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Around Hear: November 2009

| October 30, 2009 | 0 Comments

Local Band Reviews

kineticstereokids-lp_1

The six tracks on Abysmal Lullabies from Arctic Sleep (a one-man show written, performed, and produced by Keith D) deliver what the title promises: sludgy, bottom-heavy alt-rock that is heavy on fuzzed-out riffage. The mostly instrumental tracks are lengthy and languid, pausing often to let the distortion ring out like a crashing wave. Vocals, when featured, complement the drone with a weary delivery. (www.myspace.com/arcticsleep)
— Jason Scales

If the drums weren’t immensely overpowering throughout Before The Fall‘s Slow Descent, it could be a decent example of hard rock meeting alternative angst. Falling somewhere between a louder Evanescence and a tamer Underoath, the project has just as much potential to land on modern-rock radio as it does the hardcore scene, but in order for that to happen, the mix needs to start from scratch. (www.myspace.com/livebeforethefall)
— Andy Argyrakis

The latest from Birdnames — a lo-fi, psychedelic D.I.Y. band that values being different for difference’s sake — is an odd mix of discordant harmonies and rhythms. The 13-track Sings The Browns features muddy, living-room production to the detriment of the vocals, which are mostly off-key wails mixed far below the harsh guitar strumming and picking. Tribal, multi-layered percussion adds a certain droning to the cacophony. (www.birdnamesmusic.com)
— Jason Scales

Yet another power-pop band from Chicago doesn’t exactly break the mold, but at least The Boolevards have studied hard prior to crafting Real Pop. The 17-track collection sounds like a better version of Tinted Windows had that act really channeled its Cheap Trick backbone, wrapped around Fountains Of Wayne’s wit and the sing-along style of Marshall Crenshaw, and set the Rickenbackers at full steam. (theboolevards.blogspot.com)
— Andy Argyrakis

Minutes To Circle is singer/songwriter Phil Circle‘s eighth CD, and it’s a nice surprise to hear both how much he still has to say and the diverse yet delightful manner with which he relays his musical message. There are a couple of duds among the 11 tunes — most pointedly the pedestrian “Surreal Life” — but much of the guitar-driven melodies are imaginative, especially the languid, country-flavored “Lipstick & Whiskey” and the bluesy “There’s A River.” (www.myspace.com/philcircle)
— Jeff Berkwits

If by some bizarre twist of fate Axl Rose and Courtney Love were to have a love child, she would be the frontwoman for Drench. From the power-chord-driven sound, to Demetria’s bad-attitude-drenched vocals, to the band’s pretentiousness (the debut is titled Chicago Style Rock ‘N Roll), the sound is a complete mind-meld of Hole and GN’R. What’s missing are the melodies, smart lyrics, and charisma of either band, but Drench actually has the potential to get there. (www.myspace.com/drench)
— Carter Moss

Green Sugar touches on many rock clich├ęs, most of which can be forgiven because of the band’s earnestness and solid execution on their four-track CD. “Timeless” and “God Help Me” are blues-rock distillations, and “Cobblestone” is simple guitar/vocals call-and-response. Yet, the vocals have the perfect rasp, the four-piece is tight, and the guitar leads are face-melters, even though the rhythm guitar drops too far out of the mix on the extended solos. (www.thegreensugar.com)
— Jason Scales

A decent eight-song sampler showcasing two different bands, The Lost Epics Of Dead Masters is a double-dose of punk-powered noise. The highlight of The Hallow’s four contributions is undoubtedly the dynamic “We’ll Be Gone By The Mourning,” with Love And Squalor offering a quartet of slightly less-frenzied cuts, most notably the memorable “(All That I’m Left With Is) Time.” As it should, the disc leaves the listener wanting more. (www.myspace.com/thehallowband; www.myspace.com/loveandsqualor)
— Jeff Berkwits

Kaspar Hauser is a thinking-man’s rock band. Led by singer/songwriter Thomas Comerford, the nine-track The Sons is a rocking, literary, and introspective ride. “Frontier” stands out for its genuine sophistication in songwriting and instrumental execution. Warm yet detached vocals are supplemented by a harmonica — that doesn’t sound hackneyed — and subtle guitar breakdowns. “Mark Of Cain” and “Prodigal Son” set Biblical themes to a bluesy swagger. (www.kasparhausermusic.net)
— Jason Scales

Kinetic Stereokids, the five-man group who call Flint, Michigan and Chicago home, carry a stylistic restlessness with their sophomore effort, Kid Moves. It doesn’t always amount to an easy listen: Moments of mellow, melodic alterna folk (“Twisted Thoughts”) are strong, but they ultimately clash with more heavily layered, jagged songs (“Proper Etiquette”) that have too much distorted sounds fighting for attention. It’s the select moments when Kinetic Stereokids find the balance between straightforward and experimental sonics that they hit the mark. (www.myspace.com/kineticstereokids)
— Max Herman

