Dec 28, 2006

Top 50 Albums of 2006: Part Two (40-31)

And the countdown continues with this fairly interesting set of picks, enjoy.

40. The Dust of Retreat - Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos (Artemis) [buy it here]
Technically a 2005 release, this superb album saw wider release this year on the Artemis label and deservedly so - this orchestral indie rock enhanced with strings and brass is a refreshing breath of fresh air.
Check Out: "On A Freezing Chicago Street", "Quiet As A Mouse"

39. The Warning - Hot Chip (DFA/Astralwerks) [buy it here]
This was one of those little albums that underwhelmed me at first, but eventually burrowed its way into my heart and brain with its nerdy yet totally accessible dance tunes.
Check Out: "Over and Over", "(Just Like We) Breakdown"

38. Patent Pending - Heavens (Epitaph) [buy it here]
Matt Skiba brances out from Alkaline Trio into (believe it or not) darker territory inspired by some post-punk favorites with tremendous results.
Check Out: "Dead End Girl", "Heather"

37. Fear Is On Our Side - I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness (Secretly Canadian) [buy it here]
The best named band in indie rock ditches much of the Spoon-fed indie pop of the debut EP, stretching things out into slightly more dissonant, ambient territory without losing the lushness.
Check Out: "According To Plan", "The Ghost"

36. So This Is Goodbye - Junior Boys (Domino) [buy it here]
Fragile indie-poppers tone down the twitchiness of Last Exit to create a more organic follow-up that retains every bit of the melodic genius that made the debut such a treat.
Check Out: "In the Morning", "The Equalizer"

35. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass - Yo La Tengo (Matador) [buy it here]
Indie mainstays bounce back after the slightly disappointing Summer Sun with an album that reads like a career-spanning compilation that touches on every aspect of what makes this band so great.
Check Out: "Black Flowers", "Daphnia"

34. King - T.I. (Atlantic) [buy it here]
Southern kingpin builds upon the brief flashes of potential from his first three albums and crafts a magnificent disc that will cement him as one of the top rhyme-spitters in the game today.
Check Out: "What You Know", "Live in the Sky"

33. The Trials of Van Occupanther - Midlake (Bella Union) [buy it here]
Who knew that a couple young upstarts resurrecting mid-70's singer-songwriter pop-rock could sound so damn good? Think Fleetwood Mac album tracks, only better.
Check Out: "Roscoe", "Young Bride"

32. 120 Days - 120 Days (Vice) [buy it here]
Dark, bombastic Swedish pop driven by Kraftwerk sounding synths and drum machines, what more could you ask for?
Check Out: "Get Away", "Be Mine"

31. Putting The Days To Bed - The Long Winters (Barsuk) [buy it here]
John Roderick sprinkles his earnest lyrics all over this collection of impeccably produced indie pop, something fans of Nada Surf and Spoon would do well to pick up.
Check Out: "Pushover", "Sky Is Open"

Dec 27, 2006

Top 50 Albums of 2006: Part One (50-41)

I think its somewhat fitting that this, the 350th via//chicago post ever, will launch of my annual countdown of my favorite album's of the year. 2006 was an interesting year musically, in that there was plenty of great music to hear but no particular clear cut breakouts ala Arcade Fire and Bloc Party of previous years. Yes there were a lot of albums that I fell for over the last twelve months, but it was very difficult to come up with this list because there were few that I felt strongly dominated the rest of the field. Rather than one or two 'A+' albums towering above the rest, 2006 saw a whole slew of solid 'A' fighting for a position at the top of my list. In fact, at least as far as the top 13 or 14 albums are concerned, I could probably make a case for any one of them being my favorite on any given day or given mood. It was that kind of year, solid but not quite spectacular.

2006 was also a huge year for disappointments, whether it was tried and true favorites completely missing the mark (The Flaming Lips, The Stills, Pretty Girls Make Graves) or other bands making not bad records, but records that just don't quite live up to the standards we know they are capable of (Morrissey, Sleepy Jackson, Tool).

But thankfully, as is usually the case, there were plenty of records that I did enjoy for one reason or another throughout 2006 and here are fifty of them...

50. Everything All The Time - Band of Horses (Sub Pop) [buy it here]
Countrified (but in a good way), layered indie rock that calls to mind such classics as the Byrds and Neil Young.
Check Out: "The Funeral", "The Great Salt Lake"

49. First Impressions of Earth - The Strokes (RCA) [buy it here]
The Strokes grow up and stretch out on their third album, a minor disappointment after the first two stunners but nowhere near as bad as some would lead you to believe.
Check Out: "Heart In A Cage", "Ize of the World"

48. Pieces of the People We Love - The Rapture (Universal) [buy it here]
A much more enjoyable whole than Echoes, even if it does lack a full-out stunner like "House of Jealous Lovers.
Check Out: "Get Myself Into It", "Don Gon Do It"

47. (A) Senile Animal - Melvins (Ipecac) [buy it here]
The stoner/doom/heavy monstrosity hits back hard with double the percussion and ten times the massive, crushing riffs on this monolithic slab of metal-inspired mayhem.
Check Out: "Civilized Worm", "You've Never Been Right"

46. Public Warning - Lady Sovereign (Def Jam) [buy it here]
Jay-Z's unlikliest signee smacks these shores with her bratty brank of UK hip-hop, so good it doesn't matter how many of these singles you've heard before.
Check Out: "Love Me Or Hate Me", "My England"

45. FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake (Jive) [buy it here]
JTim, with some massive help from Timbaland, proves that Justified was no fluke as he catapulted two singles straight to the top of the charts from an album that could spawn about four more just as huge.
Check Out: "Sexy Ladies", "Chop Me Up"

44. Classics - Ratatat (XL) [buy it here]
The duo of Evan Mast and Mike Stroud churn out another thrilling album full of instrumental pieces fit to soundtrack the greatest film never made.
Check Out: "Wildcat", "Lex"

43. Trying To Never Catch Up - What Made Milwaukee Famous (Barsuk) [buy it here]
This Austin foursome overcomes an awkward name to present a polished batch of new-wave inspired pop that lands just east of Spoon.
Check Out: "Idecide", "Hellodrama"

42. Appreciation Night - Bound Stems (Flameshovel) [buy it here]
Chicago's own Bound Stems present an album full of off-kilter yet utterly engaging music that fuses pop melodies, found sound samples, and dissonant guitars.
Check Out: "Wake Up, Ma and Pa Are Gone", "Refuse The Refuse"

41. Game Theory - The Roots (Def Jam) [buy it here]
It's a shame Def Jam's publicity department completely dropped the ball with this album, because this one deserves to be heard by any rap fan - especially those quick to dismiss the Roots after two lukewarm albums. This is the best thing they've done since Things Fall Apart, for real.
Check Out: "In The Music", "Long Time"

Dec 19, 2006

The Other Top 50 Singles of 2006

Hopefully by now you've had a chance to read through, and listen to , my favorite fifty songs of 2006. Well, now I present to you the best of the rest - fifty more singles I enjoyed over the past year, but these ones you'll have to search out on your own. Coming soon, the top albums of the year.

100. "All Sparks" - Editors
99. "Goin' Against Your Mind" - Built to Spill
98. "Fever" - Rhymefest
97. "Silent Shout" - The Knife
96. "Anthem (We Are the Fire)" - Trivium
95. "The Blues Are Still Blue" - Belle and Sebastian
94. "The Fallen (Ruined by Justice)" - Franz Ferdinand
93. "Plan of the Man" - The M's
92. "Air" - Dabrye feat. MF Doom
91. "You Are What You Love" - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
90. "It's A Hit" - We Are Scientists
89. "Through the Fire and Flames" - DragonForce
88. "Sorry" - Madonna
87. "And We All Return to Our Roots" - The Forecast
86. "Life Wasted" - Pearl Jam
85. "Work On You" - MSTRKRFT
84. "Heart in a Cage" - The Strokes
83. "Naive" - The Kooks
82. "Mighty O" - Outkast
81. "It Fit When I Was A Kid" - Liars
80. "We Share Our Mother's Health" - The Knife
79. "Never Went to Church" - The Street
78. "Nine" - Forward Russia
77. "Winter's Wolves" - The Sword
76. "Standing On My Own Again" - Graham Coxon
75. "In This Home On Ice" - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
74. "The Saints Are Coming" - U2 and Green Day
73. "I Want You to Stay" - Maximo Park
72. "Follow Me Home" - Sugababes
71. "Drive Slow" - Kanye West feat. Paul Wall, GLC
70. "Lights and Sounds" - Yellowcard
69. "I Gotcha" - Lupe Fiasco
68. "We Fly High" - Jim Jones feat. Max B
67. "Bang Bang You're Dead" - Dirty Pretty Things
66. "Be Easy" - Ghostface Killah feat. Trife
65. "Wildcat" - Ratatat
64. "In the Morning" - Junior Boys
63. "Cheated Hearts" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
62. "Stars Are Blind" - Paris Hilton
61. "Why You Wanna" - T.I.
60. "Hoppipolla" - Sigur Ros
59. "The View from the Afternoon" - Arctic Monkeys
58. "Where'd You Go" - Fort Minor feat. Holly Brook & Jonah Matranga
57. "Kingdom Come" - Jay-Z
56. "Walk Away" - Kelly Clarkson
55. "Separated by Motorways" - The Long Blondes
54. "Boy From School" - Hot Chip
53. "Hands Open" - Snow Patrol
52. "Vicarious" - Tool
51. "Adventure" - Be Your Own Pet

Dec 17, 2006

Top 50 Singles of 2006: Part Five (10-1)

And, the moment we've all been waiting for, the top ten...

10. "Welcome to the Black Parade" - My Chemical Romance

Proving that the breakthrough year they had in 2005 was no fluke, the New Jersey goth-punkers crank up the bombast and go for broke in this surprisingly satisfying anthem.

9. "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)" - Rihanna
The sample source may have been a little too obvious in 2006, but Rihanna manages to work it in an entirely new way to bring a fresh sexiness to this undeniably catchy hit.

8. "Trains to Brazil" - Guillemots
A completely earnest love song that soars from climax to climax on the back of those fantastic horns, achingly romantic and endearingly uplifting all at once.

7. "7/4 (Shoreline)" - Broken Social Scene

An unlikely and left-field single, but all the rambling looseness falls perfectly in place after everything drops out and the horns swing by to finish things off with a flourish.

6. "SexyBack" - Justin Timberlake
I didn't like this song the first two times I heard it, but eventually the cocksure delivery of JTim's lyrics and the, let's face it, sexy Timbaland production won me over. JTim is pushing his boundaries in all the right ways, without falling over the top ala Gwen Stefani.

