ISSUE #67 / July 11th, 2019
Spirits Having Fun
From the opening spinning notes of the title track, it’s clear that Auto-Portrait captures a special act at an early peak. The members of Spirits Having Fun may live hundreds of miles from each other, but the connections the modern world makes possible and the chemistry these four exude propels their sound into a sonic stratosphere all its own. It’s not just the notes they play, but what they don’t. The empty spaces become just as important as when filled. Katie McShane and Andrew Clinkman weave their guitars in and out of each other with a steady, heady, ease that gives complicated shape to tunes like “Gift Shopping” and “Waiting at the Airport.” The jazz-influenced lower half of Jesse Heasly on bass and Phil Sudderburg’s drums, layer a syncopated level of madness that is the perfect avenue for McShane’s everyday speak-sing observations. Residing half in Chicago and half in Brooklyn, this math rock-centered quartet is creating some of the most creative indie pop in either metropolis.
Read about their show at The Empty Bottle in this week’s issue! And check out our interview with them for the inside scoop on how they make the long distance thing work in their favor. Keep a lookout for their next Chicago show, their onstage energy is inspiring.
In his debut album, Will Miller puts forth Resavoir, which is a fun and bouncy album that doesn’t lack experimentation. Miller, known for his contributions to Twin Peaks and Whitney, is creating his own lane in the jazz realm. Resavoir, covers a wide range of the jazz genre and is approachable by all types of jazz listeners. With songs like “Plantasy” (which Miller made for his house plants,), is one that the traditional jazz fan can appreciate. Then there are songs like, “Taking Flight” that could appeal to a newer fan with its upbeat pace and danceable drums and horns. “Escalator” was the first taste fans were treated to that was released as a single. Then a live version from a performance at Co-Prosperity Sphere was released. On the album, we get a third version of “Escalator” which is a mix between the first two versions and features Sen Morimoto plays sax, and Miller and Morimoto rap on this version. This is a wonderful example of how Miller and Resavoir continue to push the music further and keep it fresh. A younger generation of jazz musicians has been dwindling, so it is great to see this group emerge and represent the community very well.
Resavoir is playing at Sleeping Village on July 26th. Tickets are $10.
Nick Mazzarella Trio
Astral Spirits / Spacetone
Bubbling with an energy that only comes from long sessions of improvisation together, the Nick Mazzarella Trio has released a special live performance as their fourth record. When drummer Frank Rasaly returned from Amsterdam to visit in January 2018, the trio reunited to mark their tenth anniversary with a suite of six new works at Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport. Recorded live on reel-to-reel, this special performance carries the warmth that only analog recording can provide. Mazzarella’s sax tones have a lovely fuzzy quality, while Anton Hatwich’s bass chugs along under Rasaly’s frenetic fills and rolls. While the pieces are new and fresh, taking stock in both classic and nu-jazz aesthetics, there is an old school vibe that hangs over the sax/bass/drum combo that the Mazzarella Trio has always strived to build, and Counterbalance is their best effort so far in that journey toward magical, musical perfection.
Both Nick Mazzarella and Anton Hatwich are involved in many projects throughout the city. Check out their extensive list of dates for a performance near you.
Thrive On Neglect
Have you ever swallowed wrong while drinking a beer? You take a swig and that Midas-tinted fluid flows down your windpipe instead of down your gullet? Yeah? Well, now imagine while sputtering in that moment of shock, you somehow also manage to lacerate your throat with a corkscrew. That mirthless, gurgling choke, that gasping burble of pain-stricken terror is the closest thing I can think of when pulling down comparisons to singer Rae Amitay’s course, sulking bellows. And this is not even the most frightening aspect of her band. Immortal Bird is a Chicago metal group who thread the needle of ambitious death-vets like Nile without tumbling into the sometimes overly dense and predictable trappings of tech-death. They’re sound while, rough-hewn and animalistic, follows a perfectly consistent internal logic that takes its notes from the winding, impossible sonic architecture of progressive metal, and ‘90s metalcore and alternative metal. Fittingly, the civilization-testing winters we endure in the Midwest work their way into the mix in the form of moisture-zapping blasts of black metal gall, adding an impending sense of terror to the proceedings. Their debut album Thrive On Neglect finds its stride from the first cymbal clash on opener “Anger Breeds Contempt,” slipping into an hate-drunk boxing match with itself, weaving through glancing blows in rhythm with a Converge-esque groove, and at times collapsing into wheezing, snot-choked breakdowns. The climbing strain of the weighty “Avolition” builds into Craft tutored self-annihilating ecstasy to top off at points into meandering existential departures ala Dillinger Escape Plan’s harsh ticking rattle. “Solace in Dead Structures” the most traditional death metal track of the lot and even it slows to the point of a reptilian slither in order to drag its distended stomach across the jagged, uneven ground to a Carcass crushing Tool rhythm. If you thrive on extremity, do not neglect this release.
