ISSUE #59 / May 9, 2019
With a stellar voice and even better songwriting chops, Chicago folk scenester Emily Nott is set to release her debut full-length, Time Before. As a part of Joybird, the Old Lazarus’ Harp collective, and performing with Glass Mountain, she is a voice and face many fans of the Chicago folk and country scene have seen before. However, as a solo act, she proudly connects with the folk ballads of her youth. Having performed with her father from an early age, and having spent time studying with ballad singers Michael and Carrie Klein, the result is a very personal and engaging record that feels grand and intimate all at once. From the long, gorgeous notes of the title track to the interesting metaphorical lyrics of “How Many Rings,” to the affecting closer, “Where Will I Find Rest,” Nott captures the magic of the traditional ballad for a new generation. This is not your parents’ folk music; It’s immediate and arresting in a way that few artists of the genre can attain.
Cafe Mustache is hosting an album release party for Emily Nott’s Time Before on Saturday May 11th. $10 cover. The full record will be available on Friday May 10th on all platforms.
A myriad of influences populate Chicago Producer/MC Malci’s heavy groove. With shades of trip hop, boom-bap, new jazz, and experimental ambient all combining under his culturally versed rhymes, Malci hits all the right buttons on his newest collection Papaya!. Whether commenting on gentrification, Thanos, Stan Getz, the NBA, or Black Lives Matter, his smooth flow drifts through his beats like a guiding light against the dark backdrop of our modern societal predicament. When a good many of his peers are rapping about cars and watches, Malci stands apart with other excellent societal critiquers in hip-hop (locals Mykelle Deville, Saba, and Mick Jenkins come to mind, along with the uncomparable Quelle Chris). This penchant to use hip-hop as a form of protest and commentary is nothing new, but being able to be traced back to the roots of the genre with the latest “pop-hop” (leaving behind any form of reasonable substance,) it’s important for artists like Malci to take the reigns of the future of hip-hop and lead it to a new renaissance (one we believe is already underway). Papaya!, along with his earlier work, is a testament to the excellent urge to create something fresh, new, and important that exists within hip-hop.
Malci is opening for Little Church at Schubas on June 2nd. Tix are $10. ($12 doors).
Winter’s Diary / WD / EMPIRE
Creating a dama-filled story using voicemail excerpts scattered across the album, with R&B melodies setting either a concerning or lustful mood. Chicago artist Tink creates stories that seems more personal than fiction in the 12-track album, Voicemails. Creating her character, Keke, her songs allude this self-tension between staying with her unreliable beau DeShawn or pursuing a new relationship with playboy Chris. In her first voicemail, Keke confronts DeShawn while she is at home with their child, and he’s been gone for days. She swears at him and tells him to never come back but is contrary in the two songs before the voicemail; “I Need Ur Love” and “Bad Side.” The two are very slow R&B melodies, both admitting her struggles with him and her willingness to make it work and stay with him. While, “I Need Ur Love” is more of a slower song, Tink sings hopefully to continue her destructive relationship, the more upbeat and kind of rapping “Bad Side” talks about her annoyance with him and admits she wants him by her side regardless. Tink plays on her sexy side in song “Ride It” featuring (only once in this album,) Detroit rapper Dej Loaf. Before leading to the “Keke’s Interlude,” and after the voicemail excerpt from Chris, this slower, sensual R&B melody sets the mood in Tink’s lustful adventure with lyrics in full description of their night. Tink raps about the ups and downs of trust in friendships and relationships in more up-beat song, “Stabbed In The Back,” while continuing her lustful times with Chris and forgetting about the father of her child in songs such as, “Litty Again (Thoughts),” and “I Wanna Be Down.” As soon as “DeShawn’s Interlude” plays, with the character telling her the reason for his absence and taking his relationship seriously because of rumors of Keke dating Chris, Tink ends her album with song, “Falling In Love” confessing her love for him. She combines rapping in singing, like in most of her songs, giving truthful and heartfelt emotions for the man who left her for days as she suddenly ends the song with lyrics, “I really love you babe, love you babe.” The album is a blend between rapping and singing, transitioning from soft and subtle R&B melodies to more up-beat ones reflecting Tink’s emotions and stories. While the voicemails play really well to help continue telling the stories and scenarios, it’s her true inner emotion in the lyrics and the songs that make the album an emotional piece of art.
