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Best Of Around Hear

| December 30, 2005 | 7 Comments

Each January, we dedicate “Around Hear” to those low-profile local artists who are our favorites from the passing year — the results of our staff and freelancers combing clubs and stacks of CDs for more than the booze and adulation we normally receive. This is by no means an attempt to make a definitive guide of “the best” acts, rather 10 friendly suggestions to our loyal readers looking for something fresh or that elusive next-big-thing. Check the magazine and the Web site for updates on our annual IE showcase where you’ll have a chance to see some of these bands live.

When Martha Berner opens her mouth on 2005’s This Side Of Yesterday (Machine) she conjures images of Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos. As she strums her guitar and unveils personal poetry with meaty meaning, it’s evident she’s a disciple of Dylan and probably a fan of Wilco. From the harmonica bathed “A Town Called Happiness” to the acoustic intimacy during “Lady Of Plenty” through the piano pouncing of “Good Company,” this troubadour is a true switch hitter committed to quality song craftsmanship. (www. marthaberner.com)
— Andy Argyrakis

What is it with trios of brothers in Illinois who love to form bands? Now that the Loeffler brothers in Chevelle can’t seem to get along following their huge success, the Braam brothers are making some big noise. Their rock is much less angry than Chevelle, but much more pop-radio ready. Braam have all the makings of a successful band — very insightful (and sometimes spiritual) lyrics, guitar hooks that implant themselves deep in your grey matter, and vocals you could listen to all night. And they of course have that final vital ingredient — brotherhood. (www.braammusic.com)
— Carter Moss

Loraxx may be kinder and gentler, but since we’re talking about Loraxx, they’ll still leave you writhing on the floor, gasping for breath. This formidable threesome is dangerous, raucous, and slightly ridiculous. That the ear-splitting guitars and vicious vocals no longer instantly render one deaf is a tribute not to weaker arms, but stronger songs. Selfs (Automatic Combustioneer) is uplifting and refreshing in its unrelenting brutality. (www.loraxx.com)
— Patrick Conlan

Cameron McGill is one of those singer-songwriters you can’t help but connect with. The lyrics tell honest accounts of love, betrayal, and regret with an intimate storytelling approach. McGill executes with soft, soothing vocals, emphasizing melody and backs it up with hook-laden arrangements. On his first album, Stories Of The Knife And The Back, he is accompanied by a cast of musicians with hints of rock, alt-country, and folk, while his sophomore release, Street Ballads & Murderesques, goes back to basics as a more simplistic, acoustic venture. (www.cameronmcgill.com)
— Jill Haverkamp

Whether on stage or through their records, The Pacifics ensure their audience has a good time. Uncharacteristically light-hearted for an underground hip-hop act, KP, Strike3, and Norman Rockwell can quickly start a party. Yet this tight-knit trio can get serious-minded just as effectively when necessary (see their recent single “Talk Is Cheap” for proof). As KP raps on their latest album, Sunday’s Chicken, they satisfy “the jiggiest cats to the grittiest backpackers.” If only more hip-hop acts could say the same. (www.thepacifics.com)
— Max Herman

Perfect Red fall into the “Most Pleasant Local Surprise” category with their CD, Rebuild The Afterworld. Their sound is rooted in the same soil that sprung Pearl Jam and Guns N’ Roses but is more interesting than either influence. Vocalist Timmm has great pipes and helps push the great band behind him into higher realms, as any good rock singer should. PR gets heavy and smooth in turn and delivers an extremely listenable package of tuneful hard rock. (www.perfectredmusic.com)
— Mike O’Cull

It’s been six years since Quasar Wut-Wut moved from Detroit to Chicago, but almost a decade and a half since this band’s inception. It has obviously taken this four-piece some time to craft its country rock sound, which is as bizarre as it is catchy. Quasar Wut-Wut could be called Okkervil River’s younger, quirkier brother, but from the lyrics to the musicianship, the band has created something to call its own. The group’s latest LP, Taro Sound, was the debut release of Glorious Noise Records, a start-up label and offshoot of the Chicago-based online magazine of the same name. (www.quasarwutwut.com)
— Joseph Simek

Like a swift scent of honeysuckle, Sanawon is sweet and enticing. Jenny Choi proves an unassuming master of soft, shimmering pop songs. Crafted with utmost care and sculpted into a soft-focus gem of quiet resolve, Sanawon’s debut, Tiny Airplanes (Suburban Home), is gentle, moving, and stunning for its stately grace and disarming charm. (www.sanawon.com)
— Patrick Conlan

When it comes to preserving classic hip-hop, few Chicagoans have done it better than DJ Rude One and Doc West of the Single Minded Pros. These past few years, this DJ/production team has brought golden era legends into the studio (e.g. Kool G Rap) and onto the stage (e.g. KRS-One) in Chicago, quickly making them some of the most pro-active purists around. And with their rock-solid 2004 debut, From Now On, Doc and Rude proved that they can get down with both the new generation of MCs and the old with equal dexterity. (www.singlemindedpros.com)
— Max Herman

Garage punk. Mall punk. New wave-bangin’ hardcore. Some other bullshit. Twin Wrecks The Memory eschew worthless labels, bloodless comparisons, and genre pigeonholing with a simple approach: play blistering, molten rock with such reckless, unrelenting ferocity, you’d think they were trying to shatter windows, along with expectations. You’d be right. (www.twinwrecksthememory.com)
— Patrick Conlan

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  1. Timmy says:

    Embarassing…Cameron McGill. Truly pathetic! I’ve seen better bands practicing next door in my neighbors garage. This guy is a hack, no wonder he draws people in Champaign. Is Jill dating Cameron or something??

    All the rest of the picks are great. ~Tim

  2. Celeste says:

    Perfect Red rocks the way rock was meant to be! They’re better live than on CD, and the CD is fantastic. The intensity is contagious – listen Timmm & PR once, and you won’t be able to stop…

  3. Tim Maeder Wannabe says:

    I salute the Illinois Entertainer’s good judgment on naming Perfect Red “Most Pleasant Local Surprise.” Of course, for those of us who have seen Perfect Red’s live show or bought the band’s disc, it wasn’t a surprise. It was more like a foregone conclusion. I’m glad IE reached the same result though. Way to go!

  4. tia says:

    perfect red ROCKS!!!

    they are the best hands down!!

  5. ~V~ says:

    There is no doubt that Perfect Red is one of Chicago’s great rock bands. Everyone should go out and support these guys and see a kick ass live show. Rock on!

  6. phil says:

    Cool List..
    I’m glad you found about about “Braam”
    I have seen them play a few times at
    The Abbey and they just blew away ANY
    band they played with!!! Plus I really
    like the cameron McGill record too!!
    Good job on the list..

    Phil

  7. Thad says:

    Tim and I go a long way back, back to the NOV. Great singer/song writer and even better person. The PR “rebuild” album has to be his best work to date! Hey Tim, I just downloaded the “rebuild” album on my Pod, PR on iTunes how cool is that! Just one step closer to the dream!

    Keep It Real

    TLPickett

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