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Local CD Reviews

| June 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

“Around Hear” is a monthly feature where a stable of IE writers review albums sent to us by local musicians. If you are interested in having your CD (must have a minimum of three songs) reviewed and are Illinois-based, mail it and any other media materials to 657 A W. Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661. Everything that meets the aforementioned guidelines will be reviewed in the order received. This may take several months.

Combining rock ‘n’ roll, pop, rockabilly, and a bit of new wave, The Bismarcks come across like a three-piece version of The Blasters. Quite Ready To Rock & Roll is a stripped-down affair that emphasizes the trio’s live sound. Stronger production would have made the record more of an immediate favorite, but it is a good effort in any case. (
– Mike O’Cull

The Butcher’s Boy occupies the punk-infused edge of alt-country, and the band’s latest, Skin And Bones, is all about the emotion and ragged glory that made much of 20th-century American music great. Imagine the Waco Brothers with Tom Waits, and the picture will emerge. There are plenty of rough spots here, but who cares? This is a band with guts and sometimes guts is enough. (
– Mike O’Cull


Andy Gerber’s stirring mandolin gives the five tracks on Kevin Flynn & The Avondale RamblersDon’t Count Me Out EP a solid backbone while Flynn infuses a Bruce Springsteen ruggedness into the rollicking tunes brimming with neighborhood pride. The Celtic-inspired band is firmly rooted in the Midwest, but throw in a tin whistle and the Guinness flows forth. A lovely tribute to Chi-town, “Here’s To You Second City,” is a classic drinking song that begs you to hoist a pint. (
– Janine Schaults

Featuring two former members of Planes Mistaken For Stars, Ghost Buffalo switches between straight-up alternative rock and alt-country splashed indie rock on its second Suburban Home full-length, The Magician. The project kicks off with the slicing guitars and sultry vocals of frontwoman Marie Litton, who is equally sassy throughout “The Latest Wonder” before simmering down for the twangy strut of “Choke.” The disc continues to strike that balance, but the band is best on the assertive side as the acoustic-centered selections are simply snore worthy. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Jagged and beautiful at the same time, The Saturday Nights balance classic pop sense and fuzztone love on their latest release, Goodnight Magic Fingers. The equal portions of dissonance and sweetness create just enough tension to keep things interesting. They exist somewhere between Neil Young and Big Star with a bit of Floydian trippiness to tie it together. (
– Mike O’Cull

Snd On Snd (pronounced “sound on sound”) sound – no pun intended – like the Chicago version of Tempe, Arizona mid-’90s rockers, The Refreshments. Instead of a Spaghetti Western background, Snd On Snd bask in the grime of the city by the lake. The quartet’s mixture of churning guitars and agitated drums on Gaily We Prance About, a four-song EP from 2007, dance around vocals more adept at speaking than singing. “From Here On In” stands out as the most radio-friendly of the bunch. (
– Janine Schaults

Soulio have already figured out what it takes to make a compellingly smooth jazz album, and this is just their debut. The Chicago quintet possess a natural ability for seamlessly fusing funk, soul, and jazz, for varying tempos to create any mood they want, and for allowing each instrument to shine at just the right time. Their self-titled 60-minute debut runs the gamut from an easygoing, kick-back vibe to funk-infused groove tracks. (
– Carter Moss

Speck Mountain‘s Summer Above (Burnt Brown) misleads the listener with its whi-msical title. The trio excel at creating sonic landscapes that match barren Chicago winters instead of crafting shimmery sh-eaths of warmth. The instrumental “Stockholm” could serve as a de-scription of a desolate, snow-laden landscape at sunrise for the bli-nd. Marie-Claire Bala-banian’s vocals glitter the cloudy skies of “Hey Moon.” Winter breaks just in time for the last track, “Chlo-rine Fields,” with its chorus of “Marco Po-lo.” (
– Janine Schaults

Comprising three guys who, in one group or another, have been part of the local scene since 1985 (former members of “Around Hear” staples The Ass Clown!), the music of Strawberry Horsecake is oddly underdeveloped. Among the eight songs on Ignoble Thalamus, “Paint By Letters” is a Throbbing Gristle-inspired collage of anarchic noise, with “Die Like A Bunny” supplying choppy, chugging guitars that, while capably strummed, lead nowhere. Sadly, not a single cut is interesting. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Even though Team Rockit has released five CDs and toured Europe four times over, Rockit Science still sounds like a bar band trying to find its footing somewhere between power pop and grunge-infused alt-rock. Produced by Mark Blewett (The Used, Story Of The Year), the 10 tunes possess a gritty spirit but suffer from unconvincing songwriting and subpar vocal abilities. Poorly phrased sexual innuendos permeate “Put Up A Fight” and “Rough Rider,” while frontman Joe Sanzeri struggles to stay in key through much of the CD. (
– Andy Argyrakis


Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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