Twin Talk / photo by KPL

Wow, what a week in new music Surfers! Six records came out of Chicago this week, including Twin Talk, who we caught at The Hideout last Sunday; and JCB took in the impressive Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds at Thalia Hall. We’re gearing up for Midwinter this weekend at The Art Institute! And you should make sure to check out the News section for how to join the fight to #Delaythetiff and support the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL). Join us next week. Same surf time, same surf place, for our journey through Pitchfork’s daring new fest and all the new music you can take. Till then, dig into this one Surfers, it’s a doozy. We’ve got a brand new layout straight from LPL’s website kitchen! Get in there!

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“We see ourselves as members of the Chicago music community and that’s who we want our plant to serve, the local community.” - Matt Bradford, Smashed Plastic



“It’s truly about doing what serves the song, in the moment, rather than trying to make a song that serves a genre.” - Stoop Goodnoise



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Twin Talk / Sun Speak

The Hideout

February 10th

Twin Talk / all photos by KPL unless otherwise noted

A snowy Sunday evening (wait, haven’t they all been?) couldn’t keep away a solid crowd of fans and friends to celebrate the release of Twin Talk’s sophomore LP, Weaver.  The warm, inviting atmosphere of The Hideout is the perfect place to end a weekend taking in two of the best experimental jazz combos Chicago has to offer. Before the show, we headed to Ada Street (the only restaurant within winter walking distance of the aptly named Hideout) for their prix fix restaurant week menu. The Star Wars- themed "cantina" was surely a Lucas film-inspired trip, right down to the "Obi Wan Cannoli." It was a perfect prelude to the vibe and string-lit glow of one of Chicago's oldest and most highly regarded venues.

The original opener got stuck in the weather up north, but local duo Sun Speak were more than happy to fill in. Composed of guitarist Matt Gold and drummer Nate Friedman, their fuzzed out chord progressions and complicated free spirited drum patterns set up the evening to perfection. Their new EP with Portuguese vocalist and composer Sara Serpa is a vision of what only three instruments can accomplish, simplistic in its own complicated way. They took their time live, letting the tunes develop behind Gold’s effect-laden notes while Friedman would lay the groundwork of sound, both softly building until a peak would develop and they would crest the mountain of noise together but separate, in a way. (Their recorded music goes a long way into demonstrating how this concept works.)  After years playing together it seemed that the two never even exchanged a glance except between songs. They follow each other down the musical tunnels of their own making without looking back. Check them out on Bandcamp and Spotify by following the above links. We think you’ll love them just as much as we do.

Twin Talk didn’t take long setting up as the audience milled about the venue, the anticipation growing for their off-kilter nu jazz style to fill the room. Soon enough they finished line checking and urged the crowd forward. For those unfamiliar, the intricate weaving, twisting patterns of Dustin Laurenzi’s sax, mimicked and counterpointed by bassist Katie Ernst’s wordless vocals, while she and drummer Andrew Green lay down a stripped down syncopated beat that seems to leave out notes along the way without ever missing them, is Twin Talk’s essense laid out in a sentence. But that can’t even explain the beauty that those four instruments produce. It’s an eager and warm-hearted sound that fills the soul while searching out the negative vibes and smashing them into syncopated pieces. Ernst’s continuous smile while vocalizing, and Laurenzi’s close-eyed concentration as even his breath is audible through his horn, are just two of the highlights of watching this trio in action; and when Green summits a musical pinnacle, his delight is completely contagious. This is jazz to free the mind of constraints, to summon forth the deep depths of consciousness, and release the joy one stores up inside. It’s worth checking out, and they are playing Elastic Arts on March 18th, for a mere $10 cover. They are also hitting several nearby cities including Madison and Milwaukee soon. Check out their tour page for more info.


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Ólafur Arnalds

Thalia Hall

February 7th

Ólafur Arnalds / all photos by JCB

Minimalism is a topic that seems to be a bit polarizing lately... While it’s been in popular use since the ‘50s, it’s experienced a resurgence over the past few years, especially in design and sartorial choices. It’s definitely my favorite type of photography, in both visual aesthetic and approach. I can go out for hours and only take a single exposure, usually of a composition including only one or two items of interest. On the other hand, I’m not normally a proponent of spending $4,000 on a single item that “defines” your space. The trend has infiltrated my house in a strange way, however, as I recently overheard Mrs. JCB thanking her clothes before tossing them in the donation box. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I just hope she decides that I, too, bring her joy. Honestly, though, that joy lady is strange. I don’t get it.

