Ariel Pink's Dedicated to Bobby Jameson Album Review

Emily Cosgrove | October 2017

Ariel Pink is one of the most unique artists I have ever encountered in my life. His enigmatic style makes him seem more like a character than an actual person. At least, as a fan of his, that is how I view him. He has a very distinct sound—lo-fi, with a very clear 80s influence. Yet, the only fitting way I can describe his style of music is simply “Ariel Pink”. He has a truly unique style that many have tried to replicate, but solely belongs to him.

His newest release is his eleventh (!!!) studio album, titled Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, and in my opinion, it is his best album yet. He manages to show a more intimate side, while still maintaining the signature Ariel Pink sound he is known for.

Upon hearing the album title, I was really curious. Who is this “Bobby Jameson” character this album is dedicated to? At first, I thought it was just some fictional character, maybe an alter-ego of Ariel’s. But, upon some research, I learned some very interesting history behind the album’s name.

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The man this album is dedicated to was actually a musician who is a very interesting, obscure character in Hollywood and music history. In the 1960s, Bobby Jameson was supposed to be THE next big thing. He opened up for the acts such as The Beach Boys and his career looked extremely promising. Once the singles he released hit the charts, they failed. He tried to release music under different names and guises, but for whatever reason - his career failed and he faded into obscurity. He ended up becoming reclusive and struggled with addiction for the rest of his life up until his death.

This whole mystery behind the persona of Bobby Jameson ended up capturing the attention of many people, and he now has a cult-like following. The dedication of this album to Bobby Jameson is fascinating to me—does Ariel relate to this enigmatic, troubled character? Does he just enjoy his music? I really appreciate that Ariel drew attention to a figure who didn’t get the success he deserved. I listened to some of Bobby Jameson’s work, and it is very good. So, thank you Ariel for introducing me to such an iconic character with a somewhat tragic story.

But—back to the album! Listening to it, there is no doubt that this is an Ariel Pink album, yet it has a new distinct flair that gave me a pleasant surprise. The album opener, “Time To Meet Your God”, is a high-energetic song that could have been a track featured on Ariel’s last studio album, Pom Pom. But, in the following tracks we are introduced to a different Ariel than we saw on the last album.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Dedicated To Bobby Jameson”, which is a little bit of psychedelic-70s influence and a little a bit of surf-rock, of course all with an Ariel Pink spin. The track, which takes its name from the album’s title, describes Bobby Jameson as “a Tinseltown tranny, and the mayor of the Sunset Strip.” It is a totally infectious, super fun track with a groovy vibe that reminds me of going on a night out with friends.

I think my favorite track of all is “Do Yourself A Favor”. It is so different from the entire album, and from most music that Ariel Pink creates. I was actually shocked when this track came on; I was completely blown away and I have had it on repeat ever since. It is such a raw, emotional song done almost all acoustically. It is just a totally honest, stripped down song which is completely different from the huge persona Ariel usually channels in his songs. It is such an intimate, real song that makes me view Ariel Pink as not just a big superstar character, but an actual person. It’s beautiful.

There is not a bad song on this entire album. I think the thing that stands out on this album, and every album, that Ariel Pink makes is his voice. It is extremely versatile. He does not necessarily have a classically trained voice, but he does unique things with his voice that no one else can do. One minute he is shouting in an almost robot-like manner, in another he is singing a soft, sweet love song. I cannot emphasize how different each and every song on this album is from one another, which is all thanks to Ariel’s amazing ability to transform his voice. He is truly a vocal chameleon.

Ariel Pink has wowed me once again with Dedicated To Bobby Jameson. I cannot wait to finally see him perform a full set (the only other time I ever saw him was at Pitchfork, and his set unfortunately was cut way short because of rain), and cannot imagine how amazing he will be to see in an actual venue on Halloween weekend.

Ariel Pink will be performing at Thalia Hall in Chicago on Saturday, October 28th. If you don’t already have your tickets, I highly recommend you buy some here. He is an outstanding talent, and really delivered on this new album.

Warble Daze Review

Emily Cosgrove | October 2017

I really didn’t know what to expect when going to Saturday of Warble Daze this year. Although this is the second year the festival took place, this was the first year I heard about it. It was held at the Logan Auditorium, which is one of the few venues I have not been to in Chicago. What I did expect was an amazing show; and it was.

