ISSUE #68 / july 18, 2019
The first time I heard Glitter Moneyyy was at a basement DIY show. They came into the crowd twerking and rapping about the “Year of the Slut.” They were outrageous and everything I wanted them to be. Bringing up any track from their first album, Twurk for the Nation always makes me feel like a badass. So my expectations were not exactly low when I started up their sophomore album, Binge. How could they top "Mouf"? This album has all the activism and sex positivity you come to expect from TayyySlayyy and Queen Trashley. They front-loaded the album with "Super K," assaulting us with a flow that is faster and denser than anything on their previous album. Just when I thought “damn, girls,” TayyySlayyy said, "You wanna party with us? Keep up, keep up, keep up!" Their tracks are more refined; "we smoke greens, the rest is for you lesser bitches." Beats are more complicated, the effects and cuts more clever. "They wanna taste this ass, cause my shit is gourmet." But with call-backs to their first album for their bad bitch fans, "we flirt, fuck, thrive!" If you haven't guessed by now, this album is def NSFW. Queen Trashely has been refining her voice, too; she has more edge, more growl. It gives gives me shivers during “Uh-Oh,” a killer drug anthem that both celebrates getting faded and condemns the power players in the opioid addiction crisis we are being confronted with. The politically searing "Scared" taps into something really powerful. It fully claims their anger and right to voice it. Feel free to call them names, but they are coming for you. If you aren't going to stand with them, you should run.
Nothing currently listed, but don’t worry, they will be twerking around Chicago soon!
Next to The Sun
A life-affirming glow surrounds the music of KAINA. The Chicago native’s neo-soul bursts forth on Next to The Sun with an energy and heart that few artists can attain. Each track flows into the next, creating a synergy that binds the record into a single piece of art. Kaina Castillo has something to say, but she first lets the music do the talking. An utter beauty descends upon the first spin, but subsequent listens reveal the deeper shades and meanings KAINA has fused into each and every track. Beginning with the plea to see her as we see ourselves in “House,” to the protest of misogyny and patriarchy in “What’s a Girl,” to dealing with everyday depression in “So Small / So Vast,” she weaves a tapestry of emotions so thick it bonds the album to your soul. Produced by Castillo with local polymath Sen Morimoto, recorded at AudioTree Studios, and released by Sooper Records, Next to The Sun is a testament to the vitality and eclectic nature of the Chicago scene. With Latin-infused funky grooves broken by modern vibes and R&B rhythms and instrumentation, KAINA has created what is sure to be one of the best local records of the year.
KAINA is opening for Cuco at The Riv on September 22nd. Tix go on sale Friday July 19th at 10AM
David Berman is not okay, and he’d like you to know it. More than just spilling his guts on the record, as Purple Mountain, Berman is committed to filling you in on the exact details and contours of every single thing keeping him from being okay. Unfortunately, (or fortunately- depending on who you ask,) Berman (formerly of The Silver Jews) is dealing with some serious issues that don’t fit into neat boxes. Then again, Purple Mountains, the eponymous debut from Berman post-Joos is a hard album to fit into a neat box. In simplest terms, it’s dream pop underscored by classic, cowboy chords and Berman’s beguiling vocals. If it sounds like this is a too-many-cooks scenario, it’s not. The real magic of this album, other than Berman’s legendary songwriting skills, is the fact that these discordant pieces are brought together with such skill that, not only do they work, but you’re left wondering how it’s never been tried before. The country guitar keeps things grounded in the real world and gives the songs a propulsion that keeps things from being dry or morose.
Those are real risks with this album because, at all times, Berman is in danger of veering into the realm of either the pretentious, the obtuse, or the downright bleak. Yet, and to the album’s benefit, he tows these lines but never crosses over. Lyrically, Berman is still working with straightforward contemplation, mixed with a heavy dose of surrealism, and a biting wit, which never undercuts the heavy subject matter. The difference here, is the brutal, often pained honesty with which Berman tackles subjects of middle-age existential agony. On “That’s Just The Way I Feel,” he faces up to his failures (Course I've been humbled by the void / Much of my faith has been destroyed / I've been forced to watch my foes enjoy / Ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude), while on the devastating Nights That Won’t Happen, he posits “The dead know what they're doing when they leave this world behind.” The album reaches a sonic high on Margaritas In The Mall, which is both listenable and yet, with contemplations about how we’re supposed to carry on without any word from god, never sacrificing on lyrical weight. I Love Being My Mother’s Son, meanwhile, should come with a warning label as Berman grapples with whether or not he is still his mother’s son now that she’s passed. This is not an album for the faint of heart.
Berman never feels uncomfortable dealing with the grand, existential questions or the deeply intimate ones, and the empathy with which he treats these matters make this a deeply affecting, if uncompromising, album. Very few songwriters have the capacity to face these questions and create something both contemplative and musically compelling, but Berman does both with a rare deftness.
So, is David Berman okay after exercising demons on Purple Mountains? Probably not, but neither are the rest of us, and it helps to have albums like this to illuminate the darkest parts.