Tink is currently not on tour. Hopefully we will get to see her this Summer/Fall.
UMG / Blue Note
Native Chicagoan and in-demand vibraphonist Joel Ross has released a stunner of a first record with KingMaker. The award-winning young musician (he’s only 23!) is making his debut on legendary label Blue Note, which if you are unfamiliar with jazz is a pretty damn big deal. Having shared a stage with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jon Batiste, Makaya McCraven, and many more, Ross is no stranger to pressure and he has risen to the occasion with a lushly orchestrated record that is endlessly entertaining. His chosen instrument is still not even a hundred years old (the vibraphone was developed in 1927 by Henry Schluter), and he takes the warbly sounding cousin of the xylophone to new heights on scorchers like “Prince Lynn’s Twin” and “Is It Love That Inspires You?” This is a jazz evishinado’s wet dream of a record with a complex web of influences all converging. With his family story as the backbone narrative, the young composer visits be-bop, new jazz, and classic styles; sometimes within a single track. If you listen to nothing else from this week, visit this record, and prepare to groove.
He just played as part of a combo with Makaya McCraven at The Empty Bottle but has no Chicago gigs on the horizon.
Hey, We Are All Mutts
A decade is a long time in modern rock ‘n’ roll. Hundreds of thousands of bands have started and folded in the last ten years, but Chicago heros Mutts have kept it rolling with their bluesy take and frontman Mike Maimone’s showy personality and penchant for the dramatic. He doesn’t just play the piano, he manhandles it and the raw vitality of their live shows has always showed through in their recordings. It’s no surprise that the ten-year retrospective Hey, We Are All Mutts is filled to the brim with Maimone’s husky, at times Tom Wait’s-esque croon, Bob Buckstaff’s energetic guitar licks, and Ian Tsan’s pounding drums. Starting with new single, “Your Love,” and then following their evolution from electrified rockers to their more piano-based ballads and back, Hey, We Are All Mutts is a testament to the longevity of one of Chicago’s most unique and outstanding acts. With Tsan’s recent departure, the future may seem uncertain, but we are pulling for another ten years of Maimone’s antics and Mutts’ stirring tunes.
Mutts is back in Chicago on June 29th at Cobra Lounge with Archie Powell & The Exports. Tix are $10.
Run For Cover
I’ve always felt that hardcore was about failure: Failure to fit in with a crowd who don’t share your values. Failure to acquiesce in the face of disparagement. Failure to adjust to the presence of systemic cruelties. Failure to conform to set measures of musicality. If you’ve never failed, it means you’ve never tried. And if there is one thing you can say about hardcore kids, it is that they never try anything without putting their whole hearts into it. Sure they might spend the rest of their day in the nurse’s office sucking wind through a shattered septum, but it will have been worth it just to have taken one whole-body swing at a bully’s face. Even if they miss, it doesn’t matter. It’s the act of living that matters- not the outcome. Every human life has the same outcome anyway. And it’s not worth obsessing about.
On their second album, Failed Entertainment, OC hardcore band Fury continue to dive further into the fathoms of emotional and intellectual earnestness, with an aqualung filled with the nitrous-tinted fumes of youth crew-core in the vein of Terror, Turning Point, and fellow southern California resisters Uniform Choice and Insted. Failed Entertainment may be a misnomer because the entire effort has a ceaseless, thrilling momentum to it that is nothing, if not fun. If it fails at anything, it fails at being “mere” entertainment. As opposition to coercive authority is viewed by some to be a failure to thrive, the bravery to live in search of, and in adherence to, one own truth may appear indulgent and futile, but in either case, is an act that imbues life with purpose regardless of how they are received from the outside: None of us live purely for anyone else’s comfort or amusement.
