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Kilo Wattson writesMicha Ward’s Best of 2010

As we celebrate the end of the year and our first year on the air, throughout the month of December CHIRP Radio will be featuring our members' Top 10 Albums of 2010. Our first list comes from CHIRP Radio DJ and Volunteer Coordinator Micha Ward.

  1. Junip – Fields (Mute)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    There’s something subtle but unsettling about this record from Jose Gonzalez and band. Calm before the storm, the eerie silence before it starts to snow, the tick tick tick before the bomb goes off. Junip has melted its brand into my brain. My best of 2010. Best Song: “To The Grain”
  2. The National – High Violet (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Every single song is about pain or sadness. It’s been that kind of year for me. The National puts it in words I can’t. Best Song: “England”
  3. Land of Talk – Cloak and Cipher (Saddle Creek)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Hailing from Montreal, Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell can bear her soul and shred on the guitar- often within the same song. And look damn good doing it. I never heard much from them until seeing them at Lincoln Hall and was instantly a fan and tracking down their entire catalog. Best Song: “Quarry Hymns”
  4. Sharon Van Etten – Epic (Ba Da Bing)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I simply fell in love with Sharon Van Etten this year. That’s really all there is to say. Best Song: “One Day”
  5. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Hometown band hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It sounds like 1991 again and it’s never sounded better. Best Song: “Crossed Wires”
  6. First Aid Kit – The Big Black & The Blue (Wichita)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Swedish indie folk from sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg. Brutal, honest lyrics and voices that make you ache. Best Song: “Heavy Storm”
  7. Megafaun – Heretofore (Hometapes)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another North Carolina band playing moody Americana with a sound steeped in Appalachian folk, alt-country, and the blues. You say you wouldn’t like it, but you will. Best Song: “Heretofore”
  8. The Hundred in the Hands – The Hundred in the Hands (Warp)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Post punk, neo-80’s dance music. Reminds me a little of what I think Berlin would sound like if they were around today. Yeah… exactly. Best Song: “Commotion”
  9. Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    There is such a richness to the record. More texture than sound. Best Song: “The Coldharbour Road”
  10. Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yeah…I know there will be a lot of backlash on this one. I dare you to see this band live and not come out of it blown away. These guys can play. Best Song: “Giving Up The Gun”

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Jodie Foster Edition

Not a great day for rock birthdays, but a great one for thespians. So let’s pay tribute to a modern great, Jodie Foster. She got her first Oscar nomination for Taxi Driver as a teen, and later won the best actress prize for both The Accused and Silence Of The Lambs. Why she didn’t even get nominated for Maverick remains a mystery (though an easily solved mystery). She even appeared in the musical Bugsy Malone. So she must like music. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. The Minutemen — Have You Ever Seen The Rain (3-Way Tie (For Last)): The final Minutemen studio album showed the band’s increasing musical scope. They still were capable of fierce rock, but with their considerable compositional and playing ability, they stretched out considerably. They also did some covers, including this famed Creedence Clearwater Revival number. John Fogerty was a working class spokesman, so it’s no wonder The Minutemen gravitated toward this kindred spirit. This is a very respectful version with a passionate vocal from D. Boon.
  2. The Raspberries — Starting Over (Collector’s Series): Wow, not only have The Raspberries been getting a lot of airplay on CHIRP, and my iPod feels the same way. This is a piano ballad with Eric Carmen singing at the top of his range.
  3. The Band — I Shall Be Released (Music From Big Pink): Another slow piano song. This isn’t as cheesy and is more soulful. It is one of many songs by The Band that sounds timeless and classic, and no wonder, it was written by the man they used to back, Bob Dylan. It is extremely resonant.
  4. Loretta Lynn — High on a Mountain Top (Van Lear Rose): One thing that is so great about Jack White’s production of Ms. Lynn’s comeback effort is that for every attempt to inject some modernity into the proceedings, he balanced out with something really traditional. This is a mid-tempo footstomping sing-a-long that is a showcase for Lynn’s still wonderful voice.
  5. Husker Du — The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill (New Day Rising): Zen Arcade gets so much attention that people may forget about New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig. They shouldn’t. They are wonderful albums that show both musical and tonal range. This is a Grant Hart number augmented by liberal application of Bob Mould’s fuzzy guitar. The chorus is simple and memorable.
  6. Oneida — $50 Tea (Secret Wars): This is Oneida at their caffienated Kraut rock best. The drums sound like metronome at 10 times the speed and the rest of the band tries to keep up, all while laying down a reptitive rhythm with a mantra like vocal melody. This is just a vibrant, in-your-face song.
  7. Shoes — Not Me (Black Vinyl Shoes): Black Vinyl Shoes is one of the ultimate DIY recordings, laid down on a 4-track recorder in the Murphy brothers’ home. Low-fi acts should check this out to show how you can still have production values even with an ultra-low budget. Of course, the album wouldn’t have gotten the attention of the press if it wasn’t for the glistening pure pop songs that are describe unrequited love — the essence of power pop.
  8. Comsat Angels — Zinger (Fiction): This terminally underrated post-punk band had a very specific spin on moody music with washes of dark guitar jangle, strong drumming, elastic bass lines and vocals that sounded weathered and bruised. Innocence had already been lost a long time ago. This number has a very slight funk edge, a la Shriekback.
  9. Kylie Auldist — Kiss and Tell (Made of Stone): This Australian R & B singer is the main vocalist for the hot soul-funk revival band The Bamboos. Her solo records are a little bit less dance party oriented, and more in line with the fine retro soul of everyone from Amy Winehouse to Sharon Jones. Auldist can hold her own with any of these retro soul singers as a vocalist. Her voice is strong and expressive. And the songs, which are mostly originals, such as this one, hold up their end of the bargain.
  10. The Streets On Fire — Fire (This Is Fancy): This is a real standout amongst the many fine Chicago based releases in 2010. The Streets On Fire have a post-punk vibe on many of their songs. This song gravitates a little bit closer to swamp rock, based on the guitar line and the vaguely tribal drummer. The song ends too soon. Good stuff.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Neil Young Edition

