Friday, October 29, 2010

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Two locally-based bands – Brighton, MA and Young Jesus – have been selected to take part in a Red Bull-sponsored event that will send them on a documented cross-country tour down Route 66. The tour kicks off right here with the two bands playing Kinetic Playground tonight, and will end in L.A. where one will win the opportunity to record at Santa Monica’s Red Bull Studios
  • Chicago indie duo Pinto and the Bean have gotten into the Halloween spirit by creating a ghostly video (floating heads!) for their tune “Midnight Monsters.” Watch it here
  • Greg Kot of the Tribune and our music blogging comrades at Loud Loop Press gave their takes earlier this week on Monday night’s LCD Soundsystem show at the Aragon
  • Over at, Jim DeRogatis took at look at Local H frontman Scott Lucas’s new releases from both his original band and his more recent Scott Lucas and the Married Men project
  • If you’re still looking for a music-filled way to spend Halloween weekend, don’t forget to check out our recent roundup of live music Halloween picks around Chicago

Audio: Interview and live music session with Village

Posted by Susan Schomburg

As part of my podcast, I recently caught up with Stephen Ucherek and Mike Racky of Chicago band Village. They let me tape their musings on their origins as a band, their music and their upcoming performance (TONIGHT, Friday, October 29) at recently-revamped music venue Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. The bill also includes recent SubPop Records addition Jaill and fellow Chicagoans Team Band. The venue opens its doors at 8 pm and the show starts at 9 pm ($10, advance tickets available here), but in the mean time, have a listen to Stephen and Mike shooting the breeze and Stephen playing some solo songs on the Indiesomnia! Green Room Sessions podcast. It should be a good time, in more ways than one.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Show review: The 1900s, Shapers, Verma at Fireside Bowl, 10/26

Posted by Andrew

Finally, a chance to acquaint myself with the legendary lanes of the Fireside Bowl. Listening to Allister eulogize the historic Logan Square bowling alley in junior high, I had no idea it was located in the city I grew up in the suburb next to. What better introduction to the Fireside than with a couple of bands that Chicago can claim its own.

Verma started off the night with wah-powered jams reminiscent of instrumental Flaming Lips and Spacemen 3. The term psychedelic will be used all too prevalent with this band, hopefully more as a description rather than a pigeonhole. The reverb-laced female vocals allowed the bowling alley to breathe more vertically than horizontally. Driving tempos and hypnotic bass carried the set full steam ahead. Catch them again at the Empty Bottle on November 5th as part of the Giant System showcase.

Show preview: Black Mountain and The Black Angels tonight at Metro

Posted by Sasha

Black Mountain
Check out the Chicago leg of the "Dropout Boogie Tour" tonight, October 28th. This double helping of the harder side of psychedelic is sure to rock a few faces off as The Black Angels and Black Mountain come in from Texas and Canada (respectively) to grace the stage at Metro.

It's hard to tag either of these bands, as the original psych genre and its reverberations through the '90s sound limp compared with the full-blooded rock that Angels and Mountain play. They're certainly inspired by decades past, but they sound as though they've infused the sounds of the 20th century with new adrenaline. The Black Angels are perhaps the poppier of the two acts, loaded with upbeat riffs and hollered lyrics. Black Mountain plays a range of powerhouse rock, from straight-up bluesy numbers to some proggier madness. I remember rocking out to their debut back in '05 and their sound has only gotten better since.

Tickets to the show will set you back $19. Doors open at 8 p.m., the show starts at 9 p.m., and it is 18 and over.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Show review and photos: Gary Numan at Metro, 10/26

By Mike Sullivan

One of the most iconic pioneers of electronic music made a welcome stop last night to a full house at Metro. Gary Numan played Chicago on his current tour supporting the 30th anniversary and re-issue of his classic album, The Pleasure Principle, which is considered one of the most influential albums since the birth of the genre. Numan and the record have inspired many noteworthy musicians such as Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson and David Bowie, to name a few. Many artists have also sampled his music - Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At," for example, relied heavily on samples from Numan's song "M.E."

When Numan took the stage, he jumped straight into material from The Pleasure Principle, accompanied by a very colorful and vibrant light show. There were intense green, red and blue lights that illuminated the fog-filled room. The set started off with “Random," Airlane” and “Metal." Numan continued on with the rest of the album, ultimately staying true to its original recorded sound.

When he finished playing The Pleasure Principle, though, the show took a really sharp turn. The synths were moved aside to make way for electric guitars. Audience members who were just familiar with the chart hit “Cars” and only wanted to hear similar-sounding songs were in for a rude awakening. Numan continued the set with material that was very much industrial rock, bringing to mind the likes of Trent Reznor and indicating that the industrial movement has now come full circle. He belted out “The Fall," “Pure" and "Haunted," and did an excellent rendition of “Are Friends Electric?” from his early days fronting Tubeway Army.

The performance felt like two completely different shows in one, showcasing the different sides of Numan and surely giving fans their money's worth.

Check out more photos from the show after the jump.

Lupe Fiasco releases new single, does his best Modest Mouse

Posted by Frank

Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to tell when one musician is paying obvious homage to other musicians by sampling them, or if songs are sounding so alike because everything really has been done before?

A mere two months ago it was instrumentation in Cee-Lo's smash "Fuck You" sounding a lot like Chicago's "Saturday in the Park." Now, hometown rapper Lupe Fiasco has released a new single, "The Show Goes On," that's guilty of sounding an awful lot like something else. Take a listen:

Sound familiar? There's no denying that the song is catchy, and I have nothing but respect for Lupe (check out my glowing review of his recent performance at North Coast Music Fest), but I'll be damned if this isn't pretty much a rap version of "Float On" by Modest Mouse. Are you with me?

"The Show Goes On" comes from Lupe's upcoming album Lasers, out March 11. You can purchase the song here.

Show review: Fall Fox, Daniel Lutz, Hope & Therapy, Brother George at Subterranean, 10/21

Posted by Sasha

Brother George
These days especially, it's hard to make retro sound fresh. Everyone's doing it; all the fads of the past century are now in flux. While last Thursday's lineup at Subterranean was full of backwards-compatible tunes, I didn't detect a second of straight mimicry. The evening was headed by Fall Fox and his playful breed of occasionally synth-tipped folk. He switched out guitars between each song, wielding an arsenal of four acoustics, each in a different tuning. Capping off his set with a 19th century Irish folk tune, Fall Fox led perfectly into the ethereal fingerpicked folk of Daniel Lutz, another solo songwriter who could have just stepped out of the '60s scene.

Somewhere between prog and neo-soul, Hope & Therapy played like a power trio from a future with no need for guitars. Dan Deck cranked some incredible tones out of his Kramer under the powerful vocal melodies and keys of Hope Gaines. Their sound felt removed from time, simultaneously weighted with classic influence and careening off toward the unknown.

