The Flashbulb

Album Review: Arboreal

Some of the best instrumental post-rock comes from Chicago. I’ve delved into this genre enough to start recognizing patterns and Chicago is where it’s at for this stuff. The Flashbulb is a band of master tone crafters. They have plenty of albums well worth checking out, “Opus At The End Of Everything” being the most recent, but I will focus this review on their 2010 effort, “Arboreal.” I believe it’s a great first exposure to this band if you haven’t already heard of them. If you have, make sure you haven’t forgotten about this beautiful album.

“Arboreal” is a 17-track masterpiece on Bandcamp for $8.99. If you think that’s too much, you can always stream it for free. It’s got heavy jazz influence as apparent on tracks like “We, The Dispelled” and “The Great Pumpkin Tapes,” but it’s also got a lot of electronic parts with tracks like “Meadow Crush” and “Once Weekly.”

Every track on this album is beautiful. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d make a large case to pick two. “Once Weekly” would be my favorite of their more electronic side. It’s kind of reminiscent of early Aphex Time work paired with beautiful sonic swells. “We, The Dispelled” would be my other choice, and perhaps my singular choice as well. The drums are incredible here. All of the tones are perfect and the song flows incredibly, leaving you wishing for more after the short three minutes.

This band is versatile, and they’re great at everything they’re doing. Check out all of their work. 


Fall Classic


Fall Classic released an album on April 17 called Nerves on Bandcamp and it’s full of interesting production and songwriting. This band has a lot of good things going for them, and I’m continually more impressed with these songs as I listen to them.

You can download all 12 tracks straight from the band’s Bandcamp page at the price of your choosing. They’re worth much more than zero dollars. Check them out! The better your speakers, the better your impression will be. These songs were obviously recorded well and meant to be experienced in a good listening environment.

The first track, “I Built A Shell I” is sort of misleading. Not knowing a thing about this band, I fully expected this to be a much more minimal, lo-fi, acoustic-only type of band. Turns out, this is just a really cool intro to the next song. Nice production idea!

“Built A Shell II” is very strong. The vocal melody continues from part one, but the production quality and instrumentation goes up. The drums on this track are incredibly interesting. There’s a certain softness in his voice that I’d call an acquired taste, but this is right up the alley of many, many listeners today. I’m enjoying it.

“The Last Word A Man Wants To Use” is another stand out on the album. Everything sounds so good. These folks are great at recording guitars and building big, anthemic soundscapes.

If you’re in Chicago, look for Fall Classic to play a show sometime!


Sarah And Kate Sparks

The Fish And The Bird

Sarah and Kate Sparks of Chicago made a really cute ten track acoustic album called The Fish And The Bird. It’s on Bandcamp for seven dollars, or you can stream it for free. These are great acoustic duets, sort of in the style of things often explored by Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons or The Civil Wars.


The first track on their album, “Darling,” seems to be a really sincere love ballad. The persistent double vocal melody is spot on, and the song is structured with a perfect balance of interesting and familiarity.

The title track starts out with really great whistle tones, and then plunges right into a sort of seaside story song. The melodies here are very catchy, the lyrics are totally relatable, and this is one of the strongest songs on the album. They use some often overdone themes and metaphors, but they do it very well. The swelling, wordless choruses work well, and this song is totally solid. That accordion is great.

Check out Sarah And Kate Sparks if you’re in or around Chicago. If you’re not, head over to their Bandcamp page and give them a listen or two! They’ve also got a really great cover of Amazing Grace up as a bonus track. That’s such a classic choice, and they do it very well. I’m always pumped to hear people revisit old tunes like that and sort of give them new interpretations and exposure. They’re totally doing that. Excellent work, Sarah And Kate Sparks! 


Zone Out Music

It’s almost 4:30 in the morning. I’ve got a lot of papers to write and finals are next week. It’s time for some zone out music. Electronic artists understand very well the need for music that can take you to perfectly blank states, mentally. Chicago’s Blitzcracker is among the best new electronic artists I’ve encountered lately.

I heard somebody on NPR the other day say that the best way to deal with creative blocks is to stop focusing for a while and try and totally shut off that left brain logic. For me, the easiest way to quit thinking about reality and just get to a purely blank frame of mind is through good electronic/ambient music.

I found this track called “Doom” from Blitzcracker, and I must say, it immediately hit the spot for me. I listened to it all the way through twice before I started writing this, and I’m listening to it again as I type. I was really stressed all day, and this is doing a great job of making me remember that stress is self-induced. I can just forget about my problems for a while, and then when I come back to them they won’t seem so bad.

Check out Blitzcracker’s Bandcamp page. Listen to this track “Doom,” and let your mind shut off all that worrisome logic, if only for a little while. Everyone needs a break every once in a while, and this is the kind of music that understands that and helps take you there.


