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Around Hear: February 2011

| February 1, 2011 | 4 Comments

Local Band Reviews

Dubasaurus boast that they all read music (they’re real musicians), which goes against the historical grain of rope-smoking reggae born in Jamaica. Fortunately these guys understand that reggae riddims are sometimes loose and lazy (“Murderation”), like a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Trenchtown. Their self-titled outing is heavy with socio-politico hip-hop (“Revolution No Knows Compromise, Part II,” “Political Science”), mixed with 2-Tone horns and Parliament/Funkadelic choruses and sounds best when they explore their roots and dancehall side. (
– David Gedge

Built like an augmented rock band but playing like seasoned jazz pros, Alysheba enjoy stealing one side’s ideas and then hiding out on the other. What unsubtly nudges the four-song, 36-minute Rattlesnake Studio Sessions into pop territory is vocalist Andrew Distel, no standardized crooner, but an elastic raconteur who gives these open-ended Tindersticks-esque rides an air of uncertainty. Half the fun is attempting to map out the Rattlesnake arrangements according to pattern, only to watch as your pen skips waywardly off the page. (
– Steve Forstneger

It didn’t take Chicago-based quartet Audrio long to construct a unique approach to their music, creating a delicate mixture of simple pop sensibilities, folk, and alt-country. Their latest release, All Of Us Animals, is a finely tuned piece of work, with each track containing thoughtful lyrics, clear honest vocals, and distinct but deliberate instrumentation. This is definitely a mixture worth tasting. (
– Carter Moss

Plenty of acts are recreating ’80s new wave with hustling guitars, slick keyboards, and yearning vocals, but few do it with greater stylistic charm than Big Science. There’s a hard, urban edge to “Flags” that hints at the bombastic side of U2, and “Burn All Night” is a grand, melodramatic ballad that would have been perfect for sound-tracking the tear-jerking climax in a John Hughes film. Skyscraper Sound (on Columbia College’s AEMMP) shows how effective Big Science is at culling these emotions with spot-on musical ideas. (
– Patrick Conlan

The disc full of electro-pop originals duo Boutros serve up on Flat Tires Make Friends sound akin to a much more synthy Hall & Oates singing in the style of Elton John topped off with a smattering bit of Killers and a smidgen of Steely Dan on the sides. Over all, it’s a recipe for a pleasantly engaging listening experience that this DIY production mostly delivers on, despite the otherwise distracting, wordy lyrics. (
– David C. Eldredge

Even if you don’t care for modern prog, you have to respect Graham Czach‘s herculean solo effort, Lucid. Self-produced and released (and also featuring the ambitious Czach on many instruments), he’s built an edificial album drawing on the fantastical realms of Pink Floyd, Yes, the third side of the third Extreme album, Saigon Kick, and The Mars Volta. Multi-suite pop songs abound, as do florid Beatles-based melodies in a tale that loosely binds lost love and environmentalism. Symptomatic of such indulgent albums, however, Czach can’t avoid bland, big-question lyricism, nor did he contemplate – among his array of tools and guest musicians – occasionally using another lead vocalist when parts were beyond his reach. It’s still an opus of which to be very, very proud. (
– Kevin Keegan

With three vocalists and a trio of horn players among its eight members, Doko Benjo is able to explore various elements of urban contemporary music within the extended arrangements on I Say Disaster. “Spanish Sea” has a Latin flavor composed of acoustic guitar and horns, while the funky “Big Aspirations” satirizes the entertainment business. The more jazz-oriented “Down The Road” lets vocalist Amy Totsch-Staunton take center stage. (
– Terrence Flamm

With a lead singer that’s loosely reminiscent of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and a quirky indie-pop songwriting style like fellow Midwesterner Sufjan Stevens, Champaign’s Elsinore is tapping into a formula that’s destined to be successful. But what makes Yes Yes Yes (Parasol) work isn’t merely the muses this group mirrors, but its glorious harmonies, passionate riffs, and self-examining lyrics that display maturity and limitless potential. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Unabashedly proclaiming its feminist ideology, The Embraceables loads whip-smart attitude, theatrical flair, and communal acceptance into Stories (Graymalkin). This collective, inclusive approach allows cool, lilting folk pieces (“Take Off, Explosion”) to sit comfortably alongside sassy, sultry numbers (“Girlfriend”). Sweeping dramatic impulses permeate the tenor of the album, and it often plays like the soundtrack to performance art set, but there are enough crisp pop melodies (“Alone,” “What The Hell?!”) to prevent the album from becoming a dour intellectual affair. (
– Patrick Conlan