Brother George, conversely, seem to know exactly their place in time. Sporting some gorgeous vintage gear, they played like the harbingers of classic rock for the digital age. I felt like I was watching a fresher, more current version of The Band in their heyday, with a good deal of humor in their persona. Brother George didn't just wear the classic vibe; they mastered the sound from the inside. The viola bass, Telecaster, and vintage hollowbody rang out like they used to before the dawn of the humbucker. The tone on the hollowbody was so good that at the start of one solo, I swore there was a fourth human voice squealing out of the stacks. It blew my mind. While it's easy to fall into cliche when drawing so much on rock's early days, Brother George proved that even the most tired genres can be reinvigorated with the right energy. 

Check out more photos from the show after the jump.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Show preview: Sleigh Bells at Metro, 10/27

Posted by Andrew

No need to go into any backstory on this band. Assumedly, if you are reading this blog you read at least one other music blog. Since within the past year, and I am not exaggerating, literally every single music blog has had a piece on Sleigh Bells, you are probably already familiar with their incredibly rapid rise to indie fame. And with a rise that rapid comes the inevitable “is it deserved?” Personally, I think Sleigh Bells are great. Treats is one of my favorites of the year. It manages to capitalize on the raw sound of the demos with an added intensity. It is perfect in the sense that it is perfect for right now. It is the sound of 2010. It avoids '60s pop and folk sentimentalism or '90s indie throwback. It’s got drum machines, but lacks any '80s sensibility. The amount of compression leaves no doubt that I am suffering permanent hearing damage listening to them. But live? Well, it’s all just reproduced by similar speakers that you can listen to at home. So what’s the appeal? Essentially, it comes down to the "I was there" bragging rights. These guys easily could have played the Metro or possibly the Riv at a decent, all-ages hour. Instead they opt for a midnight show in the middle of the week. Brilliant.

A persistent theme for Sleigh Bells is a commitment to and respect for transience. Eleven tracks in 32 minutes for their debut LP. That output is begot by guitarist Derek Miller’s attitude toward song writing. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune this week: “I kind of disown everything I do. When I'm recording it, I'm totally committed and really excited, like, ‘Wow, this is great!’ Then I turn on it immediately.” Write, record, and move on. Caleb Followill be damned. Sleigh Bells could very well be the band that puts out two albums and disappears. For my time, I’ll take two fantastic albums over a box-set of shit (I said looking straight into Caleb’s eyes). Miller teases us: he and vocalist Alexis Krauss have already started working on more material, but are too busy touring to record anytime soon. In town this week, hopefully we’ll get a sneak peak of things to come.

Take Thursday morning off like I am and come out for a late, late Wednesday night show at Metro. Pictureplane open and tickets are still available.

Get ready for Tomorrow Never Knows 2011

Posted by Frank

Summer is behind us and harsh winter months are going to try their best to cramp Chicago's live music style, but never fear: Tomorrow Never Knows music fest will return from January 12-16, 2011 for its seventh installment courtesy of Schubas and Lincoln Hall. Sure, you might not be able to watch the bands while relaxing in the hot sun making fun of wacky hipster outfits, but a music fest is a music fest. And TNK '11 should be one well worth attending. This year Schubas and Lincoln Hall have partnered with Metro, adding a third venue to the festivities. The three will host plenty of excellent bands - local and beyond - over TNK's five days, a portion of which you can see below.

Starting this Friday, October 29 at 12 p.m., you can purchase $75 five-day passes as well as $15 single-day passes to the fest at the websites of all three venues. 

Tomorrow Never Knows 2011 initial lineup:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Schubas: Special Guest with Generationals, Drink Up Buttercup and Pet Lions
Lincoln Hall: The Helio Sequence with Guests

Thursday, January 13, 2011
Schubas: Markéta Irglová with Sam Amidon, Jeremy Messersmith and Guest
Lincoln Hall: Besnard Lakes with Special Guest, Lia Ices and A Lull

Friday, January 14, 2011
Schubas: Special Guest with Fol Chen, Apache Beat and BRAHMS
Lincoln Hall: Mystery Jets with Title Tracks and Guests
Metro: Freddie Gibbs with Rita J and Guests

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Schubas: The Boogers (daytime Family Series show),
The Concretes with The Red River and Special Guests (evening show)
Lincoln Hall: Handsome Furs with Guests
Metro: To Be Announced.

Sunday, January 16, 2011
Schubas: Human Tim/Robot Tim (daytime Family Series show)
S. Carey with Darwin Deez, Young Man and Sea of Bees (evening show)
Lincoln Hall: Little Dragon with Alex Winston and Guests

"Special Guest" denotes a confirmed act TNK cannot yet announce.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Show review: The Postelles at Hideout, 10/23

Posted by Bobby

New York City's Postelles were in town for their first Chicago gig at a crowded Hideout Saturday night, playing the combination of an underground rock show and a sock hop without chaperones. It seems that many fans of rock and roll long to have been around when the culture was birthed from late-1950s attempts at perfecting modernity, so the Postelles’ stylistic connections to rock’s early days are irresistibly charming. Saturday night’s show was proof of that for local fans, and the NYC edge to the band’s material and looks allowed the crowd to enjoy it without having to feel uncomfortably innocent.

It should have occurred to me earlier that while I was listening to and mimicking the Strokes at 19, somewhere there were kids like the Postelles who were doing it at 12 - and you know, the earlier you get started the better. The young band performed as a confident unit at Hideout, seeming at ease on stage and at ease being cool. Lead singer Daniel Balk's delivery stretched between a croon and a squawk in a manner that made dancing seem urgent, and guitarist David Dargahi pulled off dynamics with one guitar that most bands need two to achieve. Also - and I can never stress enough how important this is - their songs were good. You can't fake that. I was among several in the crowd who had never seen the band, and they all left singing the songs. In a time when it’s so hard for musicians to get people’s attention, I'm pretty sure that's the desired effect.

There were a lot of big shows going on Saturday in Chicago, so it was nice to see so many folks show up and welcome these fellas. The will be returning to Chicago next year on the heels of their new album, and next time they may need a bigger room.

Record review: Margot and the Nuclear So and So's - 'Buzzard'

Posted by Bobby

Buzzard, the recent release from Chicago-based Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, is an album you should have if you plan on sitting on your porch and attempting to breathe in the extremely temporary, but no less potent, Midwest Autumn. It is filled with a bittersweet acknowledgment that beauty and sadness are indeed co-conspirators and that we'd do well not to forget it.

Before hearing the first note, I was fan due to the fact that the Buzzard's album art is so arresting. The girl on the cover stares back at potential listener like they've just caught her in the middle of something intimate, but she's not sure if she is going to ask them to leave… in fact, fuck it - maybe they can stay. The cover shot was taken by Chicago photographer Stephanie Bassos, and the rest of her portfolio is similarly radiant and darkly mesmerizing.

