how to ascend to rockstardomwannabe status…

items that need to be accomplished: (in order or importance)

write lyrics.
write songs.
get local recording infrastructure in place ( so we can put things on mobile location)
write lyrics.
write songs.
get mobile recording infrastructure in place (for cross continental collab)
begin collaboration of above said songs which all have pieces residing on big brother
write lyrics.
write songs.
create album/shows worth of material
then acquire chicago players and begin rehearsals ..
acquire live performance opportunities
take over americas, europe, australia and japan

hello.column #1 — Favourite Music


The DEBUT column! This week Mike, Aryn and Greg chat about a few bands that they have been heavily listening to and what makes them so great to go back to.

Okay so this is kind of an experiment so bear with us…. Basically we are going to attempt to create a conversation on one particular topic in email discourse and then once a week post as a weekly column. The topic might be a movie, record, television show concert review or recommendation, news, politics, books, favourite albums or films or concerts, the art of a good band name or song title or thought process for lyrics or writing a song…this is different than the blog in that the blog will now outline the processes of making the Hello Come In album…

The first column we talk about a favourite band we have been listening to a lot recently…it could be new or old, mainstream or unheard of or anywhere in the middle and in general, why we like the band, any particular albums, or moods it invokes etc. So here we go, jumping solidly into the fire:


Mike: A band I seem to not be able to get enough of recently is My Morning Jacket. I think their newest album Z is perhaps my favourite, but mostly b\c I think that was the first one I fell in love with and made me pay attention to them. It’s their first five songs on the album: ‘Wordless Chorus,’ ‘It Beats 4 U,’ ‘Gideon,’ ‘What a Wonderful Man,’ and ‘Off the Record’ that sit just perfectly on the record. Each one has a different feeling and mood but their style just weaves them all together.

What I really like is the use of vintage sounding recording like the reverby vocals and guitars and the old keyboard sounds. It just sounds like a great 70s rock album. The singer Jim James has a great sense of vocal range and falsetto that comes out on top of the dark atmospheric sounds. I love just putting this on my iPod during my walk to the metro on a sunny day. I think in the same way certain cds are great road trip albums, or night driving albums, or party albums, this one pumps me up for starting a crisp fall saturday morning.

Aryn: My music melody preference is currently residing on a mister Andrew Bird. This local chicago player has created an excellent album, one that invokes an uplifting mood that grows with each track. I love the orchestration of this album, it seems to move away from the standard rock sounds and into a more exciting realm.

The whistling melody on the track ‘A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,’ gives that almost cattle drive feel as it moves along. Almost every track is memorable in some way… complete with short interludes later on in the album reminding of the previous enjoyments. Fantastic twangy guitars and spindly violin hits pop this thing along. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year.

Greg: I agree that Andrew Bird is really unique- The Mysterious Production of Eggs has a lot of great songs on it, but i always go back to opposite day. there’s something about that song…

I have been getting back into electronic/dance music.In particular, I am in love with the Chemical Brothers new album, Push the Button: ‘The Boxer,’ ‘Hold Tight London,’ and ‘Surface to Air’ are awesome songs!! Although the alternating I to IV progression in ‘Surface to Air always reminds me of ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ by U2- but ’tis OK.

I love moody electronic music artists like Air, Amon Tobin, and 4 Hero, but normally avoid the more mainstream ones like the Chemical Brothers. I think a lot of their songs are usually kind of gimmicky and somewhat lacking in depth. But this one just caught me for some reason.

Two other tunes that are older but I can’t get out of my head lately: ‘Deathly’ by Aimee Mann and ‘Truck On’ by Simple Kid.

Mike: The thing with Andrew Bird is that he takes all of his classically trained violinist skills and adjusts them towards a more singer\songwriter approach. What a twist: a rock musician who can read music and compose arrangements that arent really doughnut gig simplistic. He takes a page from the George Martin school of pop production and really his violin is not a gimmick here but just the instrument he begins with. In the two songs I saw him perform here at NPR, I knew I had to go back to that record.

I still feel like we missed out seeing him and Sam Prekop double-headline in Chicago. And you know, I can never get enough of Prekop’s post-rock Chicago sound… once again here are a group of musicians that are so different but come together in these strange projects… Tortoise, Jim ORourke, Isotope 217, Wilco, Loose Fur, Jeff Tweedy, Stereolab, Prekop, Sea And Cake etc etc. But you know all this. It definitely has influenced the way I play music.

Aryn: That (missing the concert) was a big screw up. But I had a SECOND opportunity recently that i passed up, where he was playing with Dosh, whom I would also like to see. But alas it wasnt extremely meant to be due to the lack of expendable income, and it being in milwaukee, and me being in Chicago.

