Results for Chicago

interviews

The Effigies

This week Jim and Greg have one of their favorite Chicago punk groups, The Effigies, performing live in the studio. It's been nearly 21 years since the pioneering post-hardcore act has released any new material, but on April 12 the band released Reside, a reunion record that Jim and Greg love, much like that of their Boston post-punk contemporaries, Mission of Burma. They explain that the band does not miss a step from where the band left off in 1986. You can hear the songs band members John Kezdy, Robert McNaighton, Paul Zamost and Steve Economou performed on the show, plus bonus tracks here.

Lead singer John Kezdy recalls the band's difficulties being one of the pioneers of punk rock in the Midwest. Unlike their east and west coast peers, they didn‘t have an established punk scene to join or legendary venues like CBGB or Maxwell’s to perform in. Now, rather than touring throughout the year, the older members of the Effigies have important day jobs. In fact, Kedzy is an Illinois state prosecutor, a job that he explains is the "easiest moral option."

Go to episode 88

Steve Earle

Singer/songwriter is no longer sufficient enough to describe the artistic output of Steve Earle. The novelist, playwright, actor, activist AND singer/songwriter has released his 16th studio album, So You Wannabe An Outlaw. The record is a return to the outlaw country sound he cut his teeth on, recording most of it on a 1955 Fender Telecaster while "shamelessly channeling Waylon Jennings." Steve joined Jim and Greg at the Goose Island Tap Room in Chicago to perform a solo acoustic set and talk about his craft.“I realized that's what the job is…it's how we're the same, not how we're different…it's the universal things in these songs,”says Steve of his job as a songwriter. In their wide ranging interview, Jim and Greg talk with Steve about finding empathy in political songs, balancing life while on tour, the research that goes into his songs, and which cities have the best Mexican food (sorry, Austin).

Go to episode 611

Tortoise

By the late '90s, Tortoise became the leading band of not only the Chicago scene, but the global post-rock movement. The all-instrumental band was founded by Doug McCombs and John Herndon as a bass and drums duo in the late '80s, inspired by Jamaican rhythm-section-for-hire Sly and Robbie. Eventually the band came to include John McEntire, Dan Bitney, and jazz guitarist Jeff Parker. Tortoise received massive critical acclaim for the 1996 album Millions Now Living Will Never Die and 1998's TNT. On the latest record The Catastrophist, the band experiments with the strangest innovation of all: vocals. Tortoise joins Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance.

Go to episode 557

Julian Casablancas

A solo Jim sat down with Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, just hours before the band kicked off its American tour at the Park West in Chicago. The Strokes' third album First Impressions of Earth had been released that same day—a fact that seemed to concern the lead singer. First Impressions is a departure for the band in that it's their first album not produced by Gordon Raphael. Rather, the band looked to David Kahne, a higher-profile producer who took a less minimalist approach and stretched the band's sound with the introduction of unusual instruments like the mellotron. The production also lets more of Julian's voice shine, which you can hear in tracks Julian chose to play: "Juicebox," "Ask Me Anything," and "Vision of Division." Check out the video for "Juicebox," featuring one of the stars of Arrested Development, and one-half of Mr. Show.

Go to episode 6

Jamila Woods

In the midst of an accomplished career as a poet and educator, Jamila Woods launched onto the national music scene with heralded collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, and Macklemore. Last year, she released her debut solo album HEAVN, which was recently reissued by Jagjaguwar. That record, with its powerful lyrical examinations of black womanhood and police brutality, ended up on both Jim and Greg's Best of 2016 lists.

Jamila Woods and her band join Jim and Greg in the studio to play songs from the album. She discusses her eclectic blend of spoken word, gospel, and hip-hop, which samples lines from artists ranging from The Cure to Incubus to Paula Cole. She speaks about lessons learned from growing up in the church in Chicago's south side and her music's power to speak to people who don't share her experiences.

Go to episode 620

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood

This week on the show, Jim and Greg have two very special guests: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of the band Radiohead. Our hosts consider Radiohead one of the most important bands of the past two decades, and were thrilled to have the lead singer and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist on the show. Greg asserts that Kid A is the most avant-garde album to ever debut at the top of the Billboard charts — it's rare that a band can be so experimental and still achieve such mainstream success.

Radiohead was in Chicago to perform two shows at the Auditorium Theatre, and when they come to town, it is always memorable. Their 2001 outdoor performance at Hutchinson Field was a landmark event for Chicago music. Though the city has not always been eager to invite droves of young rockers into its public spaces, the success of that show seems to have paved the way for outdoor music concerts like Lollapalooza. Nevertheless, the Brits‘ return to the city this year was not completely drama free. The city rejected the band’s bid to play at Millennium Park, although it's not clear whether or not Radiohead would have even accepted. Never one to do the same thing twice, the band was eager to try out a smaller, indoor venue like the Auditorium Theatre.

Thom and Jonny explain that this tour was an opportunity to work on songs that may be a part of their upcoming 2007 release. That's good news, since some suspected that there might not even be a next album. Radiohead's extended family keeps growing, as does their interest in solo work, so there was speculation that they might not continue in this incarnation. But unlike bands of their stature who stay together for the sake of the business, the bandmates explain that Radiohead will go on as long as the music makes it worth it. And in the meantime, they'll have to juggle the music with the nappies.

Doing solo projects is still a priority for members of Radiohead. Jonny composed the music for the 2004 film Bodysong, which he also co-produced. And Thom Yorke will be releasing The Eraser in July, though he explains that the term“solo”is not really appropriate in this case. The album was produced and arranged by longtime Radiohead collaborater Nigel Godrich, and contains music composed by his bandmates.

One of the songs on The Eraser, "Harrowdown Hill," was inspired by the death of weapons inspector and government scientist Dr. David Kelly. After acting as a whistle-blower and telling a journalist that he disagreed with claims the British government made about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kelly was found dead only days later. A Parliamentary committee investigated the death and determined it to be suicide, but many, including Thom, are skeptical of the validity of this finding. It's not the first time Thom and the band have infused their music with political meaning — though, as Thom explains to Jim and Greg, his approach differs from that of his fellow countryman.

Go to episode 30

Mavis Staples

It's not often we get to share a room with a genuine national treasure. Jim and Greg were honored to speak with gospel and soul legend and Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples. (Greg is also the author of Mavis's 2014 biography I'll Take You There). Beginning her career at age eleven as the lead singer of her family band The Staple Singers, Mavis has inspired countless artists over the past half century.

Her father Pops Staples learned guitar at the feet of Charley Patton in Dockery Farms, Mississippi before moving to Chicago. There, he formed The Staple Singers, a gospel vocal group featuring his children – Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis taking the lead. The combination of Pops's blues guitar, Cleotha's counterpoint, and Mavis's precociously powerful voice launched them into national attention with their 1956 hit "Uncloudy Day." Soon, the Staple Singers were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, often serving as the opening act to Martin Luther King, Jr. (We'll cover that period in more detail in a second episode with Mavis).

The group had its greatest success once it signed to Stax Records and began recording with the famed session musicians in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on hits like "I'll Take You There." That's also when Mavis began her solo career – reluctantly at first, but still going as strong as ever today. Her latest album Livin' on a High Note found her working with songwriters like Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, and Neko Case. Mavis offers Jim and Greg an intimate look at growing up on Chicago's South Side, forming the Staple Singers' signature sound, meeting Mahalia Jackson, and collaborating with Curtis Mayfield and Prince.

Go to episode 593

Buddy Guy

Blues legend and fellow Chicagoan Buddy Guy visits the show this week. The 70-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is back in town for a month-long stint at his club Buddy Guy's Legends. The club has been a mainstay for blues in downtown Chicago for more than a decade, but Buddy recently announced that he is being forced to find a new location. As residents and Sound Opinions listeners know, the city is not always kind to music clubs, but in his interview with Jim and Greg, Buddy stresses the need to maintain such venues. Our hosts also recommend listeners check out the bluesman at his best — live and stripped down at Legends — while they can.

One thing that makes Buddy Guy's music so unique is his sense of melody. He explains how he will listen to spiritual and gospel music on the radio as inspiration. As Greg states: he's trying to imitate the voices. He learned this from B.B. King and went on to inspire vocalists like George Benson. Another musician who inspired Buddy was Guitar Slim. Before seeing Slim play, Buddy didn‘t know how far he could go with a“strat.”Now he is known for his violent, high-energy style. This style wasn’t appreciated by his former label Chess Records, but was adored and emulated by British blues fans like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Andy Summers.

Go to episode 58

Laurie Anderson

Another artist who is never afraid to try new things is Laurie Anderson, Jim and Greg's guest this episode. Anderson has been making music, along with other forms of art, for almost 30 years. But, as she explains, her career began by accident. Anderson's song "O Superman" became a surprise hit in the UK and got her a recording contract. That never stopped Anderson from experimenting though. As NASA's first and only artist-in-residence, it's always been important for her to explore lots and lots of areas, and never become“an expert.”This attitude contributed to Anderson's decision not to cancel her Chicago show on September 11, 2001. Greg remembers her performance that night as one of the most powerful he's ever witnessed.

Go to episode 127

John Prine

John Prine This week, our guest is singer-songwriter John Prine. Born and raised just outside of Chicago, Prine began his career as a mailman and started writing folk songs along his route. He performed them live in the Chicago folk scene and was soon signed to a major label. While he put out great releases in the '70s, record companies often didn‘t know what to do with him - he was a talented songwriter and a gregarious performer, but he just didn’t fit the rock mold at the time. Prine started his own label Oh Boy Records in 1984 and has remained independent since. Over time, Prine has managed to get better at his craft while also having to overcome cancer, which altered his singing and speaking voice, making it deeper and more gravelly. His latest album, The Tree of Forgiveness, is his first in 13 years and is his best performing album of his entire career. Jim and Greg talk with John about his career journey, writing songs like "Sam Stone" and about working with everyone from Steve Goodman to Phil Spector.

Go to episode 651

Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo

During our feature segment Jim and Greg are joined by Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo. However, it's not Weezer that accompanies him. It's the Chicago rock band The Cathy Santonies. Before visiting the studio, Rivers asked Jim and Greg to choose his songs and choose his backing band. Then after a brief sound check, they launched in completely unrehearsed. It's a return to Rivers‘ garage rock roots that preceded Weezer’s massive 1994 self-titled debut. He and the band have gone on to record a number of successful albums since then. But, as he explains to Jim and Greg, life as a musician has not been without conflict. In fact, Rivers Cuomo might be one of the most angst-ridden front men out there. Whether it's being accused of being too soft (Pinkerton) or too much of a sellout (The Red Album), Rivers has always had his critics. Despite that, he seems to be having fun, especially when rocking out.

The Cathy Santonies are guitarist-vocalist Mojo Santoni, bassist-vocalist Radio Santoni, guitarist Jane Danger and drummer Kaylee Preston. They are named after an often talked about but never seen character on Full House.

Go to episode 221

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2

Vic Mensa

Vic Mensa is a young rapper who hails from the South Side of Chicago and isn't afraid to write about taboo topics like violence, racism and social injustice. While Mensa is a protégé of rap legend Jay-Z, he has his own unique style and swagger: he loves skateboarding, is gregarious and has a pretty stellar singing voice. His debut studio album, The Autobiography, is an ambitious record chronicling the entirety of his 24 years of life, and it's full of hard hitting beats and impactful (and sometimes hilarious) lyrics. Jim and Greg talk to Vic Mensa about overcoming drugs, his love for rock music and how he made a record that plays like a book.

Go to episode 635

Kid Sister

Chicago rapper Melisa Young, better known as Kid Sister, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. She began to get notice after releasing her breakthrough hit "Pro Nails" in 2007, and since then has become a mainstay in the club and festival circuit. However, it wasn't until November 2009 that she released her full-length debut Ultraviolet. Melisa explains to Jim and Greg that it just wasn‘t perfect, and she wouldn’t release it until it was. Now the album is an up-tempo blend of hip hop, electronica and house, and features guest appearances by Cee-Lo Green and Kanye West on a new version of "Pro Nails." But, Melisa assures Jim and Greg she hasn‘t gone Hollywood. She’s still got plenty of energy and appears to be happier just jamming out at the gym.

Go to episode 215

Anthony Bourdain

Many people know Anthony Bourdain from his many books, his TV show "No Reservations," and his successful restaurant Les Halles. But, you may not know that he's a die-hard rock and roll fan. In 2007 Bourdain chronicled his punk past in the Spin essay“Eat to the Beat,”and when he was in town on a book tour, Jim and Greg invited him into the studio to talk turkey (and rock).

Anthony, or Tony as he likes to be called, explained to Jim and Greg that there are a lot of connections between members of the food world and the music world, the first of which is simply the hours. Both subcultures are nocturnal pleasure-seekers who often frequent the same greasy spoons and the same dive bars. But on a more cerebral level, music geeks and foodies are both obsessed, both opinionated, and both hate Billy Joel. Tony explains that when he's serving up grub to guests he prefers the tunes of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and even Connie Francis.

During this episode we also hear from other music-loving chefs from around the country including:

  • Wesley Genovart of Degustation in New York
  • Doug Sohn of Hot Doug's in Chicago
  • Brenda Langton of Spoon River and Café Brenda in Minneapolis
  • Craig Serbousek of Crow and Bette in Seattle
  • Graham Elliot Bowles of Avenues in Chicago
Go to episode 187

Lupe Fiasco

This week's guest is rapper, Chicago native, and now Grammy nominee Lupe Fiasco. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammad Jaco to his parents, made a smash with last year's release, Food & Liquor. He may have even made a bigger smash with the internet leak of the album. And now the album and his hit single, "Kick Push" have been nominated for three Grammy Awards.“Kick Push”began as a track Lupe and producer Soundtrakk created for a Chicago skate shop. He was inspired by a Filipino jazz song and wanted to evoke the atmosphere and culture of skateboarding. Listen to Lupe's live performance of the song, as well as that of "American Terrorist" featuring Matthew Santos.

Our guest is something of an anomaly in hip hop today, in that he shies away from misogyny and profanity in his music. Lupe is also a religious Muslim. Greg asks Lupe about reconciling his values with his love of hip hop-something he raps about in the song, "Hurt Me Soul." Lupe explains that his first exposure to vulgar hip hop was through the N.W.A. records his father would play. Jim points out that even Lupe's parents would be interesting to interview. His mother was a chef, and his father was a Green Beret, martial arts master, engineer and active with the Black Panthers.

Go to episode 62

Mavis Staples

Earlier this year, we aired part one of an interview that Jim and Greg did with gospel and soul legend Mavis Staples. Mavis was such a fantastic guest that we had plenty of extra tape that we haven't been able to broadcast until now. Greg literally wrote the book on Mavis Staples, titled I'll Take You There. As he details in the book, activism is nothing new to Mavis. The theme of social consciousness is something that started for Mavis as a part of The Staple Singers, and it continues to run through Mavis‘ solo career. It’s a major theme of her upcoming record If All I Was Was Black. In the 1950s and 60s, the Chicago-based Staple Singers toured the Jim Crow South extensively. It was a learning curve in many ways for the young Mavis, along with her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Pervis.

Go to episode 618

Shamir

Shamir has been on Jim and Greg's radar since they caught him at last year's SXSW Music Conference. Born Shamir Bailey, the 21-year-old Las Vegas native has been stylistically restless his whole life. He formed an indie pop duo in high school, explored a love of country music, and incorporates the sounds of vintage Chicago house and disco on his electronic pop recordings. After being blown away by a demo tape, producer and music writer Nick Sylvester took an interest in Shamir. Sylvester's GODMODE label released the North Town EP in 2014, followed by a debut full-length called Ratchet in 2015. Ratchet earned widespread critical acclaim, including high spots in both Jim and Greg's best of the year lists. Shamir stopped by the Sound Opinions studios a few months back and, after greeting the entire staff with hugs, sat down with Jim and Greg for a stripped-down performance on acoustic guitar and piano and a conversation.

Go to episode 530

Twin Peaks

Our guests this week are garage rockers, Twin Peaks. This 5-piece up-and-coming band from Chicago consists of singer and guitarist Cadien Lake James, bassist Jack Dolan, guitarist Clay Frankel, drummer Connor Brodner and recent addition, keyboardist Colin Croom. They started the group back in 2009 as high schoolers and later decided to drop out of college to pursue music full-time. Some of their influences include The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Stooges, which you can hear in their debut album, Sunken, released in 2013. Last year, they released their second album, Wild Onion, to critical acclaim and in 2015 performed at Lollapalooza. Their youthfully energetic performance style, guitar-based rock and roll and playful song lyrics make them a draw for young adult music fans looking for something other than EDM. Jim and Greg spoke to them a few weeks ago at the Goose Island Barrelhouse in Chicago and gave a performance afterwards.

Go to episode 516

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus, the alter ego of electronic singer/songwriter Nika Roza Danilova, has already released five studio albums, despite being only 26-years-old. While her first album The Spoils was a lo-fi effort recorded in her bedroom in 2009, Zola Jesus has since developed an expansive, orchestrated sound featuring gloomy synthesizers and string arrangements. In creating her atmospheric songs, she draws equally on her love of classical music, industrial and mainstream pop. Her latest album Taiga is named after the Russian word for“forest,”appropriate as the music manages to evoke the feeling of the deep, dark woods. The woods are, in fact, close to her heart – though currently based in Seattle, Danilova grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin. She joined Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago. Zola Jesus discusses the difficulty of seeking out transgressive music in an isolated community, her childhood love of opera, and taking inspiration from filmmaker David Lynch, who also remixed one of her songs.

Go to episode 497

Keven McAlester

One of rock's most influential and interesting figures is former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. After performing with the psychedelic band in the '60s and as a solo artist in the '80s, the singer's mental and physical health took a severe decline. But in the past couple of years, Roky's sights have improved, and Jim and Greg took this opportunity to celebrate his legacy. During this you'll hear their discussion with Keven McAlester, the director of the film biography You're Gonna Miss Me. McAlester spoke to Jim and Greg after a special screening of the film at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.

Jim and Greg highlight two of their favorite Roky Erickson tracks from different points in his career. The first is a 13th Floor Elevators song called "Reverberation Doubt," which Jim explains is an example of how psychedelic the band was. The song was not only influenced by psychedelic drugs, but it conveys the experience of using them. Jim discusses the term“synesthesia,”which refers the drugs' ability to allow you to actually see musical notes, and“Reverberation Doubt”has a similar effect. As he states, it gives you the "sense that the entire world is vibrating."

The second is a solo track from a later period in Roky's career. "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)" was recorded after Roky came out of Rusk State Mental Hospital in Texas, and wasn't in very good shape. But, musically he was very productive, and became one of the American artists to really lay the groundwork for punk music. Roky's songwriting at this time was influenced greatly by horror movies, and the title of this song gives a sense of where his mental state was. Greg describes“Two-Headed Dog”as a brutal, but wonderfully hard-hitting song.

You'll also hear a montage of covers from the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye:

  • R.E.M., "I Walked with a Zombie"
  • ZZ Top, "Reverberation"
  • T-Bone Burnett, "Nothing in Return"
  • Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake"
  • Julian Cope, "I Have Always Been Here Before"
Go to episode 91

Tom Morello

Many fans know Tom Morello through his electric guitar innovations in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. So it was a surprise to hear he had unplugged and donned a new guise as The Nightwatchman. The Chicago native has a new solo album out called One Man Revolution, and during a visit home he stopped by the Sound Opinions studio to show off his new incarnation. During his discussion with Jim and Greg it starts to make more sense why the famed electric guitarist would go acoustic. Tom has always been a fan of folk rockers like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. And, the one man + guitar formula lends itself to the political content Tom has always been known for.

Tom explains that he was seeking a political and musical outlet that would fulfill that side of his personality. The hard rocking side gets fulfilled by the arena rock group Audioslave. However, Tom reveals that the band might be no more. He and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell were both in Chicago at the same time, but haven't communicated in a while. Luckily friend and producer Rick Rubin encouraged Tom to branch out on his own with this record. And of course, Jim notes that the guitarist always has a political career to fall back on. Like his mother Mary Morello, Tom has always been a social activist. He also worked for Senator Alan Cranston for a number of years.

