By Dave Cantor
The maturation of rock ’n’ roll hasn’t happened in any noticeable form over the last thirty-five years. Even back then, it was really just a regression to primeval tendencies that’d been glossed over amid blowin’ rails with some West Coast A&R man.
Sweden’s Holograms haven’t revolutionized the genre, but the quartet’s been at work trying to inject punk and its satellite musics with even a twinge of immediacy. They’ve succeeded sporadically on “Forever,” a follow-up to last year’s self-titled debut.
“It’s a lot of philosophical questions about life,” Andreas Lagerström, the ensemble’s frontman, says of his new work’s lyrical penchant. Most listeners would be able to guess that after pushing through the most pensive track “Rush” and its manic proclamations of how difficult it is to spark fire at the ocean’s bottom. Read the rest of this entry »
He’s included mention of Jay Z in at least a few verses, and reviewed “Watch the Throne” for the National Post. The decided focus Shad, a Kenya-born, Ontario-raised MC, has put on one of the most popular rappers in the world is a bit confusing. Yeah, he’s rich and his buddy’s married to a Kardashian, but neither of those things has made his bloated discography anything other than middling. Shad shouldn’t carry around the desire to be a Jay Z, as he spits out pretty early on his fourth long-player, “Flying Colours.” Jay Z’s “Magna Carta” was another lame recording, and Shad’s apparently been gripped by enough inspiration to issue not just that fourth album, but a collaboration with Skratch Bastid, “The Spring Up,” in 2013. Beyond the guy’s clear ability to select proper production and write rhymes (that might not move too far beyond what we’ve all come to know as conscious raps), his story’s significantly more engaging than that New York MC’s. Shad’s family left Kenya, something he mentions on most of his releases, when he was a kid. But the successes his family’s achieved, cataloged on “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins),” pretty easily trumps bein’ poor, slingin’ crack, and issuing a truckload of boring albums. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Getting high and setting the results to tape has worked in so many different instances that Dinosaur Jr.’s sometimes basser Lou Barlow must have had some idea he was embarking on a lasting project back in the eighties when he started issuing work under the name Sebadoh. Being removed from the Dinos only forced the songwriter to focus his bewildered efforts on his then-newer work. The creepy narrative found on “Little Man” from “The Freed Man” album summons a similar vibe as the Velvet’s “The Gift,” apart from the fact that only the latter offers anything in the way of musical ingenuity. Read the rest of this entry »
If you toss on the right disc, and wait just long enough, Busdriver raps. And when he raps, hip-hop’s full promise is realized. But only for a few moments. Since the beginning of his career, the SoCal MC’s swayed back and forth between an updated digital boom-bap and works that rank as electro-pop. Over the course of “Memoirs of the Elephant Man” and “Temporary Forever” most of American culture’s taken to task, with a few tossed-off songs touching on relationships included for good measure. The MC’s collaboration with various Project Blowed performers, though, helped nab some attention for those early discs. And by the time Busdriver recorded as The Weather with Radioinactive and Daedelus in 2003, the MC had solidified his oddly pitched and uniquely syncopated flow. Read the rest of this entry »
The fact that this Montreal-based band writes most of their material in French should not be a reason for alt-rock fans not to check them out. These guys have been packing venues with 3000-plus capacity back home while performing at much smaller rooms in the United States, but it’s just a matter of time before they are discovered by more mainstream audiences Stateside, in the same manner that folks like Manu Chao and Sigur Rós have before them.
Their sound is pretty aggressive. Guitarist and vocalist Louis-Jean Cormier sings and plays with great passion, and his band mates (keyboardist François Lafontaine, bass guitarist Martin Lamontagne, percussionist Julien Sagot, and drummer Stéphane Bergeron) keep up with gusto in tunes like the psychedelic-inspired “Le Pyromane” (from their recently released “Les Chemins De Verre”) or the grunge-y “Le Coup D’ Etat.” Read the rest of this entry »
About the same time the world messed itself while listening to Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” in 2007, Animal Collective’s other half went and issued an album with his now ex-wife, múm’s Kría Brekkan. Avey Tare’s “Pullhair Rubeye” didn’t attract the same sort of misguided attention as “Person Pitch,” and certainly not the kind of frenzy “Merriweather Post Pavillion” garnered a few years later when the world caught up with what Animal Collective had been doing for just about a decade. Read the rest of this entry »
Ann Arbor’s funky ensemble Nomo can’t have its music reduced to a simple blurb. But it says a great deal about any working band when the four covers it counts over a career comprising just as many discs are from the utterly dissimilar catalogs of Segun Bucknor, Joanna Newsom, Moondog and Tom Zé. As wild as that combination sounds, Nomo works within some self-imposed restraints. The group’s first disc, a 2004 self-titled effort, can be wrapped easily in the afro-beat mantle. Read the rest of this entry »
You know how people describe the Beach Boys as a barber-shop quartet on acid? Yeah, not too apt an explanation of the band’s sound. But it’s meant in a positive light. Unfortunately, the same sort of reductive comparison can be used to wrap up songs like Ganglians’ “Things to Know,” off the band’s Lefse Records disc “Still Living.” The track, one of only a few lesser efforts issued here, possesses the same sort of sunny, wind-swept feel of Ganglians’ compositions from earlier discs. Read the rest of this entry »
Since they first performed live during the last quarter of 2010, folks might be wondering how the Vaccines recorded an album and got slotted into Lollapalooza. In part, the British band’s story’s tied into the digitized world, with the internet providing ample marketing opportunities. But really, the Vaccines understand how to put together simple rock songs drawing from ever-hip sources. Some of frontman Justin Young’s phrasing reeks of Morrissey, but fitting that into a supremely stripped-down rock ensemble seems to work relatively well, if not coming off like the tenth iteration of the Strokes with Brit accents. Read the rest of this entry »