Friday, December 31, 2004

Your Best of 2004

Sam(antha) Ross, Laurie's Planet of Sound Best Albums: 10. Two Cow Garage - Wall Against Our Backs 9. Finn Brothers - Everyone is Here 8. Ted Leo - Shake the Sheets 7. the Sadies - Favourite Colours 6. Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose 5. Califone - Heron King Blues 4. Bobby Bare Jr. - From the End of Your Leash 3. Wilco - A Ghost is Born 2. Joanna Newsom - Milk-Eyed Mender 1. Sufjan Stevens - 7 Swans Best Shows: (no particular order) -Decemberists April 1 @ Schubas -Ted Leo June 19 @ the Hideout -Pixies November 14 @ Aragon -Wilco with Calexico September 14 @ the Blue Note (not in Chicago, sorry) -Sloan April 22 @ Metro Best Songs Not on Albums mentioned in Top 10 -Andrew Bird - Sovay (free download on -Magnolia Electric Co. - Down the Wrong Road Both Ways (on CD with Isn't It Romantic, a book of Love Poems) Just a Kid - Wilco (on the Spongebob soundtrack) -God's Coffee - Jay Bennett (from his album Bigger Than Blue. this is what a hit single sounds like in some other much cooler dimension than ours) -Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand (from their s/t album. Come on, it's an awesome dance song!) -TV on the Radio - New Health Rock (CDS or 7" from Touch and Go. B-side is a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover. Perfect!) -Float On - Modest Mouse (from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, another obvious choice, but so so good!) -That's Alright - Nora O'Conor (from 'Til the Dawn, a beautiful cover of a Stevie Nicks song off Mirage) -Nanny Nanny Boo Boo - Le Tigre (from This Island, sometimes, you just wanna dance.) --------------------------------- Ron Saemann - RFC reader Top 15 Albums of 2004 1) The Legends-Up Against the Legends 2) Iron & Wine-Our Endless Numbered Days 3) Franz Ferdinand-Franz Ferdinand 4) The Concretes-The Concretes 5)Camera Obscura- Underachievers, Please Try Harder 6) Arcade Fire-Funeral 7) Interpol-Antics 8) Saturday Looks Good to Me-Every Night 9) A.C. Newman-Slow Wonder 10) The Ponys-Laced with Romance 11) Kings of Convenience-Riot on an Empty Street 12) Loretta Lynn-Van Lear Rose 13) Rogue Wave-Out of the Shadow (reissue on Sub Pop) 14) Air-Walkie Talkie 15) Snow Patrol-Final Straw Top 15 Songs of 2004 15) Sodastream-Otherwise Open 14) Kings of Convenience-Misread 13) Belle & Sebastian-Stop, Look and Listen 12) The Ponys-Let’s Kill Ourselves 11) Preston School of Industry-Caught in the Rain 10) Saturday Looks Good to Me-The Girls Distracted 9) Sondre Lerche-Stupid Memory 8) Futureheads-Decent Days and Nights 7) Intepol-Evil 6) Franz Ferdinand-Take Me Out 5) Snow Patrol-Chocolate 4) Camera Obscura-Keep it Clean 3) All Night Radio-Daylight Til Dawn 2) Iron & Wine-Love and Some Verses 1) Arcade Fire-Neighborhood #3 Honarble Mentions -Wilco-Hummingbird -Magnetic Fields-I Don’t Really Love You Anymore -Legends-Nothing to be Done -Jens Lekman-You Are the Light (By Which I Travel Into This and That) -Concretes-Seems Fine -Air-Surfing on a Rocket

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Your Best of 2004

DJ popscum, WLUW-FM 1) Franz Ferdinand – s/t (Domino) Hype: deserved! 2) UV Turks/Serial P.O.P. – Angst Against Crisis (Good Science, Criminally, brilliantly accessible. I list this for 2004 because seemingly no one but WLUW and the band has been able to get their hands on it and I have no idea when or if it will get a proper release. Why the British music media haven't picked up on these guys baffles me. 3) The Arcade Fire – Funeral (Merge) 4) Interpol – Antics (Matador) 5) The Ponys – Laced with Romance (In the Red) 6) Air – Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) 7) Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner (Matador) 8) The Fall – The Real New Fall lp (Narnack) 9) Hangar 18 – Multi-Platinum Debut Album (Definitive Jux) 10) The Futureheads – s/t (Sire) Honarable Mentions Saul Williams (if it weren't for the couple of hideous Zack de la Rocha-assisted tracks, this would have placed) TV on the Radio Les Georges Leningrad Morrissey Mclusky Tom Waits ------------------------------------------------------ Nicole Chavas - 20. John Vanderslice- Cellar Door (Barsuk) 19. Iron and Wine- Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop) 18. Devendra Banhart- Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God) 17. The Walkmen- Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) 16. Modest Mouse- Good News for People Who Like Bad News (Epic) 15. Air- Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) 14. Animal Collective- Sung Tongs (Fat Cat) 13. Interpol- Antics (Matador) 12. Ratatat- Ratatat (XL) 11. Mirah- C'mon Miracle (K) 10. Franz Ferdinand- Franz Ferdinand (Domino) 9. One AM Radio- A Name Writ in Water (Level-Plane) 8. Xiu Xiu- Fabulous Muscles (5RC) 7. Plastic Constellations- Mazatlan (2024) 6. Of Montreal- Satanic Panic in the Attic (Polyvinyl) 5. AC Newman- The Slow Wonder (Matador) 4. Les Savy Fav- Inches (French Kiss) 3. Junior Boys- Last Exit (Kin) 2. Joanna Newsom- The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City) 1. Arcade Fire- Funeral (Merge)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Your Best of 2004

