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Around Hear: May 2011

| April 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Local Band Reviews

King Sparrow‘s fusion of bluesy garage-rock and spastic, new-wave punk will undoubtedly draw favorable comparisons to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as its self-titled, full-length debut simmers with cranked-up urgency and driving hooks. “Conveyor Belt” and “Constellations” are gritty, boisterous blasts of rock ‘n’ roll, and “The River” rips with raw emotional catharsis. The razor-barbed guitar snarl and Eric Ides Georgevich’s raw vocals inject the album with twitchy energy and cutting emotional depth.
— Patrick Conlan

If Jack Johnson ever recorded with Paul Simon and his world-influenced band, it might sound something like Chicago-based Antony Ablan. The Elephant Painting EP shows off Ablan’s extensive musicianship and songwriting, as he weaves in and out of roots rock, acoustic folk, and Middle-Eastern influenced alt-pop. The six tracks are incredibly diverse, providing an interesting musical experience, but no continuity.
— Carter Moss

The Boolevards recapture the innocence of the early 1960s on More Real Pop with melodic songs like “Little Miss Impossible” and “She’s The One.” The Beach Boys-style harmonies and chiming guitars are rendered perfectly, but at times the band seem locked into derivative, similar-sounding arrangements. A little more variation could go a long way toward helping The Boolevards forge their own identity.
— Terrence Flamm

It’s easy to imagine being back in the 1940s while listening to the most recent disc from the John Burnett Orchestra. Down For Double is a sparkling 12-song set devoted to, as the CD cover notes, “the best bandleaders of swing.” Famed clarinetist Buddy DeFranco joins the ensemble for three studio tracks, contributing most notably to a knockout rendition of “Sing Sing Sing,” with the remaining performances recorded live in 2005 and 2010 at Drury Lane, FitzGerald’s, and Larson Recording Studio. Pour a Manhattan, and enjoy.
— Jeff Berkwits

Don’t let the name or the sound confuse you — new wave revivalists California Wives emerged straight out of the Chicago music scene. The Affair EP finds the pop quartet (all male) drawing heavily from the electronic, new wave, and post-punk stylings of everyone from New Order to Phoenix to Interpol to Owl City. Their synths are bright and shiny, the guitar hooks are simple and effective, the vocals are full-on indie — and somehow it all works together beautifully.
— Carter Moss

Chaperone recorded the five tracks for its latest release, Cripple King, at various locations while on tour, which gives the band’s indie/Americana an appealing, live-performance vibe. On melodic songs like “Fed On Coal” and “Thomas,” Chaperone creates vintage folk with a shot of adrenaline, and the spirited male/female vocal interplay is consistently inventive.
— Terrence Flamm

Loosely played, loosely Americana — it’s against this backdrop that Darling can surprise you. Whether a funk breakdown and crescendo in “Move In, Move On” or the way the wind howls through “Sleeptalking,” Lights That Last Forever boasts miniature distinctions to pull it slightly away from work by Okkervil River or Damien Jurado. The looseness does have a tendency to nag like pants that keep falling down, most prevalently in the bass/drums interplay and imprecise vocal harmonies. Damned if you do, but a little urgency would turn that from sloppy to darling.
— Steve Forstneger

Tongue-in-cheek lyrics vying with hard-rocking riffs? It must be The Divotones, back with their sophomore — and entertainingly sophomoric — CD, Gotta Have A Panty Sandwich. This duo blend great senses of humor and harmony, especially on songs like the title track and “Hollywood Pee-Lattes.” The laughs are often immature and sometimes misogynistic, but the dozen tunes are guaranteed to bring out the 12-year-old in just about every guy.
— Jeff Berkwits

Egon’s Unicat is a high-energy rock band with a whimsical side on an eight-song, self-titled CD. “A Self-Guided Tour Of Appalachia” features scat singing and cowbell juxtaposed with unbridled rocking. Other tracks generally follow suit, using guitar/drums as a base for quirky instrumental and lyrical forays heavy on hooks and pop culture references. “La Noche de los Mil Gatos,” with a Latin beat, punk-rock attitude, and minutes-long cat meowing coda, is certifiable “weird rock.”
— Jason Scales

