ISSUE #65 / June 20, 2019

Hal Baum
Love Songs for the Moon

Loose, irreverent, and desperate for love the bedroom pop of Hal Baum pays tribute to Chicago in nearly every tune of Love Songs for the Moon. With his pining for his lovers that have moved from the city in “The Whole Fucking Map” and “Come Back To Chicago” to the infectious closer “Lucky Penny,” Baum reflects upon the dark times and the wonderful in our fantastic city. From the shades of Dead Milkmen to the obvious influence of cheeky singer/songwriters like Beans on Toast, there is a clear line that marks Baum’s style but his content is pure Chicago. Following his debut EP Holding Hands Underwater the charming tongue in cheek tunes that populate Love Songs for the Moon will stick with you long after their catchy choruses and biting verses fade away.


There are no shows listed at this time.


Mike Adams At His Honest Weight
There Is No Feeling Better
Joyful Noise , Mike Adams At His Honest Weight

A sweeping opus of a record from Bloomington, Indiana’s Mike Adams At His Honest Weight finds the songwriter and local talk show host at his most honest and worldly. Asking big questions throughout There Is No Feeling Better, Adams and his band find themselves looking out and wondering if life could be improved and how we could go about changing. With light acoustic melodies, warm country tinged strings, without leaving behind the rock ‘n’ roll beats, Adams crafts a tone that is as welcoming as a spring morning; with plenty of lyrically poetic substance to chew on. Whether wondering what it’s like to be “Wonderful to Love,” or if history will remember any of us in “Educated Guess,” while closing true rocker “So Faded” digs deep into the punishing everyday emotions modern life dishes out, finishing with a gorgeous hidden track piano ballad instrumental. There Is No Feeling Better won’t cure depression or discourage negative emotions but it will give comfort that there are others out there that are looking around and asking the same questions, having the same thoughts. “Where do we go from here?”     


There are no Chicago dates at this time for the Bloomington based band, but we sure hope they take the short trip North some time in the near future.


Kate Tempest
The Book of Traps and Lessons
Republic , UMG

From her hip-hop roots, this fourth album in eight years, shows an evolution to almost entirely poetry/spoken-word with strategically sparse and varied backing music. It's about a love of language. In Tempest's skilled mouth, words we think we know take on new meaning. It's plain that Tempest feels the weight of history and the ongoing human condition pressing down on her in this work. In this I feel she is speaking to me, to my world view at this exact moment. I felt connected and exposed as she ripped into "Keep Moving Don't Move." She takes the very personal heartaches and longing for connection and blows it up to the tragedy that is the ever expanding futility of population growth. A population that cannot connect, cannot empathize. That breeds more pain. The way it flows so seamlessly into the scathing look at police brutality, "Brown Eyed Man," was the moment I knew this album was going to be topping my list for 2019. "Lessons" brings home her point. The refrain, "I have seen the lions turned to cubs, and the hunters turned to prey. Our lessons will come again tomorrow if they are not learned today," on first recitation it refers Tempest's (or the character in the song's) personal experience but later in the song, to the larger societal stage. Over and over she takes the story if the individual and makes it bigger. Because it's not just universal, but elemental to the human condition. If all this darkness is feeling like it would be too much, let me assure you, she brings a balm in songs like "Firesmoke," which makes use of the most lovely R&B backing track. In the last song, "People's Faces," she brings us hope. She tells us, "There is so much peace to be found in people's faces." Listening to this album, the hope she holds out hurt deeply. In that way that only the things you desire the most but think you will never have can hurt. When the music ended, the absence of her voice, that which tore me open, felt like an absence of self.

And so I simply started the record over again.


Sadly no plans to stop in Chicago, but we can hope.


Personal Best
What You At
Sheer Luck

Your personal best is usually a failure by any other measure. Such is the human condition. What You At the second LP from British songwriter Kate Gatt is, in part, a testament to the worst outcomes that flow from earnest intentions. Describing the album as, "classic rock for tragic lesbians," Gatt shoulders the burdens of this world and the taxing chains of affection and holds them aloft like a resilient titan supporting a rose blushing sky. There is an effortlessness to these brisk power-pop pedal-throwing punk jams that almost obscures the heart-string snapping regret and longing of their lyrics. The first single "Baby" dances between a wind-up chord progression and a Worriers-esque long-tailed up-swinging vocal harmony about a woman coming to the realization that her relationship with her partner is over, but she just hasn't acknowledged it yet. It's a sour morsel of inertia hidden in an otherwise sugary tune that is characteristic of much of the album, such as the burdened, side-stepping churn of "Love Letter" about a romance that never was but that weighs on the soul the same as a break-up. Then there’s the tender, electric-country ballad "Near to the Wild Hart" which feels like a Neko Case rendition by a Van Morrison cover band after several rounds of sorrow-quenching tequila shots. It's not all bad news though, Love brings home a few participation ribbons on the guitar-forward and '90s-flavored bubblegum gun "Radio" and the patient, coaxing cuddle of the passionately executed title track, "What You At." You can't have it all. You're not always going to be at your best. Failure is certain, and yet you live in defiance of this fact, hoping that simple fleeting pleasures outweigh the agony of our regrets on most days, with most people. What You At is satisfyingly easy listen that challenges us to accept ourselves, even when who we are isn't who we wish we were, or someday, hope to be.  


