ISSUE #49 / February 28, 2019
It’s official: Chicago is at the epicenter of a hip-hop renaissance, and Mykele Deville has launched himself into the stratosphere of the cultural conversation with Maintain, a strongly political and gorgeously self-affirming work that is as beautiful as it is brief. In a market flooded with records full of mediocre tracks, with a few bangers mixed in, Deville gives us seven perfect works of art that can easily fit into your morning commute. The West Side rapper/poet and Austin native joins his fellow Chicago-bred hip-hop artists Saba, Noname, Joey Purp, Mick Jenkins, and of course Chance (there are many more to list, but those are the top five) as a major voice in this social and political revolution, that gives us all a glimpse into the African-American experience through graphic and honest storytelling. A third wave of progressive hip-hop has officially arrived. In a pop culture-obsessed world that seems to want to embrace cotton candy tracks full of worn-out drug references and unintelligible repetitive raps, Maintain is a tall glass of stout: thick, rich, and inspiring.
Deville is headlining Lincoln Hall this Sunday March 3rd. Tix are only $15. (How have you not sold this out, Chicago?!!!!)
Motel in Saginaw
Ready for a crazy story?? In 1973, three friends recorded a record in a basement in the suburbs of Chicago that never saw the light of day; they played around the area for awhile, putting out a ‘45 in 1975 that didn’t gain much traction and eventually went their separate ways. Joe Gloor, Dan Berg, and Dan Haligas (who unfortunately passed) would have never thought that nearly fifty years later their single would be found by artist, musician, label runner, and all-around local legend Plastic Crimewave (Steve Kraków.) ...Krakow contacts them to see if there happens to be anything else, and to his amazement, there is the full record that they never released, which is how the world finally received Motel in Saginaw, a mainly acoustic affair that draws heavily from the western-tinged folk of the day, with a bit of psych-rock influence thrown in. The kicker is... it sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. There are plenty of musicians that still perform music like this, and while considered throwback, they can still make it sound new. Stumpwater sounds exactly like a low-fi, bedroom folk record that could come out next month: It’s eerie and amazing, probably why Drag City scooped it up and put it out into the world. This is a must-listen for any fan of music and fortuitous events.
Stumpwater is playing a record release party at Kiss The Sky in Batavia on March 8th. Details here.
Two Flew over the Acoustics Nest
Railway Gamblers’ self described “Cosmic Americana” has been entertaining the Southside since 2014, and this collection of acoustic songs highlights their talented songwriting without any studio fluff or rock posturing getting in the way. Two Flew over the Acoustics Nest is pure folk versions of some of their most well loved material, a reworked greatest hits of sorts. The clear highlights are the piano-only versions of “Let the Fire Burn,” “Flashback” and “Out in the Streets,” which harken back to the solo piano men of the ‘70s; however, splitting these up may have helped the overall flow of the record, as the acoustic guitars get a bit drone like by mid-record. That’s the only real complaint about an album that clocks in at well over an hour. Take away the “Cosmic” from this one and that’s just what you get: heartwarming and rending Americana from some of the best Chicago has to offer.
Railway Gamblers have several shows coming up in the area. Checkout their FB event page for more info.
Leaving Silver City
Leaving home can be a life affirming and nostalgia inducing event. Graham Hunt moved this summer from his native Milwaukee to Chicago, months after laying down this transcendent and bright indie rock treasure. Recorded with many fellow Milwaukee musicians who he would soon be leaving behind, (well it is only an hour away, but that’s beside the point) this aptly, and ingeniously titled record hits in just the right way. Leaving Silver City captures the warmth of home’s embrace while reflecting the openness of the future, and the limitless possibilities of moving on. No stranger to the scene (having been a member of Sundial Mottos and Midnight Reruns), Hunt may now find himself in new territory as a solo musician and as part of one of the best indie rock scenes around, which is sure to embrace this new talent into the ranks. Welcome to Chicago, Graham. Be seeing you soon.
