ISSUE #62 / may 30, 2019

Pet Quality

For five years, Alan Zreczny has been entertaining Chicago with his lyrical tunes as a solo act or backed by his band, bluefront. After playing out around town sporadically for several years, they have finally released debut, full-length Aftershocks. Jam-packed with Zreczny’s engrossing and often unconventional tunes, Aftershocks showcases his talent for breathy vocals that belie the seriousness of his subject matter and a warbling intimacy that draws comparisons to Elliot Smith or Neutral Milk Hotel. A few stretched-out jams on “End Of The Lie” and “Your Letter” sound like they could be elevated live and give the album an impromptu feel that is hard to capture correctly, yet Zreczny and company have done just that, resulting in a relaxed effort that feels modern with a classic outlook.    


They just had their Record Release at Beat Kitchen last weekend and have no further dates planned as of yet.


Full Upon Her Burning Lips
Sargent House

Earth get back on the horse for another full-length, with a stripped down line-up and a return to the sounds of their mid-period cowboy drone, ala Hex.  Full Upon Her Burning Lips is described by lead guitarist and composer Dylan Carlson as an exploration of femininity and witchery. An attempt to create a garden of sound and intrigue full of rarely seen, (and badly understood) mystical creatures, it’s a welcome return from the metallic dirges of 2014’s Primitive and Deadly. Earth is always best at their most welcoming; they fling the doors to their sound wide open and allow the listener to wander in and make themselves at home. While Burning Lips certainly has a warm, yielding sound, many of the tracks barely creep over five minutes, which is hardly enough time for them to bud and blossom into their full potential. (That’s not to say that the shorter tracks don’t contribute to the lush furrows of this album.) “Cats on the Briar” (an average-length track) has an alluring, psychedelic groove that rolls and burrows beneath a patiently steady, even-toned, and conversational bass-line and will likely by the high-water mark of the album for many. Shortcomings aside, it’s good to have the tanned leather, riding chaps-wearing incarnation of Earth back- this time with a witchy, green-thumbed twist.    


Earth will be breaking ground at Empty Bottle with Helms Alee on June 23rd. Get your tickets here!


Amyl and The Sniffers
Amyl and The Sniffers

Amyl and the Sniffersself-titled debut album out via Rough Trade, ATO, and Flightless Records, comes out swinging and does not stop. From the first song starting out with heavy bass lines, strident guitar riffs, and a possessed man beating his drums, the anticipation builds for lead singer Amy Taylor to take over with her in-your-face vocals. The Aussie band (playing off the name Amyl Nitrate- a drug used for relaxation purposes), is everything but relaxing...  While listening to the music, you instantly feel the need to get up and start moving, as it sends a jolt of electricity through you. With Taylor’s intensity, you need instrumentals that can match it, and the Sniffers do just this.  There is a sense of competition among Bryce Wilson (drums), Dec Martens (guitar), and Gus Romer (bass), to see who can play the fastest and rip out some intense moments. In doing so, the songs flow together, creating a seamless album. A few songs had been released starting last September with “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” and “Cup of Destiny,” and in March, “Monsoon Rock,” and the band released “Gacked on Anger” just days before the album released. This body of work that the band has build up perfectly encapsulates what it is like to see them live and is elevated by getting to see them play these songs and put everything into the performance. Clear your schedule, and prepare for a raucous show because you will not want to miss them!


Next Chicago date is at Wicker Park Fest July 26th-28th.


Fire Talk

May the power trio never die... Boston indie pop fuzz makers Halfsour take the classic lineup to new heights with their sophomore full-length. Sticky contains so many hooks, it’ll blow your hair back from moment one.  Zoë Wyner’s walking bass lines and distinctive rambling vocals, Matt Mara’s half jangle/half power chord guitar attack, and new drummer Travis Hagan’s off-kilter style combine to create an uncommon sound that has just the right catchiness without getting too sappy or sweet. Whether it’s the driving beat of tunes like “Cowboy,” an all out guitar blitz on “Big Teeth” or “All Gone,” or the drum and bass combo on excellent closer, “Milk Bath,” these three are on the top of their game, falling in with fellow scenesters Pile, Patio, Thick, Swearin’ and Speedy Ortiz at the top of the Northeastern Indie Rock barrell.       



