Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shows this weekend

Camera Obscura

Friday, May 29

- Camera Obscura at Metro - Indie pop from Glasgow. Last month the band released their fourth LP, My Maudlin Career. Also with Agent Ribbons. Doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m., $17.50, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Viva Voice, Cut off Your Hands and Beaujolais at the Empty Bottle - 10 p.m., $12, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, May 30

- Gehenna at Silvie's Lounge - Gehenna is an up-and-coming local three-piece worth checking out. See my recent Q&A with the band to learn more. Doors at 9 p.m., $5, 1902 W Irving Park Rd.

- Do-Division Street Festival with Flosstradamus, Handsome Furs, Viva Voce, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Dark Meat and Lamajamal - This fest spans 10 city blocks and features music all day sponsored by the Empty Bottle. The fest also takes place on Sunday, with performances by Menomena, White Rabbits, Hollywood Holt, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Jai Alai Savant and Bad Veins. Suggested donation of $5, all ages. Click here for set times and more details.

Sunday, May 31

- Th' Legendary Shack Shakers and Catfish Haven at Double Door - Psychobilly from Nashville paired with Chicago indie soul. Also with Tangleweed and The Wabash Cannonballs. Doors 8 p.m., show 8:30 p.m., $13 advance, $15 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Monday, May 25, 2009

R.I.P. Jay Bennett

Multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member Jay Bennett died in his sleep the morning of Sunday, May 24. He was 45 years old.

Bennett, who was part of the band from 1994 to 2001, had currently been running a recording studio in Urbana, IL.

In a late April blog post on his MySpace page, he expressed trepidation over imminent hip surgery and a lack of health insurance, but remained positive about the future:

I will continue to stay as active as I possibly can, making music, and staying in touch with all of you (my friends), as the surgery approaches, and later, whilst I am recovering. With any luck, by mid-summer, I should be a new man (albeit bionic---“we can rebuild him”). This whole experience has really taught me to look both inward and outward for support, and I’ve learned things about myself that I thought I had completely figured out years ago. Family and friends have helped me to keep faith in a future that will actually be much more carefree than my constricted present state. I encourage you all to tell me stories of recovery, as they really do help…if you don’t mind. All in all, I’m “in a really good place” right now; I’m just waiting until I can make it all happen.

Bennett filed a lawsuit against Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy earlier this month over royalties from work released with his contributions and from the group's 2002 documentary, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." Portions of the documentary detail the strained relationship between Bennett and Tweedy, which ultimately resulted in Bennett's departure from the band.

Tweedy said in a statement today that he was "deeply saddened" by Bennett's death, describing him as a " truly unique and gifted human being and one who made welcome and significant contributions to the band's songs and evolution."

For more information, see reports from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

New local music: Blah Blah Blah

Their name might suggest bored indifference, but the music of up-and-coming local band Blah Blah Blah makes it clear they want nothing more than to offer you an escape from all that's forgettable about indie rock. This summer the band will introduce their melodic, melancholic-yet-jangly and hummable rock (think The Smiths and The Cure with a little bit of Radiohead thrown into the mix) with their debut EP, Charm, and are offering a taste with a free download of one of the tracks, "Why Am I the Only One Laughing." Get it here:

Blah Blah Blah - Why Am I the Only One Laughing

If this track is any indication, Blah Blah Blah are the real deal and have the chops to attract a lot of attention. You can catch them live June 5 at Martyrs, June 7 at Moonshine, June 13 at Humboldt Park Art Fair and June 21 at Chicago Peace Fest. In the meantime, check out our Q&A with frontman Solomon Moss:

How do you describe your music?

Sun soaked parable music.

What's the story behind Blah Blah Blah? How did the band come together?

Blah Blah Blah has been playing chicago for about a year. We have recently started promoting ourselves to media and have received an overwhelming response.

Who or what influences your music?

We try to put great sensations to sound. What elation would sound like.

Favorite thing about being a band in Chicago?

The amount of places that you can play at.

What band or musician would you most like to play with and why?

Probably Radiohead because they probably know a lot about weak scenes and sound guys. I think we could learn a lot about doing grand things.

Best local music you've heard recently?

Nothing in my style. Pet Lions are writing good tunes.

What makes you different from other bands on the scene? Why should people check you out?

Where do I start? Have faith and find out for yourself.

What can we expect next from Blah Blah Blah?

Grand leaps and bounds.

How can people check out your music?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New local music: The Hudson Branch

The Hudson Branch, set to play Beat Kitchen on May 24, are a local band specializing in downcast, pretty pop rooted in both unassuming folk and an ambitious indie rock spirit. To date they have released just two EPs, including a set of originals and a collection of Christmas standards, both showing great promise in songwriting, performance and production. The debut EP's standout track, "Did They Really Care," proves the band have the chops to provide the perfect soundtrack to introspective, Winter days. The set of familiar Christmas tunes, called Music for Winter, manages to make overdone standards such as "White Christmas" and "Silent Night" sound fresh and charming. The music is polished and lush without being overblown, and singer Cobey Bienert's vocals have a pureness and subtelty that bring out the strengths of the material.

