Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Go to There: January 31 - February 6

By Andrew Hertzberg

Smith Westerns (photo credit: Angel Ceballos)
This week is the double dose edition. Witness competitive writing event at the Hideout and then head to some of Chicago's best known local spots each hosting back to back shows that make you want a three-peat. Man, and that's not even the only sports reference I'm gonna make in this post:

Tuesday, January 31st Write Club at the Hideout  (7 PM, 21+, $8)
Sometimes, there are slow music nights. Luckily the Chicago literary world picks up the slack. Described best as a boxing match with words, two writers are pitted against each other to write in a short time in support of a side. This week’s topics: Black vs. White, Gay vs. Straight, Cat vs. Dog. Who's side are you on?

Wednesday, February 1st E+ at Schubas (9 PM, 21+, $8)
Boy it seems like these guys are playing every night recently doesn’t it? Considering E+ is the conglomeration of members from Disappears, Verma and Heavy Times, it makes sense they might as well belt out a lot of their dark Curesque pop while they can find time together. Coffin Pricks and the Wimps open.

Thursday, February 2nd Azita at Schubas (9 PM, 21+, $6)
I can’t tell if Azita is more like a darker Aimee Mann or a more light-hearted Rose Melberg. Either way, that’s good company to be in comparison with. I can only guess that the Drag City songstress will sound quite nice in the intimate halls of Schubas.

Show review: Cass McCombs at Lincoln Hall, 1/29

By Andrew Hertzberg

(Photo Credit: Shannon Aliza)
Cass McCombs has a certain RIYL quality that I associate with the burgeoning mid-2000s Pitchfork bumped indie rock scene: The Decemberists, Okkervil River, Devotchka. More or less, generally innocuous yet intelligent music balancing the tightrope between the theatrical and grandiose. After Sunday night’s performance at Lincoln Hall, it's safe to say that McCombs is still riding that wave, but a few more associations came to light in the live show.

McCombs is a modern troubadour. He’s lived all over the country, including a stay in Chicago. His nomadic lifestyle has no doubt inspired the off-the-beaten-path tales of his lyrics. As any proper artist, he’s lived down and out himself, that first-hand experience relaying even more depth to his stories. The set kicked off with ”Love Thine Enemy,” the five-piece band lined up in front of a wall of twinkling light, obscuring the band members' faces. As Lincoln Hall masquerades as an intimate venue within a large space, every single sound the band made could be heard, which worked more for than against the band considering the attention to detail. Cass seemed to hope it was louder, but as the place was only two-thirds full anyway, full amplification wasn’t needed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Show review: Bullied by Strings at Underground Lounge, 1/26

By Gene Wagendorf III 

It takes balls to open your show with a Beatles cover, even if you're a Beatles cover band. And if you're not some kind of tribute act, then what you're doing is re-imagining the work of three-and-a-half geniuses who tend to be near universally adored. If you nail it, well, then you're Bullied by Strings.

Kristen Rowland kicked off the cover of "Things We Said Today" Thursday night at Underground Lounge with a seductive, sleuthy melody that sauntered out from the tip of her flute and across a bubble wrap beat. Honking synths pulsed behind Mike Guidry's saxophone until the end of the chorus, where ferocious jackhammer drumming broke through and made my bits tingle. Doubtfully unintentional, as BBS took Paul & Co.'s creamy profession of love and added a Divinyls-sultriness that likely has the Pope shaking his head.

Shifting into something closer to Caribbean hip-hop, "Big Mouth" found Kristen channeling M.I.A. in her vocal delivery. The singer's range is one of the group's strengths; she seemed just as comfortable spitting rhymes as she did on the slow, confessional drawl of "You Lift Me Up So High." Part of her charm also comes from the mesmerizing dynamic she shares with drummer Gabe Rowland. Where Kristen is blending burlesque and ballet throughout Bullied's shows, Gabe is a picture of primal focus, working his kit with both an expert precision and borderline-animalistic fury. The more intricate and provocative her movements, the tighter and more determined his drumming. Had the club not already been at basement level, I'm pretty sure Gabe would've drilled down to it.

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Gapers Block has a review and photos of Friday night's Los Campesinos! and Parenthetical Girls show at Metro.
  • Loudlooppress.com highlighted 12 Chicago bands to watch in 2012.
  • Canasta are heading off this week on their first tour outside the U.S. To Mongolia. The band is heading to the unlikely tour destination as part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Arts Envoy Program. Thomas Conner of the Sun-Times has the details here.
  • Blah Blah Blah released a video for their jangly tune "Soon As I Get Home Tonight" off their 2011 EP Thank You Thank You.
  • Long-time Chicago rockers Local H are in the studio recording their first album of original material since 2008, and you can get a taste via some video updates frontman Scott Lucas has been posting to the band's Facebook page.
  • Chicago Mixtape published an audio interview with The Damn Choir, who will play the Mixtape's one-year anniversary show along with The Shams Band, Elephant Gun and Architecture on February 11th at Subterranean.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Show review: Fujiya & Miyagi, YAWN at Lincoln Hall, 1/25

