Monday, May 27, 2013

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Smith Westerns came out with a video for their new track "Varsity," the first single off their upcoming June 25th album Soft Will. Take in the song and video's chilled out, romantic vibes here.
  • Anne Holub of Gapers Block wrote about Howl, the new album from Chicago funky soul act JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.
  • Daytrotter announced an update to its subscription service that will allow those who subscribe to the site to see some of the money from the sign-up fee go directly to their favorite artists. Read more about it here.
  • Noise-pop/shoegaze band Whales, whose debut album we reviewed back in 2011, are at work preparing the release of their second full length, Size and Scale. As a preview, the band have offered up the dreamy, spacey first single, "On the Floor," via Bandcamp. Take a listen:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Record review: Terriers - 'Unrequited Admiration Society'

By Gene Wagendorf III  

"New York," the first single off Terriers' debut record Unrequited Admiration Society, is the kind of polished, infectious indie-pop tune that ought to get the band a healthy dose of attention, and in the heyday of radio, a lot of airplay. Its lyrics- strong enough to stand alone as spoken word- are elegantly delivered by singer Danny Cohen, whose croon rides lush guitar-work and steadfast drumming. The track alone would make UAS worth checking out, but the record has much more to offer.

Terriers' mix of influences serves them well. They balance contemplative moments that recall vintage Radiohead against Of Montreal-esque neo-funk. Stripped down ballads sit alongside playful, Elvis Costello-tinged romps. Unlike so many bands who make a mess by rushing every musical idea they've ever had into a debut album, Terriers find a sophisticated harmony on UAS, chiseling out a delightful identity all their own.  Opening the record is the somber "I Don't Care If The Sun Is Shining." Despite being a bit of a strange start off point, the song features a gorgeous melody that builds to a solemn crescendo. When "New York" follows up with its carefree jangle there's a sort of relief that UAS isn't going to be a downer, though there may be be a little more sadness down the road.

"Fall In Love" shimmies like a long-lost Bacharach B-side delivered with Rufus Wainwright flair. The volcanic guitar solo that erupts about three minutes in is a shock, but as it winds back into the groove there's hardly an surprise that Terriers pulled it off. The band is firing on all cylinders during "You Belong To Me," a very Sondre Lerche tune full of swagger. Cohen and Nora Leahy double-dutch their vocals through dance-rock spasms while drummer Connor Boyle provides an irresistible beat. The song ends with a jazzy jam that's completely satisfying, though few complaints would be lodged if it just kept rolling ad infinitum.

When Leahy takes the lead on country-tinted ballad "Like I Always Do," Terriers offer the first indication they they may have left something on the cutting-room floor. The song sparkles with down-home minimalism; the group smartly holding back and letting Leahy's voice shine. That voice is bright and sorrowful, the kind of classic delivery that'll have listeners falling in love in their headphones. Were Cohen not such an excellent vocalist himself there might be a case to be made that Terriers had finally made a mistake. Not so. The two, like the rest of the group, work incredibly well together. In a perfect example of less is more, "Like I Always Do" simply leaves the listener looking forward to additional music from Terriers.

Terriers' 'Unrequited Admiration Society' is set for release May 22nd on Aerial Ballet Records. You can stream it and snag a copy here. You can catch Terriers live at their record release show on Wednesday, May 22nd at Schubas ($7, 8pm, 18+). Get tickets here, and then watch the video for "New York" below.

Show review: Telekinesis at Lincoln Hall, 5/15/13

By Quinn Donnell

Several months ago, NPR’s popular music-based podcast, All Songs Considered, aired an episode themed “Bands That Should Be Bigger.” The first artist featured on the episode was Telekinesis, whose music co-host Robin Hilton described as “perfect pop.”

The man responsible for this “perfect pop” is Michael Benjamin Lerner, whose third album, Dormarion, displays percussion-driven tunes with nostalgic lyricism and explosive transitions. In support of Dormarion, Telekinesis has been on the road for the past month, and on Wednesday, Lerner and his band made an appearance at Lincoln Hall.

