Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, November 30

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Album Fri Aug 21 2015

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages Pump Out Retro Blues-Punk


Barrence Whitfield and the Savages sound just like their name; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more stereotypical soul-blues moniker than "Barrence," and the Savages who back him up play exactly the type of distorted, raucous riffs you'd expect. Putting the two together results in a band that makes like Marty McFly and pumps old-fashioned rock 'n roll into a high wattage garage-bred overdrive. The question is whether or not bringing The Sonics' style forward fifty years holds water in the present musical landscape. And though aspects of BW and the Savages' new album Under the Savage Sky feel dated, its energy is undeniable and timeless.

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Zach Blumenfeld

Album Fri Aug 14 2015

Mesmerizing Melodies on Land of Plenty

Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker have formed a serendipitous, yet seemingly quintessential musical partnership. Bill Mackay, talented Chicago guitarist and part of Darts & Arrows, and Ryley Walker, known notably for his debut album, Primrose Green, released this past year as well as a Pitchfork Music Festival appearance, met at a party in 2014 and discovered their mutual affinity for songbirds including Laura Nyro and Nick Drake. Soon after, the duo began crafting their instrumental guitar material for Land of Plenty at Mackay's home studio, released today via Whistler Records. Beginning in January 2015, Mackay and Walker played a month-long Friday night residency at The Whistler, which allowed them to hone in on their unique folk sound, rework material, and improvise.

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Sarah Brooks

Album Fri Jul 17 2015

Downloadable Presents from Wilco


Is it Christmas in July? Wilco just surprised us all with a band new album of 11 new songs! The best news? It's FREE and available for download (for now) at Get thee there and sign up for a download. (Word to the wise, they're pretty swamped. It took my download link about 8 hours to show up in my inbox.)

Can't wait? Stuck at work? Try the album streaming on YouTube:

Or, just wait for Wilco to dust off some of these just born songs tonight when they headline the Pitchfork Music Festival at 8:30pm. We'll be there, and we'll bring you our recaps all weekend long.

Anne Holub

Stores Wed Apr 15 2015

Record Store Day 2015: Chicago's Best Shops and More

rsd 2015 small.jpgOnce more into the breach, dear friends, as Record Store Day is here again! Perhaps the biggest day of the year for audiophiles and vinyl hoarders, it's also a time to show local shops some love, and maybe discover a new place you've never shopped before.

As always, check out the special Record Store Day releases in PDF or web form, then make a plan to hit your local Chicago store on Saturday! Most shops not only offer what limited edition RSD items they were able to get in stock, but also discounts, and a general atmosphere of celebration.

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Anne Holub

Concert Wed Mar 04 2015

In Tall Buildings Debuts Driver @ Schubas 3/5

Tomorrow night, Erik Hall's diligent efforts will pay off with a hometown album release party at Schubas. His latest work as In Tall Buildings, Driver, is his sophomore album but it's sticking to the same formula (home recording) that served him so well with his self-titled debut in 2010. His textured pop vocals and intriguing synths prove mesmerizing. In Driver, there's raw sonic qualities of mellow singer-songwriters like Beck or Bon Iver. Hall's songs are great for walking deserted Chicago streets during a snowstorm, or daydreaming on the beach. Generally, they're something perfect for getting you through the last blast of winter and into the warm embrace of spring.

Erik Hall (aka In Tall Buildings) Photo by Caleb Condit

In Tall Buildings performs at Schubas (3159 N. Southport) on Thursday, March 5th. Fred Thomas (of Saturday Looks Good to Me) and Elliot Bergman (of Wild Belle) open. Music starts at 9pm. Tickets are $12 and the show is 21+.

Anne Holub

Review Fri Feb 27 2015

The Chicago Party Is the Place to Be

The best thing about Numero Group is that they are determined to give forgotten musicians their due. They carefully mull over the strangest and most obscure sections of musical history in order to curate amazing compilations. Over the past few months, the archival record label has set their sights on the late '70s and early '80s post-disco era of Chicago. There are so many acts that truly deserve attention from this time and Numero Group has been dolling out great releases

December saw four 45s from the time period including music from Universal Togetherness Band, Jesus Wayne, and Donnell Pitman. A larger more detailed compilation of Universal Togetherness Band gave a deeper look into the funk filled sounds that were sadly being left behind during the era. These releases were a primer for the centerpiece of this collection, Ultra High Frequencies: The Chicago Party. This music and video collection takes a look at content of "The Chicago Party," a more realistic and older-skewing version of Soul Train that aired for 23 Saturday nights on WCIU-TV during 1982.

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Julian Ramirez

Interview Wed Feb 18 2015

Four Questions with Andy Gill from Gang of Four

The post-punk band Gang of Four have a new album, What Happens Next, which is being released on Feb. 24. It features collaborations with Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Gail Ann Dorsey, German superstar Herbert Grönemeyer and Japanese superstar Hotei. The band is coming to the Park West March 13; I reached frontman Andy Gill over the phone last week to ask a few questions about the upcoming show.

I had a chance to listen to the new album a bit, and each song is distinct, giving it a sound like a compilation album. I'm curious if one of these songs is going to be the new GOF sound, or if the new sound of GOF is collaborating with other artists.

I think you kind of take it one step at a time... I always felt that when working on a new record it is like starting from scratch. I know there are some bands that kind of plowed their furrow and they're gonna stick to it -- they've got their sound and the way they do things, and stick to what they do. Right from the beginning GOF was different with every record. It's like if you're asking similar questions but coming up with different answers. To me time moves on, I move on, I'm not exactly the same as I was four years ago, and when I was 27 I wasn't the same guy as when I was 22. Time moves on and you come up with some different answers to the way to proceed and the way to make songs and the way to make records. I think with this record I think even more so because Jon King who's been on previous records is no longer in the project, so that makes it even more the case of reinventing the wheel.

Doing the collaboration thing was something that I had felt like doing for quite a long time, it's something that's quite common in hip hop bands and I think that's quite healthy -- you can do some things that perhaps might surprise you. In terms of defining the GOF sound, the next record -- for which I have ideas and songs, will probably involve collaborations. Beyond that can't say where it's going, with each album I didn't know quite where things were going, once you've got four or five songs on the go you start to see what direction its taking.

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J.H. Palmer

Review Fri Jan 23 2015

Fall in Love with the Universal Togetherness Band

Universal-Togetherness-Band.jpgThe Numero Group is easily the most well curated archival record label. They find a way of digging through decades of musical offerings and shining a light on forgotten or mishandled musicians, giving them the spotlight the always deserved. Their releases span the world with the label's hometown of Chicago being no exception.

Recently they have been looking a pretty obscure segment of Chicago history. During 23 weeks of 1982, "The Chicago Party" hit WCIU airways with a heavy dose of R&B, disco, funk, and soul. It was a more authentic and outrageous "Soul Train," embodying the Chicago South Side at the time. This week The Numero Group released a small collection of songs from one of those performers, Chicago's Universal Togetherness Band, a band that you didn't know you loved until now.

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Julian Ramirez

Album Wed Jan 07 2015

Project Film Releases Sophomore Album: Different Rooms

project_film.jpgChicago duo Megan Frestedt and Sam McAllister dominate the Chicago music scene -- but in a very under-the-radar sort of way. They're involved in all possible aspects: they review music, they do press, they discover and produce music on their record label Tandem Shop and, having covered all the other bases, they of course also create their own music as Project Film.

The group released their first studio album Chicago in 2010, back when they were both undergrads in the city, and now four years later, they're releasing their sophomore album Different Rooms. The duo has a sweetly melodic indie rock sound, with McAllister on lead vocals and guitar and Frestedt on keyboard and backup vocals. Much like its creators, the album is low key and unassuming, but the lack of flash is all the more reason to pay attention. This is a record that might start as background music (project film actually started as a group to produce the background music for films) but as you listen to it, the subtle nuances in the songs begin to emerge and the more attention you pay to the record, the more lovely it becomes. Give the final track on the album, "This is New" a listen here:

Celeste Mallama / Comments (1)

Album Fri Nov 14 2014

While You Weren't Looking: Bloodshot Turned 20


Chicago, we don't know how good we have it. While some cities can barely play host to one indie label, we're blessed with, well, zillions. In my decade + in town, I've seen Bloodshot Records go from a mere tween asking us to buy it cigarettes, to a surly teen, to its latest milestone: a twenty year old out looking for trouble on a Saturday night. To celebrate, they're putting out a double album of tributes of their storied past. While No One Was Looking pays homage to artists who got their indie starts at BSHQ like Ryan Adams and Neko Case alongside current label favorites Justin Townes Earle and Jon Langford. It's an album of 38 tributes, one song after another putting a new spin on a beloved label classic. There's Blitzen Trapper covering Ryan Adams' "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to be High)," Into It. Over It. covering the haunting track "Deep Red Bells" by Neko Case and Diarrhea Planet putting their spin on "Dry Land" by the Waco Brothers, just to name a few! (Check out the full track listing.) Whether you're an old Bloodshot fan, or a new one, this is one behemoth of an album you're going to want to pick up.

The 38-song album officially drops Tuesday, November 18 and is available via pre-sale online. To say this one is an ideal stocking stuffer, is a no-brainer. In case you need some enticement, listen to a few tracks, below:

Anne Holub

Album Fri May 02 2014

Archie Powell & The Exports are Back in Black

Archie Powell & the Exports are no stranger to the indie rock music game. As a matter of fact, their third studio album, Back in Black, was released just this past week. Featuring Powell on the album cover, sulking amidst a dark backdrop but asserting a powerful gaze at the camera, the image projects how the group has grown and honed in on their sound over their years of making music together.

The themes of the group's new album emerge with the very first song, aptly titled "Everything's Fucked." Powell screams and wails his way through the beginning of the song, distressed about the aspects of every day life within the very first verse. An angsty ballad, the song propels the album forth with a vengeance. This isn't their first album, Skip Work; while still amazing, the material featured on this record is more summery and jubilant, with a darker yet more accessible tone. The subjects are wrought with authenticity while focused within their angst and pain, and seemingly, I identify with the songs more closely than previous material.

"Tattoo on My Brain" lightens the mood a bit and ushers in Archie Powell & The Exports' signature sound. However, the production is tighter and more cultivated than previous work. "Lean" promotes the further angsty feel to their sound, which I definitely wasn't anticipating. However, I didn't hate it, I welcomed it. "Scary Dream" took a detour to the oldest Archie Powells & The Exports material, the beachy, sunshine sound that we are accustomed to, however it is still darker and more reminiscent of a vengeful tempo, akin to that of Arctic Monkeys or the Hives.

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Sarah Brooks

Event Wed Apr 16 2014

Record Store Day 2014: Where to Go in Chicago


Seven years down the line, and it feels like Record Store Day comes earlier every year. And maybe it's just because we've barely scratched the surface of the promised warm weather this year in Chicago, but we're really giddy about RSD this year. Getting out of the house? Mingling with other music-minded folks? Rewarding ourselves with new vinyl? Sign us up! So here we are, once again, mapping out stores to visit (and perhaps even mentally rating restaurants nearby to grab a malted beverage at afterwards). If you've made your own wish list of RSD releases, here's where you might want to go to find them:

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Anne Holub / Comments (3)

Stores Tue Apr 15 2014

Our Record Store Day Wish List

By Transmission Staff

Our beloved vinyl holiday, Record Store Day, is this Saturday, and while we might not all be at stores waiting in line come midnight, the yearly celebration of all things vinyl has its own perks. Every year, there's a plethora of special Record Store Day releases. From new artists and old, either re-releases, or special compilations or tracks — there's something for everyone, of course only if your local record store gets in the release that you want. And that's the rub, since while all stores might like to get each of these releases, even if they request them, they're not sure what they're going to get till the box arrives (sometime later this week). But what follows is what the Transmission staff is keeping its fingers crossed for this year.

Our Record Store Day Wish List:


The Julie Ruin 7"
You probably recognize Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill or Le Tigre or from being the coolest person ever. After an extended hiatus from music due to the singer's struggle with Lyme disease, Kathleen returned along with new band The Julie Ruin in 2013 with a new album, Run Fast. The album is less politcally charged and more personal than what we've heard from Hanna in the past, revealing a more vulnerable side to the artist. On Record Store Day The Julie Ruin will release a 7" of two previously unreleased songs, "Brightside" and "In The Picture", with a limited pressing of 2000.
-Stephanie Griffin

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Transmission / Comments (1)

Album Mon Mar 03 2014

Clearance EP Brings Joyful Slacker Rock Back to Life

Clearance.jpgA quarter of an hour isn't very much time at all -- enough maybe to empty and load the dishwasher, take an insufficient power nap, or to enjoy one Sigur Rós song. An exercise in brevity, Chicago-based Clearance's second EP,Greensleeve clocks in at a terse 14 minutes, but thankfully, each second is worth its weight in golden guitar riffs and loping choruses.

"She's a Peach" is 100 seconds of garage pop joy, "Drive Out" is the obvious hit, and the duo guitar solos in the last minute of "Face the Frontier" are a perfect splice of Dinosaur Jr. and Wilco. I found myself playing "Frontier" on repeat just for those guitars, which got me thinking: When was the last time a guitar solo was the highlight of a new EP? That's reason alone to be charmed by Clearance, a band that channels the heart of the slacker rock of '90s yore with a finger on the pulse of the present.

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Emma Gase

Hip Hop Wed Jan 15 2014

Common's Not Smiling on New Album

Chicago-native rapper Common is currently hard at work on a call-to-action album dedicated to stopping violence in the city. The rapper stated in an interview with Revolt that the upcoming album, titled Nobody Smiling, aims to speak to the conditions of violence in Chicago and inner cities all over America.

"War" is the first track released as a teaser of the upcoming album. The song is an embittered attack on the complacency of the warfare environment plaguing the urban population, especially the youth of Chicago. His tone comes from a feeling of disappointment, from the perspective of a man who tours the world and returns to his home city only to find the conditions increasingly worse each time. It also includes a snippet of the rapper's interview where he discussed his motives behind the indignant album.

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Rima Mandwee

Album Tue Jul 02 2013

Andrew Mason's Hardly Workin': Music for the Office

andrew mason hardly workin'If you hadn't heard, Andrew Mason, founder and former CEO of Groupon, recorded an album of "music to help people get ahead in the workplace," called Hardly Workin', which was released late Monday night in the iTunes Music Store. I downloaded Hardly Workin' and listened to it carefully a couple times in order to share with you some initial thoughts, track by track.

1. Look No Further - The EP leads off with a contemporary country song about finding business inspiration in the world around you. Managing to rhyme Money, Fellini and day while also tossing in "the birthing of great octopi," its message could be as broad as any inspirational song if not for the references to Jack Welch and shareholder value.

2. The Way to Work - This track leads off with a reference to "Cruisin' down the Avenue Grand," reflecting on the work issues of recent days as he heads to work on his Vespa. The music recalls '80s rock, with a chugging beat and soaring chorus. The ride to work lets Mason clear his mind (who doesn't zone out on the way to the office?), and by the end of the song, he's resolved an HR problem that's been bugging him.

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Andrew Huff

Album Mon Jun 24 2013

Mavis Staples Keeps The Faith On "One True Vine"

Like many other soul artists in recent years, Mavis Staples' career has found new life in the midst of the soul revivalist movement. Her previous album with Jeff Tweedy, You Are Not Alone, came out when the movement was still on the rise, a few Daptone record releases away from its zenith. In contrast, Staples' newest effort, One True Vine, is being released nearer the movement's nadir, at a time when slews of revivalism albums are being released just for revivalism's sake. To stand out as genuine and thoughtful in the midst of such opportunism is no small feat but one that Staples manages to do with tremendous grace and ease by doing what's been coming naturally to her for over 50 years -- singing about the Lord.

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Abigail Covington

Album Wed May 22 2013

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound Continue to Evolve Their Funk with New Album


I've been following the rising star of Chicago neo-soulsters JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound for a while now, and (besides being one of my favorite bands with an ampersand) I'm not ashamed to say the band always gets my booty out on the dance floor. With their new album Howl out this week on Bloodshot Records, the band takes on the next phase of their musical journey, with a somewhat more mature and (not a little bit) darker point-of-view.

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Anne Holub / Comments (2)

Album Tue Jan 22 2013

Wild Mountain Time: Visiting Mountains' Centralia

An experience with Centralia, the new LP from Brooklyn electronic duo Mountains, out today on Thrill Jockey Records. Mountains will play The Hideout on Wednesday February 27, at 9pm with White/Light with Frank Rosaly and Lucky Dragons.

Mountains - Centralia Cover Art - 323.jpg

1) "Sand"

8:08am — Just waking up to catch the sunrise from my perch high in the Blue Canadian Rockies. It's cold up here, but the sun feels warm. Could just be the altitude. Soft electronic drones and gently oscillating synthesizers bring me to my feet. After a few minutes, a meandering synth melody leads the charge of layers and layers of sound. I feel intense sunlight hitting my face. Before long, bowed cellos enter and gather strength, and soon there's so much texture that it's tough to know where the acoustic instruments begin and the electronic ones start. I gather up my belongings and start to walk.

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Mike Bellis

Hip Hop Fri Dec 07 2012

Review: Return of the Mecca Don & Chocolate Boy Wonder

Keeping the rhythm of its recent rally of bringing some of the most prolific faces and sounds of hip-hop and R&B to the city, The Shrine upped the volume once more last Friday, by welcoming a duo that practically epitomizes an era; Pete Rock & CL Smooth.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal

Celebrating twenty years since the release of their debut LP, Mecca and the Soul Brother, the originators were set to perform the album in its entirety. They took to the stage with all the command and comfort of a veteran, but the energy and excitement of a pair of performers in their prime. Pete Rock excelled behind the decks, as a master of his craft would, at interluding and blending his tracks with their samples, and even including some classics off of the pair's 1991 EP, All Souled Out. CL Smooth's lyrical performance was complimented by his physical one, as he moved and grooved through every beat of every track, making it clear that the birth of the "hype man" marked the decline of the real emcee.

PeteRockCL5.jpg    PeteRockCL6.jpg

The two performed together as though they had never stopped, and provided, as promised, a momentary cure and escape, or "medicine", as CL Smooth called it, for the currently troubled times. They took the room back to '92, or rather, the golden age of hip-hop that Millennials imagine it to be, with the music, and the moves, and the mood they set with a flawless live rendition of their masterpiece. The album may as well have been recorded in that room that night, because the perfection that boomed through the speakers equaled that of the LP.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal

Wrapping up the night with their most known, respected, and most magnificent track, T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You), carried all the power that an ode to a fallen friend would, but it also blared with a reminiscence of the music, and the feeling that comes with thoughts of "the good ol' days," and everyone's varied recollection of them. It was nostalgia at its finest, channeled through legends in their truest form.

Ricardo Villarreal

Review Tue Oct 30 2012

Album Review: Jess Godwin

jess godwinLocal singer/songwriter Jess Godwin is looking for her big break. She is a fiery redhead with a multidimensional voice that at one moment is soft and sweet, then strong and powerful at the next. The simple, vocal-heavy pop songs on her new self-titled EP create a sound that can easily be received by a wide variety of listeners. They're especially inspirational to women because they speak to common feminine plight. Both her soulful, up-tempo beats and the lyrics of her songs are very catchy, making it hard to resist singing along.

It's apparent that Godwin's lyrics are reflective of challenges she has faced in her life. The first two songs on the EP seem to be inspired by the harsh realities she has faced while trying to get her foot in the door of the highly competitive music industry. She has released three EPs in the past three years, and is still searching for a label. Her musical focus has evolved slightly from her original R&B sound to more marketable pop tunes.

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Brianna Kelly / Comments (1)

Album Mon Sep 10 2012

Hear Sonic Youth Play Smartbar in 1985

sonic youth live at smartbar chicago 1985On Aug. 11, 1985, Sonic Youth played a show at Smart Bar, back when it was on the top floor of the Cabaret Metro, in support of their album Bad Moon Rising. There was a four-track tape recorder hooked into the soundboard, and it picked up plenty of songs from Bad Moon Rising as well as "Secret Girl," "Expressway to Yr Skull" and "Kat 'N' Hat."

This incomplete concert recording has been floating around in bootleg circles (where it's known as Anarchy On/At St. Mary's Place) for some time, but the band announced today that it has mixed and mastered this blast from the past that most fans have never heard, and will release it as a double-LP, CD and digital download on Nov. 14.

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Andrew Huff

Concert Wed Sep 05 2012

The Hood Internet Hits Metro with Feat

the hood internet featThe Hood Internet made its name creating masterful mashups of hip hop and indie rock for a few years now, regularly releasing free mixtapes filled with their best tracks. But now they're ready with something completely their own. Feat will be released Oct. 2 on Decon Records, and is all original -- no samples, no covers, lots of collaborations with artists, ranging from AC Newman to BBU to Kid Static.

On Thursday, Sept. 20 [Update: the show has been rescheduled for November 2, 2012. All original tickets will be honored.], The Hood Internet returns to its ancestral home, The Metro, for an 18-and-over record release show. Body Language, My Gold Mask and Oscillator Bug will open, with doors open at 8pm. Tickets are $16 in advance or at the door.

Andrew Huff

Album Tue Jul 24 2012

Dastardly Releases Ballads in Blue EP

Happy Tuesday! There's nothing better than new music to brighten up the day (especially an epically rainy one), and Chicago band Dastardly has just released their latest musical work Ballads in Blue yesterday via their bandcamp page.

Each of Dastardly's recordings has impressed me, and it's captivated me to see how much their music has evolved stylistically over time as they honed in on their unique sound. Ballads in Blue showcases Dastardly at their very best: beautifully layered harmonies, frenetic, eccentric rhythmic arrangements, and that old time Americana feel at its core, introspective and timeless. "Blue Dreams" is the standout track from the album, featuring lush arrangements, an unexpected choral backing and Gabe Liebowitz's vocals shining amidst a delicate backdrop.

Take a listen to Ballads in Blue below, which is available for download and purchase here by naming your price. You can also catch Dastardly playing these new tunes live at their next hometown concert, August 30 at Schubas, which will be their official record release show.

Sarah Brooks

Album Thu May 31 2012

Mucca Pazza Release New Album, Video for "Boss Taurus"

Safety Fifth, the new album by Mucca Pazza, Chicago's number one punk marching band, comes out June 12 on Electric Cowbell Records. That very night, they'll be celebrating with a concert at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Tickets are $15 online or at the door -- if there are any left. Above is a music video for "Boss Taurus" off the album (is that a "Bitchin' Camaro" allusion?)