Pat Van Hulle - music director, WLUW-FM; MP Showster; intern, Billions Corporation Here is my long-winded Top 10 list for the year. I doubt these are truly the“best” records of the year, but they sure are the ones that spent the most time in my CD player. 1. Liars- They Were Wrong So We Drowned / Mute Undoubtedly my favorite record of the year. After shredding two of its members, Liars went to a cabin in the woods (I keep thinking of Evil Dead) and created this dense and dark masterpiece that totally turns its back on the dance punk scene that it was the most viable member of. These guys could have been the next Rapture, Faint, or Interpol, but they chose to follow their collective muse and create a beautiful, challenging, and ridiculously fun record. Strange dichotomies galore. 2. and 3. Isis- Panopticon / Ipecac and Mastodon- Leviathan / Relapse Two of the best metal bands to form in recent memory return with two phenomenal metal albums. You don’t think metal can be a thoughtful and important music genre? Well you haven’t listened to these two amazing albums. While Isis focuses on lush, sprawling epics, Mastodon is a bit rougher combining equal parts King Crimson, Slayer, and early Metallica. I don’t care if you hate metal. Give these albums a listen. 4. No Doctors- ERP Saints / No Sides So maybe their last few LP’s were recorded a bit too lo-fi for you. Well, ERP Saints, which is an ode to East Rogers Park, the neighborhood the band called home for two years, is the band's first professionally recorded material and it shows. The band's blend ofBeefheart, metal, avant jazz, etc. is truly allowed to shine with the better production. “Future Awaken Widen,” the ten-minute epic (which was actually recorded in one magic take) which closes the EP, is one of the best rock songs ever written. I kid you not. Sadly the band has picked up and moved to SanFrancisco. Chicago, I don’t think you understand what you have lost. 5. Oneida- Secret Wars / Jagjaguar One of Brooklyn’s finest returns with another great record. “Caesars Column” has to be one of the best songs of the year. 6. Califone- Heron King Blues / Thrill Jockey I went most of the year without giving this gem its fair chance (I’m still stuck on Roomsound). With the most superficial of analysis, Califone could come off as meandering dad rock, but in reality, Tim Rituli and company have always constructed adventurous and brilliant compositions. Heron King Blues is no exception. I really love how the album seems so quiet, for the most part, but has this deep bubbling under of Beefheart that reveals itself after repeated listenings. 7. Battles- B EP / Dim Mak A supergroup that is, in fact, super. Easily the best new band to release music this year, Battles is Ian from Don Cab, John Stanier from Helmut and Tomahawk, Tyondai Braxton, and David Konopka of Lynx. Their instrumental compositions have a math rock feel, but there really aren’t any crazy time signatures. The album is more based around rigid grooves that manage ebb and flow with a controlled intensity. Stanier is a machine when it comes to keeping a perfect drum beat. 8. Blonde Redhead- Misery is a Butterfly / 4AD Blonde Redhead may have completely abandoned its Chicago ties by leaving Touch & Go and The Billions Corporation while also abandoning its proclivity to write some rocking songs, but that does not take away from the fact that Misery is a Butterfly, which takes the band in a new subdued direction, is a great album. Many of the songs do not really differentiate themselves for each other, but I’ve never really gotten bored with it. Maybe it’s the strings provided by Eyvind Kang. Overall, this is just a classy fucking album. “Elephant Woman,” the title track, and “Pink Love” really stand out. 9. PJ Harvey- Uh Huh Her / Island I’m a sucker for Miss Polly Jean. Heck, I even thoroughly enjoyed the very polished Stories from the City Stories from the Sea. Uh Huh Her takes her back to her earlier days and is probably her best album since Rid of Me. 10. (tie) Ted Leo- Shake the Sheets / Lookout! I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Ted Leo’s enthusiasm and incredible knack for writing extremely catchy music. I thought Bob Pollard was the one that was supposed to have all the pop hooks. The album is as catchy as ever, but Ted has been able to infuse even more intelligent social criticism into these songs. And 10. (tie) Wilco- A Ghost is Born / Nonesuch Its probably cheating to have two number 10’s, but I had to keep this album on my years-end list. The reviewsf or this album have been mixed. Some claim that it is too challenging and some complain that Tweedy’s Crazy Horse-like guitar solos become excessive and pull the album down to the level of lame bar rock. I love the guitar solos and I love most of the “challenging” aspects (sans the 10 minute “migraine in audioform” of track 10). It’s a really good album from a great band. I’ve had more lyrics and melodies from this album stuck in my head than any other this year. Very Honorable Mentions: David Thomas and the Two Pale Boys- 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man’s Chest / Smog Veil It was such a shame that no one showed up to their show at the Empty Bottle. I swear people focus too much on the other Dave Thomas, purveyor of spicy chicken sandwiches. The Pale Boys also did a good job at messing with those Pixies songs on “Frank Black Francis.” Bjork- Medulla / Elektra Bjork teaming up with Mike Patton…what could possibly go wrong? I think some of the songs are among some of my Bjork favorites (“Where is the Line” and“Who is It?”) but overall, I find myself skipping a good chunk of these tracks just like I do on Vespertine. Some of these tracks are not quite as engaging as previous albums. Post and Homogenic are still her only two albums where I don’t want to hit the skip button. Animal Collective- Sung Tongs / Fat Cat Everyone should hear “Kids on Holiday” at least once. Great live band as well. They completely blew Black Dice off the stage. Melvins/Lustmord – Pigs of the Roman Empire / Ipecac Nice collaboration from the princes of sludge rock and Lustmord. 20 years going and still remaining relevant. Mark Lannnegan – Bubblegum / Beggars It’s a shame that people didn’t really pick up on this great solo album from former Screaming Trees and QOTSA member. Its far more rock than his previous solo efforts. Sonic Youth- Sonic Nurse / Geffen 19 albums and still keeping people interested. That’s saying something. Eisterzende Neubauten- Perpetuum Mobile / Mute Aging industrialists getting quiet and contemplative. Very nice indeed. Wolf Eyes- Burned Mind / Sub Pop I was shocked to see that these Michigan noisesters were putting out an album on Sup Pop. Its their most accessable to date, but still nosier than most of what you heard this year. “Stabbed in theFace” has to be one of the best song titles of all year. Tom Waits- Real Gone / Anti Bringing back the guitar and dropping the piano helps make another great album from Mr. Waits. I hear he is touring the states this spring. Here’s to hoping. Modest Mouse- Good News for People who Like Bad News / Epic Brock deserves to have a platinum album. It’s better than those asssholes in Puddle of Mudd or Nickleback getting all the airplay. Iaasac’s lyrics are still pretty clever and the guitar lick of “Float On” is almost too catchy for its own good. Neurosis- The Eye of Every Storm / Neurot I’m always talking up Isis and Pelican, so I should give props to one of their biggest influences. After slipping a bit, Neurosis sounds as viable as ever. Serial POP/UV Turks Great music and sad that they do not get all that much attention. When they do get huge we can say we knew them back when. Best songs from bands that I haven’t already mentioned: "I Luv The Valley Oh!” by Xiu Xiu I really used to hate this band, but this song, and most of the album Fabulous Muscles is fantastic. I still don’t like their wimpy/whiny quiet songs, which are too over the top for my liking. Magnetic Fields’ “I Thought You Were my Boyfriend” and “I Don’t Believe You.” Things I’m concerned about (Besides 4 more years with that one guy): I didn’t really discover any new music this year from bands that I had never heard of. Besides Battles (and that’s a stretch because I already know about Don Cab andTomahawk), all of the albums I really enjoyed this year were from artists and bands that I already know and love. I’ve listened to most of the big records of the year and they just didn’t do anything for me. Am I becoming old and jaded? Or do I just not yet understand the whole Arcade Fire thing?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Your Best of 2004

