ISSUE #46 / february 7, 2019
Sharkula X Mukqs
If you’ve lived in Chicago for any amount of time it’s likely you’ve run into Brain Wharton, aka Sharkula, at least once. Known for hawking his homemade CD-R’s in photocopied sleeves featuring his hand-drawn cartoons the rapper poet And if you’ve ever bought one, you’re sure to have experienced his stream of consciousness raps over boom-bap beats and odd sounds. This project was born in a Burger King in Evanston when Maxwell Allison (aka Mukqs), a respected local experimental musician, ran into Sharkula and traded a couple fish sandwiches for a few of his CD-R’s, and an unlikely friendship and collaboration began. After spending a year recording beats, Mukqs had Sharkula to his basement studio, and they recorded the rambling and affecting lyrics that are Wharton’s mainstay. It’s not your typical rap record by far; with Mukqs off-kilter industrial influenced beats setting off and at times overpowering Sharkula’s raps, but if you’re like us and dig music that takes the mind to unusual and unexpected places, Prune City is for you.
We couldn’t find a show coming up, but hope it happens soon. We’ll be there for sure!
The second collaboration between Chicago drill rapper G Herbo and Atlanta producer Southside comes mere months after their first record Swervo. With plenty of deep beats and fast paced rhymes, Still Swervin picks up right as its predecessor left off, with the South Shore MC relating his daily experiences from his old life on the streets hustling to his new one as a successful rapper with money to spare. Still Swervin is a far cry from the personal and social rhymes Herbo gave us on his 2017 full-length debut Humble Beast. He now seems a bit more preoccupied with club life and his career, even if he still brings us back to the hood with “Never Scared” and “Bought a Tool.” There is still enough substance here to set him apart from most drill rappers this city has grown, and there is plenty to chew on for the serious hip hop heads.
G Herbo and Friends will be at The Forge in Joliet this Friday, February 8th. Tix are $35 and up.
Minimalist dark wave isn’t anything new. There aren’t many fresh entries into the genre that can convert the uninitiated or prompt more than an affirming nod from the regulars at your local discotech’s “goth night.” Boy Harsher might just bridge these gaps with their second LP, Careful. Comprised of romantic and artistic partners Jae Matthews and Gus Muller, the Northampton duo represent a black mirror parallel to the Eurythmics- a couple obsessed with banished desires and buried emotions, who speak to sacred excesses while remaining inextricably confined within warm, fragile flesh.
Muller engineers industrial body-music, which pushes icy synths to their melting point and merciless drums sequences to fissure within their unyielding channels. Sure, there are bows to the cool anger of Suicide and deliberate detachment of Sleep Chamber, but Boy Harsher has fledged the fold of acrid synth-wave peers like Cabaret Nocturne to close in on a source of heat. In the process, they have refined an aesthetic that is only terrifying to the extent that it is radically human. And humanity is, in fact, terrifying. The warmth that flows through these tracks, like so much super-heated blood, is owed in large part to Matthews' thick, sweat lacquered vocal delivery, which draws from equally from the brooding whisper of Linea Aspera’s Alison Lewis as well as the breathy divulgences of Chicago’s own Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux.
There are many depraved highs on Careful, like “Keep Driving” which conveys the sound of blood rushing to your head when you pass a hitchhiker late at night, their piercing gaze meeting yours in the rearview window, and you have the momentary realization that if they could follow you home, they would. The opening gasp of electronics on “LA” cries out above the skyline before being dragged into a sprawling network of meaty programmed beats and shiftless synth riffs. Later tracks like, “Come Closer” are tempting and claustrophobic while the patient “Tears” bides it’s time to breakaway amongst dripping keys and the blaring strobe of a restless rhythm. What is most unnerving about Careful, is not that it conveys a sense of alienation towards its subjects, a standard motif for the genre, but rather how it ensnares the listener with a closeness that makes inmate knowledge of another too real to escape.
Boy Harsher will be at the Empty Bottle with NGTHCRWLR and Grün Wasser on February 8th. Advanced tickets are SOLD OUT! Limited tickets may be available at the door, but don’t count on getting in.
What Chaos Is Imaginary
Girlpool / Anti
This may be the tone Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have been searching for as Girlpool. Their constantly evolving sound, from the bedroom pop of Before The World Was Big to the indie rock harmonies of Powerplant, has never really felt fully formed. What Chaos Is Imaginary drives their established mystique right into a big fuzzy warm place. Now backed by a full band and separated by an octave (Tucker came out as trans last year and began hormone treatments that lowered his voice), their personal journey tunes take on a whole new wave of significance. It’s now easily discernible which musician wrote each tune. Whereas before they were a tightly wound duo, now they take on the separate but equal roles of the traditional partnership. The vocal uncoupling actually helps the record feel like a huge step forward for the L.A. duo. A dreamy, lovely jaunt of an album that is sure to please fans and make quite a few new ones.
