Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wheel of Fortune, Lollapalooza style

The 2010 Lollapalooza lineup doesn't come out until April 6, but you can now play fill-in-the-blanks to try to guess who's playing:

Not surprisingly, Soundgarden, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, The Strokes and Phoenix fit into the headlining slots.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Video: Oh My God - 'Bring Yourself'

Chicago's Oh My God have just come out with a wonderful new animated video for their tune "Bring Yourself" off their latest record, The Night Undoes the Work of the Day. The art was done by illustrator Dan Bigelow and totally fits the vibe of the song. Great work all around! Check it out below, and for an mp3 download from Oh My God, check out this previous WCR post.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Show preview: The Kickback, King Sparrow & Minneapolis Henrys at Empty Bottle

The Kickback (photo by Alanna Bagladi)

For an April Fool's night full of some of the best indie rock Chicago currently has to offer, be sure to head to The Empty Bottle on Thursday, April 1 to catch The Kickback, King Sparrow and The Minneapolis Henrys. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $5 in advance or $8 at the door (click here for tickets).

Since moving from South Dakota to the Windy City last summer, The Kickback have been hard at work with frequent gigs and the release of a new EP, Great Self Love (reviewed here). The EP is a strong showcase for their passionate, intense-yet-accessible sound, which makes it clear these guys have an awesome thing goin'. I'm particularly fond of the curiously-titled opening track, "Indigenous Newspapermen Circa 1980," but the whole thing rocks, and they put on a highly entertaining live show. To find out more about the band, check out our Q&A with front man Billy Yost.

You might already know about King Sparrow from the many times their name has shown up on this site, and I swear they're not paying us to promote them - they're just that good. The garage-meets punk-meets power pop trio's debut EP, Derailer, as well as their balls to the wall live shows, have already accrued them loyal fans in and out of the city. They're bound to rack up plently more when they release their first LP, currently in the works. If you haven't already seen their recent video for "Forest," one of the tracks off Derailer, do it now! While you're at it, download their tune "Good and Plenty" right here on WCR.

Rounding out the bill are The Minneapolis Henrys, who have also gotten quite a bit of attention from indie rock fans in Chicago and beyond thanks to their live shows and their 2008 debut LP, The Way of the Albatross. The band even scored a slot at this year's SXSW, which they've just returned from.

Friday, March 26, 2010

MGMT announce 6/18 Chicago show: Tix on sale 3/27

After rapidly becoming one of the most hyped acts around thanks to their 2007 debut, Oracular Spectacular, MGMT is about to return with their sophomore release, Congratulations, on April 13. As part of the supporting tour, they'll make a Chicago stop with a show at the Riviera on Friday, June 18 (tickets are $29 and go on sale this Saturday, March 27, here).

Even though the record hasn't officially dropped yet, the band decided to stream it in its entirety on their Web site after it leaked online. Many blog reviews thus far have been less than kind (see write-ups on Obscure Sound and Consequence of Sound, for example), but to these ears the new material sounds much more compelling than that what was offered up on the hit breakthrough. Sure, it will probably be way too "1960s pysch-pop" for the mainstream and there's nothing nearly as commercially viable as "Time to Pretend," "Electric Feel," or "Kids," but overall it's an adventurous, melodic trip to another sonic planet that's pretty damn fun to take. Just listen to jolts of bizarro pop like "It's Working" and "Brian Eno" for proof. In the end, if you adored "Oracular Spectacular" you'll probably be at least somewhat disappointed with the band's change in direction. But if you found that record to be a bit bland at times, Congratulations just might give you a whole new respect for MGMT.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WCR gets some love from The Loyola Phoenix

We're thoroughly stoked that Loyola University's newspaper, The Phoenix, called out WCR today in a roundup of cool blogs to check out! We're listed under the "Art" section and are honored to be included alongside legends of blogdom such as This Is Why You're Fat, I Can Has Cheezburger and F*ck You, Penguin, among many other fine selections. Thank you and rock on, Loyola Phoenix!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Q&A: The Moses Gun

