Friday, September 30, 2011

Show review: Atari Teenage Riot at Reggies, 9/28

By Andrew Hertzberg

(Photos by Shannon Aliza)
The lights go out and we hear the opening beat to "Black Flags," a track off of Atari Teenage Riot’s newest album Is this Hyperreal? out earlier this year.  Vocals, but no band members on stage. The whole song plays through. Ummm…what? People are headbanging, but is this really just an elaborate listening party? Finally the band enters to officially open with "Activate," accompanied by a hyperstrobe. It wasn’t a huge turnout for the German digital hardcore punks, but it was enough for Alec Empire to fall onto the front rows in a Christ-like pose, supported by fists in the air. The intensity continues with "The Only Slight Glimmer of Hope," posing the hyperpolitical (ok, last use of that prefix) question “how much blood will it take?” The band used the live setting to remain contemporary, chanting “Occupy Chicago” (for those who are unfamiliar, read about the movement that is currently happening--yes, right now!--in our city here) and the ever-insightful “Fuck the Police.” 

Continuing the raw energy, the group launched into a “live” rendition of "Black Flags," “live” being in quotations as it sounded almost exactly like the recorded version that preceded the performance minutes before. No, there were no musicians with guitars, bass, or drums. It was recordings, three vocalists and a couple processors that added minimal difference to the pre-recorded material. Likewise, with such a politically charged group, it’s more about the lyrics, the meaning, the message, the mobilization of a crowd than any technical musical ability. Pretty much take the leftist politics of Anti-Flag and apply to Sham 69 discovering '90s techno music and you have the live show. Alec Empire and Nic Endo provided the interweaving male/female sing/screaming with newest member MC CX KiDTRONiK rapping during verses. It was a bombastic assault of all confrontational music combined into a sweaty trio of energy. 

Show preview: Chicago CMJ sendoff party, 10/15 at Ultra Lounge

By Frank Krolicki

It's only a few more weeks until this year's CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival, and while it's happening in NYC, you don't have to head east to take in a bit of the action. On Saturday, October 15th at Ultra Lounge (2169 Milwaukee Ave.) Chicago acts Paper Thick Walls, Kellen & Me and The Damn Choir -- as well as Portland's Radiation City and a special guest from Denver to be announced the day of the show -- will play the Windy City before they hit the road for the Big Apple.

We love the idea of a sendoff party for Chicago bands and jumped at the chance to get involved and get the word out (check out our logo on that nice lookin' poster to the right!). Also on board are Wine From the Moon, AudioTree and The Sound Scene (locally-based music organizations who put together the event), as well as CHIRP Radio, HEAVEmedia, Old Style and Olmeca Tequila.

The show costs $8 in advance or $10 at the door, doors open at 7:30 p.m. and it's a 21 and over. Click here for tickets, and check out a bit more information and sound samples for each of the bands below.

Show review: Jane's Addiction at Metro, 9/24

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Jane's Addiction blows the roof off of Metro
The sold out crowd at Metro last Saturday night swayed and drank and listened to Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," waiting for Jane's Addiction to take the stage. All I could do was marvel at the size of Stephen Perkins' drum kit.

The lights dimmed and the crowd erupted, only to be greeted by the next track off Wish You Were Here, "Welcome to the Machine." Perry Farrell sure does know how to make an entrance. The show was the first of two that weekend at Metro, and one in a group of small club gigs booked to create some buzz for Jane's new record, The Great Escape Artist. I'd be interested to know if Perry picked the tune as some kind of wry commentary on the hype.

With the ending ka-chunk of the song, Jane's Addiction finally took the stage. They kicked off the show with "Whores," a track from their self-titled 1987 debut. It seemed a bit meandering and unfocused, four minutes that felt like six, but the space-disco light-show and scantily-clad burlesque dancers writhing on-stage helped create a grandiose vibe. Jane's hit their stride with their second number, a brisk, tearing romp through "Just Because" (the only song played from 2003's Strays). Perry seemed to work up a thirst during the jam, producing a bottle of wine at its conclusion to keep the vocal chords lubed. The only thing all night that sounded more fresh than Farrell's voice was Dave Navarro's guitar. That man is every bit the quintessential rock star, from the flowing I'm-always-in-a-wind-tunnel hair and devilish good looks to his soaring, epic guitar solos."Ted, Just Admit It..." may have been the only song where it didn't sound like he was trying to steal the show; Navarro subtly crunched in the background as Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney led the tune's sinister opening stroll.

