Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Show review: Memoryhouse, Tiny Fireflies at Schubas, 2/28

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: Shannon Aliza)
“Let’s all go to sleep now,” Memoryhouse singer Denise Nouvion half-joked after playing one of their songs. I say half-joked because well, I mean, Memoryhouse is generally tagged "dream pop." I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on The Years EP before I fell asleep at night. It's music that is lulling, innocuous and simply comfortable to listen to. Likewise, in the live setting, the audience is cool to react after songs, after being nearly mesmerized by Nouvion’s dreamy vocals. But the calm also brought to mind Robert Loerzel’s interpretation of crowd response to Low at Lincoln Hall last year, of having a respect for the performers and the assumption that everyone in the room is intent on catching every nuance performed. This of course isn’t true for everyone. I did notice some people filter out, perhaps just towards the back of the intimate room or out to the bar, but it does show signs of a crowd highly intrigued to a band early in their career.

Memoryhouse’s stop in Chicago was the first on the new tour and marked the release of their debut LP The Slideshow Effect out on Sub Pop. Aptly, a series of grainy projections played in the background throughout, of mountains, landscapes, waves crashing, people swimming. The whimsy started early with "Walk With Me," the duo of singer/keyboardist Nouvion and guitarist Evan Abeele looking entirely natural and comfortable with each other, doubly noted by their in-between song banter. Memoryhouse was originally just the two of them, but there was a drummer as well last night, who played subtly but dynamically, particularly in regard to the cymbals. Throughout the set, Nouvion’s vocals were spot on, distinctly feminine but comfortable in the lower ranges of her voice. She hits the higher notes occasionally, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she wasn’t holding back just a tad too much.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Go to There: February 28 - March 5

By Andrew Hertzberg

Tuesday, February 28th: Memoryhouse at Schubas (8 PM, 18+, $12)
Wistful, longing, nostalgic…whatever you want to call it, the Canadian duo Memoryhouse does dream pop beautifully well. They sample from Jon Brion’s "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" soundtrack, and the moniker is taken from a Max Richter album. If any of these name drops and buzz words do anything for you, Memoryhouse is a must. Likeminded locals Tiny Fireflies open for ‘em.

Wednesday, February 29th: James Greer, Mutts at Empty Bottle (9 PM, 21+, FREE w/RSVP)
According to "30 Rock," it doesn't matter what you do on this extra day of the year. Except, ummm, duhhh, AWP is having a kick off party at the Bottle. Mutts make some dirty rock'n'roll that would certainly get the approval of Tom Waits. James Greer is in this little band you may have heard of called Guided By Voices. RSVP by midnight tonight and go for free. There'll be plenty of readings by like a million authors too. Check out the full details here.

Thursday, March 1st: Charming People, Absolutely Not at Hideout (9 PM, 21+, $8)
Absolutely Not bring to mind a more pissed off Thermals, substituting punk-pop for a buildings-on-fire immediacy of hooks. Charming People aren't as intense, but plenty catchy still, inflecting dream pop with a bit of '60s surf and girl group in there too.

Friday, March 2nd: Baby Teeth, Outer Minds at Schubas (10 PM, 21+, $10)
Not that this has been that harsh of a winter, but I think it's about time for a slew of Outer Minds shows, their Mamas and Papas-ish psych-pop can't help but make you feel warm and gooey. Baby Teeth are funky and glamorous and are throwing a party in honor of their newest album, White Tonight.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Gapers Block has the details on a free sampler from Andrew Bird called TheNoiseTrade sampler, which contains new tracks from his upcoming album Break It Yourself as well as B sides.
  • Loud Loop Press posted about Sausage Fest 2012, a two-night SXSW send-off party that will happen at the Empty Bottle on Saturday, March 10 and Sunday, March 11. The lineup includes Running, Bad Drugs, Apache Dropout and more.
  • Chicago Tunes gave their take on a couple recent releases from locally-based bands: Failure by Unicycle Loves You (which we delved into too) and ANY KIND by Any Kind (which includes members of This Is Me Smiling.
  • Over at, Jim DeRogatis blogged about a new Chicago music festival on the way called The Spring Awakening Festival. The fest will have an electronic/dance focus, be held in Soldier Field and feature the likes of Skrillex, Moby and Afrojack.