The first track, "Birds," establishes a theme throughout the album wherein lead vocalist Richard Edwards draws you in with sweetness and sincerity that eventually evolve into darker revelations. A soft round riff sews its way through the verse in a melancholy, inviting manner and once accepted the invitation explodes into a chorus of "lets have a party, lets have a party." By the second chorus, though, the request is the much more serious "lets have a baby, lets have a baby," and by the third - "lets make it evil, lets make it evil" - things are still exciting, but, as with the photo, we become a little unclear about just what we've walked in on.

The album moves deftly between beer guzzling guitars and tight vocal harmonies shifting between fun and loss in ways Wilco and Andrew Bird are familiar with. If all the songs stayed in that territory they would no doubt grow increasingly harder to remember, but there are also songs that take you into surreal emotional landscape, like the excellent "Tiny Vampire Robot," a song Wayne Coyne would envy. It is also very appealing to see Margot get a bit cocksure and show some swagger on "Your Lower Back." Later, "Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic" sheds a sad little light on crazy girls searching for love just like everybody else.

The production is crisp and visceral, giving the album the ability to blend a live excitement with ethereal grandiosity. The textures of the guitars give the songs an immersive quality that makes you feel as though they're surrounding you. The last track, the acoustic "I Do", is a distillation of the sweet, the lonely, the sad and mysterious that seems to reflect the record as a whole.

Upon finishing Buzzard, I was glad I had listened to it straight through, as an album, to get the satisfaction of the total package. I also felt like - forgive me the melodrama, but it is that kind of album - all the bowls had been smoked, no one needed anymore beer, leaves would continue to pile up in the gutter (but not for long), and maybe it always feels like the world is ending.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New single, video from Shapers

Posted by Frank

Following the release of their debut album, Little, Big, early this year, locally-based experimental rock act Shapers are preparing to drop a new 7" single November 16 on Whistler Records. "Virginia Reel," a raveup tune which you can hear and see the band perform below, will be backed by "Happy Birthday Polywog."

You can also currently grab a free mp3 of "Virginia Reel" via the Whistler Records website.

Next month Shapers will be heading east for their first mini tour, but also have two home city shows on the schedule: Tuesday, October 26 at Fireside Bowl (with the 1900s and Verma) and Monday, November 15 at the Empty Bottle.

Virginia Reel from SHAPERS on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tonight: The Postelles at Hideout

Posted by Bobby

It has been a while since the last album from the Strokes - a long while. And while their orphaned leather-clad children stumble from surf rock band to surf rock band, the Strokes are up in their New York City tower concocting a fourth studio album. But that's not all they've been doing. Take Albert Hammond Jr., who has been producing the Postelles, the newest young talented New York City prodigies of cool. If you like Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly and also Miller High Life, then maybe you should be at the Hideout tonight, October 23, where the Postelles will be performing as part of the excellent Life During Wartime lineup.

9 p.m., folks. $8. It should be remembered that sometimes out of the froth-filled mouth that is the indie rock hype machine, great music sometimes spills forth.

Here's the video for the single "White Night":

Friday, October 22, 2010

Show review: Benoît Pioulard, Mark Sultan at the Empty Bottle, 10/21

Posted by Andrew

Mark Sultan
The Empty Bottle hosted quite an interesting pair of shows Thursday. What the night began with certainly wasn’t the shape of things to come by its end. Chicago duo Battleship opened with droning pieces akin to LaMonte Young and Double Leopards. Semblances of rhythm were occasionally audible before entropy would take over and erupt into cacophony. A projection of repeated and filtered video behind the band enhanced the trancelike qualities of the music. Their connection with the early show headliner Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) was apparent in that both artists create soundscapes more appropriate to film rather than solely music in itself. What I had noticed most about Pioulard’s set was what was not there. There was no backing band. There was no break in between songs, which in turn allowed no acknowledgement between audience and performer. The music itself alternated between a stripped down rural aesthetic and the conceptual and looping characteristics of William Basinski. As Pioulard is quite the proponent of incorporating found sound in his music, I had to think for a moment if the cell phone beeps emitted through the speaker were purposeful or possibly a serendipitous comment on the performance. No matter how isolating and bucolic the music feels, the threat of social connectivity is always imminent. The haunting tone of Pioulard didn’t quite transcend to the live performance, but new album Lasted (out now on Kranky Records) makes a great soundtrack for the autumn.

So after the more experimental and avant-garde artistry of the early show, the punks started to fill up the venue for the late one. When Chicago’s Mickey took the stage, an immediate restoration of energy was felt. Frontman Mac Blackout’s numerous journeys into the crowd ignited everyone around. The backing music sounded as if the New York Dolls kicked their own asses: it was glam without being posh, with nods to both T.Rex and '50s rockabilly. Keep an eye out for their debut LP out on Hozac Records.

The band were a perfect opener for Mark Sultan, aka the latter half of King Khan & BBQ Show. Performing solo with a bass drum and snare at his feet - not to mention some very powerful pipes - Sultan managed to eliminate the blundering one-man band stereotype. I couldn’t help but imagine Ted Leo on the Mississippi Delta. The soul and remorse of blues combined with the emergency of punk created both a playful and emotional atmosphere. A swaggering tune of heartbreak could easily transition into a searing blast-beat accompanied by ear-piercing screams. Since Sultan controlled the drums, tempo changes sucker-punched throughout the whole night; it's the next day and I still can’t find that missing tooth.

Sultan's live show is certainly not one to be missed. Luckily, he’s coming back in a week. Catch him with Deer Tick at the Bottom Lounge on Saturday, October 30th. In the meantime, pick up $ (also streaming on his website), out now on Last Gang Records.

Record review: The 1900s - 'Return of the Century'

Posted by Frank

For a band whose core style so perfectly conjures the 1960s, it's remarkable how fresh The 1900s sound on their sophomore full-length, Return of the Century. While the Chicago sextet's debut LP, 2007's Cold & Kind, was a solid collection of beautiful folk-pop melodies and top-notch performances, it came across as unquestionably retro, stirring visions of love beads and flower children through and through. That approach certainly worked well for the group, but when they hinted at a more adventurous outing during the recording of the album's follow-up, it was an intriguing idea - so long as they wouldn't abandon the elements that made them so likable in the first place. Thankfully, The 1900s have succeeded brilliantly at striking a balance on Return of the Century, seamlessly merging their '60s sensibilities with crisp modern pop production and stylistic experiments to create their strongest release yet.

