Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Chicago Sonic Coalition

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: John Yingling)
Over this past weekend, in a giant loft called Treasure Town in the Little Village neighborhood, the names of 68 musicians were thrown into a hat and 17 bands were created from there. Each band has 2 and a half months to create a 20 minute set of entirely new music (a cover is allowed though). So maybe you’ve been wondering what a collab between Close Hits and Wume would sound like? What could members of Magic Milk, Vamos and Heavy Times come up with? Just how loud could the noises combined by guys from Lechuguillas, Paper Mice and Bad Drugs get? Well, we all just have to wait until June 9th. Details as they come (or stay up to date by the giving the facebook page a like). Special thanks to Gonzo Chicago's John Yingling for throwing this all together.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • After "secret sale" $75 Lollapalooza three-day passes sold out almost instantaneously last week, the fest's early-bird $200 passes sold out almost as quickly this Tuesday, leaving only $230 passes for sale currently. While the lineup has yet to be announced, ads spotted around the city have lead to speculation that Jack White, The Weekend, Justice and Die Antwoord will be among the artists appearing.
  • In other Chicago music festival news, Pitchfork fest announced a handful of additional bands that will appear in its lineup this summer, including Dirty Projectors. Sleigh Bells, Flying Lotus and more. You can see the full list so far here. Three-day passes are sold out, but you can still get single-day tickets.
  • Chicago quintet The Hudson Branch are previewing their forthcoming LP World Kid (out April 24th) with a free download of one of the tracks, "Periodic Table of Elegance."
  • The Tribune's Greg Kot interviewed locally-based rockers Radar Eyes.
  • Underground Bee published some great photos from last week's A Place to Bury Strangers show at the Empty Bottle, which our own Gene Wagendorf reviewed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Go to There: March 27 - April 2

By Andrew Hertzberg

Dustin Wong
Tuesday, March 27th: Rhyton at the Burlington (9 PM, 21+, $8)
This is the psych-sludge choice for the week. The Thrill Jockey signees feature members from the No Neck Blues Band and Psychic Ills. I can’t imagine what unworldly sounds they’ll come up with in the small backroom at the Burlington. Solar Fox (featuring local psych-guru Steve Krakow) opens.

Wednesday, March 28: Dustin Wong at Empty Bottle (9:30 PM, 21+, $8)
Still crying over the breakup of Ponytail? Or never knew who they were? Here’s your chance to check out (another) Thrill Jockey artist, Dusting Wong, wonderously loop together guitar tracks that’ll entice and en-trance.

Thursday, March 29th: Heavy Cream at Double Door (8:30, 21+, $12)
I remember seeing Heavy Cream open for Marnie Stern and being knocked on my ass. Quick songs, quick wit. ‘Nuff said. Hunx and His Punx headline.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Video: The Moses Gun - 'The Ballad of Reuben Kincaid'

By Frank Krolicki

Following the recent release of their debut, self-titled LP on DKT Records, Chicago rockers The Moses Gun have unleashed their first ever music video. It's for track 8 on the record, "The Ballad of Reuben Kincaid," a less-than-three-minute burst of adrenaline and guitar crunch. I've got to thank these guys because I was really dragging on this chilly Monday, and this one successfully got the blood pumping. You can see the video, plus listen to another track from the record, below. To find out more about the band, check out this interview I did with vocalist/guitarist Vell Mullens back in 2010.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Show review: A Place To Bury Strangers, Apteka, The Big Sleep at The Empty Bottle, 3/21

By Gene Wagendorf III
APTBS bursting eardrums
Whether it was online or amongst the smokers on Western and Cortez, there was a whole lot of pre-show hubbub about just how loud the night was going to be. A Place To Bury Strangers have a reputation for playing at volumes that melt fingernails and boil ocular fluid. This is, after all, the band that famously sent earplugs out with copies of 2009's Exploding Head. Hell, they were selling official APTBS hi-fi earplugs at the merch table. There's no doubt that Brooklynite openers The Big Sleep were aware of what they'd be followed by, and boy did they try to compensate.

The Big Sleep kicked off their set with blaring, churning guitars and a healthy lump of distortion. The group's muddy, straight-forward rock showed hints of grooves and a cool riff here and there, but their greatest victory came in making sure they simply weren't pegged as the quiet band on the bill. Overcompensating crunch weighed a few numbers down and almost completely obscured the vocals. The most interesting moment of the set came about midway through, when a stumbling, hungover melody shambled over a stuttered drum beat. By this point I'd drifted back towards the bar, and the change up called for me to refocus. Something cool was about to happen. Instead, the melody found the toilet bowl and burst into a garbled sonic vomit. I'm a fan of noise, but as Charles Bukowski said, "if you're going to try, go all the way." The hooks and structure suggested that The Big Sleep might be better as a focused,  high-octane rock band. In the end, they came across like a group that had yet to commit either way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Go to There: March 20 - 26

By Frank Krolicki

The Men
Tuesday, March 20: Super Minotaur at the Empty Bottle  (9:30 PM, 21+ $8 or free with Do312 RSVP)
Chicago garage/punk trio Super Minotaur celebrate the release of their debut full-length, Dead Dino (bonus points for that name, guys) out on local label Cold Slice Cassettes. There's not a whole lot out there on them yet, but you can get in on the ground floor tonight at the Bottle.

