Sunday, December 30, 2007

January Shows In Chicago

January is always a slow time of year. 2008 is looking no different. That said, the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival at Schubas from the 16-20th is going to be very interesting. John Vanderslice, Illinois Bon Iver, The M's, The Walkmen and many others will be playing......i think this will be fun. Tickets are rather cheap and I'm very curious to see when it's inevitably -10 degrees outside if people will stick pack the place. I bet they will. Tickets are on sale right now through Schubas' website. Dan Deacon will also return at the end of the month with a show at the sleepy Lakeshore Theater and another at the Metro (with Girl Talk) which will undoubtedly be a blast. Have a good New Year, everyone.

Wed 1/02
A Tundra, Brilliant Pebbles @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Thurs 1/03
People Noise (ex-VHS or Beta), The Hidden Mitten, Tennis Courts @ Empty Bottle 9pm%

Fri 1/04
Is She Weird, Is She White (Pixies tribute feat. Bobby Bare Jr. & Friends), The Teenage FBI (Guided By Voices tribute feat. Silver Jews & Clem Snide) @ Schubas 10pm

Sat 1/05
Bobby Bare Jr., The Young Criminal’s Starvation League @ Schubas 10pm

The Dresden Dolls, Two Ton Boa, Meow Meow @ Vic Theater 6pm

Hey Champ, Coltrane Motion @ Reggie’s Rock Club 9pm

Mon 1/07
White/Light, Teith @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Ultra Sonic Edukators, Unicycle Loves You, Modern Temper @ Schubas 8pm

Wed 1/09
Office @ Victory Gardens at the Biograph Theatre 8pm#

Talib Kweli @ House of Blues 8pm

Gunshy @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Fri 1/11
The Von Bondies, SSM, Freer @ Abbey Pub 8pm

The Bird and the Bee, Charlie Wadhams @ Schubas 10pm

Sat 1/12
Roommate, Christy & Emily, Till By Turning @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Sun 1/13
Miracle Condition, Dylan Posa, Locks @ Schubas 8pm

Mon 1/14
Ultra Sonic Edukators, The Ladies and Gentlemen @ Schubas 8pm

Busy Signals, Shopping, Chronic Seizure, Canadian Rifles @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Tues 1/15
Cairo Gang, Birthmark, Teeth Mountain, Grass Canyon @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Wed 1/16
John Vanderslice, The M’s, Young Galaxy, Heypenny (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival) @ Schubas 9pm*

Thurs 1/17
Son Volt @ House of Blues 7:30pm

Bobby Conn, Nomo, The Hylozoists (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival) @ Schubas 9pm*

Fri 1/18
Mannequin Men, The Dials, VEE DEE, Yolks @ Abbey Pub 8pm

William Elliott Whitmore, Dianogah, Racebannon @ Reggie’s Rock Club 7pm

Cloud Cult, Illinois, Bon Iver, Wax Fang (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival) @ Schubas 9pm*

Sat 1/19
White Williams, Cadence Weapon, Ohmega Watts, Ecstatic Sunshine (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival) @ Schubas 9pm*

Sun 1/20
The Walkmen, White Rabbits, White Denim (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival) @ Schubas 9pm*

Mon 1/21
Ultra Sonic Edukators, Inspector Owl @ Schubas 8pm

Young Widows, Suicide Note, Millions @ Subterranean 7pm

Wed 1/23
Cornelius @ Metro 6:30pm

Mason Proper, Via Audio, Kid, You’ll Move Mountains @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Thurs 1/24
Brad Peterson, Le Concorde @ Double Door 8pm

Velvet Revolver @ Riviera Theatre 8pm

Mung, Pillars and Tongues, A Tundra @ Hideout 9pm

Fri 1/25
Editors, Hot Hot Heat @ Vic Theater 8pm*

Todd Rundgren & Band @ Park West 8pm

moe. @ Riviera Theatre 8pm

The Changes @ Double Door 8pm

Dan Deacon, Jimmy Joe Roche @ Lakeshore Theater @ 9pm

Marah (acoustic), Adam & Dave’s Bloodline @ Schubas 7pm (2nd show at 10pm)

Sat 1/26
Girl Talk, Dan Deacon @ Metro 7pm (2nd show at 11pm)*

Jeff Tweedy (solo acoustic show) @ Vic Theater 8pm*&

Lenny Kravitz @ Riviera Theatre 7:30pm

Dianogah, Bear Claw, Quatre Tete @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Otter Petter, The Ladies and Gentlemen, Slings & Arrows @ Subterranean 9pm

Sun 1/27
Luca @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Mon 1/28
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Blue Ribbon Glee Club, Black Apple, North Pilot @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Ultra Sonic Edukators, Maradona, The Loyal Divide @ Schubas 8pm

Thurs 1/31
Todd Rundgren & Band @ Park West 8pm

Decibully, Eons, Chrash @ Empty Bottle 9pm

CoCoComa, Submarine Races @ Hideout 9pm

Chuck Ragan (of Hot Water Music), Joshua English, Ben Nichols (of Lucero) @ Schubas 7pm

Magjongg @ Subterranean 6:30pm

* Hooray!
% The Empty Bottle is the only place in Chicago you'll find Tennis Courts without a three hour wait. Zing!
& No talking!
# John Dillinger, Abraham Lincoln, and Janeane Garafalo were all shot here so be careful.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Record Releases Set For '08

Courtesy of Stereogum, click on this link to get an update of pending album releases for 2008. For those who have a problem with getting music for free, Radiohead's In Rainbows is being released in CD form on January 1st. Other notable releases for the fast arriving new year include Black Mountain, Matt Costa, Cat Power, Whigs, The Mars Volta, Vampire Weekend, The Mountain Goats and many others. Also, the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson's Thriller arrives in February. And Robert Pollard has an album on the horizon. It's about time, Robert.

Apparently 25 years ago this guy made the Thriller album.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Horrible Album Covers And An Update On The Spoon Show

I have never compiled a list of what I would call the worst album covers of all time (Perry Farrell's Satellite Party seems to be a popular choice this year) but after watching a segment of VH1's top 100 songs of the 90's, I would say this would definitely be somewhere in my top ten.

On a happier note, it looks like local favs The Sea and Cake will be playing with Spoon at the Metro come New Year's Eve. I can't wait for Pitchfork to inevitably announce Spoon's yet-to-be-played version of "Auld Lang Syne" as #17 on their top 100 songs of 2008 come this time next year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Win Tickets To Spoon New Year's Eve Show

Spoon is playing at the Metro on New Year's Eve. Tickets are in the $75 range (and sold out). However, if you missed out, you still have a chance to win two passes courtesy of Chicago Innerview. Click here, answer a couple of questions, and you're well on your way. Good luck.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Year In Review

Here it is. A list of lists to end all lists. Seven of us contributed and we are going to out more people than the Mitchell Report. This really was a fascinating year in music. Don't believe me? Well then how do you explain Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? being ranked the 9th best album of the year by Jim Freeman and making his honorable mention list? That doesn't happen in just some ordinary year. Take in what's written below and feel free to comment and criticize. And please send all non-music related complaints to nql's HR'll see what I mean. Enjoy.

2007 In Review By Alex Crisafulli

Most Hilarious Pitchfork Review of 2007: On August 16, Joe Tangari gave The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 7: 1967 a 9.9. I picture Tangari in his office mulling over the album thinking, “It’s good…but not quite perfect.”

Most Ridiculous Cokemachineglow Review of 2007: On July 18, this served as the first paragraph of a Christopher Alexander review:

“Lester Bangs couldn't handle the Rolling Stones. Bangs was never a dispassionate critic anyway, but when the subject was Mick and Keith, any pretense of detachment flew out the window, and with it his surgical insight and analysis. That may be why I love his work on the band so much. Read in chronological order (as one can in the 2003 collection Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Tastes), one can see in Bangs not so much a disillusionment, but rather a steadfast refusal to bring truth to his illusions. They remain the gods that saved his life when he was fourteen, and as they continue to make bad record after bad record, it's not so much their own reputation they are sullying, but his own memory. And that's why he's pissed off, and it's no small wonder: Bangs' work on the Stones is an example of what happens when your private obsessions no longer correspond to cultural ones; a sustained note of fear that as your avatars and heroes become irrelevant, so do you.”

Wow, Alexander is really giving it to the new Stones’ release, huh? Nope. This was the opening paragraph for Cokemachineglow’s review of Smashing Pumpkins’ just released Zeitgeist.

Most Overused Expression of 2007: And the Bears go 3 and out.

Top Ten Things Said By Craig Finn to Close Out a Show in 2007
10. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
9. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
8. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
7. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
6. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
5. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
4. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
3. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
2. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.
1. “There is so much joy in what we do up here…”.

