Saturday, December 29, 2018

Episode 57 - Top Ten Albums of 2018

Sorry this week's episode is late in going up. Had some trouble with the upload. This week I talk about my favorite albums from 2018, and that's pretty much the whole thing!  Check it out!

I only took the one photo this week, since it's just the one subject.  So here it is!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Episode 56 - Checkmates?

Sorry the description and whatnot is going to be lacking this week--I'm in a rush to meet a deadline on something else. This week I talk about how much fun I'm having playing Stardew Valley, I talk about new music from J Mascis, Greta Van Fleet, and Louden Wainwright III, and I talk about Patton Oswalt's special "Annihilation." It's a good one! Here's the player:

And this week I've only got a handful of photos and not even a time break-down!  Sorry! I'll do better next time!

Cover photo showing some of the stuff I talked about. Noticeably absent are Stardew Valley and the Louden Wainwright album because they were both digital downloads, therefore I have nothing to show you, so I may as well not have bought them at all...

Patton Oswalt's "Annihilation" Record Store Day release.

Greta Van Fleet.

J Mascis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Non-Episode #6 - I Couldn't Record, So I Wrote This Instead

(Edited on 12/7 to correct an absolute train-wreck of a sentence in the Mumford & Sons review that I think only went through because I had a fever.)

It has been a rough few weeks in podcast-land. Sorry that I've been MIA (again). Last week I was working on a musical project that took priority and then this week I got sick again with roughly the same thing I had last time, only it's taking longer to go away.  Started feeling kinda bad on Friday night and felt terrible on Saturday...then better on Sunday, and then the past three days have been miserable, but I think I'll be okay tomorrow. But nevertheless, that means there's not an episode this week.  Even if I were to record one right now, it would sound like I was trying to do an impression of Heath Ledger's Joker and nobody wants to listen to that for 30-60 I'm writing a post instead.

I'm also going to use this opportunity to make an announcement. With things like the above going on pretty regularly and thinking about my stress level and whatnot, I'm going to officially dial back a little bit and only post shows every **OTHER** week from here on out. It will allow me time to refresh between shows, allow you some extra time to listen if you get behind, and I think it will allow me to select my content a little more carefully. It should be the best thing for all of us. This, of course, will start with next week's episode, assuming I'm able to record it!

Now that that's said...let's do some reviews!

Music: (All album covers lovingly lifted from Amazon.)

  • High on Fire - Electric Messiah

    An album clearly inspired by Motorhead, only sounding gloomier. I've been wanting to be a High on Fire fan for years because they have one of my all-time favorite t-shirt designs...  Check this out...
    I mean...come on. (Image source)
    But unfortunately, I've just never *quite* been a fan. I heard they had a new one out and picked it up, hoping to turn the tide. And it ALMOST did the job, because there really is a strong Motorhead vibe to it, but once again I find myself not *quite* being fully on board.  Don't get me wrong; it's good. But when I listen to it, I don't find myself banging my head, but rather just kinda spacing out.  Although I like that kind of metal, it's not my go-to. 
    I'll probably give this one another chance from time to time, but for now--it's good and if you're a High on Fire fan, it's probably exactly what you're looking for...but I'm just once again BARELY not into it.
  • Chris Cornell - Boxed Set

    I'll cop to it. I'm one of those jerks who didn't have a ton of Chris Cornell's work in my collection before he died. I had some of the requisite Soundgarden stuff, but lacked much knowledge of his other projects and didn't have quite ALL of the Soundgarden that I should have had by that point. I've made a good dent in remedying that in the time since, and with the addition of this 4-CD boxed set to my collection, I feel like I'm all caught up.
    This boxed set is career-spanning.  There's also a single-CD version that serves as a good sampler of the greater work, if that's more your speed.  There's the Soundgarden stuff, a good selection of Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, solo stuff, previously unreleased/live stuff.  It's a good collection.  Lots of stuff I didn't have.  I'll be honest, I've never really liked Audioslave, but in this collection, they seem to have chosen the GOOD stuff.
    Of course, there are songs I would've put on that aren't there. All I could think reading over the song list was, "Are you kidding me? Over four CDs, you don't have room for 'Fell on Black Days?'" But anything like this comes with some glaring omissions, and that should probably be an encouragement to dig deeper as much as anything else.  All said and done, this set is worth picking up if you've always meant to have more of Cornell's work on file. It gives a good picture of a great career.
  • Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