Girlpool is swinging through Lincoln Hall on April 18th. Tix are $18 ($20 doors)
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, the dark and brooding rock of Teri Gender Bender and company has been entertaining fans since 2008’s Kiss & Kill EP. bi/Mental, Le Butcherettes’ fourth and arguably most engaging record, packs a strong wallop of rock swagger. From the punk rock leanings of “father/ELOHIM” with it’s chorus of “Still they wanna fuck with us some more!” to the garage rock tinged “give/UP” to the industrial influenced “struggle/STRUGGLE,” they know how to pay attention to their roots. With guest spots from legends Jello Biafra and Alice Bag, it’s sure to grab punk historians’ attention as well, but the real draw is Teri Gender Benders’ vocals go from unadulterated howl to intimate whisper to crooning layered beauty throughout. It’s a gorgeous performance and one that begs to be experienced live.
Good thing they are making a stop at Cobra Lounge on February 20th. Tix are $15.
Swallow the Sun
When the Shadow is Forced into the Light
When the Shadow is Forced into the Light is the seventh LP from Finnish death-doom pioneers Swallow the Sun. The band has chosen to follow up their 2015 magnum opus and triple album Songs from the North Vol. I, II, III with their shortest album. At only 52 minutes, WSFL is their leanest, most concise effort, but by no means a “back to basics” record. This is an evolution of the band’s sound, which emphasizes their more symphonic predilections, making tasteful use of strings and sweeping, resonate chord progressions to convey a sense of grace and loss. There are certainly savage, lip peeling death vocals present here, but they are balanced impeccably against cleanly sung gothic lamentations. The shifting, and dynamic phases these tracks transition through is astounding. No depth of care has been circumvented in the production, mixing, or performances represented here.
The opening title track is a perfect envoy for what the band has in store for us on the album, beginning with an expansive sweep of shimmering strings that part in order to stage a deliberate acoustic guitar section which scores a glinting passionately sung tenebrosity poem that abruptly bursts into a cryptic invocation communicated in a ragged death-howl. Similarly complex is “Upon the Water” with its placid, pooling chord progressions and deep rhythmic undertow and the lofty swell of pain and fatigue that activates beating gusts of guitars and methodical melodies on “Stone Wings.”
The release of WSFL follows the passing of lead songwriter and guitarist Juha Raivio’s partner and creative collaborator Aleah Stanbridge. It does no service to this loss to speculate on how the themes and performances on this album relate to this tragedy. However, the struggle with grief is an evident and palpable motif throughout the project. My hope is that the process of making this album has brought Raivio some peace and clarity and that it will have therapeutic properties for others grappling with loss in their own lives. WSFL is a reminder that suffering is an element of the human condition, a feature of life that it is never necessary to endure alone and in the shadows.
Swallowed by the Sun will manifest in Chicago on March 19th at the House of Blues supporting Children of Bodom. Tickets are $27.50 for general admission. Doors open at 5:30pm.
This Is Not the End
By The Time It Gets Dark
This is not the music one would expect from a trio hailing from Oslo, Norway; the land known for death metal and traditional folk music. But the Nordic capital has produced an anthemic rock band made up of musical journeymen that destroys every cultural stereotype. This is pure shout your head off, pump your fist in the air, stomp your feet rock. Spielbergs share the same avenue as Japandroids, No Age, and Cloud Nothings, with a burst of freshness that these bands captured on their break out records. However, This is Not the End is their debut full length. Their debut!!! And it’s nearly perfect from start to finish. Twelve tracks of hard hitting, fuzz inducing sonic brilliance, that only ever slows down to hammer home a point or for a momentary breath before plunging back into the pounding drums and screaming guitar landscape of their rock till you drop hearts.
So far there are no U.S. tour plans, but once this record grabs ahold they would be remiss not to visit. We need to see this band!
The one of a kind folk rock sounds of John J. McCauley have always entertained, and this companion piece to ‘17’s double self titled release is no exception. In fact it takes some of their best tunes and reworks them to varying degrees of success. Most artists will admit that their songs are never really done and now Deer Tick have proved that you can revisit old material to make something new and viable. Mayonnaise is being billed as a compilation album (a greatest hits record of sorts), but if this is your first experience with the Providence act you would never know the difference. It feels as cohesive as their previous records, revealing how truely solid they have been for the last fifteen years.
Thalia Hall is hosting them on May 7th with one of our favs Courtney Marie Andrews opening. Tix are $25.
Experimental indie rock band Beirut releases their 5th studio album, Gallipoli, with a great influence of different musical styles, weird instruments and at times, no lyrics at all. The 12-track album has a variety of instruments in their tool box pieced together to created each individual track. For example, the track “Gauze fur Zah” has a German title, but lead singer Zach Condon hums and sings over drums and keyboard to shorten lyrics of sadness. In the song, “Gallipoli,” a soft intro lead fades into trumpets playing, similar to a Mexican Mariachi band. (Gallipoli is in the southern part of Turkey which also means, ‘beautiful city’ in Italian.) The lyrics “You’re so fair to behold/What will be left when you’re gone/ and it shapes everything you know/How we learn and the wonders we love” definitely tell of a beautiful city the band has possibly visited and taken its musical culture and instruments as influence to the album. The record album is a very good and relaxing listen, something you listeners rarely hear out of experimental artists. The smooth melodies and Condon’s singing interprets international influences instruments and creates a harmonious album.
