Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Die Antwoord/Riviera Theatre

Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Hip-Hop No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDDie Antwoord

Known for a steady output of eyebrow-raising viral music videos, Die Antwoord has been rather quiet in the last year. This seems odd with the release of their third album “Donker Mag” fast approaching (same day as this show, y’all). In 2008, the group formed out of South African rapper Ninja, his freakish sidekick chick Yo-Landi Vi$$er and well-respected hip-hop producer DJ Hi-Tek. As artists, their images precede them. Whether performing in skivvies with Sharpie-drawn dollar signs across their genitals, blacked-out contacts, or a full-body Pikachu costume, their shtick arises as an exaggerated depiction of their egos. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Haim/Riviera Theatre

Pop, R&B, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Photo: Bella Lieberberg

Photo: Bella Lieberberg

Sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim certainly earned the right to become 2013’s indie “it” girls. Along with drummer Dash Hutton, the fourth member of their band Haim (which rhymes with “time”), the climb to recognition started off steep. For four years they busted their humps all over the San Fernando Valley, often as an opening act. It wasn’t until a 2012 conquest of SXSW that folks started to respond to their music, and the buzz has spread with the release of their first full-length album “Days Are Gone.” Haim’s sound is refreshingly new and unlike everything else, yet can still somehow be attributed to a distinct variety of influences, notably classic rock, eighties pop and contemporary R&B. Their songs go in all kinds of directions, like a kite whirling in the wind. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Childish Gambino/Riviera Theatre

Hip-Hop No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDchildish-gambino

Childish Gambino’s latest album, “Because the Internet,” is the first in the span of his five-year career to receive positive rather than predatory reviews. A project of epic proportions—nineteen tracks, a seventy-five page screenplay, and a short film titled, “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons”—Gambino aims to challenge the way we consume music. In conjunction, the three mediums show and tell the fictional story of a man, supposedly the estranged son of rapper Rick Ross, stuck in a rut of emptiness as he drowns his feelings in celebrity gossip blogs, mansion parties and other destructive behaviors. Having scrutinized Gambino for hiding behind gimmicks in the past, critics seem agreeable this time. Most of all, they’re pleased with what sounds like a realized confidence in Bino’s rapping ability. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Crystal Castles/Riviera

Electronic/Dance No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Ever since Ethan Kath secretly recorded fellow Torontan and punk vocalist Alice Glass on a soundcheck, the partnership has been setting the pace for electro-pop. While Crystal Castles is allegedly a reference to He-Man’s estranged twin sister She-Ra, Kath’s electronic engineering sounds a lot more like the 1983 Atari game of the same name. 8-bit sounds bubble up everywhere around house beats and Glass’ processed vocal antagonism on their debut self-titled LP (circa 2008). Breakout single “Alice Practice” (which features those original stolen vocals) sounds like a crack addict arguing with a malfunctioning arcade game. Last summer saw the release of the long-awaited sophomore album from CC (also self-titled), and a change from video-game themes to haunted compositions, building on layers of spectral reverb, pitch-shifted laudanum vocals, and ominous bass-synth runners. The exemplary track “Violent Dreams” imagines a kind of gothic possession story with dark clouds of bass undergirding stalking organ notes and chopped intonations including nearly subliminal ghost moans. Crystal Castles’ major conceit may be how little Glass’ lyrics contribute to their songs overall impact. More of a visual foil to Kath’s dark electronic wizardry, she nevertheless makes the live show worth seeing. While Kath hides behind his bangs and a cul-de-sac of boards and processors, Glass is out front hot-footing like a Native American in the midst of mescaline reveries. Notice to those in the crowd who manage to get up front, be prepared to play catch because this lady likes to stage-dive her own shows. (David Wicik)

Crystal Castles play March 12 at The Riviera, 4746 North Racine, (773)275-6800, 8pm. $24.

Preview: Vampire Weekend/Riviera Theatre

Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Pop, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

So after all the initial buzz and overblown praise and then the backlash and biting criticism and “Oh god they are so overrated I don’t get it!”s, Vampire Weekend’s second record, “Contra,” debuted number-one on the Billboard 200. A notable feat, it’s only the twelfth independently released record (XL Recordings) to do so. “Contra” works much in the same way the band’s self-titled debut does—charming melodies and sugar-high tempos keep the affair upbeat and (gasp!) fun. Tracks like “Horchata” and “Cousins” deserve to have come from the same band that doesn’t give a fuck about the oxford comma. Speaking of that song, though, “Contra” lacks the memorable individual moments of the first record—there are no chills-inducing spots like the hook to “I Stand Corrected” or the introduction of the cello in “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” or the “Graceland”-like breakout down in the middle of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” But that’s just bickering. “Contra” working more as a complete piece than a mish-mash of songs is hardly a dealbreaking criticism. Yes, the band still comes off as New York City trust-funders, and Ezra Koenig’s lyrics remain elevated and mostly ridiculous; both of these perpetual elements of Vampire Weekend keep many indie-rock old-schoolers wary, and I can understand that. But at the same time I want to tell everyone to get over it and shake those hips. (Tom Lynch)

March 26 at Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, (773)275-6800, at 7:30pm.