One of the best things about the Chicago "indie rock" scene is that it never fails to offer up a diverse, unpredictable mixture of sounds under that single generic label. Case in point: the hard-driving, grungey-yet-ultimately hard to pigeonhole rock of The Moses Gun, comprised of vocalist and guitarist Vell Mullens, bassist Rich Harris and drummer John Marszalek. Although the band have been a part of the Chicago music scene since the mid-90s, they've just this month released their official recorded debut, The Strobe Session, and are celebrating the release with upcoming gigs at Phyllis' Musical Inn (March 27), Double Door (April 27) and the RockBox (May 7).

Download mp3: The Moses Gun - "Broken Neck"

In honor of the new release and live shows, Mullens took the time out to answer some questions for WCR about the band's history, approach and plans for the future:

WCR: To begin, give us a bit of background on The Moses Gun - how and when did the band come together, and how has it evolved over time?

VM: Rich and I met on the far southeast side of Chicago in 1989 and immediately found common musical ground - Metallica, Depeche Mode, Husker Du, Hendrix, Rundgren, The Smiths, Zeppelin. We're both very guitar-oriented and share an appreciation of the challenges of getting heard and making a mark musically. The idea to form a musical entity occurred quite naturally. We adapted the name "The Moses Gun" in 1995 as we jammed along on rough early versions of our core songs with a Dr Rhythm drum machine in my coach house apartment at Crystal and Hoyne.

Johnny had been on our radar since 2001 and when his previous band (Machete Monks) dissolved, he came on board in late summer 2007. Johnny is a very studied, regimented and expressive musician and a star of Proviso West's world-renowned marching band. His playing style really pushes things along, you know?

After years of fits and starts, sidetracks and other projects that just weren't quite the right thing, we believe we have found the optimum lineup to bring our songs to life. We've accomplished more in the last two years than we had in the previous 12 largely because we have set definite goals for ourselves: create, record, promote, play, repeat.

For people who haven't heard your music, how would you describe your sound?

Lately it has become apparent that we're best described as grunge or Chicago-style post-punk. I personally am just coming out of a fuzzy period where I would self-consciously attach descriptive terms to our sound that just plain were not in my vocabulary five years ago. Indie rock? Avant-garde post punk? Indie garage? Heavy melodic noise rock? Grunge, after all the dust has settled, pretty much sums up what we’re going for. Dynamically-shifting heavier melodic rock music with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. I recall sitting straight up in bed out of a semiconscious state late one night in 1991 as I heard the opening chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on XRT. As the track grew heavy I remember saying aloud to no one "That's it! That's what it's all about, right there!" Our lyrical content is both personal and spiritual. More focused on snapshots of time periods and states of mind than narrative statements about politics. Humanity feels most natural to write and sing about.

You recently recorded an EP called The Strobe Session. Tell us about the recording process and some of the specific songs. If you could pick one song you most want people to hear, which would it be?

Working - if you can call it that - with Jamie Wagner at Strobe Recording was an absolutely enjoyable, relaxed experience. We provided him and Kevin recordings we'd done at practices of the songs we wanted to include and he was prepared from day one to help us put them across in a way that best suited us. It's a very raw and live-sounding recording which was the goal from the outset, but it also takes you to some different levels within that live house. I mean, you don't spend the entire recording in one sonic mindset, you know?

Since taking a journey through our entire sonic "house" was one of the main goals of the recording, I would pick "Broken Neck" as the track from The Strobe Session which best exemplifies what we were aiming for. From concept to performance, I think it really stands out and it's got that wicked beat you can bop your head to.

What do you think sets The Moses Gun apart from other indie rock bands in the city, or other indie rock bands in general?