5. "When the Sun Goes Down" - Arctic Monkeys
"I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" may have helped break them, but it was this borderline innocent view of prostitutes and pimps that endeared them to many a heart for the long term.

4. "Maneater" - Nelly Furtado
"Promiscuous" may have been more inescapable this summer, but Timbaland pushed his '06 winning streak to new heights with the stunning production on this track. Furtado may have made the boldest sell-out move since the Black Eyes Peas, but at least she sells it convincingly.

3. "Kick Push" - Lupe Fiasco
An intelligent nerd rapper with a skateboard glides out from behind Kanye's overbearing shadow and proves that he's a star in his own right with this metaphorical tale of skating and life in the hood, there's something almost zen-like about the hook.

2. "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley
Much like "Hey Ya" several years ago, Gnarls Barkley hit us with the mainstream breakout single of the year that showcases both Cee-Lo and DangerMouse's star material. For further proof of how killer this song is, seek out the slowed down version from BBC television earlier this year.

1. "When You Were Young" - The Killers
The lyrics may have been questionable at best ("on the back of a hurricane"? "doesn't look a thing like Jesus"?), but this represents the over-the-top bombast of the Killers at their best. A little more Route 66 than the glitz and glamour of the Vegas of "Mr. Brightside", but this is no less anthemic and stirring.

Dec 12, 2006

Top 50 Singles of 2006: Part One (50-41)

That's right folks, it is once again that time of year that music obsessing nerds live for - year-end list time! This year, in a slight change of pace from the last couple years, I'm going to break things down a little and build up whatever suspense can be squeezed from this humble blog. First up, my favorite fifty singles of the year 2006, starting tonight with 50-41. I'll follow up with batches of ten each day until I reach the number one spot, after which I'll repost the entire list along with fifty other worthy tunes that rounded out my top 100 for the year. In another new twist, each of the top fifty singles will be linked to a version for you to check out for yourself. Hopefully sharing all of these songs with you will make the list a little more interactive and fun to read. Enjoy and away we go....

50. "Daydreamin" - Lupe Fiasco feat. Jill Scott
49. "Whole Lotta History" - Girls Aloud
48. "It's Okay/One Blood" - The Game feat. Junior Reid
47. "This Ain't A Scene, It's an Arms Race" - Fall Out Boy
46. "L. Wells" - Franz Ferdinand
45. "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above" - CSS
44. "Sing Me Spanish Techno" - The New Pornographers
43. "The Adventure" - Angels & Airwaves
42. "Dimension" - Wolfmother
41. "Get Myself Into It" - The Rapture

As usual, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts or favorite singles of the year. Singles 40-31 will be up tomorrow.

Dec 11, 2006

"Love is hell, hell is love, hell is asking to be loved."

I first fell for the sound of Emily Haines' voice through her contributions to the always excellent Broken Social Scene collective (particularly the fantastic "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl"), but over the past year or so I've really gotten in to her other work. Metric, her main band, has released two really solid albums of danceable rock full of major hooks; but its her 2006 solo album that has set my heart aflutter recently. This is a more stripped down, but no less captivating, piano-driven affair that is sprinkled with horns, strings, and Emily's beautiful voice. Check out the sample below, as well as a track from the most recent Metric disc. (Click here to buy Knives Don't Have Your Back)

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - "Detective Daughter"

Metric - "Monster Hospital"

Oh yeah, look for my year-end lists to begin appearing within the next couple days.

Dec 7, 2006

"Cause if you see the light then life's alright"

I've spent a good deal of time this year discovering, and in many cases re-discovering, the work of the late Jay Dee. Chances are, unless you've been following the "indie" hip-hop scene closely over the past five years or so, that you've never heard his name (or his later alias, J Dilla) but I'm willing to bet you've heard some of the tracks he's produced. In addition to blazing tracks for De La Soul, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, and Busta Rhymes; Dilla's most famous contribution was to Janet Jackson's "Got Til It's Gone". But as I've learned, his legacy runs deep... real deep. The man was just an amazing producer and I'm glad to see him finally getting his due in 2006 through his work with Ghostface Killah and his own two critically acclaimed albums (Donuts and The Shining), it's a shame that all the praise is coming posthumously. Check out these two tracks he produced for fantastic '90s hip-hoppers Pharcyde and get a taste of a legend. (Click here to buy his albums from Insound)

Also, be sure to look out for Ruff Draft, the two-disc set to be released in '07 on Stones Throw.

Pharcyde - "Drop"
Pharcyde - "Y? (Be Like That) (Jay Dee Remix)"

Dec 6, 2006

"No whips, no chains, just dancing... dancing... dancing...dancing"

I've been a big fan of blogger darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah since I saw them put on one hell of a show at Schuba's last year opening for The National. Tracks have already started to float around from their forthcoming second album, Some Loud Thunder, and my excitement is growing to hear the full thing. The first two songs I've heard, "Underwater (You and Me)" and "Love Song No. 7", build upon the mood established on the debut with a few interesting twists thrown in. "Satan Said Dance", on the other hand, is a completely crazy track that marks a major point of departure for the band. I'm hoping there are a few more curveballs like this thrown on the album, especially if they work as well as this. Check it out for yourself. (Click here for information on pre-ordering the album and to download the other new tracks)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Satan Said Dance"

Dec 4, 2006

"Gonna go back in time..."