Preview: Arctic Monkeys/Riviera Theatre

Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »

arctic_monkeys_narrowweb__300x349,0Sheffield’s hugely popular rockers the Arctic Monkeys set records when its debut, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was released in 2006. It was the fastest-selling debut in UK history, landing at number one upon its release (as did the two subsequent full-lengths) and spawning two number-one hits before winning the Mercury Prize. Follow-up “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” also nominated for the Mercury Prize, found the Monkeys more aggressive, loud and fast, and all twelve of its tracks entered the top 200. I didn’t understand the appeal. To me, both albums were typical Brit-rock that made me anxious (though to be fair to the Arctic Monkeys—vocalist Alex Turner, in particular—just about everything makes me curl into a ball of anxiety). Maybe that would change with 2009’s looser, more experimental “Humbug”? Nope. Now I was just bored. My opinions aside, the band has steadily become more engaging live and has an ever-growing fanbase. If you’re part of it, this show is not to be missed. (Kelley Hecker)

December 6 at Riviera, 4746 N. Racine, (773)275-6800. 7pm. $27.50.

Preview: The Black Crowes/Riviera Theatre

Jam Band, Rock No Comments »

blackcrowes_chris_richThere are plenty of elements of the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll ethos that are easy to be completely enamored with: indifference or disdain towards social norms, painful/sweaty stage moves, the abundance of poorly groomed facial hair. But it’s the three elements that I have a negative reaction to—mainly the love affair with marijuana, the extended blues-rock jamming and the windbag for a lead singer—that manifest themselves front and center in The Black Crowes. Something about Chris Robinson strutting around the stage, boasting the most unremarkable voice in music, really pisses me off, as does the process of enduring the band chugging through some generic Stones retread while parading the same-old bluesy riffs as if its fans are really going to have their minds blown hearing them for 900th time. Technical proficiency isn’t The Crowes problem—it’s that, for a supposed soul-rock band, the band is soulless and vapid, fronted by someone who’s still pushing the antiquated stoner-rock persona and who looks more and more like Jason Lee from “Almost Famous” every day. Pass. (Andy Seifert)

November 6 at Riviera Theatre, Broadway and Lawrence, (773)275-6800, at 8pm. $41.50

Preview: PJ Harvey and John Parish/Riviera Theatre

Experimental, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDpj

The first collaboration between Polly Jean Harvey and John Parish, 1996’s “Dance Hall at Louse Point,” made a bit of a splash and then was relatively forgotten, mostly because of the two songwriters’ work that followed. The two return all these years later with the strangely titled “A Woman A Man Walked By,” and the results are similar to their first project—compelling, haunting at times, but ultimately not as powerful as when either of them works separately. Harvey’s most recent “solo” record was 2007’s somber, piano-driven “White Chalk”; Parish’s was 2005’s memorable “Once Upon a Little Time.” Both are better records. Yet, “A Woman A Man Walked By,” which spans the spectrum of modern art rock, remains intriguing, if a little disappointing, just for the involvement of its two creators. Live, they’re both spectacular. (Tom Lynch)

June 12 at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, (773)275-6800, 7:30pm. $35.

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Music 45: Who rocks Chicago’s music world 2009

Blues, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, Pop, Rock, World Music 1 Comment »

featureIt’s the economy, stupid.

Not only has the music industry had to adapt to the growth of digital technology and file-sharing, now everyone’s broke and on the brink of fighting for food. This century has not been kind to record labels, record stores and record manufacturers, not to mention the promoters and venues who’ve seen some declines in business due to—you guessed it—the elevating economic crisis. Top that off with the threat of a Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger and a citywide Promoter’s Ordinance, and the fear is very much real. No matter how good the intentions are of all parties, there may not be enough room for the little guy for much longer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Hold Steady/Riviera Theatre

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

One thing it appears everybody loves about Brooklyn quintet The Hold Steady: virtually every member is really, really ugly. Seriously, don’t they all give off that “creepy middle-aged guy at the party” vibe? If, say, the guys in Sigur Ros looked like these dudes, people would be jarred at their sight, but for The Hold Steady, nothing could be more apropos—after the release of this year’s “Stay Positive,” Craig Finn and company have become America’s quintessential bar band, playing sloppy, power chord-driven indie-rock with motifs ranging from getting really sloshed on booze to getting really messed up on other, unspecified drugs. The band develops drunken euphoria with its organ-drenched tunes, bringing the sex and drugs (and also some fairly substantial introspection on growing old) back to rock ‘n’ roll, expanding on their sound from 2006’s universally acclaimed “Girls and Boys From America.” If they were even halfway attractive, you could call their bluff—but these are fellas you can honestly picture drinking Milwaukee’s Best, which makes their stories that much more genuine. (Andy Seifert)

November 14 at Riviera Theatre, Broadway and Lawrence, (773)275-6800, at 8pm.

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