According to the band, "Return of the Century tells the story about an underground world where people's minds are held in thrall in the name of spiritual advancement," loosely based on the story of the woman who took off to the desert for "strange and troubling adventures." That reads like pretty heavy stuff, and the record is indeed lyrically thought provoking - descriptive yet cryptic in its ideas. When vocalist Jeanine O'Toole sings lines such as "I'm not so sorry that I took you along, you only saw me naked once" and "There's a big landmine under this little house" in the reflective, narrative "Tucson," for example," you get the groundwork of a compelling story, but are ultimately left to decide exactly what you want to make out of it. There's a definite tale threaded through these 11 tracks, but in the end it's as much about your imagination as The 1900s' - and that's part of what makes it so appealing.

Also noteworthy are the album's pristine production and range of moods. Everything pops, and the warm, rich vocals of co-lead singers Jeanine O'Toole, Edward Anderson and Caroline Donovan are wisely placed front and center atop gorgeous orchestration. On "Lay A Ghost," O'Toole's distinctive phrasing works alongside a lilting beat and sing-songy verses to create a sense of playfulness, even if the lyrics don't necessarily follow suit. ""Bmore" and "Lions Fur" are breezy and downright lush. The atmosphere of "Overreactin'" is hypnotic and sultry (again, with plenty of help from O'Toole's standout vocals), while "Amulet" and "Sanzimat" have a yearning, uplifting vibe, bookending the album with Anderson sounding more than convincing at the helm. Some of the remaining tracks don't leave as quick of an impression, but unravel with repeated listens. Altogether, these songs add up to a collection of material without any notable weak spots. Return of the Century finds The 1900s fully hitting their stride and proves why the band are often regarded as some of the finest music-makers this city has to offer.

The album is out November 2nd on Parasol Records and available for pre-order now on both CD and vinyl. Check out the first single, "Babies," below. The 1900s have a hometown show coming up on Tuesday, October 26 at Fireside Bowl with Verma and Shapers. Click here for more information.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EP review: Fall Fox

Posted by Sasha

Sometimes amid the masses of bandwidth-choking MySpaces laden with bedroom demos and debut EPs uploaded for anyone to hear, you come across something special. At first, Fall Fox sounds like another guy with a guitar playing open chords into a four-track. And while that may technically be he case, it's the content of those tracks that sets Fall Fox apart in their first foray into digital distribution.

Fall Fox spins their folk-rock with a masterful voice, caught in both the strange and the innocent, teasing the line between songs of yore and songs of not-quite-yet. The debut EP builds a compact and fascinating world, an old diorama in a wooden box housing a scene initially familiar but where things don't play out quite as expected. There's a playfulness embodied in these tracks, something strongly reminiscent of folk tunes for children, but it doesn't give the EP the juvenile or saccharine sound that usually arises when songwriters try to inject their childhood into their work. Mixed with masterfully surreal lyrics, the youngness of these songs feels more like what childhood really was—strange, occasionally frightening, and full of wonder.

“And I'll be your analyst with the morningtime/and I'll be your alchemist when the evening glows,” begins “I Know Thee Well”, a song nostalgic for the antiquated from its title all the way through its string of animal metaphors. It's an upbeat charmer, a song of friendly affection expertly structured with some fantastic lyrical turns. One could easily imagine it on the soundtrack of the latest teen indie flick alongside Kimya Dawson et al, but let's hope it doesn't have to meet that fate quite yet.

The EP slows it down in its middle two tracks. "The River, Moon, and Sparrow" begins with a brief self-amused, Dylan-toned soliloquy before settling into a gentler tale of classic longing. On “Feelings” we hear more than guitar for the first time as Fall Fox underlines their vocals with synth trills and birdsong, creating a digital forest for us to float through. Too often digital intervention with a lo-fi acoustic song can sound icy, the synth harshly cutting in against guitar and vocals, but here the digital glitters perfectly alongside the organic. I couldn't tell you where Fall Fox found this loop. I can only imagine they went into the woods with their four-track and recorded the sunlight wafting through the leaves directly onto tape.

Closer “Raptors”, hilariously listed as both “Live in my bedroom” and as a bonus track (four out of four), starts off slow, surreal and entirely earnest. “When my hands turn to paws, I'll be coming home soon,” the lyrics go. The yearning for the primordial, the return to nature as an animal, becomes as palpable as any human desire, and perhaps more compelling in its strangeness. The song fakes an ending halfway through before picking up the tempo and finishing fast. Maybe the bonus track label wasn't intended as a joke, but the song rounds out the EP so well I find it difficult to believe it was tacked on as an afterthought. And if it was, Fall Fox should continue to trust in their afterthoughts.

While a softness and a sense of wonder are present in these songs, Fall Fox lacks the same gentleness as many of their indie-folk compatriot—and refreshingly so. There's a certain spunk to their spirit, something more akin to acoustic punks Ghost Mice than say, Iron & Wine. Some easy comparisons could be made to the Mountain Goats before they went clean, but John Darnielle took several albums to reach the level of structure in these songs, singing his own breed of meandering, journalistic reflection in his early days. Fall Fox dabbles less in literal introspection and more in the fables of their genre's original pioneers. They weave magnificent tales, pushing the old to the edge in a fresh take on the folk genre. I can't wait to see what more they come up with.

Fall Fox's debut may be downloaded in its entirety for free from their Bandcamp. And for $1.75, you can buy a download package that includes a hemp bracelet hand-made by the band (which they will mail to you in the real world). You can also catch Fall Fox at Subterranean tonight, October 21st at 8 p.m. Daniel Lutz, Hope & Therapy and Brother George will also play.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Q&A: Chicago singer-songwriter Carl Hauck

Posted by Frank

Photo: Phil Hauck
Download MP3: Carl Hauck - "Martial Riesling"

Listening to Windjammer, the new album from Chicago singer-songwriter Carl Hauck, is an amazingly intimate experience. Sometimes sounding a bit sorrowful, sometimes hopeful, Carl gives us close-up look inside his mind with performances that aren't allowed to hide behind heavy instrumentation or overwrought production. It makes his talent crystal clear. Take opening track "Martial Riesling," for example, which sounds about as beautiful and heartfelt as music can get.

Carl has two shows coming up to celebrate the album's November 9th release. The first is scheduled for November 5th at Mike 'n' Molly's downstate in Champaign, which he'll follow up with a November 10th Chicago show at Martyrs.

In anticipation of Windjammer's release and the upcoming shows, Carl took some time out for a Q&A with WCR, filling us in on more about himself and his music. Read on.

This day anything goes: Halloween show roundup 2010

Posted by Sasha

I dig Halloween a lot. I always feel like dressing up like an idiot and it is the one day I get to without being judged. I wanted to be Danzig this year and then I realized I was five foot two and a hundred pounds and also a girl. And I feel that if I tried it ironically, Glenn himself would rise up from the netherworld and destroy me with disdain. So that won't work out so well for me. Maybe it will for you.

