ISSUE #48 / february 21, 2019
Billington / Shippy / Wyche
The Eventual Warp Cat
If feedback and syncopation were weapons, then the instrumental trio Billington / Shippy / Wyche would slay everyone in the world. These experimental musicians are all vets of the Chicago scene, and when they come together, it creates works of monumental proportion. Challenging the notion of what music can be, the guitars of Daniel Wyche and Mark Shippy provide a pallet of sound in which drummer Ben Billington can play. His enthusiastically broken rhythms provide the backbone to the compositions but the thread that stitches them together is the feedback and effects that the two guitarists layer over the top. Their second recording together, The Eventual Warp Cat, is a self-described “cosmic eulogy, like a captain’s log on a drifting spacecraft.” A broken-toned lifeboat of the musical soul, atonal in the most gorgeous of ways. As we have witnessed, these three create magic together live; it’s a bewitching experience.
They just had the album release show last week at The Hideout, but be on the lookout for their next gig. It’s not to bemissed.
Local rockers Gazebo Effect burst out of the box with their self-titled debut album. A guitar-lover’s dream, Gazebo Effect features three guitarists layering and responding to each other throughout with massive solos on almost every tune. With clear influences ranging from metal and jam bands to indie and classic rock, there is a little something for everyone here. If you’re looking for a headbanger, pull up “Baguyla,” a Sabbath-style jam that is sure to give neck cramps. Blues, you say? Check out “Blue Collar Boys.” Looking for a rocking groove? Closing track “There Are No Words” has you covered. This is anthemic rock with a modern touch, perfect for blasting in the car on those coming spring days! Members Ray Bach, James Bloomfield, Eric Dost, Jamie Major and Ian Robertson are all from the surrounding suburbs, and for such a young band they are surprisingly tight. Look for them to break into some streetfest lineups this summer.
Gazebo Effect just had their album release party last Saturday at The Sub T, but be sure to keep checking back with us, and we’ll make sure to let you know when they are playing next.
Diary / Universal
Hello Happiness is the 13th solo album from Chicago’s consummate empress of soul, Chaka Khan. Recorded and released after a twelve-year hiatus, which ended with Khan entering rehab following the death of her spiritual brother Prince in 2016, HH is an album that is through with bad news looking to the horizon for inspiration in the break of day, rather than the cold receding night that evaporates at her back. Hello Happiness is precisely what it appears to be: a half-hour vacation from your troubles on a private island where you can dance your cares away, and frankly- it is glorious! Sonically, this is a traditional disco album through and through. Clocking arms in creative camaraderie with co-producers David “Switch” Taylor and singer-songwriter Sarah Ruba Taylor, the funky tri-force have flipped the hood on the late ‘70s / early ‘80s club music, re-routing hoses, filing pistons, and greasing gears until these old faithful sounds purr like a tiger cub cradled in your lap. Opening and title track “Hello Happiness” struts through the foyer with a lake-worth of thick liquid bass, stardust shedding strings, and arching electronics in tow. “Like a Lady” is an ageless fount of rejuvenating sting-washes and stepping piano riffs with Khan’s voice providing the pressure necessary to keep the liquid gold flowing. Beefy Bernie Worrell-inspired synths, fuzz-funk guitars, and chattering electronics duet with Khan on the bluesy remix “Don’t Cha Know” followed by the sizzling “Too Hot” which indulges in some forceful, throw-back, road-house R&B. Lastly, lead single “Like Sugar” is a dance-bug that will cause an infestation of toe-tapping rhythm to seize your feet and pull you to the dance floor like the victim of some delightful form of mania. At times, Khan’s presence seems like a co-starring role with the beats and production, almost like a guest vocalist on her own tracks, but I think this is a result of the holistic approach to the tracks’ construction that fosters the organic interplay between the singer and the surrounding sounds that only serve to heighten their infectious quality. The bottom line is, if you’re not moving while Hello Happiness is spinning, check your pulse and consult a mortician.
Chaka Khan will perform with Michael McDonald at Ravinia Pavilion on July 6th. Show starts at 7pm. Tickets go on sale May 7th.