You can pre-order Safety Fifth now on vinyl or CD, and if you do so before the 12th, you'll receive a free poster designed by Kathleen Judge.

Andrew Huff

Album Tue May 08 2012

The Hood Internet Releases Mixtape Volume 6

Hood Internet Mixtape Six

Mashup heroes The Hood Internet released their latest mixtape today. It's 26 tracks of hip hop meets alt rock, including a timely Beastie Boys-Santigold-Weird Tapes mashup. Listen to it via Soundcloud below or download it here.

Andrew Huff

Album Mon Apr 16 2012

Album Review: Justin Townes Earle's Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

[This review comes to us from reader Sarah Brooks.]

The moment I started listening to Justin Townes Earle's latest album, Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (Bloodshot Records), I knew it was going to be on "replay" for a while on my stereo.


Nashville native Justin Townes Earle has gradually carved out his own name for himself in the music scene. Son of legendary musician Steve Earle and named after songwriter Townes Van Zandt, it was basically predestined for Justin Townes Earle to mature into the dynamic country/folk musician he is now. Earle's tumultuous early life was spent wrestling drug addiction and playing short-lived stints with a variety of bands before setting off on a solo career. This path allowed him to hone in on a mature sound and create an intimacy in his music that is unprecedented in the songs of many other country/folk musicians. The struggles brought pain to Earle's early life also created raw emotion that he pumps into his music with every song.

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Album Tue Apr 10 2012

Album Review: The Right Now's Gets Over You

TRN_GOY_Cover_HiRes.jpgChicago's own Motown-inspired rockers The Right Now celebrate the release of their newest album today, April 10. The difference between The Right Now's sophomore release Gets Over You and their 2010 debut Carry Me Home is stark, but you know that even before the album starts playing. The phrase "don't judge a book by its cover" comes to mind. This album should absolutely be judged by its cover--especially when you sit it next to its predecessor. The warm hues in the cover art of Carry Me Home have been replaced by a dark city scene. The pastel lettering ousted for a neon marquee. Angular edges jut into the scenery where rounded, abstract shapes once did. The Right Now's new album is gritty. The band all but drops the pop sheen that illuminated Carry Me Home and trades it in for a bluesy production style. Gets Over You is a sexy step in the right direction for this these local up and comers.

When this reviewer spoke with guitarist/keys player and lead songwriter Brendan O'Connell he explained the band's second studio effort was more of a collaborative effort. Before heading to L.A. to record the album The Right Now spent the majority of 2011 holed up in its recording space working together to develop each song.

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Katie Karpowicz

Concert Fri Mar 16 2012

Paranormal Sighting: Alt-Folk Ghosts Grandeurs Haunt Chicago's Bars


Chicago's Grandeurs are a group out to prove the power of whispers. The quietly seductive alt-folk they play is out to prove the power of speaking softly. Grandeurs achingly slow songs hypnotically entrance listeners into their world of dark bars at 4am.

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Jason Olexa

Album Fri Feb 24 2012

Andrew Bird Embraces The Future of Internet Busking

Photos courtesy of Joshua Mellin

The always majestic and never foul Andrew Bird has embraced the a pay what you like model for the NoiseTrade Sampler. Think of it as you surfing down the information superhighway and stopping to hear him perform a series of rustic heart soaring songs on his electro violin before tossing a few eShekels into his binary hat. The NoiseTrade Sampler contains new tracks from his forthcoming album Break It Yourself and b-sides.

Tracklist for the sampler is behind the cut.

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Jason Olexa / Comments (1)

Album Fri Jan 13 2012

Netherfriends debuts "Bloomington, IN" off his new album Middle America

Last April we reported that our friend Netherfriends had wrapped up his year long tour of the US to complete his 50 songs in 50 states project. Next month we'll finally see the fruits of his labor with the release of Middle America on Kilo Records. And earlier this week the first single from the album was released through Impose magazine.

The track "Bloomington, IN" is a vintage sounding pop gem that has a carefree vibe that at first glance seems more southern California than the land of corn Indiana. But as a Hoosier (yes, the land to the east is my home state) I can attest that Bloomington is the carefree Bohemia of Indiana. It's the home of Indiana University, so as far as Indiana standards go, it's a pretty liberal and laid back place. Would it stand up well against the Indiana patron god of music, John Cougar Mellencamp? Why yes, it could give the saccharine sweet "Jack & Diane" a possible run for its money. The Netherfriends track is the perfect cruising through the cornfields on an early fall afternoon jam, which is to say it fits right in with Indiana life.

Check "Bloomington, IN" out here, and then join Shawn and friends for the album release show at Empty Bottle on February 10th. He'll also be dj-ing at the Whistler on the 11th.

Lisa White

Album Fri Nov 11 2011

Old Town School of Folk Music Releases a Live Digital "Box Set"

old_town_school_boxset.jpgThe Old Town School of Folk Music is releasing Live from the Old Town School, a four-volume, 127-track digital box set of live performances spanning the music school and performance space's 50-plus-year history. The set will be available Dec. 13 in its entirety on Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes, but the first three volumes are already available on Amazon at $0.99 a pop or $17.98 an album, including several songs by Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford, Mahalia Jackson and Pete Seeger.

Andrew Huff

Album Fri Nov 04 2011

Album Review: Capturing Stillness with A Winged Victory for the Sullen


A Winged Victory for the Sullen is the duo of Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltze and minimal composer Dustin O'Halloran. If O'Halloran's name seems familiar he wrote and performed the score to Sofia Coppala's film Marie Antoinette. A Winged Victory for the Sullen's self-titled debut unfolds with the delicacy of a Chopan piece performed on Vicodin. AWVFTS create music that lies in between the worlds of chamber pop, melancholy minimalist piano, and droning post rock. On paper the idea of the two working together could be dismissed as the audio equivalent of nice pastel wallpaper but the duo finds a unique space too hefty to be ambient yet impressionistic enough to glide around the edges of your mind. The songs float by as glaciers at noon across the ocean. The otherworldly compositions on AWVFTS' debut album released by Chicago's Kranky Records unfold at a pace that guides the listener into a state where moments freeze in time.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears by erasedtapes

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Jason Olexa

Album Fri Nov 04 2011

Album Review: The Bleakest Winter With Surachai's To No Avail


Here in Chicago we've just hit the month of November or the moon cycle after Samhaim as the pagans know it and that's prime time for metal to take over the turntable in my house. Riding in on winters heels Surachai has just released To No Avail, a blast of stark, cold, desolate, black metal. To No Avail is a record you listen to backwards in the desperate search of finding a doorway out of the nightmare filled darkness it brings.

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Jason Olexa

Album Thu Nov 03 2011

Album Review: Chrissy Murderbot's Booty Bounce EP I'm A Asshole


Chrissy Murderbot is a dance shaman of the 21st century mixing folk cures for club foot, rickets, shyness and other dance impairments. Chrissy Murderbot makes the type of high-energy dance music you get in trouble listening to. Siren noises and explosive bass drops paint an auditory backdrop as your mom would opened the door and asked you to turn it down with her serious mom face on. Chrissy is coming off a heroic year in the exploration of retro-future booty swagging dance music. In May, UK tastemaker label Planet µ released his "future booty gonzo sex bass"* album Women's Studies. In July Murderbot played a set with MC Zulu at Pitchfork fest (See Transmission's coverage and interview with Chrissy and MC Zulu from Pitchfork.). Chrissy just released a hyperactive gluteus maximus themed dance pop EP I'm a Asshole on his own label Loose Squares. The grammatically incorrect title and musical content will send grade school teachers into fits of rage. Before you click on the link below to stream the EP be warned that the lyrics are NSFW in most workplaces, except for Lawrence's Fisheries where you can hear explicit booty music while eating fried fish anytime of the day.

Chrissy Murderbot - "I'm a Asshole" EP [Loose Squares / October 2011] by chrissymurderbot

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Jason Olexa

Album Tue Oct 25 2011

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound's Latest A Testament to the Rise of Neo Soul Rock


It's all been many years coming for Chicago group JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. With national acts like The Dap Kings and Black Joe Lewis creating a real market for classic soul with a Millennial twist, the time is certainly right for Brooks and his talented company of musicians to make a big splash with their latest album Want More. Officially out today on Bloodshot Records, Want More is a hip-shaking romp through classic soul covers, homages, and original tunes that keep you, yes, very much, wanting more.

These guys have done a lot over the last few years. Besides garnering thousands of downloads from local fans for their peppy version of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (a cover that could have bit them in the ass something fierce if they'd failed to win over Wilco's Jeff Tweedy), the group gained attention from a national audience hungry for Wilco tunes. A broader crowd of listeners could now certainly see the influence of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke on the group's sound, which only gained them street cred as a band who certainly wasn't using this popular cover song as a one off.

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Anne Holub

Album Mon Jul 25 2011

Jennifer Hall In This

InThisCDcoverforJenniferHall.jpgJennifer Hall is quickly becoming one of my favorite singer/songwriters in the city. She has a voice and a presence that is undeniable, and as her debut album, In This, begins to make the rounds more people will be to realize this. In This is beautifully crafted and a surprising mixture of smoky barroom piano tunes ("Green and Blue" or "Oceans") and driving rock songs ("When We Were Good"). My favorite track from the album is "Young Things" because it brings her two sounds together nicely. There are the powerful jazz vocalist undertones with the rock n' roll undercurrent through out. Below is Jennifer performing "Young Things" as captured by Backstage Stage Chicago. She also talks about her choice to stay in Chicago, and be apart of the Chicago scene in an interview following the performance.

You can pre-order and stream three tracks from In This here and be sure to check her out at the release show for the album on September 3rd at Schubas.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Jun 22 2011

Growing Bear Hair

Brass-enhanced indie-rock band The Island of Misfit Toys' debut album, Bear Hair, is due out next Tuesday, June 28 on Tandem Shop Records. Meanwhile, you can stream it for free on Bandcamp ...or below.

Andrew Huff

Video Mon Jun 06 2011

Squat The Condos

3363688253-1.jpgSquat The Condos is an eclectic band combining bubble gum pop, and early '90s garage pop on their recent free debut EP We Should Be Together. The band has a knack for creating get melodies and it makes their EP a fun summer listen.

Squat The Condos recently recorded a session in their living room for the wonderful Coach Potato series. They performed my favorite track from the EP "Missing You" which the most catchy track I've heard in awhile.

Jason Behrends

Album Thu May 19 2011

The Sea and Cake Chase Some Moonlight Butterflies


It's been a few years since we got a real tasty morsel from Chicago musicians The Sea and Cake. Since 2008's Car Alarm the sole release the group put out was a split 7" paired with Broken Social Scene. The Moonlight Butterfly, the band's ninth offering, isn't quite a complete meal, clocking in at just over 30 minutes with only 6 songs, but it's definitely doing something more than just whetting your appetite. It's a little more than an EP (and indeed, it's not being branded as such) but maybe it's something like a tasting menu in sound form.

The Moonlight Butterfly is on target with previous releases by The Sea and Cake — full of dreamy lyrics from Sam Prekop and fanciful guitar interplay between Prekop and Archer Prewitt. If you're already a fan of what this band does best, you'll do well to pick up this release. Recorded by drummer (and sound engineer) John McEntire at Soma Studios in town, and held together by bassist Eric Claridge, this is, in some respects, exactly what fans are after. But there's more to The Moonlight Butterfly than just that. The title track is all divergent glitchy keyboard noodling that I wish was more integrated into the other five tracks, instead it kind of sits in the middle of the album and gives you time to go get a soda from the kitchen while you wait for the rest of the tracks to cue up. Not to say I dislike it, but where Car Alarm had almost ghost-like reverberations from a distant steel drum interspersed as background percussion on several tracks, the keyboard track is kind of like the surprise jalapeno slice on your Banh Mi sandwich — it's doesn't turn you off, but man, you just want to get to that tasty barbeque pork and veggies. "Inn Keeping" does a better job of leading us into the song with a bit of electro-drum, and keeping the song steady with light guitar and stronger vocals from Prekop.

All this is not to say that The Moonlight Butterfly isn't a good time to be had, because it certainly is. The majority of the album is a clear Sea and Cake affair, but I almost wish they'd waited out the release by six months or even another year to see where this journey was going to take them. Is there something to the album's title track being the most out-of-place? Perhaps it's a sharp growing pain from a band locked into a particular dream-pop sound. Perhaps it's just an experiment that doesn't quite fit in a neat little bundle of an album. I'll be intrigued to check out the band live on Saturday at the Empty Bottle and see what their performance has to say for their current artistic mood. If you're a fan, might not be a bad place to find yourself either.

[mp3] The Sea and Cake - "Up On The North Shore" from The Moonlight Butterfly

The Sea and Cake play Saturday, May 21st at the Empty Bottle. Doors open at 8:30pm. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 day of show. Openers include Plush with Liam Hayes and James Elkington. The Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave. 773-276-3600.

Anne Holub

Album Tue May 17 2011

Score Company of Thieves' Latest For Free

The much anticipated follow-up to Company of Thieves' debut album, Ordinary Riches, has finally arrived. Their latest release, titled Running from a Gamble, hits shelves today and the band has offered no shortage of ways to hear the new tracks. For starters, the band has been posting acoustic versions of every song on the album over on their YouTube channel and the entire album is streaming in full over at Spinner. But if you'd like a real, physical copy of the CD in your hands, head on over to an FYE store with this coupon in hand to snag a free copy. And of course, if you like to actually pay for music, the album is available to purchase on iTunes.

Company of Thieves will be playing songs from Running from a Gamble tonight at FYE in the loop, 26 E. Randolph St, starting at 6 pm.

Stephanie Griffin / Comments (1)

Album Wed Mar 09 2011

Paper Arrows Release In The Morning

cover small.jpgYesterday (March 8) Chicago's own Paper Arrows released their third full-length In The Morning on local label Quell Records.

Paper Arrows have been causing a stir within the Chicago music scene since their debut album was released in 2008 and were recently named one of the Chicago Tribune's "11 Local Bands to Watch in 2011."

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Katie Karpowicz

Album Thu Feb 17 2011

New Album Release/Free Song Download From Save The Clocktower

Save the Clocktower Carousel Cover.jpgOn February 26th Save The Clocktower will celebrate the release of its sophomore album, Carousel, at The Hideout. However, I've already had the pleasure of hearing the newest album from these poppy, electronica-heavy locals.

I feel that it's human nature to, upon first listen, liken new bands or albums to more familiar artists or song collections. That is exactly what I tried to do during my first listen to Carousel. However, the list of influences and likenesses that this album embodies seems to never end. Save The Clocktower's brilliant originality lies in its ability to blend an impressive repertoire of preexisting genres and styles with the grace of a much more matured and experienced band.

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Katie Karpowicz

Album Wed Dec 22 2010

Friends & Family II from Grape Juice Records

3514818423-1.jpgThe local label Grape Juice Records has released a compilation called "Friends & Family II" through bandcamp. The album features some of my favorite Chicago bands and musicians of 2010 including Julie Meckler, Will Phalen, Derek Nelson & His Musicians, and The shams Band. The compilation can be downloaded for free here, and you can find out more about Grape Juice Records and their bands at their website.

Jason Behrends

Album Mon Nov 22 2010

Kanye Joins The Perfect Ten Club

The critics have started speaking on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and so far it's been straight A's across the board. Not least of all is the weigh-in from Pitchfork, who awarded their first non-reissue perfect ten score since fellow Chicagoans Wilco released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot some eight years ago.

The interwebs predictably have some choice snark on hand about the rating.

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Dan Morgridge

Concert Thu Nov 11 2010

Clinic Heals Tonight

clinic2.jpgThe first and only time I've seen Clinic live was at the Empty Bottle two years ago, and I felt like I had been listening to one long song for the entire concert. (This is the song I like! Oh, no, THIS is the one I like...)

It's no surprise that I was a fan of their trainspotting-esque sound--fast paced, electronic, very English. It was just very monotonous. But their new album, Bubblegum, has much more diversity as the group departs slightly from that all-night-party intensity to a more reflective aura. It's almost as if party-goers put down the bottle of pills and powdery white substances and picked up some natural psychedelics instead. It's a welcome change.

Slower, softer songs with melody and emotion dominate on Bubblegum, like opening track "I'm Aware", "Baby" and "Linda." The title track even throws in a little bit of groove. They visit their artistic side with spoken word on "Radiostory" and the instrumental "Un Astronauta En Cielo." Fans of Clinic's classic sound shouldn't worry though, the same are those lazy, distressed vocals, and tracks like "Liontamer" and "Orangutan" have that familiar vibe from their Wrangler debut.

You can stream Bubblebum in its entirety on Domino's website and then see Clinic play tonight at Lincoln Hall. Tickets are $15. San Francisco's The Fresh & Onlys open. 9pm. 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. 21& up.

Michelle Meywes

Album Wed Nov 10 2010

Live in Boston 1966: Junior Wells and the Aces


Buddy Guy may have achieved a greater fame (and has a certain eponymous South Loop club to boost his immortality), but Chicago music owes nearly as much to his frequent collaborator and friend Junior Wells. A harmonica player who learned from Little Walter's style and created something all his own, Junior released his landmark album Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965. Live in Boston 1966 finds Junior fresh on tour for that album minus one "Friendly Chap" (the alias Buddy had to adapt due to contractual conflicts with Chess Records), but is joined by the Aces - Louis and Dave Myers on guitar and bass, and Fred Below on drums.

Released at the end of September, Delmark's packaging of this concert captures a vibrant set of songs as well as the dialogue in between - while the band's electric forays and tight grooves are on display, so is the showmanship that Junior brought aside from the music. One dialogue segment lasts for about three minutes - Junior goes into stand-up comedian form, talking about how he has to be wary of the "snakes" that will try to flirt with your woman when you finally get her fattened up and healthy. With imitations, asides, and some comic drum and bass fills from the band, Junior shows he's a born entertainer.

But curios aside, the music here gets the spotlight. "The Man Downstairs" finds the gang performing a medley (they didn't have mash-ups in those days) of "Big Boss Man" and "One Way Out" (which casual listens might recognize from the Allman Brothers cover). Junior's classic "Messin' With the Kid" and solo-riffic "Junior's Whoop" hit with like a locomotive - heavy, bellowing smoke, and right on time. "Look On Yonder's Wall" gets Junior into such a frenzy that he starts leading the whole audience in a screaming call and response that even he realizes is too early a peak: "We're gonna have to slow that roll a little bit..."

The band and album find their climax in a seven-minute romp through "Got My Mojo Workin'" - Louis and Fred put sweat on their brows with a frantic electric guitar and snare drum start, but somehow by the time Junior enters three minutes in, you realize they were only flexing a bit before starting the real show. By the time the final two minutes arrive, the Myers brothers are strutting all over their Strats, Fred's adding more fills than you can shake two sticks at, and Junior's wailing it all out through his harp. Delmark has captured a great musician in his prime, and the music makes for a fine history lesson that'll also move your behind.

Dan Morgridge

Concert Mon Sep 27 2010

Women Are Back

Women-in-bed-BY-LINDSEY-BAKER400.jpgWomen drew acclaim last year with DIY lo-fi style on their self titled debut album, most notably for the song "Black Rice". They've since been busy in Canada recording their new album, Public Strain, which comes out in the US tomorrow, but you can get a preview of the new material (and hopefully even some midnight copies) tonight at Schubas.

Recorded in Alberta, Public Strain continues on the same lackadaisical, psychedelic trip into a 60's Factory party. The first single, "Eyesore", is a balanced example of the tone of the album, but I would like to see the slightly more haunting "Heat Distraction" be the next release. Midway through the album, "Penal Colony" brings a dreamy, melancholy touch that could soundtrack the flashback sequence in a Valley of the Dolls remake, but it's quickly followed by transfixing drones on "Bells," and then dragging drums and other worldly distorted guitar on the ominous "China Steps." Public Strain explores a lot of different shades, all without veering away from the common undertone.

Tickets are $10 ($12 door). Fellow Canuks dd/mm/yyyy and local act Netherfriends open the night. Show starts at 8pm. 18 & up. Schubas is located at 3159 N. Southport.

Michelle Meywes

Album Wed Sep 15 2010

Justin Townes Earle: Big City With a Country Heart


Justin Townes Earle is part of music history (as his dad is the illustrious Steve Earle) but that relationship does not define him. He's also a totally amazing part of alt-country present. Originally from Nashville, JTE spent a few years in Chicago (where he was signed to Bloodshot Records) playing the circuit of small venues and putting in his time. Now he lives in New York City (New York City?) where his latest album, Harlem River Blues, gains a cinematic quality of the cowboy lost in the concrete jungle. Songs like "Learning to Cry," "Harlem River Blues" and "Slippin' and Slidin'" are tearful and steeped in a kind of work-a-day depression one feels when all around you is grey, and black asphalt, and more grey, but you have to get up anyway. Even the tune "Rogers Park" — with its nod back in time to Earle's years in Chicago, and our bleak months of winter — has a mind to dwell just for a moment in the dark past even though "this town's dead tonight, I got no place to be" speaks not only to a time gone by, but also the desolation of city streets during a snowstorm. But then there's the wink from "One More Night In Brooklyn" where, well, we might as well make the best of it, and be with someone special. And there's the modern twist on the conventional trainman song "Working for the MTA" (which makes me harken back to the Kingston Trio's folk tune "The M.T.A. Song"). Earle hits his stride with boogie woogie in "Move Over Mama" and the sweet song "Wanderin'" which make you want to really cut a rug. But he's really about storytelling, and giving audiences songs they can sing along to whether they're behind the wheel of their Chevy, or waiting for a train far below the streetscape. Everyone has to find a reason to get up and get going in the morning — even when it's dark and grey outside. Believe it or not, this album makes me want to just keep hitting "repeat" it's so true to life. The rollercoaster of the story is just another day in the big city. Cowboy or no, I'm sure you can relate.

[mp3] Justin Townes Earle: "Harlem River Blues" from Harlem River Blues

Justin Townes Earle plays Lincoln Hall on Saturday, September 18th. Jessica Lea Mayfield opens. Music starts at 10pm. Tickets are $13 (adv) $15 (door). Lincoln Hall is located at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-525-2501.