Our most important distinguishing feature? We’re in touch our inner grunginess! We won't quit on you (If we were going to, don't you think we would have already?), we oppose exclusion and support inclusion, we recognize the genius of Falstaff I and II, and ultimately we realize that there are more important things than our recordings, performances and musical aspirations (it ain't brain surgery), but we readily disregard that fact when it’s time to perform. Every performance is like a plea - we want the party to grow in size - to find more fans who experience us and say "yeah, that's it! I like the way The Moses Gun makes me feel!"

How has living and making music in Chicago impacted the band's sound and overall approach?

Chicago makes you really measure your desire and decide whether you honestly believe in what you’re doing. There are and have always been lots of places to show what you can do in this town, but if you're thin-skinned or expecting super-fast success without effort and commitment you can get real discouraged real quick. This is a big pond and you have to do what you do because you genuinely enjoy it. Otherwise, it can crush you.

What can people expect from a Moses Gun live show?

Frenetic raw power and real emotion. By the time we get to the stage, we're ready to release some frustration and eager to prove that we belong, that our music is worthwhile. We kinda have a chip on our shoulder, but are more than willing to bust our asses to entertain and to try to share what we hear in our music. And at some point, Johnny will take off his shirt pretty much guaranteed. And there will be beer, Negra Modelo if available.

What's next for the band?

We're promoting and playing shows to support The Strobe Session, trying to get it reviewed, on the radio, picked up for distribution, used on video game soundtracks, episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," etc. March 27 we're at Phyllis', April 27 we're at Double Door and then on May 7 we'll be live with Razor and Die on WLUW 88.7, and that night we're playing The RockBox on Lincoln Avenue. We'll probably ease up on the local shows after that although we've thrown our hat into the ring to rock some street festivals and college towns in IL and neighboring states.

We're also being considered for a couple of compilations and plan to record more, and will be releasing at least another single before the end of summer. The Ambush 210 demo we're currently making available at our shows contains six songs which will most likely be included. We think The Moses Gun would be a great addition to the right indie label's roster. We would like to get some help with realizing our goals, but we realize that you really have to do everything you possibly can for yourself and if interest comes, you can accept help or deny it on your terms. With distribution services like Tunecore and CD Baby, there's nothing stopping performers from putting themselves out there if they believe in what they're doing. It's a great time for us right now and we’re committed to keeping the momentum going.

Where can people find out more?

Friday, March 19, 2010

EP review: Gold Motel

Fans of Chicago indie rock might already be familiar with Greta Morgan as one-fourth of The Hush Sound, who released three records and toured with the likes of OK Go, Jack's Mannequin and Fall Out Boy over their four years as an active band. With that project now on hiatus, Morgan has branched out with a new band, Gold Motel, and has hit the ground running with a surge of live gigs and recording. The band's recently released self-titled EP is a wonderful introduction, featuring five tracks of spirited indie pop that calls to mind the 60s girl-group-meets-modern day approach of acts such as Camera Obscura, The Postmarks and The Corner Laughers. While songs like "Perfect in My Mind" and "Don't Send the Searchlights" are irresistible bursts of sunny pop that would stand strong on their songwriting alone, perhaps the biggest star of the show here is Morgan's warm, expressive voice, which makes it crystal clear she's passionate about what she's singing. A full length is scheduled to drop this June, and this EP is more than adequate proof that it will be well worth checking out.

Gold Motel will play Subterranean on Saturday, March 20 with Color Radio and Volcanoes Make Islands. $10, doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 6:30 p.m. Click here for tickets.

Video: 'Perfect in My Mind' by Gold Motel

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Music Mondays in Millennium Park

Fans of free outdoor concerts rejoice: The series of no-charge Monday night spring-summer concerts in Millennium Park - presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the park - will soon return for a 2010 season. This year the roster features 10 double-bill concerts, kicking off May 24 and closing July 26.

See below for a detailed roundup of the scheduled performances as provided in the press release announcing the series, and visit for more information.

