But “m b v” is worth the extra listens.

My Bloody Valentine’s signature sound of fuzzy and echoey guitars hasn’t changed a bit. It isn’t nearly as heart-thumping as “Loveless,” but it’s this month’s must listen. It never really rocks out like the opening track of “Loveless” – “Only Shallow.” But the reticence is refreshing. Only available on the band’s website, it’s worth your $13.

2. Frightened Rabbit – “Pedestrian Verse”

The Glaswegian indie rockers return with a fourth set of jams with a folk twist. This time there’s a bit more distorted guitar than usual lurking underneath lead singer Scott Hutchison’s Scottish-accented singing voice. Frightened Rabbit is currently on tour through June.  

3. Concrete Knives – “Be Your Own King”

 

This is the American debut album from a French five-piece that counts the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio as their influences. They don’t really sound like either band, which is a good thing – it means they are original. Keyboards and occasional bleeps abound along with groovy guitar lines. Band members often sing together, offering up a chorus of Polyphonic-Spree-like happiness. A strong debut.

 

ALSO WORTH A LISTEN 

Johnny Marr – “The Messenger”

The debut solo effort from the former guitarist of The Smiths.

Foals – “Holy Fire”

Sub Pop-approved British indie band now on tour through June.

KMFDM – “Kunst”

Now-legendary Chicago via Germany industrial band’s 18th album.

Iceage – “You’re Nothing”

Danish punk band with a dirty guitar sound.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away”

The downtempo – well they’re alway’s downtempo –  15th album from the Australian rockers.

Shout Out Louds – “Optica”

Swedish indie pop band’s 4th album.

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell”

Beat-heavy bliss from a Brit who lives in Nashville, TN.

Eels – “Wonderful, Glorious”

10th album is underwhelming.

STRFKR – “Miracle Mile”

Are you hip enough for this beepin’ band from Portland?

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Why ‘SLP’ Will Win Best Picture

 

 

 

It’s the first Hollywood film in 12 years to use mental illness as the central driving force of the story. Not since “A Beautiful Mind” – the 2001 Best Picture-winning drama about schizophrenic mathematician John Nash – has mental illness been so prominently featured in a major Hollywood Film. Before that there was “Rain Man” in 1988 – with Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man – also a Best Picture winner.

And “Silver Linings Playbook” just might win too. Here’s why.

1. Movies About Mental Illness Always Win

FromOne Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” to “Rain Man” to “A Beautiful Mind” – the Academy has given major plaudits to movies with a mental health theme. These three films won Best Picture. There are many others that have been nominated, including 2010’s “Black Swan” and 1945’s Hitchcock classic “Spellbound.”

Even TV gets voluminous recognition. In “Homeland” – Claire Danes won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Actress for her role as a bipolar C.I.A. agent. The show won Best Drama two years in a row – 2012 and 2013.

2. ‘Silver Linings’ is Authentic

In the film, Bradley Cooper delivers a lifelike portrayal of a troubled man with bipolar disorder just released from a mental hospital.

Why do Academy voters go wild for films about mental illness?

Well the voters are obviously made up of creative people – many of them actors and screenwriters.

Creatives have a higher instance of mental illness, according to this article in Fast Company – “Does Creativity Come With A Price? New Insight On Creatives And Mental Illness.”  This piece was derived from an article inThe Journal of Psychiatric Research.

 

According to that study, writers are 121 percent more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder than the general population. Creative professionals in general are 8 percent more likely to be bipolar.

Even if they are not mentally ill themselves, creative types are more likely to know a peer or two who is. And therefore, they sympathize with the mentally ill.

3. The Acting Is Top-Notch

The acting in “Silver Linings Playbook” is absolutely dynamic. And many who are bipolar have said it is an authentic portrayal of mania and depression. This is an ensemble that makes you feel like you are part of the family – acting at its finest.

In fact, the acting is so mind-blowing that it has earned four acting nominations – Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence (who won the Golden Globe for acting), Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro, and Best Supporting Actress for Jacki Weaver.

The last time a movie had four acting nominees was 1981 – 31 years ago – for “Reds.” That puts “Silver Linings Playbook” in the company of Best Picture winner “From Here to Eternity,” and classic nominees “Bonnie and Clyde,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Sunset Boulevard.” 

Since the Academy is mainly made up of actors, they will undoubtedly herald this film for its powerful acting.

4. The Film Has More Buzz and Momentum Than Any Other

Furthermore, there is no movie being talked about in the media now more than “Silver Linings Playbook.” Sure there was a recent segment about “Lincoln” on “60 Minutes.”

But Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence or director David O. Russell have recently appeared on CBS News, “Hardball” “The Tonight Show” and “Katie” (The Katie Couric Show), among others. De Niro cried during the interview with Couric when asked about his personal connection to the film. He didn’t elaborate. All he said was “I don’t like to get emotional, but I know exactly what [Bradley Cooper’s character] goes through.” And other nominees are getting nowhere near the amount of buzz and press as “Silver Linings.” It’s also still blanketing the airwaves with trailers, unlike other nominees.

5. ‘Silver Linings’ is a Call To Action

Director Russell has said he made the film as a tribute to his bipolar son, so he can feel less stigmatized.

And with the newfound need to destigmatize mental illness after Newtown, Cooper and Russell met with VP Joe Biden recently to talk about legislation that will expand mental health services and make them more affordable. They also met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and helped her introduce the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act.

Diagnosed or not, one in four American adults struggles with some kind of mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “Silver Linings Playbook” reassures those Americans that they are not alone, that with the proper diagnosis, medication or therapy, they can feel like themselves again. They can feel less alone. 

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Every Best Picture Nominee Ranked

Which one is your favorite? 

 

Good movies are provocative. Sublime. Escapist. Edgy. And great movies stick with you for days, weeks, even months. They should be memorable and mind-boggling. Incendiary. And sometimes – difficult to watch. Most of these fit one or more of these criteria.

I’ve seen all nine Best Picture nominees and I’m happy to report a ranking of them all. Here are the best of the best in order of quality as determined by Sonic Cereal.

1. Silver Linings Playbook

In this unconventional love story, two people – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – each struggling with their own mental illness, find sanity and serenity in each other.

It’s a moving portrayal of mental illness. And movies about mental illness tend to do well at the Oscars. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a jittery bipolar man who has just been released from a mental hospital. Tiffany – played by Jennifer Lawrence – is in dire straits too with an undiagnosed illness.

“Silver Linings” received four acting nominations – Cooper for Best Actor. Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. Robert De Niro for Best Supporting Actor. And Jacki Weaver for Best Supporting Actress. It’s the first time in 31 years that a movie has received all four acting nominations. 

2. Amour

The most painful movie I have ever watched in my life, this is a French-language foray into the lives of an older gentleman whose wife suffers a stroke. In the ultimate expression of love, he takes care of her at in the couples’ flat, not in a nursing home. Powerful and tear-jerking.

3, Zero Dark Thirty

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden fully realized on film. This comes from director Katherine Bigelow, whose film “The Hurt Locker” won Best Picture in 2009. Bigelow was also the first woman to win Best Director – and she may win for directing again – I doubt it will win Best Picture though.

4. Life of Pi

The enchanting story of a boy whose family owns a zoo in India. When the family decides to move to America with the animals to sell when they get there, the boat sinks and the film’s protagonist Piscine is left on a life boat with a ferocious tiger named Richard Parker. Visually stunning in 3D.

5. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s second revenge flick isn’t as good as “Inglorious Basterds” but it is fantastic in its own right. As opposed to the Nazis, this one takes a aim at the slave-owners of the South. Bloody and action-packed – as to be expected with a Tarantino Film – this one is music to your anti-racism, anti-slavery ears. And Jamie Foxx’s performance as the titular character is mind-blowing.

