Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2015: Music

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Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2015
Lea DeLaria, “House of David” (Ghostlight)
Cécile McLorin Salvant, “For One to Love” (Mack Avenue)
Fred Hersch, “Solo” (Palmetto)
Vijay Iyer Trio, “Break Stuff” (ECM)
Keith Jarrett, “Creation” (ECM)
—Robert Rodi

Top 5 Jazz Clubs of 2015
The Green Mill
Jazz Showcase
Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant
Untitled Supper Club
—Robert Rodi Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Music Preview 2015

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By Seth Boustead

I decided to write my fall music preview as the lead sheet to an original tune in the style of Charlie Parker. Parker was an amazing composer and performer, of course; but he was also generous and gregarious, which I feel could equally well be said about the musicians who make the Chicago scene so special.


For the more verbally-oriented among you, however, here are my picks for essential fall music events.

Ellen McSweeney and Sam Scranton Present MIMIC
Chicago label Parlour Tapes + presents the violinist/writer and composer/percussionist in a collaborative piece that is a kind of mash-up of music as ancient ritual with futuristic philosophical spirituality.
September 10, 7:30pm at Comfort Station, 2579 North Milwaukee. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2014: Music

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Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2014
Catherine Russell, “Bring It Back” (Jazz Village)
Caetano Veloso, “Abraçaço” (Nonesuch)
Vijay Iyer, “Mutations” (ECM)
Sonny Rollins, “Road Shows, Volume 3” (Doxy/Okeh)
Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden, “Last Dance” (ECM)
—Robert Rodi

Top 5 Classical Albums of 2014
Jonas Kaufmann, Schubert “Winterreise” (Sony Classical)
Cecilia Bartoli, “St. Petersburg” (Universal Music Classics)
Gabrieli Consort, Britten “War Requiem” (Winged LIon/Signum)
La Compagnia del Madrigale, Marenzio “Primo libro di madrigali” (Glossa)
Igor Levit, Beethoven “The Late Piano Sonatas” (Sony)
—Robert Rodi

Top 5 Shows by Older Performers of 2014
Television at Bottom Lounge, September 14
Sonics at Double Door, February 27
Kraftwerk at Riviera, March 27
New Order at Aragon, July 1
Bryan Ferry at Chicago Theatre, September 21
—Bart Lazar Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2013: Music

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Top 5 Releases of 2013
Swirlies, “Complete Discography” (Sneaky Flute Empire)
Bill Orcutt, “A History of Every One” (Editions Mego)
Kanye West, “Yeezus” (Def Jam)
Chance The Rapper, “Acid Rap” (self-released)
Allen Toussaint, “Songbook” (Rounder)
—Kenneth Preski

Top 5 Electronic Albums of 2013
DJ Rashad, “Double Cup” (Hyperdub)
Rashad Becker, “Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I” (Pan)
Emptyset, “Recur” (Raster-Noton)
Grouper, “The Man Who Died in His Boat” (Kranky)
ÄÄNIPÄÄ, “Through A Pre-Memory” (Editions Mego)
—Kenneth Preski

Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2012: Music

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Top 5 Albums of 2012
John Butcher, “Bell Trove Spools” (Northern Spy)
Killer Mike, “2012, R.A.P. Music” (Williams Street)
Mako Sica, “Essence” (La Société Expéditionnaire)
MV & EE, “Space Homestead” (Woodsist)
Victor Rice, “Dub Discoveries from Version City” (Stubborn)
—Dave Cantor

Top 5 Classical Concerts of 2012
Riccardo Muti & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Cherubini Requiem
Chicago Chamber Musicians, Debussy Chamber Music Festival
Bella Voce, Music of the Sistine Chapel
Riccardo Muti & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bruckner Sixth Symphony
World Orchestra for Peace, Solti Centennial Concert
—Dennis Polkow Read the rest of this entry »

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012 Preview

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Willis Earl Beal/Photo: Jamie-James Medina

Before heading to Union Park this weekend for the seventh incarnation of the Pitchfork Music Festival, check out our guide to all the acts you may have never heard of, forgotten about, or already know and love. We can’t guarantee they’ll sound as good on stage as they do in our memories and in our record collections, but hey, we can hope.

While you’re at it, be sure and check out our Pitchfork playlist on Spotify and Dave Cantor’s preview of Flying Lotus, who hits the Green Stage at 4:15pm on Saturday. You can find the festival’s full schedule online here. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking the Streets by Song: A Playlist for the 99%

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By Anne Ream and R. Clifton Spargo

Saul Alinsky was right.