Anne Holub

Preview Sat Sep 11 2010

Chew Heart celebrates record release @ The Whistler, 9/12

Messy Snarls.jpg

So it would appear as if Laura Granlund (guitar, vocals, keys) and Curt Swank (drums, nice name) of Chicago's Chew Heart have been in hiding for more than six years while they recorded music together, a collaboration which started after Swank had given Granlund a 4-track recorder for her birthday and they discovered their mutual appreciation for 60's pop, 80's new wave, 90's indie rock.

Their debut album, Messy Snarls (Loose Tooth Records), introduces us to their "treetop pop" in six songs, asking us to give them just 15 minutes of fame. With the help of Brian Zieske at the Gallery of Carpet, Messy Snarls was recorded live to analog tape with minimal overdubs and zero computer manipulation, which is supposed to sound nostalgic, according to reviews elsewhere.

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Vicky Lim

Album Thu Aug 19 2010


246 Cover.jpgThrill Jockey has an impressive series of releases scheduled to come out of the next couple months. In fact they will be releasing nine albums between August 24th and October 5th. The first of those releases is a live album by Fennesz, David Daniell and Tony Buck recorded on February 7th, 2009, at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. This recording captures the first time these three experimental musicians performed together. The album captures that sense of discovery you might expect to hear when three talents come together for the first time. The collaboration was spurred on by the festival organizers.

On the album Fennesz plays guitar and electronics, Daniell (who recently released his debut album Sycamore with the help of Douglas McCombs of Tortoise through Thrill Jockey) plays guitar, and Tony Buck plays drums.

[MP3] Fennesz, Daniell, Buck - Antonia

David Daniell will be performing on Sep 8 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and with Fennesz at Empty Bottle on Sept. 23rd.

Jason Behrends

Album Mon Aug 16 2010


l_d90d93048c6541f7bc799237099c84d3.jpgJenny Gillespie's sophomore album Kindred was released almost a month ago, but I find myself listening to it more closely now that summer is winding down. The album is filled with beautifully soft textures of sound that weave around Gillespie's voice perfectly. The style is somewhere between jazz, folk, alt-country and electronic music. On several tracks she can be compared to Sarah McLachlan, but the album as a whole is more complex than that. With songs like "Golden Central" and "Swimming in Amber", this album is a peaceful listen that would work well as the backdrop to a late summer's sunset. You can stream the entire album and purchase it digitally over at Gillespie's bandcamp page, where you can also download a free 5-song sampler from the album. You can purchase a physical copy here.

Jenny discusses the inspiration behind the creation of Kindred in the video below.

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Jason Behrends

Album Tue Aug 10 2010

Album Review/CD Release Show: Dreamend - So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite

The concept album is a glorious attempt for a musician to explore the art of storytelling through a timeline and plunge into the depths of characters allowing us to get closer to a story than we could in a single song. Sometimes they are amazing and we connect instantly and sometimes they fail to make sense. Ryan Graveface through his project Dreamend takes us to a strange and scary place that many do not want not to understand. He lets us in to a harrowing world filled with death, joy and disconnection with a new release inspired by the journal of a real life serial killer. The album entitled So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite is out today on Ryan's label, Graveface Records.

In a time span of 30 years we follow and gain insight to the life and mind of a sociopath, gently haunting as well as guiding us to places within ourselves that we purposely leave in the shadows. When I spoke to Ryan over the phone, the 29 year old was very clear about his new album which from the subject discussed should sound like a dark and stormy night, but instead has elements of sunny fields and being so overjoyed at simply being part of the world you want to hug everything you see.

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Aharona Ament

Album Thu Jul 08 2010

The Metro Releases Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume 1. July 22

From blues to jazz to post-rock, we are a city filled with a rich musical history that can compare to no other. What is even more important are our personal histories, stories and memories. The Metro for many of us is a strong part of what helped shape our formative concert going years and a place where we still create memories and recall some of the best shows of our lives.

That history is now documented in a benefit compilation entitled Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume 1. The compilation includes live tracks from local favorites The Alkaline Trio, The Sea And Cake and Tortoise as well as The Decemberists, Guided By Voices and Sleater-Kinney. The album will be available July 22. All profits from sales of the CD will be donated to Rock For Kids, a local non-profit which provides music lessons for underprivileged youth in Chicago. Advance copies of the CD will be available at the Rock For Kids booth at the Pitchfork Music Festival next week. For $20 you can grab a piece of the past, what makes a huge part of our lives and possibly hear yourself cheering in the background.


Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume 1:

1. The Flaming Lips: "Race for the Prize"
2. Guided By Voices: "Fair Touching"
3. Sleater-Kinney: "You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun"
4. The Decemberists: "We Both Go Down Together"
5. Indigo Girls: "Galileo"
6. Alejandro Escovedo: "I'll Follow You Down"
7. The Sea and Cake: "Jacking the Ball"
8. Tortoise: "Along the Banks of Rivers"
9. Alkaline Trio: "Radio"
10. Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and Kurt Elling: "Freedom"

Aharona Ament / Comments (1)

Album Sun May 09 2010

Album Review: Sonoi. Plus CD Release Show 5/14


Don't put Chicago band Sonoi in a box. There isn't a check for them. When listening to the band's debut self titled album more than a few genres flow to mind. Coming from an already rich musical background the band contains Adam Busch and Ryan Hembrey of Manishevitz. They continued the musical relationship adding drummer Pierce Doerr. Together they made an album that could be a soundtrack to a really cool film. The sounds they create are as diverse and complex as life itself and looks beyond the confines of particularity.

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Aharona Ament

Artist Tue Apr 20 2010

The Record Low's New Album and Benefit Show Tomorrow

Local indie rockers The Record Low recently came out with a new album, Away From Us, and I got a copy of it today! I've listened to it about five times in a row here and I'm not sick of it yet so that's gotta say something. It's smooth and dreamy, pretty shoegazey, super chill-- something I imagine would go splendidly with your morning coffee or on a road trip through the Midwest. This album has been getting some good reviews so if you're a fan of nice, pretty music (and who isn't?) you should check them out.

The Record Low is playing a benefit show tomorrow night at The Empty Bottle with Follows and Amalea Tshilds.

Kelly Reaves

Album Thu Apr 08 2010

Free Vinyl from Mr. Russia

Chicago natives Mr. Russia were nice enough to send us some vinyl recently, a 7" tribute to Bowie with a nice little cover of "Boys Keep Swinging" on it-- a version which is quite loyal to the original but slightly less Bowie-sparkly and a bit rougher around the edges.

In case you're not familiar with these guys, all you need to know is that they are proponents of simple, no-nonsense garage punk and I don't think they ever use guitars (except those of the bass variety.) Fans of stripped down rock and roll will surely dig their jams. I, personally, gravitate toward their demonic renditions of Nick Cave songs. Mr. Russia sure has a knack for injecting a little 21st century angst into 20th century staples.

To get your own free copy of the "Boys Keep Swinging" 7" stop by the Reckless Records at 1532 N. Milwaukee on April 17. Check them out live that night at Beat Kitchen and, while you're at it, download their free new EP from their website.

Kelly Reaves

Album Wed Mar 03 2010

The Blacks In Sickness and Health


The Blacks (photo courtesy of their Myspace page)
In Sickness and Health is The Blacks' first album since their breakup a decade ago and their subsequent reunion after a performance at the Hideout's Block Party last fall. It is a six song EP, and is being released in digital format only on March 9, with an accompanying record-release show this Saturday, March 6 at Schubas.

Much tamer than their previous work, In Sickness and Health reflects the wisdom (and perhaps exhaustion) of mature musicians. Many of the punk rock riffs have been replaced by steady Americana strums, but the freshness is still there. This is music for people who don't want anything fancy--who love the blues and "real" country music but wish they weren't quite so darn sad. Make sure to check out the show this weekend and then let us know if they've still got the raw energy they used to.

Kelly Reaves

Album Tue Feb 23 2010

Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor


The Smashing Pumpkins' new album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, is a huge undertaking. They're releasing 44 songs, one at a time, for free online via An EP will be available for purchase after every 4 songs (11 EPs total), and a box set will be available after the entire project is completed. We were originally promised one song per month starting on October 31st of last year. We're now nearing the end of February, and so far, only two songs have been released: "A Song for a Son" and "Widow Wake My Mind". At this rate, the project will be finished in just over 7 years (equal to the span of time between Gish and Adore). Let's hope Billy speeds up the process.

Now Insound and Amazon have the deets on the first EP on the roster, Songs for a Sailor. The EP comes in a silk-screened wooden box, and will include a hand-carved leopard stone obelisk. The four songs (available online) will be in CD format, with previously unheard instrumental intros for each song. The box will also have a bonus 7", containing a previously unheard b-side. Songs for a Sailor is set to be released on April 20th, but is available for pre-order on both sites for a whopping $29.99. This means, if you plan to purchase all 11 EPs, it'll set you back $329.89. And you thought that Mellon Collie price tag was hefty.

Stephanie Griffin / Comments (1)

Album Tue Feb 09 2010

CD Review: Tacoma Narrows

tacoma.jpgTo say there is a band making music in Chicago with solid alt-country undertones is not really saying much. For a city that has embraced bands like Wilco and more recently Van Ghost, an alt-country band may not come across as all that original or urgent. However, the debut album from Tacoma Narrows presents a new take on this now commonplace genre. The band has managed to add strong and swirling psychedelic textures to their traditional sound. It makes sense that this band would have more of a blended sound when look at the various bands Kik Pratt, Donny Mahlmeister, Jack McLarnan and Ryan Juravic have played in the last ten years. Bands like Azita, A Tundra, and Collections of Colonies of Bees, have turned this group into something refreshingly unique while allowing them to remain rooted in a more classic sound.

The bands self-titled debut album was released physically last month and is available on the bands website. You can also stream the album right now on their website. The digital distribution is being handled by the local label Staticstation, and should be available on itunes and emusic this month.

Tacoma Narrows will be featured on WXRT's Local Anesthetic on Sunday, Februray 14 at 7:30 PM. You can also catch Tacoma Narrows at The Whister with Chaperone for free on March 8th.

Jason Behrends

Album Thu Feb 04 2010

Album Review: Puerto Muerto-Drumming For Pistols


Local husband and wife duo Tim Kelley and Christa Meyer better known as Puerto Muerto have been making intoxicatingly dark cabaret inspired music for almost ten years. Their debut album Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore is considered a cult classic. They also toured in 2005 preforming live with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for which they made a supplemental soundtrack to the film. They are an interesting band that are a secret gem to those who have been lucky enough to find them.

The latest from the pair is their sixth full length release entitled Drumming For Pistols which is due out February 9th on Fire Records. This album very much like their past work is filled with themes of deep loss and regrettable sadness woven all the way through. Even though this band has beautiful arrangements in their music, their medium for expression is equal parts storytelling. Very much in the spirit of two of their influences Nick Cave and Nina Simone, every song has a different character, a new way of feeling lonely and a new twist in it.

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Aharona Ament

Concert Wed Jan 06 2010

My Gold Mask @ The Hideout

647111307-1.jpgFollowing up the success for their clash with The Hood Internet a few months ago, My Gold Mask is back with an addictive five-track ep called A Thousand Voices. Surprisingly just a duo, Gretta Rochelle and Jack Armondo have created a world that is dark, but always danceable. Blending the best of Santigold and Lady GaGa with the style and attitude of Siouxsie Sioux, these two have really do have the strength of a thousand voices.

Each track has it own sound, but the two that have the most energy are the lead single "Violet Eyes" and the second track "Circle Mass". They are currently offering "Circle Mass" as a free download, and you can stream the entire ep at bandcamp as well. My Gold Mask is one of the more promising bands in the city as work to crave out a distinctive sound and follow it up with quality live performances.

They will be playing a release show for A Thousand Voices at The Hideout on January 9th with The Bitter Tears and Violetness. The show starts at 9:00pm and tickets are $8.

Jason Behrends

Album Thu Dec 17 2009

Keep Careful

l_68481c82365c6565961a6a7fefd29f03.jpgThe new album from Indiana's Sam Vicari is a perfect example of how long someone can wait to see their dreams come true. The album was recorded by Mike Lust at Chicago's Phantom Manor way back in January 2009, and a full year late on January 19th he will release Keep Careful. So what has a year of waiting and some skillful mastery at Joyride amounted to? Keep Careful is a throwback album of sorts to what music sounded like in this city 10 to 15 years ago. It reminds me of Smoking Popes or Catherine or maybe Certain Distant Suns. Maybe it's Sam's tenor tones or his aggressive guitar, but regardless his songwriting is what shines through. It's slacker rock with melodic lyrics that will have you singing along. Sam has been playing shows around the city for the last four years so it is only fitting the his record release show will be held here as well.

Sam will celebrate the release of Keep Careful at Cal's Bar on January 22nd.

Jason Behrends / Comments (2)

Blog Mon Dec 14 2009

Live at Lime with Tom Morello: A Benefit for Amnesty International

In conjunction with Human Rights Day on December 10, LimeWire Store released "Live at Lime with Tom Morello." The album features Morello performing covers of The Killers' "Human" and the classic folk song "Joe Hill." Hailing from Libertyville, Morello is a longtime activist and supporter of Amnesty International. All net proceeds from the album will go to them.

An accompanying video featuring a conversation between artist and activist Henry Rollins and Morello can be viewed in 4 parts below.

Continue reading this entry »

Brian Leli

Album Mon Dec 14 2009

Honest Engines

clogpromo.jpgIt's hard to call a three track ep epic, but when you take in the full magnitude that the local trio Honest Engines radiate epic seems to fit. I mean we are not talking about the scope and sound of Arcade Fire, this band clearly has built sound that this full and lush and demands an audience. Perhaps it is the atmospheric guitar work of Marcus Maloney or the thunderous but precise drumming of Matt Hennessey, but no matter the formula these three young musicians have found something special. It was clear on their self-released debut Don't Talk of California and now that Chicago's Tandem Shop has released this charming ep the band will only set their sights higher.

Released last Tuesday, Captain's Log is the second release from the exciting new Tandem Shop label (formerly Thru & Thru). If you missed their first release you should check out Mr. Bear's These Machines and continue to support the local indie labels. The brain child if Sam McAllister, Tandem has an impressive and professional approach that will surely win you over.

You can download the ep for free from Tandem Shop, and you can catch Honest Engines at their CD release show Janaury 8th at The Abbey Pub.

Jason Behrends

Artist Mon Nov 30 2009

Hey Mixtape Champ

hey champ -  winner's circle.jpgHey Champ just released Winner's Circle, a remix album featuring tracks remixed by the band, including "Little Secrets" by Passion Pit and Cool Kids' "(We Are) Champions," as well as their own hit "Cold Dust Woman." Best of all, it's available as a free download. You can take a listen below.

Hey Champ will be performing live at Lincoln Hall Dec. 17 with French Horn Rebellion, and on Dec. 19 at the Metro with Kill Hannah and 1997. Tickets are still available for both shows.

Andrew Huff

Album Wed Nov 25 2009

Puzzle Pieces

l_e464c04862e249ebaf1b4bf5e14ad49a.jpgWhen you first listen to the debut solo ep from local musician Adam Ashbach the word traditional may come to mind. True, Puzzle Pieces doesn't stray to far from the standard indie offerings, but it's Adam's journey that makes his music so intensely interesting. He spent seven years as part of Musical Outfits playing some of the city's biggest venues, he played Lollapalooza, was scouted by major labels and traveled to Greece, they also enjoyed heavy radio airplay and performed on a popular television show. The journey, however, ended badly and Adam left with a broken jaw after a barroom fight with band mates. Adam left the music scene completely, but after two years away found it impossible to keep the melodies out his head. It was that love of the melody and passion for songwriting that found him retreating to his home studio to put the pieces back together. He recruited old band mates Jason Angelilli and Joe Wagner, and has crafted an ep ripe with subtle ad confident pop gems.

Adam Ashbach will be performing Schuba's on December 9th with Welcome To Ashley and Indiana's Red Ligth Driver.

Jason Behrends

Video Wed Nov 18 2009

Skinny Girls With C's

Slightly disturbing and funky as hell, Charlie Deets has returned with the video for the first single from his forthcoming album, The Power of Suggestion. "Skinny Girls With C's" is video filled not with skinny girls, but really the exact opposite. The album will be released via Paribus Records on February 14th.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Nov 17 2009


etc2.jpgJust as Kid Sister is releasing her ode to the electro-glossy, fashionable side of hip-hop, another passionate individual has dropped an album in the same genre but one that moves in a completely different direction. Radius' latest opus, ETC... is his fifth, and although it is only seven tracks in length it still packed with complex and inventive downtempo beats. For all the attention that Madlib, 9th Wonder, and other receive the talent and intelligence of Radius is often overlooked. Considered a mini-album, Gritty Goat has printed up only 50 copies of this Chicago gem, and each is hand made. Pick up a copy, along with your copy of Ultraviolet (Kid Sister) and balance out your hip hop diet.

Radius will be spinning tonight as part of Respect the DJ at Lava. Respect The DJ runs every Tuesday at Lava and is a free event.

Jason Behrends / Comments (1)

Concert Thu Nov 12 2009

Lissie's New EP and Live Performance Tonight

Promo.jpgLissie is a pop/indie/country band with a pretty blond front-woman, Lissie Maurus, who hails from Rock Island but now lives in Ojai, CA. Why You Runnin' is her new EP, fresh off the presses from Fat Possum Records.

Why You Runnin' is good, probably best when it's knee-slappin' indie-country, like in the single, "Little Lovin'," which kicks off the EP with delicate picking on an acoustic guitar and crescendos into greatness with the help of a tambourine and an electric guitar, among other things. Then there is the melancholy country cover, "Wedding Bells," with heavily layered vocals, reminiscent of those of My Morning Jacket, and "Oh, Mississippi," the hymn-like tune that I could have sworn was Mississippi's state anthem, but it's not-- it's just a homesick tune Lissie wrote in London. The EP ends with "Everywhere I Go," which is a little too sappy, and "Here Before," the poppy ballad in which her voice really shines; all twisty and soulful.

Continue reading this entry »

Kelly Reaves

Album Mon Nov 09 2009

Hood Internet Drops Mixtape No.4


Download info here.

Andrew Huff

Album Fri Sep 25 2009

CD Review: Via Tania

Moon.jpgTania Bowers has almost an overwhelming seductive quality to her music, and whether it is through the gentle beats or her hushed purr her latest album, Moon Sweat Moon, will seduce you. Earlier this year, Tania self-released a version of this, her second full-length album, but with her recent signing to The:Hours Records, this Fall the album will find its official release. What is most enticing about the Via Tania's sound are the various levels and dimensions that these songs reach. From simple guitar folk melodies on "How Come" to the almost tropical sounds of "Light Years", Moon Sweat Moon slowly progresses through genres giving the listener an array of sounds to enjoy. The albums closer, "Home" perfectly sums up the range through its eight minutes of delicate electronics and plucked guitar. Tania's blends perfectly through the album, but hauntingly echoes through out this track. The albums lead single, "Wonder Stranger", is the most pop-centric tune, but the entire album is very accessible. In fact, Moon Sweat Moon has the feel of album that could launch Via Tania into a more mainstream picture, and she has in fact already played shows on both coasts in support of the albums rerelease.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Behrends

News Mon Aug 17 2009

Anticipating Pearl Jam's Backspacer Release?

pjam dclinch.jpgPearl Jam's new album, Backspacer, doesn't come out until next month (September 20th to be exact), but right now you can watch a documentary on the making of the new record on MySpace Music. The ten minute short was directed by Danny Clinch and produced by Three on the Tree. You can preview the band's current single, "The Fixer," on MySpace as well. Also, don't forget they roll through town next week with two shows at the United Center on August 23 and 24. Tickets are $66.

(Photo by Danny Clinch)

Michelle Meywes

Video Mon Aug 03 2009

TheMDR's "Foreign Tongue" Video Shot at Flashpoint

TheMDR recently visited Flashpoint Academy to produce the video for their single "foreign tongue" -- the video was staged, filmed and recorded by Flashpoint students working with the pros. Other than the aspect ratio being a little wonky on YouTube, it turned out pretty well:

Andrew Huff

Artist Tue Jul 07 2009

Be My Girl

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for swLPsmall.jpgFor all of the much deserved attention being paid to the new album from Wilco, the most popular song around the blogshere from Chicago has to "Be My Girl" by The Smith Westerns . The track recently received an 8 from Pitchfork, it was featured by Fader, Gorilla vs. Bear, The Reader, and many more. The bands self-titled debut was recently released by HoZac Records, and features a noisy lo-fi brand of garage/surf rock. My theory is if Wavves can find a large audience, Smith Westerns should not be far behind.

{MP3} Smith Westerns - Be My Girl

Smith Westerns will be performing at The Bottom Lounge as part of the Offical Pitchfork Music Festival After Party on July 17th.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Jul 01 2009

Let Kate Simko Take You There

Classically trained pianist turned house music producer Kate Simko released her new ep "Take You There" on Ghostly International this week as a 12" and digital release. Kate's smooth beat and detail ear have produced another set of irresistible track that play as nicely on sun-drenched patios as they do in deep secluded basement. You can download an exclusive track from the ep at RCD LBL right now. Kate is listing a show on July 25th at an undisclosed location on her myspace page, but does have a confirmed show scheduled at Sonotheque on August 22nd.

Jason Behrends

Concert Fri Jun 26 2009

Find Love in October

loveoctober.jpgLove in October, who recorded and produced their own new self-titled EP, could be described as rock and power-pop. There is a young innocence in their sound, not surprising since two members are brothers originally from Sweden. Love in October has that Swedish pop feel, with a definite American 90's alternative influence--a hint of Weezer in the guitar on "Permutations" and Blink 182 in the quick paced vocals on "Like Nothing Ever Happened." The album has a reflective, melodic ending on "27-08-08" with a distant voice singing in Swedish (reminding me a bit of Foo Fighters on "Doll").

Join them tomorrow at the Record Release Show for Love in October at Martyrs (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.). The Right Now and Jenny Gillespie will also play. Show starts at 10pm. Tickets are $8. 21 & up. (For your chance to win guest passes to the show, email your name and email address to by noon TODAY.)

Download a free mp3 of "Like Nothing Ever Happened" at their website.