Seeing "Ted" live is always a reminder of what a dynamic rhythm section Perkins and former Jane's bassist Eric Avery were, though Chaney did a mostly admirable job filling the latter's shoes. The first truly great moment of the night came when Perkins kicked into the song's polyrhythmic mountain-crumbling rumble and the audience responded by wildly dancing and screaming along to Farrell's "sex is violent" mantra. Few big rock bands are as sexually in-your-face as Jane's Addiction, which can be a little unsettling. I'm no prude, but something about Farrell reminds me of Pee Wee Herman. At one point he admonished the crowd to "keep it down" because there was an "old lady upstairs" and she was "trying to sleep." After receiving the appropriate chuckle, he continued the shtick, pleading "Guys... I'm serious." I half expected him to then welcome Cowboy Curtis on-stage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Record review: To Destroy A City - self-titled LP

By Sasha Geffen

If To Destroy A City's chosen moniker--a peculiar infinitive in lieu of the traditional noun route--implies a kind of violence, their music itself delves more into the wake of that violence, the quiet and horrified sensation that floods destruction's aftermath. The post-rock ensemble's self-titled debut LP paints a world almost delirious with its own sadness, a world washed in echoes and loss. While many artists may fill the more ambient genres with limp and aimless drones, To Destroy A City thankfully reminds me of the raw power post-rock can assume when woven with skill.

As far as the previous generation of the genre goes, To Destroy A City follows Texan outfit Hammock's shadow most closely. Upon first listen, the somber and misty textures on the LP could be easily mistaken for Kenotic b-sides. But this isn't 2004, and To Destroy A City isn't out to make a record that's existed for half a decade. They begin in the fertile ground the aughts laid down for post-rock, as the perfect drizzled streams of opener "Metaphor" show us, but quickly kick the sounds of their predecessors into the present. To Destroy A City takes those slow, sad washes and bones them up with harder industrial beats. The resulting compositions are still dark, still foggy, but invigorated with new momentum.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview: Chris Connelly

By Christian Chiakulas

Chris Connelly--known for his work with Ministry and the Revolting Cocks--is set to release a new album titled Artificial Madness on November 8th, with a show following on Friday, November 18th at The Hideout. I got a chance to ask Chris some questions about the new album, his thoughts on the Chicago music scene and more.

WCR: I heard the first song from the album, "Waiting for Amateur." It's a great preview track and definitely makes me want more. Why did you pick this song to release first?

Chris: Well, there is going to be a video for it, plus it's short (2 minutes) and I think it sums up all the elements of the album-and of my past, in one easy to swallow pill!

Are you planning on releasing any singles from the album?

Theoretically, "Wait For Amateur" is the single; it just will not physically exist as a single, but it'll be the calling card, if you will.

You've described the album as “acknowledging Ministry in certain ways.” Which other of your previous bands/projects do you feel most suggest the sound of Artificial Madness?

Definitely Murder Inc. and Damage Manual--for all of Martin Atkins's exasperating tendencies, he is very good at bringing people together: with these bands, I had the elements of Killing Joke and Public Image that I loved, but being pushed in a new direction. Actually it was not until recently that I truly appreciated these bands I was involved with; at the time it was hard work and often contentious, which made it difficult to enjoy.

I read a blurb explaining the album's title, how it references people's reliance on needless technologies. Is this a theme running through a lot of the album, or just the title track?

I have always considered that the artist is at the mercy of the environment they are creating in--their daily lives, etc.--and technology is something that is undeniably and very forcefully shoved down our throats--it has changed what we do, obviously, and we spend too much time using it for useless ends. I was thinking about someone who is alien to this looking at us and seeing this "artificial madness." Now, I use technology, I have to--I am not someone who lives off the grid and is self sufficient--but I don't use it for the creation of my music. I still write my books longhand and I don't use a smart phone. I'm just really afraid that our collective consciousness and subconsciousness, or parts of it, will either shut down or morph into something useless over time. The album is not all thematic like this, really just the title track, but I found that it would unavoidably rear it's head in other aspects of the songs.

