• Swatty's Top 15 Albums Of 2016

    Posted 02/23/2017 by cal

    So here I am, four years after my last official list. I don’t really have a valid excuse as to why I don’t do these full write-ups on a year-to-year basis. However, I could certainly say 2013-15 was fraught with turmoil, existential crises and career roadblocks. But for the most part, those days are long gone, and now I can finally focus on the important things like these little wonderfully self-gratifying “best of” lists. Twenty-sixteen was certainly a strange year for metal in my humble opinion, as the new releases didn’t flood my ear holes nearly as much as older and more established gems in my music library. Maybe that’s a consequence of me getting older, or maybe it says something about the general quality of the modern metal environment as of late. Nevertheless, I was able to glean a few diamonds from the rough, and the list below details the reasons that made these little opuses so special. Here goes:

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  • Top Ten Black Metal Albums

    Posted 02/20/2017 by cal

    The rules of black metal state that before discussing black metal you must define your parameters. I’m no authority, but everyone draws a line somewhere. Some say it must be made in Norway, like a fine Champagne. Some say it must be satanic, or at least anti-Christian. I tend to overlook ideologies in favor of stylistic concerns; the drumming, the strumming, the chords, the screaming, the feeling. There’s endless variation within the basic framework, and there are always exceptions. Your best bet is to familiarize yourself. You’ll get it eventually if you care to. As such, I don’t count the first wave at all. Venom, Bathory, Merciful Fate, love ya but you’re all just preamble. Modern death and thrash metal bands, too, nothing against y’all, but just because you have satanic lyrics or the occasional interlude of tremolo picking and/or BM shrieking, this doesn’t qualify you. The super-progressive stuff that Enslaved plays (which I love!) and the symphonic bombast of Dimmu Borgir (which I like some of!): no. Blackgaze, no. Whatever it is that Hunter Hunt-Huntsley is doing, no. Otherwise, I think it’s mostly fair game.

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  • The Best Music Of 2014

    Posted 01/20/2015 by cal

    The Beast. Many, many words and numbers and links (and even a few playlists) concerning my favorite musicks of 2014. Enjoy.

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  • The Best Shows Of 2013

    Posted 12/15/2013 by cal

    Enough has probably been said already about that one thing my wife was in, right? Because that was my favorite live music event of the year/coolest thing that has happened in Milwaukee possibly ever, but even on my own blog, I probably won't write about that band much any more. After today, that is; there was a performance prior to my wife joining the band that I don't feel guilty mentioning, and from now on you can just assume that the Altos are still my favorite band in town and everything they do is awesome, until they break up or kick my wife out of the band. Mmmkay? So not counting the Film Fest, here are my favorite shows of 2013.

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  • #MFF2013

    Posted 10/11/2013 by cal

    The Milwaukee Film Festival left me very unfulfilled in 2012 (through no fault of its own!); I happened to be in an awful frame of mind at the opening night party and didn't make it out to anywhere near as many screenings as I hoped (and that irresistibly-titled Eddie - The Sleepwalking Cannibal flick was terrible), but of course Giant Spider Invasion night was awesome in every respect, and then on the final night my core Milwaukee crew had a total blast seeing Let The Bullets Fly and suddenly it was all over. The best thing that happened was it reminded me how much I love GOING TO THE MOVIES. I hate to be that guy, but most modern mainstream movies are a waste of time; obviously that's not an objective statement, but 99% of the time I personally get more out of old and/or independent films than something that's currently playing in a theater. Anyway, I was determined to get more out of this year's fest. Great success!!

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  • Four Days And Seven Nights In Illinois

    Posted 06/02/2013 by cal

    At some point in the future, Honest Tune might get around to publishing my review of Summer Camp.  If not, I don't really care.  It's a load of crap that required only slightly more energy as the staff at Honest Tune put into helping me set it up, and it's not like it was going to garner me any pay.  But I couldn't leave it at that, so here's what actually happened during my end-of-May marathon seven-of-eight consecutive nights of live music in Illinois.

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  • The Best Shows I Saw In 2012

    Posted 02/03/2013 by cal

    When I started looking back on 2012, I definitely felt like it was amazing for records but not so amazing for live music.  If that’s true, it’s only because every year is great for live music, and 2011 will always be tough to beat.  And in terms of the Milwaukee scene, 2012 was easily the best year yet that I’ve been a part of, even if some of my favorite local bands (*cough cough ahem* CELEBRATED WORKINGMAN) virtually went into hiding.  Many highlights from unexpected bands, and of course some reliable greatness from perennial faves, make up this year’s list.  Read on for those highlights.

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  • Swatty's Top 15 Albums of 2012

    Posted 01/29/2013 by cal

    Twenty twelve has been a very busy year for me, musically.  According to the database of my complete music collection, my 2012 query has revealed that I have purchased 90 new releases this year.  This, as far as I know, has given me a greater amount of material to digest and filter through than any year prior.  As such, I can only needlessly worry that I will be omitting something that will undoubtedly re-blow my mind at some later date.  But as I recently discussed with a very close friend, these lists are constantly in a state of flux, and are at best a paragon of ephemerality.  It is truly rare that we encounter those albums that have been impervious to the passing of time and place them permanently on the mantle of our reverence.  This became a constant theme for me as I assembled this list, and while I am comfortable with the inclusions listed below, I can’t help but assume their order will most assuredly change.  All that being said, here are my top 15 albums of 2012.

