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The CHIRP Blog

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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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod

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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Categorized: Event Previews

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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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod

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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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod

Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesMidwestern Housewife - Yes, There is an Unspoken Message Here

As many of you already know, I could definitely be described as an unconventional parent. I don’t really care if my kids swear (colorful verbiage is an important part of everyone’s lexicon), I let them eat way too much candy (they both have a sweet tooth the size of Jupiter), and I don’t bathe them every single day like all the parenting books recommend (dirt builds the immune system and prevents allergies, right?). So when my husband asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day this year and my response was, “Get the hell away from all of you crazy people,” his laughter and eye-roll to the ceiling could have been predicted.

I know Mother’s Day was started as a day to honor the woman who changed your diapers, made sure you had clean clothes to wear, carted you around town until you or one of your friends could drive, and then sent you to college and paid for it, but it’s still just as much of a faux holiday as Valentine’s Day. Just as you should celebrate the love you share with your special someone more than one chilly day in mid-February, so too should you remember to show your mom (or grandma, or aunt, or godmother) some gratitude most days of the year for all the things she does for you. And let me tell you a little secret: A mediocre brunch, some flowers, and a mawkish card once a year is not even close to enough. In fact, it so misses the mark that it’s kind of insulting.

Allow me to describe what would be a perfect Mother’s Day for your truly: I wake up to the sound of a silent house. No toddlers screaming. No dog whining to be let out. No husband next to me snoring loud enough to wake the dead. No cat meowing plaintively, waiting for food. Just me, the subtle sounds of a spring morning and muted sunlight coming in through the drawn curtains. sigh Oh, and the all-important smell of freshly-brewed coffee (that was made by someone other than me) is wafting up from the kitchen.

Wearing my comfiest pajamas/slippers combination, I descend the stairs completely refreshed from a full night of sound sleep. I find that when I look around, the house is clean. No toys strewn about. No mystery chunks of what may once have been food stuck to the table and/or walls. No stray coats/socks/shoes/ sweaters littering the floor. All surfaces are neat and dust-free and the rugs have been recently vacuumed. The table is set for one—just me—and is filled with my favorite breakfast foods. My laptop is set up, too, and already displays my favorite website, ready for perusal. As I sit down and begin to eat breakfast, my favorite music begins playing on the stereo. Life is good, indeed.

After my shower, from which I emerge smelling and looking fantastic, I put on some ridiculously comfortable and stylish clothes completely devoid of random stains, rips, and snags that decorate every at-home mom’s wardrobe. A beautiful—and small—handbag waits for me by the door, so unlike the giant backpack I usually use to carry things like blankies, favorite toys, snacks, and sippy cups. Today, Dream Mother’s Day, I carry only what I truly need: my wallet, keys, lipstick, sunglasses, and of course, my iPod. Oh, and did I mention someone has already cleaned up the breakfast dishes?

I leave the house without giving any thought to whether I have brought along every toy that someone might scream for or whether I’ll be gone long enough to need extra diapers or juice. I don’t even worry about whether I’ve packed band-aids and Neosporin, just in case someone falls down at the playground. I just leave.

I drive to my best friend’s house where she and a few other close friends are gathered, waiting for me to pick them up. My car is adorable and totally un-momlike. It’s shiny, fuel-efficient, and small, yet, in my fantasy world, can easily accommodate seven or eight adult women.

We arrive at a very posh spa, where we spend the day getting massaged, waxed, plumped, manicured, and perfumed—all without charge, of course. We emerge even more breathtakingly gorgeous than when we entered (as if that’s possible…) and we walk to a sidewalk café where heartbreakingly attractive men bring us all of our favorite foods and beverages for the duration of the afternoon. Mmmmmm. (eyes glazing over)

Wait. What I was I talking about? Oh, right. Mother’s Day. Ech. I’d completely forgotten about my family there for a minute …and that is EXACTLY what I want for Mother’s Day. All other days of the year, I will submit to the needs of my children—at least while they’re awake. I’ll run the house. I’ll pay the bills on time. I’ll do the laundry and the dishes and all the other thankless tasks that need to be done. I’ll even be sympathetic when my husband complains about his job, which we both know is infinitely easier than what I do everyday. But on Mother’s Day, I just want to be left alone. I want a break. I want to take a vacation day and do what I want to do without my family. Is that so much to ask?

I mean, really. Think about it. On Labor Day, when the country is supposed to celebrate how awesome all the employees of the world are, do you want to hang out with the jackasses you work with? Hell, no. You hang out with your friends and/or family and you engage in activities you enjoy. For at-home moms, Mother’s Day is simply another Labor Day and we don’t want to spend it with the jerks from the office. Yes, we love our particular office jerks unconditionally, but we still want a break from them. I realize I don’t speak for every at-home mom—or working moms for that matter—but I definitely speak for all the moms I like to hang out with.

So, Sweetie, if you’re reading this (which you’d better be if you’d like some “attention” later), please try to make my fantasy Mother’s Day happen. To be honest, I’m not interested in the beautiful clothes, stupid cars, or expensive spa trips described above. Just take the kids and leave me alone for a day. That’s all an overworked mom really wants. Oh, and servants. Every mom deserves silent, compliant servants. Personally, I would love me some robot servants, but as I said, I’m a little unconventional.

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Categorized: Midwestern Housewife

Topics: midwestern housewife

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