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Around Hear: June 2011

| May 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

Local Band Reviews

What separates the men from the boys among old school Chicago guitar heroes is a dash of humility. Of course T.D. Clark has the chops on his new CD, Shreddtime Stories, but his web site won’t be the one listing a bloated selection of ancient reviews from Guitar Player and Crawdaddy to impress you. He’s just a regular guy who happens to be a great guitarist with an enviable resume. Instrumental guitar albums are mood music – you have to be in the mood to hear them – but Clark mixes up things nicely with the classical-tinged “Morrocan Bedtime Stories” and a bit of traditional guitar wankering on “When The Lights Dim” and “Drop D Symphony.” (www.tdclark.com)
– David Gedge

Entrenched Chicago resident Kyle Andrews recently migrated to Nashville and the results find Kangaroo adapting an earthy, homespun approach. The self-produced EP is ample on cozy, but unremarkable vocals and tightly wound acoustic guitars, though Andrews’ secret weapon is the electronic accompaniment that adorns the collection’s most contagious tracks, “Kangaroo” and “Sushi (Slow Dancing At The Prom Mix).” (www.kyleandrews.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Calm Palm Vapor‘s bio announces “We like layers of sound,” and that declaration is evident in its gently rocking, groovy space-rock. There’s an elastic energy bounding through the multi-hued “Everyday We Grow” as textures and sounds accumulate, and sci-fi sound effects zoom around swirling guitars and electronic washes in “Run The Tables.” There’s a fizzy sonic density to the songs, but Morning Pacific is never burdened with excess weight. (www.calmpalmvapor.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Evident to the drunk or sober, Crooked Moon strives (and overall succeeds) to be the epitome of a bar-and-grill jam band on the eight-song Say It When You’re Drunk, favoring extended funk-blues guitar solos and harmonica-highlighted intros. The influence of Blues Traveler is undeniable on “Innocent” – nothing original, but damn proficient. Most festival-goers will toast to that. (crookedmoonrocks.com)
– Jason Scales

Its kind of hard to put one’s arms around Fishermans‘ three-song Collective Vertigo EP, since the band’s self-tagged “easy listening pop religious Chicago” is a bit all over the place instrumentally. The strictly schemed lyrics border on banality (e.g. “I taste the scent . . .”) and the untrained female lead vocals off-put at best, such that it all devolves into a cacophonic apocalypse by the third and final cut. (www.fishermans.bandcamp.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Recorded mostly live in one day, Flameshark‘s fifth album shows the band’s subtle but sure musical evolution. The band gently glides between alt-country (“A Fossil”), electronic shoegaze (“Deny”), and straight-on indie pop (“Keep On Looking Out For You”). Farm Life is a deceiving LP – while on the ride, there’s nothing to blow you away, but when you get to the end, you realize just how much you enjoyed the journey. (flamesharkmusic.com)
– Carter Moss

With Andrea Donahue’s soaring, emotionally wrought vocals, Holiday House has a solid anchor for its melancholic melodies. “Non Compos Mentis” spikes a hard-charging guitar crunch in the chorus, and Cheryl Tomblin’s keening violin adds an orchestral layer to the interwoven guitar textures in “Twilight,” but the shining star of Weight Of Water is clearly Donahue’s voice, which rings with bell-like clarity throughout the EP. (myspace.com/holidayhouse3)
– Patrick Conlan

