Monday, June 29, 2009

Wilco - 'Wilco (The Album)'

The fact that Chicago rock veterans Wilco named their seventh studio record simply Wilco (The Album) is telling. While previous releases - such as 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, 2002’s widely- renowned Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 1999’s Summerteeth – established singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy and company as architects of a constantly evolving, unpredictable sound, the new album plays out more like a Wilco sampler, oscillating between the group’s straightforward and experimental sides. Rarely does a band as established and respected offer up a record that feels more like a summary than an expansion of their vision, but that’s just what Wilco (The Album) delivers. The result is a generally worthwhile collection of material that sometimes sounds worthy of the band’s legacy, but other times comes and goes without leaving much of an impact.

The Wilco that kicks off the album with “Wilco (The Song)” is the band at their most accessible, tongue-in-cheek and lighthearted. Tweedy sings, "Do you dabble in depression?/Is someone twisting a knife in your back?/Are you being attacked?/Oh this is a fact that you need to know/ Wilco will love you, baby" over a chugging, infectious beat, sounding radio-ready and wrapping up neatly in three minutes. “Deeper Down” showcases the band’s penchant for gentle, 60s-inspired psychedelia and “One Wing” references the pleasing, polished folk rock of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Anyone longing for the experimental Wilco by this point should find satisfaction in the next track, the noir, murder-themed “Bull Black Nova.” The remainder of the album features a similarly diverse pattern, albeit focusing on straightforward alt-country/folk rock a bit more than usual.

First single “You Never Know,” which sounds like a tribute to George Harrison (“My Sweet Lord,” in particular), delivers another dose of upbeat, straightforward folk rock. The song has been criticized by some as derivative and uninventive, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in its instant melodic appeal; it boasts quite possibly the most instant hook in the band’s catalog. Other standouts include “Country Disappeared” and “Solitaire,” which are pretty, plaintive numbers that achieve a solid balance between accessible and adventurous.

The weaker moments on the album aren’t weak because they’re bad, but because they verge on inconsequential. “You and I,” a sweet duet with Feist, is appealing, but it’s hard to keep from thinking it could have amounted to something much greater. Similarly, album closers “Sonny Feeling” and “Everlasting Everything” are simply very pleasant tunes that never manage to transition from good to great.

In the end, Wilco (The Album) proves to be an overall strong – if not groundbreaking - collection of songs. It probably won’t go down among most fans as an album as essential or classic as Foxtrot or Summerteeth, but it offers enough great moments to make it a welcome addition to the band’s catalog.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shows this weekend

Sonic Youth

Friday, June 26

- The Appleseed Cast at Subterranean - The Kansas-based band will headline this "Emerging Artists Showcase," which also features local acts Brighton, MA and Hotel Ahead. The Appleseed Cast released their seventh album, Sagarmatha, earlier this year. Doors at 9 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m., $12, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

- Kid, You'll Move Mountains at Taste of Chicago - Stop by the Taste Friday afternoon to check out a set from this up and coming local indie pop/rock act. The band recently released their debut LP, Loomings. Check an interview with the band's Jim Hanke on a recent edition of the Chicago indie-focused Indiesomnia. 2:30 p.m. at the Taste Stage on the corner of Balbo and Columbus.

- Pet Lions at Metro - This band plays some of the finest, catchiest indie pop out of the Windy City today. They recently released their duet LP, Soft Right, reviewed here. Doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m., $8 (free before 9), 18 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28

- Shellac at Bottom Lounge - The Chicago mainstays will bring their unconventional brand of minimalist rock to Bottom Lounge on both Saturday and Sunday. Also featuring Bear Claw and Three Second Kiss. 8 p.m., $12, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Sonic Youth at The Vic - The classic alt-rockers will play the Vic on both Saturday and Sunday in support of their latest album, The Eternal, released early this month. 7 p.m., $29. More info and tickets. (As of publication, only Saturday tickets are available).

- Miss Derringer at Subterranean - This LA band is in town as part of a tour to support their upcoming record, Winter Hill, which they describe as exploring "the dark and oft-times twisted outlaw landscape of punk disaffectation, New Wave disdain, 50s girl-group attitude and hip-shaking pop." Doors at 10 p.m., show at 10:30 p.m. $10, 17 and over.More info and tickets.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New local music: The Yearbooks

Photo by Eddie O'Keefe

With the Chicago summer officially in full swing, it's the perfect time to get acquainted with the hook-filled indie pop of up-and-coming local band The Yearbooks. The band came together early this year with former members from The Villains of Verona and Sars Flannery, and in August they’ll record an EP cleverly named after the mother of all yearbook signing cop-outs, Have a Great Summer.