He isn’t just a living legend, he’s an active one. From his time in Buffalo Springfield (who may reunite for a tour in 2011) to this year, Neil Young rarely, if ever, stops creating. He has created one of the most impressive bodies of work in rock history, mixing accessible roots based music with some of the dirtiest, grimiest music ever committed to tape. He has also dabbled in film and theater, experimented with many styles (remember Trans? Or Everybody’s Rockin’?) and influenced tons of musicians. Today is the great Neil Young’s birthday. Let’s celebrate by getting out the ol’ iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. The Features — The Beginning (Week One)(The Beginning): This is a bashing number from the Tennessee band. Musically, it sounds a little bit like a faster Elvis Costello & The Attractions (Armed Forces era), with tinny keyboards and busy drums. This song does a good job contrasting between a cacophony and more controlled sounds.
  2. New York Dolls — Chatterbox (Too Much Too Soon): A typically energetic track from the Dolls’ second album. David Johansen takes a back seat to Johnny Thunders on lead vocals on this track. While this song is rooted in blues rock, the playing and attitude clearly show why the Dolls were a major precursor to punk.
  3. The Blasters — Common Man (Hard Line): One of two songs on the The Blasters’ fourth album that show how big of an influence John Fogerty was on David Alvin. Alvin plays some swampy guitar over a nice groove, while brother Phil sings a stinging indictment of Ronald Reagan. This predates What’s The Matter With Kansas? in pointing out how politicians get people to vote against their interests by appealing to things that distract them from real issues.
  4. Maximo Park — The Kids Are Sick Again (Quicken The Heart): On their third album, Maximo Park plays better than ever and has their formula down pat. This is a blessing and curse. The songs sound great, but they are less thrilling. Hence, this album took a number of plays to sink in. But it eventually did. This is one of those building song which ebbs and flows and only reveals the big chorus in the end. So it builds tension as you keep waiting for the song to peak. An odd choice for a first singe.
  5. The House Of Love — Christine (1986-88: The Creation Years): This band wasn’t quite a shoegazer band, and they were catchy, but not quite poppy enough to be classified as Britpop. Forget subgenres — for a few years, they cranked out a lot of great singles and albums tracks with big guitar sounds and melodies that were somehow both ethereal and sinister. This was one of their best known songs.
  6. Robert Gordon — Someday Someway (Are You Gonna Be The One?): This Marshall Crenshaw classic was first waxed by rockabilly revivalist Gordon. His version is just a bit peppier and punchier and nearly made the Top 40 (which Crenshaw’s version just grazed in 1982). Gordon was a great interpreter of Crenshaw’s songs, as his confidence is a contrast to Crenshaw’s constant wistfulness. I remember seeing Gordon perform this on SCTV.
  7. The Monochrome Set — Expresso (Tomorrow Will Be Too Late): The Monochrome Set are an underappreciated post-punk pop band from the early ’80s. Fans of Orange Juice, Josef K, early XTC and any sort of music with herky-jerk rhythms and oddball guitar lines should check them out. This is a jaunty shuffle that, for some reason, reminds me a bit of the Bonzo Dog Band. The mix of strumming and jangly guitars is sublime.
  8. Fastball — Fire Escape (All the Pain Money Can Buy): When “The Way” became a smash hit, this veteran power pop band got a well-deserved moment in the sun. Whereas their big hit had a bit of early Costello drama, this song is more in the vein of The Gin Blossoms or Tom Petty, jangling about until they hit the utterly professional hook. Give them an A for craftsmanship.
  9. Fuzzbubble — Same Time, Same Place (Demos, Out Takes & Rarities): This L.A. power pop band fell somewhere between the glossiness of Jellyfish, the fizzy energy of Redd Kross with a bit of guitar edge similar to School of Fish. This tune has big guitars and a robust lead vocal. Cheap Trick would do a fine job covering it.
  10. Neko Case — This Tornado Loves You (Middle Cyclone): The thing about Neko Case is that she outgrew any genre descriptions. Yes, country is the foundation of her songs, but she has developed a wide, spacious sound that can incorporate folk, soul, rock or anything else she may think of. And, of course, she’s a marvelous singer — it’s not just the quality of her voice but how she invests herself in her always worthwhile lyrics. This is a breathtakingly brilliant song.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