Top Ten Chicago Concerts of 2007 (that I attended)
10. Wilco @ Millenium Park, September 12, 2007 -- This felt like the unofficial end of summer, but on an unseasonably cool September night at the incomparable Millenium Park, Wilco delivered a great set with Jeff Tweedy and the boys in an exceptionally festive mood. They kept playing well into the night and we kept listening. I italicized the word “listening” because I had the $10 lawn seats and couldn’t actually see the band. But it didn’t matter. When Tweedy called out “Nailed it!” after a pepped up version of “Walken” I knew we were in for a good evening. And not being able to see isn’t always a bad thing….remember Jeff’s appearance at the 2006 Lollapalooza? They played songs from every Wilco album, even serving up some “Casino Queen.” The only disappointing part of the night was their refusal to play their classic “This Is Our Country” from all those Volkswagen ads.

9. Neko Case @ Park West, March 29, 2007 -- Remember having to suffer through that ridiculous “art” show on the overhead screen that seemed like a combination of “An Inconvenient Truth” with some Sesame Street mixed in? Well, once Case took the stage all was forgotten, right? What a great concert. I milked as much as I could out of the Fox Confessor… album so finally seeing the songs live brought me some closure. Now who can we blame for that slide show? I bet Ani Difranco has some blood on her hands.

8. Berto Ramon @ Double Door, November 9, 2007 -- Quite simply, the best unsigned band in Chicago. This energetic yet intelligent hip-hop group brought a capacity crowd at the Double Door to a near Biggie-Smalls’-funeral-procession-on-the-streets-of-Harlem like frenzy.

7. The Walkmen @ Schubas, March 11, 2007 -- Packed in at tiny Schubas, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser raged into the microphone like he had just had a home run taken away for too much pine tar on his bat. Also playing a few new songs with Louisiana-like horns, the Walkmen continue to prove they’re a band that needs to be seen and spit on by and not just heard.

6. The New Pornographers @ Union Park, 2007 Pitchfork Festival, July 15, 2007 -- While De La Soul closed out the 2007 Pitchfork Festival for most people, the New Pornographers closed it out for me. Well, that’s not technically true. On the way home, the homeless guy on the El who swore he only needed a dollar and not my entire wallet pretty much officially shut down the weekend. Still a great couple of days though.

5. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists @ The Metro, April 28, 2007 -- I have seen Mr. Leo five times and this is the one that sticks out. Having to be out of the Metro by 10pm and hustle over to the Hideout, they stormed through their set of mostly new material from the recently released Living With the Living. They didn’t even leave the stage for an encore, they just kept playing until their time was up. It's the show I always wanted to see out of Ted Leo.

4. Matt & Kim w/ Dan Deacon @ Logan Square Auditorium, October 2, 2007 -- The Logan Square Auditorium hasn’t smelled the same since.

3. Okkervil River @ Logan Square Auditorium, September 18, 2007 -- Great show as always/expected.

2. The Hold Steady w/ Art Brut @ The Metro, October 31, 2007 -- I’ll never forget where I was on Halloween night of 2007. It’s the Kennedy assassination of concerts.

1. The Arcade Fire @ Chicago Theatre, May 20, 2007 -- Simply put, the best show of the year. If you read below you’ll see Matt Farra claim that the Besnard Lakes rival the Arcade Fire in concert. Pffft. I’ll believe that when I never see it.

Best of the Rest: Rogue Wave @ The Double Door, Tapes ‘n Tapes @ Abbey Pub, Menomena @ The Metro, Band of Horses @ The Metro, Fujiya & Miyagi @ The Empty Bottle

Top Ten Songs of 2007
10. “Halloweenhead” by Ryan Adams -- Everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) grump reminds us with this song what the Rock N Roll album should have sounded like.

9. “Late Night” by Nina Nastasia and Jim White -- Nastasia at her finest. Simple vocals, simple guitar chords, and simple drumbeats yet there is something brilliant about it. Simple but brilliant….pretend that also applies to this description.

8. “Direct Hit” by Art Brut -- Sure.

7. “Heretics” by Andrew Bird -- Thank God it’s fatal. Thank God what is fatal? Beating on Tina Turner? Hmmm, I guess you could say it’s fatal. But an extra forty-five years is still a long time to live with a supposed “fatal” ailment.

6. “The Sons of Cain” by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists -- When we live in a world plagued by controversial issues like the war in Iraq and whether or not Jennifer Love Hewitt is fat, it sure is nice to have Ted Leo around to tell it like it is. I mean, isn’t it?

5. “(Antichrist Television Blues)” by The Arcade Fire -- The Arcade Fire continues their love/hate relationship with religion with this up-tempo song that culminates with a dramatic ending. And yes, I just gave away the entire plot to Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie”.

4. “The Underdog” by Spoon -- An undeniably great song culled from an album with an undeniably stupid title.

3. “Rotten Hell” by Menomena -- The lyrics say “rot in hell” but the song is called “Rotten Hell”. I don’t have anything clever to say I just wanted to point that out.

2. “Atlas” by Battles -- Back in July at the Pitchfork Festival I wrote this: “I’m sorry, but if this song (“Atlas”) doesn’t seep into your spine and without warning make you start dancing all over the place I don’t know what to tell you.” I still don’t. When I run out of coffee I play this song. When I run out of this song I’m not fun to be around. The polar ice caps know what I’m talking about.

1. “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” by Okkervil River -- This song kicks off one of the best albums of the year, one that examines pop culture imagery, mid-level fame, and even one’s inner thoughts the moments before committing suicide. On this particular song, Will Sheff stretches his vocals to ranges not previously seen while discussing art in the eye of the beholder. By the time he screams out, “Hey, I’d watch it.” you’re already hooked. The song ends and you’ll probably give it another listen because it’s undoubtedly a song that’s not going to give everything away on the first listen and that’s what makes it the best song of 2007. ( Oh, and 54 plays on my ipod. Eat your heart out, Farra.)

Best of the Rest: “Fake Empire” by The National, “The Mending of the Gown” by Sunset Rubdown, “23” by Blonde Redhead, “John Allyn Smith Sails” by Okkervil River, “I Feel It All” by Feist

Top Ten Albums of 2007
10. Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven’s Gate -- This album came out to decent reviews and for whatever reason was essentially dismissed. Big mistake. Recorded after drummer Pat Spurgeon went through a kidney transplant, the album is dedicated to all those that helped with his ordeal along the way. Filled with quirky pop hits that define the Rogue Wave sound, you’ll breeze through this album and not find a bad song among the bunch. Even though it’s coming in at number 10, had there been a category for most underrated album of the year this would have been in the top spot hands down. Notable tracks include “Chicago x 12” and “Like I Needed”.

9. Band of Horses Cease to Begin -- After the release of 2006’s Everything All the Time, Band of Horses saw the departure of co-founder Mat Brooke. Once Cease to Begin was released, any concern that this would hurt their next effort was dashed away faster than Ben Bridwell’s razor. Other than the beards, you won’t find much change from the last album. But that’s a good thing. Bridwell emerges as the star of the show and pens beautiful songs such as “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Ode to LRC”. Country influences abound as well with the hook shot “Detlef Schrempf”.

8. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga -- Did we ever get a decent explanation from Britt Daniel as to why the album was named this? And are we as responsible people ready to accept these sorts of antics without demanding the simplest of answers? I’ll look the other way on this one just let me know that’s where everyone else stands so I can move on. Notables include “The Underdog”, “Don’t Make Me a Target” and “Eddie’s Ragga”.

7. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists Living With the Living -- Would you become a vegan for a year if it gave you the ability to craft a great rock album? Me neither. Good thing Ted Leo is around to do it for us. “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.” is the polarizing track on this record. If you make it past that track unscathed, there’s no excuse not to have this record in your top ten. None. Notables include the “The Sons of Cain”, “Who Do You Love?”, “C.I.A.”, and “Bottle of Buckie”.

6. The Arcade Fire Neon Bible -- I know what you’re thinking. Illinois does not deserve to be in the Rose Bowl. False. The way the system is currently made up, the bowl scenarios play out so the Rose Bowl is able to maintain a traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up. Once Ohio State slipped into the BCS championship game, the logical choice for the Rose Bowl committee was to invite the second best team from the Big Ten conference to face USC. That just happened to be Illinois. If anyone doesn’t deserve to be in the BCS it is Kansas. They played a creampuff schedule, had virtually no notable wins, and were exposed badly on national television when they played the only decent team (Missouri) on their schedule. So what happens? Missouri goes to the Big 12 Championship game and loses to a very good Oklahoma team. The fallout begins, Missouri slips out of the BCS and Kansas takes their spot. If anyone got screwed it was Missouri! Pretty much what the BCS is saying is that Missouri would have been better off losing the week before to Kansas and sitting idle the next week while Kansas inevitably gets their doors blown off by Oklahoma. Unbelievable. And don’t talk to me about playoffs. Playoffs?!? Folks, this the system we’re stuck with and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Notables include “Intervention”, “(Antichrist Television Blues)”, “Windowsill”, and “No Cars Go.”