May 24 at 6:30pm
Besnard Lakes with The Ponys

The Montréal-based psychedelic and ethereal indie rock group, The Besnard Lakes, open the Downtown Sound series on the heels of their highly acclaimed, recently released new CD, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. Featuring husband and wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goereas, they come to Chicago following a two month European tour.

Coming back from a two-year hiatus can be hard for any band, but The Ponys have managed to return stronger then ever. Now, the Chicago rock group is poised for their first summer tour in two years, and is excited to play to a hometown crowd in Millennium Park.

May 31 at 6:30pm
Hum with Volcano!

Reuniting sporadically over the past ten years, Hum continues to pop up and rock out Chicago every so often. Millennium Park is proud to present the Champaign-Urbana rockers in their first show in Chicago in over a year.

The post-punk, experimental band Volcano! loves to play Chicago. Their performance as part of the Downtown Sound series will be their first hometown show of the summer, and will, no doubt, provide a sneak preview of their greatly anticipated new album, Insurance, expected to drop in early 2011.

June 7 at 6:30pm
She & Him with Hollows

The indie/country fusion sound of She & Him is as alluring as it is unique. Conjuring a comparable bittersweet, dreamy and romantic mood prevalent in their 2008 debut, the much sought-after duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward will promote their innovative new album, Volume Two, with a highly anticipated addition to the Downtown Sound series this summer.

Comprised of four women and one lucky guy, Hollows is not your typical pop-punk garage band. Rooted in Chicago's DIY punk scene, the group is pumped to bring their fresh and distinctive sounds to the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

June 14 at 6:30pm
Tony Allen with Great Lake Swimmers

Master drummer Tony Allen has released countless albums, and played shows worldwide for over forty years. Born in Nigeria and living today in Paris, Allen has long been acknowledged as Africa’s finest kit drummer and one of its most influential musicians, who helped create the style of Afrobeat.

The ambient, unassuming sound of the Great Lake Swimmers has become a welcome staple of the folk music scene. Coming off the release of their fourth studio album, Lost Channels, the Canadian folk rockers are making multiple U.S stops including this can’t-miss performance in Chicago.

June 21 at 7:30pm (note late start time)
The Books with Via Tania

The New York based duo of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong have been on the forefront of electronic folk for over ten years. Their library of recorded sound samples includes a quickly growing collection of video, which they intend to use on stage as well as in installations and film. Their new album, The Way Out, will hit stores this spring.

The folky, electro-acoustic Via Tania is so appealing, she was able to build a loyal following, even before she had an album officially released. A native of Sydney who has been part of the Chicago music scene for the past decade, Tania Bowers is spending the summer touring in support of her new album, Moon Sweet Moon.

June 28 at 7:30pm (note late start time)
Huntsville with On Fillmore featuring Nels Cline

Huntsville is one the most successful experimental, Americana bands ever to come out of Norway. Fresh off the release of the double disc Huntsville: Eco, Arches & Eras, (one disc is live, one disc is new studio material) the band is making a rare U.S stop in Chicago as part of Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays.

Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and bassist Darin Gray have been busy as of late. Over the last year and a half, On Fillmore has released its fourth studio album, Extended Vacation, and found time to score the soundtrack to J.T. Petty's film, "Blood Red Earth.” Look forward to this mid-summer show featuring the experimental, progressive duo joined by Wilco guitarist Nels Cline.

July 5 at 6:30pm
The Thermals with Disappears

With their new hit single “Canada” drawing national attention, Portland indie rock group The Thermals looks to continue their success by performing everywhere from Shanghai to Chicago. Their recently released fourth album, Now We Can See, is full of hi-fi power, raw punk energy combined with brilliant melodies and intelligent lyrics.

The minimalist rock sound of Disappears has been a welcome addition to the Chicago music scene for some time now. In support of their new album, Lux, due out in mid April, the band is setting off on a summer long, nationwide tour, which happily includes a stop in Chicago at Millennium Park.