By Andrew Hertzberg  & Gene Wagendorf III

Anytime music borders on psychedelic, the immediate reaction of listeners/viewers tends to be to drop all sorts of acid comparisons/analogies. If The White Album is an acid trip and MGMT is an acid trip and Merriweather Post Pavilion is a fucking acid trip, fine, but then that doesn't really tell me anything. Any amateur hippie will tell you that mindset is key when making the psychedelic leap, that what you bring in to the trip will manifest in the experience. So OK, yeah, you can have a trip that smells like Roxy Music while your buddy one couch over is meandering through a Cronenberg-ian flea market with Stockard Channing and Arthur Rimbaud. That isn't YAWN. That also isn't to say that I want to strip the band of the psychedelic label that its videos do little to shrug off. Instead, I'd compare YAWN to my last mushroom trip, wherein I found myself both wanting to be swallowed by thick, warm blankets and being incapable of sitting still thanks to my body's insatiable bond with the music slipping out of my stereo.

I showed up to Lincoln Hall Wednesday night crunched in the mucusy grip of a lingering, bastard cold, hacking up orbs of phlegm in the alley just before showtime. Reeking of mentholated cough drops and suffering from a nauseating sinus headache, I was hesitant about how much live music I'd be able to enjoy. Then the woo-ing started. Wisps of auditory lollipop drifted over ripe drumming before settling/bursting into a series of dynamic whooshes and playful yodels. Already my nasal passages were clearing and the dull pound in my skull had faded. YAWN, a group of really normal looking guys, were making this blissfully offbeat music that apparently had mystical healing properties. Either that, or it just confused me into not feeling sick. The third (or twentieth?) song they played began with a series of squeaks and blurps, like an intimate conversation between two eunuch-robots in love. Interrupted by the unfolding of a twitchy bass line and lush, tropical percussion, the tune tightroped between the yammering of a chatty spaceship and an Aztec dance party. I was briefly jarred out of my trance by the brightness of a new track, whose synth swirls were sharp enough to be obnoxious, before the edge was dulled by chunks of rolling rhythm. Later, a similar rhythm propelled a clacking, clattering number that sounded like a steam engine pulling a tidal wave into The Old West. Think Neal Cassady driving the bus in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, but sopping wet and wearing a conductor's hat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Company of Thieves cover Tom Petty on Lightbox Sessions

By Frank Krolicki

Recently Company of Thieves vocalist Genevieve Schatz and guitarist Marc Walloch were featured on Lightbox Sessions, where they recorded a brief interview and a few acoustic songs in an intimate setting. In addition to stripped down takes on their own tracks "Syrup" and "After Thought" off their fantastic 2011 album Running From a Gamble, the two decided to pull out a bit of Tom Petty in the form of "I Won't Back Down." The result is pretty special, with Genevieve's spot-on vocal squeezing every ounce of passion and conviction possible out of the song's message. I daresay Mr. Petty would be proud. Check out the video below, and if you're a fan, show the band some love by favoriting (let's just say that's a real word) the track on The Hype Machine. While you're at it, read what Genevieve and Marc had to say in a Paste Magazine interview that ran earlier this week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Go to There: January 24 - 30

By Andrew Hertzberg

Tuesday, January 24th Tortoise at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+ $15)
It’s hard to beat Tortoise in the post rock game (vague genre descriptors be damned!). These locals have been at it for over 20 years and all the while with Thrill Jockey Records. Update: Unfortunately, the show is sold out already, so second bets go to Swedish death metal group Ghost at Bottom Lounge (interview on the Reader here) or the always reliable weekly Relax Attack series at the Whistler.

Wednesday, January 25th Ken Vandermark at Hideout (9:30, 21+, $10)
Speaking of jazz, I know we’re Windy City Rock, but doesn’t mean I don’t get down with something a little more out there from time to time. Vandermark is a staple in Chicago’s experimental and improvised scene. Bonus: show up early for the weekly Soup and Bread event.

Thursday, January 26th Bomb Banks at Mutiny (8:30 PM, 21+, FREE)
There’s not too much out there on these post-rockers yet (and a Google search might put you on some sort of list). For a taste, check out this video from Gonzo Chicago, and catch ‘em at a rare poking out from underground.

Friday, January 27th Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt at the Den Theater (10 PM, $5) 
There’s a lot going on this night that is great, but I made a promise to myself to plug TDPR whenever they came through town. This is probably the only band I’ve made a point to see two days in a row. Homemade props, inflatable snowmen, fantastic lights and a crowd-consuming tent all to the soundtrack of upbeat, love-of-everything dance/pop. Not to be missed at this off the beaten path space. (all the good info can be found on the facebook page)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Record review: Rego - 'Seconds'

By Sasha Geffen

Of all the bands I've had the pleasure of catching live around the city, I can't think of a single one that performs with as much of a sense of family as Rego. Songwriter Rebecca Rego and her accompanying players seem as comfortable on stage as they might be jamming in their own living rooms. They play off of each other with the kind of love and humor that even radiates into their official recordings. There's a spark there that the studio process can't even begin to subdue. 

