• Cal's Most-Listened-To Albums Of All Time*

    Posted 02/23/2018 by cal

    I like to nerd out on a site called last.fm, which keeps track of music I listen to on my iPod, on iTunes, on Spotify, and sometimes on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and other music-based websites. At any given time, I can go there and look at stats regarding how many times I've listened to any and all songs, artists, or albums within any time frame. I don't know why, but it's something I enjoy. They call it “scrobbling”, and the scrobbler is, admittedly, unreliable. I gave up on the last.fm support forums years ago, and I feel I'm a much happier person since doing so.

  • The Best Albums Of 2017

    Posted 01/02/2018 by Cal

    I may not have any clout or credibility, but calling something “the album of the year” still means something to me. All the noncommittal “no particular order” lists are adorable and kind; I have trouble believing, though, that deep down, you don’t feel that one of those really is the best. What is the point of keeping that opinion to yourself? Why even make a list if there’s no bottom or top? Even if it’s a consensus list, there’s a consensus number one, or at least a pair of incomparable top contenders, whether you arrive at the conclusion by mathematics or verbal combat. Have the decency to honor the best as the best. Otherwise, the terrorists have already won.

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  • The Best Live Music I Saw In 2017

    Posted 12/22/2017 by Cal

    It’s funny thinking back on my teens and probably early twenties, when I would actively say things like “music is my life”. This part of my identity has become so self-evident that it seems like a silly thing to say. I have trouble imagining what people’s lives are like who wouldn’t consider music a part of their identity. Music, theater, film, literature; how else could a person possibly get through life? I’m bursting with gratitude for the countless people who’ve enriched my life over the past year simply through their own natural creative expression. I wonder if an artist ever comes close to understanding how much their art means to others. I would like to make it my life’s work to bring them closer to understanding.

  • Tom Petty, RIP

    Posted 10/03/2017 by cal

    A giant middle finger to the LAPD and the national press for their disgraceful handling of Tom Petty's death. The emotional limbo they plunged me into yesterday has turned into a deep denial that I don't know how to deal with right now. So, I expect I will cringe if I ever read this again, but here goes. 

  • The Greatest Metal Albums Of All Time

    Posted 08/19/2017 by Cal

    I could’ve done a straight-up “favorites” list like the black metal list I made earlier this year, but then there wouldn’t be the pretense of going up against the Rolling Stone list, the comedy of which is what prompted this list.

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  • Phish's Baker's Dozen, Ranked

    Posted 08/08/2017 by cal

    Phish’s thirteen-night stand at Madison Square Garden wrapped up on Sunday, and fans are still coming to grips with what a tremendous gift the band just gave us. It was an unprecedented event that featured a different surprise donut flavor each night, and a (sometimes very loosely) corresponding theme. Thirteen shows, 237 songs, zero repeats. And as any fan will tell you, those statistics mean almost nothing in the shadow of the music itself.

  • Bono Does America Again

    Posted 06/06/2017 by cal

    Bono has had a thing for this concept that he calls “America” ever since U2 first visited here in 1980. I grew up in the ‘80s myself, and where I lived, patriotism was incontrovertible. As far as I knew, everyone in the world saw the U.S.A. as the land of opportunity, freedom, all that shit. I can’t really say if it was still true in the ‘80s or not. I assume that it was a truth for some segment of the population at some point in the past 240 years.

  • Chris Cornell, RIP

    Posted 05/18/2017 by cal

    I don't know if anyone who will read this follows me on twitter, but if you do, you may be thinking 'He's never had a single nice thing to say about Chris Cornell in his life. Who the hell does he think he is writing a tribute?' I'll admit that at this moment I feel bad for talking shit about Cornell. Today is a sobering reminder that every single person you've ever made fun of on social media will die. But also, social media is not real life. I've said lots of nice things about Chris in real life. It's true that both the critic and the fan in me lamented the slow degradation one of the strongest voices of my formative years. Maybe it's a dumb impulse; think what you want. If you want to be a legend, die young; if you want to be a human being, live as long as possible. But this death, this timing, this everything...this is the worst.