Video: Brice Woodall - 'Sea of Knives'

By Frank Krolicki

Here's a good one for a cold Monday morning courtesy of Chicago's own Brice Woodall. "Sea of Knives," off the EP Id Escaped, is a two-and-a-half-minute journey into the clouds. Being up that high makes you feel really dreamy, but also a bit eerie, and the video (directed by Trevor Bittinger) matches the mood of the track perfectly. See for your self below. Brice will be making the trip down to SXSW next month, so if you happen to be too, catch him playing on three different days (details on his Facebook page).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

EP review: Cold Blue Kid - 'Mimic'

By Sasha Geffen

It must require some courage, I'd imagine, to take the tight, propulsive pop songs you've written and drop them in a vat of reverb and late-'80s synth glaze. When you're working with hooks, it more often than not serves your interests to keep them clean, sharp, ready to slice through the less interesting noise and dig into the skulls of your listeners. Occasionally, though, it's more interesting to start with pop skeletons and wash them out to the point where they're almost unrecognizable. 

If you recorded Elizabeth Fraser serenading the Antarctic wastes, the result would be less spacey than Cold Blue Kid's Mimic EP. The Chicago quintet, fronted by songsmith Alex Longoria, scopes expansive, glacial terrain throughout their sophomore release. You almost get dizzy trying to parse the edges of each song. They're all full of so much space that it becomes easy to miss the Echo & the Bunnymen-style pop structures nestled at their cores. But they're there, churning up the froth around them, sneaking through in shrouds of steam. Without them, all that haze would  collapse into a puddle of ambiance. Thanks to Longoria's subtle scaffolding, it stays upright.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Go to There: February 21 - 27

By Andrew Hertzberg

Future Ghosts
Tuesday, February 21st: Future Ghosts at Subterranean (8 PM, 21+, $8)
Ever wonder what a more psychedelic Smashing Pumpkins would sound like? You'll find something close to it in Future Ghosts. Sleep Static open by balancing erratic post-punk and funky psych-pop. 

Wednesday, February 22nd: Dastardly at the Whistler (10 PM, 21+, FREE)
Dastardly says it’s gonna be awhile until they play a proper show again, so grab a fancy drink and hit up some soul-crushingly honest alt-country at the Whistler. 

Thursday February 23rd: Magic Milk at VFW (8 PM, 21+, FREE)
Magic Milk go wild. VFW is a wild place. Luckily the two of them found each other on and are coming together as one. According to the Facebook event, everyone is already going. Make sure you are too. Big Colour and Natalie Grace Alford open.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Record review: Rambos - 'Rock and Roll Monsters'

By Gene Wagendorf III 

It's not often that I find myself comparing a band to a genre of comics, but such was the case last Friday night. I was telling a friend about the upcoming record release show for Rambos' debut album, Rock and Roll Monsters (Saturday, February 25th at the Empty Bottle), and was asked the obligatory question: What do they sound like? I talk about music enough to mostly loathe comparing one band to another (note: the more inebriated I get the more fun it is to play "Band X ripped off Band Y" and see how many moves it takes to get back to The Beatles) and so I decided to go another route and asked Said Friend if they'd ever read any horror comics from the '60s or '70s. The answer, of course, was no, but the comparison was appropriate never the less. Rambos draw off a couple of musical styles in creating their sound, but few things nail down what exactly their record sounds like as precisely as looking at an old issue of Vampirella.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Americana rockers Dastardly released a new video for "Rose Marie," a song originally made popular by Slim Whitman in the 1950s. The clip is first in a series called "Dastardly in the Country," consisting of six songs the band filmed on a farm in San Marcos, TX, in December.
  • HoZac Records announced on their Facebook page that their annual Blackout Fest will take place this year from May 17-19 at the Empty Bottle. Red Kross is confirmed to headline, with news of more bands and other details on the way.
  • ran a review of the debut, self-titled record from Chicago's Radar Eyes.
  • Chicago musician David Safran recently teamed up with Company of Thieves frontwoman Genevieve Schatz to record a sleek orch-pop duet titled "Woman Astride, Facing Away." Take a listen below.
David Safran with Genevieve Schatz - "Woman Astride, Facing Away" by DavidSafran

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Go to There: February 14 - 20

By Andrew Hertzberg

Tyler Jon Tyler
Tuesday, February 14th: Tyler Jon Tyler, Nones, the Runnies at Empty Bottle (9:30, 21+, $8)
Nothing says love like some minimal garage pop by local trio TJT. Keep the energy (and noise level) up with Nones and the Runnies kicking things off.