Michelle Meywes

Review Mon Jun 15 2009

Album Review: Ha Ha Tonka's Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South


It's no secret that I'm a fan of Ha Ha Tonka, the foot stompin' Americana indie rock band from Springfield, Missouri. They're Bloodshot Records debut album, Buckle in the Bible Belt, was one of the most earnest, soulful, and rollicking tours through rock music that I've heard in a long time. We sat down a few months ago and chatted with lead singer Brian Roberts about their latest album, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South, which is out tomorrow on Bloodshot Records.

Continue reading this entry »

Lisa White / Comments (1)

Album Tue Jun 09 2009

Hot Streaming Tortoise

tortoise_beacons.pngTortoise's latest album, Beacons of Ancestorship, isn't out until June 22, but it's streaming on the band's website right now.

You can preorder Beacons of Ancestorship as either a CD or 180g vinyl LP with mp3 download directly from Thrill Jockey, or on Amazon. (Preorders through Thrill Jockey will also receive a 17"x24" poster.)

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Album Fri May 29 2009

Devine is Divine on Brother's Blood

Kevin Devine.jpgI'll be honest, most of the time I find solo singer/songwriters kind of boring. But, then I heard Kevin Devine. Devine is an artist that can cross many different genres and put his stamp on each one. His new LP, Brother's Blood, is in a word, outstanding. He excels with energetic indie-rock jams like "I Could Be With Anyone" and several tracks -- including "All Of Everything, Erased" and "It's Only Your Life" -- that sound like they could have been on the Garden State soundtrack. He also has a talent for creating powerful swelling songs like "Carnival" and title track, "Brother's Blood."

In listening to the album, I found myself associating him with artists from Ben Gibbard to Ryan Adams to Albert Hammond Jr. to Sam Beam to Jeff Tweedy, but even those comparisons don't capture his wide range. There is "Fever Moon" -- a sexy Latin croon that you wouldn't expect, but it works. Then there is the deceivingly cheery ukulele tune "Murphy's Song" about a pup with a Marley & Me ending. The album hits its peak at the middle with epic desperation in the nearly eight-minute "Brother's Blood" followed by the steamy "Fever Moon."

Devine has worked and toured largely under the radar and was almost lost after his dismissal from Capital Records during their merger with Virgin, but he came out unscathed, and frankly, better off than he went in. This fifth album, released on the Favorite Gentleman label, is a self proclaimed "sprawling, confident mission statement about conscience, culture, and personality."

Kevin Devine and his Goddamn Band play tonight at Schubas, but if you miss him tonight, he'll be back in August as part of Lollapalooza's line-up. Tonight they will be joined by Miniature Tigers and Brian Bonz & the Dot Hongs. Schubas is located at 3159 N. Southport. Show starts at 9pm. Tickets are $11 ($13 at the door). 18 & up.

(Photo by Andreas Hornoff)

Michelle Meywes

Album Wed May 27 2009

A Different Sort of Remembrance

20081122_29.jpgIn November of last year, former Wilco member Jay Bennett released his album Whatever Happened I Apologize under Creative Commons license for free download via start-up netlabel Rock Proper. Rock Proper was using grassroots funding site Kickstarter to produce an 180g vinyl record of the album. Now, after news of his death over the weekend, the effort has taken on additional poignancy as a way to memorialize Jay. If you're interested in helping make the vinyl pressing happen, you can still contribute.

Andrew Huff

Album Fri May 15 2009

Top Sellers: DEADWAX Records

This week's list comes from Wilbur Sutphin, owner of DEADWAX Records over at 3819 N. Lincoln Ave. There's no website for the store, but we can link to this excellent Newcity article on all the indie record stores in Chicago, where the writers say this about DEADWAX: "Owner Wilbur Sutphin offers the quintessential music collection at Deadwax and keeps it in immaculate order. It's like going through your friend's cool dad's music collection that he would never let you touch, but here you finally can." The locals are bolded.

Bill Callahan, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (Drag City)
Serge Gainsbourg, Historie de Melody Nelson (Light in The Attic)
Flipper, Gone Fishin (4 Men with Beards)
Rats, Intermittent Signals (Mississippi Records)
The Wipers, Over the Edge (Jackpot Records)
Boscoe, Kingdom of Chad (Asterisk)
Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
Andrew Bird, Mysterious Production of Eggs (Grimsey Records)
Handsome Family, Honey Moon (Carrot Top)
Nothing People, Late Night (S.S. Records)

Sheila Burt

Concert Mon May 11 2009

Mike Watt: Still Banging Away in the Engine Room

Come hell or health problems, Mike Watt doggedly adheres to his age-old ethos of "jamming econo" and working the "thud" end of things.

Arguably the punk movement's most technically adept and hardest-rocking bassist, Watt first came to prominence in the 1980s with his work in the Minutemen and fIREHOSE. And in the intervening years he's managed to stay indefatigably busy and prolific. Recently, he served as the bass player for the resurrected line-up of the Stooges, and he's also continued to record and tour with a dizzying number of bands and projects.

One such current project is the ensemble Unknown Instructors, whose fourth album, Funland, drops via the Chicago-based Smog Veil label this month. The group marks an all-star reunion of alumni from the SST stable of yore. In addition to Watt, Unknown Instructors also includes former Minutemen drummer George Hurley, guitarist Joe Biaza from Saccharine Trust and Universal Congress Of, with Joe Carducci -- former SST maestro and author of the aesthetic tome Rock and the Pop Narcotic -- handling the product boards. Vocal duties go to Watt and Toledo-born poet Dan McGuire, with contributions from Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas and former Black Flag sleeve artist (and current art-world big cheese) Raymond Pettibon.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford / Comments (1)

Album Sat May 09 2009

Top Sellers: Vintage Vinyl in Evanston

This week's list comes from Steven Kay over at Vintage Vinyl Records at 925 Davis Street in Evanston. This list, Kay says, is "the music that is making our clientele happy at this moment" and is "in order of them spilling from my brain."

nick nicely, Psychotropia (LP and CD)
The Dukes of Stratosphear, 25 O'Clock (Expanded CD)
Smoke, My Friend Jack (LP and CD)
Magic Mixture, This is the Magic Mixture (LP and CD)
Bat for Lashes, Two Suns (LP and CD)
Halloween, Alaska, Champagne Downtown (LP and CD)
Tommy James and the Shondells, Crystal Blue Symphonies: The Psychedelic Years (CD)
Coloured Balls, Ball Power (CD)
Kevin Ayers, What More Can I Say (CD)
Jeff Beck, Shapes Of Things: '60's Groups and Sessions (CD)

Sheila Burt

Album Fri May 01 2009

Top Sellers: Hyde Park Records

This week's list comes from Joe Wroblewski, manager of Hyde Park Records, 1377 E. 53rd St. On top of listing these sellers, Wroblewski also mentioned that, unfortunately, Neil Young's new one "has not sold at all."

Bob Dylan, Together Through Life (Columbia)
K'jon, Ballroom Xplosion (Up&Up Records)
Jadakiss, The Last Kiss (Ruff Ryders/ Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Bonnie Prince Billy, Beware (Drag City)
Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe (Mute/EMI)

Sheila Burt / Comments (1)

Album Thu Apr 23 2009

Top Sellers: Permanent Records

This week's list of unofficial top sellers comes from Lance Barresi, owner of Permanent Records, 1914 W. Chicago Ave. Per the usual, Chicago artists are bolded.

Wavves, Wavvves
Kurt Vile, Constant Hitmaker
Lazer Crystal, EP 1
Flipper, Generic
V/A, World's Lousy With Ideas Vol. 8
Wooden Shjips, Dos
Psychedelic Horseshit, Golden Oldies
Sneakers, Children Into People EP
Serge Gainsbourg, Histoire De Melody Nelson
Monks, Black Monk Time

Sheila Burt / Comments (4)

Album Wed Apr 22 2009

A Light Sleeper "Amicability"

A light sleeper.jpg
Photo: Lacy Weathersbee

The word amicability can be defined as having a disposition characterized by warmth and friendliness (, and on their latest album, aptly titled Amicability, A Light Sleeper oozes warmth in every notes. A few years back a band called The Knife released an album called "Silent Shout", and that phrase has always left a certain image in my mind. It's an image of wanting to scream, but not having an outlet, not fully releasing it. Amicability is very much a gentle and refined scream, or perhaps it is that welling up just before the scream. The eight tracks build and wind through layer of jazz, ambience, and chopped up vocals while the listener drifts along. Moments are built and then drained as this trio melts all snow and allows the spring to full capture the spotlight. It's that creeping warmth, that mounting scream, that release from a tortuous winter and a bursts of truly inventive musical exploration.

This is the first musical release from the new nonprofit group Another New Calligraphy. This is a project that helps musicians and writers establish and maintain an effective visual and tactile presence in an ever-increasingly virtual world, all while building an artistic community with a powerful, unifying identity. Their hope is that by making albums or manuscript visually recognizable, they can help art stand out in the American media overload. Operating outside the realm of traditional record labels and publishing houses allows them to work under a new model based on the simple acts of creating and sharing. It is an ambitious mission, but they have chosen an exceptional album to launch the project.

[MP3] A Light Sleeper - In Praise of 4 Letter Words

Amicability will be release on April 28th, but you can preorder now. A Light Sleeper will be performing at Gallery Cabaret on May 6th.

Jason Behrends / Comments (1)

Album Wed Apr 15 2009

Pontiak: Meet Your Maker

Pontiak are the trio of brothers Van, Jennings, and Lain Carney, who -- after having scattered across the map to pursue various musical careers -- came together in Baltimore a few years ago to form their own band. From there the brothers relocated to a house in the less populated Blue Ridge environs of Virginia, set up their own rehearsal and recording space, and got to work.

For the most part, the brothers' third album Maker is as weighty and daunting as its title implies. The story has it that guitarist Van blew out two amps (Mogwai style) during the album's recording sessions, which wouldn't be surprising given the sound of the thing. At first listen, much of Maker wafts along on heavy boulder-rolling buzzriffs and sludgey rhythms -- much of it amounting to a tub of stoned kozmic blues so thick you could stand a rowboat oar in it.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Sat Mar 28 2009

Top sellers: Reckless Records in the Loop

Transmission checked in with Jeff Johns from Reckless Records in the Loop at 26 E. Madison St. to find out what the top sellers were this week. The list isn't scientific but is based on what records managers have noticed are selling a lot. We're hoping to make this a regular feature by checking in with indie record stores across the Chicagoland. For our first segment, here's Jeff's list, which he titled "Reckless Records' (un)lucky top 13 sellers in alphabetical order." Chicago-based artists are bolded.

-Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavillion" (Domino)
-Azita, "How Will You?" (Drag City)
-Bonnie Prince Billy, "Beware" (Drag City)
-Neko Case, "Middle Cyclone" (Anti)
-Death, "For The Whole World To See" (Drag City)
-Duress, 2009 demo cassette (Self)
-Harms Way, "Reality Approaches" LP (Organized Crime)
-Abner Jay, "The Story Of Abner Jay" LP (Mississippi)
-Lotus Plaza, "Floodlight Collective" (Kranky)
-Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, "s/t" (Slumberland)
-Wolves In The Throne Room, "Malevolent Grain" 12" (Southern Lord)
-Yearling, "No More White Horses" 12" (Bronx Cheer)
-Various Artists, "Dark Was The Night" (4ad)

Sheila Burt / Comments (2)

Review Wed Mar 25 2009

Review: Rob Mazurek

album-coverWhat attracted me to want to review Rob Mazurek's new Delmark release, sound is, was the all-star lineup of talent he had assembled. John Herndon on drums (Tortoise, the For Carnation), Matthew Lux on bass guitar (Isotope 217, Iron and Wine) Josh Abrams on acoustic bass (Town and Country, Black Earth Ensemble) and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes (Loose Assembly, Rolldown) is a pretty impressive lineup of guys doing some out-of-the-box music, and Mazurek's leadership had to me the makings of an album that, while avant-garde in ambition, would still appeal to those who wanted good music. Some new ideas, some new compositions that are free to work or not, but musicians with mastery of their instruments and demonstrating a sense of free expression that simply can't be written very easily on musical notation paper.

The problem with avant-garde, besides the (real or imagined) pretentiousness is the loftiness of purpose, as usually set up by breathy press releases. When I read "Jazz cornetist Rob Mazurek consistently pushes beyond the expectations of his listeners, drawing together ideas out of sound, personalities out of space, and fusing color and light into the tones of his music". my mind screamed male bovine excrement. Perhaps because I simply can't suffer puffy writing, or because it's just so damned difficult to describe music that's, well, not pop, and makes no bones about accessibility or lack thereof.

A few of the compositions Mazurek puts forth don't work very well in my opinion for any number of reasons I find sonically distasteful; that is not to say anyone else will or will not like the same thing. For the most part, though, the album is a solid listen. Will anyone else like this album? I believe so, especially those like me who don't mind the lofty goals of avant-garde being met with an overall shine and polish of compositions which at least play lip service to melody, harmony, and rhythm and don't seem to punish you for "not getting it."

Troy Hunter

Album Wed Mar 18 2009

Kinetic Steoreokids' Kid Moves, Plus a Quick Contest


I know a lot of people from Flint, MI. I guess they all end up in Chicago, eventually. All I hear about the place is that it's a terrible place to live, but a great place to be from. Everybody seems to go on to become artists or actors or musicians; and they all seem to have a lot to say. This leads me to Kinetic Stererokids' new album, Kid Moves.

On my first casual listen, I thought I was listening to an album by the Go! Team with vocals by The Typical Cats. The beats and ambient noises make for great background music for work. The band claims that they use everything from synthesizers to banjos; farfisa organs to bouzoukis. It's all quite impressive, I must say.

A closer inspection of the album reveals the cracks, though. The lyrics can get a little cheesy in places and the whole thing could use a little more polish. The subject matter seems to be all over the place while the music all seems to be more or less the same throughout. That being said, I'd still recommend this album. If you're looking for something that sounds a little more like it actually came out of a garage than a studio, this is it. I bet their live show is pretty good, too. It's too bad they're not playing around Chicago any time soon.

The album is available on Amazon and iTunes. Check it out for a little something different.

Really Quick Contest! We're giving away a really spiffy hot pink 7" record single from Kinetic Sterokids. It features their songs "blunder" and "have a nice day" (video, below) from the latest album. Be the first to email us at contests (at) gapersblock (dot) com with the subject "Vinyl Love" and we'll send it right out to you! Update: We have a winner! Congrats to vinyl fan, Melissa!

Gavin Robinson

DJ / Dance Thu Mar 05 2009

The Heaven Seventies' Remixes Vol.2 available for free download

Chicago-based electroni-rock-pop outfit The Heaven Seventies have released a second volume of remixes of their tracks available as a free download on their site. Remixers include Slava of the local MomentSound collective and DJ/producer/promoter Quantazelle (er, me).

Liz McLean Knight

Album Fri Feb 27 2009

Neko Case Is All Over The Place

case.jpgIn addition to having AWESOME album art, Neko Case's latest album Middle Cyclone is also an awesome piece of work. A collection of love songs (which she swore to herself that she would never write again...) Middle Cyclone is a beautiful follow up to Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.

The first time I heard a Neko Case song (it was "Star Witness" for good measure) I was completely struck by her entrancing voice and Fox Confessor became one of my favorite albums. Sometimes I wonder if an artist can match themselves after putting out such a great album, but I would say she's one-upped herself with this one. Middle Cyclone is typical Neko in all the right ways, yet new and different in all the right ways. The opening track "This Tornado Loves You" is an energizing, powerful entry into the album, while "People Got a Lotta Nerve" is the catchiest tune that will most likely get the most airplay.

The Sound Opinions boys talk with Neko about the new album in this week's episode available today via podcast and airing on Chicago Public Radio tonight at 8pm (and again tomorrow at 11am). She's joined by guitarist Paul Rigby and backing vocalist Kelly Hogan for a couple of live songs, too.

Middle Cyclone doesn't come out 'til next Tuesday, but until then, NPR is streaming the album in its entirety as part of their Exclusive First Listen series. Also, if you pre-order on iTunes, there are a couple of bonus live tracks recorded at her old stomping ground, The Hideout.

In case this wasn't enough NekoNews for you, she is also embarking on a tour this spring, and makes her stop in Chicago April 24th at Chicago Theatre. Tickets are $30 but are also available at the Chicago Theater box office with no service fees (take that Ticketmaster).

(Photo by Jason Creps)

Michelle Meywes

Album Wed Feb 18 2009

Drag City unearths long-lost Motor City (afro-)punk rarities

Over the years, the Drag City label has given us a number of remarkable reissues - plucking some undeservedly overlooked or long-forgotten obscurities from the crevices of the musical dustbin. Continuing in that tradition, the label has just released ...For All The World To See, a CD of seven tracks by the Motor City proto-punk band Death.

Hailing from Detroit, Death was formed in the early 1970s by brothers David, Dennis and Bobby Hackney. Like their hometown brethren in the Funkadelic camp, the Hackneys took a huge inspiration from the MC5 and the Stooges and wanted to make music with a strong social message. But whereas the Funkadelic family opted for sonic heaviness and a deeply psychedelic groove, the Hackneys threw their collective muscle into banging at tunes at breakneck velocity -- jettisoning all traces of their prior funk and r & b sound in order to kick out the jams.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Feb 17 2009

Kicking Against the Pricks with Kaspar Hauser

Some month ago, our GB editors allowed a pair of aspiring contributors to participate in a CD-review session for our Transmission page on a trial basis. The experiment was -- in our opinions -- not entirely successful and barely suitable for print. But in recent weeks, one of the involved parties came knocking on our door again, petitioning to join the Transmission team as a contributor with the claim that he'd "redeemed" himself. Being gracious sorts, we decided to give him another chance; this time putting the prospective reviewer (PR) under the supervision of one of our Transmission staff members (TS). What follows is a transcript of the resulting listening-party session.

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PR: ...And so that's why they call it a "whoop tube."

TS: Fascinating. At any rate, we've got to get to the matter at hand. We're supposed to review this new CD by a local artist. It's called The Sons, by the local artist Kaspar Hauser.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Wed Feb 11 2009

Dan Auerbach Keeps It Real

Keep_It_Hid.jpgYou may know Dan Auerbach better as the front half of rock power duo The Black Keys, but yesterday Auerbach released his first solo album, Keep It Hid on Nonesuch Records. Self-produced and recorded with a full backing band, Keep It Hid is dripping with the gritty guitar and vocals The Black Keys are known for, especially on tracks like "I Want Some More" and "The Prowl." Yet, the bluegrass twang and weary blues that peeked out on The Keys' Attack & Release take on a life of their own in his solo work. "Trouble Weighs A Ton" and "Whispered Words" are notably turned down and different. There is heavy desperation in "Real Desire" and "When the Night Comes," while "Mean Monsoon" has a heavy 60's psychedelia influence. Lyrically and in mood, the album is has an overall dark tone making it a haunting, yet appealing piece of work.

Auerbach, a self-confessed workaholic "obsessed with making music" recorded songs for Keep It Hid between tours at his home studio in Akron, Ohio. Auerbach's obsession is a family affair, too. His uncle James Quine, who taught him how to sing and play guitar, also plays guitar on the album. Auerbach's dad, besides encouraging his musical aspirations at a young age, also contributed to Hid by writing "Whispered Words."

Dan Auerbach's solo tour begins in DC on Feb 28th, and makes its stop in Chicago March 6th at Metro with special guests Hacienda and Those Darlins. Tickets are on sale now at Metro's website for $20. Show starts at 9pm. 18 & over. 3630 N. Clark St.

You can stream Keep It Hid in its entirety on Nonesuch Radio and Auerbach's MySpace page.

Michelle Meywes

Concert Tue Feb 10 2009

D. Rider: Foxhole Prayers & Maternal Hexations

The presskit that accompanies Mother of Curses, the debut album by Todd Rittmann's new outfit D. Rider, goes out of its way to emphasize that this is not an art-rock record, but rather a record that rocks. Considering that D. Rider is the latest musical outfit headed by Todd Rittman -- former guitarist for the '90s avant-rockers U.S. Maple, and more recently involved in the bands Singer and Cheer-Accident -- the distinction might be warranted. Because let's face it, if what you're wanting is something linear and un-ironic in the way of a conventional rock "song," then Rittmann's probably the last guy in town who's gonna give it to you.

But D. Rider does indeed rock. Joining Rittmann in the band are Andrea Faught on keyboards and cornet, Mucca Pazza saxophonist Noah Tabakin, and Theo Katsounis (lately of A Tundra) stepping in to take the drummer's seat. And Mother Of Curses finds Rittmann checking much of his affinity for musical abstraction and disjointedness at the door. Over the course of eight tracks, he and his associates doling out a batch of tunes spooled on skulking basslines, some fractured Crazy Horse riffage, and heavy rhythms that lurch and lunge against the moorings. Musically, it's very reminiscent of a certain breed of indie rock animal that used to stalk the expanse of the Midwestern plains back in the early-'90s (specifically that pig-poking subgenus that once made up the bulk of the Touch & Go roster). On the vocals, Rittmann's often in trademark form -- sometimes singing as if he had developed an entire book of style from the fragmented, schizoid narrative that Bowie laid down on "Breaking Glass," at others yammering about who-knows-what like David Yow on an amyl nitrate bender.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Feb 03 2009

Review: Dex Romweber Duo - Ruins of Berlin


Dex Romweber's new album, Ruins of Berlin, fills a niche that I never knew needed filling in my musical library. Somewhere in between the old Billie Holliday records and the much more recent Squirrel Nut Zippers records lies the Dex Romweber Duo. There's good reason for them to sound like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, too. John Plymale (also of Corrosion of Conformity & Meat Puppits) produced the album.

The album features stellar appearances from Cat Power, Neko Case, Exene Cervenka, and Rick Miller of Southern Culture on the Skids. Miller makes a staggering first impression along with Dex (and his sister, Sara Romweber on the drums) right out of the gate. The first track on the album, "Lookout," is nothing less than explosive. It's a guitar duet that will make you need to listen to the rest of the album. Let's embed it, shall we.

[audio]: Dex Romweber Duo - Lookout"

Continue reading this entry »

Gavin Robinson / Comments (2)

Album Wed Dec 17 2008

Holiday Gifts from Common Cloud

venna christmas.jpgThis week two bands from the growing Chicago label Common Cloud Records were feeling the holiday spirit. First on December 11th Ragged Claws (Paul Karner and Kimberly Sutton) released their debut ep The Sleepwalker, and are giving it away digitally through Common Cloud. They celebrated this release with a successful show at The Beat Kitchen. Ragged Claws combines chamber music with traditional folk sounds below gorgeous harmonies.

