Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: The Dillinger Escape Plan/Metro

Mathcore, Metal No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDdillinger escape plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan is not every metal fan’s musical cup of tea. Some are put off by the frenzied, tempo-hopping riffage of guitarist/founding member Ben Weinman. The “no clean vocals” purist crowd doesn’t care much for vocalist Greg Puciato’s smoother vocal stylings. Even so, the mathcore quintet’s fan base seems to grow with each new release, despite an ever-changing lineup and a commitment to creating persistently alienating music. Their most recent album, “One of Us Is the Killer,” shows the band at their most artistically confident, marrying the incomprehensible technicality of Weinman’s guitar playing and Billy Rymer’s drums with melodic , dare I say, pop-influenced choruses. It’s all topped off with Puciato’s impressive vocal range, jumping from high-pitched shrieks to guttural bellows to R&B-tinged crooning, sometimes in one song. It’s a trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The War on Drugs/Metro

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »


The road is an elegant, shimmering place—always free and steady and pretty—in the hands of The War on Drugs. Gloss is a good sound for lead man Adam Granduciel, whose evocations of Springsteen offer a yearning that’s often absent in his previous work behind Kurt Vile, the zen-master of indie rock, as one of his backing band, the Violators. We are drifting and capable of pain throughout “Lost in the Dream,” the outfit’s latest LP. It is an assurance that a certain type of barn-burner still exists; that the Rust Belt is still packed border-to-border full of romantics who can’t aim their heart the right way; who smolder away against the weight of dead hopes. The album chugs along with the urge to blaze through the threshers of time and humanity, insistent in its sincere attention to the perfectly emotional guitar solo—the antidote to any moment. An insane optimism; my favorite kind of schmaltz. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Russian Circles/Metro

Metal, Post-metal No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDRussian Circles

What exactly is “post-metal?” Some fans swear by the term, others loathe it. It tends to be used in reference to bands that appeal to people who don’t have much use for heavy music in any other context. You can decide for yourself whether or not the description quite fits for Chicago’s Russian Circles, but anyone with an appreciation for the layered instrumentals of Explosions in the Sky, or the heavier riffing of Pelican will appreciate this band. Without a singer to tell stories through lyrics, the trio—guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz—create musical narratives through finely crafted arrangements. Read the rest of this entry »

Cue the Police Sirens: An Interview with Gangsta Rapper Freddie Gibbs on the Eve of “Piñata”

Hip-Hop, Interviews, Rap 1 Comment »
Photo: Peter Beste

Photo: Peter Beste

By Kenneth Preski

Gang violence, murder, robbery, drug dealing, prostitution: all fodder for Freddie Gibbs on “Thuggin’,” the first single released from his collaboration with Madlib, the world’s greatest beatsmith. The gangsta rapper even goes as far as selling crack to one of his family members to avoid having her go up the street to turn a trick for it. Welcome to Gary, Indiana through the eyes of Gangsta Gibbs, a man who puts the rap in rap sheet. It has to be bullshit, right? Some over-the-top braggadocio to pull one over on record buyers. No one could come through that much trauma unscathed. Given the genre’s many imitators, thug is a costume, and one size fits all. Not according to the man himself: “All that shit is real, man. I don’t have no persona. I don’t have no rap persona. Everything is real and authentic. If I’m talking about it, then I saw it.” Given the criminality of his lyrical content, that’s a chilling confession. Gibbs’ memory is mined for source material during the entirety of “Piñata,” a release which is not just one of the best hip-hop records this year, but one of the best, period. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Darkside/Metro

Ambient, Downtempo, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, IDM No Comments »


From pilotless killing machines to the surveillance state realized, there is no shortage of topical political source material for artists engaging with technology, making the biggest electronic music trend of 2013 all the more puzzling. With greater possibilities for the radicalization of computer software and synthesizers than ever before, the most successful electronic acts chose instead to retreat into the mundane. Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” to widespread commercial acclaim, a feel-good disco retread blessed by a resurgent Nile Rodgers; leaving the remaining widespread critical acclaim for Darkside, featuring much-hyped wunderkind Nicolas Jaar’s production and Dave Harrington’s noodling guitar. The duo did their best to invert the trend by altering the mood, but since the yesteryear-leaning technique remained consistent across their complete album remix of “Random Access Memories,” expectations for their debut full-length were tempered. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Breeders/Metro

