Monday, December 29, 2008

Wilco set to release DVD, new record in 2009



In 2009, Wilco will build on their reign as one of Chicago's most high profile and widely-respected bands with their first DVD release and a brand new LP.

The DVD, dubbed "Ashes of American Flags" (the title of one of the tracks from the band's 2002 album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"), is scheduled to hit in either February or March, and will be Wilco's first live concert DVD. It was put together by Brendan Canty and Christoph Green of Trixie Films, and will include footage from the band's winter 2008 tour.

If that's not enough to excite fans, the band has announced that they will spend the early part of 2009 completing their next studio album, which will follow up 2007's "Sky Blue Sky." According to a recent Billboard article, the album is expected to stray from the performance-oriented vibe of the last record, instead allowing "a little bit more leeway in terms of sculpting the sound in the studio and doing overdubs and using the studio as another instrument." The record is scheduled for a spring release, after which the band will resume touring.

Until then, front man Jeff Tweedy is scheduled to perform solo gigs in Champaign, IL, Kalamazoo, MI and Ann Arbor, MI. Click here for more information.

Wilco set to release DVD, new record in 2009

In 2009, Wilco will build on their reign as one of Chicago's most high profile and widely-respected bands with their first DVD release and a brand new LP.

The DVD, dubbed "Ashes of American Flags" (the title of one of the tracks from the band's 2002 album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"), is scheduled to hit in either February or March, and will be Wilco's first live concert DVD. It was put together by Brendan Canty and Christoph Green of Trixie Films, and will include footage from the band's winter 2008 tour.

If that's not enough to excite fans, the band has announced that they will spend the early part of 2009 completing their next studio album, which will follow up 2007's "Sky Blue Sky." According to a recent Billboard article, the album is expected to stray from the performance-oriented vibe of the last record, instead allowing "a little bit more leeway in terms of sculpting the sound in the studio and doing overdubs and using the studio as another instrument." The record is scheduled for a spring release, after which the band will resume touring.

Until then, front man Jeff Tweedy is scheduled to perform solo gigs in Champaign, IL, Kalamazoo, MI and Ann Arbor, MI. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Year's Eve show picks

Chicago, it's almost time to say goodbye to 2008, and you should most definitely do so while rocking out. If the season so far is any indication, you'll probably have to battle a foot of snow, winds that could make you airborne and frostbite-inducing cold, but hey, that will just make ringing in 2009 all the more memorable.

Here are my picks for the most promising local New Year's Eve gigs:

- Local H, Sybris, Office and Big Science at Bottom Lounge - Any fan of home-brewed music would do well to catch this one. Tried and true locals Local H combined with a few of Chicago's finest more recently-formed bands is sure to add up to a killer New Year's Eve. 8 p.m., 21+, $35. More info and tickets.

- Jay Reatard with Miss Alex White and The Yolks at Empty Bottle - Lauded Tennessee garage punker Jay Reatard will be joined by locals Miss Alex White (a.k.a White Mystery) and The Yolks for a loud and fast New Year's Eve celebration. 10 p.m., 21+, $25. More info and tickets.

- The Sea & Cake with Chandeliers at Schubas - These critically-acclaimed Chicago indie rock staples recently released their eighth LP, "Car Alarm." 10 p.m., 21+, $40. Drink specials: $3 Bud Light Drafts, $4 Titos Vodka cocktails, $4 Jim Beam cocktails and a champagne toast at midnight. For $30, attendees can add on a private pre-party from 7:30 to 9:30 that includes two hours of drinks and appetizers. More info and tickets.

- The Dandy Warhols at Metro - Portland's Dandy Warhols have been releasing records since 1995, gaining widespread recognition with their Velvet Underground-inspired psych pop. Robert Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will spin a special DJ set. 9 p.m., 18+, $55 advance, $65 day of. More info and tickets.

- Tight Phantomz and Cougars at Quencher's - Locals Tight Phantomz play down 'n' dirty, 70s-inspired rock 'n' roll that's perfect for a partying in the New Year. Fellow Chi-Town band Cougars will also be on hand to bring the rock. 9 p.m., 21+, $10 cover. More info.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowsera - Fictions



Snowsera formed in 2007 when four University of Illinois students banded together to create a musical formula self-described as melding "power drumming reminiscent of Dave Grohl playing on Ringo’s kit; a grooving bass that marries Michael Jackson and Nirvana; guitar lines that fuse British strumming with American riffs; forceful vocals that transcend traditional safe ranges with lyrical themes that are at once relatable and thought-provoking."

Embracing the trend of indie musicians simply wanting you to hear their music - not necessarily buy it - the band has put their new five track EP, "Fictions," up for free download, giving listeners the option to donate any amount of cash if they like what they hear.