6. Lincoln

The Steven Spielberg sheen is all over this one. Everything is perfect – in a good way or a bad way, depending on your perspective. I’ll give the film a mediocre rating. It’s not a biopic, although I wish it was. On the contrary, the story focuses on 1865, the year Abraham Lincoln strived to win a majority in the House  of Representatives to enact the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.

7. Argo

I’m going out on a limb here and just say it – “Argo “ is forgettable. I know it’s at the top of many critics’ top ten lists and it may very well win Best Picture. But for me, the sign of a good movie is if it has you thinking about it for days or weeks to come. This one didn’t. It’s the story of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Tony Mendez – played by Ben Affleck – and his C.I.A. cohorts devise a scheme to make a fake Hollywood movie in order blend in and gain access to the hostages. Also directed by Affleck – another reason why this film may win some kudos.  

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Why oh why was this boring film nominated? Sure it paints a picture of a world we don’t normally see – that of the Louisiana bayou and an area called “The Bathtub,” a town cut off from the rest of the world because of a levee. While 10-year-old Quevenzanhe Wallis’ performance as Hushpuppy is quite stalwart for an actress so young, this film leaves something to be desired.

 9. Les Miserables

I think you have to be a Les Miz superfan to enjoy this film. A musical set in 1815 France, the movie centers around Hugh Jackman’s character and a revolution started by several other characters.

The singing is mediocre at best. While Hugh Jackman does deliver a strong singing performance, it’s not enough to carry the movie. Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway are both phoning it in with regards to singing. Though the sets and costumes are impeccable, the complicated story is hard to follow for the uninitiated. 

The Oscars air this Sunday at 7PM Eastern, 6PM Central.  

What’s your pick for Best Picture?

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A Spoonful of Valentines

Non-cheesy Dedication Ideas For Your Sweetheart – The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 9

 

 

Everyone knows love songs are a dime a dozen.

There are a zillion classics – “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra, “At Last” by Etta James and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” by Elvis Presley. But these are cliché wedding songs.

There are cheesy songs galore – “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and “I Would Do Anything For Love” by Meatloaf.

And some certifiably great love songs – “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five, “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green and “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees.

This Valentine’s Day, Sonic Cereal brings you some deeper cuts, mostly in the indie rock genre.

From The Postal Service to Bloc Party to Death Cab for Cutie – you can make Valentine’s Day extra special by dedicating one of these songs to your sweetheart.

Just find the song on YouTube and paste it on your Valentine’s Facebook wall. And if you’d like to listen to the mix and don’t have Spotify – you can download and listen for free – ad-supported – at Spotify.com.

 




Can The Grammys Suck And Be Awesome At The Same Time?

 

Rihanna and Bruno Mars – Bob Marley Tribute

Electrifying. Out of touch. Stunning. Safe. All of these words have been used to describe the Grammys. And I think all of them apply.  

I remember a time when onstage, they would announce the awards for obscure categories like Best Native American Album. Nothing against Native American music, but it just wasn’t what the masses wanted to see.

In the past couple decades, the producers of the Grammy Awards have finally perfected the art of putting on a good show. Many of the performances last night were indeed electrifying.

While Rihanna’s individual performance of “Stay” was horrifically drab, she redeemed herself later, stealing the show when she sang alongside Sting, Bruno Mars and Ziggy Marley in the absolutely amazing Bob Marley tribute. The song was “Could You Be Loved”  and it was the best performance of the night.  

 

Justin Timberlake Performs 2 New Songs

Welcome back Justin Timberlake! The former boy-band-member-turned-true-artist wowed us with an art-deco-themed, sepia toned performance of two brand new songs. It was the mass media debut of “Suit & Tie” (featuring Jay-Z) and “Little Pusher Love Girl” both from his upcoming third solo record “The 20/20.”

In fact the performances were so stunning that it was easy to forget the reason why all those musicians were gathering there at all – to be honored for their exceptional recordings.

 

Mumford & Sons Win Album Of The Year

Mumford & Sons won Album of the Year for “Babel” and deservedly so. The folk-rock record was the most musically competent of the bunch, which also included competition by The Black Keys (boring in my book). Fun. (would’ve been worthy because they are so different), Frank Ocean (overrated) and Jack White (also overrated).

However, sometimes the performances were style over substance. Taylor Swift had the honor of opening the show with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a rendition that took on a bizarre Alice in Wonderland motif. Adele’s performance will only be remembered for the weird and colorful animated projections on her huge white dress. Unfortunate because she was last year’s Album of the Year winner.

 

fun. 

Like I said, the Grammys have been called irrelevant and behind-the-times. They are. Mumford & Sons probably should’ve won for their first album – 2009’s “Sigh No More.” Canadian indie-rockers the Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for 2010’s “The Suburbs” – an avant-garde choice – but they should’ve won for their masterpiece of a debut – 2004’s “Funeral.”

PS: M83 got robbed for Best Alternative Performance. “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” was one of the best records that year and it was bested by Gotye.

 

OTHER BIG WINNERS

Record of the Year: “Nobody That I Used To Know” – Gotye featuring Kimbra

Song of the Year: “We Are Young” by fun.

Best New Artist: fun.

Best Rock Album: “El Camino” – The Black Keys

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January Rewind – Can’t-Miss Albums

 

 

 

Sometimes it takes a while to digest new records. That’s why I’ve decided to review January’s albums in retrospect. Each month going forward Sonic Cereal offers a rewind of the previous month’s offerings. Here’s a look at the best records of January 2013 that get the Sonic Cereal stamp of approval. Don’t let these pass you by.

1. The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”

Women are really dominating the indie rock scene as of late. Think Sleigh Bells, Amanda Palmer, Swearin’. This female-fronted band from Wales – now headquartered in London – is indie-pop at it’s finest. Fuzzy guitars and fun vocals. The best record of January 2013.

2. Foxygen – “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic”

The California duo’s laid-back guitar rock sounds timeless. It’s ‘60s psychedelia meets current indie rock. We’re catching a Lou Reed or Velvet Underground vibe. Not bad. 

 

3. Tegan And Sara – Heartthrob

The 7th album from the Canadian indie-rock duo takes a left turn for the good. Their usually guitar-based sound is replaced by a synth pop aesthetic that is saccharine in a good way. Like Katy Perry without the cheese.  

 

4. Ra Ra Riot – “Beta Love.”

 

The upstate New York dance-rock quintet delves deeper into the realm of electronic on their third record. Less guitar, more keyboards. Might need some time to grow on you.

5. What’s Old is New Again

Brand-new albums by classic artists were abundant this month, including outings from electro-rockers New Order, ‘80s icon Adam Ant, and the 16th – whoa – 16th record from SoCal punkers Bad Religion. Nothing special about any of these, but must-listens for superfans.

 

Also out this month:

A$AP Rocky – “Long. Live. ASAP”

Yo La Tengo – “Fade”

The Blackout – “Start the Party”

Local Natives – “Hummingbird”

Ducktails – “Ducktails”




A Spoonful of Twee Pop

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 8

 

twee
chiefly British
Affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute or quaint
 

You’re either gonna love this music or you’re gonna hate it. There is no in-between. Twee Pop is reserved for that certain sensitive soul romantic type. With its jingle-jangle guitars and low-fi production, it has the feel and idealism of ‘60s pop.  It’s saccharine in a good way.

I don’t know if I would call it “dainty” or “quaint” but it is definitely “delicate” and “cute.” Loaded with la-la-las and deeply dreamy lyrics – it’s indie-pop music that’s sweet and precious.

With names like The Hit Parade, Bunnygrunt and The Field Mice, these bands ooze with blissful abandon and their songs seem like they would most likely sound better on 45″s.

Scottish indie-poppers Belle & Sebastian are the most popular example of the genre. They’ve transcended the tiny twee-pop scene, emerging as a bona fide force in indie rock. B&S are included on this mix among more obscure bands like Cub and Ballboy.