The line-up for the whole weekend was awesome, and I was so upset I couldn’t make it both days. It featured mostly local bands, with a few bands who made the trek across the country.

The Saturday line-up included Town Criers, Cafe Racer, Joe Bordenaro, Acid Dad (from New York), The Nude Party (from North Carolina), and Modern Vices. Many of these bands I have seen before, but it was cool to see some new acts I hadn’t even heard of.

Warble Daze features solely rock music, which worried me a little bit. I’ll be honest, I love rock, but to have six bands perform the same genre of music back-to-back sounded like it could have been a little bit boring. I was surprised when each band managed to deliver their unique brand of rock and roll.

The festival featured a variety of vendors and DJ sets as well. I appreciated this because it allowed attendees to get the chance to take a break from the show and explore other things music and art related.

As for the venue Logan Square Auditorium, I was surprised at how spacious it was. It looks way different than any music venue I have been to in the city, and since it is an event space used for a variety of events I was shocked that the sound was pretty decent. It really is a historic, vintage-feeling place.

Warble Daze is a promising festival. It aims to keep it local, with a very DIY-feel and many local bands and vendors. I really appreciate the Chicago-centric feel the festival has, yet they still make it a point to bring in bands from other places with a similar sound and vibe. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Warble Daze grow!

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"Rip It Up" - Town Criers' Debut Single

Emily Cosgrove | October 2017

Town Criers is one of the newer, up-and-coming bands in the local scene. I have definitely been hearing their name thrown around lately, specifically in promotional posters for Warble Daze, but hadn’t gotten the chance to listen to them yet. So, when asked to review their new single, “Rip It Up”, I was excited to give it a listen.

Since Chicago is a huge hub for rock music, I had high expectations for “Rip It Up”. This track is the only song currently on Town Criers’ Bandcamp, so it serves preview for what is to come from this band.

Here’s a snippet of their bio via Warble Daze: “Before even having a name to go by and only one song mentally written down, Andre Baptista, Scott Truesdale, Vince Pimentel, and Kevin Allen, were asked to play a friend's house show that coming Friday. The long black-haired boys got to the garage and cranked out a thirty minute Kinks influenced, "psych-punk", setlist to make the house show an unforgettable one.”

Photo by Micki Harris

Photo by Micki Harris

Town Criers are now taking the Chicago music scene head on with a debut EP in fall 2017 so their fans can listen to their music through headphones and live Day 2 - Saturday, October 14 at Warble Daze!

I really enjoyed their debut track. Although on their Facebook page, Town Criers describes themselves as simply “Chicago Rock N’ Roll”, they have a nice garage-rock, lo-fi sound to their music. These two sounds have been popular genres in Chicago for quite a while now, but Town Criers manage to stand out by providing us with this distinct, catchy single.

Since they do not have any other music online at the moment, I am excited to see them live on October 14th at Warble Daze. From genuinely jamming out to “Rip It Up", seeing the rest of their live set will give everyone a better idea of what’s to come from Town Criers.


Buy tickets to Warble Daze, the 2-Day Rock Showcase, here!

Hippo Campus' Landmark puts them on the map

Emily Cosgrove | May 2017

Photo: Alice Baxley

Photo: Alice Baxley

As Hippo Campus heads to Metro tonight performing a rescheduled sold out show due to illness, I decided to look back onto their most recent work. After releasing several EPs and singles, Hippo Campus has come out with their first full-length album, Landmark--and it does not disappoint. 

Hippo Campus is a band that I have been hearing about for quite a while now. Their name is plastered on festival lineups, I have heard plenty of their songs, and I even saw them in September of 2015 at the House of Blues in Chicago. They are a band with a lot of buzz surrounding them, so I thought I should delve deeper and really give them a listen.

Landmark is all around a fantastic first full album. Other than being well-rounded, it manages to achieve and maintain an indie-sound while still being able to appeal to the general music listener. I fully enjoyed listening to it and wanted to review a few of my favorite tracks from the album.

The album opens up with the track “Sun Veins”. The only way I can describe this tune is chilling and enigmatic, with muffled vocals and electronic beats. It made me wonder what the rest of the album could possibly sound like. 

Next, we head into the second track called “Way It Goes”. This song could not be any more different than the opening track. It is upbeat and memorable; a perfect song to listen to on a dreamy summer day.