5. Les Savy Fav Let’s Stay Friends -- I think there needs to be at least one good record like this released each year. Nothing too fancy, just some loud and abrasive guitars with a frontman that sings as if he’s shouting over someone during an argument. I just realized that NME also had this album at #5 on their list. I’m not surprised….they’ve been ripping off nql for years. Notables include “Pots and Pans”, “What Would Wolves Do” and “Patty Lee”.

4. The New Pornographers Challengers -- I thought people low-balled this record when it came out in August and I still do. This is what I wrote back then in a response to a less than flattering Pitchfork review. In fact, I like this album so much I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few names from this “super group” pop up in the newly released Mitchell Report. No one could make an album of this caliber without some sort of performance enhancing drug. Notables include “Challengers”, “My Rights Versus Yours”, “Myriad Harbour”, and “The Spirit of Giving”.

3. Okkervil River The Stage Names -- This should be the album that helps Okkervil River shed the “lit-rockers” label. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. But here they prove they’re just as capable as releasing a good, solid rock and roll album as anyone. Nowhere is this more obvious than in second track “Unless It’s Kicks”. The record reaches an appropriate climax, however, when it channels Brian Wilson in last track “John Allyn Smith Sails” and morphs into a cover of Sloop John B while detailing the last moments of poet John Berryman’s life. Those still clinging to the band’s “lit-rock” image won’t be disappointed as Sheff continues to carefully weave thought-provoking lyrics in the story-telling style that he has made all his own. Notables include the aforementioned “Unless It’s Kicks” and “John Allyn Smith Sails”, and “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” and “Plus Ones”.

2. Menomena Friend and Foe -- If you scroll down you’ll notice this album may have received the most acclaim by average of nql contributors. It’s very deserving. One listen to this album and you realize you probably won’t hear anything like this until Menomena puts out their next record. Only Menomena can capture this sort of eclectic musical bravado and groove it into songs that are both bizarre and catchy at the same time. The songs are a testament to the democracy of this band as all three members share song writing and singing duties all the while sharing instruments with the same ease that Bill Clinton and Martina Navratilova used to demonstrate when sharing girlfriends. Notables include “Muscle ‘N Flow”, “Weird”, “Ghostship”, “Rotten Hell” and “Air Aid”.

1. Nina Nastasia and Jim White You Follow Me --All hail the dark horse! Trying to capture the best album in a year filled with amazing music is not easy. I had five potential albums that I thought could realistically fill this spot. The album I kept coming back to was this one. No other album from the past year so consistently keeps getting stronger as it nears the end. Nastasia’s vocals sound haunted at times and beautiful at others. Jim White’s percussion moves the album along and manages to give the album serious depth beyond Nastasia’s vocals. The album doesn’t last much longer than the 30-minute mark which to me is one of its strong points and makes it obvious that anything that wasn’t up to par was left on the cutting room floor. Produced in classic Steve Albini fashion, everything is stripped down to its most simplistic form and proves that Albini is at his best when behind the scenes. At the end of the day, the lyrics are what make this album a triumph and prove that poetry and good songwriting should never be considered mutually exclusive. And that is why this is the best album of 2007. Notables include “Odd Said the Doe”, “Our Discussion”, “Late Night” and “How Will You Love Me”.

Best of the Rest: The Reminder by Feist; Wincing the Night Away by The Shins; Icky Thump by The White Stripes; 23 by Blonde Redhead; Random Spirit Lover by Sunset Rubdown; Armchair Apocrypha by Andrew Bird--AC

2007 In Review By Brian Herrmann

10. Besnard Lakes Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse -- Sometimes all it takes for me to love a record is a strong positive association--like the one I have with Are the Dark Horse. The day I got this album was shitty: rain to freezing rain to snow to ice, stranding my wife in Indianapolis and rendering motorists retarded in Bloomington (driving tests should be administered in the snow…anyone who loses their cool doesn't get a license, ever). But it was also the day I got a cell phone that actually worked, the day I reconnected with an old friend I hadn't spoken to for almost four years, and the day I got Dark Horse. All of these circumstances conspired, leaving me alone in our apartment to get hammered on leftover Miller Lite and to listen to Dark Horse over and over and over.

9. Dälek Abandoned Language -- Abandoned Language machined the spurs off Dälek's previous output while remaining indulgent to their dual predilections for noise and jam: they are hip-hop's Sonic Youth (wanna fight about it?). The packaging and liners are as inscrutable as the hazy lyricism of "Content to Play Villain". And, to me, packaging is as important a part of the message as any beat or couplet. Speaking of, Dälek said, "Never write my songs for consumers / I rhyme it cuz I write for heads with fat laces on they Pumas." Hells yeah.

8. Twilight Sad Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters -- I didn't figure out my adolescence until I was 25 either.

7. El-P I'll Sleep When You're Dead -- Once, aged 14 or so, I set a ping pong ball on fire in my bedroom because my friend Eric told me it would explode when set to flame. It did, but what Eric didn't tell me was that the melting, smoldering plastic would burn a big black ring into the carpet. While my carpet was being destroyed, I was simultaneously exhilarated (sweet, it worked) and terrified (oh shit, it worked). That's what happens when I listen to I'll Sleep When You're Dead: excitement and dread at the same time, an auditory metaphor for our impending sucky future. But maybe it won't be so bad: My parents never said anything about the burn mark.

6. Okkervil River The Stage Names -- Possessed of a different perspective than most folks, Will Sheff doesn't write elegies or songs as much as he writes stories. No simple paean to a lost soul, "Savannah Smiles" isn't about a porn star's suicide, it's about a porn star's suicide's effect on a father who can only see his daughter "age 8" and regret that he may have had a hand in her demise. "John Allyn Smith Sails" is a suicide mission statement ("wise men know when it's time to go") blending elements of truth and conjecture, transforming "Sloop John B" from a song about homesickness into something else entirely. Ultimately, though, The Stage Names is an album about being in the middle (life isn't a movie, after all), composed, ironically, by a band at the height of their craft.

5. The National Boxer -- Matt Berninger writes lyrics like a, uh, writer: vivid with detail and imagery, employing alliteration, sibilance, and anaphora. But his lyrics wouldn't hold up as well if it weren't for the crack band behind him and the moody tension they create. The triptych of "Slow Show", "Apartment Story", and "Start a War"--with their yearning, joy, and resignation, respectively--nail squarely the "unmagnificent lives of adults."

4. The Field From Here We Go Sublime -- I don't possess the lexicon to discuss this album intelligently. I do know that Sublime outed me as a techno fan because I couldn't shut up about it.

3. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga -- In which Britt Daniel proves definitively that Gimme Fiction (itself a good album) was a speed bump between masterpieces. I've heard Daniel called aloof or distant, but I don't get that impression at all: I would call him unflappable, totally cool, all business. He doesn't show his dick onstage or dress up like a lobster because he doesn't need to; his songs speak for themselves. And as long as Daniel & Co. keep churning out tunes as impeccable as "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb", "Rhthm and Soul", and "The Underdog", I'll keep listening and being pleasantly amazed.

2. LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver -- Sick. The only thing better than listening to Sound of Silver is hearing it live.

1. Menomena Friend and Foe -- It's odd how difficult it was to sum up what I like about my favorite album of the year--probably because Menomena go in every direction on Friend and Foe. The album's multifaceted influences, sharp musical turns, and peaks and valleys evoke the time in which we live--overwhelming, full of duality, ominous, more than a little bleak (where people long to be machines, because machines are useful). Ironically, the song that sticks out most, "Ghostship", is the album's simplest and most straightforward. Riding a bass line fit for its titular vessel, the song is a closed lyrical loop that speaks volumes: Awash in a sea of (mis)information it's hard to judge what has value, to mete out the bullshit, or decide where to place your loyalty. It just takes a little faith to muscle on.

Hon. mention: St. Vincent Marry Me; White Stripes Icky Thump; The Shins Wincing the Night Away; A Sunny Day in Glasgow Scribble Mural Comic Journal; Band of Horses Cease to Begin

Most overrated/over-lauded: Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?; Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala
Is that you Fauna......and are you the destroyer? Well, whatever the case, Brian thinks you're overrated.

Most anticipated album I haven't heard yet: Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams

Best non-2007 album purchased in 2007: Mark Hollis s/t--BH

2007 In Review By Matt Farra

Top Songs To Play in Your Stereo of 2007
10. “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” by Okkervil River -- Makes me want to join a fraternity and bong a beer. If this song isn’t in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the next Zach Braff movie, I will give myself herpes. (16 times played on my play count on Itunes).
Hey Will Sheff, someone has their eyes on you!

