ISSUE #45 / JANUARY 31, 2019
Stuffed & Ready
Cherry Glazerr fully entrenched themselves as indie darlings with 2017’s Apocalipstick. The following year they toured the world, played countless festivals, including a hot as hell Pitchfork set here in Chicago. As the high eclipsed and Clementine Creevy and company hunkered down to write a new album she realized she was done with tearing down the world and needed to turn inward and give of herself before she could comment on others again. So the six month process of writing and recording Stuffed & Ready began, and now they’re ready to share it with the world.
Now as a power trio (synth player Sasami Ashworth left the band to pursue her solo work) the layers of sound that made up Apocalipstick are stripped away and Creevy’s guitar and vocals are at the forefront. As she shows more of herself she in turn gives more. Opener “Ohio” has her crooning about shielding herself from the world and the desperation that comes from that isolation. While the pure anti-misogynistic sarcasm of “Daddi” features a verse of questions “How should I go Daddi? / where should I go? / is it ok with you?. . . ” that ends with her screaming “Don’t hold my hand!” over and over for the chorus. On “Stupid Fish” she questions society's need to know the entirety of it all and decides its ok for her to not have the answer to every question. Creevy recently said “I used to think adults knew better, but now I think adults are just better at pretending to know things. There’s nothing wrong with ‘I don’t know.’” And on first single and semi-love song “Juicy Socks” she rails at herself not to be nervous in the face of a real budding relationship.
After lashing out at the world, a good look inside is always healthy and Stuffed & Ready is just that moment: a mature record with a solid foundation and some damn catchy hooks. Will it make a similar splash as the last album? Probably not. But it will sure weed the crowd down to Creevy’s true fans, who appreciate a thoughtful and intelligent performer who shares her inner self. Most of us wear disguises everyday. It’s refreshing to find an artist who is attempting to strip away her masks.
Bottom Lounge is hosting them on February 23rd, with Palehound in support. Tix are $15.
Shiver by Me
Chicago has a long history of producing solid rock acts and AM Taxi have been counted among them for years. Shiver by Me is their first traditional record since their debut full length We Don’t Stand a Chance in 2010; although a couple EP’s and a mixtape, along with consistently playing out in the area and beyond, have kept the word of mouth going, it’s good to have them back with a very solid record that borders on the edges of radio, garage, and punk rock. This walking of the genre line makes for a compelling listen. With classic garage rock anthems like “Fighting In Cars” and “Shaken over You” at odds with more punk leaning lead single “Saint Jane” and “Swim Before You Sink (Short Time on Earth),” to the more radio friendly “Movie About Your Life,” each turn makes for a more well rounded and interesting record. Not to say their sound isn’t cohesive; frontman Adam Krier’s vocals ties it all together as his cadence is unmistakable, and Jay Marino’s power chords carry the same tones throughout the album, working to bring the whole record to another level. AM Taxi is a quality rock band that may be reaching a late peak with this quality effort.
AM Taxi is putting on a record release show next Friday, February 8th at Reggies. Tix are $13.
Better Oblivion Community Center
Better Oblivion Community Center
Right off of her supergroup pair up with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker as boygenius, indie folker Phoebe Bridgers teams up with legend of the genre Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk and beyond) for Better Oblivion Community Center. A thoughtful and captivating debut from the project hit streaming services last Thursday, and days later they announced a world tour and dropped a video from lead single “Dylan Thomas”, directed by Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast). The surprise project was rolled out with a telephone hotline and brochures purporting the opening of their “community center,” but all of it is overshadowed by the music eclipsing the loose concept. Bridgers and Oberst are perfect partners, each entrenched over their careers in giving a voice to the generational urgencies and doubts of their time, Bridgers representing the nearly universally maligned Millennials and Oberst the often forgotten Xennials. While fourteen years may separate them in age, a compassion for the forgotten and depressed connects them like a chain of emotion. The magic that these two create with this project brings their two styles, the thoughtful low key folk of Bridgers and Oberst’s genre spanning emotive creations, into a form that works for both without overshadowing each other. An experiment that paid off in a grand way.
