Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New record label kicks off in Chicago

Posted by Frank

Chicago music lovers, welcome Audio Tree, the city’s newest record label.

The indie label has positioned itself as having a unique approach in dealing with artists, with an emphasis on preserving and promoting each musician's vision. As described in a press announcement this week, “Their mission is to work with artists from various backgrounds to push good music to the forefront where it belongs. Empowered by various partners within the music scene, Audio Tree is able to provide their artists with an extensive network of resources to assist them on their journey, as well as provide them with a hands-on approach and independent feel.”

Audio Tree will not only function as a label, it will also host live sessions with artists and stream them via its website every Wednesday. A handful of sessions are already live, and this week's installment will feature The Shams Band.

Click here to learn more about Audio Tree.

Interview: Diamond Rings

Posted by Andrew

John O, under the moniker Diamond Rings, is forever forward thinking. For John, inspiration can and does come from anywhere although it always seems dependent on contradiction and blurring distinctions. The current glam posterboy could just as easily have ended up playing professional basketball. For all of the Bowie comparisons, John seems more often to reference Gordon Lightfoot as a greater influence. He’s got connections with plenty of fellow, yet dissimilar Canadian acts such as PS I Love You and Fucked Up. What makes John so interesting is his ability to draw from such a variety of fields. Read about his influences, artistic philosophy and picks for the ultimate NBA dream team after the jump. Get your glitter on with Diamond Rings this Wednesday, December 1st, at the Empty Bottle and pick up the recently released Special Affections (Secret City) while you’re there. Charlie Deets opens.

November show recap: Molehill, Magic Kids, White Mystery

Posted by Bobby

Molehill - November 4th at Joe's on Weed St
November began with something that was a bit unexpected for me - a Bret Michaels concert. A sold out Bret Michaels concert. The VH1 star packed them into Joe's on Weed St. on November 4th, but it wasn't Bret I was there to see. I was there for Chicago indie rock outfit Molehill, who were opening up for him. I knew Molehill could thrill a venue, but was curious to see how a room full of folks who had come to see the old rocker would react. They loved it. Molehill had a crowd there as well, but what really grabbed my attention was the way the newcomers dove right in. Frontman Peter Manhart played solos and rhythm while darting back and forth around the stage like a sixth grader who had too much Mountain Dew. I was delighted at the reception the crowd had to new, original and edgy songs. Luckily, Peter's guitar packs them so full of hooks that their nearly burned in the brain by the time the songs are over. The rhythm section sounded fantastic, with bassist Trevor Jones locked in to the drums and bringing the proverbial funk. All in all, it was a big stage and it welcomed Molehill with open arms.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Show review & photos: Gold Motel, Moneypenny, United Federation of Planets at Subterranean, 11/27

Posted by Frank

Gold Motel (photo: Windy City Rock)

Lately Gold Motel have been spending a lot of time away from home, playing their summery guitar-pop to West Coast crowds alongside the likes of fun. and Kate Nash. On Saturday, the quintet brought some sunshine back to chilly Chicago via a headlining set at Subterranean.

United Federation of Planets started the evening off with a brief set of energetic, straight-up pop-rock featuring catchy choruses and lots of guitar. On their MySpace site the band describe themselves as sounding something like "old Weezer meets old Jimmy Eat World meets Social Distortion," which is pretty much spot-on. At one point they mentioned that it was their first official show, which was a bit of a surprise considering how tight they sounded. I suspect we'll be hearing more from them.

Next up were Moneypenny, whose style was a noticeable departure from the other acts on the bill. Comprised of local DJ Chess Hubbard (a.k.a. DJ Mother Hubbard) and Jessica Gonyea (who was previously a member of Office) - as well as two other musicians who added beats and guitar - their sound focused on sexy, attitude-drenched electronica. Gonyea was a ball of energy and entertaining to watch, dancing around the stage and pouring an extra-large helping of personality into her vocal duties. Although somewhat removed from the kind of music most in the crowd likely showed up for, Moneypenny's set was a jolt of fun.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Weekend show picks: White Mystery, Bear Hands and more

Posted by Andrew

White Mystery
What am I thankful for? Family and friends of course, but living in a city that’s home to a strong music scene is at the top of the list as well. Plenty of local talent we’ve showcased on the site before are sticking around home for the holiday weekend and some are even giving back with free shows; the best deals aren't found only at retail outlets, folks. Check out our Thanksgiving weekend picks. Enjoy: 

Wednesday, November 24th:
- White Mystery @Cole’s (FREE) (21+)
(Watch the red-and-white-all-over video for 'Power Glove' filmed at the Empty Bottle)
- This Must Be the Band (Talking Heads Tribute) @Bottom Lounge (18+)
- Empires, King Sparrow @Subterranean (17+)
(Check out an interview and acoustic set with King Sparrow's Eric Georgevich here) 