Like a divine servant who gives up his immortality to live a life that is more than mere spectacle, Fury transubstantiates their interested in the canon of American literature and the inheritance of classic film into something that feels real, potent, and inescapably 2019 in its brevity and zeal. “Angels Over Belin” references the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire with its hues of hot-blooded guitars attempting to bleed through the layer of fine dust left by the controlled demolition conducted by cement shattering drums, explosive bass, and Jeremy Stith’s soul-lacerating vocals. “Vacation” rides a Fugazi-reared groove into a 12,000 ft freefall, while “America” mutilates itself in a stumbling, tearing series of chord changes that flare up into twisting pit-igniters. Judge’s influence can be felt on the earnest and deliberate guitar and drum interplay of “Birds of Paradise” as well as the ringing descent of “New Years Day” which is followed by the decidedly un-Judge resolute spoken word invocation, “New Years Eve.” Dizzying rush-and-tumble riffs and concussive drum work propel the howl of “Lost in the Funhouse,” and the album closes with a dark vision of imploding, lightening-cooked, blues-rock “Crazy Horses Run Free.” If you’re not living for yourself, you’re just not living. Sometime failing others means succeeding where it counts.
Fury will be playing Advanced Perspective Summer Exhibition at ChiTown Futbol on June 15 if you feel like indulging your inner soccer hooligan. Tickets start at $30.
Ten Foot Pole
Dennis Jagard / Thousand Islands
Any fan of punk has come across Ten Foot Pole at some point in their 36-year history. Whether it was the ‘80s years as Scared Straight and the “Nardcore” era, or their classic early ‘90s records Swill and Rev, if you were a punk in the ‘90s, you owned one or both of those records. Now fifteen years after their last original material, the Southern Cali punks return on Escalating Quickly. (Out this Friday, May 10th.) With vocalist/guitarist Dennis Jagard returning as the only original member, it’s not surprising that the base sound is still classic ‘90s punk, but they have also inserted some modern twists, including a few acoustic soft tunes that balance the record out nicely. After stints engineering for Prince, Jimmy Eat World, Weird Al, and others, Jagard has definitely absorbed some of the work he witnessed every night, and the guest artists brought in by producer Ryan Greene (NOFX, Lagwagon, etc.) only add depth to a sound that doesn’t exist on most punk records. Fans new and old should enjoy the lively sound of Escalating Quickly.
Ten Foot Pole is coming to Legit Dogs & Ice in Elgin on June 1st. Tix are $15.
Brooklyn-based indie quartet Big Thief has been a steady force in the indie rock world since their fantastic debut Masterpiece hit the airwaves in the summer of 2016, only to top it with the glorious Capacity a year later. A few excellent solo project records from songwriter/singer Adrianne Lenker and guitarist Buck Meek drifted out last year, and now they’ve topped it all with U.F.O.F., mixing the musical explorations of all their projects with the immediacy of their debut for an understated wonder of a record that will be quite difficult to better. Lenker’s vocals have always been on the mellow side, but on much of U.F.O.F. she is just above a whisper, a quiet intensity that builds throughout the album and ingeniously never releases. So in the end, Big Thief leaves you hungering for more, which can only be attained by hitting repeat. The patience and forethought to arrive at this effect is a staggering achievement. An endlessly listenable, and hauntingly enchanting work of art, U.F.O.F. is bound to win the hearts of any who venture into its hushed and restrained environs.
The Metro is hosting Big Thief on October 18th. Tix are $25. Get ‘em soon, cause this one is selling out.