    I've got an on-again-off-again fandom with Kurt Vile. It's not anything he does differently from album to album. Every album of his I've heard has been good. It's just that I have to be in a certain mood or frame of mind to listen to Kurt's work. He writes in a way that makes one likely to drift off into dreamy wonderlands. To put on one of his albums is to let your imagination roam. And that's wonderful. But I also do 90% of my music listening while it's not always ideal.
    "Bottle It In" is true to form. It's dreamy, bright, and sunny, but with some streets where you might expect to find Lou Reed passed out against a wall just barely off the main path. Gorgeous record.
  • Mumford & Sons - Delta

    It's a lot like their last one. No, they didn't go back to the acoustic thing that first made them famous. A lot of you only needed to know that much.  And I get it.  But hear me out--I know it's not that anymore, but what it is is very good.  I'd say it's sort of U2 driven in tone. And I like U2. So I'm good with that.
    I've come to realize that most people seem to feel about Mumford & Sons how I feel about Arcade Fire.  "I liked the early stuff, but they're not doing that anymore."  So I really do get it when someone feels like Mumford isn't making music for them anymore.  Although I would maintain that Arcade Fire wasn't hit with the same "it sounds just like the first one" criticism on the release of their second album that Mumford was on theirs. (And the same people who said "it sounds just like the first one" in criticizing "Babel" said "it doesn't sound anything like the first one" as a criticism for "Wilder Mind" so people don't know what the hell they want.)
    I feel like Mumford & Sons could only go so far with their original gimmick before people started shrugging (cross-reference Lumineers, The). I understood and respected their decision to plug in and I liked that first electric album ("Wilder Mind") a lot and thought it was one of the best of its ilk. This album isn't quite as good, and maybe album #5 will provide a new chance to shake things up...but I do like it and I think it's worth listening to if you hung with the band after the transition.
  • Tenacious D - Post-Apocalypto
    What is there to say? It's a dumb concept album about Tenacious D roaming the earth after the apocalypse. It's stupid, it's filthy, it's immature, and it's not necessarily their best work. Which is all fine by me. I like it. I accept it for what it is. It made me laugh in at least most of the places where they wanted me to, and it's dumb fun. No, it's not the first album. Nothing ever will be again--that thing was lightning from a blue sky. But it's The D. They're still going, they're still funny, they're still THOSE GUYS, and I'm happy about all of those things.

TV: (All of these images were stolen from the individual show's twitter feed.)

  • Murphy Brown

    It's gotten better. It really has. Especially as the show has tried to take a more serious turn and focus less on the jokes that never made it out of the 90s, the show has started to turn into something watchable. Not stellar. But watchable. didn't start out even being watchable.
    The highlight of the show is still the guy who plays Avery Brown (Murphy's son, actor Jake McDorman). But the cast in general seems more comfortable, although it still feels a little like Candice Bergen isn't playing Murphy but is just playing *a* newswoman--that might be in the script-writing, I'm not sure. Nevertheless, the stories have gotten stronger and I'm looking forward to the watch each week. Which probably means it won't get a season 2.
  • Doctor Who