Telekinesis was supported by fellow Seattleites, Deep Sea Diver, the latest musical project from Jessica Dobson, known for her work as a member of The Shins ever since the band’s lineup rearrangement before 2012’s Port of Morrow. Although Dobson’s work with The Shins best exemplifies her talent as a guitarist, her role in Deep Sea Diver demonstrates her abilities as a songwriter and a frontwoman. While a number of Deep Sea Diver’s songs involved Dobson playing her usual Fender Jaguar, others featured appearances on the keyboards, creating a sound reminiscent of Beach House’s synthesizer and vocal pairings.

After a set of material from their debut album, History Speaks, Deep Sea Diver handed the stage over to Lerner and his band composed of Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen on bass, The Globes’ Erik Walters on guitar, and Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole on the keyboards. The supergroup’s interpretation of Telekinesis’ material resulted in unique renditions of certain songs, most notably through Walters’ crafty guitar riffs on tracks like “Dirty Thing.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Show review: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper at Schubas, 5/14/13

By Andrew Hertzberg
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (credit: Shervin Lainez)
The cynics out there will try to tell you that every year, music is getting worse and worse and more derivative of years past. To them I suggest picking up a copy of Ripley Pine by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, the alias of 23-year-old Brooklyn-via-Brunswick, Maine artist Aly Spaltro. The album is 12 tracks of dynamic and complex arrangements, backed up by string sections, insightful lyrics, and ambitious musicianship.

For Tuesday's Schubas show (Spaltro’s second time playing in Chicago) she primarily sang and played guitar and banjo, while backed up by TJ Metcalf on bass, Xenia Rubinos on keys and Marco Buccelli on drums. Rubinos and Buccelli actually opened the show. I only caught their last song (“Hair Receding”) but it reminded me a bit of tUnE-yArDs meets Matt and Kim. Keyboard-drum duo with more of an African or at least international bent. Rubinos’ voice has fantastic and dramatic range, nailing falsetto pitches, though the timing on some of their off-rhythm sections could use some sharpening. It wasn’t enough to prevent me from buying their recently released album Magic Trix though, a unique and diverse listen upon first spin.

As for Lady Lamb, Aly mentioned that she was feeling a bit ill. But her voice was pretty spectacular all throughout the set, particularly during the seven-minute “You Are the Apple.” Her voice only faltered during the last song, “Crane Your Neck,” but the audience was more than willing to pick up the slack. Surprising for an album that seems to have flown mostly under the radar so far.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Go To There: May 15 - 20

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Jamaican Queens
Wednesday, May 15th: Majical Cloudz at Permanent Records (5:15pm, All Ages, FREE)
Montreal native Devon Welsh made waves as Majical Cloudz with last year's delightful Turns Turns Turns EP, and now he's back. Touring in support of the full length Impersonator (streaming now on Pitchfork), Welsh is bringing his minimalist, baritone pop to Permanent before he plays later in the evening at Metro. Get there a bit early to secure a spot!

Thursday, May 16th: Jeremy David Miller and Ryan Anderson at The Hideout (9pm, 21+, $5)
Jeremy and Ryan have been making great music in Chicago for a while now, together as members of Rambos and separately with the likes of Go Long Mule and The Louvin Lovers. Both are accomplished singers and songwriters, and this intimate evening in the The Hideout's front room should provide a little magic and plenty of laughs.

Friday, May 17th: Dick Wolf!/Vaya and Automata at The Burlington (9pm, 21+, $8)
Local math pop group Dick Wolf! are shedding their excellent moniker and re-branding themselves as Vaya. The new Bandcamp has a free, two-song preview of Vaya's upcoming LP- a preview good enough to take the edge off my disappointment at the loss of the old name. Genre blenders Automata play as well, which means you can expect a seductive and energetic mix of reggae, soul and psychedelic rock. Proceeds from this show go to benefit Haitian musicians.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Keith Masters' 'Very First Time' Radio Takeover

By Melissa Bordeau

Chicago electro-pop/hip-hop artist Keith Masters' music has been heard on the likes of NBC’s "The New Normal" and the NFL Network, but now he has set out to get his new single "Very First Time" on the radio--and he's looking for fans' help.