One person Tom Morello did hook up with while he was in town is fellow Rage Against the Machine member Zack de la Rocha. The Rage frontman joined Morello in a couple of protest rallies in support of low-wage immigrant farmworkers. And of course, as fans have been anticipating, the two will appear with Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk for Rage Against the Machine's first performance in seven years at this weekend's Coachella Music Festival. For a sneak preview, check out Morello's rendition of the band's song "Guerrilla Radio," as well as an exclusive bonus track.

Go to episode 74

Ted Leo

This week, Jim and Greg are joined by singer-songwriter Ted Leo in front of an audience at the Goose Island Tap Room in Chicago. Leo gained fame in the early attention with his tuneful yet political approach to punk rock with his band the Pharmacists. But it's been seven years since Leo's last album. In that time, he formed a successful collaboration with Aimee Mann as The Both (who were Sound Opinions guests in 2014). But his family also suffered emotional and financial crises, which inform his ambitious new album, The Hanged Man.

The album's expansive sound is the product of being able to tinker alone in his new home studio in Rhode Island. No longer on a label, Leo crowdfunded the album through Kickstarter and released it himself. Ted Leo discusses how his personal turmoil affected his music and how his fanbase gave him a lift. He also gives an intimate solo performance of songs from The Hanged Man.

Go to episode 624

The Handsome Family

This week, Jim and Greg talk with southwestern music duo The Handsome Family. The band is the husband-wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks, and they are perhaps best known for providing the theme song for the first season of HBO's critically acclaimed drama True Detective. However, the duo had been a staple of the Chicago music scene, crafting artfully made albums that blend alternative country sounds with clever lyrics. Over 15 years ago, the Sparks left Chicago for a quieter life in New Mexico, which influenced their music by giving it a rich southwestern flavor. Brett and Rennie join Jim and Greg in the studio to talk about their latest album, Unseen, success with True Detective, and what it's like to be married to your music partner. They also perform three songs live in studio.

Go to episode 570

Beach Slang

Beach Slang's music is at home in a loud, crowded, sweaty club with an energetic crowd singing along to every word. But at their core the songs are sincere, emotional and from the heart. So it makes sense that the writing process starts with just singer and guitarist James Alex and an acoustic guitar. If the songs can hold up in that form, he says, then he“makes it loud and they become Beach Slang.”James treated Jim and Greg, and a crowd of fans at the Goose Island Tap Room in Chicago to a special acoustic performance featuring songs from Beach Slang's new album A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings. James talks about starting a band while raising a family, his songwriting process and his on-going pursuit of happiness in a world full of muck.

Go to episode 568

The Decemberists

When Colin Meloy visited the show last year he promised to bring back his entire band, The Decemberists, next time they were in town. This week he makes good on his word. Meloy, Jenny Conlee, Chris Funk, John Moen and Nate Query join Jim and Greg for a conversation and performance. The band was in Chicago to perform a show and promote their most recent album The Crane Wife. This orchestral pop concept album is harder rocking than previous efforts, much to the delight of Greg, who only recently became a Decemberists‘ convert. Colin explains, "We’re really interested in rocking."

The band came into Chicago only a couple of weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre. Greg asks the band how that had affected their live shows. Colin responds that he was horrified by the incident, and was struck by how the media glommed onto the shooter's“macabre aesthetic.”In this case, these were perhaps warning signs, but Colin hopes people don't become unnecessarily paranoid about young people expressing their dark sides. Greg agrees, saying that art can often be the best way to respond to violence or tragedies.

The night Jim and Greg saw the Decemberists play live, Colin spoke about the Virginia Tech shootings, and the band followed that with a performance of "I'll Come Running," by Brian Eno. Sound Opinions listeners know that Jim has a special place in his heart for Eno, and he appreciated the choice of this song, which is about love and helping a friend. You can hear this song, as well as a rousing rendition of the three-part suite "The Crane Wife" in the course of the interview.

Go to episode 80

Run the Jewels

Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P are have both enjoyed a long history of critical acclaim. But it wasn't until formed a duo - Run the Jewels - that they enjoyed widespread attention and acclaim. The idea to work with El-P was suggested to Killer Mike by Jason DeMarco of Cartoon Network. Their bromance formed instantly, and the result was 2013's Run the Jewels and then 2014's Run the Jewels 2. Both were free releases, but Jim and Greg still said“Buy It”and added was the album to their Best of 2014 lists. This sophomore effort maintains the original's humor, but also adds more depth and more social and political commentary. Check out their special set from the new Goose Island Barrel House here in Chicago.

Go to episode 481

White Mystery

One of the best parts of Jim and Greg's jobs is that they get to discover great, new music, sometimes in their own backyards. Even better is when they can shine a spotlight on new bands on the show. This week they do just that. They're joined by White Mystery, a young garage rock duo from Chicago. Sister and brother Alex and Francis White have been making music together since they were kids. Alex, 24, went on to front a number of bands, most notably Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra. They are, of course, being compared to that other famous White duo, but with Alex's massive screech and Francis' raw and dirty drumming, Greg hears more of a combo of Tina Turner and the MC5. What do you hear? Check out these live songs and videos

Go to episode 251

Art Brut

This week's guests are the members of Art Brut: Eddie Argos, Ian Catskilkin, Jasper Future, Mikey B., and Freddy Feedback. Sound Opinions was anxious to get these Brits on the show after seeing them play at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. The band, which got its name from a French theory of outsider art, was in Chicago as part of its first U.S. tour, and just released its first album, Bang Bang Rock and Roll, in the U.S. earlier this week.

After lead singer and songwriter Eddie Argos warns the kids to "stay off the crack", we hear a bit of music by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Richman was a major influence on Argos as a songwriter. Argos explains that his career as a musician did not really come easily. After his former bandmates all left to go to university, Argos moved to London for a second try. But there were not many takers, because, as Argos explains, he is not much of a singer and can't play an instrument. Lucky for us, an inebriated Argos was able to convince a few people to join him, and so emerged Art Brut.

What Argos may lack in singing talent and musical ability, he certainly makes up for in personality. In the vein of singers like Damon Albarn and Lou Reed, Argos knows that attitude, wit and a voice are more important than formal training. That voice comes through in songs like "Formed a Band," where he expresses delight in the sheer act of forming a band.“Why not?”he explains to Jim and Greg.“Why can't we get on Top of the Pops?”People who have seen the band (who tours in a 40-foot tour bus) play live know that is a valid question indeed.

Go to episode 24

Grizzly Bear

Jim and Greg are joined next by the members of Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn-based band started rather modestly in 2004. Now they've become one of the most talked about groups in indie music today. In addition to notable appearances at Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival, the band opened for Radiohead and Paul Simon. Plus, they count Jay-Z and Beyonce as fans! Jim and Greg spoke with Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear on a Sunday morning in front of a live studio audience at the House of Blues in Chicago. There the band performed songs from its latest album Veckatimest. Unfortunately Michael McDonald wasn't there to join them on "While You Wait for the Others."

Go to episode 206

Fred Armisen

You know him as Fericito, the Tito Puente-like talk show host on Saturday Night Live or Spyke, the stretched hipster from Portlandia. But before Fred Armisen was a comedian, he was a punk rock drummer, working with groups like Chicago band Trenchmouth. It was only after spoofing the music industry conference SXSW and its "How to Make It"- style seminars that Fred transitioned into comedy. He went on to successful television projects and also produced a hilarious mock drum instruction video and a single by the aging hardcore act Crisis of Conformity. He returned to his old Chicago stomping grounds as part of Portlandia's live tour and spoke with Jim and Greg about the connections between music and humor. For example, musicians and music fans are rife for parody. And, Moammar Gadhafi is more like a rock star than you might think.

Portlandia fans should also check out Jim and Greg's interview with Carrie Brownstein and the members of Wild Flag.

Go to episode 327

Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert joins Jim and Greg this week. The three critics sit down to discuss some of their favorite movies made about music. Roger has called Woodstock the greatest rock documentary ever made. In fact, he thinks it's just one of the best movies ever made. He also recommends Hard Day's Night and Gimme Shelter. One movie Roger didn't love was Martin Scorcese's film Don't Look Back. In Roger's original review, he took Bob Dylan to task for being kind of a jerk (though he reconsidered the movie years later).

One of Jim and Greg's favorite rock and roll movies was actually written by Roger Ebert himself. He wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with Russ Meyer. The movie was quite successful and eventually became a cult classic, particularly in the rock world. The original story, written by Jacqueline Susann, was about struggling actresses. In this version, the actresses were turned into struggling rock stars. Despite the fact that the movie is not mentioned in Fox's official history, it is coming out this year on DVD.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was not our guest's only screenplay. Roger and his partner Russ Meyer also penned a The Sex Pistols movie entitled Who Killed Bambi. The movie never came to frution, but Roger describes his memorable experiences meeting Sid Vicious and John Lydon.

Before they let him leave, Jim and Greg ask the movie expert about music. Roger chooses Hank Williams as his DIJ pick, and also talks about being a fan of the Mills Brothers, Laurie Anderson, and fellow Chicago native Liz Phair.

Go to episode 14

The Numero Group

A few times a year Jim and Greg host their Buried Treasures show where they bring in their favorite under-the-radar albums. But, as our hosts admit, they are not nearly as obsessed as many avid music collectors. So this week they turn to the ultimate Buried Treasure aficionados: Numero Group. Rob Savier and Ken Shipley are two of the founders of this Chicago-based label, and they talk to Jim about how they fanatically scour record bins and auction sites across the country to locate otherwise forgotten musical gems. They also share some of the songs from Numero Group's first album compilation, Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label.

Go to episode 167

Dan Deacon

Jim and Greg's guest this week is Dan Deacon. Or rather, Dan Deacon's guests are Jim and Greg. He welcomed our hosts for a conversation and live performance before his recent show at the Metro in Chicago. Dan is known for creating electronic magic with his laptop computer and keyboards and for his energetic, unique performance style. He's often right in the middle of the audience, sweating and dancing — nerd punk style, if you will. For Jim and Greg he stayed onstage with his band, but the music was no less amazing.

Go to episode 183

Willis Earl Beal

Willis Earl Beal has had quite a career trajectory. Born in Chicago, he joined the army, only to quit shortly thereafter. He then moved to Albuquerque, NM, where, while homeless and working as a security guard, he started recording music in a very crude way—on a karaoke machine with a microphone. He left CDs of these recordings and flyers around town until they were discovered by Found Magazine. That led to a deal with XL Recordings and two releases, including the most recent, Nobody Knows.

Go to episode 411

Neko Case

Singer/songwriter Neko Case is back with a new album called The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. This is Neko's 6th release, and over the past few years she's let the world see a little more of her humor and unique point of view. Granted, she still lives quite privately on a farm in Vermont, but the songs on this album, not to mention all the tweets, are more revealing than ever. The album is also poised to bring Neko the biggest profile of her career, so Jim and Greg thought it would be fun to bring her back to the place where it all started: the Chicago music club, The Hideout. She worked as a bartender there in the early 2000s, and even bunked upstairs. She performs songs from the new album with Eric Bachmann & Kelly Hogan.

Go to episode 413

Parquet Courts

Immediately after giving double Buy It ratings to Parquet Courts' full-length debut Light Up Gold, Jim and Greg knew they wanted to invite them on the show to perform. The band made a trip to Chicago to perform at this summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, and the night before they treated a Sound Opinions audience to a live recording with Savages. Guitarist Austin Brown, bass player Sean Yeaton, guitarist Andrew Savage, and his brother, drummer Max talked about their early years (including the "Knights of the Round Turntable"), their speedy recording process and side jobs. If you weren‘t able to make it, don’t fret. We've got photo and video. And while you're at it, check out the Savages set.

Go to episode 415

Rodrigo y Gabriela

The Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela joined us for a special performance at the Goose Island Barrelhouse in Chicago. The duo moved from Mexico City to Dublin and famously busked on the streets. It's now a worldwide phenomenon, combining the sounds of flamenco music, heavy metal and folk rock. Gabriela acts as the bands drummer, using the body of her guitar as a percussive instrument, and Rodrigo plays the guitar as if he were headbanging. In fact, Greg wonders about his collaboration with Testament guitarist Alex Skolnik. The band's last album, Area 42, took them to Cuba, where they collaborated with local musicians.

Go to episode 424

Mission of Burma

Mission of Burma This week's guests are the men of Mission of Burma: Roger Miller, Clint Conley, Peter Prescott, and Bob Weston. The post-punk pioneers were in Chicago to perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival, so they stopped by Sound Opinions for a discussion and performance. Jim and Greg explain that Mission of Burma is a rare example of a band able to break up, reunite and continue making music as good as (if not better than) they did before. Burma's first incarnation was in the early 1980s — they recorded one album in 1982 before they had to disband due to Roger's debilitating tinnitus, but their influence is undeniable. The band returned twenty years later to tour and record OnOffOn, and have recently released The Obliterati, which both Jim and Greg say may make their Best of 2006 lists.

Mission of Burma is known for combining pop melodies with quite a lot of noise. These characteristics often get the band thrown in the same pot as bands like Gang of Four and Wire, but listeners shouldn‘t confuse these post-punkers. One of Burma’s distinctive features is their use of tape loops. During their first go-around, Martin Swope would record the band's sound and manipulate it live with a reel-to-reel tape machine. Now Shellac's Bob Weston has the job, and you can hear the effects on "Max Ernst," which they perform live on the show. Another famous looper is Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, though he works digitally.

Another Burma trademark is the songwriting. All three regular members, Roger, Clint and Peter, pen very smart, rather literate lyrics. An example of this is another song they perform live, "Donna Sumeria." While it was Roger's attempt at a love song, it's also a witty pun on Donna Summer and the ancient Middle Eastern civilization. Greg cites it as an example of Burma's punk sensibility. Their music doesn't have rules and can even have disco elements.

Go to episode 38

Angel Olsen

From St. Louis, to Chicago to Asheville, NC, Angel Olsen is now a national figure in indie rock. Her first big break came after performing backup for Bonnie Prince Billy, but Olsen has grown into a confident artist in her own right. Her songwriting has been compared to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and her voice has been compared to that of the great Roy Orbison. For most of her career, Olsen has made sparse, introspective records, starting with her first EP, Strange Cactii, and then with her debut album, Half Way Home. Now with her latest record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, the critical acclaim has matched that of fans. During her studio visit, Angel Olsen played songs from this new record, talked to us about the challenge of playing with a full band, and how she views songwriting as an exercise in acting.

Go to episode 447

Ty Segall

Knowing Jim and Greg's affection for pop melodies smothered in noise, it should come as no surprise that Ty Segall's music hits them right in the sweet spot. The 24-year-old musician was born in Orange County California, but made his name in San Francisco's thriving garage rock revival scene. Ty is nothing if not prolific. Since 2008 he's released eight albums, including three this year: Hair in April, Slaughterhouse in June, and now Twins in October. Shortly after Slaughterhouse's release Ty and his band joined Jim and Greg onstage at Lincoln Hall in Chicago for a live taping of Sound Opinions. He talked about the MTV reality show that ruined his hometown, his early punk influences, and his love of old garage rock. And of course, he and the band performed a raucous live set (we've only just regained our hearing).

Go to episode 360

Japandroids

This summer three hundred fans joined Jim and Greg for a sold-out live taping of Sound Opinions at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The night's special guests? Canadian garage rock duo Japandroids. Drummer David Prowse and guitarist Brian King were in a feisty mood, taking Jim to task for his characterization of their music as“wonderfully ugly.”"Is that a back-handed compliment?" Brian wanted to know. The two also performed tracks from their sophomore album, Celebration Rock (a Buy It for both Jim and Greg). Dave and Brian met as students in Victoria, British Columbia. (If you're thinking of visiting, Brian recommends the Wax Museum's "Chamber of Horrors.") They launched Japandroids in 2006 and tried to make a go of it in the Vancouver music scene, already home to bands like Chet and Atlas Strategic. Despite the fact there's only two of them, Japandroids make quite a roar, and they quickly made a name for themselves as an exhilarating live act. But they found frustratingly few venues to play in Vancouver. By the time Japandroids released their debut, Post-Nothing, in 2009, Dave tells Greg they thought it would be their farewell. That didn‘t happen. Internet fate intervened, Post-Nothing blew up, and Brian and David embarked on a year and a half of touring. As its title suggests, Celebration Rock is really a party record. But Greg detects a note of melancholy amidst the boozing. Brian’s response: "If this is the last record we're ever going to do, let's make sure it's the best record we're ever going to do."

Go to episode 357

Philip Sherburne

EDM - or Electronic Dance Music - has exploded over the past decade in Europe and the United States. But if names like Skrillex, Tiesto, Deadmau5, and David Guetta mean nothing to you, never fear. Jim and Greg have brought in Spin's Philip Sherburne, author of the“Control Voltage”blog, to offer a primer for the un-initiated. They kick off the conversation with a discussion of the genre's recent evolution: from the short-lived nineties rave scene with its anonymous DJs spinning in dark rooms, to the audio/visual spectacles presided over by celebrity DJs that we see today. A new emphasis on showmanship, and the adoption of dub step's aggressive, bass-heavy beats have won superstar producers like Skrillex, Tiesto, and Rusko a huge, youthful following says Sherburne, effectively making EDM the new stadium rock. But he'd also suggest keeping your eye on the up-and-comers, artists like SBTRKT, Four Tet, and Caribou.

Wrapping things up, Jim and Greg put the new artists we've heard in historical context. After all, as Jim says, covering dance music can give you deja vu. Greg reminds us that todays EDM producers are following in the footsteps of disco artists like Giorgio Moroder, Chicago house and techno musicians, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Fatboy Slim, and - dare we say it - Brian Eno.

Go to episode 341

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang, author of Can‘t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Jeff, who co-founded the Quannum Label in San Francisco, was on the show previously when his book first came out, and he and our hosts engaged in a discussion of hip-hop's history. Now that Jeff's book has come out on paperback, Jim and Greg welcome him back to the show to discuss where hip-hop is today and where it is going. In order to get a sense of hip-hop's diverse makeup, the three music journalists decide to embark on a geographical tour of the genre, beginning with Chicago and working their way through the United States, and even the U.K.

Go to episode 15

Scary Lady Sarah

Bauhaus For Jim and Greg, the ultimate Goth progenitors are the band Bauhaus. Named for the German art movement, the group made minimalist, electronic music that focused on dark subjects. Initially, they shied away from the term“Goth,”but with song titles like that of their debut single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead," you can understand why it stuck. Greg saw the group at the Coachella Music Festival in 2005, and vocalist Peter Murphy performed the entire song suspended upside down over the stage like a bat. So, it seems they've warmed up to the Goth moniker.

In order to go deeper into the Goth underground, Jim and Greg invite Scary Lady Sarah to join the show. Our guest has been a mainstay on the goth scene for almost 20 years. She is a DJ and promoter based in Chicago and Berlin, and runs American Goth Productions.

Scary Lady Sarah's goth rock picks:

  • Thatch Noir, "Cat in a Box"
  • Miguel and the Living Dead, "Graveyard Love Song"
  • Faith & The Muse, "Sredni Vashtar"
  • Pretentious, Moi?, "The Haunting"

Her other current faves include:

  • Blacklist
  • Diary of Dreams
  • Entertainment
  • Ether Aura
  • Frank the Baptist
  • Mephisto Walz
  • Passion Play
  • Solemn Novena
Go to episode 47

Rhymefest

Rapper Rhymefest joins Jim and Greg on the show this week. Rhymefest, born Che Smith in Chicago's Jeffrey Manor neighborhood, is one of many Chicago rappers slated to be the next Kanye or Common. But Rhymefest is no novice to the scene. A longtime staple of the city's battle rapping scene, Rhymefest initially claimed fame after defeating Eminem in an emcee tournament. He later helped to pen Kanye West's Grammy-winning song "Jesus Walks." But now listeners can hear some of Rhymefest's own work, from his major label debut Blue Collar, released this week.