Granted not too far of a distance to travel for something amazing, but it just wasnt in the cards. It is always nice to run into new music where talent is something that is praised over just commercial value. I like things that are so good that they force commercial value. Not something that is forced a commercial value because someone puts a shitload of money behind it.

Mike: Its hard to know what to spend your hard-earned dollars on. We are living in a material world, and I definitely spend like Madonna, when i have it to spend. I mean between normal expenses like rent, phone, internet, television… all of a sudden we have this desire for new music. So we go out and buy new music.

Then we are tired of our clothes…so we buy a new pair of jeans or a shirt. Then we go buy some new tv show on dvd, or a book or whatever. Then you are back to being bored w\ music again and you are back to where we started. This is where our money goes…its a trap, but somehting I enjoy because I love absorbing this form of entertainment. Call it short attention span, whatever…

It interesting to see bands like Andrew Bird or MMJ or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or even the Arcade Fire sprout up, just on the idea that a few years ago, NO ONE would have heard them, or even care. What is also impressive is that they are doing it on their own terms. Even when Death Cab signs with Atlantic, they were already so put together sound-wise that they had the clout to make the album they wanted.

The media is catching on, as are fans who are transitioning them from underground and ‘indie’ to well-known entities. Is it that our tastes have changed dramatically in the last few years or that for once the music that is considered popular from television\movies like Six Feet Under or the OC is actually GOOD pop music?

I think a lot of good music is the popular music for the first time probably since the early stages of grunge when nirvana and pearl jam were ON the radio. We are seeing that a bit with new bands…but really there are so many outlets out there for finding out about music whether its the internet or people at work and so on that its easy to feel like it all came from nowhere.

Aryn: It’s all about the internet. As long as we have a free and open web, bands like that can be found and cultivated, pushing what should be marketed into the realm of the known. I am amazed that the RIAA keeps pouting that pirating is hurting record sales, and all that rubbish, when bands embrace it and use it as a marketing tool end up doing better than trying to stifel it.

But I guess when you have nothing to lose, anything will make you stronger. And as long as bands have their battle helmets on and keep innovating and putting out newer better more interesting things than before, eventually someone will listen. Maybe not the big time record producer, but someone gets to hear it. Thus helping to create the next great band..

Mike: We see it all the time, and there is no dispute but look at the influence the internet has on music and the ability for bands to break. It happend most recently with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a fairly mediocre band with a GREAT record. And before they could even catch themselves up as a band to the quality of their record, they hav exploded. It helps that there are hundreds of sites and blogs and online magazines devoted to this, but really if they hadnt put their album online, word of mouth would never have played the role.

Word of mouth worked brilliantly for fringe music in the past, whether it was bootlegs, old jazz broadcasts, Phish tape trading, Wilco putting their rejected Yankee Hotel Foxtrot online before its eventual release, or even Fiona Apple salvaging her twice abandoned, rejected and leaked Extraordinary Machine.

If the RIAA or bands like Metallica really think going against this is good business sense, then they are really chopping off the hand that feeds them. Like anyone BUT metallica fans would want to seek out the newest record, leaked before its release date. Sometimes you got to just accept that if the music is QUALITY for once, it will be heard somewhere.

And that is the point…it will lead to everything else.

So what are you listening to? Email us at

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Aryn & Mike wax on about the film V for Vendetta!

the inevitable random exchange of trivial information…

Many people are always asking me what I do to find music. They somehow see me as this wide source of music knowledge because I was a music student or perhaps because I own an iPod and talk a good game. But honestly, I’m constantly trying to find new music and sometimes its just not easy. People want a direct answer from a music god blessing them with a doctrine commandment of music they would like. Its tricky to suggest stuff b\c how am I supposed to be a good judge of what people will like. You have to give me clues into what you like so I can add to that.. I dont really like showing people music that they ‘should’ like b\c that is sometimes pretentious and music should be shared not delivered from Mt Olympus with authority.

So I try to help them learn to fish instead of just giving them that fish, but telling them the ways I find music. Its really a mixture of things from magazine, website and newspaper reviews and features or listening to various podcasts and public radio stations w\ great hosts, to listening to a soundtrack from a movie and finding that one great song and hunting down that album, finding a record label you like. Or often it is just a simple search on iTunes music store or, gasp!, word of mouth.