New Panda Riot track: 'Serious Radical Girls'

By Frank Krolicki

Chicago dream pop weavers Panda Riot have been busy working on a  follow-up to their 2010 EP Far and Near, and you can now get a taste of it on their Bandcamp page via a new song titled "Serious Radical Girls." As enjoyable as the EP was, this track expands on anything the band have done before with a fuller, more instantly grabbing sound. It soars along at a brisk pace and reaches pretty impressive heights with some meaty shoegaze guitar, a well-defined melody and the sweet, angelic vocals of Rebecca Scott. It made me think of STAR, another female-fronted noise pop band from the Windy City who sadly seemed to disappear just as soon as they popped up a few years ago (seriously, does anyone know what happened to STAR?). In any case, it's great stuff and got me really geared up to hear what else Panda Riot have cooking. The band amusingly list the release date as December 31, 2037--hopefully we won't have to wait quite that long. For now, take a listen below.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Interview: Isaac Hanson

By Andrew Hertzberg

By now you’ve probably looked at the header of this article, focused your eyes on the picture above, recognized the last name, thought it sounded vaguely familiar, perhaps from a mid-late '90s pop trio, and thought no way in hell would a music blog that covers local independent rock music be interviewing one of the Hanson brothers. Well, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes we like to throw a little curveball here at WCR. Yes, I did indeed have the opportunity to talk with Isaac Hanson, the drummer/percussionist and singer for the much adored and much derided pop group Hanson. No, I was never a fan myself, but I couldn’t possibly pass up this opportunity after it was presented in an email. Besides, weren’t you curious/ecstatic to find out that Hanson is not only still performing, but releasing new material as well? In fact, they are in town for two nights, tonight and tomorrow, at the House of Blues. The shows are a part of their Musical Ride Tour which allows fans to pick an album for them to play live. Time constraints and a rambly Isaac didn’t allow me to ask all of my questions, but we did have a chance to talk about the music industry, the band's recent charity work and the legacy of none other than the infamous "MMMBop." 

WCR: You’re probably sick about talking about this song, but I promised I would ask it for a friend. He wants to know if you came up with the concept for "MMMBop" when you were eating peanut butter while you were trying to sing. 

Isaac: Definitely not. That was definitely not how we came up with "MMMBop" [laughs]. Actually--how we came up with "MMMbop"--we grew up listening to a lot of '50s and '60s music. We were young kids memorizing late '50s rock’n’roll stuff, everything from Chuck Berry to Eddie Cochran to Little Richard. Taylor and I knew how to play piano, but for the most part the easiest thing for us to do as performers was to get up and sing. All three of us could do it and we had the ear for harmonies, we’d just stand there and do it and sing songs we’d memorized. That’s where it kind of all began 20 years ago. And you know, definitely not sick and tired of talking about that song--that’s the thing about a song like "MMMBop" or anything like that when you first burst out onto the scene--it's just the kind of thing that every band and every artist hopes for; they hope they will have a song that will be significant and synonymous with what they do, so that people will care what they do at all.

What do you think about the Rolling Stone top 10 worst songs of the '90s, a reader’s poll. That one actually made the list.

 Oh it did?

Did you heard about that one yet?

No, I didn’t hear about that.

Show review: Peter Hook & The Light at Metro, 9/23

By Gene Wagendorf III 

The Light getting ready to play "Colony"
Joy Division bassist Peter Hook brought his new band, The Light, to Metro on Friday for a celebration of that legendary band's music. American audiences never got a chance to experience most of those songs live, as front-man Ian Curtis tragically took his life just before the kickoff of a scheduled U.S. tour. With the subsequent forming and touring of New Order we were given covers of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "She's Lost Control," but were left to daydream about what tracks like "Atrocity Exhibition" and "Eternal" felt like in-person. Last year Hook took The Light around to play the classic album Unknown Pleasures, and this time he offered us a peek at Joy Division's second album, Closer.

After a quick tear through the instrumental "Incubation," drummer Paul Kehoe got the audience's blood pumping with the determined pounce of "Dead Souls." The song built momentum steadily, working the audience into a frenzy for two minutes before Hook came in on vocals. By the time he shouted "they keep calling me" he had most of the room screaming along giddily. Giddy isn't normally a word I would use in any conversation about Joy Division, but the combination of the electricity of the song and the relief that Hook seemed to do Curtis' vocals justice was a marvelous feeling. No, this wasn't Joy Division- but it was damn close.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Hideout Block Party with Andrew Bird, Mavis Staples and more

