Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thaw Out

Though it's a blustery 50-degrees in Chicago today, it is still technically Spring! Huzzah. And with Spring comes a mix that, hopefully, will warm y'all up a bit.

"Thaw Out" Mix:

download here: http://download.yousendit.com/7DF299D5679529DD

  1. Thaw Out (Intro)
  2. Sound and Vision The Sea And Cake
  3. Cool Kids Keep [Styrofoam Remix] American Analog Set
  4. Looks Just Like the Sun Broken Social Scene
  5. Shadows White Williams
  6. Temptation New Order
  7. You're Kidding Aren't You? The Field Mice
  8. Into Eternity Jens Lekman
  9. Heart It Races Architecture In Helsinki
  10. Steal My Sunshine Len
  11. You!Me!Dancing! Los Campesinos!
  12. All My Friends Franz Ferdinand

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Speed Reviews

m83: Saturdays = Youth

Best album Anthony Gonzalez has put out BY FAR. The rolling sonic washout of "shoegaze" is still in the mix here, but the vocals, dreamy as they are, are put to the forefront. The thick electro dissipates a bit to make these gorgeous songs shimmer without overwhelming you. m83 was never “inaccessible”, but this one hits the pop palate a lot more than his previous work. A few reviews point out this could be the background synth soundtrack to a never-made Brat Pack movie... sounds crazy, but totally true, and it totally works.

RIYL: French electro, stereo bliss, John Hughes

MP3: "Graveyard Girl"

Biirde: Catherine Avenue

A well-paced strummy summer winner. Definite Rilo Kiley L.A. sound going on here with deliberate midwesterness with some top-of-the-line west coast production values. It’s an exercise that’s pop one minute but often wanders into Ballad Country. Wistful guys and girls swap songs and versus, while songs build and fade tastefully. “Catherine Avenue” is the single they’re pushing (on the website), but the real winner is the cover of “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of” where charmingly hilarious lyrics are underlayed by a jaunty organ wheeled into the studio straight from Haight and Ashbury.

RIYL: The 1900’s, Saddle Creek Records, California mythos

MP3: "Who Were You Thinkin' Of"

Cut Copy: In Ghost ColorsI’m trying to limit the number of Madchester-esque dance/pop bands I claim to love, but I can’t deny that this is a flippin’ great album. A record meant for oscillating wildly to on beer-soaked bar floors and shiny disco ones (and maybe Pitchfork Festival maybe?! Plllllease?!). These guys would tear up the outfield grass in no time. In Ghost Colours will surely usurp Justice’s Cross as THE default records to spin this season -- it's what the Junior Boys would sounds like if they stopped being ethereal and just shook their asses. Standouts include "Out There On the Ice", "Lights and Music" and the can't-miss club banger "Hearts on Fire".

MP3: Hearts on Fire 

RIYL: half-dancing, half-bouncing, New Order

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

With our powers combined...

Well, my overly ambitious plan to sell off lots of my old (but nonetheless awesome) tee's was just that -- a bit too ambitious. I lack the get-up-and-go to get up and blog about all my shirts.

Timbo to the rescue!

Thankfully Milwaukee's second-best export (just behind OldStyle), MKE Magazine's Tim Cigelske is letting me join up with his brilliant (and eco-concious) take on thrift-store shirt sales: TeeCycle.org. Tim was doing something very close to what I was thinking, except, you know, more selflessly and environmentally-friendly.

Tim makes some excellent points that I never even considered -- why buy mass-produced new shirts that go through extra processes to appear vintage, when you can buy a cheaper, rarer, actual vintage shirts? Especially with part of the cost going directly back into preserving urban green space. There's all sorts of good karma going on here.

The shirts are sorted by tags, and will be on sale for a flat rate (including shipping), with one dollar of every purchase going towards local charity. I'll be posting tee's up on that site, so get the RSS from http://www.teecycle.org/ and start shrit-shoppin':

Teecycle believes that your T-shirt says a lot about you, whether you know it or not.

When you buy off a rack in a department store, it says you have limited imagination, support giant corporate profits and have thousands of replicas. Who wants that?

When you own a Teecycle shirt, it says you have a unique one-of-a-kind item of clothing. It also says you care about the environment by keeping a perfectly usable item out of the landfill.

Each Teecycle shirt is hand-selected from rummage sales, thrift stores and, in a few cases, friend's closets. Just not a rack in a nondescript department store.

Your purchase also supports the River Revitalization Foundation. $1 of each sale is donated to restore urban river trails and waterways in the Milwaukee area.

First things first: Tim, Jess and I all agreed I'm going to need to find a model with a formidable rack to match pace with our Milwaukee neighbor.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The cab showed up. Always a small triumph, even though that’s what they’re paid to do.

“Where to?”

“Ummm, Belmont and Sheffield,” I say.

From the back, I’m immediately impressed by the cabbie. The seat is tidy, no holes in the cushions, and the seat belts aren’t stuck in the crease of the seat where change, and crumbs, and God knows what else gathers. Plus, the guy looks like he was born to drive a taxi -- rugged but not really dingy at all, maybe mid 40's, black-to-grey hair, accelerating out of stop signs too fast, but very smoothly as cabbies are prone to do.

I wonder what that does for his gas mileage.

Anyways, he’s a solid pedigree of cab driver... as if generations of drivers have developed this man -- his dad must’ve been the Archie Manning of the Livery World. He’s even wearing a newsy cap slightly off-kilter -- a half century out of place but still fitting; an accessory that seems like cliché but something I had to mention anyway.