This playlist also includes The Vaselines  “Molly’s Lips,” famously covered by Nirvana.  Kurt Cobain had described The Vaselines as his “most favorite songwriters in the world.”

If you don’t have Spotify, you can download it and listen for free – ad-supported.

 

 

If you want to subscribe to this playlist, search “A Spoonful of Twee Pop” on Spotify.

What subgenre would you like to see for the next playlist? Leave a comment below. 




Oscars: Which Film Deserves the Most Kudos?

Underdog ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ May Be This Year’s Sleeper Hit

 

 

As we all know by now, the Oscar nominations came out this morning. But which film deserves the most recognition this year? I’m placing my bet on “Silver Linings Playbook” – nominated for eight awards including Best Picture.

It’s a dark comedy featuring Bradley Cooper as Pat, a bookish and jittery daydreamer of a guy with bipolar disorder. Pat has just been released from an eight-month stay in the psych ward where he went to get his manic depression under control.

He finds solace and sanity through a friendship with Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who also struggles with mental illness. Pat’s father is played by Robert De Niro, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Both Cooper and Lawrence are nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

Mental illness rarely gets much attention in films but insights provided here are important given the increased discussion of the topic after what happened at Sandy Hook.  

“Silver Linings” is pretty much the underdog this year. But can it overcome juggernauts like “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi”?

 Take a gander at the list of all the nominees below.

 

Best Picture:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

“Silver Linings Playbook”

“Zero Dark Thirty”

“Lincoln”

“Les Miserables”

“Life of Pi”

“Amour”

“Django Unchained”

“Argo”

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2013 in Pop Culture – A Glance Forward

 

 

Now that you’ve recovered from your New Year’s Day hangover, it’s time to take a glimpse into what 2013 has to offer in the realm of music, movies and TV. Looks like it’s gonna be a good year for pop culture.

 

MUSIC

 

 Grammy-Winners Arcade Fire Dabble In Unusual Collaboration

 


This year, Arcade Fire drops their follow-up to Album of the Year Grammy award-winning “The Suburbs.” James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem produces. Have Arcade Fire gone disco punk? Really curious about this one.

 

Finally: New Music from My Bloody Valentine

It’s been 21 years since shoegaze innovators My Bloody Valentine released 1991’s absolute masterpiece “Loveless” – one of the top 10 albums of the ‘90s in my book. The band’s mastermind Kevin Shields once again brings the noise on a brand-new record. The as-of-yet untitled album was finished on December 21 and will see a release date sometime in 2013.

 

Trent Reznor Launches Streaming Music App

The former Nine Inch Nails frontman turned Oscar-Winning score writer is launching a new business venture. Reznor told The New Yorker his new app will feature “intelligent curation” but that’ it’s different from Pandora, whatever that means. You can file the service under the alias Daisy, and it’s scheduled to debut early this year. 

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Top 10 Poetic Mountain Goats Lyrics

 Is John Darnielle worthy of becoming U.S. Poet Laureate?

 

He is a lyrical juggernaut – a storyteller who writes songs as if they are poems. Sometimes autobiographical, sometimes not, Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s lyrics point to the dark side of humanity with an occasional hint of hope.

As reported by Pitchfork on Friday, someone launched a petition on whitehouse.gov calling for John Darnielle to be named the next U.S. Poet Laureate. The petition calls John Darnielle an “American institution.” And it goes on to say: “Mr. Darnielle is a unique voice in modern word and music. For over 20 years, Mr. Darnielle has struggled on our behalf to come to terms with the base instincts of the human psyche.” As of New Year’s Eve, 3,115 people have signed the petition. 

As a musical storyteller, Darnielle is prolific – with 14 full-length albums under his belt since 1994. His lyrics bleed with vivid imagery as you’ll see with this top ten list of his greatest “poems.” Song clips below each lyric. If you don’t have Spotify, some of these clips are instantly streaming via Soundcloud.

1. International Small Arms Traffic Blues

Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania
Trucks loaded down with weapons
Crossing over every night
Moon yellow and bright
There is a shortage in the blood supply
But there is no shortage of blood
The way I feel about you baby can’t explain it
You got the best of my love

 

2. Onions

the last white slabs of snow
melted off seven weeks ago.
and the geese are headed north again
through the tightening sky,
and i can feel my heart in my throat again
new onions growing in the ground.

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Listen Now: Pulp / James Murphy New Collabo

 

 

For a man in retirement, former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy is crazy busy. There have been stellar DJ gigs and a yet-to-be-released collaboration with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which might surface in the spring of 2013. And rumors are brewing that the electro-rock god may be producing the fourth album by Grammy winners Arcade Fire.

Now: a brand-new Murphy-produced track by Britpop veterans Pulp has emerged.

It’s the first new music from Pulp in 10 years. Of course, it’s got Murphy’s signature disco-rock sound.

Murphy retired his band last year, and their final show at Madison Square Garden is documented in the fantastic “Shut Up And Play The Hits” concert film, now on DVD.

He told HuffPo that he is “not necessarily” helming the production on that record. Whatever that means. What we do know, is that members of Arcade Fire appeared onstage in “Shut Up And Play The Hits,” joining the band with backing vocals on the song “North American Scum.”

I believe I’ve said it before… anything James Murphy touches turns to gold. Including this track.

 

And for the uninitiated, here’s the video for the classic 1995 Pulp anthem “Common People.”

 




New Video: NOFX – ‘Xmas Has Been X’ed’

 

Leave it to SoCal punkers NOFX to wage a real war on Christmas in the most irreverent of ways.

In the new video for “Xmas Has Been X’ed,” santas run amok. There’s binge drinking galore. And plenty of goofing around. All of this while sending an atheist, anti-establishment message. Sweet. 

 

 

Sample lyric: “Enjoy Christmas cuz it’s your last. No colored lights, no shopping sprees. No more presents under dead trees. St. Nick is dead but we don’t grieve. We celebrate the last Christmas Eve.”

 

NOFX frontman Fat Mike at Riot Fest 2012
 

Add this one to your list of new Christmas anthems. Especially if you’re feeling particularly disgruntled this holiday season. Merry Punking Christmas!

  

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The Top Ten Albums of 2012

Oberhofer Heads a Pack That Includes Japandroids, Matt And Kim, More 

2012 was the year indie rock became fun again. It was the year that indie rock ROCKED again. While many blogs continued to fawn over mopey bands like Beach House, Deerhunter and Bon Iver, others bands like Japandroids and Sleigh Bells blew them out of the water with their loud, distorted guitars.

Looking through the lens of Sonic Cereal’s homebase of Chicago, we’ve seen quite the spectrum of rock ‘n’ roll this year. From destination festivals like Pitchfork and Lollapalooza to Riot Fest, this town just may be the best music town in the country. And I’m not being hyperbolic.

I know there is no hip-hop or pop on this list. This is a list of personal favorites that get the Sonic Cereal stamp of approval.

 

1. Oberhofer – Time Capsules II

 

 

The glockenspiel – similar in sound to a xylophone – is the glue that holds this album together. Paired with indie rock guitars, it contributes a distinct sound that begets the strongest debut we have seen in years.

While the band sounds nothing like U2, the glockenspiel used here generates a sound with the intensity and feel of U2’s “City of Blinding Lights.” The vibe of the album can only be described as thrilling.

There are subtleties you don’t even notice at first listen – like the hint of violin here and there or the occasional quiet keyboards. A smattering of piano rounds out the orchestra-like quality of the record. Plus – this is 10 songs – every one great. No filler.

There is plenty of whistling, la-la-las, ooh-ooh-oohs and whoa-oh-ohs. Whoa, this is the best album of 2012. Sublime.