Friday, November 26th:
- Bear Hands, Netherfriends @Schubas (18+)
(Here's a recent interview with Shawn Rosenblatt of Netherfriends. Keep an eye out for their second Daytrotter session)
- Bad Bad Meow @Gallery Cabaret (FREE) (21+)
(This is not a band you want to sleep on. Catch 'em for free while you can and read an interview with drummer Sarah here)
- Tame Impala, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs @Double Door (21+) 

Saturday, November 27th:
- Gold Motel @Subterranean (A/A)
(Refresh your memory with this interview and music video from May. Don't forget the chapstick)
- Bird Names, Distractions @Empty Bottle (FREE w/RSVP) (21+)
- Calm Palm Vapor @Panchos (FREE) (21+)
(CPV continue to remain busy on the heels of the EP Morning Pacific reviewed earlier this month)
-Voice of Addiction @Mutiny (FREE) (21+)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Earlier this year Chicago duo Pinto & the Bean took to social networking to come up with their moniker, and now they’re looking for help with a song title. The tune in question is a lively, two-minute little ditty that even whips out a bit of trumpet. You can check out an mp3, lyrics and supply your suggestion at the Facebook event page the duo set up.
  • Many Chicago music fans have been abuzz about last night's Grinderman show at the Riviera. We sadly weren't there, but thankfully our pal Richard Giraldi of Loud Loop Press recounted the performance in his Sun-Times review.
  • Last week we briefly mentioned that a new 7” single was on the way from charmingly breezy Chicago pop act Gold Motel (along with commenting on how one of their songs was randomly used in an Italian chapstick commercial). Since then the band have revealed that the single will drop on November 30. It’s currently available for pre-sale here.
  • What better holiday for some skanking than Thanksgiving? Classic Windy City ska band Heavy Manners are back and are set to play this Friday, November 26 at Beat Kitchen. Skapone and The Crombies are also in the lineup. The show will be dedicated to accomplished Chicago sound man Mark Zerang, who died from cancer two weeks ago. Zerang was the band's long-time sound engineer.

Show preview: Native at Beat Kitchen, 11/27

Posted by Sasha

Those of you who enjoy tornadoes of sound, I have business for you. On Saturday, Native will be coming in from Indiana to headline a thoroughly punk rock lineup at Beat Kitchen. The midwestern foursome likes shouty vocals as much as the next guy, but especially likes throwing them over complex and unexpected guitar lines. They're craftsmen of post-hardcore and pack their gigs with electricity and danger. Also playing are Castevet, Cloud Mouth, and Noumenon, all from Chicago. Castevet do a sweet take on classic punk, while Cloud Mouth destroys with epic, spaced-out post-hardcore. Noumenon will open with their dancey math punk (self-dubbed "party math"), loaded with flickery guitar riffs and good times.

All four sets are sure to line your ear canals with land mines in the nicest possible way. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show will start at 7:30. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview: Manwomanchild

Posted by Frank

Download MP3: Manwomanchild - "Day of Reckoning"

Manwomanchild had me at first listen. I've had the band's songs on repeat ever since I decided to try out their debut EP, which is packed with Bowie-like glam-rock cool, intriguing lyrics and ear-catching hooks. At the helm is David Child, who started the project in Rhode Island in 2008, but now resides right here in the Windy City. Since becoming a part of the Chicago music scene, he's been steadily working on new material and assembling new collaborators for the band. I can't wait to hear what he comes up with next. In the meantime, David answered a few questions for WCR to get us all better acquainted with Manwomanchild. Read on to find out more about his background, what he's got in mind for the future and how he managed to go viral in Chile.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gold Motel's makeout music

Posted by Frank

I really dig Chicago indie pop band Gold Motel. Apparently, hot Italian people do, too. The band’s snappy tune “Perfect in My Mind” has been featured in a chap stick commercial from Italy that features a bunch of pretty people making out in various situations, like frolicking in a grassy field or hanging out at an Italian hipster party. Because, as we all know, that’s what happens when you wear chap stick and listen to summery indie pop. Here’s the clip:

Gold Motel will soon drop a new 7” vinyl, Talking Fiction, including two new songs to follow-up their recent full-length debut, Summer House. They’ll be holding a Stickham chat on Monday, November 22 to announce details of the release and answer other fan questions. They are also set to play a hometown show on Saturday, November 27 at Subterranean. Click here for tickets and more details. For even more Gold Motel goodness, check out our interview with frontwoman Greta Morgan.

Lollapalooza will expand to Chile in 2011

Posted by Frank

Lollapalooza is going international. The music festival's promoters announced this morning that in addition to continuing in Chicago, Chile will now have its very own installment starting next year.

The website for the Chilean Lollapalooza is already live, revealing that it is set to take place from April 2-3, 2011 in Santiago's O'Higgins Park. This will mark the first time Lollapalooza takes place outside of the U.S. since it began as a traveling fest in 1991.

As reported by Greg Kot of the Tribune, Chile was selected because it "boasts a similar urban setting to the Chicago festival, with easy access to hotels, restaurants and clubs." Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell had this to say:

“Local talent is essential to rounding out the experience of a Lollapalooza...Some of the Chilean artists booked for the Santiago festival will also be invited to next year’s Chicago Lollapalooza."