Better Oblivion Community Center is coming to Lincoln Hall on March 23rd with local fav Lala Lala opening. It unfortunately sold out in presale within hours. They have a date open between that show and Cleveland so we wouldn’t put it past them to add a show. Be on the lookout!
Nowhere Now Here
On Mono’s tenth LP, Nowhere Now Here, the Japanese post-rockers explore the spiritual dimensions of chaos and order as they are encountered in the mundane experience broadly referred to as “life.” Ten albums in twenty years is a pretty good track record for a band, and it’s impressive that a group as old as the first installment of the Matrix Trilogy can still pry novel perspectives out of the hell of irony and cynicism that mires present-day living. While consisting of a core band of Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu on electric guitar, Tamaki Kunishi on bass, and Dahm Majuri on drums, their ranks have swelled in the intervening years to include a thirty-piece orchestra. The mostly instrumental-focused ensemble has transitioned through many phases in their cryptic career, but a doom metal group backed by fluttery orchestral movements was one plot of terrane they had not yet conquered. Until now that is.
Heaving up the oppressive atmosphere of restraint and purpose that imbued 2014’s Rays of Darkness with its distinctive sense of trepidation, and carrying it through the swell of cobwebs that was the Divine Comedy-inspired Requiem for Hell, brings us to a point where the sound of NNH is the only logical outcome. It’s dark, brooding, and contorted by the crush of enormous, sweeping guitar riffs, buttressed by tranquil, meditative columns of tight tremolo guitars, elegant string motifs, and warm synths. Not all of it works, but when it strikes the right balance, the transition between yin and yang is seamless and validating. The three highlights were the blackened doom tumult of the appropriately named “After You Comes the Flood,” the airy sunlight soak “Breathe” featuring a rare English vocal performance by Kunishi, and the gently escalating title track “Nowhere Now Here.” These three tracks more or less set the tone for the rest of the affair, and if you’re feeling them, then the rest of the album is worth a deeper dive and a good wallow.
NNH is a dense album with a lot to share, and it is difficult to metabolize all sixty minutes in a single sitting. However, if you are patient, what the album reveals is a beautiful reminder to us that sometimes it’s only in the dark that we can see the clearest, and only in the light that we feel the hardest tug of despair.
Mono will play the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago on June 15 with Emma Ruth Rundle and Dim.Tickets are $25 dollars. Doors open at 6pm.
FIDLAR / Mom+Pop
After releasing four singles over the last several months, punk band FIDLAR have finally debuted their 3rd album Almost Free. The 13-track record features the band’s personality with fun, energetic songs that truly show they have nothing to hold back. From songs that feel like they were inspired by acts such as Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit, like “Get Off My Rock,” where lead singer Elvis Kuehn is yelling with a hip hop/rock melody, to funny songs such as “Flake,” “Called you Twice,” and “Thought.Mouth,” it definitely seems like the band is not done having a good time. The album features more than just a typical punk rock band’s 3 chords of fury, FIDLAR brought electronic, hip hop, and hippy rock melodies into the studio, that brings a variety to the recording, something not a lot of punk rock bands usually do. FILDAR has started off the new year with a bang in both ears and a drink in both hands.
FIDLAR will be touring between North America, South America, and Europe. Hopefully we will see them in Chicago for a summer show or festival.
Built To Destroy
Arizona thrash metal bulldozer Incite is back with their fifth LP, Built to Destroy. A lot gets made of the band’s blood ties to Brazilian thrash and hardcore (and black metal and nu metal and you-name-it metal) pioneers Sepultura (frontman Richie Cavalera is Max Cavalera’s son) but this strain of thought, like so many branching tangents with their roots in conversations between fans, ultimately leads to a dead end. They play thrash- sure! They have a lot of hardcore punk influences- yup (fyi, Steve Evetts who worked with Dillinger Escape Plan and Hatebreed produced Built to Destroy)! But is this Sepultura? Nope. So why bring them up? Incite may not be the most exciting name in extreme metal, but they definitely hold the line in the face of detractors; and they keep faith in tight, dense, groove metal alive and in cage-fighting shape.