On their sophomore LP, Rego pours their alt-country songcraft into a space that's simultaneously warmer and more melancholy. Throughout Seconds, the band suspends a balance between a folksy bucolic hush and raw rock grit. But even at its angriest, Seconds remains fiercely introspective, often to the point of self-flagellation. Wistful bell lines and Neil Young-style alarm clock guitar blasts both punctuate laments of self-sabotage, the bewildering passing of time, and the destructive personal ruts we tend to dig ourselves into as we grow older.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Listen: The Bright White preview upcoming EP with 'Mary Anne'

By Frank Krolicki

Carrying on the tradition of high-impact, guitar-driven Chicago power pop, four-piece The Bright White came onto the scene in early 2011 with their solid introductory EP Until Then. Building on the momentum created from that release and playing frequent shows around the city, the band has been back in the studio preparing new music for a second EP due out in March. They're offering a first taste in the form of "Mary Anne," an even bolder, more intense--but no less infectious--effort than their previous material. With frontman Matthew Kayser's grabbing vocals, a tight melody and a wailing guitar solo, the song is a reminder that while indie trends come and go, driving, hook-heavy rock and roll never stops sounding good.

The upcoming EP is still untitled, but according to the band it will feature five tracks and a less polished sound than Until Then that captures more of the energy of their live show. You can listen to "Mary Anne" below, and check out the band live tonight at Abbey Pub (also with I Lost Control and The Luck of Eden Hall, 9 p.m., $10).

The Bright White - Mary Anne by Windy City Rock

Tonight: Brice Woodall cassette release at the Ace Bar

By Frank Krolicki

What's a little snow and bitter cold when there's live music to be seen?

Tonight at the Ace Bar (1505 W. Fullerton Ave.), Chicago's Brice Woodall will be celebrating the release of his new cassette EP, Some Odd Years, as part of a bill that also features Tiny Manatee and Sad Astronaut. Early in 2011, Windy City Rock's own Sasha Geffen interviewed Brice--and now what do you know--she is playing synths and bells with him as part of a three-piece that also includes Wade Work of Sequoia.

The EP, which is available for download now on Bandcamp, has an atmospheric folktronica sound that's the perfect fit for a frigid, snowy winter's day (it even features some cool wintry artwork courtesy of Sasha). You can listen to one of the songs, "POV," below, and take in the sounds live starting at 9 p.m. tonight. Click here for more information and tickets.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Video: Michael Lux and the Bad Sons - 'Salt and Pepper'

By Frank Krolicki

One of the albums I'm most looking forward to this year is the debut full-length from Michael Lux and the Bad Sons, a most genuine Chicago rock and roll band that we first heard from in late 2010 via their EP Neat Repeater (which they kindly have up for free download here--worth every megabyte on your hard drive/portable music device). The band recently made a really fun showing on Chic-A-Go-Go, and now they've got something a little more serious in the form of the music video for new track "Salt and Pepper." It's packed full of mystery, intrigue and smoke. Lots of smoke. Oh, and guitars. Big guitars. It's pretty great. See/hear it below, and check out the band live on Thursday, February 9th at the Empty Bottle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Go To There: January 17 - 23

Tuesday, January 17th Panda Riot, Advance Base, the Hit Back at Empty Bottle (9:30, 21+, $8)  
The dream poppers in Panda Riot headline, but make sure to check out Advance Base, the new moniker of Owen Ashworth, formerly of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.

Wednesday, January 18th Summer Girlfriends, E+ at Beat Kitchen (8 PM, 21+, $8)
Only half of the four-piece of E+ is playing this show, but they promise "in this format, the tunes are more mellow, groovy and quite ghostly." Summer Girlfriends are sure to be quite the opposite, bringing a post-riot grrrl garage rock.

Northpilot, The Kickback, The Bears of Blue River at Lincoln Hall (7 p.m., all ages, $7).
At LH, it's Left Field Management night for their "Biggest Show Ever," featuring some great Chicago acts you might have read about right here (see our Northpilot EP review and our review of The Kickback's latest).
Thursday, January 19th Archie Powell and the Exports at Quenchers (9 PM, 21+, $5 suggested)
Man, it seems like these guys are taking forever following up Skip Work, right? I guess that's how they sucker you into their live shows. Plus, Archie promises to buy you a Blatz. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night.

Friday, January 20th Cave, Bill Vermette, Velcro Lewis Group, Killer Moon, Strychnine at Hideout (7 PM, 21+$10)
Night One of the third annual Psych Fest at the Hideout with the inimitable Cave headlining. Get lost in their trancey grooves. Check out this video from Gonzo Chicago of them playing on a flatbed truck down Milwaukee Ave.

