• Leftovers: 2009

    Posted 04/15/2010 by cal

    I think I heard more new music in 2009 than any year ever, and between show reviews and lists and life, there are a few albums that have been sort of stewing in my brain for months. So, I’m opening up the fridge, poking around and deciding finally what’s edible and what’s garbage. Featuring quick reviews of Pearl Jam, Brett Dennen, Orba Squara, Them Crooked Vultures and more.

  • 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…

  • 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)


    Posted 04/14/2010 by cal

    No matter what definition of “creep” you try to apply to the admittedly funky music played by Madison, Wisconsin’s Steez, it seems like a somewhat arbitrary prefix that probably just sounded cool and stuck, but I’ll give the band a break on semantics because its music is damn good. Does the music creep up on you? Not really; its basis is pretty straightforward, Galactic-style groove with a dash of techno, with some outstanding brass hooks, a good mix of strummed and picked guitar and a fat but busy four-string. In most cases, even if this type of mélange catches fire live, it ends up as faceless funk on record. Give Steez credit for bucking the trend with some truly memorable songs.


    Posted 01/24/2010 by cal

    You might see the term “ambient jazz” and think Kenny G or elevator music, but you’d be way off. Instead, imagine some sparse Brian Eno soundscapes with guitar and sax layered on top. For that extra kick, add some occasional Middle Eastern rhythmic flavor, and you’ve got the gist of Marbin. The Israeli duo (now based in Chicago) has crafted some gorgeous, mellow mood music on its self-titled debut. Saxophonist Danny Markovitch is a bebop player in essence, crisp and breathy, reminiscent of Phil Woods at times. Guitarist Dani Rabin mixes traditional jazz noodling with folky acoustic strumming, prickly classical fingerpicking and echoey dream sequences (à la Buckethead’s Colma). “Crystal Bells” puts the whole package together best, quietly insistent and hauntingly melodic, but with plenty of room for both soloists to stretch out. It’s all very laid back, but the great musicianship will keep you intrigued.

  • Umphrey's McGee, The Hue reviews @ JamBase

    Posted 10/23/2009 by cal

    Better late than never, right? Umphrey's McGee recently unveiled a new event called the "Stew Art Series" (S2), a set of 100% improvised music with themes determined by the audience. I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural event, held at (WHY???) the Eagles Ballroom. Read all about the experiment here.

    Also, I happened across a cool instrumental prog (wince) band out of Chicago called The Hue, and somehow I got JamBase to put up my review of the band's debut album, Beyond Words, which can be found here.

  • Phish: JOY

    Posted 09/08/2009 by cal

    Sorry for all the JamBase links lately. Here's my review of the new Phish album. And here's something I didn't really think belonged in the review: a more fitting tracklisting for the album. Try re-ordering JOY in iTunes if it seems disjointed to you; I think my version works way better, especially if you consider it in double-sided vinyl terms. (If you're feeling really ambitious, some judicious cross-fades help, too...)

    Backwards Down The Number Line
    Kill Devil Falls
    Time Turns Elastic
    Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan
    Sugar Shack
    I Been Around
    Ten Years Later

  • 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…

  • No Line On The Horizon

    Posted 03/11/2009 by cal

    Bono has said in the past that as long as the members of U2 keep challenging themselves, they will remain relevant. That’s got to be a real challenge when ravenous fans are guaranteed to eat up every tour and album you throw their way. Then again, those legions probably wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for U2’s commitment to change.

  • Milwaukee's Best 2008

    Posted 01/21/2009 by cal

    I seriously struggle with the notion that I might be biased just because I live here, and then I go see Decibully play at the BBC and wonder how the hell this band is not playing auditoriums across the country.

  • The Best Music Of 2008

    Posted 01/16/2009 by cal

    Sure, 2008 was a slow year in music, but it was an essential year nonetheless. It’s imperative to get away from the big names sometimes, whether their relative inactivity forces you to or not.





MKE shows Phish Cactus Club SC3 Chicago Animal Collective U2 CWM metal jambase Wilco Pearl Jam Radiohead STS9 Umphrey's indie albums RIP Alpine Valley Turner Hall Altos Juniper Tar lists Buckethead Summerfest Pabst CML Pitchfork Lolla Yeasayer Decibully Claypool Katatonia 2015 Trey IfIHadAHifi the rave Open Mike Eagle Old Earth Opeth Zorn Tame Impala Primus WMSE Death Blues Sat. 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