Album Reviews

My year end review

I cannot decide what my favorite record of the year is!

Not an easy choice.

There is so much music that I listen to.

From Jazz to Rock to Classical Orchestra to Heavy Metal.

My tastes are quite eclectic!

So how do I figure this out?

Well some of the criteria is the following:

1) Number of times played? Am I obsessed?

2) Did I see this artist/band live in concert?

3) Does it stir up a lot of emotions each time?

Ultimately, I have broken it down to 7 specific albums and 1 favorite song!!!



He’s moved beyond his slacker-hipster days of Loser. I have embraced the soft side of Beck with this soft, mellow and acoustic vibe. These songs SOUND like the morning in the winter while drinking a cup of hot coffee. Way to step out of your comfort zone!


I hear the Dylan, Petty, Pink Floyd and Dire Straights influences here. Really dreamy music for sure. I am transported to another time and place every time I pop this record into my ears.


This became a more recent obsession of mine. It has a real addictive sound. Shoe gaze, trippy, mellow, synth pop is some magical stuff for the brain! It reminds me of the band My Bloody Valentine with that Cocteau Twins vibe from the 80’s. Amazing vocals and mind blowing digital effects mixed with grungy guitars.


What can I say? See these posts of mine:

Miss Annie Clark is a Rock Goddess!!!!

Number 3 is DUM DUM GIRLS – TOO TRUE (These ladies are so AMAZING!!!)

Read this article of mine:


(I hate to be lazy but….read this previous article of mine too)

But the truth is….this really was my favorite album of the year because of how rich, potent, spine tingling it is!!! Until……



Holy Cow!!! This was the surprise release of the year! Only my favorite band of all time suddenly came to life after 20 years in absence!!!! Here’s a long spiel:

Firstly if you’re a hard core fan of the Roger Waters era then this probably isn’t for you. Their aren’t many bands who have lost their main writer and reinvent themselves. But David, Rick and Nick did just that. Roger thought he was bigger than the FLOYD! That was a big mistake and firing Rick Wright was also a bad idea.

I’ve always been a fan of Rick and I recommend you take a listen to his solo project Broken China, for me it was sheer brilliance from Rick. For me it’s about paying respect to a Great musician and the quiet man of the Floyd. Yes you could say this is a collection of pieces that where put aside from The Division Bell but does it matter??…. Nope!

This album is a fitting tribute to Rick. David and Nick have given a lot of thought producing a highly pleasurable listening experience, listen hard enough and it will transform you back to your youth. To the band: it’s been a great journey. You will in years to come be regarded as one of the Greatest Rock bands of all time.

Richard Wright RIP

But now I wish to make mention of my favorite song this year…….

FAVORITE SONG…….Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys

Once in a band called Rilo Kiley as their singer, she walks away from the all night parties with the boys. Now in this deep, layered, tonic rock tune things get real! Lewis’ addictive melodies and smart, heartbreaking lyrics about aging, loneliness and being without a child certainly make a huge mark in her career! This is a welcome back moment for this indie Rock queen!!!

2014 has been an awesome year! Believe me, I had so many favorites but these were calculated precisely and are logically my biggest ones! See you next year!!!!!


My CRAZY music mind wants to know!!!!


So I was listening to Paul Simon on the radio just moments ago and I was starting to think to myself, man there are a lot of albums out there! Like an unbelievable amount! Over the last century, at least! Not that long ago, I was trying to compile a list of the top ten albums that most people can agree on as being some of the best albums ever recorded. It yielded a lot of ones like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis for Jazz, The Beach Boys. All of those. But it always seems like I am putting something new on my iPhone or iPad device because I wanna hear something different, fresh and new. Perhaps a record I haven’t heard in a number of years.