Berkley's On Fire
Fueled By Ramen
Californian punk band SWMRS has fun-loving songs that sound like children’s rock but is packed with content for adults. . Their ten-track, sophomore studio album, Berkley’s On Fire, has funny yet socially/politically conscious songs, break up songs, and songs that make you want to get up and dance. With more than just the typical three chords, their whole album isn’t what punk rock bands usually bring into the recording studio. SWMRS has a great blend of guitars and drums, as well as light electronic and hip hop melodies to make listeners get-up-and-dance. In “Too Much Coffee” and “Trashbag Baby,” they have light-hearted melodies with heavy themes of overdosing on caffeine while touring different states, to a break up leading to growth and understanding. Politically-driven songs in the album such as, “Berkley’s On Fire” and “Lose Lose Lose” discuss recent events like the Berkley riots as well as past political figures such as Patty Hearst and Vladimir Putin. The band shows off their soft side with more acoustic tones as heard on cute love song “Ikea Date” where lead singer Cole Becker dreams of having a relationship and playing house in a fully-furnished Ikea setting. SWMRS shows a lot of great variety in a four man punk band, perking the ear of fans old and new.
SWMRS will be at the Concord Music Hall on April 19th. Tickets range from $19-$25 and can be bought here.
Crush on Me
Recognizing yourself in the mirror seems like a simple task, but in reality, can take years of practice. It requires spending a lot of time with yourself, learning the patterns of thought that trickle through the grooves of your brain, and running your hand over the warts that line its brim. Crush on Me is the coming out party that Kelsey Hogue (aka Sir Babygirl) has thrown for herself following a crucial gestation period of reflection, and you’re all invited. While it’s not possible to boil the contents of Crush on Me to Hogue’s queerness as a bisexual and non-binary woman, the theme of discovery through divergent attraction and the blissful revelations it leads to does inform much of the album’s lyrical content and sonic profile. From the thrashing ecstasy of desire expressed on “Flirting with Her,” which perfectly captures the feeling of emotional bloodletting that exposing your intentions to a potential romantic partner, to the shameless freefall of “Cheerleader” which depicts the wooing of a fixture of desire, dwelling on the lines “I’ll kill my reputation if you promise not to tell / I’ll kill my reputation if you come with me to hell / Our dirty little secret in the bathroom stall / Everybody wants to watch the cheerleader fall,” an acknowledgment of the humiliation and social repercussions that can befall the exposed party in unrequited love.
The opening and closing tracks bookend the album as the introduction and conclusion of its thesis. Cool beats drizzle down like eyeliner destroying tears on “Heels” which embraces the clarity of mind that follows a rush of confusion and anger prompted by the emergence of some crucial epiphany, leading to the cathartic chant “You don’t know me anymore / I changed my hair.” The closing track “Crush on Me (Outro)” has a similarly watery vibe, with Hogue’s voice slowly emerging from a pool of rippling drum loops like the Lady of the Lake to bequeath to herself a flaming sword of self-respect ala Scott Pilgrim. Folded amongst these statements of self-affirmation is the frantic wrestling match with existential panic and the specter of ego-death “Haunted House,” a track which lays bare the genuine feeling that can creep in upon you at a banal social events, that instead of finding a good time, you’ve actually just stumbled into a trap designed to induce its victims to social suicide.
Nestled within the cotton candy-flavored clouds, Hogue has knitted for us to enjoy our numerous bits of hard candy to slow the feeding frenzy and permit reflection while we roll these pieces around on our tongues attempting to come to terms with our own small, but interconnected orbits around the sun. Crush on Me is an album recorded in a bedroom in true DIY style that bursts out the door with irrepressible heart and self-assuredness to inspire us all to savor the sweetness that we experience in our lives and acknowledge that we are deserving of love, not just from others, but from ourselves as well.
Sir Babygirl just played Tomorrow Never Knows Fest in January, and will not likely crash another slumber party near Chicago until this summer.
After eight years, Ladytron is back with an album that plays to the sound they developed in the late ‘90s and perfected in the ‘00/’10s – simple, driving synth beats surrounding Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo’s unique vocals. Synth pop may be a dated trend now, a couple decades into the future, but the approach to their self-titled reunion makes it feel like they never left. Opener “Until the Fire” picks up immediately on the steam left by 2011’s Gravity the Seducer. Melodic electro-drums and toe-tapping bass rushing through highlights “Tower of Glass” and “The Island” are clear indicators of where recent festivals toppers CHVRCHES looked to for inspiration, and the dystopian chaos they sing about are probably more relevant now than in their prime 20 years ago. Synth pop is perhaps a genre of music that infects every generation of music, and icons Ladytron have compiled their most accomplished and consistent batch of songs of their lengthy career.
