Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Ready or not, Lollapalooza is nearly upon us. If you've been slacking and don't have your days planned out yet, check out the Tribune's hour by hour guide.
  • And if you're interested in planning your weekend beyond the festival grounds, check out Gapers Block's Lollapalooza Party Guide.
  • Local label Tandem Shop is celebrating its 5th year anniversary. In honor of it, they've got a show planned at Lincoln Hall on August 15th featuring Many Places, Project Film, The Oarsmen and more. Check out the full details and get tickets here.
  • The Chicago Reader wrote about the Chicago Underground Music Archive, a project which has the goal of recording "as many live sets around town as possible and share them, for free, with the world."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Go To There: July 24 - 29

By Gene Wagendorf III

Sister Crystals
Wednesday, July 24th: Twin Peaks and Sister Crystals at Schubas (9pm, 18+, $10)
Both of these bands recently dropped excellent records and both put on killer live shows. Twin Peaks have been getting major buzz for their glam-garage debut, Sunken, and this show should give you a good idea what to expect later this year at Riot Fest. Dream-poppers Sister Crystals just released a self-titled LP full of spacey jams and plenty of Lauren Whitacre's swoon-inducing vocals.

Thursday, July 25th: Xoe Wise at Lincoln Hall (8pm, 18+, $10)
Pop songstress Xoe Wise cites influences as dissimilar as Madonna and Mazzy Star, but one listen and it makes sense. Minimal beats and throbbing synths backlight her seductive croon- one that's more than worthy of the spotlight.

Friday, July 26th: The Peekaboos at Empty Bottle (9:30pm, 21+, FREE w/ RSVP)
Tongue-in-cheek punk band The Peekaboos released Stay Positive back in January and it's proved to be one of those records that won't go away (not that we want it to!). Slapstick vocals soar over buzzsaw guitars and speedball drumming- everything you need for a good time. Songs like "Let's Talk About Your Big Butt" and "Let's Pet Puppies" won't have you questioning existence or scheduling therapy sessions with your inner child, but they do go perfectly with a cold beer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nelarusky pre-Lollapalooza benefit back for seventh year

By Frank Krolicki

Imagine Dragons
Since 2007, Lauren McClusky has been organizing an annual show before Lollapalooza to benefit the Special Olympics. Originally called McFest and now called Nelarusky, the event became an official pre-show for the festival in 2010, and by now has raised over $130,000 for the charity. This year's event--the seventh one--is set for Wednesday, July 31st at Metro with Imagine Dragons, Icona Pop, Brick + Mortar , and Kellen & Me. Tickets sold out quickly back in June, but there are still VIP passes available through the Nelarusky Pledge Music Page. WCR talked to Lauren before last year's Nelarusky, and she answered a few questions for us again in advance of the July 31st concert:

WCR: You answered a few questions for WCR before last year's show...a year later, what do you remember most about the 2012 event?

LM: I would have to say that watching Alabama Shakes perform "Hold On" from the balcony was pretty memorable, since the entire crowd knew every word! I also loved when Special Olympics global messengers, Barbie and Christine, held the check we presented high over the heads in excitement!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Said the Whale, Fargo, Bryn Rich at Bottom Lounge, 7/17/13

By Rob Ryan

Said the Whale (photo by Will Thwaites)
"No one in here looks like they can legally drink," I say to my friend Will with a condescending tone. "Screw it, I'll drink for them."

We had just arrived at the Bottom Lounge to see Said the Whale and the initial crowd was far from stellar. On a Wednesday in July, I should have foreseen as much but I didn't. I came to see Said the Whale and I was expecting great things from them, especially since their song "I Love You" has been getting major buzz. That was about the only thing I was expecting.

The Bottom Lounge had Three Floyds on tap so I was able to follow through with my initial quest. The opening act came on as I acquired my first beer. "Bryn Rich, huh? Let's see what this guy can do," I think to myself.

Turns out he can do quite a bit.

Bryn Rich (photo by Will Thwaites)
I was immediately surprised by his stage presence. Bryn does not shy away from attention, nor should he. His musical talent is clear to see in both guitar playing and song writing, which is arguably his best skill.

In my opinion, lyrics are an afterthought in music today. When an artist or band can keep me listening to a song simply because of the words, I take notice. Bryn is one of those artists. However, I couldn't help shake the thought that he needed a band behind him to truly shine. One man and a guitar can only go so far.