Two of the tracks you'll hear are "Devil's Pie," which is based on a sample of The Strokes' "Someday," and "Bullet," which samples Citizen Cope's "Bullet and a Target." Rhymefest plays“Bullet”and explains the story behind this track to Jim and Greg. He recounts being at the mall, and seeing a promotion to win a brand new Hummer. But upon further investigation, the rapper discovers that this is not a sweepstakes he is signing up for, but rather the U.S. Army.

Go to episode 33

Eleventh Dream Day

Eleventh Dream Day Jim and Greg harken back to the alternative era this week as they sit down with Eleventh Dream Day. The band formed in 1983 and got its start as part of the Chicago underground scene alongside peers Hüsker Dü in St. Paul and Nirvana in Seattle. Greg remembers watching Eleventh Dream Day perform at that time, and knew they were destined for big things. But, while albums like Prairie School Freakout garnered high critical praise and caught the attention of Atlantic Records, they were never able to achieve major commercial success. As Jim notes, however, they are having the last laugh with their impressive longevity, especially considering founding members Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean got married, had a child and got divorced, all while maintaining the group. In January Eleventh Dream Day released its eleventh studio album Works for Tomorrow, and they show no signs of slowing, as is clear in this ferocious live performance in the Sound Opinions studio.

Go to episode 540

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

It's time to "Man Up" for a visit from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They are the dynamic duo behind South Park and the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.“What are they doing on our rock and roll show?”you ask. Well, some of the greatest moments of satire (see last week's show) on South Park are musical. In fact, check out our favorites here.

Plus, you could argue the show itself is quite punk rock with it's no holds barred attitude and lo-fi animation. The show even spawned a Rick Rubin-produced album. Now we have an equally outrageous musical, The Book of Mormon. It tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda. It's even“bluer”than South Park, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it's a smash hit. Trey, Matt and collaborator Robert Lopez have won a slew of Tony Awards and a record-breaking slot on the Billboard chart. So, how'd two Ween, Primus and Prog Rock fans from Colorado end up the toast of Broadway? Trey and Matt explained this and their songwriting philosophy during their visit to our studios. They were in town for the Chicago opening of the play.

Go to episode 374

Drive-By Truckers

Eleven albums into their career, Drive-By Truckers have written perhaps their most provocative and timely album to date American Band. Tackling politics, race relations, gun violence, and rebellion the album holds a mirror up to the current feelings of division in the United States. But the album has a groove to it as well — it doesn't feel like a civics lessons. For all those reasons the album was a favorite of both Jim and Greg in 2016. Drive-By Truckers are no strangers to Sound Opinions but this time the prinipal songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley joined Jim and Greg and an audience at the Goose Island Tap Room in Chicago for an interview and an exclusive acoustic performance. Hood and Cooley talked about inspiration, resistance, and how two college roommates have been making music together for more than 30 years.

Go to episode 595

Gene Chandler

Hosts Jim and Greg interview Chicago Soul singer Gene Chandler, who is best known as the“Duke of Earl.”Jim thinks 1961's“Duke of Earl”is one of the best pop or rock songs of that era. Gene Chandler came out of a tradition of Doo Wop in Chicago that included groups like the Flamingos and the Spaniels. He worked closely with fellow Chicago Soul legends Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. Later in his career, he transitioned into producing other artists, even running his own label,“Mister Chand.”The epitome of a“soul survivor,”Gene scored hits during the Doo-Wop, Soul, and Disco eras.

Go to episode 588
specials

Wax Trax!

People in Chicago of a certain age fondly remember strolling down Lincoln Avenue into Wax Trax! Records. It was the epicenter of cutting edge culture in the 1980s. But even if you weren‘t there to sample goods from the record store and label, you’re familiar with its influence. Owners Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher created a world headquarters for artists who bridged disco, house, electronic, punk, and industrial music. Acts like Ministry, Front 242, RevCo, Underworld, KMFDM, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult went on to sell millions of records internationally. Nash died in 1995 and Flesher in 2010. A year later, Wax Trax friends and family celebrated its 33 1/3 anniversary at Metro in Chicago. Two key players in that scene were Chris Connelly and Paul Barker. They share their memories of Wax Trax with Jim and Greg.

Go to episode 293

A Merge Records Retrospective

This economy has not been easy on independent labels, as Jim and Greg reported a couple of weeks ago regarding Touch and Go here in Chicago. So, it's that much more significant to hear of an indie label going strong for 20 years. This week Jim and Greg talk to the founders of one such label — Merge Records in North Carolina. In 1989, Superchunk members Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance founded Merge as a way to release their music and that of their friends. Twenty years later, it's still growing and has launched such bands as Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, She & Him, and Arcade Fire, who gave the label its first Billboard hit.

Go to episode 173

Record Store Day 2009

The official Record Store Day is April 18, but for Jim, Greg and other hardcore music fans, every day is Record Store Day. To honor the independent record store industry, Jim and Greg speak with Matt Jencik, head buyer at Reckless Records in Chicago, Marc Weinstein, co-founder of Amoeba Music in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and John Kunz, owner and president of Waterloo Records in Austin. These veterans of mom and pop record shops discuss the challenges they face in the wake of the digital music revolution, including exclusivity deals that artists like Prince and AC/DC have made with big box retailers. They also stress the value local retailers have in our communities.

Jim and Greg both have personal relationships with record stores as well as professional ones. During the next segment they recall two indie shops that were important to them and play songs they discovered subsequently. Jim plays "You're So Cool," by The Cyclones, a band he discovered at Pier Platters in Hoboken, NJ. Greg plays, "Temptation" by New Order, a band he fell in love with at Wax Trax in Chicago.

Go to episode 177

Culinary Music

During this episode we also hear from other music-loving chefs from around the country including:

  • Wesley Genovart of Degustation in New York
  • Doug Sohn of Hot Doug's in Chicago
  • Brenda Langton of Spoon River and Café Brenda in Minneapolis
  • Craig Serbousek of Crow and Bette in Seattle
  • Graham Elliot Bowles of Avenues in Chicago

To cap off this show, Jim and Greg run through their favorite culinary-inspired songs. All of them are either about food, inspired by food, or simply name foods, and all of them certainly rock.

Go to episode 113

Touch and Go Records

This week Jim and Greg wanted to take a look at one of the music industry's most important independent labels: Touch and Go Records. Touch and Go recently turned 25 and celebrated with a three-day bash at Chicago's Hideout Block Party. Over the course of the show, you‘ll hear why Jim and Greg wanted to focus on this modest Chicago label. You’ll also hear from the founder himself, Corey Rusk, and a number of the label's artists, including Scott McCloud from Girls Against Boys, Janet Weiss from Quasi (and formerly Sleater-Kinney), Ted Leo, David Yow from Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard and recording engineer and musician Steve Albini of Big Black and Shellac fame.

Touch and Go's founder Corey Rusk is known not just as a tastemaker with an incredible ear for talent, but also as one of the most honest businessmen in the biz. This is what separates Touch and Go from other labels, major and independent alike. Rusk's business model, which doesn't shy away from the Internet and which relies merely on trust and a handshake, has kept it going for 25 years, helping it to outlive its peers. Labels like Twin/Tone in Minneapolis, which launched The Replacements, SST in California which launched Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, and I.R.S. in which launched R.E.M. and The Go Go's, all emerged in the early '80s after punk's mainstream explosion and before alternative's reign. However, Touch and Go is the only one of the bunch not only to stay in business, but to do so successfully and independently.

The best way to understand the label's significance is to sample some of the music. You'll hear these songs in our short-but-sweet montage of Touch and Go music:

  1. Killdozer, "Hi There"
  2. Girls Against Boys, "Kill the Sexplayer"
  3. The Dirty Three, "Doris"
  4. Jesus Lizard, "Mouth Breather"
  5. TV on the Radio, "Dreams"
  6. Butthole Surfers, "Fast"
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Art Star"
  8. Calexico, "Cruel"

Touch and Go has put out a lot of music over the past quarter century, but Jim and Greg both manage to pick their single favorite T&G tracks. Greg goes first and chooses "Stage 2000" by Seam. Touch and Go is often thought of as the place to go to for loud, hard-edged punk music, and that is certainly true. However, their roster is actually quite diverse, and there are a number of bands like Seam, who are making beautiful, soft, melodic music.“Stage 2000”is on Greg's favorite Seam album, The Problem With Me. That album was recorded with Chicago producer Brad Wood, best known for producing Liz Phair's classic Exile in Guyville.

Jim's Touch and Go pick is "Kerosene" by Big Black off their 1985 album Atomizer. Though Atomizer was initially released by Homestead Records, Big Black moved to Touch and Go a year later, and the label reissued the band's entire catalog. So we'll let Jim slide on this one — especially since no one has been as closely associated with Touch and Go as Big Black founder Steve Albini. Albini came to Chicago to study journalism at Northwestern, and Jim can hear this sensibility in his lyrics. Songs like "Kerosene" are essentially sensationalistic tabloid stories backed with thrashing noise-rock.

Go to episode 43

Holiday Spectacular

Holiday music maven Andy Cirzan visits Sound Opinions every December to share with Jim and Greg a new collection of unique tunes for the season. From the weird to the wonderful, these are not your standard Christmas carols. By day Andy runs Jam Productions in Chicago. By night he searches through record stores, dustbins and basements to find gems for Sound Opinions and his annual compilation. This edition is called Santa Soul. You‘ll be treated to holiday soul comps of yesteryear. These are killer Xmas dusties from the ’60s and '70s -tracks by well-known artists like James Brown, as well as groovy underground acts. So light up the yule log and let the soul party begin! Cheers from everyone at Sound Opinions!

Go to episode 368

Sound Opinions Christmas Spectacular

Holiday music collector Andy Cirzan joins Jim and Greg every Christmas to share his new batch of seasonal tunes. By day, he runs Jam Productions in Chicago, but by night, he searches through record stores, dustbins and basements to find gems for his annual compilation. He shares a few of his favorites during this episode and, as a special bonus, is sharing his mix with Sound Opinions listeners.

Download the 2010 compilation: Yowls & Yodels from the Yule Vortex…further adventures in holiday obscura. This free digital download will be available from December 17, 2010 to January 1, 2011.

Go to episode 264

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead celebrated its 50th anniversary in July with a series of farewell shows at Soldier Field in Chicago. We're using that as an opportunity to reexamine the legacy of the controversial band. The Dead formed in the Bay Area in the 1960s and featured a core membership of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, keyboardist Ron“Pigpen”McKernan, bassist Phil Lesh, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, with important contributions from lyricist Robert Hunter. Though it was the prototypical "jam band," The Dead's sound was much more eclectic and harder to pin down than that sometimes derisive term indicates, incorporating free jazz, psychedelia, bluegrass, blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, and more.

The Dead built a community of devoted fans who would travel with the band from town to town, some of whom would tape the performances and share the recordings, which the band encouraged. Though Deadheads contend the true essence of the band was experienced in its experimental live shows, Jim has little patience for the erratic performances and instead prefers the band's early studio recordings. Greg argues that The Dead was a consistently great live band during its peak in the '70s, before drugs took their toll and the surprise 1987 chart hit "Touch of Grey" altered the fanbase. Garcia, who died in 1995, was an irreplaceable musical genius, and the band leaves behind a legacy of experimentation, eclecticism, and an unparalleled musical community.

Go to episode 505

Xmas Spectacular 2011

Holiday music maven Andy Cirzan joins Jim and Greg every Christmas to share a new collection of unique tunes for the season. By day Andy runs Jam Productions in Chicago. By night he searches through record stores, dustbins and basements to find gems for his annual compilation. And he shares a few favorites during this episode. Andy describes the first set as poppin' soul music from the '60s and '70s. Then he brings in the straight ahead uptempo jazz featuring songs from his 2011 compilation "Swingin' Snowflakes: Jingle Jangle Jazz Party." Finally, we go off into the wild blue yonder and get some truly weird and wonderful Christmas songs.

Go to episode 316

Christmas Spectacular 2008

The show's very own Kris Kringle, aka Andy Cirzan, is back for the 10th year with another batch of weird and wonderful holiday tunes. By day Andy runs Jam Productions in Chicago. But by night, he searches far and wide to add to his collection of holiday obscura.

Spread the holiday cheer! Download Andy's entire 20th anniversary Christmas compilation, The Cassette Years: Part 1. This free download will be available from December 19, 2008 until January 2, 2009.

Go to episode 160

Ask the Critics

To kick off the first show of the new year, Jim and Greg answer some of your questions.

Mark from Chicago and John from Lexington, SC want to know how Jim and Greg choose reviews and how they listen to those albums? Jim explains that we first narrow down a list of albums that are either interesting or making news. Then it comes down to what would make a good mix for the show. So if the feature segment is all about soul, we might like to get a little punk at the end. Greg answers part two, and explains that he tries to listen to an album as many times as possible and, most importantly, in as many different scenarios as possible. He hears music very differently whether he is driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago or doing dishes at home.

This leads to question #2. Nathan in Chicago is looking for suggestions on how to heighten the digital music experience. Can we do better than just headphones in an iPod? Jim and Greg admit they are not always seeking the most hi-fi experience, so they turn to Bob Gendron, copy editor for Music Direct and contributor to the Chicago Tribune. Bob recommends Nathan get a pair of Grado SR-60i headphones. Priced at $79, they give nice bang for the buck. But if Nathan is a high roller who wants his mind blown, Bob refers him to the Audeze LCD-3.

Chris from Corvallis, OR emailed interact@soundopinions.org for recommendations on songs to learn to play on ukulele. All the uke players around Sound Opinions H.Q. say that Paul McCartney is a great place to start; the simple pop melodies are perfect for the four-stringed instrument. Greg adds a vote for Weezer. YouTube is filled with ukulele love. Check out the footnotes below for some more of our favorites:

Got a question for the critics? Call 888.859.1800 or email interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 371

Chess Records

50 years ago, The Rolling Stones touched down in the United States for their very first American tour. While here, the band made a pilgrimage to Chicago's legendary Chess Records to record their take on tunes from the label's blues heavyweights like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Chuck Berry. Those Chess sessions appeared on The Stones second album, 12 x 5, which also debuted 50-years ago. To mark the occasion, Jim and Greg explore the history and legacy of Chess, whose 25-year run produced music that influenced rockers like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and more. Jim and Greg highlight these Chess artists:

  • Muddy Waters
  • Willie Dixon
  • Chuck Berry
  • Howlin' Wolf
  • Little Walter
  • Sonny Boy Williamson
  • Bobby Charles
  • Buddy Guy
Go to episode 440
classic album dissections
Live At the RegalLive at the Regal available on iTunes

B.B. King Live at the Regal

B.B. King was the face of the blues for much of the world. Sadly, we'll never get to hear him play his trusty guitar Lucille again. He passed away on May 14, 2015 at age 89. To honor the late great bluesman, we're offering a Classic Album Dissection of his Live at the Regal concert album, recorded in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood in 1964. Jim and Greg are joined by photographer, writer, promoter and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Dick Waterman. Waterman was a long-time friend of B.B.'s and co-author of The B.B. King Treasures. He explains that while King was pleased that Live at the Regal achieved iconic status, he didn't think there was anything special about his performance that night. Had they taped any other show around that time, the results would have been much the same. Still, the masterful control that B.B. had over his raucous crowd that evening became legendary. For Jim, the album resembles a celebratory church service more than any depressing blues stereotype.

If B.B. King's on-stage persona is that of a humble, genial man, that's because he truly was one in real life. According to Waterman, B.B. devoted hours after each show to meeting with his fans as a show of appreciation for their contribution to his success. Even after the mainstream commercial success of "The Thrill is Gone," he always stayed true to his vision, never watering it down for his new white audience. He was one of the last of his generation of blues artists, but his legacy is going to live on.

Go to episode 499
genre dissections

Post-Rock

With Tortoise joining them in the studio this week, Jim and Greg take a moment to give a primer on the post-rock movement. Like virtually all genre labels,“post-rock”is a term rejected by most of the artists associated with it. It generally refers to a set of mostly instrumental bands in the 1990s who used non-traditional instrumentation and a collage-like approach to blending genres. Jim and Greg trace the origins of the movement to German krautrock, experimental '60s jazz-rock bands, and dub reggae. There were major post-rock acts across the globe, including in the UK (Stereolab), Montreal (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), and especially in Chicago. From Tortoise to Gastr Del Sol to The Denison/Kimball Trio, Chicago's scene fostered an eclectic experimentation with styles.

Go to episode 557
reviews
Finding ForeverFinding Forever available on iTunes

Common Finding Forever

Chicago rapper Common has a new album out this week called Finding Forever. This is the former Sound Opinions guest's follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 release Be. Jim explains that this is a big year for Common. In addition to having a successful hat company, he‘ll appear in a number of movies this year. But, it’s music that is Common's priority, and Jim hopes that hip hop fans won't dismiss this effort as another conscious record from a“backpack rapper.”Common was schooled in traditional lyric writing, and he really demonstrates the power of words in these songs. On the Buy It, Try It, Trash It scale, Jim gives Finding Forever a Buy It. Greg also thinks this is a great record, but admits that it will pales in comparison to the groundbreaking Be. But, as Greg explains, more of a good thing is still a good thing. Common and Kanye West have continued their special collaboration which results in an old-fashioned, beginning-to-end album — something that is rare in contemporary hip hop. He also gives the new Common a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 88
Burn Your Fire For No WitnessBurn Your Fire for No Witness available on iTunes

Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No Witness

From Missouri to Chicago and now Asheville, NC, singer/songwriter Angel Olsen has been quietly making a name for herself. Now, with her second full LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, she's being compared to Leonard Cohen and Patsy Cline. Jim and Greg agree that this release is a huge step forward, combining wan, contemplative lyrics with truly rock ‘n’ roll backing band. While she may not be a Leonard Cohen just yet, both Jim and Greg think that Olsen's lyricism alone deserves your cash: Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 429
The Healing ComponentThe Healing Component available on iTunes

Mick Jenkins The Healing Component

Mick Jenkins is a key player in the Chicago hip-hop scene Jim and Greg discussed earlier. After receiving national acclaim on his first mixtapes, the rapper has now released his first official album: The Healing Component. Jim picks up on a message of love flowing through the album. Jenkins calls for love as a solution to the problems of the black community, yet he's not simply being naive and sunny. He references Eric Garner's death and Black Lives Matter throughout, but ultimately is optimistic for the community. Jim says the album is brilliant and that Jenkins is an important new voice. Greg admires that Jenkins is not doing what everybody else is doing in hip-hop. Rather than work with big name producers, he's opted to create his own stoned, abstract jazzy sound. For Greg, this is what art is all about – the album is both community minded and pushing forward culturally. The Healing Component gets a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 566
The AutobiographyThe Autobiography available on iTunes

Vic Mensa The Autobiography

This week, Jim and Greg review The Autobiography, the debut album by Chicago rapper Vic Mensa – a name already familiar around Chicago , with fans including Chance The Rapper and Kanye West. Mensa raps with a "genre-free approach to what hip hop is" while addressing his upbringing, his experiences with violence and drugs, and his own self-abuse - causing Greg to describe the record as brutally honest and“very emo.” Jim and Greg applaud producer No I.D. both for recognizing Mensa's artistic abilities and for producing a succinct album, rather than a bunch of singles. While Jim and Greg note that Mensa definitely tries too hard with some of the lyrics, both agree that the album is“really impressive…and moving”and give it a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 611
Black America Again (feat. Stevie Wonder) - SingleBlack America Again available on iTunes

Common Black America Again

Common is one of the many hip-hop talents to come out of Chicago in the last 15 or so years. His masterful free-styling and charisma took him beyond music to an acting career that, at times, took away from his music career. Greg says his latest, Black America Again, is a return to the vitality of his early albums. He hears Common taking on the role of a“spiritual messenger”as he weaves together African-American history with music resulting in a concept album about the continuing struggle for full freedom for African-Americans. It is a Buy It for Greg. Jim wholeheartedly agrees, as Common's mastery of words mixes humor with super serious messages resulting in an honesty to his songs. Black America Again is a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 571
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album

Next up is rapper Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album . It wasn‘t too long ago in 2006 that Jim and Greg reviewed Lupe’s debut, the original Food & Liquor. It was a standout album in a wave of conscious hip-hop coming out of Chicago at the time. Now at age 30, Lupe is a veteran of the rap game. What does he have to offer on Food & Liquor II? According to Jim, plenty of food for thought. Lupe is rapping about issues like misogyny, economic exploitation of the poor, and native American rights that Jim says no one else in hip-hop is tackling. And if Lupe sometimes gets a little preachy, he also leavens his critiques with humor. Greg agrees, but he wishes the greatness of Lupe's lyrics were matched by consistently great production. Despite those production flaws, Food & Liquor II gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 358
Album Art

Chance the Rapper Acid Rap

A number of Chicago rappers are blowing up right now-Chief Keef, King Louie, Lil Durk. But unlike those“drill scene”artists, Chance the Rapper is the kid next door. Jim loves that this“extraordinary artist”can be both deeply profound and also funny as heck on his new mixtape Acid Rap. He calls "Pushaman" the "Ohio)" that Chicago needs. Greg is also loving the goofy, self-deprecating lyrics and hears a huge amount of growth on this second, deeply moving mixtape. Acid Rap gets a double Buy It, and yet it's completely free!

