Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Tune-Yards/The Vic

Indie Pop No Comments »

tuneyards_2

RECOMMENDED

Tune-Yards gets a bad rap at times because multi-instrumentalist/mastermind Merrill Garbus has such an off-the-wall stage presence and technicolor style that discussion of the music sometimes gets lost in favor of Garbus’ performance and bold persona. Tune-Yards’ latest release, “Nikki-Nack,” was a level up for Garbus and Tune-Yards, taking what could have easily been a garbled musical mess—a combination of afro-beat drums, R & B, and nonsense children’s rhymes all topped off with a glossy pop sheen—and making it not only a cohesive whole, but a compelling musical statement and a confidently realized signature sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Banks/Metro

R&B, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »

banks-650-430

RECOMMENDED

We’re in the age of single-named indie-pop chanteuses (i.e. Lorde, Kimbra). But L.A.-based singer-songwriter Banks (full name Jillian Banks) was a relatively unanticipated addition to the indie music buzz bin back in 2013 with her nineties trip-hop-influenced single “Before I Ever Met You.” Now on the heels of her debut release, “Goddess,” she’s garnering more comparisons, this time to indie R&B acts like The Weeknd. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Christopher Owens/Park West

Singer-Songwriter No Comments »

christopher-owens-2-640

RECOMMENDED

Girls frontman Christopher Owens is releasing his second solo album, “A New Testament,” on September 29. A product of the Children of God cult, this graceful gender-bending San Francisco songwriter penned irresistible rock ‘n’ roll songs that moved between tender folk, hazy, thick guitar solos and peeping, unassuming vocals with Girls before releasing his first solo album, “Lysandre,” in 2013. “Lysandre” was a completely acoustic project that was hard to digest, but is full of beautiful songwriting and a universal narrative that is true to Owens’ form. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Pomplamoose/Lincoln Hall

Pop No Comments »

pomplamoose

RECOMMENDED

San Francisco multi-instrumental duo Pomplamoose is an acquired taste, depending on your interest in adorable lo-fi jazz-pop. They’re best known for their YouTube series where they do inventive, split-screen covers and mashups of the latest pop hits (ex. Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass” and Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”) and for their earworm holiday commercials for Hyundai back in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Steely Dan/The Venue at Horseshoe Casino

Pop, Rock No Comments »

Steely DanRECOMMENDED

“Dad Rock” doesn’t feel like a compliment until the label’s slapped onto Steely Dan. When your adolescent flame flickers off as you get a real job, pay real rent and all, your brain becomes more rational. And it tells you this, in its new wisdom: you’ve been taking Steely Dan for granted, all along. Pops in his gaudy sweatpants shimmying along to their borderline-muzaky tones gave them a bad look, but only until you were smart enough to know what’s really cool. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Los Lonely Boys/Thalia Hall

Alt-Rock, Latin, Pop, Rock, Tejano, World Music No Comments »

loslonelyboys_photo1RECOMMENDED

As one of the few Latin-bred rock bands to make it into the mainstream rock scene, the three siblings of this power trio sure have made strides. On one of their first major tours, they teamed up with legendary Mexican-American band Los Lobos—with bassist Jojo Garza pulling double duty by performing in both bands, who would come together at the end of every set for an extended jam. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ed Motta/Mayne Stage

Funk, Neo-soul, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, World Music No Comments »

EdMottaRECOMMENDED

When Ed Motta began his career in the late eighties, critics and listeners were quick to compare his vocal style and his blend of funk, soul and Brazilian grooves with that of the late Tim Maia, one of the pioneers of the genre. That was no coincidence, after all he is Maia’s nephew–but his music evolved greatly from those early days with his Conexão Japeri band. Over the decades, he has collaborated with musicians as diverse as jazz greats Roy Ayers and Ivan Lins, fellow Rio-born songwriter Seu Jorge, and soul legend Chaka Khan, to name a few. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Grimes/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Indie Pop, Live Reviews, Pop No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

The Red Stage was at capacity in anticipation of Grimes, AKA Montreal’s Claire Boucher, AKA the closest thing to Korean pop we are likely to ever hear at Pitchfork. (Boucher has gone on the record as a huge fan, and the influence is quite evident in her sound.)

On one level, it’s a bit curious how well-loved Grimes is among the indie set precisely because her sound and her songwriting is so unabashedly pop; even her performance has the feel of a pared-down pop-star spectacle, from the generous wind machines to the pair of ribbon brandishing backup dancers.

However, when you see her in action, it becomes more obvious what endears her to the Pitchfork crowd. She’s a skilled producer with a special talent for creating a tapestry of electronic sounds: synth patterns, percussive textures, layers upon layers of her own voice. Not to mention she’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. She alternates between crouching over her controllers like a mad scientist and bouncing around the stage like the DJ of her own birthday party. The crowd here clearly feels and returns her energy and she returns it back in spades. It’s a dizzying web that’s similar to the music itself. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: Mutual Benefit/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Folk, Folk-rock, Indie Pop, Live Reviews No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Usually the easiest way to get me to exit a live music situation is by mentioning the word “folk.” Despite my bias, indie-folk outfit Mutual Benefit won me over with their shimmering synth and guitar textures, soaring violin and gorgeous male-and-female vocal harmonies. In addition to an unusually lovely honey-dripped tenor, bandleader Jordan Lee has jokes—lots of them. He kept the growing Green Stage crowd chuckling in-between songs with his wry humor. (“We’ve always dreamed of opening for Slowdive and Kendrick Lamar.”) Not a bad way to kick off Pitchfork’s final day. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: tUnE-yArDs/Pitchfork Music Festival

Dance Pop, Festivals, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Live Reviews No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

tUnE-yArDs is divisive, from Merrill Garbus’ elaborate face-paint/clothes, to the arguable-cultural appropriation of Afro-beat influences, to the frustratingly quirky spelling of the band’s name, even Garbus’ spacey greeting to the Pitchfork crowd (“Thanks for being a massive mass of massiveness!”) seemed to be a bit …put on. To be so boldly, messily experimental in pop can either speak to an audience uniquely or rub them the wrong way. It is not a surprise that for every “I ADORE tUnE-yArDs” comment I heard in the crowd, there were an almost equal number of “This is annoying as hell,” comments to balance it out.

But it’s hard to deny Garbus’ talent, even if you don’t “get it.” She stands out in a sea of indie-pop sameness, especially for women artists. Where delicate vocal styles are the norm, Garbus is often gruff—she yelps, growls and howls in a decidedly non-gendered way. (At least two people near me thought Garbus was male at first.) She fearlessly plays with styles and cultural influences/signifiers: call and response vocals, funk bass, Afro-beat and hip-hop influenced percussion. (Is it cultural appropriation or homage? That’s way too much to get into while typing on an iPad standing up.) But with a five-piece band format (including two backup singers), her audacious musical vision comes alive on stage, giving the listener a lot more to chew on. Even when it doesn’t work, it does work; it’s hard to ignore and almost always elicits a strong audience response, which indie-pop needs a lot more of. (Keidra Chaney)