As the end of 2006 rapidly approaches and the time for annual list-making draws near, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look back at the history of via//chicago and some of the favorites from the last couple of years. Here's a look back at the top 20 singles and albums of 2003, 2004, and 2005 - the first three years of this site's existence.


Top 20 Singles:
20. "The Way You Move" - Outkast
19. "Where Have All the Rudeboys Gone?" - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
18. "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" - The Darkness
17. "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" - The Postal Service
16. "12:51" - The Strokes
15. "Cry Me A River" - Justin Timberlake
14. "Beautiful" - Snoop Dogg f. Pharrell Williams
13. "Ghettomusick" - Outkast
12. "Stand Up" - Ludacris
11. "In Da Club" - 50 Cent
10. "Gossip Folks" - Missy Elliott f. Ludacris
9. "Move Your Feet" - Junior Senior
8. "Hurt" - Johnny Cash
7. "Stacy's Mom" - Fountains of Wayne
6. "Such Great Heights" - The Postal Service
5. "Ignition (Remix)" - R. Kelly
4. "Me & Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard" - !!!
3. "Seven Nation Army" - The White Stripes
2. "House of Jealous Lovers" - The Rapture
1. "Hey Ya" - Outkast

Top 20 Albums:
20. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
19. Jay-Z - The Black Album
18. Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher
17. Kings of Leon - Youth and Young Manhood
16. Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash
15. The Decemberists - Her Majesty
14. Wrens - The Meadowlands
13. 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Trying
12. Notwist - Neon Golden
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
10. Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
9. Jet - Get Born
8. Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance
7. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
6. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
5. Manitoba - Up in Flames
4. The Strokes - Room On Fire
3. The White Stripes - Elephant
2. The Postal Service - Give Up
1. Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below

Obviously 2003 was all about Outkast and the Postal Service over here, with good reason for the most part. Both released a couple of killer singles and solid albums. To be honest, SB/TLB has slipped a little in my estimation since then and if I had it to do over Postal Service would snag the number one spot. But "Hey Ya" still cannot be denied, I think that would take #1 in any of the years since as well. Surprised to see how much love I gave that Jet album, but I'll still defend it as a fun little rip-off album. Sad to remember how much I loved that Exploding Hearts album, hopefully they will be remembered elsewhere (but more on that in days to come). Also interesting to see how much love I gave Fiddy that year, considering how much he grates on my nerves as of late. The Massacre did suck, but his debut is still a solid rap debut.


Top 20 Singles:
20. "Matinee" - Franz Ferdinand
19. "Drop It Like It's Hot" - Snoop Dogg f. Pharrell Williams
18. "The Rat" - The Walkmen
17. "iGeneration" - MC Lars
16. "This Love" - Maroon 5
15. "Mr. Brightside" - The Killers
14. "Breathe" - Fabolous
13. "Heartbeat" - Annie
12. "99 Problems" - Jay-Z
11. "Move Ya Body" - Nina Sky f. Jabba
10. "Burn" - Usher
9. "Crown of Love" - The Arcade Fire
8. "Me & Mia" - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
7. "Jesus Walks" - Kanye West
6. "Dry Your Eyes" - The Streets
5. "Somebody Told Me" - The Killers
4. "Float On" - Modest Mouse
3. "Toxic" - Britney Spears
2. "The Show" - Girls Aloud
1. "Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand

Top 20 Albums:
20. Green Day - American Idiot
19. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
18. Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands/Nino Rojo
17. The Walkmen - Bows + Arrows
16. The Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South
15. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
14. Iron & Wine - Our Endless, Numbered Days
13. Snow Patrol - Final Straw
12. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
11. Dizzee Rascal - Showtime
10. Interpol - Antics
9. Madvillain - Madvillainy
8. The Ponys - Laced with Romance
7. The Futureheads - The Futureheads
6. Brian Wilson - Smile
5. Junior Boys - Last Exit
4. Kanye West - The College Dropout
3. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
2. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
1. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Wow, even still I think I have a hard time picking which of those top four albums I would place at number one. Depending on my mood, I think a strong case could have been made for any of them. But damn, that Modest Mouse just astounded me throughout 2004 and has continued to do so, such a great album. I think the top singles should have been rearranged slightly - now I'd put "Toxic" on top, followed by "Float On", then "The Show", with "Take Me Out" in at number four. But ah well, half the fun is looking back to see what I was thinking that December. Very, very surprised that "Mr. Brightside" was so low, should have been top five and well ahead of "Somebody Told Me". Oops.


Top 20 Singles:
20. "Still Tippin' (Diplo Remix)" - Mike Jones
19. "Rebellion (Lies)" - The Arcade Fire
18. "So Good" - Rachel Stevens
17. "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)" - Rachel Stevens
16. "Hounds of Love" - The Futureheads
15. "Black and White Town" - Doves
14. "Love Me Like You" - The Magic Numbers
13. "Stay Fly" - Thee-6-Mafia f. Eightball, MJG, & Young Buck
12. "I Turn My Camera On" - Spoon
11. "Long Hot Summer" - Girls Aloud
10. "Dakota" - Stereophonics
9. "Feel Good Inc." - Gorillaz
8. "Two More Years" - Bloc Party
7. "Gold Digger" - Kanye West f. Jamie Foxx
6. "Abel" - The National
5. "Negotiate with Love" - Rachel Stevens
4. "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" - LCD Soundsystem
3. "Krafty" - New Order
2. "Sugar We're Goin' Down" - Fall Out Boy
1. "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson

Top 20 Albums:
20. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
19. Babyshambles - Down in Albion
18. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
17. Magnolia Electric Co. - Trials & Errors
16. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
15. M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us
14. Rachel Stevens - Come and Get It
13. Gorillaz - Demon Days
12. Akron/Family - Akron/Family
11. The National - Alligator
10. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
9. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
8. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
7. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
6. M.I.A. - Arular
5. Opeth - Ghost Reveries
4. Dungen - Ta Det Lungt
3. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
2. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
1. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

Three Rachel Stevens singles? Damn skippy, I was enthralled by that girl last year. But not quite as much as I was with that Bloc Party album, one of my favorite debut records since Interpol's first one. I am so excited to hear new material from them early next year. But the biggest WTF moment of 2005 will always be Kelly Clarkson. If you had told me shortly after she won American Idol that she would one day be topping a list of my favorite songs, I would have punched you in the stomach and stolen your lunch money. Not really, but I would have called you a liar for sure. I hated her on that show, less than Justin to be sure, but I still couldn't stand her singing. Well. I was shown, but good. Damn is that a great, great, great pop tune. Oh. And see those albums numbered 11-9? Still slept on, go check them out.

For those of you Americans that are probably wondering who in the hell Rachel Stevens is, check out the songs below. Wonderful pop, trust me. I couldn't decide which one, so here are four that I absolutely adore:

Rachel Stevens - "Some Girls"
Rachel Stevens - "Crazy Boys"
Rachel Stevens - "I Said Never Again But Here We Are"
Rachel Stevens - "Negotiate With Love"


Dec 2, 2006

"I tore a path screaming through wind and blood, I will it all."

Today's tune comes from the band that single-handedly got me back into metal back in 2004 after falling away from the scene for quite some time. For a while, probably because I just wasn't digging deep enough, it seemed all I could find were half-assed metal/hardcore bands that didn't do much for me. There was no new band to rally around and most of the legends had either faded to shadows of their former selves or burned out completely. Then came Leviathan, Mastodon's second full-length album. The 1-2 punch of "Blood and Thunder" and "Captain Ahab" blew me away and set up what to become one of those albums that I kept coming back to time and time again. These guys knew how to rock out with massive, crushing noise but they had the technical mastery of their instruments needed to back it up. Since discovering this classic, I've finally returned to the murky waters of metal and have managed to find plenty of stuff to keep me satisfied - The Sword, Witch, Opeth, Trivium, Boris, Avenged Sevenfold, and Sunn O))) to name just a few. The track I'm sharing you today comes from Mastodon's excellent album from 2006, Blood Mountain, an album that will be placing very, very highly in my end of year best albums list. Even if you think metal might not be your thing, give this a shot anyway, you just may be surprised. (Click here to buy the album from Amazon)

Mastodon - "Crystal Skull"

Dec 1, 2006

"Tracing the scars, even and cold, as we both become older."

After work today I was preparing for the walk through the freshly fallen snow to the train station and I decided that Elbow's Asleep in the Back would be a good winter album. Turns out I was right. The cold and crisp lethargy of the album matched nicely with the nearly pristine white landscape and the muffled sounds of traffic around me. Particularly striking for me was the seven plus minute epic "Newborn", hitting me in a way it had never done before. I'm not suggesting that you need to find your own winter wonderland to walk around in while listening to it, but it might help. Download it below. (Click here to but the album from Amazon)

Elbow - "Newborn"

Nov 30, 2006

"And she'd love to leave for someplace nice and cold"

With the onset of a major winter storm heading our way, we can no longer delay the season's onslaught. But take heart because, after an extended break, via//chicago is back up and ready to roll again. No fancy redesign like I might have mentioned earlier, I figured I'd rather get back to posting and updates than continue to put off and put off the work for that. It may still come, just not sure when that may be. So for now, welcome back and on with the show...

Several years ago, after moving away from Chicago, Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba ended up living in a house with Josiah Steinbrick - another punk survivor (F-Minus). Lucky for us, another blossoming musical partnership was formed. Steinbrick played Skiba some instrumental tracks, peaking the latter's interest and he went to work on some lyrics to go along with them. Flash forward to 2006 and we find Skiba taking a break from the Trio long enough to drop a full Heavens album and head out on a tour. The material these two have come up with is quite compelling, even if you aren't a big fan of Skiba's main band. This stuff is, believe it or now, even darker and more brooding that much of the Trio stuff - due to not only Skiba's gloomy lyrics but also because of Steinbrick's moody compositions. The bio mentions influences as varied as Sisters of Mercy, Brian Eno, and Television. While I don't know about the Television stuff, the Eno and Sisters comparisons are probably pretty fair. The debut, Patent Pending, owes a bigger debt to post-punk than it does to the leaner punk of their other projects, but that doesn't mean this stuff is lacking in hooks. "Dead End Girl" is one of the poppier offerings on the album, but the last several minutes should give you a good feel for the entire album. (Click here to buy the album from Insound)

Heavens - "Dead End Girl"