The Yearbooks have already played gigs around the city at Elbo Room, Reggie’s, Dark Room and this year’s installment of MOBfest, and are gearing up to play two shows at Beat Kitchen: The Rikters’ CD release on June 27 and a show with Lacona on July 15. They’re also set to shoot a video for their debut song, “Season of Love,” with Silver Productions.

To give you a taste, the band is offering a free download of “Season of Love,” available below. Be warned: It’s very likely the tune will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. If the song is any indication of what’s to come, it would be wise to get these guys on your radar now because they clearly know their way around a solid hook.

The Yearbooks – Season of Love

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New releases - June 23

Some weeks it seems like there's a shortage of noteworthy new music releases to check out. This isn't one of those weeks. From classic rock to singer-songwriter to prog rock, there's a wide selection of new releases out for every sort of rock fan this Tuesday. Here's a rundown of the highlights:

Regina Spektor - Far - Spektor's fifth studio album and the follow-up to 2006's Begin to Hope, which brought the Moscow-born singer-songwriter mainstream attention via widely-played songs such as "Fidelity," "Better" and "Samson." The new record features lead-off single "Laughing With" and production by Garret Lee (R.E.M.), David Kahne (Paul McCartney), Mike Elizondo (Eminem) and Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra).

Cheap Trick - The Latest - Illinois' own classic rock/power pop heroes deliver their first new collection of material since 2006's Rockford. The CD includes 13 tracks, including a cover of Slade's "When the Lights are Out," and is also available in limited editions on vinyl and 8-Track. The band will tour the album as part of a 40-city stint with Def Leppard and Poison, including a local stop at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater on July 17.

Pete Yorn - Back and Fourth - The alt-rock singer-songwriter is back with his fourth LP, including lead single "Don't Wanna Cry." He'll kick off a two-month North American tour in July, stopping in Chicago for gigs August 3rd and 4th at Park West. Yorn is also set to release an album of duets with Scarlett Johansson, Break Up, in September.

The Mars Volta - Octahedron - The fifth studio album from the experimental prog-rockers, following 2008's The Bedlam in Goliath.

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship - Since forming in 1990, these locals have garnered a dedicated following with their experimental, "post-rock" style. Their new album is their first collection of new, original material in over five years. The band is set to play Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park on July 17.

Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings - The 10th album from the Long Island-based prog-metal band, available as a standard CD, vinyl LP, or three-disc special edition. They are set to come to town August 23 for a show at the Chicago Theater.

The Lemonheads - Varshons - An album of covers from Evan Dando and company, with 11 takes on songs from a diverse (and often unlikely) list of artists such as G.G. Allin, Leonard Cohen, Wire and Christina Aguilera. The record features guest performances from Liv Tyler and Kate Moss, and was produced by Butthole Surfers front man Gibby Haynes.

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm - The influential alternative rock act's ninth LP follows 2007's Beyond, which was their first collection of new material in over a decade. The full album is currently streaming on the band's MySpace page.

Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day - The sophomore album from this Providence-based four-piece, mixing straight-ahead rock with elements of Americana/alt-folk. The band is set to play the Empty Bottle July 15.

R.E.M. - Reckoning (Reissue) - An expanded reissue of the band's sophomore album, following up last year’s “25th anniversary” edition release of their 1983 debut LP, Murmur. 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) – is 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. Click here for additional details.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Carta Marina - 'Hold the Ghosts'

Photo by David J. Cubberly

Local four-piece Carta Marina specialize in a sort of "indie rock mood music," marked by a rich, ambient sound, cryptic lyrics and a foggy, nighttime vibe. The band, named after the famous Medieval sea map, formed in 2007 and recently released their debut record, Hold the Ghosts. The group's deep, moody foundation runs throughout the entire album, but its strongest moments actually come when the material doesn’t attempt to send listeners all the way into the depths. The two opening tracks – “Your Majesty” and “Sister Bay” – prove the most memorable by adding more traditional traditional pop melodies and an overall lighter vibe to the underlying formula. On these songs the band finds a balance between evocative moodiness and accessibility that allows their talent to shine. Some of the material, such as the lengthy "End of an Era" and "Skyline Blues," goes on for a bit too long to sustain interest, but even these tracks succeed at creating a unique ambiance and proving Carta Marina have a clear vision. Hold the Ghosts is a solid start and worthwhile listen for anyone partial to the more introspective side of indie rock.