Keith set up a Kickstarter campaign where people can donate to the cause. He's giving everyone who pledges a download of “Very First Time” before it is officially released, and other rewards include a spot in his new music video, an eco-friendly belt from C4 belts, Modify watches and more.

Come meet Keith, hear his single and enjoy free food, free drinks, and free entry at his listening party next Saturday, May 18th, located at 821 S. Western Ave (Western and Taylor). See details here, and check out our interview below for more on Keith and his goal of "Radio Takeover."

WCR: Being from Chicago, I am sure you are excited about the Bulls' recent success. If they win the entire thing, what is the first thing you will do?

KM: Give the person standing next to me a big kiss on the mouth and pray that it's a gorgeous women and not a fat old dude.

Why do you want to get your song on the radio?

It's always been a dream of mine...I mean, I'm a true musician at heart and every musician wants to have that moment when they're listening to the radio and then all of a sudden, their single comes on and they start hi-fiving everyone. I want that moment.

Lollapalooza 2013 artist preview: Part one

By Frank Krolicki

As I write this, it's a gray, 40-something degree May day in Chicago. Not exactly the kind of day that would remind you of the fact that the sunny days of music festivals are right around the corner. But with that being the case, what better time than the present to think about those brighter, tune-filled times to come?

Since starting to attend music festivals, the only one I've been to every single year is Lollapalooza. I haven't missed an installment since it became a yearly event in Chicago in 2005, so it holds a special place for me out of all the fest options in this city. And although August might seem a long way away, Lolla 2013 will be here before we know it, so it's not too soon to start preparing. This year, I'll be periodically writing a bit about a handful of artists in the lineup, beginning with the five below. So get thinking about what your plan of action will be come August 2nd, and be sure to let us know who you're going to make sure to make time for in Grant Park this year.

YAWN (playing Sunday, August 4th)
Let's start off with some locals. As I've written many times before, I'd always like to see more Chicago-based acts in each year's Lolla lineup. But at least there's always a few, and this year YAWN is one of them (along with Smith Westerns, Wild Belle, The Orwells and Chance the Rapper). I first wrote about this band's psych-pop sound back in 2009 when they released their debut EP, at that point describing the sound as "falling somewhere between the tribal hooks of Vampire Weekend and the synthy glee of Passion Pit, ultimately ending up with a lush, enchanting breed of indie pop that's well worth a listen." Since then they've been keeping the momentum going with regular shows and the release of a full-length, Open Season, which WCR's Andrew Hertzberg wrote about. YAWN's percussive, breezy style should serve as a definite treat in the Lolla sunshine.

Wild Nothing (playing Sunday, August 4th)
Sometime in the not-so-distant past I listened to Wild Nothing's song "Drifter" about 50 times in a row. Just writing that sentence makes me want to do it again. It's my favorite song off 2010's Gemini, but there were quite a few songs I really enjoyed off that record, and I'm trying to come up with a logical reason as to why I haven't dived into their newest album, Nocturne, yet. It's just been added to my "to-do" list, and so has seeing Wild Nothing's set at Lolla.

Show preview: Telekinesis at Lincoln Hall, 5/15

By Quinn Donnell

After releasing his third album, Dormarion, via Merge Records in March, Michael Benjamin Lerner--also known as Telekinesis--has set off on a national tour with supporting act Deep Sea Diver. On Wednesday, May 15, the two Seattle-based bands will make an appearance at Lincoln Hall. The 21+ show is scheduled to begin at 9:00 and tickets can be found here.