No US dates for Personal Best at the moment.


Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Drag City

Stunning in its intimacy and just lovely in its simplicity, Bill Callahan waited five years to release what is his most gorgeous and boundlessly listenable record yet. In the time since 2014’s Have Fun With God Callahan’s life went through some major changes: he became a father, and his mother passed; so it’s no shock that family life and the tenuous grasp we all have on life and death populates the twenty tunes on Shepard in a Sheepskin Vest like a warm blanket. Recorded with long-time collaborators Matt Kinsey on guitar and Brain Beattie in the booth, there is a comfort level that is apparent from the opening chords, leaving Callahan to be incredibly open and bold. His rambling mixture of lo-fi folk and roots ballad is unparalleled; no one else sounds like Bill Callahan. A truly magical record meant to be dug through on many occasions, Shepard in a Sheepskin Vest is an endlessly listanable gem.     


Better snag tix to Bill Callahan’s Thalia Hall show on July 7th before they’re gone. Tix are $22.


Bad Books
Loma Vista, Concord

Nearly ten years ago, members of emo rockers Manchester Orchestra teamed with solo singer/songwriter Kevin Devine to create an indie supergroup they ironically titled, Bad Books, releasing two records that combined their sounds with ease. After seven years, they have returned as a trio with Robert McDowell, Andy Hull (both of Manchester Orchestra), and Kevin Devine producing a more symphonic and low-key amity that follows the softening of the sound in both bands’ careers. Always ones to carry their hearts on their sleeves, Hull and Devine team up to crank out a flurry of emotionally confessional ballads that flow together like a comfortable shoe. Every tune fits like it’s always existed here, deeply personal and heartrendingly honest. Grab the tissue box, and dig right into this uncompromising collection of beautifully truthful indie rock that just doesn’t let go, as it sinks its melodic hooks into your pleasure centers.


We all just missed them at The Metro last night, June 19th, unless you were lucky enough to catch the show. If so we’re jealous, and would love to hear about it!


Failure Scupltures

“And now I am a no one,” croons Christopher Mansfield on, “A Mission,” the opening track to Fences’ new record Failure Sculptures. Heaps upon confessional heaps of poignant, poetic lyrics inhabit each one of the ten tunes on the new record, due out this Friday June 21st. Known for his collaborations with Tegan and Sara, and Macklemore, the Seattle-based Mansfield has been crafting his own indie rock tunes since 2010. The tattooed singer/songwriter has outdone himself with Failure Sculptures, producing a completely cohesive whole that flows from track to track with the ease of a conversation between close friends. With songs full of the embodiment of middle-age anxieties and acceptances, Mansfield’s tunes drift from his guitar and voice into the ether of the subconscious, drawing hope from dark experience. Whether its reflecting on loneliness in “Wooden Dove,” parenthood in “Same Blues,” or unfaithfulness in “Lillia,” he brings his wealth of life lessons to the world. Let us be the ones to tell you: Christopher Mansfield, you are for sure someone.


Fences is currently not on tour.


Know Hope

The Northeast has always been a bastion of indie-emo greatness, and Philly’s twentythreenineteen is set to make their mark on the scene. With loose and echoey harmonies, syncopated back-beats, and plenty of moving lyrics, their self-titled debut, XXIIIXIX, due out this Friday, June 21st, announces their arrival with a deft touch that belies the band’s relative youth. Sean McCall’s melancholic vocals float above a tight rhythm section and melodic guitars that show shades of fellow indie rockers without being imitators. (An easy trap to get caught in, as many acts have in the past.) Instead, their lyrical rounds on “Convince Me,” the guitar following the vocal verses on “Best Friends,” or the catchiness of infectious closer “Ascending,” set twentythreenineteen apart from the crowded pack of Northeastern indie rock.         


It doesn’t appear they are making out of their home turf anytime soon, but maybe if this album gets the love it deserves, Chicago will soon be a stop on their cross-country tour.



Jinx, the first full-length work by New York’s, Crumb, is a hazy, relaxing, and- at times- intense piece of work. The psychedelic rock group has made the ideal album for melting into your couch on a gloomy day. It’s music for when you don’t feel like going outside because you are an introvert, and walking past people on the sidewalk gives you anxiety. Jinx, plays with the continuity and sounds like one, long song that comes from the odd hours of the night when you are the only one awake. 