Carta Marina is:

Chris Reehoff (guitar), Justin Shields (keys), Jeff Palac (vocals, guitar, bass), Rick Gladkowski (drums).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lollapalooza schedule announced

Today Lollapalooza released its official schedule, which means it's time to start planning out exactly how you're going to spend August 7, 8 and 9. Will you opt for the Beastie Boys over conflicting headliner Tool? Will you be devastated that you have to choose between Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg? Which days will you want to get to the fest early to catch lesser-known buzz bands? There's a lot to work out, so early planning is a must.

Get a jump on it by checking out the full schedule here. Here's a quick overview of key bands playing each day:

Friday, August 7

Headliners: Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode
Select acts: Andrew Bird, Of Montreal, Peter Bjorn & John, The Decemberists, Crystal Castles, Thievery Corporation, Ben Folds, Heartless Bastards, The Gaslight Anthem

Saturday, August 8

Headliners: Beastie Boys, Tool
Select acts: Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Gomez, Glasvegas, Ben Harper, TV on the Radio, Rise Against

Sunday, August 9

Headliners: The Killers, Jane's Addiction
Select acts: Lou Reed, Band of Horses, Silversun Pickups, Deerhunter, Snoop Dogg, Neko Case, Vampire Weekend, The Raveonettes, Kaiser Chiefs

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This week: MOBfest

Chicago's annual MOBfest, set for June 18, 19 and 20, will once again bring a variety of local and national indie acts to the attention of record execs and the A&R community. The fest features a long list of live performances over its three-day run at venues such as Cubby Bear, Metro and Uncommon Ground. In addition, it includes a day devoted to music industry panels designed for networking and discussing music business trends set for June 20 at Elbo Room.

With past performances by bands such as The Killers, Disturbed, Kill Hannah and The Redwalls under its belt, MOBfest 2009 could provide the opportunity to check out some of rock's future heavyweights before they become household names.

Below is a small selection of some of the Chicago acts lined up to play the fest. For the full schedule and a list of panelists, visit

Select local bands to play MOBfest 2009:

Incredible Shrinking Boy - (June 18, Fiesta Cantina, 10 p.m.) - With their songs appearing on popular TV shows such as MTV's "The Real World" and "Cribs," this local quartet has already attracted a great deal of attention. Lead by singer-songwriter Paul Taneja, the group's music is catchy, straightforward pop-rock with emotionally-charged lyrics, adding up to a formula fit for widespread appeal. For more information, check out my recent Q&A with Taneja.

Calvin Marty & the Sunken Ships - (June 18, Fiesta Cantina, 11 p.m.) - Self-described as playing "the loudest quiet music you've ever heard," these locals have put their unique stamp on folk rock. With memorable melodies, compelling lyrics and violin flourishes, Marty and his band have swiftly gathered fans since forming in 2007. They recently released a six-song EP titled The Dead Sea.

Band Called Catch - (June 18, Elbo Room, 11 p.m.) - Earlier this year Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis summed up this acoustic rock troupe as follows: Lighthearted, good-humored acoustic rock is a surprisingly dangerous genre to mess with: It's all too easy to sail off the edge into shtick. Thankfully, despite the silly name, there's more Violent Femmes in the form of undeniably strong pop songwriting and genuinely witty lyrics with Band Called Catch than there is shameless shucking and jiving a la, say, the Barenaked Ladies. Along with their MOBfest set, the band is gearing up to release a new EP titled This.

Par Avion - (June 19, Fiesta Cantina, 10 p.m.) - This band hails from LaGrange Park and plays super-charged electro rock.

Snowsera - (June 19, Fiesta Cantina, 12 a.m.) - Armed with a sound that could appeal to both indie rock and pop punk fans, Snowsera are poised to reach an audience far beyond Chicago. Describing themselves as incorporating "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" the band have released two EPs so far. For a full review of their latest, Fictions, click here.

Dick Prall - (June 19, Goose Island, 12:45 a.m.) - Iowa-born, Chicago-based singer-songwriter Dick Prall specializes in indie pop that's at once clever, thoughtful and charming, with an adoration of classic acts such as Elvis Costello, The Beatles and Jayhawks put to good use.