Immortal Bird will be at the Empty Bottle next week July 16th. Tickets are just $10.
Bought and Sold
Blasting back to the ‘90s grunge of our youth comes Chicago trio Dead Original with their debut full-length Bought and Sold. Formed by drummer for hire Paul Wandtke (of Bedlem and Trivium) who picked up the guitar in a moment of inspiration and took up with drummer Rob Lerner and bassist Sean McCole to fill out the lineup for Dead Original. With radio-friendly anthems like singles “Restrained” and “Fade To Light,” along with standout “Blasted,” Wandtke and company capture the low tones and angst-filled growls of the long passed grunge sound, giving new spirit to a genre that mainly lives on in the acts of the day that still get out on the road. New grunge is few and far between, and Dead Original is picking up the mantle with a fresh set of tunes for the flannel-donning youth of today and their parents, who cut their musical fandom on just this sound. Bringing the Pacific Northwest of the ‘90s to the Windy City of today, Dead Original is an act to watch as they aim to capture the spirit of rock in its last resurgence of the 20th Century.
Coming off their album release party last week at Cubby Bear, keep an eye out of Dead Original popping up at a venue near you.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
Keep Cool / RCA
Bandana is the second collaboration between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib also know as Quasimoto. Bandana follows their 2014 release of Piñata. The duo are back at it again with Madlib rolling out the most wonderful beats that set the canvas for Gibbs to rap about what he knows best: cocaine. The dream would be to either go record shopping or get a glimpse into Madlib’s collection of which he draws upon when producing beats. With samples that make you stop the song and search for them, Madlib is staying to his ways he came upon as Madlib the Beat Konducta of the Beat Generation which featured greats like J Dilla and Pete Rock. As any Gibbs album goes, an heir of toughness overtakes you and makes you feel like you grew up with Gibbs in the rough streets of Gary, IN. Gibbs says Madlib beats are what kept him going while he was in prison, so it’s no surprise why some of his best lines come out in this album. Bandana is one of Gibbs’ most lyrically mature albums yet. With songs like “Crime Pays,” “Cataracts,” and “Practice,” Gibbs is giving an introspective look into his life: he is vulnerable and needs to be thinking about bigger picture ideas. “Practice” being one of the more open into his family life and understanding the importance of being there for his daughter. Bandana enlists some of the most prolific rapping out there. “Palmolive” has three of the hardest rappers: Killer Mike, Pusha T and Gibbs. “Education” includes Yasiin Bey and Black Thought, who are two of the most gifted lyricists. Anderson Paak on “Giannis” is overall amazing, and his vocal range adds a different dynamic to the album. When Gibbs and Madlib come together, they bring out the best in each other, and one can only hope that they continue to make more albums together.
Freddie Gibbs is playing at Pitchfork on Saturday July 20th at 6:30pm on the Blue Stage.
As one of Chicago’s longest standing prolific emcee’s, Twista rode the wave of hip-hop’s surge into the pop charts in the 2000’s and hasn’t stopped since. His newest mixtape Summer 96 ticks back the clock to an age where Tupac and Biggie ruled the national spotlight, the Bulls where still at the top of the NBA, rapping fast was a genre staple, and Chicago was a different place. The wave of gentrification had just started to sink it’s fingers into the Northside, and gangs still ran freely across the city, all reflected in tracks like “War Ready” “Shootout” and “All I Know.” But it’s the return to breakout Adrenaline form on tracks like opener “Summer 96” that has turned heads, making Twista a Chi-town star once again. Full of established Chicago rappers like Beadz, Bandman Kevo, and the Do Or Die trio, along with production by hometown producer DJ Pharris, Summer 96 arrives to bring the heat just in time for the literal temperature to spike, sweltering the city in a July cloud of humid heat. Producing the perfect cruising record, Twista’s tunes are sure to bump out of more than a few riders this summer.
Twista is playing the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield August 16th, opening for Snoop Dogg and Warren G (Tix are $23 and up), but has no Chicago shows at the moment.
With their signature party punk swagger, The Dollyrots return with the slick production and fist pumping choruses of Daydream Explosion. Formed nearly twenty years ago by childhood pals Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas, The Dollyrots have made a career out of throwback pop punk gems that have made fans the world over. Daydream Explosion finds the L.A. based duo at the top of their game with a full slate of sing-along tunes like “In Your Face,” “I Know How to Party,” and “I Love You Instead” However, their true spirit has always been to have fun while delivering a progressive message and lyrics in “Oblivious,” “Last Ones on Earth,” and “Kat’s Meow” take on misogyny, global warming, and sexism with a definite finger on the pulse of modern urban values. Along with plenty of tongue in cheek love songs and party anthems interspersed with the more serious tunes, The Dollyrots have got sure fire hit record on their hands.