As unlikely as a mixture of Michael Jackson and Dave Grohl seems, "Fictions" manages to achieve it, or something very close to it. On high energy tracks such as "24," "I See" and "So Subtle," grooving bass mixes with forceful drums, guitar and distinctive, daring vocals for an ear-catching hybrid of smoothness and firepower. The slow-paced, Muse-esque "Darling" provides a nice break in the action, with thoughtful lyrics and an emphasis on Bill Arteaga's vocals. The overall result points to a promising band that deserves to be on the radar of any Chicago indie music fan.

Catch Snowsera live on December 23 at Schubas and January 24 at Beat Kitchen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chicago bands to celebrate Obama inauguration with show in D.C.

A group of Chicago musicians will head to Washington, D.C. in January to play a special show to celebrate the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

The show, dubbed "The Big Shoulders Inauguration Ball," will take place on January 19, the eve of the inauguration, at The Black Cat in D.C. It was organized by local rock club the Hideout and Interchange, a volunteer group that encourages political involvement through underground art.

Performers on the bill, almost entirely Chicago-focused, include Andrew Bird, The Waco Brothers, Eleventh Dream Day, Jon Langford, Tortoise, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Icy Demons, Sally Timms, Freakwater and Judson Claiborne. Additional special guests are yet to be announced.

The organizers describe the event as a "celebration of citizen politics, independent music and Windy City civic pride."

Tickets cost $50 and are available here or at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Chicago Public Schools Marching Band Program and The Future of Music Coalition.The Hideout has chartered two buses to transport "performers, staff, friends and participants in its GOTV activities to the DC area and back."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New music releases: Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects, The Kinks and more



Fall Out Boy - "Folie à Deux - Love them or hate them, you can't deny that these pop punkers are one of the most popular bands to come out of Chicago. Give them a few more points for recruiting Elvis Costello and Debbie Harry for guest spots on this, their fifth studio album.

All-American Rejects - "When the World Comes Down" - If the new Fall Out Boy disc doesn't provide you with enough glossy pop punk to listen to on your next trip to the mall, The All-American Rejects offer up the perfect solution on their third LP.

The Kinks - "Picture Book" (6 CD boxed set) - The Beatles and The Rolling Stones might have gotten most of the attention, but Ray Davies and The Kinks put out some of the greatest rock 'n' roll of the 1960s. This is the first ever boxed set of the band's work, featuring 6 remastered CDs of hits and rarities spanning their 40-year career.

Local indie releases:

Big Science - "The Coast of Nowhere" - Mix up a bit of 80s post-punk, a bit of new wave and a bit of modern indie rock and you get the very welcome sound on "The Coast of Nowhere," the new EP by Chicago band Big Science. The EP is available for free download here.

CAW! CAW! - "Live From Public Space One" - This experimental indie pop band released their debut label EP, "Wait Outside" (reviewed here) earlier this year. Now, you can download a free 40-minute live set by the band here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Parasol Label Group Night at Schubas - 12/17


Tractor Kings (photo by David Cubberly)

Head to Schubas this Wednesday, December 17, to sample three bands on Urbana, IL-based label Parasol Records. The Tractor Kings, Beaujolais and New Ruins will make up a night of some of the latest and greatest Illinois-bred rock, from moody indie pop to alt-country.

18 and over, $7 at door. Click here for more info.

Tractor Kings

Formed in 1998, Tractor Kings are one of Champaign-Urbana's most notable bands. "Homesick," their newly released third record, showcases the band's ability to effectively blend spacey folk rock with alt-country Americana and psychedelia.

Listen to: "Never Comin' Back," "Ferris Wheels"

Beaujolais

Beaujolais is Joe Ziemba, formerly of Chicago bands The Like Young, Wolfie and Busytoby. On his recently released solo record, "Love at Thirty," Ziemba delivers a conceptual record fueled by the failed marriage with his former bandmate Amanda Lyons. Emotional and harrowing, but featuring a strong melodic sense throughout, the record is a satisfying and powerful listen.

Listen to: "May I Have the Honor," "Birthday Card"

New Ruins

Last year, Champaign-Urbana band New Ruins released their debut album, "The Sound They Make," self-dubbed "Smalltown Midwestern Gothic." While the album is not without pop hooks, the music brims with an overall gloomy, wintry feel that perfectly captures small town malaise.

Listen to: "Flowers," "Nameless"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best up and coming Chicago bands of 2008


The Assembly (photo by Keith Claunch)

2008 was a big year for rock music releases. Massive acts (Coldplay, The Killers) much-hyped breakout bands (MGMT, Vampire Weekend) and those somewhere in the middle (The Hold Steady, Deerhunter) all put out new music. After 14 years, Guns N' Roses finally released "Chinese Democracy." Without doubt, there was a lot to take in.