I finished my second beer as Bryn thanked the growing crowd. Fargo was the next act up. "Fargo? I guess they liked the movie," I hypothesize aloud to Will. He dismisses me with a shrug.

When the band took the stage, I was a bit worried. They looked nervous, which was understandable for a group of college kids from the Chicago suburbs. Their first song was a bit robotic as well and my hopes were fading fast. Then they hit their stride and the highlight of the night emerged.

Lead singer Ryan Thomas has a unique and shrill voice that gives the band's sound personality, something that their type of experimental rock needs. Thomas's energy is also something to note. It's not hard to miss though since he attacks the mic with vocal fervor. "They're like an Alt-J without the drugs...or a young Radiohead," Will observes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Go To There: July 16 - 22

By Gene Wagendorf III
Magic Milk

Tuesday, July 16th: Magic Milk at Empty Bottle (9pm, 21+, $8)
Word on the street is that this could be the last show, ever, for local garage heavyweights Magic Milk. At the very least it'll be the last one for what the band is calling "a long ass time." It's a fair assumption that if this is the end that Magic Milk will go out with a bang- they've more than earned their reputation as one of Chicago's premier party bands.

Wednesday, July 17th: The Hecks, The Funs, Coffin Ships and Earring at Empty Bottle (9pm, 21+, $7)
Wednesday The Bottle is hosting a lineup of stellar local talent in the form of four guitar/drum duos. Manic Static label-mates Coffin Ships and The Funs come blasting out of Chicago's DIY scene and shouldn't have much difficulty turning the bar into a sweaty, blissed-out basement bacchanal. The Hecks have been impressing us for a while now, and they show no signs of stopping. Fuzzy rock two-piece Earring (also on Manic Static) make their Bottle debut, likely with a set culled from their 2013 release Nunn Ones.

Thursday, July 18th: Sarah Neufeld at Millennium Park (6:30pm, All Ages, FREE)
Best known as a member of (who is) Arcade Fire (?), violinist Sarah Neufeld is set to release a solo record, Hero Brother, on Constellation Records in August. A combination of rock, avant-folk and European folk, the record is chilling and beautiful, startling and somewhat magical. There might be not better setting for this in Chicago than Pritzker Pavilion, so get out and enjoy a free evening of something a little different.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Show preview: Said the Whale at Bottom Lounge, 7/17/13

By Eliana Siegal

Maybe your signature dance move is the Sprinkler; maybe it's the Twist. Maybe it's even the Charleston. However you like to bust a move, you'll be breaking them all out at Said The Whale's Bottom Lounge show Wednesday.

The Canadian indie band is returning to Chicago in support of its new EP, I Love You. The EP is a sneak preview of the band's fourth full-length, and if I Love You is any indication, the album will be bursting with more catchy, earnest jams. The high-energy frontmen of Said the Whale, Tyler and Ben, switch off vocal responsibilities, with a group harmony underscoring nearly every song. Their whimsical lyrics will wash your worries away. Said the Whale will keep you on your feet all night long.

Also with Fargo and Bryn Rich. Doors at 6:30, show at 7:30. $10. Tickets here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Record review: Twin Peaks - 'Sunken'

By Gene Wagendorf III

Note: Below is an updated version of a review we first ran in August 2012, in honor of the album's official release this week on Autumn Tone Records.

Twin Peaks sound like a young band. That isn't a slight, nor is it a reference to their age or the length of time they've been playing together. Doe-eyed as they may be, it's their sound that's young. It's refreshing, bubbling over with reckless joy and seemingly boundless energy. I first caught Twin Peaks at The Whip in the summer of 2012 and, truth be told, they're the only band I remember from that night. Say what you will about my borderline alcoholism, the group completely stole the show and left me eager for more. When I first got a hold of Sunken, I was as excited as I was worried. Would the record capture the energy of their live performance? Would the album's production bury their melodies in a lo-fi haze? Was I fondly recalling their set because drunken basement shows are always fun, even if the bands suck?

Sometimes I worry a lot for absolutely no reason. This is one of those times.

