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The CHIRP Blog

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday J. Mascis Edition

He’s an alt-rock guitar hero who bridged the gap between Neil Young and Husker Du. J. Mascis turns 45 years old today! Dinosaur Jr. remains a powerful rock force, and an inspiration to indie bands everywhere. The old saw goes, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” and Mascis defies that maxim every time he takes the stage, as he still plays some of the loudest concerts anywhere. In honor of Mr. Mascis, please get your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first ten songs that come up.

  1. Steve Wynn — Believe in Yourself (Crossing Dragon Bridge): The former leader of Dream Syndicate is more known for rocking stuff. But for this 2008 album, he recorded some spare guitar songs and then traveled to Serbia, where his producer figured out what pieces to fit around the songs. The album was decidedly more intimate than anything Wynn had recorded, showing new facets to this outstanding artist. This song is minimally augmented — it’s really just a good folky song and a nice bit of affirmation.
  2. The Original Sins — Rather Be Sad (The Hardest Way): This underrated late-‘80s garage band featuring John (Brother JT) Terlinsky mixed barn burners with more paisley flavored ’60s-isms, drenched in rocking guitars. This is one of their best ever songs, a paean to wanting to feel pain. Masochistic, yes. But if you’ve ever wallowed in a funk and taken a perverse pride in it, this song is for you.
  3. Wax — Snappin’ Away (What Else Can We Do): A nice dose of punk-pop from this L.A. band with substantial Chicago roots. One thing that made Wax stand out is that they made sure the basic elements of their songs were simple, but creatively played with arrangements and tempos, without ever destroying the essential catchiness of their music. On this song, they use dynamics and tempo changes to build anticipation, with the song finally exploding enough to justify the wait.
  4. Ronnie Dawson — Rockin’ Bones (Loud, Fast & Out of Control): Not so much rockabilly as a hillbilly jump blues song with Dawson’s extremely nasal vocals. This song makes a great use of sonic space to emphasize the bouncy percussion that makes it perfect for sock hop jitterbugging.
  5. Fleet Foxes — White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes): A perfect song for this time of year. When the Foxes became famous, they often garnered Beach Boys comparisons for their elaborate harmony vocals. But the Fleet ones really have more of a church choir type vibe to their harmonies, appropriate for a hymnal that starts out with a “Row Row Row Your Boat” type choral intro. This pastoral album has aged well and set the bar high for their 2011 follow up album.
  6. Stan Ridgway — Walking Home Alone (The Big Heat): Ridgway’s first solo album didn’t just go in the direction of Wall Of Voodoo, while maintaining the cinematic vibe of that band. Ridgway established himself as a great storyteller who could meld his music to fit the lyrics. This song has the mood of a ’50s Sinatra classic, mixing electronic instruments with the “sad trombone” he references in the lyrics. And Stan even credibly sings on the killer middle eight. I would love to hear a traditional crooner take this on with a retro arrangement.
  7. The Rolling Stones — You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Let It Bleed): This classic, from one of the Stones’ best LPs, was (and might still be) overplayed. Of course, it gets so much play because it is a striking song, from the children’s chorus intro to memorable opening words to the way the song builds to epic heights.
  8. Sloan — C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started) (Navy Blues): A wonderful ’70s inspired pop piece from the pride of Nova Scotia. This sounds like it was made to fit in between Stealer’s Wheel and Todd Rundgren on some great AM radio station, not only with it’s piano pop bounce, but with the compressed production that gives the track an older feel. This song has a gigantic hook and an awesome middle eight with spectacular harmony vocals.
  9. Outkast — Spaghetti Junction (Stankonia): A nice mid-tempo slice of funky hip-hop. This song is interesting because of how Big Boi and Andre 3000 trade off within the verses, sometimes with one or the other rapping under the other.
  10. The Fleshtones — The Girl From Baltimore (Up-Front): This song appeared on the band’s first EP for IRS Records and it’s a great garage rock tune, perfect for doing all of the classic ’60s dances that are mentioned in the song. Keith Streng’s twanging guitar sounds like it was borrowed from a B-52’s record. This song quickly established that the ‘tones had mastered R & B flavored rock that is perfect for parties.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

Erik Roldan writesCHIRP + Coach House Sounds Session with Love of Everything

Over the summer, Chicago duo Love of Everything went over to Coach House Sounds and recorded what would be a marker in the band’s career. I sat in on the session but couldn’t have been aware of the tension between the two members.