JimGreg
Go to episode 390
Lasers (Deluxe Version)Lasers available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Lasers

Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by Lupe Fiasco called Lasers. The Chicago hip-hop artist debuted in 2006 with Food and Liquor, showcasing a sensibility unique in rap. This third album was a labor, and not necessarily of love. Lupe has admitted to having real difficulties with his record company – difficulties that led to compromises on a lot of tracks. That said, Jim loves Lupe's lyrics and "1960s message." There are inflated choruses and too many guest stars, but his words trump it all. Jim says Buy It. Greg wishes he could agree, but it's too clear which tracks he was less involved in. He looks forward to the next effort, but for now says Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 276
Dye It BlondeDye it Blonde available on iTunes

Smith Westerns Dye it Blonde

Chicago trio Smith Westerns have released their second album, Dye it Blonde, and Jim and Greg are happy to hear that these relative youngsters haven't shied away from their innocence. Their sweet love songs come out of a great tradition of Midwestern power pop. Plus, adds Greg, when you factor in the guitars and keyboards, the music gets taken to a higher level. He admits there isn't a lot of drive in the rhythms, but on the basis of melody alone, he gives Dye it Blonde a Buy It rating. Jim also admires the band's songwriting chops. But while the first release was a little too lo-fi, this one is a little too polished. Jim says Buy It, but would tell the Smith Westerns to go for more grunge next time.

JimGreg
Go to episode 270
YeezusYeezus available on iTunes

Kanye West Yeezus

For the past decade, Kanye West has been the dominant force in hip-hop - maybe even all of pop, Jim says. And this week he came out with album no. six, Yeezus. West's last solo record, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, featured rich, radio-friendly production. On Yeezus, West has scaled back the lushness, if not the egomania. Greg says he hears everything from Chicago drill music to industrial influences on this“brutally minimalist”record. Forget the radio audience - Yeezus is about Kanye and his anger. Thematically, that means lots of songs about freedom and control, Greg says, and West's perception that, for all his sucgicess, he is still being denied a place at the“big boy table”where his fellow business and media moguls sit. Potent stuff, but West's downfall, both Jim and Greg agree, is the sloppily racist and misogynistic lyrics he relies. On the basis of the music alone, Jim says, Yeezus is a Buy it, but the lyrics are trash. Yeezus gets a double Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 395
Double UpDouble Up available on iTunes

R. Kelly Double Up

One man that is always in the news is music star R. Kelly. The self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B" has a new album out called Double Up. The Chicago native has sold more than 40 million albums in his career, but that's not the only reason he's making headlines. As Jim and a team of his colleagues first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelly engaged in a number of sexual relationships with underage women (according to lawsuits those girls filed against him), and he is under indictment for making child pornography after allegedly videotaping one of these encounters. (He is still awaiting trial but has always maintained his innocence.) These charges have not affected Kelly's sales or his prolific rate of recording, and Jim notes that he finds it difficult to listen to the lyrics on Double Up while Kelly talks so cavalierly about sex and makes light of the criminal case. To Jim it's just not art — it's a disturbing look into a troubled psyche. Greg agrees that it can be difficult to separate the man from the music, and this has been a challenge throughout pop music. Musically though, Double Up feels a little played out to Greg. He describes R. Kelly as a masterful producer, but doesn‘t think the sounds on this album are as strong as those on his earlier efforts. In terms of the lyrical content, a lot of Kelly’s fans find humor in some of his freaky, over-the-top professions of lust. But, this time around, Greg hears much more of a mean spirit in his voice. He describes it as one of the worst R. Kelly records and gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
...For the Whole World to SeeFor The Whole World To See available on iTunes

Death For The Whole World To See

The final review this week is a reissue from Detroit punk band Death. …For The Whole World To See took thirty years to see the light of day, but now Chicago label Drag City has resurrected the album, and Jim and Greg are thrilled. It was groundbreaking for three African Americans from Detroit to play punk and garage rock instead of soul and R&B. Listening to this album Jim can easily picture the group on a bill with Iggy and The Stooges and the MC5. Greg admits the music is somewhat primitive, but finds it aggressive and packed with ambition. …For the Whole World to See gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 202
Sir The Baptist

Sir the Baptist Saint or Sinner

Chicago's Sir the Baptist broke on the scene with a gospel-fueled single called "Raise Hell", and his debut album Saint or Sinner continues his experiments in blending the sacred and the street. Greg says that at Lollapalooza last year, Sir performed part of his set out of a casket on stage, "a commentary on the gun violence in Chicago; but also, a deeper message about faith, about spirituality, and about the role it could play in the lives of young people." Jim and Greg note that Sir the Baptist was ahead of the curve of mixing religious music and popular urban music that fellow Chicagoans Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods have also explored. Jim says that Sir the Baptist is "firmly based in that rich Chicago tradition of gospel music" but Sir is "skeptical… of faith that is not grounded in morality". He calls "Deliver Me" an extraordinary track. Jim praises the album's deep themes. Both Jim and Greg give Saint or Sinner an enthusiastic Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 600
Exile In GuyvilleExile in Guyville available on iTunes

Liz Phair Exile in Guyville

This month, Liz Phair's debut album Exile in Guyville will be reissued to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its initial release. This reissue will include the complete Girly-Sound tapes, which will be the first time that material will be released on a label for purchase. Back in 1991, Greg says that everybody in Chicago who cared about music had“a dub of a dub of a dub”of the tapes (which were recorded in Liz Phair's bedroom and released independently.) Many of the tracks evolved into material on Exile in Guyville. Jim and Greg agree that the album is a anthemic counter statement to Chicago's“Boy's Club”music scene. They both thought the album was great in 1993; and Greg says the recording "stands the test of time." Jim thinks that the idea that Exile in Guyville is a track by track response to The Rolling Stones' classic Exile on Main St. is strictly positioning, and“doesn't hold up.”Greg thinks that with the creation of that myth she was“playing the critics”and she was being "very tongue in cheek." 25 years later, Both Jim and Greg give Exile in Guyville a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 649
The WeirdnessThe Weirdness available on iTunes

The Stooges The Weirdness

Despite any personal issues that band members might have had, Ron Ashteon explains that he was excited at Iggy's invite to start things up again so many years later. They enlisted the help of Chicago-based recordist Steve Albini and made The Weirdness. Greg states right away that this album isn‘t in the same category as the band’s first three. He thinks it's a solid effort, however. Greg was impressed by the rhythm section of Scott Asheton and Mike Watt of The Minutemen, but missed the strong songwriting and melodies of songs like "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He counts Iggy Pop as the wild card, and doesn‘t think he’s up to par. He gives The Weirdness a Burn It. Jim's reaction to the album was just a bit more negative. He calls it a“disaster”and an“embarrassment,”and doubts Greg will ever listen to it again. He thinks Ron Asheton is doing as fine a job as ever, but was offended by the stupidity of Iggy Pop's lyrics, which push racial and sexual hot buttons. Jim wants to remind Iggy that as a man about to turn 60, he can no longer sing about living fast and dying young. Jim gives The Stooges' reunion effort a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 66
Infinity On High (Deluxe Edition)Infinity on High available on iTunes

Fall Out Boy Infinity on High

Next up Jim and Greg review Fall Out Boy's fourth album, Infinity on High. The pop punk quartet from the Chicago suburbs sold 3 million copies of its last album, and 15-year-old girls everywhere have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up. Teenagers aren‘t the only Fall Out Boy fans out there. The band’s boss, Def Jam head Jay-Z, has also been championing them and arranged a larger-than-life debut. Jim also counts himself as a fan. He thinks Fall Out Boy is a smart, fun, exuberant band full of the punk spirit of bands like The Ramones. He admits that the lyrics are nothing profound, but gives the album a Buy It for its huge attitude and timeless pop songs. Greg admires how Fall Out Boy conducts itself as a band and thinks lead singer Patrick Stump has an impressive voice. However, he doesn't think they do a good enough job of differentiating themselves from other pop punk bands like the All-American Rejects and Sum 41. He wishes they did more with new producers like Babyface. This critic finds Infinity on High a little too generic and can only give the album a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 63
Tetsuo & YouthTetsuo & Youth available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco was written off by some after battling his label for years and earning notoriety for his outspokenness on Twitter. According to rumor, it even took threats from hackers for his new album to be released. But according to Jim, Tetsuo & Youth is Lupe at his lyrical best. The deft pop culture references are wonderful, of course. But ultimately it's the tragic evocation of life in poor black communities that moves Jim to tears. According to Greg, the density and poetry of Lupe's rhymes is matched by the adventurousness of the music, filled with unconventional jazzy rhythms. He calls it the rapper's best work since his debut. That makes it a double double-Buy It in a single episode.

JimGreg
Go to episode 479
SchmilcoSchmilco available on iTunes

Wilco Schmilco

Veteran Chicago band (and Greg Kot biography subject) Wilco returns with its 10th album, Schmilco. On this record, leader Jeff Tweedy explores the alienated feelings of his childhood spent as a misfit in downstate Illinois. Schmilco is drawn from the same sessions as the band's previous album, Star Wars, which Greg says was a jarring but welcome departure for the band. Schmilco swaps the noise of Star Wars for an unsettlingly weird folkie vibe à la early Tyrannosaurus Rex. No record in their discography sounds like this one, and Greg feels it's deserving of a Buy It. Jim agrees, noting that for a while it was beginning to sound like Wilco had a formula. These last two records have tossed that up, featuring a rawness and realness you wouldn't expect from a band this far into its career.

JimGreg
Go to episode 563
MY WOMANMy Woman available on iTunes

Angel Olsen My Woman

My Woman is Angel Olsen's second album for Jagjaguwar, following 2014's acclaimed Burn Your Fire for No Witness. The Asheville-via-St. Louis-and-Chicago singer-songwriter is working now with producer Justin Raisen, known for more pop-oriented work for Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. But Greg says that rather than introduce a pop sheen, Olsen uses Raisen to bring out the drama in her songs. From touches of goth and glam rock, Greg is hearing moves Olsen has never used before. He loves that her complicated and disconcerting lyrics are brought to the forefront. Jim agrees that Olsen is fantastic at confronting difficult emotions in her lyrics. And he loves the unique ambience of her records – he places Angel Olsen's work in the shortlist for best uses of reverb of all time. It's a double Buy It from both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 562
Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Deep Cuts Edition)Golden Sings That Have Been Sung available on iTunes

Ryley Walker Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

Singer-songwriter Ryley Walker hails from the Chicago independent music scene, and puts his complex guitar skills on exhibition in his latest release Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. Many critics have drawn comparisons between Walker and Van Morrison because of his singing and guitar virtuoso talent. Jim first discovered Ryley Walker at South By Southwest and was blown away. Jim cites Walker's production collaboration with Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco, as something that helped elevate his music to a new level. Overall, he finds that Walker's introspective vocals and guitar playing are the highlights of the album, and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, and thinks Walker has evolved on this record, establishing his own modern sound. He thinks Walker blends his complex guitar parts with more unusual sonic elements to perfection. Greg gives Golden Sings That Have Been Sung a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 560
Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods HEAVN

In the last few years, Chicago poet and soul artist Jamila Woods has made memorable cameos on tracks by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, and more. Now, she's breaking out with her debut album HEAVN. Jim loves how Jamila effortlessly blends genres like soul, R&B, and hip hop. He also finds her lyrics to be powerful and effective in painting a picture of her life as a black woman. Jim thinks Woods is elevating the neo soul genre to the next level and gives HEAVN a Buy It. Greg wholeheartedly agrees, and thinks this album is another great release coming from the Chicago hip hop and R&B scene. He greatly respects Jamila's ability to poetically articulate her struggles against society's perceptions of black beauty and womanhood. Overall, Greg thinks this is one of the best albums of the year so far, and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 558
Excellent Italian GreyhoundExcellent Italian Greyhound available on iTunes

Shellac Excellent Italian Greyhound

Up next is another band that knows how to make its fans wait. Chicago-based indie punk group Shellac has a new album called Excellent Italian Greyhound, and it's only been a mere seven years since the last one. Guitarist and singer Steve Albini is best known as the utilitarian recordist who has captured the sounds of everyone from Nirvana to the garage band next door. He's joined by drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston for a sound that is as real as you're ever going to hear in a recorded work. There are no fancy tricks here, just a minimalist approach. And with what Greg describes as a“tongue placed very firmly in cheek,”the band makes powerful punk music with a sense of humor. However both Greg and Jim admit that not all of the tracks are winners, and therefore Excellent Italian Greyhound gets two Try Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Chance

Chance the Rapper Coloring Book

Chicago artist Chance the Rapper recently released his third mixtape, Coloring Book. And while he's at the forefront of the rap genre, he's never actually sold a single album. That's because all three of his mixtape releases, as well as two collaborative albums, can be downloaded for free from the Internet. On Coloring Book, Chance enlists a slew of popular guest stars, from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to the man of the moment, Justin Bieber. Jim really enjoyed this record, especially Chance's use of gospel music to empower individuals and generate a sense of community in order to combat violence. While he doesn't think it is quite as good as his last release, Acid Rap, Jim strongly believes the music and lyrical insight on this album is equal parts impressive and inspiring. He gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, saying that Coloring Book is one of the most ambitious records in hip hop right now. He even points out that West's recent album, The Life of Pablo, wouldn‘t be what it is without Chance’s gospel sound influence. Greg appreciates the larger themes of the album and how it connects so well to the music of the Civil Rights Movement. It's a Double Buy It for Coloring Book.

JimGreg
Go to episode 550
The RedwallsThe Redwalls available on iTunes

The Redwalls The Redwalls

Next up is The Redwalls' self-titled album. The band has a quintessential rock and roll story: Band covers Beatles, Band gets signed to a major, Band tours the world, Band burns out. But, after being dropped by Capitol Records for insufficient sales, they didn't become disillusioned enough to scrap the dream. The Chicago natives packed up to record with Swedish producer Toré Johanssen, who has worked with Franz Ferdinand and The Cardigans. Greg thinks they outdid themselves with this effort. He explains that they stepped it up a notch lyrically, and he loves what Johanssen did with the arrangements. Jim agrees that the sound has been sharpened, and hears a more mature side of the men. Despite the fact that they aren't many years out, they can look back at their teens with some wisdom and humor. That gives The Redwalls a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 101
The ObliteratiThe Obliterati available on iTunes

Mission of Burma The Obliterati

Post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma have a new album out, their third in twenty years. Shortly after releasing their landmark Vs. in 1982, the group was forced to disband. The signature massive volume of their music took a toll on all of the members, particularly guitarist Roger Miller who developed a debilitating case of tinnitus. In their short run, Mission of Burma became hugely influential; R.E.M. and Moby have both covered their songs. Then, in 2003 the band reunited and later released their second album, OnOffOn. This record was very well-received, something that's almost unprecedented for a reunion album. Now, the band is back with The Obliterati, and Jim and Greg are as impressed as they were twenty years ago. Jim points to the incredible melodies of the songs, as well as their intellectual wit. He also thinks that Chicago-based engineer Bob Weston did an amazing job with The Obliterati. Greg agrees that the band's melodies are as strong as ever, and explains that Mission of Burma's greatness lies in the tension between the melodies and the noise. He still can't believe that a band would make two such great albums in the second leg of their career. The Obliterati gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 26
You Are Not AloneYou Are Not Alone available on iTunes

Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone

During this show Jim and Greg review some of this season's big new releases. First up is the latest from Mavis Staples. The iconic Chicago soul singer turned to neighbor and fan Jeff Tweedy of Wilco to produce You Are Not Alone. Greg calls Staples one of America's great singers. And all of the facets of her sound and personality are represented here. He gives the album a Buy It rating. Jim has been waiting for Mavis to make her masterpiece record that would tell the world how great she really is. You Are Not Alone is a fine effort, but the songs are nothing special, according to Jim. He worries that Tweedy was intimidated by Staples and didn't push her enough. For that reason Jim tells listeners to Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 249
808s & Heartbreak (Exclusive Edition)808s and Heartbreak available on iTunes

Kanye West 808s and Heartbreak

One of the albums making news this week is from rapper Kanye West. The Chicago native had planned to release a new album in his college series, but after the death of his mother and a bad breakup, he created an intensely personal album called 808s and Heartbreak. The 808 drum machine is used heavily, as is the Auto-Tune device. Those effects take some getting used to, but according to Jim and Greg, they are integral to creating the sense of introspection and loneliness. Jim appreciates the rapper's attempt to make an existential record, especially one inspired by Phil Collins. He wishes there was more acoustic musicianship, but Jim finds 808s and Heartbreak to be fascinating and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, calling the album one of the most personal released this year. He also gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 157
Lupe Fiasco's the CoolThe Cool available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco The Cool

Rapper Lupe Fiasco has a new record out called The Cool. The Chicago native, and recent Letterman guest, got attention with his 2006 debut album Food and Liquor. With this second record, the self-professed nerd has taken a turn for the dark. His music is reflecting the serious subjects that have always been apparent in his lyrics. Greg admits that at times Fiasco borders on preachy, but he was impressed by the complexity of The Cool and gives it a Buy It. Jim was a little lost by some of the lyrics, but finds the music incredibly inventive. He thinks people who deny that rap is music should listen to this and also gives the record a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 110
Fox Confessor Brings the FloodFox Confessor Brings the Flood available on iTunes

Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Next up Jim and Greg review the latest release from Chicago native Neko Case. Many people know Neko thorugh her work with The New Pornographers, but on her solo albums, she shows her alt-country side and really gets to shine. On Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko is joined by longtime collaborators like Jon Rauhouse and Kelly Hogan, as well new musicians like Howe Gelb. For Greg, this is Neko's best album. As always he is impressed by Neko's exceptional voice, and he also notes the powerful songwriting. Jim agrees, though he wishes Neko would let more of her upbeat, Tammy Wynette side show through. Nevertheless, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood gets a Buy It rating from both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 14
Universal Mind ControlUniversal Mind Control available on iTunes

Common Universal Mind Control

One of the big new releases this month is from rapper Common. Universal Mind Control was initially supposed to be released over the summer, and Jim and Greg wonder if the party atmosphere would have been better suited for the warmer months. But, even the sunshine can't improve this disappointing album. Both Jim and Greg have lauded the Chicago native for years, so it breaks their hearts to see him reduced to what Jim describes as a“horrible, sexist, derogatory empty”album. With 2008 being such a landmark year, particularly for African-Americans, Greg thinks Universal Mind Control was a missed opportunity for the usually thoughtful rapper. Both critics give Common's record a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 162
NaturalNatural available on iTunes

The Mekons Natural

The final album up for review is less high-profile, but no less worth your time according to Jim and Greg. Leeds-born, Chicago-based band The Mekons have a new album out called Natural. Pioneers and survivors of England's punk era, the Mekons have been making music together for thirty years now, and for this effort they gathered in the English countryside to record. You can hear this“natural”approach in the live sound of the record. This also accounts for the album's accessibility despite many of the songs' dark themes. Greg calls Natural one of the band's bleakest albums, but also one of the prettiest. Jim agrees that the record is gorgeous, and not off-putting. If you are new to the Mekons, this is as good a place to start as any. Both critics give Natural a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 93
WildernessWilderness available on iTunes

The Handsome Family Wilderness

Jim and Greg continue the family theme with a review of Wilderness, the 10th studio album from husband-and-wife duo The Handsome Family. Formed in Chicago in the '90s, Brett and Rennie Sparks'™ Handsome Family has often been lumped in with alternative country. But Greg contends that the band'™s macabre lyrics and pre-rock influences have always set it apart. Jim says Wilderness proves that more than ten albums into its career, The Handsome Family still represents the "old weird America" better than any group in rock. Who else sings about General Custer and malicious octopi? He says Buy it. Greg agrees; With lyrics that run the gamut from sci-fi to magical realism, and music that draws equally from Stephen Foster and chamber pop, Wilderness sounds completely unique. Double Buy it.