If you feel like bringing your costume-clad self to a show this year, worry not, for there's plenty of opportunity to flaunt your dress-up skillz. Here are some of the Samhain celebrations we're most excited about.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Show review: King Sparrow, Pet Lions at Schubas, 10/15

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

King Sparrow (photo: Susan Schomburg)

Last Friday, the sold-out crowd at Schubas' late show saw Chicago rock trio King Sparrow celebrate the release of their first full-length album, King Sparrow, in style.

Show openers This is Versailles got things started with lots of good energy. Their sound is a bit shoutier than I typically like in my rock, but their set was entertaining and got people on their feet. Pet Lions kept things going with their poppy indie sound and a mix of new songs (the band plans to go into the studio to record their first full-length soon) and fan favorites, with many in the audience singing along to tracks off their debut EP, Soft Right. I have to say, I like Pet Lions' live sound a lot--it's fresh-faced and delightful, with rough corners that make you want to come back for more.

But the main event was yet to come. I have to start this review by saying that I like King Sparrow a lot, and I've seen them play live at least half a dozen times in the past twelve months. They work hard, and it pays off--they always sound good live. But last Friday, they went above and beyond. I have never heard them sound better than they did at their record release. And from the enthusiastic cheers from the crowd after each song, neither has anyone else. They were polished and note-perfect, without sacrificing the raw vitality that is the centerpiece of their sound. They are a rich, gritty three-piece rock ensemble that fills a room with sound (not just volume), and I really can't recommend them, their live show, and their new album highly enough. They are one Chicago band you should get on your radar right now, if not sooner.

King Sparrow's self-titled full length is available for download and online streaming here. Check it out now, thank me later.

This article also appears on

Get ‘Bad Math’ from New Ruins, see them live this Wednesday at Schubas

Posted by Frank

Photo: David J Cubberly
Champaign-Urbana rural rockers New Ruins will be in the Windy City this Wednesday night, October 20, opening for Sub Pop’s Avi Buffalo at Schubas. In anticipation of the show, we’ve got a free download of their track “Bad Math,” which is the A-side of their latest 7” single. Grab the rockin’ tune below.

MP3: New Ruins – “Bad Math”

In December, New Ruins will record their third album, the follow-up to 2009's We Make Our Own Bad Luck. The new album will be produced by Brian Deck (Red Red Meat, Ugly Casanova) at Hum singer/guitarist Matt Talbott’s Great Western Record Recorders studio downstate. As part of the sessions, the band plan to record a brand new version of “Bad Math" in addition to new material.

Wednesday night’s show starts at 9 p.m. and New Ruins play second, after Whisker Music. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.

Chicago musicians head to NYC for CMJ 2010

Posted by Sasha

For six years, the Chicago Showcase at CMJ has brought some of the Windy City’s best music to the Big Apple. If you’re in the New York area this week, the 2010 lineup isn’t one to be missed.

Scott Lucas and the Married Men will play Wednesday the 20th at The Local 269. Lucas of Local H fame explores a softer side of rock with this outfit, carrying the intensity of his primary band into a more personal place. While Local H are known for their instrumental minimalism, Lucas proves that his writing can thrive against the rich Americana backing of the Married Men’s talents, complete with accordion, violin and slide guitar.

The bulk of the showcase will play on Friday, October 22nd, also at The Local 269. Kicking off the evening will be Unicycle Loves You, a dream pop trio caught somewhere between the sounds of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Trompe le Monde-era Pixies. Their latest album, Mirror, Mirror, came out last month and can be purchased and streamed in its entirety on the band’s website.

Nathan Xander & Witchouse, who recently celebrated the release of their new 7” through RWIM, will follow with their bluesy Americana. Xander’s complex and introspective writing evokes the sounds of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Jason Molina alike, swinging from dark folk quiet to jubilant country stomps.

Originally from Florida, the foursome Jonny Rumble moved to Chicago after their homes were destroyed by hurricane Jeanne in 2004. Since then, they’ve gotten up to some trouble, the most recent of which includes the release of their newest LP. The record, entitled simply JR, is a full-on romp through their classic rock-inspired post-punk, tongue-in-cheek and entirely fun. Think of them as the States’ answer to Maximo Park. The record is available as a free download here, where you can also buy it on vinyl.

Tom Schraeder and His Ego will also bring their airy Americana to the mix. This will be Schrader’s second performance at CMJ, having also played at the fourth Chicago showcase. Schraeder’s gentle songwriting evokes alternately the indie-folk stylings of Phosphorescent and Wilco’s layered alt-country.

Also on the 22nd, The Streets On Fire will play Kenny’s Castaways. Their fierce, danceable post-punk plays out dark, desperate and gritty as hell. This is Fancy, their latest album, demonstrates both their bitingly snarky side and their ability to soar to epic heights on swells of static. The record can be streamed and purchased on their website.

Shows are free with a CMJ pass. Check out the rest of the CMJ goings-on here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vinyl giveaway: Black Prairie (feat. Decemberists members); Schubas show 10/21

This coming Thursday, October 21, Portland folk/Americana quintet Black Prairie (featuring three members of The Decemberists) will be in town for a show at Schubas with locally-based acts Canasta and Honda Pavarotti opening. In honor of the upcoming gig, we have two vinyl LPs of Black Prairie's debut, Feast of the Hunters' Moon to give away for free!

If you want to win one of the LPs, shoot us an e-mail with the subject line "Black Prairie" and your first and last name in the body of the message, and we'll select two winners at random. We'll be accepting entries until 12 p.m. on Tuesday, October 19 and will notify the winners via e-mail once the contest has closed.

Black Prairie was recently started as a side project by the three Decemberists, who joined forces with two other Portland musicians and released Feast of the Hunters' Moon in the Spring. Check out this NPR article for more details on the group and its formation.

Click below to listen to and download three songs from the band.

Show review: Rose Cousins, Edie Carey at SPACE, 10/14

Posted by Sasha

The candlelit back room of SPACE holds the perfect air for these kinds of softly intimate songs, spun by prolific acoustic/folk songwriters Rose Cousins and Edie Carey. Given the right quiet, both can fill a room floor-to-ceiling with nothing but their voice over gently strummed acoustic chords. The sit-down calm of Evanston's gem of a venue housed their sound perfectly as they played to a full and attentive crowd.

While Rose Cousins took the stage first, it'd be wrong to call her the opener. She and Carey have been best friends in the business for some time now. The music of each fit so neatly beside the other that the evening felt unified, more like two friends sharing the latest of their songwriting fruits than a sequence of performances. Cousins began solo, the unflappable wit of her intersong banter contrasting with her sung solemnity.

"I didn't realize we were dressing for a funeral," joked Cousins about her and Carey's matching black dresses. She's got quite the stage presence, funny as hell, bringing the quiet crowd to swells of laughter. Behind her guitar, she's a faraway presence, singing as if from her home in Prince Edward Island, Canada. There's an undercurrent of yearning in her melodies as they weave across such subjects as loss and new beginnings, death and weddings, all carried by an expert craft. The audience sung along to the wordless chorus of "I Were a Bird" and ceased to be merely observing from outside the barrier of the stage; they were sharing, they were part of the event of the song. Cousins doesn't invite singalongs just to see if she can, but to include the room in what she's making in the moment.