Erik Roldan writesCHIRP + Coach House Sounds Session with Rabble Rabble

Seeing “Jailbait” and “Bangover” listed as the names of two available singles by Chicago quartet Rabble Rabble, you start to get a sense of their intentions. Low-end Stooges sleeze with a yelpy punker in the front and reverbed psychedelia in the back give this heavy rock a mature swagger.

This summer, Rabble Rabble recorded a session with Coach House Sounds and the result was an amplification of their vinyl-friendly bass, warmth only an analog recording could bring out. The band insisted on democratic answers to my interview questions; below is their group effort.

Rabble Rabble’s CHIRP and Coach House Sounds Live session is streamable at starting Tuesday, November 9th!

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

We were doing a photo shoot for our album at Ottoman Empire (R.I.P) over the summer and they had a show the previous night so the basement was still pretty trashed. One of the bands that played had a giant cardboard/plastic vagina as a prop that was sitting in a corner and was covered in olive oil (yes, olive oil) to create a “wet” visual effect.

Being the young, innovative, individuals that we are, we all climbed into this giant wet vagina and did a Beatles-esque stack-up. It was pretty gross. Those pictures might not surface for awhile… Also Salvia…

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

Rabble Rabble never went to school. We all coach each other and help each other out when we’re having life or other problems. Got have each others backs in a band like this, you never know when a fight is gonna break out.

For instance, we played at Mortville in January and there were some crust punks that were starting some shit with us. They were trying to grab our microphones and getting all up in our shit when Matt started strangling one of them and fighting him.

Kaylee saw what was going on and got out from behind her drums and started fighting these punks too and then Ralph and Todd joined in. It was an all out Band Vs. Audience brawl for a minute.

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

Chicago is a city of diversity. If you get sick of hanging out in Wicker Park getting wasted at the Flat Iron with a bunch of post-art school cats, then go to Pilsen and get mugged. Now that you don’t have a wallet, go to Lincoln park and peddle outside of the Pita Pit so you can get enough money to catch the 74 bus back to your apartment in Logan Square. Safe and sound!

Never a dull moment. Keeps you tired at the end of every day. Plus the sense of camaraderie and general love that is developing in the music community is a breath of fresh air compared to New York or L.A.

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?

We recorded our set sometime in June just before Radar Eyes did. It was brutally hot. In fact it might have been one of the sweatiest one hour periods of our lives, and we have played many a sweaty basement shows. That day was exceptional hot however.

Also, our session includes two songs that at the time happen to be very new. “Why Not” and “Long Hook”. We are quite certain that both songs have grown a lot since then but it’ll be nice to hear the early stages of our first steps into new territory after recording our first LP “Bangover.”

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

We are doing a radio program on December 15th for Vocalo 89.5 FM. Then we have the Chicago Music Blogger Showcase at the Sub-T with White Mystery, Hollows and Radar Eyes on December 18th. That’s all that’s confirmed as of now. But we may be doing a few out of town gigs and a DIY space or two. November is gonna be filled with a lot of experimentation and new song writing.

As for releases, we are actually gonna release a full studio-recorded single of those two new songs that are on the CHS session, “Why Not” and “Long Hook” sometime early next year. We are also hard at work on new material for our next album and things are sounding EPIC!

