ISSUE #44 / JANUARY 24, 2019
With plenty of off-kilter guitar licks and and straight up pounding drums comes the new record by Chicago’s Great Deceivers. The local quartet’s third full-length jumps from the speakers as they power through twelve tracks of cohesive indie rock. They’ve adhered to their sound for sure, as the record flows from tune to tune without any “skippable” tracks. It’s 40 minutes of compelling, easily-consumable indie rock that isn’t afraid to go for the throat to prove it’s point. Founding members Max Green (guitar and Ben Rudolph (bass) rough harmonize at times with Russell Harrison (vocals/guitar) carrying the vocals to another level, while Seth Engel’s aforementioned bruise-inducing drumming drives these tunes forward with a momentum not found in every indie rock band. Do yourself a solid, and check out In Spirit. You should really buy it and help out a great local act!
They just had their album release last week at The Empty Bottle and don’t have any new shows planned, but hopefully this record should gain some traction and score ‘em some more gigs. Keep an ear out!
Sharon Van Etten
Remind Me Tomorrow
Sharon Van Etten’s fifth album hit me not unlike True Detective’s fourth episode from the first season. Her previous works over the past decade were slow-burning records, quietly building on subdued instrumentals and crackling with introspective lyrical crescendos, forcing the listener to contemplate the darker elements of our world. Then, in my TV tangent, the raid episode happened... A 6-minute tracking shot that glues you to the couch with weighty visuals and moral judgments crashing down with fervor constructed in gestated anticipation. Such shots weren’t previously used by the creators of the show, and the tension formulated by this technique was radically new. Tracking shots are certainly not new to the medium itself, and are uncomfortable when performed by less delicate hands, but this one only added to the rich history created by Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga.
On Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten ditches the guitar in favor of synthesizers and drum machines and ratchets the sound to ‘bursting.” It’s not unusual for rock musicians to succumb to the allure of electronics, but it doesn’t always work out for the best. Sometimes, a poorly-timed EDM record can undo all the good faith the artist had earned. Thankfully, Van Etten and producer John Congleton don’t miss. Grabbing hold from the first words of "I Told You Everything,” they twist and turn through a life more satisfying than we’ve heard described before. After having a child, trying her hand in a new career, and working through an education, Sharon Van Etten is ready to be content. Her old albums dealt with loss and longing, but somehow this album makes us feel more connected and moved by the singer’s life.
To be honest, the album is still unnerving to me. I’ve been so invested in the world Van Etten built for us, that it’s hard to accept I’m merely along for the ride, but when an artist takes a bold move such as this – you have to strap in and allow the tracking shot to run its course. And I’m excited for the upcoming episodes.
Only 12 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks:
“I Told You Everything “
Fun fact: I once proposed to Sharon Van Etten during a concert. Offer stands. Mrs. JCB said she can have our spare room.
Sharon and her band are playing Thalia Hall on February 14th and 15th. Tickets have been sold out for quite some time, but I think you should try and snag one second hand.
Toro Y Moi
Indie Electronic artist Toro y Moi’s Outer Peace is a soft yet inventive record with some electronic trap songs and funk electronic tunes, with lyrics that range from very abstract to serious. Toro y Moi’s 8th studio album delivers 30 minutes of a little bit of what audiences know him for - soft smooth electronic tracks with a little bit of uniqueness. The album’s first track, “Fading,” is a high pitched almost belted voice that pierces the ears as a smooth beat bumps in the back, a sweet love song about trying to stay with someone before the love fades away. “Ordinary Pleasure” gives us a funk beat with a repeating chorus, “maximize all the pleasure.” The off key synthesizer fits perfectly in this tune giving it the listener, well, maximum pleasure as they tune in while the repeating chorus goes off. The funk theme continues into track “Laws of the Universe.” He both sings and speaks in the track, giving a spoken word essence before he sings a verse of the song. The record contains a very interesting element of experimentation. It features electronic artist Instupendo, the band WET, and singer songwriter ABRA, allowing Toro to expand his electronic experimentations with other artists. On closing track “50-50,” Toro y Moi and Instupendo take up an electronic trap beat, mixed with auto tuned vocals. The album has a couple more trap tracks, like “Monte Carlo” and “New House,” which have the same style as a trap tune but not as loud and energetic as most in the genre. The record is a great listen, and a great way for Toro y Moi to release a bit of experimental creativity. The tracks range from very high energetic electronic to very smooth and tranquil, a great musical gradient an artist delivers to the fans.
