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Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesMidwestern Housewife: Welcome To The Party

Hi. I’m Nicole and this is my new column, “Midwestern Housewife”. Ostensibly, it will be about parenting and my experiences being an indie parent in a J. Crew world. But I also want it to be a place where fellow moms and dads can discuss relevant issues pertaining to their kids, or simply to commiserate. So please make use of the comments section. I look forward to hearing about what interests you and I’m always excited to meet and hang out with people who, like me, enjoy being a good parent but who also understand that you can do so without completely losing your own identity in the process. Yes, Virginia. You CAN resist the pressure to become a Soccer Mom. (Or a Hockey Mom, for that matter—especially if you’re not particularly fond of either pitbulls or lipstick).

First, a little bit about me:

I’m currently an at-home mom with boy/girl twins who will turn 3 in February. Yes, it looks like a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded in my living room. Yes, multicolored finger-paint masterpieces are currently tacked up on the fridge. Yes, the dog occasionally sports tempera paint racing stripes and the cat has been known to cough up a Lego or two, but all of it is much more rewarding than slaving away as an office drone. Oh, and before you ask, yes, I do occasionally wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

I’m also heartily committed to indie/DIY culture, which often brands me as an outsider in the usual parents’ circles. Maybe “outsider” is too strong a word. Perhaps “unusual” or “unorthodox” would be more precise. For instance, I’m used to getting the stink eye from older parents when my daughter, Squeak*, wears the “Mama said knock you out!” t-shirt (complete with little boxing gloves applique) that I made for her. I’ve already had a discussion with one of the preschool teachers about my son, Winchie*, and how he protests when they play the occasional Raffi CD during class because, in his words, it’s “just terrible.” (On that same token, one of my proudest parenting moments came when the kids were packed in the car recently, ready to go to preschool, and Winchie asked if we could listen to The Clash. I put in London Calling and he rocked out in his car seat with his best pal, Thomas the Tank Engine. God! I can’t wait to see what he’ll be like when he gets older.)

While other parents might cringe at this, I love that my kids are unapologetically themselves. I realize that some of this comes from their age and that they haven’t yet learned inhibition. But this also means that they are still open to suggestion on all fronts. I love showing them that there are many different ways of looking at the world and choosing an unusual perspective is often times the best route to take. What can I say? I’m an indie mom raising a couple of indie kids, of whom I am extremely proud.

I wouldn’t know what to do with a kid who liked exclusively pretty little princess wear and/or Raffi. I guess I’d suck it up because you have to let your kids be who they are, but I’m certainly glad mine aren’t afraid to stand out a little. Is it because I played them New Order and the Sex Pistols in utero instead of Baby Einstein Mozart concertos? Doubtful. Besides, if their fetal movements were any indication, they much preferred Bad Religion and Ladytron.

But, by and large, my kids get along really well with the other kids in their class and, I’m happy to report, they love going to school and doing all of the usual preschool activities: painting, singing, reading, drawing, circle time, etc. They’re normal, well-adjusted tykes, like I knew they would be. It’s dealing with the adults where things can get dicey.

The teachers are great. I’m talking about the mom crew at the preschool. Oh, dear God. It’s like high school all over again. Some of them are excellent people indeed and I’m incredibly lucky to know them. Others, well, let’s just say that I don’t wear the right clothes and my car isn’t expensive enough for them to treat me with anything close to respect. Some of them assumed I was the nanny and were surprised to hear me speak unaccented English when they first met me. And they had no problem admitting this to my face! (Picture a group of tall, slender, typically WASP-ish women in their late 30s cackling with glee about how I look so much like their Central American-born nannies, they just assumed I spoke Spanish. Never mind that my daughter is a virtual mini me and my son has my exact laugh.) Yikes. So while there are a handful of preschool moms I dig, it’s not really a club I want to belong to. It’s just not a good fit.

Where I do fit and where I’m most comfortable are all the geeky craft places around town. (And please note that I said CRAFT and not art, despite my degree. There are differences, and craft rocks! It has all of art’s creativity and none of the pretension. But I digress…) So while I love to get my geek on and craft my ever-lovin’ heart out, oftentimes it’s just not feasible with twin toddlers in tow.