Sep 6, 2006

Where'd You Go?
I'm sure you've noticed my complete lack of updates over the last month or so, well... any of you that are left bothering to check back now and again. Well, here's the deal... I've been really stuck as to how I wanted to approach this blog and what goals I'm hoping to achieve. I really love(d) having an outlet to say something about the music I'm listening to and enjoying from time to time, but I'm not sure how great of a purpose via//chicago is/was serving. There are quite a few blogs out there that are much, much better connected than I am and are more apt to bring you the most up-to-date, late-breaking, hipster-world shattering news. There's a hundred better blogs with which to get photos of the latest small venue Band of Horses show, or Zach Braff gossip, or latest indie-rap beefs, or to download those ultra-rare 1970's Venezualean folk nuggets. So what can this little blog add to the online world that would be of value to someone? And here's where you, loyal reader (and I do probably mean that in the singular), come in... let me know. What would you like to see via//chicago do in the future? What did you like about it in the past? What features have you caught here before that you'd like to see more of? Seriously, help me guide this blog in a direction that will be satisfying for all of us. Either leave a comment or hit me up at jon830 (@) yahoo (dot) com. Take out the spaces and parentheses until that address makes sense. And look for a relaunch later this fall.

Jul 28, 2006

Riding The Fader

On October 10th Matador will be releasing Better Days Will Haunt You, a two-CD/one-DVD compilation of everything recorded by criminally underrated '90's band Chavez. Led by Matt Sweeney (later of Zwan and Superwolf with Will Oldham), Chavez put out two fantastic albums in the last decade (Gone Glimmering and Ride The Fader) along with several singles and compilation tracks. All of this will be compiled on the new reissue, color me stoked.

Disc 1:
1. Repeat the Ending
2. Hack the Sides Away
3. Nailed to the Blank Spot
4. Break Up Your Band
5. Laugh Track
6. The Ghost by the Sea
7. Pentagram Ring
8. Peeled Out Too Late
9. The Flaming Gong
10. Wakeman's Air
11. Relaxed Fit
12. The Nerve
13. You Faded
14. Little 12 Toes

Disc 2:
1. Top Pocket Man
2. The Guard Attacks
3. Unreal Is Here
4. New Room
5. Tight Around the Jaws
6. Lions
7. Our Boys Will Shine Tonight
8. Memorize This Face
9. Cold Joys
10. Flight '96
11. Ever Overpsyched
12. You Must Be Stopped
13. Theme From 'For Russ'
14. White Jeans

1. Break Up Your Band
2. Unreal Is Here
3. Boys Making Music... Music Making Men (Documentary)

If you've never heard this band, check back later and I'll toss up a couple tracks well worth the hard drive space.

Jul 27, 2006

Like A Hipster In The Sun

Where's the place to be in Chicago this weekend? Union Park, that's where. I, along with several thousand other sweaty indie rock nerds, will be sweating it out to two full days of great music. Mission of Burma, Yo La Tengo, Art Brut, Destroyer, Liars, Band of Horses, Silver Jews, Devendra Banhart, The Futureheads, Ted Leo, The Walkmen, Spoon, Os Mutantes - how can this festival not satisfy?

A couple new reviews I've written are now up at Static - check out my thoughts on Matt Costa, the latest Sufjan Stevens, and a live show featuring one half of Phish.

Jul 24, 2006

I Don't Want The World To Blow

So I am way late to the game when it comes to The Coup, somehow I totally let this group slide right on by without giving them a listen. I first heard about them thanks to the controversy over the original cover for the band's 2001 album Party Music, but they kept popping up thereafter with heaps of praise. By all right I should have checked them out sooner, as every description made them sound totally up my alley. But for some odd reason I just never got around to it. Luckily I was able to rectify this situation thanks to checking out their set at Wicker Park Summer Fest over the weekend. Boots Riley and his live band brought the funk hardcore, bobbing and educating heads at the same time. My favorite moment, however, belonged soley to guest Silk E as she ran through a smooth R&B jam with quite possibly the greatest reason to get your freak on I've heard in the '06. Click below and check it out for yourself. This is, admittedly, a fairly atypical song for The Coup so do yourself a favor and scope out the entirety of Pick A Bigger Weapon, the band's latest disc.

The Coup f. Silk E - "BabyLet'sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethin'Crazy"

Jul 20, 2006

Emo Kids On A Plane!

212% scarier than snakes! So everyone's favorite not-yet-released cult classic now has a theme song courtesy of Cobra Starship, an emo "supergroup" of sorts. Comprised of members of Midtown, The Academy Is..., and the really hot girl from The Sounds; this song is a completely over the top anthem for the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle due out in August. Click on the link below to revel in the awesomeness for your self...

Cobra Starship - "Snakes On A Plane (Bring It)"

Jul 18, 2006

"When You Were Young"

That's right, a new Killers track has been unveiled and well, pardon the lame expression, but it's pretty killer. Brandon Flowers and the boys are still taking their cues from larger-than-life 1980's arena rock, but this song is much more Bruce Springsteen than Duran Duran. In fact, this is really, really Springsteen... total homage to "Born To Run", right down to the huge break and all. But really, I like it... and it leaves me quite excited for Sam's Town when it drops on October 3rd. Click below for a WinMedia stream from the label:

The Killers - "When You Were Young"

Oh and while I've got your attention, cruise on over to Static and read what I had to say about recent albums by Dabrye and Willy Mason (one I liked a lot, the other... not quite so much).