    I'll be honest. I've been slightly underwhelmed with this season. It's not because of the actors or the way they're playing the characters. It's certainly not because it's a woman in the titular role (and it's a shame that I have to clarify that). It's the writing. It's the monster-of-the-week formula and the fact that they haven't had The Doctor do anything genuinely badass all season. It feels like she's still not sure who she is and the finale is next week. And that's another's the finale next week, and it doesn't feel like the season has BUILT to anything.
    That said, there have been some real bright-spots and I'm still a fan. I particularly enjoyed the episode with the witches in it a couple of weeks back...  But with ratings sinking lower every week, I feel like I'm not the only one who was hoping for something bigger than what we're getting. The last season of Capaldi's run was the lowest rated since the return of the show and while this season started much higher, we're already seeing a return to those same numbers. I'm hoping next season, they can give us some BIG stories with the Doctor taking a front seat and really DOING SOMETHING. A season-long arc. Make the next episode must-see. We're no longer in an era where you can expect people to care much about a standalone episode in a drama. Something has to drive them to want to see the next episode...and whatever it is, it feels like it's been lacking from this season.
    So, BBC if you're reading this (and you aren't), give us a cliffhanger next week and make us want to see the next season. Because right now you've got people falling away from the current one. And that's really a shame--there's SO much potential here. But then again, Capaldi's last season was epic as hell and actually LOST points for the finale, so who knows? People are idiots.
And I was going to talk about wrestling, but I feel like I've written enough.  So "check us out next time," when I'll hopefully be talking instead of writing again.

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Episode 55 - The Asterisk (Vonnegut) Episode

This episode is all about my new album "Asterisk" and my love of all things Kurt Vonnegut.  That's pretty much it! Be sure to check out the companion blog at http://emptychecking, for more stuff! The album referenced (and played!) throughout the episode can be downloaded for FREE (or pay what you want) at Here's the player:

And the time breakdown is pretty much "starts talking about Vonnegut" from here are some photographs.

Here's the cover photo.

This might interest some of you. This is the notebook in which I wrote all of the songs and kept a running diary and lists and weird stuff throughout the process once I realized I was officially doing it.

And here's Lil' Kurt with my CD and my favorite Vonne-books.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Non-Episode #5 - Rest in Peace, Stan Lee

Hi folks. I'm sick, so I won't get a new episode up this week. Like swollen lymph nodes in my neck, crackling ear, whisper-quiet voice, went-home-early-with-a-fever sick.  It sucks.

I know that if I don't write this, then by the time I record next week I'll forget to mention that Stan Lee passed away. That's no slight on Stan. I've just got a terrible short term memory.

Stan Lee, of course, invented everything you love (alongside Jack Kirby--who more people need to mention in their tributes because Stan sure as hell would have). His name is synonymous with the word "Marvel" and probably the best part of watching the movies in recent years has been watching closely, looking for Stan's cameo.

There's not going to be another Stan cameo.

The Stan cameo probably started out of necessity when he'd provide narration to the old cartoon shows. Long before I had any idea who he was, I was watching Saturday morning cartoons and would hear this guy with a deeply resonant, professorial voice introducing Spider-Man and signing his name to each show. Later in life, I saw his name on a comic and still unclear on who he was I thought, "The narrator guy from the cartoons?"  Somewhere in my teen years I guess it probably clicked. I definitely understood the impact when he showed up in "Mallrats" and put Brodie on the right path.

In the comic world, I was always more of a DC guy. Mostly because Batman. And the Flash...but Batman. But in the late 00s and early Teens, Batman took what I felt was a turn for the worse (to be saved by Scott Snyder's run at a later date). I not only wasn't enjoying Batman in that time, I didn't even UNDERSTAND it. It was weird and disjointed and I wasn't feeling it. I missed my gritty, urban, tough as hell BATMAN that I'd known my entire life.  And I stopped reading it.  Needing something to fill the void, I turned to a character who ticked all of those boxes.  Who?  Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

When Batman wasn't Batman to me, one of Stan's creations kept me reading funny books. And I kept reading Black Panther up until they ended the title (pre-movie, of course). I owe him for that.

I lost touch with the Marvel movies. The last one I saw was Guardians of the Galaxy 1. It's been a minute. Mostly I just don't have anybody in my life with whom I regularly go to movies and I don't like going by myself. I also just don't think about it much. It seems like there's a new major Marvel movie coming out every time I blink and once I got behind it was easier to just stop caring. Don't get me wrong--I'm sure they're great and it's a fulfilling experience for all of you who've kept up. But at this point the only way I can envision myself catching up on it is if I start dating someone and it's important to her. Then I'll have it sorted in like a week...but as it is, I've missed a lot of the past 4 years of projects that got Stan's blessing. Oops.