 

 

2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

 

 

This is the only album on this list where you must crank it up to a zillion. There is no other way to listen to “Celebration Rock” than at absolute full volume. There’s a reason why this record is on every critic’s Top Ten list this year – it fuckin’ rocks! While the Pitchfork sheep swooned over the bland and boring Beach House and the pretentious, droning sound of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Japandroids tore it up! A spine-tingling masterpiece.

 

 

3. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil

 

 

On “Theater Is Evil,” Amanda Palmer evolved from her punk-cabaret schtick that defined her former band Dresden Dolls. It’s a magnum opus of noise so thick it melts your eardrums. And with its peaks and valleys, “Do It With a Rockstar” takes the prize for best single of the year.

Amanda got in trouble earlier this year for using Kickstarter to raise money to finance her ambitious Grand Theft Orchestra project. She raised $1.2 million, well over the $100,000 goal. She spent $300,000 recording of the album. The rest was spent on videos and tour production. I’d like to note that I believe this is EXTREMELY unethical. I am judging this on the art alone.

 

 

4. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sleigh Bells’ Alexis Krauss is a Joan Jett for our generation, prowling all over the stage singing and screaming her way to the top of the indie rock pile. “Reign of Terror” is only the 2nd album from this Brooklyn-based duo. It definitely improves on the thick, fuzz-drenched sound of their first record “Treats.” An even better treat.

 

 

5. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

 

“Handwritten” is punk rock all-grown-up. New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem put forth an exceedingly strong fourth album that echoes with a tinge of punk rock with Springsteen-like vocals. Plus, they’re great live – churning out standout performances at both Lollapalooza and Riot Fest.
 

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Japandroids in Chicago: They ‘Yell Like Hell To The Heavens’

 

 

Like Muse or the Black Keys, here’s the story of a band that could find itself – out of nowhere and after some further evolution – all of a sudden playing arenas within a matter of just a few years.

Japandroids – this year’s indie rock breakout stars – clobbered a crowd of 1,200 Chicagoans in a sold-out small room at the Metro. The band’s outstanding second album “Celebration Rock” sits atop many rock critics’ year-end lists of the Top Ten Albums of the Year.

This is a duo from Vancouver, B.C. – simply guitar, drums and vocals – but they’ve got an ear-splitting sound that rivals any metal or hardcore punk band.

Drummer David Prowse could be noted as the greatest asset of the band. He had his drums set up right at the foot of the stage as if he was the frontman. In a way, he is. He hits his snares and cymbals like Sonic the Hedgehog playing Whack-A-Mole.

Prowse drums so hard that he breaks his drumsticks all while screaming along to the music. Once during the show, David broke a drumstick and had one immediately at-the-ready in his sack below, yanking it out and not missing a beat. A hyperbolic statement, but he could be the new Dave Grohl.

 

 

Between songs, guitarist / singer Brian King noodled on 30 second snippets of songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” He is also a master at the art of striking the rocker pose

Opener DIIV, a sleepy and soothing mostly instrumental band that sounds like the polar opposite of Japandroids, didn’t play because of a scheduling conflict. They were taping a performance for Letterman.

Mark my words, the legend will spread, Japandroids will germinate and all will culminate in huge shows in gargantuan arenas. Catch them in small venues while you can.

 




Nirvana Reunite: Bittersweet Without Kurt – Historic With Paul McCartney

 

It has been said that Kurt Cobain was my generation’s John Lennon. I believe it to be true. But last night fans got their fix of Nirvana with another Beatle on board – Paul McCartney. 

Yep… hell froze over last night. Nirvana reunited. Minus Kurt Cobain of course. But with Paul McCartney on vocals. Historic indeed.

At the 12-12-12 concert for hurricane Sandy relief – the collaboration was the capstone of a six-hour music marathon that included performances by Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and more.

“Recently some guys asked me to go and jam with them,” McCartney explained before introducing the former members of Nirvana. “So I showed up… and in the middle of it, these guys kept saying ‘We haven’t played together for years, you know? The penny finally dropped. I finally understood that I was in the middle of a Nirvana reunion.”

Dave Grohl refreshingly returned to his kit, proving that he is still the hardest-hitting drummer in rock today. With Krist Novoselic on bass and Pat Smear on guitar, the makeshift band debuted a brand-new song – “Cut Me Some Slack” – which will be featured in the upcoming Dave Grohl-directed documentary “Sound City.”

The brand-new track is a jam-packed rocker of a song with swirling, almost twangy distorted electric guitars. A bittersweet moment for fans of Kurt, but historic and electrifying nonetheless. Listen and watch above.

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Rock ‘N’ Roll Gift Guide

 

The metalhead. The indie rocker. The audiophile. The punk rocker. In the age of streaming, you can’t buy the music fan on your list a CD – well I guess you can, but so few of us are using CD players these days. Check out these ideas that are a bit outside the norm.
 

 

1. Silkscreened Gig Posters

 

Tons of rock ‘n’ roll posters are available on Insound.com. These are silkscreens created by visual artists specifically for sale at a particular date on a tour, which makes them extra special.

Have one professionally framed, and it’s the perfect gift for the rocker in your life. I like this one for The Shins.

Others include Foo Fighters, Weezer, Kanye West, The Arcade Fire, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, Bright Eyes, Bloc Party, Mountain Goats, Bjork, Death Cab for Cutie, Cut Copy, Feist, Japandroids, M83, Morrissey and more.

14.99 – $43.99 at Insound.
 

2. Beatles Vinyl Box Set

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Matt + Kim = Happiness And Cheer

 

Matt and Kim on the big screen. See the them playing in the darkness below.
 

Matt and Kim have more fun on stage than any band in recent memory. And for the crowd, the feeling is mutual.  Not even the Flaming Lips or Polyphonic Spree hold a candle to the band’s spunk, energy and overall optimism.

The Brooklyn duo of Matt on keyboards and Kim on drums absolutely oozes happiness and that translates into an exciting, exhilarating, explosive live show. It’s a simple idea, but it works.

The audience was ecstatic every time the band burst into a song new or old. They bounced along to the music, not quite moshing, but kind of close. Call it a happy mosh pit.

This was the band’s biggest-in-size show of the tour, playing in a venue that holds 3,500 people.

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Sleigh Bells: Joan Jett Reincarnated

Singer Alexis Krauss Delivers One of This Year’s Best Shows

 

She’s got a singing voice as smooth as ice cream. She can scream with the best of ‘em. Her speaking voice is like Marilyn Monroe. And she’s got a style and stage presence we haven’t seen from a female rocker since Joan Jett or Exene Cervenka of X. I know this is hyperbolic – and you can debate me on this in the comments  – but in a way, Sleigh Bells’ singer Alexis Krauss is our generation’s Joan Jett. Just not as famous.

 

 

Alexis should be huge rock star by now. Sleigh Bells’ arena-sized sound would fit the bill to play the United Center or Madison Square Garden. But we’re lucky enough to get to see them in a small venue like the Metro in Chicago on a sold-out Sunday night.

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Everyday is Halloween

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 7

 

 

You will not find “Thriller” on my Halloween playlist. Nor will you find “The Monster Mash” or “The Munster’s Theme.”

Iron Maiden? Check. The Misfits? Check. Ministry? Check. Indie rock songs about vampires and ghosts? Check. Even some Johnny Cash. I hope you enjoy this alternative Halloween playlist. To subscribe: go to Spotify and search The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 7.

Special shoutout to the New Yorkers. I know the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is a highlight of the year for some of you. Cancelled for the first time in its 39-year history.

I’m sure it’ll be back next year. If you have power, listen to this mix or watch scary movies instead. There are a ton of them on AMC and other channels.

 




The Dazing Power of John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats Win Over Chicago Fanboys and Fangirls With Ease

 

 

He is the only guitarist who wields an acoustic like it’s an axe. And that axe delivered a drop-dead ravishing performance Saturday night at the Vic Theatre in Chicago.