Saturday, January 21st Dark Fog, Plastic Crimewave Sound, Rabble Rabble, Verma, Red Plastic Buddha at Hideout (7 PM, 21+$10)
And just in case you didn't have enough from the night before, here's night two of Psych Fest. If the Hideout is somehow still standing after Rabble rabble plays, surely it'll be taken down by Steve Krakow's classic Plastic Crimewave Sound.

Sunday, January 22nd Gaberdine at Subterranean (8 PM, 21+, $8)
After all that psych-rock, better take it down a notch. Gaberdine headlines at Subt, although I'm not sure how the six members will themselves and all their instruments on the tiny stage. Read my review of their performance opening for Low last year.

Monday, January 23rd Wally Dogger, Pinto and the Bean, Mutts, Otter Petter at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+, FREE)
Free Monday nights strike again, providing big sounds from small bands. At the heart of the lineup is the gravely three piece Mutts and duo of Pinto and the Bean (read Frank's review of their debut album The Waiting Place).

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Prefixmag.com premiered a hypnotic new Loyal Divide track called "Otto," featuring guest vocals from Rachel Sarah Thomas.
  • Electro-rockers Moon Furies have released a great video for their track "Mercury 13."
  • In other video news, here's another gem from Chic-A-Go-Go, this time featuring Michael Lux and the Bad Sons pretend-playing a cool, catchy new track. Keep an eye out for an official video for their single "Salt and Pepper" later this week.
  • Daytrotter.com put up a live session with Chicago's Fort Frances.
  • Chicagoist wrote about the first single from Disappears' upcoming album Pre-Language (out March 1st).
  • Thomas Conner of the Sun-Times reviewed the recently released EP3 from psych-rockers Secret Colours.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Show review: Chairlift, Class Actress, Polica at Schubas, 1/14

By Frank Krolicki

Chairlift (photo: Frank Krolicki)
We're not even through the first month of 2012 and I'm already declaring Something, the upcoming sophomore album from Brooklyn's Chairlift, one of my top favorites of the year. To make that statement even bolder, I haven't even heard the whole thing yet. After incessantly listening to its three pre-released tracks, live versions and samples on iTunes, I feel that confident about it. So as soon as I found out the band would be passing through Chicago to headline Saturday night's installment of this year's Tomorrow Never Knows fest at Schubas, I made sure I'd be there. The full night consisted of an endurance-testing bill of five acts that focused on female voices, and while I didn't catch first openers Wild Belle and Willis Earl Beal, I arrived in time to take in Polica and Class Actress before the main event.

Polica (photo: Frank Krolicki)
Polica was mesmerizing, not so much because immediate hooks were in great supply, but because of the way singer Channy Leaneagh's powerful voice snaked around the room with both mystery and conviction. Sometimes processed with a slightly spooky, robotic touch and other times more natural, the front woman's delivery accompanied equally atmospheric music for trance inducing effect. Songs like "Violent Games" and "Amongster" off the band's debut Give You the Ghost struck just the right balance between pleasing and strange, and succeeded in setting a mood that captivated a packed Schubas.

Next came Brooklyn's Class Actress, fronted by the coquettish Elizabeth Harper, who despite her act's name didn't seem quite ready for her close-up. Dressed in a trench coat, with a tousled flop of brown hair and almost no stage light directed at her, Harper came across as a bit of an enigma (as well as a damn hard subject to capture a good photo of). This seemed a bit odd considering the unashamed, neon '80s synth sound of her music, which clearly looks to the dancey extroversion of vintage Madonna for inspiration. It didn't help that Class Actress's set began with Harper repeatedly requesting that the electronic drums be made louder for what seemed like five long minutes, which created confusion (I overheard a fellow audience member wonder if it was a comedy part of the act). Even if it was all kind of weird, it would have been tough to resist the candy-coated grooves of "Keep You" and "Weekend," highlights off the 2011 album Rapprocher, as well as the uplifting new wavey set closer "Let Me Take You Out." Class Actress made the smallest impact of the three acts I saw Saturday night, but the performance was entertaining overall and not without its glitzy high points.

Chairlift (photo: Frank Krolicki)
After a night filled with late start times, Chairlift finally took the stage around 12:30, almost a half hour after they were supposed to begin. By this time a portion of the audience had already trickled out (post-midnight start times can have that effect), but there was still a sizable crowd, and Chairlift quickly made it clear that anyone who decided to soldier on to the end made the right decision. I went into the show admittedly biased, but I would have a hard time understanding how anyone could resist the enchantment of the band's live show, loaded with slinky synth lines, sexy bass grooves, and most importantly, the stunning ethereal vocals of front woman Caroline Polachek. Like influencers Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser, Polachek has the gift of not only being an exceptional singer, but an exceptional singer who can transport you to a different world with her delivery. "All of the bones in your body are in way too few pieces for me, time to do something about it if you know what I mean," she coolly asserted as the first line of opener "Sidewalk Safari," and a threat of physical harm never sounded so alluring.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tonight: Filligar, Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes, Save the Clocktower at Subterranean

By Sasha Geffen

You may be tempted, winter creatures, to hide away in your burrows tonight. After all, our city's been granted its first real coat of snow, and getting from point A to point B is suddenly a much slushier endeavor. But I'll urge you not to lose this Friday in hibernation, if only because some very talented and exceptionally friendly bands would love to melt away your winter blues at Subterranean tonight.