The second gift is from Marky and Heather Hladish from Venna who released their debut ep on Common Cloud last Spring. For the holidays (through December 31st), they are giving away a live recording of a show they did at the House Café on December 7th. The set includes four unreleased songs, and can be downloaded through their myspace page.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Dec 09 2008

Mash The Beat, Wob The Bass & Run T'ings Proper

South American soundbwoy: Cardopusher

Since relocating his base of operations from Boston to Chicago a couple of years ago, DJ C (aka Jake Trussell) has kept his MashIt label going; issuing a steady stream of digital tracks and mixtapes, serving up a lot of bouncement and nu-skool ragga-jungle rollers on top of frequently teaming up local dancehall artist MC Zulu. This week finds C using the label to spotlight some recent work by a pair of emerging artists on the international dubstep scene -- specifically a pair of Venzuelan DJ/producers by the names of Cardopusher and Pacheko.

Both hailing from the city of Caracas, Cardopusher and Pacheko have been dropping tracks via various labels over the past two years, and -- despite Cardopusher's recent move to Barcelona -- they often collaborate on rocking spots as cornerstone members of the Caracas-based Wob This! network of dubstep DJs.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Dec 02 2008

Noble Beast out earlier than expected, now in Deluxe Edition!

noblebeast.jpgAndrew Bird has pushed the release date of his new album, Noble Beast, up one week from January 27 to January 20. What I thought was to be released as two different albums, one instrumental, has been pressed into a special-edition two-CD set. This Deluxe Edition will come with different artwork by Diana Sudyka, extra photos, a fold out poster, and a 24-page illustrated lyric book and will only be available through pre-order at Fat Possum and on release date at record stores.

The hook? You can only get the extra instrumental CD, Useless Creatures, (which by the way includes another hometown guy--Wilco's Glenn Kotche--on percussion) with the Deluxe-Edition (although I'm sure it will eventually be released on it's own...). Otherwise you'll just have to settle for the Standard Edition.

(Album art above is from the Standard Edition)

Michelle Meywes

Album Tue Nov 25 2008

Jay Bennett Releases Solo Album

whia.jpgYesterday former Wilco member, Jay Bennett, released an acoustic solo album, Whatever Happened I Apologize. Having read the liner notes on the website first about a former relationship with a girl in school, I was already put in the mindset that it was going to be a diary of sorts. The raw, stripped down recording is appropriate as it really captures the rawness of young love. You can't help but think, though, that revisiting these emotions as a more experienced adult brings with it some regret and a realization of naivety. This theme is prevalent throughout the album but was especially evident on "I Don't Have the Time," where he basically says he's too busy to show his love for the girl.

All I previously knew of Bennett was what I saw in I am Trying to Break Your Heart, a documentary about the making of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, where he quits/is fired from the band. While he is made out to be the bad guy in the documentary, it still shows that he can be a whiner, and this highly personal album affirms that. But, an album you'd want to have on repeat through a break-up, or while reminiscing about lost love, is the perfect mode for him to express himself.

You can download the album for free on rock, a Chicago based website that distributes album-length downloads for free (with legal consent of their creators, of course).

Michelle Meywes / Comments (4)

Album Wed Nov 19 2008

Golden Birthday - Infinite Leagues


I have to admit something. I've lived in Chicago for nearly three years now, and I still haven't listened to any local music. I usually arrive late to concerts when I know a local band is warming up. I would even go so far as to say that I have avoided the local scene here. That all changes now.

I've been listening to Golden Birthday's "Infinite Leagues" pretty steadily ever since Andrew handed it to me at our Meet-Up last week at Billy Goat Tavern. I knew absolutely nothing about the band when he handed it to me, and now (due to their major lack of web presence) still feel as if I know very little. But, the music. The music is simple, yet highly engaging. There is an honesty involved that many musicians try to stray away from that Golden Birthday gleefully embraces. Blending together drum loops and guitar hooks that aren't much more advanced than a high schooler with a 4-track, the music somehow finds a way to work. Synthesizers help. As do Ryan Sullivan's lyrics.

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Gavin Robinson / Comments (2)

Album Fri Nov 07 2008

Downfall of an Empire

HM_Cover.jpgRegardless of the content of his lyrics it is hard to take Holding Mercury frontman Matt Hoffer seriously. For starters his music sounds like a slightly glammed-up Gin Blossoms cover, but it is mostly because of his national television debut. Yes, Matt Hoffer was a contestant on Rock Star Supernova. Well, if you are like me and don't remember or have never heard of Rock Star Supernova, a quick check of Wikipedia reveals that it aired back in 2006 and was hosted by the lovely Brooke Burke and Dave Navarro (how quickly they fall!). Matt was able to perform "Yellow" by Coldplay and "Planet Earth" by Duran Duran before being eliminating the first week of the contest. Supernova's loss is Holding Mercury's gain. There is a certain strength in Hoffer's vocal and an uncommon bit to his lyrics.

Holding Mercury consists of Andrew Titchenal, Jason Batchko, Ashok Warrier, and Matt Hoffer. Their latest album, Downfall of An Empire (Bad Nero Records), is an album about struggle, conflict, and political turmoil. The highlight for me, as I sit here in a beige cubical and down my fifth cup of coffee, is "Stuck in a Box". It's an arena rock anthem for the underpaid and overworked and it kicks off this ten track mainstream melodrama. The package is shiny, the music is clear and fast-paced, and it is all paart od the product. The cover and interior artwork for the album was down by fellow Chicago rocker and artist David Downs, and is like a beautiful mini-graphic novel about the downfall of life and times.

Holding Mercury is holding a release party/Obama Victory party at Reggie's Rock Club with Melismatics, The Glide, and The Moves. The show starts at 9:00pm and tickets $6.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Nov 05 2008

Flameshovel's Norwegian Stars

LUKESTAR "White Shade" from gaylord deletang on Vimeo.

[MP3] Lukestar - White Shade

Lost in the excitement of yesterday's Election was the latest release from our friends over at Flameshovel. Lake Toba is the US Debut from Norwegian popsters Lukestar. The band will be touring the US this Spring, and I am sure will be hearing more from them in the months to come.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Nov 04 2008

Ask Your Neighbor

orso.jpgMaybe it's the neighborhood I live in or maybe it's just me, but I rarely speak to my neighbors. It's not that I dislike them (well, most of them), but most just keep to themselves, lock their doors, hide their secrets. It takes a vocal and social soul to step out and "Warm Up" or ask "To Be Held" or just say hello, "Nice To See You". Leave it to the bearded one, Phil Spirinto of oRSo to step out and release an album called "Ask Your Neighbor" (Contraphonic). It was recorded over three years at oRSo's home studio and at Four Deuces with Jim McGranahan, and it was mixed with Griffin Rodriguez (Icy Demons, Bablicon) at Shape Shoppe. The evolving line-up of oRSo continues on this release, with contributions from Tim Rutilli, Jim Becker and Ben Massarella (Califone), Nick Macri (The Zincs), and others, including full-fledged oRSo member Libby Reed (Coat). Musically, oRSo plays a gentle yet wandering brand of experimental folk music that seems oddly warm and inviting. This is the sixth album in ten years from Spirito and oRSo, and it is a beautiful addition to their catalog. As I drive home, surrounded by sunset and oRSo softly playing, all of the issues and confusions of the day seem to blend then blur then be blown away like crisp autumn leaves. So take a break from the election coverage, and relax a little bit.

[MP3] oRSo - See Me

All Suffer Fools / Anniversary / Warm Up / I'm High / Not Likely To / Nice To See You / Protest Song / See Me / To Be Held / The Hope / Egg / Way Way

Jason Behrends

Album Thu Oct 30 2008

Dungen's Secret Language

dungen (Karl Max).jpg

Dungen (photo by Karl Max)

Even when I took that Ingmar Bergman film class in college, I didn't feel as compelled to learn Swedish as I do after listening to the latest album by the band Dungen. Pronounced "DOON-ghen" (or, so I've been told), the acclaimed outfit put out its fourth studio album, appropriately titled 4 this fall, and head to Chicago this coming weekend.

Listening to 4 I'm struck over an over how the lyrics, all in Swedish (granted, it's the band's native tongue), and all hardly even pronounceable by my lazy Southern tongue are simply gorgeous. Typing in a few phrases to an online translator, I discover simple lines, like the refrain in the track "Det Tar Tid" means (I think) "It takes time", which is a perfect answer to the song's breezy, yet straightforward structure. For once, I'm not hung up on memorizing lyrics (I can hardly wrap my mind around the words), but I'm focused on the progression of the songs, which is appropriate with Dungen's evolving music style on this album. Somewhere between psychedelic pop, folk music, Jethro Tull-ian flute ragas, and jam band guitar noodle, Dungen is kind of a delicious musical stew. There are piano, organ and perhaps even a xylophone in the mix, and it all works in this wonderful psych-pop melange.

Songs like "Fredag" (an instrumental piece) and "Samtidigit" with its psychedelic jams are perfect for nodding to on the train in the fall light, or rocking to as the band hits the stage this weekend at The Bottom Lounge. Tickets are $15 (adv) and $18 (door) and the show is 18+. Headdress, Chandeliers, and Life On Earth open.

[mp3]: Dungen - "Satt Att Se"

Hey, hey! Right now, the first reader who writes us at contests (at) gapersblock (dot) com with the subject line "Swedish Fish!", will win a free copy of Dungen's album 4. Chop chop! UPDATE: We have a winner! Congrats to Jessica!

Anne Holub

Album Mon Oct 27 2008

Black Acts

whitelight.jpgThere is no better time to release a dark and ominous drone album then three days before Halloween. This should give you time to obtain a copy or find a digital download before the trick or treater's come knocking. You should set a speaker next to your door and have something loud, dark, and frightening blasting through the darkness. In fact, that maybe exactly what Chicago's White/Light or their label Smells Like Records were thinking when they chose October 28th for the release of Black Acts. Two years in the making, Black Acts is a seven song journey through the thick and slow moving noise that Jeremy Lemos and Matt Clark love to create.

What I like most about White/Light is that they don't take themselves too seriously. Don't get me wrong, they are talented musicians and engineers, but there is a certainly is a lighter side to this duo. They are always joking about how drone (or drrrr-oh-oh-oh-oh-ne as they put it) bothers their parents. They also have described their music as "beautifully hilarious and hilariously beautiful". I know beauty is subjective, but for me this album is not beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. However, if you were to look at it from a purely technical standpoint there may be an inherent beauty in the layers and effects and the overwhelming force of their sound.

If you missed Lemos and Clark's performance earlier this month at The Empty Bottle you can download the entire set from their blog for free.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Oct 21 2008

Just One Hit

Chicago (by way of Orlando) emcee PJ Sumroc will release his debut album, PBR, on November 4th via The Secret Life of Sound. The first single, "Just One Hit", was produced by k-the-i???, and this video was shot in various parts of the city. Among those locations, the most notable is Stray Dog Recording Co.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Oct 15 2008

Going off, getting High with Pit Er Pat

Local trio and thrill Jockey recording artists Pit Er Pat aren't averse to playing home-town gigs, so chances are you might've caught them playing at the Hideout or elsewhere lately. In case you haven't, the word on the streets for a while has been that they've altered their sound recently -- specifically that frontwoman and vocalist Fay Davis-Jeffers has largely set her keyboard aside in favor of a guitar, and that the band's moved into territory that bears a "dub reggae influence." Judging from the band's new High Time CD, which releases on Thrill Jockey this week, there's more than a little truth to the rumor.

Yes, Pit Er Pat has largely abandoned their prior post-rock/fusion cocktail lounge sound; the one so richly crafted and fleshed-out via John McEntire's production of the band's last LP, 2006's Pyramids. What chiefly remains, however, are the band's frail, elusive melodies -- except now they're intertwined with some roots-rocker grooves that give drummer Butchy Fuego and bassist Rob Doran something meatier to tuck into. And the pair seems to enjoy themselves on tunes like "Evacuation Day" and "Copper Pennies" as they tie and untie various rhythmic knots and guide the tunes through unexpected and crafty transitions.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Mon Oct 13 2008

Bee Removal

bee.jpgI recently asked Chicago's Nick Butcher what he was looking to accomplish with his latest album, Bee Removal (Hometapes), and his answer was in the form of a question, "How far can you push the format until it falls apart?" Listening through the quiet spaces of Bee Removal I would say he has pushed it pretty far, but nothing has fallen apart. There is structure and melody and gentle movement inside the seven songs on this full sized vinyl LP. A vinyl LP that is icy white to match the hand-screened illustration by Chicago's Chris Kerr, and to add some surface noise this adventure in sound. It is an album that you need to explore while perfectly still in the center of your room on a dark and chilled October night.

Nick is probably more well-known for his work with Nadine Nakanishi and their print shop and studio called Sonnenzimmer. A one time intern at The Bird Machine, Nick has a unique style of creating concert posters, and together with Nadine they have worked The Sea & Cake, Cocorosie, RJD2, Menomena, The Walkmen, and more. Now that Sonnenzimmer is up and running, and making incredible prints, Nick is finding more time to work on his personal paintings and exploring sounds.

Shape Note Singing - Nick Butcher

Bee Removal is an album that requires focus, but the deeper you look into the sounds that have been created the more you will want to explore. There were only 500 albums pressed, and you can visit Hometapes for more information.

Jason Behrends

Album Thu Oct 09 2008

Brilliant Corners

Make no mistake, the Chicago quartet Chandeliers are enamored with keyboards and tricky beats in a big way; but thankfully they don't have much truck with the sort of electro or that chincey, flat blog-house fare that's so glutted the indie market these past two years or so. Comprised of various members of local outfits like Icy Demons, Bronze, and Bablicon, they're one of many local projects that's spiraled out of the South Loop-based Shape Shoppe network. After numerous appearances about town and putting out a 3-song EP, Chandeliers have made their full-fledged recording debut with the recent stateside arrival of their debut LP, The Thrush.

With the opening track "Mr. Electric," Chandeliers lay their aces on the table, giving the listener a strong sense of what's in store. The music glides on a spacey shimmer inspired by vintage Italo-disco, with slight electro and synth-pop nuances billowing to the fore every now and again. The more crafty and complex underpinnings of the band's em-oh, however, reveal a deeper debt to early 70s jazz-fusion and astro-funk (a la Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock). Beneath all the sheen and shimmer, Chandeliers delight in the interplay of contrasts and balances -- the interplay of playing warm tones off versus cold, luster over grit, hefty riding shotgun with lite, and often floating crafty rhythmic shifts and sleights-of-hand against stark drones and subtle modulations.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Review Wed Oct 01 2008

Laceration Nation: Atavistic reissues classic Lydia Lunch material

So, which one of you's Jesus?: Lydia Lunch with fellow Jerks
Bradley Fields and Gordon Stevenson, 1977.

With its recent release of the comprehensive CD anthology Shut Up and Bleed and the companion DVD Video Hysterie: 1978-2006, the Chicago-based experimental music label Atavistic aims to offer a chronicle of the early work that established Lydia Lunch as a doyenne of the underground NYC post-punk music scene of the 1980s. As a collection of recordings by Lunch's first two groups, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks and Beirut Slump, the CD's release follows on the heels of a one-off TJ&J reunion gig that took place at The Knitting Factory back in June, as well as the recent publication of Byron Coley and Thurston Moore's co-authored volume No Wave.

Admittedly, Lydia Lunch has had an unwieldy legacy. Cultishly iconic and influential, her status doesn't quite fit anywhere specific. Too art-damaged, amusical and nihilistic to be "punk," too snarlingly toxic to be "goth," too existential and misanthropic to be a precursor for Riot Grrrl-iness. Just plain difficult, in every respect. Which is how she'd prefer it -- i.e.: Up yours with your labels, your niches, your attempts to make everything 'fit' into some sense of accepted, make-believe societal order. Life, for many of us, just isn't anywhere near that easy or 'neat.'

This kind of difficulty was often the point of late '70s NYC No Wave coterie, especially the music of Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. Jagged and disjointed, off-puttingly raw, it involved a confrontational (if not antagonistic) relationship with the audience or listener -- deliberate guerilla-theater "it sucks to be you if you came here looking to be entertained" type stuff.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Wed Oct 01 2008

Former Columbia Student calls for Change

Escape.jpg"If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll get more of what you got."

Minnesota's Jonathan Nelson, whose radio program Some Assembly Required has been heard on WLTL LaGrange, waited ten years to release the follow-up to his debut album as Escape Mechanism. However, his timing could not have been better. His self-titled debut, recorded in part in Chicago while attending Columbia College, was released 1998, and featured a style of sound collage composition utilizing only 100% recycled parts. The result was an incredible journey in sound using dialog, found sounds, and music samples. It was around that same time (January 1999) that Nelson started his radio show, Some Assembly Required, that to this day is dedicated to "artists and groups who work with bits and pieces of their media environments, and giving something back to the cultural landscape from which they so enthusiastically appropriate".

His new sound collage album, (Emphasis Added), was released yesterday, and carries a message that is unmistakably a product of the current state of our government, economy, and our attitude in general as consumers. I've thought for a while now that more can be said in a well placed sample then in a well-written song lyric, and Nelson proves that idea to be correct. Taking chunks of audio from what sounds like motivational tapes and various movies, Nelson is able to tackle consumerism and politics, but also adds a great deal of humor and wit. With a line like, "People are worshiping sunglasses and orgasms", you realize quickly "What's Happening". He is calling for change, and at same time telling everyone to lighten-up, relax, smile, take a look around and then start moving in the right direction. My favorite track is called "Oh Well", and is just a fun little romp with coral swing singers, Susanne Vega samples, and a doo wop back bone. It's just plain fun!

[MP3] Escape Mechanism - Change
[MP3] Escape Mechanism - What's Happening

(Emphasis Added) can be purchased through Nelson's label Recombinations, and in digital format at Amazon mp3.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Sep 30 2008

Get some Illinoize (B-sides) for cheap!


Asthmatic Kitty, the label of Come on Feel the Illinoize album creator Sufjan Stevens, is having a little ole sale until October 6th. From now till then, you can get Sufjan's album of outtakes and extras from the Illinois project, titled The Avalanche along with his 5-cd boxset Songs for Christmas for just $15 (that's about half off, friends). Whether it's a love of our sweet midwestern state, a need for cheap tunes in this sad economy, or a desire to support the little label who's putting out the music, this is a good deal. Head on over to Asthmatic Kitty to take advantage.

Anne Holub

Album Wed Sep 24 2008

High Places -- Field Notes from Somewhere Else

From the sound of it, High Places are providing the soundtrack to the travelogue for an imaginary country. It's an island country perhaps, one located in the waters somewhere many miles off the coast of Malaysia -- a land of open skies and fields grown tall with lemongrass, and of dense and verdant canopies teeming with little scurrying things, of evenings illuminated by fireflies the size of cellphones, and where the forest-dwelling natives spend their afternoons lazing about and eating rambutan sherbert while building a musical cargo cult around Aphex Twin's "Donkey Rhubarb." Maybe the place is called Walamalau or something like that. Whatever the case, their message from afar arrives reading: Everything is so otherly, we wish you were here.

But in fact, High Places is the Brooklynite duo of Mary Pearson and Rob Barber. With this, their newly released CD on Thrill Jockey, the pair follow up on anticipation generated by their previous singles and opening appearances for the likes of No Age and Deerhunter with a proper full-length debut.

Barber and Pearson are clearly taken with the traditional music of faraway places, particularly that of Indonesia and Laos. They both play stringed instruments and other things, as well as every object that can be put to percussive purposes -- mainly bells, anything that sounds like a marimba, and numerous found objects that make a good noise when struck the right way. What results are songs filled with sonorous clanking and clattering of the gamelan sort; creating heady musical vistas while Pearson's dreamy vocals float atop, as if narrating the excursion from high above the treetops.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Concert Fri Sep 19 2008

Caw! Caw!

cawcaw_cd.jpgFormed in 2001, in the halls of an unnamed Chicago high school, the boys of Caw! Caw! have been around the block a few times. They have played the local venues, even the men's room the aforementioned high school, but have never taken the show to the national stage. Originally a punk band, through the years they have experimented with a few different sounds. From atmospherics to jangle pop, this trio has now come to play and record somewhat of a hybrid sound. Still heavily guitar driven, they kick off their first national tour this Tuesday in support of their new ep Wait Outside (Slanty Shanty Records).

Wait Outside is an energetic set of seven songs about fantasy and escape, with plenty of thoughts about friendship. It is filled with patchwork guitars and driving rhythms. However, one of my favorite aspects is the wonderful cover art by Liz Born. Unfortunately on my copy the cover is hidden by a huge sticker, but if you were to purchase the album at their record release show this Tuesday at the Abbey Pub I'm sure there would not be a sticker.

[MP3] Caw! Caw! - Organisms

Caw! Caw! will be performing at The Abbey Pub with Sam Knudson and the Shame Train and Sugarfoot on Tuesday Sept 23rd. Doors at 7pm and show at 8pm. Tickets $6 in advance and $8 at the door. This show is 18+.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Sep 17 2008

The New Up Comes Home

thenewup_cd.jpgI know we are in the middle (or maybe the final years) of a raging '80's revival in music, fashion and just about everything else, but is it too early to talk about the early signs of a '90's revival? When I first played the new EP from San Francisco's The New Up I was instantly transported back to the early 90's and began craving my flannel shirts and Doc Martins. Theirs is an irresistible combination of power pop with just enough attitude, "grunge" if you will, to keep you interested. By the end of the 24 minute six track romp that is Broken Machine, I find myself searching for my copy of Veruca Salt's American Thighs, Siouxsie and The Banshees' Superstition, Belly's Star, PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, and even my copy of Bloodletting by Concrete Blonde.

The New Up, originally formed here in Chicago, are led by the powerful vocals and Linda Perry-like dreads of singer/songwriter Es Pitcher. In 2003 they fled for the warmth and history of San Francisco and released their self-titled debut album the next year. In August they self-released their latest EP, the first of three that will be released over the next 18 month's, Broken Machine (stream). Touching on the "lonely machinery that distracts us from our lives," and themes of pollution and technology, this album is not only packing with 90's glory, but some serious topics as well. Es is supported by guitarists Noah Reid, drummer Jack McFadden, bassist Dain Dizazzo, and the fascinating flautist/electronic wizard Hawk West.