Trick is, there is no trick, you just have to be interested, I think, in finding music you already like, and finding out a few things about them. Who do they sound like? Who were they influenced by? Who are they compared to that are currently producing? The easiest for me is something of a theory I have had for awhile. Find a group you like and find out who they listened to. Then find out who they listened to. Its musical genealogy. Its historical research. Whatever. But its really its up to you. Ask around. Talk to your friends, and really just dig deep. The good stuff is down below the surface.

A few great resources are out there for this and I use and, really they arent that ground breaking.

resources–> All Music :: Metacritic ::

radio–> NPR All Songs Considered :: KEXP Seattle :: KCUR’s Sonic Spectrum :: KCRW’s Morning Becomes Ecclectic :: World Cafe ::

music\pop culture sites–> The Onion AV Club :: Sylus :: Pitchfork :: Pop Matters :: Pitchfork :: Tiny Mix Tapes ::

record labels–> Ropeadope Records :: Subpop :: Thrill Jockey :: Anti :: Blue Note :: Asthmatic Kitty :: Saddle Creek :: Nonesuch ::

I’m sure I’m leaving a million out, but maybe that is where other people can write in at and let me know where you find music. What stations? podcasts? magazines? websites? friends? blogs? message boards? television shows etc do you use?

the delicious dreamsicle of composition…

I thought I would take a bit of time from work today to show the birthing of a new song into this cruel world. How this will work in this format I am not so sure, but here goes. Basically, with a timebomb date of one year to record an album, the first step in accomplishing this is you know, write a song. Shouldn’t be too terrible right? I mean Ryan Adams put out 4 discs worth of music last year alone, so having 10-12 songs on a record in that same amount of time should be a delicious dreamsicle.

But like all dreamsicles, they tend to melt once you waste too much time w\ them. That is, actually following through is on actually constructing a solid song is the hard part. In years past I always started w\ the basic groove, and built harmonies and melodies on top. But this was mostly jazz-influenced music so setting the mood and establishing interesting content for improvisation was far more important to me. The solos and arrangements were driving the music and having music that sounded cool, built to a great energy and was fun to solo over was part of the live performance. This album will be a departure from that because I am trying (we are all trying) to make a more album-driven concept; something that holds up over time; something memorable.

We hinted at this with “Faded Portrait” and I still think that is our most complete ‘song’ to date. But that was written 2-3 years ago now. Times change, influences change and now that the existing members are in three cities and two countries we are basically trying to write music as three solo projects that will share our individual and collective feel. I know that the music part comes easily to me especially w\ pop\rock simplicity of chords and format so I figured if I can narrow my focus to that great 3minute pop song nugget, it can be blasted apart later in a live band setting. So my lyrical writing is the thing that needs to step it up.

I oft write\scribble lyrics down on the train or bus, or while listening to other music. But these are mostly just phrases that catch my ear. I have found that writing as much as possible in a poetic nature will eventually yield me something to work with. Often I start with the mood I am feeling at that certain point or a feeling I remember from before and I try to describe it. I am of the notion to furiously write it out w\o thinking much about how it will end up…it makes it much more raw and authentic.

At a later date, when I sit at the piano or w\ my guitar I go back and shift stanzas, phrases and melodies to fit to the song. I have noticed I get a lot of lyrical constipation when I have so much to say, but cannot quite get it out the way I want it. Its best just to leave it, move on and come back to it later.

an invisible gun to the temple…

Our site ( recently posted a clock counting down to our next album. Technically it will be our first done the right way. But this clock slowly ticks down to the supposed drop date of Tuesday April 2nd 2007 when we expect to have it finished and ready to sell. We figured that we would want the album composed, recorded, mixed and mastered in roughly one year…which is about Feb 2007. We gave ourselves 2 extra months to finalize reproduction and mass copying, packaging\liner notes\artwork etc. So there you have the April deadline.

Seems like a reasonable goal. But in its few days up I have found that this constant clock ticking down really makes me on edge. I feel like I now have an expiration date and that I am now a bit nervous I only have 436 days to get this thing done. I think if I could write all the songs by April, I would be in good shape to record by the summer. But the counter essentially puts an invisible gun to my head making me feel a bit guilty of procrastination when I dont take time to work on this. I can feel the mortality of the project slipping away if i dont write 2 songs by tomorrow. Or the next and so on.