JimGreg
Go to episode 394
Acousmatic SorceryAcousmatic Sorcery available on iTunes

Willis Earl Beal Acousmatic Sorcery

The story of Willis Earl Beal is unlike any other. The Chicago native only took to music to curb loneliness after moving to Albuquerque, N.M. He had no training, but a desire for emotional connection that eventually led to some press and an eventual signing to XL Recordings. Now he's got a new debut album out called Acousmatic Sorcery. Jim compares his sound to that of alternative hip hop artist Divine Styler. It's a kind of“Martian blues”with a lo-fi, folk edge. The production needs some work but Jim says Buy It. Greg admits Beal can‘t really play much, but his percussion, and especially his voice, are quite strong. This is the kind of stuff Alan Lomax would’ve dug. Greg doesn't know if Beal has another album in him, but he gives Acousmatic Sorcery a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 332
dijs

Greg

“Home of the Brave”Naked Raygun

Greg chooses a Desert Island Jukebox track this week. Taking inspiration from The Effigies' visit, he picked a song from the Chicago punk scene of the 1980s. Naked Raygun was one of the bands that really got national attention, partly because of their intense live set, and partly because of their emotionally charged songs. Greg chooses one such song, "Home of the Brave," to take with him to the deserted island. In the song, the band plays three terse verses about the outrage they experienced during the Reagan administration. The song asks the listener to think about what it really means to be the“home of the brave,”and both Jim and Greg are amazed at how appropriate the song's lyrics still are today.

Go to episode 88

Jim

“Acknowledge”Screeching Weasel

This week, it's by Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel. For Jim, Screeching Weasel is key to understanding the current pop/punk explosion of bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and fellow Chicagoans Fall Out Boy. In addition, this band has one of the best-documented histories in rock. A few years ago Ben œWeasel Foster put out a highly autobiographical novel that alludes to his time in the band. Recently, his Weasel partner John Jughead Pierson released his fictional response, Weasels in a Box. Despite their great influence on rock, many people have not heard of the band. One of the reasons for this, Jim notes, is that Foster suffered from agoraphobia, preventing the band from touring much. They were highly prolific, however, and recorded almost an album a year for 13 years. "Acknowledge" was released on Screeching Weasel'™s last album before disbanding. In the song, both Weasels sing about agoraphobia and substance abuse, but without losing their punk rock sense of humor or catchy, Ramones-style three-chord structure. It'™s this combination, says Jim, that makes Screeching Weasel one of the best bands Chicago has ever produced.

Go to episode 8

Greg

“Angel From Montgomery”John Prine

Dylan is not America's only great literary songwriter. John Prine, now 70, has been championed by legendary figures from Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and Dylan himself. Born in Maywood, Illinois, Prine moved to Chicago as a young man, performing three times a week at an open mic night at a club called The Fifth Peg where he was discovered. Even at that young age, Greg feels his songs featured an astounding amount of empathy. That's best seen in "Angel From Montgomery," written from the perspective of a 47-year-old woman trapped in a marriage. Greg nominates Prine's 1970 live performance at the Fifth Peg, when he was still an unknown, to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 571

Jim

“(Knife in the) Marathon”Breaking Circus

A listener recently asked Jim for some musical gift advice for her boyfriend's 30th birthday, leading Jim to dig out a 30-year-old mixtape of his from 1985. One of the artists featured on the tape was Breaking Circus, a forgotten Chicago post-punk band formed by Steve Björklund that fell somewhere in between the pop hooks of Naked Raygun and the abrasiveness of Big Black. Jim particularly loves the weirdness of "(Knife in the) Marathon," which tells the strange tale of an athlete from a third world country wrestled to the ground by security for carrying a knife. Jim would never have remembered this song without the mixtape, so he's grateful for the prompt as he nominates it for the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 508

Jim

“Heaven Help Us All”Stevie Wonder

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick was inspired by a documentary he saw on the summer of '68. He saw the footage of the riots in Chicago during the Democratic Convention in a whole new light because of the reporting he's been doing on the city government's attitude toward live music. The city council is attempting to pass legislation that would severely hinder local promoters. And Jim couldn't help but compare the image of our current mayor to that of his father screaming, yelling and proclaiming himself“the law.”That image was juxtaposed with the Stevie Wonder song "Heaven Help Us All," and Jim thinks it's a perfect choice to bring with him to the desert island.

Go to episode 173

Greg

“Give Me Back My Wig”Hound Dog Taylor

The Gang of Four were heavily influenced by Chicago blues, and perhaps no label better represents that sound than Alligator Records. The label, run by blues fanatic Bruce Iglauer, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To toast them, Greg adds one of his favorite tracks by Hound Dog Taylor to the Desert Island Jukebox. It's the stripped down, raw, mood-setting song "Give Me Back My Wig."

Go to episode 274

Greg

“Make It Through the Summer”The Chamber Strings

It's Greg's turn to pop a coin into the Desert Island Jukebox this week. He recently saw a performance by Chicago band The Chamber Strings, and was reminded of how great the band is. They released two great albums in 1997 and 2001 before frontman Kevin Junior's descent into drug addiction and eventually, homelessness. After working with a doctor, Kevin started on the road to recovery, and now, Greg reports that the band is working on new material. But, our host cannot wait that long, and wanted to hear some Chamber Strings on the deserted island as soon as possible. He chooses, "Make It Through the Summer," from their album Month of Sundays.

Go to episode 62

Greg

“California Soul”Marlena Shaw

One of the best things about music is it can transport you to a whole other place without ever having to leave the room. Greg's DIJ pick this week is Marlena Shaw's 1969 track, "California Soul." The song was written by Ashford & Simpson and had been covered by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and The 5th Dimension. However Shaw's version is the most definitive, having been sampled numerous times over the years. Her cover combined elements of R&B, soul, jazz and a hypnotizing string arrangement. While Shaw recorded the track in Chicago, it transports the listener straight to California.

Go to episode 495

Jim

“I Won't Give Up”The Erasers

For Jim and Greg, it's February in Chicago, and they couldn‘t think of a place they’d rather get away to than a warm desert island. This week it's Jim's turn, and he wants to take us back to the burgeoning New York punk scene in the 1970s. Specifically, he wants to focus on Ork Records, a small independent label that served many underground punk bands. One such group that's a bit of a deep cut is the Susan Springfield-led band, The Erasers. Jim really digs this quartet, even though they only released one single and were never heard from again! However, the song "I Won't Give Up" is the perfect example of a great punk track that was ahead of its time.

Go to episode 533

Greg

“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”Jackie Wilson

This week, Greg has the legendary Jackie Wilson on his mind. Early in his career, Wilson drew comparisons to Elvis but in fact, you couldn't liken him to anyone. Wilson heavily influenced many artists, namely Michael Jackson and even James Brown with his style, dance moves and vocals. In the '50s, he had an amazing run with big hits but floundered in the '60s. When he came to Chicago to work with record producer Carl Davis, they cut one of Greg's favorite tracks ever, "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher." Greg thinks this is pretty much as perfect as a song can get, and that's why he selected it as his Desert Island Jukebox pick this week.

Go to episode 536

Greg

“Killing Floor”Hubert Sumlin

The great Chicago blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died last month and Jim and Greg didn't get a chance to send him off with a full obit. With his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg now has his opportunity. Sumlin was twenty-one years younger than Howlin' Wolf when he joined the elder bluesman's band in the 1950s. Wolf was like a father to Sumlin, and Sumlin eventually became his right-hand man. Sumlin was briefly booted from the band in ‘56 for playing over Wolf’s vocals (no one plays over the Wolf!), but adapted his style by dropping his pick and plucking with his fingers. This signature style would make him an icon to later guitarists like Clapton and Hendrix. The 1964 track "Killing Floor," Greg says, is Sumlin at his best-like a second voice in the song.

Go to episode 319

Greg

“I used to love H.E.R.”Common

Bummed by what he sees as Common's recent descent into mediocrity, Greg charts a craft for the desert island. He takes us back to the Chicago rapper's glory days in the early nineties, when he released "I Used To Love H.E.R.". SHE - if you haven‘t already guessed it - isn’t a woman. She's a metaphor for the golden age of hip-hop (H.E.R. stands for Hearing Every Rhyme). Common loved that scrappy city kid who grew up to be a beautiful Afrocentric woman in New York City, and he's disappointed when she goes West Coast and gets corrupted by show biz. There's more than a bit of irony here. As Greg reminds us, Common's lament for classic hip-hop is a hip-hop classic.

Go to episode 295

Greg

“Supernaut”1000 Homo DJ's

One of the many rock deaths this month was that of Dannie Flesher, co-founder of Wax Trax! Records. The Chicago based store and later label defined the industrial sound made most famous by Ministry. And it's where Greg cut his teeth as a music fan. So, for his Desert Island Jukebox selection this week, Greg chooses a cover version of Black Sabbath's "Supernaut" recorded at Wax Trax! Records. The song is performed by 1000 Homo DJ's and fellow Wax Trax fan, Trent Reznor, and can be found on the label's 1994 box set.

Go to episode 218

Jim

“Ghosts of American Astronauts”The Mekons

It's Jim's turn to add a song he can't live without to the Desert Island Jukebox. To honor the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, he chooses "Ghosts of American Astronauts" by The Mekons. Jim was initially daunted by the Chicago punk/alt-country band. They've been going for three decades, so where do you start? So Good It Hurts was the doorway for him, and he discovered how smart, political and also seductive they can be on songs like "Ghosts of American Astronauts."

Go to episode 191

Jim

“The 15th”Wire

Sound Opinions listeners know that one of Jim's favorite bands of all time is Wire. The punk heroes just wrapped up their tour in support of their most recent album Object 47. Jim was there at the Metro in Chicago to witness the show, and marveled at how much the band fights against nostalgia, especially compared to other bands from the punk era. Wire is all about moving forward, but Jim still likes to look back now and again. He uses this week's turn at the Desert Island Jukebox to throw in the classic Wire track "The 15th."

Go to episode 152

Greg

“Dry the Rain”The Beta Band,The Beta Band

Greg has had the British "folktronica" group The Beta Band on his mind ever since Sound Opinions screened the film High Fidelity at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago. In the film, the song "Dry the Rain" from The Three EPs, gets a big laugh. Greg's also a fan of that song, but he thinks the rest of the band's output has been unfairly ignored. The last track off the same album, "Needles in My Eyes," is another glorious anthem, and it's Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 415

Greg

“Politicians in My Eyes”Death

In the 1970's, an all African-American band out of Detroit named Death crafted abrasive, no reservations proto-punk songs responding to the city's bleak politics and poverty. Their raw rock edge caught the ear of infamous music industry executive Clive Davis who wanted to debut the band to the world, but only if they'd change their morbid name. The band (of brothers) refused, broke up, and their songs were nearly lost until Chicago record label Drag City got a hold of them and reissued the collection in 2009. Since that release entitled …For the Whole World to See, the band has gotten back together and impressed many with a sound that was clearly ahead of its time. To demonstrate, Greg plays "Politicians in My Eyes."

Go to episode 451

Jim

“Mama Getting High on Chardonnay”The Rolling Stones,The Blue Meanies

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week features the band the Blue Meanies who broke up just as the new millennium started but reunited recently at Riot Fest in Chicago. The band took elements of ska and punk rock and fused it with an electric live show. They finally signed to a major label and in 2000 released their album, The Post Wave, and subsequently broke up. Jim loved the production and songs on that album and plays their modern cheeky take on The Rolling Stones' Mother's Little Helper, called Mama Getting High on Chardonnay.

Go to episode 461

Jim

“Cry of the Wild Goose”Frankie Laine,Frankie Laine,Frankie Laine

Sociologists talk about the concept of a“gateway drug.”For his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Jim turns to the singer who was his gateway drug to music. When a six-year-old Jim popped his dad's old Frankie Laine LP on the record player, he knew music was a mysterious force he couldn't live without. An Italian-American from Chicago, Frankie Laine remade himself into an icon of the American West. Songs like "High Noon" and "Rawhide" are undeniable cheese, but between Laine's rich baritone and those horns, you have to buy whatever he's selling. (And who could forget that scene from The Blues Brothers where the band gets on the good side of a raucous country crowd by playing "Rawhide"?) Jim's song pick, however, is "Cry of the Wild Goose" - the epitome of Frankie Laine insanity.

Go to episode 343

Jim

“Rubber Lover”Deee-Lite,Deee-Lite

Ever since Bootsy Collins visited the Sound Opinions studio in 2012, Jim has been thinking of dance band Deee-Lite and its hit 1990 single, "Groove Is In The Heart" which features Bootsy on bass guitar and guest vocals. Many consider Deee-Lite to be a one-hit wonder, but Jim is a big fan of all the band's albums, particularly their second, Infinity Within, which took a turn away from the first album's neo-hippy tone towards the political with songs about voter registration, environmental stewardship, and the judicial system. One track, "Rubber Lover" features the return of Bootsy Collins, and delights Jim with its safe sex message atop Chicago house mixed with New York rave sound.

Go to episode 458

Jim

“See No Evil”Television

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox selection is inspired by another recent loss. Musical engineer Andy Johns passed away at age 61. As Jim explains, Johns was witness to the recording of some of rock's great masterpieces, from The Stones' Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, to Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II. But for his pick, Jim goes to a personal favorite: the debut album by New York punk rockers Television. "See No Evil" still gets heads bobbing in Chicago clubs, and Jim credits Johns with the track's intimate drum sound.

Go to episode 385
lists

Musical Grand Slams

With Chicago baseball trying to keep their heads up during this World Series, we thought we'd inject a little joyous noise into this baseball season. Jim and Greg team up with Len Kasper, TV voice of the Chicago Cubs, to pay homage to their version of a Grand Slam. We all know how this works in baseball (though sports-phobe Jim DeRogatis is still getting the hang of the rules). A batter hits a home run with bases loaded, sending four players to home plate. In music, Jim and Greg define a grand slam as four masterpiece albums in a row. Which artists have achieved this rarest of rock feats? Jim and Greg sit down to compare stats.

Go to episode 518

Summer Songs (Part 2)

Back in 2006, Greg and Jim put out a playlist of their favorite summer songs. Now they give you the long-awaited part 2 of their hot summer mixtape.

Go to episode 502

Buried Treasures

From a metal group out of Guadalajara, Mexico called Canibales to a genre defying duo called The O‘My’s out of Chicago, this week, Jim and Greg dish out a batch of Buried Treasures: new music discoveries that you need to hear.

Go to episode 659

Turkey Pardons

Gather around the family table for the Sound Opinions annual Thanksgiving Show! This year in honor of the presidential tradition, Jim and Greg will pardon some "musical turkeys." Turkeys are bands or artists that have had a lackluster career, but the hosts mercifully pardon them for one song they find redeemable.

Go to episode 573

The Best Songs of 2010 - Mixtapes

At the end of each year, Jim and Greg look back and pick out their favorite songs to make you a mixtape. Think of it as a soundtrack for 2010. They both play samples of the mix during the show, but you can stream both compilations in their entirety.

Go to episode 266

The Best Albums of 2014

Go to episode 471
rock doctors

Valentine's Day Emergency

Jim and Greg open up the Rock Doctors' clinic for the next segment. They take an appointment with two listeners for a Valentine's Day emergency. Andrew and Kelli are a young couple from Chicago with only one major relationship problem: music. While Andrew is music obsessive, always on the search for something new and underground, Kelli is happy sticking with her favorite radio favorites. And as Andrew points out, for the most part his girlfriend's music is stuck in that dreaded decade: the 70s. Kelli admits to a fondness for bar music like Boston, Styx and Journey, but is open to new stuff as long as it's upbeat and fun. She finds a lot of her boyfriend's tastes (Wilco, Radiohead) to be too cerebral and boring. So, it's Jim and Greg's task to find something they will both enjoy.

Greg prescribes The Latest by Cheap Trick. He knows a lot of people dismiss this band for being cheesy, but he stands behind their smart lyrics, progressive compositions and terrific drumming. It seems like The Latest should be the perfect remedy, however neither Andrew nor Kelli are tremendously fond of it. Surprisingly, this record is even too cheesy for Kelli. And while Andrew admires the band for rocking out so hard for so long, he won't be attending any Cheap Trick shows anytime soon.

Jim prescribes the self-titled debut by La Roux. He loves the British duo's smart electronic pop. Jim didn't see anything like La Roux on either Kelli or Andrew's chart, but thinks radical treatment is necessary. He's right; the couple loves the record. Kelli got her dose of dance music, and Andrew got his artiness. And they won't have to break-up over rock anytime soon.

Go to episode 219

Sandy

Once again, it's time for the Rock Doctors to put on their white coats and stethoscopes. During this appointment, Jim and Greg attempt to mend a broken heart with some great new tunes. Their patient is Sandy from Chicago. She's recently divorced after 17 years of marriage. She wrote Sound Opinions saying it“was an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience.”Sandy is now in her early 50s and feels like she“lost or squandered her youth.”The doctors' job is to help her awaken her musical self.

Sandy was completely open to new genres of music but tends to favor classic rock. Some of her favorite artists include Led Zeppelin, Heart and Van Halen, however she also enjoys more eclectic artists like St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs. While she is a consultant by day, she has a background in acting and singing opera. Sandy is looking for music that will make her feel a sense of exhilaration like she does when she's performing and making art.

Jim's prescription is the album Show Us Your Mind from Portland's Summer Cannibals, while Greg recommended Fantasies by Canadian rock band Metric. During their follow-up appointment, Sandy shared that she really enjoyed both records. She liked the strong voices of the female lead singers as well as the instrumentation. Greg and Jim decide that Sandy might be the nicest patient the Rock Doctors have ever treated and are glad to have helped her.

Do you need to see the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out new patient form and send to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 484

Julie

For what has become a recurring segment on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg again don their white lab coats and assume the role of Rock Doctors. This week's patient is Julie, a listener who needs Drs. Kot and DeRogatis to prescribe some new music for her ailing ears. Julie consumes a steady (and stale) diet of Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill.

So, what do Jim and Greg prescribe to bring Julie into 2006?

Jim keys into how Julie appreciates Ella Fitzgerald's vocals and recommends L'Altra. He knows this is a risky (non-FDA) approved medication, but thought he'd go out on a limb and ask Julie to check out the latest album from the Chicago duo. His second remedy is D'Angelo's Voodoo. He knows Julie likes dense, layered R&B like that of Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder, and thinks Voodoo, though much darker and moodier, is one of the best R&B records made in the last decade.

Greg also keys into Julie's appreciation for songwriting and strong vocals, and gives her a dose of Jill Scott. He thinks that the patient will appreciate the way Scott describes the world and the way she playfully uses her voice. His second prescription is John Legend's debut album Get Lifted. Though Legend is often compared to singer/songwriters like Stevie Wonder, Greg thinks he brings that genre forward in a wonderful way.

A week later the patient returns to the Rock Doctors to let them know how she's progressing. While she appreciated the Jill Scott record, she found the songs almost too clever. Still, she wasn‘t completely turned off by this remedy, and also understood why Jim would prescribe her the D’Angelo — but that didn‘t really hit the spot. In fact, she completely forgot that she bought and listened to this album years ago. L’Altra overwhelmingly had the worst side effect. This patient can appreciate alternative medicine, but even a spoonful of sugar didn‘t help this album go down. By far the big winner of the bunch was John Legend’s Get Lifted; Julie loved this album. Sound Opinions hopes that it was just the right cure to keep her healthy and full of good, new music.