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  • The Best Music Of 2012

    Posted 01/21/2013 by cal

    I've finally finished, folks!  As the final strains of your next-door neighbor's crappy demo tape fade out, I can now say I've heard every single record produced in 2012.  Therefore, I can now present the definitive list of The Best Music Of 2012.  Yes, I know you are dying to see how your personal opinion matches up with the truth; you shall now have your answers.  I wish I could reveal how my own tastes line up with objective goodness, let you all in on what I'm a FAN of, an indulgence that is only permissible for music writers at this time of year; oh, to afford myself such a luxury!  But what a disservice it would be to you, my dear readers!  In the face of undeniable greatness, what is one man's opinion?  I do welcome any incorrect arguments you may have concerning omissions; please submit them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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  • The "Difficult" Followup to "The Pop Breakthrough"

    Posted 11/09/2012 by cal

    It’s a time-honored tradition, ever since The Beatles followed up Please Please Me with the experimental mindfuck of With The Beatles.  Sometimes the motivation is strategic: fearing a loss of cred, the sudden superstars show they can still get weird.  Come back, disenchanted fans who stood by us until we got famous!  Sometimes, it’s pure iconoclasm, or just an attempt to provoke.  Sometimes it’s laziness.  Sometimes, I suppose, that’s just where the creative minds of the musicians happened to venture.  This year, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, glitterati of the formerly freak-folk Brooklyn Empire (Yeah, I know Ariel Pink is an L.A. nutjob; he got famous thanks to discovery by AnCo and is now an honorary member of the family), pulled this classic maneuver all at once, perfectly timed to give music critics just enough time to let the challenging music sink in before their best-of list deadlines.  If the music is good enough.

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  • The You-Phoria Guide To Festivals: 2012

    Posted 03/16/2012 by cal

    Festivals: they’re not for the jaded, infirm or impatient, and now that they’re everywhere all the time, it’s pretty hip to dismiss them as tiresome and unwieldy, and those criticisms are certainly true. You either have to be one of those folks who delights in the festival atmosphere and sense of community, or you have to be willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of hours and hours of music, sweet music. If you’re one of these types or think you might be, you owe it to yourself to check out the phenomenon, ‘cause if you’re anything like me you could wind up making some of your favorite memories ever at these things. Read on for a rundown on the most notable parties of spring/summer 2012. (Note: We’re Milwaukeeans here at You-Phoria, so adjust travel considerations accordingly.)

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  • The Best Albums Of 2011

    Posted 01/29/2012 by cal

    I confess: in agonizing over end-of-year pieces, the idea of greatness does enter into the equation, as opposed to just what I liked or listened to most this year. Yes, it’s all subjective anyway, but it gets tiresome listening to music critics year after year mock their contemporaries for trying to make a statement beyond “I enjoyed this”, as if he or she is the first unpretentious writer to take that tack. The designation of Album Of The Year ought to carry weight, whether you’re The Academy or some guy on Facebook; it shouldn’t just be the most-tallied record on your last.fm chart. And maybe I only say that because I know I’m going to be listening to several of these albums a lot in the coming months and years yet, and I know my appreciation for them will change so much that using “like” as the basis for a list makes it pointlessly transitory, possibly even inherently invalid, whereas considering greatness, trying (if in vain) to hypothesize an album’s impact, or even what I think its impact should be, makes the exercise more meaningful.

    Then again, judging by the declining market value of music reviews that exceed 140 characters, perhaps this is an exercise in vanity only. Either way, regardless of greatness, my whole point is to get anybody who reads this to check out one or more of these albums that he or she hasn’t heard before, or look at them in a new light and revisit them. So here’s what I really liked an awful lot in 2011.

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  • My Favorite Shows Of 2011

    Posted 12/23/2011 by cal

    If I have any perennial list-readers here, most of them probably sighed preemptively as they imagined what would top my list this year, and they’re all correct: U2 (really impossible to choose between the two shows I saw), Phish (night one at UIC being the best of the seven), Secret Chiefs 3 at the Empty Bottle, Animal Collective at Pitchfork, and Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field. Oops, ya got me: I have favorite bands. I know music critics aren't supposed to reveal those, but there's no sense keeping it a secret. But rather than blather on about them yet again, it’s probably more productive for me to mention the top ten non-my-favorite-band shows of the year. So here goes. (To keep it interesting, I’m going to gloss over other obvious big names (Wilco, Pearl Jam, Primus, STS9), since they’ve all been covered plenty.)

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  • One More Pearl Jam Thing

    Posted 09/09/2011 by cal

    So much went on at PJ20 both in my head and on stages, I still haven’t gotten it all out.  So, at the risk of overstaying the band’s welcome with potential readers, here are my final words on the festival and the state of Pearl Jam.

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  • My Ten Favorite WMSE Programs

    Posted 05/03/2011 by cal

    It is pledge drive time for the best radio station in Milwaukee.  If you listen, you should really give WMSE some money.  Set up a monthly payment plan; are you really going to miss five or ten bucks a month on your credit card?  Isn’t it worth that much to keep this Brew City institution alive?  And if you don't listen, what's wrong with you?  It’s not just a treasure trove of incredible music you won’t hear anywhere else; these DJs, most of them unpaid volunteers, put their hearts and souls into playing music for us.  After all these years, they’ve become like old friends (even if it’s kind of an odd one-way relationship).

    Some of you know this feeling already, and as you glance down this list, I know what you’re thinking: how could Buzz and Grant and Faux Eyes and Melissa and Cosmo Cruz and Alien Andre and Rich Mars not make this list?  Where’s the Chicken Shack and Five & Dime Show and the Mad Kids and Team Metal and Why My Head Hurts?  Answer: they’re all tied for number eleven, because I can listen to every one of ‘em front to back and never feel like changing the station.  On commercial radio, even disregarding the commercials, I’m lucky if I can get through three songs.  WMSE plays almost exclusively good music and way more of it than anybody else.  Wondering what shows you’d enjoy?  Just tune in, give it 15 minutes and see what happens.  That’s what I’ve done for the past 15 years or so; read on for my current ten favorite shows.

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