Chris Baroner - talent booker, Metro BEST ALBUMS (in no particular order) -French Kicks - The Trial Of The Century -TV On The Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes -Spektrum - Enter The Spektrum -The Changes – S/T EP (self-released) -Lansing-Dreiden - The Invisible Triangle -DFA – Compilation #2 -Saul Williams – S/T BEST SHOWS (in no particular order) -The Walkmen & French Kicks @ Metro – March 11 -The Faint & TV On The Radio @ Metro – October 6 & 7 -2 Many DJs & James Murphy @ Smartbar – April 28 -The Decemberists @ Metro – June 4 -Ted Leo/Pharmacists & The Changes @ The Hideout – June 19 -Q and Not U & El Guapo @ Logan Sqaure Auditorium – October 10 -The Futureheads & The Changes @ Empty Bottle – November 10 -Sufjan Stevens @ Schubas – November 18 BEST SINGLES (in no particular order) -Bloc Party – Banquet -Franz Ferdinand – This Fire -The Walkmen – The Rat -LCD Soundsystem – Yeah (Pretentious Version) -The Faint – Paranoiattack -Saul Williams – List Of Demands ------------------------------- Rob Mentzer - RFC reader Best Albums 1. Dizzee Rascal -- Showtime 2. Madvillain -- Madvillainy Blazingly brilliant as a whole album without offering especially good singles, making it something of a relic. But damn it is fine. A leftfield concept album with warm Madlib beats and woozy, chorusless rhymes from MF Doom, it filters Kool Keith, De La Soul and Otis Redding. 3. Modest Mouse -- Good News for People Who Love Bad News 4. Kanye West -- The College Dropout 5. Brian Wilson -- Smile Not for the record that could have been, for the record that is: weird, high-spirited, funny, beautiful. 6. DJ /Rupture -- Special Gunpowder 7. Talib Kweli -- The Beautiful Struggle Beats the hell out of Mos Def's weak genre-straddling The New Danger; it is Kweli's slickest, most mainstream album, and also--hey hey!--his best. Sacrifices no IQ points at all, liberally tossing out literary references and political analysis in polysyllabic rhyme. My choice for Year's Most Underrated Album. 8. The Streets -- A Grand Don't Come for Free Showing novelistic attention to detail, this record is a comedy of manners, a singer-songwriter album in rap idiom, an unmopey, uncorny song cycle about trying to read other people's signals. 9. The Roots -- The Tipping Point 10. RJD2 -- Since We Last Spoke Top 11 Songs (no particular order): - "Float On," Modest Mouse Completely omnipresent and completely exhilarating, all Weltschmerz and pop perfection. The year's best song by a wide margin. Portland Oregon, Loretta Lynn (with Jack White) -"Ch-Check it Out," Beastie Boys -"Yeah," Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris -"Star," The Roots This song's wonderful, enveloping Sly & the Family Stone sample ought to shut up anyone who disparages "easy" loops. -"Mosh," Eminem -"Take Me Out," Franz Ferdinand -"Through the Wire," Kanye West I could list at least four others, but this one, the album's first single, was also my favorite. -"Why," Jadakiss -"Where is the Line," Bjork with Rahzel -"Drop it Like it's Hot," Snoop Dogg Reports of the Neptunes' death have been greatly exaggerated.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Your Best of 2004