He is opening for Mike Krol at The Empty Bottle TONIGHT! February 28th! Doors at 8:30PM. Tix are $10!
Tangerine Dream II
Alex Wiley , EMPIRE
A chill and collected follow-up to his 2016 mixtape, Tangerine Dream, Chicago rapper Alex Wiley returns with his first new music in several years. Set against the backdrop of a commute on public transportation, this second installment leaves the party rap of his youth behind (well, youth is relative- he is only 25, but dropped his first record Club Wiley at 19), replaced by an introspective collection of jazzy beats and self-reflective journeys through his city and life. Fellow Chicago artist Calez joins him on highlight and only real single, “All in the Way,” and Hippie Sabotage does a feature on closer “Real Things,” but other than that, there is quite a bit of Wiley flowing from break to break with his signature laid-back flow that belies the seriousness of his subjects. Tangerine Dream II is an emotive and stirring record which is rather surprising from an artist who several years ago spent most of his tracks spitting about toking, girls, and the party life. It’s amazing what a few years and some introspection will do to an artist. This is a dreamy, yet intense collection that should be a must-listen for any Chicago hip-hop head.
It seems he is currently not performing live.
David Huckfelt / Tone Tree
This soul stirring debut full length from a founding member of Minnesota indie folk act The Pines was written on a journey of self discovery in the middle of Lake Superior. Six hours off the coast of Michigan is Isle Royale, the largest island in the great lakes. A place left behind by the modern world. It was here that David Huckfelt took up the National Parks Artist in Residence position for two weeks, writing for ten hours a day. Alone, surrounded by the largest body of freshwater in the world, he found a sound that is at once very personal and gloriously understated. Stanger Angels feels effortless, like simply breathing, while relying on truthful storytelling and reflection. A revelation of a record, from a veteran that had to step away from the world to find himself and where he was headed.
We saw him last fall at The Hideout. At this time he has no plans to return to Chicago.
R. Stevie Moore
R. Stevie Moore was a pioneering home recording artist, whose prolific output was revered by the tastemakers of punk and new wave throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Legend has it that he has released over 400 albums, mostly on cassettes, with limited distribution. His willful and craggy approach to DIY pop has earned him a good deal of respect and adoration from similarly minded artists like Ariel Pink. Unfortunately, this fame does not come hand in hand with fortune. Afterlife is a compilation of professionally re-recorded compositions sourced from various reference points in Moore’s humble career, with a handful of original sprinkled in for good measure. It’s a self-conscious effort to reignite interest in his back catalog and current (mostly) obscure output. As an album, it’s not particularly remarkable, but as a tasting menu of Moore’s various moods, preoccupations, and stylistic quirks, it is exceptional. Afterlife is an opportunity to nibble on a bevy of samples, discover different flavors, and then to track these ingredients back to their sources in a fun and rewarding musical truffle hunt of sorts. The most exciting morsel for me is the woozy, rubber-band guitar-pop and middle-eastern flavored “What Do I Do With the Rest of My Life?” The entire collection is overflowing with weird, irrepressible energy, full of bizarre, crude gems that will hopefully inspire some crate spelunking in your near future.
Moore has stated in interviews that he will not tour in support of Afterlife which is a darned shame.
Okay Australia, it’s time to once and for all declare you as the new bastion of indie rock. Julia Jacklin’s sophomore LP Crushing hits in all the right ways, and it’s fitting to now recognize the only continent country as a dominant force in music. Now that we’ve cleared that up, and we’ve dryed our eyes from the tears this record induced, it is imperative that everyone stop reading and listen to this record. It is not only revelatory in its honesty and impact but in it’s unflinching takes on young love, the difficulty of friendship, and the struggles of being a modern female. Her songwriting is wise beyond her years. In the way Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez captured their generations consciousness, Jacklin seize’s her own by the gut and guides us through an enlightening journey of emotive discovery.
