ISSUE #58 / May 2, 2019
Take Off Mode
Returning to prime form, young Chicago legend DJ Nate dropped his first footwork record in nine years. The first footwork producer to gain national attention, westsider Nate Clark began producing tracks in highschool and released Da Trak Genious at the ripe age of 20. After paving the way for more known proprietors of the genre RP Boo and DJ Rashad and the rest of the Teklife crew to expose the world to the Chicago born artform, Clark produced many R&B and hip-hop tracks under different monikers but never returned to the polyrhythmic, sample-laden rush of his early work. Still recuperating from a spinal injury suffered several years ago, he has returned to his roots and dropped Take Off Mode, a searing beat extravaganza that should easily silence critics who thought Clark may have lost his edge. This is sonic perfection, made for the dance floor and the battle stage. There is no argument that his edge is as sharp as ever as he carves his way through the auditory adventure that is Take Off Mode: seventeen tracks of addicting rhythm with mainstream appeal that can’t be rivaled by many of his fellow footwork producers.
Footwork producers are a fickle bunch and rarely tour or perform outside the underground scene, but we’ll keep our eyes out for any DJ Nate appearances and make sure to check the calendar to see if we find one!
Ohni and Rizing Deity
Ohni and Rizing Deity
Paving the way for his self-described “Afro-Prog” bassist and composer Andre “Ohni” Duval has created a mesmerizing debut in The Skymother. All jazz-laden beauty, funk jam infused madness, and highly hypnotic grooves; the six track EP (at 38 minutes, calling it an EP is a stretch) shows off every bit of Ohni’s eclectic influences. From the sci-fi sounds of “Black Holez,” to the african styled rhythms and harmonic chants of “Utopia,” to the smooth jazzy bass solo of the title track, the groove holds shades of masters of the bass, such as Thundercat or Victor Wooten throughout. Esoteric yet endlessly creative and entertaining, The Skymother is a must listen from this week. Equal parts funk fueled dreamscape and endearing meditative groove, this is one fantastic debut from a true artist whose future promise is rather unfathomable.
He just had an album release show at The Hideout, but we are sure he will return to a Chicago stage soon.
Daniel Bryant Hubbard
Sometimes we must be reminded that there is nothing like a good old fashioned singer-songwriter who can rock as well as tug at the heart with a country tinged ballad. Bloomington, Illinois product Dan Hubbard’s roots-rock has been entertaining fans for years now and with his fifth solo release Attention, he continues to inspire with soul flavored numbers like “Important Man” and “Every Time I See Your Face,” ballads such as “We Are One” and the affecting “Scars,” and powerful roots rock numbers with “How Many Times” and “Run Towards the River.” This is music that lays bare its soul with complete abandon, calling out into the black rural night for the world to take notice. Populated by those that have been forgotten and left behind by the mainstream, Hubbard’s tunes remind one of a time when the rambling troubadour held the center of the country’s imagination and the worldly croonster was at the center of rocks heyday.
Hubbard had his album release party at SPACE on Tuesday, we’re hoping he hits Chicago again before the summer is out.
Aldous Harding is a difficult person to pin down. (This is a statement that I think she’d be hesitant to argue with.) She’s evasive in interviews, refusing explanation to the public for her lyrics, imagery in her evacuative videos, and the reasons for her drinking on the road. This invasiveness comes with an intensity and understated roiling angst. This thistly quality to her character and her art protruded most indisputable in the morbid preoccupations of her debut, but has become more gingerly concealed as her music has become more self-consciously “modern.” From the wavering sea-side lament-laden folk of “Hunter” to the tender minimalist urban whimsy of “Imagining the Man,” Harding trades in the art of abstraction through subtraction, shaving back layers of an idea and polishing the remaining core until it shines with such seeming faultlessness that the loss of whatever angler, crewed object it owes its origins to is scarcely a memory. The only one who remembers the starting point of this gracious mutilation is Harding, and it’s only in the glint of her piercing eyes that the destruction which was the prime mover of such beauty can still be found.