The lilting guitar feedback and hammer-impact drop grooves of title track “Built to Destroy” opens this can of whoop-ass with blunt, unyielding force. Most of the set pieces and staging for this album are introduced on this opening track, and if the album, on the whole, wants for anything, it is variety. That said, if you’re looking for something to rock out to, you can don’t need to look any further. The grooves on “Backbone” throb with hot temper and feverish melodic solos and “Resistance” is flush with elastic guitars that constrict concertedly to escalation the tension at just the right moments. The dessert demons get by with a little help from their friends on the stomping “Human Cancer” featuring the man-swallowing guest howl of Kirk Windstein (Crowbar) and the skin-peeling death-dive “Poisoned by Power” featuring the malicious backing-vocal gnash of Chris Barns (current-Six Feet Under, formerly- Cannibal Corpse). Incite aren’t breaking any land-speed records with Built to Destroy, but they’ll get you where you want to go just fine (provided you’re alright with pit-stop or two in hell along the way).
See the Incite destroy the Forge in Juliet with Soulfly and Katakylsm on February 14. General admission is $20. Doors open at 6:30pm.
After parting ways with his DIY aesthetic and signing to Merge in 2015 garage rock specialist Mike Krol could have softened his sound. nstead he went full on tilt and 2015 burner Turkey, and has followed it up with Power Chords: 33 minutes of balls to the wall fuzzy guitar and non stop driving beats. The Milwaukee born and Los Angeles based artist writes about what he calls “the real world,” based on his experiences and observations, such as the culture shock of moving to L.A. in “Nothing to Yell About” or the harsh break up tune “Left for Dead,” with a full on wall of distortion backing him up. There isn’t one clear guitar note here, all of it it shrouded in fuzz, including the vocal processing that leaves his singing sounding like its coming through a cardboard tube filled with insulation. It’s an effect that works as far as you’re willing to stick with it and Krol does, from anthemic opener “Power Chords” to the most delightfully unintelligible closer “The End.”
Krol is coming to The Empty Bottle on February 28th. Tix are $10. ($12 doors)
Tim Presley’s White Fence
I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk
Musical journeyman Tim Presley has never shied away from the weird, and he fully embraces it on new project I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk. Whether it was with the Nerve Agents, Darker My Love, or DRINKS, just to name a few of his projects over his twenty year plus career, his bands have always had an odd flavor that throw genre and norms out the window. No project has embraced this aesthetic more than his solo act White Fence. Taking cues from baroque pop and the oddest forms of sixties psych rock, White Fence has always sounded just to the left of normal, and I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk is no exception. With a soft approach and plenty of off kilter melodies, Presley leads us down the rabbit hole and into his own world of enchantment on the flip side of reality. More accessible than some previous White Fence recordings but odd enough to still fit easily in the acts aesthetic, the new record follows last years collab with rocker Ty Segall, and is a fitting start to the 2019 chapter in the career of a prolific and talented musician.
Speaking of Ty Segall and White Fence, they are headlining The Empty Bottle’s Music Frozen Dancing block party on Saturday February 23rd. Yes, it’s outside. Yes, it will be cold. Yes, that’s part of the fun. Go! It’s FREE! They are also playing The Empty Bottle on Friday February 22nd with locals Axis:Sova but that show is sold out.