By Andrew Hertzberg

(Photos by Shannon Shapiro)
We are officially into autumn, but that doesn’t mean the outdoor music season is over just quite yet. The Hideout celebrated its 15th Block Party this past weekend with a killer lineup, primarily featuring local artists and a myriad of genres. The rains splashed early, but promptly exited right on time as the Guitarkestra headed by Plastic Crimewave Sound (aka, psychmaestro Steve Krakow) filled the cement space between the Hideout and a garbage truck parking lot with a cacophonous drone from 25-30ish guitarists, bassists and at least one violinist (not to mention Dosh on the floor tom and crash). The set lasted about 20 minutes, the musicians underneath a few tents that allowed listeners to walk around. On the surface, the noisy jam may have been a turnoff to some, but conceptually, it broke the conventional barrier between not only audience and performer, but between audience members themselves: with amps facing all different directions, no two people were listening to the same thing, while simultaneously witnessing the same performance. Wrap/warp your mind around that one.

As soon as the experiment was over, White Mystery took the stage with the 1-2-3 punch of "White Mystery," "Power Glove," and "Blood & Venom." The crowd was still filling into the lot, but the siblings White were rocking out the same as if it were a packed basement. Closing with "Take a Walk" (a love letter to Chicago), Francis dropped one of his sticks, only to pick up two and effectively doubling his power, as if he was purposefully trying to destroy his already beaten and battered drumkit. I swear he’s going to play that thing until it falls apart (and maybe a show or two after that). Likewise, with the set finished, Alex ripped off all of her six strings, feedback let loose, before curtsying and exiting the stage.

Show review: Swans at Bottom Lounge, 9/22

By Gene Wagendorf III

Swans jam on "No Worlds/No Thoughts"

I have seen the path to world peace, and it runs through Swans.

A dull, anxious drone pummeled the audience from an empty stage for a full 10 minutes (years?), at first creating intrigue, then irritation and, ultimately, an embracing of absurdity. Eventually Thor Harris appeared on-stage to hammer on some chimes, signaling the start of "No Worlds/No Thoughts" from Swans' 2010 release My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. One by one the rest of his bandmates joined in on the assault, adding more feedback and distortion to a swirl that evoked uncomfortable memories of the last time I got drunk and tried to listen to all of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. The audience looked to be developing a large-scale case of Stockholm Syndrome, egging on the group who seemed to be punishing them for crimes unstated. When the band finally came together on the song's first identifiable riff they were greeted by an even more deafening round of cheers.

The extended jam was part broken music box, part dissolving doomsday locomotive and pushed to its limits by Chris Pravdica's earthquake bass. Legendary front-man Michael Gira was as intimidating and confrontational as his reputation would suggest, only taking breaks from his manic conducting to spit at the audience or steal a swig of beer. The noise behind him faded to nothing but a series of twinkles while he repeated "to think is a sin" in mantra-like fashion. A moment of silence at the lines completion proved to be only an opportunity to inhale before another two minutes of full audio attack.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Record review: Netherfriends - 'Netherfriends Does Nilsson'

By Andrew Hertzberg

If I was a bigger Harry Nilsson fan, I would probably appreciate Netherfriends' most recent EP a bit more. That said, Shawn Rosenblatt (the man / the myth behind the Netherfriends moniker) has created a fun and creative, yet at times even challenging EP. The brief album samples from Harry Nilsson tracks, with Shawn providing vocals over the music, often turning the song around on itself lyrically. The album starts off with "Full of It," which is focused around the Nilsson track "All My Life" off of 1974’s Pussy Cats (produced by John Lennon). Whereas the original has repentant lyrics about changing ways over a funky beat, Shawn’s added haunting, ghostlike sounds to create a tone of despair, and an odd juxtaposition over said funky beat. "Me and My Ego" centers on "Me and My Arrow" off of the 1971 album The Point! about a boy named Oblio who has the only round head in a town full of pointed headed people, thus, he is pointless. A metaphor that hits the nail on the head for sure and certainly one Shawn didn’t fail to recognize. 