So first and foremost, I am only speaking on behalf of myself but I look back when I was a kid and the music that I grew up with and this is sort of a continuation from a post maybe a few months ago where I was talking about what kind of music I like and I posted a bunch of videos from the stuff of the 1980’s. So I guess this is somewhat of a follow up to that but not really. Anyway, I was just thinking like…I got this book at home that lists over a thousand albums that you must listen to before you die. While I agree on a number of those choices… know….you got the popular ones, more obscure ones, artsy, experimental and blues. All that stuff. It’s hard to just decide. I feel it’s an OCD thing. There’s this desire of mine to catalog everything, own everything or have access to it all.

I have this hard time with playlists. Sure every month I seem to post a new playlist which I will be sure to do again, soon. But it’s like, I don’t know, I have a hard time with how all of these playlist will just be on my iPod device. It just sort of like frustrates me. It’s different from the days of having a shelf full of CDs or vinyl records. And you would put them in alphabetical order so if I want to listen to Alice in Chains, then I know it’s at the beginning and if I want to listen to Frank Zappa, then I know it’s at the end. Over the years we have been acquiring more digital music in the mp3 format. Most of us have converted our music over to that compressed digital world. I’m not entirely happy with that because it’s really just for convenient purposes. At least I have 3 small shelves of vinyl records at home. Over a hundred or so. I hope to build on that collection. While I am not exactly promoting vinyl here, it is certainly something that I favor. But even with those, I don’t own everything.

The point of this blog post is: how do we know what albums to listen to? When making mixtapes, how do we know what we’re supposed to put on them? I think times have changed since the 80’s and 90’s when we wanted to entice interest from a friend into a particular band or to communicate musically to a friend or just a way to express your feelings about life in that moment on that mixtape. So to get back to earlier, I was listening to Paul Simon on the radio. I’m thinking, a lot of folks out there love that album, Graceland. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is another example. You just start thinking about all of those classics like The Beatles, White Album and so on and so forth.

When is enough enough. Or is there ever enough? Maybe you just keep going out there and keep searching for more. One minute I will be listening to brand new Indie Pop music and that’s all I am gonna listen to for the next couple of weeks and suddenly jump into another obscure genre and start digging that for awhile. Why not check out some old time country music from the 1930’s? Maybe that’s what it’s all about. Whatever mood you’re in at a given time and place. Zappa’s Hot Rats right now. One of his biggest selling records! Ok now I feel like listening to Genesis. Now it’s time for Muddy Waters or some Louis Armstrong. Hey now I’m gonna listen to Cat Power! It’s like, is that ok to do? Perhaps it is. I don’t know. There’s really no rules. Not a law abiding method that I have to follow.

Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. The Grammy’s were on recently and I was majorly disappointed, again. Awards do not validate the quality of music that I enjoy listening to. The circus shows of politics should not be mixed together with music. Gin and tonic goes well with Jazz. But gay marriage and hip hop at an award program seems out of place. IMHO. But anyway, after Simon played on the radio, the Smashing Pumpkins came on with a hit song, 1979. Again, two styles of music separated by 10 years. You do what you want to do. I could hang out with a bunch of friends that love listening to Miles Davis and some John Coltrane and be sound as a pound. Then I could run into someone else that wants to hear some Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons right now. My nieces are really into them as well. My parents, sister and wife are too.

I tend to gravitate towards Pink Floyd and Tool. Bands like that. But lately over the past couple years, I found myself listening to a lot of independent heroes like The Japandroids, Vampire Weekend and bands that are more to the left of the dial. Speaking of which, we have The Replacements to thank for that coined term. Don’t forget Husker Du and The Minutemen. I could go back and listen to those guys if I feel like it. I could grab their stuff, which is in digital format now, although I think I have a few on cd. When I say grab, I mean pluck it out of the computer, pop it into a device or listen to it on the radio. But sometimes I lose meaning and the point of a conversation and maybe that’s okay to start off and finish on two different notes.