So what’s a girl to do? Volunteer for CHIRP and write a column about bridging the indie/DIY-Soccer Mom gap, that’s what! Neither the preschool moms club nor the childfree craft alliance will grant me a full docket of membership benefits, so instead I’ll do what I’ve always done and find my own place. Here it is. Thanks for being a part of it.

* These are my kids’ nicknames. I know they’re perfectly plausible first names for the spawn of Hollywood-types, but, fortunately, I’m no Nicole Richie.

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Categorized: Midwestern Housewife

Topics: midwestern housewife

CHIRP DJ writesRediscovering Our Record Collections: Smoking Popes’ “Born To Quit”

Before our wedding, my wife and I went through our record collections to find songs that would fit not only on our wedding mix CD (which we gave out as a gift to our guests), but also songs that represent us as a couple. I somehow kept overlooking the Smoking Popes and their pop gems. At the 11th hour, it dawned on both of us that Mrs. You and Me would be a perfect song that would sit perfectly amongst the other songs we selected.

Keep Reading…

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Categorized: Rediscovering Our Record Collections

Jocelyn writesBringing It All Back Home

It’s a weird thing to sit around and plan your funeral. I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s ever done it; in fact, I know I’m not the only one who sits and thinks of these things. However, I know it’s not the most casual of thoughts for most people. But one night during college, we were all sitting around and it must have come up and I was expounding on the subject, saying how I definitely wanted a New Orleans-style brass band parade.

I’m sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket for my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And ev’ry stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.

I also threw in that I’d like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” to be played at some point during the service. My friends, Dave and Joel, piped up and said that not only would they see to it that my request was carried out, but that they personally would sing it themselves. Although, Joel said he’d be singing the Simon/George Harrison version they did live on Saturday Night Live in 1976.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Fine by me, I said. I was actually pretty honored and touched that my friends were so quick to jump to my aid and volunteer to do me such a noble deed. Especially since neither of one of them were musicians or anything. It meant something in that moment; it seemed like some sort of friendship cement was being laid down — for all the good making promises over a potential future funeral are worth.

But it would come up from time to time as the years passed, and we’d laugh about it and I’d sort of roll my eyes at my younger self and wonder what kind of idea that was in the first place. But Dave and Joel always got very serious at the mention of it and promised yet again that they would, in fact, still show up and sing this for my hopefully unforeseeable demise.

Ev’ry day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev’ry stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be

Years and years have passed now, and the three of us don’t really see one another or really talk so much anymore. Things happen, people change, lives grow apart. If it comes to the point where this needs to happen, honestly, I’m not going to be around to do the asking. And I guess I’m old enough to start thinking about some sort of will or something. I don’t have any real possessions to pass down or give away, but I suppose it would be worth it to at least outline to my parents or friends, “Hey, it’s okay if these guys sing this song at my funeral. Seriously.”

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

I mention this because those are the kinds of things that get cemented in your mind forever, that never leave you even when the people shift out of your life. These are the kinds of memories that will never fade. Every time I hear that song, I will always think of Dave and Joel and their promise made during a late-night conversation about life and death, made when we were too young to know much about either. It is the power of music that intoxicates me and always leads me back to the places where I first found it — the radio.

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again,
I’ll play the game and pretend.
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me.

It was the radio in my father’s car, playing the oldies. It was the radio in my room, trying to catch my favorite songs exactly at the right time so I could tape them from start to finish. It was the radio station at college, and the new friends I made, who taught me about life and love and the pursuit of new music. It was the years and years of driving around in all sorts of cars on all sorts of roads in all sorts of weather, having endless conversations and calming the tempest that is my mind — all to the soundtrack of the radio.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
Silently for me.

It’s good to have another place to be a part of that. It’s wonderful to have another radio home. I am looking forward to sharing CHIRP with Chicago and with the world so everyone else can feel at home with us, too. So we can all exchange ideas and new music and have a place to discuss our community and our world. I can’t wait until we’re live on air with something alive and exciting in Chicago that’s creative and inspiring — something for everyone to hear.