To me, the songs they played seemed to land hard – they had worked a lot on the tracks and there were hints that they were still working through them.

Throughout, the delicate pop that Love of Everything crafts was apparent, but surely I couldn’t have known what was happening beneath the surface. It wasn’t until Bobby Burg answered my pre–set e–mail interview questions with surprising honesty that I figured out what was going on.

The Love of Everything Coach House Sounds session will be released on 12/14 over at coachhousesounds.com – listen to chirpradio.org all week for a preview of this amazing time stamp in a young band’s career.

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

I licked this toy transformer tank that had fallen into the sump pump. That specific taste haunts me to this day.

Tell me about a coach you had as a child. What did you learn from them?

I learned that i wasn’t interested in sports from seeing the football coach at my high school go absolutely berserk during a mandatory pep rally.

Describe a scenario where Love of Everything could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

I could see myself teaching a younger band about how to eat right on while on tour.

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

Chicago is great for playing in a band and seeing live music. It’s flat, so its good for riding bikes. I have a 15 year relationship with Chicago.

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

I didn’t know this at the time but recording that session was the last time Elisse and I would ever play music together.

You’re a coupled, married duo, right? How long has that been the case and how does that factor into the music you make?

We were doing that for 2 years, but now we are getting divorced unfortunately. It totally did effect it, I think the songs I was writing got better as the marriage got worse.

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

Loads is happening! Love of Everything’s new drummer will be Tim Kinsella who I play in Joan of Arc with. Our two bands are going on a 3 week European tour together. Love of Everything’s Best in Tensions album came out this month on CD in Europe on the label Seayou Records.

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: artist spotlight

Stephen Dobek writesStephen Dobek’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Stephen Dobek. (Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

  1. Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    When it comes down to my favorite album of any given year, it’s all about staying power. Teen Dream was released in the first month of 2010, but its impact was felt by my iTunes long after that. Already the authors of two albums I’m fond of, Teen Dream isn’t a drastic departure from the band’s sound, they are simply good at what they do, and here they are near perfect, especially Victoria Legrand’s voice. It isn’t often that every song on an album warrants five stars, but for me, this is one of those rare instances.

    There were songs that hit me hard in the spring, lifted me up during the summer, have helped me to prepare for the brunt of another Chicago winter, but never any songs that wore out their welcome. Teen Dream is a fully realized vision, an album that will stick with me for years to come, and reason enough to look back at the music of 2010 and smile.
  2. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    When I think of Cleveland I think of bad sports teams and even worse weather, but now, thanks to Emeralds, I think of mind-bending electronic music as well. These prolific Ohioans have released a lot of material in their short existence, and for the most part their songs were sprawling, ambient affairs. With Does It Look Like I’m Here they take a more concise approach. Songs materialize faster, and when they do they burn hotter than anything else the band has released. The payoff on ‘Candy Shoppe’ is something to behold, and is easily my favorite sonic moment of the entire year.