Kitty Kat Fan Club
Dreamy Little You
Asian Man

Full of warm feelings and tender pop tunes that would make any cat curl up at the speaker, Kitty Kat Fan Club drops their debut full-length Dreamy Little You this Friday. Started by Mike Park (of former ska punks Skankin’ Pickle and currently of Ogikubo Station) with the sole purpose of “getting together with friends once a week to play music,” the San Jose scenester “supergroup” is made up of members of what seems like every band from the area. Joined by the harmonizing vocals of Catherine Jones and Just Friends member Brianda Goyos, with Mike Huguenor of Jeff Rosenstock Band on keys and guitar and Jon McMaster of Stickup Kid on bass, rounded out by Sim Castro on a third guitar and Justin Amans on drums, Park has assembled a crew who produce tender pop tunes with plenty of heart. Whether it’s the aww shucks attitude of “There’s Something Better They Keep Telling Me,” or the sticky sweet pop of “Send Me A Message For The Holidays,” this is just pure fun with no apologies. Even when delivering a message, as in “You Got Me Modernized,” they still keep it upbeat with a punk chord slug-fest held together by Huguenor’s new wave keys. Dreamy Little You won’t change the world, but it’ll sure make it more fun to jump ship and jam out while everyone else sinks into oblivion.  


They hit Beat Kitchen last November, so they may be due back in late Summer. (However, we wouldn’t count on it due to the mess of schedules these Kats must have!)


Cate le Bon
Kemado / Mexican Summer

Utterly captivating and fantastically eloquent in its simplistic nature, Cate le Bon’s fifth studio record Reward is the Welsh artist’s most personal and introspective work to date. It may also be her most accessible, with plenty of pop melodies backed by her echoey croon. Written in a year where the innovative artist lived a solitary existence in England’s Lake District, Reward feels like a portrait of an individual in transition. Gone is the more electro feel of Mug Museum and Crab Day, and in its place is an intimate groove that persists throughout, (not to say there isn’t plenty of experimenting under the surface.) Like a warm summer evening, le Bon draws you in with cool gems like “Home To You” or “Daylight Matters” only to turn it on its head a tune or two later with the syncopated “Mother’s Mother’s Magazines” or the warbly “Sad Nudes.” Engaging as ever, Cate le Bon has never lapsed on the interest factor, and Reward is another solid link in the chain of her affecting catalog.     


Cate le Bon is coming to Constellation on July 19th. This show is SOLD OUT.


Natural Disaster

Stepping out of his role as frontman for beloved emo rockers Sullivan, Brooks Paschal has released his solo debut as Surprises, out this Friday on Spartan Records. A surprisingly more mature and intimate record than anything his former home produced, Natural Disaster finds the emo maven with plenty of things on his mind and the willingness to lay bare his life with abandon. From asking the ultimate questions in “What’s Wrong With This World,” to wallowing in self pity with “I Hate Myself,” to feeling lifes pressure bear down in “Overloaded,” Paschal shares all his foibles with outright abandon. His self-proclaimed “no rules” philosophy when writing Natural Disaster shows through in every ‘pump your fist’ chorus or thoughtfully constructed verse. There is certainly the same hooky ventures and emotional underpinnings that made Sullivan an emo stalwart, but there is also a penchant for straight up rock, as in “I’ll Drive” or “El Salvador,” that shows Paschal won’t be locked in the box of his previous work. With his “no rules” attitude, he has opened the door to new sonic territory that is explored with abandon in this solo effort.


Currently not on tour Paschal will hopefully be hitting the road and stopping by Chicago sometime soon.


