Music is kicking ass in 2015!


I found a lot of music to like in 2013. In fact, I found so much good music, I was able to put together a great top 10 list, with several honorable mentions. 2014, however, was not a good music year. That’s not to say there wasn’t some good stuff but at the end of the year, very little stood out to me as music I’d be listening to much after the new year. I loved the Future Islands album and I liked Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas a lot, but that was about it.

Enter 2015, which kicked open the doors in January and has proceeded to continue wrecking the place with a vengeance ever since. I don’t see how we can possibly keep up this pace, but I’m willing to ride it as long as it lasts. Here are just a few of the very early releases this year that are already better than almost anything we saw in 2014:

Sleater-Kinney: No Cities To Love

Oh my, now THIS is how you start a kick-ass year in music. After a seven-year hiatus, Sleater-Kinney has returned with a terrific album that’s about as accessible as it can be while still melting your face off. As my wife said when I played this recently for the thousandth time already: “Wow, they really play loud, don’t they?” Yes, they do.

JD McPherson: Let The Good Times Roll

This one is quickly becoming one of my most-listened to albums of the year. It sounds like music you’ve known forever. It has a very warm sound; perfect.

Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Natalie Prass

I’m not usually much of a country music fan, but this is really great. Admittedly, I don’t like every song, but some of the songs here are as good as anything I’ve heard in a long time.

Viet Cong

From The Vaults:

Don’t forget about terrific music being re-issued. 2015 has already seen two incredibly important, vibrant releases. The Staples Singers album is particularly timely right now while the Lead Belly recordings are amazing at any time. Both are so much fun to listen to, in addition to being important in a historical context.

The Staples Singers: Freedom Highway Complete – Recorded Live at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church

Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

This is the music landscape for 2015 so far and we’re barely into March. If we keep up this pace with this quality, this will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest years in music in a long time. I’m not sure we can maintain this pace but I’m willing to see how long it lasts. Anything I’ve missed so far that is required listening for you?


Review: Peelander-Z at Radio Radio


I first saw Peelander-Z at Riot Fest Chicago in 2013. My friend had heard about them and thought it sounded like they would be fun. Well, that’s a huge understatement. If you can’t have fun at a Peelander-Z show, you’re probably the kind of person who would rather stay home and sort socks. In fact, we loved their Riot Fest set so much we skipped the headliner and caught their after-show at a small club later that night. I knew I was in for a treat on this cold November night.

So for the uninitiated, let’s back up a bit. What do we know about Peelander-Z, besides the fact that they are awesome? According to their website, they come from the planet Peelander. The members present Friday night were Peelander Yellow, Peelander Pink and Peelander Green. I’ve seen Peelander Purple before but he wasn’t around Friday night.

The band is heavy on audience participation, even though they apparently don’t speak English too well (they are from a different planet, after all). This means they rely heavily on sheer energy, limited lyrics and gestures to communicate what they want the audience to do next.

The general flow of a Peelander-Z show is they will introduce a song by chanting the a few times so the audience gets it, then they will do some crazy stuff and finally, launch into the song. The crazy stuff can include stage diving while the other band members play, climbing on someone’s shoulders to sing at an extended microphone, pulling random audience members on stage to play their instruments, or coming down from the stage to lead the audience in a limbo contest, like Peelander Yellow is preparing to do here:

The show Friday night was a lot of fun. It was one of the first really cold nights, so the crowd wasn’t too large but the people who were in attendance were very enthusiastic. That said, it can be harder to coordinate a smaller crowd than a larger one, especially when many were seeing Peelander-Z for the first time. This meant Peelander Yellow took more time trying to communicate to people what he wanted them to do but he ultimately got his point across. They sure seemed like they were working hard, whereas the previous shows I saw they were able to relax more and enjoy a crowd that knew where Peelander-Z was taking them.

If you ever get the chance to see Peelander-Z, don’t miss them. It might look a bit insane (it is) but if you just enjoy the mayhem it will possibly be the most fun you will ever have at a show.

Show Review: Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas were one of the highlights of Riot Fest 2014 for me. They played on the smaller stage and I thought they were terrific. When I heard they were opening for St. Paul and the Broken Bones on Halloween night, I was sold.

JH Deltas

JH came out in a skirt and some amazing checkerboard tights, complimented by tin foil antennae. The rest of her band were also each wearing dresses. Of course, every other member of the band is male, but it’s Halloween and they didn’t have time to find costumes, according to JH.

JH is a terrific performer and has a powerhouse voice. She also knows how to have fun on stage and even gave a shout out to the Chris Farley costume, which probably was the best of the night. They played a terrific set, then got out of the way, which is what you want an opener to do.

I didn’t really know what to expect from St. Paul and the Broken Bones. I was really there to see JH and SPBB were a bit of a bonus in my mind. Not so for the crowd, though. The Vogue was sold out and it was clear they were thrilled to see this band.

SeveralĀ older folks were in the audience also, surprisingly. By older, I mean people in their sixties or seventies. One older gentleman got really drunk and fell into the tables in the balcony towards the end of the night. He seemed ok but that old guy probably had a bad day on Saturday.

SPBB were also a terrific live band. They all wore costumes also, with the lead singer wearing some Heath Ledger Joker-style makeup. They were high energy and tight throughout. The bonus for me: Radiohead and David Bowie covers. Nice!

Some bands just know how to perform live. Indianapolis was lucky to have two bands play The Vogue on Halloween that really understand how to play a crowd.

Next up: Peelander Z at Radio Radio on November 14! Can’t wait for this one. If you like to have fun, this is a can’t-miss show. See you there!