As the haze rolls in and you begin to feel surrounded by a cloud, Crumb comes crashing through the calm. “Nina,” a song that starts out with lounge vibes, takes a different turn and starts to spiral. With Brian Aronow on synth and keys, and Jesse Brotter on bass, the song shifts causing you to lose any sense of security as a grim outlook sets in... A majority of the album deals with Lila Ramani’s anxiety and the boredom that ensues. In “Part III,” Ramani sings, “I waste my time in the morning and evening, caught in a feeling.” 

The feeling of being an outsider from society, in a traditional sense, is another issue Ramani is dealing with. In “Ghostride,” Ramani murmurs, “Pressed my face up close against the glass I see the people, when they pass they move so automatic.” To compliment this song, the title track “Jinx” which ends the album has these airy cloud keys, and sets the mood for the narrative, which speaks to moving through life with a constant cloud around you. In the background starting at around the 1:26 mark, a backing track of robotic people marching through the streets comes in, but in her cloud, Ramani just hears the footsteps and keeps moving past them. 

Jinx, comes at funny time here in Chicago, where we have seen an unusual amount of overcast days, filled with rain. This album has been perfect to help set the mood for the day and get through the gloominess, perhaps by giving in to it. 


Crumb will be playing at Thalia Hall on 11-6-19, Divino Nino is opening. Tickets are $21


Statis Factory

Wrapped up in recordings like something from the lo-fi past, Mattiel Brown's vocals have a unique sound and convey a bottomless reserve of soul. That authentic sound is exactly what the album's producer, InCrowd is chasing. A DIY collective in ATL, InCrowd employs a stellar group of studio musicians that singer/songwriters like Mattiel can employ to execute their vision with authentic lo-fi gear. the tightness of the backing band shows off Mattiel's unique vocals. Her exquisitely controlled vibrato can add subtle texture, soulful gruff, or warble. From Western monotone, to classic blues-inspired rock, to psych, to spoken word, she channels the style of music she explores while staying true to herself. The messaging of the songs could just as easily have come from the summer of '69, as opposed to '19. Mattiel is straining against our elders, who are demanding we live by their rules. With Roe v. Wade under attack, Black Lives Matter aka the current iteration of the ongoing Civil Rights struggle, and isolationists attempting to revert immigrantion laws to pre-1965 structures, I am starting to wonder, are we revisiting not just the sounds of fifty years ago, but also the concerns?


She had a show at the Hideout in May. Bummed we missed it. We will be sure to let you know when she comes back around.


City Girl
Chroma Velocity
City Girl

It's just past 8pm. The city permeates the walls of your studio apartment with ephemeral tangents of sound. Distant car stereos. The sharp chatter of two women leaving the late night bistro next door. A cold gust of air sneaks through an open window. It might rain soon. You make a pot of coffee even though it's late. You pull a chair up to the window and wrap a blanket around your shoulders. You'd be warmer if you shut the window, but you couldn't stand the isolation if you did. The city is awash with sensation, and you want to soak it in while you read some Laura Mulvey and think about what kinds of films you'd make, if you made films that is. You’re not sure what you want to do with your life, but you figure that you still have time to sort it out. You stretch one of your legs out past the windowsill and feel the cool damp breeze as it swirls around your extended limb. Suddenly a damp spot appears on your shin, then another, and another. You reel in your appendage just as the tempo of precipitation picks up to a crescendo. You're glad you stayed in tonight. It's peaceful if a little wet. There is a soft rolling beat coming from the upstairs neighbor's apartment. It grows louder. Murmur turns to melody. And now it has invaded the air around you. Taking up every spare inch of space. Deep and full. The gauzy synths and neon trills of its tightly sequenced beats seep into the space between your ears. It's all around you. You feel like you could suffocate, but your breathing is slow and uninhibited. Tranquil even. You feel drawn to its source. It’s magnetic origin point. You take the stairs. Locate the apartment directly above yours. The door has been left slightly ajar. The leisurely caressing groove of the alluring tune you followed up here filters out into the hallway. You pause for a moment, hesitant to enter. Inhaling sharply, you place the palm of your hand on the paneled threshold and give it a push. It swings open into an empty studio apartment. Like yours but completely barren. The music stops. The room is still. You're not sure how long you stand there staring from the hallway, across an open wooden floor. The blinking neon sign of the pizza parlor across the street is in full view of the window opposite you across this abandoned domestic expanse. "Pizza by the Slice," it reads. Or at least it would. Some of the vowels are out making the words unpronounceable if they were read phonetically. The shock of this mundanity and its accompanying silence dissipates quickly. You close the door and return to your residence on the lower level. You pour some coffee into a mug with the Dark Matter logo on it and return to your position in front of your window. As you sip the steaming serving contemplatively, music once again leaks through the ceiling from the apartment above. You pick up your phone and open the Shazam app. Tapping the icon you listen along with the device, holding it face upwards so as not to obscure the receiver. The phone quivers satisfyingly in your hand to indicate that it has concluded its inquiry. It is still raining. A stray cat scurries across the street in search of shelter. You bring the screen down to your field of vision. It tells you that the song you are hearing is "Endless and Artificial" by City Girl. "That's all I wanted to know," you think to yourself and take another draw from your mug as the piano outro plays. You briefly consider moving to another building. But the thought is fleeting. It’s a problem for tomorrow. You settle into you chair as the music continues to play. It will rain for the rest of the night.