[MP3] The New Up - Broken Machine

The New Up will be performing at Reggie's Music Joint on Saturday Sept. 20th with Rock Star Club and Dark Matter Halos. The show starts at 9:00pm and is 21+. Tickets are $7.

Jason Behrends

Album Tue Sep 16 2008

Free Sampler from Duck Down Records

index_01a.jpgIn preparation for a busy Fall, Duck Down Records is giving back to the fans by offering a free digital mixtape, entitled THE DUCK DOWN HOTLINE. Hosted by DJ Revolution, this 21 track mixtape is just shy of 80 minutes long and features exclusive interviews by Buckshot, Heltah Skeltah, Chicago's Kidz in the Hall, Ruste Juxx and DJ Revolution, along with music from albums such as:

-9th Wonder & Buckshot "THE FORMULA" In Stores Now
-Kidz In The Hall "The In Crowd" In Stores Now
-DJ Revolution "King Of The Decks" IN STORES TODAY
-Heltah Skeltah "D.I.R.T." (Da Incredible Rap Team) In Stores September 30th
-Sean Price Presents Ruste Juxx "Indestructible" In Stores October 28th
-Rock, of Heltah Skeltah, "Shell Shock" In Stores Now

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Behrends

Album Sat Aug 30 2008

You are such a...

Shalloboi.jpgI am always amazed by duos that can create massive sounds with just two instruments. Examples that come to mind are The Black Key's and the full on roar of Daniel Auerbach or the room shaking sound of Matt & Kim or The Dodos. If I had just one word to describe the sound of Shalloboi it would be reverb; room filling, ever-growing and growling reverb. This Chicago duo, consisting of Tyler Ritter and Stefanie Goodwin, has figured out a way to capture their impressive sound without too much processing. Recorded through utilizing natural room sounds, mic placement, doubling and pure volume, Tyler is able to use this as an additional instrument. The huge drone makes for an unsettling, but always interesting platform for the hazy and wondering vocals of Stefanie Goodwin. All of the vocal effects were achieved through the use of natural reverbs courtesy of an abandoned stairwell in the apartment building where the band lives and several spaces in the congress theater. I'm not sure if I would want to live in their building, but I love how their latest album turned out.

Down To Sleep is actually their fifth record, and it took about two and half years to record. The opening track, "The Sun is so Bright" begins like a sunrise, slowly moving and illuminating the edges of the sky. It is clear and clean with faint electronics, tambourine, and whispered vocals. However, at the 4:37 mark the song filled with a forceful and heavy drone. The sound is powerful and unexpected, and it can be followed through the rest of album. Shalloboi is a member is so this release and all five of their albums can be downloaded for free.

[MP3] Shalloboi - The Sun is so Bright

Shalloboi will be performing at The Empty Bottle on Wednesday Sept 3rd at 9:00pm with A Tundra, Ceiling Stars, and Umbra & The Vulcan Sisters. This show will be the release show for Down To Sleep, and tickets are $7.

Jason Behrends

Album Thu Aug 28 2008

Slow Gun Shogun's Red-Dirt Delilah Blues -- A Review (of Sorts)

We here at Gapers Block Transmission aim to cover the local music scene and emerging Chicago artists as much as our resources permit. What follows is the transcript for a proposed review of the new CD Eve, Adam & the Apple by Chicago-based artist Slow Gun Shogun. The editors fanned the CD out to a potential contributor (PC) and an unaffiliated party (UP) in a focus-group styled experiment. What follows is a transcript of the results. Believe it or not, the transcript that follows was heavily edited and abridged in order to remove the more pedantic, digressive, and profanity-strewn passages. Needless to say, we will not be hiring either party for any future assignments.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

PC: You want another beer?

UP: Yeah, but I don't feeling like getting up to get it just yet. What have we got?

PC: Some new CD by an artist who calls himself Slow Gun Shogun.

UP: Can't say I'm familiar.

PC: Local guy, apparently. It's a seven-song EP called Eve, Adam and the Apple. Judging from this, he plays a lot of the instruments himself -- one-man band style -- with the help of one "Miss Palanti" on drums. Appears to be self-released, on a label called Devil's Bedpost.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Thu Aug 14 2008

Puttin' on The Ritz

theritz_cd.jpgWith several collaborations over the last few years, Chicago's Apoc (rhymes) and Rel (beats) (a.k.a. The Ritz) have come to know each others style and sound, and the result is the well-crafted debut, The Night of Day (Lab-o Records 8/19/08). With nods to the themes and aesthetics of the gritty noir films of 40's and 50's, these two have created an album filled with beats, samples, and lyrics that are both fresh and original yet always mindful of history. Highlighted by appearances by Psalm One, Moodswangz, Elfamail, and Brendan B., the standout track in both name and sound is "Langston Bukowski" featuring Racecar of Modill (video). It's an exploration of alcoholism and all of its ill effects.

Apoc has a well-established history both here in Chicago and in San Francisco since 2003 and the release of his debut album Salesmanshipwrecked. Know for his wild live performances, that energy really comes through on every track he appears on. Rel is a Chicago producer who has worked with several local acts like Elfamail and Moodswangz. He has once again proven that he is a man of many sounds from orchestral slow jams to bouncy summer beats or the electro-creep, Rel keeps it moving. Pulling the entire album together with his skilled and knowledgeable cuts is DJ Onceamonth, a veteran Chicago battle DJ.

[MP3] The Ritz - It's the...

The Night of Day will be release on August 19th via Chicago's Lab-Oratory Records. You can stream the entire album here.

Jason Behrends

Artist Sun Aug 10 2008

Taking You There: Anti- Records Announces Release Date for Mavis Live @ The Hideout CD

Location can be everything, indeed. The best live recordings come from such circumstances, occasions where an artist finds herself at home with a warm, and responsive crowd, and the result is a friendly and intimate interaction between performer and audience. Live albums like Etta James Rocks The House and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and Roland Kirk's Kirk In Copenhagen leap to mind, but there are plenty of others in the history of recorded music that serve as evidence to this effect.

Better yet, there's nothing like returning to a welcoming fold of friends after a long journey. Such was the case when Mavis Staples played a homecoming show at the Hideout this past June. Alighting from an extensive tour, Staples and her band played a 14-song, career-spanning set to a sold-out house. Given the Hideout's modest digs, the crowd topped out at about 200 attendees, making for a cozy and up-close show. Reviews and reports of the performance were radiant across the board, and the Anti- label was on hand to document the whole thing.

And now from the Hideout and the artist's website comes word that the resulting disc, Mavis Staples Live: Hope at the Hideout, is scheduled for an official release date of November 4th. Check the Hideout's website for the full tracklisting, links to reviews, and photos.

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Aug 05 2008

It's Your World

Phashara2007_08.jpgThe current state of hip-hop, especially in Chicago, is eclectic to say the least. You can basically come from any direction, electro-glitch, old school beats and rhymes, slick well-produced, raw bedroom beats, it doesn't really matter. At its core, to quote Rakim, the role of the MC is to the move the crowd. Everything else is just window dressing, bling, trash, whatever. Chicago emcee Phashara released his debut album, The Storybook Adventure (Beatmonstas Entertainment) last month, and it really speaks the diverse nature of hip-hop today. He is not trying to break new ground. He is not claiming to be the original or the abstract. He wants to take it back to the days when hip hop was golden, and everyone was bouncing over chopped up funk and soul. He wants to tell a story and move the crowd.

Featuring beats by Chicago producers Noble Dru and Radius, The Storybook Adventure touches on all aspects of life. From the hopeful to the hunger, from the deadly to the daring, Phashara speaks to the youth and the experienced a like, revealing rich portrayals of life through the eyes of a west side Chicagoan.

Jason Behrends

Album Wed Jul 23 2008

Darkness on the Edge of Town


Above: Locrian. Inset: Cover of Greyfield Shrines LP (Diophantine Discs)

Like a raven perched on an electrical transformer, Locrian summon elemental human dread, the type hinted at in medieval passion plays and Shakespearean dramatic interludes, but do so electrically, without the pretense of ancient wisdom or nostalgia-laden "spectral folk." The duo of Andre Foisy and Terrence Hannum stalk the barren forests (or maybe not, since the cover of their LP contains a picture of an abandoned shopping mall…"Leave the City," anyone?) with delay-laden guitars and round, full, low-end synth textures. Although their music is steeped in darkness, Locrian never condescend to the darkness, nor do they invoke it cheaply or take shortcuts to bring us there. Each summoning is done carefully, thoughtfully, and with considerable toil.

This week, Diophantine Discs releases Greyfield Shrines, the band's debut vinyl LP.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Sienko

Concert Fri Jul 11 2008

Killing Me Quickly (with their song)


Sic Alps killed me in just over 90 seconds - it didn't take much time at all. The 1:30 slice of perfection in question is "Bells (with Tremolo and Distortion)," off of their recent Description of the Harbor 12-inch (don't bother looking, it's long gone, unless you've got $75 and an Ebay username to spare) and it just nailed me - it's like a breath of air straight out of Lenny Kaye's record cellar, a lost psychedelic Nugget(s) lifted from obscurity, dusted off, and then killed and reborn anew, because it's not a cover, it's a new song with moves for moderns. The main lyric is pretty much one line: "I don't care 'bout what you say/meet me down on the lawn, lawn lawn," and that might not even be how it goes! The singer drawls the last word so exquisitely, it's hard to tell. Or care. (Youtube video here…count the visual music references/influences!)

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Sienko

Album Mon Jul 07 2008

Album Review: Los Dynamite's Greatest Hits

Bespeaking the cultural effects of globalization via Myspace, Mexican indie act Los Dynamite sings in English, and counts the Clash and the White Stripes among their influences. Oh, and they idolize Interpol, too. This Mexico City band just had their debut at Metro this past Saturday, as part of the INDIEcent Latino music series. Listening to the eleven tracks on their first album, Greatest Hits, it’s hard to imagine these four 20-somethings aren’t the latest indie wonder to emerge from Brooklyn.

Even though they sound American, or anglicized, these guys are pure Mexicano. The band started out as a solo project of Diego Solorzano, who then recruited Eduardo Pacheco, Miguel Hernandez, and Felipe Botello, three of the most prominent indie musicians in Mexico City. Their first single, “TV,” was introduced via the band’s Myspace page, quickly earning them a stable of gigs. It’s not hard to imagine why -- the music is steeped in electronic synth pop sensibility of Daft Punk, yet with the exuberance of well, yes, Interpol. Mexico’s largest cellular company, Telcel, chose “TV” as their main theme song of summer 2005. Other frequently played Greatest Hits played in Mexico: “Ready Read,” “Katonic,” “No me Suelte,” and “Frenzy.”

“Ready Ready” resonates the heady punk influences and detached singing style of the Talking Heads. In contrast, “Frenzy” and “Katonic” exhibit the band’s explosive character. Guitar heavy and swaggering with a sense of unabashed exhibitionism is commonplace. Perhaps that’s what’s most interesting about this band, in terms of their brazen sound and international character: they reflect an amalgam of bands and genres (punk, indie, and electronic) all at once. Los Dynamite has opened for bands like Interpol, Bloc Party, The Killers, Dirty Pretty Things, The Secret Machines, and Radio 4.

Marla Seidell

News Sat Jun 21 2008

Girl Talk Feeds Fans, Critters

Between his quickly sold-out 2007 New Years Eve appearance at the Empty Bottle and the overwhelming crowds that swamped his third-stage appearance at the Pitchfork Festival last summer, it's fair to say that Pittsburgh-based mashup maestro Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) has a solid fanbase in this town. And in case you were too busy to catch the news as it spread across the web yesterday, he's now making his forthcoming album, Feed The Animals, available in advance by way of a pay-what-you-want download via his own website and label, Illegal Art.

As far the download is concerned, Gillis is giving his fans three options. For the interested, any price will get you high-quality mp3s of the album, five bucks will get you the same plus one additional continuous-track version of the entire album (which is how Gillis claims he'd prefer people listen to it), and ten dollars gets you the downloads plus a physical copy of Feed The Animals when it's officially released in September.

Since the Illegal Art site was inaccessible at the time of this writing, it appears that traffic might be heavier than the site can handle. Whatever the case, it looks like there's now a mirror link for the download here.

Girl Talk hits the road later this summer and will be making his appearance in Chicago at Lollapalooza on August 3. Feed The Animals will see hardcopy release on September 23.

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Jun 17 2008

Silver Jews draw from deeper well for new album

[Note: This review came to us from former Gapers Block: Transmission staffer Dan Snedigar.]

Jews by Brent Stewart.jpg

David Berman and unidentified pooch. (Photo by Brent Stewart)

Chicago's Drag City has a reputation for putting out challenging, diverse music, and plenty of Chicago scene superstar side projects. This week, the label cranks out the latest from poet David Berman's musical vehicle Silver Jews. Though occasionally and for the most part wrongfully categorized as a Stephen Malkmus sidecar, the Jews music has always trafficked in simple but potent music layered with some of the most intricate lyrics of the past few decades. On Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, the band's fifth full length effort, the music draws from a well that has seemingly deepened since the band started touring extensively after over a decade as something of a studio lark.

The music remains country-tinged, often sounding like background music in a David Lynch honky-tonk. Songs like “Suffering Jukebox," are musical oddities, sounding at once like modern Nashville pap, but maintaining a jewel-like clarity and a respectably poignant lyrical punch. “Party Barge," borrows notes from the Rolling Stones and maintains an almost Jimmy Buffet-like irreverence while weaving in shore sounds and driving guitars.

The shiny new production can at times be frustrating, leaving fans of the Silver Jews early work pining for the stripped down simplicity of albums like American Water, and while there may be as many near misses as hits, the album represents an interesting step forward. It shows a band coming into true professionalism musically while maintaining frontman Berman's lyrical voice, unmatched in modern music.

-Dan Snedigar

Dan was a Chicago resident until he recently moved to Montana where he's a freelance writer and attorney.

Anne Holub

Album Thu Jun 05 2008

Ground Control… We Have an Escape Plan

remotecontrolfrequencies_cd.jpg“Sometimes I feel like I’m on the wrong planet…”

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if David Bowie and Slug (of Atmosphere) decided to join the space program? While on their first mission they might record a few tracks about their escape from Earth and all of the reasons for leaving. Unrehearsed, just pure improv rock and vocals mixed with hip-hop. The sounds from mission control and the odd space noise would occasional interfere with the recording, but it would all come together nicely. I may be dreaming, but that was the first image that popped into my head while listening to the latest shoegaze noise-rap album from Chicago’s Remote Control Frequencies.

Recorded at Stray Dog Recording Co., Tempus, finds old friends R-Rock (sampledelic songwriting and vocals) and L. Grant "LG" Meadows (drummer) back together again. With the help of friends, recording engineer David 'Player 1' Whitcomb (proprietor of Chicago's Stray Dog Recording Co), PJ Sumroc and Sharkula, this duo takes the listener on audio adventure through genres, time periods, space, sounds, and life. R-Rock (also the founder of The Secret Life of Sound, one of Chicago’s most eclectic labels) sing/raps over his own chopped up samples and LG’s raw beats. The album has almost a mysterious feel to it, aided by the lack of tracklisting and the use of alias, but also by the recording technique. R-Rock has this to say on the process, “sometimes we would record his drums at Stray Dog with me playing keys, and then I would take them home and chop them up and bring them back. Other songs on the record were completely improvised, recorded live in one take.” Another mystery is why the band has not updated their myspace page (since they do not have a website) since August 2007. That is explained with the plea to the all too famous Tom in the liner notes, but nonetheless it is not easy to obtain current information on these two. I think they like it that way.

For an escape from the earth's gravitational pull, check out Tempus from Remote Control Frequencies (TSLOS 017) released June 3rd. You can stream album here and purchase a copy here.

Jason Behrends

Concert Wed May 14 2008

Prairie Spies @ the Empty Bottle

Prairie Spies.jpg

Late last year, I got unexpectedly punched in the mouth by a little EP called Bridget Quits, a five-song rock’n’roll assault from local band the Sharks, that sounded like Weezer and Pavement had sex and this was their five-headed monster. Rather than sounding completely derivative, though, the Sharks offered a fresh take on time-honored material, a loose, chaotic, boozy assemblage tackling the truly important subjects (drugs and girls). A few months later, after the lawyers got to them and they holed up tearfully in their parents’ basement (okay, I made that last part up), the Sharks are now the Prairie Spies and they’re set to drop their very first full length, available from newish local label Comptroller Records.

Surplus Enjoyment picks up right where the previous record left off. Despite the name change, not a damn thing about band’s aesthetic has been altered, and that’s just fine by me. They play fierce and fun goodness that is simultaneously raw and overtly poppy, and songs like “Unresolved Anatomy” and “Who’s Been Gettin’ High” delight with pleasing hilarity. It’s “Iowa”, though, that takes the treasured prize, a balance of fuzzed-out guitars and kitschy keyboards with shout-along vocals that soar snarl howl and lyrics that tend toward dryly ironic with just a dose of savagery. This ode to our neighbors to the West finds the Spies at their very best, not reaching but playing comfortably to their strengths and loving every second of it. While a few tracks falter (most notably, their Clash rip-off, “Vigilante”), Surplus Enjoyment is by and large a terrific and accomplished record, and will receive consistent summer rotation in the library of at least one fan (though I suspect there’s more than just me out in the wilderness).

The Prairie Spies take the stage at the on Friday for a kickin’ record release party. Opening are dreamy boy-girl combo (and Comptrollin’ label mates), the Spectacles, and Cincinnati band Bad Veins. The Killer Whales headline. Show start at 10pm.

Nicholas Ward

Concert Wed May 07 2008

"Station" Identification: Russian Circles Release New Album, Take It On The Road

Considering that they've only been active for just over three years, the Chicago-based trio Russian Circles has managed to rack up a high ratio of praise throughout the webzine community in a short period of time. It seems there's something unique about the group's music that resonates with those who've heard it. The band's 2006 debut album, Enter, met with enthused accolades across the board, and quickly the landed them a slot on the top of the bill at Drowned In Sound's End-of-Summer festival in London last August. With the pending arrival of their sophomore LP, Station, Russian Circles are set to kick off another tour, beginning with a record-release party and a headlining set at Subterranean this Saturday evening.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Tue May 06 2008

Neighborhood Suicide

Thumbnail image for radius_9.jpgI tried to express that true Chicago soul sound, and natural feeling. Just giving thanks to being from the south side and Chicago overall.” ~ Radius

When everyone was talking about this coast or that coast, Chicago hip-hop was brewing deep in the basements and warehouses, surround by house and jazz and blues. Waiting for the day that the world would finally allow them a moment to explain where they come from. Even though the roots of Chicago hip-hop date back to the early ‘80’s with acts like OZ & the D.V.S. Crew, Sugar Ray Dinki, Cassius D, and Shakespeare, and on into the ‘90’s with Twista, Kinetic Order, Common, The Molemen, and so on, it took someone like Kayne West to allow the casual fan to dig through crates, both past and present, of Chicago hip-hop. There is a rich history in this city, but more then just hip-hop, Chicago has soul. Deep in the walls and sidewalks, in every neighborhood, at every El stop, there is an ever-present soul that vibrates the windows and moves the youth.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Behrends

Album Fri May 02 2008

Nicole Mitchell Achieves Xenogenesis


Nicole Mitchell continues to grow and impress as a band leader and composer, creating another stellar album that reflects a diverse musical aesthetic and vision. Released this week on Firehouse 12 records, the Chicago based creative flutist and composer has been enjoying an increased awareness of her work in the last year that is sure to continue with Xenogenesis Suite, an album dedicated to the pioneer African American science fiction writer Octavia Butler.

I heard this music once before, in its Chicago debut at the Chicago Cultural Center earlier this year. I left the performance in a musically altered state, having been transfixed and transported by Xenogenesis Suite. The music was expansive, evocative, and perhaps most of all to my ears, a departure from her earlier work stylistically. While it retained her signature flute playing, the compositions were radically different from anything else I had heard from Nicole Mitchell, and if I had to oversimplify a bit, I'd say it was certainly darker than her other work.

Continue reading this entry »

Daniel Melnick

Album Thu Apr 10 2008

A Tribute Across the Sea

Musicians from around the world have contributed 30 songs to an electronic tribute to Elektron's late CEO and co-founder, Daniel Hansson. Of course, Chicago's part of the mix, with The Sea and Cake offering the song "Sound and Vision," which you can preview on the website. If you like the album, you can download it for $5. All proceeds will be donated to the WWF.

David Schalliol

Review Fri Mar 28 2008

Singer minces words, music on debut album

Composed of seasoned veterans from Chicago's avant-rock heyday of the mid-late 90s, the band Singer has just this week released their debut album, Unhistories, on Drag City. And if there's one thing that should be established from the start, it's that Singer don't "do" linearity.

This should come as no surprise, given the band's collective cee-vee. Bassist Robert A.A. Lowe was previously a central member of math-rock/no-wave/prog-revisionists 90 Day Men, currently performs and records under the moniker Lichens, and has -- as a studio and touring sideman -- contributed keyboard work to TV On The Radio. Ben Vida was formerly part of the minimalist chamber ensemble Town and Country and has recently been producing work as Bird Show; while Todd Rittman and Adam Vida are erstwhile members of the defunct Chicago "rock deconstructionist" unit U.S. Maple.

Much of Unhistories unfolds by way of country-blues(ish) guitar riffs that sidewind and meander, sometimes get bogged down in briars, but are more often striking ahead in a hunting or explorative mode. With Singer, songs don't develop or progress so much as charge up to a threshold, pause, and double back to strike out on alternate courses. Theirs is a music that involves the tightening and release of torques and tension, always playfully teetering on the edge of clamor and collapse. But the guitars never roam too far from the campground, so it ends up being drummer Adam Vida who probes at the outermost perimeters, his kitwork often dancing around a rhythmic center of the song without engaging it directly. While the whole band routinely steps in with some woozy harmonizing, bassist Robert Lowe's vocals -- often straining into the upper registers in a faux-falsetto that suggests mimicry or mockery -- drape the tenuous melodies like lilies wilting under a blistering sun.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Wed Mar 26 2008

Chris Mills Announces New Record, Record Release Shows

Unlike Austin, New York and L.A., Chicago doesn't have a thriving scene of singer-songwriters, folk singers or indie folk trobadours. But unlike those cities, we at least have Chris Mills. His last record, Living The Dream, was one of the highlights of the 00's. Now the similarly titled Living In The Aftermath is about to hit the streets (Ernest Jennings, April 22).

