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:
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 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
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"
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)
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"