Ten-Speed Music

Isaac Pierce EP

I am genuinely impressed by Ten-Speed Music’s “Isaac Pierce EP.” The only tag besides Chicago on Bandcamp for this is “rock,” and so I was expecting something much more electric. These songs are actually totally perfect acoustic songs. The Head And The Heart recommended this EP, and the similarity in their songwriting to the songs here is pretty observable.

“The Clearing” is probably my favorite track on this EP. It’s absolutely beautiful. This is the kind of song you can listen to extremely actively or extremely passively and still understand the feeling. Feelings from music are usually indescribable, and this song very much creates that sort of almost tangible, yet totally indescribable sense of something larger than the music itself. It’s so simple, but it’s perfect.

All the other songs on this EP are great as well. So are Ten-Speed Music’s other albums. Check out “Ten-Speed;” for more of a full band sense of Isaac Pierce’s songwriting. Personally, I like “Firewater Pinhole Camera” a bit more, but I must admit that my favorite of the Ten-Speed Music recordings is easily the “Isaac Pierce EP.” Some of those songs are just undeniably beautiful.

Be sure to head over to Ten-Speed Music’s Bandcamp to get a better sense of what I’m talking about here! Music can’t be described accurately with just words. These songs are great, and they’re totally worth checking out. Go ahead and download them if you’re feeling generious, or continue to stream them for free as long as they're on Bandcamp!

looking for 1979 song from chicago area

Hi..Long shot here..I'm looking for any info on a song playing on local chicago stations way back in 1979..It was a country song that I have yet to hear again since then..I'm assuming it was a local artist and I have been wanting to hear this again since I first heard it 30 years ago..Anyone who thinks they would be interested in helping me would be truly appreciated...It's basically a song about a guy who finds out his wife is pregnant and he sings about the things he is going to do with this little cowboy..At the end, his wife has a baby girl and the guy says this is what he's always wanted..a little "cowgirl"..

Tiny Manatee - 'Cookie Caves'

Somewhere between garage punk and space rock lands Tiny Manatee, who combine the rough edges of Pixies vox with enormous Hum-inspired guitar riffs. This is the best song about apocalyptic confectionary you will ever hear. I promise.

New Lenox

My band had the excellent fortune of playing a house show in the suburbs Saturday night, and I am so incredibly impressed. New Lenox is full of awesome people, awesome hot dogs, and one really great shower from Canada. We played in a certain Matty P’s basement, and I met the craziest kids in the country. These kids are still in high school, but they’re definitely having way more fun than most of the college kids I know.

The first thing that happened at this show involved somebody bursting out of the bathroom in tin foil and jumping on the drum kit for his band’s set. The basement was packed and everyone was immediately into the show. These kids were crowd surfing and moshing within the first couple measures of the first song.

New Lenox loves guitar solos. My friend Rav will probably never get a cooler picture than the one from this show. They also love drum solos and songs about pizza. To be honest, I very much got the idea that these kids love everything. Maybe they’ve got life totally figured out to the point that everything is ultra exciting. Maybe they’re finally the group of people that is unconditionally supportive. Everyone loved every single thing that happened at that show.

If you don’t know about your suburbs, dear Chicago, I want you to know that there’s at least one of them with the most promising group of musicians and show goers I’ve ever seen. They appreciate pizza, and they’re absolutely wild.

Lightfoils - 'Into Deep Sea'

Lightfoils isn't afraid to bone up their breezy dream-pop with some muscular basslines. Retro-styled, shoegazey goodness that owes much of itself to the Cocteau Twins. 



This band has my name written all over them. They’re called Caves. I live in a house called The Cave Bear Cave. Their album is called “When You Were Partying, I Was Dying.” I hate when other people have fun. Three of the four songs on the album are numbers. I love numbers. This band is great!

The album artwork on this one is really amazing actually. There’s a beautiful girl with lots of beautiful mountains in front of her. The typeface of the text is really great, and the coloring is beautiful. Look at that “G”! Impressive.

Now to the music. This music is absolutely terrible. Psych! This music is great! “Final Decision” is my favorite, despite not being titled with a number. However, “Eleven Twenty”, “310”, and “1993” are all really, really good. Luka Cage is doing a really great job. “1993” is a bit more blues rock than the rest. I’m feeling some Dan Auerbach vocal type of styling here. I hope Luka doesn’t take that as an insult. Some people would, some people wouldn’t. Just making observations. I like your voice a lot, Luka Cage.

“1993” has a really great music video on Vimeo to go along with it! More mountains! Layers of Mountains even! Go look at this video. Go listen to this music. If you have the opportunity to be in the same room with this man, seize that opportunity. I think you will enjoy the sounds and visuals that he brings along with him.