Wednesday, February 15th: Angel Olsen at Burlington (9 PM, 21+, $7)
…and on Wednesday let’s tone it down a bit. The solo songstress has the voice of an…no no no, I’m not gonna be that obvious. But if you’re looking for some lo- fi pop-folk that finds heartfelt inspiration in the classic as well as contemporary, this is the spot for you.

Thursday, February 16th: Panda Riot at Subterranean  (8 PM, 21+, $8)
If shoegaze is a meaningless label, than Panda Riot are one of the best reverbed-laden, mesmerizingly relaxed, distortion and tremolo led rock groups you can find in the local scene.

Friday, February 17th: Vortis, Cathy Santonies at Quenchers (9 PM, 21+, $5 suggested)
Isn’t it great when us music writers flip the script and put ourselves out there? One who’s been at it the longest (in both games) is Jim DeRogatis. Taking a night off of scrutinizing all of the ways Lollapalooza is screwing our city over, he’s rocking the drums for post-punk, pop vulgarites Vortis. Triple R rrriotgirl girls the Cathy Santonies open.

Saturday, February 18th: Big Colour, Magic City at Burlington (9 PM, 21+, $5)
Need some girl-group inspired dude rock? Check out Big Colour. They remind me a bit of other reverb drenched locals Mines. Feel it all around with psych-ish dream poppers Magic City opening up.

Sunday, February 19th: Screaming Females at Permanent Records (5 PM, AA, FREE)
Usually bands stop by Perm Rex before a show while they have some time to kill in town, but it looks like this is the only time you’ll have to catch the Jersey trio this time around. The punk-pop trio is like an East Coast female-fronted Thermals. Catch the show and maybe buy a record or two why dontcha? (note the early set time too).

Monday, February 20th: Royal Baths at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+, FREE)
Jesus, and I thought Chicago had a good psych/garage/fuzz scene. The Bay Area’s been kicking out the jams recently with Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, etc. and Royal Baths fit right into the arsenal of '60s inspired West Coast primal psych’n’roll. They’ve since moved it to NYC, but they seem to be making waves (and noise) wherever they go.

City States cover R.E.M. for Valentine's Day

By Frank Krolicki

photo: Jeremy Farmer
You might remember that last year locally-based art pop band City States released a cover of the Police classic "King of Pain" in honor of Valentine's Day. For 2012, they decided to keep offering up their spin on moody love songs by taking on an R.E.M. track. They chose "You are the Everything" off Michael Stipe and company's 1988 album Green, and took it into a more melancholy, atmospheric direction. You can take a listen and grab a free download below, or head over to the City States' Bandcamp site, where you can also check out the band's recently-released debut EP Resolution.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Interview: Slow Animal

By Rachel Angres

The three-piece band Slow Animal originally hail from Franklinville, New Jersey. “It’s the most corrupt state in the nation, but South Jersey is not that bad.” Lead vocalist Alex Kabable says this sarcastically. The trio now reside in Philadelphia, and at a last minute request drove their van to Chicago to play at the Empty Bottle on Wednesday night opening for locals Gypsyblood. Immediately following their set the three were more than happy to sit in the basement of the venue with us, where they discussed everything from their love for Seinfeld and distaste for NYC ("Driving there is in the in the top three of my list of things I hate to do,” Kabable reveals).

Slow Animal book their own shows, release their songs for free to download via Bandcamp, pay out of their pockets to tour around with their friends to colleges, house shows and anywhere willing to give them the opportunity. Their first aid survival kit for touring includes peanut butter, paper towels, pee-bottles and podcasts. This accidental alliteration is symbolic of their friendship, which started when they were punk kids back in middle school. “We’ve been in various bands with a bunch of different people since 9th grade. Dan [Colanduno, drums] and I started this as a fun secret project, and cool stuff started happening. We needed an extra person for shows, so we asked Jason [Milazzo] if he wanted to play live guitar for us,” says Kabable. They aren’t full-time musicians though--they are gainfully employed: Kabable is a pizza delivery driver, Colanduno works at a school and Milazzo works at a fitness center for the elderly.

