Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

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

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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 »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: Music

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Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Millennium Park/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Top 5 Classical Concerts
Riccardo Muti Inaugural Concert at Millennium Park, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Berlioz Episode in the Life of an Artist, Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven Festival, Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Boulez@85, MusicNOW
Bach Christmas Oratorio, Jane Glover and Music of the Baroque Orchestra and Chorus
—Dennis Polkow

Top 5 Albums
Esperanza Spalding, “Chamber Music Society” (Telarc)
Stanley Clarke, “The Stanley Clarke Band” (Heads Up)
Os Paralamas do Sucesso, “Brasil Afora” (EMI Latin)
Alex Cuba, “Alex Cuba”
Sheryl Crow, “100 Miles from Memphis”
—Ernest Barteldes

Top 5 Albums
The National, “High Violet” (4AD)
Sun Kil Moon, “Admiral Fell Promises” (Caldo Verde)
Frightened Rabbit, “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” (Fat Cat)
Twin Shadow, “Forget” (Red General Catalog)
Vampire Weekend, “Contra” (XL)
—Tom Lynch

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Pitch Perfect: Newcity’s guide to the best (and not so best) of a certain music festival in Union Park

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Photo: Francis Chung

Best California Dreaming
Best Coast’s album art says it all—palm trees, waves and a cat named “Snacks” perfectly portray the lazy and blithe songs on their first album, “Crazy For You.” Songwriter and singer Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno have perfected a summer anthem of sunshine, romance and weed while slowly transforming into caricatures of a lo-fi, surfer-rock phenomena. And like any front man, err, front chick, Cosentino has bangs that kill. Don’t fall too hard for the dreamy Pitchfork-darling—to boost her references to anything aquatic she’s dating  Nathan Williams of WAVVES. If you hate anything within the realms of California, avoid the show. Actually, avoid the entire Sunday lineup. (Sylvia Kim)

Tips for Aging Festival Attendees
This goes out to those with a steady income, a more or less contented view on life, and “cutting-edge” taste in music:

1 Bring the kids. Seize every opportunity to indoctrinate them with your indie-rock agenda.
2 Bring the spouse. Bond over microbrews and green initiatives in between sets.
3 It’s your job to lecture twentysomethings on the glory days of alternative rock. While they were in diapers you were crowd-surfing at Pavement gigs. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: Music

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Top 5 Recordsfutureoftheleft-travelswithmyselfan
Loney Dear, “Dear John” (Polyvinyl)
A.C. Newman, “Get Guilty” (Matador)
Future of the Left, “Travels With Myself and Another” (4AD)
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” (Slumberland Records)
The Antlers, “Hospice” (Frenchkiss)
—Tom Lynch

Top 5 Albums
Animal Collective, “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (Domino)
Luciano, “Tribute to the Sun” (Cadenza)
Jesse Rose, “What Do You Do If You Don’t” (Dubsided)
The Juan Maclean, “The Future Will Come” (DFA)
The xx, ” xx” (Young Turks)
—Duke Shin Read the rest of this entry »