Our friends Save the Clocktower will be kicking off the eve with their fuzzy, retro-styled electropop. If you haven't already picked up their latest record, you have about zero excuses. It's extra awesome and free on Bandcamp. Tonight's show will be their new bassist Chris's inaugural performance, so come show the new-minted quartet some love. New friends Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes will drop by from the sunnier skies of Nashville, Tennessee to play their quirky electronic-enforced indie pop. They released their LP Civilized Man last year to critical acclaim and I believe there are at least 14 reasons to start to love them contained within this one video alone. We'll also get to see Filligar flood the place with their sunny retro jangle. I caught these dudes at Subterranean ages ago and they have more fun than just about anybody on stage. Check out the following cut from their recent live session at the Hideout for a taste:

Knock Yourself Out by Filligar

Not only is Subt mere steps from the blue line, but Filligar has struck up a deal with Chicago's Uber car service for their fans. Just use the promo code "FILLIGAR" to get 25% off your ride to the show.

Doors at 8:30, show at 9, tickets are $10, 21+.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Check this out: The Shakedown album release show, 1/14

By Frank Krolicki

When they're not putting down their thoughts about music, a few of our writers here at WCR like to play it, too. One of our musically-inclined is Christian Chiakulas, who is at the helm of The Shakedown. The band is about to release their debut album You and I at the End, and will celebrate with a show at Logan Square's Box Social (2129 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Saturday, January 14th. Party at the Moontower, Every Wakes Dream and The Broken Belts are also part of the lineup.

The Shakedown's sound seems to scream "current indie trends be-damned," which is something I always find pretty admirable (as much as I am a fan of some of those current indie trends). Instead of reverb-drenched indie pop, art rock, or anything else you'd find getting a lot of hype today, the band opt for mostly loud, mostly fast, mostly straightforward rock with a touch of punk and a lot of energy (and the occasionally slowed-down tune for a bit of variety). Revved-up tracks such as "She Smiled (And Said Goodbye)" and "Flush" should get the blood flowing on a cold winter night and are bound to sound especially good with a beer in hand over the weekend. So if you're looking for a show Saturday, check out The Shakedown at Box Social and be sure to say hey to Christian.

The Shakedown take the stage at 9 p.m. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Go To There: January 10 - 16

This week's edition of Go To There features a couple Tomorrow Never Knows picks as well as an easy way to fulfill one of my other resolutions to never miss an ONO show again. 

Tuesday January 10th Creepy Band, Jon Drake and the Shakes, Ryley Walker at Empty Bottle (9 PM, 21+, $8)
 Read previous EP reviews of Creepy Band and Jon Drake. Make sure to get there early for the John Fahey/Nick Drake acoustic strums of Ryley Walker. 

Wednesday January 11th Names Divine, Nude Sunrise at Burlington (9PM, 21+, $5)
Catch Names Divine before they go on their nationwide tour. Take a look at their route and tell your friends in other cities to go!

Thursday January 12th Videotape, Unplugged and Reborn at Beat Kitchen (8PM, $10, 17+)
Read a review of U&R's debut album from last year. 

Friday January 13th Caveman, Gauntlet Hair, Prussia at Schubas (TNK2012) (9 PM, 18+, $15)
Caveman and Gauntlet Hair made big buzz at CMJ in the Fall (and for good reason), but I've been crushing on Prussia's Poor English trilogy, for free on their bandcamp.

Saturday January 14th Heavy Times at Crown Tap Room (9 PM, 21+, $5)
Heavy Times' 'Jacker' was one of the best from last year. Catch the Dead Boysesque punk rock in a primo dive of a joint.

Sunday January 15th White Mystery, Mannequin Men at Schubas (TNK2012) (9 PM, 18+, $15)
Tomorrow may not know, but we already do how much White. Mystery. Rocks. Mannequin Men are an added bonus.

Monday January 16th ONO, Wume, Moonrises at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+, FREE)
No excuses to miss this one. Even though it's free, wouldn't be surprised if the Bottle hit capacity early. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Record review: The Assembly - 'The Future Has Been Sold'

By Frank Krolicki

The last we heard from Chicago alt-rockers The Assembly, they were exploring rather dark territory via 2008's The Tide Has Turned, a record that put more emphasis overall on setting an intense mood than supplying overt hooks. After a lengthy period of silence the four-piece has returned with The Future Has Been Sold, an eight-track album that retains elements of Tide's intensity and paranoia--as well as its powerful guitar crunch--while mixing in catchier choruses and lighter pop touches that make for their most accessible set of songs to date.