    From beginning to end the album is mesmerizing, synths and guitar twirling together to create a sound that harkens back to the German ‘Kosmische’ movement, but is almost without equal in modern music.
  3. Small Black – New Chain (Jagjaguwar)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Some albums grow on you after repeat listens, while others grab you immediately and don’t let go. For me, New Chain is one of the latter, from the opening bars of ‘Camouflage’ I was hooked. With greater production value Small Black leave the bedroom sound of their earlier work behind. Each song on the album evokes a big, nostalgic response, and while their contemporaries are numerous they never sound like they’re copying anyone, rather they are making the chintzy sounds of the past into their own new dynamic thing. New Chain is an album that keeps its focus on the future by remembering the sounds of parties long gone.
  4. Mogwai – Special Moves (Rock Action)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Live albums aren’t something I’m often excited for, so the fact that Special Moves makes my list is a surprise. Through the years Mogwai have proven themselves to be one of the most fearsome forces in the world of post-rock, even though their recent work may have missed the mark. Thankfully this career-spanning look back hits the pleasure center over and over again. Songs like ‘Hunted By A Freak’ and ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ are given new life, and likewise, the band sounds re-energized and on top of their game rather than past their prime. Special Moves works so well because it recalls past greatness while also providing a burst of hope for the band’s future.
  5. Blue Hawaii – Blooming Summer (Arbutus)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Blue Hawaii are part of a robust music scene in Montreal that is producing some very interesting material. Blooming Summer is billed as an EP, but these eight songs feel more like a full statement. While many artists of a similar thread look fondly upon the past Blue Hawaii’s lyrics focus on the heartbreak and lost love of yesteryear. They may share an aesthetic with others, but this brand of electronic pop is also uniquely their own. Blooming Summer showcases a band that is versatile and highly skilled, it leaves me eagerly awaiting a proper full-length release.
  6. Working For A Nuclear Free City – Jojo Burger Tempest (Melodic)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Recapturing the sound of Madchester is not easily done, but WFANFC gave it their all, creating something wonderful that yields countless twists and turns. Jojo Burger Tempest is genre hopping on the highest level; many different influences are brought together but the seemingly natural balance between everything is what makes the album so special. It’s an ambitious undertaking for sure (It’s split between two discs, one containing 17 individual licks, and the second containing a single 33 minute romp), but giving it an honest listen will pay big dividends.
  7. Jónsi – Go (XL)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    When I discovered that Jónsi Birgisson was striking out on his own I became very excited. His vocal prowess as part of Sigur Rós has been nothing short of monumental, so the sky was literally the limit. He did not disappoint. With powerful percussion, intense buildups and of course beautiful vocals now bigger than ever Go soars to amazing heights. Songs like ‘Go Do’ and ‘Animal Arithmetic’ are epic, even by Jónsi standards. This album also makes my list because I saw it played live at The Vic on my birthday and essentially had my face melted off by a complete multimedia sensory overload.
  8. Sam Prekop – Old Punch Card (Thrill Jockey)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Sharing nothing in common with his full time band The Sea and Cake, or any of his previous solo work, Old Punch Card is Sam Prekop’s initial foray into electronic music. If there is any structure to this album it’s hard to find, Prekop essentially tries out different sounds until he finds something he likes and lets that play out. While it may not grab you in an instant, over time the beauty of Prekop’s experimentation bubbles to the surface, revealing something truly unique.
  9. Candy Claws – Hidden Lands (Twosyllable)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    There is dream pop, and then there is the music that Candy Claws create, a sort of narcotic induced coma pop. The pastoral sounds of Hidden Lands were composed primarily on keyboards the band had no idea how to play, and perhaps that is why unexpected moments pop up all over the place. With lyrics that never rise above a whisper and melodies that echo the most sun kissed moments of the Beach Boys, Hidden Lands is strangely hard to place and strangely addicting.
  10. Mimicking Birds – Mimicking Birds (Glacial Pace)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Mimicking Birds’ Nate Lacy is able to achieve a striking level of ambiance while sticking to a fairly sparse set up. With a production assist from Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, he created an album that sounds like it was recorded at a remote point in outer space. Lacy’s guitar work is something to behold, throughout the album he fingerpicks his way into hypnotic riffs, especially on ‘The Loop’, that ad to the atmosphere and the allure of Mimicking Birds.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Bobby Evers writesBobby Evers’ Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Bobby Evers.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)


To be honest, my musical interest has become so fractured in my old age that this list needs a disclaimer. This is not a list of what I think is objectively the most interesting or best or groundbreaking or new or innovative releases of 2010.