City Girl is everywhere, and nowhere.


Calexico and Iron & Wine
Years to Burn
Sub Pop

A pairing made by the music gods! There is no better complement of sound than the Southwestern-tinged symphonics of duo Calexico with the indie folk beauty of Iron & Wine. The second collaboration between Sam Beam, Joey Burns, and John Convertino meshes their two distinct styles into an irresistibly gorgeous collection of tunes that stretches and pulls their collective musical muscles into a fusion that feels so fresh it’s difficult to remember these are two well-respected and loved acts combining forces to wow at every turn. From the uplifting “Midnight Sun,” to the contemplative title track and beyond, the three accomplished musicians have produced an instant indie rock classic with Years to Burn.


Their current slate of dates on their tour together, sadly, does not include Chicago.


John the Martyr
John The Martyr

If the likes of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, or Al Green are on your heavy rotation list, this album might just be something you should add to the lineup. Bill Hudson's vocals conjure up those heavy hitters of soul and motown, but unlike those individual singers that are both frontman and names, John the Martyr is a collective band that brings together eleven talented and diverse musicians into their self-proclaimed music "gumbo." Their varied backgrounds might have helped them in writing "Prism," an elegant metaphor for how all the divided perspectives in the world can bring confusion, struggle, but also beauty. They are well placed to remind us of the deep connections to home with "History." But they also give us that perfect jam to sing to your new crush: "Shy." Or the person you count on to be there everyday in the Motown groove "Feeling Good." John the Martyrs' album reminds us that love in its many forms, pulls us together with their lush, body-moving music.


John the Martyr doesn’t play out very often and rarely visits cities outside NYC and NOLA.


We Outspoken
State of the Art
Cyber Tracks

With their catchy, melodic, emo rock, We Outspoken have done it again in State of the Art. The Toronto quartet produce classic third-wave emo that will make any millennial fan of the genre instantly throw their fist in the air. Self affirming substance- check, driving drums- check, power chord guitar mixed with hanging notes- check, affecting lyrical moments and choruses made for screaming along- check! All the ingredients for a perfect emo rock album in just the right doses make State of the Art a poster-perfect example of the genre. However, it still sets itself apart from its peers by the complete singular vision that holds it together. There isn’t a wasted track, verse, or chord. Crafting an entire record without any scraps is a difficult feat, and We Outspoken have accomplished the task.  


It doesn’t appear that We Outspoken is coming South anytime soon.


Julia Shapiro
Perfect Version
Hardly Art

After years fronting Pacific Northwest standout Chastity Belt, Julia Shapiro has struck out on her own for the first time with Perfect Version. A sprawling and deeply personal record in which she was the sole musician, playing every instrument (except for a violin and mouth trumpet on two tracks). The beauty and intimacy created by the complete control of the product gives off a feeling of an artist at her most raw and exposed. At complete odds with the music of her band, Perfect Version is the ying to Chastity Belt’s yang; fuzzy instead of clean toned, lo-fi versus high production value, melancholic in place of irreverent. Yet it all works so incredibly well, drawing comparisons to Hand Habits and locals Lala Lala. With a healthy solo side gig, we’re hoping that means Shapiro will be free to let loose with Chastity Belt in the near future.   


Shapiro isn’t making it to Chicago on her solo tour but Chastity Belt is hitting Lincoln Hall on November 21st. Tix are $15.


Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real
Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)

Anyone that says rock’n’roll is dead hasn’t discovered Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. Building on influences ranging from the anthemic in Mellenkamp and Petty, to ‘70s symphonic country in Kristofferson and the outlaws Waylon and his pop Willie, Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R. have created a protest album in the way their forebears did. With metaphor, conceit, good old-fashioned word play, and straight up rock’n’roll, Nelson has produced a record that would be just as at home in the mid ‘70s as it is today. Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) not only contains fabulous songwriting skill and perfect appeal, it features Nelson sounding just like his pop did all those years ago. An imperative listen for any fan of rock or country. The jaded won’t agree, but Nelson & P.O.T.R. have crafted one of the best albums of the year.    


You can catch them with Los Coast at Thalia Hall on September 26th. Tix are $29.