Sam Pink makes it look easy and it isn’t. Over some dozen books of poetry, stories, and prose, he’s refined a spare but precise style that reads like truth. He gives alley dwellers, dishwashers, and city wanderers the dignity and gravitas that other writers normally reserve for the upper echelon. Pink continues to write about […]
Chicago rapper Smba rebuilds pop punk into uplifting rap
Chicago-via-Michigan rapper Smba plies pop-punk aesthetics to make hip-hop tracks soaked in melancholy. These songs could tentatively be described as Soundcloud rap, since that term (which took hold of hip-hop four years ago) has already been stretched far enough to include any MC with a Fall Out Boy T-shirt, but they have enough dimensions that […]
Chicago multi-instrumentalist Alex Cowling evokes the power of the great outdoors with Antarctica
Over the past few years, Chicago multi-instrumentalist Alex Cowling has released several solo albums that combine weather-beaten indie rock, spacious jazz, and easygoing folk, and he’s done it to little or no fanfare. When I ask him about the new Antarctica, he tells me that one of the few people who’s listened to it is […]
My year of hiking
When the pandemic hit, I ran to the woods.
Protomartyr dive into the murk of modernity with Ultimate Success Today
These days, nihilism isn’t a choice—it’s a corner that we’ve boxed ourselves into in a feeble attempt to preserve some semblance of peace of mind. By 2020, Protomartyr had already spent more than a dozen years making malaise seem ineffably cool, with vocalist Joe Casey serving up tongue-lashings over gummy bass lines and bristling riffs. […]
The Black Dahlia Murder pull out some new tricks on Verminous
Three years after releasing their first record with new guitarist Brandon Ellis, the Billboard-charting Nightbringers, the Black Dahlia Murder have returned with their ninth studio album, Verminous. It turns out the Detroit five-piece have been trying out some new tricks and angles in their fervent death metal, making this release arguably their most diverse and […]
Detroit art-rock foursome Saajtak harness the power of improvisation for good
The members of Detroit art-rock group Saajtak met at the University of Michigan in the early 2010s, when all four participated in an improvising ensemble called the Creative Arts Orchestra. They’ve since carried the experimental traditions they explored as students into their work in Saajtak and into their individual creative pursuits—each has developed such an […]
Detroit’s Slum Village releases two orchestral tributes to its early hip-hop records while keeping an eye on the future
Slum Village has been through numerous lineups over its 23 years, but unlike other legacy groups that keep rehashing the hits long after key members have left, the influential hip-hop group honors its roots while moving in fresh directions. Currently a duo of T3 (aka RL Altman III) and longtime producer “Young RJ” Rice, Slum […]
Ghostly International celebrates two decades of putting out eclectic electronic sounds
This year Michigan-born, New York-raised record label Ghostly International celebrates two decades of releasing cutting-edge electronic sounds. As part of the festivities it’s throwing a party called Ghostly 20 in its own honor at Metro this week. The label was founded in Ann Arbor in 1999 by Sam Valenti IV, who was inspired by the […]
Eighties R&B band Ready for the World take a dive into 21st-century jams
UPDATE Monday, July 8, 12:45 PM: Both concerts by Ready for the World have been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase. Ready for the World’s single “Tonight” was all over the radio in 1984, but due to its lyrical content it unfortunately was not allowed at my summer camp: “Did he say ‘wet’?” a […]
Eating elsewhere: of cow tongue Reubens and fresh pasta at Raduno, in Traverse City, MI
A ex-Chicago butcher makes a home in northern Michigan.
Illinois’s late payment charges on its bills add up to $1 billion, and other Chicago news
Also, Chicago police used a Trump Hotel conference room during the Women’s March.
An untimely farewell to wizardly industrial guitarist and sound engineer Jason McNinch
Jason McNinch’s band Lick put out just two albums in the mid-90s, but he lent his touch to dozens of other projects, including Pigface, Sister Machine Gun, Die Warzau, and KMFDM.
Rahm: Chicago’s overwhelming disdain for Trump has made his mayoral job easier, and other Chicago news
Also, former Bear Charles “Peanut” Tillman is training to join the FBI.
Megan Stielstra interviewing Samantha Irby: The right way to meet in real life
Two rising literary stars talk shop on the occasion of their new books.