Zach Cowie - publicist, Drag City Best Albums: -bill fay - from the bottom of an old grandfather clock (reissue) flawless. where did he come from?! even bill's out-takes and rarities are better than 98.9% of the recorded matter in this universe. -judee sill - heartfood and s/t (reissue) everyone should own both of these. definitely on my list of favorite albums of all time. light soundz/heavy lyricz. -joanna newsom - milk-eyed mender still speechless. -pg six - the well of memory didn't hit me as hard as 'parlor tricks...' but i've grown to really dig it. -sandy denny - a boxful of treasures (reissue) this is by far my box set of the year. amazing selection of tunes with awesome ultra-hobbit packaging. -anything animal collective related i love these guys. probably the most forward group of dudes currently jamming. -relatively clean rivers - s/t (reissue) killer mid-70's rural sounds from unsung hero phil pearlman. -r kelly - happy people/you saved me dan k got me completely addicted...i don't think i'll ever understand why, and i'm totally cool with that. -anything grateful dead related that was reissued/released this year my most listened to and loved band of 2004 is officially the grateful dead. i dare you to find anything radder than the 'dead jamming 'new speedway boogie' in the festival express dvd. back off haters. -comets on fire - field recordings from the sun more bong rattling sounds from my favorite group of dudes ever put in one room. Best Shows of 2004: -comets on fire -vs- wolf eyes in detroit (sorry wolf eyes) -ghost, six organs of admittance, and white magic in san francisco -bonnie/sweeney at that hookah bar in the house of (cham)paign -any of the shows featured in 2004's Festival Express DVD (i cheated a bit) -the 30+ vetiver, joanna newsom, and devendra banhart shows i saw this summer (i miss my family!) ---------------------------------------------- Miranda Lange - publicist, Touch & Go

-nick cave - the lyre of orpheus

-interpol - antics

-the veils - runaway found

-hot chip - coming on strong

-the fall - real new fall lp

-kanye west - the college dropout

-prince - musicology

-madvillain - madvillainy

-xiu xiu - fabulous muscles

-sufjan stevens - seven swans

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Happy Holidays

Well, that about wraps things up for this year... Next week, I'll start posting Top 10 lists from RFC readers and various Chicago music luminaries. The lists should continue at least through the first week of the New Year. Submit yours at

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Brad's Best of 2004, Part 2

6. Dizzee Rascal - Showtime (XL) What can I say...I like this guy! While the domestic release of Boy in da Corner was delayed, Showtime was released in conjunction with the UK schedule, so stateside fans were treated with two Rascit rekids in the same year. I have a feeling that Showtime may have more lasting value, but because Boy in da...was my introduction to Dizzee, I'll probably always be a little partial to it. That being said, Showtime is still a brilliant record and would've been number 1 on my list in any other year. (full disclosure: this may well have even been my second favorite record this year, but I avoided listing Dizzee #1 and #2 on my list so that I wouldn't look like a complete fanboy) 7. Air - Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) What can I say, I'm a sucker for these guys too. They'll probably never be able to top Moon Safari (see introduction rule above) , and this release probably isn't even as good as their last record, 10,000 Hz. Legend. However, it's still Air and it's still a damn good album. Even if the rest of the songs sucked, "Run" alone would have probably secured this record in my top 10. 8. Tom Waits - Real Gone (Anti) I picked this one up on a whim without even hearing a single track, and god damn...Waits has still got it! Dark, edgy and stark, this is a great album and a great sounding recording. (if you have any doubts that analog really does sound better than digital, listen to this record on a good turntable) I don't know how he still does it, but if I'm a third as cool as Waits when I'm 55, I'll be happy. 9. Wilco - A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) As much as it was "cool" to declare Yankee Hotel Foxtrot your favorite album of 2002, it seems to be just as "cool" this year to declare that A a dud. I don't know, I guessed I missed that memo from the cool police or something, because I thought A Ghost was a great record. More great songwriting, more avant-pop blips and bleeps and new-and-improved Verlaine-inspired guitar solos. Was Yankee a better record? Maybe, but it's hard to objectively judge that one because of all the hype that surrounded it. But really...what f^%$n' difference does it make, anyway? A Ghost is a good record and a fine addition to the already solid Wilco repertoire. 10.Loscil - First Narrows (Kranky) Another great record put out by Chicago's Kranky and another great release from Vancouver's Loscil, aka Scott Morgan. Warm atmospheric beats and ambient soundscapes, this is essential listening for anyone digs ambient and/or downtempo electronic music. 11. Madvillain - Madvillainy (Stones Throw) America's most blunted, indeed! This collaboration between producer Madlib and the MC known as MF Doom has been touted by many as the best underground hip hop record of the year, if not of the past 5 years. I say screw the "underground" label, this is just a damn good hip hop record, period. Madlib's insane production skills and Doom's flawless (and always entertaining) rhymes are about as good as it gets in hip hop. My only complaint about the record, (and the reason why it didn't chart higher on my list) is that it suffers a bit from ADD. It seems like just as soon as Doom gets a good flow going and I really start to feel the groove of the song, the Madvillain switches things up and hits another joint. But I guess that's really the point of the record, innit? 12. Brian Wilson - Smile (Nonesuch) Like Madvillain, this too is a brilliant record that seems to have got robbed on my list. However, the real genius of the record was laid down in 1967, so really it was one of the top records of that year, not it seemed that I should knock it down a few notches on my list. Also, in reality, it's not nearly as genius as pop historians had mysticized that it would be (then again, I don't think any album could be) and it's probably a slight step behind Pet Sounds in terms of overall artistic achievement. That being said...and all pretensions and technicalities aside, this is still a damn fine recording that was one of my favorites of the year. Somehow, Wilson was able to make "Good Vibrations" just as good, if not better than the original and the updated "Heroes and Villains" squashes the Smiley Smile version, at least in this reporter's opinion. 2004's Smile is truly a great accomplishment for Wilson and a real treat for orchestral pop fans of all ages. Other Favorites: -Lars Horveth - Pooka (Smalltown Supersound) -Elliott Smith - From a Basement on the Hill (Anti) -Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre) -Various Artists - Tales From the Oxygen Den (Radical Turf) -Vast Aire - Look Mom, No Hands (Chocolate Industries) -DM + Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life (Lex) -Belle & Sebastian - "Your Cover's Blown" -Diverse - "Big Game"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Brad's best of 2004