Lollapalooza has been a yearly fixture in Chicago since 2005. The next local edition is set for August 5-7, 2011.

Show preview: Big Star tribute at Schubas, 12/15

Posted by Frank

Ask power pop fans to name some of their all-time favorite albums, and one or more of Big Star's three classic 1970s LPs, #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers, will more than likely be at the top of the list. For good reason, too - all three are packed with stunning and timeless songwriting (if there's a power pop song that surpasses "September Gurls," I have yet to hear it). Not only does Big Star stand out among their '70s peers by having paired some pretty dark, heavy themes with meticulously crafted pop-rock music, they have a storied history to match. It's a history marked by depression, untimely death and the struggle to be heard - in fact, it wasn't until long after the band's original tenure that their music received significant recognition. To add to this troubling history, two founding members - Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel - died within a few months of one another earlier this year. Still, the fantastic tunes live on, and a group of Chicago musicians will show how much the band means to so many people by paying tribute to them on Wednesday, December 15 at Schubas.

"You Get What You Deserve: A Tribute to Big Star" will feature Steve Frisbie (of Frisbie), Tom Szidon (of The Joy Poppers), Mike Zelenko (of The Ladies & Gentlemen, and who also played drums in another excellent-yet-ill-fated power pop band, Material Issue) and John San Juan. The group will celebrate Big Star's legacy by taking on some of the band's greatest songs. As a bonus, Village - one of the finest bands Chicago has to offer currently - will open the night. No power pop fan in Chicago will want to miss it.

8 p.m., 21 and over. Tickets cost $8 and are available here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Essex Chanel releases 250th song, offers entire catalog for free through 2010

Posted by Frank

Travis Lee Wiggins & friends (photo: Melody Van Wagner)

Over the past couple of years we've occasionally written about Travis Lee Wiggins, a locally-based, multi-talented artist who is pretty much a music-making machine. Since starting Essex Chanel in 2005, Travis has released 11 LPs under that moniker, in addition to other concept-based projects such as a collection of 42 love songs and 67 songs meant to be used in car commercials. And Essex Chanel is only one out of a handful of his projects. Considering most musicians are lucky to release 12 songs every few years, that's pretty impressive. This month Travis is celebrating the release of Essex Chanel's 250th song, "The Good Times," which he is offering for free download here:

MP3: Essex Chanel - "The Good Times"

The track is upbeat, toe-tappin' folk pop that's a good example of Essex Chanel's emphasis on melody, playfulness and orchestration. Travis says it's the first Essex Chanel track to use saxophone, clarinet and tuba, for which he solicited the help of some fellow musicians.

If you want to hear more, the entire gargantuan Essex Chanel catalog is currently available for free download. Hurry up, though, because it'll only be free through the rest of 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview: Tunng

Posted by Andrew

Tunng (photo: tunng.co.uk)

Rock critics, myself not excused from this group, have an awful habit of defining bands by genres. We do our best to describe a band with the least amount of syllables, no matter how silly the terminology becomes (I’m looking at you, chillwave). For London-based Tunng, the inescapable handle is sure to be "folktronica." Describable enough in a concise manner, but there’s still something missing. The name excludes the subtlety of the electronic side and the intensity of the folk side, most apparent on the track "Don’t Look Back or Down" (mp3) off their latest album, …And Then We Saw Land (Thrill Jockey). By being defined alongside Four Tet and Caribou as the key acts of folktronica, the flashes of Califone or Grizzly Bear get left behind. But again, such pigeon-holes are created to save time in our ever increasingly rushed world. On the off chance that you’ve got a minute, check out our interview below with Tunng vocalist and guitarist Mike Lindsay, in which he discusses the band's ever-evolving sound. On the even more off chance that you have a couple hours, catch Tunng at Schubas tonight (9:00, 21+).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Matthew Friedberger of Fiery Furnaces to release six solo LPs in 2011

Posted by Frank

Beginning in January, Chicago's Matthew Friedberger - one-half of brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces - is planning to roll out a series of six solo albums on Thrill Jockey Records throughout 2011.

Friedberger will kick off his Solos series with Napoleonette, featuring only the piano and his vocals. For a taste, check out a free download of one of the tracks, "Shirley," below. Each subsequent release will feature a different instrument and a new album will drop every two months. The six LPs are being sold as a subscription series, currently available for pre-order here. According to the Thrill Jockey press release: "...Each will be packaged in fully artworked jackets. The last album will be delivered to subscribers with an exclusive bonus of two exclusive full-length albums, featuring Matt and special guests on each. Subscribers will also get an LP box - old-style 'Tip On' with a hand mounted photo - in which to keep the Solos LPs. The edition of Solos is strictly limited to 700, and Solos will not be available digitally or on compact disc in its complete form."

Friedberger is also planning to record the ninth Fiery Furnaces LP with his sister Eleanor before Christmas. 