I Fight Dragons (June 20, Elbo Room, 9 p.m.) - While relatively new to the scene, this Nintendo-infused pop troupe has already scored an impressive amount of attention both in and out of the Windy City with their catchy tunes and high energy live shows that make use of Nintendo Power Pads, controllers and other devices of 8-bit nostalgia. In April, the band won the Metromix "Rock 'n' Vote 2009" contest, which pitted many of Chicago's most notable indie acts against one another for the chance to win gigs at the newly-opened LaSalle Power Company. Click here for a review of their debut EP, Cool Is Just a Number.

The Ivorys - (June 20, McDunna's, 11 p.m.) - Harnessing a love of gritty classic rock and 70s punk, this "power trio" delivers driving rock and roll at its purest. Their self-titled EP is catchy, straightforward and fit for rocking out, and their imminent follow-up is sure to follow suit.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This Wednesday: Live Nation to offer all lawn tickets for $24.99

Whether you consider Live Nation's recent discount ticket offers a simple marketing ploy or a sincere effort to make shows more affordable, you might want to know that this Wednesday, June 17, the company is offering lawn tickets to all of its shows for an all-in price of $24.99. The offer will begin at 12:01 a.m. and run for 24 hours.

Here's more information, according to the press release announcing the promotion:

“'I read the blogs and emails listening to what concert fans are saying. They’ve been really clear, they want a break on ticket prices in these tough economic times,” said Michael Rapino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Live Nation. “So we launched No Service Fee Wednesday and removed the service fee on lawn tickets. Then we went a step further last week and eliminated fees on all amphitheatre tickets. These past two Wednesdays we sold a lot more tickets than we normally do. We kept listening and fans asked us to take it a step further and eliminate all fees. So for this Wednesday we’ve decided to go all in – one all-in ticket price for all lawn tickets – only $24.99 with no additional fees of any kind.' As with the past two weeks, the offer kicks off at 12:01 a.m. local time on Wednesday, June 17, and will run for ONLY 24 hours at These all-in lawn tickets are available only at Live Nation ticketed amphitheatres in the U.S. and Canada for concerts including but not limited to:
  • Aerosmith
  • 311
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • Blazed & Confused Tour / Slightly Stoopid - Snoop Dogg
  • blink-182
  • Brad Paisley with Dierks Bentley
  • Coldplay
  • Creed
  • Crosby Stills & Nash
  • Crue Fest 2
  • Def Leppard with Poison and Cheap Trick
  • Depeche Mode
  • The Fray
  • George Strait with Blake Shelton and Julianne Hough
  • Incubus
  • Jason Mraz
  • Kid Rock & Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • The Killers
  • New Kids on the Block
  • Nickelback
  • No Doubt
  • O.A.R.
  • Rascal Flatts with Darius Rucker
  • REO Speedwagon & Styx
  • Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival featuring Marilyn Manson & Slayer
  • Rod Stewart
  • Toby Keith with Trace Adkins
  • Warped Tour

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Q&A: Busted Creek

Bloomington, IN-based four-piece Busted Creek are gearing up to play Chicago for the first time this month with a show on June 25 at Elbo Room. The band recently recorded their debut EP, Suburban Skyline, which blends straightforward, Midwestern rock and roll with storytelling singer-songwriter qualities. In anticipation of their Windy City debut, they took some time out to fill us in on what they're all about and what people can expect at the show:

What’s the story behind Busted Creek? When and how did the band come together?

Chad Miller (lead vocals, rhythm guitar): Busted Creek was formed by accident. I was playing acoustically around northern Indiana and Alex was in the recording arts program in Bloomington. We had known each other from South Bend, and had played a few summer acoustic gigs together the year previous. Alex called me up earlier this fall and asked if I'd like to record some of my stuff for one of his projects. I said sure - free studio time is free studio time, after all. I told him I'd love to do some full band renditions of some of my songs, though, and asked if he knew a bass player and a drummer. So Alex called Ryan and Dave to see if they'd be down, and they were, so we got together one Saturday night and recorded the songs pretty much as we learned them. Alex started kidding around with me in the next few weeks about how we should form a band. We decided to do another all night recording session down in Bloomington about a month later, and after that one we figured what the hell. So I started commuting the three hours down to Bloomington and the band was formed.

