Sure the name conjures images of a sexual nature, but I assure you the only thing the Woody Popblaster is gonna do is play you some great tunes from your iPod or other MP3 player. That is, unless, you play some JT or R.Kelly and the people you're with start gettin' funky. Otherwise, just expect this stylish wood travel player to kick out some hot jams through its built-in semi-water-resistant speakers. The Popblaster is battery operated, has a headphone jack, has a compartment for cords and is small enough to fit in your carry-on. Available for $50 through Lifepod.
Browsing around the InterWeb today I stumbled across Eva Solo's new Fridge Carafe -- and I just liked its presentation. A simple, slim design, the carafe is made to fit on most refrigerator doors and can hold an array of liquid -- be it milk, lemonade or sangria. The lid removes to expose a mouth wide enough for ice cubes or full lemon slices and the carafe is dishwasher safe. It can come with one of the neoprene covers above to keep liquid warm or cold. The Fridge Carafe will become available in May so watch for pricing.
Crowded House, the '80s new wave rockers from Australia, announced details for their first studio album in more than 14 years. Three of the original members -- Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and Mark Hart -- regrouped and are joined by new drummer Matt Sherrod (who replaces original drummer Paul Hester, who died in 2005) -- recorded Time On Earth with legendary producers Steve Lillywhite (U2, Dave Matthews, Morrissey) and Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright). The sessions took place between Auckland's Roundhead Studios, London's RAK Studios and Bath, England's Real World Studios (which is associated with Peter Gabriel's Real World Records) and produced 14 tracks, including two featuring former Smiths/current Modest Mouse guitarist Johnny Marr (lead single "Don't Stop Now" and "Even a Child," which Marr co-wrote with Finn). Crowded House gained worldwide success -- and a Best New Artist nod from MTV -- in 1987 with their single "Don't Dream It's Over." The band will debut it's new lineup at Coachella this Sunday. Time on Earth will be released on July 10 in the US.
This news is bittersweet: '80s pop group Squeeze -- who brought me so much pleasure in my youth -- announced today they're reuniting for a late summer tour in the UK and the US. Why bittersweet? As of now, not one of their 11 US dates includes a Chicago stop. I just reached out to a contact in the UK to find out more so hopefully we'll know soon whether they're adding more stops. As of now, this is what their tour looks like:
July 14: Stoke Park, Guildford, UK
July 31: Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Mass.
Aug. 1: Bank of America Pavilion, Boston
Aug. 3: Beacon Theater, NYC
Aug. 4: Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Atlantic City, NJ
Aug. 7: North Fork Theater, Westbury, NY
Aug. 8: Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore
Aug. 9: Filene Center @ Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va
Aug. 11: Viejas Concerts in the Park, Alpine, Calif.
Aug. 12: Grove, Anaheim, Calif.
Aug. 13: Greek Theater, LA
Aug. 14: Mountain Winery, Saratoga, Calif.
Nov. 27: Guildhall, Southampton, UK
Nov. 29: Carling Glasgow Academy, Glasgow
Nov. 30: Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle, UK
Dec. 1: Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK
Dec. 3: Colston Hall, Bristol, UK
Dec. 4: Carling Apollo Hammersmith, London
Dec. 7: Carling Apollo Manchester, UK
Dec. 8: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, UK
Sad, sad news: Damon Albarn, mastermind behind animated pop group Gorillaz (and former lead man for the groundbreaking Britpop group Blur) has confirmed that the hip-hop electro sounds of his new group will soon come to an end. In an interview with BBC Radio 2, Albarn said that Gorillaz will indeed score the soundtrack to an upcoming feature film, but they won't record anymore pop albums. Gorillaz, which released their self-titled 2001 album and the 2005 gangbuster Demon Days that featured production work by Danger Mouse, created a stir with their creative approach to music production. Albarn has also spent time in west Africa, recording with musicians from Mali, so who knows what new tricks he has up his sleeve to entice us -- perhaps a Blur reunion? Based on comments by former guitarist Graham Coxon, the outlook isn't bright, but you never know...
Just got this email from Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora. Please read and sign the petition to keep Internet radio licensing fees low and Internet radio alive and kicking.
Hi, it's Tim from Pandora,
I'm writing today to ask for your help. The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. The new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays, and broadcast radio doesn't pay these at all. Left unchanged, these new royalties will kill every Internet radio site, including Pandora.
In response to these new and unfair fees, we have formed the SaveNetRadio Coalition, a group that includes listeners, artists, labels and webcasters. I hope that you will consider joining us.
Please sign our petition urging your Congressional representative to act to save Internet radio.
Understand that we are fully supportive of paying royalties to the artists whose music we play, and have done so since our inception. As a former touring musician myself, I'm no stranger to the challenges facing working musicians. The issue we have with the recent ruling is that it puts the cost of streaming far out of the range of ANY webcaster's business potential.
I hope you'll take just a few minutes to sign our petition - it WILL make a difference. As a young industry, we do not have the lobbying power of the RIAA. You, our listeners, are by far our biggest and most influential allies.
As always, and now more than ever, thank you for your support.
A few months ago, I was turned on to an emerging singer from LA who goes by the name A Fine Frenzy (aka the 21-year-old Alison Sudol). Check out this track, "Almost Lover," with its chilling vocals, eerie visuals and Alison's sensual raspy voice. She reminds me a lot of my friend and local Chicago (by way of New York) singer Alison Breitman. I say, we certainly have room for more female vocalists who sound like these two!
Listen (real): Almost Lover
The concept is simple enough: Leave a normal, glass jar outside in direct sunlight during the day and, come sundown, it will light up and give off enough light to keep things aglow. Simple, right? If you have the Sun Jar, it makes total sense. This product, by those brilliant British designers at Suck UK, looks like a regular frosted Mason jar. But at closer inspection (read: look inside the lid), you'll find a solar cell, rechargeable battery and a few low-energy LED lamps. When the jar is left in direct sunlight (either outside or in a window), the solar cell charges the battery through an electrical current. At night, the sensor recognizes that it has turned dark and activates the LED lamps to kick on. This is a clever way to light up a back porch or garden path without worrying about kicking over candles -- and it also serves as beautiful mood lighting inside your home. While it's sold out through Suck UK, you can currently pick up a Sun Jar through Elsewares for $40.
After two great years, Chicago's Intonation Music Festival won't return to the city that has become a haven for great summer music fests. With the glut of music coming to the city, it seemed that Intonation, with its extremely diverse lineups and accessible ticket prices, just couldn't compete with the larger festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. It saddens me to learn that Intonation won't be happening because the people behind it are truly dedicated and, from what I've seen, wonderful guys who honestly love music. With a simple note on the festival's website, "the underground is overcrowded," organizers have bowed out, but from what I hear are working on pulling together some intimate events around Chicago. Stay tuned...
Many of you may have noticed my lack of posting lately. It isn't due to laziness or not caring, but I recently was named editor in chief of UR Chicago magazine. The publication, which originally launched about 10 years ago, was started as the Chicago outlet of the University Reporter (hence UR) was then purchased by a local publisher, eventually bought by another and now by En Prise Entertainment, which brought me in to help pump life back into this entertainment/lifestyle magazine. With the first issue (the Art Issue), which I came into about midway through (if that), we launched a new look and feel for the magazine. UR Chicago incorporates much of the things that I love and write about here -- music, culture, fashion, food, wine, products and more. But now I oversee a staff and a slew of freelance writers. Now you know where I've been -- it isn't that I don't love you, I've just been a little busy.
With that, I invite you to download the PDF of the first issue, which is currently available for free all over Chicago.