Minimalism in music is no different – polarizing. Too minimal and you run the risk of being pretentious, or you may just be dismissed as “background music not good enough for soundtracks.” Ólafur Arnalds is not a new name, dropping post-minimal indie hits like album For Now I Am Winter or showing that he is good enough for soundtracks with his brilliant work on Broadchurch. He swung through town last week, with a two night stint at Thalia Hall to celebrate the success of last year’s underrated re:member. This write-up is about the show, but go read up on that album. It’s truly impressive what he’s done to up the game… Better yet, listen along at the album link on the title.

Thalia Hall is definitely a favorite venue of mine, but I’d never seen it so formal. Standing room only was restricted to the sidelines or back, under the balcony. Seats were neatly organized into the general area, and I was only to shoot from the sound stage in the very back (and of course it was one of the only shows I didn’t bring a telephoto lens to). I was told to keep my camera on silent, and to avoid making noise if possible – “tonight is going to be different.” They weren’t kidding.

I typically listen to composers, soundtracks, and minimalist-type music at work. You know what, it is good background music. I’ve had Ólafur on a short list of go-to’s for quite some time and have always admired his work. Starting with just him on piano, “Arbakkinn” slowly builds from quiet and emotional to, accompanied by the slow reveal of a string quartet and drummer, a true cinematic soundscape. Before getting to set highlights “brot” and “For Now I Am Winter,” Arnalds recorded the entire crowd singing a single note to then use in the following tracks. Also with these two tracks were additions that only further cemented the Icelandic composer as a true visionary in my mind. He’s dabbled with EDM in a prior life, but clearly understands that a sprinkling of drum beats and synths can actually enhance music made by string and percussion instruments. The other addition was of his Strata pianos, which play via algorithms – used in the writing and recording of re:member. Their use alone would have been enough to marvel at, with their keys illuminated as they nimbly fluttered alongside the pianist, but the fact that they were kept in shadows during most of the set so as to not overstate the importance of each piece of the whole was an inspired move. Arnalds was rightfully the center of attention, but blue spotlights would shine or obscure his human and computer companions as they took their turns in the creation of an orchestral experience.

Seeing Ólafur Arnalds live will easily go down as one of the best shows I’ll see in 2019. I’m still compiling all my thoughts, but here are some scattered things I’ve yet to compose in cohesive sentences:

  • I didn’t expect a composer to be so funny.

    • After a decent size of the crowd applauded when asked who was at the last show, he asks, “Why do you do this to us? Now we have to change things.”

    • After recording us for the aforementioned songs, he asked if we were better than the night before.

  • His observation about Chicago is that we’re loud people. We applaud differently than other cities. We also don’t know how to make pizza. He’s adamant that sauce goes below the cheese.

    • I don’t know if we’re loud so much as we can’t shut up when it’s necessary to proclaim something. “3326” has an, dare I say, EPIC violin solo that had the entire crowd holding their breath, until finally it ends and some wonderful man in the balcony lets out the 3 minutes of built up emotion with a, “SO GOOD!”

  • “undir” would be a great club song. Glitches from Aphex Twin, DJ dance moves, and strobes galore summed to an unexpected highlight of the night.

  • Before his last song, which was written for his grandmother, he regaled us with stories about how she would unplug her radio and call him over to “fix” it. She would then bribe him to stay with her and listen to Chopin by preparing pancakes. Spending time with her helped him move away from punk rock and to the music he plays today. Thank you, Grandma.

    • This last song, the encore “lag fyrir ömmu,” was a gutsy move for a last song, but man did it pay off! It’s a sparse piano-only track, and Arnalds played it so quietly that the crowd was terrified to make a sound. I don’t think people were even breathing for those four minutes. After the last note’s ending ring, he stayed facing away from us. And he stayed. And then he finally turned to us, and we erupted.  



  • Do you care about our cities future? Do you want to protect our culture and history? Are you sick of massive developments going up around the city? Then get on down to the Community Development Commission meeting at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle on the 2nd Floor at 1PM (CIVL folks are arriving at 11:30AM, get there early to join in) If you have no idea what we are talking about go to CIVL’s website and read all about it.  