Future opens with "Matters" and "That's Not Enough," two rockers that play on the underlying darkness of The Assembly's sound, but with big, immediate hooks and guitar riffs galore to draw you in quickly. In particular, "Matters"--which according to the band is about social media overload--is a high-energy introduction that finds frontman Dave Suh repeating, "When you take matters into your own hands you forget everything that you know," in his distinctive vocal style that's equal parts '80s post-punk (think The Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler) and '90s radio punk/alt-rock (think Billie Joe Armstrong). Those descriptors go for the music, too, which throughout alternates in referencing both decades and styles.

Later in the album, "Without A Fight" and "Without You" pick up where the first two tracks left off, but other material brings in a brighter, poppier sound that marks the most noticeable difference from Tide. The subject matter still relies mostly on dissatisfaction and a touch of gloom, but the vibe on "Who Do You Need Now, "In Control" and "Deafen the Sound of You" is more upbeat, the melodies prettier and the synths more pronounced. The record ends with the cautiously optimistic "Feel Better," where Suh asks, "Wouldn't it be so nice to feel better? Or will you stay here and feel the same?" over twinkling synths and a relaxed beat. It's a fitting end to The Assembly's latest offering--my personal favorite from the band so far--which proves that cynicism and hopefulness can be a satisfying combination.

The Assembly will be celebrating the release of The Future Has Been Sold with a show at Double Door on Friday, January 20th with Red Jr., Up Off Down and DJ Dihty Dihty (admission is only $1 and things kick off at 9. The Assembly starts at 10). You can download the album now on iTunes or get a hard copy via CD Baby.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tonight: Pet Lions, Tiger Bones, The Hudson Branch at Metro

By Frank Krolicki

As we pointed out in our show roundup earlier this week, the Metro's the place to be tonight. At the top of the bill are Pet Lions, makers of some of Chicago's finest indie rock/pop tunes whose debut full-length Houses was one of my favorites of 2011. The band recently put out a video for one of the album's highlights, "Trinidad," which you can check out below (every band could use a good "look at us as we go on fun musical adventures" video, and this is theirs). By going to the show you can also join Pet Lions in celebrating the recovery of their van, Jim, which has been out of commission after colliding with a deer but is now in proper working order and ready for even more fun musical adventures. It's a good thing, too, because the band are heading out on tour Saturday. Update: Unfortunately Pet Lions tweeted today that their van was broken into and left undriveable. The show is still on, though. Go cheer them up.

In addition to Pet Lions you'll get the ominous-yet-alluring indie rock of Tiger Bones and the moody, folky rock of The Hudson Branch (too bad they don't have an animal name too).

If all that weren't enough, you can get in free before 9 p.m. if you show this flyer. Otherwise you'll have to pay $9, which will no doubt still be well worth it. Doors 8 p.m./show 9 p.m., 18 and over.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Show review: Close Hits, Rambos at The Burlington, 1/4

By Gene Wagendorf III

If the Mayans are right and this really is The Last Year for humanity at least I can say I kicked it off with two of my favorite Chicago bands. Close Hits and Rambos left my ears ringing and had me pumped for a 2012 that ought to be filled with great local music.

Gearing up for the release of their debut record Rock and Roll Monsters, garage-rock gang Rambos blasted through a set of old and new material in front of an eager crowd at The Burlington on Wednesday. I don't know what this crew drank on NYE, but whatever it was had them charged with enough energy to level a small town. They didn't actually shatter the walls of the bar, but it wasn't for lack of effort, especially with respect to drummer Ian Tsan. After getting his leg shattered by a car back in October, Tsan seems to have spent his recovery time plotting ways to take it out on his kit. "Terrorize," the band's musical call to arms, lurched from the stage like a drunken, pissed-off Frankenstein's Monster, stumbling and thrashing with drum rolls and fills. Later, "Human Monster" maintained the Svengoolie-esque atmosphere. Washy guitars swirled over a chugging riff, giving vocalists Jeremy David Miller and Julie Meckler a Fright Night playground to yelp and holler over. The on-stage chemistry between those two remains one of Rambos' strong suits, and in a better world it would be the backbone for a Rambos Variety Hour special.

Two reworked (and re-titled) covers were sprinkled into the set, both getting the crowd bouncing- "Faggots," a comic take on the Black Lips' "Bad Kids," and "Do You Want to Die?," a punk take on Bobby Freeman's “Do You Want to Dance?"As I've noted previously, the latter is closer to a Ramones tribute than it is to the dreamy original, allowing it to fit perfectly next to newer Rambos tunes like the jangling punk of "Sweet Mothers of Death." That song tore across The Burlington like a black dust storm, contrasting starkly with some of the more plodding numbers that followed. Drifting away from their punk energy for a bit, Rambos gave their guitar players a chance to shred on some chunky, riff-heavy songs. The set ended with "Arrows," a song that has the musical charm of getting slapped in the face during a really great bout of sex. It hooks you in to the moment, leaving you to wondering whether you should slap back or start laughing. Either way it's hot and I'm comforted to know that this kind of fun has a place in 2012.