Then maybe this will kick our asses a bit to stop fucking around like we have all these years and make an album we are finally all proud of and sellable. I feel I owe it to myself to make this work after all time and effort I have spent writing, practicing, studying, performing music. This could be great… but now i should quit writing, get back to work so i can make my deadline on this behemouth.

the inner workings between my ears…

i recently started the notion of becoming a better singer\songwriter than i have attempted in the past. this is not an easy task due to my difficulty in hearing lyrics clearly. i can hear the notes, the melodies and phrasing, but the words in those phrases are often just glazed over. in the past few years i have gotten better at this but it takes me a long time to hear what the singer is actually singing. so when i decided to write lyrics, i noticed that despite my well listened and musically competent developed skills, i have no ear for poetic lyrical writing.

so i decided to step it up a notch. i have been scribbling lyrics and phrases i hear, or that come to mind for about 2 years now and though they often get lost in the shuffle, i feel this practice has helped hone my craft a bit. they seem awfully pretentious and obvious…bordering on cliche. but its part of putting in your dues i suppose.

i also have been learning many of my favourite songs…pop songs, folk songs, rock etc… this is with the idea that by imitating their lyrical and melodic phrasings…all while i attempt to sing and play at the same time, this will do nothing but help my own efforts when they arise. in the same ways i studied the past jazz masters’ compositions, improvisational phrases and motifs, their melodies and harmonies…i am attempting to do the same in the language of rock and pop music instead.

i already have 1000s of recordings by most of my favourite artists, but now i am trying to learn and steal and imitate artists like bob dylan, the beach boys, neil young, the beatles, wilco, beck, radiohead, death cab for cutie, coldplay, ryan adams, decemberists, interpol, fiona apple, jon brion, etc etc. its a notable task…but something that i hope to pay off w\ a solid sense of pop song construction. the experiment rolls on…

An unreasonable attempt at a best of list: 2005

I am by no means qualified to make one of these pretentious lists that overpopulate our newspapers, music magazines, websites, blogs, etc and I really could care less except for the fact that I actually do think about this stuff a lot. So do my friends, my co-workers etc. I could hardly say I have listened to everything out there and honestly it seems these selections below are fairly obvious and mainstream choices for those “in the know” (so to speak)… these are just the albums I kept going back to over and over in my car (when i had one) and my ipod…they are the ones that trigger instant moods for me. So here goes… in no particular order

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals — Cold Roses

This guy sure puts out a lot of music…probably too much. I mean 3 albums in one year and the first one was a double album. But I’m loving this guy’s vibe right now. Every album is a sampler platter of distinct types of country music that he tries on for a spot and then like a chameleon changes it up. This album, was in full Grateful Dead mode in the American Beauty\Workingman’s Dead- era, between the guitar work, the singing and so on. It was definitly the one I was going back to the most out of the three.

Morning Jacket — Z

Once again, this was the album that made me pay attention to this band. I dont know if it was the production, the song selection or just me adapting to Jim James’ reverb drenched voice. This album is nearly perfect to me…especially ‘Wordless Chorus’ and ‘Gideon.’ I listened to it this morning in fact.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

This band is becoming huge. And for once I feel like I knew about them early. Had the album and saw them in concert long before their exposure on NPR and NYTimes which is always kinda cool. It will be interesting to see what they put out and when…whether they can put out a good followup, but not do it too quickly or offer a stupid remix like Bloc Party did. Will they live up to the hype…probably not, but hopefully the quality of the band will catch up w\ the quality of the album.

Fiona Apple — Extraordinary Machine (both versions)

I loved it early in February when the leaks came out…it further solidified my love of Apple and producer\composer\singer-songwriter Jon Brion. While the hype and controversey made it more interesting, the music was incredible w\ the arrangements and instrumentations. The new Mike Elizondo-version is good too, though different. The songs hold up the same and sometimes the sound quality and production are better…then the leaked version wasnt the final mixes. The sound textures are great and moody but I often find myself wanting to hear some of the instruments and arrangements of the Brion version…maybe they could make a double album w\ both versions or make a directors cut comprised of both versions.

Broken Social Scene — Broken Social Scene

This album is great and full of energy. The songs are great and I am never sure how many people play in this band. I always appreciate these types of musical collectives that show that the band is bigger than the parts…This album is never schizophrenic like one might think…

Feist — Let it Die

The debut of the sometimes member of Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist is quite stellar…it has one of my favourite singles on it ‘Mushaboom’. Great sexxy voice and she looks good too.

Sigur Ros — Takk…

This album is so refined and raw and cold and emotional all at the same time. Their albums always remind me of winter and spring…death and life.

Spoon — Gimme Fiction

I think this is another album that made me pay attention to this band more thoroughly. I found myself putting this on while walking home a lot.