She is visiting Schubas on May 8th, which is already Sold Out. Move it to Lincoln Hall!! She’ll sell out there too!
Another week, another killer jazz album for 2019. While both are stylistically light years apart, they both share a common theme – bringing two backup instruments to the forefront, and showing their hitherto unseen mainstream potential. Last week was a ridiculously crazy tuba album from London, and this week is double bass master Larry Grenadier with The Gleaners. Grenadier made a name for himself for over a decade with pianist Brad Mehldau’s trio, consistently solidifying his status as one of the greatest practitioners of his instrument. Across 12 distinct tracks, he switches between bowed and finger plucked originals and covers that are designed to be consumed individually. Conceived as a response to a challenge by label ECM’s founder, Manfred Eicher, Grenadier wields the technical prowess to wow with harmonically doubled bow tones throughout opener “Oceanic,” and the classical fortitude necessary to pluck seemingly arbitrary staccato melodies into a soundtrack-worthy piece, in album highlight “Woebegone”. In this track, he uses the bow to shape the various fingered ideas into a cohesive path of minimal bliss. After a couple Wolfgang Muthspiel covers, "Bagatelle 1" and "Bagatelle 2", that truly show the range of the double bass as a solo instrument – invoking pure dread at times in the former, or nimbly dancing the fretboard like some kind of noir Spider-Man in the latter – Grenadier takes on a legendary track from one of the absolute masters of 20th century standards, George Gershwin. “My Man’s Gone Now” starts with a vivid bowed solo before abruptly scaling back the stage for an intimately exposed and starkly contrasted plucked rendition of the famous lyrical track. It’s a beautifully done cover, and shines in its own way alongside previous versions by Ella or Miles.
Solo double bass albums aren’t exactly known to be chart toppers. They’re usually relegated to quiet admiration from genre enthusiasts. But with The Gleaners, Larry Grenadier has made a commendable effort in loudly bringing that conversation to a wider audience, by compiling a diverse set of tracks that are equal parts technical talent and raw emotion. This is an album that is best consumed in a quiet room on big speakers, or in the privacy of quality headphones.
No dates in the Midwest for Larry Grenadier, but hopefully he swings through with his double bass virtuosity sometime soon.
Songs of Instruction
Don’t Darling Me
Folk singer/songwriter Kim Taylor gives a monochromatic fog of despair and heartbreak in her new album, Songs of Instruction. In her song, “The Abyss”, the lyric “darkness is always around me/ darkness is nothing to fear/I walk alone by the ocean/just the stars and me out here” I feel these lyrics describe the mood for the album, setting an underlying tone each song. The 10 track album has Kim playing somber acoustic melodies on her guitar, while there are light drumming and the occasional electric guitar trickling on her more in depth songs such as “The Hard Way” and “The Long Line.” Taylor keeps this beautiful tone to her voice, that even though certain songs do have a sad theme, her voice stays in a hopeful tone. In “The Hard Way”, a song about overcoming obstacles, Taylor sings to whoever is going through this obstacle, like a mother teaching her child a lesson, with no somber or anger in her voice. Even though in the song her lyrics state that the person sometimes can be difficult, and she may not have anymore advice to give to that person but to just take it day by day as they both will learn the hard way. Although the song sounds as if Taylor is singing to another person, she includes herself as if she is going through that obstacle with the other person. Kim’s voice and lyrics along with this darkness she is going through in this album is a great reflection artists allow the audience to see. In the song, “Make me a Channel of Your Peace”, Taylor ties up the album with this funeral hymn, also known at the St. Francis prayer, as she sings solemnly alongside her guitar, this may be chosen consciously because not only this is the end of the album but because (as I did some research on her) she lost two very dear friends to her tributing this song to them. This album beautifully reflects loss, loss of friendship, loss of love, and anger towards her faith. In the song, “Pearly Gates,” Taylor talks about unlocking the pearly gates of heaven, setting the angels free, standing up to God and raising hell in there. Keeping her somber tone throughout the album, in the lyrics and the electric guitar in the melody of the song, this is a song about feeling anger towards our faith after feeling loss, it’s normal but Taylor beautifully expresses it in her song.