Beirut is stopping by The Riv on February 22nd. Tix are $42.
Ba Da Bing!
A stirring fourth full length from Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins), and her first since signing with Brooklyn based label/management Ba Da Bing!. Quietly intense and lustfully intimate, Fullbrook’s music is full of finger picked guitar and muted jazzy backing all topped by her warm and silky vocals. To say she writes confessionally would be an understatement. Her poetic lyrics speak volumes on how she sees the world and her experiences within it. The Auckland, New Zealand native holds nothing back as she shares the beauty and tragedy of the everyday. Olympic Girls should belong in every collection as a shining example of how gorgeous music can reflect our inner beings right back at us.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any U.S. dates planned.
When the world was introduced to the collab hit with Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, Fonsi’s “Despacito” was a summer hit that stayed on fan’s tongues regardless of the language barrier. Luis Fonsi, the Puerto Rican pop artist, leaked songs before releasing the full album VIDA, or “Life”. Despite his working in the music industry for so long, Fonsi has not lost his signature romantic touch. Opening his album with a love ballad “Sola”, which the singer has an English and Spanish track in the album, the song is about a woman he loves, and he tells her to never feel alone because he is with her physically and emotionally. Fonsi also knows how to pull out feelings of heartbreak and apply them to a song in full force. In tracks, “Le Pido Al Cielo” (I Beg Heaven) and “Dime Que No Iras” (Tell Me You’re Not Leaving), are break up tracks with a slow instrumental melody alongside Luis Fonsi’s voice. Two beautiful tracks that fans can listen to and feel his pain while they are going through the same predicament. Along with his “Despacito” hit, which Fonsi has added a remix track to the album, Fonsi has dropped tracks here and there in the two years fan have been waiting for their beloved singer to release the album. Popular dance tracks such as“Calypso” featuring Stefflon Don, “Echame La Culpa” featuring Demi Lovato, and “Imposible” featuring Ozuna, have all been top radio hits since summer 2017. The album has it’s mixture of genres, ranging from romantic, latin pop, and reggaeton, something that the 40 year artist had no problem adapting to by using the right collaborations to create songs even fans who do not know any Spanish can listen and sing to. VIDA is a beautiful and fun album to listen to, as well as appreciate that Fonsi still has that romantic side fans know and love him for.
He currently has no tour plans.
With their first album in eighteen years, the classic 2-Tone and Ska heralders The Specials have proven they still have their special something (sorry for the terrible pun). The band that gave birth to generations of imitators and admirers ,rose to stardom in England in the late seventies and early eighties with a string of hits beloved by a wide range of fans from jazz to reggae (ska, also native to Jamaica, is considered a precursor to reggae) to punk rock. With their penchant for social justice subject matter and love of rocksteady beats, they captured the British imagination with classics such as “Too Much Too Young,” “Ghost Town,” and “A Message to You Rudy.” After various incarnations. they have had three of the core original members, singer Terry Hall, guitarist/vocalist Lynval Golding and Horace Painter on bass, back in the fold since 2008; this new double record captures so much of the same magic that carried those legendary records for so many years.
The first LP contains ten brand new tracks while the second is a respectable collection of live tracks of all their classics, including a lively cover of “Redemption Song.” However, it is the originals that deserve our attention. The world has changed immensely in the last several years, not to mention the last twenty to thirty, and The Specials take on all the hot button issue from immigration and race in “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” and “B.L.M,” politics in “Vote For Me,” “The Lunatics,” and “Embarrassed By You,” social unrest in “Breaking Point,” gun issues with “Blam Blam Fever.” They even turn up the heat on gender issues with a reworking of Prince Buster’s “10 Commandments” with activist Saffiyah Khan as a guest vocalist, all while embracing the feel of their past while injecting a fresh shot of funk and soul into their sound. Encore is full of the same kind of energy and passion that made countless fans over the past forty years, and will make many more out of the young kids who encounter this record today.
They have some dates in the U.S. in June and July and probably just don’t have the tour completely booked, but we would bet they swing through Chicago around then.
Never Better (10th Anniversary Edition)
This modern hip-hop classic from a member of the Minneapolis based hip hop collective Doomtree gets the anniversary treatment on this re-release. Recorded right after Doomtree’s break out self titled album and in the midst of the “great recession,” it’s a gritty and provocative record that put P.O.S. on the hip-hop map as a solo performer, even though it was his third record. Featuring production and appearances from nearly every member of the collective, including a killer verse from Dessa on “Low Light Low Life,” Never Better still has plenty of punch, but it does serve as a time capsule, even only ten years gone. Obama was just elected, the country was in the grip of an economic meltdown, the real divisive tears in society were just starting to show their frays, trap hadn’t taken over rap, and P.O.S. was at a peak creatively (one he reached again with last years gripping 6666.) Our current political and social situation would have been unthinkable ten years ago, but it still exists in every edge and crevice of the record, as if P.OS. knew what was coming and tried to worn us ten years back.
P.O.S. was just in Chicago last Friday at The Empty Bottle.