The Hudson Branch are currently in the studio preparing their debut full-length for imminent release, but in the meantime you can check out their EPs as free downloads and catch them live later this month at their Beat Kitchen show.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shows this weekend


Friday, May 8

- Mogwai with The Twilight Sad at Congress Theater - The Glasgow post-rock band will hit town Friday on their U.S. to promote their latest album, The Hawk Is Howling. 8 p.m., $20, all ages. More info and tickets.

- Kaspar Hauser with Love Raid and The Fake Fictions at Quenchers - Three Chicago bands worth checking out. 9 p.m., 21 and over. More info.

Saturday, May 9

- Richard Lloyd at Abbey Pub - The former Television guitarist is gearing up to release an album of Jimi Hendrix covers dubbed The Jamie Neverts Story on Parasol Records in September. Also with Nicolas Tremulis Orchestra. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7. $12 advance, $15 at door, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Cursive at Bottom Lounge - The Omaha indie rock act recently released their sixth album, Mama, I'm Swollen. P.O.S. and The Berg Sans Nipple will also play. 8 p.m., $15 advance, $18 day of show, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, May 10

- Child Bite with Dadad, Eyes and Meth & Goats at Empty Bottle - Art-punk from Detroit - 9:30 p.m., $3, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

R.E.M. to re-release 'Reckoning' with unreleased Chicago concert

Following up last year’s “25th anniversary” edition release of R.E.M.’s 1983 debut LP, Murmur, the band is set to reissue their sophomore album, Reckoning, on June 23. The re-release of the album - which includes classic tracks such as “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” “Pretty Persuasion” and “Don’t Go Back To (Rockville) – will be remastered and include a bonus disc featuring a previously unreleased concert recorded during the band’s Little America tour at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984.

The concert, originally broadcast on WXRT, includes eight of the LP’s 10 tracks, as well as other early fan favorites such as “Gardening at Night,” “Sitting Still” and “Radio Free Europe” and songs that would later appear on the band’s third and fourth albums.

Reckoning, which was originally released in April 1984, gave the band the “chance to turn up the volume, tear up the rule book and capture instead R.E.M.’s on-stage mojo,” states Tony Fletcher in the reissue’s liner notes. In addition to the basic CD reissues, fans will also be able to pick up the anniversary editions of both Reckoning and Murmur on “audiophile 180 gram vinyl in their complete original packaging.”

For more information, visit the band’s official site.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lily Schaffer - 'Lemonade'

Lemonade, the debut album by Chicago singer-songwriter Lily Schaffer, is perfectly named. It’s both sweet and sour, pairing airy pop melodies with tales of unhappiness and imperfection. This cocktail of sweetness, sadness and clever cynicism makes it clear that Schaffer has studied under the school of Aimee Mann, the reigning queen of unhappy-yet-hummable pop. For proof, just listen to album opener “Rubber Match” - which both musically and lyrically sounds like it could have jumped straight out of Mann’s catalog. Although the similarities are hard to ignore, Schaffer manages to avoid coming off merely as a disposable knockoff of the original. Her sugar-coated vocals sound a bit more ingenuous and the material is too good to ever seem irrelevant, consistently offering quality hooks, grade A performances by Schaffer's band and excellent, Jon Brion-esque production. The melodies of whimsically sad cuts such as “All He Wants,” “Nebula” and “Firecracker” are lush and immediately satisfying, and Schaffer keeps things interesting by spacing out the slower tracks with more upbeat, assertive material such as “Trigger” and “Pun,” which add some Liz Phair influence into the mix. All of these ingredients add up to create a strong debut that should appeal to any fan of literate alt-pop.

Lemonade is available for download here. For more information, check out our recent Q&A with Schaffer. Also, be sure to catch a live performance and interview May 31 on Chicago Rocks, set to air on Channel 25 at 7 p.m..

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Q&A: Incredible Shrinking Boy

Local singer-songwriter Paul Taneja has been writing and recording music for years, and recently formed Incredible Shrinking Boy with his long-time friends and collaborators as a vehicle for his catchy, emotionally-driven pop/rock. The band's songs have already appeared on national TV shows such as MTV's "The Real World" and "Cribs," and they've been invited to play at famous music fests such as International Pop Overthrow and MOBfest.

As they gear up for their next show, set for Friday, May 15 at Quenchers, Taneja took some time to fill us in on more about the band:

First off, tell us about the history of Incredible Shrinking Boy. How and when did the band come together?