We have quite a few songs in the similar pop-sounding vein of “Way It Goes” (but don’t get me wrong, they are all phenomenal). Then we are hit with a track that blew my mind. “Poems” is the eighth track on the album, and is filled with emotion. The soft vocals are accompanied by dynamic instrumentals; this is a song on Landmark that really changes the pace of the album.

The next track, “Monsoon”, also features more emotional depth to the album. It focuses on the vocals, which gives the song a certain rawness that helps Landmark achieve an impressively mature sound.

One of my favorite tracks is “Boyish”, which was the first single released before the album was even announced. It allows this album to come full circle. We have another catchy song in a pop framework that I feel really captures what Hippo Campus is all about: it’s dreamy, it’s fun, it’s chill. 

Landmark was a great first full-length effort from Hippo Campus. I have to say, for a newer band, I am pretty impressed. This album shifted my view of Hippo Campus from just another indie rock band full of 21-year olds to a band who has what it takes to become the next big thing. 
 

Jonathan Richman: The Best Show I Have Ever Seen Live

Emily Cosgrove | April 2017

Over the past few weeks, I had the amazing opportunity to see THE Jonathan Richman live and in the flesh, not once, but TWICE. For those of you out there who do not know who the iconic Jonathan Richman is, shame on you. Just kidding, but you really need to check out this guy. He is truly a living legend.

For a little bit of background, Jonathan Richman was formerly the front man of a rock band called The Modern Lovers. The band was formed in 1970, but their recordings weren’t released until over six years later, and they actually only have one full album. They didn’t have much popularity while they were actually a band, but their sound was way before its time and paved the way for much of the new wave and punk rock movement. Some of the former members even went on to join bands like The Cars and Talking Heads. Crazy, right?

Later on, Jonathan went on to perform in different incarnations of The Modern Lovers, but the music heavily strayed to a more storytelling, folk-driven, and oftentimes comedic style. He eventually went on to a solo career, which he still pursues to this day at age 65.

 I got into The Modern Lovers about two years ago, but never really was aware of Richman’s solo career until maybe six months ago. Once I heard his stuff, I was hooked. His song “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” became my PARTY ANTHEM (seriously, listen to it). I constantly found myself checking different concert websites, desperately awaiting the day that I finally saw a Chicago tour date featuring Jonathan Richman. Then one day, MY LIFE CHANGED.

I was sitting in a bathroom of a music venue at U of I (don’t ask), when I saw the most beautiful words appear before my eyes on a poster for a venue called The Accord. It read: APRIL 1st, JONATHAN RICHMAN W/ TOMMY LARKINS ON THE DRUMS. I just about died. Even though the show was going to be two and a half hours away at a college I was not a huge fan of, I KNEW I HAD TO GO. I immediately went home and bought my tickets to see Jonathan at The Accord. Soon after that, I got a notification that Jonathan Richman would be performing at Lincoln Hall about two weeks after the U of I show. TICKETS BOUGHT.

So, let’s get to the reason I’m writing this article: the shows themselves. The first show at The Accord was life changing, to say the least. I am going to be honest, lately I find myself not enjoying going to shows as much as I used to. Maybe it is because I have seen too many bands that are awful live. Maybe it is because I hate crowds lately. Either way, I was excited for this show, but my expectations were set low at first.

Jonathan performed the show on guitar with his drummer Tommy Larkins (whom he has been with for 24 years!). I was not enthused, I thought it would be pretty lame since there wasn’t a backing band. BUT I WAS SO WRONG. Jonathan went through a ton of songs, most of which I did not know, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was standing front row, and let me tell you, the man makes such intense eye contact with each and every single person in the audience. He sings into your soul. Seriously, that is the only way I can describe it.

He sang songs in Italian, Spanish, French, and of course, English. He ad-libs, does funny dances, prances around the stage with bells and maracas. You can tell the man doesn’t take himself too seriously, but what he does take seriously is his passion for performing. He isn’t the best singer, but that is all part of his charm. He has such raw emotion and power to his voice. You can just feel it. I have never experienced anything like that at a concert performance. Throughout the entire show, I had a gigantic smile on my face. A big, stupid smile I couldn’t get rid of; so big that my cheeks hurt at the end of the show.

The show at Lincoln Hall was similar, but even better, if that is possible. He added a few new songs to the set list and switched it up a bit, which I was excited about because he actually sang some Modern Lovers songs. He seemed even more comedic, more passionate, and more enthusiastic this time, which I didn’t even think was possible.

