Thursday, April 28, 2011

put you in a place where you could save yourself

Trips home are always packed to the brim, and this past extended weekend was no different. I went home for my mom's birthday/the end of Passover, so both of those occasions were automatic family time. I also crammed in a Cubs game, seeing two of my friends' apartments that I hadn't been to, and eating all of my favorite foods that you just can't get in New York. Plus, bars and running and CTA riding and figuring out how to drive my dad's car. I got ridiculously low amounts of sleep but it was well worth it.

drinks in Rogers Park 

brunch in Wicker Park 

(rainy and really cold) Cubs game 

Lou Malnati's - best deep dish in Chicago 

gratuitous picture of Sam, my family's cat

The most important thing I learned: the Buff Joe's cheese fries are not the same at every location. Clark Street is the pinnacle. I don't know what's going on at the Green Bay Rd location, but it is merely average-to-bad. 

PS, Chicago friends - I miss you all already!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here are a few of my latest favorite eco-friendly ideas:

Easy to use vertical planters! Attach to any magnetic surface, and come with magnetic panels you can attach to any wall. Raising money now on Kickstarter to launch.

via Design*Sponge

GrowNYC's pilot campaign to collect compostable materials. I've been doing it for a few weeks, it's not difficult at all and gives me a great excuse to head over to the Greenmarket on Saturday mornings.

Last night I saw this little spot featuring a song by The Roots promoting Earth Day (and, well, Honda).

so american

It's barely even spring, and lately all I can think about is summer. The free shows are being announced, I've got my ticket to Newport Folk Fest, and I've shoved all my boots and heavy coats into the back of the closet. Come on, sunshine and warm weather! Summer in America is bookended by two patriotic holidays, with the big one tucked in the middle. Everything gets all red, white, and blue and barbecued. Coachella makes the rest of the country jealous not only for having a stellar lineup, but also because it was basically a summer preview (90 degrees?! seriously??) Everywhere I turn, I see hints of summertime americana...

clockwise from top left: Kate Bosworth at Coachella, pants from Anthropologie, Sea of Shoes, Royal Tenenbaums

plus, now, a clip from the next Portugal. The Man album being released this summer, with an oh-so-appropriate tune:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

come the war

The new video for The Decemberists' song "This is Why We Fight" ties in perfectly with my post from a few weeks ago. The kids in this video, though, remind me a lot of the movie Hook (and why is this "king" dressed kind of like Prince?)

This is also an appropriate segue into a playlist I've had hanging around.

[this is why we fight | rebellion (lies) | life during wartime | atomic | 16 military wives | i fought in a war | ask | bomb repeat bomb | ares | bomb yourself ]

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Let this be my annual reminder / that we can all be something bigger

Last night I saw The Hold Steady at Terminal 5 with some friends. It was the first time I'd seen them since 2008, and their live show has only gotten better and stronger over time. Craig Finn has really embraced his identity as a rockstar of sorts, and fed off of the incredible energy at T5. The crowd must have been 3:2 guys:girls - almost no groups of only girls within my eye range. But also, the problem with a mostly male crowd is that they are also mostly tall and I am decidedly not. Some view issues aside, it was a great night!

Craig talked to the crowd a lot about how much he loves being in The Hold Steady, and how when he was 30 he quit his office job and decided he wanted to go be in a rock band, and soon he's going to turn 40. He thanked the fans for the past ten years being amazing and hoped that the next ten will be equally great. His overwhelming passion for his profession made me go back and consider the Craig Finn mentality of being a 40-year-old rock star to that of the now-retired LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy's reasons for dissolving the band. Going into the show, I had already felt a similarity between James and Craig - they were success stories of the everyman, proving that you don't have to be a teen sensation to form a really awesome band and it can happen at any time. I loved them both as lyricists and observers of modern culture. LCD wanted to end on a high note, wanted to go back and reclaim the lives they had left behind in their quest to be a band. He went on Colbert and basically said that he didn't see himself being a middleaged rock star - it was too weird for him. While I understood where he was coming from, it was disappointing as a fan, and now in comparison it seems like a weaker reason. Thank goodness not everyone feels that way.

On the event page for the show, there was a long piece about The Hold Steady/Craig Finn. Talking about their latest album, Craig says "It's about how bad it hurts to settle for less. It's about not being scared to try. It's about four guys who still believe in the power and glory of rock and roll. Because even after a thousand soundchecks, a thousand load-in and load-outs, fifty missed birthdays, and a few hundred electrical shocks, our reward still vastly outweighs the struggle. In fact, the reward would not exist without the struggle. Thus, this struggle is inherently part of the reward. And in this way, the fantasy of playing rock and roll for a living is a lot like real life." Over the years, as The Hold Steady has grown and released more albums, they have become less of "that weirdly cool band that sings about Charlemagne" and more of a band that I listen to when I need a little encouragement. They don't want you to settle, they want you to grow. Take a page out of Craig Finn's gospel and get something that actually makes you happy. The singalong songs will be our scriptures.