I don't consume albums the way I used to do or would like to do, so this compilation is pretty cursory. Some I gave a few listens, some I only heard a few songs. This list is a list of releases that I personally liked this year because it sounded good to me. If something didn't make the list it was because for whatever reason I just didn't get into it or didn't get around to hearing it. I'M BUSY!!!

  1. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (Drag City)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Aside from the sheer fact of its girth and its packaging (three discs, six songs each, three songs per side, amazing artwork / photography of Ms. Newsom) the album showed a new level of her songwriting lyrically, pushing out of the symbolic and into the intimate. On her two previous albums she would dress up what the songs were really saying in strange fantastical characters (a bear, a taxidermied dove), but on this one she would tell it to you straight: "It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other as those who love each other do."

    While this kind of confessional emo-ness is the norm for other songwriters, for Joanna Newsom it is, in a way, letting her guard down, letting the audience inside to see something truer. And the songs that seemed dense and evasive still also seemed like veiled metaphors for this same relationship and its ultimate demise. This was my favorite album of the year.
  2. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue (Nonesuch)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I will apparently never outgrow my love of Ben Folds. And this album is kind of a dream come true for me because I love a good amount of the novels of Nick Hornby. So for them to collaborate on songs is just something really special. And the songs are good! They're catchy, they're dirty, they're funny, and they got in my head so much that I had to listen over and over. The litmus test for me for a really good album is when my favorite song changes periodically. For a week it will be track 1, and then graudally track 10, and then track 2. Every track on this album was my favorite during a different three day period.

    Emphasis Track: "Levi Johnston's Blues" in which he tells the story of Mr. Johnston discovering his girlfriend, Bristol Palin is pregnant and that her mother is the Vice Presidential nominee. And he has been informed that they are getting married. I would even argue that this song doesn't make fun of Mr. Johnston more than Levi does himself. It's from the perspective of a kid in an impossible situation, with lyrics straight from Levi Johnston's myspace page: "I'm a fuckin' redneck I live to hang out with my boys, play some hockey and shoot some moose, do some chillin' I guess..."
  3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I just got this like two days ago and have already listened to it something like ten times. I don't think it is AMAZING yet and it is probably a little overhyped already, but I find it to be more interesting and releavant than most things that came out this year. Kanye is a jackass, but what he does well is puts together some pretty epic compositions. (And I am loathe to use the word epic casually).