9. “Beautiful Life” by Gui Boratto -- Play while your parents are over or while on heroin—or both. Eight and a half minutes to change your life from this Brazilian Warren Zevon. (9 times)

8. “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” by Los Campesinos -- This Scotland version of The New Pornographers make A.C. Newman and Neko Case seem like Sonny and Cher. Not 1960s Sonny and Cher, rather more like 2007 Sonny and Cher, only with Tiny Tim as Sonny—oh wait, he’s dead too. (14 times)

7. “All The Old Showstoppers” by The New Pornographers -- This Canadian outfit makes Swan Lake’s collaborative effort seem more like Yawn Lake. This was the first song Magic Johnson heard after finding out that there was no sign of H.I.V. in his body. Listen to this song with or without an STD. (19 times)

6. “Is There a Ghost” by Band of Horses -- This song makes their previous hit "The Funeral" seem like a song in a Ford commercial. I predict that you will be hearing this song, very soon, in a commercial for The boys love being able to get some extra cash around the holidays. If this band keeps on pace with putting an album out every year, with songs like this, then they will put out one album every year for as long as they last with at least one song that sounds like "Is There a Ghost". (13 times)

5. “Bros” by Panda Bear -- In just over twelve minutes, this song is perfect to play while watching an episode of Sealab 2020. O.K., that’s a lie. One of my friends told me that last week he was listening to this song when his girlfriend tried to interrupt him and talk to him about something like paying bills or some other meaningless topic. While turning up the stereo, he quickly responded, “Bros before hoes.” (7 times)

4. “All My Friends "by LCD Soundsystem -- While New” York may be bringing James Murphy down, the piano in “All My Friends” made me one happy camper. I think the “intro” to this song might be the best “intro” since the theme song to Mr. Belvedere. LCD Soundsystem was by far my favorite concert of this year. (14 times)

3. “All I Need” by Radiohead -- I just noticed that three of my top ten songs begin with “All”. This song takes me back to "Street Spirit". If Thom Yorke makes “love songs”, surely this is one of them. (16 times)

2. “Atlas” by Battles -- While the beat may be similar to Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”, this song is just as catchy. This isn’t your mother’s “prog rock” band. This song makes me want to throw up—in a good way. (6 times)

1. “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” by Of Montreal -- While the meaning of this song is obvious from the title, I prefer to focus on the catchy beats in throughout this track. I mean, “come on chemicals.” I still think that if you ask people where in the world Of Montreal is from, the last place most people would pick would be Georgia (the state). (20 times).

Top Ten Albums (In Particular Order) of 2007
10. Radiohead In Rainbows -- Ever heard of them? They are my sleeper album of the year. Seriously, this album is great to hear in the morning, afternoon, or evening. I have listened to this album while seeing a baby delivered and while burying my grandfather. “All I Need” is a song that should be played at the beginning of Cameron Crowe’s next movie. Hopefully their placement at #10 will not affect their album sales.

9. Dr. Dog We All Belong -- This Philadelphian outfit, whose big break came in 2004 when they joined My Morning Jacket on tour. Call them 2007’s David Bowie. Call them Joran Van Der Sloot’s favorite band. But whatever you do, don’t listen to this album on mute.

8. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? -- It’s easy to forget this album. But I played it every day for two months back in the Spring. Of course that was because it was my first vinyl album, unless you count my collection of Kenny Loggins albums from my parents basement.

7. Spirit If… by Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew -- I don’t quite understand if this is a Broken Social Scene album or a solo effort, but it doesn’t really matter. F—Ked Up Kid is a kick-ass song, even if its title looks like a dyslexic person trying to talk about the father of Britney Spears’ children.

6. Loney, Dear Loney, Noir -- My first of two Sub Pop members. The whole album is fantastic. In the Year of the Swede, leave it to Emil Svanagen to tell Jens Lekman, Beowulf, Dungen and Tiger Woods’ wife to say “Suck It Scandinavians.” After hearing this album once, your significant other will no longer be Loney.

5. LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver -- I would recommend listening to “Get Innocuous”, “Time to Get Away”, “North American Scum”, “Someone Great”, “All My Friends”, “Us vs. Them”, “Watch the Tapes”, “Sound of Silver” and “New York I Love You But You’r Bringing Me Down”.

4. The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse -- While lead singer Jace Lasek’s may look like David Koresh, the similarities do not end there. The cult singer phenomenon from Montreal put a horse in flames on the cover of this album (remember the Branch Davidian and the burning geldings?). While sounding eerily similar to The Beach Boys, this band actually rivals their neighbors Arcade Fire in their concerts. But who wouldn’t, with Hacksaw Jim Duggan as your drummer. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

3. Band of Horses Cease to Begin -- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Their second album should have been titled Everything All the Time, Again. Ben Bridwell has the bravado of original Sub Pop darling Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse)—which hopefully doesn’t turn out to be a bad thing.

2. Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha -- I can’t believe I am picking this album so high on a Chicago blog. All I can say is that my wife got the opportunity to talk to the 5 foot nothing violinist after a show, and told him “You are one hardcore whistler.” Take that Peter Bore and Yawn.

1. The New Pornographers Challengers -- This album had me at Play. Tell me a song you skip on this album and I will tell you that Dan Bejar is my next-door neighbor…on both sides of the street. That’s right, because he is that rich.--MF

2007 In Review By Travis Newman

Top Ten Albums of 2007
10. Panda Bear Person Pitch -- If you had asked me in the summer, this would have been in the top five, but my desire to listen to this fell as the weather worsened. Do you think Panda just has a button in his studio labeled “Brian Wilson”?
Best Track – This album has tracks?

9. Liars Liars -- Suffers some from the lack of unifying concept of previous albums, but this freedom also results in some awesome stand-alone tracks.
Best Track – “Plaster Casts of Everything”

8. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, You Are the Destroyer? -- Like Blur’s 13, but gayer.
Best Track – “Suffer For Fashion”

7. Sunset Rubdown Random Spirit Lover -- Full disclosure; I haven’t had this album long nor listened to it as much as everything else considered on this list, but my love for it was immediate. Spencer Krug’s third straight appearance on my top 10 albums of the year list.
Best Track – Preliminarily, “The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life”

6. The Shins Wincing The Night Away -- Sneaky excellent.
Best Track – “Sleeping Lessons”

5. The National Boxer -- If anyone saw their live show, I swear the newly touring violinist was the basis for Todd Barry’s annoyingly mugging and unjustifiably cocky bongo player on "Flight Of the Conchords". This guy made his way towards the center of the stage on the climax of nearly every song with his “see how I’m playing the shit out of this violin!!!” posturing, while the rest of the otherwise muted band shot incredulous glances at one another.
Best Track – “Fake Empire”

3.(tie) Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga -- This album along the aforementioned three could all be album of the year as far as I’m concerned. Listening to GGGGG through headphones underscores the studio brilliance of this perfect indie pop album.
Best Track – “The Underdog”

3.(tie) LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver -- Bookended with perfect openers (“Get Innoccous”) and closers (“New York I You”) “Hipster-bating” James Murphy incorporates Hipster loves (Krautrock, Bowie/Eno, Post-Punk) into a tight and dance-y album.
Best Track: Instant Anthem, “All My Friends”

2. Menomena Friend and Foe -- Ingeniously composed pop songs; I’ve loved this album wire-to-wire, and it gets better every listen. I wouldn’t argue with anyone choosing this as AOTY.
Best Track – “Evil B” in close race

1. Radiohead In Rainbows -- Subtle in its brilliance, there’s a good reason why it’s the most obvious/least sexy pick for AOTY
Best Track: “Reckoner”

Others Receiving Votes: Les Savy Fav; Deerhunter; Andrew Bird; Animal Collective; Caribou (although 9th best album of 1966); Okkervil River; Marrdest Mouse; A Place to Bury Strangers; CYHSY; Justice

Top Songs (in no particular order) of 2007
“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem
“Reckoner” by Radiohead
“Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” by Okkervil River
“Melody Day” by Caribou
“Imitosis” by Andrew Bird
“Song For Clay” by Bloc Party
“D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice
“The Underdog” by Spoon
“Don’t You Evah” by Spoon
“Suddenly It’s A Folk Song” by Future of the Left

Most Disappointing Albums of 2007
1. Bloc Party A Weekend in the City -- 75% of the album sounds like the soundtrack to a Noxzema commercial

2. Interpol Our Love To Admire -- Our Creativity To Admonish

3. Dungen Tio Bitar -- Rare misstep for a Swedish band

4. Voxtrot S/T -- You know how their E.P.s usually had 3 outstanding songs and 1 or 2 in the ‘meh’ category? They reversed that ratio for this album.

