Archive for August, 2020


We’ll do it live!

We need more excitement. The live music aspect of my life has dried up. A live experience can’t be replicated by a substitute. I’m grateful for virtual gigs, the opportunity for a drive-in show, Red Rocks streaming artists I care for. Those alternatives are noble, they let us continue our connection with artists that mean so much to us. I want to sacrifice sleep again, pack myself into a dirty and sweaty club, have my ear drums further destroyed. All for the love of music.

I find myself seeking out live albums more than ever. Placing the needle on one gives a unique experience from an in-studio recording; boundless energy harnessed from the crowd, showmanship not conveyed in a recording booth, exclusive arrangements. The chance to be transported in front of the stage, so close you happily accept the spittle spewing from your favorite artist’s mouth with not a concern of infection. You welcome the opportunity.

Not an exhaustive list but a few live recordings I appreciate during this period:

Live tracks from Deluxe Editions:

Prince :: Controversy (Live at Masonic Hall Detroit, MI 1982)

Black Pumas :: Know You Better (Live at C-Boys in ATX)

Stunning complete sets:

Bill Withers :: Lean On Me (Live at Carnegie Hall 1972)

Nick Waterhouse :: If You Want Trouble (Live at Pappy & Harriet’s 2019)

Smoking Popes :: Writing a Letter (Live in ’98 recorded at Metro Chicago)

Fela Kuti :: Ye Ye De De Smell (Featuring Ginger Baker)

Prince and the Revolution: Baby I’m a Star (Syracuse, NY 1985 set)

Secret Machines :: First Wave Intact (Live from at the Garage in Highbury, North London 2006)


Nelson Sings Nilsson (Draft Resurrection)

A draft resurrected from 2019 when Sean Nelson, the ex-frontman of Harvey Danger, debuted his best Harry Nilsson re-interpretations with Nelson Sings Nilsson.

What’s a one-hit-wonder to some, was an introduction to me. Harvey Danger, the sharper than most, maniacal power-pop act, released Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone in ’97; to this day, it’s an album I return to for hard-hitting guitar work, witty and dense lyricism, thought-provoking scenarios, and the perfect length: Ten tracks.

If a cherished record’s main conductor branches out and explores his personal interests as an artist, I take note. Sean Nelson is a fan of Harry Nilsson and his creative output; perhaps because of similarities in artistic ability; creative vocal range, craftsman-like songwriter, lack of concern for other’s expectations of your art, or unfortunately, the novelty act factor. Nilsson gained popularity for his ability to deconstruct other’s songs and glue them back together in his own eccentric manner. His covers were varied; Beatles, Joe Cocker, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, amongst countless others.

And now it’s full circle with Sean taking Harry’s tracks as artistic inspiration. Nelson riffs on Nilsson Sings Newman, Harry’s 1970 release of reinterpretations of Randy Newman’s songs, with his Nelson Sings Nilsson record. A grand, fresh collection of 14 tracks spanning the course of Nilsson’s career brilliantly orchestrated with exciting arrangements. Grandiose in style, strings placed strategically for emotional effect, celestial backup singers, jazzy brass stabs, and all overseen by Nelson’s Broadway-ready vocals.

On the opener, “Gotta Get Up”, the theatrical energy grabs you, engages you to tune in, you’re in for a wild experience. Nelson’s brilliant use of a children’s choir masks the abandonment theme on “Daddy’s Song” as they exuberantly sing, “My old man is a good man, he does the best that he can”. Perfect symbiotic harmony between Sean and his young entourage. An unfortunate and sad subject is made into a catchy, bright rendition reminiscent of Annie’s moving numbers.

“Don’t Forget Me” is an ode to a love lost, one that continues to plague its writer, and the listener shares some of that hurt. A tender delivery layered over emotionally-charged strings, a faint minor piano melody, and a heavenly female choir creates a brave state of vulnerability.

This project has been forthcoming for an extended period. As a current fan of defunct Harvey Danger, I welcome any, and all material from Sean Nelson. Sadly, this release is not available commercially. A physical release does not exist, we are graced with this captivating collection thanks to streaming. A record created out of love, a desire to share his unique interpretations and reworks of Nilsson’s cherished output.

Take a minute, scan your artists’ discography, who are you selecting to cover for your next record? The bigger challenge, selecting which songs to put your fingerprint on. Thanks to time, and the deep contemplation it affords us, Sean Nelson strategically painted an awe-inspiring overview of Nilsson’s wide-ranging career as only this underappreciated mastermind can.


