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Dr. Castrato

Music, Sports and Leisure

Updated: 2017-12-14T13:01:21.347-06:00


Blog Fade


My interaction with this blog has faded significantly over the past year or so. But here is a quick update of some music I found recently:

1. Field Music - "Measure" This is a long 20 song album of really nicely crafted well recorded songs. So well done, in fact, that it does not feel like 72 minutes.

2. The Besnard Lakes - "Are the Roaring Night" Still a new album to me, I found this it to be very intersting and epic. I'm looking forward to getting to know it better.

thats all for now!

My Favorite Albums of 2009


I certainly don't listen to enough new music each year to really warrant making these lists, and I lean very heavily on artists I'm already familiar with, but I love making the lists anyway. As usual, I felt that the current year's releases were not as strong as the previous year, and that newer albums by older bands didn't live up to my expectations. But that always happens, and after some time, I'm sure my opinion of some of these records will climb and others will fall. Here are my favorite albums from 2009.

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Haven't gotten sick of "1901" despite the car commercials.

2. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
I may almost like Farm better than 2007's Beyond.

3. Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Probably my least favorite Mastodon record, but it's still an awesome powerhouse of a record and better than most metal I'm hearing these days.

4. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
YLT is consistently churning out great albums.

5. Adam Franklin - Spent Bullets
Less exciting than his previous solo album, but still full of cool.

6. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - (self-titled)
A recent acquisition, I can't help but like these songs, even if The Jesus And Mary Chain wrote them 20 years ago.

7. St. Vincent - Actor
Missed out on her previous album, so this one came as a complete surprise.

8. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today...
I hoped for more from this one, but it's still a great combo of prog and pop.

9. Doves - Kingdom of Rust
Not much to say about the Doves.

10. Baroness - Blue Record
I can't listen to Baroness without wishing they were Mastodon, but in the end, this album is pretty good and more interesting than other 2009 releases that didn't make my top 10.

Runner up:
Passion Pit - Manners

Best of 2009 Mix CD


Here is my year-end 2009 mix (CD edit). I left off a couple of longer songs to fit in a few more shorter ones and keep a better flow. I have a longer version in my iTunes of about 65 songs of stuff that didn't make the cut for the CD.

1. Phoenix - Lisztomania
2. Wilco - You Never Know
3. Sloan - Take It Upon Yourself
4. A.C. Newman - The Changeling (Get Guilty)
5. St. Vincent - The Strangers
6. The Hours - Big Black Hole
7. Doves - Winter Hill
8. Trashcan Sinatras - People
9. Weezer - (If You Are Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
10. Dinosaur Jr. - Over It
11. Superchunk - Learned To Surf
12. Yo La Tengo - Nothing To Hide
13. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - This Love Is Fucking Right!
14. Adam Franklin - Bolts of Melody
15. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
16. Built To Spill - Aisle 13
17. Reverie Sound Revue - An Anniversary Away
18. Mew - Beach
19. Royksopp - Happy Up Here
20. Passion Pit - Little Secrets
21. Phoenix - 1901

Yes, Phoenix deserves two spots on this mix.

Lists coming


Very soon, hopefully before Christmas, I'll have a list of my favorite albums of the year, plus a track list of a 2009 song mix. I may or may not finish a list of favorite albums of the decade. It seems like the thing to do, and I love lists, but it's very hard to put them in order. I may just run 'em down alphabetically.

I don't think anyone reads this blog anyway, so I don't know if this post is even necessary. But in case you are out there and wondering, lists are coming.

Heeeeere we are, in a room full of strangers


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More drums


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Drum Machine


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Several things to mention briefly:
1. I recently saw the band Dr. Dog perform at the Double Door here in Chicago and I was VERY impressed. Really great live show - Lots of energy, great songs, vocal harmonies and dual guitar solos... They are coming back to play the Taste of Randolph festival and I will have to attend.

2. I meant to post PRIOR to April 18th to remind you all to purchase some music at your local record store to celebrate Record Store Day. I managed to drop by Laurie's Planet of Sound for a little while. They were sold out of the few items I was looking for, so I settled on a couple used metal albums (Yngwie Malmsteen, anyone?). I'll be back soon though.

3. It was also Earth Day yesterday, but I nearly forgot and didn't really do anything memorable to celebrate the Earth. In fact, I'm feeling pretty guilty that I still haven't fixed my running toilet. Doh!