Designer is Harding’s third album, as well as the second she has released with the help of producer John Parish, long-time collaborator of fellow somber songstresses, PJ Harvey and Jenny Hval. While Designer feels like a somewhat streamlined and poppier afraid compared to her previous albums, the resulting threshold states these tracks draw the listener into are none-the-less compelling. “Fixture Picture” traces a darkly delicate waltz that smiles soberly as it circles the object of its contemplation attempting to avoid direct eye-contact with the aid of a disarming grin. After a cheerless false start, title track “Designer” blossoms into a plucky xylophone lead that’s subtly orchestral and pleads with listeners to give up on their attachments and pride to satiate a desire extraneous to themselves. The hooky PJ Harvey indebted “The Barrel” shifts uneasily in place as it caresses the buoyant folds of peppy melody, indifferent to the moods of the mortal creatures it encounters on its journey towards terminus. The airy bob of the subtly (early) Scott Walker-esque ramble and clasping embrace of “Weight of the Planets,” and the sharply sardonic piano-pop of “Pilot” with its Haley Fohr vocal delivery make for definite late-album highlights. With Designer, Harding has orchestrated another handsome mood-piece of compounding emotional depths. One which is defined as much by what is present and accounted for, as what has been scraped away, left unsaid and inaudible, for the sake of its creator and the benefit of her audience alike.
Aldous Harding was just in Chicago on April 14th. I’m sorry if you missed her.
Sophomore albums rarely top an artist’s debut. However, the Northern Ireland’s singer/songwriter SOAK took her time arriving with Grim Town, and the patience and maturity comes through in each and every moment of the rather perfect record. Nearly eight years into her career at the young age of 22, Bridie Monds-Watson, the youngest nominee in the history of the Mercury Prize for Before We Forgot How to Dream, has unleashed her new vision on the world. Her stripped-down, bedroom-pop aesthetic has morphed into a full steam ahead indie rock opus that hits all the right spots in the sonic landscape to land her a spot alongside legends of the genre such as Liz Phair and Throwing Muses. A journey through SOAK’s personality and young experiences, conceptually set within a fictional train trip, Grim Town runs a perfect line in the sand of generational change. SOAK is the future, and if you’re not down, you’re bound to be left behind.
SOAK is appearing at Schubas on June 15th. Tix are $14 ($16 doors).
Filled to the brim with spacey and adventurous sonic explorations, the St. Petersburg trio Chkbns has fully embraced the doom-pop moniker with a decimating full-length debut. Autwik curves the mind to its whims, whipping into a collective fury one moment, before dropping into spare, yet lushly orchestrated, arrangements, before gathering and unleashing a crushing jam out. Born from the minds of Aneliya Avtandilova, Emiliia Grobova, and Vyacheslav Gabrielian, the Kraftwork-style basslines of tracks like “Belong” blend effortlessly with the shoegaze momentum of “Keep Telling” or opener “From;” each track acting as a conduit to feed the everlasting whole. Avtandilova’s often unintelligible singing (the emotion is more impactful than the lyric anyway) layers over the fuzzy guitars and ever-present droning synths, thumping bass, and on-point beat of the metricly necessary drums. Without them, the music of Chkbns would float off into the ether, unable to drawn back down to earth. The beat of drum and bass root this record to the physical, while the sparkling tug of the fuzzy drone threatens to pull it apart into a void of noise. A dichotomy that makes Autwik all the more interesting and dynamic.
No stateside shows are scheduled at this time.
Young stardom has torn apart countless acts over the history of rock, and San Jose pop/emo punk teens Stickup Kid crashed onto the scene in 2012 with break-out EP Nothing About Me and stints touring with a who’s who of pop and emo punk. After their full-length debut, Future Fire, and a year’s worth of touring, the members disbanded and went their separate ways, only for life to bring them back together six years later for the utterly personal follow up Soul Drive. A maturity and intensity, musically and thematically, has settled over these tunes that didn’t previously exist. Taking cues from their peers, Stickup Kid has embraced the melodic post-hardcore that launched acts like The Wonder Years and Bayside to the top of the genre. From the harmonies of “Real Time” to the tumbling guitars of “The Acrobat” to the rapid fire energy of single “Soul Drive,” they have improved across the board into a real adult rock band. Growing up is hard to do, and Stickup Kid has made the fraught-filled journey and appeared on the other side asbetter musicians and humans alike.