There is not enough that can be said about Jonathan Richman. I cannot believe that I am so fortunate to have seen a living legend like him twice in such a short period of time. I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again: the only way to know if an artist is a great performer is if you can attend one of their shows not knowing a single song, yet still enjoy it. Even though I knew a few songs Jonathan played, most of them I did not know. Some were even in a different language! Yet, I was still captivated the whole time. This was still one of the best performances I have ever seen.

Bottom line: if you ever get a chance to see this man live, DO IT. Drive miles and miles if you have to. He is mesmerizing, he is enthralling, and he is everything that is good in this world. It is 100% worth it.

A Night with The Growlers

Emily Cosgrove | March 10, 2017

The Growlers show I attended at the Metro this past Friday was a show I had been looking forward to for a very long time. I am a huge fan of the band; I previously saw them at the Metro in the fall of 2015, and also saw them more recently at Thalia Hall last September. Since I am a fan and had seen them multiple times, I sort of had an idea of what to expect, yet this show held many surprises.
 
One thing that caught me by surprise was that this show was all about The Growlers. Bands typically have one or two openers, especially at a big venue such as the Metro. In fact, every time I have seen The Growlers they have had an opener. But this time, there was no openers, which allowed the band to play for almost two and a half hours! This completely blew my mind. The Growlers were able to play hit after hit, off of their extensive past discography and their newest album City Club.
 
Something that really defines The Growlers is their unique sound, which they coined as “beach goth”. The only way I can describe this sound is a gypsy-esque, surfer sound, mixed with a million other influences. This wide array of influences really gives The Growlers their own unique sound of which I have never heard another band encompass.
 
Their uniqueness of sound allows them to adopt a very chill performance quality. Although Brooks Nielsen (the lead singer of The Growlers), may not be a crazy, in-your-face front man, he somehow manages to capture the audience’s complete attention with his cool, laidback persona. The whole band does not do much more than sway around, yet somehow they are able to put on an incredibly entertaining performance due to their catchy, original songs and flamboyant style.
 
The Growlers are a band I will continue to see over and over again live. They never disappoint, and always put on a great show. I was even more impressed with them after this most recent show. They established that they are not only talented and entertaining, but are able to play an extremely long set filled with all of their classics, which is a true gift to their fans.

Mickey Avalon Live @ Bottom Lounge

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Emily Cosgrove | March 2017

This past Friday I went to see Mickey Avalon at Bottom Lounge, and I had NO idea what to expect. I had heard of Mickey Avalon because some of my friends are fans, and I knew of the songs “My Dick” and “Jane Fonda”, of which he is probably most famous for. I just sort of went on a whim because my friend really likes him and asked me if I wanted to go. I was not expecting much, but WOW, he is one of the most entertaining performers I have seen in a long, long time.
 
For those of you who do not know Mickey Avalon, he is a 41-year-old rapper who has been making music for over 10 years. A lot of his songs focus on controversial topics, like drugs and sex, based off of a lot of experiences from his wild past. His whole persona is extremely sleazy, raunchy, and provocative, yet he somehow manages to evoke pure sex appeal.
 
My friends and I were able to get really close to the front because his audience was mostly made up of people in their early thirties who weren’t obnoxious enough to be pushing and shoving one another (thank god because that is honestly something I cannot stand at certain concerts).
 
Mickey started his set and immediately I was super intrigued. He has such a suave, nonchalant vibe about him while he performs. He doesn’t use any big production while he is on, all he has is a DJ in the background playing off of a MacBook. BUT, what he does have is an AMAZING backup dancer who comes on during some of the songs.
 
I was super interested in how he incorporates a dancer onstage, so I looked up who the dancer is. Her name is Jillian Schmitz, and she is a professional dancer who has been in the industry for years. What she does onstage at Mickey’s shows is very reminiscent of burlesque, but not in the classic sense—she comes on in little cheerleader outfits or sexy lingerie, dancing and doing stripteases to Mickey’s songs. They have great chemistry on stage and half of the time she steals the show from an already great performer.
 
I always say that there is one way to know if an artist is a good performer: if you can go to their show without really knowing any of their songs, but still have a great time. Mickey Avalon played his hits and some new songs, and with the assistance of his bad-ass dancer Jillian, had an amazing show that I won’t forget.