5. Pearl Jam S/T -- Wait…I’m not sure if I even listened to this album. I guess that’s the problem.

My Holiday Gift of 2007
With it being cheaper and easier for bands to get their name out there these days with the internet, and blogs, and DIY success, here’s five suggestions to help some bands simplify their names, so they can be easier to remember for the increasingly short-attention span of today’s audiences:

1. Any Graveyard (A Place to Bury Strangers)
2. Pacman Jones (Panic! At the Disco)
3. Biker Boyz (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club)
4. Windbreaker (My Morning Jacket)
5. My Morning Jacket (Band of Horses)--TN

2007 In Review By Matthew Schuhmann

Top Albums (from 1-10) of 2007
1. The Shins Wincing the Night Away
ritalin + prairedoggin' = indie goldenboys

2 - Band of Horses Cease to Begin
(beards + sloppy joes) / equestrian sports = Detlef Schrempf

3 - New Pornographers Challengers
Carl Newman = red head
red hair = awesome
therefore Challengers is good

4 - Dethklok Dethalbum
cartoons + metal = Briefcase Full of Guts

5 - Art Brut Its a Bit Complicated
Eddie Argos is Rock, the rest is just details

6 - Ween La Cucaracha
brown + = boognish

7 - Don Caballero World Class Listening Problem
don cab = good

8 - Avenged Sevenfold Avenged Sevenfold
Carrie Donovan + barbed wire = denver omelet

9 - Battles Mirrored
helmet + tomahawk + don cab + Storm & Stress = (insert something clever)

10 - The Hives The Black and White Album
black + white = hives

HONORABLE MENTION: Baroness The Red Album; LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver; Panda Bear Person Pitch; Qui Loves Miracle; Wolves in the Throne Room Diadem of 12 Stars--MS

2007 In Review By Jim Freeman

Top Ten Albums (from 1-10 )of 2007
1. Menomena Friend And Foe -- Upon first listen, I knew this truly innovative album would rank high on my favorites list. Multiple non-traditional “rock” instruments give this album a unique and fresh vibe. No matter how much I may have overplayed this album, the whimsical melodies and biting lyrics never seemed to get old. “So I won't let how I sincerely feel here stand in my way”—my clear-cut favorite album of the year.

2. The New Pornographers Challengers
3. The Arcade Fire Neon Bible
4. Caribou Andorra
5. Les Savy Fav Let’s Stay Friends
6. Liars Liars
7. Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
8. Radiohead In Rainbows
9. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
10. The National Boxer

Honorable Mentions: Peter Bjorn and John Writer’s Block; Thurston Moore Trees Outside The Academy; The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse; Sunset Rubdown Random Spirit Lover; LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver; Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha; Deerhunter Cryptograms; Band of Horses Cease To Begin; Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?—JF

2007 In Review By Ryan Bigg

Top Ten Albums (from 1-10) of 2007
1. The National Boxer -- Never, in my life, have I come across something that is such an utterly perfect companion for any imaginable mood, except maybe a McGriddles....and that is just a maybe.

2. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
3. Arcade Fire Neon Bible
4. Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha
5. LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver
6. Peter Bjorn & John Writer's Block
7. Okkervil River The Stage Names
8. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
9. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
10. Band of Horses Cease to Begin

Also-Ran: Shout Out Louds Our Ill Wills; Radiohead In Rainbows; The New Pornographers Challengers; Maximo Park Our Earthly Pleasures; The Sausage, Egg, and Cheese McGriddles* ; Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank; Ted Leo & Pharmacists Living With The Living; The Apples In Stereo New Magnetic Wonder

*(although, technically, not an album, some sort of recognition needs to be given to this culinary wonder)--RB

Thanks to all those that contributed, for those that missed the deadline feel free to post any thoughts on 2007 in the comment section.--AC

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Download Okkervil River Mix Tape For Free

Merry Christmas from Okkervil River! As announced on Pitchfork this morning, Okkervil River is releasing a free download of 9 tracks. You may recognize some from their Daytrotter session. Others include a Joni Mitchell cover, a great version of their oldie "Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas", and more. Click here to download.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Interview: Michael Pace of Oxford Collapse

(From L-R) Michael Pace, Adam Rizer, and Dan Fetherston of Oxford Collapse

On Sunday, Brooklyn-based Oxford Collapse played a quick and energetic set at Chicago's Darkroom. If the four to five new songs that were played are any indication, fans of 2006's Sub Pop release Remember the Night Parties will not be disappointed with the band's new album set to be released next spring. Plan on Oxford Collapse to continue to forge ahead in the same loud and melodic style that has made their past efforts such a treat.

Before they took the stage, lead singer and guitarist Michael Pace was nice enough to answer a few questions about the new album and explain how a search for a vintage Doritos' bag spawned an album cover.

nql: Where did you all come from today?

Michael Pace: We flew out here yesterday morning.

nql: Because you’re not actually on tour right now, correct?

MP: Right, this was just sort of like a Christmas bonus for us, so we decided to put questionable ethics aside of doing the these kind of corporate events since the paycheck is hard to deny.

nql: And you came here from New York I assume.

MP: Yeah, we got out here yesterday afternoon and had a low-key night yesterday. We wanted to go see a movie but didn’t make that, so we wound up going to a friend's house and watching the bootlegged dvd set of The Wonder Years which was on dvdr so it kept fucking up and pausing.

nql: Did you get to watch the pilot episode? I love that one.
MP: We started to but it kept pausing and wasn't compatible with his dvd player.

nql: That pilot episode was a pretty monumental event of my childhood.

MP: Well, it’s weird because it’s been in limbo for years because of licensing issues with all the music.

nql: Really? I didn’t know that.

MP: That’s why it hasn’t officially come out on dvd because the music was such an integral part of the show. So a guy we know bought the entire series on dvd off of ebay from some Japanese distributor or something, and we tried watching it but it just wasn’t happening, like I said, it kept pausing and about 5 minutes in it just went down.

nql: So you didn’t even get to see Kevin make out with Winnie?

MP: No, because that part is at the very end but The Wizard was on demand, the Fred Savage Nintendo movie, so we watched that instead. It was kind of a Savage night if you will.

nql: Are you guys still planning on releasing a double album?

MP: Well, the double album….I guess in theory we are, but tomorrow we’re flying back to the studio for a couple of days to finish up. We recorded 27 songs or something but the prudent thing to do would be to whittle that down to a real solid 13 song album. And maybe follow that up with an EP or a 7” beforehand, maybe save a lot of stuff for a b-sides and rarities compilation.

nql: Any idea for a release date?

MP: It’s going to be this spring. Probably early May.

nql: Do you have a name yet?

MP: The record is going to be called Bits.

nql: If it was going to be a double, I was going to suggest Mellon Collie and the Oxford Collapse.

MP: Yeah, that sounds familiar. But, it’s kind of ostentatious just to think in terms of our second record for Sub Pop, and be like “Sure, we can put out a double album!”. As if anyone wants a double album from us. So I think common sense is going to prevail and we’ll figure out what works best with just a single record. Maybe we’ll release two albums on the same day (laughs).

nql: Did Sub Pop come and kind of steer you away from the double album?

MP: Well, you know, they give us a whole lot of leeway, and left us alone while we were making the record, but I feel like they would not be incredibly excited about the prospect of a double album.

nql: But they still gave you the freedom to make that choice?

MP: Yeah, I think there definitely has to be some give and take but I feel like, you know, if we wanted to do something ridiculous they might step in. And it may not justify itself in the end when there is a stack of double 10” sitting in a warehouse somewhere that no one has bought.

nql: What have you found to be the biggest difference with putting out a record on a label like Sub Pop versus what you were doing before?

MP: I think, obviously, in terms of getting out there and a lot more people being able to find the records and just kind of getting our name out there even more. Before we were on this label Kanine, kind of a smaller New York-based label, and a lot of it was just us sort of doing it ourselves in terms of the first couple of tours we did, we booked ourselves. And going into record stores and giving them our record on consignment or whatever. With Sub Pop being this sort of well known entity, we didn’t have to do those things anymore. It’s kind of like stepping up to the big leagues but still being the smallest fish. A lot of us were still thinking oh, we’re on Sub Pop now, the shows are going to be sold out, or whatever, but there is still this element of pretty much everyone being on a label now.

nql: I know you’re a pretty big name in Chicago but it sounds like you still find a lot of shows to be hit or miss with the crowd.

MP: In Chicago we tend to do well. There are certain cities where that just happens. Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, Atlanta, kind of bigger cities where I think most bands just tend to do well. And then there’s the anomaly of the Southwest or Midwest. In retrospect, I think we could have toured even more for our last record because you need to have those bummer shows to ground yourself. Because we’re happy that we’re on this awesome label but still not everyone cares so you have to work for it.

nql: You guys were on one of the stages at the Pitchfork Festival this year. Can you tell me what that experience was like?

MP: It was humbling in many respects. It was awesome to play for that many people and we had a great time, it was a great weekend. But apparently unbeknownst to us while we were playing there was some kind of weird technical issues where we blew the PA at one point. And we’re on stage and we had no idea. So I think there were times during our set where you couldn’t hear a lot of things. Coupled with the fact that I think the vast majority of people were there to see Girl Talk and Dan Deacon.

nql: Were they coming up right after you?