Pre-order the new record here. Catch Chris Mills at his hometown record release show at Schubas on April 26.

[mp3]: Chris Mills - Atom Smashers

Bonus mp3:

[mp3]: Chris Mills - "Living The Dream"

Craig Bonnell

Album Thu Mar 20 2008

Song Of The Week: The Great White Jenkins "Wind"

My musical tastes have taken such a turn that at this point what I'm most looking for in a band is hard to pinpoint. In fact it's that unclassifiable sound that is now what I'm drawn to. The Great White Jenkins have that sound in spades (whatever that sound is). On their MySpace page they call it soul-folk. The excellent music blog Catbird Seat called it “Jake-Legged, Brokedown, Spiritual Soul Revue” just the other day.

Why all this talk of The Great White Jenkins? Because they've just released a new EP titled Mussel Souls and are about to commence on a massive tour. Before the tour kicks off though members of this Virginia based band will be joining Ken Vandermark and playing under the name Fight The Big Bull at The Hideout on April 16 for an Immediate Sound show. I'm not sure exactly what that'll be like, but that's half the fun of music these days.

Here's the song "Wind" from the new ep Mussel Souls.

[mp3]: The Great White Jenkins "Wind"

Craig Bonnell

Concert Mon Mar 17 2008

Stop Watching TV!: The Boredoms' Circular Logic

Since they first came together on the Osaka noise scene of the mid-1980s, The Boredoms have always been one of the music world's most unwieldy and inexplicable acts. Starting out as an outfit of frenetic, genre-mulching rawk'n'roll destructivists, they've since undergone a circuitous musical evolution over the past decade. Like a supernova constricting into a neutron star, the band refocused its musical energy to become purveyors of dense and droning space-rock in the late 1990s before finally arriving at their present trance-inducing, tribal incarnation as the most apeshit drum circle on earth.

Boredoms fans will have a chance to see the band play a special "in the round" performance at the Congress Theater next Wednesday evening. The show will be one of the few dates on their current U.S. tour where the group will be able to perform the way they want to -- interfacing in a circle in the center of the venue while the audience will be free to gather around on the periphery.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Wed Feb 20 2008

Headlights On High

The Gawker music blog Idolator gave the Champaign based band Headlights much love this morning. The band's new record, Some Racing, Some Stopping, is out today on Polyvinyl Records. I'm not familiar with their catalog, but word is this dreamy pop song is a departure from the band's "spacey atmospheric" previous sound.

[mp3]: Headlights - "Cherry Tulips"

"Cherry Tulips" video:

Craig Bonnell

Concert Fri Feb 08 2008

Russian Circles' New Notes From the Underground

While the world has waited for the release of Chinese Democracy, metal has undergone a lot of changes. It's responded to the backlash against its hair-hopping halcyon days by absorbing influences and ideas from across the rock spectrum, splintering off into a number of enclaves that probe the perimeters of the genre's creedal heaviness.

Case in point, the Chicago instrumental trio Russian Circles. The band's 2006 album Enter received a lot of glowing praise via print and online venues that cover the heftier ends of the musical spectrum, and it sent critics scrambling for labels to sum up the the band's sound. If you were to string all the resulting desciptives together, then Russian Circles are reputedly a math-/prog-/post-rock metal trio with melodic, neo-Mahlerian shoegaze affinities. Or something like that.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Mon Feb 04 2008

Funky *ss Sh*t From Organ Wolf

Band: Organ Wolf
Town: Chicago
Moto: “Take an old Hammond organ, soak it in beer, throw it in a truck and back it into the swamp.”
Members: Grassy, Lassie, Wheelie & Skid
Record Title: I Didn’t Come Here And I’m not Leaving (So You Can Just Kiss My Ass That’s What You Are)
Sounds Like: Greasy food, sweaty sex, the south if it were overrun with Ghettotech idiot savants from Chicago.
Professionalism (Scale of 1-10): 0
Soul (Scale of 1-10): 10
Drug Use: Probable
For Sale: Yes

[mp3]: Organ Wolf - "Demon E"

[mp3] Organ Wolf - "3D Heavy Duty"

Craig Bonnell

Concert Tue Jan 29 2008

Dancing with Essex Chanel

Let's face it: Wedding dances can outright suck. Luckily, in the new album Dancing at Weddings, Essex Chanel brings the wedding dance to your living room -- albeit without the embarrassingly drunk uncle attempting to do the Worm on the dance floor.

Essex Chanel is the solo project of Chicago-based musician/artist/all-around busy bee Travis Lee Wiggins, who also performs in the Summer Salts and Fetla. Dancing at Weddings sort of serves as an tutorial, opening with a loopy, roaming bassline over background shouts to "Get up and dance!" Soon what one can only assume is a party robot intercedes. On second thought, you better bust out that Worm.

Continue reading this entry »

Kara Luger

Concert Mon Jan 28 2008

Mahjongg: Love means never having to apologize to the police

The Chicago outfit Mahjongg recently went on tour, aiming to round up converts to Kontpab--which is both the title for their new album that's now being released on K Records and the name of a post-millennial cult that the band recently started. Actually, the stuff about the cult's just a bunch of presskit monkeyshines; but the album's for real, and Mahjongg will be returning to home base to play a record-release party at Subterranean this Thursday.

If you threw a party and invited Suicide and Konono No1 to play in your basement, what would it sound like? Kontpab probably best answers that question. In the time that's lapsed since their prior LP, Raydoncong2005, Mahjongg has undergone some slight personnel changes. Their sound has changed a little, as well. Save for bass, guitars are largely out and keyboards dominate -- specifically keyboards of the gritty, pulsing electro-punk variety.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Thu Jan 24 2008

Honky-Tonk Friday (On Thursday!) - The Blue Line Riders

I've got this Friday feature thingy on my personal music blog called Honky-Tonk Friday. I'm always excited to include Chicago bands but it's an infrequent occurrence at best. I prepared this post to go up soon on the Chicago country band The Blue Line Riders. However, I'm swamped over there with new music and this has been on the back-burner now for a few weeks, but with an impending gig by The Blue Line Riders I thought it'd be nice to share this with the fine readers of Transmission first.

There's not more than a handful of great honky-tonk bands in Chicago. Separate those out that write their own material and those that don't, and you're down to even fewer. Sift out the bands that can write a country love song as pretty as "(Our Love's A) Bar Room At Closing Time" and you're left with just one - The Blue Line Riders. The band that's been a fixture over at the California Clipper has just released it's solo debut.

They'll be appearing next, at where else, The California Clipper on Friday, February 22.

Buy the new self-titled debut record here via CDBaby.

[mp3]: The Blue Line Riders - (Our Love's A) Bar Room At Closing Time


[mp3]: The Blue Line Riders - Drinkin' and Drivin'

Craig Bonnell

Album Wed Jan 16 2008

Clang Your Head

Back in early 2007, Thrill Jockey introduced listeners to the work of Arbouretum when it released the Baltimore quartet's sophomore album, Rites of the Uncovering. Nearly a year later finds the label releasing the first proper full-length CD by Human Bell, which hits stores on January 29.

Human Bell is effectively a collaborative side-project involving Arbouretum frontman Dave Heumann and former Lungfish bassist Nathan Bell. For the new self-titled LP, both musicians strap on their six-strings and unfurl seven instrumental tracks of exploratory fretwork. Half-composed and half-improvised, each song starts out simply and deliberately, with the duo setting the stage with basic structure and melody before setting off for more complex and expansive domains. There's plenty of cohesion by way of counterpoint and complement throughout, and there's some additional instrumental accompaniment to flesh things out a bit. The album as a whole is intricate in some parts, downright hefty in others, and admittedly borders on the soporific from time to time. But just as the whole effort seems to have exhausted its musical vocab, things take a denser, more foreboding turn in the album's final stretch. Some hazy, haunting hornwork threads "Ephaphatha (Be Opened)" with a droning eeriness, while "The Singing Trees" digs into a heavily churning and reverberous blues.

Deeply indebted to the work of Neil Young and John Fahey, and suffused with prog-y English folk-jazz trimmings, Human Bell is very much a guitar record. It's moody and evocative in a way that's best suited for soundtracking those lazier and more contemplative afternoons.

[mp3]: Human Bell – "The Singing Trees"

Graham Sanford

Album Wed Jan 16 2008

My My My, Have We Traveled Back in Time?

My My My, a chill local band that released this past fall their new album, Conjugation Nation, is self-described as sounded like “The Shins fronted by Cat Stevens.” This is wrong. While likely never going to share a stage with Jimmy Hendrix or end up on a Garden State reincarnation soundtrack, My My My would find a very appropriate place among big names had they put out this album ten years ago. The album is carried by upbeat alt-pop and happy crooning evident that the members really like to feel good about their music and want you to feel good about it, too. There is a twist of Jimmy Eat World in their lyrics and a dash John Mayer in their G-A-D guitar lines. And with various riffs that evoke an essence of Belle and Sebastian, it is evident that My My My wants to do more with their sound, but can’t break out of the comfortable formula that worked so well for Third Eye Blind and Everclear. They unsuccessfully drift from this standard alt-rock sound in songs such as “Stallion” and “Chemistry is for Lovers”, and have twelve too many “Oh’s”, “Whoa’s”, and “Na Na Na’s”, but that doesn’t mean you can deny the infectious catchy-ness when they hit it spot on in songs such as “See-Thru” and “Sadder at the Seams”. '90s alt-rock is good and over, and I doubt My My My is trying to dig it up again. They’re just trying to make fun music that is so forgotten about in our strictly serious sense of indie rock these days. Conjugation Nation makes you remember those naïve days when music was just good, no strings attached.

My My My will be playing this Friday, Jan 18th @ The Note
Show starts at 9, they go on at 10
Performing with Project Ultra, The Help Desk, and Meryll. 21 +

Emily Kaiser

Album Mon Jan 07 2008

Diving into the Sea From Shore

David Brewis' latest project School of Language, not to be confused with his old project Field Music (which is not to be confused with The Field {which has never been confused with Spitalfield}), has signed to Thrill Jockey for North American release of it's debut effort Sea From Shore. Fans of Field Music will not be disappointed - the album is a friendly mix of all the same ingredients, but replacing half a cup less of Pornographer sugar with a wistful whallop in the veins of Andrew Bird or Of Montreal. The four "Rockist" tracks sandwich the album in a ambitious melody of vowel pronunciations, guitar sustain, and a little love ballad for good measure. Standout "This Is No Fun" is a seafaring dirge whose form only occasionally contains the exuberant rock underneath. The album will be available from Thrill Jockey in February.

Track: Rockist, Part 1

Dan Morgridge

Album Tue Nov 27 2007

The Artist Formally Known as. . . .Who?


First things first: while I may not take the crown, I will definitely go down swinging in a challenge for the World’s Greatest Prince fan (if such a challenge ever existed). I remember fondly when His Royal Badness changed his name inexplicably to an unpronounceable symbal, only to be dubbed by the media with the acronym TAFKAP. And as much as I do love Prince, I’ve been marveling with glee at his increasingly ridiculous artistic choices the past couple of years (I mean, seriously, he named his latest album Planet Earth). So you can imagine my delight when I received a press release for the Artist Formally Known as Vince and his latest album, Welcome to the Show. While I expected a tongue-in-cheek send-up of His Purple Majesty, instead I was handed a surprisingly good blast of fast and furious glam rock.

Thankfully Vince doesn’t take himself too seriously, tossing off a cache of love-pump licking jams, most of them about screwing trashy women, or potentially trashy women. “Come and Touch Me” features the absolutely ridiculous line, “Don’t know where you been / Don’t know your sin”, while “More than Me” laments his lovers preference for drugs over his own diverse charms. “Heartbreak (Leads to Heartattack)” is an oddly sweet, semi-poppy, ready for radio ditty and Lauren Kurtz’s vocals provide a nice dynamic on “Tiara Blues”, a fine piece of dirty, grungy fun. The music isn’t terribly diverse (just straight ahead rock’n’roll) and there’s nothing really insightful that can be said about it but once you get locked into its hooks, there’s really no where else to go. Ultimately, what keeps the album from completely taking off is the lack of production values. While I appreciate a loose and low-fi approach, what would really make all of the jokes work is a healthy dose of nonsensical over-production. Even still, Welcome to the Show is a noble effort that is subversive, trashy and a real good time.

TAFKAVince and Lauren play December 7th at Reggie’s, December 14th at Quenchers and a special holiday show December 15th at the Pontiac Café.

Nicholas Ward

Album Mon Nov 19 2007

Manishevitz Signs With Catbird Records

Labels used to be curatorial pursuits. Basically they started out as one guy declaring this is the music I love. All that's changed, but there are still lone voices releasing only the music they love, damn the consequences. One of the best one man labels of late is Catbird Records, which sprung out of the Catbird Seat blog. Ryan's got eclectic, at times challenging taste, but if he releases something you can rest assured the quality will be up to his high standards. Some of his past releases include cd's from Get Him Eat Him, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and Tap Tap. Besides releasing some pretty great music, Catbird also has some interesting ideas about compensating the artists. For instance, if you click the pre-order link below you'll find a box to check to donate $1 directly to the band (how cool is that?!).

For his next release (which you can preorder here) he signed Chicago's Manishevitz, they of the odd time signatures and Euro-glam indie rock. Here's "Dead Birds" from the new record East To East.

[mp3]: Manishevitz - "Dead Birds"

Craig Bonnell

Album Mon Nov 12 2007

Viva Voce: Re-Issues, Bonus Material, and Live Shows

After releasing Get Yr Blood Sucked Out to critical acclaim last year, the husband and wife duo Viva Voce are re-releasing long sought after albums Lovers, Lead the Way! (2003) and The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (2004)--along with bonus material, which includes B-sides, live performances, remixes, and some demo takes. Reissued Nov 13 (tomorrow!) on the band's Amore!Phonics label, these two albums have up until now been out-of-print and wickedly hard to find. But no more!

Additionally, the indie duo play Riviera Theater 11/15 and Champaign, IL (in the Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois) on 11/16. This (plus a show in Nebraska) finishes up a 2 month tour supporting Jimmy Eat World, after which Viva Voce plans to head back to studios. A follow-up to Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is scheduled for a 2008 release.

Viva Voce - "Fashionably Lonely" (from Lovers, Lead the Way!, 2003)
Viva Voce - "Free Nude Celebs" (from The Heat Can Melt Your Brain, 2004)
Viva Voce - "Wrecking Ball" (Tunng Remix, as bonus track on 2xCD)

Viva Voce (w/ Jimmy Eat World) @ Riviera Theater, 11/15, 8PM, all ages, $24

Continue reading this entry »

Michael Schmitt

Album Sun Oct 28 2007

The Odd And Enchanting Music Of Daniel Knox

I have a thing for circus sideshow music. Music you might hear in a Wim Wenders film, something by David Lynch or maybe in a Jim Jarmusch movie. So it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to the music of Chicagoan Daniel Knox. In fact, Daniel Knox has a David Lynch connection. He played the organ before a London screening of Lynch's film Inland Empire. His new record, HP Johnson Presents Daniel Knox :: Disaster, was just released and is part of a planned trilogy.

"Lovesmoney" is a perfect example of the campy, Victorian-organ-grinder meets snake-oil-circus-barker style I was referring to above. You can buy Disaster here directly from Daniel Knox.

[mp3]: Daniel Knox - "Lovesmoney"

Bonus track from Disaster

[mp3]: Daniel Knox - "No Accident"

Craig Bonnell

Review Tue Oct 09 2007

Review: Fiery Furnaces, Widow City


On Widow City, the sixth LP from brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces that lands today from Thrill Jockey, melodies, tempos and styles abruptly shift, extend, and double back. Tracks blend seamlessly together to create a giant long-form pop suite. With lyrics inspired by an imagined Ouija board and ads from women’s magazines of the early 1970s, the Furnaces take the listener on an intergalactic musical journey through the duplexes of the dead, consulting Egyptian grammars, and into the Cabaret of the Seven Devils. It’s impossible to predict where we’ll end up next, as fierce drum attacks mingle with fuzzed out guitars. The Chamberlain—a keyboard that triggers tape loops of other instruments to create a library of sound—crafts a barrage of strings, woodwinds and keys that weave in and out of the abstract song structures. The record is confusing and chaotic and requires maximum attention paid to catch all of the unique musical ideas.

Standout track “Navy Nurse” begins with a funky base, drum and guitar jam that gives way to light piano before leading a march with the repeated line, “If there’s anything I’ve had enough of, it’s today.” “Restorative Beer”, the closest thing to a single, mixes a blues riff with a rolling and tumbling vocal melody about wanting “to restore your beer to take my mind off these tears”. I salute the Fiery Furnaces for making a piece of work that is obtuse, that is difficult to listen to, that shies away from three-minute masterpieces when it’s clear that they possess an acute understanding of pop perfection. The Furnaces might be the most unique band on the planet and they refuse to take the easy way out, and this album is surprising and startling and weird.

But it’s long. Really long. Perhaps it’s unfair to criticize art for being too long (“it’s as long as it needs to be”, comes the counter-attack from the artist) but if I, as a music fan and sometime critic, sit around waiting for the album to end so I can pen my review or do the dishes, it’s too long. A little self-conscious weirdness goes a long way, and by the end of 16 tracks and 56 minutes, the genre-hopping travelogue of Widow City wears thin and I just want to go home.

The Fiery Furnaces have carved a nice niche for themselves in this pop landscape and they continually produce albums bursting forth with ideas, melodies, and strange behavior. But the music, as it relates to Widow City, doesn’t resonate. I’m never going to spin this disc at a party, or when I come home drunk and lonely, or as the soundtrack for a walk on the lakefront. I'm not asking for cheesy slow dance numbers or sappy cliches but I would like to hear some heart.

Nicholas Ward

Album Mon Sep 17 2007

Knocked Down, But He Gets Up Again


I can't resist. Really. I have to poke a little bit of fun at Danbert Nobacon, founding member of UK anarchist outfit Chumbawumba, they of the mid-90s smash hit "Tubthumper". Let's be honest: "Tubthumper" is one of those infuriatingly catchy tunes that sticks in your craw until you want to jam a fork in your eye.

But I'll hereafter put all snarky jokes aside. Danbert Nobacon's got a new solo record, his first in twenty years, and he is (unsurprisingly) one angry man. Library Book of the World, out now on Bloodshot Records, is a time traveler's opera (his words) that casts Nobacon as a riotous folk singer/pirate of the high seas, bringing manufactured dissent to a world gone drunk and strange and adrift in uncharted waters. As backed by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, songs like "Last Drop in the Glass" feature a snarling Nobacon lamenting Nature's illness and the world a changed landscape. It would be fairly inaccessible, were it not for some general hilarity ("Wasps in November" incorporates well-timed verbal buzzing) and good-natured country that rumbles pleasantly over catchy couplets. Nobacon may not celebrate his legacy as a tupthumping chumbawumber, but he knows how to pen a tune, and sometimes that's the best way to provide a platform for personal politics and civil disobedience. What else is this "poor planet supposed to do"?

Danbert Nobacon drops anchor locally on September 28th at the Old Town School of Folk Music in support of punk-rock stalwarts, the Mekons.

Nicholas Ward

Album Thu Sep 06 2007

Album Review: Push by Colette

DJ Colette’s new album, Push is highly versatile—good for headphones and the dance floor alike. Particularly dance inspiring is "Funny feat. Black Spade" and "Think You Want It." This is from the same woman who helped found the SuperJane collective, a group of female DJs devoted to helping women succeed in the music business. Colette was also one of the first DJs to lay her own vocals on the tracks she mixed. Uncompromising and undaunted, Colette brings the same experimental approach to Push, on which she pushes the boundaries of house music to reverberate with her own passionate style.

Like her previous album, (Hypnotized, 2005), Push explores the ups and downs of relationships and love. The album’s first track, “About Us,” details a relationship that has seen better days. She reintroduces the track at No. 11, this time mixed up by Chuck Love into a more danceable, and thus catchier tune. “Feelin’ Hypnotized” wound up on the The Devil Wears Prada soundtrack, and in similar fashion, “About Us (Chuck Love rework)” borders on pop and could easily be adapted in the mainstream market. That’s part of Colette’s strength—bringing house to the masses.

The most striking difference between the two albums is that the artist has moved from electronica (Hypnotized) to dance (Push). With its hypnotic beats and slickly arranged keyboards, Hypnotized got you listening. Push, on the other hand, gets straight down to business—sophisticated grooves and hooks push you out on the dance floor.

The first half of the album is mellow, earthy, and sensual, Colette’s finely tuned mezzo-soprano voice a complementary instrument to the blend of laidback and uplifting deep house. In the second half the artist kicks it up a notch by falling deeper into dance music. Each track blends seamlessly into the next, resulting in a lush compilation of tracks that makes for enjoyable listening, from start to finish.

Colette performs at Metro and Smartbar on Saturday. Tickets for both venues are $21. $10 for Smartbar only. Show starts at 10pm.

Marla Seidell

Album Wed Sep 05 2007

Who's Got a Guilty Pleasure?

You know you do it. When no one else is in the car, you make absolutely no move to switch the radio station when Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" comes on. Maybe you're nostalgic for those middle school dances, or maybe you're just a sucker for a song you know all the lyrics to, but don't feel so guilty — even the most indie of indie musicians share in your dirty little secrets.


The latest release from Engine Room Recordings is Guilt by Association — a compilation of 15 tracks of pop, rock, and one-hit wonders, all remade by artists that love them, and aren't afraid to share. There's Will Oldham and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy performing Mariah Carey's "Can't Take That Away", Petra Haden crooning an a cappella version of "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (complete with a sung guitar solo), Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson's sweet, trembling acoustic take on Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" and The Mooney Suzuki tackling "Just Like Jesse James" made famous by the incomparable Cher. Most of the artists tend to go for the "let's slow this down a little" approach, so it can take a little while to recognize the song merely from the strum of the guitar and the whisper-soft vocals. Some songs, twisted and churned through the dark soul of indie rock, come out sounding like something you'd mosh to — like Superchunk's take on "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child. But mostly, these songs are sweet, slow indie nostalgia for nights where you heard them blasted out of the bar jukebox at 2am (oh, you know it wasn't an accident that you chose "Burning for You" by Blue Oyster Cult, fess it).