The genius behind the Mountain Goats –  John Darnielle – is also the only indie rocker who would ever introduce a tune by saying “This is a song about a psychiatric hospital” or “This is a song about when I was a teenage drunk.” And then burst into a track that isn’t slit-your-wrists depressing at all. It sounds uplifting.

 

 

 

John Darnielle is like an indie-rock novelist. His tunes are like chapters – each one telling the tale of some dysfunctional relationship, twisted love story or disheveled vagrant. But the music doesn’t sound anything like the lyrics. For the most part, the Mountain Goats’ music sounds rhapsodical and happy.

In fact, Darnielle is so prolific, he couldn’t accommodate a request to play “Fault Lines” because he didn’t know it. I don’t blame him.

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New Video: M83 – “Steve McQueen”

 

It was magnificent. Grandiose. Sublime. And one year later I still can’t stop listening to it.

French electronic collective M83 was the band responsible for last year’s splendid double album “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming.”

The only drawback – I absolutely can’t stand “Midnight City” because that track has been used in so many TV shows, movies and commercials. Skip it! Who’s with me? But otherwise “Dreaming” is a perfect 10.

And one year later, M83 is still pumping out videos from the destined-to-be-classic album.

Today the band releases the enigmatic clip for “Steve McQueen” the fourth single off “Dreaming.” It features a boy in a yellow tuxedo frolicking in the fog. Flying toy animals. And a chem lab motif complete with ancient computing devices. Pretty cool.

 

M83 isn’t Nu Gaze but some of their tracks tread into that territory. Read about it on yesterday’s Nu Gaze post

M83 will be releasing a series of remixes of “Steve McQueen” with retreads from Maps, SALM, Beataucue, and Alluxe. That venture comes out Nov. 25

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A Spoonful of Nu Gaze

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 6 

 

 

Nu Gaze emerged in the early 2000s as a horde of bands started playing music influenced by the Shoegazers that came before them – see yesterday’s post  on Shoegaze. Deerhunter, A Place To Bury Strangers and Beach House are semi-popular examples.

There is also a prevalence of somewhat mainstream acts like Silversun Pickups – a band whose fuzzbox guitar effects echo the early Shoegaze scene.

 

 

M83 isn’t entirely Nu Gaze, but songs like “New Map” and “Reunion” fit the bill nicely. The ethereal nature of their music is definitely shoegaze inspired.

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A Spoonful Of Shoegaze

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 5  

 

 

Shoegaze is a genre widely known by aging hipsters and audiophiles. It’s mostly foreign to the masses. Well the masses are missing out.

There are two playlists I have crafted: one on Shoegaze and one on Nu Gaze – new bands inspired by the initial shoegazers.

The term “Shoegaze” was coined by British rock critics who noticed that a crop of artists in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s were so intensely focused on their instruments they appeared to be staring at their shoes.

Some joked that they were not proficient enough on their guitars to play without looking down. But I disagree. Their music was complex.

 

 

Songs by bands like Ride, Chapterhouse, Slowdive and the Jesus and Mary Chain echo with blissful melodies and jingle-jangle guitars.

These bands were popular on college radio, especially My Bloody Valentine and Lush. Shoegaze never reached the mainstream except for a few videos by MBV and Lush. These enjoyed some late-night airplay on MTV’s “120 Minutes”

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In Defense of Spotify

And Why Death Cab’s Benjamin Gibbard Is Wrong

 

“The meteor’s hit. The dinosaurs have all died. And it’s time for whoever’s next to take over. And I think it’s a good time for new ideas.”

– Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy

That was 2007. At the time, Radiohead released the pay-what-you-will In Rainbows. Record companies were clamoring to figure out how to monetize albums. It was a time when everyone – let’s not kid ourselves – was stealing music on the Internet. The music industry was in panic mode.

Back then, I produced a video piece for MTV News titled “The Future of Music.” You can view it below. 

The conclusion: in the future there will be a “jukebox in the sky.”

“It’s the promise of being able to walk down the street with your mobile device and just ‘zzzip’ I’ve got a new album,” Bill Werde, editor-in-chief of Billboard told me. “Look, I’ve got the whole Led Zeppelin catalog or I’ve got everything Kanye West recorded in the last five years just like that. 

Spotify is this idea fully realized.

 

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New Video: Matt And Kim “Let’s Go”

 

 

Matt And Kim’s 4th album “Lightning” is one of this season’s best albums. The duo’s brand-spankin-new video for “Let’s Go” premiered today exclusively on Funny Or Die. And it’s cheese-tastic.

The clever concept: Matt and Kim invade a K-Mart-style photo studio and rock some goofy poses while wearing ticky-tacky clothing.

Someone dug deep in the thrift store racks and found some awesome retro gems. Think Cosby sweaters, animal apparel, aprés-ski gear and more. It’s super geeky and brilliant. See for yourself. 

 

Let’s Go from Matt and Kim 

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The Mountain Goats Greatest Hits

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 4

 

 

Since 1994, John Darnielle has recorded a total of 14 full-length albums under the moniker The Mountain Goats. An indie-rock legend, Darnielle has won the hearts of hipsters and critics and performed on a main stage at Lollapalooza.

Today, to celebrate the release of his 14th album Transcendental Youth, I bring you this Spotify playlist that I crafted – a greatest hits of the man who reinvented indie folk. 

 

 

In 2000, I was a lowly college radio DJ at Iowa State University. I was absolutely obsessed with The Mountain Goats and then suddenly my fellow DJs and I discovered that Darnielle was living in our college town. His wife was in grad school and playing for the Iowa State women’s hockey team.

When I realized Darnielle’s home base was Ames, IA, I immediately sought an interview with the Mountain man himself. He obliged, inviting me over to his West Ames house.

Darnielle used to record his music on a boombox and was still doing that at the time. He showed me a big box of cassette tapes, all filled with original songs he wrote and recorded solo acoustic. We drank red wine, ate chocolate and chatted about Norwegian death metal and quilt making. Yes, quilt making. Here is the article I wrote 12 years ago for the Iowa State Daily. 

 

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Bloc Party Worthy of Superstar Status

London Rockers Slay Chicago Crowd

London indie rockers Bloc Party unleashed their now-classic debut “Silent Alarm” seven years ago. Bloc Party were supposed to be the next Radiohead. And while they never became megastars, the band has released four solidly consistent albums that rock. 

At the Riviera in Chicago Friday night, Bloc Party proved they are indeed deserving of superstar status. With a stadium-sized sound that echoed throughout the room, frontman Kele Okereke nailed his guitar riffs with machine-like precision. 

From the stellar “This Modern Love” to the power-chord laden “Kettling” – the best track off the band’s latest “Four” –  this is a band that boasts an intense sound that leaves you wanting more. The perfect kickoff to the fall music season. 

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PHOTOS: Riot Fest 2012

A Mind-Blowing Lineup of Punk and Indie in Chicago’s Humboldt Park

Fat Mike of NOFX 

They say punk is dead. Stale. Watered Down. Redundant. Old hat. Chicago’s Riot Fest proved the naysayers wrong. Ogle these Riot Fest snapshots and the brief commentary underneath each pic. F*** yeah!

 

Fishbone 

The one band of the weekend that defies genres – combining a smattering of punk, funk and ska. 

 

Iggy And The Stooges

At a shocking age 65, the shirtless and ripped proto-punker Iggy Pop is a master performer – frolicking and rollicking all over the place and proving that age ain’t nothing but a number. 

  

Elvis Costello And The Imposters

Riot Fest wasnt all about punk. Elvis Costello delivered a tight set of hits like “Pump It Up,” “Radio Radio” and more. There was also a sprinkling of indie rock including The Jesus And Mary Chain, Built To Spill and Awolnation. 

 

NOFX

Veteran punkers NOFX delivered a frenzied set of electrifying anthems derived from their extensive catalog of hits. Their raw power inspired an endless punk-rock singalong and a massive circle pit. 