Ladytron played Spybar in December of last year, and don’t have any Midwest dates coming up as of this issue. Let’s hope they come back soon!
India.Arie / BMG
Showing off her political grit and raw potential, India.Arie is a musical soul to be reckoned with, and she encourages fans to love one another as well as themselves in her new album, Worthy. Fans of the 43-year-old R&B/soul singer have waited five years for Arie to release her new album, and from what she has released, it does not disappoint the ear. The theme “Worthy” is repeated throughout the album in her political songs as well as a theme reminding women, (especially the listeners and fans), that they are worthy. The powerful chorus in the song, “but either on the ground or in your purse, the smallest piece still hold its worth, every one of us is worthy,” is India.Arie’s message to women of all generations. In “What If,” she names famous political figures in black history who’ve stood up against wrong-doing. She sings, “What if Martin didn’t stand up/ What if Rosa didn’t sit down/ What if Malcolm didn’t man up/ Where would we be now?/” the song also incorporates women from the #MeToo movement ending the song singing, “You and me are the chosen/ Right now this is our moment/ We are a people of motion/ Our love’s gonna change the world.” India.Arie also has some very caring love songs with her slow soulful melodies and heartfelt singing, her love songs are full of raw honesty. India.Arie’s album is full of spirit and positivity, and in this confusing world of shame and heartbreak, it’s artists like her that keep fans’ hopes alive and make them feel worthy.
India.Arie won’t be performing in Chicago anytime soon, but let’s hope for a surprise tour or festival in the future.
Tales of America
Verve , UMG
In a time when the immigrant experience is at the forefront of the public consciousness, a 26-year-old Kenyan arrives to deliver his emotional and distinctive take on the subject from the inside. After arriving in Minneapolis in 2013, the self-taught artist began to pursue a career as a musician, writing about his experiences in a place thousands of miles from his African home. The result is eleven wonderful songs that call back to the days of ‘60s folk. A little bit Richie Havens, a little bit Dylan, and all the way J.S. Ondara, his sound is filled with joyous falsetto that never seems to falter, and his simple guitar chords let the stories shine. There is no doubt he is pouring his heart and soul into these tunes, and if you can stay stoic during “Television Girl” or “Master O’Connor,” you have rock at the core of your being.
He is coming to Schubas on March 28th. Tix are $10 ($12 door).
Don’t Let Go
Domestic La La
Australia is putting out great bands at an amazing clip, and Dear Seattle joins the club with their melodic, hard driving, shout-out-loud, incredibly infectious sound. On sophomore LP Don’t Let Go, they release their spirited souls upon the world, ripping through sing along choruses and anthemic ballads with ease. With punk and emo influences written all over it, Don’t Let Go is already topping the wish list of kids everywhere, selling out the first vinyl pressing after only a week. (No wonder, it’s a hell of a record out of what is quickly becoming a musical continent to be reckoned with.)
No U.S. tour news yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see them join a festival lineup this summer.
Helium: the wonderful gas that people inhale out of balloons to make a funny high pitch in their voices. It brings laughter and joy around those witnessing their friends talking and giggling like children. I think this is what producer and singer Peter Sagar aka HOMESHAKE wanted when they produced and created the album, Helium. Stuck in this juxtaposed realm of electronic calmness, R&B jazz, and acoustic; Sagar uses the melody along with a high pitch voice to create the world of Helium. The 13-track album begins with an instrumental melody, keyboards playing while what sounds like birds chirping echo in the background for about a minute and a half before the song transitions into the next track and album. While the album mixes instrumental songs with lyrical songs, Sagar doesn’t cease to create a very different song lyrically and instrumentally from track to track. From incorporating soft trumpets and drum beats in the song, “Just Like My,” to playing around with his voice’s pitch in homage to singer Mariah Carey in “Just Like Mariah,” Sagar has pulled out a lot out of his musical knowledge to create not only a heavily intense album melody-wise, but with a very soft and easy tone. Helium, is a great album, and for being HOMESHAKE’s fourth album, I’m excited to hear what more he has up his sleeve.
HOMESHAKE will perform at the Metro in March 29th tickets can be purchased right now at $16.