  • Milwaukee Psych Fest 2017

    Posted 05/15/2017 by cal

    You knew this thing would eventually outgrow Cactus Club. As sick as music writers have got to be of typing the word ‘psych’, still it persists as a catch-all tag for reverb, drone, and general weirdness in music, and its popularity shows no signs of fading despite the hiatus of Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest, the mother of all psych fests). The plus side of its omnipresence is that a psych festival can encompass virtually all genres nowadays, and this year’s Milwaukee edition boasted by far the most eclectic lineup to date. I caught most of the Friday and Saturday performances, and I wrote little bits about 'em.

  • Instructions For Listening To Jon Mueller's dHrAaNwDn

    Posted 03/24/2017 by cal

    Initially I was dismayed that dHrAaNwDn didn't come with a download card. After listening to it, I understand that it's not the sort of sonic experience you could fit into an iPod. These instructions should work whichever version of the project you happen to have acquired. I would recommend the deluxe, but they are all sold out. Find the standard version at Rhythmplex.com.

  • Some Words Inspired By Last Night's Patti Smith Concert

    Posted 03/10/2017 by cal

    I promise if you read this drivel for long enough, it will eventually be mostly about Patti Smith. 

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  • Swatty's Top 15 Albums Of 2016

    Posted 02/23/2017 by cal

    So here I am, four years after my last official list. I don’t really have a valid excuse as to why I don’t do these full write-ups on a year-to-year basis. However, I could certainly say 2013-15 was fraught with turmoil, existential crises and career roadblocks. But for the most part, those days are long gone, and now I can finally focus on the important things like these little wonderfully self-gratifying “best of” lists. Twenty-sixteen was certainly a strange year for metal in my humble opinion, as the new releases didn’t flood my ear holes nearly as much as older and more established gems in my music library. Maybe that’s a consequence of me getting older, or maybe it says something about the general quality of the modern metal environment as of late. Nevertheless, I was able to glean a few diamonds from the rough, and the list below details the reasons that made these little opuses so special. Here goes:

  • Top Ten Black Metal Albums

    Posted 02/20/2017 by cal

    The rules of black metal state that before discussing black metal you must define your parameters. I’m no authority, but everyone draws a line somewhere. Some say it must be made in Norway, like a fine Champagne. Some say it must be satanic, or at least anti-Christian. I tend to overlook ideologies in favor of stylistic concerns; the drumming, the strumming, the chords, the screaming, the feeling. There’s endless variation within the basic framework, and there are always exceptions. Your best bet is to familiarize yourself. You’ll get it eventually if you care to. As such, I don’t count the first wave at all. Venom, Bathory, Merciful Fate, love ya but you’re all just preamble. Modern death and thrash metal bands, too, nothing against y’all, but just because you have satanic lyrics or the occasional interlude of tremolo picking and/or BM shrieking, this doesn’t qualify you. The super-progressive stuff that Enslaved plays (which I love!) and the symphonic bombast of Dimmu Borgir (which I like some of!): no. Blackgaze, no. Whatever it is that Hunter Hunt-Huntsley is doing, no. Otherwise, I think it’s mostly fair game.

  • The Best Albums Of 2016

    Posted 02/06/2017 by cal

    This was gonna be a much more optimistic intro until about January 20th, at which point it became difficult to concentrate on happy thoughts. We’ll cycle back around before long, though. For now, let’s posit that apathy is in this day and age a strangely optimistic attitude, and let that color your understanding of the following.

  • 2016 In Live Music

    Posted 12/29/2016 by cal

    Believe me, I realize this is partially a case of rationalization, but 2016 was the year I learned to stop being aggravated that most of the touring bands I love are gonna keep skipping Milwaukee, because almost all the live music I’ll ever need is already right here. Plus, I do relish an evening in Chicago whenever I can make it happen. It's no use getting hung up on this issue, I keep telling myself. There are plenty of negatives to focus on from 2016, if that's your bag. Personally, I can't keep it up. Music lives on, and this current moment right this second is all that’s even real anyway. But if I were to live solely in memories of local shows, I'd want to pull a good percentage of that life from 2016.

    Musician friends, I love you all, and your shows were all amazing, and ranking shows is silly and I apologize for doing it anyway. It’s just a thing I do. It doesn’t mean anything.

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