I’m nowhere near dead, but I definitely feel like I’m coming home.

“Homeward Bound,” — Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’

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Categorized: Post Mix

Mike Scales writesArtist Spotlight: Why?

(Photo by Jacob Hand)

On their fourth official full-length effort, Eskimo Snow, Oakland’s beloved psychedelic folk-hoppers WHY? take a decidedly less hip-hop approach to their song-writing. Recorded during the 2007 sessions that birthed Alopecia, the band’s last, more robust and rap-inspired record, the 10-song set reveals a lighter and more spacious side of WHY? – songs that feel more like “song-songs” according to frontman Yoni Wolf.

“Eskimo Snow is intentionally what it is I suppose,” the singer/rapper cryptically states in a chat with CHIRP. “But [it’s] not like we said before we made it, ‘let’s make an album that is not rap’ or anything like that. It’s just what we happened to come up with.”

The more live and stripped-down feel on Eskimo Snow was no doubt made possible in part by session players Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson of the Minneapolis-based outfit Fog who rounded out the band to 5 members in the studio. The two longtime collaborators and friends of WHY? will also be joining them on the road this time around and the whole band is doing what they do to prepare the 40+ date trek which will include stops in Australia and New Zealand. “The Fog boys are most definitely in tow in a big way, they are sounding strong; sounding super!” Wolf enthuses. “Of course, we’ve rehearsed an awful lot for the tour. And between rehearsals Broder likes to jump rope, Josiah [Wolf, Yoni’s brother and drummer] likes to work on this house (today he was putting up insulation) and the rest of us…do other stuff I guess.”

“Other stuff” for Yoni meant recently lending his consuming and reviewing skills to with his version of a New York vegan restaurant review. “Though I was extremely busy, my friend Jena asked me to write that,” he admits. “She’s the kind of very attractive woman you find it hard to say no to. So, I did it and I’m glad I did! It was a lot of fun and I could see myself starting a whole new career. I am surely a big fan of food.”

In true WHY? fashion, cooking up another uniquely awesome record called for another batch of unique and awesome album art. To help him flesh-out the many ideas he had for the look of the album, Yoni enlisted the help of photographer Phoebe Streblow and layout artist Sam Flax Keener. The resulting image utilizes paint, photography and collage and vividly depicts a mummy figure with a bouquet of flowers for a head and an eerily lit purple wall for a backdrop. “It is my favorite WHY? cover so far,” Yoni says. “It took me a long long time (months) to come to this idea after having so many others, but I think things finally came together. I had a lot of help from my friends on it.”

As one of the founding members of the anticon collective, Yoni Wolf knows all too well the value of a supportive group of forward-thinking friends. Although some of the crew have branched out to other bands and labels, anticon remains thick as thieves and has injected some young blood (in the form of Serengeti & Polyphonic, Tobacco and Anathallo) to help keep the operation afloat. “I love all those guys,” he says of the label’s rookie acts. “They probably wouldn’t be a part of the label if I felt differently. We are doing quite a few shows with Chicago’s own Serengeti & Polyphonic [on this tour] and we’ve toured with Anathallo (also a Chicago band) and Tobacco in the near past. I’m very much looking forward to the future of anticon.”

Why? is playing tomorrow night (Oct. 5th) at the Bottom Lounge

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: artist spotlight, interview

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Groucho Marx Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!


Good morning! Here in Chicago, the Goodman Theater is reviving The Marx Brothers’ Broadway play Animal Crackers. And today is Groucho Marx’s birthday. Remember, as Groucho once said, “The Lord Alps those who Alps themselves.” — so Alp yourself and everyone else by grabbing your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone else.