July 12 at 6:30pm
Caribou with The Budos Band

Daniel Snaith, aka Caribou, has been perfecting his psychedelic, electronic sound for over ten years. With his new album, Swim, expected to drop early this summer, Caribou is working overtime doing both a full European and American tour.

Coming off their ‘Anti-Spring Break’ tour in which they played only venues in the Northeast and Canada, The Budos Band will bring their funky, afro-beat sound to the warm summer nights of New Music Mondays.

July 19 at 6:30pm
Kid Sister with Konono N°1

After exploding onto the national music scene with the hugely popular single “Pro Nails” featuring Kanye West, Kid Sister’s (Chicago’s own Melisa Young) star has been on the rise. With the release of her album, Ultra Violet, and her new single, “Day Dreaming”, featuring Cee-Lo, her first hometown show of the summer is without a doubt a can’t-miss.

The internationally renowned Congolese street band Konono N°1 ushers in a distinctive change of pace to Downtown Sound with its powerful, ‘junkyard sonics.’ The group’s new album, Assume Crash Position, recorded in Kinshasa, DR Congo, is due out in May.

July 26 at 6:30pm
Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens with Bomba Estéreo

New York-based Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens bring their unrelenting, powerful sounds to help close out this year’s Downtown Sound series. They were last seen in Chicago in the fall, bringing down the house at the final night of World Music Chicago 2009 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The electro-tropical sound of Bomba Estéreo has been known worldwide for almost a decade. Organized by Simon Mejia in 2005 and featuring the fierce sounds of Liliana Saumet, the group plays an explosive dance-fusion of electronic dub and hip-hop, mixed with Colombian rhythms like cumbia and champeta. With their newest album, Blow Up, less than a year old, this last performance of the Downtown Sound series is sure to be full of fresh Colombian flare.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Video: Soft Speaker - 'Tennyson Tea' (live)

Last month we gave you a heads up about the quality new EP, Stranger in the Alps, from Chicago's Soft Speaker. Now, the band have some video to go with with audio. See below for an excellent live performance of one of the EP's tracks, "Tennyson Tea," from the release show at Darkroom on February 26.

Soft Speaker's next gig is coming up this Friday, March 19 at Hideout, with Cains & Abels and Village ($8, 10 p.m., 21 and over - tickets here).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Record review: The Whigs - 'In the Dark'

By Colleen O'Neill

The third full length album from Athens, GA-based trio The Whigs is, from the ground up, a work of straightforward lyrics and edgy beats likely to please fans of recent musical trends blending elements of alternative, stadium rock and country. While less derived from punk than previous efforts, the record continues to emphasize a loud, fast, ear-catching sound.

The album opens with arguably its best and most interesting track, "Hundred/Million," in which lead singer Parker Gispert quips, “There’s a hundred million people in my mind/which is me and which is not?” The song kicks off strong with a talented effort from drummer Julian Dorio and Gispert's rock-twang delivery. From here the album stays relatively consistent, creating an atmosphere likely to draw in fans of early 90s rock, with heavy guitar and vocals and simple-yet-poetic lyrics.

In the Dark makes it clear that the band has shifted its focus to a bigger sound. After a tour with Kings of Leon, the impact of large scale venues has seemingly broadened the Whigs' horizons. With the help of Ben H. Allen, the producer behind Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, The Whigs have crafted a sound more suited to fill arenas and entertain music festival crowds.

Is this sound the record label wants, or the true sound of The Whigs? That's not entirely clear, as the line between a marketable sound and genuine musical development can be very thin. While In The Dark is overall a quality effort to expand on their underlying style, the band might still have to work out a few kinks in order to reach a broader audience while coming off as completely sincere to their existing fans.