Paul McCartney — Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Is it a return to past form? A step towards the future? Something that looks back positively of regretfully. It seems to be the most romantic and depressing thing McCartney has done since Abbey Road. Nigel Godrich’s production further gains some cred for making Paul relevant again. I listed it b\c expected to hate this album, but actually really like it a lot. Its dark, melancholy and beautiful…especially ‘How Kind of You’ which sounds like it could go on Beck’s Sea Change record.

Sufjan Stevens — Come On Feel the Illinoise

I think this might be my favourite album of the year, hands down. The dense arrangements and layers of instruments: strings, horns, banjos, guitars, choirs and so on into oblivion, are amazing to say the least. There is nothing more I can say about this that no one else hasnt already thought or written. But I put this one on all summer in KC in my car, on my iPod walking around DC, on my computer. I showed it to everyone, and couldnt get enough of this work. I think ‘Chicago’ was my anthem for wanting to move to the city, and ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ was the anthem for lost love. Lyrically and musically this one really caught me offguard and hit me.

Well thats it… here are a few others that i liked alot this year…
White Stripes — Get Behind Me Satan
Flotation Toy Warning — Bluffers Guide to the Flight Deck
New Pornographers — Twin Cinema
Andrew Bird — Mysterious Production of Eggs
Bright Eyes — I’m Wide Awake Its Morning
Bloc Party — Silent Alarm
Franz Ferdinand — You Could Have it So Much Better

i could go on forever so ill stop…notice the lack of jazz here…i think there was very little in the way of new jazz…the Monk\Coltrane At Carnegie Hall was the best jazz record of the year and that was recorded in 1957. Its sad for the state of current jazz that something like this (as great as it is) sounds more immediate and vibrant than anything that came out. Where were the big statements from these guys. There were some solid but slightly underwhelming jazz records: Brad Mehldau Trio- Day is Done; Dave Douglas- Keystone; James Carter\Cyrus Chestnut etc- Gold Sounds (pavement covers).

well thats it…another long post…but i will be done now. no more lists until 2007. huzzah.

Mike’s Favourite Shows of 2005

In no particular order:

My Morning Jacket\ Kathleen Edwards — 930 Club Washington DC

Never really loved MMJ before this fall’s album Z, but the current lineup and use of famed producer John Leckie really made this band finally make an album that didnt try to imitate the live show. But damn, the live show took those perfect nuggets of songs from the album, and blasted them apart: stretching the sections, building tension and utilizing silence and then exploding into full out rock the next second. The opener, Kathleen Edwards was also a great set of Canadian Southern Americana folk rock…she is great…and quite nice in person too.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah \ Black Angels — Black Cat Washington DC

This show took place in early October, just as the hype was beginning to explode about their album. Before they appeared on NPR and the New York Times, before they appeared on most people’s best of 2005 lists, I saw this band w\ my fellow-NPR friend Emily at a sold out show. They stilled showed signs of amateur status here and there, and they could have used some extra songs to fill out the set, but Clap Your Hands…are a quality band and it was cool to see them at their genesis. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

White Stripes\ the Shins\ M. Ward– Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD

The opening bands sounded great and distinct but once Jack and Meg hit the stage…it was all about them. Holy crapy…this was an ADD stream of consciousness energy rush through the Stripes’ repertoire. Meg might not be the best drummer, though strangely cute and sexxy when tilting her head and stomping on the bassdrum, but it completly works when Jack is shredding and pouding on the piano. The Shins and M. Ward were great too.

Death Cab for Cutie\ Stars — 930 Club, Washington DC

If you subtract the OC jokes and quips about selling out on a major label, Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla are fantastic musicians, songwriters, producers and actually live performers. I have never seen a rock band so energized by its fantastic fans…though they might be screaming girls, they are the most appreciative group of fans, and this translates when the band performs. The music channels the entire spectrum of emotions and is so beautiful.

Other shows this year I saw worth mentioning

Herbie Hancock\Michael Brecker\Roy Hargrove (Directions in Music) — Gem Theatre, KansasCity MO
the Shins\ Brunettes — Liberty Hall, Lawrence KS
Medeski Martin & Wood — Liberty Hall, Lawrence KS
Medeski Martin & Wood — 930 Club, WashDC
Son Volt\ Fruit Bats — 930 Club, WashDC
The Fiery Furnaces — Black Cat, WashDC
Calexico\Iron & Wine — 930 Club, WashDC
Sinead OConnor\Sly & Robbie — 930 Club, WashDC

Bands I wish I would have seen, but didn’t go for some stupid reason

Sufjan Stevens
Sigur Ros
Broken Social Scene\ Feist
Bright Eyes\Feist\Magic Numbers
New Pornographers
Andrew Bird\ Sam Prekop