Wednesday, March 21: The Men at Treasure Town (8 PM, all ages)
The Men will be in town via Brooklyn playing loud sounds to make your Wednesday night more exciting. When I first heard of this band I thought they might have one of those tricky, ironic names where it actually turns out there's women playing (which would be kinda cool) but as far as I can tell they are all, in fact, men. In any case, rock and roll. Nude Beach and Mac Blackout will play as well.

Thursday, March 22: Health & Beauty at Beat Kitchen (8 PM, 17+, $10)
If you look at Health & Beauty's Bandcamp page, you'll see cryptic tags such as "devotional," "discovery" and "purification." Somehow when you listen to the tracks there, those tags actually begin to make sense. Catch 'em live Thursday night heading a bill that also includes Curious Mystery, Magical Beautiful and the Van Goghs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Show review: Fiona Apple at Lincoln Hall, 3/18

By Andrew Hertzberg

photo from facebook
Fiona Apple played the third show of her mini tour at a sold out Lincoln Hall in Chicago last night (the first two were at SXSW in Austin on Wednesday and Thursday). She hasn’t toured in five years, and her last release was 2005’s Extraordinary Machine. The follow up to that was recently announced with a June release scheduled and only her second longest album title: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.

I can’t say what I expected going into the concert. It certainly wasn’t strobe lights. But that’s what we got to accompany the head-banging thrasher of "Fast As You Can." I knew Apple wasn’t the most complacent musician out there, but I didn’t know she was actually that much of an ass-kicking one. Her backing band (guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard) were all solid players who somehow managed to keep up with the dynamic style of Apple. Recorded, Apple’s songs sound like they’re helped a lot by studio tricks and the advantage of static recordings, but the live translation still retains her signature sound, with the help from synthesized strings, upright bass and the drummer’s ability to mix rock with jazz beat keeping (I think she was chewing gum too). The live versions of all the songs took on new life when performed, mostly in thanks to her personal energy. At times it looked like she was exorcizing demons out of her body, and considering her rough past, that’s entirely possible literally as it is figuratively.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Show review: Grimes, Born Gold at Empty Bottle, 3/14

By Andrew Hertzberg

There’s been no shortage of Canadian artists making dark electronic pop music. Where Diamond Rings goes for glam and Austra translates heartbreak into addicting melodies, Grimes (née Claire Boucher) makes music simultaneously ethereal and comfortable. The 23-year old Vancouver native is indie’s current ‘it’-girl. So much buzz can often have its backlash, and I was skeptical going into the show, (although I am quite a fan of this year’s Visions). Any doubts I had, though, were quickly scared away. Right off the bat, she asked if there was any way to make everything louder. She had a genuine excitement to be playing the sold out show and it came through in her ability to handle a sampler, a synth, two mics (with effects and loops) and dance the whole time she was up there.

In a recent Pitchfork interview, Boucher cited Aphex Twin, Outkast and Mariah Carey as some of her biggest influences, not to mention her grasp of K-Pop, IDM, and any other sub-genre under the electronic sun. With such a vast array of inspirations, you’d think the music would be a garbled mess of maximalism. And while you can hear the multiple ideas going through Claire’s head at once, she somehow doesn’t let the product sound chaotic. What’s most impressive about her, and the live show certainly affirmed, was her ability to stay in control of the situation. Openers Born Gold joined her on stage as her backing band, but not unlike Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Boucher’s multitasking was front and center of the show. Whether it was on the industrial sounding girl-group romp of "Oblivion" or the Eastern-tinged R&B of "Genesis," Claire was confident, commanding and somehow having too much fun while doing all of the above. The set closed all too soon with the trancey (and aptly named) "Nightmusic," the room filled with sweat but wanting more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Archie Powell & the Exports are celebrating March Madness in their own way with "March Cover Madness," releasing a cover song each week through this month. The first is their take on Barbara Lewis's "Baby I'm Yours." Listen to it while watching the Exports up to their usual hijinks in this video.
  • Chicago Mixtape did an interview with Bailiff and has the audio up here.
  • The latest in the infinite wisdom (or whatever you want to call it) from Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan: "I was part of a generation that changed the world -- and it was taken over by poseurs." Read the interview here.
  • Ready for music festival season yet? Some initial details were released for a handful of summer street fests: Do-Division will take place June 1-3, Green Music Fest from June 23-24 (with headliners Dinosaur Jr. and the Raveonettes), West Fest from July 7-8, Wicker Park Fest from July 28-29. 
  • It's not often you read negative thoughts on Andrew Bird, but Jim DeRogatis didn't hold back in his review of the singer-songwriter-whistler's new album Break It Yourself. You can form your own opinion about a piece of the album by playing "Eyeoneye" below.
Eyeoneye by Andrew Bird