Download MP3: Matthew Friedberger - "Shirley"

Monday, November 15, 2010

EP review: Derek Nelson & the Musicians - 'Riders of the Tide'

Posted by Frank

To my taste, folk and Americana-based rock can be especially hit-or-miss. It is a genre susceptible to sounding all too similar from one artist to the next, so an impressive level of talent in both performance and songwriting is essential to standing out. Late last year, Chicago folk-rock singer-songwriter Derek Nelson came out of nowhere with Something Obscure (reviewed here), proving without a doubt that he had what it takes and quickly generating buzz around the city. Honestly, the style of music wasn't one that I'd typically get so excited about when played by lesser musicians, but Derek and the EP had something special going on that I couldn't ignore. The songwriting was certainly there and its creator sounded like a natural. One year later, then, I was glad to hear that Derek has returned with a new EP, Riders of the Tide. This time he's joined by a full band dubbed simply "the Musicians," resulting in a fuller, more powerful sound that brings a new dimension to the music and definitely does not disappoint.

Show review: The Blow, Blair at Empty Bottle, 11/13

Posted by Andrew

Khaela Maricich, 'The Blow' (photo: myspace.com/theblowus)

Following their monthly Handmade Market, the Empty Bottle continued with the artistic theme Saturday night, turning the already intimate venue into a performance arts space.

Blair kicked things off with a set of primarily comfortable and pleasant-enough indie rock. For roots deep in New Orleans and self-proclaimed influence of Neil Young, neither the Bourbon St. swagger nor free-world-rocking translated well into the live show. Rather, flashes of a more decorative Mirah or a female-led Boy Least Likely To came to my mind. The shyly performed vocals hide the clever lyrics heard more clearly recorded but I have to admit set closer "Hello Halo" remained stuck in my head for quite a bit.

Once you think everything’s been done with pop music, along comes an artist like Khaela Maricich, under current stage name the Blow, whose live performance is as interesting to watch as her name is difficult to pronounce. And I choose the words "artist" and "performance" not by accident. This was not a conventional rock show in any sense. Many in the crowd couldn’t hold back their ‘less talk, more rock’ hoots and hollers when Maricich went into one of her trademark monologues between songs, or at least until she called them out on it. Although generally recognized as a solo outing, the Blow’s recent performances have been aided by artist Melissa Dyne, who controls the music and lighting from offstage while Khaela handles the singing and dancing front and center. The only musical accompaniment she created was a finger tapping on the microphone to an otherwise a capella set opener. The entire premise of the show, which Khaela first premiered almost a year ago, details her supposed collaboration and relationship with Lindsay Lohan (although she is never mentioned by name). But beware; for all of the avant-garde concepts the Blow pursue, there are quite a few infectious pop gems along the way, and the crowd was more prone to dancing/head-bobbing than aesthetic critique or pretentious discourse. Tracks like "Parenthesis," "True Affection" and the Police referencing pseudo-rap "Come On Petunia" show the playful manner that Maricich contrasts with the highly personal and passionate nature of her lyrics. Always a paradox and never predictable, it is more appropriate for the Blow to continue to alter and enhance the live performance rather than release another recorded collection of songs.

For more from Khaela Maricich’s own mind, check out a recent interview with the Trib here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Record review: Calm Palm Vapor - 'Morning Pacific'

Posted by Sasha

We've all seen collaborations between differently specialized musicians reap some pretty great creative rewards, and Calm Palm Vapor can be counted among them. Southsiders Pierogi and secretwars have teamed up in a union functionally similar to that of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, the two halves of The Postal Service. With the former manning melodies and the latter on beats, these two have combined efforts to create a full-length of breezy electronic pop, which they describe as "space motown" or "dreamstream."

Calm Palm Vapor's sound, however, is hardly derivative of the aforementioned collaborative project. While the Death Cab/Dntel lovechild reached the heights that it did by emphasizing the contrast between its two sources, Pierogi and secretwars blend their respective sounds into something that sounds completely natural. The vocals and guitars don't sound like organic outsiders in a world of glittering, icy machinery; instead, it's often difficult to pick out the analog from the digital on Morning Pacific. Guitars weave effortlessly into synths over the bones of honest-to-God real drums while the vocals cruise on above. On "Everyday We Grow," a pulsing alien growl tangles roots with peppy, off-the-cuff basslines while sheets of guitars and vocals fall translucent in the foreground. For its deep textural medleys, it's one of the most compelling tracks on the record.

Voice of Addiction among bands to play Chicago punk fest Sunday night

Posted by Frank

On Sunday, November 14, nine Chicago punk bands will rock Reggies at the first ever Wrecking Ball Punx Fest. One of the headlining acts, Voice of Addiction, is a band I've heard about quite often in my time covering the Windy City rock scene, but only recently got the chance to explore. What sets the trio apart from many of their peers is that while they are definitely rooted in punk, they stretch beyond the genre's usual boundaries and create a sound that's consistently driving yet varied.