Toro y Moi was at the Thalia Hall back in Nov. He is currently touring some parts of the US and will be in Europe. Hopefully he’ll be back for a festival this summer.
Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
After 18 years of experimentation and lovely dreamy indie pop comes Deerhunter’s most confrontational and questioning album yet. Bradford Cox and company have outdone themselves with their seventh and, arguably, best record to date. A gorgeous rolling tapestry that encases the world in their ethereal synth-heavy sounds. The too-short record leaves us wanting more but feels entirely complete, layering our societal foibles and decemations into catchy pop choruses as thought-provoking as rock can get. From the densely provocative “What Happens to People?” to “No One’s Sleeping,” with its sweeping breezy pop verses that belie the disturbing images Cox paints, and the rough distorted strings that take the song to another level, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? takes the lost thoughts and instant messaging hellscape of the last several years and boils it down to pop rock majesty.
Chicago has two chances to catch Deerhunter in a couple weeks. They are playing Pitchfork’s Midwinter Fest at the Art Institute on February 16th, base tix are available, but their side show tix are sold out as is their Lincoln Hall show on February 17th. We’re sure they’ll be back around come summer.
The Flesh Eaters
I Used To Be Pretty
It’s definitely a trend as of late for long-toothed bands to re-record and release new versions of crowd favorites with their “classic” line-up... Most notable of these in recent memory was Live from the Astroturf released last October by Alice Cooper, featuring a reunion of Michael Bruce on guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass, Neal Smith on drums, lead by the ageless Vincent Damon Furnier in the eponymous role of singer Alice Cooper. There isn’t a pithy name for this style of reunion record yet (although “class reunion” record has a good ring to it), but it’s safe bet that we will be seeing plenty more in the future. What I don’t think is as sure of a gamble, is that the trend will produce another album as unique as I Used to Be Pretty by the Flesh Eaters.
If you weren’t a punk in LA during the ‘80s, you’d be forgiven for not being familiar with the Flesh Eaters. Obscurity has dogged them since their inception, without clear explanation, despite being the focal point for many of the biggest bands to come out of that era. Comprised of vocalist Chris Desjardin (performing as Chris D.,) and a revolving carnival of musicians he has schooled in his warped vision of Americana, The Flesh Eaters are a glib reincarnation of rockabilly and dark folk that combined the rusty, backwoods stir of Hasil Atkins with the bright fluorescent gloom of early ‘80s post-punk and death rock. I Used to be Pretty raises from the grave the Flesh Eaters line-up that recorded the seminal 1981 album, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die. Reuniting for these sessions are John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of X on bass and percussion, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of The Blasters on guitar and drums, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos on sax. The powers of this supergroup are further enhanced by the addition of Julie Christensen, ex-spouse and former bandmate of Chris D. in Divine Horsemen.
The 40-ish intervening years since this line-up recorded together have not managed to sand down any of their rough edges. Far from complacent, the band sounds more ragged, weathered, and suited to the material in some cases than in their heyday. Chris D. has always projected the aura of an old soul, and now that he actually is one, he wears his dark country affect as if it was sewn on like a second skin. “Black Temptation” set the mood for the album with great burning guitar grooves, mournful melodies, and a sax accompaniment that catches the ear like a hawk snagging a rabbit off a hot patch of desert highway. Meanwhile, “My Life to Live” is a glorious roadhouse march, “Miss Muerte” revels in a death-wooing, southwestern tango, “Cinderella” surges and purrs like a Cadillac revving up for a street race, and the album winds down with a satisfying cover of the Gun Club’s “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” and the desolate countrified fever-dream “Grave Case Lament.” Age may rob us of beauty, but what it leaves behind is everything needed to mount a killer comeback album. Viva la Flesh Eaters!
If you want help the dark flame of the Flesh Eaters stay alive for another decade or so, consider purchasing I Used to Be Pretty through bandcamp. It’s only $9!
If you want to catch these ghouls in action, they’ll be playing at Lincoln Hall on March 10. Advance tickets are $25, and jump to $30 day of. Doors open at 8pm.