Ela Minus’ “El Cielo No Es De Nadie”

If you want it done right, assemble your stacks of synths, self-programmed hardware and software to independently create. Ela Minus has done just that for her forthcoming record acts of rebellion. A release performed, produced, and recorded by herself. The Colombian-born, NYC beat extraordinaire has been whetting my hiding in the corner of a dark, sweaty club appetite. The instigator of an impactful ruckus has debuted her latest, “El Cielo No Es De Nadie”. She reverts to her native Spanish to call attention to small acts of kindness, ones that showcase love while not expecting anything in return. Through airy techno-wizardry Ela blasts us with a heavy thump and again creates a don’t you dare stand still pulse.

Ela on her latest single:

“el cielo no es de nadie” is about all the love I see in small, everyday acts. It’s an invitation to appreciate unheroic, but constant and meaningful actions​. The song’s title, “el cielo no es de nadie,” refers to the phrase “I’ll give you the sky,” a common expression used in Spanish when in love. In the song, I defy it: “You can’t give me the sky / It isn’t yours to give.​”

Pitchfork sat down with Ela to discuss her new record, how Metallica and Kraftwerk molded her current sound, and how much of a badass she became after studying music synthesis at Berklee College of Music. Minus learned how to design and build synthesizers at a highly proficient scale; upon graduation, she became a professional synth creator for Critter and Guitari, an NYC-based manufacturer of aural creativity tools.

acts of rebellion is unleashed on 10/23.


Big Black Delta’s Side of the Road (Draft Resurrection)

A post resurrected from 2013 after Mellowdrone’s incarnation as Big Black Delta. Where his previous act began as a solo effort and morphed into a full band, Big Black Delta is Jonathan Bates and his laptop.

When an act disbands, you hope a key player moves onto something new. Hard times when the instigator and main mover of the act disappears into oblivion. Maybe the lead songwriter forms essentially the same act with a new crew. Others pursue a sound they pushed for within their previous act. It’s a sound you would not have imagined from said artist you followed for an extended period.

Mellowdrone was recommended to me via CMJ – an essential resource for discovering new music pre-Internet era. College Music Journal exposed me to “R.I.Y.L.” or Recommended If You Like these bands, you’ll enjoy this act, too. Surreal to think but CMJ pegged this bedroom-pop mastermind with this R.I.Y.L: sElf, Depeche Mode, & Jeff Buckley. After three steller E.P.s and two full-lengths, Bates pulled the plug on Mellowdrone due to frustration and hostility within the band.

Enter Big Black Delta and his latest single, “Side of the Road”. An electro-pop anthem laced with techno leanings; Bates’ vocoded voice hides his true emotional intentions as a throbbing baseline permeates from start to finish. A colorful, bass-heavy debut appropriate for an adrenaline pump, perhaps a fast tempo run or an ideal soundscape on a mind-altering journey floating you farther and farther from your harsh reality.

Bates on where this sound and lyrical theme originated from:

“‘Side of the Road’ was written during a violent period in my recent life. I saw and experienced some shit that could make one lose their humanistic values. I needed a floating song that reminded me of forgiveness and associated freedom,” Big Black Delta’s Jonathan Bates tells Rolling Stone. “Depending on the light, the song may swing between driving to calming. Depending on my mood, the song could swing between depressing to uplifting. I wasn’t really aiming for a dichotomous message, but that’s where it landed.

R.I.Y.L: Austra, Crystal Castles, & Chromeo


PJ Morton’s “Repay You”

Music is powerful. Its capabilities are why we listen. What it does to you, might not be how it moves me. Your sound isn’t my sound. But stepping outside of our comfort zone can be an uplifting, maybe even born-again experience. Gospel, church music, spiritual, a hymn, this once wasn’t a genre of choice for me.

It only takes one though. PJ Morton gives reason to explore this sound’s movement. The versatile New Orleans keyboardist, delivery man of smooth, emotionally charged R&B is channeling his parents as he sets to lead a congregation on his forthcoming The Gospel According to PJ. As a son of a bishop and pastor, Morton has walked this path since his inception. This spiritual, inspirational sound is coursing through the man’s DNA.