It’s surprising to hear the three bad-ass looking dudes from Lola Balatro harmonizing to melodic acoustic-guitar arrangements on their self-titled debut. Even more surprising is that they’re pretty funny. On “Rock Star,” a musician strives to balance backstage debauchery with a healthy diet and exercise, and “I Got 2 Black Friends” is a deliberately befuddled attempt at racial harmony. Occasionally, the humor aims too low, but for the most part, Lola Balatro serves up a good time. (www.lolabalatro.com)
— Terrence Flamm

Some listeners might not find instant gratification from the Rob Mazurek Quintet‘s debut Sound Is, but as these songs develop, you can become easily engrossed in the cool, carefully composed new jazz here. Consisting of top post-rock and jazz players (Mazurek, John Herndon, Matthew Lux, Josh Abrams, Jason Adasiewicz), this quintet makes sure that every part of the song is well pronounced, whether it comes from the cornet, vibes, or bass. Complex, but rarely cluttered, these numbers build strength without getting carried away. (www.robmazurek.com)
— Max Herman

No stranger to the local indie scene, Cameron McGill & What Army turn in another consistent collection upgrading from Post-Important to Parasol. Warm Songs For Cold Shoulders once again weaves witty lyrics alongside a sonic spread that pulls from the folk of Woody Guthrie, the experimental surf sounds of Brian Wilson, and the political edge of Neil Young. (www.myspace.com/cameronmcgill)
–Andy Argyrakis

Make no mistake, Opposite Of Pants is a band unafraid to make use of its guitars. Combining punk, ska, metal, and even a little prog to go along with its cock rock, OOP proves surprisingly capable with each and every one of these sounds, especially on such tracks as “White Song” and the amusingly titled “The Lion, The Witch, & The Butthole.” (www.myspace.com/oppositeofpants)
— Dean Ramos

Although an interesting and certainly creative fusion of classical and jazz, Bradley Parker-Sparrow‘s The Black Romantic is a disc even the most ardent jazz/classical fan has to be in the proper mood for. Morose barely even begins to describe these songs, however, given the proper ingredients (a long day at the office, a knock-down, drag-out with a significant other, and a bottle of whiskey), this collection would probably reach the top of anybody’s playlist. (www.chicagosound.com)
— Dean Ramos

Piano arpeggios neatly frame the vocals rolling through the eponymous opening cut “These Appetites,” of Heather Perry and The [blank]s third and (masterly) self-produced CD. However, when the piano drops out of remaining four cuts so did the interest of this listener, with the static vocal style/sound at seeming odds with the lyrical wordplay and melodic/ tempo changes at hand. (www.myspace.com/heatherperrymusic)
— David C. Eldredge

Chicago-based singer/songwriter/ producer Brad Peterson recently followed up The Red Album with The Ductape Album, and this time around, he seems much more relaxed and playful. Lyrically he’s not trawling any new depths (the title track proclaims, “Duct tape fixes almost anything, but duct tape cannot fix an open heart”), but musically he allows himself to get experimental while remaining faithful to melodies. Vocally he’s a dead-ringer for Beck, which certainly doesn’t hurt. (www.bradpeterson.com)
— Carter Moss

Section Gang dives into the murky waters of 1980s underground pop on its debut EP, Greater Than Civil. The blend of acoustic and chiming electric guitars recalls R.E.M. while lead singer Kilton Hopkins channels Morrissey with his haunted vocals. The melancholy lyrics are awkward at times, particularly on “Peter Poe,” but on “Patient Pending” and “On The Phone” Section Gang propels its angst via energetic arrangements. (www.myspace.com/sectiongang)
— Terrence Flamm

Chicago-bred quartet Welcome To Ashley makes efficient use of the four tracks on its new Absent Man EP to clearly communicate its post-punk influenced power-pop sound. Each track begins like an overcast day, then by the chorus the clouds have dissipated allowing rays of shiny pop to appear. Unfortunately there is nothing particularly memorable yet through these four tracks, but each Smiths-tinged song does at least contain enough depth to prevent you from skipping it. (www.myspace.com/welcometoashley)
— Carter Moss

Already eight years in the making and ostensibly a taste of a full-length CD still to come, Jienan Yuan‘s five-song We Saw Everything is a pleasant enough (if brief) atmospheric electro/acoustic collection. Yuan’s delicate playing/production transforms what would otherwise be construed as weakly emo to the plaintively palatable, ultimately sounding more profound than it simply is. (www.jienanyuan.com)
— David C. Eldredge

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