Swaddling us in its sweeping, grand, indie-pop power comes the sophomore full-length from life partners and Nashville duo Christina Cone and Andrew Doherty. It’s a record full of “emotional bravery” (their term) that comes off as honest and heartfelt as music can be. Moving power ballads, joyful remenicinces cloaked in metaphor, and quiet contemplations behind uplifting pop choruses all make their appearances, and each one hits in just the right way. Opener “Wide Awake” lifts the expectations and the rest of the record holds up the same excellent standards. Cone’s vocal performance is packed with lovely moments, and as she hits the high notes in ballad “Easy Love,” it’s a wonder our hearts didn’t split open on cue. Late Riser is sure to get a ton of well-deserved attention.
They played Lincoln Hall back in October and are currently not on tour.
All For Money
Big Blue Zoo
Never before have these bluegrass innovators hailing from Kalamazoo, MI been able to capture their live sound on record like they have with this one. The swirling jams, soul-stirring lyricism, and insane experimentation that comes from years and countless hours playing and touring together is all on display in All For Money. They’ve stripped the production of the last several records, and what remains is the pure sound that continues to capture the hearts of many, making them a household name in the jam community. At times, it’s unbelievable what they can do with five acoustic instruments, not only pushing the bounds of bluegrass music, but music itself. Look no further than the nine-minute epic “Courage for the Road,” and you’ll begin to understand the overwhelming appeal of these five musicians in utter unity as they feed and react to each other. If you don’t like bluegrass music or are unfamiliar, give Greensky Bluegrass a listen. They’ll probably change your mind!
They just did a four-night run at The Riv for NYE, but as consummate tourers, they’ll undoubtedly return soon.
It’s truly impressive how far of a reach James Blake’s popularity has sustained over the years. 7 years ago, his jittery dubstep beats, surrounded by a grim atmosphere and permeated by a mumbling Brit’s stark piano ballads, took the indie and pop world by storm. From covering the Feist song “Limit to Your Love,” to being featured on Kanye West tracks, James Blake was impossible to ignore for the first few years of his career. For the most part, Blake ditches the atmospheric elements on his latest album, Assume Form, and, instead, opts to produce a relatively straightforward pop album. Sure, the minimalism that made him famous is still there, but, given the sheer amount of work he’s done with artists at the top of their respective games, it was only a matter of time before his forlorn persona was shed. And, if you’re a newcomer to Blake’s music; no, these aren’t his sad songs. But it’s hard to make convincing sad songs when you’re currently living a life too charmed for most of us to imagine.
Travis Scott shows up relatively early on the album as the first feature, and is followed by other heavy hitters such as Andre 3000, Moses Sumney, and Rosalia. They all deftly fit into their roles as supplementary elements to Blake’s croon. It’s all too easy to load songs with billable guest stars and end up with an overblown mess; but, on this romantic album, they each clearly serve a purpose. “I’ll Come Too” is about following your paramour wherever she takes you, even if it’s to the end of your mental rope. “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” might have a somber soundscape, but it’s a letter to a woman that changed this stiff Brit into a super-cool, West Coast socialite. I think that this same track also encapsulates from where Blake came and to where he’s going. His brand of dub has always been rooted in American soul, and “…Flow” is almost bursting at the seams with Metro Boomin’s on-the-nose flipping of Blake’s own aping of the genre.
Only 11 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks:
Barefoot In The Park
Can’t Believe The Way We Flow
Postscript: Marriage is really turning me into a right old sap. I used to like my lone crooners miserable and drunk (just like me), but when a mopey night-owl like Blake finds love, it hits that same spot. Do I have to watch This Is Us now?
James Blake is playing The Riv on March 2nd and 3rd. Tickets here.
Pedro The Lion
“Sunrise” opens the album with keyboarding that could have been an opening scene to a movie. A guitar riff guides David Bazan’s voice into the second track as he tells a nostalgic story of his yellow bike and about how he came to decide to change course as an artist - he would no longer pursue solo tours, and begin sharing with band mates the freedom a life on the road. Pedro the Lion is no stranger to using beautiful metaphors is their lyrical narratives as well as great indie-rock melodies in support. The album lends a lot of insight to the lead singer’s life. From growing up with a religious family to moving around, David Bazan has a lot to say in this 13-track album. In songs such as “Powerful Taboo” and “Piano Bench,” David recollects his Christian upbringing, going to church, and being with his parents while his father played the piano and his mother sang. Hearing this album, we understand and notice his musical parents great religious influences the subtle tone in his songs. Phoenix is a showing of Bazan’s past tales and present vulnerability combined into one album. From admitting to bullying a fellow classmate to spending his and his sister’s hard-earned money at the Circle K, Pedro the Lion has an amazing combination of storytelling and melodies to match the tone of each track.