4. This weekend is reunion weekend for the particular university I attended. It turns out a lot of old friends will be around. Should be pretty fun, as long as Pat doesn't come. Aw crap, I just found out Pat's coming! Ha, just kidding, Pat. As long as I don't have to pick you up from the airport or anything.... Aw, crap. Well you better get your own hotel room cuz you're not stay in my.... DAMNIT!

Haha. I kid, I kid.

5. Next Thursday I'm going to see Mastodon again. I hear they are playing their new album in it's entirety. Maybe that will make me like it more. It's good, but is taking a while to sink in.


What happened to March?


Somehow I let all of March slide by without posting. Sorry. The RPM Challenge ended up pretty well. Andy and I finished the CD and mixed it on the last day allowed, and mailed it off the next morning. In retrospect, we should have planned ahead and given ourselves a few days to listen to the mix and make adjustments. The mix we sent in is too bass-heavy and drum-light. I'm in the process of re-mixing each track just for our own listening enjoyment, but I'm fairly unmotivated now that the deadline has passed.

Now it's April and I've got a whole list of other things on my mind, including Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, Softball, and, uh, work, I guess. Mostly I'm just getting antsy for Spring. C'mon, nature, BRING IT.

Deadline looming


The March 1 deadline for the RPM Challenge album project is racing at me like a speeding train. I've got one more guitar part to record tonight or tomorrow, and then I need to spend some time mixing and sequencing for the final CD. I haven't had much time to sit and think about "extras" that could be built in to give some songs more depth. I think the CD is pretty much going to the be uncluttered and straight up Guitar/Bass/Drums (or in some cases, Bass/Bass/Drums). No time for keyboards, horns, vocals, tambourine, etc... Bummer, but it all still sounds pretty good. We'll probably make it available to anyone who wants a copy.

Oh and I think we're spelling our name "Wyld Pytch" as an ode to Bill & Ted.

Wild Pitch album taking shape


So Andy and I have been working on recording this album (see previous post) and it's coming along really well. We've essentially finished one song, and have 4 more songs that are getting pretty close to complete. The more songs we record, the better we're getting at the process of recording.

I have a lot of work to do before it's done, but I'm pretty confident this album will be enjoyable and something I'm proud of.

RPM Challenge


Last year, a friend of mine ("For Privacy's sake, lets call him Pat S...Wait thats too obvious. How about P. Stura") suggested our "band" try to participate in the RPM Challenge, a non-competitive invitation to record an entire album in one month's time. Specifically, the month of February.

The rules are pretty simple - record ten songs or 35 minutes of music, burn it to CD and mail it to the RPM HQ with a postmark no later than March 1. It does not have to be professional quality, or even remotely good. There is no prize for being first, being best, or being cool. The whole project deadline is really just an excuse to get people off their butts and be creative and productive, with whatever means they have available.

At that time, we gave it a little thought but realized, due to scheduling conflicts and lack of material, it would not be feasible. But this year I've decided I want to give it a shot.

My friend Andy and I have about 20 hastily written and recorded bare-bones songs from the past 8 years or so. As a side project to our primary band, Kemman, we call ourselves "Wild Pitch," and we've decided to record full-band versions of at least 10 Wild Pitch songs over the month of February for the RPM Challenge. It will be a DIY affair, as we don't have money for professional studio time. We're not expecting it to be perfect, but we can surely improve upon what we have, and hopefully enjoy the process.

If it goes well, I may try to do an entire album by myself next year. Finally there's something in February to look forward to.

2008 Mix CD


I compiled a bunch of songs from 2008 into an iTunes playlist - a lot of singles and tracks downloaded from blogs - and it totalled 71 songs. I then pared it down to the favorties and future classics that would fit on one 80-minute CD with some sort of flow. I had to cut a lot of cool tunes, including my own band, but here is what remained:

1. The Broken West - "Perfect Games"
2. Parts & Labor - "Nowhere's Nigh"
3. Secret Machines - "Last Believer, Drop Dead"
4. The Dodos - "Walking"
5. Dr. Dog - "From"
6. Blitzen Trapper - "Not Your Lover"
7. Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"
8. She & Him - "This is Not a Test"
9. Sloan - "All I Am is All You're Not"
10. Kaiser Chiefs - "Addicted to Drugs"
11. M83 - "Graveyard Girl"
12. MGMT - "Electric Feel"
13. Cut Copy - "Feel the Love"
14. David Byrne & Brian Eno - "Strange Overtones"
15. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Glue Girls"
16. The Night Marchers - "I Wanna Deadbeat You"
17. The Futureheads - "This is Not the World"
18. The Kooks - "Always Where I Need to Be"
19. Keane - "The Lovers are Losing"
20. The Killers - "Losing Touch"
21. The Explorer's Club - "Last Kiss"