His 2013 record New Orleans was my first exposure to this orchestrator of soulful uplifting jams. This record’s theme is devotion; the triumphs, lows, and periods in between. A timely record for where I was trending in my relationship with my then girlfriend: devoting myself to only one. PJ’s “Repay You”, off his latest record speaks of the same theme in regard to his higher being:

I am forever indebted to You/I’ll go where you lead, what You say, I will do/You see in me what no one else could ever see/I fully surrender even when I don’t understand

PJ recruits gospel’s J Moss for an ode of gratitude and deep contemplation. This hymn’s beauty lies in the feeling created by such simplicity: a soft, bright piano melody; emotive tenor vocals from Moss masterly accompanied by PJ as they hit the highs and bring the congregation to their feet with this timely message:

I have so many friends that are no longer here/Why He took them away and left me here, I’m not clear/I guess I have more to do and He has more assignments for me to complete/I still can’t believe, that You want to use me

You begin the work on creating a record. Then a pandemic shuts down your ability to step into the same collaborative space with your guest stars. But PJ found a calling, knew that this was an integral assignment:

“Growing up in gospel music, it’s definitely the music that inspires and gives hope,” he says. “I started to feel like, ‘let me finish it now,’ because I think people can use this message of love now more than ever.”

It is love we require, but also the permission to slow down, find our purpose, and begin paying it forward by doing the good you’re capable of.


Forgotten Species’ Hades Fades EP (Draft Resurrection)

A draft resurrected from 2014 about a well-respected Chicagoan, one responsible for three acts held in reverence. Acts become quickly forgotten by most, but I take pride in continuing to find present-day connections to these bands lost in obscurity.

My listening habits from my teenage and college-era were formative in what I still listen to. You remove an act from my listening repertoire, the trajectory would have been life-altering. Chicago-based artists have given me more than the city itself. Vivid, timeless memories were crafted thanks to their recorded output and live shows.

Blake Smith is a serial band founder. The Chicago-based artist has been an integral piece in three cherished, still spun today rock-based acts; Fig Dish, Caviar, and Prairie Cartel. All witty, all powerfully orchestrated, and all still queued up long after they’re defunct. Smith is a trusted source, after many years, and countless spins, I have an idea of what to expect from his next venture: Consistency.

His latest experiment: Forgotten Species. A quartet churning out accessible power-pop. The debut Hades Fades EP beautifully showcases Smith’s ability to create guitar-heavy noise-pop songs. A band founded by Blake wouldn’t be one without Brit influences, melody poking through fuzz, and hooks disguised as tasteful noise. Five tracks, no filler, all strong and tasteful reflections on late nights, perplexing romantic interactions, urban mis-adventures. Smith expertly narrates and choreographs what looks to be another coveted rock-based outfit.

I discovered Fig Dish’s unreleased 3rd LP Onamism in 2020. This was a plea to record labels willing to hear the band out as they searched for a new home after being kicked to the curb from A&M Records. Upon purchasing a functioning record player, my goal was to attain any and all records from artists that made me who I am today as a listener. Fig Dish’s 7″ and Prairie Cartel acquisitions nicely padded my collection.

Stream via Spotify:


Thyla’s Fade into Adulthood…

Growing up isn’t easy. Your teenage goal: self-indulgent pursuits. The tasks you were plagued with seem comically simple as you look back. You believed you had it all figured out, though as time went on, the experienced you realized you didn’t know shit.

Brighton’s Thyla bring us “Fade”, an introspective dream-pop number contemplating how to live when you wake from your narcissist dream. This explosive, let’s jump up and shout jam is their third release of this year along the single, “Everything (Vapor)” and their E.P. Everything At Once. With euphoric vocals from Millie Duthie, racing guitars creating a bright pop tapestry, and a build-up that results in a cohesive collaborative knock-out blow, their slow approach to a full-length builds child-like anticipation and giddiness inside this all grown up, mature beyond my years adult.

Duthie’s inspiration and objective with “Fade”:

As you grow up you realize things aren’t as they seem. The more you learn the more you realize you have to learn, and it can be a really painful experience taking off the blinkers of your youth. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a lot of your drive is based on a hedonistic attitude. “Fade” is about waking up to some ugly truths about your personal life and development. How strong are your relationships really and where are you headed if you stay on this trajectory?

Thyla :: Fade


Local H’s No Fun E.P. (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in 2014. This EP was sent to me in July of this year after I realized it was missing from my digital collection. The duo never gave up any of their intensity when this pandemic struck. I’d argue they cranked the dial further than they had had it. Chicago’s strongest, most innovative rock duo continues to give me reason to spin their entire discography.

Streaming is overwhelming. Any stream has come from within my tiny mind, there isn’t a shelf showcasing an arsenal of records making suggestions. I have amassed a large collection of albums and don’t have the brainpower to call all of it to my frontal lobe when it’s selection time. Some records will be forgotten.

