Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Music 45: Who Keeps Chicago in Tune 2014

Blues, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Folk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, R&B, Rock, Soul No Comments »
Photo: Joe Mazza of BraveLux

Photo: Joe Mazza of BraveLux

Chicago, you are a big, bold, beautiful city of infinite complexity. Your historical heritage, your social and political upheaval, your segregation, violence and corruption have birthed an incredible wealth of musical expression. It’s by virtue of these artists that our community confronts and escapes the mistakes of our metropolis. And so our publication listens intently, offering a nuanced dialogue with the musicians who craft our culture. Yet, once a year, we redirect our approach to the opposing swing of the pendulum. We zoom-out where we would normally zoom-in. This list offers a broad-stroke survey of those Chicago musicians whose current cultural currency is readily represented to the city and to the rest of the world, living artists whose quantifiable influence echoes their effect. Some big names are missing, some rankings seem arbitrary, but it’s toward these acts, firmly Chicagoan, that we look when we seek out the spirit of home. Where our words might fail, the music will not. (Kenneth Preski)

Music 45 was written by Kenneth Preski, Dennis Polkow, John Wilmes, Jessica Burg, Robert Szypko, Eric Lutz, Keidra Chaney, Reilly Gill, Corey Hall and Dave Cantor

All photos taken on location at The Hideout by Joe Mazza of BraveLux. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wax Trax! Records Pop-Up Store/Metro

Chicago Artists, Industrial, Punk No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDWax Trax Pop-Up Metro

Wax Trax! Records was the center of the universe for a generation of punk and industrial kids in Chicago and beyond, so this is pretty thrilling news: on June 15, Chicago will have an opportunity to relive the glory days of the early 1980s to mid-nineties at the Wax Trax! Records pop-up retail shop at the Metro. For one day only, Wax Trax! will open up its archive of original releases, posters, t-shirts and other rare treats, with a roster of DJs and a full-service bar. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Conor Oberst with Dawes/Metro

Alt-Country, Emo, Folk, Folk-rock, Indie Rock No Comments »

 

Conor Oberst 2Conor Oberst has miraculously survived the era of Bright Eyes despite the morose songs he wrote during his stint as the King of Emo. Oberst’s groups since the project have adopted a more western-folk influence, beginning with the aptly titled Monsters of Folk. He has also toured and recorded with the Mystic Valley Band, embracing the influence of an angrier Neil Young, and producing a full, clean, Americana sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Talib Kweli/Metro

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDtalib-kweli-1

The rap music being manufactured today is more often than not stripped of its storytelling origins and injected with monstrous bass-rattling beats in place of substance. Talib Kweli, unlike some of his more mainstream peers, has never exchanged narrative for glitzy instrumentals. And even if he did, he’d still kill the mic. In the course of his twenty-year career, he has proved himself of two things: that he can rap over any beat, and that his rhymes are valid. Dubbed as a “conscious hip-hop artist,” Kweli’s raps have always been weighted in truth—shared experiences of community and history. Even when the story is not his own, it is told with a strong pretense bidding you to see things from a different perspective and always set to music that carries a proper head-bopping groove. Read the rest of this entry »

Marquee Men: Television Lives Their Legacy

Post-punk, Protopunk, Rock No Comments »
Tom Verlaine

Photo: Bart Lazar

Don’t call Television a punk band, OK?

It is true that forty years and about a month ago, Television played the first show at a newly reopened country, bluegrass and blues club on New York’s Bowery and changed the course of music history. CBGB’s became the spring that spat out punk rock, and Richard Hell—the band’s bassist, and co-founder with Tom Verlaine—the prototype punk emulated by the Brits.

Originally, Verlaine and Hell were angst-ridden best friends with an “us against the world” contemptuous attitude who wrote and published poetry as one entity. But Verlaine’s interest in control and perfection prevailed over Hell’s chaos, and the chiming, precise, intertwining of Verlaine’s compositions ultimately became the dominant fabric of the band, leading (perhaps aided in part by Verlaine’s relationship with Patti Smith, who encouraged him to take charge) to Hell’s departure in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

RECOMMENDEDwarondrugs2_wide

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 »

RECOMMENDEDdarkside

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 »