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Go to There: March 13 - 19

By Andrew Hertzberg

Tuesday, March 13th Tim Kinsella at Quimbys  (7 PM, AA, FREE)
Take a break from blasting your ears and hear Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Make Believe, Cap’n Jazz) read a bit from his book The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self Defense. Also reading is Adam Levin, who recently released a collection of ten stories in Hot Pink.

Wednesday, March 14th ???? 
My choice for this week was gonna be Grimes at the Empty Bottle, but that one is long sold out. Instead, use this night to discover (re-discover?) your Chicago roots. We shine a big light on rock clubs here at WCR, but let’s not forget about the blues and jazz joints like Rosa’s Lounge, Kingston Mines, Fitzgerald's, Andy’s, and the Green Mill amongst others that make this city’s music scene diverse and vibrant.

Thursday, March 15th Matthew Santos at Schubas (9 PM, 21+, $12)
You may not know it, but you’ve heard Matthew Santos. He collaborated with Lupe Fiasco on numerous tracks, including the ubiquitous ‘Superstar.’ His personal style is much different from Lupe’s (acoustic soul-folk as opposed to hip-hop), but his voice still shines front and center. His second album, Quickly Disappearing, was released in January.

Little Boy Jr. - 'Tell Me, Lazy Lover'

By Frank Krolicki

Chicago five-piece Little Boy Jr. put their recent win as The Deli Chicago's "Artist of the Month" to good use. As a result of scoring the most votes in that poll the band was able to record a couple new tracks at Catfish Studios, and now have them ready to share with the world as free downloads on their Bandcamp page. The two tracks--"Tell Me" and "Lazy Lover"--clock in at a total running time of under four minutes and carry on the '60s garage pop vibe established on their debut Local Thieves, but this time there's a bit more polish to smooth over some of the rough edges. Although very DIY in production, Local Thieves was the sound of a band with a lot of promise, and these new tracks make it clear these guys are well worth paying attention to. I admire LBJ's very obvious reverence of retro pop and look forward to hearing more. Listen to/download the new tracks for yourself below and catch the band live on Wednesday, April 25th at Red Line Tap.

Friday, March 9, 2012

EP review: Dastardly - 'Bury Me in the Country'

By Andrew Hertzberg

"Freight Train": It’s always a good sign when a record begins with the hocking (and ejecting) of a loogie. Frontman Gabe Liebowitz strums a little ditty while the rest of the band sets up, lamenting his black-cloud misery. When he’s finally at his worst, the full band comes together at the chorus, a surprisingly hopeful one for Dastardly, complete with an undeniably catchy harmony.

"Fever": A mischievous bass starts off this one. This track showcases Dastardly’s harmonizing abilities. For all of Gabe’s rasps and sobs, his voice works quite well with accordionist Sarah Morgan. Never thought a Chicago band could fit so much yodeling into one track either.

"Brief Thoughts on Death": Gabe runs through a Walt Whitmanesque list of possible ways to die and is back to singing alone on this song. The music borders on the chaotic except for the soul-saving mandolin in the second chorus. Well, almost. A scream, then: nothingness. The song eventually entropies into disarray, the instruments all seemingly played randomly, as if to suggest the confusion and mystery of the afterlife, or at least a musical purgatory.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Video: White Mystery - 'People Power' (live)

By Frank Krolicki

White Mystery are one of the Chicago bands set to head to Texas to play SXSW in a few days, and leading up to all of the excitement comes a new live video of the duo from Five Penn Films. The locally-based music video production company caught Miss Alex and Francis Scott Key White's January 15th performance at Schubas during the Tomorrow Never Knows fest, and captured the very rocking set closer "People Power" for all to see. If you've got five-and-a-half minutes to devote to loud, pure, unrestrained rock and roll, check out the clip below, and if you happen to be SXSW-bound, click here to scope out your many opportunities to take in some WM sounds while there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Show review: Korallreven, Young Magic at Schubas, 3/6

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: Shannon Aliza)
Sweden, you mysterious little country, you. The entire country has roughly the same population as Chicago’s metro area and roughly 17 times as much land. What do the musicians do with all that space? The obvious answer wouldn’t be to make blissed out Balearic pop tunes to listen to on a beach in the Pacific Islands, but artists like the Tough Alliance, jj and Air France have proven otherwise. Newest in the game is Korallreven (“coral reef” in Swedish), a fitting name given Marcus Joons’ place of inspiration was an extended trip Samoa a few years back. The other half of the duo is the Radio Dept.’s keymaestro Daniel Tjäder, and his brother Niklas helps on tour on drums and guitar.