The sophomore record from the L.A.-based synth-pop duo Pavo Pavo is a breath of fresh, California air as we all hunker down in our polar-vortex hideouts. Mystery Hour is one of those rare records that feels bright and airy on first listen but carries a darkness just the under the surface that Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg capture in just the right way. Telling the story of the two musicians’ ever changing relationship, the album was written as they were ending a six-year partnership. To say its a break up record is an understatement as they travel deep within their feelings together. Most break up albums are one-sided, but here you get both perspectives and the result is rather breathtaking. It takes some digging, but as the record unfolds, the two musicians comment on the other in subtle and engaging ways that make this a must listen.
They just played Lincoln Hall the Sunday before last as part of TNK Fest. In fact, we saw them, and you can find our write up in #44. It doesn’t look like they will be back before the summer.
Eva Moolchan, or Sneaks to you and I, has pulled a subtle coup on her third LP, Highway Hypnosis. The bare, minimalistic post-punk that defined her previous releases, 2017’s It’s a Myth and 2015’s Gymnastics has almost entirely evaporated, only to be condensed back into a fluid mixture of highly textured hip-hop and electro-punk. The snark is gone as well. If there were one word you could trace a line around in order to define the emotional quality of Sneaks previous work, that word would be “Detached.” This is no longer the case. The intimate execution and warm tones of “Money Don’t Grow on Trees,” “Cinnamon,” and similar cuts bridges the gap between artist and audience effortlessly, giving the impression that Moolchan is performing in the same space as you, but just outside of your field of vision. The harsh electronics and bomb-blast bass on “The Way It Goes” takes a deep drink of the dark water that pools in the well of old school trap and Memphis hardcore, dropping triplet bars into her typical mantra-like flow with fantastic results. This duskier, more grounded retooling of her sound is not only refreshing to the ears but an interesting call back to the grit of her DC punk roots. Bottling the spirit of that scene and siphoning its energy to keep the beat machines in her bedroom alive and popping, cuts like “Suck It Like a Whistle” resemble cooler moments from fellow DC native Santigold as well as the self-assured swagger of MIA and point a viable way forward for rock/rap hybrids of the future. Highway Hypnosis will put a spell on you. If this is the shape of punk to come, then I am standing ready to catch it with both arms.
Sneaks is coming to The Empty Bottle on Wednesday March 27th. Tix are $10. ($12 doors)
Take Up Space (Unplugged)
A live “storyteller-style” record from London’s self proclaimed “witch-punk” pioneers Dream Nails. Take Up Space (Unplugged) was recorded at Housman’s Bookshop (a radical bookstore that has been in operation since WWII) and finds the musicians playing and speaking about quite a few of their anti-establishment, anti-patriarchy punk tunes in a stripped down way. The result is intimate, fascinating, and hilarious. With most of the tunes, they give a brief explanation of the song or an answer to a question someone asked. “Cookies 4 U”—which they explain—is about “male feminist allies that think they are God’s gift to humanity, and actually they aren’t really doing anything,” and Deep Heat is “a hex on all the misogynist politicians.” There is so much more to unpack, but we think you should just go check this one out for yourself. (It’s only on bandcamp.) And buy the record to support this great band so they can make the trip over the pond and come play Chicago!
It doesn’t look like they have any plans to hit the U.S. anytime soon.
E is for Exbats
In the world of rock duos there are plenty of sibling acts, but Arizona’s The Exbats may be the only father/daughter duo around. Their third full-length E Is for Exbats is full of ‘70s bowery punk influences from The Ramones to The Dead Boys to Blondie and beyond. They have said in interviews that they “only write singles” which can leave to a disjointed record, but we disagree because E Is for Exbats flows right through the speakers and into our punk-loving souls, giving us the joy that can only come from the heart. The catchy hooks, and the at-times funny and others heartbreaking lyrics are a testament to the talented songwriting of drummer/vocalist Inez McClain and her guitarist/vocalist father Kenny. Their prolific, output and damn fun music belies Inez’s age (at nearly 20 she already has had her eye on the prize), and with her father in tow, is set to takeover the punk wold before she’s old enough to drink!