Petra Haden's cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" [mp3]

A full list of guilty artists and their pleasures is online, but a free listening party for the album is happening tonight at 8pm at Alive One at 2683 N. Halsted. There'll be drink specials and special giveaways.

Anne Holub

Concert Tue Sep 04 2007

The Sounds of Signage

Signing Choir is the solo effort of Joey King, bassist for the Chicago glam-/psych-pop outfit The M's. The Choir's self-titled debut, to be released this week on Brilliante, is the culmination of of five year's worth of sideline songwriting and recording. Left to his preferences and devices, King cozies into low-fidelity space quite comfortably and furnishes it well; exploiting the four-track, bedroom recording aesthetic to maximum effect. Throughout there's plenty of fuzzy and bottom-heavy riffs, amplifier hum, and the grain of the voice cloaked in varied degrees of distortion.

Despite these deliberate rough edges, King proves himself an astute craftsmen when it comes to tailoring his songs with subtle, contrasting sonic details. He gravitates toward a post-mod mish-mash of pop stylings, and the Signing Choir sound is more pointedly "rockish" (in an early-90s college-radio way) than the Anglophilic hookiness of The M's usual material. He cranks things into bouncy mode on "Comb Your Hair" and "The Beths," and King proves himself consistently pop-savvy in the offing. But in its later stretch, the album settles into more shadowy terrain that's reminiscent of the shoe-gazing languidity of Dinosaur Jr. -- moody and ruminative, it's the sound of thoughts and feeling turning themselves over to see how their undersides fare against the light of day.

Brilliante Records and Schubas will be host a record release party for the Signing Choir CD this Saturday night, with Signing Choir -- featuring King with friends and The M's guitarist Robert Hicks -- headlining. Rock Plaza Central and Casey Dienel are on the opening bill, and DJ LA*Jesus will be spinning some tunes between sets. 3159 N. Southport. 10pm, admission is $8.

Graham Sanford

Artist Thu Aug 30 2007

One Flew Over the Cuckold's Nest

What was it that André Breton said in one of his Surrealist manifestos, that "Beauty will be compulsive, or not at all"? Or wait…maybe he said that it would be convulsive. It's been misquoted so often that I can't remember which it is. But anyway, nevermind -- it's neither here nor there. For the Chicago band The Bird Names, the answer is that it will be both.

The Bird Names are about to release their third album, Wooden Lake/Sexual Diner, and chances are this is the first you're hearing about them. They've been around for about four-plus years, and have been playing in lofts and art spaces and clubs around town since the start. At first, they changed their own name many times over; and have had a number of members, friends, and valued contributors pass through their ranks all the while. On some evenings there's only a core group of about four or five people on stage when they play, on others so many of their extended family show up and join in that they can barely fit everyone on the stage. Sometimes they play plugged-in and very loudly, and on some occasions they perform much more subdued acoustic sets.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Review Sun Aug 26 2007

Dog-Paddling Through Domesticity

For some time now, Marvin Tate has been keeping a diminished profile on the local music scene. As of this month, that appears to have finally ended.

Those who've been around a while might recall his appearances at the Hot House and other venues around town with his former bands Uptighty and Marvin Tate's D-Settlement, or they might know him as a denizen of the city's spoken-word circuit. Since the break-up of D-Settlement, Tate has spent the past few years dwelling of the periphery; but now he's returned with Family Swim, his debut CD as a solo artist.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Concert Tue Aug 21 2007

Beijing Blanket Bingo

What's all this about "cultural imperialism," eh? Okay, granted -- there's been no shortage of exoticist fetishization afoot in the ping-ponging of intercultural exchange over the years. But fortunately for all involved, the global village does provide for two-way traffic. Case in point: the Chinese surf-rock combo Red Chamber. When they first started up in the 1960s, the music they played was most likely not what Chairman Mao had in mind for toeing the "party" line of the Cultural Revolution. Hail, hail decadent and politically-incorrect Western influences! And "Bali Hai" while you're at it.

Red Chamber (not to be confused with these gals) reportedly went on a long hiatus sometime in the 1970s, eventually resurfacing over two decades later to give the whole thing another go. The recent CD Red Chamber Brings You The Mao Sound, released on the locally-based Far East Audio label, gives a good taste of the band's repertoire. The disc features one track from a vintage bootleg cassette by the band, another from a live performance from a festival in Penang circa 1971, and five others recorded during a more recent set cranked out in the studios of WZRD in 2005.

While a few tunes sport occasional, fleeting moments where the musical traditions of the band's homeland sneak in, there's largely no sense of wonky east-west mutational "fusion" to be found. It's an elegantly rocking affair, one that recalls The Ventures at their best. And when they swerve slightly off-path, the rewards are plentiful. "Edo Lullaby" features some expansive guitarwork that's distinctly psychedelic in its spaciousness. And dig the Link Wray-styled bluesy strut undergirding the otherwise brisk "Flushing Face, Smiling Heart (Slow Soul)."

Or just go see Red Chamber for yourself when they will be playing at The Hideout this Thursday evening. Chicago lounge-folk-popsters Can.Ky.Ree open. 9pm show. Tickets $7 in advance, $8 the day of. 1354 W. Wabansia.

[mp3]: Red Chamber - "Flushing Face, Smiling Heart (Slow Soul)"
[mp3]: Red Chamber - "Apricot"

Graham Sanford

Album Tue Aug 07 2007

Palliard At The Roger Brown House

Chicago alt-roots band Palliard have a new EP out. It's called Palliard At The Roger Brown House. In a nutshell the story behind the EP is that the band was allowed to record at the architecturally-significant, George Veranda designed Roger Brown house in Michigan for three days last fall courtesy of the present owners — School Of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The band recorded the songs on the EP in the high ceilinged steel and glass surrounded living room of the house. The sound is stripped down, slightly experimental, recorded-in-one-take-with-no-overdubs roots music. Palliard is celebrating its release this Saturday night at Schubas.

Download the lead-off track, "Oscilloscope", below or get the whole thing for free as a .zip file at the band's website here.

[mp3]: Palliard - "Oscilloscope"

Craig Bonnell

Album Mon Jul 09 2007

Let's Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop

Let's Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop is a band that could only be formed in Chicago - the land of a million terrible sandwich shops. Do you guys even have any idea of the sandwiches they have on the East Coast? Every New England hamlet has their own independent sandwich shop that will prepare for you the most excellent Italian deli sub you could possibly imagine. You'd like something hot you say? How about a steak and cheese with mozzerrela? Ohh...I'm literally drooling. Don't even get me started on East Coast pizza!

Oh and btw Let's Get Out Out This Terrible Sandwich Shop has a new ep coming out shortly. I'm guessing this new song will be on it. They're goofballs who record for Roydale and also take part in various improv groups. For fans of They Might Be Giants, Ed's Redeeming Qualities and Ween. Catch the silliness on July 11 at the Empty Bottle.

[mp3]: Let's Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop - "Henry And The Horse"

Craig Bonnell

Artist Sun Jun 10 2007

Rivers Known & Oceans Crossed

This week sees a pair of events celebrating the release of the new album from two Chicago jazz titans, tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and percussionist Hamid Drake. Entitled From The River To The Ocean, the album was recorded by John McEntire at Soma Studios and it's a full-ensemble affair that features outstanding accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist Harrison Bankhead of 8 Bold Souls affiliation, bassist Joshua Abrams, and AACM guitarist Jeff Parker (of Tortoise, Chicago Underground Quartet, et al.) who steps in for three of the album's five tracks. Tuesday night, the full ensemble will be playing at an RSVP event at the headquarters of Stop Smiling magazine. The performance will be hosted by local author, curator, and musician John Corbett, who'll be conducting a public q&a with the band throughout the set. And on Wednesday night, the band will playing a regular evening set at Anderson's Velvet Lounge.

Continue reading this entry »

Graham Sanford

Album Fri Jun 08 2007

Lots O' Good News From "Indie Folk Liberators" Ezra Furman and The Harpoons

Ezra Furman and The Harpoons have just released the first song from their Minty Fresh debut as well as announcing their national summer tour. The tour starts out in Chicago with a solo show at Schubas on June 19 (playing with Ben Weaver and Romantica), and then the band will join Ezra for the remainder of the dates. Ezra's debut with Minty Fresh, Bang Down the Doors, was produced by none other than Brian Deck and will no doubt be the jittery, indiefolk soundtrack to this summer's fun.

[mp3]: Ezra Furman and The Harpoons "My Soul Has Escaped From My Body"

[mp3]: Ezra Furman "I Love You So Damn Much" (solo demo)

[mp3]: Ezra Furman and The Harpoons "I Wanna Be Ignored" (demo, .zip file)

Craig Bonnell

Album Fri May 25 2007

Brighton Ma - Record Release Party

I've been listening to the Brighton Ma song "Bet You Never Thought" for what seems like a year or more. At first I wasn't completely won over but I've come around. Brighton Ma is the band that formed when Scotland Yard Gospel Choir split in two. I don't know any of the politics behind that move, but it seems like everyone is still friends since the guys from Brighton Ma readily admit that the asssociation with SYGC opened many doors for the new band.

With the emotionally charged rock of The National getting much acclaim and endless blog love, it would seem that the time is right for the music of Brighton, Ma. Music that stradles the line between emo and shoegaze, landing somewhere between indie rock and cabaret folk.

Brighton Ma is having it's record release party June 8 at Subteranean. The new self titled debut record is available here.

[mp3]: Bet You Never Thought

Craig Bonnell

Album Thu May 24 2007

Folksongs of Illinois Vol.1

The Illinois Humanities Council, in association with University of Illinois Press, is getting into the music business with a three cd compilation celebrating the folk music tradition of Illinois. The cds will be distributed for free to the state's 3000 school libraries. There are also plans for a free curriculum for teachers.

Volume 1 of the compilation features songs recorded as far back as the twenties up to modern day folk song covers by the likes of Jon Langford and Janet Bean. Since I'm a big fan of Bean's work with Eleventh Dream Day, I chose her cover of the historical folk song "The Hanging of Charlie Birger" for you to sample. On Friday, June 1 there's a record release party at Martyr's from 6-8pm with perfomances by many of the artists on the cds including the two mentioned above. Tickets are free, as is the food, but you'll need to register online for tickets to the event. Buy the cd or register for tickets here.

[mp3]: The Hanging of Charlie Birger (This is a .mov file that you can open in a new window or save as and convert to an mp3 in iTunes if you were so inclined.)

Craig Bonnell

Album Mon May 14 2007

*insert Finding Forever pun here*

Sure, Kanye's the bigger name (odd how that works), but Common's album release date is closer, and details are the kinds of things fans fawn over. Will this album be a throwback to the One Day It'll All Make Sense or he more alternative Electric Circus?

There is a rip from the radio of a track previously not heard. There's a video interview with Com. Soon, I suspect the T-shirt and promo singles.

It's not the most anticipated album of the summer in some circles, but it is, as they say, an effort from Chi-town's finest, and I don't think this will be the last post on the topic.

Troy Hunter

Album Wed May 02 2007

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

Chicago's favorite Belle and Sebastian emulators, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, have a new 7" ep out now on Microindie Records. The song "In Hospital" conjures up early B&S with it's lush, romantic sound and floating, reverb-drenched, female vocals. Ironically this is the very sound that B&S has abandoned on their most recent release The Life Pursuit. It's nice to have it back and I'm sure there are lots of indie pop fans out there clamoring for it. "In Hospital" is also streaming on their Myspace page. Buy the limited edition (250 copies) pink vinyl 7" here.

Craig Bonnell

Album Mon Apr 23 2007

Bill Callahan, Woke on a Whaleheart

Current Texas resident Bill Callahan has been releasing lo-fi Americana under the moniker Smog for going on 18 years through local label Drag City, and developed quite a following doing it too. But with Woke on a Whaleheart, out this Tuesday, Callhan has chosen a different moniker: his own. No doubt it's freeing, in some sense, to finally name yourself as the originator of your art, though of course greater transparency does offer greater exposure to criticism. Callahan, however, is no stranger to self-criticism and doubt and Woke on a Whaleheart pulls no punches, staying true to the earnest, pointed stories he has recorded for years.

Continue reading this entry »

Brandon Forbes

Album Wed Apr 18 2007

Eclectic New CD From James Falzone and Allos Musica

I have nothing intelligent to say about the music of James Falzone and Allos Musica. I don't have the proper vocabulary to describe the music that crosses genre boundaries as often and as easily as the songs on this groups new disc The Sign And The Thing Signified. But songs that can be classified as improvised jazz, classical, folk and modern/experimental and at the same time that have the accessibility of similar music by the likes John Zorn, Don Byron and The lounge Lizards has got to be good.

James Falzone, on clarinet, is the leader of this group. James is a Chicagoan through and through, and besides playing music in a number of other groups he is also a teacher (North Central College), a music director (Grace Chicago Church) and a lecturer. The other talented musicians on this new disc include; Katherine Young on bassoon, Amy Climini on viola, Kevin davis on cello, Brian Dibblee on double bass, and Tim Mulvenna on drums. You can buy this April 17th release now through CDBaby.

[mp3]: Ten Months
[mp3]: Three Strands Broken

Craig Bonnell

Album Mon Apr 09 2007

Roots Control

It's to no small degree of anticipation that Chicago's The Jai-Alai Savant released its debut LP, Flight of the Bass Delegate, this past week. Equally due to the take-notice served with prior EP Thunderstatement and to frontman Ralph Darden's sidework as DJ Major Taylor, the band has netted a fair amount of attention, both here and elsewhere. And here's to making a grand entrance.

By way of an opener, Jai-Alai get things rolling in a dark and heavy mode with "Datamassagana" — a tune that plays off both the title and primary melodic riff from The Abyssinians' classic Trench Town devotional, "Satta Massa Gana." The track's swollen, plaintive horn chorus sets a haunting, ominous tone for what’s to follow, its skulking bassline connoting dread in both senses of the word. No sooner does it fade, then the band strips gears by launching into a whiplash-inducing trio of tunes of punk-pedigreed pop. This back-and-forth manner of navigating between styles — from rock to dub and then back again — plows a twisting path, lending the album a varied sense of balance and pacing.

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Graham Sanford

Album Thu Mar 29 2007

Brian Deck In The House - Debut Record From Boddicker

Besides being known as a great live music city, both with it's festivals and world class venues, Chicago is gaining recognition for it's incredible recording facilities and the people who staff them. If you've spent any time reading press releases searching for the next big thing in music (like I have), then you've probably stumbled upon the name Brian Deck. Brian Deck is one of three owners and a chief engineer/producer at Bucktown's Engine Music Studios. He's best known as an early producer for Modest Mouse, but has also worked with Califone and Iron & Wine. One of his upcoming projects is the debut record from a 20 year old prodigy from Mississippi known as Boddicker (aka Caleb Boddicker).

On Boddicker's upcoming debut record, Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man, Brian Deck produced, played drums and percussion, and held court at the three week recording session for a CD that is neither here nor there. It meanders through genres but never stops long enough at any given one to become tiresome. You'll hear some freak folk, some Mercury Rev-like psychedelia, and even some of the lofi noisiness of Broken Social Scene. The song "When I Go Out" has all that and more, it's pretty challenging stuff. Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man comes out April 24th on San Diego's Banter Records.

[mp3]: When I Go Out - Boddicker

Craig Bonnell

Album Thu Mar 22 2007

120 Days'...120 Days

The great things about rock-tronica bands from Norway is that they're f-ing Rock-tronica bands from Norway. They've got guitar drones, keyboard drones, Casio beeps, Kraftwerk and Neu! homages and some seriously heavy headbobbing potential. This is the kind of music that makes you into a spectacle on the train. You're that guy, getting a little bit too excited with the hair tosses in the Red Line vestibule. But you know what? It's alright.

120 Days' self-titled album has been around for a bit now, and if you're lucky, you've picked it up, and not just for the sexy sexy retro '80s hairstyles of the four band members Jonas Dahl, Arne Kvalvik, Kjetil Ovesen and Ådne Meisfjord. The songs are sieved out of cold, dark, long Oslo nights — ones we could probably relate to pretty easily here in dreary Chicago — but don't despair! You can sing along (yup, in English, thanks Norway for making it easy on us) "keep on smiling" in the song of the same title while you do that cute kick-step dance Molly Ringwald perfected in The Breakfast Club (at least, that's my first pick). Or you can get your serious dance on during the seriously adrenaline-raising 8-minute track "C-Musik" with lines that make you think you're going to need some days in rehab later just for getting that high. In "Sleepwalking": "I can dance this night away / Take me somewhere else and make me feel ok." Indeed.

This is music just perfect for raising yourself out of the dead of winter. It's officially spring — put on some shoes, put this on the 'pod and get out the door.

You can pick 120 Days up all around town at your LRS of choice, or from VICE Records.

Anne Holub

Album Mon Feb 26 2007

Rauhouse of Pain

For those lucky enough to have gotten tickets to see lovely siren Neko Case on Friday, March 30, you're in for more than just her nightingale song. Opening act Jon Rauhouse, who has toured with Case before as well as recorded with her and other Bloodshot Records notables such as Calexico, Kelly Hogan, and the Waco Brothers, will bring his sweltering steel guitar instrumental style to the Park West stage. For those locked out of seeing his live gig, Bloodshot will proffer his third full-length for your home stereo on March 13th. Entitled Steel Guitar Heart Attack, 5 tracks of the 18 track collection contain a first for Rauhouse's oeuvre: vocal accompaniment. Including guest spots from Kelly Hogan and Neko Case, the songs chart a new progression for Rauhouse's Hawaiian-inflected melodies, who closes the record himself with a vocal performance covering "The Fishing Song," also known as the theme from The Andy Griffith Show. No, I didn't know it had any lyrics either - unless you count whistling - but evidently, it does. The record is also a personal triumph for Rauhouse, who underwent extensive medical treatment for heart blockages and an ominously-named condition called a Widowmakers Lesion before finishing it. Check out a track from the forthcoming LP below, and for those who got tickets to the March 30th show with Neko and Jon I say this: "I want to be you."

[mp3]: Ballad of the Black Chihuahua

Brandon Forbes

Concert Wed Feb 21 2007

Local Band Still Doing OK

Umphrey's Mcgee, local prog-jam rockers, take off tonight on an extensive tour in support of their soon to be released double disc of B-Sides entitled The Bottom Half. The tour begins in Fort Lauderdale, FL and stretchs for nearly two months ending with an appearance in the city at the Green Apple Music Festival. As the band swings back through the Midwest in the middle of the tour members of the group have some very interesting gigs apart from the band. On Thursday March 8 drummer Kris Myers will play with Glenn Kotche, Rich Stitzel, and the Elmhurst Percussion Ensemble at Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel at Elmhurst College. Guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger will play as a duet at the Chicago History Museum the following night. (Cinninger is one of the most unheralded guitarist in all of music, if you've yet to get a listen, this intimate venue is a perfect spot) Look for The Bottom Half in stores on April 3.

Brent Kado

Album Wed Feb 07 2007

Dolly Varden's back (Undertow Music, April 17)

You would have had to been hiding your head in the sand for the past decade or so not to have bumped into the Chicago band Dolly Varden. Somehow that sentence above describes me. Luckily, I was introduced to their music through leader Steve Dawson's excellent solo disc Sweet Is The Anchor and now Undertow Music is about ready to introduce a whole new generation of fans to this Chicago group.

The song "Everything" is the hook-laden rave up off of the upcoming record The Panic Bell. It's a fine example of the heartland rock meets British invasion sound of the band. Pre-order this April release here.
The band's record release show is March 9 at Martyr's.

P.S. Download "Love Is A Blessing" from Sweet Is The Anchor and put it away until February 14, then spring it on the one you me.

[mp3]: Everything Dolly Varden
[mp3]: Love Is A Blessing Steve Dawson

Craig Bonnell

Album Sun Jan 21 2007

Wincing the Night Away

The title of the new Shins album, Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop Records)—to release on January 23, 2007—is a reference to lead singer James Mercer's "crippling insomnia." Nothing could better describe who the Shins are in 2007. They’ve spent two years struggling over this album—supposedly Mercer's insomnia stems from his drive for perfection and insecurity, which keeps him up late at night, agonizing over his work.

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Marla Seidell

Album Wed Nov 15 2006

Cold Refuge: Review of Citystream by Arctic Hospital

A self-taught techno producer by age 14, Eric Bray is also known as Arctic Hospital, a pseudonym that reflects his origins. He grew up in Green Bay, WI, where subzero winters and a bland cultural environment left him with few options other than honing his DIY music talent. Locked away in his room, he created techno tracks without much knowledge of the genre, which may explain the originality of sound in Citystream (Narita Records, 2006), Bray’s first full-length album.

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Marla Seidell

Album Thu Nov 09 2006

Much More Mucca Pazza

Brace yourselves, circus punk marching band lovers, 'cause local favorites Mucca Pazza have finally cut a record. If you've never heard them before, think about what it would be like if your old high school marching band got drunk and wrote some songs like a sultry tango crossed with a drum-core jam crossed with some serious funky stuff (take a listen). To celebrate the release of their brand-spankin' new EP they've planned a World Tour, beginning with Madison, Grinnell and St. Paul (well, it's a start, anyway). They'll kick it off with their hometown homies at Martyrs' Saturday, November 11th at 10pm along with the newly solo Thin Man and The Pussy Pirates.

Anne Holub

Album Fri Oct 20 2006


Q: How can you, Matador Records, get your average Pavement fan to cough up the cash for the deluxe reissue of Wowee Zowee, the album that is, at best, their second-favorite Pavement album? A: With an incredibly convoluted value-added scheme! Here's how it works: go to Reckless Records, hand over $5 in cash and your e-mail address. Within a few days, Matador will e-mail you directions on how to download a .zip file containing Pavement's April 24, 1994 concert. By the time you're done listening to that (should be on or around November 7), head down to Reckless and pick up a copy of the album, a 7", and a folded poster. That should keep you busy.

Nathaniel Grotte

Album Thu Aug 10 2006

Just Another Tequila Sunrise, and another, and another

The Tribune has a blurb today about the RIAA releasing a list of the top selling albums of all time. No.1 is the Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 with 29 million copies, but Gary,IN native Michael Jackson is number two with Thriller at 27 million copies. Pearl Jam, which includes Chicagoan Eddie Vedder, makes the list, as does Chicago the band.

[Author name lost in database explosion]

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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