ISSUE #56 / April 18, 2019
Heavy Handed is as dynamic as debuts come. From the bouncy opening track “Tell Him Off,” to the spare beauty of closer “Right Side,” Chicago synthpop trio Pixel Grip pack a genre bending punch that grabs you by the ears and doesn’t let go. Rita Lukea’s vocals contain octaves of flex and the blending of electronic influences running the gamut from Europe to Chicago House, propels them to the the top of the local music scene heap with one leap. Backed by Jonathon Freund and Tyler Ommen creating the lush yet slender tracks, Lukea winds her voice through and around the arrangements with the skill of a veteran; and as each track effortlessly flows into the next it becomes apparent that this is truly a special experience that deserves all the accolades it will receive.
They just had an Album Release Show last Saturday at Sleeping Village, and Chicago will have to wait till June 15th to catch them again at Cole’s 10 Year Anniversary Series with Ganser and Rare DM!
Just Say Thank You
Freddy Got Magic / EMPIRE
Hailing from the West Side, performer/producer Supa Bwe (born Frederick S. Burton) has followed up his critically acclaimed 2017 debut Finally Dead with a toned down, groovy collection of tunes that flexes his creative chops. Riding the fine line between hip hop and R&B, Supa Bwe has some help on this one from features from California product Rexx Life Raj, Queens native Dounia, and locals Duffle Bag Buru and the one and only Chance the Rapper, who all contribute features. But the real meat exists in the three tracks where he’s all alone. Mid record tracks “SLIPPIN / APEX” and “PROBLEM / FUEL” really deal with the tension on Chicago’s streets and and the struggles of dealing with living day in day out on the West Side. Honest and thoughtful portrayals of real life are becoming the norm in indie hip hop and Supa Bwe has joined the growing amount of artists willing to let go and let their audience reflect on the struggles and joys of the urban black experience.
Supa Bwe is playing Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash this year at Douglas Park. 2 day tix are on sale for $149 for what is looking to be an excellent lineup of hip hop madness.
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society
Devised for an eight piece acoustic rendition of his experimental jazz collective, Natural Information Society, Chicago composer/performer Joshua Abrams pushes boundaries once again with Mandatory Reality. The long form pieces that make up much of the record, revolving around the repetitive beats of his guimbri (the three stringed lute used mainly by the Gnawa people), and the droning notes of the impressive local ensemble including Lisa Alvarado, Mikel Avery, Ben Boye, Hamid Drake, Ben Lamar Gay, Nick Mazzarella and jason Stein, are as relaxing and breathtaking as they come. Meditative in their simplistic nature, these compositions reach out from their hiding places to relieve the listener from their everyday life and transport them to the far reaches of imagination. Gloriously rich and supremely psychedelic, Mandatory Reality is an experimental jazz gem, in a city full of exploratory musical ventures.
They opened for Body/Head at the Art Institute last month but do not have any more Chicago dates on their current tour slate.
Sometimes Rock n’ Roll is the cure for all that ails, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Reese McHenry sure uses it to work out all of life’s issues. The pure garage rock swagger of her sophomore LP No Dados bursts at the seams with songs about the little moments in life that have a big impact. From the leaving lover in “Detroit,” to traffic jams in “Clogged and Idle Freeways,” to the battles of depression in “White Bear Incident,” she tells stories of experiences we can all relate to with her impressive vocal chops and deftly crafted lyrics. Ten years after suffering a major stroke, the powerful soulful voice of McHenry is more affecting than ever and No Dados is a testament to survival, and how the everyday trials of life can inspire an artist.
She has no plans to visit Chicago any time soon.
American War Machine
Unholy War is a sucker punch of raw, NYC d-beat from current members of Agnostic Front, Slapshot, Blood for Blood, and Intent to Injure, who have adopted the ominous moniker American War Machine. Precise, confident, chest-beating, forehead fracturing hardcore. Like a cyborg gorilla escaped from a government lab, it’s going to take hostage the first good looking person in fancy evening wear it crosses paths with, climb to the top of the nearest high rise condo development, and beckon all manor of biplane sloppy cop to come at it bro, while it fondles it’s prisoner and uses its positronic brain to access a pirated stream of the final season opener of Game of Thrones. American War Machine are not messing around. Title track “Unholy War” opens up with somersaulting punk grooves and gnarly paint-peeling howls and the album doesn’t pause for breath until the final blow of “Hammer Down.” If you are looking to host a party that is going to level your block and cause the resulting ruin to be declared a Superfund site, you now have your soundtrack.
American War Machine doesn’t appear to have any current touring plans.
The long awaited debut from FONTAINES D.C. has finally arrived, and it’s all that was promised! With a poetic punk swagger wrapped in a post-rock skin, the Dublin six piece beats the drum for all of Ireland with their attack on the modern apathy that dominates collective western culture. Whether it’s frontman Grian Chatten chanting “Is it too real for ya,” while the guitars squeal around him and the drums rattle the foundation in standout “Too Real,” their condemnation of those who idolize celebrities in “Boys In A Better Land,” the soul sucking trap of money in “Chequeless Reckless,” or the celebrations of all that is wrong in their home city with opener “Big” and closer “Dublin City Sky,” they run full steam into every tune with an intensity that holds true throughout. With shades of every punk and post-punk influence under the sun, from Subhumans to Joy Division and beyond, FONTAINES D.C. is a testament to the long lasting influence of their forebears, and a new way to rage at the cultural degradation that has continued to eat at the fabric of society.