MP: Yeah, yeah, it was us and then Dan Deacon. And I think a lot of people were like who are these losers (laughs). But it was still awesome. We had a great time.

nql: It’s probably pretty hard to open for or follow Dan Deacon.

MP: It was, and hey, he’s hot right now. The kids are feeling it so God bless him.

nql: I don’t think you were the only ones who had technical issues. If I recall when the Pony’s were playing their speakers were blown at one point as well.

MP: Yeah, they had some technical problems, too. You know, we haven’t played a whole lot of festivals and I can just imagine the intricacies of dealing with all that stuff and panicking and last minute stuff. Our bass amp also died at the very end and Dan Deacon tried in vain to test it out and get it back going and it ultimately turned back on. All in all, it was a great time.

nql: So what’s the next step after today?

MP: We’re heading back to the studio and need to finish mixing and kind of come up with what songs we want on the record and hand it in by the end of December. Then we’re going to go on hiatus for a couple of months. Dan (Fetherston) is moving to Maine for 3 months to live in a cabin off of the coast of Portland so we’re just going to take it easy and then go to SXSW and ideally start touring in the spring.

nql: So I assume you’ll make it back here.

MP: Oh, definitely.

nql: Do you have a favorite venue in Chicago?

MP: Playing the Empty Bottle is always fun. We had a great show at Schubas. The Hideout is a lot of fun. The Subterranean. We’ve played Chicago a lot. It’s always fun to come back here.

nql: So what are the expectations for 2008?

MP: I think what we really want to do is go all out and really tour a lot. Go to Europe, Japan, Australia…not that there is any demand for us in those places but just kind of make the most of it and then break up. (laughs).

nql: When your record is released how much will you pay attention to reviews?

MP: I’m not above reading reviews of our records. And a lot of times it can be insightful. I think anytime it’s your name and you made a movie or wrote a book and someone writes something about your work, since it’s your thing, you kind of know when someone has something constructive to say or when they’re just talking out of their ass and clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. You have to take it with a grain of salt. Reviews are just one persons opinion.

nql: But at the same time, that one person's opinion can have a wide influence on a lot of people.
MP: Oh, sure. You know you have websites like Pitchfork that hold so much weight for whatever reason these days and that so many people are in tune with but you get over it. Because hopefully you’re doing it for yourself, and you want people to hear it, but if you’re not satisfied that’s what’s most important because you’re your own worst critic.

nql: I wanted to ask about the lyric from the song “Forget to Write” that says “I’ve given up on Innisfree/To concentrate on responsibilities.” Does that lyric kind of sum up the band?

MP: Well, what’s interesting is our bass player Adam (Rizer) wrote that song and sings that song so you’d probably have to ask him the meaning but I remember he was excited about that when he came up with it. It was kind of a testament to our striving to be democratic with the three of us all putting things into the pot, we all write lyrics, and the music is very collaborative. But I have no idea what that lyric means (laughs).

nql: “Please Visit Your National Parks” has the lyric “You should be standing right next to me/ Instead of two feet in front of me”. There are a lot of different ways you can interpret that lyric, so when you write a song do you want the listener to know exactly what meaning was intended or do you want them to kind of make it their own?

MP: That’s something we’ve been talking about a lot because lately we feel as we keep doing this and get better at it, that the lyrics have gotten much stronger. We’re really proud of the record that is set to come out from a lyrical standpoint. When we first started, the lyrics were really just to service the music, to add a melody and they were tossed off. A lot of that also had to do with me because on our first record we had a different bass player and I did all the vocals and once Adam joined the band we started singing together and the vocals became much more important. But it took me awhile to get comfortable with my voice and singing and over time a lot of the earlier lyrics were a lot more nebulous and obtuse and trying to be clever so we honed that down. We’re really trying to write about actual things now and on Remember the Night Parties I can definitely say, “Oh, that song is about this.” And on the new record, even more so. The lyrics are more direct. One of our friends had said it would be nice if you could write stuff that is more universal as opposed to something that just comes out of left field. So we made an attempt to do it in our own way without being cliche and come up with something that people can really relate to. And that particular lyric was inspired in part from this band called Lync from the mid 90's that came from the state of Washington. And they were this sort of awesome, scrappy indie-punk band. They had a song called “Two Feet In Front” and we sort of appropriated that and made it our own. But I told one of the guys in the band so we’re in the clear.

nql: You must have been happy with how well that song was received.

MP: We’re really happy with the way it turned out. I think one of the things looking back that we should have done was to try and capitalize on that and try and come up with another single. We only made one video for that record, and I think for us, it was like we’re on Sub Pop and this is great But looking back I think we could have worked even harder. And I think that’s what we’re going to try and do with this next record….make a video for every song, release everything (laughs). But you know, give it a shot.

nql: Last week there were a few people at my place and we were doing that thing of watching sports on mute and listening to some music in the background. I put on your record and remember noticing when “Kenny Can’t Afford It” came on a lot of people in the room who I’m pretty sure aren’t that familiar with your band, were really getting into that song. At the end of the day, is that kind of what you want, to be able to write a song that at the very least can get a room full of people to just sort of bop their head to?

MP: Oh, of course.

nql: Because it’s so catchy…

MP: It’s funny you say that because Kenny is actually the friend that said your lyrics should be more universal (laughs). To me, we’ve been doing this for awhile and it’s awesome to go on tour and play for a bunch of people. It still boggles my mind that people I don’t know listen to our band and get into it. So I feel like that is a real big compliment. You know, we’re not trying to re-invent the wheel we’re trying to have a good time and at the end of the day hopefully people do get into it.

nql: I grew up sort of near Peoria, can you tell me the story behind the song “If It Dies In Peoria Then Who the Hell Cares”?

MP: That’s sort of one of the first real songs we wrote as a three piece. And I was reading an interview with Herschell Gordon Lewis, who’s this filmmaker from the 60's that made a lot of low budget gory horror films and I don’t remember quite the context but he was talking about opening a movie and said something to the effect of “if the movie dies in Peoria who the hell cares.”

nql: You think that’s kind of a take on the expression of “Will it play in Peoria?”

MP: Yeah, kind of like this litmus test, like “who cares”, and that’s where that comes from.

nql: What’s become of the Noid on the album cover to Remember the Night Parties? Is he still around?

MP: No. A lot of people think that is me on the album cover.

nql: Yeah, I had read in a few different spots that it’s a band member.

MP: What had happened was Dan (Fetherston) was at work one day and was on that website Flickr and he was looking up vintage Doritos’ bags. Remember the old Doritos’ bags that had a clear window so you could see the actual chips? So he’s looking up vintage Doritos bags for whatever reason and found all these photos that this guy had taken in 1989 or so. Basically this guy, he’s an amateur photographer, posted all these photos, and he grew up in Sacramento, California and he just had all these photos. He worked at Domino’s Pizza and there were these pictures of he and his friends goofing off during the 1980s. So Dan stumbles upon all these photos and sends them my way and says check out this guy, he is amazing. And I was looking at just all these fucking amazing photos of this guy goofing around at Domino's with pizza dough all over his face. And we saw this picture with the Noid on it and we were just like, “That is the album cover.” So we got in touch with the guy and we told him we play in this band and we’d love to use his photos. And he was totally cool. His name is Ray Conrado. And he’s still in Sacramento I believe working as a photographer. If you look him up his stuff is amazing. We had to go through Sub Pop to get some work done because of the copyright issues.

nql: (laughs) I never would have thought that the Noid was still such an integral part of the public domain.

MP: Well, that’s the thing, I looked into this because, you know, the Noid hasn’t…..the Noid has been void since 1992 or so. And his likeness hadn’t been used in a really long time so our lawyer through Sub Pop looked into it for us and he tracked down some woman who worked at Domino's in their legal department. The joke as I tell it is that they were very cool with it but just asked that the name of the record be “Domino’s Pizza Presents….the Oxford Collapse”.

nql: So they had a pretty good sense of humor about it?

MP: Oh, they totally did. The woman who was in the legal department was from New York, she did a little research on us, found out we were from New York and there was just something about a little disclaimer that we had to put in the liner notes but other than that they were totally cool with us using it. But I have no idea what has become of the Noid. That picture was taken in 1989 and that’s actually Ray on the cover. Everyone thinks it’s me just because he has brown hair but it’s not.

nql: Did all of you guys go to NYU?

MP: Dan and I did. Adam is actually from Ohio.

nql: So when you guys go to NYU reunions are you considered notably alumni yet because I would think they have a pretty extensive list?

MP: No. I don’t think we are there yet. It’s pretty much take a number. But soon enough we’ll be appreciated (laughs).

nql: So you haven’t been invited to give the commencement speech yet?

MP: No, sadly not.

nql: Anyone in particular you guys have been listening to?