The name came after much deliberation. We tried a variety of names, most of which either didn't work or were already taken. Busted Creek worked as a name because Creek is pastoral - we live in the Midwest so we all understand what pastoral is. Busted, well, aren't we all a bit busted down? Busted Creek, busted here in Midwest USA.

Online you’ve described your style as “rock with a social conscience.” What do you mean by that, and what can people expect from your music?

Ryan Dorgan (drums): Chad's songs resonate on the most basic, human level that we all live with every day. He's not really a fictitious kind of guy. The words he writes are the same words you'd expect to find in just about anybody's journal or diary or mind or whatever. His lyrics tell life as it is - sometimes looking down, sometimes looking up, but always looking forward.

You recently recorded a debut EP called Suburban Skyline. Tell us about some of the songs and the inspiration behind them.

Alex Sejdinaj (lead guitar): All of the songs on this EP were originally ideas that Chad had on an acoustic guitar that the rest of us changed and modified after we came up with our parts. The first song on the EP is "Sonny" which came together very nicely when we finally got together to write all of our parts to it. Chad had some really nice lyrics and vocals on it and the rest of us just wanted to create a nice rock-out song to groove to. The second song on the EP is Suburban Skyline, which turned into a bumping bass and drums driven song after we spent some time working on it. Chad had created the song based on his experience living in suburbia for the past couple years and the lyrics of that song tell a good story about that. "Tendencies" is probably the song that did it for us initially. This song was the first one we all wrote together and we did it in less than a couple hours. It was the song that made us all step back and think, "Man, this is sounding pretty cool." I think that song showcases each player in the band a little bit and it is a nice little chunk of our identity. "Buried Alive" is a song that shows a little bit of our heavier side. I think that one shows where our rock side meets our punk side. All of that being said, we have been writing more since then and have more songs on the way that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Since your June 25 gig at Elbo Room will be your first time playing Chicago, what do you hope for from the show? Do you have any expectations about playing in the city and how it might differ from playing Indiana?

Chad: We are very excited to play in Chicago. Elbo Room is such a great place to start - it's an intimate venue that has seen the start of many bands’ careers. We really hope that if there is one place that our message is heard it is the City of Broad Shoulders. We hope to find some fans up here, and obviously you do that by getting your music heard. Chicago is a big city with a lot of diversity, and has been through a lot of hardships, from fires to this past winter's ice storms. So I would like to think there are people here that will really be into what we have to offer.

Alex: Overall we try not to have too many expectations of how things should be or how they are going to go. I think that for the most part we are all hoping for an audience that is willing to lend their ear to a new artist and actually give us a chance to be heard. Indiana hosts a lot of bar bands and cover bands and we are really trying to separate ourselves from being that and that alone.

Ryan: Chicago is the greatest city in the world. I've seen so much great music in Chicago and I feel like I'd be doing the city a disservice if we don't just play hard and have a great time. If the people at the show enjoy themselves and we enjoy ourselves, that's all I can really ask for.

What can people unfamiliar with the band expect from a Busted Creek show?

Chad: A Busted Creek show is full of energy, whether we play in a small pub with five people, or a club of a hundred, you will always get everything we have. We work hard and play harder, so come ready to play hard while we work hard at playing. We have meaningful lyrics, raging guitar solos and most of all, some good, loud, rock and roll.

Ryan: A really sweaty drummer. Like Robin Williams stand-up sweaty.

I noticed the band keeps a regularly-updated blog in addition to a Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace pages. What role do you think do you believe this type of online social networking plays in being a current indie band?

Chad: I just love the idea of being able to connect with an audience on a level that is more than just music. I talked about how our music is about life, well now people can see that life outside our music. To me it only makes our message stronger. Plus, we'd be crazy as an indie band to not take advantage of these free devices.

Alex: We have been really lucky to have our good friend Brooks Guthrie make our website and run it for us. He does a really good job with that and I just want to make sure he gets some recognition for it because he has put a lot of time into it. I think that the Internet is one of the most valuable tools for a band today. Having friends on a network like Facebook and MySpace really gives you a chance to meet people, gain potential fans and make a lot of contacts. It’s like the old saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Those networks give you the potential to meet a lot of people and on top of that you can easily send show invites to them which is a lot easier than running around town trying to post fliers.

Dave Witucki (bass, background vocals): I don't think indie bands would stand as much of a chance if the Internet was not invented, and I think we take full advantage of that.

If you could play with any band, who would it be and why?