 

 

Slapstick

Chicago ska-punks Slapstick reunited for their first show in 15 years. This is a band that reached legendary status in the Windy City in the late ’90s. Skanking and moshing galore. 

 

Less Than Jake

The guy wearing the horse mask was in the crowd and Less Than Jake invited him up to dance on stage. 

 

The Descendents

The Descendents have been around since 1978, one of the original punk bands. Old-school and awesome. 

 

The Promise Ring

Rare appearance from the Milwaukee-based band that spearheaded the emo movement in the late ’90s.  

 

Andrew WK

Mind-boggling that Andrew WK’s notable party-punk debut came out 10 years ago. Sounded just as fresh as 2002.  

 

 

 GWAR

 The cheese-metal band drenched the crowd in fake blood. 

 

Cool Mohawk

Riot Fest also featured a carnival as a backdrop, complete with rides, burlesque dancers, fire breathers and a wandering marching band.

 

Fire Dancer

 

 

 Burlesque Performer

 

Marching Band
 

It isn’t.

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Riot Fest 2012 Preview

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 3

There was Pitchfork. There was Lollapalooza. Now, Chicago strikes again. Yet another unique festival. 

Riot Fest leans punk with bands like NOFX, The Descendents and Rise Against among the highlights. Legendary acts like Iggy & The Stooges, Elvis Costello and The Jesus And Mary Chain also perform, along with indie rock favorites Built to Spill and The Promise Ring and ska bands like Less Than Jake, Fishbone and Slapstick.

Check back here on Monday for a recap of the entire festival. Meanwhile, enjoy this Riot Fest Spotify playlist.

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Is Music Prophetic?

Lyrics that Foreshadow 9/11

 

Chicago alt-rockers Wilco composed the poetic and triumphant “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in 2000. The album had been originally slated to be released on 9/11/01. The songs below were written before then. 

 
Tall buildings shake
voices escape
singing sad sad songs
 
 

 
I would like to salute
the ashes of American flags
and all the fallen leaves
filling up shopping bags
 
 
 

Wilco’s label – Reprise – didn’t think the record sounded commercial enough. They dropped the band and instead, the album was released in 2002 on Nonesuch Records. It had been available for streaming online in 2001.

Eerie parallels to 9/11 are rife throughout the record, starting with the cover art, which features a pair of Twin Towers – the iconic Marina City buildings in downtown Chicago. The “tall buildings shake” lyric is just plain spooky while “Ashes of American Flags” forecast the loss of life and patriotism that would follow 9/11.

But the parallels don’t stop with Wilco. The title of emo band Jimmy Eat World’s 2001 album “Bleed American” says it all. It’s presciently patriotic.

 

There’s a lyric in the title track that refers to “our hearts littering the topsoil” – foreboding in retrospect.

Are songs prophetic? Cathartic? Gratifying? Escapist? Share your feelings in the comments.

 

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The Golden Age of Emo

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 2

In the late ‘90s, bands like Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring, Kansas City’s The Get Up Kids and D.C.’s Dismemberment Plan churned out albums filled with confessional lyrics that resonated with the college radio crowd.

I was a DJ at KURE at Iowa State University from 1997 – 2001, the golden age of emo. The genre became a cornerstone of my show and this Spotify playlist features the best songs from the era. They are new classics… 

The emo explosion of the ‘90s came about – some joked – because the punk kids started smoking pot. Whether or not this is true is up for debate.

In the case of Fugazi – the post-hardcore band that is often credited as being one of the founders or biggest influences of the genre – lead singer Ian MacKaye is famously straight edge, meaning he doesn’t drink or do drugs. I interviewed the Fugazi frontman in 1998 for the Iowa State Daily. He called me at 8AM on a Saturday morning for our phone interview. I was in bed when the phone rang.

The origin of the term “emo” dates back to the mid-‘80s when the DC band Rites of Spring were playing a show and someone was moved by the music, shouting out “You guys are so emo!” The term was applied to describe the intensely emotional nature of the band’s music.

The style had its big break in 2001 when emo posterboy Chris Carrabba released his album “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” under the moniker Dashboard Confessional. The album arrived with a single and music video for “Screaming Infidelities,” a clip that enjoyed play on MTV. That video is not online so here is “Saints and Sailors,” a better song anyway. 

Weezer’s flop of a second album “Pinkerton” was initially panned by critics. But it emerged as a touchstone for the emo movement as the emo kids latched onto its deeply personal lyrics. It would later find its place in rock ‘n’ roll history as the favorite Weezer album of many.

Emo would later be heard in the 2000s with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy releasing multiplatinum music dubbed emo-punk.

 

My Chem and FOB are included at the end of this mix not because they were particularly emblematic of the genre, but because they were inspired by all this music. Yes, please tell me in the comments that including these tracks is blasphemy.

What are your favorite emo bands? Comment below. 

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The Complete Bloc Party Videography

 

London-based indie rockers Bloc Party have accumulated quite the arsenal of cool and captivating music videos. From the cinematic to the colorful to the animated to the optically poetic, each one has a unique treatment.

Bloc Party released their not-so-cleverly titled fourth album “Four” a couple weeks ago. The first single and video “Octopus” is a huge reminder of how visually creative and prolific they are.

 

I was one of the first American journalists to interview the band back during their 2004 debut. At the time, Bloc Party had 4 videos – “Banquet,” “So Here We Are,” “Little Thoughts” and “Helicopter.”

Now there are 15 videos, all conveniently collected here in one place. Ranked in order of my personal favorites.

1. So Here We Are

Aesthetically pleasing scenes of autumn in the English countryside followed by London streetscapes.

 

2. Little Thoughts

The band bathed in colorful animated geometric shapes.

 

 

3. Pioneers

Cartoon versions of the Bloc Party performing. Similar vibe to Gorillaz.

 

 

4. I Still Remember

A Bloc Party Eurail adventure.

 

 

5. Banquet

Beautiful black and white with the occasional splash of color.

 

 

6. Helicopter

The band engulfed in TV snow.

 

 

7. Flux

Goofy Godzilla-like monsters and giant robots dance an wreak havoc on a city. Fun.

 

 

8. The Prayer

Dance club lesbian make out scene. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

9. Mercury

Bizarre simian treehouse politician motif. Amusing.

 

 

10. One More Chance

Retro scenes in a suburban house with tacky décor.

 

 

11. Talons

Nothing notable except a shirtless Kele Okereke. 

 

 

12. Hunting for Witches

Pure performance. Nothing special. Not every Bloc Party video can be avant-garde.

 

 

13. Tulips

Splitscreen performance scenes. Kind of boring. 

 

 

14. Two More Years

Fluorescent lights surround the band. Cool cinematography.

 

 

15. One Month Off

Tanks and fighter jets destroy various fairy tale characters including Rapunzel, Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muffet. Kind of strange. Not really worth watching.

 

 

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First Taste: PAWS – Jellyfish

There’s a rich tradition of Glaswegian rock bands. Scotland has produced Frightened Rabbit, Yatsura, Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand and Primal Scream among others. Add to that list PAWS, a trio of lo-fi rockers whose new single “Jellyfish” bursts with unflinching energy. 

Vancouver rockers Japandroids announced today that PAWS will open for them on select dates in their European Tour. PAWS’ album “Cokefloat!” comes out 10/9 on FatCat Records. Have a listen to this new, promising band. 

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First Taste: Benjamin Gibbard Solo

T-minus two months until the solo debut from Death Cab For Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard comes out. Today he gave us a first taste of the upcoming “Former Lives” album. If it’s anything like Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla’s solo effort, we’re in for a treat. The album releases 10/26.

Teardrop Windows by Gibbstack

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80s Horror to Watch Now

In this first installment of Netflix Instant Queue Theater, I watched all or part of 18 movies. 