The DIY unit delivers a layered, brash sound marked by hard high-hat drumming, harmonic strumming and a hard-rocking, singing bassist. Ian Tomele's impassioned bellow is set over loudly contained drums and a dramatic guitar that creates a sound that is as captivating as it is catchy. Politically-charged, VOA reminds us loudly and clearly that the world continues to have plenty of problems to get charged up about. While many punk bands base their music on creating complete pandemonium, the band takes it to another level, inducing the energy of an old school CBGB show. Check out their most recent release, Re-evolution, to hear for yourself.

At the Wrecking Ball Punx Fest, VOA will share the night with The Infected, The Neutron Bombs, Anxiety High, No Two Waynes, Bill Ura Dik, Modern Day Rippers, Hawkbit, and The Revision Plan. The show is 17 and over and begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance here. The band's newest single, "September Remembered" is available here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Show review: Marnie Stern, Heavy Cream, Electric Hawk at Empty Bottle, 11/10

 Posted by Andrew

Marnie Stern
I am not impressed on technical skill alone. I need some dirt in my music. Three chords do more for me than excessive guitar solos. Lyrical content is highly valued, too. Last night at the Empty Bottle, I managed to find two bands that encapsulate these extremes, and one that engineered the gap between them structurally sound.

Chicago’s Electric Hawk started off the evening with a sludge of low, low bass countered by a screeching wah. Instrumental metal combined with a math textbook defied any expectation of an easy groove; a bar line could just as easily cut short as well as extend an extra beat. While the trio’s ability to keep time with each other proved their technical abilities, it was difficult to tell where one song ended and another began. Following this was proof that punk rock exists in Nashville and has been adapted extremely well. Heavy Cream breathes fresh air into a genre that too easily goes stale in 2010. Jessica’s charismatic vocals were fueled by the chemistry of Daniel and Melissa’s drum/bass rhythm section. Mimi played her Explorer as naturally as she looked comfortable strapped into it. The barrage of sub-two-minute songs managed to do a lot with a little. The abbreviated set left more to be desired and I mean that in a good way.

The culmination of the evening combined the technical proficiency and ferocious energy of the two opening acts. If Marnie Stern is known for anything, it’s her finger-tapped guitar style adapted for indie rock ears. Set opener "Nothing Left" erupted through the speakers, setting the tone of the Kaki King meets Hella noise-pop. How the tour drummer was able to recreate Zach Hill’s recordings is beyond me, and although I’m not sure, he may have had five arms to accommodate the frantic syncopation necessary to follow Stern’s six-string prowess. Her ability to play lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously proved she is one of the most creative guitar players making music today. I’m sure that every possible note on her guitar was played; not a fret on any string was left unassaulted. In between song banter deserves a mention as well, with Marnie detailing her (ex)tour manager’s (ex)sex life as well as relating the influence of her beef with the Best Coast/Waves couple on her merchandise. The only faults to be found involved unnecessary feedback towards the end of the set, along with similar song structures that became redundant by the evening’s end. But to be sure, Marnie Stern has found a unique voice that outshines in an all too foggy music world. Missed the show?  Pick up her latest album, Marnie Stern, out now on Kill Rock Stars

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Windy City Rock is joining many of our Chicago music blogging friends and Betta Promotions to take part in an upcoming show well worth putting on your calendar. The show will be at Subterranean on Saturday, December 18 and feature White Mystery, Hollows, Rabble Rabble and Radar Eyes. Click here for more details. You can get tickets starting Saturday, and stay tuned for more details including a video discussing all that is amazing about the Chicago music scene.
  • Over at vocalo.org, Jim DeRogatis shared his thoughts on the “lovably crappy Logan Square punk club” Ronny’s recently being shut down from holding shows. Jim mentions that the push for these “underground” venues being inspected might even be coming from a competing club.
  • Loud Loop Press posted a detailed review of Chicago duo My Gold Mask’s new EP, A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last). The two are back with three fantastic originals plus a killer cover of an ‘80s pop standby. They will release the new tunes as a 12” on Saturday, November 13 at Schubas, which we previewed earlier this week.

Show preview: Reading Rainbow, Radar Eyes at Empty Bottle, 11/11

Posted by Andrew

This Thursday, Hozac Records pays respect to vets by taking over the Empty Bottle.  

One to judge a book by its cover, I knew Reading Rainbow was going to be good before I heard the first hook. Birthed in the current highly creative and unpredictable Philadelphia scene, the guy/girl duo creates a layered garage sound coupling Jesus and Mary Chain fuzz with the emergency of Love is All (minus the no-wave saxophones). At times simplicity is the rule, but I’m hoping the two can avoid banality and impress with their contrasting vocals. The show doubles as a preview for their forthcoming Hozac debut, Prism Eyes, out 11/23; singles so far sound cleaned up from earlier releases while still retaining an analog charm.  

Aesthetic similarities with Reading Rainbow will be obvious at first, but Radar Eyes have the advantage of Joey Ramone incarnate helming the vocals. Revved up tempos drive these guys out of the garage and into a league with local brethren the Smith Westerns, replacing the glam with a pinch of psychedelic.  Although I’m still skeptical of the format, the static and entropy created by cassettes can only enhance the grit and oil-stained guitar sound. Pick up the self-titled plastic and film on Plus Tapes.