Chad: We'd love to play with Shooter Jennings. First, we're huge fans of his music and we play one of his songs from time to time. He has a great energy about him as a musician. Also, that guy is real - he adores music. He doesn't put on any airs, even though he's Waylon Jennings' son. He sings from the heart. He's a lover of other people’s music, not just his own.

Alex: I would also say the Rolling Stones, but I think Shooter Jennings is a little bit more realistic.

Ryan: I think a tour with the Black Crowes would be a pretty good time.

Dave: The Boss? That's a tough one...

What’s next for Busted Creek?

Chad: We will play for anyone who listens and write for anyone who cares. We'd love to get some more stuff going up here in Chicago, and hopefully next summer book a tour. Until then, we'll just keep writing, playing and learning.

Alex: Shows, shows, shows, and more shows. We really want to be able to get out there and play and meet people. We are also going into the studio soon to record a new single so keep your eyes on our website for that.

Ryan: More tunes. More shows. More beer.

How can people find out more and get your music?

Any information you could want about us can be found on

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taste of Randolph music rundown

Tinted Windows

The summer festival season is finally here again, and the West Loop's annual Taste of Randolph Street fest - set for June 19 to June 21 - is one of the first up. Last year, the fest featured sets from Josh Ritter, Drive-By Truckers, Matt Costa and many more, and this year's lineup should once again make for some excellent live music. Here's a rundown of the bands scheduled to play this year:

Friday, June 19

Dr. Dog (8:30 to 10 p.m.)

The Philadelphia-based, 60s-rock-inspired Dr. Dog have been garnering attention since the left-field success of their 2005 LP, Easy Beat, and most recently released their fifth LP, Fate. They came to town last summer to play a well-received set at Lollapalooza.

These United States (7 to 8 p.m.)

Lead by singer-songwriter Jesse Elliot, D.C.-based These United States specialize in an eclectic sound marked by elements of alt-country, garage rock and folk. They released their sophomore album, Crimes, late last year.

Miles Nielsen (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.)

As the son of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, Rockford-born singer-songwriter Miles Nielsen is versed in Midwestern rock and roll, as proved by his debut album, Miles. Nielsen describes his music as "Beatles-eque Cosmic Americana," complete with "pop rock arrangements and sunny melodies tucked between a long lost country folk steel guitar floating through speakers around crashing drums, bouncing bass lines and smooth as butter keys."

Saturday, June 20

Tinted Windows (9 to 10 p.m.)

Unexpectedly surfacing earlier this year, Tinted Windows is an unlikely "supergroup" consisting of James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Taylor Hanson, the middle Hanson brother. The band's style is straightforward, singalong power pop driven by each member's trademark, from Hanson's bubblegum vocals to Carlos's power drumming. The group released their debut, self-titled album in April (reviewed here).

Urge Overkill (7:15 to 8:30 p.m.)

While their biggest recognition might have come when their cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon" was used in "Pulp Fiction," local act Urge Overkill were notable members of the alternative rock scene from its very beginnings. Formed in 1986, the band developed a solid fan base with releases such as Americruiser and The SuperSonic Storybook, touring with Nirvana and Pearl Jam and consistently releasing music through the mid-90s. The band split in 1997, but have since reformed and are preparing a new album for release.

The Posies (5:30 to 6:45 p.m.)

Seattle's Posies emerged in the late-1980s and became one of the most prominent power pop acts of the 90s, updating the classic sound with the decade's alternative rock style. At the Taste of Randolph they'll perform Frosting the Beater, their 1993 LP that spawned the singles "Dream All Day" and "Solar Sister."

Ultra Sonic Edukators (4:15 to 5 p.m.)

In 2006, this Britpop-influenced Chicago band was selected as one of the "Top 25 Bands on MySpace" by Rolling Stone, and have since released an EP titled Bad Blood. They're currently working on their debut full-length.

Dan and Leland (3 to 3:45 p.m.)

This eclectic, hook-heavy pop/rock duo from LA will head to town for a slot at Taste of Randolph in addition to a handful of additional local gigs this month.

Sunday, June 21

The Hold Steady (8:15 to 9:30 p.m.)

Brooklyn's ever-touring, always energetic storytelling rockers will return to Chicago for a headlining slot at the fest. The band recently released A Positive Rage, a CD/DVD set that includes a live show recorded in 2007 at Metro.

The Ladies & Gentlemen (6:45 to 7:30 p.m.)

