Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

You Ought to Know: The Unrepentant Humanity of Montreal’s Ought

Emo, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Victoria Davis

Photo: Victoria Davis

Ought’s debut LP, “More Than Any Other Day,” begins with a track called “Pleasant Heart” that’s led by an instrumental which inspires anything but its title. Its shaggy, stabby guitar and mathematically puzzling drumming take us to singer/guitarist Tim Beeler’s Kinsella-esque howling as the track unravels into a dissonant string-led soundscape.

But Ought manages to feel warm and familiar—endearing; cute, even—in their angst. A clarion of believable hope always emerges from its darkness. The band’s plainly existential lyrics and daring style have drawn easy comparisons to The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, but it’s their charm which makes these similes most possible. Their character is big enough to mention them as carriers of a long, great, lively pop lineage.

It’s Ought’s humanity that stands tallest at the Empty Bottle on a Saturday night in September. As Beeler somehow balances the dual personalities of his voice and guitar, the crowd shuffles closer to the stage with air-hugs and smiles, like they’d just really like to have a beer with these fellows who anthemically shout about being “excited for the milk of human kindness.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Eternal Summers/Lincoln Hall

Indie Rock No Comments »

eternalsummers

RECOMMENDED

This Roanoke, Virginia trio provides a powerful combination of alternative, indie and jagged punky hooks—everything you could ever want to dance, drive or listen to. There is lush guitar foundations reminiscent sometimes of Radiohead, but the pulse of early Cure and the bounce of Pylon comes through in many of their songs. The Eternal Summers provide a great recipe of one chiming guitar, ironic, high-powered but not screaming, firm female vocals, and a tight pummeling backbeat duo that never lets things get out of control.

Their new album, “The Drop Beneath”—produced by Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices and Nada Surf—on Kanine records is excellent, but live, they let it all hang out and some of their earlier work, such as “Wonder” from “Correct Behavior,” are some of the best pop anthems of the last couple of years. They open for We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood at Lincoln Hall—but don’t be late or you might miss the best band on the bill. (Bart Lazar)

October 8 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2508, 8pm, $20, 18+

Preview: The Raveonettes/Double Door

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »

raveonetters

RECOMMENDED

Sounding a bit like their name, the Raveonettes channel a variety of influences from fifties groups the Shangri-Las and the Everly Brothers to hazy feedback noise like the Jesus and Mary Chain. This is not surprising in that the band is produced and managed by Richard Gottehrer—a seventy-four-year-old writer/producer/impresario who, among other things wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and produced Blondie, The Go-Go’s and The Dum Dum Girls. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cymbals Eat Guitars/Schubas Tavern

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
photo: Eric White

Photo: Eric White

RECOMMENDED

“Lose,” the latest LP from Cymbals Eat Guitars—a band name culled from a Lou Reed quote describing the Velvet Underground’s blaring sound—begins with a carnivalesque run of keyboard notes and a reference to Klonopin taken to deal with relationship angst.

Singer Joseph D’Agostino carries a classic emo croon into territory more textural and measured than the genre his lilt suggests. The juxtaposition between CEG’s teensy energy and their adult knack for a barn-burning, shape-shifting, category-blurring number is what makes them compelling. D’Agostino screams primal things from each nook of the pristine, thoughtfully produced landscapes his band creates. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: She Keeps Bees/Beat Kitchen

Indie Rock No Comments »

She-Keeps-Bees_Molly-Donahue13RECOMMENDED

When Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant formed She Keeps Bees in 2006, LaPlant was banging a borrowed drum kit perched atop a stepladder to back Larrabee’s vocals. In those bedroom recording sessions, LaPlant also served as sound engineer on the pair’s sparse but powerful blues-tinted rock. So when they chose to work with a producer on their most recent record, “Eight Houses,” She Keeps Bees found themselves with a lot more input. Producer Nicolas Vernhes’ outside opinion “allowed us to really break down songs,” said Larrabee. “I think it stretched us.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Clean/Lincoln Hall

Indie Rock No Comments »

lnrrs1

RECOMMENDED

The Clean has been a highly influential band since the beginning.

They more or less personified the Dunedin Sound, a jangly, loose, lo-fi rock genre specific to their native New Zealand, on Flying Nun Records in the early eighties. This sound, propelled by university radio stations, eventually spread all over the world. Alt-indie staples like Sonic Youth, Pavement and Guided by Voices all cite The Clean in their influences. Moving forward, these bands that draw from The Clean serve as sources for countless other musicians. If you were to make a “Law and Order: SVU”-style string-web of where Pitchfork-centric bands come from, The Clean would be at or very near the middle. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Moonrise Nation/Lincoln Hall

Chicago Artists, Indie Rock No Comments »

groupwindowsfbcovercropRECOMMENDED

Moonrise Nation is one of those rare acts that is coming from a place of total honesty, presenting music that means a lot to them during the most important part of their development as artists. There is a certain misty wisdom in Moonrise Nation’s overall sound due to the songwriting itself as well as the general combination of piano, cello, guitar and woven harmonies. The group sounds like Regina Spektor collaborating with Atlas Sound, bringing together a darkened pop quirkiness and a mellow but fierce underlying force. Also, they’re all in their late teens, but this is not evident in their sound. Read the rest of this entry »

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: 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)