Jul 14, 2006

The First Ever via//chicago Mix
It's supposed to top out around 97 or 98 degrees here in Chicago this weekend, reason enough to stay inside and listen to some great music - right? Even if you aren't trying to escape the heat, I'm proud to present you with the first ever via//chicago mix. Just shy of 80 minutes of great recent music, just enough to fill up a CD or to make a great iPod playlist. Click on the link just below to download the mix, and remember to support these artists (click on the artist name for more info + the album title to purchase).

via//chicago mix 01: july 2006

01. "Love Me or Hate Me" - Lady Sovereign (taken from the forthcoming Public Warning)
02. "We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol" - Be Your Own Pet (taken from Be Your Own Pet)
03. "Cheated Hearts" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (taken from Show Your Bones)
04. "New Years" - Asobi Seksu (taken from Citrus)
05. "The Great Salt Lake" - Band of Horses (taken from Everything All The Time)
06. "Pittsfield" - Sufjan Stevens (taken from The Avalanche)
07. "Boy Soprano" - Xiu Xiu (taken from the forthcoming The Air Force)
08. "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" - The Pipettes (taken from The Pipettes)
09. "Future Foe Scenario" - Silversun Pickups (taken from the forthcoming Carnavas)
10. "Pink Steam" - Sonic Youth (taken from Rather Ripped)
11. "Lex" - Ratatat (taken from the forthcoming Classics)
12. "Game Over (f. Jay Dee + Phat Kat)" - Dabrye (taken from Two/Three)
13. "Love Like Winter" - A.F.I. (taken from Decemberunderground)
14. "Beanbag Chair" - Yo La Tengo (taken from the forthcoming I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass)
15. "Lost In Boston" - The Walkmen (taken from A Hundred Miles Off)
16. "Love's Been Good To Me" - Johnny Cash (taken from American V: A Hundred Highways)
17. "The Signifying Wolf" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy (taken from Cursed Sleep)
18. "So Far We Are" - French Kicks (taken from Two Thousand)
19. "Around the Gills" - What Made Milwaukee Famous (taken from Trying To Never Catch Up)
20. "Build Me Up (f. O.D.B.)" - Rhymefest (taken from Blue Collar)

Jul 13, 2006

iPod Baker's Dozen Shuffled

1. "Only" - Nine Inch Nails
The only NIN song I have on my iPod right now, mostly because it's a great track for a workout mix. For, you know, those times when I actually work out.

2. "Big River" - Johnny Cash
Oh man, I love this Johnny song. I'm also a big fan of the live Grateful Dead versions.

3. "Eros' Entropic Tundra" - Of Montreal
I finally went back and picked up Satanic Panic In The Attic, what a great frickin' record. I think maybe I just need to work my way backwards through this band's catalog.

4. "Dead Queen" - Espers
The most beautiful song on a beautiful album, one of this year's most pleasant surprises.

5. "Jah Didn't Kill Johnny" - Sage Francis
Not only did I get a Johnny Cash song, but a song about Johnny Cash too. Awesome.

6. "Last Day of Winter" - Pelican
I love this band so much, but it makes for an interesting transition from Sage.

7. "Fall of Another Year" - Can
I really haven't spent enough time with the Can reissues yet, as evidenced by me totally not recognizing this song. It's pretty good though.

8. "Late Night Scamerica" - Psycho and the Birds
Yet another Bob Pollard side project. Not as good as the Keene Brothers, but still a decent tune.

9. "Daughter In the House of Fools" - Enon
I always, always, forget about Enon being on my iPod. I don't know why, they are such a great band.

10. "Head Held High (Live @ Bonnaroo)" - My Morning Jacket
This whole set is phenomenal - the best active American live act in rock? Probably.

11. "The Neutral" - Sonic Youth
A decent Kim song from the new album, not one of my favorites on the disc though.

12. "Talking In Code" - Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
Another of 2006's pleasant surprises... a heartbreaking tune off an excellent album. I think it's safe to say that I'm in love with this song.

13. "The List of Dorms" - Pavement
From the reissued Slanted and Enchanted, which only reminds me how great it will be when the Wowee Zowee reissue hits late 2006/early 2007. That's my favorite Pavement record ever, so bloated and glorious.
A Piece of that Devil's Pie

Since there's still no word on the official release date for Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liqour, we'll have to settle for another rising Chicago rap star in the meantime. Tuesday saw the release of the hotly anticipated Blue Collar, by Kanye collaborator Rhymefest. It's a solid album that I need to spend a little more time with, but there were two tracks that jumped out at me immediately (click on the song titles to hear them for yourself):

"Stick" - The typical misogyny in the lyrics is a little much, but the minimal snap-hop beat mashed with Licensed to Ill era Beastie guitars makes for a fun listen.

"Devil's Pie" - This is the one that you may have heard mentioned on other blogs, the one in which a digitally modified sample of The Strokes' "Someday" forms the track's backbone. Another fun track that props up the second half of Blue Collar.

Jul 12, 2006

Threes is the Magic Number

It looks like the fall of 2006 is shaping up to be a good time to be a fan of either of the splintered halves of At the Drive-In, as both Sparta (October) and The Mars Volta (August 22nd) will each be releasing their third album. Considering how bloated and messy Frances The Mute could be at times, I think I may be more excited at the prospect of a new Sparta disc (something I never thought I would say). Here's the tracklisting for both, along with the cover for TMV's release - seems they are reaching even further back to '70s prog with the ugly album art.