Here it "best of" albums for 2004 -Brad Knutson, Managing Editor - Radio Free Chicago 1. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner (Matador) This was released in the UK in 2003, and even picked up the Mercury Prize that year. However, I didn't get my grubby little hands on this release until the fine folks at Matador released it domestically early this year. Despite being a cynical and jaded music snob, Boy in Da Corner actually made me say dorky things like "this record's hot!" as if I was some teenage girl talking about the latest Usher record. I didn't know how else to describe it...those beats, those hooks, Dizzee's insane rap style...and a Billy Squier sample. A fucking Billy Squier sample?!? Are you kidding? He seriously just cut of the hottest singles of the new millennium built around a Billy Squier song!! was just all too much. 2. RJD2 - Since We Last Spoke...(Def Jux) In 2002, RJD2 seemingly came out of nowhere to release one of the best records of that year, Dead Ringer, a hip hop-based DJ record built around old soul records. The comparisons to DJ Shadow were inescapable...but it wasn't so much that RJD2 was ripping Shadow off, it was that he had actually beat Shadow at his own game. This year, RJD2 released the follow-up to Dead Ringer and (oh, snap!) he did it again. While there are still plenty of great beats and dusty soul groves, this sophomore effort is a bit more developed and mature. In fact, RJ even busts out a ballad and sings it himself...and it doesn't suck! (Hell, I'd have to say it's one of my favorite tracks on the album) Try that one DJ Shadow! 3. Danger Mouse - The Grey Album (self-released) Ah, the mash-up...they're almost always amusing, but rarely do you want to hear them repeatedly after the initial novelty wears off. That's the beauty of the Grey Album, not only is the concept genius (i.e. putting of the music of The Beatles White Album behind the vocals of Jay-Z's Black Album), but the execution so good that you forget about the whole "novelty" of it, and you just appreciate the genius of the music overall. In fact, this record is so damn good that I'd have to say its preferable to the original, record-label approved, Jay-Z version. 4. The Dead Texan - Self-Titled (Kranky) A side project from Adam Wiltzie, who is best known as one-half of the electronic drone duo Stars of the Lid. Much like his work with Stars..., this record is an amazingly beautiful collection of ambient music and subtle sonic experimentation. To be honest, I've really only experienced half of this project...besides the music CD, the release also includes a DVD containing seven video pieces from video artist Christina Vantzos to accompany each track on the album. Unfortunately, I still don't own a DVD player, but I'm hoping Santa will leave one under the tree this year so I can experience this release to the fullest. 5. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free (Vice) It seems that people either love this guy (Mike Skinner, aka The Streets) or they hate him. I certainly fall into the former category and this sophomore effort did not disappoint. Yeah, it's not as instantly likable or catchy as Original Pirate Material, but A neither an artistic or commercial failure. Rather than just bangin' out another quick set of geezer anthems, Skinner set out to make a concept record and absolutely nailed it. No small feat, to say the least, let alone for a hip hop album. Is it our generation's Tommy or The Wall? Probably not, but it's certainly on par with other milestone English albums like Different Class, Parklife and London Calling. You really have to listen to this album in its entirety to truly appreciate its genius, but there are also some great individual tunes (or as Skinner would say, "bangers") on here. "Blinded by the Lights" and "Such a Twat" are personal favorites, and "Dry Your Eyes Mate" scored Skinner his first number one single on the UK pop charts. Jolly good show, Mike! (stay tuned tomorrow for my 5-10)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Making the list, checking it twice...