“Lemmie ask you something”, he says, turning a swift left west onto Logan Boulevard and simultaneously taking the lead in the taxi conversations I usually dread. “How long do you wait for a taxi out here?”

“It usually takes a while. I understand though, it’s pretty far west, there’s probably not any incentive for you guys to get this far out because fares are probably sparse.”

Thoughtful Silence.

The run-on sentence was an attempt to empathize with my “tough life as a cab driver” stereotype. But after blurting it out, I wonder if I’m that transparent yuppie-pioneer, considering 3000 West to be “far west”, asking to be dropped off in Wrigleyville.

“We’ve got this new computer system,” he says, unamused or just disregarding my assertion. “It tracks where we get our calls from, and how often ... ‘supposed to make it more efficient.”

After this information he's quiet again. He zips into another turn, headed North-bound now, as the California Ave Starbucks pans out of my periphery. No one's drinking lattes al-fresco today, it's a sharp November morning.

“Turns out, the majority of the calls for us are in your neighborhood. Hispanics mainly.” He’s speaking demographically here, with no obvious nods towards the pending gentrification of the area.

“Huh,” I say.

I know for every rental space that bookends the blocks of my neighborhood, there are still thousands of brick stand-alone houses, some with porches, some without, some have kids in them, some have the curtains on their picture-windows drawn in the afternoon.

We’re stopped at Cali and Diversey. Olympic Carpets has hastily changed their name to Olympia -- a small city-imposed copyright ordinance in the bid for the 2012 games. You wouldn’t notice it, except for at night, when the “C” in Olympic still shines through the “A” on their light-up sign, making the last letter look slightly exotic, Greek even. The sign on the building reads “Olympi”. I wonder if they’ve fixed their business cards.

With the last left the taxi took he’s already disregarded one of two shortcuts I know through the neighborhood. Avoiding the Western/Elston/Diversey intersection is paramount.

He zooms off the green light, cutting off a driver as we pass under 90/94, and it’s the feeling of an amusement park ride -- loose and freewheeling but secure in the knowledge this is a common experience. No one died yesterday on the ride and no ones going to today or tomorrow. ‘Course, the Tilt-a-Whirl never had to dodge bikes.

My taxi driver takes a right at condo development just past the Orbit Room. 670’s barely audible on the radio as he navigates a tricky diagonal across Elston.

“Howabout them Bears?” he says.

Howabout them indeed. The season’s a joke and I could ramble off about it for the rest of the trip. I relish Bears Talk. It’s a source of pride for me, really. As inept as I am about sports talk, usually riffing on whatever I read last in the Red Eye, The Bears is something I can actually go off on. I don’t know if he knows this, but cabbing it into Lakeview 20 minutes before kickoff, it’s a good conversation to take up. And, anyway, when they’re terrible, it makes for better conversation.

“Oh man,” I say, “it’s rough right now, right? I don’t know about Grossman versus Orton, but Rex is our best shot.” He’s nodding and I know he’s got something to say but I’ve got to keep going. “Grossman’s a great fit for this city.” He makes no sign of finding this an interesting thing to say, but lets me continue. “Chicago runs hot and cold, and if we didn’t have something to complain about, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves,” I wax philosophically.

“I like Orton,” is the assured reply.

Visions of neckbeards flash though my head as we stop-and-go in a part of Avondale I’ve never seen before. We’re making good time. It’s my turn to wait for the continuation of his preposterous comment.

He doesn’t look over his shoulder when he talks, like other cab drivers. He’s ten-and-two as we whiz by lowrise industrial-looking buildings shutdown for the weekend. They line the North Branch of the river -- set up well-before waterfront apartments made a similar location choice. A spot just off the river wasn’t an aesthetic choice when these places were made, it was probably a rustbelt necessity before the city's collar color shifted.

“He’s not the solution either, but it’s the little things,” he follows up on his Orton retort. The right-turn signal is clicking, but he doesn’t lean towards the wheel to get a better view of traffic. We’re taking a right onto Belmont and there’s scaffolding for a new highrise blocking any chance to make a well-informed turn.

The scaffolding that blocks his view is for a building that, when the i-beam skeleton goes up, will be an imposing structure.

Built on an precipice, those that buy on the east side of the building will have quite a view. From left-to-right there’s the DeVry campus and the mid-century smokestack of Lane Tech High School in the distance. From high above the street, looking east, are the strollers and labradors of Roscoe Village. Scanning further right, a stretch of the industrial river winds south. The river, flanked by a new bike path, disappears under the Diversey bridge that divides the two parts of the Lanthrop Homes Project.

“When I watch Orton play,” says the driver, “he does the fundamentals right. When he fakes a handoff, he does it right. The defense is watching him, hell, WE'RE all watching him, and it’s that second of doubt he creates that makes him a pro.”

I think about Grossman; the first-round, Miami-developled, happy-footed gunslinger versus Orton, the unproven, taller, lankier, slightly disheveled 106th pick from West Lafeyette, Indiana.

My driver swings a right onto Belmont, up over the river then swiftly under the Western Ave viaduct: The street that everyone dreads having to cross. I’m taking mental notes.

View Larger Map

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mobile Art

More photos to erase from my phone but now forever enshrined on the InterBlag:

Outside Zionsville, IN

Form over function: Tall, thin space-efficient San Fransisco townhomes in the wide plains of Indiana.

Writing on the Wall

Most graffiti is a sign of low property value. Not this sucker. If you see Cloudy McSilverRain here tagged near you, it means you'll soon be priced out of your neighborhood.


Poor Steezo -- always parked in the wrong place (but technically the right place) at the wrong time.

McDonalds in Lake Station, IN