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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Kevin Shields Edition

The weather is getting warmer and the spring is bringing big thunderstorms. Which brings to mind the music of My Bloody Valentine, who mixed warm fluid undercurrents with ear shattering volume to create a tremendously influential sound. The main architect of that sound was (is?) Kevin Shields. The man who inspired tons of shoegazers and guitar players in general deserves a shuffle-riffic celebration. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Brian Eno & John Cale — The River (Wrong Way Up): A collaboration between two renaissance men yields a really smart pop record. This album highlights the places where their respective genius intersects, and had this come out as either a John Cale or Brian Eno solo record, it would have sounded consistent with their individual bodies of work. This is a nifty, spacious song with a bit of a Western feel, primarily utilizing electronic instruments.
  2. Mano Negra — Indios de Barcelona (Puta’s Fever): These guys, led by Manu Chao, were godfathers of the rock en espanol movement, even though they were French. Chao was of Basque origin, however, and he and his mates cheerfully blended rock ‘n’ roll, ska, traditional ethnic music, folk, rap and anything else in their radar screen into high energy music. This song has military horns and crazy percussion and is a highlight of their incredible second album.
  3. Eleventh Dream Day — Southern Pacific (Prairie School Freakout): The great Chicago band topped off their debut full length by tipping the ol’ hat to a big influence, Mr. Neil Young. But they weren’t content to go with a standard. Instead, they went with the sole single pulled from Neil’s Reactor album. It’s a train song with a chugging riff. Eleventh Dream Day’s version is looser and adds a paranoid edge to the more straightforward original. An outstanding cover.
  4. Poor Luther’s Bones — Devil’s Broth (Next To Nowhere): A Pennsylvania band who moves from roots music to Tom Waits oddball stylings to wicked psychedelia from album to album. This is from a psych-blues work, with nasty guitar and sleazy vocals. Great stuff.
  5. Micachu — Vulture (Jewellry): The opening track from the fantastic 2009 debut album from Mica Lewis, a/k/a Micachu. She apparently learned a lot from the current British electronic scene, which accounts for the way she cuts and pastes sounds. But the dissonant song structures and odd shifts also owe a lot to classic post-punk. And she manages to twist these concoctions into catchy tunes. Can’t wait for the follow up.
  6. Los Bravos — Coca Cola jingle (Things Go Better With Coke): The Spanish beat group who had a #2 smash with “Black Is Black” sold their souls to do an ad for Coke.
  7. Jim Basnight — Tonight (Yellow Pills Volume 3): Basnight led The Moberlys, a Seattle power pop outfit, and since then has led the Rockingtons and done his own solo thing. His music is best compared to The Plimsouls and Tom Petty. It mines great ’60s and ’70s sources and is played with tons of passion. A cult figure in the Pacific Northwest.
  8. Nat King Cole and Dean Martin — Open Up The Doghouse (The Nat King Cole Story): Cole was so effortlessly cool, a naturally swinging singer and pianist, whose mix of jazz, pop and blues was perfect for the post-war era. Of course, add Dean Martin to the mix and the cool factor goes off the charts. On this number, Nat and Dean trade stories about screwing up with their ladies and ending up in the you know where. Not sure about Nat saying that you need to treat women “rough” and “slap ‘em” to show them who’s boss.
  9. ABBA — Super Trouper (Gold): Not one of there mega gigantic worldwide hits, just an international hit. Overall, not as melodically rewarding as the best ABBA singles, but the vocal arrangements are fantastic, making a decent chorus sound much more special.
  10. Foghat — Stone Blue (Stone Blue): The last rocking hit single for the British boogie band. Foghat was a pretty limited band, but they eventually got to a point where you could count on them to whip up two or three really catchy rock ‘n’ roll numbers (three or four if they had the sense to throw in a Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley cover). This song has some pretty cool bottleneck guitar leads.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday David Byrne Edition

A Rhode Island art school student who led one of the most successful bands of the post-punk era, a man who exposed the United States to great sounds from Brazil, a composer who continues to explore with his music, a guy who recorded a landmark innovative album with Brian Eno and followed it up with a brilliant art-pop collaboration — that’s David Byrne, a renaissance man beyond compare. While his solo career couldn’t equal the Talking Heads, Byrne’s solo work has only burnished his considerable legacy. Let’s celebrate David’s birthday by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first ten songs that come u