Every year as I compile my top ten album list, I always encounter an internal debate in my mind about what constitutes "Best" of the year. 1. Should I base my list on what I listened to most in the year? 2. Should it be based on the 10 records that are still my favorites at this particular point...or should it be the 10 that were my favorites at various points throughout the year? 3. Or, should I be ranking the albums in terms of their overall artistic achievement? Don't get me wrong, this isn't something that keeps me lying awake every night, but these questions always do come into play when I start to compile my list. Obviously, it's impossible to track exactly what records one listens to the most, but usually it's fairly easy to guess which 3 or 4 records you've listened to most. So...should a record that you played the hell out of in the Spring still go in top 10 even though you're now sick of it and haven't listened to it since? Alternately, let's say that record was a pop-album guilty pleasure...Even though it had significantly less artistic merit than some of the more avant-garde selections on your list, it still was a personal favorite and you listened it far more than most anything else. Does it still warrant a top spot or should it be knocked down off the list simply because the songs were simple three-minute, three chord wonders? After these thoughts swirl around in my head for a while and I write and re-write about 5 different versions of my list, my heart usually prevails and I settle on the top 10 that are simply my favorites after all the dust settles. First of all, while artistic achievement is certainly a factor in judging what was the "best" of the year... at the end of the day, it's really about the impact that the music made on you. Doesn't matter if it's low-brow, high-brow or somewhere in-between. If it rocked you're world, it should go on the top of the list. Second, I'm not a rock no need to overanalyze things. Third, after the initial impression or impact that an album has on you, I think longevity is almost as important in determining the value of a piece of art. When something is new, it's real easy to get excited about it and want to spend a lot of time with it. However, it takes something extra special to stand the test of time. Therefore, I think the "best" of the year should be the albums that still sound great on January 1 and still make you want to listen again and again. Stay tuned on Monday for the beginning of my official top ten (or will it be 15?) Also, still plenty of time to submit your ten ten lists...keep 'em coming at

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Basquiat (1960-1988) in the film Downtown '81

Africa Hi-Fi celebrates the life of Basquiat

This Friday at Sonotheteque, the monthly music series Africa Hi-Fi will be celebrating the life of artist Jean Michel Basquiat. In his short life, Jean-Michel Basquiat came to personify the art scene of the 80s, with its merging of youth culture, money, hype, excess, and self-destruction. And then there was the work, which the public image tended to overshadow: paintings and drawings that conjured up marginal urban black culture and black history, as well as the artist's own conflicted sense of identity. He was, all at once it seemed, the ultimate party animal, a wannabe streetkid and grafittist hiding his black Brooklyn middle class roots, an advocate and interpreter of the marginal and dispossessed at the court of the mainstream, an angry black aspirant to the all-white art canon, a precocious talent, a creature of cynical marketing and a fraud, a proto-muIticulturalist, an AMERICAN ORIGINAL. Africa Hi-Fi's "resident Dee-jay selector" Ron Trent will be conducting the tribute all night in conjuction with the International Capoeira Anglola Foundation of Chicago. Doors open at 9pm. Sonotheque is located at 1444 West Chicago

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Miss Mia and Ratso want You

Chic-A-Go-Go hits the big screen!

Chic-A-Go-Go!, Chicago's #1 dance party for kids of all ages, will be rolling film next week for a brand new movie based on the show. If you thought Chic-A-Go-Go! looked great on videotape, what 'till you see it on film! Here's the latest scoop from Ratso: ...this month we are shooting footage that will be in CHIC-A-GO-GO THE MOVIE! That's right, we are working with some talented filmmakers to help shoot a movie version of the show and we will shoot footage on Monday the 20th for that project. We will basically be shooting one episode of Chic-A-Go-Go that night, and we want all the best, prettiest, most unique looking, most Chic-A-Go-Go-ish dancers to be there! We need dancers of all ages, so even though it's in the evening, please bring the little ones if you can! Chic-A-Go-Go Movie Taping MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2004 6:30pm-8pm CAN-TV Studio 322 S. Green St. (Van Buren, 1 block west of Halsted)

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Releases Tuesday (12/14)

Just when I was about ready to give up and post that there wasn't a damn thing to report this week, I ran across this little gem: Mark Sandman - Sandbox (2 disc Box Set w/DVD) (Hi-N-Dry) Morphine leader Mark Sandman was the inventor of a sound called "low rock" — the distinctive blend of sonorous saxophone, bass and deep grooves that, along with Mark’s lyric poetry, propelled Morphine to fame. But Mark created much more than the brilliant music of Morphine. He was a tireless musical experimenter who wrote and recorded constantly throughout his life. Although Morphine and the seminal swamp-blues quartet Treat Her Right became well known and successful, much of his work was never commercially released and remains unheard — except by his large circle of friends, who he regularly commandeered to critique his latest, usually over a bottle of Patron. Sandbox brings everyone into that circle. After 5 years meticulously culling the large collection of original music, poetry and art left behind by Mark after his untimely death in 1999, the surviving members of Morphine, Bill Conway and Dana Colley, have assembled the essential Mark Sandman collection. More a musical adventure than a "greatest hits" set, the 30 songs on Sandbox are connected by the voice and the singular musical and lyrical vision of Mark Sandman. For Morphine and Treat Her Right devotees, it’s a final affectionate encore. For the uninitiated, an invitation to discover the depth and scope of Mark’s unique and challenging artistry. Sandbox also includes a DVD of rare and unseen footage, artifacts of Mark’s career and even more Sandman music.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Lumpen #94

Calling all mix-tape enthusiasts...