Although Lerner is the man behind all of Telekinesis’ recorded material, he will be joined on stage by Erik Walters from The Globes on guitar, Eric Elbogen from Say Hi on bass, and Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole on the keyboards. Check out the video for Dormarion’s first single, “Ghosts and Creatures” here:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Video: Fall into Secret Colours' 'Blackhole'

By Frank Krolicki

If you've been gearing up for the sophomore full-length, Peach, from Chicago's own psychedelic haze-dwellers Secret Colours, here's one more thing to tide you over until the May 28th release of the record. The band has just gone live with a video for one of the new tracks, "Blackhole," and as you might expect it's got a sound you could fall into and get lost within. And the video--directed by Cory Solon and Katey Meyer and conceived by the band's Tommy Evans--features plenty of hallucinogenic treats to follow suit. Check it out below, and then show up to Secret Colours' next home city show on June 8th at the Empty Bottle. You can also listen to another new track, "Blackbird (Only One)," via the Soundcloud stream underneath the video.

Show review: The Werks at Bottom Lounge, 4/19/13

By Melissa Bordeau

What better way to spend the eve of 4/20 than with The Werks at the Bottom Lounge? The Werks call themselves a “psychedelic dance rock band," and after seeing them live, it’s an accurate description. The entire crowd was filled with hula hoopers and ravers dancing the night away.

A highlight early in the set was “You’re Not Alone,”  a classic jam song lasting over 10 minutes. It was one of those songs where just when you think it's coming to an end, the band surprises you by coming out of the jam and into the chorus. This is the song that really reminded me of Umphrey’s McGee; the band completely jammed their hearts out and the light show was insane.

At just around midnight the band did a cover of “Smoke Two Joints,” and it was a great way to carry on the night. The drummer, Rob, was lead vocals for this song, and many others.

“Hush” was another highlight. It's a great sing-along song that sounded amazing live and at this point of the night, the crowd was getting down. The piano solo was jazzy and delicious.

The Werks are performing at a ton of awesome summer festivals, so if you have a chance to see them make sure to get your dancing shoes and glow sticks ready!

Set List: OG, Duck Farm, You're Not Alone, Music, Galactic Passport, Better Half, Cloudhopper, Smoke Two Joints, Cloudhopper, For Today, Hush, E: Hard To Find, Drums, Hard To Find

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Go To There: May 7 - 13

By Gene Wagendorf III  

Tuesday, May 7th: Deer Tick and Shiloh at City Winery (8pm, 21+, $20)
Deer Tick's latest, Divine Providence, does a far better job at capturing the energy of the band's live effort than their previous output- it's  more jagged and more fun. Local scum-poppers Shiloh open up the night, continuing their recent string of electric performances of material from their February release, Mrs. Like Deer Tick, Shiloh took a different direction for their last record, and it seems to be paying off for both. Shiloh sounds like a confident band on the record; one that's successfully balancing a penchant for introspection with a healthy dose of whimsy and swagger.

Wednesday, May 8th: Deer Tick and Twin Peaks at City Winery (8pm, 21+, $20)
Yeah, if you listen to every word I say you'll be getting two consecutive nights of Deer Tick (could be worse) but you'll also be getting back-to-back evenings with excellent local bands. For Thursday night's performance Deer Tick have tapped Twin Peaks for the opening slot. The band's beach-friendly glam rock is the perfect music for this time of year- when things are getting less shitty and markedly sunnier.

Thursday, May 9th: Sperrbezirk at Cleos (8pm, 21+, FREE)
Sperrbezirk boasts that they're "the only band still playing genuine Chicago-style Rockabilly." Playing as a part of Cleos' 3rd Annual German Cowboy Rockabilly B-Day Party, the band ought to feel at home in a room full of drunken, poodle-skirt and cowboy hat clad rockers. You probably don't want to miss this.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Show review: GOAT at Empty Bottle, 5/2

By Gene Wagendorf III   

GOAT | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III

There's an astonishing amount of mystery that surrounds GOAT, a collective of psychedelic voodoo rockers from Korpilombolo, Sweden. The town is said to still bear the curse of the followers of a traveling witch doctor, most of whom were driven out upon being discovered by Christian crusaders. That dark magic, combined with the centuries-long influence of voodoo culture in Korpilombolo, has allegedly shaped the music GOAT plays now. It's trance-like, made up of relentless rhythms embellished with wild bouts of improvisation. Passed down from generation to generation, the music is said to have been performed by various "versions" of GOAT, with only this recent incarnation finally laying down some wax. World Music, the band's aptly-titled debut record, was released by Rocket Recordings to much critical acclaim. There are plenty of questions and ambiguity still surrounding the band and its origins- an impressive accomplishment on its own in a post-Google world. GOAT is currently in the midst of their first American tour, and were in town Thursday for a sold out show at The Empty Bottle.