I do know that this is all about music and I feel like moods play a role in it. So perhaps it’s all about the moods. Maybe it depends on what mood I am in and that’s what I listen to. There is no final end. I mean I guess when you’re dead it’s over. Just keep on trucking while you’re hear and alive. Lungs are pumping air in and out of you. You have ears that you haven’t lost much hearing to. At the end of March I will be attending a small club in Chicago, called The Empty Bottle. The Dum Dum Girls will be playing. I cannot wait! I can listen to those girls days on end but then I can easily move on to something else. I just know that I love to babble because I am good at it and it’s just what I do. Peace yo.


Finding Meaning in College Through Music


What’s the most important band for me when I was in college?

Let’s first establish, in the form of a short poem, what college meant to me:

It was the celebration of my youth

colored by independence
on top of the world
making moments last forever
letting it loose
living just for one tonight
everyone’s my best friend
girls….what can I say? I knew many
eventually the merry-go-round stops
got to wait for the next one and hop on it
music was the anthem of my early life
I kept finding all the rides
live it up!

Finding Meaning in College Through Music

No bands mattered to me quite like the ones I heard in college. I’m currently looking back at my college years (with a damn sty in my left eye) and reminiscing, trying to figure out which band was the most important and influential. But I am also looking around me right now. I’ve listened to a lot of bands in college and since then, I keep getting exposed to more and more. “Back in the day,” was not so long ago in a dorm room far, far away…

My first roommate, Eric, was heavily into death metal. He scared the living shit out of my mom and dad when he brought in his huge tower of devil worshipping CD’s. Dressed all sloppy with dirty long red hair and reeking of cigarette smoke. Eric had a presence that was screaming “Shock Therapy!” However, we both liked bands like Primus, Slayer and the soundtrack to the film “The Crow.” It had groups like Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet, and Pantera on that soundtrack as well as many more.

I remember that I also brought with me the movie, “The Crow” on videotape. That first weekend as dorm room buddies; we ordered a pizza, watched “The Crow” and listened to its accompanying soundtrack. We found ourselves connecting musically because we found common ground. Eric didn’t care for ALL my musical tastes and I certainly did not bang my head to Cannibal Corpse or Obituary but we managed to work it out.

You could say that my compact discs I brought with me to college were like my friends that I wanted to introduce to people. Some of them I let go of at used record stores and some I lost or got stolen from me. Still others stayed with me even up to this very day. But I did cherish “The Crow” soundtrack and movie. Not sure why I did so much. I even bought a t-shirt with “The Crow” symbol on it. I was apparently obsessed. Those tunes just hit the right nerves at the right time as I became exposed to great glimpses of an independent lifestyle.

I worked at a movie theater in the middle 1990’s and “The Crow” was the first film I got to see on my fifteen-minute break. Free movies were a benefit to working there. I loved that movie. But it was the soundtrack and dark atmosphere that pulled me in. Eric and I had that type of interest in common. However, that’s where our similarities pretty much ended. I am just the type of person that likes to explore my horizons deeper. College was that fun playground of multiple choices. So I eventually put my “Crow” addiction off to the side and began to discover new material.

As I met others on campus, my curiosity grew stronger with unique compositions. I started to make a lot of friends as the months passed. Bands like Pink Floyd, Monster Magnet, Tool, Type O Negative, Rage Against The Machine and Green Day began to consume more of my time. Even more than actually going to class. In the end, there was one single band that defined my college years absolutely the most of any musical group I heard during those days. In fact, every time I hear them, I get goose bumps.


How did I find this fantastic band you ask? Let me lay it out for you. I can trace the exact moment where this curious group of artists blew me away during my first college spring break. My best friends at the time, Tony and Matt, picked me up in an old rusty minivan one night for a joyride with a fresh sound playing in the background that was pretty awesome. Actually, for me it was in the foreground. Tony also made sure that I was paying attention to it by bopping and waving his arms around behind the wheel. Not that I recommend this, but he even stuck his left leg out the window. So I finally asked these idiot friends of mine, “What is this amusing music we’re listening to?” When I found out, I thought, “what an interesting name.”