Next Saturday, local 'zine Lumpen will be celebrating the release of their latest issue with a party at buddY gallery featuring art installations, a video program, live music, cookies, holiday spirits (PBR) and the "winter potlatch mixtape gift exchange." According to the Lumpen website, all you have to do is, Make a mix cd or tape and wrap it up. Bring it over and exchange it for one made by a fellow human being. If you leave a gift then you can take a gift.(but we'll prolly have some extras..) The party is a fundraiser to pay for the current issue of Lumpen. The hard working staff has "leveraged their Swiss chalet's mortgage to get this one out" and needs to raise some ca$h in order to break even. So get crackin' on your mixtape this weekend and come on out next Saturday to experience some great art and music while supporting local underground media. Oh yeah, it's also going to be a "ski lodge" themed party, so be sure to wear your favorite leg warmers, ski goggles, mittens and scarves. Here's the official info: Saturday December 18, 2004 9pm Lumpen Aprés Ski Party BuddY Gallery 1542 n milwaukee ave 2nd floor 773.837.0145 Suggested donation is $7-$10 Contact if you are lost.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

'Tis the season...

For giving?...Sharing?...Spending time with loved ones? Yeah, there's that stuff too...but most importantly, 'tis the season for making lists. Particularly "best of year" lists that compile all of the best (and sometimes worst) pop culture items and moments from the past year. Among hipsters, record collectors, music geeks and rock critic wannabees, the "Best Albums..." list is of particular importance every year. It allows for everyone to proudly articulate what records they think were "hip," "in" or "most relevant" in the past year and it demonstrates to others where you lie in the music scene spectrum. As a record-collecting hipster music geek, I love compiling my best of list each year and never get tired of checking out what others put on theirs. This year, I'll be compiling "best of" lists from all sort of music luminaries and scenesters around the city and will be posting them in a couple of weeks here on RFC. Feel free to send us your "best of" music lists (best albums, best shows, best singles, etc. ) as well, and we'll be happy to post them as we get 'em. Drop us a line at

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Cure, circa '77

New Releases Tuesday (12/7)

Ho-ho-ho...just 17 shopping days until Christmas, which means the release schedule will pretty much just consist of re-issues, box sets and other collectibles from now up until the new year. Here's a couple of notable collectibles that will look good under the tree this holiday. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys (reissue) 1977 debut album from everyone's favorite goth band finally gets an official domestic release...In addition to the remastered original album, this reissue also includes a bonus disc of rarities, demos and live tracks dating from 1977 to 1979. The White Stripes - Under Blackpool Lights: Live (DVD) It's Jack and Meg, live in your living room! Here's the review from Recorded in Blackpool, England's Empress Ballroom in January 2004 with 8mm cameras, the White Stripes' Under Blackpool Lights comes dang close to capturing the feel of their live show...The grainy film stock is the perfect visual complement to the peals of feedback and strong-armed beats the band delivers in 26 tunes that keep the audience bouncing.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Nobody beats the Biz

Grandmaster Flash and Biz Markie spin tonight at Sonotheque

And it's free! But, as they always say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. (i.e. there's always a catch) And yes, this "free" show is no exception. While you won't have to shell out any actual cash to get in, you do have to RSVP on the sponsor's website and sell, I mean give them your email address. And, at the event I'm sure you'll be subjected to a barrage of subtle advertising schemes to get you to notice the brand. The show is sponsored by Scion, a new car by Toyota that is being marketed to the young and hip under 30 crowd. Rather than using traditional advertising methods to sell the car, Toyota is using more subtle techniques (like music sponsorship, internet marketing) to push the brand. The strategy is to create a "buzz" about the car rather than pound more glossy ads into the minds of cynical Gen-Y's who have become disenfranchised with corporate marketing and advertising. Tonight's performance is a part of an entire tour sponsored by Scion that will be bringing Grandmaster Flash and The Biz to other hip urban locales in Philadelphia, L.A. and Austin, TX. Tonight's show will also feature local hip hop artist Tone B. Nimble (of All Natural) and Chicago DJ The Twilite Tone. Marketing cynicism aside, it sounds like a great line-up of artists, especially for a Monday night. Hopefully the advertising and product placement won't be too obnoxious and your email account won't become overridden by Scion spam after signing the RSVP. My recommendation would be to give them a bullshit email address (or maybe an old hotmail address you rarely use) and then drop Sonotheque briefly to check out the scene. If it's too crowded and the marketing is obnoxious, you can easily bail and won't be out any cash. If everything is fine, then throw down a couple of drinks and enjoy seeing the legendary Grandmaster Flash do his magic on the decks. Sonotheque is located at 1444 West Chicago Ave., go to to RSVP your free admission to the event.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Alternative, My Ass!

Shitty station promotes good music?!?

