Ambient, Chicago Artists, Experimental, Festivals, Indie Rock, Krautrock, Minimalism, New Music, Post-Rock, Rock, Space Pop
By Kenneth Preski
Kranky is the most high-profile, under the radar record label that calls Chicago home. For the past twenty years, founder Joel Leoschke has fostered a stable of uncompromising, unpretentious artists whose work may have gone unreleased were it not for his uncanny knack for curation. The thread drawing together outfits as disparate as Deerhunter and Stars of the Lid has united musicians worldwide under one umbrella: part ambient, part electronic, part black earth rock ‘n’ roll. And “Black Earth” might be the best description available for the abstract sound Leoschke is after. As the title of local quartet Implodes’ full-length debut suggests, there’s an engrossing mysticism at work in much of the Kranky repertoire. The solo recordings of Implodes’ guitarist Ken Camden echoes this boundless energy, but even he is quick to acknowledge the fleeting nature of his alchemy, and his hesitancy to share it.
“I’ve always been making recordings at home and stuff, but I’m kinda bashful and wasn’t about to slip [Leoschke] a tape or anything.”
Cajoling artists of this ilk is an elusive art form, something Leoschke has perfected. Somehow he’s managed to cater to the cagey, artists wise enough to avoid making a deal when they needn’t, musicians hungry for harmony on a cosmic scale rather than the fleeting fame offered by superficial scenesters. Art of this kind often has a unique origin story. Read the rest of this entry »
Clockwise from left: Andy Cohen, Tim Midyett, Brian Orchard, and Chris Manfrin.
By Kenneth Preski
“The only reason Bottomless Pit exists is because Michael died.”
From the impetus for creativity in the face of insularity, to the soft underbelly of Steve Albini’s legacy, a conversation with Tim Midyett eight years since his hiatus from interviews offers a remarkable entry point for insight into contemporary American artistic expression; though it is clear that the discussion about his post-Silkworm work with Bottomless Pit can only begin one way, and that’s by confronting the death of former bandmate Michael Dahlquist. A few months shy of his fortieth birthday, Silkworm drummer Dahlquist was one of three musicians killed while idling at an intersection in Skokie. Their vehicle was struck by a Ford Mustang traveling 90mph down West Dempster around noon on a Thursday, the wheel helmed by a suicidal twenty-three-year-old woman. Her only injury was a broken ankle. She was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, later reduced to reckless homicide by reason of insanity. She spent four years in prison for the crime.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say about that, but I had a lot to say about it, and I wanted it to be real specific, and exactly the way I wanted to say it. All that stuff came out in our records.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sarah Creighton
Seattle garage-rock duo Pony Time first popped up on my radar about a year ago when singer/guitarist Luke Beetham was featured in The Stranger’s tongue-in-cheek “Men Who Rock” feature skewering gender stereotypes in music writing. Beetham’s willingness to poke fun at both himself and rock-bro sexism impressed me, and I was equally impressed with Pony Time’s bouncy, buzzy single “Lori + Judy.” As a two-piece, Pony Time manages to use the minimalism to their advantage with short songs that play up Stacy Peck’s pulsing drum work and Beetham’s nasal, sneering vocals, like a Fred Schneider who can actually sing. Read the rest of this entry »
For all the heady continental philosophy references to Hegel and Foucault that pervade Jenny Hval’s latest effort, “Innocence Is Kinky,” nothing strikes the listener more than how beautifully she can sing about watching internet pornography. Yet the shock of her subject matter is undercut by the complexity of her musical arrangements, handled here by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, a compelling mix of Hval’s vocal delicacy cut up by her guitar’s angular aggression. Though the LP’s ambition is unparalleled in the genre, make no mistake: the album at hand remains firmly indie-rock oriented. Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock
Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »
It might seem weird for Superchunk, an influential indie rock band that has released nine revered albums in twenty-four years, to title their tenth record “I Hate Music,” but time will do that. You grow older, problems get more complicated and a trip to the record store no longer really solves them.
“I hate music,” Mac McCaughan sings on the lead single, “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” “What is it worth? It can’t bring you back to this earth.”
If that sounds excessively pessimistic, don’t worry. In a breezy thirty-eight minutes, Superchunk delivers the catchy hooks and clever lines that have made them so great since their brilliant 1990 self-titled debut. But the band’s unique magic has always rested in their ability to blend upbeat, high-energy indie rock with down-in-the-dumps lyrics, and that duality is even more pronounced on their newest effort. Everyone in the band is growing older, well into their forties, turning this into an affair about aging. What sets this effort apart from similar works is the way the wintry theme is set to music that rocks with the rushing exuberance of youth. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Gibbard of The Postal Service/Photo: Christian Holub
By Christian Holub
It was hard to take pictures of The Postal Service at the Metro on Sunday. I know some amazing photographers who probably know some amazing tricks that could have helped, but between the dark setting, the fortress of laptops obscuring beatmaster Jimmy Tamborello’s face and singer Ben Gibbard’s constant time-keeping shoulder sway, it was hard to get photos that showed human faces rather than dark, otherworldly light blurs.
Similarly, it’s hard to put a finger on why The Postal Service is so beloved. They only ever made one album together, 2003’s “Give Up,” and as Gibbard notes during the recent short YouTube documentary on the band, “Some Idealistic Future,” the album didn’t really gain serious steam until he and Tamborello had moved back to their main projects (Death Cab for Cutie and Dntel, respectively). Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Jesper Eklow
By John Wilmes
“Fade” starts with a credo of itself, and of Yo La Tengo’s relentless career, when Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley—married since before they started this thing, twenty-nine years ago—lament together: “Sometimes the bad guys go right on top/Sometimes the good guys lose/We try not to lose our hearts, not to lose our minds,” and go on to pile up the declarations of life’s difficult, routine truths (“the rain today hurts the drink to drink”), questioning why they keep moving forth (“this isn’t the road we know”), and ultimately bringing us to the resolution which the exceedingly pleasant, jangly chug of the music had promised all along, when they answer with “because it’s been fun,” and Kaplan provides the exclamation point (which, in this band’s enormous annals, is often much more of a semi-colon) in the form of yet another inimitable streak of guitar burn.
It’s about the only poetics that can explain such a band. Creators of fourteen EPs and singles, ninety-eight recorded cover songs (many of which can be heard on the recording “Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics,” a fundraising effort for New Jersey radio station WFMU in which the band composed and played thirty-eight covers on the spot, requested by callers-in), a film score, two-hundred-sixteen original tracks, and thirteen studio albums (including this one), Yo La Tengo has inhabited a space somewhere between struggling independents and commercial success for much, much longer than seemingly any other group could endure. Just ask the indefinitely shelved Sonic Youth, who finally reached a halt in 2011 when it announced that its central, also-married partners Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore had separated after nearly thirty years. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Abram Sanders
With their flimsy drum machine loops, strumming guitar chords and ambient keyboard melodies reminiscent of New Order, Future Islands is the perfect music to play while crying your eyes out and knocking shit over in your apartment. Their music is pro-human; confessional songs that detail breakups and loss with an organic-sounding composition, which somehow makes it all better. And it seems to be working for them. Their last album, “On the Water” (2011) earned Future Islands word-of-mouth notoriety and recognition on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Daniel Coston.
The history of the dBs sounds almost like a rock ‘n’ roll movie: the band forms in the late seventies, makes some great recordings that are well received by critics but that fail to reach a larger audience. They put out a few more albums with some lineup changes and then ultimately break up after a few years, and the former members move on to make music on their own. Read the rest of this entry »