The record begins with "Baby Blue," a smooth garage-jangle heavy on fuzz, but tight enough to sustain. The song's slightly stuttered riff unfolds into a charmingly lithe melody that ambles through the distortion with the urgency of a lakefront stroll. The rhythm section is appropriately subdued on the tune, relying on husky vocals to counter the brightness of the lead guitar. Those drums move from a controlled rumble to deliberate and splashy on "Natural Villain," where they snap and tumble against plumes of Buddy Holly-on-Vicodin croons. The jaunt only ceases to be casual at its conclusion, when the thrash picks up to match an almost pained lyric exclamation from charismatic singer Cadien Lake James. By the time the guitars melt down to silence, Sunken seems ready to take off.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Go To There: July 9 - 15

By Gene Wagendorf III   

Tuesday, July 9th: Oshwa at Schuba's (8pm, 18+, $8)
Weird-pop quartet Oshwa will likely be playing material from their forthcoming record Chamomile Crush (their Facebook page has been hinting at a big announcement on the 10th), and if the video for "Old Man Skies" is indicative of what's in-store, the record and show should be fucking mesmerizing. 

Wednesday, July 10th: Ryan Joseph Anderson at SPACE (8pm, All Ages, FREE w/rsvp)
Singer/songwriter Ryan Anderson is working on a debut solo record, one that's sure to be full of country-tinged blues and psychedelic folk. Fans of Rambos and Go Long Mule already know what Anderson is capable of- haunting ballads, rockabilly jams and sizzling riffs- but Wednesday's show provides a free chance for the uninitiated to catch one of Chicago rock's most versatile ax men in action.

Thursday, July 11th: Dreaming Bull at Double Door (8pm, 21+, $10)
A part of the RAW Natural Born Artists showcase, new-comers Dreaming Bull features members of Capelle and Bullied By Strings offering their raunchy, electrified gospel-blues inspired rock. While they haven't released a record yet, Dreaming Bull's SoundCloud is ripe with funky, muddy jams to whet your appetite.

Friday, July 12th: Pity Sex at Swerp Mansion (7pm, All Ages, $8)
Ann Arbor shoegaze punks Pity Sex roll into town for a loaded show at one of Chicago's best underground venues. The group's combination of corrosive fuzz, sweet harmonies and tandem male/female vocals is near-perfectly executed on their 2012 release Dark World and should make for a captivating live show.

Saturday, July 13th: Thin Hymns, Girl Group Chicago, Heavy Times and Tortoise at West Fest (1pm, All Ages, $5)

Experimental pop band Thin Hymns might be the most intriguing of this excellent lineup- their lysergic rock is illuminated by buoyant bass lines and refreshing clarinet and cello work. Tortoise are complete Chicago legends, and any chance to see the post-rock ensemble should be taken. Heavy Times are sure to pack their set with whiskey-soaked basement rockers could very well level the stage. Oh, and then there's Girl Group Chicago, an all-star cast of lady musicians from bands like Hollows, Bare Mutants, Mucca Pazza, Speck Mountain, Wume and Rabid Rabbit, who like to jam on old '60s girl-group tunes. This should be your must-see for the week.

Sunday, July 14th: Rainbow Gun Show, The Bingers, The Sueves and Palmflower at Cobra Lounge (8pm, 21+, $3)
Three bucks. Three measly bucks gets you spaced-out jammers Rainbow Gun Show, whose 7" Cinderella Sizzle is one of my favorite releases of the year, and The Bingers, who're responsible for a string of excellent garage rock EPs. Add in lush and moody Pilsen duo Palmflower and a manic set by The Sueves and you've got more than your money's worth.

Monday, July 15th: Plastic Crimewave Syndicate at Empty Bottle (9pm, 21+, FREE)
This upcoming free Monday at The Bottle features Steve Krakow's swirling, hypnotic and ultimately groovy psych-outfit Plastic Crimewave Syndicate. Expect plump, elastic bass lines to charge through a hail of trippy guitars and taught percussion. It's a trance for sure, but a kind of hip trance that's more cool than ambiguous.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Interview: Shawn Rosenblatt / Netherfriends

By Quinn Donnell

Shawn Rosenblatt, the one-man-band better known as Netherfriends, has become a familiar face over the past six years amongst fans of the Chicago music scene.

Whether they’ve caught him at a Logan Square bar, performing his one-of-a-kind solo set involving multiple loop pedals, a whole slew of instruments, and dance moves as cool as his paisley button-ups, or they’ve stumbled upon his bandcamp--loaded with everything from New Chi-T, a mixtape he recently made with various Chicago hip-hop artists, to Alap, his ambient improv album influenced by classical Indian music--Chicagoans have been able to recognize Netherfriends as one of the most creative and innovative musicians in the City.