Moving on we have "Nobody’s Talking," which mostly samples (you guessed it) "Everybody’s Talking," turning the delicate guitar line into a harsh breakup song. Although, it does shed light on Nilsson’s version, which sounds very carefree, but has nomadic and lost love lyrics itself. "Give UP" sent me on a wild goose chase through Spotify trying to figure out which Nilsson song it samples. I’ve got the drums to his cover of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," but where does that damn piano come in? Help a brother out, Shawn! But of course that’s the kick of any sort of sample-based music: you’ve gotta take the pride of knowing certain things in the same stride as the frustration of not knowing, even in our age of everything-that-has-ever-existed-ever-at-our-fingertips power of the Internet. Likewise with "Lonely Parachute Fort," it seems damn near impossible to think this anything other than a more traditional psych-pop tune crafted entirely by Netherfriends. The closer, "Girrrfriend," cleverly samples from "Girlfriend," Nilsson’s original absurd vocals kept intact while Shawn laments his lack of a gir(rr)lfriend. 

The album is available for a free download on bandcamp, and with six tracks clocking in at thirteen minutes, I’d say is definitely worth the time, no matter your familiarity with Nilsson (or Netherfriends for that matter). Between this, Tiger Bones’ mashup and "The Puppy Song" used on Wilfred, I’d say it's time I finally give this Nilsson guy a proper chance. In other Netherfriends news, check out parts one and two of his soundtrack to the film "Baraka." Currently on tour, you can catch him live for FREE at Streetside Monday, September 26th before he heads out on the road again.


Check out more record reviews:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Show preview: Asobi Seksu at Schubas, 9/25

By Andrew Hertzberg

Dreampop, shoegaze, noiserock…not just words that Microsoft Word Dictionary doesn’t recognize, but the general and vague descriptors of the music Asobi Seksu makes. The Brooklyn duo’s been crafting this sound – lush, shimmering, bright, whatever – for almost a decade now. Although you may think that all of these generalized adjective and band descriptors would fit better in a larger venue to give them a chance to breathe, the band is playing the more intimate Schubas on Sunday, September 25th (tickets here) which actually, makes just as much (if not more) sense. Their newest album, Fluorescence out earlier this year, starts to move a little bit away from the My Bloody Valentine noisescape layered walls of sound into a cleaner '60s girl group territory, although still retaining the volatility of the former. Get a taste with the –lush, shimmering, bright – video for "Perfectly Crystal" below. As for Sunday, the show is $14, 21+ and starts at 8 PM with White Birds opening.

Asobi Seksu "Perfectly Crystal" from Billy Pavone on Vimeo.

Asobi Seksu - Trails by Polyvinyl Records

Show review: Freelance Whales at the Empty Bottle, 9/17

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Freelance Whales jam for Rock For Kids
Last Saturday night Eventbrite's Concert Confidential series brought Freelance Whales to The Empty Bottle for one of several simultaneous free shows around the country. Each event raised money for a local charity, the Chicago beneficiaries being Rock For Kids, a great local not-for-profit organization focused on addressing the lack of music programs in Chicago schools.

Freelance Whales eased the crowd into their set with "Generator ^ First Floor," an idyllic song that evokes images of waking up in a quiet country farmhouse. Possibly the group's most uplifting song, it was strengthened live by the addition of a final verse that doesn't show up on Weathervanes,  their beautifully crafted debut album. Striking harmonies and dreamy twinkles populated the entire set, but few times were they as well positioned as in the opening song. The first giggles of the night came courtesy of band-member Doris Cellar, who managed to knock over a harmonium with her bass (apparently a regular occurrence) while trying to navigate the cramped stage. Drummer Jacob Hyman got a chance to show off some thump on "Enzymes," the only track played not from the aforementioned record. The number's deliberate, climbing synth-line segued nicely into the squeaky dolphin bop of "Kilojoules," whose catchyness elegantly faded into a washy cloud of chimes about two minutes in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Show review: Mayor Daley, Bad Drugs at the Empty Bottle 9/19

By Andrew Hertzberg

Bad Drugs (Photo Credit: John Yingling)
To say Bay Area post punks High Castle were the tamest band of the evening Monday, while although not entirely untrue, certainly would give a false impression. The three piece kicked off the final night of PermanentRecords weekend long five year anniversary party with a free show at the Empty Bottle. The songs were quick and to the point, the noisy and dissonant point, and surprisingly dynamic guitar playing. Little if any time was spared between songs, just as little if any of the trio’s collective vocal chords were unscraped by the end of the set. 

