• 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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  • 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 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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  • Panda Bear: TOMBOY

    Posted 05/05/2011 by cal

    The songs on Tomboy aren’t the best songs Panda Bear has ever come up with, although most of them are still really good.  Individually, they’re more interesting for what they evoke, what they remind you of.  For instance, I want to try superimposing Captain Beefheart’s “Bat Chain Puller” over “Afterburner”.  I think it might be awesome.  Also, I think if you strip the title track down to its bare bones, you’ll arrive at nothing but Panda alone strumming an electric guitar and singing.  It’s something we may never see him do, but that’s the essence of the song, like an old Liz Phair demo.  And “Surfer’s Hymn”--go figure--sounds an awful lot like a Beach Boys jam, except on more complicated, modern drugs.

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  • The You-Phoria Guide To Festivals, 2011

    Posted 03/09/2011 by cal

    Now that festivals are big business again, even the hippies have gone hipster, and every year is a PR race to announce the most diverse and crowd-pleasing lineup.  The sense of community is all but gone now from the major three-day parties, and the pioneering spirit that created Bonnaroo is nowhere to be found.  This is already causing a decline in festival attendance and the cancellation of several formerly big names (10,000 Lakes and Rothbury spring to mind).  Still, for the music lover with eclectic tastes, there is an incredible bounty to be had.  Events succeed because with the demise of making records as a career, more and more bands are learning that they must be able to draw crowds playing live if they ever want to quit their day jobs.  Thus, while the big festivals may be on the verge of going dormant again, we concert-goers win by packing as much music as possible into the bulk ticket price.  But which ones are worth the hassle that IS festival life?  Just in case you’re still mulling things over for this year, here’s a handy guide.

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  • The Best Music Of 2010: Non-MKE Edition

    Posted 12/29/2010 by cal

    Yes, there was a lot of good music produced in 2010 outside of Milwaukee too; not much in the way of rock and roll, but we'll hold down the fort here in the Brew City while the rest of the world takes care of the dreampop and chillwave and experimental electronica.  I’m so sick of deciding whether or not to harp on the tidal wave of 80s retro I could puke.  But if you dig post-punk and synthpop, 2010 has been a second golden age, despite how derivative it may be (cue the everything’s-a-rerun-since-The-Beatles choir).  It really has been a terrific year for music (particularly for the 4AD label, holy crap), and there are buttloads of really good albums that I won't even mention here, but everything on this list is essential listening front to back.

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  • Favorite Moments of Wakarusa 2010

    Posted 06/20/2010 by youphoric

    Rivalling even Rothbury 2008, our first trip to Wakarusa this year was everything we had hoped for, and much more. I've tried to pull together some hazy memories and recordings I could find of some of our favorite sets and happenings at this wonderful festival. Read on!

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  • 2000-2009: The Decade In Music

    Posted 04/15/2010 by cal

    No: singling out twenty or so albums as the pinnacle moments from a decade is totally not absurd at all. I based these lists on a nebulous calculation of awesomeness times influence, but since I can’t control the listening habits of the world, sometimes pure awesomeness was enough. The stickler in me really wanted a nice round number for each list, but I came to the decision that only 36 albums really stack up as potential all-time classics for me. If you’re still craving more music-snob sarcasm after reading these lists, feel free to point out any oversights…

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  • The Best Records Of 2009

    Posted 04/14/2010 by cal

    It was kind of a shaky year in most respects, but musically, the 00s went out with a bang. Few (if any) records from ’08 will hold their value as long as the best of ’09. A lot of huge debuts this year bode well for a bright decade to come as well. Before we dive headfirst into it, let's take another look back at 2009. (note: album links should take you to some actual music)

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  • The Best Shows I Saw In 2009

    Posted 04/14/2010 by cal

    I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a better year of live music than 2009. 2001 and 2003 were pretty much neck and neck before, but they were both missing one key ingredient: a revitalized Phish. I wish I could’ve squeezed Radiohead in there somehow, but aside from that, it was as if all my favorite live acts conspired to keep my mind blown for most of the year. And since most (if not all) of them will be touring again in the coming months, ’09 may not even hold the crown for long…but we’ll see. My rule for this list, as always, is only one show per artist; otherwise, there might have only been three bands on it.

    (note: links in the headings are to my original reviews of these shows, where possible)

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  • Lollapalooza review @ JamBase

    Posted 08/13/2009 by cal

    I guess I needn't have stayed up 'til 6 a.m. Tuesday cranking that mother out...but it is finally up at JamBase here. Kudos go to Wesley Hodges, the dude who wrote the other half of the piece and did a stellar job as well (even if he doesn't get Animal Collective), as well as more photos by Chad Smith and scene institution Dave Vann...

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  • 2009 In Music, So Far

    Posted 07/13/2009 by cal

    It’s nowhere near list season, but I guess it makes sense to at least do a quick rundown of some key releases of 2009 in the middle of the year. No one should have to wait until January to be told what to buy! At this point, I haven’t listened to most of this stuff enough to judge it anyway, but here’s what’s striking me so far…

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  • Operation: Adaptation and Animal Collective

    Posted 05/26/2009 by cal

    Just a quick note: my Op:Ad review is finally up at JamBase.com, as well as my Animal Collective review from last week.

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