When Edie Carey took the stage, more often than not she was accompanied by Cousins, who on piano and guitar rounded out the simple compositions. Harmonies nested in the golden tone of twin Martin guitars lifted the songs to steady heights, and I felt fortunate to be privy to these moments of creation between friends. That sort of human connection powers Carey's lyrics--she's written songs as gifts, as engagement congratulations, as solace. Even at her most introspective, she's creating directly for someone else. Indeed, if Carey's not writing to people she knows, she's writing for characters from fiction that fascinate her. In one of the most moving pieces of the evening, Carey performed what she called a lullaby for Dwayne from the film "Little Miss Sunshine"--though, she added, it was also a lullaby for anyone who's ever been 15 and felt the way he did on the side of the highway, screaming for his suddenly nullified dreams.

And that's the essence of what makes Edie Carey so widely endearing as a performer. The strength in her writing stems from the ability to take specific, personal moments and render them in such a way that the listener feels like part of them. We can picture ourselves in Italy, 20, broke and in love, because of the simplicity and honesty that define her lyrics. Freed from the confines of a recording and humming in the open air, Carey's songs feel even warmer, more familiar and personal. She's as comfortable onstage as if she were visiting with friends and playing old songs written about shared memories.

Edie Carey will be touring the US in support of her new album until December 7th. Tour dates are available at her website, and the record can be pre-ordered (with plenty of extras) here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Video: The Dirty Diamonds - 'Heaven's Plate'

Posted by Bobby

What would happen if Johnny Marr had provided the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings? I have no idea, but knowing him it would probably be badass. Anyway, that's what I found myself wondering during the first half of The Dirty Diamonds' new video for their song "Heaven's Plate." I abandoned the inquiry as the chorus laden guitar merged with tribal chants and melody, and the video was revealed to be a colorful (Lake Michigan?) baptism. Check it out below.

The Dirty Diamonds will headline the Chicago Roots Collective showcase next Tuesday, October 19 at Lincoln Hall. Click here for details and tickets.

Dirty Diamonds - Heaven's Plate from Sean Michael Pheanis on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Show review: Surfer Blood, the Drums at Lincoln Hall, 10/14

Posted by Andrew

Surfer Blood
A couple days ago, we ran a preview for Thursday night's Surfer Blood and the Drums double feature at Lincoln Hall. I am here to attest from the other side that they did not disappoint.

History didn’t fail to repeat as I found myself, just as at Pitchfork this summer, in line for a beer when Surfer Blood took the stage. The lights dimmed, the theme to "Jurassic Park" triumphantly rang out, and right off the bat we were hit with "Fast Jabroni." Unlike at Pitchfork, however (or their Daytrotter session), the band didn’t decelerate their songs’ tempos. Either because it wasn’t 100 degrees out, or the fact that they only played for around half an hour last night, the faster-paced songs allowed singer/guitarist John Paul Pitts to exert an intense energy. The range of this guy never fails to impress, the vocal chords working overtime to hit as high of a decibel level as possible. The anthemic “I’m too young to be defeated” of "Twin Peaks" is a forceful maxim, given an extra boost of reality thanks to Pitts’ passion and honesty. The band played new track "I’m Not Ready" and another yet-unnamed new one transitioned into from the outro of "Harmonix." The only real shame of the show was how abruptly their set ended. But for a band playing their second show within a couple hours, everything was air tight from every bass line to every added cowbell. Recent signees to Warner Bros, it sounds like they're on track to avoid the sophomore slump with their transition to the majors.

If you’re looking for a hook to hang your coat, ask the Drums because they’ve got plenty of ‘em Sorry, that was awful, but I couldn’t resist. I had only heard their album a couple of times before I saw them, but so many tracks were instantly recognizable. Despite a general sound and similar tempo to each song, they all sound really, well, just damn good. Sure, it’s very reminiscent of the Cure, the Smiths and the like, with frontman Jonathan Pierce’s channeling of Morrissey swagger via Jack McBrayer look evoking the adage "dance like no one’s watching." It’s easy to write the sound off as nostalgic, but there’s a reason they craft the sound they do. To listen to the music itself, one would get the impression these guys are happy as the clams found on the beaches they must be relaxing all day on. But lyrically, much of it deals with love lost, growing up and the pressures of life. Set closer "Down by the Water" particularly proves how they can uniquely combine honesty, interpretive dance and fun all in the confines of a three-minute pop song. Play these guys at your next party and get people movin’ their feet.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Q&A: The Pear Traps

Posted by Andrew

The stage is a mask. When a band performs, it’s important to remember that that’s what it is: a performance. Offstage, there could be an entirely different dynamic within a band contradictory to how they pose for an audience. This is clearly not the case with Chicago band the Pear Traps. Hanging out for a drink before a band practice, the guys are all at ease, joking around, acting more as group of close friends that just also happen to make some great music together. Despite the introspective nature of their tunes, there was no tears-in-beers melancholy when we talked. Instead, we chatted about lead singer/songwriter Bryant’s amp building, experimental recording places, and the hopes and dreams to play Chicago’s most elite venues.

Check them out live this Saturday, October 16 at the Mutiny with Bad Bad Meow (click here for an interview) and Videotape, and read on for the interview.

Q&A: Bad Bad Meow

Posted by Andrew

Open mic nights are interesting. A lot of what’s played is good, but nothing mind-blowing or eyebrow-raising. It’s a great platform for an artist to perform live without the pressure of an actual show, to be able to hone their skill while keeping the bar safe from jukebox trolls. But every once in a while you hear a band that actually stands out, that gets the crowd into it. This is how I became introduced to Bad Bad Meow. Originally from North Carolina, drummer Sarah Sydow, singer/guitarist/evil genius Alen Khan and an ever-rotating cast of characters have been kicking around the Chicago scene for the past couple months. If you drop by the Gallery Cabaret on a Sunday night, odds are you’ll see them perform. More interested in a full-length set? Check ‘em out at a free show this Saturday, October 16 at the Mutiny opening for the Pear Traps.

I had a chance to talk with Sarah about her musical bond with Alen, silly band names and Meg White.

Audio: Interview and live acoustic session with Eric Georgevich of King Sparrow

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Chicago band King Sparrow has been busy this fall. Following up on the success of their 2008 Derailer EP, the trio's debut full-length, King Sparrow, sees its official release in grand fashion at Schubas this evening, and it's a really good album. There is a review of that forthcoming, but in the meantime, I recently caught up with singer/guitarist Eric Georgevich, who sat down to talk about the new album and to play a few tracks in bare-bones acoustic manner for my podcast. The live acoustic session and interview are available for online streaming here.