Horror movies are a dime a dozen and chock-full of clichés. They take place in cabins. At summer camps. In creepy old mansions. High schools. And tiny towns. They are rife with hot coeds getting naked. It’s no secret that these flicks can be pretty bad. Especially ones from the ‘80s. The trick is to find ones that are so bad they’re good. Here are the best and the worst. 

THE BEST

1. Basket Case (1982)

This one is absolutely classic. It follows Duane, a twentysomething newcomer to New York City. He takes up residence in a Times Square flophouse carrying a wicker basket, which is inhabited by his conjoined twin, who was separated from him when he was a child and thrown out with the trash. The twins go on a mad search to find the doctor who separated them and the twin terrorizes the hotel. Check out the awesome vintage scenes of Times Square in the ‘80s.

2. Ghoulies (1985) 

Satanic motifs are a staple of many horror movies – think “The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen.” Those flicks are actually good. “Ghoulies” is so horrible it’s great.  

Jonathan is a college dropout who inherits a huge mansion from his dead grandfather who was apparently involved in black magic. He conjures up six demons who go on a killing rampage at a totally ‘80s party. Check out the goofy talking elf midgets he also summons.

3. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Roger Corman directs this cult classic about a small fishing town jolted by mutant creatures that emerge from the ocean and attack young, hot women and mate with them. Lots of tit shots, if you’re into that sort of thing. Low-budget monster movie at its finest.

4. Dolls (1987)

 

Another mansion tale. This time a family of three gets their car stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm. They take shelter with an older couple who are doll-makers. The dolls come to life at night and there is tons of blood and gore. Bonus points for the punk rocker characters. Awesome.

5. TerrorVision (1986)

From the early age of cable TV comes this incredibly cheesy story of a family whose satellite dish transmits violent aliens from a distant planet. With notable metalhead and new waver characters. Totally ‘80s.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Return to Horror High (1987)

This one sucks but it features George Clooney. Luckily he gets killed off about 20 minutes into the film, so you can stop watching after that. Seriously bad acting from a future movie star.

The Burning (1981) – The cliché summer camp slasher flick stars a young Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame. Otherwise forgettable.

The Video Dead (1987) – Zombies hobble out of an evil TV set in this trashy ‘80s straight-to-video B-movie. You can get away with watching half of this one. Gets old fast.

Bloody Birthday (1981) – Forgettable story of evil kids gone wild that is pretty awful with the exception of the skateboard kill-scene halfway through.

THE WORST

 

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – The rape scene is horrible.

Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – the only good thing about this one is the tits.

C.H.U.D. (1984) – dreadfully boring.

 

Sleepaway Camp 2 (1988) – also boring.

Creepshow 2 (1987) – a pale shadow of the original.

GENUINELY GOOD

And finally, here is a list of classic horror films and available for streaming:  Evil Dead (1981), Friday the 13th (1980), Hellraiser (1987) Children of the Corn (1984) Pet Sematary (1989) Creepshow (1982), Child’s Play (1988),  Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil (2010 – not from the ‘80s and really a spoof, but genius).

What are your favorite so-bad-they’re-good horror movies? What genre would you like to see next for Instant Queue Theater? Leave a comment below.

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The ’90s Punk Renaissance

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 1

 

 

I used to make punk rock mixtapes and trade them with my friends in high school. We listened to all the bands in the image above. Plus local Chicago stuff like Apocalypse Hoboken, Oblivion and No Empathy. We would drive around the city with the windows rolled down blasting NOFX or Operation Ivy. We also listened to a hell of a lot of ska.

This Spotify playlist – which you can listen to after the jump – contains some of those punk rock songs we used to play.

Bands you have surely forgotten about like Guttermouth and Total Chaos are plentiful on this playlist. There are anthemic jams from artists like Rancid and Pennywise. Political tracks from Propagandhi and Anti-Flag. Weird covers from Good Riddance and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. And goofy songs from bands like Diesel Boy and Boris The Sprinkler.

At the time, it was blasphemy for punks to like Green Day and the Offspring. They were considered “corporate sell-outs” because they were multi-platinum rock stars who were popular on alternative radio. I’ve included them here because in retrospect their music was just as good and obviously more memorable than any of these bands…


This year marks the 35th anniversary of punk’s inaugural glory year of 1977. At the end of this mix, check out some punk from previous decades beginning with the Sex Pistols’ ‘77 trailblazing track “Anarchy in the UK” to hear where all this music came from.

There are some obscure tracks not on this playlist that I have on 7” vinyl and were never released on CD or online.

If you ever went to Warped Tour back in the day, brace yourself for a blast from the past.

What are your favorite punk albums? Leave a comment below.  

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Lollapalooza 2012

…And Justice For All

 

Justice Reigns Supreme Over a Sold-Out Lolla Crowd – The Wise Choice Over Jack White

The French really know how to make electronic music. Daft Punk. Air. M83. Les Rythmes Digitales. And then of course Justice – one of two headliners Sunday night at Lollapalooza in Chicago. 

The Paris-based duo brought their booming bass, fist-pumping beats and acidy keyboard sounds to an otherwise lackluster day at Lolla. It wasn’t rock, but it did indeed rock – a performance that was absolutely sick. It felt like a gigantic rave circa 1999.

Completely refreshing after a day saturated by rock ‘n’ roll, Justice knocked it out of Grant Park. I could’ve watched Jack White’s solo show – and if it were the White Stripes, I maybe would’ve considered it – but Justice was definitely the wise choice.

After I was blown away by Daft Punk in 2007, I opted for Justice, knowing that a huge electronic dance party was the better bet for a festival crowd. This wasn’t quite as good as Daft Punk’s set five years ago, but it was close.

The Walkmen

The Walkmen delivered a afternoon set of indie rock hits that rivaled any rock band of the whole weekend I’m guessing – I only went to Lolla on Sunday because I couldn’t get a 3-day pass and Friday and Saturday were sold out.

The Gaslight Anthem reminded me of my punk days in high school. Except this was a different kind of punk, which I will call punk-for-grownups. Huge singalongs.

But the best rock band of the day was At the Drive-In – a group that is the epitome of post-hardcore. The ground surrounding the Red Bull stage was caked in mud and I was praying that a moshpit wouldn’t break out. It did so I quickly moved out of the way but I still managed to get my feet all muddy since I was wearing sandals.

This was the first Chicago reunion show for the post-punk boys from El Paso, TX.  I saw them 12 years ago when I was in college. They opened for Fugazi at the Safari Club in Des Moines, Iowa. Now they’ve reached legendary status. And they’ve still got it. 

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Shut Up and Play the Hits

New Doc Highlights LCD Soundsytem’s Gangbusters Grand Finale

LCD Soundsystem is tied with Bright Eyes as hands-down my favorite band of the past decade.

The Brooklyn-based electro rockers – led by mastermind James Murphy – almost single-handedly revived and reinvented a genre known as dance punk. Loud. Fast. Fun. It’s rock music with a disco beat that you can shimmy and shake to. It’s electro music dressed in punk clothing – jam-packed with thumping bass lines, acid-washed keyboards, live drums and distorted guitars. And of course a cowbell thrown in for good measure. It’s all part of LCD’s signature sound.

LCD Soundsystem broke up in 2011. The new documentary – Shut Up and Play the Hits – follows the band as it prepares and performs its final, sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This is a band that played much smaller venues than that but they wanted to go out with a bang, and they sure did.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to one of four sold-out screenings at the Music Box theater in Chicago. The movie played at one-night-only screenings throughout the country, but the demand was so high in Chicago there were four screenings. A total of 2,600 Chicagoans have seen the film – the most in all of the US.

I moved away from New York before the band played that final show, but I would’ve undoubtedly been there had I still been living in Brooklyn. 