Purple Mountains will be at Sleeping Village on August 24 and 25. Both shows are currently SOLD OUT.
Hasta El Cielo (Con Todo El Mundo In Dub)
Night Time Stories / Dead Oceans
Hasta el Cielo, is the dubbed-out version of Khruangbin’s 2018 release of Con Todo El Mundo. The band has says dub music influenced them early on in their playing, and bassist Laura Lee says she learned how to play bass beginning with dub music. The instrumental has gained a growing popularity and wants to introduce or help grow people’s appreciation for dub. The group takes their original sound and adds more of a psychedelic feel, making the hypnotic bass and adding congas on top of the original drum beats to the front of the music and having Mark Speer’s lashing guitar move over a touch. The guitar riffs are still there but with more of an echo and fade out to have Lee’s bass and Donald Johnson’s drums take over. Each song is slowed down from the original pace, and the group shows how spacey they can get. Remixing the music and making you wait for the note that you think is coming from the original version, Khruangbin takes a totally different turn, adding to the psychedelia.
Khruangbin is playing at P4K on Sunday, July 21 at 5:15pm on the Red Stage.
This was the first time I listened to a Mal Blum album. It struck me as that Goldilocks “perfect for me” sound. Like the first pair of Dr. Martens 1460s I tried on--haven’t they been with me my whole life? Going back and listening to their older albums, they have been expanding and becoming more confident in their sound. In this album, we see Blum’s lyrics expressing the struggle. They are taking a sharp look at moments in their lives when things were hardest. “Why can’t they see me, I was right there.” Life is pain. What matters is what you do with it. Some songs free their voices to yell, “I Don’t Want To.” Other songs are more gentle, self-realization: “Black Coffee.” There is nowhere to look but inside to do the work of making yourself stronger. “Not My Job” boils it down perfectly. “If I have to I’ll kill off my better self, because it’s not my job to make you well.” Later in the song they flip it and sing, “It’s not your job to make me well.” The stand-out track amongst a crowd of songs I love is “Well, Fuck.” “I know by now it’s not the way its s’pose to be and people have complexities, but not fucking you, you are just the same. The same. The same...” Cause it kicks ass, and sometimes I don’t want to be reasonable or nice.
You can catch Mal Bloom. August 14 at Beat Kitchen for $12.
Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey
On his third album of glam-inspired Southern rock, Kyle Craft introduces us to Showboat Honey, the titular five-piece band he recruited for recording and touring. In just over three years, Craft has shown a tendency to not only harken back the sound of yesteryear, but the work ethic as well. It’s a breath of fresh air in a time when most bands take half a decade to release a follow-up. And god help you if you’re a Tool fan. Thankfully, Craft and his new band aren’t just putting out records to pass the time. They’re genuinely growing their sound in meaningful ways.
While less raucous that previous offerings, Showboat Honey, sinks its claws in deep and begs for repeat listens. Early in the album, “O! Lucky Hand” offers a jangly, Marc Bolan meets George Harrison pysch/country rock song. “2 Ugly 4 NY” is straight out of a dusty saloon, complete with swinging pianos and cupped harmonicas.
The rest of the album is filled with explicit references to Craft’s influences, be it Bowie or Dylan. Oddly, though, recruiting a band to round out his songwriter sound has allowed him the ability to strip down ballads more than ever before. Perhaps out of an idea of bombastic requirements for solo artists, he’s always worn more of the glam influence in the quieter moments. Now he sounds more Lennon than Elton.
Only 11 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks:
Kyle Craft and Showboat Honey will be at Empty Bottle on July 18, 2019. Tickets are $15.
Postscript: I’ve heard complaints that Craft’s music is just barely not cover music, but I wouldn’t call that a reason to not dive in. His sound is what you could expect in a Westworld bar, if it were run by Roxy Music.
Reflecting our own modern self doubts and technological addictions back at us, Drab Majesty returns with another dark synth opus in Modern Mirror. With a sound straight out of a late ‘80s playbook, Deb Demure and Mona D. (Andrew Clinco of Killing Joke and B-movie horror director/actor Alex Nicolaou, respectively) weave a concept record based on Ovid’s “Narcissus,” seeking to emulate the classic tale of the danger of lust and vanity. The result is eight addictive pop anthems that flow together seamlessly and Echo (get it?) our self-obsessions and technological addictions. Possibly too smart for its own good on the intellectual side, Drab Majesty makes up for it musically. If you grew up in the ‘80s, the nostalgia this will resonate is beyond words. Borrowing from the best of New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and many more, Modern Mirror takes a deep dive into the noir-pop of our youth with a clear-cut message and dark majesty that few artists have been able to capture for decades.
Drab Majesty is at Thalia Hall “In The Round” on August 19th. Tix are $18.