Just north of the border, Wisconsonites the Fresh Cut Collective face the unenviable task of not only separating themselves from other live hip-hop acts like Abstract Giants and Youngblood Brass Band, but also conscious rappers like those in neighboring Minnesota’s Rhymesayers. For the most part, their self-titled debut plows ahead unawares, pushing hand-raising jams with foghorn-like organ blasts and venturing slightly into disco punk. Adebisi Agoro is an able combination spitter and hypeman, but his bandmates fall on the stiff end of the tight meter, needing more swing and bounce to battle more seasoned R&B outfits. (
– Steve Forstneger

Frosting is a band assembled by veteran musician Mark “Spiv” Grzelak to record his first effort as a frontman. The guitarist for Michael McDermott and other bands, Grzelak has been planning to release Fresh Frosting for years. “Comfortable Enough” offers common-sense advice on succeeding in life, and Grzelak joins vocalist Laura Lopardo for an acoustic take on Lindsey Buckingham’s “Go Insane.” Other tracks, like the energetic “Top Of The World,” help bring Grzelak’s longtime plan to fruition. (
– Terrence Flamm

It’s a salty salute from Furious Frank on The Hobocamp Mud Show, which dives right into ad hoc sea shanties of the Modest Mouse variety. Before it and the invocations of gypsy folk wear out, however, they deftly dive into a T. Rex-kicked-off ska groove and a menacing Nick Cave impression on “The Dividing Line.” The ramshackle playing lists between cozy affectation and artistic impediment; either way, these guys should have The Thin Man on speed-dial for some tankard-crashing local boozefests. (
– Steve Forstneger

Handling a vast array of instruments (including accordion, mbira, and pump organ, as well as a diverse percussion collection), Darren Garvey uses an exotic palette of sounds and textures on Under A Common Ceiling (Quell). The layered tones and collisions of sounds infuse the album with a satisfying richness. Quirky, upbeat pop (“As We Die,” “Misleading”) show Garvey’s deft arranging skills and his knack for writing gently energetic numbers. (
– Patrick Conlan

There’s a scene in Ghost World where Steve Buscemi ventures to see an acoustic bluesman at a sports bar, and he brushes off a girl hitting on him because she’s more into the headliner, Blues Hammer. Head Honchos are like Blues Hammer: as subtle as an uppercut and making Stevie Ray Vaughan sound like Skip James. The band’s self-titled debut cannons chunky guitar riffs and cymbal crashes, and turns train songs into party anthems. Buscemi’s Seymour would have cringed at how frontman Rocco Calipari Sr. enunciates The Meters’ “Fire On The Bayou,” but then again Seymour didn’t like to have fun and Head Honchos certainly do. (
– Kevin Keegan

On their self-titled debut, Inn Cinema attempts to be as hard-edged yet melodic as possible – and it almost succeeds. The power chords and driving rhythms do assault the ear drums, but the vocals are far more soothing, falling somewhere between Nickelback and Rise Against. The rock never stops through the seven tracks, but has trouble ratcheting middling up to memorable. (
– Carter Moss

The Michigan native turned Chicago transplant Jan James grew up on a steady diet of the blues and eventually shared the stage with legends like Koko Taylor, B.B. King, James Brown, and even Bon Jovi. Though elements of that core ring through on Ring Around The Moon, much of the material sounds like watered down blue-eyed soul with the intent to crossover towards pop and occasionally country radio, which is fair enough, but misses the edge of her upbringing. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Bill MacKay‘s Darts And Arrows is an instrumental project that explores the songwriter’s penchant for varying styles of noisy jazz-psychedelia, like Roger McGuinn going cold-turkey (“Road To Seaway”) and moody country-twang of David Knopfler (“The Whisper”) and the dissonant reverb flavors of Bill Frisell or John Squire (“Do Not Follow”). His third record is thus an acquired taste requiring multiple listens. It’s certainly not background music, which makes it a little sweeter when you get there. (
– David Gedge

Showcasing 10 potent big-band numbers, Solitude marks the third time veteran alto sax impresario Phil Woods has teamed up with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble. It’s a gratifying though by no means groundbreaking effort, with the coeds adding energetic oomph to such songs as “Nothing But Soul” and “Ol’ Dude.” While not the most innovative recording in the artist’s extensive catalog, with help from the college kids it’s certainly among the liveliest. (
– Jeff Berkwits

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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Comments (4)

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  1. Tiffany says:

    Luv Furious frank ~
    Furious Frank rules~

  2. I can’t read music. at least since I stopped playing the cello.

  3. “Just As Long As The Cubs Are Playing” by Terry Carroll is SilverBeat –

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