The late Chicago community organizer wrote in “Rules for Radicals”—a user’s manual for those seeking to overturn the status quo—that when it comes to social movements, “it doesn’t matter what you know about anything if you cannot communicate it to your people.” In the absence of a clear message, “you’re not even a failure,” Alinsky warned. “You’re just not there.”

Apt advice, perhaps, for Occupy Wall Street. Buoyed by a growing public consensus that our economic system was either broken or perhaps built from the start to take from the many to benefit the few, the Occupy movement had history and hope on its side. What critics on the left and right soon asserted it didn’t have was a consistent message. Movement organizers have variously called for an end to wealth inequality, capital punishment, police intimidation, corporate censorship, joblessness, meat-eating, American imperialism, war and most recently and perhaps perplexingly, the art world’s Whitney Biennial. When reliably liberal publications such as Mother Jones note that the Occupy movement “lacks focus” and takes too much of a “kitchen sink approach,” we sit up and take notice.

To the rescue rock ‘n’ roll? Sure, rock itself has often been characterized as rebellion without focus. But there’s a time-honored tradition of protest music written into that history of rebellion, and it’s laid down the backbeat for some of the last half century’s most powerful social movements. So, a humble suggestion for the Occupy movement: fine-tune the message and keep the focus on a system that serves the 1% to the detriment of the 99%. In that spirit, we’ve mined the protest canon for its greatest anti-capitalist anthems. Part populist rallying cries, part odes of sorrow for a system serving the few rather than the many, these songs have never felt more urgent—or more necessary—than they do right now.  Read the rest of this entry »

Record Store Day: The Greatest Hits of 2012

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By David Anthony

For the past four years, the third Saturday in April has signified more than just the changing of the seasons: it is Record Store Day. Growing steadily each year—with an estimated 300 releases being unleashed this April 21—the event has gone from being a small, niche event to a monolithic enterprise.

“I think if you’d have asked me the first year if it would be what it has become, I would be shocked. The first year was just a busy, regular Saturday, but it’s become a whole other entity,” says Dave Crain, owner of Dave’s Records in Lincoln Park. Dave’s Records is vinyl-only and proud of it, and the first Record Store Day didn’t exactly fit into the store’s wheelhouse. “The first year there weren’t as many releases, partly because it was a new thing and partly because the first year there was more focus on the CD stuff and not the vinyl stuff,” says Crain. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 5 of Everything 2011: Music

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Aram Shelton

Top 5 Chicago Albums
Aram Shelton’s Arrive, “There Was…” (Clean Feed)
CAVE, “Neverendless” (Drag City)
Disappears, “LUX” (Kranky)
Bongripper, “Sex Tape” b/w “Snuff Film” (Great Barrier Records)
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, “Kryptonite” (My Publishing Group)
—Dave Cantor

Top 5 Recordings
Bill Orcutt, “How the Thing Sings” (Editions Mego)
Puffy Areolas, “Gentleman’s Grip” (HoZac)
Ras G “Down 2 Earth” (Ramp Recordings)
Shlohmo, “Bad Vibes” (Friends of Friends)
Void, “Sessions 1981-83” (Dischord)
—Dave Cantor

Top 5 Holiday Albums
Carole King, “A Christmas Carole”
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” Original Cast Album
Paul Hillier, Theatre of Voices, Ars Nova Copenhagen, “A Christmas Story”
Marcus Roberts Trio, “Celebrating Christmas”
Chicago XXXIII, “O Christmas Tree”
—Dennis Polkow Read the rest of this entry »

The Record Store Issue: A guide to Chicago’s indie retailers and Record Store Day 2011

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Illustration: Pamela Wishbow

In a world where you can fit 40,000 songs in the palm of your hand, the CD is becoming a distant memory; the vinyl record, practically a relic. And the record store? Obsolete.

Or so you might think. Record Store Day, a celebration of the glory of an in-person, physical, nitty-gritty music-buying experience, is in its fourth year and bigger than ever. Bands are releasing their music on vinyl again, because people still want to buy it. Kids born in an iPod age are dusting off their parents’ record player or buying a turntable.

“I’ve watched vinyl go away and in the past five years, I’ve watched it come back,” says Joe Bruce, owner of Groovin’ High, Inc. “The comeback has been huge with the under-30 crowd.”

With vinyl, you can play older music originally recorded in an analog format the way it was intended to be heard, on an analog player, catching all of the little nuances of the recording. Digitizing music breaks it down into small, discrete units of information that audiophiles argue aren’t as full-bodied as analog recordings, even if it’s hard to tell the difference with a mid-range speaker setup.

Regardless of what it really sounds like, people crave the tactile experience of buying and playing records. Read the rest of this entry »