Extra thoughts:
- That video for "Stay Positive" reminds me of how much I loved Franz Nicolay in The Hold Steady, and this was the first time I had seen them without him as a member. It was sad, but they totally killed this concert.
- Speaking of killing, I really liked the video that was floating around recently of Craig Finn showing up at a Mountain Goats show, mashing a little Hold Steady into "This Year" (I'm going to make it through this year if it kills me...and it almost killed me)

This week has kind of flown by. I'm hatching lots of new plans, including reviving my Etsy shop, and dropping off my compostable refuse at the Greenmarket this weekend. In addition, here are a few other tidbits:

Things I did:

* After reading a tweet by @ohjoystudio, I knew immediately that I had to go make myself some Cuban potato balls. They're pretty tasty, though I think I undersalted the potatoes. I'm seriously considering making some for Passover, substituting matzo meal for the breadcrumbs. I think it will be a really good alternative to what I normally end up eating.

* Spent way too much time on tumblr (seriously, I took a long break from looking at tumblr because it was so overwhelming, but I've been sucked back in). Happened across this band, The Dogs, described as being a cross between Belle and Sebastian and Pains of Being Pure at Heart, though after listening to their bandcamp page, I'd go with more of the latter. They're Chicago-based, and one of them is related to teen fashion blogging sensation Tavi. If you like the brand of indie pop that Pains do so well, you'll probably like these guys, too.

(something about their name, and maybe a little of their sound, but more that they're from Chicago, reminds me of highschool when I loved The Dog and Everything).

Things I want:

* Are there no Girl Scouts in NYC? Seriously, though, I have never encountered a single Girl Scout and somehow cookies magically appear every so often. But not this year. :'( I think I may have to take matters into my own hands by trying out this recipe for Samoas (or as we Chicagoans know them, Caramel Delights). (tipped via Cup of Jo)

via Band of Outsiders - I want to be at this sunny tea party! Someone pull me up a 3rd chair!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

look and sound like a movie (part two)

The flip side to my last mix*: songs that remind me of these movies every time I hear them. The first two tracks/movies I completely blame attribute to my parents as I was growing up. Other major players: John Hughes movies, and somehow I've doubled up on Frankie Valli songs. (This was originally inspired by a post on Design*Sponge.)

These songs are from:
Dirty Dancing
Top Gun
Almost Famous
10 Things I Hate About You
The Breakfast Club
Pretty in Pink
Napoleon Dynamite (clearly all clips of these have been kicked off of YouTube)
Say Anything

And two bonus songs/scenes:

Can't Hardly Wait

* EDIT: I made the last mix so quickly I forgot to put on one of the major songs I thought of in the first seconds of its conception before I started the dragging and dropping process of playlist creation.  So, here's the addendum: Grace Kelly (Mika)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

look and sound like a movie (part one)

I was doing work earlier and "Barbara Streisand" came on, leading to being totally distracted making this mix on 8tracks. A complete stream of conscience, songs making direct allusions to old-timey actors / stars.

Track List:
Clark Gable - The Postal Service
Barbara Streisand - Duck Sauce
Fred Astaire - Lucky Boys Confusion
Buddy Holly - Weezer
Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
Steve McQueen - Sheryl Crow
Busby Berkeley Dreams - Magnetic Fields
Hollywood Ending - Sleater Kinney

Sunday, April 3, 2011

when someone great is gone

RIP LCD Soundsystem

I don't know that I've ever been to a concert where it was so clear that every person attending really wanted to be there. The show was long and after a while I was running on adrenaline as I let every song pick me up again. I felt like I needed a five hour energy at the end of the 45:33 run, but then "Us V Them" totally revived me. There had been a lot of speculation about who might come and join them throughout this final show, most of all a hope that Daft Punk would suddenly appear during (of course) "Daft Punk is Playing at My House". While that didn't happen (and for a minute during "Losing My Edge" I had those hopes both revived and squashed again), the people who actually did make appearances were their real friends. It brought a new level to if I could see all my friends tonight. Members of Arcade Fire showing up to sing backup on North American Scum was amazing - their tour together a few years back was the first and only other time I had seen LCD Soundsystem. It was a reference that seemed to mean a lot to all of them, and was also hit me on a personal level.