Daydream Explosion hits the airwaves this Friday, July 12th. They swing into Chicago quite often, so don’t stop checking for their next time through.
In the spirit of the modern outlaw country troubadours comes Matt Woods with his newest effort Natural Disasters. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter, and consummate road warrior has outdone himself with this collection of thoughtful and compelling tunes. An excellent record, jam-packed with tales of rural woe from “Drive-Thru Town” and “Jailbird Song” to “My Southern Heart” and “The Devil Drinks Scotch.” But it’s the hope for the future that shines through in closer “Corner of the World,” and the clear-eyed observations of the chilling “Cold Civil War” that truly make this a special work. Any fan of Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle, or Drive By Truckers will find plenty to sink their teeth in with Matt Woods’ Natural Disasters.
The Black Keys
Nonesuch / WEA
Adorning the comeback album for Akron blues brothers The Black Keys is an electric chair shimmering with high voltage. “Let’s Rock” were the last words of Edmund Zagorski, the first man executed in Tennessee in over a decade by electric chair. It’s fitting that these should be a listener’s first impressions of the first album from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in half a decade. While their tunes were literally inescapable since 2009’s Brothers, the two haven’t changed their sound much since their first albums in the early ‘00s – no bullshit, just rock.
Opting to record without longtime producer Danger Mouse, Let’s Rock is a true throwback record. Gone are the fancy studio tricks and the long jams (not a single song on the album reaches 4 minutes). In are the fuzzy guitars, thundering drums, and overdubs thick enough for the freakness of yore. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear a band reunite to do away with any kind of pretensions of experimenting with new sounds. Auerbach and Carney might have burned themselves out with relentless recording and touring in their prime, but this collection of songs shows that they still love to just plug in and play.
Ironically, this could be their most radio-friendly record yet, as the songs’ brevity and reliance on garage rock hooks create a greatest hits vibe that is hard to pause. “Eagle Birds” has the hopping blues riffs you expect from Dan and the no frills drums of Carney. It comes in heavy and direct and soars out with blistering solos, just like its namesake would. Lead single “Lo/Hi” muscles in like a deuce coupe driven by Muddy Waters, with backup singers Leisa Hans and Ashley Wilcoxson completing the triumphant return of the once and future rock titans.
That’s it. Go listen to it. Get ready for it to permeate the airwaves for the next year.
Only 9 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks.
The Black Keys will be at United Center on September 27, 2019. Tickets are $60-230.
Postscript: There’s nothing to see here. The album rocks.
Revenge Of The Dreamers III
Dreamville / Interscope
Lyrical mastermind and super crew assembler, J.Cole has brought together the Dreamville family for a third collaborative album in Revenge of the Dreamers III. After recruiting socially- conscious rap collective EARTHGANG, and quick-spitting rapper J.I.D. into the league of dreamers at the Dreamville label, Cole has blended soulful vocals and trap beats into an 18-track album, recorded in just ten days. Along with a full slate of Dreamville artists, guest features include Chicago's own Saba, with Dreezy, Ty Dolla $ign, Vince Staples, and plenty more. Most tracks are packed with four or five artists taking a verse set to heavy trap beats and creative instrumental melodies from producers such as T-Minus and ChaseTheMoney, to name a few. The collective of creative minds comes together to create an artistic and personal journey; from Ari Lennox's soulful vocals and sensual moods in "Got Me," to the party in paradise of Bas' "Costa Rica" its clear there was hard work and thought put into each and every verse and beat. While Cole is featured on quite a few tracks, he takes it solo with "Middle Child," hinting at what's to come on his next record. With production by T-Minus, the track is the only one without a single feature. Cole has influenced rappers young and old and his continued collaborations prove he is trying to make a difference in the scene by pairing artists who work perfectly off each other, and trying to heal the wounds past feuds have opened. After taking in Revenge of the Dreamers III, it's highly recommended to visit the documentary Revenge for an inside look at the world of the album and behind the scenes takes on your favorite rappers and producers goofing off and getting down in the studio.
J.I.D will not only be in Lolla on August 3rd, but he will be at the Concord for an aftershow as well. Tickets range $25-$27 and are still available
Columbus, OH has long been an under-the-radar producer of quality bands, and while Van Dale has been around for a few years now, The Visitor really hits on every level. From the sludgy grunge fuzz of the lyric effects, to the low-toned guitars, to the driving rhythms that carry from tune to tune, it’s the kind of late-night jammer that sticks around long after it final feedback fades. Standouts like “Pier Pressure,” “Crystalina,” and “Porch” have a graceful melodic tone that doesn’t feel forced or manufactured, just a pure indie rock moodiness cut with plenty of distortion and twenties angst.