Featuring members of past Chicago power pop mainstays such as Material Issue and Box-O-Car, this four-piece combines the sounds of their past with a new wave sheen for infectious results. They recently released their debut, self-titled album.

Regal Standard (5:30 to 6:15 p.m.)

More home-brewed power pop.

Old Fake (4:15 to 5 p.m.)

This recently-formed local act includes past members of indie pop favorites Office.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Free show in Millennium Park: St. Vincent and Allá

St. Vincent

Head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park this evening for a free show from 6:30 to 8:30 featuring singer-songwriter St. Vincent and Allá. The show is part of the "Downtown Sound: New Music Monday" series that includes three free outdoor shows in the park this month.

As described on the event page on

St. Vincent’s album ‘Actor’ was released earlier this month and is followed by an impressive summer tour including a not-to-be-missed show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Annie Clark, who does business as St. Vincent, wrote much of her new album, “Actor,” by drawing, not playing. Mainly a guitarist, Clark began the album in a French hotel room in December of 2007, using GarageBand software and a pair of headphones, “drawing notes one by one, until they sounded how they should sound.” This new album paired with her intense, high energy stage presence makes this concert a top highlight for the summer season.

Chicago-based Mexican-American three piece Allá was formed by young artists with a broad range of tastes and musical interests and will open for St. Vincent. They have created a unique sound encompassing some of their favorite styles from German Krautrock experiments, Motown, Brazilian Tropicalia, cosmic jazz and traditional Mexican music.

Next week's free show will feature The Sea and Cake and Dirty Projectors.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Lost Cartographers - 'Walk On'

Chicago's indie rock scene is no stranger to Americana influences, and The Lost Cartographers are one of the newest local acts to explore the sound, making bittersweet, nostalgic music that summons thoughts of country towns and railroad tracks. The band recently completed their debut LP, Walk On, a strong collection of 10 original songs built on a solid alt-country foundation. What's most refreshing about the group's debut, though, is that it proves they aren't content to stick to a single formula. It isn't rare for Americana-influenced records to sound overly sleepy and samey, but Walk On makes it clear the quintet are forging a more diverse path. From the upbeat, poppy opening title track to the slightly psychedelic vibe of closing song "Golden Record," the band keep their sound fresh and avoid settling into a rut. Along the way they serve up American noir ("Hudson River Teenage Blues"), hoedown fun ("Goodbye Ohio"), classic storyteller country ("Big Old House") and simple sweetness ("Proposal"). Lead singer Gabrielle Schafer adds significantly to the material's charm with a pure, warm delivery that accentuates the expressive lyrics of principal songwriter Aaron Rester. The result is a memorable debut that will appeal to more than just fans of Americana and suggests a promising future.

Walk On is currently available here, and the band will play an official release show for the album at Morseland (1218 W. Morse) on Friday, June 19 (10 p.m., $5 cover).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New video from the Blissters - 'Is It Monday?'

Is it Monday? Thankfully, no. But that doesn't mean you still don't need a dose of upbeat power pop from local four-piece The Blissters to liven up your day. Check out the band's new music video, 'Is It Monday?' below, and if you feel like helping out a good cause you can catch them live Saturday, June 13 by participating or volunteering in a 5k walk put on by the Alliance for Lupus Research. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New releases

Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane and Sugarcane - Costello's new, predominantly-acoustic release is a collaboration with T-Bone Burnett recorded over a three-day session in Nashville. The album is currently streaming on

Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King - Big Whiskey is the band's seventh studio album and the first since 2005's Stand Up. It also marks the band's first release since last year's death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore.

Rancid - Let the Domiones Fall - The band's seventh full-length includes the first single "Last One to Die" and can be heard in its entirety on their MySpace site.

311 - Uplifter - The band's ninth studio album is their first in four years, and includes bonus tracks and a bonus DVD. It was produced by Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe) and includes the single "Hey You."

Jeff Buckley - Grace - Around the World (CD/DVD) - More than a decade after his death, this release pays tribute to Buckley and his acclaimed sole LP Grace with a collection of previously-unreleased live performances. The set is also available in a deluxe edition that includes a documentary DVD.

Chicago artists:

Go Time! - Speak - The band's debut LP is full of "Melodic power pop with hard rocking rave outs." Get it here.

Lily Schaffer - Lemonade - The debut album by the local singer-songwriter is full of clever lyrics and pop hooks reminiscent of Aimee Mann and Liz Phair. Read a full review here and pick it up here.