I had the privilege of seeing LCD Soundsystem four times while they were still together. Twice in New York – at Randall’s Island opening for Arcade Fire in 2007 and at Terminal 5 in 2009. And twice in Chicago at Lollapalooza 2007 and at the Aragon Ballroom in 2011.

James Murphy broke up LCD Soundsystem that year and everyone was shocked that a band on the brink of superstardom would quit. The film documents the 48 hours which encapsulate the moments preceding the concert, the show and the aftermath.

It intercuts live scenes from the concert with bits of Murphy mundanely moping around his Brooklyn apartment, shaving his face and walking his dog.

In an interview on The Colbert Report that is excerpted early in the film, Murphy told the comedian he was ending the band because it was getting “embarrasing.” At 41-years old, he didn’t feel like he was fit to be in a band anymore.

In a memorable scene, rock journo Chuck Klosterman asks Murphy what LCD Soundsystem’s biggest failure was. His answer: breaking up the band. But maybe it’s for the better.

Neil Young said it best and Kurt Cobain famously quoted him in his suicide note: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” LCD Soundsystem never put out an album that sucked. They have three – all of which are artistic triumphs.

Maybe Murphy will continue his music career playing sporadic gigs as a DJ. I saw him spin at The Mid in Chicago in the spring and I was absolutely blown away. None of this two laptops and iTunes nonsense. Murphy actually spins vinyl. The records he drops are spine-tingling ear candy. I don’t know where he gets his vinyl, but they are songs you’ve never heard of but wish you had. I went by myself – my date cancelled on me – and I danced my ass off.

Here’s to hoping that James Murphy will keep dance punk alive, even if it’s just on the ones and twos.

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Pop Culture of Mass Destruction

 The Colorado Shootings: Guns, Not Movies To Blame

 

The suspected gunman in Aurora, CO – James Holmes – inevitably had an unhealthy obsession with the ultraviolent Batman films. He dyed his hair red and told police “I am The Joker.” He had a Batman poster and mask in his apartment.

Did he read comics? An ABC report speculates that the shooter may have mimicked a scene in the comic book series The Dark Knight Returns. In the 1986 comic book, The Joker murders an audience in a TV studio with “smile gas.” Of course, the gunman in Aurora used tear gas at the beginning of the massacre in the movie theater.

I’m surprised parents and the media are not blaming pop culture for the shootings. They certainly did in 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and injuring 21.

Back then, like now, everyone was looking for a scapegoat – a reason why something like this could’ve happened. Now, in the wake of the Aurora tragedy – which happened just a 20-minute drive from Littleton – we are having a conversation about guns, not pop culture. We finally got it right.   

In the case of Columbine, parents blamed the music Harris and Klebold liked – “shock-rocker” Marilyn Manson and German industrial band KMFDM. It was widely reported that the two also liked to play blood-and-guts video games like the now-old-school first-person-shooter Doom. They would watch violent movies like The Matrix and Natural Born Killers as well.

I visited Littleton with MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago in 2004 – five years after the massacre there. We went there to grab some local flavor, taking the temperature of the town and meeting some Columbine students from the first class that was not around during the shooting. Was bullying still prevalent? Yes – according to the skaters, punks and goth kids we met at the skate park near the school. No, according to the jocks and cheerleaders. “We all get along,” they said.

As a lowly associate producer, my job was to find these students in advance so that we could have a plan to interview them when we got there. This was long before Facebook and Twitter. If those tools were around it would’ve been easy to find kids, but they weren’t so I actually found some on the then-popular blogging community LiveJournal.

The video I cut is not on the Internet – there are copyright issues with the music I used – but I still have the tape on Beta SP, a format which is a dinosaur of the television industry. Maybe someday I will transfer these tapes to digital for all to see. However, a text interview with survivor Richard Castaldo is still posted on MTVNews.com.

My piece examined the effects the massacre had on pop culture and the movies, TV shows and music that were influenced by the tragedy.

For example, a Deftones music video called “Back to School” shined a spotlight on bullying and celebrated the punks and goth kids who feel like they are “different.” In the video, they are the cool kids, not the jocks and cheerleaders who traditionally hold the title of “leaders” of the school.

And of course there was the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine – Michael Moore’s poignant examination of gun culture in America. His was one of the few loud voices that took a stand against the real problem – guns.  

I absolutely hate guns. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never even touched one. And I think it is more dangerous to own one than it is to be gun-free.

I was never allowed to play with G.I. Joes as a kid. My dad wouldn’t allow it. I’m glad he didn’t. I was allowed to play with cartoonish ones like squirt guns, but anything that resembled the real thing was off limits.

After another horrible tragedy, the Republicans will once again find a way to defend the right to bear arms while still criticizing the violence. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went as far as to say that people in the theater should’ve been allowed to carry concealed weapons and intervene with their own guns. That would’ve made the situation even more dangerous.

The NRA’s unofficial slogan is famously “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That is utterly false when you consider the type of guns that are legal in the US. Hunting rifles and handguns are perfectly acceptable in my view. But no one needs an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine to shoot deer. The weapons of war the shooter purchased were perfectly legal. And this is sad.

Ultimately, with this new shooting, we as a country are finding the real scapegoat. It is not pop culture. It is our gun culture. However, guns aren’t the only problem. The elephant in the room is mental health.

After all, it is easier and cheaper to buy a gun in this country than it is to afford quality mental health care. I am not defending the shooter. Mental illness is no excuse, but we need to have a serious discussion about mental health – not just guns.

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Pitchfork 2012 – Five Observations

Japandroids Rocked Pitchfork

Along with Lollapalooza, Pitchfork is one of the biggest perks about living in Chicago. When most people look at the lineup they have never heard of the majority of the bands. But this festival is a great way to learn about new music. Let me introduce you to the greatest bands of the festival and break down the biggest misses.

1. Japandroids have the best rock drummer I have seen in years

Dare I say it, but David Prowse is the best rock drummer since Dave Grohl when he was in Nirvana. He plays the drums unapologetically loud with a sound that hits you like an uppercut to the face. Pain never felt so good.

Their second album Celebration Rock crackles with sexy and unabashed noise – a deluge of distorted guitars and rapid-fire drumming. It is the album of the summer and maybe the year and it sounds so thick live that you can’t believe a noise this huge emanates from only two people and no bass. Awesome. 

2. Women Rock!

I was absolutely blown away by Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells. Singer Alexis Krauss looks and sounds like a Joan Jett for our generation. She howls like hell while Derek Edward Miller wails on his guitar, and a drum machine keeps the beat underneath. The band takes the prize for most fun set of the entire weekend.

Wild Flag – a band led by former Sleater Kinney frontwoman Carrie Brownstein – opened their set with a cover of Television’s “See No Evil.” It was completely refreshing to hear that classic 1977 song sung by a woman. Wild Flag’s high-energy, girl-power set was one of the highlights of the weekend.

Also notable: the female-fronted Cults.

3. Forget Beach House and Hot Chip

Pitchfork can be very hit or miss. Some of the music is extremely pretentious. I’m not gonna like a band because everyone says they are fantastic.

Don’t believe the hype on these two bands. Either you got it or you don’t, and these guys don’t got it. Yawn.

4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – What Were They Thinking?

Who’s curating this thing? Abstract, strange, monotone, challenging music performed outside. It echoed throughout Union Park, going nowhere. Kill me. Now.

5. Sunday Sucked

Ty Segall – boring. Beach House – blah. Chavez – eh. AraabMuzik – intriguing.

One-man-band Abraham Orellana aka AraabMuzik blanketed the park with a flurry of drum machines and hip-hop-inspired samples. It got the crowd moving and it was the first time I actually tapped my foot all day. And he went on at 6:15 so that’s saying a lot. 

The other band that saved the day was Vampire Weekend. The Manhattan-based, African-influenced band has developed quite the catalog of hits that were a breath of fresh air on a day dominated by mind-numbing and dull music. Next up: Lollapalooza. 

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