It’s usually in this time of loss artists can be very creative in their craft, although Taylor has this unfortunate time in her life, she has created an album that shows who she is and makes her stand out among other indie folk singer/songwriters.
Kim Taylor will not be in Chicago anytime soon, hopefully we will see her this summer.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
South Of Reality
Prawn Sound , Chimera
I’ve spent a better-than-average amount of time listening to both Les Claypool and Sean Lennon, and admittedly… I never ‘got it.’ Sure, I grooved to Claypool’s oily, smooth funk-bass chops and gonzo lyrics. And yeah, I had a good time zoning out to Lennon’s breathy melodies and psychedelic baroque-pop. But I always felt like I was crashing parties I wasn’t invited to – no matter how many times I pretended I could play along to John the Fisherman or tried to convince myself that it was John’s version of the Beatles I preferred (it wasn’t. I’m a Paul guy through and through.) But man, what I didn’t realize is that I just needed these two visionaries to team up. Like 2016’s Monolith of Phobos before it, this month’s South of Reality is a collection of songs that reins in the idiosyncrasies of each of the two freak mammoths and comes out the black hole a lot better than the individual parts.
Flying hard and loose, it’s impressive that these two have only been playing together for a couple years. In that short time, they’ve taken what should be oil and water and crafted a fine amalgamation. Highlights for me are “Toady Man’s Hour” which sounds like a song from an alternate dimension where Tom Waits is a pysch-rocker, “Boriska,” a spacey song that really lets a subdued Claypool shine behind Lennon’s sublime vocals, and “Blood and Rockets…”, a gorgeous King Crimson meets Syd-era Floyd ditty that tells the devastating tale of Jake Parsons’ occultist mission to burn the world.
Unfortunately, lyrics have never been either of the pair’s strong suit, and that doesn’t seem to have improved here. Most of the album takes jabs at modern society, but the men seem to be too removed from reality to understand what they’re poking fun at. In many cases, I like where they’re heading but feel like the lyrics stopped at the ‘scribbled on cocktail napkins’ stage. Maybe next time, but I’m honestly not too worried about it – the music is so damn good that some unsuccessful lyrics won’t deter me. This is a damn fine album worth your time. If you’re like me and never felt like you were cool enough for Claypool or Lennon’s fan camps, maybe this is the album you’ve been waiting for.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium visits Thalia Hall on April 26th. Tickets are sold out – if you’re not aware, these two have a pretty big following.
And The Kids
When This Life Is Over
“The world was never made for us:” the repetitive chorus of “No Way Sit Back,” a compellingly beautiful opening track to And The Kids third LP When This Life Is Over. Hannah Mohan and the crew return with their strongest work to date, full of their mix of indie rock and new wave that at once feels personal and worldly. The Northampton, MA based trio played it loose with this one developing tunes from bedroom recordings and never worrying about how they would play the songs live, resulting in being their “most creative selves.” A freedom that takes over by mid-record when the dream pop elements really creep in and by the standout title track they had us fully hooked and willing to give in to everything they throw at the listener. This world was surely made for them, whether or not it’s ready remains to be seen.
They are playing Schubas this Saturday March 2nd at 10PM! Tix are $10. ($12 doors)
Gary Clark Jr.
Who said blues was boring? Not I says Mr. Gary Clark Jr. On his latest release, “This Land”, we find the seasoned gunslinger shaking things up. Three albums in, and he’s asking bigger questions, and experimenting with many different sounds and styles. If Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Kendrick Lamar decided to make a super-human in 2019, it would be Gary Clark Jr. On the cusp of getting a little stale and even boring, dare I say it…This Land is a jolt of urgency.