MP: Hmm, new…old, that’s tough.

nql: What are the most played songs on your ipod?

MP: I wish I could figure that out. I always blank whenever I get asked that question. A lot of Buffalo Springfield, the first couple Paul McCartney solo records I’ve been really in to. I think what it comes down to is that we love classic rock. Stuff like that, a lot of Tom Petty lately as well. New bands….I have no idea.

nql: I was in a car yesterday and Free Fallin’ came on the radio and me and my friends just kind of unanimously decided that say what you want, when it’s all said and done that’s just one of those all-time classic songs.

MP: Oh, it absolutely is. The fourth record by The Band called Cahoots, that’s another one. That would probably be my top-played lately.

nql: Kind of a side question to that, would a list of your influences be a pretty similar list?

MP: Well, I think there are a lot of different things that go into that. Because no one would ever say we sound like The Band. They might say something more along the lines of Jawbreaker.

nql: You all have a pretty diverse sound that’s hard to pigeonhole.

MP: Yeah, and I think that’s nice, we do a whole lot of things but what I think it comes down to is we came of age growing up on a lot of punk and indie rock and that stuff is just so much fun to play. So I think that our live shows have a lot more punk influence because it’s just so much more fun to go nuts on stage.

nql: As the year is drawing to a close, any albums from the past year that really stick out in your mind?

MP: I can tell you there is this great band from Scotland called Frightened Rabbit. That record is really good. It’s funny because you listen to a lot of your friends’ bands. Our friends, The Narrator, who are from here just put out a record called All That To The Wall which is great. And, let’s see what else…I’m trying to remember if there are any other new things that I’ve listened to a lot. I haven’t heard the new Band of Horses record yet but we loved their last one.

nql: I think it’s really good.

MP: Right. So I’m sure that’s a great record, put that on my list even though I haven’t heard it (laughs). There are just so many bands out there right now and just a huge gold mine of stuff from the past x number of years.

nql: With the internet do you find it at all hard to keep up? You know, because now any band can pretty much get their music out there and the DIY concept is a lot easier.

MP: Oh, real quick, No Age is another group I really like, they’re coming out with a record on Sub Pop. But to the question, I think it’s a double edged sword. There is this great opportunity that anyone can essentially put out a record but the bad thing is anyone can put out a record and it can be hard to wade through the shit I guess. It’s nice on one hand that people can put out this music without having to jump through all the hoops of dealing with a label but there is a lot of garbage out there.

nql: This is an issue that is somewhat important to me just because coming from a small town, the music my friends and I listened to was stuff that was on the radio or written about in Rolling Stone-type magazines. I knew there was this big underground rock scene but I never felt like that music spoke to me because it just wasn’t accessible. We bought most of our music at places like Best Buy or even Wal-Mart. And the internet has really changed that.

MP: Well, how old are you?

nql: I’m 28.

MP: Okay, so we’re pretty much the same age. I think we’re sort of the last generation that if you wanted a certain record you had to really look for it. I grew up on Long Island so Manhattan was readily accessible and I would go into the city and to record stores and go to the $1 bins and search for stuff. Or I would read fanzines like Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll or Punk Planet and read a review or that a certain band put out a 7” and then I would order it. And today you kind of have this instant gratification because you can do a Google search and listen to them in seconds. But there was something about the thrill of the hunt of going out and finding something. Or you’d see someone wearing a shirt of a band or someone tells you about a band that you keep filed in the back of your head and then you go look for it and I don’t feel like that really happens anymore. And like what you were saying, you know, when you got CD’s at the Wal-Marts of the world, you had to be tuned in and figure out that there was still this big underground scene going on. And then once you were in you could buy records at shows, trade mix tapes, stuff like that. I guess that is still there but its still a culture of instant gratification which is great on one hand because you can find stuff that you couldn’t find before. But like I said, the thrill of the hunt is no longer there. Unless of of course you’re looking for our first couple of records which still no one can find (laughs).

Friday, December 7, 2007

Top Ten Lists Of 2007 Coming Soon

It wouldn't be December without a bunch of lists counting down the best albums and songs of the past year by a bunch of bands that no one has ever heard of. Well, we here are no different. Coming soon will be nql's version of this yearly journalistic apocalypse. But we won't stop at just albums and songs. Want to know the top music venues in Chicago? Or the top ten venereal diseases that can be caught in the Logan Square Auditorium bathroom? You better return to this site soon. And if you have a list of your own, bring it on, let's see what you got. If it doesn't suck, it will be posted. Hell, if it does suck it will still get posted because, honestly, what do we care. In the meantime, if you can't stand the wait, you can get your fix here. This site has so many lists there are categories for best Christian albums, top New Zealand releases, and even the best non-album albums. Oh, brother.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Modest Mouse--Congress Theatre, Chicago, Illinois

This was an interesting evening. I'm not even sure where to begin. But let’s start with opener Man Man. Let me apologize because I didn’t even know Man Man was on the bill until about 5 hours before the show. That’s why it’s not posted below. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but they turned out to be the highlight of the evening and I didn’t even see the first half of their set. You can thank the line getting into the Congress Theatre, the line for coat check at the Congress Theatre, and the line for beer at the Congress Theatre for that. Oh, and coat check was $3 (The Double Door with the $1 coat check still comes in as the best deal in town if you want to rock out in the winter but not freeze on your way to the venue. Congrats, Double Door!) And you should have seen the crack squad that was assembled to handle this task. I took one look at them and their operation and asked for my coat back so I could get my keys out of the pockets. I'm pretty sure I still own a car because of this decision and no one will convince me otherwise. But back to Man Man…..these clowns from Philadelphia sure can put on a good show. Anyone who saw them play at the 2006 Pitchfork Festival can attest to that. I recognized one or two songs from their Six Demon Bag album but I think everything else was new. And they traded in their old hippie shtick for a sort of tribal sound that has me looking forward to their new album.

It was while waiting between bands that I realized that this ain't your father’s Modest Mouse. I think all the people that missed out on the Hanna Montana show must have been comped with Modest Mouse tickets. And I’m not one of those persons that cares about the general makeup of the crowd, I’m just commenting. I also must have counted at least 30 girls wearing Ugg boots. Before you roll your eyes, just know that it was cold outside. Ugg boots are great in the wintertime........especially when worn with a skirt and a “Little Miss Sunshine” t-shirt.

Another hilarious subplot of the evening was being introduced to Kanye East. When I first got inside the concert hall I was standing in the back of the theater near a girl with a British accent who seemed really into Man Man. Once they finished she came over and began talking to me and I found out she goes by the name “Kanye East” because she owns a pub in East London. (I have no idea where the “Kanye” part comes in to play and I didn’t ask). She was kind of like Penny Lane in “Almost Famous” because of her refusal to give her real name and because……..alright that’s where the similarities end. Nevertheless, Kanye East was a character. She began dropping indie bands left and right that she’s friends with. And she may or may not have ridden Space Mountain at Disney World with the Cold War Kids. She had a really thick accent, not to mention being extremely intoxicated, and I could only make out half of what she was saying. But I am positive that Kanye East had flown to Chicago from London specifically for the Modest Mouse show and for an excuse to visit some friends, who were in turn, very nice. Apparently, every time she had attempted to see the band before, she got too drunk and missed the show. And wouldn’t you know it, she’s friends with a few guys in Modest Mouse and they had given her a hard time about never seeing them live so her flying to Chicago was her way of making it up to them. She even invited me to the after-party with the band but I politely declined. It just seemed like a bad idea. Going back to the “Almost Famous” theme, I just kept envisioning being at a party with Isaac Brock standing on top of a house getting ready to dive into a pool. Only after yelling “I am a Golden God!” he catches his foot on the gutter and falls two stories like a sack of potatoes onto the concrete, gets up bleeding, takes a few awkward steps, and then plunges into the pool and slowly sinks to the bottom. No thanks.

Modest Mouse eventually took the stage and everyone went crazy. You have to appreciate this band. When it’s all said and done they’re going to have one of the most impressive catalogs from this era. They opened with “Bury Me With It” which sounded a bit off. Because of the late arrival, I was near the back of the very large Congress Theatre, so I may not have been in the best spot for acoustics but Brock’s vocals seemed to overpower the music way too much. The band just never seemed to be together. Right about the time he shrieked, “And God I love that rock and roll!”, it became obvious that he wasn’t the only one. So does Kanye East! She was a total bull in a china shop…..dancing very aggressively, slamming into people, spilling their drinks. A lot of people were put off but not me, I found it to be hilarious. Then again, I hadn’t just waited in a 30 minute line only to have my $5 Tecate spilled all over my pants.

Momentum picked up a little bit when the band slid into “Paper Thin Walls” but the initial problems seemed to creep back up throughout the show. Too often Brock was just screaming into the microphone which is fine but the band couldn’t keep up. And they unnecessarily extended songs and droned on while Brock rambled and improvised into the microphone. I wouldn’t have minded if I didn’t think this was at the expense of being able to fit a few more songs into the evening.