The Whigs will come to Chicago on their tour supporting the record for a show at Bottom Lounge on Friday, April 23 ($15, 8 p.m., 17 and over). Click here for tickets.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Show preview: Four Chicago Roots Collective acts at Subterannean, 3/19

The Chicago Roots Collective - a cooperative of area musicians that work together to get their music heard - has a show set for Friday, March 19 at Subterannean featuring four great acts - The Shams Band, Derek Nelson, Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts and Miranda Rae.

Regular readers might already be familiar with Derek Nelson from our posts on the talented folk-rock singer songwriter (click here for a review of his debut EP, Something Obscure, and here for information on a free download of live material). The Shams Band, who head up the Collective, play a passionate blend of Americana, classic rock and blues that scored them the distinction of "breakout act" at the 2009 Bluegrass and Blues Festival. Midwestern folk-rockers Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts have been praised by the likes of RedEye Chicago and Radio One Chicago, and recently released their sophomore record, Middle West. Miranda Rae is a songstress with a wonderfully-jazzy, silky-smooth voice.

Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 the day of the show. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m. Click here for tickets and check out the promo video below for a sample of each act's sound:

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Assembly ready new LP, play Lincoln Hall on 3/26

Those of you who have been reading for a while might remember that we highlighted The Assembly as one of the best up and coming Chicago bands of 2008. Their then-new record, The Tide Has Turned (reviewed here), was wonderfully dark and atmospheric-yet-accessible electro-rock made even more impressive by the fact that it was self-produced and the group's first LP.

Later this year The Assembly will return with a new record, tentatively titled The Future Has Been Sold, and in the meantime will headline a gig at Lincoln Hall on Friday, March 26 ($8 advance/$10 at door, 10 p.m., 18 and over, tickets here).

According to frontman Dave Suh, the forthcoming material is more inspired than ever by old school post-punk and goth rock a la Peter Murphy, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and Psychedelic Furs. For a sneak preview, download a rockin' demo of a new song, "Without You," below, and be sure to check out the band later this month at Lincoln Hall.

Download mp3: The Assembly - "Without You" (demo)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Video: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound soulify a Wilco classic

I don't think "soulify" is really a word, but that's the most accurate term I could think of to describe Chicago-based JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound's recently-released cover of the renowned Wilco track, "I am Trying to Break Your Heart." The video for the song came to my attention this week, and as a major fan of cover versions that reinvent instead of merely retread, I just had to post. Check it out below.

They've also released the track as the B-side to their new single, "Get It Together." The band will play two shows this month at Tonic Room (2447 N. Halsted) - Wednesday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 24.

Pitchfork Fest 2010 lineup additions: Broken Social Scene, Panda Bear and more

As already reported by Jim DeRogatis, Greg Kot, our friends at Loud Loop Press and probably a bunch of other places, Pitchfork Music Festival has announced some additions to its 2010 lineup. The new announcements to the fest, scheduled for July 16-18 in Chicago's Union Park, include Broken Social Scene, El-P, Animal Collective's Panda Bear, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Bear in Heaven, Titus Andronicus, Freddie Gibbs, Dam-Funk, The Smith Westerns, Girls, Cave and Allá.

That brings the lineup announced so far to:

Friday, July 16: Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, El-P

Saturday, July 17: LCD Soundsystem, Panda Bear, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Raekwon, Titus Andronicus, Bear in Heaven, Freddie Gibbs, The Smith Westerns, Dâm-Funk

Sunday, July 18: Pavement, St. Vincent, Lightning Bolt, Girls, Cass McCombs, Here We Go Magic, Sleigh Bells, Cave, Allá

Stay tuned for additional lineup announcements, and pick up single day passes for $40 here. Three-day passes have already sold out.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Show review: Baby Teeth at Hideout on 3/4

Contributed by Colleen O'Neill

Chicago’s Baby Teeth took the stage at Hideout Thursday night, playing to a crowd of over 50 fans and testing new tracks for an upcoming album.