The duty of post-coital cuddling fell to Close Hits, who were more than eager to step in and give us a lighter bit of loving. That isn't to say the trio took the stage and eeked out pappy fluff, but their Motown and candy rock influences stir up a whole different kind of musical copulation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • No plans for Sunday, January 15th? Care to spend the day in "a creepy dark and damp warehouse" with Dastardly? The band is looking for people to be in their next music video on the verge of the release of their new EP, Bury Me in the Country. If you want in, click here for details.
  • Miss Alex White of Chicago's ever-rocking sibling duo White Mystery was recently featured as one of ten female guitarists you should know by Guitar World.
  • Locally-based experimentalists A Lull are set to embark on a winter tour later this month and have a new single, "Some Love," to coincide. You can get it for free now through the end of the tour (2/4) via Mush Records' Facebook page.
  • Gapers Block wrote about some of their best and worst Chicago music-related happenings of 2011.
  • Margot & the Nuclear So and So's have released a new single, "Prozac Rock," from their upcoming album Rot Gut, Domestic (out March 20th). You can download it via Amazon MP3 or iTunes, or get it as a 7" here. Check out a stream below.
Prozac Rock by MargotCloud

Check this out: Neighborpoem - 'Sold For Fire'

By Sasha Geffen

Hugh Trimble carves canyons from the air. His latest output as Neighborpoem spans the atmosphere in huge, organic sweeps. As a fellow east coast transplant, I'm reminded of the mountains and cliffs of the land that touches the Atlantic. I understand the need to fill the flat midlands with songs that sound like torrential rains rushing down glacial granite slopes. With booming percussion and layered harmonies, handclaps and cascading guitars, Neighborpoem does just that. Like Fleet Foxes imbued with military urgency, "Sold For Fire" builds space and then fills it with transcendental echoes. This simple but massive track is one of three now available to download for free from Trimble.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Show review: Color Card, Mines, Famous Laughs at Empty Bottle, 1/2

By Anna Holmquist

Color Card
Well, kids, winter is here for good. Every time I stepped outside on Monday, I felt like I had to scream to express the unique pain I felt when a gust of wind hit me. I’ve lived in the Midwest for my entire almost-22 years of existence ((Thursday is my birthday!), but it hasn’t made me any more tolerant of winter weather.

Luckily, I had the Empty Bottle’s first show of 2012, which I attended with my friends JPLF and AA, to warm my soul, or something.

Famous Laughs was the first act of the night. Though Jake Acosta didn’t have any stage presence to speak of – I didn’t realize that the show had started for several minutes – his dreamy electronic space-scapes were the perfect soundtrack to the biting weather.

There is something raw and present about this kind of electro-experimental music that I love. It’s not so much music as it is an experience. Neither the audience nor the performer knows exactly what will come next. Also, he looped his vocals, and I have a weakness for that.

Next up was Mines. The vocalist was feeding his voice through a Fender ’63 Reverb unit and running that through a Twin Reverb reissue, creating a funky voice gimmick that worked… for the first few songs. By the end of the set, the fuzzed-out vocals became grating. Otherwise, though, the upbeat tunes kept my head bobbing. I appreciated the trio's obvious enthusiasm and the communication between band members. They never lost their cool, even when the bassist broke a string,

Color Card brought an Omnichord onstage and I almost lost my shit. I have Nerd Love for Omnichords. They also have a spiffy-looking, bespectacled drummer.

Their experimental, upbeat-but-not-quite-enough-to-dance-to tunes had me standing and swaying and tapping my foot. As with Mines, their vocal style underwhelmed me, but I think practice and variety could smooth that out.

Color Card is playing another free show with Grandeurs this Sunday, January 8, at the Whistler, so be sure to stop by and check them out.

Go to there: January 3-9

This is the first installment of a new weekly series where we simply and succinctly tell you what to do each week. It'll mostly consist of local shows, but don't be surprised if we squeak a touring band or two in there from time to time. Get out there, Chicago:

Pet Lions play Metro Friday (photo: David Elliott)
Tuesday, January 3rd Mar Caribe at Hideout (9 PM, 21+, $5 suggested)

Wednesday, Januaruy 4th Close Hits and Rambos at Burlington (9 PM, 21+, $5)
(read previous show reviews for Close Hits and Rambos)

Thursday, January 5th Playfully Yours at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+, $8 or FREE w/RSVP)

Friday, January 6th Pet Lions, Tiger Bones at the Metro (8 PM, 18+, $9)
(read an album review for Houses by Pet Lions and about Tiger Bones most recent EP; guess that show wasn’t their last one after all. Find out how to get in for free on the event page on Facebook)

Saturday, January 7th Secret Colours, Apteka, Hollows at Empty Bottle (10 PM, 21+, $8 or FREE w/RSVP)
(Secret Colours release show for EP3; read a previous album review for their self-titled full length)

Sunday, January 8th Dastardly at Reggie’s Music Joint (8 PM, 21+, $5)
(here’s our review of Dastardly’s May You Never...)