Check all this out for free with an RSVP (details on Empty Bottle website).  Make sure to get there early for Michigan post-post-punks People's Temple and Chicago’s sax-toting Nones.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Show preview: My Gold Mask at Schubas, 11/13

Posted by Sasha

The vastness of texture that My Gold Mask gets with only drums, guitar and vocals is something to marvel at. While many rock duos aim to make as much of a ruckus as possible, this Chicago-based avant-garde act goes their own way to spin a complex and cavernous sound. Gretta Rochelle's vocals take a good deal from lady singers of the 1980s, but layered over enormous drums and eerily toned guitars, they create something entirely new. It's like listening to Blondie blasted through a haunted castle; it's both electrifying and unsettling in its strangeness.

My Gold Mask will be releasing their new 12", A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last), at Schubas on Saturday, November 13th. Unicycle Loves You and Blane Fonda will open. The show is 21 and over and starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here. The record is already available to stream here, and the track "I Don't Need the Reason" can be downloaded free below.

Download MP3: My Gold Mask - "I Don't Need the Reason"

Jeff Tweedy, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound among acts to play Second City fundraiser

Posted by Frank

Jeff Tweedy
Second City is gearing up for this year's 24-hour "Letters to Santa" fundraiser kicking off on Tuesday, December 14 at 7 p.m., and has revealed a very solid initial music lineup for the event. So far, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, Steve Albini, Robbie Fulks, The Blisters, Bill Callahan and Danielson Famile are scheduled to perform. In addition to the musical appearances, both current Second City cast members and alumni will provide comedy throughout the benefit.

Proceeds will go toward helping local families in need. Tickets cost $15 dollars and will only be available at Second City (1608 N Wells St) starting at 6 p.m. on December 14. Letters to Santa is an all-ages event.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interview: Shawn Rosenblatt of Netherfriends

Posted by Andrew

photo: Jules Ameel

I’m pretty sure the word ‘stagnation’ doesn’t find its way into Shawn Rosenblatt’s vocabulary. Attempting to even explain the concept of idleness to the driving force and one constant behind Netherfriends seems futile to the most absurd extremes. It’s not about taking the high road or the low road for Shawn. It’s about taking whatever road available. The trope of road as freedom has been long documented, and Netherfriends’ current 50 Songs/50 Sates project is a continuation of that tradition. But for now, fellow Chicagoans, we’re in luck. Shawn’s dedicating November to our city before hitting the road again in December. Catch him while you can at one of these dates:

Monday, Nov. 8th at Empty Bottle (FREE, Barry and Sherry vinyl release show)
Tuesday, Nov. 16th at the Whistler (FREE)
Saturday, Nov. 20th Saki Records In Store Performance (FREE)
Friday, Nov. 26th Schubas w/ Bear Hands

I was able to meet up with Shawn in a rare state of R&R at the Mustache CafĂ© in Logan Square. Read about Shawn’s take on travel, Sufjan Stevens and his enlightened political perspective after the jump.

Secret Colours release new single for free download

Posted by Frank

Chicago psych-rockers Secret Colours are quite the productive - and generous - bunch. It was only a few months ago that they offered a very worthwhile cover of the Beatles classic "Tomorrow Never Knows" for free download, and now they're giving away a new single called "In the Absence" on their Bandcamp site. The song features the band's trademark garagey haze and is paired with another free tune, "Carry My Soul," which goes down a more acoustic road.

If that weren't enough, you can download their debut, 14-track LP (reviewed here) for a mere $8. Or you can pick up a hard copy for not much more.

Secret Colours have a few hometown shows coming up, including November 12 at Subterranean, December 13 at the Empty Bottle and January 15 at Silvie's Lounge. Click here for more information.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This weekend: Chicago Roots Collective Music Festival

Posted by Bobby

Something big is going on this weekend at Elbo Room.

I have previously mentioned the fantastic work that's being done by the Chicago Roots Collective, which is bringing Chicago musicians and fans together in a collaborative environment. This weekend will mark the collective's largest event so far in the form of the first ever CRC Festival, and will offer some serious bang for your buck with over 75 Chicago musicians taking the stage. Showcases on both Friday and Saturday night at Elbo Room will feature full bands performing downstairs and singer-songwriters playing upstairs.

Chicago Roots Collective Festival
Elbo Room (2871 N. Lincoln Ave.)
21 and over, 8 p.m.
$2 Old Style all weekend
Read on to check out the lineup and all other information you'll need to get acquainted with this great local event.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interview: Scattered Trees

Posted by Frank

A lot has happened with Chicago band Scattered Trees since we first wrote about them more than two years ago. Faced with death and members moving out of state, the six-piece could have very easily packed it in, but after taking a break have fortunately decided to persist. Not only are they back, but they're back in full force, recently playing the CMJ Showcase in New York, promoting two new singles this fall and and preparing to release their debut LP Sympathy in the winter. From the sound of two pre-release singles, "Four Days Straight" and "A Conversation About Death on New Year's Eve," we're in for a fantastic full-length (MP3: Scattered Trees - "Four Days Straight").