The band reverted back to their original lineup with keyboardist and lead singer Abraham Levitan at the helm, bassist Jim Cooper and drummer Peter Andreadis. The small lights flashed as each member stepped onto the stage and began to play one by one, until the melodies synched up and into their opening track “The Part You Play.”

The set oozed with the contagious pop melodies of the album Hustle Beach, with tracks such as “It’s Hard to Find a Friend” and “Let it Roll.” Each member of the band belted in harmonic symphony into their microphones, bringing to the stage a strength in vocals that is much more apparent live than on their recordings.

The atmosphere was lively and in tune with the band as fans danced, cheered and tightened closer to the stage as the heartfelt track “It’s Hard to Find a Friend” began.

The band’s attempt of filling the small homey space of the Hideout with vibrancy was successful. “There is something about the DNA of this place,” Levitan said. “You don’t feel like you have to play the hits. You can take more chances.”

The chances they took included replacing setlist spots normally reserved for sing-along tunes such as “The Simp” with newer songs slated for the upcoming release. The crowd danced along to new tracks “Banter 2.0” and “Space,” the latter described by Levitan as a song about severe depression.

Their latest work sounds equally as nostalgic as songs from Hustle Beach and The Simp, however seemingly more developed, providing a greater balance between music and lyrics. Songs are written by Levitan as a project of “52 Teeth,” a blog that follows the songwriter's thought process and inspiration as he cranks out one song per week. This approach seems to work well for Levitan, who stated, “it’s usually the songs that you write quickly are the better songs.”

The band ended their set with the energetic title track from Hustle Beach, leaving the stage to hang with friends, fans and locals. Baby Teeth are a band to watch, as they continue to mature their pop rhythms away from their seventies comparisons and into their own unique style.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weekend show picks: The Magnetic Fields, Fruit Bats and more

The Magnetic Fields

Unfortunately some good stuff happening this weekend is already sold out (such as Robyn Hitchcock at Schubas), but there's still plenty of worthy live music options to choose from:

Friday, March 5

- Judson Claiborne at Hideout - Release show for the Chicago act's new record, Time and Temperature. Sonoi and Eiren Caffall will open. 9 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Foreign Born at the Empty Bottle - Also with Free Energy and CLOVERS. 5 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, March 6

- Fruit Bats at Lincoln Hall - Also with Blue Giant and The Singleman Affair. 10 p.m., $14, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Gauge at Bottom Lounge - Also with Runner, American Heritage and Big Science. 10 p.m., $10, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, March 7

- The Magnetic Fields at the Harris Theater - Also with Laura Barrett. 7:30 p.m., $35, all ages (there is also a show on Monday night that will feature a different setlist). More info and tickets.

- The Heligoats at Schubas - Record release show. Also with Ami Saraiya and Robert Sarazin Blake. 8 p.m., $7, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Piercing Music: Q&A with Chicago musician Derek Porter

Piercing Music isn't a band. It's a collective of musical projects fueled by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Derek Porter and a host of talented friends with a fixation on songs themselves rather than functioning as a single, set group of musicians. This creative force has resulted in material that spans sounds, from gentle, acoustic fare to spirited girl-group indie pop. "If this could be a typical band, it would," reads the project's online bio. "But it's broken its own rules, amok with newfound freedom."

It's an intriguing concept that's produced some truly inspired music, and the very talented Porter took some time out to tell us more about it:

WCR: Piercing Music is a pretty unique approach to indie music. Tell us about how it started and how instead of forming a single band or performing just as a solo artist, you came to create a project comprised of subgroups.

DP: As for bands and the solo route, I’ve definitely been down those roads before. I’ve been performing in bands since high school and as a solo artist for three years. I love working within those definitions, but they can feel constraining. Piercing Music allows me to organize all my concepts without getting lost in the rhetoric of, “Where should this go?” or “How can I make this song work for this group?” With the ability to subscribe my songs to different groups, I give the songs precedence and allow them to find the right voice. So it was really just a matter of establishing a broader concept so that my main thing, songwriting, could thrive.