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: coach house sounds, interview

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Gram Parsons Edition

Some say he’s the father of country rock. He kicked off his career with The International Submarine Band, joined The Byrds and was a major contributor to their classic Sweethearts Of The Rodeo album. After leaving The Byrds, he formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, and was booted from that band, and then made the acclaimed solo albums GP and Grievous Angel, passing away before the latter was released. His influence can be felt to this day with some alt-country artists. In honor of Gram, get out your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that come up.

  1. Nick Lowe — She’s Got Soul (The Convincer): The Convincer is perhaps the best of the recent Nick Lowe albums, now that Basher has reinvented himself as a mellow rock and roll crooner. The songs are so economical and Lowe’s voice may be a limited instrument, but he makes the most of it on this light R & B track. I could here a modern R & B act turning this into a more up tempo cut.
  2. Happy Hate Me Nots — Nothing Short of Paradise (The Good That’s Been Done): An Australian band that followed in the footsteps of The Saints, with a punky sound that is heavily infused with R & B influences. The playing and songwriting is more controlled and anthemic than the early Saints. The HHMNs have an ability to send a song soaring at the drop of a hat. This song relies on the time tested device of moody verses with bright and shiny expansive choruses. Hope their reunion album comes out soon.
  3. Nothing Painted Blue — Go To Waste (Emotional Discipline): An early NPB cut from the odds and ends compilation Emotional Discipline. While you’d never call Nothing Painted Blue a punk band, this song tends in that direction, as the band pushes the pace on a ragged but intent recording. This shows how early on the band’s modus operandi was established — Franklin Bruno fills verses with dense word play that he crams into a melody (when the song is faster) which ends up in a terse refrain that provides a bit of a hook.
  4. The Viscounts — Harlem Nocturne (Loud, Fast & Out of Control): This comes from a great Rhino Records box set of hot early sides from the ’50s. Akin to Rhino’s Nuggets box sets, a few familiar names are surrounded by lesser lights. This song is moody instrumental that is an excuse for a hot sax solo. This is kind of a cool down from all the hot rockabilly on this set.
  5. Splitsville — Dotcom (Repeater): From the band’s third, and most impressive, album. Splitsville were a power pop band that showed a bit of inspiration from Jellyfish and Fountains of Wayne, but certainly had their own direction. Touches of new wave and psychedelia float throughout their songs. This is more on the psychedelic end, an atmospheric mid-tempo number with a great arrangement and a variety of guitar sounds. This song slowly builds to a pretty bravura ending.
  6. Don Byron — Hagalo (Nu Blaxploitation): This is an inventive genre blending jazz album. On most of the tracks, Byron combines jazz and funk. But this song here has more of a Brazilian vibe, with a lively horn section and some percussive piano playing.
  7. Slow Jets — False Alarm (Worm Into Phoenix): A typical arty indie rock song from a band I discovered through Reckless Records. They are certainly influenced by groups like Wire and Pere Ubu, but also have a lot in common with less studied outfits like Archers Of Loaf and The Embarassment. The hooks here are a bit more subtle, but nothing less than satisfying.
  8. The Raspberries — The Party’s Over (Collector’s Series): One of the original power pop bands. As was often the case back in the ’70s, when not trying to emulate The Beach Boys and Beatles, or singing wussy ballads, a band had to have a few standard issue rockers. This is one of the ‘berries’ rockers, working some basic bluesy hard rock, like a lower key Humble Pie. Credible but not their strength.
  9. Arcwelder — I Hear And Obey (Xerxes): This Minnesota band mixed the melodic punk aspects of Husker Du (and their drummer, who wrote and sang about half the songs, sounded a bit like Bob Mould), with some more dissonant guitar sounds, a la Fugazi and Jawbox. They found just the right balance of edginess and catchiness, especially on Xerxes, their third album. This song works off a repeating guitar figure that could have been nicked from Television and hurtles into a passionate chorus. These guys had such a firm grip on song structure that could take detours and not get lost.
  10. Sloan — I Understand (Never Hear The End Of It): This 30 song album is arguably Sloan’s masterwork. Keeping the song structures tight, this Nova Scotia quartet shows its utter command of ’60s and ’70s inspired pop and rock. Their inspirations are often obvious, but the band has developed a distinctive sound. They aren’t imitating their heroes, they are trying to equal them, and they succeed more often than most of their contemporaries. This is wonderful mid-tempo song in the tradition of Badfinger, Paul McCartney and Big Star, without sounding quite like any of them. Marvelous.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: gram parsons, ipod, mp3

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