Well, for the longest time, I just performed out as Paul Taneja. But as the stars aligned and things all came together, I realized I finally had the band mates I've always wanted. I always wanted a band to be a true friendship as well as a hard working group. We definitely have both. Joe and I have been friends since we were kids, and Ivan and I have become great friends as well. Matt has been a friend for quite a few years; I didn't know he was a good keyboardist, and one day he just tried out for us and it worked. Ivan actually contacted me a few years ago, but I had another drummer, and he contacted me again the next year; we finally met and we clicked instantly because we both share a passion for beer. Joe has always dreamed of being in a band. He just never knew he'd be in a band with his best friend! He started off in the band playing acoustic guitar, but then we moved him to bass, and now he's a badass.

What's the story behind the band's name?

The band is actually named after the song from the Time Bomb EP. The only difference is there is no "the" in front of the band title, but people make that mistake all the time anyway. The song is the story a boy on a long journey to a distant castle located in some magical land; think Wizard of Oz, I suppose? He will eventually meet a wizard whose magical powers will grant him the life he has always dreamed of. Once he is granted a new life, his past is completely erased as he is born again. The song is a metaphor of the journey I feel I've been on in my life, and it's not over, so I felt it was an appropriate band name.

What does Incredible Shrinking Boy bring to the local rock scene that sets you apart from other Chicago bands?

Well, Joe now uses his cool little laser guns and sword at our shows. He likes to zap zap zap on certain songs. Ivan has one of those "That Was Easy" buttons that you buy at Staples. But his is in Spanish, and well, when he feels a song was a breeze, he pushes it with confidence. I have a brand new amp called "The Lunchbox 2". It just came out, and you can only order it from the Web site. It is the cutest little thing I've ever owned. It's literally the size of, and actually made from, a real lunchbox. It is ridiculously loud, too. It's definitely unreal. People see and hear it and become baffled. But maybe you were looking for a more serious answer...I mean, we really love to rock out up there. I tend to be an overly emotional person and songwriter, and since I generally don't show that side of me to people, I let it all out on stage and in music. So, you could say we're very animated and expressive. We find it extremely important for the emotion to come across as effectively as possible. When I see bands, no matter how great or tight they are, often times, I just don't understand what they're trying to convey. I guess I'm old school, and really appreciate artists and bands who aren't afraid to show their feelings and really let people see the sadness or frustrations in life...something that goes a bit beyond music. Maybe that makes us emo? Eww...

For someone unfamiliar with your music, which song do you recommend checking out first and why?

Well, here are three, because it's hard to choose just one: "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" - This is the 'hit' radio friendly type song that got us publishng deals for film and TV. So, I guess if you are a bubble gummy pop rock lover, take a listen to this. "A Vampire's Tale" - For those who love storytelling, this is the gothic tale of a character roaming the midnight city streets; he has lost his innocence and is eternally scarred by love. We have a blast playing this one live. "City Lights" - Our jam song that we close out the set with. It's mostly instrumental. Many people seem to go into a hypnotic trance during this one, and we love watching that!

From visiting the band's official site it's clear you do a lot to connect with fans in different ways, from regular blogging to posting videos on YouTube. Why do you feel this is so important and how has it helped you?

Well, blogging is important so that fans are reminded of what's going on on a regular basis. Twitter is really awesome actually, and I love watching how many great bands are using that site. Sending out regular emails to your mailing list with updates and free downloads has also shown helpful. And of course the consistency of MySpace and Facebook updates is pretty important to any band who takes their music seriously.

You've had some of your songs appear on MTV shows, including "The Real World" and "Cribs." How did that come about?

A few years back, I was at a music industry panel and the song "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" was played in front of a group of music supervisors. They were really impressed, and so was the audience. Right after that I was offered a number of publishing deals.

Is there any particular gig so far that stands out? Why?

Definitely Bottom Lounge. That place absolutely rocks. The sound guy was great and he was very kind and helpful. The energy of the crowd was wonderful. As Matt put it, "I haven't had that much fun since Disney World".

What have been the best and most challenging parts of being an indie band in Chicago?

Well, getting noticed is tough! We would absolutely love to open up for a bigger Chicago band who we love, like Smoking Popes, for instance. But hey, with persistence, you never know what may happen.

What's next for Incredible Shrinking Boy?

We are working on writing a new album. Ideally, we'd like to record the whole CD in my living room where we practice. That is, if I can get Nick, our producer/engineer, to move his gear out here for a while. I've always written as a singer/songwriter, so it's really cool to try something new, where everyone is a part of the writing process.

How can people find out more?

Currently people can download our albums for free on our Web site - just click on the "listen" tab and click "download album" and just like magic, a zip file of our album is downloaded to your computer, and you can dump it into iTunes. You can also purchase our CDs at our shows. Our next gig is at Quenchers on Friday, May 15th. It's seriously gonna rock and we're totally stoked. We're performing with some other really great bands, Blah Blah Blah and Berry.