It’s been a long nine years since Austin trio Harlem have put out an album... So many cultural shifts have taken place during the time between now and then, and they seem to have embraced them all with their return record Oh Boy. Full of pop and social culture references, from opener “All Men Are Dogs” to the swinging “Cry Now Cry Later” to closing ballad “Queen of Mosquitoes,” they embrace the stripped-down indie sound that garnered them acclaim, but a maturity shines through where once there was adolescent indulgence. However, time has not dulled their sense of humor, which shines bright on tongue-in-cheek breakup ballad “Click Your Heels” and the sarcastic love song, title track “Oh Boy,” that perfectly captures the record’s tone.
They have no current plans to visit Chicago.
What do you get when you combine members of Lush, Modern English, Elastica, and Moose, with a name taken from the Hungarian word for missile? The debut from Piroshka is all English electro pop grime with plenty of room to join the parade. Compared to most of what we suggest this is an incredibly accessible and easy to understand record with plenty of indie nostalgia cred. If you wanna look cool at the local cafe, Brickbat is what you should have up this week.
At this time they have no stateside tour plans.
Boy Meets Girl
ENDON / Thrill Jockey
The “most extreme band in Tokyo,” Endon, follow up 2017’s Through the Mirror with a concept album meant to be a soundtrack to a film about love in the abstract. Produced by Astuo Mizuno of Boris, Boy Meets Girl is surprisingly less structured than the band’s previous efforts. Usually, bands become more traditional and less fractured sounding with age. Conversely, Endon sounds like they’d been sitting in a spinning dryer with a cinder block and a bag of thumbtacks before entering the studio to record BMG. To be clear, extremity is not something new for the band. They’re known for combining experimental noise rock, antagonistic metal, and crusty hardcore and it’s this brew of harsh sounds that’s earned them the coveted “most extreme” moniker (although, singer Taichi Nagura savagely beating himself on stage during early performances probably helped as well). The majority of the vocal performances here are wordless shrieks with the instrumentation boiling down to curated feedback, baying against rusty sounding guitars and carnival-wheel beats. There are identifiable flavors that fall outside of the caustic slurry that permeates the album, such as the low-heat simmer Dick Dale-esque surf-rock on “Red Shoes,” but for the most part, your ears will be dragged through a trail of salt and lye, especially on the eerie 11-minute, magma-like crawl of “Doubts As a Source.” “Love Amnesia” is the most straightforward hardcore track on the album with its chanting vocal squalls, pensive guitars and steady rock beat, and “Final Acting Out” introduces some relatively tame roadhouse sludge to the mix, but even this track diverges in strange and unsettling directions. There really aren’t any sandbars where you can surface in order to catch your breath in this burning pool of pitch Endon have poured out out onto the world. You either have to learn to enjoy the burn or make a break for shore. There is no in-between.
Endon are currently globe-trotting with SUMAC and Baptists around Europe. No Chicago dates (or US for the matter) have been announced for 2019.
Texas Piano Man
Country singer Robert Ellis has stretched his style into a seventies rock pop inspired record full of bravado and beauty. With an Elton John like swagger and lyrics reflecting modern times like the humorous “Passive Aggressive” or the cantankerous “Nobody Smokes Anymore,” Texas Piano Man comes after a three year hiatus since his self produced and titled record did quite well in 2016. But the Nashville based artist has emerged with a new persona that reflects the genre blending of his adopted city, and by many accounts has a hit record on his hands. Now the genre picky music scene just has to wake up and pay attention to this marvelous artist and his new creation.
He is appearing at Old Town School of Folk on March 28th. Tix are $22.
There Never Was a Was
Recording is such an insane concept. Trying to etch in time songs you have worked on for weeks, months or years; but Oceanwires scrapped the former and stepped into the studio with only frameworks of songs and let them come to fruition within the recording process. The result is immediate and tactile. There Never Was a Was sweeps you up in it’s momentum, propelling you like a missile through it’s far too short twenty seven minutes.
They have no tour plans as of now.
Brookhaven & Scatter Swept
Mainly instrumental shoegaze populates the landscape of Oakland bands Brookhaven and Scatter Swept, who have teamed up to produced the strangely beautiful and elegantly woven tunes that make up Modern Remains. Multi-instrumentalist trio Scatter Swept (they all switch between guitar, bass, and drums during performances) teamed up with Brookhaven’s Sonny James for these nine tunes of spare and intriguing shoegaze.