This Mess Is a Place
Indie rock hasn’t always been a bastion of protest. More often, it was an outlet for personal experience and love songs. Then came 2016 when the culmination of this collective American nightmare began, and the genre drew a collective breath and started to scream back. However, Tacocat has been pointing out the foibles of society since their inception, with plenty of snark and snide tongue-in-cheek humor: formula they stretch into with impunity on their first Sub Pop release, This Mess Is a Place. While softening a bit of their punk roots into more doo-wop and pop territory, the Seattle quartet hasn’t skimped on the feminist message with tunes like, “New World,” “The Problem,” and “Miles and Miles.” The juxtaposition between the lyrical content and lightly-edged, poppy exterior is where This Mess Is a Place excels, drawing a metaphorical comparison between the pop culture capitalistic outside of society and the rotten values that lie at its core. Whether this is on purpose or just a product of environment, it’s a genius effect that sets Tacocat apart from many of their peers.
They are hitting up Lincoln Hall this Saturday, May 11th! Tix are $15 ($18 doors).
Tank and the Bangas
Green Balloon is a coming out party. It’s been a whirlwind of a few years for New Orleans genre-benders, Tank and The Bangas. After winning NPR’s Tiny Desk contest a few years ago, they have gone from a little known, Crescent City powerhouse to a nationally embraced inspiring story of perseverance and fully recognized talent. Sure, they may not yet be a household name, but they will be. It’s only a matter of time before the excellence of Tarriona “Tank” Ball and her funk-infused band the Bangas are known by all. Their first studio album in five years, Green Balloon is a lesson in mature songwriting. Whether it’s the smooth, soul-infused R&B vibes of “I Don’t Get High” and “Hot Air Balloon,” or the cool flow of hip-hop heavys “Happy Town” and “Nice Things,” or the funk of “Forgetfulness,” Tank and the Bangas have reached a new level of fully-fledged excellence. A party band that has always been on the edge of serious relevance, Green Balloon has allowed that leap from full of potential to reaching for the stars.
So far there are no Chicago dates on their tour. They did stop here twice last year, but the summer is young, and we’re pulling for an early fall stop.
Kill Rock Stars
When Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Peter Buck of R.E.M. teamed up to form Portland supergroup Filthy Friends and released the excellent Invitation in 2017, the music world figured it was likely a one-off, but they’ve surprised everyone by sticking to it and returning with the equally groove-infused Emerald Valley. A full-on collision of the DIY rock of Tucker and the ‘90s indie polish of Buck, Filthy Friends is flushed out by engineer extraordinaire Kurt Bloch on guitar, touring R.E.M. multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughey, and scenester Linda Pitman on drums: all of which have been playing together in various acts for years. With a full-on resume stretching back decades, each member brings the experience necessary to create a sweeping powerhouse of a record. It’s true there may be no stand-out tune, or surefire hit in this collection; however, there aren’t any duds either. Just ten quality rock tunes that display the talent Portland has possessed for years. Filthy Friends are mature musicians creating for the pure pleasure of sharing their perspective and skills with the world.
They have yet to schedule a Chicago stop on their tour. We’re holding out hope for a Riot Fest slot.
Death Becomes My Voice
Death Becomes My Voice may be the single most perfect title for an album from Cleveland’s metallic hardcore heretics Ringworm (metallic hardcore is the popular way to describe them these days, due to the fact that metalcore is a term we'd collectively ceded to groups like The Devil Wears Prada at some point). If the rumble and murmer of the underground rumormill are to be believed, (which it usually isn’t, but lend me your ear regardless,) it’s well-timed as well. As a group, Ringworm has been somewhat maligned by their association with Victory records in the ‘00s, and more generally by a music press that recognizes organic, uncut hardcore as newsworthy (their loss, right?) With the positive attention this record has been receiving, that may all be about to change... Much like the band's namesake, the enthusiasm for this record seems infectious. Thirty years into their career, Ringworm have delivered a definitive encapsulation of their terror-inspiring reimagining of satanic thrash metal, tombstone-rolling death metal, and old school, rust-belt hardcore, bound with enough blasphemous imagery to turn a black metalers corpse paint the same tint as boiled spinach. Similar to fellow Clevo hardcore legends Integrity, they’ve played the long game and now these devils are finally having their due.