The Mars Volta - Amputechture

1. Vicarious Atonement
2. Tetragrammaton
3. Vermicide
4. Meccamputechture
5. Asilos Magdalena
6. Viscera Eyes
7. Day of the Baphomets
8. El Ciervo Vulnerado

Sparta - Threes

1. Untreatable Disease
2. Crawl
3. Unstitch Your Mouth
4. Taking Back Control
5. Erase It Again
6. Atlas
7. The Most Vicious Crime
8. False Start
9. Weather the Storm
10. Red.Right.Return (Straight In Our Hands)
11. Without A Sound
12. Translations

Visit Sparta's MySpace page to stream "Taking Back Control".

Jul 11, 2006

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Sad news today, as I've just learned that founding member of Pink Floyd and legendary musician Syd Barrett has passed away at age 60. Although he was only around for the very beginning of the band's career and only had a hand in the first couple of albums - Syd's influence on all sorts of music, not just British psych-rock, is immeasurable. I've heard him (half-jokingly) described as the godfather of indie rock, which while maybe not entirely accurate does contain an element of truth. Judging by recent reports, it seems that Syd had recently made peace with a lot of the demons that had haunted him over the years - so let's hope that his was a peaceful passing and that he has no more reason to suffer.

Jul 10, 2006

Sailing The Seas of Smooth

If you haven't yet fallen for this wonderfully random and hilarious web show, do yourself a favor and head over to Channel 101 to watch and/or download all ten episodes. I can't decide which one is my favorite - either the Warren G episode (#7) or the Steely Dan/Eagles feud one (#10). It was time this unfairly overlooked piece of musical history got its due. If you happen to live in the Chicago area, you can take this all one step further - by heading to the Empty Bottle tonight for a viewing of the entire series with director/writer JD Ryznar. Smooth soundtrack to be provided by the Soft As Fuck DJs. Man, I still can't get over that "Skunk" Baxter moustache.

Jul 9, 2006

Girls Aloud To Split?

According to News of the World, one of my favorite female pop groups of the past couple years may soon be no more. Here's a snippit from the article linked above:

But now the most successful female band since the SPICE GIRLS will release their last album — a Greatest Hits compilation.
The source said: "They will split next year.
"They've decided to go their separate ways because things have got so bad between them. They keep trying to outdo each other and it's got ridiculous."

Well, at least that Greatest Hits compilation will be fantastic - it's just a shame that the Girls never had a chance to break over here in the States. I'm not exactly sure how valid the source is, however, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt.
2006//Top 20 Albums @ The Half-Way Point
During my month-long absence from updating this site, the half-way point of 2006 came and went, so it is beyond time to look back on some of my favorite albums of the last six months. 2006 has been an interesting year for music, in that while there has been quite a few good-to-great discs released; there has yet to be anything stunning enough to warrant bucketloads of hype or praise. Below is a list of twenty albums that I've spent a lot of time with this year and have a good chance at staying in high rotation for the next six months as well.

20. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher)
Check Out: "Stadiums and Shrines II", "Shut Up I Am Draming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings", "Snakes Got A Leg III"

19. Hot Chip - The Warning (DFA/Astralwerks)
Check Out: "Over and Over", "(Just Like We) Breakdown", "And I Was A Boy From School"

18. AFI - Decemberunderground (Interscope)
Check Out: "Miss Murder", "Love Like Winter", "The Killing Lights"

17. Mogwai - Mr. Beast (Matador)
Check Out: "Glasgow Mega-Snake", "We're No Here", "Travel Is Dangerous"

16. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - The Dust of Retreat (Artemis)
Check Out: "On A Freezing Chicago Street", "Skeleton Key", "Dress Me Like A Clown"

15. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (Matador)
Check Out: "1001 Pleasant Dreams", "Donna Sumeria", "Nancy Reagan's Head"

14. Robert Pollard - From A Compound Eye (Merge)
Check Out: "Dancing Girls and Dancing Men", "Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft", "I'm A Widow"

13. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam (J Records)
Check Out: "Come Back", "Marker In The Sand", "Life Wasted"

12. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)
Check Out: "A Certain Romance", "When The Sun Goes Down", "Fake Tales of San Francisco"

11. The Sword - Age of Winters (Kemado)
Check Out: "Winter's Wolves", "The Horned Goddess", "Iron Swan"

10. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche (Asthmatic Kitty)
Check Out: "Dear Mr. Supercomputer", "Saul Bellow", "Adlai Stevenson"

9. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (Geffen)
Check Out: "Pink Steam", "Do You Believe In Rapture?", "Jams Run Free"

8. Comets On Fire - Avatar (Sub Pop)
Check Out: "Jaybird", "Lucifer's Memory", "Sour Smoke"

7. Liars - Drum's Not Dead (Mute)
Check Out: "It Fit When I Was A Kid", "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack", "Hold You, Drum"

6. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (Def Jam)
Check Out: "9 Milli Bros", "Back Like That", "Kilo"

5. Boris - Pink (Southern Lord)
Check Out: "Pink", "Woman On The Screen", "Just Abandoned My-Self"

4. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Check Out: "Future Foe Scenario", "Dream At Tempo 119", "Lazy Eye"

3. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (Merge)
Check Out: "European Oils", "A Dangerous Woman Up To A Point", "Painter In Your Pocket"

2. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
Check Out: "Crazy", "Smiley Faces", "Gone Daddy Gone"

1. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet (Ecstatic Peace/Universal)
Check Out: "Adventure", "We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol", "Love Your Shotgun"