Devonté Hynes’ newest mixtape came as a surprise as he only announced the piece four days earlier. Though it is a mixtape, unfortunately it is not available on DatPiff. In an era of streaming services, I had not been on DatPiff in a number of years, but I thought I would check for nostalgia’s sake. Like most mixtapes, they are filled with plenty of features, and Angel’s Pulse is no exception. Appearing on the tape are industry heavyweights like Project Pat and Toro y Moi. Hynes says that he worked as hard on this piece as he would an album. Crispy lo-fi beats cater towards Hynes’ softer style of rapping and singing. The mixtape takes on an aura of drifting in and out of reality which makes for the perfect album if you’re feeling dreamy. Take away the raps, and this mixtape fits right in with the shoegazers. Have them play “Gold Teeth,” and it caters to the harder rap fans. Put it all together for a backpacker’s dream to keep to himself and only discuss with the like-minded who search out the lesser-known pieces of art.
Blood Orange does not have an upcoming Chicago show.
Exploding with the raw power and sheer force synonymous with their name, Toronto noise-rock trio Metz treats us with a decade’s-worth of rarities and B-sides in Automat. Through and through, Metz is not for the light of heart; Alex Edkins shreds his vocal cords above the heavily distorted chords, Hayden Menzies decimates his kit, and bassist Chris Slorach creates a layer of noise as thick as a brick wall. As few bands can, Metz has never slowed, never changed their tune; they have always been balls-to-the-wall, and this collection of twelve destructive hammers of rock was there to bear witness. Glory be to the church of cacophony!
Metz just wrapped up a tour that brought them through last spring. Hopefully they return sometime this winter.
A People’s History of Gauche
Gauche lured me in with “Flash,” a lovely opening lick, soothing chords, and chorus of vocals. It is energizing and has a great groove that builds to a really satisfying end. The second song, “Cycles,” has a very punk bass/drum opening. The squeaky shouting vocals, keys, guitar, and sax are somehow both supporting and countering each other. Their sound is so dense, I was curious as to how many people are playing. Recording credits tell us it is six people, each listed as playing multiple instruments. There must be layering. For instance on “Dirty Jacket” the sax must be two or three layers. Near the end, even more. Throughout the album, the musicians are loose. Everyone hitting the beat, the melody, the lyric, a little off so you can feel the party. Their energy is like a happy assault. Like confetti cannons. If you need a burst of energy, this album should do the trick, and in classic punk fashion, the 11-tracks will fly by in less than 40 minutes.
Quocumque jeceris stabit
A fixture of the underground Italian hardcore scene, Uzeda recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. What better way to mark the occasion than to release their first studio record in 13 years, with longtime collaborator, and Chicago maverick, Steve Albini producing. The result is a piece of work as immediate and raw as their debut. Age hasn’t slowed these hardcore hereos. While there may be a melodic streak that has showed its face in Quocumque jeceris stabit, the same intensity holds in Giovanna Cacciola’s raspy screams, and the rest of the original members (yes- every member is an original member,) organic hardcore is as crunchy and addicting as ever. This week’s must-listen, for any fan of under-the-radar-acts that do everything just right.
From what we can gather, Uzeda doesn’t play live often and hasn’t been to the States in years.
Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?
They had me from the opening track, “Heatbeat Away.” The vocals are bright and clean, riding on top of deep powerchord waves. Bleached is venturing away from their punk roots and exploring cleaner production/pop sounds. It is a trend we’ve seen with other female-led punk bands this year like Taco Cat, Potty Mouth, and Sleater-Kinney. To mixed reviews. In the case of Bleached, I am not mad at the disco bounce fun that is “Hard to Kill.” The guitar goes jangly in “Somebody Dial 911” and brings The Cure to mind. It doesn't take long to figure out that there are a number of tracks dealing with a breakup, taking all the pain and putting it to music that makes you want to dance it out. Funky dance clap track “Kiss You Goodbye” tells us “some things are meant to die.” These are the timeless life lessons we have to learn over and over. Closing track “Shitty Ballet” starts out with double acoustic strumming. It isn’t gentle, but it is low-key compared to the layers of instruments on the rest of the album. The vocals layer to a choir on the refrain, “Don’t wanna pretend it's ok when its not,” and lets loose the third time with full drum assault, screeching vocals, and fuzzy power chord glory, ending the album on a truly powerful note. Are the majority of the tracks a departure? Yes. But is it a fun/cathartic album to listen to? Absolutely. You should def give it a spin.
Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit
Atlantic / Warner
Grab a tissue and dig into this gorgeous re-imagining of Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 record The Midnight Organ Flight. With an all-star cast of talent paying tribute, from indie soloists Ben Gibbard, Craig Finn and Julien Baker, to full bands like The Twilight Sad, Daughter, and Manchester Orchestra, they all take on a classic from the Scottish band’s breakout record. With the passing of founding member and primary songwriter Scott Hutchinson last year, Frightened Rabbit will never again grace a stage, and it’s a testament to their influence and Hutchinson’s fragile genius that this tribute works so well. It’s clear each artist was impacted by Frightened Rabbit, and for these songs to have new life breathed into them creates an aura of joy that can help to consume and balm the grief fans have been experiencing since that fateful day.