Kababale admits proudly that Blink 182 was, and still is in a way, his favorite band, “I’m not all acting like my influences were Morrissey and Joy Division; it’s not as if when I was 6-years-old my parents made me listen to Day Dream Nation. I mean, we were born in the '90s," he says. “We get compared to Wavves, Beach Fossils, Best Coast. We never get labeled as anything close to garage rock--we get pegged beach pop…but that was never our goal. I say fuck sub-genres. We just like to play around with new sound…”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New track from Archie Powell & the Exports, LP coming in May

By Frank Krolicki

Archie Powell & the Exports are back! Well, they didn't actually go anywhere, but it has been a little while since they've given us new music. If 2010's Skip Work made you rightfully think of them as one of Chicago's most likeable and straight-up rocking bands, you'll be glad to know that a new set titled Great Ideas in Action is set to come out on May 1st. You might be even happier to know that you can download the first track, "Metronome," for free right now. It's a hook-filled, guitar-driven tune that's set off with cynical observations about the world while keeping an underlying sense of humor. In other words, it sounds very much like AP&TE. You can either get it from Bandcamp or in exchange for a tweet.

The album will feature 11 tracks: Metronome, Crazy Pills, Shooting Spree, Bend Over Backwards, I Need Supervision, You Might be Cruel (Or I Might Be Dumb), Job Fair, All the Same, Sticky Buttons, Great Ideas in Action, Only So Much You Can Do.

In other news with the band, they'll be heading south next month to play SXSW, but before that have a hometown show scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd at Township (formerly Panchos). Also, if you missed it last week be sure to check out how AP&TE recently took advantage of Kickstarter to accomplish something truly momentous.

Record review: Netherfriends - 'Middle America'

By Andrew Hertzberg

“I’ll see the world while you stay at home,” opens Shawn Rosenblatt on the latest Netherfriends LP Middle America. Devotees to WCR (or any local music publication really) know of Shawn’s 50 songs 50 states project, in which he gave up any lease-dependent piece of land, traveled to every state in the Union, performed, then wrote a new song as well. "Ambitious" doesn’t even begin to describe the project, but after hitting up Hawaii last April, he completed the endeavor. So now that all is said and done, it’s finally time to eternalize his efforts on wax. Last Spring we got the Angry East Coast EP, but now we’ve got a full album about the middle west summed up in shrouded psych-pop goodness.

As anyone who grew up around here knows, the Midwest doesn’t particularly carry an exciting connotation. I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by coasts, the promise of a faster pace and life affirmation. So what does someone who has traveled extensively around the entire country feel about it? “Middle America, you seem to surprise every day,” Shawn sings on "Des Moines, IA" with a Wayne Coynesque gruff falsetto. Likewise, in "Columbus, OH": “Staying here would be the worst thing you could do.” The region that contains all of the in-between places, the God-forsaken highways whose mile-markers can’t pass quickly enough, is actually rather complex, intricate and often inconsistent. The beauty and simplicity of nature and farms can be as malevolent and unforgiving as any urban landscape.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

EP review: Brother George - 'Piney'

By Sasha Geffen

There's a guitar solo halfway through the first track of Brother George's debut EP whose tone would make Girls sweat with envy. Seriously--if you're at all into vintage guitars and the ways they can be brought to orgasm, stop reading, scroll to the bottom, and stream "Olivia Oh Yeah" posthaste. You're in for all kinds of tone boners. 

Historically, I've had mixed feelings about the whole '60s and '70s revivalist noise that the mainstream music blogosphere has become so enraptured by. Sure, all genre is fair game as long as you've got something to say within it, but it seems that most bands who don the vintage mantle do so aimlessly, lazily, because it's fun and easy and requires little if any invention. These bands are made up of people who love nothing more than to tell other people they're in bands. But if you're capable of invigorating that old sound with a new sense of urgency? If the midcentury aesthetic is really and truly the most comfortable niche for the songs that you write? By all means, go old school. Brother George does and it's wonderful.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Go To There: February 7 - 13

By Andrew Hertzberg

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International
Tuesday, February 7th: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour at Lincoln Hall
You probably know this Danish band for their catchy brass led pop of 'Around the Bend' that floated around a few commercials and movies over the past few years, but the band is currently on tour on the heels of their most recent release and have been getting a lot of buzz for their energetic live shows.