    What he is doing on this album is the exact thing that writing/music/art is for; taking the most negative aspects of his personality/soul and making it into something really cathartic and positive. I just keep finding that the songs are getting stuck in my head at odd moments while walking to the train or in conversation. And I keep returning to it. It's fast becoming one of those albums that is starting to haunt me. A feeling I just can't take, a record I can't seem to stop listening to.
  4. The National – High Violet (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I actually don't have a lot to say about this album that hasn't already been said. I just liked it. The songs were good. It didn't affect me the way their previous album Boxer did but it was still totally great. It's one that the more you hear it creeps up on you; a dark horse contender. Bloodbuzz Ohio, England, Anyone's Ghost.
  5. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is another case of, I don't have a lot to say about it but I just liked the songs on it better than other album's songs. I see this record as a kind of comeback for Arcade Fire. I was so in love with Funeral that anything that wasn't Funeral wasn't good enough for them in my eyes. So when Neon Bible came out and had a pretty different sound and was doing something different, something I didn't much like, I was really disappointed and was pretty much unable to go back to it and listen to it for its merits. I see this album as kind of a return to form. I also really like the theme of suburbia, of sprawl, of rural areas, etc. It's another one that I feel like I need to listen to it more but haven't gotten around to yet.
  6. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This record has everything I like: a swedish folk singer writing songs in American traditions with a sparse production, acoustic guitar, and a raspy voice. OK, maybe that's a little too specific. But this is one that kept getting in my head constantly all summer and when I found out the dude was Swedish I was all, "What the what??" He sounds like some combination of Bob Dylan and the dude from Deer Tick. Emphasis: The Wild Hunt. WARNING: It will not leave your head if you listen to it more than twice.
  7. Various Artists – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (ABKCO)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    What can I say? There is something fun / raw / catchy / garagey / adorable about these songs, many of which were pulled from the playlists Bryan Lee O'Malley lists in the back of the original comics this film is based on. Particularly the Plumtree and Metric songs, but also the tracks composed by Beck for the fictional band Sex Bob-omb are very good. Of all the albums released this year, I kept returning to this one. Emphasis track: Beachwood Sparks - "By Your Side."
  8. Sufjan Stevens – All Delight People [EP] (Asthmatic Kitty)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I liked this short stack of songs better than his strange full lenth The Age of Adz. It is just more my taste, and there's less to digest with a shorter one like this. It's just sweet. Emphasis: Heirloom.
  9. Björk + The Dirty Projectors – Mount Wittenberg Orca (Self-Released)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yes, this. I liked this better than a lot of other things I heard this year, specifically the song "On and Ever Onward." A genius collaboration.
  10. The Magnetic Fields – Realism (Nonesuch)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Honestly, a large part of my basis for putting this on here is how much I still love anything The Magnetic Fields do because of how good 69 Love Songs was/is. When a new record comes out by them they are still as good as they are on that record and it's like yet another disc to that neverending album has come out for us to enjoy. It's not doing anything new or exciting, it's just The Magnetic Fields doing what they do; sparsely composed songs about heartbreak featuring the tiniest instruments. Emphasis: "You Must Be Out Of Your Mind."

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mention to some tracks that stand out to me. I didn't hear the rest of the album but these songs were so good they made me want to:

1. Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind Part II Broken Down" (and, more prominently, by extension 2009's "Empire State of Mind" by Jay Z which I still can't get it out of my head.)
2. Avi Buffalo, "What's In It For?
3. The Black Keyes, "Tighten Up"
4. Deer Tick, "Twenty Miles"
5. Tender Trap, "Do You Want a Boyfriend?"
6. Kathryn Calder, "Follow Me Into the Hills"
7. Admiral Radley, "The Thread"
8. The New Pornographers, "The Crash Years"
9. Band of Horses, "Factory"
10. Robyn, "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do"
11. Rita J, "Body Rock"
12. The Herbaliser, "The Blend"
13. Walter Schreifels, "Arthur Lee's Lullaby"
14. Uffie, "Difficult"
15. The Vaselines, "Sex with an X"

Apologies to M.I.A, Erykah Badu, Best Coast, Beach House, Band of Horses, MGMT, Sleigh Bells, Belle and Sebastian, Of Montreal, The Books, Superchunk, New Porngraphers. You probably put out really great records this year, but since I didn't really hear much of it at all, I couldn't really put you on the top ten on principal. Sorry.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Karin Fjellman writesTonight! First-ever CHIRP Night at the Rocking Horse

What are you doing on a Tuesday night, other than catching up on last week’s finale to The Walking Dead? CHIRP announces its newest community partnership with Logan Square’s finest indie rock bar & restaurant, The Rocking Horse, which boasts a huge drink selection of sixteen taps and more than sixty bottled brews, not to mention some amazing edibles. Come out tonight to eat, drink, and hear CHIRP DJs spin the finest in indie, psych, soul, punk, and more from 9:30pm onward! This month’s featured DJ is Karin Fjellman — you can see samples of her CHIRP Radio playlists here. CHIRP Nights at the Rocking Horse happen on the first Tuesday of each month. Look out for us next month! We hope to see you there!

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Categorized: Event Previews

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