GOAT | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III
Clad in a hodgepodge of hoods, masks and tunics, three members of GOAT approached the stage in bizarrely unassuming fashion, patiently tuning their instruments as the energy in the crowd began to swell. A softly plucked string or two gave way to a lithe snippet of melody, and then a little more, as the two guitar players and the bassist coyly tested the waters.Within moments a drummer and a conga player emerged, allowing "Diarabi," the lead track from World Music, to take off. Smoky, Middle-Eastern leads danced over crunchy riffing and almost whispered jazz percussion. By the time GOAT's two female vocalists/percussionists had snaked through the crowd to the stage, the party was on. Trying to nail down a genre for GOAT became an instantly comic exercise in futility by song two, when the band leaned into "Golden Dawn." Riding Afro-beat rhythms and humming bass, the guitar players went manic on psych solos and chicken scratch riffs reminiscent of of Jimmy Nolen's sexiest work for James Brown.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Show review: Beach Fossils at Subterranean, 5/1/13

By Stuart Ross

photo: John Pena
Brooklyn quartet Beach Fossils brought their energetic live show to a packed Subterranean on Wednesday. A balmy May Day evening.

May I suggest a drink at the Trencherman before a show at Subterranean? And may I suggest the gin and juice drink called "Damn, Son!"?

What’s a good label for Beach Fossils’ music? Lo-fi made more sense a few years ago. Dream pop works, as does anything with reverb + another word, as does the acrophobic “Brooklyn Rooftop.” And since the release of their second full-length LP earlier this year, the more aggressive Clash the Truth, melodic punk has rightfully nudged its way into the argument.

Good news for everyone at the show on Wednesday night: live music releases us from the burdens of genre. Especially when the band we’re seeing has come to please. Dance party is the only genre of a Beach Fossils show.

Frontman and founder Dustin Payseur—whose curly locks are always at that perfect three-days-since-his-last-haircut length—has a sweet and honest voice and demeanor. A few songs in, he admonished those immobile, arms-folded patrons that make up a hefty percentage of fans at indie shows. “I’m glad these guys up here are dancing, but I want everyone dancing,” Dustin said. And after asking whether it was Tuesday or Thursday, and getting confirmation it was indeed Wednesday, he said “I know you guys gotta work tomorrow, but I’m working up here right now.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Show review: Umphrey's McGee at Park West, 4/26/13

By Melissa Bordeau

The “Umphreaks” were all present at their beloved band's 4th annual UmBowl at Park West this past Friday night. The theater was packed with hippie dads, dancing girls with dreads and a strangely large amount of guys in Hawaiian shirts. Everyone was drinking bottled beer with the UmBowl koozie enjoying the phenomenal five hour set, performed by who I like to call The Gods of Jam Band, Umphrey’s McGee.

What makes UmBowl so fantastic is the uniqueness of the event. The concert is set out like a football game, having four different “quarters.” Each quarter serves a different purpose, all involving the audience’s interaction. What a brilliant way to have the audience be a part of the concert. Since Umphrey’s has countless songs and amazing abilities to cover pretty much any song out there and have it sound impeccable, the band's idea to cater to their audience by having them literally choose what songs they want to hear throughout the night is genius.

The sextet started the night off with their “Raw Stewage” quarter. This quarter really expressed how the band has perfected the art of jamming. Each song effortlessly blended into the next. Their famous lightshow looked amazing reflecting off the disco ball in the center of the theater.