Go to episode 44

Joel

At this point in the show Jim and Greg put on their lab coats and welcome another patient for an appointment with the Rock Doctors. This week's patient is listener Joel from Chicago. Joel describes his symptoms for Drs. DeRogatis and Kot: he's a big music fan, particularly roots rock, but hasn‘t been inspired in recent years. He’s hoping the doctors can prescribe some new music that has a definite sense of blues, bluegrass and roots music, but also has some rocking edge.

Dr. DeRogatis goes first and prescribes Sparklehorse's 2006 album Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain. The group is led by multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous who has been paralyzed since 1996. Jim explains that Linkous‘ sound changed dramatically after being confined to a wheelchair. There’s a definite influence of alt-country and Southern gothic that Jim thinks Joel will appreciate. Plus, this album features some impressive guests like Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips and Tom Waits.

Dr. Kot recommends the new album from The Kills. The transcontinental duo met via the mail and have made three albums. Greg thinks the latest, Midnight Boom, is the best. He describes the band's sexy, in-your-face attitude and deep appreciation for the blues. Greg just hopes that Joel doesn't have an allergic reaction to their drum machine.

After a week taking his medicine, Joel returns for a follow-up appointment. He explains that the heavy production in the Sparklehorse initially put him off. But despite the fact that the music was a little slow at times, he can see himself returning to it. Joel describes Dr. Kot's pick as some strong medicine, but he really enjoyed The Kills' melodies and guitars. He thinks the album is at its best when the two singers are featured together, and was able to forget about the drum machine for the most part.

Go to episode 128
features

Sample Platter: Voices of Conquest's "O Yes My Lord"

Jim and Greg explore how a 1960s gospel track out of Detroit found new life recently in two contemporary tracks. Both pop duo Phantogram and Chicago rapper Common sample "O Yes My Lord" by Voices of Conquest on their respective songs "Same Old Blues" and "Kingdom." The sample features a large church choir and John Bonham-like drumming. J&G discuss the origins of all three songs, and how both artists use the sample to enhance their tracks.

Go to episode 600
news

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss Joni Mitchell's decision to team up with Starbucks. Her first album in almost 10 years will be released on the coffee chain's Hear Music label. Jim and Greg imagine that the singer/songwriter must have been impressed with the success of Paul McCartney's recent Starbucks-released album Memory Almost Full, especially considering her notorious distaste of the music industry. One group they are surprised to hear has joined the coffee family is Sonic Youth. The alt-rockers will release a compilation on Hear Music next year.

Jim and Greg update some stories they've discussed on current shows. The first concerns pop star Kelly Clarkson. When her album My December was released a few weeks ago, our hosts talked about Clarkson's high-profile feud with BMG chairman Clive Davis. The singer appeared to be taking a tough-girl stance and defended her artistic integrity, but now she's trying to lay it all to rest. Check out her retraction.

Another topic Jim and Greg covered on the show is the scrutiny hip hop lyrics have been facing post-Imus. A recent victim is Chicago rapper Twista. McDonalds decided to pull the speed rapper from its Live Trek tour because of his“controversial lyrics.”Twista's response is that he's been making the same kind of rhymes for years, but no one cared until Don Imus said something negative about black women. He also added that he usually cleans up lyrics for kid-friendly performances.

While the gossip pages are filled with celebrities who aren't forced to pay for their crimes, singer Ron Isley is no such lucky star. He is slated to begin his five-year prison sentence for tax evasion next week, but Def Jam is hoping that Isley fans can convince the government otherwise. They sent out a petition imploring people to“call, fax or email the White House immediately to help the 64-year old cancer sufferer.”If you'd like to join in the effort you can call the President at (202) 456-1414, email him at president@whitehouse.gov, or contact the Congressional Black Caucus.

Last week Eric Clapton held the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, IL, and Greg was there to see the action. He recounts how historic it was to see Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton play together 38 years after Blind Faith disbanded. Greg's other highlights were witnessing B.B. King give what might be his final performance and hearing Jeff Beck do a beautiful rendition of The Beatles' "Day in the Life." Check out Greg's entire recap here.

Go to episode 88

Music News

These days national headlines coming out of Chicago are generally about one thing: gun violence on the south and west sides of the city. So far this year there have been more than 3,200 shootings, more than 530 of them fatal. At the same time the city is home to a vibrant and creative hip-hop movement that continues to grow. Greg recently attended two festivals that highlighted the creativity in Chicago while addressing the city's violence. Chance the Rapper hosted the Magnificent Coloring Day at US Cellular Field on the southside. The next day, Common hosted a festival on the westside. Greg says the two events were Chicago rappers addressing the city's violence while trying to do something positive about it.

Go to episode 566

Music News

They truly are the champions: Queen's Greatest Hits album just became the first record in history to sell more than 6 million copies in the United Kingdom. That's about one album for every ten Britons—or, as Jim puts it, a whole lot of Freddie Mercury's overbite.

In more chart news from across the pond, the U.K.'s top-selling album this week is So Long, See You Tomorrow, the latest from Bombay Bicycle Club. Which had Jim and Greg wondering… who, exactly, is Bombay Bicycle Club? Apparently it's an indie rock outfit known for sampling Bollywood show tunes, with the nephew of the late British songstress Kirsty MacColl on guitar. The Brits must have a thing for the initials BBC.

Meanwhile back in the States, rock fans have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. And for memorabilia dealers, that's meant big business. A chunk of the Sullivan Show set signed by the Fab Four is going for a million bucks, while a signed U.K. version of A Hard Day's Night is expected to take in $60,000. There's also a signed copy of With the Beatles floating around somewhere. If you're the owner, consider paying a visit to Antiques Roadshow—you're in for at least $45,000.

Funnyman Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame will soon return to late-night TV, this time as a musician. When fellow SNL alum Seth Myers takes over Late Night later this month, Armisen will“curate”his music and lead the in-house 8G Band, Myers announced by tweet this week. Sound Opinions saw this coming in 2012, when Fred (a former Chicago punk rocker who played in the band Trenchmouth, as well as Blue Man Group) told Jim and Greg how he's always admired bands on TV. Live the dream, Fred.

Go to episode 429

Music News

The first news story this week involves a deal made between the band Korn and the concert promoters formally known as Clear Channel-Live Nation. Korn, its label, and Live Nation, which runs about 70% of venues across the country, have agreed to share profits from record and ticket sales. This kind of synergy helps sell the Korn brand and maintain the idea of music acts as corporations. And, as Greg points out, deals like this could really revolutionize the music industry. Korn is not the first group to operate this way, however. British pop sensation Robbie Williams struck such a deal in 2002. Fellow Brits Radiohead, on the other hand, have chosen to go a completely different route. By not working with corporate promoters at all, they avoid the corporate concert machine entirely. As Radiohead fans in Chicago know, though, this is not an easy task.

Next up in the news is the bankruptcy announcement made by the largest chain of music stores, Musicland. While our hosts now prefer to support independent music stores, Jim (who was once a Musicland employee of sorts) remembers buying his first record, an album by King Crimson, at a similar chain store. For Jim and Greg, and many music fans who grew up shopping for music at the mall, the fall of Musicland is really the end of an era — or the death of a dinosaur.

Also making headlines this week is the always-controversial rapper Eminem. He and ex-wife Kimberly Mathers remarried. Like Sid and Nancy, and Kurt and Courtney before them, Marshall and Kim have a love story for the ages. Kim, both muse and mother, has managed to overlook some of the less kind words Eminem has said about her. Therefore, the romantics on the Sound Opinions staff wishes to congratulate those crazy kids. Mazel Tov, Em and Kim!

The Rolling Stones also make an appearance in the news. The latest all-stars to perform in the Superbowl Halftime Show, the Stones can hope to appeal to all generations of viewers. The Superbowl, however, seems a bit concerned. Despite the fact that the average age of a Stone is 65, halftime show producers initially tried to ban people over the age of 45 from coming up on stage to dance. The ban has since been removed, but sports fans shouldn't expect to see the Ashlee Simpson crowd getting down to "Start Me Up."

Finally, Jim and Greg remember soul great Wilson Pickett, who died Thursday. The singer, often called“Wicked Pickett,”was known for his wicked sound and behavior. Pickett, who grew up on a sharecropping farm in Alabama, fled to the north to make music. He later returned to the south to record some of his most famous songs, including "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour" and "Land of a 1000 Dances," which was embraced by punk rockers like Patti Smith. Pickett did covers as well. Listen to his version of "Hey Jude," which never ended up on a regular studio release, but can be heard on Pickett compilations.

Go to episode 8

Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show with a discussion of Lollapalooza and other summer festivals. There's Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but Chicago is shaping up to be the major destination for music fans this year. The Lollapalooza lineup is impressive, with a diverse mix of bands including Lolla vets The Flaming Lips and Red Hot Chili Peppers, indie favorites Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins, and Chicago natives Wilco and Kanye West. Plus, the city will be home to two of the biggest independent music festivals: The Pitchfork Music Festival, featuring Destroyer, Art Brut, Spoon and post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, and the Intonation Music Festival featuring The Streets, Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco and a rare appearance by 13th Floor Elevators founder Roky Erickson.

Go to episode 21

Music News

Since August of 2005, the Rolling Stones have pulled in a whopping $437 million from their most recent tour, "A Bigger Bang." They played 110 concerts in front of 3.5 million fans. It is not much of a shocker they are #1, considering the average ticket price is $135. Greg points out that fewer people are seeing shows by big acts, but bands are making higher profits. He feels we should be championing acts that still charge reasonably priced tickets like the Dave Matthews Band did on their recent tour. (Their average ticket price was $47.) This is really saying something, considering neither Jim nore Greg is exactly crazy about the DMB. Jim is amazed that the Stones still came in at #1 despite Keith's palm tree mishap, Ronnie checking in to rehab, Mick catching laryngitis, and Mick's father passing away. Mick's laryngitis even prompted a class action lawsuit from a disgruntled fan.

Axl Rose is back on tour this fall fronting the latest incarnation of Guns N' Roses. Greg went sans Jim to the Chicago leg of GN‘R’s tour. After having Sebastian Bach and burlesque troupe The Suicide Girls warm up the crowd, Axl and his new gang came on stage to play a smattering of songs from the much delayed Chinese Democracy album, as well as the GN'R standards. Greg feels that Axl has created a brand more than a band, and thinks the songs from Chinese Democracy already sound dated. Apparently the GN'R brand wasn't so friendly with The Eagles of Death Metal who were originally slated to open prior to last week's Cleveland gig.

Go to episode 53

Music News

Greg begins this week's news segment by complimenting Jim's use of the word“Blitzkrieg”in reference to The Strokes' quick tour of North America. Our first news story deals with the top 20 grossing concerts of 2005. The saggy-butted Rolling Stones led the list with a gross total of $162 million, followed by Jim's favorite band, U2. Two "artists", Celine Dion and Barry Manilow, didn't even have to tour to make the list—they simply took residency in one of Las Vegas's gaudy venues and raked in the cash.

A favorite of Sound Opinions, Courtney Love, returned to the headlines recently in a New York Post story detailing her financial woes, and more importantly, contemplating the sale of the Nirvana catalogue. Jim believes this would be a disaster, akin to Michael Jackson bringing the Beatles to Nike.

A sad story rounds out our news segment: the death of legendary Chicago singer Lou Rawls. The velvety-voiced singer died of cancer in Los Angeles. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he referred to the the cold Chicago wind as the“Hawk,”and introduced the monologue to music, leading the way for hip-hop as an art-form. He was neighbors with another Chicago legend, Sam Cooke, and traded lines with him in the soul classic "Bring it on Home". Lou's final public appearance was a stirring rendition of God Bless America during the World Series.

Go to episode 6

Music News

Pioneering DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles passed away this week. Knuckles' musical legacy is arguably as important to dance music as Chuck Berry's is to rock or Kraftwerk's is to electronica. In the early 1980's, Knuckles helped cultivate House music's sound from the ashes of disco at a venue on Chicago's south side called The Warehouse. (Hence the name, House). The space was an oasis for misfits of all shapes, sizes, and colors to come together and celebrate being alive. As Knuckle's musical stature grew over the years performing at various clubs and remixing other artist's songs, he never lost his generous spirit. In a 2012 conversation with Jim and Greg at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Knuckles remarked that he‘d never regarded music as a competive sport.“Even though you have people on the dance floor, and people that come out and say this DJ is better than that one, I’ve never looked at it that way and I‘ve never let that influence me because I’m too busy having a good time and showing people a good time,”said Knuckles. He was 59 years old.

Go to episode 436

Music News

R. Kelly surprised people by turning up in Chance the Rapper's closing set on the final day of the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago this past weekend, but it's his involvement with another, much smaller festival that has been making headlines. The Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF) of Columbus, Ohio, scheduled to kick off at the end of this month, originally booked Kelly as headliner of the three-day weekend celebration. However, the Columbus community and the event's sponsors met the news of the controversial R&B star's involvement with disapproval and condemnation. Kelly, well-known as the target of allegations of manufacturing child pornography, as well as dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct from young women, was removed from the festival bill last week. And this is one instance of an ongoing public conversation about whether or not you can support the art without supporting the artist. Jim has been at the center of this debate—with reporting that was captured in a Village Voice piece by Jessica Hopper. Kelly is certainly not the first (Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, etc.) to raise this question, and he won't be the last.

Go to episode 454

Music News

Jim and Greg talk about some surprising numbers Nielsen SoundScan recently released. According to the sales trackers, 40% of the albums old in 2006 were catalog sales. While there were a number of successful new releases from acts like Mary J. Blige, The Dixie Chicks and High School Musical, it seems that music fans still have a lot of nostalgia for the hair metal era of the 1980s. AC/DC's 1980 album Back in Black sold 444,000 copies last year, a figure that would make a contemporary CD a success. Also faring well was Metallica's 1991 self-titled album, Guns 'N Roses' Appetite for Destruction and Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits collection. The New Jersey band is also having success with their new release Lost Highway, though this is one figure Jim really can't wrap his head around.

Next the hosts discuss their recent experiences at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The three day festival organized by the Chicago-based Internet music magazine pitchforkmedia.com and indie music promoter Mike Reed was attended by 48,000 people in Chicago's Union Park. In fact, both Jim and Greg worry that the concert is getting too big for its britches, and the park. There were a number of highlights including performances by Yoko Ono, Mastodon and Clipse and full-album performances from Sonic Youth, Slint and GZA. But, one of the problems with a festival that celebrates the underground is that eventually things move above ground. Even Third Stage acts like electronic artist Dan Deacon demanded a huge crowd. In addition a number of artists from previous Pitchfork Festivals are appearing at this year's Lollapalooza. One thing this proves is how big the Pitchfork tastemakers are now. More than MTV play or radio play, it's coverage on indie sites like pitchforkmedia.com that thrust an artist into the spotlight.

Go to episode 86

Music News

Another Pitchfork music festival has come and gone in Chicago's Union Park. The festival - put on by the taste-making webzine of the same name - often serves as a useful barometer for where underground pop is headed in the next year. This time around, the message was a little muddled. While relative newcomers Ty Segall and Willis Earl Beal impressed both Jim and Greg with their intensely heartfelt performances, headlining sets by established artists like Feist and Vampire Weekend made them wonder if Pitchfork is losing its edge.

Rock lost a great organist and keyboard player Monday. Jon Lord of hard rock group Deep Purple is dead at age 71. A country boy from Leicester, Lord founded Deep Purple in London in 1968 with the goal of fusing his classical piano training with American R&B and blues. This he accomplished by plugging his Hammond organ into a giant Marshall stack. The distinctive growl of that Hammond became a trademark of the band's super heavy sound (a sound Greg credits with paving the way for metal). In remembrance of Lord, Jim and Greg play the track "Highway Star," featuring a killer organ solo, from the band's 1972 album Machine Head 9.

Go to episode 347

Music News

For the third year in a row the Lollapalooza Music Festival took over Chicago's Grant Park for a weekend. Jim and Greg were both there to report on how the festivities went down, and both critics agree the highlight was, by far, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The punk rocker's high-energy performance toed that line between good fun and danger, something Jim wishes there was more of in rock and roll. Something Jim also wished there was more of at the festival was less of a“shopping mall”environment. He asked Lollapalooza impresario Perry Farrell about the need for such extensive VIP sections and the effect that things like the“radius clause”have on struggling bands and struggling clubs. Greg actually thought the festival was run quite well and treated fans with respect; there was plenty of food, water and bathrooms — something he can‘t say about all other festivals. This critic’s major beef with Lollapalooza is mostly aesthetic. He would like to see fewer stages, fewer filler bands, and more emphasis on thoughtful bookings. We'll just have to wait until Lollapalooza 2008 to see if they take this free advice.

The news takes a slightly darker turn next, with two stories involving Adolf Hitler and Hitler memorabilia. The first concerns the pop purveyor of all things dark: Marilyn Manson. The goth-glam rocker is being sued for $20 million by his former keyboardist, known to fans as Madonna Wayne Gacy. He claims that Manson spent band profits on personal items, including coat hangers used by Adolf Hitler, a handbag owned by Eva Braun, and the full skeleton of a four-year old Chinese girl. Manson says the claims are ridiculous, adding, "I would never spend my money on a Chinese girl skeleton… That would be crossing the line. It's a Chinese boy, for the record.‘’

Another surprising news item: Around 100 records apparently belonging to Adolf Hitler have been discovered in a former Soviet intelligence officer's attic. The collection reveals that while Hitler was publicly heralding“racially pure”German music, his musical taste included some artists forbidden in the Third Reich. Some of the findings were not shocking: Wagner, Beethoven and Anton Bruckner. But, the dictator also appears to have owned works by Jewish and Russian performers like Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and Artur Schnabel.

To quote Elton John's own song, "The Bitch is Back." The singer/songwriter has popped up in the news again, this time expressing his beef with…the Internet, of all things. In a piece in British tabloid The Sun, John contends that the web has destroyed music, and explains, "I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." Sir Elton adds that he's doing his part by shutting out iPods and cellphones, and, we can only guess, communication with the world. Apparently this musician hasn't had the same experience with music on the internet as fellow Brits Lily Allen or Pete Townshend.

Just a week after Jim lauded his new album Cake or Death, psychedelic cowboy Lee Hazlewood died of cancer at the age of 78. The musician is best known for writing and producing hits for others, including "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" for Nancy Sinatra. But, Jim and Greg discuss how he developed a cult following in later years, and became legendary for his innovation and independence. This earned him the adoration of a new generation of rock musicians that includes Nick Cave and Sonic Youth. Jim and Greg pay tribute to Hazlewood by playing his song, "Some Velvet Morning."

Go to episode 89

Music News

METZ, Metric, Arcade Fire, Handsome Furs, Feist… it's been quite a decade for Canadian music. Jim and Greg wonder, what's in the water up there? So they talk to Steve Jordan, founder of the Canadian music prize Polaris about this year's crop of nominees and what value, if any, music prizes still have in today's landscape. Jim and Greg are impressed by the diversity of Polaris shortlist artists, and are even more impressed as to how democratic the prize is, especially compared to our own Grammy's.‎

After more than 20 years, The Replacements have finally reunited for a series of RiotFest shows. Fans have been clamoring for a Replacements reunion since the band broke up in 1991. So was it a success? Jim and Greg share their experience at the RiotFest show in Chicago. You can also check out their print reviews here and here.

Go to episode 408

Music News

You can‘t always get what you want, but that doesn’t mean The Rolling Stones can't. Billboard reports that the band recently grossed $21.3 million in just five concerts on their“50 & Counting Tour.”Not bad for a bunch of rockers pushing 70. This tour also saw The Stones' return to London's revered Hyde Park venue. Forty-four years after their free concert honoring Brian Jones, the band performed to a crowd of 60,000 paying customers. Clearly The Stones can still bring out the crowds, but can they deliver the musical goods? Greg's answer is a hesitant“yes.”He caught them in Chicago and admits that while he wishes they'd throw more surprises into the set-list, the boys can still play.