Each year, Chicago seems to produce more and more new bands and independent releases than anyone could possibly keep track of, and this year was no exception. Not all of it is great, of course, but when you discover genuinely promising bands, it makes the search worthwhile. Here are my picks for the finest emerging bands the Windy City had to offer in 2008:

The Assembly

These guys released their impressive debut full-length record, "The Tide Has Turned," (reviewed here) this year. For a CD that was completely self-produced, it sounds professionally crafted in both production and songwriting, making the band's brand of electro-rock especially effective. Although the album is rooted in dark, dystopic ideas, the music shines by touching on various moods, from brooding to hopeful.

Songs to check out first: "New Kill Remediate," "Changing Now"

See them live: December 27 at Subterranean, January 23 at Metro

The Innocent

The Innocent is actually singer-songwriter Michael Hardey, who released his debut, self-titled EP (reviewed here) early this year. The 6-song release is instantly accessible, featuring highly melodic, well-written songs that are equal parts folk pop and college rock.

Songs to check out first: "Beautiful Lie," "The West Coast"

See them live: December 23 at Durty Nellie's (Palatine), January 2 at Bottom Lounge

My My My

If clever pop music is your thing, you should know about My My My. In September the band released "Little Cat Plays the Alpha Rave" (reviewed here), an LP full of consistently fresh, quirky tunes driven by strong male and female vocals a la the New Pornographers.

Songs to check out first: "Best Laid Plans," "Aztec Vs. Building"

King Sparrow

It's tough to forge a unique sound in today's world of indie rock, but this three-piece is doing its best to break the mold starting with their debut EP, "Derailer." Picture a mixture of driving punk and garage rock paired with extra melodic vocals and cryptic subject matter. "Since the music is tight and exact, but a little bit atonal, and the vocals are melodic, we end up with a strange relationship between form and content," explained vocalist/guitarist Eric Georgevich in a recent interview with Examiner.com.

Songs to check out first: "Bones and Skin," "All's Cinnamon"

See them live: December 17 at Martyrs', December 26 at Silive's Lounge (acoustic set)

Pet Lions

Great pop music never goes out of fashion, especially when it's by a band with an awesome name like "Pet Lions." A very recent discovery, these guys have a promising, playful sound a la Albert Hammond, Jr.'s solo work, or the poppier side of the Strokes. They started playing around town this July, and are scheduled to release their debut EP in January. You can hear them now, though, on MySpace.

Songs to check out first: "Trinidad," "Jokers Like Me"

See them live: December 21 at Bottom Lounge, January 2 at Subterranean

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Show review: Smashing Pumpkins at Auditorium Theatre, December 8, 2008



Corgan performing last month. Photo by Jeff Loder.

Rewind two weeks: I walk up to the front doors of the Auditorium Theatre to find the night's Smashing Pumpkins show - the fourth and final in a series of long-awaited Chicago gigs - has been postponed until December 8 because of illness.

Bummer. I was anxious to see how the show would turn out, after all the controversy it had sparked up to that point. Reports described everything from verbal spats between Corgan and audience members, on-stage tirades and 20-minute-long jam sessions.

Fast-forward to last night: The Pumpkins make up the show, and there are no fights or tirades to be heard. There is, however, a 20-minute jam session. And something sort of tribal that went on a really long time. And a nearly unrecognizable, thrash-like cover of a Simon and Garfunkel song.

Now, I don't claim to be the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan in the world. I recognize the band's importance to both Chicago and rock music in general, and like millions of others, grew up with their music. That said, I went into the show knowing full well that I probably wasn't a big enough fan to get excited about a 20-minute jam session from the band.

Genuinely bizarre moments aside, a number of factors made the show enjoyable: Corgan was in high spirits, the band sounded great, the audience was receptive and there was plenty material included to satiate any level of fan, from casual to obsessive.

The band played the same "White Crosses" setlist (the shows were divided into either "Black Sunshine" or "White Crosses," with each featuring different songs) planned for the originally scheduled show, and everything started out great. Corgan crept onto the stage looking ready to celebrate Halloween in December, clad in an alterna-goth skirt-shirt combo, carrying a glowing trick-or-treat jack o' lantern filled with glitter confetti. The setlist began with "Ava Adore," "Cupid de Locke" and "1979," three songs that would no doubt please hardcore and casual fans alike. The first half of the show continued with a mixture of hits, lesser-known tracks and acoustic cuts, all welcome parts of the repertoire.

Keeping in step with most other shows on the tour, though, things went off-kilter during the second half, which included the lengthy instrumental jam session, the equally-long tribal freak-out (during which Corgan prowled the stage with a top hat and tambourine, occasionally stopping at the microphone to shout out, "Whatever will be will be again!,") and a bombastic cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence." Anyone completely oblivious to recaps of performances on the tour, or Corgan's personality and habits, might have been shocked. Fortunately, most seemed to know it was coming, and nobody seemed too upset about it this time.