King Sparrow is available in digital format for purchase and online streaming here, and you can also get a limited-edition hand-numbered CD copy at their record release show (advance tickets are recommended, and can be purchased here).

This article also appears on

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Show review: The Walkmen at Metro, 10/13

By Mike Sullivan

photo: Mike Sullivan

New York’s The Walkmen are currently on tour to support their latest album, Lisbon, and passed through Chicago last night to play Metro with opening acts Japandroids and Miniature Tigers. I have been listening to the moody, groovy new record for a few weeks, and in my opinion, it was written to be played live. I’m not knocking the way it was produced or recorded, but really felt the vibe and emotion of the material in a live setting.

The band took the stage in their usual dressy fashion, with button-up shirts, casual pants and vocalist/guitarist Hamilton Leithauser sporting a blazer. The first thing that always comes to mind when I see them is the cast from “Dead Poets Society.” It’s a look that works for them and matches their whole vibe. Anway, onto the music...

This was the first show this year that had my full attention after my usual “three songs, no flash” in the photo pit. Without a camera distracting my ears, I could really appreciate what the Walkmen bring to a live performance. Hamilton’s range and ability to hold a note would leave my vocal chords absolutely destroyed. Matt Barrick was a machine when pounding on the drums during songs such as “Angela Surf City” and “The Rat.” Another notable element was the distinct sound that came out of Paul Maroon’s Rickenbacker guitar, played the way it was designed to be played. Then there was Walter Martin playing an old upright piano that you could have sworn was in your music class in grammar school. Finally, lurking towards the rear of the stage was Peter Bauer on bass, bringing the entire rhythmic sound together.

Their set started off very quietly with an older song, “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone.” Then came some new titles, including “Blue as Your Blood,” a song that has a distinct Johnny Cash-type rockabilly feel. Next, “Angela Surf City” brought things up a notch. It’s a song that starts off slow and then kicks into high gear, and served as the perfect way to wake up some of the people who were just standing around. Next was a track from the You & Me album, “On the Water,” followed by another Lisbon cut, “Woe Is Me.” The band dug further into their vault and played “All Hands and rhe Cook,” “Blizzard of ‘96” and “We’ve Been Had” off of their first two records. They continued to play a mixture of old and new material for the rest of the set, which was a good way to please both new converts and longtime fans.

What I liked most about The Walkmen’s set was that they didn’t play their most recognizable hit, “The Rat,” until almost the very end. In a way, this forced people to stay through the whole show and better appreciate everything that the group have put into their music over the years. Needless to say, “The Rat” is the one song that really lit the crowd up, and you could tell everyone was waiting to hear it. The band closed out the night with “Another One Goes By,” which kept the tempo up and nicely brought the set full circle.

Check out more photos after the jump

EP review: Jon Drake & the Shakes - 'SIDE A'

By Sasha Geffen

Jon Drake and the Shakes know how to layer sound. Each texture within these four competent tracks rings out bright and clean, every sound working fantastically alongside the rest. The swoops of strings and brass sparkle against the bellows of the bass while Drake's vocals glide smoothly on top. He's working with a powerhouse of musicians—there are eight total Shakes, including Drake—and the resulting rich instrumentation works wonders against the writing. SIDE A features the instrumental lushness of a Sufjan Stevens creation while never taking itself quite so seriously.

"Elizabeth Johnston" kicks off hard, bass quadruplets rolling along underneath Drake's overdubbed vocals. The chorus brings us somewhere nearly anthemic as Drake and friends shout along with, I imagine, at least one fist in the air. The song then drops away to apreggiated strings and acoustic guitar, baiting us back to the build and rewarding with its energetic finish.

"Rattles and Snakes" leads us in a more contemplative direction, with its long instrumental introduction delegating Drake's wordless hoots to the background. When the curtains fall away, we're left with acoustic guitar and vox in a somber state. The strings slip back in towards the end of this melancholy passage, but luckily Drake knows how to hold the reigns on melodrama and ensures we don't leave on a sour note. "Gustav" ends the EP with a swingy country romp, rollicking with handclaps and howls before petering out exhausted by the end.

There's a lot you can do with eight talented musicians, but the epic route isn't the only way you can go with a troupe this size. Drake pulls off his rowdy Americana just as well, and probably has more fun along the way. With this tight package of an EP, Jon Drake plus Shakes prove that you don't need to be taking on a masterpiece to sound fantastic.

SIDE A is available to download in its entirety for free at the band's Bandcamp.

You can catch Jon Drake live this weekend at Uncommon Ground with Matt Wilson on Friday the 15th and with the Breakers at Temple Bar on Saturday the 16th. Show details are here and here.

Show review: forgetters, 97-SHIKI, Canadian Rifle at Subterranean, 10/12

Posted by Frank

photo: Windy City Rock
The opportunity to see influential punk rock singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach play live doesn't come about often. Since his days fronting Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil ended in the early '00s, Schwarzenbach hasn't been known for either frequent performances or long-lasting musical projects. His last band - The Thorns of Life -  for example, formed in 2008 and had already disbanded by the end of the following year. So when his new band, forgetters, announced an October Midwest tour that included a Chicago stop last night at Subterranean, fans jumped at the chance to come out and hear what the new project is all about.

Two locally-based acts opened the night. Three-piece Canadian Rifle came on first and played a short set of straightforward punk rock. The vocals inched a little too close to doom metal-ish growling for my personal taste, but the band sounded tight and got the blood pumping.

Next up were 97-SHIKI, who played a few other shows with forgetters on the tour. It's not often I can mention a band as sounding original since by now pretty much everything's been done before in the world of rock and roll, but this band sounded pretty damn original. It's hard to describe what they had going on, but picture this: angular, avant-garde punk, spastic singing, funky bass and some occasional trumpet. I don't know how that sounds on paper, but in person the band's set was highly entertaining departure from the same old thing.

Considering that forgetters have so far only released a four-song 7", I wondered what direction their show would take and how long it would last. After taking the stage, the trio - Schwarzenbach, bassist Caroline Paquita and ex-Against Me! drummer Kevin Mahon - played a loud, rocking set that was about an hour-long and consisted of a few songs off the introductory release and mostly new, yet-to-be released material. Two songs off the 7", "Vampire Lessons" and "The Night Accelerates," were highlights. Of the released songs, these best present the band's style: hard-hitting rock with a punk edge and a mind for hooks. Much of the unfamiliar material sounded just as promising, if not more. Schwarzenbach was pretty low-key and down-to-business, but he did seem to be in good spirits and made a few snarky jokes to the crowd. The audience was also a bit more subdued than might have been expected, but the fact that most of the material was new to everyone's ears and it felt about 90 degrees in the room probably had something to do with it. Hopefully forgetters will stick together long enough to record a full-length and return for another show so that fans can sing along next time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Show preview: Surfer Blood, The Drums at Lincoln Hall, 10/14

Posted by Bobby

The Drums
Two bands who have shared a meteoric rise to indie pop fame this year will be together at Lincoln Hall this Thursday, October 16. This is very exciting stuff. Both Surfer Blood and the Drums are known for their revivalist beach pop. Oceanic melodies, hooks that recall the 80s (especially from the Drums) and slacker indie style are all sure to be in attendance. There are two separate shows due to demand - one at 7 p.m. and one at 10 p.m.