  1. Hawksley Workman — Is This What You Call Love? (Los Manlicious): This album was originally intended as a tour only release, but it made a good rocking alternative to the mellower Between The Beautifuls. Workman mixes buzzy, slashing guitars with kind of a new wave funk feel on this upbeat number. This sounds tossed off, but Workman’s toss offs are better than most people’s A material.
  2. The Jesus Lizard — A Tale Of Two Women (Blue): Typical later day Lizard — chugging mid-tempo rock with plenty of room for David Yow to rant and for the guitars to criss-cross and slash, before resolving itself into a surprisingly melodic chorus. This band started great and pretty much stayed that way.
  3. The Who — Bargain (Who’s Next): If I’m going to listen to The Who, I’m going to grab Sell Out or Quadrophenia, but it’s hard to deny that Who’s Next is a classic rock album that really lives up to its billing, full of larger than life songs. I never need to hear the whole thing, but hearing an awesome track like this is always great on shuffle.
  4. Wilco — Hate It Here (Sky Blue Sky): A lot of Wilco fans who are all about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born are not fond of this album. Regardless of what you think of those two albums (and I think they are overrated), I think with Ghost, Wilco had gone as far as they could with the ultra-experimental stuff. So heading back to just focusing on the songs and the emotional content was the best idea. This is a total ’70s throwback tune, played just right. Not the best song on the album, but it works.
  5. Flop — Parasite (Flop & The Fall of the Mopsqueezer): A cool grunge-era power pop band from the Seattle area. Rusty Willoughby (also of Pure Joy) was the leader of this band. He had a thin voice that somehow worked, even when the guitars are way up in the mix. This song has Buzzcocks and early (darker) Cheap Trick vibes, though it’s not as hooky as most Flop material.
  6. Tommy Keene — Your Heart Beats Alone (Ten Years After): This is one of my favorite Tommy Keene albums. It was this cult power pop legend’s first album of original material since he had been dropped by Geffen and he had clearly stockpiled a lot of top drawer material. His songs are invariably mid-tempo and usual are full of big guitars supporting melancholy melodies with Tommy’s reedy voice up front. This is a quieter mid-tempo song and it goes down real easy.
  7. Linus Of Hollywood — Good Sounds (Your Favorite Record): Linus used to lead the pop-punk band Size 14 (who had a minor hit with “Clare Danes Poster”), but came into his own doing retro soft-pop records that conjured up memories of Harry Nilsson, The Beach Boys, Spanky and Our Gang and Margo Guryan. This is the quasi-title cut and this song is bursting with a sunny melody and a cool backing vocal arrangement. This music is so decidedly unhip that it is ridiculously cool.
  8. Todd Rundgren — All The Children Sing (Hermit Of Mink Hollow): Todd went off the deep end years ago, whether it was CD-Rom interactive B.S. or doing his old songs in a bossa nova style. But whenever he’s decided to do a pure pop album, he has hit a home run. This late ’70s effort spawned the hit “Can We Still Be Friends?”, and there’s more brilliant songwriting where that came from. This is a perky number with an odd feel to it — something about the Todd does everything in the studio thing that makes this both happy and haunting at the same time.
  9. The Beatles — I’ll Be Back (A Hard Day’s Night): A splendid John Lennon song. This downcast tune seems to draw from Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, and maybe even Roy Orbison, but adds a Latin accent that makes the song so distinctive. This has a bit of a folk rock vibe too, going a step beyond what The Searchers were doing at that time.
  10. The Morells — Double Shot of My Baby’s Love (The Morells Anthology Live): The Swinging Medallions’ classic is tailor made for the great roadhouse band from Springfield, Missouri. Bouncy inane fun.

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Shawn Campbell writesAn intimate night with Seafarer…a CHIRP benefit

This Friday night, Andersonville’s Transistor plays host to the record release show for Seafarer , a Chicago four-piece that writes haunting, sophisticated guitar-based songs that are by turns gentle and driving. The show will celebrate the release of their new EP.

Seafarer has generously offered to donate a portion of the suggested $5 donation at the door to CHIRP, and also will be selling a limited run of 60 screen printed posters designed by Andrew Brant and Dan Ivec, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting CHIRP.

Transistor is located at 5045 N. Clark St., and showtime is 8PM. The show is BYOB.

We’re so appreciative of Seafarer’s decision to make this a CHIRP benefit, and we hope to see you Friday night!