We’re already imagining seeing them appear on that Riot Fest lineup.
Soul Drive is available this Friday, May 3rd.
With an infectious mix of punk and surf rock, Otoboke Beaver will take over your speakers and your life with ITEKOMA HITS. The quartet out of Kyoto, Japan lays down a heavy punk beat with swirling guitar that complements the scream speak vocals to perfection. Of course you can’t understand a word, unless you speak Japanese, but the emotion is all there, ready to transport the listener to the crunchy and break-neck world where Otoboke Beaver exists. Formed in 2009, the quartet of Accorinrin (lead vocal, guitar), Yoyoyoshie (guitar, vocals), Hiro-chan (bass, vocals), and Kahokiss (drums, vocals) have steadily gained fans all over the world with their high energy live shows and addictive headbang-worthy tunes. ITEKOMA HITS may finally garner the international attention these ladies deserve after ten years of tearing up clubs across the world.
Currently touring the UK, Otoboke Beaver has never rolled through Chicago (that we could find). Are you listening Riot Fest?! They are perfect for you!
Oh My God
In a distinct departure from the guitar centric folk rock that many of his contemporaries have relied on, singer/songwriter Kevin Morby has moved toward a more goth-pop style over the last several projects. Full of spare arrangements in which his melancholy croon floats above the highly selective notes and dronning organs, Oh My God is a culmination of the direction Morby has been headed towards since his breakout, Singing Saw, in 2016. Piano, organ, and voice have come to the forefront, leaving behind the traditional guitar sound for a more organic feel that complements his musings on religion and society with such perfect tone and respect for the craft that his songwriting seems effortless. With the choral-backing track and simple organ and congo of “Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild,” or the rhythmic piano chords of closer “O Behold,” Morby has captured a sound few of his generation have explored (perhaps Conor Oberst comes the closest,) and the originality shows through making Oh My God one of this yea’s most compelling records.
Blending different genres together while songs transition from a hype melody to a smooth jazz sequence, L.A. native ScHoolboy Q presents the 14-track album CrasH Talk, an album that both discusses the artist’s life as well as relating to the younger generation of rappers and their lifestyles. ScHoolboy Q also has plenty of features as well, in each of the songs he has this sort of beat or melody relating to what the features are known for- their musical style. In song “CHopstix,” featuring rapper and producer Travis Scott, the auto-tuned duo sing over a fun hip-hop beat, something that Scott is known for, with lyrics lusting over women and sex. Q slows down the melody in certain songs, “Dangerous” featuring Kid Kudi’s ominous vocals while Q raps over a haunting guitar and hip-hop beat in the background, another style similar to what Kudi is used to, as the two talk about drug addiction. While in “Drunk,” featuring rapper 6LACK, a jazz-infused, hip-hop beat with a woman repeating, “I ain’t really drunk” with 6LACK singing the chorus as well, Q focuses on his life and social aspects of the black community. In “Black Folk,” a mellow beat and calming flow, as if Q is talking to his listeners, gives insight on his life growing up, stating that failure is what’s expected and how fast his he grew from selling drugs to violence and materialistic items. He states that the black consciousness was chosen, like in biblical literature, but through history they have stopped believing and dreaming and are resulted to this life. Q admits to instead of focusing on the negative to focus on solely the positive, to change from his old ways. More upbeat songs such as “5200,” “Numb Numb Juice,” and “Gang Gang” all have a very hype melody to it, taking away the album’s more serious tone and bringing forth the more popular gangster rap. ScHoolboy Q mad a fun album that has both hit more serious and socially conscious aspects to his life as well as providing fun tracks and features such as Lil Baby and 21 Savage, adding this to the list of great albums coming from L.A rappers like himself.
Unfortunately ScHoolboy Q won’t be coming to Chicago.