The Exbats are not currently on tour.
Parlophone / Hellcat
Matching the talents of Essex-born young punk Jordan Cardy (aka RAT BOY) and punk legend Tim Armstrong (Operation Ivy, Rancid, and The Transplants) may seem a no-brainer, but separated by 30 years of age and the Atlantic served its own challenges; however, they persevered to complete their first project together in INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN. An amalgamation of bay area punk, hip hop, dance hall, and reggae, RAT BOY’s music is the evolution of what artists like Armstrong and other musicians started in the ‘80s. With a punk swagger, Cardy rips through these 12 tracks on a mission to entertain and educate us in his lifestyle and thoughts. From the heavy punk influenced “I WANNA SKATE,” to the very Armstrong sounding “NO PEACE NO JUSTICE” (the only lyric performance the punk legend seemed to give here), to the very pop punk “SILVERLAKE,” it all fits together into a cohesive whole that feels far more California than London.
Say Anything / Dine Alone
The eighth and final record from Say Anything, the brainchild of Max Bemis: the man behind this emo punk scene favorite. It was announced last summer that this would be the project’s last release and is in essence a sequel to their ‘04 breakout Is a Real Boy. After battling bipolar disorder for years, which has led to erratic touring and recording, Bemis has decided to call it quits; Oliver Appropriate is a fitting conclusion to the emotive journey Say Anything has taken over the last fifteen years. With plenty of trops of the genre, (some he invented,) Bemis has studded his last record with a softer edge, with more acoustic tunes than much of their other material. Age and stress seem to have curved his anger even more inward, and while there are still plenty of screams and self-loathing to go around, there are points where you wonder if there was a pop musician inside Bemis this whole time as some catchy hooks shine through the gloom. We really hope he finds a way to make music again, but if he never does, Oliver Appropriate is a proper end to this chapter in the emo rock saga.
There will most likely never again be a Say Anything show. Damn that was an emo statement if there ever was one.
Weezer (Teal Album)
Weezer / Crush / Atlantic
My taste in music swings on a pendulum based on my personal life, which is a phenomenon that is probably more common than I realize. January has been kind of rough, and I can’t seem to find enjoyment in music other than Gary Numan records, a man who was once described as “great for ruining parties.” Thankfully, Weezer has the medicine for the winter blues - nostalgia. We’ve had a year of grooving to the cover of “Africa,” and we all thought that it was a nice lark. Personally, I didn’t find it to be out of place for the band as they’ve always seemed to have their finger on the pulse of internet fads.
This album’s release, however, was a complete surprise… at least to me. I knew they were planning to release the Black Album later this year, so what is this Teal business? A collection of B-sides released at the wrong time? A marketing ploy? A fan service? Probably all of the above.
Let’s get this out of the way as early as possible, in the third paragraph, Weezer does nothing new with any of these songs. This is the Gus Van Sant cover album, a beat by beat remake. Despite these non-changes, the album sounds wholly Weezer. My only theory here is that they are a band that has long been obsessed with what makes some songs soar the charts and others tank. So it’s not surprising to me that I have been jamming almost nonstop (sorry, Gary) to the front half of this album. The first 5 tracks are perfect, because they were already perfect to begin with. Prove me wrong.
Unfortunately, the back half starts to dive into songs that require a persona Weezer doesn’t understand. Cuomo will never be Ozzy or Michael, and I have no idea what they were thinking trying TLC’s classic “No Scrubs.” Weezer is good at one thing: being Weezer, an inoffensive band that plays by-the-numbers pop songs that wink at the rabid fanbase. If you can’t dig on that (and I would not fault you for it) or you have said “no more 80’s nostalgia!”, then move along.
Only 12 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Postscript: Weezer mashing up Happy Together with Green Day’s Longview was potentially my favorite moment of Riot Fest 2018.
Weezer hits St Louis and other Midwest neighbors in the spring, but no Chicago date. Get ready for another festival appearance.