With a basic knowledge of Netherfriends’ career comes the awareness of his 50 Songs 50 States project. From April 2010 – April 2011, Rosenblatt traveled the country, playing a show, writing a song, and recording that song in every state (plus Washington D.C.).

What’s most impressive about 50 Songs 50 States isn’t the fact that it’s an album of songs written and recorded with daunting deadlines, or its availability as an online interactive United States map, but the nearly 3 hours of fantastic music, excluding any filler tracks and giving listeners a reason to actually listen to its entirety.

Throughout the 51 songs, Netherfriends develops a dream-pop sound defined by reverb-driven guitar lines and vocal harmonies. Some songs deviate from this signature sound, however, drawing influence from different genres and time periods. “Lawrence, KS” creates an island-rock feel with slow guitar slides layered atop a second guitar’s quick, pitched-up 16th notes that Vampire Weekend seems to love so much, and a horn section in “Kalamazoo, MI” makes for a jazzy three minutes of Wolverine State recording. “Tallahassee, FL” stands out as an acoustic ballad fit for the Juno soundtrack and “Keene, NH” provides a folk styling with its banjo juxtaposed against drum machines and electric guitars so prevalent throughout the album.

I had the opportunity to talk to Shawn several days before 50 Songs 50 States was released, to discuss his latest projects, his experiences on the road, and the Chicago hip-hop scene.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Record review: White Mystery - 'Telepathic'

By Gene Wagendorf III  

Crunchy, dirty, headbangingly fantastic- lead track "White Spiders" kicks off Telepathic, the third full-length from local rabble-rousers White Mystery, in the most familiar of ways. Singer/guitarist Alex White and drummer Francis White have bashed out such a clear and electric identity that when they lean on their strengths they seem capable of effortlessly consistent fury. Francis brutalizes his kit while Alex lays down thick layers of gnarled guitar. The vocals are giddy, sometimes nonsensical yet still magnetic, almost empowering. When Alex paraphrases Dylan Thomas in a romper about pale arachnids I'm not quite sure what she's getting at but it's still getting me pumped up.

"Break A Sweat" rocks in a similar vein- a grinding, lick-filled rocker about the duo's experience opening for The Stooges (among others) at last year's Riot Fest. "San Francisco Dream" is a galloping jam that feels like a long lost Yardbirds tune, eventually bursting into a mosh of cymbal splashes and twisted strings. These songs are great, especially the latter, but what elevates Telepathic from being a good record to a special one are the moments where the band sheds their tried and true formula.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Show review: Cayucas at Schubas, 6/29

By Quinn Donnell

photo by cara robbins
As Chicago settles into summer, its music scene apparently follows. Cayucas, the indie pop five-piece fronted by California native Zach Yudin, made an appearance at Schubas Saturday night, bringing with them the relaxed, sun and surf vibes crafted by their beach rock sounds.

I first heard Yudin’s music in 2011 when he began self-releasing his material online under the pseudonym Oregon Bike Trails. After signing with Secretly Canadian last year and changing his moniker to Cayucas, Yudin recorded his debut album Bigfoot with the Shins’ Richard Swift. Yudin then put together a touring band composed of his twin brother Ben on bass, Christian Koons on guitar, Banah Winn on keyboards, and Casey Wojtalewics on drums. Since joining Ra Ra Riot on a west coast tour at the beginning of the year, the band played shows in Europe and South By Southwest before making their way through Chicago this weekend.

After listening to Yudin’s music for the past several years, the opportunity to see him and his band make their first trip to the Windy City sounded like a perfect way to spend a Saturday evening, which ended up being a popular thought process for many Chicago music fans as Cayucas played for the first sold out crowd of their young career.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Video: Twin Peaks - 'Fast Eddie'

Twin Peaks are releasing their debut album, Sunken, on July 9th. Wait, didn't WCR's own Gene Wagendorf III review that record back in August 2012? Yes, he did! It turns out the guys in TP are re-debuting their debut this month via Autumn Tone Records. And with it, they're bringing lots of other good stuff. Like a record release show at Schubas on July 24th, a set at Riot Fest in September, and a video for the track "Fast Eddie," which you can watch below.

And for another taste of the record, check out the track "Irene":