Favorite Albums of 2008


After a long wait, here are my favorite albums of 2008. I think I listened to more new albums this year than any of the last several years, yet I still found myself feeling that very few of these records really deserved to be ranked as "top ten" or whatever. A whole lot of albums were "good" but not "great." Also, of course, there are many albums I never heard in their entirety, and certainly many more I've never even heard OF. Forgive me if I don't mention your favorite album, or if my list seems to follow too many trends.

1. Kemman - "The Long Rocker"
Hell yeah, I put my own band in the #1 spot. Screw everyone else. This CD Rocks!

2. Dr. Dog - "Fate"
A surprise find, Dr. Dog has an organic, earnest feel that reminds me of The Band or Wilco, with a lot of Beatles influence. Over the last month, this album emerged as the one I enjoyed more than the rest.

3. Bon Iver - "For Emma, Forever Ago"
Quiet, solemn record of primarily one man and his acoustic guitar.

4. M83 - "Saturdays = Youth"
Synthy and 80's sounding, but still heartbroken and moody.

5. Sloan - "Parallel Play"
Another great Sloan record. A couple of dud tunes, but mostly fun rock singalongs.

6. The Futureheads - "This is Not the World"
A good British rock record that stood out amongst some others by similar bands. I still think of this band as XTC on crack.

7. Secret Machines - "Secret Machines"
Not as likable as their previous album "10 Silver Drops," but still the same loud drums!

8. Blitzen Trapper - "Furr"
Another surprise. Another more rootsy indie-rock album (see #2), but quirkier?

9. Parts & Labor - "Receivers"
Really cool indie-rock album.

10. MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular"
Apparently this was released online in 2007 so not sure if it qualifies. Electro and dancey but not too much? Got a few fun songs on it.

Runners up:
Just Added: French Kicks - "Swimming"
Kaiser Chiefs - "Off With Their Heads" (Brit-pop)
The Dodos - "Visiter" (Would have ranked higher but unique sound gets old after a while).
The Kooks - "Konk" (see #6. Liked their last album better)
Cut Copy - "In Ghost Colours" (Some good tunes. Would rank higher if I was more into dance music).
The Night Marchers - "See You In Magic" (Great rock album from former Rocket From The Crypt singer)
Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin - "Pershing"
The Broken West - "Now or Heaven"
Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"
TV on the Radio - "Dear Science"
She & Him - "Volume One"
Torche - "Meanderthal"
The Explorers Club - "Freedom Wind"
Ness - "You Can't Afford to Feel"

Almost done!


Sorry for the wait, whoever reads this, but due to some computer issues (they keep breaking) I am slow in getting my Best of 2008 lists together. I think I just finished my mix of 2008 songs (might need some slight tweaking yet). My list of fave 2008 albums will be finished soon too. I got, like, 7 new albums in the last ten days, so it's hard to really evaluate them and rank them along with the rest of the year's albums in such a short time.

Anyway, sometime this week I will have things wrapped up.

Still the best release of 2008:
Kemman, "The Long Rocker"

The New Music


So, a reader of this blog (probably the only one) has asked if/when I'll be delivering a list of my favorite albums from 2008, as I have done in years past. The answer is Yes. Although it might not happen until after Christmas. There are several albums from 2008 that I never got around to purchasing (or even illegally downloading - sometimes I'm too lazy even for that!) so I've put 'em on my Christmas list.

I'm trying to cram in as much listening between now and New Years so I can have as much as possible to choose from when making my selections. I can tell you right now a few albums that will appear somewhere on my list are new ones from Dr. Dog, M83, and Bon Iver.

Once again, though, I feel like this year is a little underwhelming compared to the year before. This always happens. When will a year really blow me away with great albums?



The other day I was thinking about people I've known in the past but am not really close with anymore (Facebook has a way of bringing back the undead), and I got kind of weirded out. I remember things that people have told me, but this thought popped into my head: I don't remember anything I've ever said to anyone.

I'm not a very talkative person, and I generally keep my opinions to myself (except for when I complain to my wife about everything - she says I'm picky). But I'm not a complete mute, and I've certainly been able to converse well enough to amass a large number of close friends and an army of acquaintences. So why is it that I cannot really remember my half of any conversations?