Van Dale just rolled through Chicago on July 5th, so we’re doubtful they’ll be back till the Fall.
This is . . . Tunng - Magpie Bites and Other Cuts
Full Time Hobby
Always redefining and reinventing themselves, this collection by UK experimental folk mavericks Tunng includes a full twenty rare tracks. Collected from over fifteen years of 7”s, B-sides, hidden tracks, and special editions, This is … Tunng - Magpie Bites and Other Cuts shows the progression taken from folktronica upstarts to established scene vets whose own experimentations began to take on lives of their own. Highly suggested for fans and newbies alike, this impressive compilation shows the full breadth of Tunng’s influential work.
U.S. shows have been rare for Tunng, in fact we couldn’t find any evidence they have ever been across the pond since 2007 when they played The Empty Bottle
The Horse and Sparrow Theory
Leave it to the Swedes to make the rest of us look like a pack of passive, neo-liberal oafs. Stockholm’s long-toothed, guttural crust punk crushers, Victims prove that their fangs can still draw blood and their hands are still capable of cultural arson on their Relapse Records debut, The Horse and Sparrow Theory. The noisy praxis of their polemic pulse writhes like a whip possessed with righteous fury on the head-first tumble and tear of “The Birth of Tragedy,” and the prowling intro of “Revenge of our Fathers” gives way to a patriarchy mauling wild-cat heave and pummel. The tense urgency of “The Sea of Poison” swirls until it manifests a man-swallowing whirlpool of white-water angst, and the heat thrown off by “Fire Below” is hot enough to roast the marrow in your bones. It’s not all bootheels to the face, though; the band is more than willing to take the time to hold the listener’s face to a mirror until they can’t help but see themselves and the state of the world that their complicity has wrought. On "We Fail" they splice together clips of Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, explaining the destabilizing effects that climate change will have on the habitability of regions around the equator with grime-moistened rolls of marching guitars and wolf-like vocal howls. The frightening implications of which, is that those fleeing certain death due to environmental collapse in their home countries will likely be treated as a security threat and dealt with militarily in the places that they seek refuge. If the arch of history follows this trajectory, it can't help but end in tragedy. Things haven’t changed for the better since Victims first began their crusade of consciousness in 1997. It’s up to us to determine whether things will improve in the next thirty years, or if Victims and others will still have to be singing about the same old sh*t in a progressively dead-er world than the one they first took up arms to defend.
No Chicago dates are listed for Victims at the moment.
Barsuk / Soft Rock Audio
A truly infectious gem, Chris Staples’ new album Holy Moly, is a highly-listenable affair jam-packed with his easy-going indie rock. The Seattle scenester has performed with a who’s who of Pacific northwest elite over the years and released six independent records before he caught the ear of Barsuk Records. Holy Moly is his third release with the Seattle indie imprint and arguably the best of his career. Comfortable with throwback love stories like “Everybody Said” and “Silver Moon” to dreamy remembrances in “Old Friend” and “Running Out of Time,” Staples builds a world of his own devices. Most impressive is the consistent tone and mood, which never wavers, making Holy Moly a complete work of art.
Chris Staples is doing something really incredible. He’s playing Living Room Shows throughout August and September. The Chicago date is August 15th. Tix went on sale yesterday, July 10th, and are available for $20.
Daughter of Swords
The solo debut of Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is one of the most arresting and gorgeous records of the year. Quietly ingraining itself into your imagination, Dawnbreaker blossoms into a full-fledged folk flower by standout, “Rising Sun.” Sauser-Monnig’s beautiful voice pairs with the low-key acoustic instrumentals with an ease that comes from her extensive experience as part of the vocal trio powerhouse Mountain Man. Hailing from Durham, NC, the southern influence is apparent in Daughter of Swords from the lilting intonations to the high toned guitar, but Sauser-Monnig makes her work appealing to all with her earnest nature and simple style.
Daughter of Swords has no plans to visit Chicago at this time.
Cut Your Teeth
Vancouver post-punk foursome Necking, blast through the sonic wall with debut Cut Your Teeth; clearly bent on keeping a sense of humor through their riotous, headbang worthy, tunes. Singer Hannah Karren screechs, moans, and chants above the pounding bass of Sonya R., and the ratcheting drums from Melissa Kuipers, while Nada Hayek’s guitar flies around it all with an epic glee. Keep your eyes on Necking, who are bound for big things.
Chicago needs some Necking! Come soon, please!