Monday, January 9th Thin Hymns at the Whistler (9 PM, 21+, FREE)

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

By Andrew Hertzberg

Ok, I’m not normally one to make these kinds of things, but having been inspired by the list at We Listen For You for all of us who create, listen to, buy, steal, and write about music, I’ve decided I want to step up my own game on the Internet machine. So here is how I’m going to be a better person about music this year:

1) Preview more shows. Rarely a night goes by in this city without some incredible musical event taking place. I’d go to them all if time and money were irrelevant. But just because I can’t go to every show, doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Every Tuesday, I’m gonna run a weekly preview of shows I think you should go to. Why Tuesday? Because it’s just as arbitrary as any other day of the week. Especially during these winter months, I know we all need a little extra motivation to want to go out, so this is my little way of giving you a little kick in the ass and out the door.

2) Buy more vinyl. I think we can all agree that if anyone wants to purchase a physical copy of anything, it might as well be vinyl. I don’t know the last time I bought a CD and didn’t just immediately burn it to my computer and never touch the disc again. Considering a lot of bands and labels offer a download code with the vinyl, might as well get both the digital and analog bang for your buck. Not to mention supporting bands, labels and local record stores directly as opposed to relying on the Spotifys and Bandcamps.

3) Listen to more recorded music. Besides the abundance of year end lists that make another one just a piece of hay in a haystack, I’ve never really attempted one, because, well, I realize I just don’t take the time to listen to a lot of albums and become immersed enough with them. I am generally more attracted to the live setting and the sense that anything can happen as opposed to static content, but that’s only one side of the coin. Hoping my #2 will help in this department.

4) Read other blogs. Of course I read other blogs, but not to the extent that I should. Although this doesn’t fall entirely on me. Unfortunately, a lot of blogs end up posting the same stuff and it can be cumbersome to weed through the repetitive emails, posts and tweets about the new daily Weeknd album. Just gonna push myself to find better blogs with original content and hope that we at WCR help fill that role ourselves.

5) Never miss another ONO show again. This band has been around one way or another for longer than I’ve been alive and I only finally saw them a couple months ago. Part avant-garde noise rock, part performance art. Richard from Loud Loop Press coined them "Indavant Gospelgaze." Don’t make the same mistakes I have. Follow them on frontman Travis’ personal website.

Ohh, I’m sure there’s always more I can do, but this looks like a good start. Here’s to 2012. Cheers.

Record review: Young Jesus - 'Home'

By Christian Chiakulas

The album cover for Young Jesus's Home looks like they just grabbed a bunch of their friends, posed underneath a tree and had somebody take a picture. Not that it's poorly done or looks bad, but the near unprofessionalism belies the music within.

From “Family and Friends,” a two-and-a-half introduction of sorts, you know this is an album with ambition. The second song, “David,” is most representative of the band's fun sort of pop-rock sound driven by lead singer John Rossiter's deep, passionate vocals that go from mellow, earnest singing to shouting in key at the drop of a hat. Underneath are layers of metallic-sounding clean guitars and the almost melodic beats from drummer Peter Martin, who joins with Rossiter's vocals to give the band their developed sense of dynamics.

“Falling For You” starts off quietly, with Rossiter singing over the single strums of a gorgeous clean guitar, until the bass comes in, then the rest of the band, and track three takes off. Bassist Shawn Nystrand shows off some of his skills, and Rossiter continues to impress with his singing abilities, especially in the backing vocals and melodies.

“New Cool” is a slight departure from the previous songs, trading in the chords for arpeggios, and containing a catchy staccato drum beat and doubled vocals.

“News” brings on the acoustic guitar, and a little blues. Once again, Rossiter's Gahan-esque vocals take center stage. About halfway through, the acoustic is traded in for the band's trademark clean electric guitar for a happy, funky breakdown and guitar solo. Rossiter screams through to the end, giving this song a noticeable climax, to a round of applause from the imagined audience.

The band does a quiet, melancholy and atmospheric reprise of the first song, “Family and Friends,” with more acoustic guitar and chanting background vocals. Aside from the backing vox it's instrumental, and serves to bridge the gap between the first and second halves of the album.

Young Jesus pick it up again with “Away,” and for the first time, we get a bit of distortion on the guitar as it fights to overpower the vocals. The guitar may be louder, but as with every other song on Home, John Rossiter's vocals are the centerpiece, practically the whole reason for the song's existence. "Away" has some cool interludes, and an extended drumroll with some atmospheric guitar effects, but you kind of forget about them whenever the singing starts back up. This is another screamer, with the band going nuts behind their lead singer as he switches between yelling and singing.