By Robert Rodi
Let a hundred-thousand critics give their thoughts on My My My and there’s still one phrase you’ll never read: “stripped-down.” On the night I most recently saw them (November 21 at Double Door, the release party for their new album, “Tigers On the Dance Floor”) there were nine performers on the stage. Their sound—beautifully reproduced on the album—features complex rhythms, multilayered harmonies and a thick synth frosting; yet there’s nothing bloated or mannered or self-conscious about it. This is downright muscular pop music: driven, delirious and out for a goddamn good time.
The band is fronted by two vocalists, Russell Baylin and Sarah Snow, who also write all the lyrics. The music itself is a collaborative effort on the part of the entire group, which includes Ante Gelo on guitar and string synth, Jake Bartolone on bass and Moog, John Sorensen on drums, and John Szymanski on keys and percussion. The only members who don’t seem to do double duty are the backup vocalists, a.k.a. The Peoples, unless you count looking lethally glam while they sing as double duty.
Baylin and Snow are a great match: he growls, she howls, and in their solo numbers their sheer sonic majesty makes you stand up and take notice. But when they duet (as in “Sirens of Soft Persuasion”) they can lift you right off the floor and dangle you there. The tunes are incredibly polished and stuffed with so many hooks they’re like harmonic velcro. A few of them—like “Bleeding” and “When We Kiss”—perform that rarest feat of pop alchemy: sounding utterly fresh and yet also giving you the impression you’ve known and loved them for years—that they’re already bonded to your DNA. Read the rest of this entry »
Every year from late October to early November I suffer from a condition I call “CMJ Envy.” I spend all my time reading blogs and articles about the burgeoning bands and rising artists taking the stage at New York’s annual CMJ Music Marathon, and I wonder why Chicago can’t have similar events headlining new music. But in fact we do have something as cool; it happens every week in bars and small venues all across the city. But our regular music showcases don’t get nearly the attendance and press attention that big sexy events like CMJ get year after year. Part of that is on us, as live-music fans; we need to make the effort to show up and support local and touring bands before the critical buzz starts. With that in mind, here are some upcoming music events that are not only a good excuse to leave the house in the coming weeks, but also way more interesting than reading other people’s blog posts about the “next big thing.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Chicago-based octet Sidewalk Chalk is far from your ordinary hip-hop group. The band fuses soul and jazz with contemporary beats and insightful lyrics to create original songs and live performances that get even the most conservative of concert-goers on their feet. Their arrangements highlight what each of the band’s members bring to the table. Maggie Vagle (vocals) and Rico Sisney (MC) complement each other on stage as well as they do on tracks, matching energy and emotion note for note. Likewise, while Tyler Berg uses a drum set to keep time, Jumaane Taylor tap dances to add in rhythms and provide a unique flair to the band’s sound. Read the rest of this entry »
We can, and perhaps should, continue discussing the vital bridge between hardcore, whatever it turned into mid-decade and everything that happened in Seattle during the 1990s. And that’s where Milwaukee’s Die Kreuzen comes in. It took the band about two years to turn its 1982 demos into a debut long-player, released through Touch and Go. Issuing a hardcore album so deep into the genre’s development meant the disc would either be buried amid its doppelgangers or point a possible way beyond hardcore’s limitations. Dan Kubinski’s vocals may be the definitive feature allowing for folks to care about all this a few decades on. His determined yowl’s still more metal than Lars Ulrich and the trio backing him was capable of turning a fast tempo even faster. Read the rest of this entry »
With eight members in the Wu-Tang Clan and countless affiliated performers kicking around, only a few of the crew’s MCs have issued music acclaimed in the same way as “36 Chambers.” Disregarding his appearance on “30 Rock,” Ghostface Killah’s career’s been one of the most consistent, beginning with the 1996 “Ironman.” Read the rest of this entry »
There’s no shortage of throwback bands copping to sixties pop and psych. Top-shelf purveyors are able to replicate and expand on all those wasted classics, inserting twenty-first-century ideas into what we’ve all become accustomed to. Austin’s the Black Angels almost weave their way into success. Naming anything “Mission District” is bound to be questioned by listeners—the song these Texans work up isn’t regrettable, but for some reason, singer Alex Maas takes a more melodic approach to droning out his lyrics than elsewhere. The approach doesn’t clash with the dumb thud of the ensemble’s psych stuff, but sets up a contrast better suited to the Doors than fourth-generation stoners. Read the rest of this entry »
Electronic/Dance, Funk, Latin, New Music, Pop, Psychedelic, R&B, Rock, Samba, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, World Music
Céu/Photo: Renan Costa Lima
Throughout her career, São Paulo-born Céu (pronounced SEH-uh) has been inspired by electronica and American soul music, but on her recent release “Caravana Sereia Bloom” (loosely translates as “Mermaid Bloom Caravan”) she goes into a different direction. The music is influenced by various elements of Brazilian regional music. An example is the lead single “Retrovisor” (“Rear View Mirror”), a tune whose main rhythm is reminiscent of the sounds commonly heard in countryside nightclubs around the country’s southeastern region. Read the rest of this entry »
As the David Grisman-Jerry Garcia gospel continues to spread and constitute a musical template to emulate, scores of new bluegrass players seek to enliven the traditional music with innovations they’ve found in third-generation recordings. The Infamous Stringdusters is one of those ensembles. Extending the possibilities of the genre and extolling the technical talents of a group’s players sometimes gets in the way of the music. But far more frequently, the new crop of bluegrassers—everyone from Railroad Earth to the Yonder Mountain String Band—toss in a heap of country-styled crooning. And it doesn’t always turn out too well. Read the rest of this entry »
Brand Nubian was—and remains—an understandable extension of critical views expressed by DeLa, Gang Starr and any number of other East Coast ensembles, dating to the late eighties and early nineties. The trio, which existed in its first phase just long enough to issue 1990’s “One for All,” did its damnedest to relate the collective’s religious views explicitly. What made tracks like “Ragtime” so memorable is that the beat sounds positive enough to negate any casual mention of Farrakhan. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Mike Schreiber
Though pianist Robert Glasper is mostly considered a jazz artist, he seamlessly travels through other genres, which makes him comfortable enough to do different things on his recordings and on a live format. Back in 2009, he toured with neo-soul pioneer Maxwell during his comeback tour in support of “BLACKsummer’s Night” while also promoting his own well-received “Double Booked” (Blue Note), a CD that featured collaborations with Mos Def and Bilal.
In anticipation of his upcoming album “Black Radio” (Blue Note), jazz keyboardist Robert Glasper has released “Ah Yeah” a tune that goes more into soul territory. Read the rest of this entry »