Neither act has tour plans.
RY X , Infectious , BMG
Australian singer/songwriter RY X created an ambient album full of sounds and melodies mixed together to create music that visualizes and personifies moods in each track. RY X mixes acoustic instruments, electronic beats, and humming voices to convey each individual song’s mood. Unfurl, the album’s title, unfurls new emotion in each track as the listener dives into the world of RY X. The mix of acoustic songs and electronic songs give contrast yet maintain a flow in the album. “Untold,” the upbeat electronic track, is a sad song, but“Body Sun” is an orchestra of guitars, pianos, and chorus serenading love. Unfurl is a beautiful reflection of musical artists as their craft continuously grows and evolves.
RX Y will perform at the Thalia Hall on March 26th. Tickets are sold here for $20.
West Bay Playroom
The follow-up to their 2017 self-titled debut finds this UK foursome having a great time with their quirky, jerky, homegrown garage-pop sound: West Bay Playroom is a joy from start to finish! With Sam Stacpoole sharing vocal duties with girlfriend and drummer Katja Rackin, the two team up to imbue each track with an energy and musicality that is as infectious as it is catchy. It’s got a definite ‘60s sound to it, with shades of early Stones, Faces, and Stooges rolled into one. Nothing fancy, just in your face rock with an emotive streak (which is right up our alley.) If it’s not your bag, we understand. (We don’t know how, but be understand.)
Doesn't look like they are making it across the pond anytime soon.
Jazz has been going nuts the past few years, potentially hitting the mainstream again as early as 2015, with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. That album introduced the power of jazz to a new generation of fans eager for the experimentation and confidence that the genre breeds. Backing him up were powerhouse personas Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, both of whom have hit their own mainstream success. London, as they’ve done with many genres in the past, has something to say about the state of jazz – notably, just how genre-bending good jazz can be. And one guy, Theon Cross, is defining what a lead instrument can be: the tuba.
Not often viewed as the linchpin of jazz, Cross plays the role of both lead and rhythm tuba amongst an all-star cast. Frequent collaborators Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, who defined 2018 with Cross on We Out Here, are met with newcomers Wayne Frances and Artie Zaitz to form a cohesive circle around the giant brass’ lumbering and, at times, dirty, loping intonations. Even when playing backup, Cross commands the tunes, like in standout “Candace of Meroe” – Moses is absolute fire on the drums, creating a dizzying dervish dance that would make J.K. Simmons proud, and Cross uses a wah-wah to transform the tuba’s tone into something unrecognizable. The entire album is a pressure cooker, causing my foot to ache from relentless tapping – from opener “Activate” to closer “LDN’s Burning.” The album was a massive surprise to me (thanks for the heads-up KPL), and one that will make sure I’ll never underestimate the “lowly” tuba again.
...We’re entering a new era of jazz, and I’m pretty stoked about it. It’s not uncommon to now see some kind of jazz act at almost every festival on either side of the pond. It isn’t music for dark and dank clubs where you get hushed for breathing, or reserved for dinner party background lulls; it’s music to get excited about, to dance in the streets to, and to blast loud out of the largest speakers you have handy.
I can’t find any tour dates, so if you know of some - let us know!
CZARFACE and Ghostface Killah
Czarface Meets Ghostface
The distinctive flows of Wu-Tang members Inspectah Deck and Ghostface Killah meet again in this collab record Czarface Meets Ghostface. The sixth project from CZARFACE, the hip hop supergroup of 7L, Esoteric, and Inspectah Deck, is chock full of their distinctive pop culture and comic book references, and this time they bring along Ghostface Killah for their second full-album feature after last year’s Czarface Meets Metalface (with storied mask-doning MFDOOM). Filled with the classic ‘90s beats and samples that made Wu-Tang famous, Czarface Meets Ghostface lets the lyrical verses shine. There’s no mistaking what they’re saying here- (it’s all crystal clear), and their intelligent rhymes are a testament to what made hip-hop so compelling in its heyday. This is inventive rhymes, beats and flows all mixing together to make modern “pop rap” look like child’s play.
None of these artists are visiting Chicago anytime soon. (Which is too bad-- CZARFACE would be killer, live!)