What kinds of things do I talk about? What first-hand knowledge of myself have I given to people over the years? I have no idea. I think about ex-girlfriends or bosses or roommates and wonder if I really did ever speak to them? It is almost a guarantee that I did, at some point, talk to these people. But I don't remember any specific words or phrases, or even general ideas I tried to convey.

I do remember some specific conversation situations, but not so much the content. Is this common for everyone? Or is it just me? I'm not dumb. I'm not a victim of drug or alcohol abuse. I'm just kind of blank in spots? I dunno...

In other news: Gmail video chat is pretty freaking cool. The future is HERE! Go Bears.

I'm voting for Obama


and I hope you do too.

NL October


So, uh, congrats to the Phillies for winning the World Series. Their "long wait" is "finally" over. It's been SOOOOO long since the freaking Phillies won the Championship. 28 looong years...

As a Cubs fan, I spit on the "long wait" rhetoric. But I am glad to see the National League win. And although I liked the Rays, nobody likes a magical year where the worst team in the sport turns it around and wins it all. Nobody!

So now that baseball is done, we can focus on Halloween. And the election. And of course, football.

One of these days...


One of these days I'll become a better blogger and write often enough to make it worth your time.

I bet you thought I was gonna say something about the Cubs.

2008 NL Central Champions



Songs in my Head


Thanks for the shout out, Betty!

The song in my head right now is, "My Kind of Soldier" by Guided by Voices. I heard a new Robert Pollard song last night on The Big Beat and my wife and briefly discussed Guided by Voices (Pollard's previous band). She doesn't care for them, but I think that, once you whittle away some of the nonsense stuff, Pollard and GBV really created some of the best pop rock tunes of the 90's and 00's. They're not even in my top 10, but some of their songs are ridiculously good.

"My Kind of Soldier" popped into my head after hearing the Pollard song last night. It's weird how sometimes a song can trigger a completely different (or in this case, somewhat similar) song to start playing in your head. Ever find a song in your head for no apparent reason, and then after a while, you realize there is one part or phrase or note from the song that resembles some other song you recently heard, and that it's not all random?

I like music


Hey all.

Whatcha been listening to lately? I recently ordered a couple CDs from Not Lame, a website I would love to spend more time and money on, if I had surplus time and money. They CDs were last year's release by The Broken West (I hear they have a new one coming) and a CD by a band called Ness, which is not related to Mike Ness, but is pretty cool. I'd give more elaborate reviews but, a) I don't have time, and b) I need to give them more time to digest.

Also been listening to the new M83 "Saturdays=Youth" which is pretty good. At least a few songs really got my attention. The single "Kim and Jesse" has this easygoing warm eletrco 80's feel to it that, despite not really wanting to like, I can't help but submit to. I heard another song recently by local Chicago band Hey Champ that has the same kind of sound, although slightly more dancey. The video is cool, too. It all seems too hipster-ish to like these retro sounding tunes, but, hey champ, I like what I like, so screw it.

Lastly, I've been sifting through the Smashing Pumpkins "Aeroplane Flies High" boxed set of b-sides from their "Mellon Collie..." days. I was a big fan of theirs at the time, but never got around to getting that stuff until now. There is definitely some crap on there (James Iha, I wanna like you, but your songs [and vocals] just kinda blow, sorry dude). But there are also some other really cool tunes. This is old news to anyone who already has heard it, but there is a track in there that is a compilation of like 25 minutes of riffs and snippets of songs that Billy and band had recorded at one time or another. Some are really cool (yes, I listened to the whole thing) and it reminded me that the riff-rocking songs are really what I loved about Smashing Pumpkins in the first place. Well, that and the drumming.

My Favorite Bands


A recent post on Gaper's Blog about Superchunk got me thinking about my favorite bands, and where I would rank Superchunk. I gave it a little thought and came up with a top ten. However, as with all opinion lists, this is subject to change. Also, no laughing.

1. Rush
2. Iron Maiden
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Teenage Fanclub
5. The Police
6. The Beatles
7. Radiohead
8. Superchunk
9. Sloan
10. The Boo Radleys

Runners up: Genesis, Dinosaur Jr., Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies/Frank Black, Swervedriver, Dead Milkmen

Looking at the list now, it's funny how many of these groups peaked in the 90's while I was in high school and college. Were those really the best years in rock? Doubtful. It must have something to do with the bond you make with music that surrounds you during your "coming of age" years.