Wednesday, February 8th: Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at the Whistler (10 PM, 21+, FREE)
Switch things up a bit with some Afro-pop at a cocktail bar tonight. Although based in Chicago, OBDBI have their roots actually back to Congo and Ghana and have played renowned festivals around the world.

Thursday, February 9th: Michael Lux and the Bad Sons at Empty Bottle  (9:30 PM, 21+, $8 or free w/ RSVP)
I remember seeing Mr. Lux and the Bad Sons at the Bottle at little bit ago glamming out like fellow local boys Smith Westerns, but the ominous and intriguing music video for their new single 'Salt and Pepper' sounds like the band is going in a bigger and more grandiose direction.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Locally-based indie pop outfit Skybox have been pretty quiet of late following the release of their last album Morning After Cuts in 2010, but they've just resurfaced with a colorful video for the snappy track "Light."
  • Gapers Block has a review and photos from Smith Westerns' Friday night set at Metro.
  • Gapers Block also has an update from Canasta guitarist Jeremy Beckford, who comments on the band's uplifting experience on their first day in Mongolia (they are in the unlikely tour destination as part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Arts Envoy Program).
  • In case you were wondering, former Chicagoan Liz Phair is a fan of Lana Del Rey. She defends the frequently-criticized overnight sensation in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.
  • Chicago Mixtape is one year old! Celebrate with them by downloading this week's mix tape, featuring new music from Unicycle Loves You and Netherfriends, an unreleased Modest Mouse cover from Architecture and more. Also check out their anniversary show Saturday at Subterranean.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Download a new Briar Rabbit track every Thursday in February

By Frank Krolicki

Following up his 2011 debut album Briar Rabbit and the Company You Keep, Briar Rabbit, a.k.a. Phillip-Michael Scales, recently recorded a four-track EP titled The Great Routine and he's releasing the songs one-by-one every Thursday this month.

The first track, "Coon," is available now for free download in exchange for a tweet. It's a thoughtful, melodic track with an air of sadness that sets the stage for the EP's concept, which reflects on old-time black minstrel shows from a modern-day perspective. The title track, "In My Head" and "Afterward (You Should Have Seen It)" will follow to complete the story.

Coinciding with Black History Month, The Great Routine is a project Phillip says was sparked by taking an African American Music History class and learning more about the late-1800s/early-1900s form of entertainment, particularly how black actors would perform in blackface.

Take a listen to "Coon" below and also check out a video of Phillip talking about his inspiration for the project. 

Briar Rabbit Presents "The Great Routine" from Briar Rabbit on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Record review: Unicycle Loves You - 'Failure'

By Frank Krolicki

The cover of Unicycle Loves You's third album boldly reads Failure, accompanied by an image of a woman's bottom half sprawled over a sewer to drive the less-than-optimistic message home. It's a simple title that's capable of stirring an immediate emotional response: isn't there a part inside all of us that's petrified by the ever-present threat of failing at life and winding up somewhere lying over the proverbial (or maybe literal) sewer? The concept of the Chicago's trio's latest collection of songs might focus on this universal, anxiety-inducing theme, but the execution doesn't follow suit. Failure is a huge success.

If you've heard ULY's 2010 album Mirror, Mirror, you'll notice right away that Failure is quite a different experience. It's bolder, louder and despite its underlying sense of discontent, more accessible. Where the last release sometimes meandered, this one gets right to the point. For every hook that wasn't pronounced enough before, there's two waiting to pounce and grab you by both ears now. Opener "Garbage Dump," a sort of folk singalong at its essence that's done up as a noisy rocker, is the most immediate example; I'd dare anyone to resist singing along with vocalist/guitarist Jim Carroll to the track's "woo-ooh-ooh-woo-ooh-oohs."

Video: The Black Tape - 'I Love You'

By Frank Krolicki

For anyone who takes in a lot of new music, a good test of a song's power is how well it stays with you after not hearing it for a while. It was back in late 2009 that I first wrote about The Black Tape and their track "I Love You," but when I found out this week that all this time later they've come out with a video for it, I could hum the melody as if I'd just played it earlier that day. It's the sort of tune that can instantly make your day better for at least a few minutes whenever you put it on, and the clip channels its summery, romantic mood well. I was happy to find out that these guys are working on releasing a debut album. In the meantime, I think I'm going to play this every day.

You can check out the video, and also hear "Sunday," another of the few songs The Black Tape have recorded so far, below.

Sunday by The Black Tape