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Felix da Housecat Edition

Here in Chicago, folks like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy got the house music scene going. And at the forefront of the second wave of Chicago house was none other than Felix da Housecat. In honor of a great contributor to Chicago’s musical legacy, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Johnny Paycheck — Wherever You Are (The Real Mr. Heartache): The tough guy country singer, best known for “Take This Job and Shove It”, also had a tender side. This is a weepy honky tonk number well sung by Paycheck. I could easily here Buck Owens doing this, though he wouldn’t sound as pathetic as Paycheck.
  2. The Oranges — White Cloud (Young Now): A bubblegummy ballad from a bubblegummy quartet of shag hair Japanese guys. The Oranges try to replicate the cuddly side of glam rock, a la Slik and Bay City Rollers. They wear colorful, garish (and, of course, coordinated) outfits, singing in their native tongue with the sporadic English phrase thrown in here or there. Very fun.
  3. Robert Palmer — Give Me An Inch (The Very Best of the Island Years): Palmer explored various types of R & B and blues-styled rock during his career. This breezy song is pitched somewhere between Philly soul and Boz Scaggs (which is a fairly narrow crevice). Palmer got some stick from critics for his laid back approach, but for his fans, that was the appeal. He projected a certain intensity while never needing to shout. This is a really nice tune.
  4. Neko Case — Blacklisted (Blacklisted): While Neko’s artistry continues to progress, I think the blend of country-western, desert rock and other American influences is pretty much perfect on her third album. The spacious backing music, with twangy guitars and light drumming provides plenty of space for her gigantic gorgeous voice.
  5. Doves — The Sulphur Man (The Last Broadcast): More majestic melancholy from Doves, who just put out a best of compilation. These guys carved out a sound and just live in it. They might add a few wrinkles on a track or two on any given album, but generally it’s more downcast pop with hints of shoegaze and dance pop lurking underneath. Their music is so enveloping and warm, I’m surprised they aren’t a bigger band in the States.
  6. The Fall — Choc-Stock (Dragnet): A ranty, wobbly Fall tune, with tinny production, off-key strummed guitars, plodding drums and a wandering bass line. All the better for Mark E. Smith to caterwaul to. Even admidst the atonal music, they conjure up a catchy sing-a-long refrain. A sadly overlooked Fall album. It’s really good.
  7. E’Nuff Z’Nuff — Fly High Michelle (E’Nuff Z’Nuff): I’m sure it seemed like a good idea for this Blue Island band to hitch its wagon to the then burgeoning hair metal scene, but EZ was, at heart, a band that had a lot more in common with Cheap Trick and other power pop bands. Other than a few hair metal trappings, their songs have strong Beatle-esque melodies and strong vocals from Donnie Vie. This was the band’s big ballad, the second single from their debut album. It is a big assed pop song and holds up really well, thank you very much.
  8. Jethro Tull — Songs for Jeffrey (Aqualung): I think this is a bonus track from one of Tull’s two acknowledged classic albums. Unlike other heavy bands of their era, who were blues based, Tull had more of a folk vibe (with some blues, sure). They just played their folk in a heavy, plodding style. A lot of bands have taken a crack at the Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath sounds — why can’t someone try to bring Tull into the 21st Century?
  9. The Fall — Cheetham Hill (The Light User Syndrome): This is one of the best Fall albums, a one shot with Jet Records (the label Electric Light Orchestra recorded for). This was the second album of the second era with Mark E. Smith’s ex-wife, Brix Smith. Her presence has always resulted in catchier tunes that don’t neglect the odd musical stylings one associates with The Fall. This song has a strong melodic foundation, supported by a pea-soup disco beat and lots of mid-level industrial keyboard and guitar sounds that pop up from time to time. Mark E. is a little less excitable, enunciating as clearly as he ever has, while Brix brings in the chorus.
  10. Sweet — Sixties Man (Waters Edge): From the penultimate Sweet album, and the band’s second as a trio, singer Brian Connolly having been kicked out of the band for his excessive drinking. On this album, Sweet reconstituted a pure pop band, leaving the pretensions of their prior two albums behind. They even relied on some outside songwriters, and some hack penned this ode to staying in the flower power mode forever, laden with pop culture references. Despite the lyrical banality, the tune is rather catchy and Steve Priest is a rather enthusiastic vocalist. This is poor man’s E.L.O. And I really dig it, nevertheless.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Willie Nelson Edition