Dome of Doom
Written and recorded over a six-year period, Fantastic Planet is the debut album from electronic artist, Lealani. It is a living profile of the now 19-year-old sound-sculptor discovering and refining her voice as an artist. Lealani doesn’t describe it that way of course. She describes it as the process of “finding out that [she is] an alien.” Frankly, I think she said it best. Fantastic Planet bears little resemblance to the 1973 film of the same name, but bears an extreme likeness to the hopeful struggle against the crushing malaise that characterizes contemporary life under late capitalism. Lealani throws down a thick mat of blubbery bass and bubble-busting beats on which to wrestle secretive synths and reluctant electronics to their knees in order to extract confessions of perverse pleasures and disturbing desires. The care with which these mixes where crafted is apparent from their leanness and lack of extraneous details. These songs aren’t minimalist as much as they are economical, with enough instrumentation to establish a groove to ride and adequate texture so you can get a grip on that groove. When you’re listening to Fantastic Planet, it’s just you and Lealani and her thoughts, with nothing in-between to run interference. It can be harrowing at times, but fortune favors the bold. “Lonely Stars” basks in the after-burn of backfiring drum-machines and Lealani’s mossy, circuitous vocal delivery, “Broken” is a cool clattering invocation accompanied by tinny polyrhythms, “Slip Slaughtered” soundtracks banal, and surprisingly charming, descriptions of mutilation with the whirling machinations of a Martian pinball game, and “Seas of Mars” is a tall glass of glistening dream-pop lemonade that slacks your thirst and warms your soul with each sip. Put simply, this is a fantastic journey to a far-off and wonderful planet, the map to which only Lealani can read. (But don’t worry- She’ll let you ride shotgun in her starship.)
It would be fantastic if you supported Lealani by purchasing Fantastic Planet through bandcamp.
Sadly, Lealani has no plans to visit planet Chicago in the near future.
Few ‘90s indie-rock crooners have weathered middle age as well as Juliana Hatfield. With a steady string of albums throughout her 27-year solo career and countless tours, she’s amassed a loyal fan base who no doubt are loving the return to her fuzzy guitar roots after last years Olivia Newton John covers record. A fixture of the alternative explosion of the decade that spawned grunge and mainstreamed hip hop, Hatfield is one of the few artists that never stopped putting out quality rock and roll. Weird finds her at odds with her reclusive nature. “Lost Ship” finds her ruminating on sitting alone at home with the lights off, hiding from the world (check out the killer video). Opener “Staying In” has her torn between what she wants and what is expected. While rocker “Do It to Music” celebrates everything you can do while rocking out, including (well, just use your imagination, you’ll get there,) Hatfield never lost her edge ,and it’s on full display for us all to love, even if she’s not sure she want us to.
Currently only booked for a short UK tour in May: We’re hoping Hatfield just hasn’t booked her summer shows yet.
The Twilight Sad
IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME
With the departure of founding member Mark Devine, it was a toss up whether these post-punk Scots could keep it going, but James Graham and Andy MacFarlane pulled in long-time touring mates to make a quartet and flush out their already heady gothy pop sound. The result is this long-awaited seventh record (four years is a long time between albums in our era) that unpacks a symphonic aura that was always there while keeping true to the emotive spirit that made them critical darlings. IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME takes its time to grow, but by middle track “I/m Not Here [missing face],” it finds its stride and the synth explosions hit home to create a driving atmospheric release that is a great antidote for January cabin fever. Just throw this one on, and dance around your house in your skivvies to the rhythmic pulses and dour Scottish longing!
They are coming to Sleeping Village on May 18th! Tix are on sale for only $20!
Buke & Gase
Few people learn to play instruments. Even fewer learn to write songs in their own voice. Fewer yet invent their own instruments. Basically, no one invents their own style of pop music for which they devise their own instruments to write and perform. And no one who does all of these things could possibly be humble about it, and yet here we are. With another album from the understated mavericks Buke and Gase in our laps, impossible is just a synonym for improbable.