It was only a matter of time until shoegaze got its time in the retro resurgence. People are starting to tire of the excess of the ‘80s, so we’re ready to get bummed out on moody ambience. I do fancy myself to be an ‘80s boy, but ‘90s music was all about two genres to me – britpop and shoegaze. While never the most popular shoegazers during the genre’s heyday, Swervedriver was certainly up there in terms of most interesting. On the second project of their re-formation, they offer up a record that owes as much to their early days as to their journey to get to this album. Ripe with layer upon layer of guitars fuzzed more than Chewbacca after sticking a fork in an outlet, and singer Adam Franklin’s unique vocals which have the uncanny ability to foster sing-a-longs to nihilistic and apocalyptic lyrics, Future Ruins gives this listener a feeling akin to trying on a favorite sweater remade in a new factory. The underlying pop of Swervedriver’s youthful output is still heavily featured on the album, but the darker lyrical content (the album art alone is a fucking bummer) calls for a harder sound that’s very new. Similar to bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swervedriver pushes forward with non-pedal effects, spoken word, bells, and things I can only describe as “clanks.”
In a word, there’s more dissonance on this album. That’s particularly strange to say for a shoegaze album, but Swervedriver was never like MBV, Lush, or Slowdive. It’s as if, 30 years after they formed, they arrived in a time that influenced a proper shoegaze album.
Only 12 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks:
The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air
Postscript: I personally want them to keep pushing their sound forward because I purchased those old shoegaze records and I still listen to them.
Swervedriver don’t currently have a date in Chicago, but they are on tour with Failure. That show would be just wonderful. They are however playing The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee on April 7th. Tix go on sale this Friday and are going for $30.
Edit: They have heard my cry, and answered. April 5th at House of Blues - tix on sale Sat here
LVRN / Interscope
Starting off 2019 just right, R&B singer Summer Walker releases her new EP Clear. The four-track EP, at just 10 minutes long, has a “songstress in a jazz club” feel to it. The introductory track “Riot” is stripped down to just a guitar and Walker’s vocals. Through string plucking, Walker’s harmonious vocals, and a theme of love, she uses metaphors to describe what she wants from her love in the first verse, then describes her love’s absence when she ends the song by repeating “love’s too routine.” The second track, “Grave,” is a more upbeat jazz influenced track, with cymbals, tambourine, bass guitar, and possible claves where Walker uses all the instruments to create a jazz melody complimenting her voice. At the end of the track, Walker simply sings while the melody keeps playing, letting fans enjoy the musical nostalgia. “Wasted,” a slower and more sultry track, finds Walker longing to be wasted on alcohol and lust. With slower melodies, the jazz influence is spread throughout the album and wonderfully compliments her vocal style. The record ends in heartbreak with the track, “Settling” which has me imagining the mise-en-scene of a jazz bar. The band plays behind her in a smoked-filled era, and as she sings about crying over a man, the piano and bass guitar play over her as she cradles the microphone at center stage. For a 10-minute EP, Summer Walker wooes fans with a timeless melody, emotional dimension, and beautiful vocals.
Summer Walker will be at the Lincoln Hall on March 21st. You can snag tickets here.
Music To Draw To: Io
Kid Koala / Arts & Crafts
Two years ago the Montreal based producer Kid Koalareleased Music To Draw To: Satellite, a gorgeous atmospheric concoction that featured vocals from the stunning Icelandic performer Emilíana Torrini. This second chapter in the series Music To Draw To: Io features vocals from Belgian American multi instrumentalist Trixie Whitley. It’s as evocative and relaxing as its predecessor. Long ago moving from traditional scratching and breaking into atmospheric composition, Eric San has now reached a point where the fun Kid Koala persona almost doesn’t fit anymore. This is serious adult music with plenty of heavy meaning and loving care put into its makeup.
Kid Koala does not have any Chicago dates anytime soon.