ISSUE #71 / August 8, 2019

Me Me Me

Local rock scenester Traci Trouble is back, leading a brand new super trio with Lucy Dekay of Mystery Actions on guitar and Izzy Price from Velcro Lewis Group slamming the kit. AWEFUL brew the kind of three-chord power trio badassery of your youth, with plenty of snark and brassy vocal chops to go around. At just five tracks, their debut EP blows by like a wrecking ball of rock destruction, with the highlight title track the only tune to bust the four minute mark. Shades of psych rock poke through on “Lucid Dream” from Dekay’s effect-laden jams, and the grungy feel of closer “Bleeding Heart” takes us back to the L7 cassettes we wore out in highschool. On the lookout for a new rocking addiction? Give ME ME ME a spin. 


Their next gig is October 8th at Livewire Lounge opening for Satanic Panic.  


Russian Circles
Blood Year
Sargent House

Post-rock is a funny genre to talk about. While instrumental music eschews any traditionally lyricism, the music itself becomes the narrative, opting for grand emotional play without words to ground it. In short, post-rock, and sister genre post-metal, are often personal listening experiences, where the listener is required to deduce or imprint meaning on the song or album. This is especially true compared to other wordless genres of music because post-rock is often trafficking in thunderous and evocative play; it can be tremendously engaging and thrilling for those willing to meet on its own terms. 

Chicago post-metal outfit, Russian Circles, is back for their 7th album, Blood Year, and with it an even more unmoored and destabilizing tour de force than can be found in their back catalogue. While Russian Circles is known for their massive, sludgy sound, they have rarely been so experimental as on Blood Year. From the opening track, the enigmatic, building, “Hunter Moon,”  the gargantuan, lead single, “Arluck,” we find less of a throughline than in their past albums. Across these seven songs, it’s not as common that we find transitions from song to song, with the band allowing each track to stand alone. Inside the individual songs, we see Russian Circles playing around with the formula that has gained them a cult following in Chicago and across the world. Bassist, Brian Cook, often acts as the stabilizer to Mike Sullivan’s fearsome, almost unhinges guitar, but here they aren’t afraid to drop Cook or Dave Turncratz out and let Sullivan stand alone, as on the aforementioned “Arluck.” Each member is given room to explore their own sound, which only adds to the force of the collective sound when they bring things back together. From “Arluck,” the album doesn’t let up as on second single, “Milano,” we find a more crushing, doom-infused sound. “Kohokia” follows, and slows things down considerably, with an eerie, sinister quality, that marks one of the hardest turns on an album full of hard turns. This leads into beautiful interlude, “Ghosts on High,” and we find, perhaps, the most solid transition as we slowly build back up in “Sinaia,” an epic, sweeping track, before “Quartered” closes things out in a maelstrom that surges out of “Sinaia” and buries the listening alive. “Sinaia” to “Quartered” is another sharp transition, with no lead-in, but the former does prime the listener for the relentless, primordial onslaught of the album’s climax. 

This is a thrilling album and is only aided by the individual nature of the songs. Blood Year is meant to keep the listener on their toes, as it drags them through the inverted world of Russian Circles. 


Russian Circles will be at Thalia Hall on September 28th. Tix are $22.


tobi lou
Live On Ice
Artclub / EMPIRE

Nigeriean-born, Chicago-raised, rapper/producer tobi lou has finally dropped his long-anticipated mixtape Live On Ice, and it’s the summer jammer we’ve been waiting for all season. Chill, laid-back grooves set to lou’s inventive rhymes and passionate storytelling make up the bulk of the record, with plenty of self-reflection and pondering his oncoming fame to go around. He will be a celebrity very soon; that much is for sure. With a swagger that brings to mind his idol Kanye and lyrical skills that rival the best in the biz, he is sure to capture the imagination of the masses. Plenty of Chicago references grace tracks like “Berlin/Westside” and “Looped Up,” grounding the album in his city (even if he now resides in Los Angeles), and his momma’s-boy persona shows through on “Like My Mom” and “Ice Cream Girl,” appealing to an older generation who appreciate clean, funky, heartfelt hip-hop. At twenty one tracks and an hour-seventeen runtime, lou is taking on Chance at his own long run game, and matching him step for step. 


His show at Lincoln Hall on October 20th is nearing sell out. Get those tix quick! $59 VIP tix. $15 GA tix.


Signals Midwest

The title track off the new EP, Pin, sets the scene and themes the album will explore. The music is gentle, but Maxwell Stern’s vocals have their signature emphatic energy; “Concrete and water dappled with dirt and sunlit-signals singing soft refrains of how there’s just so many other things to be.” As they move into "Sanctuary City," Stern sings, “I wonder what they will build next here, what the block will look like this time next. I bet I don’t recognize it.” The music picks up glistening with cymbal crashes. The transition is so smooth, it feels like a build within the same song. It describes the atmosphere in the Midwest as under development and change; a contemplation on what it is to live and be from the Midwest. Or maybe it is more universal than that. Do we ever really leave behind the place we are from? Wherever that may be. Pin makes me think of when you pin-point a location on a map. I drop a pin and share it with a friend so they can find me: I declare where I am in a world. Or I try to make note of a location so I can find my way back there. But, change is constant in both yourself and the environment and the people around you, so you will never find that place again. For that matter, how do you ever really find your “place” in the world? The people you fit with. How do we evolve and not evolve away from the things, people, and places we love? These themes are throughout the EP. The album ends on in “Time in Transit.” They consider the constant change and feeling of loss that come with it. We are “untethered to these relative regions, forward, not straight, retracing our tracks.” They don’t have answers. Just the existential musings of a pop punk band. 