I sat wayyyy in the back, but it was less about seeing every facial gesture of James Murphy & co, and more about the spirit. And you know, I was there. The "seated" sections rocked out like it was the pit (with slightly less jumping - only so much room, ya know?) The only live performance ever of Bye Bye Bayou? Yes please. Ending the show in a cascade of white balloons to "New York, I Love You (But You're Bringing Me Down)", catering perfectly to the hometown crowd. It was beautiful and sad, even though James Murphy wanted everyone to be pumped up for their last song and not mourn it before it even happened.

LCD Soundsystem is gone, with a bang, but not forgotten.
 the set
 A sea of people decked out in black and white, as requested

 Arcade Fire! blurry! on the jumbotron!

North American Scum!
and if you look really carefully on the left side, you can see Arcade Fire

And of course, there are a million links out there to the entire Pitchfork stream, or chunks of that, but it's almost weird watching that because it's a totally different view than what I had.

As a footnote, I was totally in love with everyone decked out in black and white. Loads of ties and suspenders, and generally people looked top notch. Including Donald Glover (love!!!) who we met in the lobby before the show, which pretty much sealed the deal on this night being amazing before it had even started. Super nice guy, and I love that he didn't go for the solid black tie like all the other guys.

you're so gullible but I don't mind

There are no words to adequately express the sheer joy and energy I felt seeing The Strokes again after all this time, in their hometown no less. In Julian's own words, they hadn't played a "legit show" here in "basically forever." They knew the significance of that show, to a sold out monster of Madison Square Garden, and they absolutely delivered. Sure, Julian apparently can't remember the lyrics/timing to some of their songs (no seriously, I Can't Win was a little weird. Last Night was kind of charming though).

Then of course, there was the major April Fools in the form of Elvis Costello joining in for Taken For a Fool, after already doing a 3-song opening set which everyone thought was the big surprise of the night. It was a definite shocker, and is the only thing that saved playing that song on April 1st from being exceedingly corny. Instead, it was sadly literal because we all got played.

Other highlights:
  • opening with "Is This It," directly into "Reptilia" (felt like "these are the songs that say the names of our first albums!")
  • "Under Control" was done really well - strikingly beautiful performance
  • Julian referring to "I Can't Win" as the opposite of Charlie Sheen.
Here are some (horrible quality) photos and a couple videos that I think capture it all:

Elvis Costello's 3-song opening set

and in case you haven't seen the Taken for a Fool clip anywhere (I didn't get a good one):

Saturday, April 2, 2011

it's the end of an era, it's true*

LCD Soundsystem has the beats and the synths and a real genius in the way the songs build. This is all true. But what makes me come back to them time after time is James Murphy's lyrical genius. They have an inexplicable mastery of the repeated one-liner, and (oddly) poignant observations throughout their danceable songs. In honor of their retirement, this collection of my favorite lyrics is my own salute to LCD Soundsystem.

Life Lessons via James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem:
New York's the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent
Just 'cause I'm shallow doesn't mean that I'm heartless
(Drunk girls)
Just 'cause I'm heartless doesn't mean that I'm mean
(Drunk boys)
Sometimes love gives us too many options
(Drunk girls)
Just 'cause you're hungry doesn't mean that you're lean
Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry
And this is coming from me

Talking like a jerk
Except you are an actual jerk

sound of silver talk to me
makes you want to feel like a teenager
until you remember the feelings of
a real life emotional teenager
then you think again
I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.
I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.

I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know.
I wouldn't trade one stupid decision
For another five years of life
If you're afraid of what you need
If you're afraid of what you need
Look around you, you're surrounded
It won't get any better

* I absolutely refused to call this post "This is Happening" or any variation thereof.

Friday, April 1, 2011

hard to explain

I think I need to mentally prepare myself for how musically epic this weekend may/will be. Since I was sick last week and missed Noah and the Whale, I'm coming off of a bit of a live music drought and diving head first into two literally massive shows at Madison Square Garden.

First up is the Strokes' return to New York. It's amazing how excited I can get over a band whose particular brand of rock n' roll cool relies heavily on an air of apathy. Regardless of whatever problems they may have had putting together Angles, I still think it's a really solid record. The cover art is atrocious, and made me more prejudiced to think the album would be awful than any of their interviews about Julian only liking X% of the songs, etc. I've let it seep in over the course of 2 weeks and several plays, and it has really grown on me. I really do hope they get over whatever creative process problems they had, and continue to put out more music.

The last time I saw them was my junior year, playing on campus. It was absurdly exciting, to say the least.

Speaking of the Aragon, I can't help but feel a little old, because the first time I saw the Strokes there was also my first real concert. One of my favorite pictures is from that night - we look so young! I found a review of that show elsewhere online, and it's like a weird time warp: they didn't even have enough songs to do an encore! And tonight they play to a sold-out Madison Square Garden. So people can say whatever they want about the Strokes, but they'll always be one of the most seminal bands in my rotation.