Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Matthew Sweet/SPACE

Power Pop, Rock No Comments »

matthewsweetRECOMMENDED

Matthew Sweet is best known for his 1991 album “Girlfriend,” that personifies a moment in nineties power pop. It still holds up in its lyrical candor and equally straightforward instrumentals that could be a textbook example of what you might hear on college radio in the early nineties. “Girlfriend” is an excellent album to revisit in its lack of pretense and general catchiness, plus the guy can really shred.

Sweet’s most recent album, “Modern Art,” maintains the angry sweetness established in “Girlfriend,” but shows more experimenting in layers and volumes, introducing previously unexplored nods toward psychedelia and folk. While this album is slightly more complicated than his previous releases, it’s still an easy listen that grows as it becomes more familiar. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Brody Dalle/Bottom Lounge

Alt-Rock, Punk, Rock No Comments »

Brody DalleRECOMMENDED

Brody Dalle’s triumphant return to rock has been a long time coming. The former Distillers frontwoman has been in and out of the public eye for years with musical projects since the band’s 2006 break up, including Spinnerette, a one-shot collaboration with former bandmate Tony Bevilacqua and Alain Johannes (Queens of The Stone Age/Eleven). While the songs on “Spinnerette” boasted some catchy hooks, there wasn’t much that stood out about it either. But with her impressive solo release “Diploid Love,” we hear a musical range that hadn’t been fully explored in Dalle’s previous bands. Read the rest of this entry »

Fierce and Fed Up: Hardcore Punks Find A Home

Festivals, Hardcore, Punk No Comments »
Aye Nako photo by Robert Pluma

Aye Nako/Photo: Robert Pluma

Fed Up Fest, taking place July 25-27, is a new addition this year to the packed Chicago summer music festival scene. In the tradition of fests like Olympia, Washington’s Homo-a-go-go, Fed Up Fest seeks to highlight the contributions of LGBTQ musicians to DIY music, though where Homo-a-go-go covered a wide range of styles under the DIY umbrella, Fed Up Fest focuses on hardcore and punk. Conscious of the problem in LGBTQ spaces of the ‘silent T,’ where transgender community members get name-checked but can often be marginalized, the organizers of Fed Up Fest particularly wish to highlight bands from across the country featuring trans folks—especially trans women. Bands on this year’s lineup include: Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Slowdive/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Rock, Shoegaze 2 Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

For fans of the hazy 1990s British rock that came to be known as shoegaze, Slowdive was one of Pitchfork’s true must-see acts this year. Back together after a nineteen-year hiatus, the group sculpted pretty melodies out of its guitar notes during its set early Sunday evening, with Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell switching off on lead vocals, both sounding like they were lost in dreams. But then, as the chords churned around and around, the songs began to roar with an often fierce intensity—contrasting with the musicians’ calm, relaxed demeanor onstage. It’s hard to say whether any of them actually gazed at their shoes as they made that beautiful, blurry and buzzing noise, but it was beguiling. (Robert Loerzel)

Live Review: Real Estate/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Indie Rock, Live Reviews 1 Comment »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Real Estate’s breezy music, full of shimmering surfaces with chiming guitars and soft, breathy vocals, isn’t the sort of stuff that gets audience fists pumping in the air, but the New Jersey band’s pleasant set late Sunday afternoon offered a welcome interlude of relaxation. The light, airy songs drifted out across the park, and every once in a while, Real Estate picked up the tempo, sounding a bit like a venerable band from the same state, The Feelies. But mostly, the group put us in a mellow mood. (Robert Loerzel)

Live Review: Dum Dum Girls/Pitchfork Music Festival

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

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Dum Dum Girls’ delayed start due to technical difficulties thinned out the crowds at first in favor of Earl Sweatshirt, but when they finally took the stage, the band’s dreamy, melancholy garage-pop seduced a sizable crowd back to the Blue Stage.

Dee Dee Penny and the gang’s inspired multi-part harmonies sounded as sweet as they do recorded, and they nail their gothy-girl-group aesthetic down to a couple instances of synchronized swaying, but I was personally hoping for a little more emotion in the performance. They sounded fantastic but almost too perfect. The music is dripping with passion and pathos and I was hoping for a bit more of it conveyed on stage. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: Deafheaven/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Metal No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

And now for the only full-on metal act of this entire festival, the eagerly awaited (by some) Deafheaven. A lot of folks at the fest were clearly not ready for vocalist George Clarke’s gut-wrenching shrieks, but whatever. We will be back to indie rock mumbling and such soon enough.

A certain segment of metal critics/fans lost their collective shit for the band’s 2013 release, “Sunbather,” a wet dream for anyone who is equally enamored of both, say, Gorgoroth and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I have been largely unmoved by the band’s records, but I will say their shoegaze-y elements are much more stirring in a live setting. Also Clarke’s evil-German-film-studies grad-student vibe actually works live; he’s got a weird kind of sexy malevolence that fits their sound and is dynamic to watch. They debuted a new track,”From The Kettle Unto The Coil” with a nice chunky breakdown in the middle that appeals to my metal traditionalist sensibilities. You win this round, Deafheaven. Mostly because you guys are the only metal I’ll see all weekend. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: Perfect Pussy/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Punk 2 Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Perfect Pussy’s songs were barely discernible amid the nonstop noise and crashing as the band quickly blasted through its set on the Blue Stage, but that hardly seemed to matter. This punk band is all about bashing your head in, sonically speaking, and it accomplished that. Lead singer Meredith Graves, wearing a striped dress, rarely stopped moving as she screeched and twirled, occasionally lifting her skirt for peeks at her undergarments, while her bandmates attacked their instruments as if they wanted to break them. Not surprisingly, a few people in the audience were inspired to crowd-surf. (Robert Loerzel)

Live Review: DIIV/Pitchfork Music Festival

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

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Some time ago Zachary Cole Smith must have fallen into a coma and woken up on the other side of the eighties with two decades worth of dreams to draw upon. There’s no other way to explain how DIIV sounds, except to mention The Cure’s early work, but even Robert Smith lacked the propulsive rhythm section that made a group of concertgoers mosh to dream-pop today. No doubt the highlight was a massive cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which sounded nothing at all like the original, but was absolutely perfect as a result. Only Galaxie 500 had a finer method for paying tribute to their influences. Zachary Cole Smith’s between-song banter was dedicated to reminding everyone in the audience that they were watching DIIV, despite the gigantic banner waving behind them. It was as awkward as it was endearing, much like the vibe of the Pitchfork Music Festival in general. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Speedy Ortiz/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Indie Rock, Live Reviews 1 Comment »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Speedy Ortiz kicked off Sunday’s Blue Stage schedule with a burst of scrappy garage rock chords. As Sadie Dupuis sang the verses in an almost understated manner, the songs occasionally loped into off-kilter rhythms, bringing to mind the early music of Liz Phair. The three guys in this band kept the music charging forward, but the focus was all on Dupuis, whose voice rose to pleading peaks in the refrains of her songs. Whenever the time came for an instrumental break, she seemed to revel in stepping back from the mic and whipping her hand across her guitar strings. (Robert Loerzel)