No one has ever denied Gary’s talent as an artist, especially as a blues guitarist; but could we get more from him? Yes, we can. Gospel, Punk, Rockabilly, and Top 40 as it turns out. Clark even gets political with the opening track, and you guessed it, Trump is the target. There are so many twists and turns on this album so don’t expect any consistency. A mixed bag of tricks on a full length LP is hard to pull off, especially for a blues artist. But Clark hunkered down in the studio and succeeds more often than not on This Land. We can only hope Mr. Mayer and Mr. White are taking notice because Gary has rewritten the 2019 blues playbook.
For Prince: “Pearl Cadillac “ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZN-yJv82Rs)
For Lenny: “What About Us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBfJIxe3vyQ)
For Kendrick: “This Land” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KgNaRQ_J-c)
The Blues master is hitting the Chicago Theatre on March 15th and 16th. Both shows have Sold Out, but if you want to shell out the bucks there are plenty of tix on third party sites. Just be careful.
Walk Through Fire
Easy Eye / Nonesuch
With a blues filled spirit and a heart overflowing with soul British singer Yola gifts the world a devastatingly wonder of a solo debut. Produced with the deft skills of Dan Auerbach and featuring the gifted and fabulous singer from Bristol, who fronted the country soul outfit Phantom Limb for a time, Walk Through Fire is a journey down nostalgia lane with a modern day women behind the wheel. With shades of Sharon Jones, Nina Simone, and even Karen Carpenter, this powerhouse of emotion can freaking sing! From the retro soul of “Still Gone” to the country tinged balled “Rock Me Gently” to the belting chorus of “Lonely The Night” Yola slays from start to finish. A genre bending record that has vaulted to the top of our best of the year and will be difficult to topple. The talent level here is beyond words. Everyone better stop and turn their heads toward Bristol as this impactful artist takes the world by storm!
At this time, she has no U.S. dates, but we think that will change very soon.
Roaring to life from the start, the L.A. quartet FEELS sophomore studio LP Post Earth crushes it’s competition this week. The post rock/garage outfit must have found it’s legs over the past few years since their self titled debut, making significant strides into solidifying their sound. Leader Laena Geronimo’s vocals have the same self assured nature but the coursing, bombastic tunes have gathered an edge and an experimental streak that was just developing on their first record but now has reached a peak of outstanding proportion. From post rock instrumental “Sour,” to the punk infused call and response of “Deconstructed,” to the title tracks genre bending disillusionment, Post Earth leaves no sonic stone unturned in it’s attempt to decimate eardrums while giving the brain a solid foundation to chew on.
They unfortunately don’t have a Chicago stop on their current tour.
While We Wait
TSNMI / Atlantic
Taken back to the rhythm and beats of 90’s R&B, the moments where love songs were as equally passionate and lustful to each artist’s motives and conquers. In that era, the boy band came and serenaded women into the bedroom, TLC taught young women lessons with a mixture of R&B and rap and singers, like Usher, poured their hearts out trying to convince their women to stay in their relationships. It’s those raw emotions that differentiate the R&B from a time’s past to what is popular now.
Kehlani, an Oakland born R&B/Hip Hop artist releases her new mixtape While We Wait, it’s full of raw emotion of love, lust and loss with a 90s R&B beat in almost, if not every, song. The mixtape contains Kehlani’s different artistic traits; in certain songs such as “RPG”, which features artist 6lack, the singer’s soulful lyrics details the insecurity of a dishonest relationship. Her artistic skills definitely resides not only in her voice but in her lyricism as well. In the song “Footsteps” she sings, “ and when I walked away/I left footsteps in the mud so you can follow me/ you’re so bad at holding water/slips right through your fingers/ we’d both end up drowning/ it would hit the ground/ and then the path would wash away”, a clear and concise message that she is willing to give that other person a second chance, if they were to take it.