And this led to another problem which was the set list. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember a single song from Lonesome Crowded West. Honestly, how can that happen? Also, no “3rd Planet”, or “Gravity Rides Everything”. “Florida”, “Missed The Boat” and “Spitting Venom” are some of my favorites off the new album but none of those were covered either. Most other hits from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank were indeed played as was the obligatory “Float On". And like I said, Modest Mouse has such a large and distinct catalog so complaining about the set list probably isn’t fair, but come on, nothing from Lonesome Crowded West? Really?

If there was a highlight, it’s when they played “Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset” during the encore. This was the first time I was genuinely excited during the show because it was a reminder as to why Modest Mouse is such a great band. For all their loud garage band songs (which are great, by the way), they have this sort of alter ego that centers around beautiful melodies and introspective lyrics. I just wish they would have hit a few more songs like this throughout the evening. The other notable event around this time is that Kanye East vanished leaving her friends baffled. They were completely dumbfounded and had no idea where she went. One of them told me that whenever she visits she stands by the motto of “Whatever happens in Chicago, stays in Chicago.” so as far as they knew she could be anywhere. Hopefully she didn’t go downtown expecting a lot of people thinking Chicago was “The City That Never Sleeps”.

By the time the encores were finished, at least seven people had been dragged out by security for whatever reason. A friend of mine asked me if the other crew was still missing Kanye East. I informed him that I believe they were and then dusted off the old "Office Space" line and clarified that I wasn't missing her at all. We had a nice laugh. Please don't get mad Kanye, we kid because we love. A lot of my friends who were into Modest Mouse way before I was have always described their shows as hit or miss. Sadly, this may have been a miss but it didn't matter. Just being able to see this band on top of the other extra curricular activities that were going on made the evening well worth it. Hopefully, somewhere in East London Kanye East is smiling.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Just Announced Silversun Pickups Show

Silversun Pickups will be playing at the House of Blues on Wednesday, December 12th with Silverchair. It has been added to the list below but since the show wasn't originally posted I thought it deserved special mention. No word as of yet if Ron Silver will be there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

December Shows In Chicago

Sat 12/01
AIDS Wolf, Waterbabies, Lazer Crystal, Karma with a K, Slutbarf @ Reggie’s Rock Club 10pm*

Prefuse 73, Voice of The Seven Woods, Blank Blue @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Sun 12/02
Modest Mouse @ Congress Theatre 5:30pm#

Tues 12/04
Man Man, Bronze @ Av-aerie 9pm#

Bob Schneider, AM @ Schubas 8pm

Wed 12/05
Bob Schneider, AM @ Schubas 8pm

Danbert Nobacon, Ring of Truth, 2 Wheels and a Heart @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Zookeeper, WW Lowman, The Whole Fantastic World @ Beat Kitchen 8:30pm

Thurs 12/06
Richard Hawley (of Pulp), Ferraby Lionheart @ Abbey Pub 8:30pm

White Magic, Mittens on Strings, Unlucky Atlas @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Fri 12/07
Cold War Kids @ Metro 6:30pm#

The Swimmers, Smallwire, Bad Veins @ Subterranean 9:30pm

Balkan Beat Box @ Logan Square Auditorium 8:30pm

Sat 12/08
The Redwalls, Johnathan Rice @ Metro 6pm

The Most Serene Republic, Mock Orange, Blueblood @ Beat Kitchen 9pm

Indian, Rabid Rabbit, Den of Vipers @ Hideout 9pm

Tatsu Aoki’s MIYUMI Project, Roomate, Kaspar Hauser @ AV-aerie 8pm

Gravity A, The Drastics, Avagami, The Other Planets, Philip Morris & Awdazcate, Simon Lott, Brian Coogan, Hypercolor, Wosko, Faulds, Jason Steele Ensemble, Doppler Shift @ Subterranean 4pm

Sun 12/09
Oxford Collapse, Ultra Sonic Edukators, Farewell Captain @ Darkroom 9pm

D Numbers, Lonesome Organist, Tomorrow Music Orchestra, Algernon, Silences Sumire, Matt Ulrey’s Loom, Mind v.s. Target, Box 3, Zing @ Subterranean 4pm

Mon 12/10
CoCoComa, The Dials, Catburglars @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Tues 12/11
The Lemonheads, Racoon, The New Rivals @ Double Door 8pm

Vampire Weekend, Grand Ole Party, All Smiles @ Schubas 9pm

Aimee Mann, Special Guests @ Vic Theater (2nd Annual Christmas Show) 7:30pm

Lavender Diamond @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Wed 12/12
The Lemondheads, Racoon, The New Rivals @ Double Door 8pm

Dilinger Escape Plan, A Life Once Lost, Genghis Tron, Digital Leather @ Subterranean 6pm

Mt. St. Helens, Ozark Cousins, Driftless Pony Club, May Or May Not, Sleep Out, Kris Racer, Post Honeymoon @ Schubas 7:30pm

David Daniell, Bruce Lamont, Jon Mueller @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Silverchair, Silversun Pickups, Strata @ House of Blues 5:30pm

Thurs 12/13
Shellac, Bitter Tears @ Hideout 9pm%

Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes, Holy Roman Empire @ Double Door 8pm

The Gnomes, The Bon Mots, Le Concorde @ Schubas 8pm

Fri 12/14
Shellac, Tight Phatomz @ Hideout 9pm%

Sybris, Headlights, Reds and Blue @ Empty Bottle 10pm

The New Amsterdams, Canasta @ Schubas 10pm

Adult, Angela Desveauz, Arouretum, Archer Prewitt, Bobby Conn, Brokeback, Califone, Eleventh Dream Day, The Fiery Furnaces, Freakwater, Fred Anderson, Frequency, Pit Er Pat, The Sea and Cake, Thalia Zedek, Trans Am, The Zincs @ Logan Square Auditorium (Thrill Jockey Bday: 2-day Pass) 7pm#

Bitchy, The Pullers @ The Note 9pm

Sat 12/15
Shellac, Allroh @ Hideout 9pm%

Shellac, Bear Claw @ Hideout 12am%

Wu Tang Clan @ Metro 10pm

Terrible Twos @ Schubas 1pm

The New Amsterdams, David Singer @ Schubas 7pm

Rriiccee (featuring Vincent Gallo) @ Schubas 10:30pm

Adult, Angela Desveauz, Arouretum, Archer Prewitt, Bobby Conn, Brokeback, Califone, Eleventh Dream Day, The Fiery Furnaces, Freakwater, Fred Anderson, Frequency, Pit Er Pat, The Sea and Cake, Thalia Zedek, Trans Am, The Zincs @ Logan Square Auditorium (Thrill Jockey Bday: 2-day Pass) 7pm

Sun 12/16
Shellac, Helen Money @ Hideout 12pm%

Shellac, Quatre Tete @ Hideout 9pm%

Mon 12/17
Awesome Color, Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Band @ The Note 9pm

Wed 12/19
Behold…. the Arctopus @ Subterranean 9pm

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, Baby Teeth, Inspector Owl @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Thurs 12/20
Tigercity, Via Audio, Prairie Cartel @ Subterranean 8:30pm

Fri 12/21
OFFICE, Mannequin Men, The 1900’s, The Narrator @ Metro 9pm

Sat 12/22
SSM, The Countdown, Satin Peaches, The Ivorys, The Silent Years, Alex Winston @ Logan Square Auditorium 6pm

Sun 12/23
Marla Hansen @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Tues 12/25
Jesus @ Everywhere 6pm

Wed 12/26
The Record Low, Joe Pug @ Schubas 8pm

Sun 12/30
Umphrey’s Mcgee, Tortoise @ Aragon Ballroom 7pm

Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s, Catfish Haven @ Schubas 9pm

Mon 12/31
Spoon (w/ Special Guest) @ Metro 10pm#^

Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s, Catfish Haven @ Schubas 10pm

Black Kids @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Local H, Kung Fu Grip @ Subterranean 9pm

Pegboy, The Methadones, The Arrivals, The Brokedowns @ The Note 8pm!

*Looking for the perfect date spot? How about a romantic evening with AIDS Wolf and Slutbarf?
# Hooray!
% For an extra $5, Steve Albini will talk down to you personally!
^ If anyone knows who the special guest is at the Spoon show please kindly let me know.
! At work somebody brought up the point that if you have enough money you can look good no matter who you are. He cited Jennifer Lopez and how when she was on In Living Color and starred in the movie "Selena" she was rather homely looking. Another co-worker adamantly disagreed, and she stated that in the movie "Selena" Jennifer Lopez wasn't suppose to look hot but rather look like Selena. And she then said, "And you know, it's not like Selena was......". Sensing she was struggling to come up with an adjective I interjected with "bulletproof?". That's funny, right? Apparently not. I almost got fired.
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