There honestly has not been an alternative rock band that mattered to me more than Five Year Jacket. I was introduced to something special that changed my life forever. This band I heard instantly said to me, “It’s the perfect background music to any situation.” Continuing my story, the van broke down at the end of our evening “misbehaving” and we needed a ride home. So Tony called one of his buddies to come pick us up.

After 20 minutes or so, these two dudes pulled up in a car and picked us up. I was introduced to a man named Kevin, who was one of the guys in the car. He had intense blue eyes and was clean-shaven. The dark hair slicked back, the bomber jacket he wore and the cigarette hanging from the right corner of his lips all spelled out cool. Amazingly, he just happened to be the lead singer and guitarist of that band, Five Year Jacket.

I had no idea they were a local band from the Aurora/Sugar Grove area. They sounded like a group with hits on the radio. It was a mind-blowing experience. That was an evening that was truly meant to be. It was like a series of happy accidents. I made sure that I got a hold of one of his cassette tapes immediately. All of this just sort of happened out of the clear blue. There was no casual period of listening to them ahead of time. Just boom! It was like a volcano erupting and I was there in the middle of the lava.

I “got” their music and I don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t musically or lyrically per say. It was like they were speaking this language I didn’t realize that I even knew. They spoke it brilliantly and fluently. When you had college majors that kept changing and your head was all over the map with the wild times that were filled with wonderful highs and astonishing lows you really appreciate a band that can stick with you through all of the emotions I have been through.

Five Year Jacket has been the soundtrack to some of the best moments that I have had not only in college but my life period. They have been with me on nights drinking with friends. Walking the streets of Naperville and downtown Aurora. Smoking cigarettes and taking nice afternoon cruises in my friend Josh’s car after class on Friday afternoons. Actually, Josh was with me at one my favorite gigs of theirs at a bar in Bolingbrook, he got all the guys to sign his newly purchased copy of their CD, “Hell For An Empty Heart.” I had the lead singer, Kevin, dedicate a song to me called “Undone” that reminded me of my first summer listening to Five Year Jacket with three good friends of mine at the time. We called ourselves the fab four.

I was falling blissfully in love with my life in 1995, which was my peak year for ingesting their terrific melodies and hooks. I don’t think I have ever been quite as happy as I was seeing them at the Thirsty Whale. There the four of us were, Tony, Kara, Pallu and I chilling out at this club and literally dancing to the groovy rhythm of the “Jackets.” Afterwards, we met up with the band at a Denny’s restaurant, I think, where for some strange reason, Tony was impersonating a woman wearing lipstick borrowed from Kara. Those were some weird times. I have this unusual but wonderful connection to them and I am not sorry for being associated with “artistic” or “eccentric” folks, while listening to music.

Five Year Jacket have also been the soundtrack of serious bouts of depression and they’ve lifted me out of panic attacks, “bad trips” and break ups. They kept me afloat when I didn’t know what else to hold on to. No disrespect to Kevin, but they’ve become that old sweater that I have worn so many times that there’s holes in the sleeves and it smells like YOU even when you take it out of the washer. They’re kind of like that. Even an old “Jacket.” I’ve had my favorites that I never wanted to let go of because they’re so friggin comfortable.

Over the past 18 years they have turned me into the man I am today, the guy with the sty in his left eye and a limp. Just kidding. No band, not even Pink Floyd, has quite the numerous stories and personal memories like these local guys that only my circle of friends can really appreciate. Eric didn’t “get” them but several acquaintances on campus enjoyed Five Year Jacket. I had that cassette tape with me constantly just as Linus did with his blanket. I played their songs at bonfires and at keg parties.

My last semester on campus, people were asking me left and right for a copy before I went back home. I arrived my freshman year with a “crow” and came home with a degree and a comfortable “jacket.” I had finally found substance in my college years through music. Thanks Kevin for being my friend, even on a social network like Facebook.


(Originally Published on September 8, 2012)