Pop, Rock No Comments »


Dayton, Ohio, isn’t a big place, but it’s given the rock-set both Guided By Voices and the Deal sisters, who’ve had a guiding hand in the Pixies and the Breeders. That latter group is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its “Last Splash,” an album that unloosed one of the most recognizable bass riffs of the last two decades. Even if “Cannonball” weren’t included on the disc, there’d be more than enough reason to revisit the 1993 work without 4AD reissuing the set as either a three-CD compendium or a seven-LP suitcase. The Breeders’ second full-length hasn’t been fetishized the way its contemporaries have—anyone who still cares about Soundgarden needs to have a heavy dose of antipsychotics prescribed to them. But there aren’t really any clunkers (“Drivin’ on 9” comes close, but were it the musical statement of a new band, there’d be a spate of faux-country popularity in the wings), just a few songs that could have gestated a bit longer. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Goblin/Metro

Experimental, Prog-rock No Comments »

10.13 Goblin @ MetroIf there’re folks who sit down and listen to a Goblin album from beginning to end, bless ’em. For the most part, the Italian prog ensemble trucks in truncated soundtrack stuffs best suited to murder scenes and creeping ghouls. Hooking up with the culty Dario Argento for his best-known works, the band earned acclaim in its own country immediately, seeping out slowly into the rest of the world’s consciousness as the director’s “Suspiria” became requisite viewing for film enthusiasts. Thing is, when listening to the soundtrack as a whole, quick transitions meant to signal something visual are left flailing on their own—“Black Forest” and its jazz-cum-rock guitar jam included. No doubt, these dudes shred, but if shredding is all it took for a performer to be enticing, we’d all be psyched for some new Yngwie Malmsteen (Sorry, Yngwie.). Read the rest of this entry »

Saying Goodbye to The Postal Service: One Last Blast From a Recent Past

Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Indie Rock No Comments »
Ben Gibbard of The Postal Service/Photo: Christian Holub

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 »

Music 45: Who Keeps Chicago in Tune 2013

Chicago Artists, Classical, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, Rock No Comments »
Cover by Colin Denney

Cover by Colin Denney

Music is alive and well and living in Chicago.

While that once might have meant records and radio and bands being signed to major labels, it’s a much more complex score these days, with artists and venues more entrepreneurial than ever. But at the core is the shift in emphasis from recorded to live music, and it’s a change that’s made Chicago a town of festivals, from the city’s bedrock blues, jazz, gospel and world music festivals, to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, to the new electronic dance music festivals—Spring Awakening, Wavefront and North Coast—as well as the explosive growth of an old one, the Chosen Few DJs Picnic. With these shifts, the players are changing too; since we last made this list of the behind-the-scenesters, the power list if you will, most of the list has changed. This year’s forty-five include twenty-six folks who were not on the list that last time in 2009. (Brian Hieggelke)

Music 45 was written by Brian Hieggelke, Dennis Polkow and Kenneth Preski, with additional contributions by Dave Cantor, Keidra Chaney, Dylan Peterson, John Wilmes and B. David Zarley. See previous years here. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Squarepusher/Metro

Electronic/Dance, Experimental No Comments »

07.05 Squarepusher @ metroRECOMMENDED

The albums aren’t incongruous, just bound to piss off some segment of the audience Squarepusher, AKA the Britisher Tom Jenkinson, amassed over the last two decades. Arriving with the skittering jazz of “Feed Me Weird Things,” a 1996 Squarepusher might have insinuated himself into a rare groove ghetto and never left. Granted, that entire first affair is taped together with flitting drum patterns that sound more robot than human, making for a difficult balancing act. And it doesn’t work on every track—“The Swifty” being best suited for a ride in an elevator. But as quickly as Jenkinson arrived in his Squarepusher persona, he began expanding the confines of British electronic music. His third album in as many years, “Music is Rotted One Note,” found the producer further refuting the idea that electronic music need be wholly inhuman. Read the rest of this entry »