I Need A New War
The enigmatic frontman of The Hold Steady has been finding an outlet for his quieter, less rock-oriented tunes with his solo work. The culmination of a three record trilogy based on exploring “lives in the balance,” I Need A New War is chock-full of Craig Finn’s speak-sing lyrics exploring the stories of those in transition. From the complicated breakup tune “A Bathtub In The Kitchen” to the rural exodus of “Something To Hope For” to the battle with depression in “Her With The Blues,” Finn captures everyday stories that too many songwriters shy away from. Where some would hide behind metaphor, Finn goes right at the issue with simple, wisely chosen lyrics. Always unabashed at adding new elements to his tunes, Finn has explored a retro-soul sound with this record, bringing in horns and thumping R&B bass lines that complement his distinctly narrative style even better than the folk or rock sounds he had always leaned on. Whether you are a fan of The Hold Steady, Finn’s solo work, or a newcomer, there is so much to unpack on I Need A New War that you’ll be chewing on it for weeks to come.
The Tales People Tell
A fabulous debut from a fixture at the Ohio-based label Colemine. After working with the young label as an engineer and instrumentalist, Kelly Finnigan has been given the front and center treatment on his first full-length The Tales People Tell. Filled to the brim with funky, groove-laden soul and the inevitable heartbreak that unabashadley accompanies any tune of the genre, Finnigan’s accomplished vocals bring to mind elders such as Lee Fields and the late Charles Bradley, as well as contemporaries like Durand Jones and Curtis Harding. With ballads like “Catch Me I’m Falling,” and “Can’t Let Him Down,” he pulls at the heartstrings only to tackle societal problems in “Smoking & Drinking,” and “Freedom,” or lamenting lost love in classic soul fashion with “Since I Don’t Have You Anymore.” It’s true Finnigan owes much to decades of pervaiors of soul music, who worked for years under the radar to keep the genre alive for a new generation, but now that it has arrived, Finnigan deserves to be at the forefront with fellow artists who are introducing a whole new audience to the smooth grooves of the classic soul sound.
Finnigan is coming with his band The Atonements to Martyrs on June 1st. Tix are $15 ($18 doors).
Cruz Del Sur
Riding hell-bent out of Helsinki, Chevalier is looking to revive the dangerous, garish, devil-may-cry fun of ‘80s speed metal at a time when the genre is synonymous with the modifiers “death,” “doom,” and “black.” Speed metal, for those who didn’t have the benefit of being born in the second to last decade of the past millennium, hails from a brief capsule of time, now seemingly lost to history before flashy up-tempo blues rock like Poison, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica became the defacto rock 'n roll of a generation of sloppy convenience store clerks and bowling-alley pool-sharks. Chevalier sounds absolutely nothing like any of these bands your older brother and pops brag about seeing in the local insurance company/tire brand-tagged arena. Chevalier’s sound is much more ancient, devious, and savage. Fishing its armaments out of standing cursed pools of stagnant fluid that collect at the base of a haunted castle, they rally to the cause of eons past, champions like ADX, Brocas Helm, and Omen, dawning the twisted black armor of Merciful Fate, and marching under the banner of French heavy metal, adorning themselves with the emblems of Sortilege and other wicked heathens, Chevalier is an assault on modernity that the rock establishment neither anticipated, nor is likely to survive.
The grim “blackened” production of the Destiny Calls lends a hardened edge to the medieval mysticism of “The Curse of the Dead Star” which opens with a devilish incantation which parts to make way for a sword-drawn march through a foul icy swamp, only to emerge into a full foaming gallop towards a battle fated to last until the end of time. The nomadic punk ripper “In the Grip of the Night” sounds like a witch-born 45 Grave returning from the grave to enact its revenge on the progeny of Puritans who had sentenced it to the gallows for daring to live with fidelity to its own earth exulting beliefs. Vocalist Emma Grönqvist’s forceful performance finds a devilish and hypnotizing groove on the thunderous warhorse “Road of Light” falling somewhere between Stevie Nicks, Jinx Dawson, and Siouxsie of Banshees fame, and the battle harbinger “Stormbringer” steals its resolve for the onset of an endless nights with strikes of shimmering leads being the only light left to guide the way of weary travelers. Once the curse of Chevalier has been unleashed there is no escape from its malevolence. All hail the new dynasty of trve metal mastery!
No word on whether Chevalier will be invading our shores anytime soon. But if they do, you can be certain that some of the CCS staff will be there to join in the fray.