I first saw Mayor Daley only a couple weeks ago in a sweaty Pilsen basement. It was loud. And sweaty. But definitely loud. The Bottle was a lot less sweaty. But definitely loud. But really, just the right level. Behind the chaos and dissonance, there are melodies to be found, and actually, hooks that could rival more conventional pop bands. They don’t make it easy on you to find them, but avant-garde music never is. They played only two songs with the set still clocking in at nearly half an hour. I had thought the China cymbal a thing of nu-metal past, but Mayor Daley make full use of it. Although their realm is more in the prog-metal stance, a la Tool, but sludgier and with more haunting (and female) vocals. A real treat before they played was Thax Douglas walking up on stage to do a reading, a band he regretted never having read for before he left Chicago. Check it on his Myspace blog here.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Archie Powell & the Exports have taken to Kickstarter to raise a few bucks for their creative endeavors, but are doing it a bit different than most bands. Instead of asking for money to fund an album, the band is looking for help with their "Burrito Lunch" project, "whose goal is to write and record an original song (about eating Mexican food with your friends) and film a video for it." Details here.
  • Chicagoist reviewed last Friday's show at Subterranean with Grouplove, Young Man and Deserters.
  • is offering A Lull's new single "Some Love" for free download. You can also check out the video for the track on
  • Gapers Block ran a roundup of last weekend's inaugural Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival in West Town's Eckhart Park. See what they had to say about the music festival-circus hybrid here.
  • Head over to to steam Wilco's new album, The Whole Love.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This week: Jane's Addiction, Swans, Peter Hook & more

By Gene Wagendorf III

Jane's Addiction play Metro Saturday and Sunday
Yes, the summer has wound down, but that's no reason to start moping over hot chocolate and bad TV. This week is loaded with tons of great shows that will make it easy to wait another seven days before beginning your fourth attempt at reading War and Peace.

Wednesday - Kaki King at SPACE

Kaki King has developed a reputation as a strong songwriter with out-of-this-world picking skills, but on her new album Junior she takes a huge step towards smashing any thoughts that she might be a one-trick-pony. Produced by Malcom Burn (Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris), the album's songs find King collaborating with multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson. The result is a lush, fluid album that is both saccharine and haunting. The show ought to be a mellow affair, but definitely a great kickoff to a string of excellent shows.

Thursday - Swans at Bottom Lounge

The legendary Michael Gira is bringing his revamped Swans back to Chicago on Thursday night in a show that has the potential to steal the thunder from anything that happens afterward. The group's recently released My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, is a dynamic assault on the senses, at times brutal and grainy, at times highly melodic and almost understated. Swans are notorious for their visceral live performances, being described by Gira himself as "soul-uplifting and body-destroying." Not bad for a Thursday night, huh? The band is winding down an eighteen month tour and in a world that guarantees nothing for the future this show is not to be missed.

Video: Young Man - 'Nothing'

By Sasha Geffen

Need something to warm you up as we dip into September's grey drizzle? How about some amber-toned psychedelia? The new single from Young Man ought to make you feel nice inside with its gently woven melodies and slow layering build. This sort of carbonated dreampop goes down real smooth. Young Man's new LP, Ideas of Distance, is set to drop on Frenchkiss September 27th. Here's the video for the album's second track, "Nothing."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Show review: BRAIDS, Painted Palms at The Empty Bottle, 9/13

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Standell-Presto weaving dreamscapes
It's been a while since I've been as pleasantly surprised by a band as I was Tuesday night at The Bottle by Painted Palms. The San Francisco trio had been described to me as "Animal Collective-y," which was apt, but by no means the whole story. The group's numbers rose up  from blippy aural sludge like an LSD-dipped Swamp Thing, eventually finding their footing in new wave grooves that called back to the likes of Depeche Mode. "Water Hymn" carried an ominous, floral intro straight through ploppy percussion to create a kind of sonic rain forest populated by hipster yodeling and magnetic bends. Painted Palms more upbeat tunes were impossible not to bop along to, almost forcing me to imagine the them decked out in baby blue tuxedos playing at the stoner space prom that I'm now eagerly awaiting.