Go to episode 399

Music News

The first story in the news this week involves that age-old practice of“pay-for-play,”or payola, in the music industry. In recent years, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been investigating major record labels like Sony and Warner who engaged in this practice. But now, the FCC has joined the battle against this unethical behavior by launching an investigation of the four major radio corporations: Clear Channel Communications, CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting and Entercom Communications. The FCC's enforcement unit is looking into accusations that broadcasters illegally accepted cash or other compensation in exchange for airplay of specific songs without telling listeners. As per usual, the federal government is late to the game — but this investigation is admittance of a problem. And as we all know, that's the first step.

Also making news recently are some major acts from the early 1990s. It seems that people are already nostalgic for the music of the alternative era, and many of the surviving bands are cashing in on it. Alice in Chains announced tour dates for this summer, despite the fact that their original lead singer, Layne Staley, died of a drug overdose in 2002. Like the members of Queen and The Doors, the surviving Alice in Chains bandmates don't seem fazed by this loss, and will continue with the addition of Guns 'N Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Comes With the Fall vocalist William DuVall. Former Jane's Addiction members Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins will also tour this summer under the name Panic Channel, though their lead singer has not passed on. Rather, he's now the impresario of what may prove this summer's big moneymaker: Lollapalooza.

In the typical fashion, Neil Young is stirring up some controversy. The prolific rocker finished recording music for an upcoming album mere days ago and will have it in stores within a couple of weeks. Young is just coming off his last release, Prairie Wind (featured in Jonathan Demme's recent concert film), but on Living With War, he will shift gears completely. According to Greg, this release is a completely political, guerilla-style protest album. Young wrote and recorded songs like "Let's Impeach the President," in just one day in response to the current administration and its failed war in Iraq. Jim points out that Young works well in this situation. Less than two weeks after the Kent State shootings in 1970, Young was inspired to write "Ohio," and it was on the radio within a week. Almost 40 years later, the classic rock icon shows no sign of slowing down — neither his writing, nor his politics.

Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins are also in the headlines again. Nirvana widow Courtney Love sold 25% of her share of the band's publishing rights to Larry Mestel, a former executive at Virgin Music. She reportedly received over 50 million dollars for this settlement. That should help alleviate Love's financial woes, though not necessarily the woes of Nirvana fans who worry that Cobain's legacy will be boiled down to Teen Spirit ads. Smashing Pumpkins fans are also a bit curious about the fate of that band. Lead singer (and Love ex) Billy Corgan has stated that the Chicago group will reunite, but no one is quite sure in what incarnation. That really just leaves Pearl Jam, who you'll hear about later in the show.

Go to episode 22

Music News

grateful_dead Jerry Garcia may be dead, but we're sure he'd also be grateful for huge outcry of interest from Grateful Dead fans for a series of reunion tribute shows in Chicago this summer. According to Greg's reporting for the Chicago Tribune nearly a half million fans went online at the same time with the hope of paying almost $200 a ticket. Many of them, of course, got shut out and can only hope to score tickets on the secondary market…that is if they are willing to pay $8,000 to $116,000! The show's promoter promises fans they will try to make the experience accessible via the web, but we recommend loading up your generic mp3 device with Dead tunes and heading over to kick back at your favorite (free) outdoor spot as an alternative idyll.

Jim and Greg next give an update on two ongoing court cases in the music world. First, the former British glam star Gary Glitter has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of indecently assaulting three girls in the late 1970's. There is no statute of limitations for such offenses in the UK.

And while less unseemly, the copyright case over "Blurred Lines" is also embarrassing for the artists involved. The trial pits Robin Thicke and his co-writers Pharrell Williams and T.I. against the family of Marvin Gaye. They, like many people, hear a lot of similarities to Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up." So far the testimonies have been striking. Thicke admitted he was on drugs during the song's recording and that Pharrell was the primary force behind the song.“The biggest hit of my career was written by somebody else, and I was jealous and wanted credit,”he testified,“I felt it was a little white lie that didn‘t hurt his career but boosted mine.”No wonder so many of these cases don’t make it to a public courtroom.

After decades of being ready to review new releases on a Tuesday, Jim and Greg are preparing for a shift to Friday. But in this digital age, there's not much to prepare. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced the decision as a way to eliminate variance from country to country (it's Monday in the UK and Friday in Germany). But in a year when Beyonce and Drake can release music whenever they want with no advance fanfare, this is another example of the music industry being well-behind the times.

Tom Wheeler, commissioner of the FCC delivered a ruling that won in a 3-2 vote to approve strong Net Neutrality rules across the country. The Net Neutrality concept posits that the internet should remain a level playing field; certain companies who control data flow cannot show a preference for one company over another due to self interests. Ars Technica reporter Jon Brodkin, joined us to talk about the historic ruling. He doesn't see a downside to the ruling and says that most of the large telecommunication companies will respond with lawsuits. Brodkin adds that the effect on music fans who enjoy streaming services will be largely positive at this point.

Go to episode 484

Music News

There were not one, but two hissy fits thrown by major pop stars this year. The first was by the always incendiary rapper Kanye West. Sound Opinions is a big fan of West, but sometimes he makes it darn hard. At the MTV Europe Music Awards, which will air in the States this weekend, West stormed the stage after losing the award for Best Music Video. He interrupted winners Justice and Simian as they were accepting their award and told viewers that by not winning,“the show loses credibility.”The number of expletives the Chicago native used was less shocking than the fact that he thinks MTV awards have credibility. But, we'll let you be the judge: "Touch the Sky" vs. "We Are Your Friends."

Hissy fit #2 was thrown by Elton John. At a recent concert in New York, the singer/songwriter ranted about his label's lack of interest in promoting his new album, The Captain and the Kid. He demanded to be dropped from Universal Music Group, and told the audience,“I'm 58 and I don't care anymore.”He also dropped the F-bomb 15 times. (Insert "Bitch is Back" joke here). Jim and Greg are rarely ones to defend major labels, but they float the idea that perhaps The Captain and the Kid just wasn't very good.

Go to episode 50

Music News

Fans continue to mourn the death of David Bowie, who died January 10th. His most recent album, Blackstar, released two days before his death, rose to #1 in America as fans and strangers alike tuned in to hear Bowie's last artful words. Blackstar's huge sales represent a trend found in Nielsen's 2015 music report, which says rock music is going strong. According to Nielsen, rock is the #1 genre for album sales—33% of albums sold in North America were rock. Though pop and R&B may be topping the charts, rock gets sold the most.

Music streams continue to be popular with listeners and are up 93%. But, there's hope for high fidelity fans too: MusicWatch reported an estimated 25 million U.S. consumers are willing to pay more money for higher sound quality. And while we live in a digital world, radio, surprisingly, remains people's #1 source for music discovery.

Adele The biggest winner in 2015 was, of course, Adele. Her record 25 accounted for 3.1% of all album sales in 2015 and 16% of all album sales during the six weeks following its release. So, it's not surprising that she was the most searched artist according to the BBC and Shazam. The BBC allows you to find out what people are searching for in your city, and also, that city's“musical twin.”Here in Chicago, our listening matches up with Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

Go to episode 530

Music News

Maurice White, founder of the great R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away on February 4 at the age of 74. White started in Chicago as a jazz drummer, playing on Chess Records sessions by Willie Dixon and Etta James before being recruited into Ramsey Lewis's band. The crossover success of that gig allowed him to finance Earth, Wind & Fire, an extravagant showpiece band that could contain more than a dozen members – a flashy update of the big bands of the swing era. Greg goes so far as to call White the "Duke Ellington of R&B." Blending Latin music, R&B, jazz, and African music, Earth, Wind & Fire scored a string of hits in the 1970s. For Greg, the epitome of the band was the 1975 song "Shining Star" which offered a uplifting message during a period of racial strife.

Go to episode 533

Music News

Each week there are more and more news stories about the failings of the music industry and labels having financial troubles. This week's victim is Bertelsmann, the largest media company in Europe. The German-based company reported a $69 million loss due to legal settlements over the funding of music-downloading service Napster. In 2004, in an effort to stay ahead in the growing digital industry, Bertelsmann invested in the file-sharing company. But, shortly thereafter, the other major music labels sued Napster for copyright infringement. Now Bertelsmann is paying the price.

It's clear that the industry's old model is dying though, and two music veterans think they have the solution. Jim and Greg discuss the much talked-about profile of Rick Rubin in last week's New York Times Magazine. Rubin, who co-founded Def Jam and launched the careers of artists like The Beastie Boys and Slayer, was recently appointed the co-head of Columbia Records. In the article, writer Lynn Hirschberg talks to Rubin about how he plans to save Columbia, and possibly the entire music business. In addition to implementing a subscription-based music service, the crux of Rubin's grand scheme is to put the focus back on quality and back on quality and the art. Jim and Greg completely agree that the key to pleasing music consumers is having better music, but they question Rubin's role as tastemaker. The man has had a golden ear at times, but, as Jim explains, he's also produced a lot of "crap."

Another music man who commented on the state of the union is Creation Records founder Alan McGee. In a blog in the UK newspaper The Guardian, McGee proclaims that consumers don‘t want to pay for music at all anymore. Period. He recommends that labels invest in the scope of an artist’s career and focus on making money through ticket sales and merchandise, not small worthless discs.

In more news about the money-making of music, BMI announced record-setting royalty distributions to the tune of $732 million. But, while the music performing right organization is reporting its success, another is seeking more funds. Earlier this summer ASCAP announced that it has filed 26 separate infringement actions against nightclubs, bars and restaurants in 17 states. Jim and Greg are curious about the goal of the crackdown, which seems to focus on the little guy. First they talk to Vincent Candilora, ASCAP's vice president and director of licensing. Mr. Candilora explains that ASCAP doesn‘t desire filing lawsuits, but that the organization wanted to remind people that there are laws against playing copyrighted music without a license, whether the song is recorded or performed, and whether the venue is large or a dive bar. He realizes that most of these establishments aren’t specifically music venues, but compares paying for the right to play music to paying for the right to serve parsley; it's not something you order off a menu, but it's something that's included in a business' operating cost.

Mike Miller, owner of the bar Delilah's on the north side of Chicago, gives the other perspective. He explains that as a music fan and a supporter of the local music community, he is totally happy to do his part and pay licenses to all three performing rights organizations. But, Mike is dubious about how his payments get disseminated. He also questions the effectiveness of such lawsuits, and wonders if ASCAP can do something better to support individual musicians and the community-at-large.

Go to episode 93

Music News

This episode of Sound Opinions starts out with a discussion of the recent phenomenon overtaking many rock groups: Bands like The Doors, Queen, Journey, and The Cars are touring and making albums despite the fact that their original lead singers are no longer with them. This is not a new phenomenon, however. Jim and Greg have both seen this before with The Four Tops, The Platters, and more recently, Judas Priest, whose story inspired the movie Rock Star.

One of the most heavily publicized instances of a band replacing its lead singer is with the group INXS. In order to cast another Michael Hutchence, INXS's original lead singer who committed suicide in 1997, the Australian bandmates went so far as to utilize reality television. In Rock Star INXS, hundreds of wannabes vied for this slot. The winner was JD Roth, whose single with INXS is currently getting a fair amount of radio play. The runner-up is Chicago musician Marty Casey. To get to the bottom of the substitute lead-singer phenomenon, Jim and Greg sit down with Casey, whose band The Lovehammers is opening up for Roth and INXS on their current tour.

Go to episode 7

Music News

First up Jim and Greg do an update on a story discussed a few weeks ago. Despite pleas from a broad spectrum of internet radio broadcasters including National Public Radio and Yahoo, as well as some small scale mom and pop stations, the Copyright Royalty Board threw out requests to reconsider a ruling that hiked the royalties they must pay to record companies and artists. In addition, the judges declined to postpone a May 15 deadline by which the new royalties will have to be collected. While there is still one more chance to open the case with the court of appeals, it's likely that many webcasters are going to be put out of business by these new rulings. One thing that is for certain is that rulings like these and those to come down the line are certain to change the entire landscape of digital broadcasting.

Next up Jim and Greg talk to Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief of Spin Magazine, about the upcoming season of“destination festivals.”While previously music fans would be treated to traveling music festivals like Lollapalooza coming to their neck of the woods, now there are large-scale, multi-day outdoor concerts dotted in different areas across the country. Often, these festivals have to compete for your attention by getting the biggest coup. This year it's the Rage Against the Machine reunion at Coachella, the Pearl Jam and Daft Punk performances at Lollapalooza, and a Police reunion at Bonnaroo.

Jim and Greg ask Doug to choose his favorite out of the many destination festivals this summer, and he goes with Coachella because of the line-up and the location. Greg agrees that the Coachella Valley is a spectacular place to experience a rock show, but he also urges music fans to travel two hours outside of Seattle, Washington to attend the Sasquatch Festival in the Gorge Amphitheater. It's another meeting of spectacular natural surroundings and an impressive bill of bands. Jim thinks that people will get the most bang for their buck at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, which features a number of indie bands, plus groups like Sonic Youth performing entire albums for a very reasonable price. But, being the sand and sun hater that he is, Jim won‘t pick his favorite summer festival. He’s actually ready for the entire phenomenon to die out and for rock to return to smoky clubs where it belongs.

Jim and Greg talk to Chicago Tribune Television Critic Maureen Ryan about the recent "Sanjaya phenomenon" on American Idol. Our hosts have long avoided talking about this popular TV show because, frankly, it has little to do with music. But, they were intrigued by the curious forces at work to keep the apparently talentless contestant Sanjaya Malakar on the show, and wanted to turn to Mo Ryan to find out why he became so popular, and why he couldn‘t survive. The only sense these critics can make out of Sanjaya’s reign is that for one brief moment the pop forces (pre-teens who love Sanjaya's androgynous, harmless sex appeal) and the punk forces (Vote for the Worst.com, Howard Stern, etc.) came together with one common goal: to save Sanjaya (and possibly take down the show). The convergence of these two sets was a rare occurence in popular culture, and it seems they weren‘t strong enough to prevent Sanjaya’s elimination. American Idol proved itself to be a more powerful“death star”than anyone expected.

For more information on music festivals, check out the footnotes below.

Go to episode 73

Music News

Jim and Greg start off the news segment by discussing Police drummer Stewart Copeland's blog posting about the band's first reunion gig. Despite critical praise, Copeland was dissatisfied by their performance to say the least. Jim and Greg wonder how dissatisfied fans were, especially those who dropped hundreds of dollars to see Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers.

Of course, the men of the Police aren't the only musicians requesting big bucks this summer. An East Hampton concert series called Social is asking fans to pay $15,000 to see five shows by Prince, Tom Petty, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel and James Taylor. Audience members will be treated to celebrity chefs, art displays and Moroccan pillows rather than the usual uncomfortable stadium seating. This elitist trend in music is disheartening to Jim and Greg, and they wish more consumers would react as people in Italy recently did. After charging between $200 and $1200 for tickets to a show in Rome, singer Barbra Streisand received protests from Italian consumer groups. She recently had to cancel this show, though her camp has not admitted the protests were a cause.

The band Wilco is making news for more than just appearing on Sound Opinions. The Chicago rock group struck a deal with Volkswagen to allow the car company to use its music in a new series of ads. This practice is becoming more and more frequent as bands have fewer and fewer options to get their music heard, but Wilco is one of the last bands Jim, Greg and their fans expected to“sell out.”But, what makes this marketing strategy unique is that VW will feature not just one, but six different Wilco songs in six different ads. The commercials will be released almost like singles, making them as much ads for Wilco as they are for the cars. The band has already received its fair share of criticism, but thankfully they've got family on their side.

Go to episode 80

Music News

iTunes announced that it will be offering cut-rate downloads on several albums in its catalog. The albums, which retail for $5.99 and $6.99, are part of a new series called“Next Big Thing.”The bargain bin includes albums from up-and-comers like LCD Soundsystem and Peter Bjorn and John. Jim and Greg are happy to see that the giant digital music retailer is waking up. Six bucks is a perfectly legitimate amount to pay for such good albums, and this is a move that's certain to please consumers, if not record labels.

Also in the news, pop star Avril Lavigne is being called out for a couple instances of plagiarism. First, power pop band The Rubinoos launched a legal case against Avril, claiming that her single "Girlfriend" was lifted from their 1979 song, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Avril denies this, but the similarities are pretty striking. Then, gossip blogger Perez Hilton pointed out another suspicious similarity. The first 20 seconds of Avril's "I Don't Have to Try" sound nearly identical to electroclasher Peaches' track "I'm the Kinda." Jim and Greg think the evidence is stacking up against Avril, but are quick to point out that all rock music has been cribbed from one source or another.

Next Jim and Greg relay their experiences that at the recent Police reunion show in Chicago. Greg was pretty unimpressed, and says that the show was definitely not worth what people paid. Jim was less harsh, but agrees with Greg that the Police have always been better on album than live.

The Police concluded their tour at Giants Stadium as part of the Live Earth concert. Again, the band didn't wow our hosts, but it was Kanye West's performance that was the most strikingly bad. In fact, with the exception of a few performances, most of Live Earth was pretty underwhelming to Jim and Greg. And the world seemed to agree. Ratings were quite poor, especially compared to the success of previous attempts like Live 8. Jim is all for music influencing people to make change, but he didn't hear anything truly inspirational coming out of this crop of musicians. And Greg found the event to have a great lack of focus, though both hosts are all for Al Gore replacing Bono as music's new crusader.

Go to episode 85

Music News

The Grateful Dead are coming back from…well…the dead. The four surviving original members of the jam band progenitor are reuniting for a series of shows this July at Soldier Field in Chicago. These performances will commemorate their 50th anniversary as a band, as well as the 20th anniversary of leader Jerry Garcia's death. The band claims these will be their final shows together, but Jim and Greg have their doubts.

The buzz is already building for this summer's big music festivals. Major events like Coachella, Bonnarroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest are already announcing big name headliners. There seems to be a growing trend of booking veteran performers like Billy Joel and Elton John who could otherwise fill stadium gigs of their own. Greg's early pick is the Governors Ball in New York featuring Björk, while Jim's curiosity is piqued by the avant-garde lineup at Knoxville, Tennessee's Big Ears Festival.

It's one fine day for fans of Mariah Carey. The chart-topping chanteuse will be holding a residency at Caesars Las Vegas beginning in May. She'll perform selections from her many #1 singles to coincide with a new release aptly called #1s. And while it seems like the stuff of sweet, sweet fantasy, Mr. Showmanship himself, Liberace, is also returning to Vegas, despite having died in 1987. Following in the footsteps of Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, the glittery entertainer will be recreated as a hologram by the company Hologram USA.

liberace

Go to episode 478

Music News

Jim and Greg have been predicting this shift on Sound Opinions for years, but according to a new study, by 2010 digital sales will have eclipsed physical sales. Right now 65% of music sales are still compact discs, but the trend is going down quickly. Plus most of the CDs are sold at big box stores like Walmart, Targetand Best Buy. Anyone who has shopped at those places recently knows that the selection is not always impressive.

Last week guitar legend Les Paul died at the age of 94. Paul was a guitar innovator, best known for developing multi-track recording. He and his wife Mary Ford had many hits, and Paul influenced the next generation's guitar greats like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Beck, in particular, was very close with Paul. He was not only influenced by Paul's multi-tracking, but also his tone, which Greg explains was singing, sustained and steeped in melody. You can hear the influence in the 1968 track "Beck's Bolero."

Another obituary in the news is that of producer Jim Dickinson. His death hasn‘t gotten as much attention as Paul’s but Jim and Greg were very sad to hear of his passing. Dickinson recorded such artists as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. He grew up in Chicago, but was really known as a Memphis producer. Jim and Greg both talked with Dickinson a number of times, and remember him as a great man and a living encyclopedia of music. To remember him they play Big Star's "Thank You Friends," which Dickinson produced in 1975.