It's been a while since Scattered Trees have played a home city show, but that will change this Friday, November 5 when they take the stage at Subterranean with Urbanites. To help gear up for the show and the new material, frontman Nate Eiesland took some time to answer a few of my questions. Read on to find out more about the challenges the band have had to overcome, what we can expect on Sympathy and what's in store for the future.

Hear Smith Westerns' new single, see them live this Friday

Posted by Bobby

One of the Chicago bands I am most excited about is Smith Westerns. Just check out first single "Weekend" off Dye It Blonde, their upcoming album on Fat Possum, to hear why. The record isn't out until January 18, but you can listen to "Weekend" here and pre-order the album here.

The band will play a local show this Friday, November 5 at Lincoln Hall (also with Mickey and Dead Luke. $12 tickets are available here). After that they'll be heading to Europe to open for this little band called MGMT. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

EP review: Volcanoes Make Islands - 'Sick City'

Posted by Sasha

There's something to be said for taking the four-song EP format and making it a strong choice. The second release from Volcanoes Make Islands, Sick City, is over soon but reaches great heights in its fifteen minutes. Extremely tall and incredibly dense, the EP is a finely designed grouping of tracks that launches you from the sidewalk to the stratosphere and doesn't let go until the end.

"City of Big Yellers" kicks off big and noisy, with high vocals set against cavernous guitars. Rests and minor melodies build tension, and when the chorus does come swinging in, it explodes on its way up. The momentum carries into "Still Here," a whirlwind of a track that twists into orchestrated chaos with big, steamy guitars and climbing basslines. All throughout, VMI give their sound plenty of space to fill. There's no slicked-over production, no attempts to confine the enormity of electric instruments to a thin digital pipeline. Even in the quietest part of the record, the shrouded sincerity within the first minute of "Granola", the air in your ears fills full. And when the track progresses to giant power chord splashes, the tone set by the initial whispers stands up to the noise. It's a careful balance held perfectly by the skillful composition on all four of these songs.

The fact that I'm having trouble pinning a genre on these guys is a good thing. You'll find a good deal of '90s styling blended together--there are textures borrowed from space rock and Pavement alike--but it's with such sincere urgency and craft that it's pinnacled out into the future. Here's hoping that Volcanoes Make Islands fill an LP with this kind of power.

Check out "The City of Big Yellers" below, and download all of Sick City for free at VMI's bandcamp.

Download MP3: Volcanoes Make Islands - "The City of Big Yellers"

Show preview: Republic of Lights, Suns, Mutts, and more tonight at Double Door

Posted by Sasha

Republic of Lights
If you love the midwestern sound, that particular brand of rock that could only be born in the center of America, Double Door has got you covered. Tonight, the Wicker Park club will host five bands from the middle strip of the States. Here's what they've got for you.

Glittermouse will start things off. If you've never seen Glittermouse in the wild, please be warned that they are highly energetic and often hilarious. You may be forced into good times. There are a total of seven folks in Glittermouse, making them a veritable cabinet of snappy rock music. You've been warned. The Youngston, Ohio group Asleep will follow, boasting a wide variety of influence in the sheets of noise they churn out. They've been recording and performing since the mid-aughts, and are evidently pros at the live show. After that, Mike Maimone's Mutts will play the gritty piano rock that has been filling Chicago venues for years. Also repping the monosyllabic band names, Suns will play next. This six-piece just put out a record this summer in double-EP format, and it sounds fantastic. If Suns are as epic on stage as they are on tape, they're fully worth your while. You can download both EPs for free here. Finally, Republic of Lights will headline as they celebrate the release of their new record, Go Rococo. You can listen to and download a three-track teaser of the album at their bandcamp.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $8 and the evening is 21 and over.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Watch the 1900s' 'Amulet', get their new LP today

Posted by Frank

Two years after they began recording the follow-up to their debut LP, Cold & Kind, Chicago's the 1900s are finally celebrating the release of Return of the Century today. If you caught my recent review of the record, you'll know that the band have delivered something pretty special, with 11 songs featuring their most beautiful melodies and captivating lyrics to date. Pick up the album on CD, vinyl, or digitally here.

The 1900s have also made a video for lead-off track "Amulet," which you can watch below. According to a spin.com interview with band member Edward Anderson, "The video mirrors the song's narrative of a woman being lost in the desert" and "is partially based on Licorice McKechnie, a singer with '60s psych folk act the Incredible String Band, who mysteriously dropped off the grid about 20 years ago."

The band played Fireside Bowl last week (WCR's own Andrew recapped the show), but don't worry if you missed it. They will also be playing a free in-store set this Friday, November 5 at Wicker Park's Reckless Records as well as the Empty Bottle on Friday, December 3.