Earlier this year one of the groups, Little Sisters, released a record called Can't Get No Understanding. How would you describe the material on the record, and Little Sisters in general?

Little Sisters features my sister Erika and my friend Chloe on vocals. The songs on Can’t Get No Understanding were, from the outset, written for their voices. Doing a girl-group project allowed me an opportunity to explore themes I normally veer away from and to really get outside of my own head for a minute. I think the songs reflect that bit of freedom. They’re a ton of fun and have moments of sheer ridiculousness. So writing specifically for Erika and Chloe was a real drive for the project. I’d had them as background singers for my solo material, but I knew they could hold their own, too. The other drive behind the project was my interest in feminism. I’ve tried my best to understand relations between the genders and the hardships women undergo. These songs are an artistic stab at the questions I have and the hope that I see. The song “Bound by Your Bars” was the first I wrote for the project. It talks about how, on the surface, it seems like women aren’t oppressed. It seems like nothing is out of place. But when all things are factored in, there are countless impediments they face which prevent them from being fully considered as people. It’s tragic, but male is considered more normal. Writing songs like those on Can’t Get No Understanding are my reflection on those kinds of problems.

You're set to put out a 6-track collection of songs called Strangers, Vol. 1 on March 15 as simply Derek Porter. Tell us more about it in terms of inspiration and stylistic focus. What can we expect to hear?

Stylistically, the record is lush, acoustic based. The vocals are breathy, almost whispered. I think those aesthetic choices reflect the lyrical themes. It’s got a darkly delicate feel, which matches the concepts of memory and distance. It’s one of those intensely personal records that are still relatable.

What about some of the songs in particular? Are there any on the release you are most proud of or excited about?

The pair “I Remember” and “I Forgot” typifies the record for me. They’re two sides of a coin. The whole album wrestles with memory. Sometimes we’d like to remember; sometimes we’d like to forget.

Download mp3: Derek Porter - "I Remember" (from Strangers, Vol. 1, out March 15)

Who or what would you cite as some of the biggest influences to your music and why?

Strange as it sounds, David Bowie has had a huge influence on me, even though it’s not always up front in my music. He’s adventurous and that’s inspiring. Literature also works its way into my songs. I love poetry and couldn’t help but be affected by the great romantics like William Wordsworth or Lord Byron. They’re in there. They inspire me to really dig into my songs and find the same stuff they write about.

How do live performances work for Piercing Music, since the project is made of up varying participants with varying material? Does a performance span members and material from all of the subgroups?

Piercing Music groups do performances on their own, but from time to time, we get together and have a big to-do. Lately, when performing as a collective, we’ve been featuring Little Sisters heavily. That material is well-suited to live performance. But we also have a quieter section of the set dedicated to the folksier side of Piercing Music. Various songs by a group I put out a couple of records with, A Toothless Life, are featured, as well as songs from Strangers and other releases that I’ve done solo. The coolest part about Piercing Music live is singing with my sister, Erika. We’ve really learned how to complement each other. It’s always encouraging to hear how well our voices blend.

After the release of Strangers, Vol. 1, what's next for you and Piercing Music?

Volume 2 is coming up quickly! I’m planning on releasing it sometime in 2010. I’ve got four other solid concepts in the works for records by Derek Porter, so the future is incredibly bright. I’ve also got a project with my good friend Bob Besser ready to record. He’s a gifted songwriter and I’ll be featuring him as the first Piercing Music artist whose songs aren’t entirely written by me. Piercing Music is coming together as a collective again on April 23rd in Normal, IL for a benefit show. A friend of ours is trying to give medical aid in Africa and is raising funds to make the trip possible. It’s a feel good thing.

Where can people go to find out more about Piercing Music and its various projects?

Strangers will be available on Bandcamp on March 15 at

Can't Get No Understanding is on iTunes.