Scholars is the third LP from Brooklyn experimental pop duo, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez (no relation). The band is named for the instruments with which they use to perform. For clarity's sake, these instruments are a bass ukulele (Buke) and guitar-bass hybrid (Gase [formerly Gass]), both inventions of Dyer and Sanchez’s resourceful minds. The original orchestra is joined on this album by a new instrument known as “the Arx." A device that can trigger percussion, alter vocals, and modify the effects on other instruments with the press of a few arcade game buttons. Think Author & Punisher, but more Absent-Minded Professor, and less Mad Max. Even with a new addition to the music family, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that these tracks are somewhat streamlined, avoiding the breathy, full-body-quiver that characterized the ruthlessly fresh material presented on 2013’s General Dome and 2010’s Riposte.
The band is clearly reworking their sound to fill the air in larger theaters, but this lofty ambition is weighed down by a slothful comfort with pop troupes they’ve embraced in the build-up. A thick layer of up-scale, New York art-pop afterbirth disconcertingly cleaves apart these mixes. It’s reminiscent of the banal self-satisfied air of late-period David Byrne, and the padded no-wavy new wave of St.Vincent post-Strange Mercy, neither of which is a good look for a scrappy pair of DIY gurus who seemed several flights above such shtick just six years ago.
Scholars isn’t a bad album by any stretch. It just doesn’t quite reach the same emotive and innovative heights as its predecessors. The band still hits its esoteric stride with the title-track which has a climbing, stair-master simulating bass line that is given extra lift through hard fluttering, boxer tempered percussion, and “Grips” with its gusty stomp and melodies that slowly snake up the walls like smoke from a hundred stale, lit cigarettes, recalling the incessant cling of sleeper hits like “Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Bread” of General Dome. Other highlights like “Flock” come at you sideways with remixed samples of urban life and a street-wisened energy that taps into the future-brain of a middle-aged Merrill Garbus. As refreshing as cuts like these are, I find myself wishing the band would have followed interlude tracks like the affected “Temporary”, the shutter scraping “Qi Ball” and hungry hum of “Ranger” a little farther down their respective rabbit holes, and allowed the ethos of these tracks to spread a little wider over the album on the whole. I like to think of these snippets as examples of the band’s adventurous prowess and glimpses of what they can accomplish when they dig deep enough. Are these little tasty morsels actually appetizers for a meal that will be served on future releases? I guess we’ll find out in 2025.
Buke and Gase currently have a spring tour planned for Europe and parts of the east coast, but sadly, no dates in the Midwest as of yet.
Talk Too Much
This indie quartet from Rio dropped their sophomore LP Talk Too Much almost one year to the date of their debut, Youth Culture. Both are contemplative indie-pop records that belie their Brazilian origins. Mainly driven by the sounds of modern indie-rock, the power of streaming services shows its influence as these four rockers gently flicker their South American roots. We’re sure we are just not versed in Brazilian indie-rock, and there are plenty of bands that fit this bill, but Carmen comes across as another example of stripped-down California indie rockers until you dig deeper and fall in love with the flamenco-flavored flourishes in “Give Up, I’m Not Into You,” or the minor key of “The Big Come Up.” A solid effort from start to finish,Talk Too Much is worth a listen for any indie-rock fan, no matter their origin.
It doesn’t look like they have any US tour dates anytime soon.
A Real Good Kid
Mike Posner has been through a lifetime of recent changes... He moved back to Detroit to be with his father while he succumbed to brain cancer, buried his friend and collaborator Avicii, started and ended the most serious relationship he’s had, wrote his second book of poetry, and recorded his most endearing and personal record yet; A Real Good Kid. The singer, songwriter, producer, and poet has always been insanely prolific, and now as he turns 30, he brings his talent as a storyteller to bear for the world. He begins the album with an introduction imploring the listener to only take this journey with him if they can devote the full 40-minute run time without “texting, without emailing, without outside distraction of any sort.” He asks if you can’t do this that you return when you can... It’s an unprecedented stunt and one that will probably garner criticism but only gets props from CCS for its bravery and honesty. We hope you “put in your 40 minutes” and give this emotive journey a chance.
As of now he has no tour plans.