  1. Jerry Lee Lewis — What’d I Say? (18 Original Sun Greatest Hits): This is The Killer’s take on the song made famous by Ray Charles. This is surprisingly subdued, as if even Jerry knew that his version couldn’t hold a candle to The Genius’s version. There’s a good ad lib here or there, but it’s merely alright.
  2. King Crimson — Walking On Air (Thrak): I really need to explore King Crimson. All I have is a couple latter day albums that I got as promos. While on Virgin Records, the band had a double trio format (a pair of guitarists, bassists and drummers) which was interesting but not as interesting as the three ’80s albums the band did for Warners or its seminal ’70s work. Regardless, Crimson was less overblown than most prog-rockers and that was especially true on any of the albums Adrian Belew appeared on, as he always made sure there were a few songs to balance Robert Fripp’s theoretical constructions. This is one of those songs, which falls somewhere between The Beatles and Talking Heads. Pretty.
  3. Sweet — Little Willy (Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be): This is a bonus track on the first full length album by Sweet. The first record I ever bought was “Ballroom Blitz” and ever since then, I’ve always been a fan. The band’s early records were massive bubblegum hits written by Mike Chapman (with the financial assistance of Nicky Chinn, who got co-credit). This was the band’s first U.S. Top 40 hit and it still gets played on oldies radio today. It’s like The Archies on steroids. Soon after this, Chapman began to pen harder rockers that fit in with the glam rock craze sweeping the nation that were more in line with the songs the band was writing. That’s when Sweet went from fun to pretty darned great.
  4. To My Boy — The Grid (Messages): I got his album based on the sticker affixed to it by a Reckless Records employee. To My Boy is a throwback to ’80s Brit synth pop, a la OMD, early Depeche Mode, Erasure, Blancmange and others. If those bands sloshed down a case or two of Red Bull. They mix in some guitars with the hi-NRG synth stuff and every song has at least one killer hook. It’s been a few years since this came out — I should see if they ever followed this up.
  5. Echobelly — Today Tomorrow Sometime Never (Everyone’s Got One): Echobelly was a ’90s Britpop band fronted by Sonya Aurora Madan, an attractive lady of Indian descent who had really long fingers (that’s what I remember from seeing them live). Musically, they were two parts Blondie, one part Suede and one part The Smiths. This was the first cut on the band’s debut album and it holds up very well today. Madan had a lot of personality, the song is really driving, and the playing is quite spirited.
  6. Eleventh Dream Day — Bomb The Mars Hotel (Beet): Of all of the bands that had a chance to really break during the beginning of the alt-rock era, Chicago’s own Eleventh Dream Day was the most influenced by Neil Young. Rick Rizzo and crew added a punkish jolt to classic, vaguely rootsy rock. This was one of the best cuts on the band’s second album (and major label debut). Rizzo shouts over his power jangle playing while Janet Bean drives the music with her drumming. Any song that disses the Grateful Dead is worth hearing.
  7. Slow Jets — Snare Coda (Good Morning, Stars): Another band I discovered through Reckless. The Slow Jets fell somewhere between slightly off-beat college rock bands like Big Dipper and Hypnolovewheel and post-punk acts like Wire. Their songs are short, have odd herky-jerky elements, yet are generally pretty catchy. This is a more atmospheric tune that is quite short, but does the job.
  8. The Swingin’ Neckbreakers — Hail To The Baron (Return Of The Rock): New Jersey’s Neckbreakers are possibly the best garage band of the past 15 years or so good. Unlike a lot of modern garage rockers, they don’t stick with one sound over and over, though there is a consistency to everything they do. Moreover, they get their source material, whether it’s The Sonics, Chuck Berry, The Golliwogs or whoever. This is a tribute to a pro wrestler from bygone days and it is made for singalong to, while rocking out.
  9. The Jam — I’ve Changed My Address (In The City): This is an early Jam side, showing how they took classic mod rock and turbo charged it with punk. Paul Weller was not a consistently great songwriter early on, but this band simply cooked. Weller could carry the load on guitar and the Bruce Foxton (bass) and Rick Buckler (drums) rhythm section is simply killer. They are hard enough to rock, but deft enough to make this danceable.
  10. Tammany Hall Machine — Pedal To The Metal (Amateur Saw): This Austin, TX band made its final album count. The piano plays prominently, but not in a Ben Folds fashion. Instead, the band seems to have soaked in a lot of Kinks records and then mixed in some glam rock and power pop influences. This song also has some killer horns. One of the great lost of albums of this decade.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, lists

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