Something New to "Love" by Lana

Emily Cosgrove | February 2017

On Saturday, the indie darling Lana Del Rey released her first single in almost a year, called “Love”. The queen of nostalgia kept us waiting, but for good reason: this song is very good. It stays true to her melancholic style, and is very reminiscent of the moody material she is well-known for. Yet, something stands out about this track. It adds an almost electronic, pulsing beat in the background throughout the song. At one point, it even pays a subtle homage to The Beach Boys, with the words “don’t worry baby”, repeated over and over again in her soft, velvety voice.
 
Two days after the initial release of “Love”, she released a video accompanying it, which is very similar to her past videos. It alternates between a few different shots, the first in all black and white, with lots of up close shots of her shy, doe-eyed face singing longingly into the camera. Throughout the video, some other shots are featured, shots that would seem random to someone who is not acquainted with her previous work. They feature grainy images of people driving in a pickup truck, seedy images of party scenes, and people smiling in the sunset. This harkens all the way back to her video for the hit song “Video Games”, which is the track that got her started.
 
In “Love”, Lana Del Rey offers up a new twist on her old material. It might not be anything completely revolutionary or new, but she has truly created a certain niche of music for her and her fans. Although I have said it many times, the feeling of nostalgia is so strong in each of her songs, it almost hurts. She makes her listeners yearn for something, a certain thing that is indescribable. She has simply mastered this concept by using her unique contralto voice, her knack for embodying a vintage aesthetic, and her complete originality.
 

Joyce Manor Live @ Concord Music Hall

Emily Cosgrove | February 3, 2017

Friday night’s Joyce Manor show at Concord Music Hall turned out to be a wild, high-energy night filled with lots of crowd-interaction, moshing, and all around great vibes. The night opened up with the band Mannequin Pussy. The band hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up as childhood friends. The band’s chemistry was apparent onstage throughout the whole night, and while all the members were able to keep up with their high-energy tracks, the real standout was the lead vocalist and guitarist Marisa Dabice. Being the frontwoman of an all-male backed band, she stole the show. From one second her vocals would go from a soft velvety purr to a high-pitched throaty yell. The band really displays a wide variety of songs in their set list, from upbeat bangers to soft and sweet tunes. While their new songs have almost a surfy, garage rock vibe, they also clearly have stayed true to their pop punk influence. The standout moment was during the end of their set, when Dabice threw down her guitar and thrashed around stage with the rest of the band. At that moment, Mannequin Pussy had the crowd completely wrapped around their finger.
 
Next up in the night was the band AJJ (formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad). These guys are equally as high-energy as Mannequin Pussy, but in a completely different way. Since they have been together since 2004, they really have nailed putting on a performance and engaging the crowd. AJJ has a goofy, dad-vibe aesthetic, but in a completely great way. The best way to describe them is psychedelic, folk-influenced indie rock, and that is hardly scratchy the surface of all the different influences found in their music. Throughout their set, each band member matched each others’ energy perfectly, in turn making the crowd go wild. The audience was singing along to every song, with lyrics like, “I’m a straight white male in America/I’ve got all the luck I need” from the song ‘American Tune’. From these lyrics, they are clearly also a band that likes to make a political statement, albeit in a sarcastic, satirical way. The sense of humor delivered along with a high-energy performance made AJJ a great preview for what was to come during Joyce Manor’s headlining set.
 
By the time Joyce Manor hit the stage, the crowd was filled with anticipation. You would think that after all the moshing and dancing around during the first two sets, the audience would be tired, but they were completely ready for the headlining band. Joyce Manor is a band hailing from Torrance, California. They have been together since 2008 and would best be described as emo pop-punk, but their newer material does have more of general punk rock vibe with pop punk influences. The lead vocalist Barry Johnson announced that they had just actually been in Chicago a few months, and were happy to be back for more. The band went through banger after banger of tunes from their discography, old and new, like “Fake I.D” and “Eighteen”. Although sometimes the music in this genre can seem repetitive, Joyce Manor managed to switch it up simply because of their stage presence. All of the band members bring something to the table and add a bit of their own personality throughout the set. By the middle of the show, the audience looked like a sea of people in a complete frenzy, and this continued on until the very end of the show.
 
Overall, it was a high-energy night filled with moshing, dancing, singing, and good vibes. It was great to see the dedication and following that these bands have, and the joy that they bring to the crowd. Hopefully these bands will be back in Chicago soon to bring us all another crazy, music-filled night.