Kessler’s debut album, “About Memory,” unveiled two irresistible selling points, the first being Kessler’s gorgeous high tenor—which he employs in a kind of crooning so intimate, the mic might sue for emotional abandonment afterward. The other major quill in his quiver is his songwriting chops—particularly his lyrics, which, again, right from that first cut, knock you to the ground, then plump a pillow beneath your head.
Most of the tracks from Dave Matthews’ unreleased album have long been accessible online, and it’s revelatory to hear, for instance, Walker’s more nuanced take on “Grace Is Gone,” the rhythmic sophistication and jazz-infused sax line he brings to “Big Eyed Fish,” and his hauntingly beautiful vocals on “Grey Street.”
Robert Pollard’s lyrics can sometimes seem as if the words were chosen at random and stitched together in similarly wanton fashion. Album titles only reinforce that notion: how else to explain 1993’s “Vampire on Titus,” 2003’s “Earthquake Glue” or 2014’s “Motivational Jumpsuit”? And for just the right off-kilter cherry on top, Pollard sometimes sings it all in a vaguely faux-British accent.
The ten-man a cappella ensemble got its start in the mid-1990s at Indiana University. But unlike more stuffy and serious-minded outfits, the musically expert Straight No Chaser has always been built on a foundation that suffuses its arrangements with both modernity and humor.
Radiohead front man Thom Yorke’s solo show, featuring “experimental cellist” Oliver Coates, headlines a month of indispensable performances by Birds of Chicago, Noname, Hamid Drake and Travis Scott.
Vines maintains his own point of view throughout the album—at its end, you know exactly who he is—but there’s a passage in the song “Imaginary Man” where he might be addressing the burden of iconic influences this deep into the folk-rock canon’s chronology.
While today former bandmate Mike Love leads a group calling itself the Beach Boys, that band features no Brian Wilson. Wilson’s group, on the other hand, includes original Beach Boys member Al Jardine as well as late-prime-era Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, and is jaw-droppingly facile at recreating the Beach Boys sound.
Charges of being Queen sound-alikes were brushed off by the band; magnetic vocalist Luke Spiller can be a credible Freddie Mercury vocal doppelganger, but can just as easily conjure thoughts of Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot) or Slade’s Noddy Holder. And onstage, Spiller works hard to engage the audience. He nearly always succeeds.
Joel Paterson’s golden-age gig will undoubtedly be more intimate than Jane Lynch’s megawatt variety show; Certainly one or the other is a good fit for you; and I encourage you to order up some tickets while you can. If you’re going to be smothered by Christmas music in November, it might as well be on your own terms.
West Side rapper Saba hosts the second annual John Walt Day benefit, named for his late cousin and major influence and with proceeds going to Chicago youth.