The night's main attraction, Montreal dream-poppers BRAIDS, took the stage beneath The Bottle's lazily-draped Christmas lights looking a bit hesitant. That proved to be deceptive, as the group stretched and battered their songs more than I anticipated they would. For a band whose reputation has been built on constructing lush, buoyant soundscapes, BRAIDS played them with a kind of Blonde Redhead punch. Much of the material came from the band's 2011 release Native Speaker, but only about half of the set carried the same porcelain dynamic that makes the album great for making out on a soft couch in a dimly-lit room. "Lemonade" was even more tense live, with singer Raphaelle Standell-Presto yanking her vocals away from sweet whispers and towards Björkian freak-outs. Austin Tufts' rapping, spider's leg drum-work kept tighter songs in their place while jazzy warbles and startling snaps were the cues for others to move towards walls of skrinkling sounds that would've been at home on Sonic Youth's Washing Machine. Those noise interludes occasionally collapsed into sloppy muddle but rarely overstayed their welcome.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This Sunday: ? & the Mysterians, Mucca Pazza, Mad Professor & more

By Andrew Hertzberg

Mucca Pazza
Every once in a while, there are days in this city that have such an abundance of musical options that it becomes a nuisance. The freedom of choice metamorphisizes into a burden and I become lost in the city I claim to know so well, decisions creating doubt that maybe I picked the wrong event to attend. Well, this Sunday, I don’t quite expect that despair, as literally EVERYTHING seems amazing and worthy of my and any of you who’re reading this’ time. Aside from the Brilliant Corners music fest / circus sideshow I previewed earlier this week (Sunday featuring Shellac, A Lull, Dan Deacon and Fool’s Gold), this city is alive elsewhere, breathing pure creativity all day. Here are couple options for ya and whoever goes to the most events wins. Check it:

Bash On Wabash
I could mention the local talent that WCR is quite a fan of playing this fest such as White Mystery, Dastardly and the Congregation. But what threw me through a loop was that the headliners to the weekend bash on Sunday was going to be ? and the Mysterians. For those that don’t know, ’96 Tears’ is seriously the jam, a 60s garage-pop gem that went on to inspire many in the early punk scene. Was shocked they were still around, and although seeing classic acts is usually more for the novelty than anything else, this is one that may be worth it. For more info and full lineup, click on over here.

Mucca Pazza at Logan Square Monument
Want something outdoors but live on the northside? Empty Bottle hosts its fourth installment of the Logan Square Music Series featuring local circus-punk marching band, Mucca Pazza. If you’ve never seen them before, it’ll definitely be a treat, particularly if the weather holds up, and I’m sure the band will make great use of the outdoor space. Opening it up is Lord of the Yum Yum, the one man vocal looping machine whose been known to drop a beat over some Bach. This starts at 4 PM and is FREE with an RSVP.

Record review: An Aesthetic Anaesthetic - 'Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons'

By Sasha Geffen

Maybe our apocalyptic imaginings are selfishly drawn; maybe we just don't want to conceive of a society that outlives us, don't want to think of all the future we'll miss. Whatever the motives, I love a well-rendered apocalypse. The first full-length from the cleverly monikered An Aesthetic Anaesthetic paints intricate doomscapes, worlds striped with lingering melancholy and fiery destruction built from raw post-metal guitarwork. 

Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons houses an ultimately sparse and lonely sort of world, a world still encrusted with the anger of its own demise. Opener "Liar Liar Plans For Fire" creeps in slow with an ominous trickle of piano, which soon gives way to one nervous, acidic riff that dominates the song's remainder. Power chord crunches punctuate the flickery build. The track eventually crashes into the record's sole display of vocals, a slightly awkward post-hardcore flail. But A!A!A reins in the screams for the rest of the album, instead letting the strings do the talking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New track from The Kickback: 'Violently Carsick'

By Frank Krolicki

Photo: Diane Derib
The Kickback recently came into a bit of free studio time thanks to winning a Deli Chicago reader's poll, and here we have the result in the form of a new track called "Violently Carsick." According to the band's Bandcamp site, "The song was originally supposed to be a take on the song 'Route 66' for a Red Bull tour diary, but they didn't seem to be down with our turning it into a six-minute ramblethon and not really using the words, and we can't really blame them. But they still suck."

Personally, I'd listen to this any day over "Route 66." It's like "Route 66" with a mood disorder. Which is a lot more interesting. I was so hoping there would be a big payoff while listening to the seething, slow-burning first few minutes, and then boom, there it was. And it did not disappoint. In fact, it's pretty much amazing. Hear for yourself below, download the track for free or any amount you'd like, and go see the Kickback at their next hometown show on September 22 at Schubas with The Dig.