(Holy crap...since Guardians in 2014 there have been 16 goddamn movies. In four years. How are all of you doing this? You're rich, right? You're all rich? And have endless time? At 2 hours per movie and an estimate of $12 per movie ticket that would be 32 hours and $192. Wow. That's...that's how you've spent 32 hours and $192, before BluRay or streaming media hours/money is counted. But who am I to judge? I once spent $150 to see the Spice Girls. Good seats though. Good seats.)

Sorry for whatever the hell I was trying to prove there.

Stan Lee left a mark on the world in a way that made it a brighter, more fun, more entertaining place. Not everybody does that. Most of us don't even TRY to do that. He was an once in a lifetime personality. The good news is, our lifetimes got to intersect with him. The bad news is, he was our only one.

I think I worded it pretty well on my Facebook page on the day Stan died:
I'd suggest raising a toast to all of the characters Stan Lee created, but your liver would be shot by the end of that. So instead I'm going to suggest that we all go out and make something to share with the world. Be creative, do stuff, share it. That'd be a damn fine tribute.

So...go do that, I guess.


Check us out next time. Should be able to talk next week, and I hope to do an episode all about Kurt Vonnegut, because I released my album of songs inspired by his work this week. Which I definitely should promote on the show once I can record it, I guess.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Episode 54 - An Interview with Jim Ousley

It turns out that when I said in last week's episode that I planned to take this week off, I lied! Because instead I sat down and recorded an interview with my friend Jim Ousley, author of The Dead Palace, a fantastic new horror comic that you can get at this link. Jim and I talk about the book but also everything else that crosses our minds including but not limited to the Planet of the Apes, KISS, Ghost, a bunch of the other projects that Jim (and I!) have worked on over the years, and some personal stuff too.  I like this episode a lot. It's always good to talk to Jim.  Do it up!

I don't have a time-index this week because the conversation isn't very linear, but I do have some photos!

The cover photo. Any time these glasses reflect anything I look cross-eyed, but whatever.

The Dead Palace. Pick up your copy at as soon as you can!

My name is listed in the cover of the book! Such an honor to be there, right along side the likes of Guests 741188781 and 1752848989!

Another of Jim's books. I'm listed in that one too. This one's a lot of fun and there's not any horror if that's not your cup of tea.

One of Jim's bands referenced in the show, My 2 Planets. Love these albums.

Jim also worked with me on my "Out from the Light" album and I really like how it turned out, to this day. This one's available at along with all of my other stuff for FREE, or "pay what you want" if you're feeling generous.

I don't think we mentioned this specifically in the show, but Jim got me Blaze Bayley's autograph! Need a frame for this one!

We talked extensively about the Planet of the Apes here's that.

We also talked about KISS a lot, so here's my favorite KISS live album.

And we also talked about Ghost a!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Episode 53 - Kicking Out at 2

This week's episode gets a little dark up top as I talk about the leukemia diagnosis that Roman Reigns described on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw.  I get a little personal and intense in places.  But then I cheer up and talk about new music from Jason Isbell, the Bottle Rockets, and Trampled by Turtles before raving about one of my all-time favorite albums, Neil Young's "Harvest."  Here's the player:

And after some errors, I don't have a time-index this week, so we're just going to skip right to the pictures.  If you feel the need to skip over the intense part, the music talk starts about 29 minutes in.

Here's the cover photo.

Taken seconds after opening the new Isbell. I didn't even take off my hat and jacket before tearing into it!


Isbell shirt that came with the pre-order.

Isbell poster (and four rando CDs) that came with the vinyl.

...which I immediately framed and slid my ticket from this past September's show under the glass with it.

One of my favorite albums.

New one by Trampled by Turtles. If you stare at this long enough, a joint appears in your hand.

New one from the Bottle Rockets.