The 1900s - Amulet from The 1900s / M/\ZES on Vimeo.

Show review and photos: Mumford and Sons at the Riviera, 10/31

By Mike Sullivan

British folk rockers Mumford and Sons returned to Chicago Sunday night and played to an energized crowd at a sold-out Riviera Theater. The quartet seems to have made a name for themselves here in the states, selling out every show so far on their current U.S. tour and scoring Billboard success on the back of their debut album, Sigh No More.

With their four-part harmonies and bluegrass instrumentation, I was curious how the band's sound would translate live, especially in a larger venue like the Riviera. After taking the stage, Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane opened with the album's title track, and the passionate crowd sang along with every note. They followed with "Roll Away Your Stone" and "Winter Winds." With only one full album to choose from there weren't many surprises in the setlist, but the band did play a select few new songs that the crowd responded to nicely. Each song started off slow and built intensity until the peak of the crescendo, which immediately got the fans in the balcony off their seats and dancing. Between songs, the band used their English charm to speak with the crowd as if they were in a small pub back home. It made the show feel intimate and personal.

From the first strum of Mumford's acoustic guitar on the quartet's best known song, "Little Lion Man," the crowd erupted. They sang along with each and every word, matching the intensity of the band members on stage. During the peaks the audience was jumping and dancing so much that I could feel the floor below my feet move. It’s amazing that a band made up of acoustic guitars, banjos, keyboards, a kick drum and a traditional stand up bass could generate this kind of energy. I guess it proves that you don't have to follow the industry status quo to be a successful band - you just have to be good at what you do. Mumford and Sons definitely have that part covered. Let's hope they can keep this momentum with their follow-up album.

Check out more photos after the jump.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicago band Geronimo! releases music video

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Chicago-based fuzz-rock trio Geronimo! (facebook/myspace) releases a music video for their catchy song "Design Yourself A Heart" today. The video was shot on July 10, 2010, and was produced by Minneapolis-based outfit Northern Outpost. The track is from the band's debut full-length album, Fuzzy Dreams. Earlier this year, I taped an interview podcast with band members Ben Grigg (keyboards/vox) and Kelly Johnson (guitar/vox), where they talked about recording Fuzzy Dreams and their creative process (click here to listen).

With intriguing visuals, the music video features band members Grigg and Johnson, along with drummer Matt Schwerin, running through various locations and dealing with excessive amounts of water. Over instant messenger, Grigg stated that the use of water in the video was the music video director's idea, and "has to do with a feeling of constant suffocation....The idea was that we were constantly gushing water, drowning on dry land. Also, that the three of us were essentially the same person, each going through the same experience, only outwardly different." According to Grigg, the band is currently in the process of writing new material for their second full-length album, which is slated for release next year.

The video is streaming online at vimeo. Fuzzy Dreams is available for download on iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.

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This article also appears on Examiner.com.

Interview: Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison

Posted by Andrew

Why aren’t we all smart enough to pay closer attention to Scotland by now? Countless great bands have been coming out of the upper UK for years, yet the majority of attention is focused on London.  Of course, every once in a while a Mogwai or a Franz Ferdinand breaks that trend, but too often our backs are turned and we realize too late what we’ve been missing out on for a while. Luckily, there’s Frightened Rabbit, a band leading the way for the new Scottish sound. With 20,000 leagues of lyrical depth and a passion that immediately warrants more than just a cursory listen, Scott Hutchison’s songwriting pulls the heartstrings, while his brother drummer Grant pounds the eardrums.

Frightened Rabbit will be in Chicago this Thursday, November 4th, hitting up the House of Blues on what seems like a never-ending tour in support of The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat). Plants and Animals and fellow Scots the Phantom Band are supporting. While on the road, Scott was able to take some time and give a’s to my q’s, offering insight into future FRabbits recordings, sibling rivalry and not holding back on subject matter. Read on and dive into his brain.

Show review: The Morning Benders, Twin Sister, Holiday Shores, Oberhofer at Lincoln Hall, 10/30

Posted by Andrew

Is it just me or does it seem like there’s too much going on in this city sometimes? I was slightly weary when I got my Morning Benders ticket for Halloween weekend that not only might there be a weak turnout at Lincoln Hall, but also of the chance there’d be somewhere else I’d rather be. Fortunately, neither were the case.

Forgive me for going over the openers in brief, as I don’t want this review to get too overwrought before I even make it to the stars of the night. Oberhofer, fronted by Brad Oberhofer, poured the noughties UK angular scene through a no wave filter. Eighth note down-strokes and frantic yelps shouted an immediacy that was only quelled by start/stop dynamics and soothing vocal harmonies. Ghoulish makeup and standout track "Dead Girls Dance" certainly awarded the guys spookiest band of the night.

Holiday Shores followed, a band harder to pin down. Think Andy Summers plucking the strings for a Balearic dance pop band with David Byrne chic helming the ship. Even that doesn’t do it justice considering their soul and reggae knowledge explained through technical proficiency and electronic elements.