Local H’s No Fun, a 6 song E.P. from 2003, was lost in the chasm of albums, E.P.s, and singles only available via physical media. This extended play consists of three originals and three reinterpretations. All are loud, full of cathartic and hearty vocals care of Scott Lucas, and brandish an impenetrable arsenal of sound. Scott and Brian flex their newfound prowess as the new iteration of Local H.

On “No Fun” Scott pleads how the charade is up, the band is bullshit and reeks of insincerity and incompetence through powerful instruments of mass destruction; H places themselves as the head of state in “President Forever” as they proclaim their ability to do whatever the hell they want. A song debuted during GWB’s term, though with lyrics like, “I’m President forever/accountable to no one no more”, it screams at our anti-leader. “Fuck Yeah, That Wide” found inspiration within Primal Scream’s “Kill All Hippies” by borrowing and slightly modifying the line, “You got the money, I got the soul!” to create a psychedelic freak-out. “FYTW” at the time was H’s longest song with a running time of nine minutes and 47 seconds.

Scott shares his influences and current listening habits with his live audience. Most live gigs include a cover song. H tackles The Godfathers’ 1988 tell it how it is “Birth, School, Work, Death” through riff-heavy distortion and emphatic proclamations. And the pandemic timely “I Just Want Something To Do” originally penned by The Ramones has Scott and Brian passionately plugged into their thunderous sound begging for some human contact.

St. Clair debuted as the new timekeeper of Local H on their 2002 LP Here Comes the Zoo. This follow-up demonstrates how cohesive of an act they became through a small body of work. With newfound synergy, Scott and Brian masterly tear any skeptic into shreds in 28 minutes.

Local H :: No Fun

Local H :: Cooler Heads

Local H continues moving forward in 2020:

Scott Lucas LIVE from the Empty Bottle’s rooftop during the pandemic

More Upcoming Drive-in Shows

Local H asking you to take action


Robert Hood’s The Struggle

We are in a state of strife. People are upset. The lack of unity is troublesome. In an alternate reality, one where the solution was simple, an anthem would be the key to inspirational peace. Robert Hood, Detroit techno DJ and producer, brings his hard-hitting acid-heavy sound to move us in “The Struggle”. His intentions could be for a hazy, late-night sweat session in the club; but he wants more: For vital voices, ones that bring us together to right all wrongs, make us jump out of our ignorant stupor and demand better.

Hood masterly incorporates Tamika D. Mallory’s fiery, let’s get shit accomplished “State of Emergency” speech. Her rhetoric is impassioned and bluntly states unconventional methods but objectively plausible ideas over hypnotic, sonic boom-like pulsing.

Damn’t, if you want us to do better, then damn’t you do better!

Robert Hood’s rallying cry is club-ready or battle-prepared for the streets when push comes to shove.


Moving Day Loves Digital Media (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in 2013 on the eve of saying goodbye to another apartment. I wasn’t a gypsy in my former life. Though every 12 months, it was time to move. There wasn’t one reason why this was always the case; but it continued to happen. Drafts from my past are comical to relive. Some make me realize I am the same person, mindlessly living through this ongoing chapter, while others are afterthoughts as I slammed that chapter shut lifetimes ago.

Damn, another lease is up. It’s time to pack up my goods, squash them strategically into my ride, and begin anew. As slightly nomadic, my physical music collection is non-existent. I desire a collection representative of Rob Gordon’s — but before that curation, a permanent residence; or enough means to hire professional movers to safely pack up my collection and treat it as a sacred artifact.

As much as I yearn for yesterday and its tangible music mediums, there is something to be said about being a music fan in 2013. Forget boxes, crates of dusty wax, heavy hardwood shelves to haul. Today’s collection is digital. Pack that laptop and continue your Siamese twin connection with your phone. Your music collection is ready to be shipped.

Ideally, I’d love to peer around my place and be surrounded by musical experiences; records, CDs, gig posters, merch. Today’s streaming options are missing that unreleased 1997 LP from a little known Chicago act, amongst countless other cherished oddities. A light CD collection must exist. My CD collection resides in my car; smashed in the dash, vertically placed in the console, haphazardly in the doors.

When this gypsy-like chapter in my life ends and a new chapter of permanent residency begins, a long-term goal, one that I will attack with great enthusiasm is building a physical, hard as hell to move music collection. Until then, do I have the option to go month-to-month?

Upcoming Shows:


August 2020