Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: PUP/Subterranean

Punk, Rock No Comments »

Photo: Vanessa Hein


Toronto punks PUP crashed the rock scene in 2014 with their raucous self-titled debut, and won over critics and music lovers with their old-school punk ethos. Before their performance this month at Chicago’s Subterranean comes the release of their harder, more destructive and angrier second album, “The Dream Is Over.” Right out the gate, the songs “Familiar Patterns,” “Doubts,” and “Old Wounds” are more chaotic and abrasive than what came before. Things may be louder and newly aggressive, but the album is more focused and fine-tuned without losing its raw appeal. It shows the band’s growth as musicians and songwriters. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: King Tuff/Subterranean

Punk No Comments »



King Tuff is touring to promote his new release “Black Moon Spell” on Sub Pop Records. This album is the ideal last fist-in-the-air for summer releases. It’s chock full of pump-up jams about LPs, sex, drugs, and embracing one’s own misfit status. This is the soundtrack to pre-gaming for a crazy night out in the kitchen with your best friends. Produced by Bobby Harlow, also known as the “Burger Guru,” a reference to the current Burger Records sound, and a huge player in the garage rock revival, “Black Moon Spell” is slightly lowbrow, but is such a fun listen and a solid release from beginning to end. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ana Tijoux/Subterranean

Latin, Rap, World Music No Comments »



Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has been quite busy of late—just in 2014 she collaborated with the likes of Julieta Venegas, Oscar-winner Jorge Drexler and many others while embarking on a massive tour that included stops at Millennium Park and the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. Her sound blends North and Latin American influences—she has a solid band that includes guitars, percussion, keys and drums. In addition, her backup singers are also skilled MCs who have the chops to share many of the tunes, freestyling whenever there is space to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Iceage/Subterranean

Post-punk, Punk No Comments »
Photo: Kristian Emdal

Photo: Kristian Emdal

Danish punkers Iceage impressed the music blogger scene a couple of years ago with their debut full-length, “New Brigade,” and their electric live performances. For music fans, their brand of uncompromising punk rock is a breath of fresh air in a indie-rock world that seems to shy away from a real sense of abandon and danger. But the band’s troubling, continuous embrace of fascist images and references is impossible to ignore. Google the terms “Iceage and fascism” or “Iceage and racism” and you’ll find a laundry list of charges, among them the fact that more than one member has worn t-shirts and merch for the Norwegian black metal band Burzum, whose frontman, Varg Vikernes, was jailed for murder, and is an unsympathetic white supremacist and homophobe. Iceage’s band members initially remained evasive against the accusations, then later—and rather passively—denied them, claiming political ignorance and pointing out that one of their members is Jewish. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Woods/Subterranean

Experimental, Folk-rock, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »


Deep from years of lo-fi wilderness emerges the latest from Woods, “With Light And With Love.” A brighter, more wistful punch than the jagged, buried pop-whispers we’re used to from this outfit, it’s also the band’s most human record. Like a nod to Roger McGuinn, they amble along bluesy bars on the opening track “Shepherd,” reaching out to smiling, commonplace lovers in their neighborhood saloons. The strummy groove of “Moving To The Left” considers directions literally and existentially all at once—a sign they are drawing just a bit too much from the 1960s ethos they’ve previously mined for just the right touch of sunniness. Make no mistake, though: these boys are still a joy. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Meat Wave/Subterranean

Chicago Artists, Post-punk, Punk, Rock No Comments »


This recommendation writes itself. You should go see local punk trio Meat Wave at Subterranean because they are so good the venue booked them for two shows in twenty days. It’s not a residency, and for a punk band to play twice at the same place in so short a time means they are worth the money to the venue. Understanding why is easy—their self-recorded debut tape (soon to be slab of vinyl) offers a near live snapshot of the group as genuinely graceful performers, if such a thing can be said about a punk band. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Fuck Buttons/Subterranean

Electronic/Dance, Experimental No Comments »


Fuck Buttons got their band’s name by filtering their endless textural destroyers into colorful child’s-toys-turned-aural-tidal-wave-triggers. They wanted to be as playful as they are visceral. When I listen to their music through my earbuds at my work-desk, the wondrous build of their instrumentals turns my rote data entry into the staircase to outer space I’ve always wanted it to be. I dream of being trapped inside a tiny room with Fuck Buttons—Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung, two Brits—and letting them have their way with my ears and even my body; I want these tones to consume me. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Baroness/Subterranean

Metal No Comments »


baronessThere’ve gotta be as many detractors of Savannah’s Baroness as there are adoring fans. The metal-cum-proggy band’s undertaken such a dramatic shift in focus, there’s no way it holds the attention of a unified fan base, let alone draw and maintain new listeners. But Baroness’ penchant for incorporating a grocery list of musical influences is what makes it an intriguing act to follow, despite the almost pervasive shortcomings of its latest album, 2012’s “Yellow & Green.” Opening with a morose, slowly-paced guitar track makes an affiliation with metal a difficult relation to fathom. It’s still there, though. The introductory effort readies listeners for the few short interspersed tracks littering the double-disc—all of it sounding like music conceived by dudes at their parents’ homes during the late 1990s and executed a bit later. It is. What it all comes down to, even while considering the band’s sonic growth and advancing songcraft, is that the endeavor could be a new wave band doing nineties Metallica covers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Woods/Subterranean

Pop, Psychedelic No Comments »


Listening to the Brooklyn-based ensemble Woods, which is equally fascinated by harmony and sprawling improvisation, develop over the last six years has been a sometimes confusing endeavor. For folks reintroduced to the band since it dislodged its punkier inclinations, going back and taking in tracks like “God Hates the Faithless,” from its earliest long-player, is gonna be startling. The effort ranks as the group’s only foray into gutbucket hollering. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Delicate Steve/Subterranean

Experimental, Pop, World Music No Comments »


Working under the stage name Delicate Steve, Steve Marion issued “Wondervisions” last year through the David Byrne helmed Luaka Bop imprint. The disc was an odd combination of pop music run through international concerns and dashed with enough polyrhythmic fervor to garner a touch of underground acclaim amid releases by all those beach bands. The same sort of optimism bursts from each Delicate Steve composition as from the coastal stoners’ work; Marion’s recordings are just better orchestrated and performed. Returning with “Positive Force” (it has nothing to do with straight-edge hardcore), Delicate Steve forgoes some of the more electronic moments of his debut. Read the rest of this entry »