Interestingly enough, Sunday night the band played an afterthought show at The Aragon Ballroom that featured a straightforward, greatest hits-type setlist. Say what you will, Pumpkins fanatics, but despite all of Monday nights high points, I can't help but wish I'd seen that show instead. It's not that I want to hear a greatest hits show from the band, but would anyone really deny that those classic songs beat guitar noodling, hands down?

In an interview with Corgan after the show by Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, the front man made his vision for the Smashing Pumpkins of today clear:

"We didn’t come back for the cash, we came back to be great again. It made me mad that people thought we’re done, that we don’t have a future. Get out. We don’t want you. We’ve never been that band. That happy band. We picked up where we left off. We’re not the retirement band playing our old hits."

Did the 20th anniversary Pumpkins shows represent greatness? That's up for debate. One thing's for sure, though: Corgan can still create a stir.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Locals - Big Picture



Imagine a rawer, moodier Gwen Stefani at the helm of straight-up, stripped down alternative pop, and you'll get a pretty good idea of what Chicago's The Locals deliver on "Big Picture," their fourth and most recent LP. While the band has been around since 1996, this release marks a change in direction, finding front woman Yvonne Doll and the rest of the band moving from a singer-songwriter sound into a more driving, guitar-heavy territory.

There are obvious 90s rock influences here, at times bringing to mind acts such as Juliana Hatfield, The Breeders and Joydrop, but The Locals exude enough confidence throughout to own the material. Doll's vocals come across as heartfelt and convincing, while the band is tight and the production is strong.

The CD's most notable moments come when the band strives for a poppier, hook-heavy sound, as evidenced on catchy album opener "Tidal Wave" and the sprightly "Sign of Things to Come." Quieter, more subtle tracks, such as the title track, help round out the disc's sound, but are more likely to take a few spins to click.

Fans of straightforward, 90s-esque alternative and female fronted-rock should find much to like about The Locals and their latest project.

Check out the band live on January 8 at Martyrs' and February 21 at Subterranean.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Five shows this weekend - 12/5 to 12/7


They Might Be Giants

Friday, December 5

- They Might Be Giants with Michelle L'Amour at Metro. Doors open at 8 p.m., $25. More info and tickets.

Saturday, December 6

- The Damnwells, The Heyday and Penthouse Sweets at Double Door. Doors open at 8 p.m., $12 advance, $14 at door. More info and tickets.

- Bound Stems, Gold and Spiller Whale at Empty Bottle. 10 p.m., $8. More info and tickets.

Sunday, December 7

- Smashing Pumpkins with The Frogs at Aragon Ballroom. Doors open at 6 p.m., $45. More info and tickets.

- Eleventh Dream Day and John Langford at Hideout (benefit show for Goldie's Place, a support center for people who are homeless). 7 p.m., $12 advance, $15 at door. More info and tickets.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Last Call: Open for Kings of Leon



Bands, want a chance to open for Kings of Leon at their January 24 cancer research benefit show at House of Blues?

Friday, December 5 is the final date to enter the competition at Sonicbids.com. Click here for more info.

After the contest is closed, entries will be narrowed down to five and fans will vote at www.platform-1.com to choose the winner.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The 1900s - Medium High



The 1900s emerged in 2006 as one of Chicago's most promising bands, blending melodic, 60s-inspired folk pop with modern indie pop on their debut EP "Plume Delivery" and its following LP, "Cold & Kind." The band's new release, the seven-track "Medium High," is a self-described "purging" of leftover material as they work on their sophomore LP. Rather than sounding like a messy set of odds and ends, though, the mini album comes off as a surprisingly cohesive release that builds on the band's already solid foundation.

"Medium High" begins with "Collections," one of the finest - and oldest - 1900s tracks to date. In a previous life, the sweeping, bittersweet pop song was known as "Everybody's Got a Collection" and released as a vinyl single. Although it was one of the first songs the band wrote upon forming in 2005, this marks its album debut.

Also of note is "When I say Cohen," a Leonard Cohen inspired live take of another "Cold & Kind" song, the fantastic "When I Say Go." It's tough to compete with the original - arguably the band's strongest song yet - but this version plays up the warm, superb vocals of Jeanine O’Toole and Caroline Donovan to give the song an entirely new, equally intriguing personality.

Many of the additional tracks on the album have a darker, more psychedelic sound, which showed up periodically on past releases among the lighter, poppier vibes. Two examples are "Age of Metals," originally released as the B side to the "Everybody's Got a Collection" vinyl single and the group's deepest foray into darkness, and "A Face I Know," a more psychedelic version of "Supernatural" from "Cold & Kind." The band has suggested that they will be moving further away from this sound on their forthcoming album, so in a way the EP offers a sense of finality to make way for what's to come.

"Medium High" is now available through Parasol.com.