The band has only been playing shows since December and their debut LP, An Album by Korallreven, was released last November. But they’ve been dropping mixtapes and singles for a while now and they seem to have reached American shores quicker than many of their aforementioned Swedish counterparts (some of whom, lamentably, won’t make it here at all). Opening up the set was "Sa Sa Samoa," a sample-filled, choral-fueled trance, that focused more on pre-recorded bits than the actual performance. I was feeling a little worried that the set might not live up to my unreasonably high hopes for an amazing show, and the small crowd didn’t help (the show was originally slated for Lincoln Hall, but moved to the smaller sister venue).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Go to There: March 6 - 12

By Andrew Hertzberg

Pillars and Tongues
Tuesday, March 6th Korallreven at Schubas (8PM, 18+, $14)
I’m a sucker for anything Swedish and beachy sounding. That's a drastic over-simplification of what the duo does, but with the status of Tough Alliance and Studio on the rocks, I’m looking forward to catching one of Korallreven’s lone US dates. Hoping to make the summer sound that much closer.

Wednesday, March 7th Pillars and Tongues at the Burlington (9 PM, 21+, $5)
There'll be some chanting, there'll be some ambient sounds, there'll definitely be repetition, and there'll probably be some parts where you're not quite sure what to make of it. That's Pillars and Tongues. Read a bit about what more to expect from Reagan's review last Fall.

Thursday, March 8th Bad Bad Meow at the Mutiny (9 PM, 21+, FREE)
For a band called Bad Bad Meow, for some reason I want to howl whenever I listen to them. At the Mutiny, it's only fueled by the mega-steins. Expect a rowdy evening, this'un. Read my review of 'Big Phat Pussycat' and listen to the album streaming for a preview.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview: The Bears of Blue River

By Rachel Angres

The Bears of Blue River are a Chicago-based outfit that has played over 300 shows since January 2010. The project began as a cleansing for frontman Gavin Wilkinson as he fleshed out a new approach to raw, simple pop songs in 2008 and plotted his escape from Indiana. For almost two years the songs would exist only as home recordings that were crafted by Wilkinson and a cast of revolving friends who just happened to be over on any particular day. However, the end of 2009 and a relocation to Chicago began to expose the Yellow Brick Road of song the band would follow.

The band's on again/off again nationwide touring schedule has included shows with Jookabox (Asthmatic Kitty), Margot & the Nuclear So & So's, Blitzen Trapper, Avi Buffalo, Daniel Johnston, and many more, with stops including a Daytrotter session, two SXSW appearances, The Foburg Festival, and Chicago MOBFest.

Their EP, The Killer Bee Scare, spent over eight weeks in CMJ's Top 200 as well as debuting in the Top 100 despite being an independent release. After re-releasing the EP with Fall Records, the band headed back into the studio in the fall of 2010 with engineer Tyler Watkins to record their first LP Dames. It was not until fall 2011, though, that the record surfaced online as a pay what you wish download on Bandcamp.

2012 has found Wilkinson and the band with a surplus of new material, a thirst for the road and plans to record a series of 7 inches. Check out TBOBR tonight, March 5th at Schubas with The Kickback, Mutts and Psychic Twin, and read on for an interview with the band. Share the Bear!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Video: The Gorilla Press - 'On Fire'

By Sasha Geffen

If you prefer your rock bands to possess the power of levitation, then you'll be pleased to discover that The Gorilla Press are quite the hoverers. This incredibly fun video for the killer lead single off their new LP makes liberal use of stop motion techniques in a frantic, Gondry-inspired romp. There'll be no shortage of light paintings or teleporting drum kits in the next few minutes of your life. Check it out.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hear Fort Frances cover Beck

By Frank Krolicki

I'm always interested to see cover songs come through from Chicago artists--whether it's A Lull doing Springsteen or City States doing R.E.M.--to see what kind of unique spin the bands are able to offer tracks that originated with someone else. The latest to pop up is a Beck cover from folk-rock outfit Fort Frances. The band decided to take on the melancholy track "Guess I'm Doing Fine" off Beck's 2002 album Sea Change and deliver a version that's pretty faithful, but that at the same time takes the tune into an even mellower, more bittersweet direction. Great stuff! Hear/download for yourself below, and if you happen to be heading to Texas for SXSW, you can catch Fort Frances playing a few different shows there.

Guess I'm Doing Fine by Fort Frances