You can catch them at The Burlington on August 29th.


Cory Wong
Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul
Cory Wong

Cory Wong may be most well-known for his contributions to Vulfpeck or the Fearless Flyers, but he is looking to make his own footprint in the music world. With his third album, Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul, Wong is showing he has what it takes to lead his own band. The funk phenom is mixing some pop with nu jazz and R&B that he creates with some help from his friends. The album features guest appearances by Caleb Hawley, Jon Batiste, Tom Misch, and Emily C. Browning. It speaks volumes to the respect Wong has earned himself when you can get top tier musicians globally to collaborate with you on just your third solo studio album. Wong brings the soulful jazz jam with “St. Paul” that also has an added gospel funk feel. Transitioning nicely into “Lunchtime,” it starts the movement into old-school funk based on R&B. “Today I’m Gonna Go Get Myself a Real Job” is one of the few songs that has lyrics and shows a side of Wong contemplating giving up playing music. Thinking that playing is not a real job, he comes to the conclusion with help from his friends and family that what he is doing is his real job. This is the underlying common thread through the album is about making each feel good by motivating one another through just good music or inspirational lyrics. “Frogville” has this nice mix between precise guitar solos and a jangly pop piano that if you have not felt the good vibes yet, this song will change that. 


Cory Wong is opening for Umphrey’s McGee on Aug. 10th at Lakefront Green at Theatre on the Lake. Tickets are $42.50.


Ty Segall
First Taste
Drag City

The constantly moving Ty Segall is back with his second album of the year (first studio album of the year), First Taste. Right off the bat, First Taste shows a familiar side of Segall with “Taste” but more focused on the raucous drum beat and similar style of vocals. Segall pushes this piece of work more into an international vibe and focuses on his songwriting. “Ice Plant” is a sensitive and touching song that only features vocals. Follow that up with “The Fall,” and you get this heavy afrobeat that Segall must imagine is what garage bands in Africa are making. Continuing with songwriting and humor, “I Sing Them,” is seeing who has been paying attention to his previous work. With a line like, “I’m not wasting all my time singing other people’s rhymes,” even though in 2018 Segall released, Fudge Sandwich, which was an album of all covers. He keeps up the humor by positioning “I Sing Them” in between “When I Met my Parents pt. 1” and “When I meet my Parents pt. 3.” Where is pt. 2? First Taste was recorded without the single use of guitar and really pushes the creativity of Segal and co. Self Esteem is a highlight song and sums up the whole concept of this album: to keep a “garage rock” sound with the mentality of a seasoned musician looking for a way to redefine his music using the resources afforded to them by being in the industry as long as Segall has been. The exposure he’s gained by working with some of the most influential people in music has helped him push the limits of his own abilities further than anyone could have imagined.


Ty does not have an upcoming show in Chicago.


Tyler Childers
Country Squire
Hickman Holler / RCA / Sony 

Country Squire is the third album for country singer/songwriter Tyler Childers and second to be produced by Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson. Country Squire succeeds Childers’ debut album, Purgatory, which was well-received and garnered him plenty of notoriety as an emerging artist. Country Squire is another example of how there is great country music being made unheard on the radio. So when you hear people say, “I don’t like country music,” well, maybe they should listen beyond 99.5 or 95.5. Childers is becoming a master of story-telling and makes it feel like you are sitting across from him as he lays out his tales. He also has a big sound that mixes in influences from country, bluegrass, and Americana. In “House Fire,” we hear that big sound with banjo, bass, fiddle, guitar, and organ each playing a role. Childers sings about the troubles of being on the road, missing his loved one, and trying to stay loyal in “Ever loving hand.” At least we know he is a good guy even if it means he has to resort to other methods that he spells out in the song. Then he finishes off the album with three well-written songs, “Peace of Mind,” “All Your’n,” and “Matthew,” each so visceral and emotional. This is quickly making Childers one of the greats and someone to hopefully be around for a while. 


Tyler Childers is playing at the Aragon Ballroom on Oct. 31. Tickets are $36. 


floral print
floral print
Tiny Engines

floral print made a name for themselves on the Atlanta DIY scene with an enigmatic combination of slow, subtle jams that would take a hard left turn into screeching emo howls. To some extent, that is still the same band that you will find on their eponymous EP. This is also, however, a more nuanced variation of the band, and that has little to do with new bassist, Joshua Pittman, though he is a welcome addition that adds a new layer to an already dense, complex sound. As with their breakout LP, Mirror Stages, that complexity is often born out of a paradoxical simplicity of slowly repeating chords and soft vocals from Nathan Keele Springer that lower one’s resistance, while Paul DeMerritt reminds you of the impending chaos with rich, though often discordant, drums. Springer is liable to switch gears at a moment’s notice, and when he does, the vocals devolve into a fierce screech, and the guitars lose all moorings in reality. It’s a fascinating formula and one that continues on floral print.

Here, we find the trio stretching out the formula, not satisfied with treading old ground. This comes in the form of interludes like “Vermillion,“ which foreshadow more intensity as opposed to merely offering respite. “i go down on the breeze” creates a warmer soundscape that manages to envelope the cacophonous sections as opposed to keeping them at arm‘s length.

 If this is anything to go by, floral print is committed to experimentation and points to a massive, new voice on the horizon that, at once, invokes the complex history of alternative rock and its bright future.


floral print has no Chicago shows on the horizon.