Thrilled To Be Here
Fantasy , Concord
A soulful and gorgeous debut full-length from the family trio BAILEN. Based out of New York, fraternal twins Daniel and David are joined by their younger sister Julia Bailen for a three-part, harmony-laden collection that shows off the young musicians’ passion and skill with an expert at the helm in producer John Congleton (of St. Vincent and The War on Drugs’ fame.) Raised by classically trained parents, the three explored music from an early age, and a whole host of influences show their shades on Thrilled To Be Here. From the obvious comparisons to a pop-laden Peter Paul & Mary to Julia’s vocal similarities to Fiona Apple, to their wiser-than-years sensibilities, BAILEN has the chops and the mainstream appeal to make a huge splash this summer. First single “I Was Wrong” has all the smarts and momentum to gain national attention. This is BAILEN’s year, and the young trio are poised to take it head-on.
They were at Schubas in November and February, but should return by the end of the summer in support of this one.
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Universal , Island
Alternative rock and relationships go hand in hand- bands use their personal lives and struggles against looming guitars and melodic drums with the lead singer’s longing vocals. With lyrics, fans can relate: alternative music has grown and evolved throughout the years but still remains the same emotionally. The Balance, the 11-track album released by Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen, is literally a balance between the good times and bad times in romantic relationships. Hard thrashing and loud droning guitars and drums play within songs such as “Fluctuate,” “Basically,” and “Coincide,” while lead singer Van McCann sings and even at times yells over the instruments to showcase the emotional turmoil he’s facing, but all songs aren’t as intense as others. In quieter songs, such as “Encore,” McCann sings intimately behind a softer guitar riff until the chorus where the band gets louder but is still not as droning as other songs. McCann uses the act of an encore to metaphor a failing relationship, always trying hard and even harder if the other person feels that isn’t enough. Their final song in the album, “Overlap” actually balances the quiet moments of just a strumming guitar and transitions into a full band playing together. Creating a great melody and taking time within those moments, Catfish and the Bottlemen have used their alternative style over the years to create more great music and find different ways to create moments within their music style. The Balance is a great album to add to their list, and we’re looking forward to hearing more music from them.
They will be in Tinley Park for Q101’s Piqniq on June 15. Lawn ticked start at $20.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Fishing For Fishies
Flightless , ATO
Never one to stay in a genre for long, the incredibly prolific Australian outfit known as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have returned with a blues-laden pop record that is unsurprisingly set apart from any of their former material and may likely be their only adventure into the realm. With rich harmonies, blues harmonica, and synthpop joy, the seven piece group out of Melbourne have produced their most accessible record yet with Fishing For Fishies. After taking a year hiatus since going on an absolute tear in 2017 with an incredible six records released, they have returned in prime form. The wall of sound that garnered them praise as the saviors of Psych Rock is still there in the background, but a well of groovy pop sensibility has bubbled to the surface that makes this record stand apart from their former material. However, the palpable sense of musical adventure still hovers over the entire album, garnering a sense of anticipation for where they will go next. If closers “Acarine” and “Cyboggie” are any indication, it will be back to their psych/prog rock roots, but we'll always have Fishing For Fishies as an example of how far the Gizzard Wizard can stretch when they want to.
They are swinging through the Aragon on August 24th. Tix are $35.
Run Fast Sleep Naked
Opulent , Downtown
After four years of traversing the world with a microphone in his suitcase, recording whenever and wherever inspired him, the multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer known once as Chet Faker, (but now going by his surname Nick Murphy,) has finally shared his sophomore effort Run Fast Sleep Naked. A whirlwind of success from his debut Built on Glass swept the artist up in 2014 and he has spent the years in between soul searching around the globe, an adventure he shares through this record. His quest for artistic truth spills forth from the loosely-structured electro-pop tunes that make up this collection. More questions seem to be asked than are answered, but that’s just the truth of life reflected back. There are no mega-hits like “Talk Is Cheap” and “Drop The Game” here, but there are adventurous numbers like “Novocaine and Coca Cola,” and “Harry Takes Drugs On The Weekend,” that have brought the music of Nick Murphy to a whole new level that will most likely fly over the heads of most mainstream audiences, but hits all the right chords for us on the fringe.
Nick Murphy is hitting the Metro on May 29th. Tix are $31 ($36 day of).