If Willie Nelson’s career had ended in the late ’60s, he would deserve a place in musical history for writing such great songs as “Hello Walls”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Pretty Paper” and, most famously, Patsy Cline’s signature tune, “Crazy”. Thankfully, it didn’t end there. Willie eventually tired of the Nashville scene and struck out in a different direction, coming into his own with the classic song cycle, Red Headed Stranger. From there, Willie blurred the lines between country, pop, jazz and other American musical forms, singing his own great compositions and interpreting the great American songbook with his clear voice and unique phrasing. Along the way, Willie became a bit of movie star, a tax cheat and a hero to High Times subscribers worldwide. Let’s pay tribute to an American icon, by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

For this week’s shuffle, I used my iPod Nano, just to show that I have things in my music collection that have come out in the last five years. Let’s see how this plays out.

  1. The Resonars — Yes Grovesnor (That Evil Drone): The Resonars specialize in retro ’60s rock tunes that usually sound like The Hollies, if The Hollies were a rocking psych pop or garage band. This song, however, is a respite — a sweet acoustic guitar instrumental with a middle section that is a bit ominous. One could easily hear this developed into a full bore rock tune.
  2. Raphael Saadiq — Sure Hope You Mean It (The Way I See It): The former front man for Tony! Toni! Tone! really hit the jackpot with his 2008 solo record. Going back to the late ’80s, Saadiq had always had one foot in classic R & B, and here, he planted both feet in that sound, making a record that conjured up memories of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield and others. Since he’s an ace songwriter, he came pretty close to equaling his idols. How sweet this song is, if you get my drift.
  3. Electric Light Orchestra — Calling America (Balance Of Power): A low key pop tune from a group known for bombast. Okay, the chorus is a typical Jeff Lynne humdinger, and it’s a nice contrast to the quieter verses. Balance of Power was the final E.L.O. album until Lynne revived the name for the Zoom L.P., and like this track (which was a minor Top 40 hit), it’s a hidden gem.
  4. Happy Hate Me Nots — Everyday (The Good That’s Been Done): Another ferocious rocker from this fiery Australian band that took some cues from The Saints and came up with its own distinctive brand of R & B fueled punk. This is from a great 2 CD anthology of the band. They have reunited and will have a new album out soon.
  5. The Knux — F!re (Put it in the Air) (Remind Me In 3 Days): The two brothers who front the hip-hop band The Knux were displaced from New Orleans because of Katrina and ended up in L.A. The Knux are a throw back to ’80s hip hop in a lot of ways, with some songs using a fair amount of rock instrumentation. This song is a nice mid-tempo number that’s reminiscent of Naughty By Nature, with a big back beat and a nifty sampled snare drum backing.
  6. Jay Reatard — Florescent Grey (Matador Singles 08): This is a cover of a Deerhunter song. This is a masterpiece of garage rock paranoia. With its simple repeating guitar motif and Reatard’s strained vocal, this is the aural equivalent of a horror movie. Outstanding.
  7. Jason & The Scorchers — Mona Lee (Halcyon Times): The 2010 comeback from this band makes it sound like they haven’t left. This is the band for whom the phrase “cowpunk” was coined. The Scorchers could whip up a great country tune and then rock it up like nobody’s business. Mainstays Jason Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges sound as good as ever, on the band’s best record since their debut album.
  8. Pretty & Nice — Peekaboo (Get Young): Herky-jerk post-punk perkiness that would appeal to fans of earlier XTC, The Monochrome Set, Field Music and The Sugarplastic. This is mellower than most of the material on the album, but very good nevertheless.
  9. Franz Ferdinand — Come On Home (Franz Ferdinand): I think that Franz Ferdinand’s debut album is nearly perfect. The songs are so well constructed and the performances are so good. They brought sexy back to the post-punk movement. This is probably a second tier song in the context of the album, which shows how incredible the first tier of songs is.
  10. Leatherface — Diego Garcia (The Stormy Petrel): As with Jason & the Scorchers, this is another comeback album that sounds like a continuation of prior greatness. Franklin Stubbs still has a voice that sounds like he gargled two bottles of Drano. It’s a deceptively expressive instrument which tinges everything he sings with a measure of resignation and sadness. Meanwhile, the band creates a punk maelstrom around him, with just enough melody to make it accessible.

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