Conspiculously absent from the RFC concert calendar this week were appearances by The Hives, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, Secret Machines, Califone and Snow Patrol. Normally I wouldn't hesitate to add any of those bands to the concert listings but... They're all be presented by..(gasp!)..Q-101! Yes, I know...The Hives, Modest Mouse and Califone are all great live bands and Franz Ferdinand is easily the hottest rock act of the year...but the show is sponsored by Q-101! I just couldn't list anything associated with that pale excuse of an "alternative" station. Plus, you know that Q-101 association is going to bring the dorks from the 'burbs in like droves to Uptown. Not to mention the shows are at The Aragon (aka The Scaragon) , which is notoriously known for its bad sound. So the crowd is going to suck, the sound is going to suck and you're going to have to pay 6 bucks for lukewarm and watered-down drinks. Resist the urge...all of these bands have played here before and are almost guaranteed to return soon to much better venues. Besides it's not there's a shortage of great shows and events this weekend, here's some quick recommendations: Typical Cats at the Logan Square Auditorium (Fri, 12/3) In the final years of the last millenium, two native New Yorkers added a page to Chicago's hip hop history with the advent of the WHPK Wednesday Night Rap Show. Although short-lived and never formally christened, the Show had heads from Roosevelt to the Hundreds stuck on 88.5 FM midweek. In the show's aftermath, from the ashes of countless vinyl crates and echoes of chaotic show-closing freestyle sessions, Typical Cats was born. Featuring MCs Qwazaar, Qwel and Denizen Kane, producer/dj Natural and media assassin Kid Knish, the Typical Cats are firmly planted in tradition, unorthodox in invention and possessed of a strength only earned in the furnace of experience. Their sound is the Future that hip hop's Past would have had if its Present weren't held hostage by the uninspired and unrepentant. Matthew Dear at SmartBar (Sat, 12/4) Texas-born, Detroit-based Matthew Dear has made remarkable steps toward becoming one of America’s best new techno artists. Between his stunning live performances and evolved DJ sets, Matthew has perked the ears of the industry’s best. His debut album under his birth name, Leave Luck to Heaven, was released in winter 2003-04 on Spectral Sound/Ghostly International, having garnered positive reviews in such publications as Rolling Stone, Spin, NME, and the NY Times and remaining on the CMJ RPM chart for over 13 weeks. "Fruit," Chicago's Queerest Dance Party at The Hideout (Sat, 12/4) WLUW's Think Pink radio program is hosting an event they're dubbing "Chicago's queerest dance party." Think Pink hosts Erik and Ali will be spinning music ranging from 80s to Electro and Hip-Hop to Dance Punk. Chicago's hottest homos, femmes, butches and straights are all invited. Resfest 2004 at MCA (Fri, 12/3-Sun, 12/5) The 8th annual RESFEST Digital Film Festival rolls into Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art this weekend. Advertised as their biggest yet, the festival features short films, music videos, motion design, live music, guest speakers and much more. Currently taking touring 33 cities in 13 countries on six continents, it is the largest festival of its kind in the world. For a complete listing of events, visit

Thursday, December 02, 2004

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Chicago…

No, Dick Clark won’t be trading in his comfy perch atop Times Square in New York for a live broadcast from the Windy City this year… But, as usual, Chicagoans will have a plethora of great bands to ring in the New Year with. As much as I hate to make plans ahead of time, December is now upon us and it’s time to start thinking about what show(s) to check out on New Year’s before tickets sell out. Plus, my usual New Year’s plans are now shot since the Flaming Lips are playing the Big Apple this year, so I really need to start weighing my options. After some investigation, it seems as if Chicagoans have three different options this year if they truly want to “rawk-in" the New Year. 1. Party like it’s 1995! Yes, another rash of alt-rock nostalgia hits the city as Guided By Voices, Urge Overkill and Local H will all be headlining New Year’s shows at local venues. Nothing against local rockers Scott Lucas and Nash Kato, but the one of note here is easily the Guided By Voices show(s). Ever prolific, beer chuggin’ GBV frontman Robert Pollard has decided to put the band to rest, but to the delight of local fans, has decided to go out in style with two final performances at the legendary Metro on the 30th and 31st. I’m not even that big of a fan of GBV, but even I have to admit that this sounds like it will be the best New Year’s Eve party in Chicago this year. Who better than to down beers and rock out with on New Year’s than Bob Pollard? Unfortunately, both shows sold out in like 5 minutes (no big surprise there), so you’re pretty much out of luck unless you want to shell out big $$ to a scalper or ticket broker. That being said, you may want to keep an eye out on eBay or Craig’s List where you may be able to find tickets at somewhat reasonable prices. If all else fails, or if you’re just flat broke, find Santa at your local mall ask him to leave a pair of GBV tickets in your stocking this Christmas. You might also want promise Santa that you’ll leave cookies and beer for him on Christmas morning…I hear that’s his favorite and you’re going to need all the help you can get in trying to get a hold of these tickets. 2. Folk it Up! As usual, Schubas and The Hideout will be featuring rock show line-ups with a bit more folksy twang. Bloodshot's Kelly Hogan will be ringing in the New Year in the quaint confines of The Hideout. Hogan's set should be extremely tight by the time the 31st rolls she is scheduled for a Thursday night residency at The Hideout all month long. Over at Schubas, fellow Bloodshot recording artist Bobby Bare, Jr will be brining a full band up from Nashville (yee-haaa!) to entertain the crowd at the house that Schlitz built. But wait, there's even more Bloodshot goodness...Chicago's very own Nora O'Connor will serve as the opening act for this show. 3. Shake ya ass! Downstairs from the GBV show, resident spinners DJ Colette, Miles Maeda, Justin Long and Brad Owen will be keeping the beats flowing at SmartBar. Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 at the door, but that's a bargain considering this party will be going non-stop until 4am. However, my pick for those who want to shake their ass on New Year's has to go to the RJD2 show at the Abbey Pub. As I've hyped on this site before, RJD2 always puts together great sets and keeps his audiences groovin' all night long. Plus, for this show, RJD2 will be joined by local underground hip hop artist Pugslee Atomz on the mic. Opening the night will be a Galapagos4 showcase featuring Qwel (of Typical Cats), Offwhyte, Robust and Royce. According the Abbey website, the night will feature 3 rooms of music, a VIP room, a balloon drop and champaign toast at midnight. At only $30 bucks a pop ($35 at the door), this show is also sounds like a quite a bargain and is probably where yours truly will be spending his New Year's.

Bobby Bare, Jr.