We all have to wait for September for FONTAINES D.C. to come to town. They are hitting Lincoln Hall on September 15th. Tix are $15.
Heart Attack Man
You Did This / Triple Crown
Cleveland has birthed a myriad of rock bands over the years and it’s latest child comes in the form of post grunge/punk rockers Heart Attack Man. On the heels of 2017’s debut full length The Manson Family comes their sophomore effort Fake Blood, out this Friday, April 19th. Finding Heart Attack Man charging head first into a rock n roll spiral of self reflection and societal condemnations, Fake Blood is anchored by first single “Out For Blood,” which frontman Eric Egan claims was inspired by the Michael Douglas film Falling Down. A fitting inspiration considering the rather anti hero feel the entire record reflects. From the critique of poser scenesters in “Crisis Actor” to the pissed off protagonist of “Sugar Coated” and beyond, Egan screams and rails against everything from the status quo to suicidal thoughts to those who feast on “Low Hanging Fruit.” To call Fake Blood an angry record would be an understatement, but these are angry times and Eagan and company are merely holding up a mirror to reveal our ugly selfs.
Heart Attack Man is hitting the Sub T on May 5th with Seaway and Free Throw. Tix are $18.
Aftermath / 12 Tone
Packed full of soul, funk, R&B, pop, and hip hop, all combined into an 11 track album that listeners from different walks of life, from break dancers to pop lovers can enjoy. Producer and artist Anderson .Paak releases his 5th studio album Ventura, an album that is not only artistically conscious, but socially conscious as well, containing features such as Andre 3000, Smokey Robinson, the late rapper Nate Dogg, Brandy and many more. Just four months after releasing Oxnard, .Paak continues to produce smoother listening music. He combines raw instruments such as electric guitars and pianos with drums beats, all while collaborating classical melodies of soul, funk and even some disco, creating new hip hop music with a nostalgic twist. Love songs such as “Make It Better,” feature a soulful Robinson singing with .Paak over a slower hip-hop melody while the two plead for a relationship to not fall apart. Socially conscious, “King James” is one of the few songs .Paak doesn’t feature another artist. It has a more jazz-influenced hip hop melody, and an uplifting beat over his lyrics describing gentrification, violence in neighborhoods, racism, and Colin Kaepernick. .Paak does well to include instruments into his songs as well, such as the first song, “Come Home” featuring Andre 3000, with piano playing throughout drum beats and a hip hop tune, shows an artist’s appreciation for the classical genre. Ventura a great album added to .Paak’s collection, it continues to show off the Californian’s musical roots as well as musical knowledge.
.Paak will be at the Northerly Island on June 4th. Tickets start at $56.
Mixing a myriad of genres from reggae and afrobeat to post punk and new wave, Long Beach California outfit Wargirl dub themselves “world music garage rock.” A label they embrace entirely on their self titled debut out this Friday, April 19th. From the up front rhythmic perfection of Tamara Raye’s basslines to the very eclectic vocals of Samantha Park to the bluesy guitar lines of founder Matt Wignall, they have assembled what could be a muddled mess but instead becomes sonic perfection. A fit for any dance floor, with the percussive genius of tunes like “Voice Of The Mountain” and “Sass Girl” or the soul inspired numbers “How You Feel” and “Make Believe,” Wargirl is on the prowl with the versatile chops to slay the listener with each and every tune.
Unfortunately, they have no tour plans at the moment.
Inter Arma is a Richmond Virginia metal band who have discernibly assembled a sound all their own, while still leaving their dirty ashen figure prints all over extreme metal’s bastard spawn- death, doom, black, and sludge. Their sound doesn’t fit neatly into any of these categories while simultaneously representing a maximalist approach to all of them. Some critics have pigeonholed them as post-sludge, seemingly for the sheer joy of reductionism. Sometimes labels fail, and you have to live with the interstitial nature of a work. The sound of Sulphur English, their fourth LP, continues in the vein of their previous album 2016’s Paradise Gallows, while conjuring a much bleeker more harrowing aesthetic. Where their previous work indulge in aspects of folk and ambient atmosphere, Sulphur English is a whipping hurricane of tar and despair that only separates into portals of serenity long enough to allowing the listener to witness the chaos they had been fighting against from afar, to appreciate its magnitude, before once again being swallowed by a incoming wall of hungry debris. There are several ways this dynamic is heightened on Sulphur English, not the least of which is the production work of longtime collaborator Mikey Allred. Allred captures the moods of the band with practiced precision, centering the vocals, calibrating the drums so that they feel raw and live, and layering the guitars to feel both forceful and spacious. You think there is room to escape, but this is only an illusion. The body of their sound is vast, deep, and devoid of light and swimming in any direction is just as likely to usher you to fridge, frost forming air as it is to pull you deeper into the aireless abyss. From the nightmarish, piercing opener “Bumgardner” (a tribute the late drummer Bill Bumgardner who played in harrowing local metal acts Indian and Lord Mantis), to the scorched seething earth of “Howling Land” and through the astringent, resolute tumult of the 12-minute “The Atavist’s Meridian” this is an album that requires multiple spins to absorb, and will drag you deeper into its world with each rotation.
Inter Arma will be at Reggies on June 6th. Tickets start at $12.