  • Midwinter Music Fest is this weekend! Pitchfork’s inaugural music fest at The Art Institute is sure to be an experiment. Saturday is sold out but there are still base tickets for Friday and Sunday available here.

  • Don’t forget that The Empty Bottle’s Music Frozen Dancing is next Saturday. With a killer lineup this outdoor (yes, you read that right!) event is always a winter highlight and this years is no exception. We’ll be freezing on Cortez with the rest of ya! Check it for more info.

  • It’s very exciting that our fellow Chicago publication is hosting their first SXSW showcase! Anchr Magazine’s unofficial  SXSW showcase is featuring some of the best Chicago bands of the moment. Congrats Anchr Magazine!

  • Speaking of SXSW! The Hideout is hosting their Annual SXSW Send Off on March 9th starting at 4PM. The $10 cover event will be featuring Dehd, Waco Brothers, Tatiana Hazel, Tasha, The Curls, and Half Gringa who are all Austin bound for the craziness that is SXSW. Come support the local artists before they head to the largest club music fest in the U.S.!



Lots of SOLD OUT shows this week that are not included here

THURSDAY February 14th
Panache’s Annual Planned Parenthood of Chicago Village of Love Valentine's Day Benefit with  Deeper / Femdot / Gia Margaret / Jeff Tweedy / Knox Fortune / Pool Holograph / Tasha / Title TK / V.V. Lightbody
Lincoln Hall    7PM $35 ($40 doors)

Valentines Day with Windy City Soul Club
Sleeping Village   8PM $5

Frances Luke Accord / Liz And The Lovelies
Schubas    7:30PM $12 ($15 doors)

FRIDAY February 15th
Midwinter Music Fest
Art Institute    6PM $50 base (Add on performances extra)

Wintercamp Music Fest
Logan Square Auditorium  7PM $25 single day $40 two day

Minor Moon (Album Release) / NIIKA / Storm Jameson
Constellation   8:30PM $12 ($15 day of)

Milo (Final Chicago Show) / Pink Navel / Sb the Moor
Empty Bottle   9PM doors $15 ($17 doors)

Illi / Sasha Go Hard / Matt Muse / Gatson
Beat Kitchen   9PM $10

A Benefit For The People Of Yemen
This Must Be The Band / Katet
The Vic   8PM $25

Midwinter Afterparty hosted by The Empty Bottle
Grouper / Matchess
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel    7:30PM doors $30

SATURDAY February 16th
Dark Fog (Album Release) / Balms / Diagonal / Bow & Spear
Empty Bottle   8:30PM $8 ($10 doors)

Ballroom Boxer / Gazebo Effect (Album Release)
Subterranean (downstairs)    8PM $10

Illuminati Hotties / Retirement Party
The Hideout    9PM $12

Wintercamp Music Fest
Logan Square Auditorium  7PM $25 single day $40 two day

A Benefit For The People Of Yemen
This Must Be The Band / Nasty Snacks
The Vic   8PM $25

Saltwater Tap / Jack Kapson
Uncommon Ground on Devon    7PM $10 table fee. Reserve here.

SUNDAY February 17th
Midwinter Music Fest
Art Institute    6PM $50 base (Add on performances extra)

Midwinter After Party featuring Tortoise / Mute Duo
Empty Bottle   8:30PM doors $25

House of Blues   6:30PM $37.50  

Mandolin Orange / Joe Pug
Thalia Hall 6PM doors   $26


MONDAY February 18th
Maribou State / ford.
Lincoln Hall   8PM $15

Yawn / Wavy ID / Mild High Club (DJ set)
Empty Bottle  8:30PM doors FREE

Project T.A.P. Book Drive!
Rookie / Pooky / Gal Gun
Schubas   9PM FREE

TUESDAY February 19th
Pussy Foot (Last Show)  / The Cell Phones / Lilac
Empty Bottle   8:30PM doors $5 ($8 doors)

Current Joys / Gap Girls / Pool Holograph
Lincoln Hall   7PM $15

WEDNESDAY February 20th

La Butcherettes / Stars At Night / Mutt
Cobra Lounge   8PM $!5

Welles / Diagonal
Schubas   8PM $10

See you at the show Chicago!