Also of interest: the Drums will be playing without guitarist Adam Kessler. Kessler quit the band quite suddenly a month ago, leaving the remaining three members of the band "devastated." The Drums are continuing their U.S. tour with the help of a replacement guitarist and have yet to definitely state what direction they will go in following the tour.

Bands who rise to fame as quickly as these two have to face an extreme amount of pressure, so it will be interesting to see how they are handling it as their first major U.S. tour rolls out. I wish them the best, as they are two exciting new acts with some really excellent songs between them (please insert your own heavy handed riding the wave pun here).

Ticket giveaway! Dan Black, The Glamour in Chicago, 10/21

Look alive! We have a pair of tickets to give away for British electro-pop artist Dan Black with The Glamour at LaSalle Power Co. (500 N Las Salle) on Thursday, October 21.

To get in the running,  just send us an e-mail with the subject line "Dan Black" and your first and last name in the body of the message, and we'll select a winner at random to receive spots for you and a friend on the guest list courtesy of FanFueled. We'll be accepting entries until 2 p.m. CST Thursday, October 14. Update 10/14: We now have a winner and the contest is closed. Thanks to all who entered!

Good luck!

Show review: Young Man, Yawn at Schubas, 10/12

Posted by Andrew

Young Man
Despite a less than stellar turnout, two Chicago groups gave it their best at Schubas last night.

With the four members of Yawn lined up in a row at the front of the stage, the collective sound of their EP translated visually; the myth of the leading man evaporated into the textured sounds the band created. With instrument swapping and layered vocals and percussion, Yawn reminded us of what is meant by the word "band." Particularly impressive was their ability to transcend the studio tricks and pull off a live sound reminiscent of their recorded material. Equal parts melodic and rhythmic, using instruments and samples alike, Yawn could only have picked the verb for their namesake ironically. Playful leads over tribal beats set the general tone before set closer "David" showed off their ability to convey noise and screams as a euphoric release of tension. What could easily take an entire chorus and drum circle was accomplished by four guys on a small stage on Belmont Ave.

Headliner Young Man, celebrating a record release, closed with a bittersweet set. With tunes that would have been more appropriate for a setting sun on an early May evening, the audience was forced into the reality that these last nice days in Chicago won’t be here too much longer. That in mind, Young Man’s set savored every last above-70-degree day this city will give us. Live, it was clear that this band is not entirely dependent on brainchild Colin Caulfield, as the jazz-inflected rhythms of the tour drummer add another layer of depth hidden on their recorded tracks. Bold chord choices reflected a hazy Sondre Lerche if he were to settle down in the Midwest. I’m reluctant to call the music ‘chill,’ but it is certainly relaxed and comfortable. More appropriate for a road trip headed east as opposed to bumming around a SoCal beach. There is a certain nostalgic factor, but more so derived from the apprehension of growing up as opposed to a strict desire to perpetuate youth. The band also elicited a greater energy live than recorded, recalling guitar-based rock from the 50s and 60s without sounding retro. A cover of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” was especially poignant: a song from an era past played at the present about the future. To say the least, change over time is important for Young Man, and we hope to see the band continually evolve.

Next up, Young Man travels to New York for a slew of CMJ shows in support of just released EP Boy, out now on Frenchkiss Records. Yawn is currently recording for an album due out next spring, with a five song EP (and remix EP) available for free at their website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Show preview: First Aid Kit at Lincoln Hall, 10/13

By Sasha Geffen

If The Knife distills Sweden’s winter into icy electric beats, then First Aid Kit must be a glimpse of what their homeland feels like in the sun. Gorgeous lilting harmonies hover over fingerpicked acoustic guitars in this luminous breed of folk. Their cover of Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up” is a stunning track that perhaps surpasses the original. The original tracks are full of yearning beyond their years, evocative of the likes of Joanna Newsom and Neko Case. These winsome Swedish sisters recorded a Daytrotter session last month which can be streamed or downloaded here.

First Aid Kit will headline Lincoln Hall this Wednesday, October 13. Lionlimb and Ferraby Lionheart will also be playing the show, which is 18 and over and starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance here.

Listen to “When I Grow Up” below.

When I Grow Up by First Aid Kit

Monday, October 11, 2010

Record review: Project Film - 'Chicago'

By Sasha Geffen

It's not an untold story: Converse-clad indie kids start band, record poppy lo-fi, come to the big city in search of fame and success and possibly groupies. But Project Film and their debut album Chicago emerge from a more detailed history. Minneapolis natives Sam McAllister and Megan Frestedt launched into Chicago's music scene not through their band, but through the label Tandem Shop Records, conceived a few years back during a conversation at a party in their home town. They've signed the acclaimed acts Mr. Bear and Levels (formerly Honest Engines) and are now pushing their longtime personal side project onto the label's center stage.

The duo's DIY ethic powers both their managerial and musical work; Tandem Shop fosters collaboration with other student artists (both McAllister and Frestedt are college seniors) in their album art and promotional materials, pushing to be involved in the greater Chicago artistic community while also remaining self-reliant. As such, McAllister recorded every instrument on Chicago himself in his studio apartment in the city.

The result is a charming, dreamy debut full of layers and turns. “Minneapolis” eases in slow with a hazy ambiance that's soon cut into by clean acoustic guitar and spatters of drums. Almost immediately, the track evokes that distance between its eponymous city and the album's. The 400 miles are tangible and heavy, like we're watching them glide by through the glass of a train window. “Minneapolis far and near, will your buildings please appear?” asks McAllister of his home, crafting a sweet (but never cloying) nostalgia.

Listen to My My My's new single, see them live 10/15

Posted by Frank

MP3: My My My - "War Party"

Just a few months after the release of their latest album, Leather Silk (reviewed here), Chicago indie pop troupe My My My are back with a brand new non-album single called "War Party." Having heard the band perform the song during their Summerfest set back in July and noting how awesome it sounded, I was stoked to find out they didn't waste any time recording a studio version. The tune is just as great as I remembered hearing live, featuring a killer chorus, driving beat and some very cool new wave synth. It just might be their most infectious track yet.

The band are celebrating the release of "War Party" with a show this Friday, October 15 at Subterranean with Secondary Modern, Steve Stone and The Hudson Landing. My My My come on at 9 p.m. and will be giving away free copies of the single. $10, 17 and over. Click here for tickets.