Death Becomes My Voice opens with the ominous swaying whine of Matt Sorg and Mark Witherspoon’s malevolent guitar strokes which hang loftily over a burning bed of shifting bass chords, an illusion of abhorrent tranquility that is shattered and immediately swallowing in the erupting conflagration of James “Human Furnace” Bulloch’s vocals, a transition that is reinforced by mockingly melodious chords and skeleton-unmooring drum work. The trepidation proceeds with the skittering, thousand-legged chords and venomous bite of the relentlessly blast-beat propelled “Carnivores” which rounds a corner only to drown in the muggy, acidic peat of “Acquiesce,” a track populated by patient, predatory riffs and animated by animus for the implacable quality of human desire, an indictment followed by the undulating, emptiness mainlining and self-immolating death-wish, “Do Not Resuscitate.” This deadly quintet of opening tracks is bookended by the simmering, vengeful rage of “Dead to Me,” with its polished blade-like guitar ramps and its disconcertingly squishy bass. Later tracks like, “Separate Realities,” and “Let it Burn,” trade in a deranged brand of hellish death-thrash and pavement peeling speed-metal engineered to induce a psychotic break in the already savaged mind of the listener. For further proof of the group's korrigan attitude look to “I Want to Tear the World Apart,” a more credible threat has never been made by a band. In terms of pure forceful viciousness, Ringworm eviscerates all comers. There may be louder and faster albums released this year, but none will capture the chill of meeting death's unblinking gaze in the same way as Death Becomes My Voice.
No dates as of yet. Your clue to the announcement of their supporting tour will likely be a cloud of red eyed crowes descending on Reggies Rock Club.
Stretching the boundaries of what pop music can be, ALASKAALASKA have produced The Dots; a debut that is equal parts dance floor foder and a thinkers synth-pop magic. The South London five piece have thrown genre out he window and embraced a melding of styles that brings to mind acts as diverse as Rhye, Empress Of, and Let’s Eat Grandma without venturing too far into anyone’s sound as to come off as derivative. Wholly original, down to the ever present jazzy saxophone and Lucinda Duarte-Holman’s fantastically effective lyrics and speak sing style, ALASKAALASKA have created a gem of a record that is endlessly listenable and intellectually stimulating. It’s a rare feat to stretch the genre lines to the point of breaking while still keeping the listener wrapped around their finger.
There are no Chicago shows for these Londoners so far.
Age Of Unreason
Punk Rock music throughout history has garnered a following for the anarchy and the freedom of choice that fuel the genre’s angst. While this has stuck with many bands throughout history, one band has stood up and has more than had it with the way the American government is currently formed. Bad Religion, a band that has lived through the good and bad of the ‘80s and ‘90s, has dedicated their 17th album, Age of Unreason, to nationalism, our President, social media, and religion- all topics people try to avoid at the dinner table. From hard thrashing songs with amazing electric guitar solos such as, “Do The Paranoid Style,” “Faces of Grief,” and “Age of Unreason,” the band still has the flair they created 40 years ago. Slower tracks such as, “Candidate” and “Lose Your Head,” have a more serious lyrical and melodic approach. While the guitars and drums are still loud, they are toned down enough to hear lead singer Greg Gaffin talk about dark times in this country, death, and making fun of a certain celebrity presidential candidate with lyrics, “believers, dupes and clowns, I want you all to gather ‘round/to glorify ignorance and fear/I dispense misinformation to a post-truth generation.” Although very serious and very political, isn’t that what punk rock is all about? Take what others do not want to talk about and bring it to the table with an investigative light with trashing guitars and drums in the background. All these years later, and Bad Religion still has it, and this new album is truly fun and displays the band’s never-fading age.
Bad Religion will be touring Europe for half the summer- hopefully we will see them in Chicago later this year.