Falling somewhere between world music, tribal-ambient, and improvisational jazz, The Nth Wave is definitely a distinctive collection. Performed by Gunnelpumpers, the seven instrumentals were recorded during a single impromptu session, with “The Whirling Magnificent” and “Ticks And Asps” standing out as the most intricate tracks. Though none of the tunes are overly innovative, they’re ideal for relaxation and contemplation.
— Jeff Berkwits

When he’s playing with Jet W. Lee, singer/songwriter Jesse W. Johnson indulges his alt-rock interests, but across the solo project Home To Roast, he concentrates on lean acoustic guitars with sparse instrumental backing. His pleading, Neil Young-inspired vocals make cuts like “Strawman” and “Forty Below” demand attention, but after 10 tracks, the similar, soft-spoken thread becomes monotonous. ()
— Andy Argyrakis

Hailing from Rockford, metal/rap hybrid Kaos Katalyst is more hardcore than hip-hop on The Book Of Kaos Vol. 1 The Fallen‘s nine-songs. The instrumentation on the title track is the rumbling of heavy machinery, tempered with DJ scratching and urgent screamo vocalization. This brand of metal, which maximizes the use of helicopter-blade double bass and numbing riffage, is as punishing as it comes. Any hip-hop embellishments are welcome breaks in the beating.
— Jason Scales

Mary Lemanski seems like a real sweetheart, so it’s painful to pan Eclectic, her 10-tune debut. While the lyrics are uniformly solid, the vocals are agonizingly off-key, particularly on the aptly named “Such A Mess,” with the accompaniment, which consists primarily of the artist on keyboards, woefully passé. As a songwriter she has potential; hopefully in the future she’ll also allow others to perform rather than trying to handle almost everything on her own.
— Jeff Berkwits

There’s a great, gritty, gravelly tone to Inside Out, the latest outing from Curtiss Lowe & The Reverb Kings. From the Bo Diddley beat of “Not Dead” to the melancholy “Another Grey Area,” the 11-tune platter is brimming with an intoxicating, vintage-style Chicago blues sound. A couple of cuts stray from that formula, and the collection suffers from those digressions, but all in all it’s a satisfying excursion.
— Jeff Berkwits

The Paver blends cryptic, spoken poetry and chaotic music on its self-titled CD, creating the ambience of an avant-garde theater performance. “Worthless” is the closest this bass, violin/synth, and drums group comes to an actual song, while “Softest Fortress” sounds like a sci-fi audio book that comes with its own soundtrack. Fans of adventurous music will find The Paver intriguing, but it’s not likely anyone but the band members will know what’s actually going on.
— Terrence Flamm 

Who knew adding a pinch of punk and a dollop of dub to old-fashioned rock could be such an intriguing musical recipe? On their four-song sampler, Papa Jupiter blend these ingredients into captivating food-for-thought, especially on tunes such as “Keep Running” and “Million Miles.” “Bleeding Brains” is a tad too stylistically schizophrenic, but otherwise the disc is an inviting taste of things to come.
— Jeff Berkwits

Operating in a musical swampland where The Band and Velvet Underground reside, with some modern garage rock sensibility thrown in for good measure, Taxi slum it up on Six O’Clock Sunday Morning. These guys have much better chops than an average Midwest garage band, but they make things attractively wobbly on “Doctor,” a reefer-fueled tale of sexual attraction. “The Night” is swampy excursion into the darklands, where Paul Solans’ psychedelic keyboards add a perfect dose of Nuggets-style nostalgia. Vocalist/guitarist Brian Petzel has one of those nasally rock voices that makes Taxi joyfully unique.
— David Gedge

Gleaning inspirations from The Beatles, The Byrds, and early Pink Floyd gives Frank TribesLean Out Your Window a trio of distinct styles. Several songs resonate with sounds from the British Invasion, a few are couched within the upbeat folk strums, while there’s a faint hint of psychedelia to shape a fun melodic flashback to the ’60s and ’70s.
— Andy Argyrakis

With a voice that occasionally recalls Joni Mitchell, like-minded folk troubadour/songwriter Jess Yoakum‘s aptly tiled debut, This Quiet Mile, displays the artist’s fairly accomplished yearning-lament songcraft, with her oft’ doubled vocals mostly set against spare, open piano/guitar chordings laced together by cello. That said, the certain sameness of tempo/sound is such that the western twang of “Texas” offers a welcome break.
— David C. Eldredge

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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