Deathspell Omega
The Furnaces of Palingenesia

Black metal has a reputation, both sought after and deserved, of being indigestible. From its dermis-stripping speed, its windburn-scared grooves, to the wraith-like vocal performances and preoccupations with blasphemy (not to mention attempts by some to use it as a vehicle to spread their idiotic and deplorable politics,) it’s a very bitter pill to swallow- the acrid taste of which lingers long after it’s slid down your gullet. There is really only one thing that could possibly make the genre less attractive to the casual head-banger, and that is obtuse theological musing about the nature of good and evil. And if there is one group who will gleefully put a philosophical railroad spike in the wheels of your party bus, it’s France’s Deathspell Omega.

Recording anonymously, shunning interviews, and refusing to perform live, Deathspell Omega defines and defies the tropes of black metal in ways that few bands can. Their compositions are harsh and unforgiving like the Transylvanian night, overcome with rising fumes of decay and morbid atmosphere like early Ulver, and possessed with a malevolent muse that flails the souls of the persons behind the shroud of self-drawn obscurity, spurring them to creative zeniths that could make Nergal of Behemoth choke with furious envy. The appropriately named The Furnaces of Palingenesia is something of a comeback album for the band, having not released a full length since 2010’s Paracletus, the capstone album to a tryptic of releases exploring a Hegelian dialectic between God and Satan with humanity left twisting in the storm betwixt their competing desires. Palingenesia is more grounded than its predecessors, turning its withering Sauronic gaze on modernity and its fetishization of progress and solipsism. Musically, it continues the weighty presentation of Paracletus with a reified focus on black metal fundamentals exhibited on 2016’s EP The Synarchy of Molten Bones. “Ad Arma! Ad Arma!” exhibits a seemingly infinite descending chord progression that winds itself into a suicidal spiral complete with horn accompaniments ala Imperial Triumphant, while the post-Dark Throne, quaking pummel of “Sacrificial Theopathy” serves as a demonstration of the group’s mastery of perverted, intertwining melodies.  Even the sparse composition and darkly meditative sweeps of “1523” serve to heighten the tension on this release.

The Furnaces of Palingenesia is dense as cement slowly hardening after being poured into an open grave. There is as little light as there is room to breathe. It may seem difficult to imagine that a furnace could burn this brightly with so little oxygen to spare, and yet it rages. In defiance of expectations, as always. Deathspell Omega is the conflagration that burns by its own will, and is never starved for slack.


Deathspell Omega doesn’t play anywhere.


Take Shelter

Take Shelter scoops you up in its clutches and delivers an emotional hangover as it’s sonic journey comes to an end. Nathan Harar’s follow up to his debut is jammed with personal moments that deal in worthy extremes. Performing under Dalton for several years now, the Brooklyn-based indie-folk rocker delivers the goods with plenty to chew on in ballads “I Could Wait” and “Cabin (The Grey)” plus providing the ultimate release with all out rock tunes like, “The Fade In.” Solo recording the entire record in his studio apartment, the multi-instrumentalist delves deep into his personal self to deliver an altering work that will most likely not get the attention it deserves.


Dalton is currently not on tour.


Act Surprised

Most musicians tend to lose an edge with age, but indie legends Sebadoh have grown sharper after returning from a fourteen-year recording hiatus. True this is only their second record since and comes a hot six years after Defend Yourself brought Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D’Amico back together in a studio for the first time since 1999’s The Sebadoh (their one and only major label record). Now joining forces again, the trio has produced possibly their most commercially relevant record in Act Surprised. Maybe it’s the years showing in their writing style, maybe it’s because they actually rehearsed these tunes before recording, possibly Barlow’s time back in the fold on Dinosaur Jr. has influenced his taste, but Act Surprised is without the raw flavor of their early work with a more sharpened exterior that hides a bit of the emotional exposure that has always been at the core of Sebadoh’s appeal. Not to say this isn’t an extremely enjoyable experience; by all accounts, this is an excellent record, but the teenager who fell in love with III and Bakesale really wanted that raw exuberance. Sebadoh is no longer that band, but with Act Surprised they have put out a quality indie rock record that deserves to capture a whole new teenage fan base.  


They were just at SPACE last Friday night. Hopefully they roll through the city proper later in the tour.