This Weekend: Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusement

By Andrew Hertzberg

Not so fast. You thought festival season was over? Well aren’t you in for a treat. If you missed out on the AV Club fest last week, there’s still plenty to come. This weekend is the inaugural Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusement festival, taking over Eckhart Park (Chicago Ave. and Noble St.) for three days this weekend. Part music fest, part circus, the event aims at “reinventing the traditions of Vaudeville for the 21st century audience.” Which pretty much means there is going to be a whole slew of activity. Aside from musical acts like Bill Callahan, Shellac, A Lull and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, there’ll also be carnival rides, a 5K run, farmers’ markets and a pop-up Renegade Craft Fair for those who missed it last weekend.

Although you have to pay for the musical acts listed above, the general grounds are free as well as a local stage on Saturday and Sunday featuring artists like Bone and Bell, Hollows, the Lonesome Organist and mucho more. The circus performances will cost you as well for each act, but rest well knowing a portion of the proceeds go to benefit Coat Angels, CHIRP, and 826CHI. For more information, visit the Brilliant Corners website and see the full music schedule after the jump.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Video: The Damn Choir - 'Virginia'

By Sasha Geffen

This city storms well. While I won't miss the August heat, I will always be waiting for the next summer thunderstorm to flicker over the skyline. The Damn Choir's new video for "Virginia" (off You're My Secret Called Fire) captures some of that lovely turbulence in a memorable shot of lightning bolts creeping across the sky in slow motion. Time-lapse footage of the city and a few playful backwards clips are interspersed with close, composed shots of the band performing. The visual patchwork all runs beneath TDC's yearning, full-toned Americana. Check it out below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Thrillcall is giving away two passes to Champaign/Urbana's Pygmalion Music Festival, which is set for September 21-25. To get in the running, you'll need to retweet this tweet by Friday afternoon.
  • has recaps up for all three days of last weekend's North Coast Music Festival. Check them out here.
  • You're never too young to become a Wilco fan. Just ask Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star, who have released an album of 12 Wilco songs done lullaby-style. The set is the 47th in a collection that includes lullaby takes on everyone from Metallica to Lady Gaga to The Smiths.
  • posted a new live session with Chicago rockers Hospital Garden, who they describe as "standard tunings Sonic Youth fronted by an agitated Michael Stipe." Watch performances of three tracks here.
  • Chicago band Color for Colors have released a fun new video for their track "Lazy," involving crazy puppet things rocking out. Watch it here.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Video: Very Truly Yours - 'Girls Tell You Secrets'

    By Frank Krolicki

    I hate the word "twee." I try to avoid using it because it can have a connotation of lameness, even when what's being described is actually very good. But I can't help it. The new video from Chicago indie pop act Very Truly Yours is twee. It's as twee as a kitten drinking a bowl of rainbow juice while riding on top of a pony. And I love it for that. Balloons, a cute dog, a beach, happy people? Check. Bouncy melody, jangly guitars, wispy, girlish vocals? Check. If you're going to go twee, go all out, I say. Wear it loud and proud. And Very Truly Yours most certainly do. See for yourself below and download an mp3 of the track free from Cloudberry Records, who also have it available as a 7" single.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Preview: Save the Clocktower, Brontosaurus, more at Beat Kitchen, 9/3

    By Frank Krolicki

    Save the Clocktower (photo: Jacob S. Knabb)
    It might be "summer's last stand" in Union Park this weekend via North Coast Music Festival, but there's also some solid indoor shows for those of you who are festivaled-out or looking to keep the music going afterward. One option is Beat Kitchen this Saturday, September 3rd, which has a great selection of Chicago bands lined up.

    Headlining is Save the Clocktower. As WCR's own Sasha Geffen elaborated on a while back in her review of the band's latest album Carousel, the trio draw from a handful of familiar sounds--shoegaze, electonica, dream pop--and weave them into a captivating style of their own. It's a sound that's somehow both warm and synthetic at the same time, with each song offering up enough personality and variation to avoid the pitfall of monotony that can plague lesser bands who dabble in those genres. Even if you're planning to spend Saturday at North Coast, you'll have plenty of time to head over to Beat Kitchen for STC--they don't hit the stage until 11:30 p.m.

    On right before them are Brontosaurus, who also seem to know a thing or two about keeping their music interesting. Although in their case, the emphasis is less on pop hooks and melody and more on adding adventurous twists and turns to their powerful, proggy folk-rock. Sasha also recently wrote up her thoughts on these guys and their release Cold Comes to Claim, so be sure to check that out to get even more prepared.