Go to episode 195

Music News

The London riots have hit the music industry hard. A North London warehouse owned by Sony DADC burned to the ground on Monday, and while Sony may have deep pockets, many of the smaller independent labels that stored stock at the facility do not. The fire destroyed CDs, DVDs and LPs distributed by the Pias Group. Pias serves over 160 indie labels including Domino, 4AD, Warp, Sub Pop and Chicago's own Thrill Jockey, which estimated a loss of $300,000 worth of inventory. For small labels dependent on merch sales to survive, it could be a fatal blow. A relief effort is underway at Label Love. Whether music fans' goodwill will be enough to keep these labels afloat remains to be seen.

Big changes are underway at everyone's favorite industry lobbying group. RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol has announced he will cede the throne after a decade of leadership to become head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He'll be replaced by Cary Sherman. Word of the change came in the form of a dumbfounding open letter, in which Bainwol proclaims a“turnaround”in the music industry's fortunes and cites some interesting statistics. He claims a 20% reduction in illegal filesharing last year and a 5-to-1 ratio of legal to illegal music consumption - numbers that Greg says fly in the face of all the stats he's seen on this. Bainwol also cites a 4% increase in revenue last month - no mention, of course, of the music industry's bottoming-out over the last decade.

Go to episode 298

Music News

Hardcore music fans are willing to pay a lot of bucks for VIP tickets and collector's items. But $18 million? That's what Chicago-based rare instrument dealer Bein & Fushi is asking for their recent acquisition: a Vieuxtemps Guarneri. Made in Italy in 1741, the Guarneri has been dubbed the Mona Lisa of violins, and is adored by violinists like Grammy Award winner Joshua Bell. As Geoffrey Fushi explains, $18 million is a fair price when it comes to this prized instrument. In fact, his seller is even being choosy about who gets it. Jim is waiting for this to come back on the market.

Go to episode 241

Music News

The news starts with Front Line Management's lawsuit against Axl Rose. Front Line's founder and chief executive is Irving Azoff, who is also executive chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, which merged with Ticketmaster last month. Jim and Greg discuss the impact of such a lawsuit on an artist. Considering the mega-corporation controls ticketing, venues and many other aspects of the industry, they may not be one to tangle with. Also, they note that the lawsuit is over a breach of "oral contract." Who agrees to an oral contract these days? Especially with Axl Rose!

Jim and Greg discuss the yet again delayed emergence of Spotify in the U.S. The Internet music service, introduced in 2008 by Daniel Ek, has become one of the most popular of its kind in Europe with 7 million users. But despite rumors that it would come to the States this summer, Ek is still having trouble navigating our thick legal system. He wants Spotify to be legitimate, and that means a lot of licensing fees. But once it does hit our soil, Greg predicts big success.

It hit about 80 degrees this week in Chicago, and while it may snow again next week, we've got our eye on the summer. Jim and Greg run down some of the biggest music festivals of the season. First up is Coachella this month, which will feature Jay-Z, LCD Soundsystem and Faith No More among others. The following month, music fans can travel to Washington for the Sasquatch Festival to see My Morning Jacket, Kid Cudi and Ween. In June Bonnaroo will host the Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder and Weezer. Two of the biggest festivals are right here in our hometown: Pitchfork Music Festival, which will boast a Pavement reunion, and Lollapalooza, which Greg can nearly confirm will have headliners Lady Gaga, Green Day, and a reunited Soundgarden. But, Jim points out that not all of the best multi-act concerts are destination festivals. Lilith Fair is back this year as a traveling women-fueled act with Mary J. Blige, Cat Power and Kelly Clarkson.

Go to episode 227

Music News

After 31 years at EMI, The Rolling Stones have moved over to Universal Music. The label is boasting about its acquisition, but Jim and Greg wonder if the Stones are such a catch after all. As a“heritage artist”they surely bring rock-cred to any company, but as former Chicago rock critic and NPR arts editor Bill Wyman points out, EMI only sold about a million Stones albums a year, which is about as much as a single Eagles album alone sold. A million records is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it may not warrant the expense of housing such a band.

In other Stones news… Abkco Music Inc., the publishing company that owns the right to the British band's song "Play With Fire," is suing rapper Lil Wayne for what it claims was an unauthorized release of an altered version of the song. Lil Wayne's new track "Playing With Fire," does not list any samples in its credits, but Abkco believes the song is clearly derivative. You be the judge.

While it holds a place in the hearts of a generation of music fans, the cassette tape has almost gone the way of the 8-track. The New York Times recently published what is essentially an obituary of the cassette, pointing out the one area the technology still thrived was the audiobook industry. But now, even books on tape are being dumped. Add this to the fact that none of Billboard's Top 10 albums last week were issued on cassette, and it seems time to say goodbye to our dear friend.

Go to episode 140

Music News

A glance at the numbers coming out of the traditional music industry institutions don't paint a pretty picture. But, as Jim and Greg explain, for everyone outside the major labels and distributors, 2008 hasn't actually been such a bad year. Apple is reporting a 34% increase in sales. This includes iTunes downloads as well as players and accessories, but compare these stats with the 20% dip the record companies are reporting, and you get even more proof that the old model needs tweaking.

There's another surprising news item coming out of the digital music realm. If you had asked Jim and Greg years ago to bet on what artist would dominate digital music sales today, they would never have guessed Journey. The power balladeers' 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin" just became top selling catalog track in iTunes history with over 2 million downloads. How did this song eclipse heavy hitters like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Greg attributes the song's late blooming success to 3 things: its association with the Chicago White Sox, its use in the Sopranos' finale, and its use during Kanye West's most recent tour. Jim would prefer to never have to hear from Journey again, but Greg will defend the song's catchiness, particularly that unforgettable keyboard riff.

In sadder news, South African singer Miriam Makeba died last week at the age of 76. Greg says that Makeba is to South Africa what Edith Piaf, Mahalia Jackson and Celia Cruz are to their home countries. Her passion for South Africa and for all of the continent mirrored her voice and her music, and in the case of her recording contract, jeopardized it. Makeba is best remembered through the conviction you can hear in songs, so Jim and Greg play the updated version of "Pata Pata" from her 2000 album Homeland.

Go to episode 155

Music News

It may have been many years since you last thought about The Lemonheads, but they are making news this week. Lead singer Evan Dando is suing General Motors over what he claims is the unauthorized use of his song "It's a Shame About Ray," in two commercials. Jim and Greg don't hear an alarming similarity, but regardless, they wonder if this is really the best time to be suing GM? Check out the ad for yourself.

Blues singer Koko Taylor died last week at the age of 80. Taylor was a longtime Chicago music icon, but as Greg explains, her influence was far-reaching. She was from the last generation of blues performers to have deep connections to the South. Initially Taylor didn‘t have a lot of confidence in her singing ability, but she developed one of the most bold voices and personas Jim and Greg have ever experienced. Through her partnership with Chicago’s Alligator Records, Koko Taylor defined the Chicago blues sound and paved the way for female blues musicians. In tribute to her our hosts play "I'd Rather Go Blind."

Go to episode 185

Music News

With the emergence of the mp3 generation has come increasing concern about the relationship between personal music players and hearing loss. A recent European study links loud headphone habits to permanent hearing damage, and in some cases, damage you may not notice for years. Because so many music fans are listening to their tunes via iPods or other mp3 players, Jim and Greg wanted to get the lowdown on music-related hearing loss from Chicago DJ and producer Carolynn Travis, known to many as Chaka T. Due to her life in the music scene, Chaka is now legally deaf in one ear, and has a 60% loss in the other. She is a hearing protection advocate and founder of the hi-fi earplug company EarLove.

Go to episode 161

Music News

Coachella If your hometown looks anything like Chicago these days, it's hard to even imagine the warmer months. But, for many music fans, now is the time to start mapping out their summer concert plans. The concert business is the one area of the music industry that is thriving, and summer festivals are a huge money-maker. The lineups have been released for Coachella in California, as well as Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And, even without a lineup, the UK's Glastonbury Festival has sold out. One bad sign of things to come in this economy — the Langerado Festival in Florida has already been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Go to episode 167

Music News

The first news item this week is a sad one for Jim, Greg and all indie music fans in and outside of Chicago. Long-time label Touch and Go Records has announced that it is shrinking its business and cutting ties with more than 20 other indie labels. Label founder Corey Rusk made a statement explaining that Touch and Go can no longer afford to provide manufacturing and distribution services to such labels as Drag City, Flameshovel and Kill Rock Stars. This announcement is especially disheartening since it comes on the heels of the label's 25th anniversary.

Anyone who discounted Madonna after she turned 50 will be surprised to hear that she is as relevant as ever — at least commercially. According to Billboard, the pop star is the top-earning artist of 2008 with over $240 million. As Jim and Greg explain, this is not just good news for Madonna, but for her 360 promoters Live Nation. Distantly trailing the Material Girl are Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, The Police and Celine Dion — not a youngin' in the bunch.

Go to episode 169

Music News

Soul Train host and creator Don Cornelius died tragically this week at age 75. Greg remembers the baritone-voiced Chicago native as not just a music pioneer, but a civil rights one. He broadened what we think of as“soul”and brought acts like Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie and Aretha Franklin to audiences of all races and ages. What American Bandstand was to pop culture in the '60s, Soul Train and Cornelius were to the '70s, '80s, and beyond. So to remember Don Cornelius, we play Barry White's 1975 orchestral performance of "You're My First, the Last, My Everything."

Go to episode 323

Music News

While file-sharers in this country face lawsuits, downloaders in France now risk being thrown off the net entirely. French officials are proposing to cut off the broadband connections of people who illegally download films or music over the internet. French President Nicholas Sarkozy explained that he's backing a "three strikes" policy against internet pirates, while simultaneously announcing a new deal with film and music companies to boost“cultural offerings”on the web. Jim and Greg think that government intervention in this issue sets a troubling precedent. Let's keep our fingers-crossed that U.S. lawmakers don't follow suit (no pun intended).

The RIAA is making news yet again this week. Earlier this month, the record industry organization announced that it sent another round of pre-litigation settlement letters to college campuses across the U.S. They are targeting 16 schools, almost all of which are members of the Ivy League. But, where's Harvard? The RIAA has offered no response. Jim and Greg aren't quick to join conspiracy theorists, but the whole thing is a little peculiar. In fact, the American record industry's tactics in general are very peculiar. But, no more so than those across the pond…

After two successful runs of Lollapalooza in Chicago, concert promoters C3 Presents have announced they're going to extend their festival reign to the Garden State. This August C3 and European promoters Festival Republic will launch the Vineland Music Festival in Vineland, NJ. But, music fans shouldn‘t expect a different formula. The Vineland concert will also be a 3-day destination festival with over 100 bands in various popular music genres. In fact, some acts will overlap with Lollapalooza. Jim and Greg don’t understand the need for another big summer music festival when the market is already so glutted with the same product. Everyone, including C3 executives, admit that the market is over-saturated and that many of these festivals won't survive. Sound Opinions H.Q. just hopes that over-heated, over-charged music fans do.

Go to episode 105

Music News

Singer-songwriter Terry Callier never got the acclaim he deserved in the early part of his life, but as Greg explains, his influence was strong. The Chicago native released a Chess Records debut in 1968, and went on to fuse folk with jazz and experimental music. It's a sound that caught the attention of younger artists like Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart, and you can best hear it on the 1973 track "You're Goin Miss Your Candyman."

Go to episode 362

Music News

Often when Jim and Greg discuss RIAA lawsuits in the news, the stories seem to paint a dreary picture for the average music fan. But this week things are looking up for the little guy. Last year Jammie Thomas was convicted of music piracy in the country's first file-sharing trial. But, now the judge is asking for a new trial. U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis believes he didn‘t instruct the jury properly and didn’t insist that the prosecution prove files were actually downloaded. In addition, he thinks the $220,000 fine is completely excessive. The judge is also urging for better copyright laws, something Jim and Greg have been saying for years.

The consumer does not fare as well in the next news story. Both Wal-Mart and Yahoo! Music have announced that customers who purchased music with DRM protection will not be able access their purchases for much longer. In Yahoo's case, it is because their music store, and consequently their DRM server, is shutting down. And, while Wal-Mart was wise to eliminate DRM files, Jim and Greg don't understand why customers who purchased songs prior to this shift should penalized. For every step forward in the digital music industry, there are at least two steps back.

Jim and Greg next give their takes on the recent My Bloody Valentine reunion show. The influential U.K. band played Chicago as their first tour in 16 years, and both Jim and Greg were there to witness it, though one has to wonder if they saw the same show. Both critics agree that the band's 1991 album Loveless was a masterpiece, but Jim wished they had played some new material. He also didn't see evidence that the band has kept up with the times, calling their dated loops and samples cheesy. Greg was much more impressed and thinks the members of MBV deserve one free pass in terms of not having new material. He was also blown away by their sound - almost literally.

Go to episode 149

Music News

Last week over 125 million viewers worldwide watched Emmelie de Forest of Denmark take the top prize in the Eurovision Song Contest. The 58th edition of the televised songfest was held in the home of former contestants Abba. But perhaps more interesting than the pop music, is the geopolitical tensions. For example, Russia claims its entry at the finals was pushed into a fifth place as a consequence of vote-stealing in Azerbaijan, leading to tension between the countries. Germany, too, is unhappy with its showing, blaming the euro zone crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity measures.

Our own pop music contest, American Idol, wrapped up its 12th season and crowned Candice Gloverthe winner. But, while her cover of "Lovesong" was a highlight, the season itself was a low point for Fox. Ratings dropped 44% from last year, and total viewership plummeted by 7 million. Compared with NBC competitor The Voice, Greg thinks the show has become your grandparents' American Idol and wonders if anyone will care about poor Candice like they once did Kelly.

At the end of the news Jim and Greg bid farewell to The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek. The keyboard player died Monday at age 74. And as Greg explains, he was integral to creating the band's iconic dark, L.A. sound. He brought in elements from his southside Chicago upbringing, as well as his classical and jazz training. You can hear that in The Doors' famous track "Riders on the Storm."

Go to episode 391

Music News

North Carolina Congressman Melvin Watt has introduced a bill that promises to shake up the radio world. Known as the "Free Market Royalty Act," it would require broadcasters—online and offline alike—to compensate artists and labels whose music they play. (Under the current rules, only the songwriter and rights holder receive the royalties, and terrestrial radio stations get a free ride.) While artists have come out in support of the bill, The National Association of Broadcasters — the U.S. radio industry's lobbying arm—is making its opposition known, warning that this“performance tax”would burden already-struggling radio stations.

Over on the charts, a string of debuts took top slots. Drake's new album Nothing Was the Same exploded at number one, making it the second best-selling debut week for any artist in 2013 (topped only by Justin Timberlake). And, for the second week running, Miley Cyrus'“Wrecking Ball”is number one on Billboard's Hot 100… but is it really? In February, Billboard began including digital streaming in its tally for the Hot 100. So, Miley has YouTube to thank for her success.

In other weird charts news, the finale of AMC's smash hit Breaking Bad aired last week, and it closed with the forgotten Badfinger track "Baby Blue." Hours after the final credits rolled, 5,000 fans had purchased the 1972 song on iTunes, and its Spotify streams skyrocketed by 9,000%. Greg thought it was a good song choice, but Jim says that he would have preferred Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." (Hey, at least it wasn't as painful as The Sopranos farcical "Don‘t Stop Believin’."

Jim and Greg invite you to "Ask the Critic." This week they answer a question from Kevin, a 15-year-old fan from Chicago. Kevin seeks advice on starting a band. Jim and Greg tell him to play from the heart…never mind those stinkin' critics! Got a question for Jim and Greg? Email interact@soundopinions.org or call 888.859.1800.

Go to episode 410

Music News

Every generation has its moment of nostalgia, from fans of New Kids on the Block to fans of The Pixies. But millennial nostalgia? Can our hearts tug for bands that broke up a mere 10 years ago? Apparently so, according to the recent Billboard albums chart. Backstreet's back with a Top 5 debut. We sent our own Gen Y expert Annie Minoff to see the Backstreet Boys' reunion show here in Chicago. She reports that the now“Man Band”still has the chops, but has added some unnecessary attempts at authenticity.

Go to episode 403

Music News

After a two-year battle, a web royalty agreement has been reached that won't put webcasters out of business. In 2007 the copyright royalty board ruled that webcasters needed to pay a fee of 0.08 cents each time a listener streamed wa song which would increase annually to 0.19 cents in 2015. That would've bankrupted many web music services like Pandora Radio. Now, large webcasters must pay 25 percent of total revenue.

Michael Jackson's death is still making big news this week. Friends and family hosted a memorial tribute to the late“King of Pop”on Tuesday. And Jackson's music continued to dominate the charts. In fact sales went up 90% with 800,000 albums sold. As Jim and Greg explain, this will go down as the last great week of physical album sales. And the good news continues for music retailers– a CD and DVD of both the memorial show and his tour rehearsals will be released this year.

A few weeks ago Jim and Greg talked about Trent Reznor's involvement with heart patient Eric De La Cruz. Reznor asked Nine Inch Nails fans to donate money toward a heart transplant in exchange for VIP access, special tickets and more. Unfortunately De La Cruz died last week before a transplant could take place.

In other Nine Inch Nails news, final tour dates have been announced for Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. As Reznor explained to Jim and Greg during their recent interview, this will be the last go-around for Nine Inch Nails, but certainly not the last of his music.

Go to episode 189

Music News

Lady Gaga has cancelled her "Born This Way" tour due to a hip injury. Millions of little monsters will be deprived of 22 national shows. And the Gaga camp might be out $35 million. With all the dancing and acrobatics, it's surprising more pop artists aren't wiped out by injuries which gives Jim and Greg a new appreciation for Tina Turner.

In other concert news, Paul McCartney will be headlining the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. He'll be joined by Mumford and Sons and Tom Petty, but also Wu-Tang Clan and Nas-some surprising additions to the traditionally roots and jam festival. Concertgoers will also be excited to hear about the Firefly Festival's plans for its second year, including theYeah Yeah Yeahs and Kendrick Lamar. Here in Chicago, the Pitchfork Festival has booked Bjork and in perplexing move, controversial hometown artist R. Kelly.

Finally, Jim and Greg bid farewell to songwriter and producer Shadow Morton. He was instrumental in bringing the Shangri-Las to fame with hits like "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember" that compressed teen angst dramas into three-minute pop operas. Shadow also later worked with Janis Ian and The New York Dolls.

Go to episode 378

Music News

The RAND Corporation recently released the findings of their study on music lyrics and teen sexual behavior. According to the think tank, teens who regularly listened to music with“degrading”lyrics at the start of the study were more likely to start having sex over the next two years than teens who listened to music that was sexual, but not necessarily degrading. Of course, degrading is in the eye of the beholder, and Jim and Greg are a little bit suspicious of the RAND Corp.'s goals. They are reminded of previous attempts to thwart dangerous rock music, like those of the Parents' Music Resource Center in the '80s and people concerned with future Columbines in the '90s. So Jim, Greg and many experts caution against scapegoating one single thing when it comes to teens having sex. Plus, rock and roll has always been about sex, and after speaking with a number of teenagers in downtown Chicago, Sound Opinions is convinced that tastes have not really changed. Most of these young listeners seemed to be channeling Dick Clark: They just want a great beat they can dance to.

Go to episode 37

Music News

The digital music site eMusic has angered some listeners and labels in recent weeks. They moved from subscriptions to a tiered pricing model similar to iTunes that will include higher priced major label songs. After making this announcement, three of the biggest indie labels in the business decided to take their music elsewhere. Domino Records, Merge Records and the Beggars Group, which includes Matador, XL, Rough Trade and 4AD, have not elaborated on their decision to leave, but Jim and Greg suspect it's because of this new deal with major labels. In their statement, eMusic explained that this change was necessary for their long-term sustainability.

What's the best music town in the country? Some would say Chicago; some would say Seattle; but according to Songkick.com, it's Austin, Texas. Austin has always touted itself as the live music capital of the world, and now they've got this to back it up. In their survey of live shows per capita, Songkick also put Madison, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Denver in their Top 5. Some surprising winners, especially when you scan down to find that New York and L.A. didn‘t even make the cut. And it’s interesting to note that these cities had lower average ticket prices than bigger markets.

Go to episode 261