Not only does Kehlani have a sensitive side, but she has her fun songs in her mixtape. She does feature her rapping side, in the song “Morning Glory”, her rap lyrics and style have a bit of a Left Eye Lisa flow to it. Her song has a lot of self love in it, letting her potential significant other know that if they cannot handle her without all the glitz and glamour i.e her “good night” then they cannot have her at her “morning glory”. She also has very lyrically romantic loves songs, in “Love Language” Kehlani’s lyrical characteristics is falling for the other person she is talking about in the song. She describes wanting to learn their love language and wanting to be fluent in the other person’s love language. It’s beautiful to hear the lyrics “never wanna get lost in translation/ never wanna be on two separate pages/ swear to me that you'll state facts/ if you can take back, know I can take that/ I been workin' at it, hoping that you'd notice/ I been waitin', I just needed you to focus / swear to me that you'll show me/ need you to coach me, then we can proceed”, it’s not only a song about love but about commitment and dedication as well. It’s very fresh to hear an R&B artist in today’s style of music to talk about something more than sex, Kehlani achieves that in While We Wait, while showing off her emotional side, she even shows off her tough girl side and displays it in her music. In the song “Nunya” featuring Dom Kennedy, she talks about how people want to hear and know her business but she phrases it’s “nunya” business. Although most of her songs display her emotional side, her use of 90s style R&B is a great homage to a young artist still finding their roots in the music industry.
No tour announce for 2019, hopefully she’ll be in Chicago later on this year or early next year.
The Door To Doom
As a genre, epic doom metal holds a special place the blood pumping organs that ungulate in the chests of many heshers. It goes without saying that no one does epic doom metal quite like Stockholm’s Candlemas. Not only because they were one of the architects of the genres sound, but their 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is the namesake of the genre itself. The Door To Doom is in many ways a call back to that Promethean release, with the return of original vocalist Johan Längquist (following a thirty plus year hiatus) and the skull-cross-mace cover art.
So does DTD pick up where EDM left off? Not really. EDM had a dark, cavernous atmosphere with tattered production that conveyed the sense of impending calamity. DTD, in contrast, is more bombastic and theatrical, with modern production values. More like a distant sequel, or a sequel-reboot than the second chapter in a saga. It’s different, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Your next question is probably, is DTD at least a worthy successor to EDM? Obviously, not. Not even close. So, what is DTD? A damned good epic doom album.
Comparing any band to Candlemass in their prime is frustratingly unfair, even if that band is present-day Candlemass with (almost) the original line up (founding bassist and lead songwriter Leif Edling still calls the shots on DTD and is joined by original rhythm guitarist Mats Bjorkman). Candlemass was one of those bands that changed the face of metal irrevocably, and generations of bands have lived in their shadow. A fate that not even Candlemass themselves can escape. At the risk of overstating my point, this is a damned fine record and worth a spin if you’ve ever wondered what Black Sabbath would have sounded like had they put their efforts into a demonic rock opera circa Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. You don’t have to image that hard though, as Toni Iommi delivers a fingernail peeling guest solo on the hungry, plodding crawl of “Astorolus (the Great Octopus).” The band is at their most impactful on acid-worn opener “Splendor Demon Majesty” which features great beefy guitars, irreverently pious backing vocals, and a sleepless, driving rhythm, see also the perilous funeral march “Death’s Wheel.”
There are a few spots on DTD that feel underwritten, and drag to the point where the band begins to reveal their age. This especially occurs on the ballad “Bridge of the Blind,” which is unfortunate because if there was ever a band that could make a ballad feel like a banger, its Candlemass. Ultimately, these minor missteps are more than made up for by the gothic speed bursts of “House of Doom” and the sinking majesty of closer “The Omega Circle.” It’s hard to rekindle an old flame once it’s gone out, but DTD is a testament to the fact that it is worth the effort to try.
Candlemass will be playing a series of festivals throughout the year but has no current plans to stop in Chicago.