At its most furious, The Knackles‘ seven, mostly punk-ish rock songs deliver a solid Green Day crossed with New York Dolls sound, save for a couple of slower boozy ballad moments. Come to think of it, almost all of the eponymously titled demo is either about or references alcohol – which is neither a good nor bad thing for the trio at this point in time, but might cause a problem in the future if they don’t outgrow it. In the meantime, bonus points for the nifty ejector® CD case, guys! (theknackles@gmail.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Inspired by a visit to the rainforest in Malaysia, Jeff Libman merges a world-music sensibility into a singer/songwriter sound mirroring Paul Simon, James Taylor, or Marc Cohn throughout Sarawak. The artist/author/teacher primarily sticks to lead vocals and acoustic guitar, and while his vocals are often so soothing they’re sleepy, the supporting instrumentation (dobro, mandolin, bouzouki, French horn, cello) salvages the album with an intriguing potpourri. (www.jefflibman.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Mixing styles as disparate as T. Rex and Judas Priest, plus a dash of Slade and Poison, Loveblast jettison out of the gate on the sexually charged “Harder & Faster.” Their self-titled debut boasts some impressive hard-rock chops and harmonies from vocalist Brian Durbin and his chorts. These guys aren’t afraid to rock like it’s L.A., circa 1988. If rock radio like The Blaze was still on the air today anthems like “Headspin” and “Far Too Long,” might find a place next to the Motley Crues and Def Leppards of the world. (myspace.com/loveblastrock)
– David Gedge

It’s not clear where high-wattage amplifiers and towering effects racks fit into the ecological discussion, but Bill Lubera has plenty of fuel to burn on Global Warning. His metal-rooted excursions smack of Steve Vai and Gary Hoey, filled with legato runs, finger tapping, and complex time signatures. Whether moving in tandem with the core riff or speeding on the backs of the double-bass drums, Lubera’s flawless ability justifies his sprawling compositional vision. The insistence upon accuracy and the relentless procession of notes occasionally grows mechanical and cold, which works if the world’s only getting hotter. (www.billlubera.com)
– Steve Forstneger

After the promising, vintage Neil Young-ish title track, JT Nero‘s Mountains/Forests‘ songs of balloons, sunny days, and double rainbows take a decidedly saccharine turn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and it’s well-played and all other good stuff. It just doesn’t break any ground or make any lasting impression. Given that Nero is also (and better) known (and renown) as frontman Jeremy Lindsay of rock ‘n’ soul band JT & The Clouds, this solo path choice is puzzling. (www.jtandtheclouds.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Local indie-pop act Northpilot has finally birthed its first official release, The Bright Brigade EP. The five tracks give a clear taste of what the band is all about – weaving thoughtful lyrics through intricate pop instrumentations. Influences range from Peter Bjorn & John to Coldplay, and each track is clearly distinctive from the next. By the end, Northpilot’s release does what any great EP should do – leave us anxiously awaiting the LP. (northpilot.com)
– Carter Moss

North Side rapper ProbCause shows range, depth, and a knack for catchy lines on the 13-track Spring Cleaning. “Ain’t nothing like Chicago girls” becomes a groovy mantra on “Chicago Girls,” with smooth, rapid-fire raps to back up the boast. R&B, funk, and electronic approaches reveal an artist polishing his wide range of hip-hop skills, proud of his indie status on “Blog Rap”: “I need a blog not a label.” (probcause.com)
– Jason Scales

Damien Jurado lives, though Safe Haven will do as a second-coming just in case. The band’s Ambitious Night EP unpacks such a sonic doppelganger it requires closer inspection for a possible DNA match. Despite the odd dud lyric (“Uncertainty fills your mind with endless thoughts”), the comparison holds with the heavy, but not crushing guitars of “Don’t Do Me” and the chimes adorning “Only Endeavor.” Just the chunky guitar funk of “Sell Me” frustrates the game, which we’ll look forward to restarting when the full-length arrives. (safehavenlive.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Emerging out of Valley Kingdom Ministry International Church in Chicago, the gospel ensemble known as Shekinah Glory Ministry already has five gold-certified albums and DVDs to its credit. A third audio entry, Refreshed By Fire, makes a strong case to be the sixth. The double-disc live experience is filled with more praying, preaching, and plenty of inspiring gospel music. Songs like “Reclaim Your Mountain,” “Raise Up,” and “Giant Slayer” alternate between contemplative ballads and high-energy funk, meshing a variety of vocalists, instruments, and choirs. It’s like going to church without leaving the house! (kingdomrecordsinc.com)
– Carter Moss

Free advertising for the Double Door! Not that the Wicker Park institution doesn’t provide a nightly bedrock for local bands to build upon, but rarely do the venue’s acoustics bend to an outfit’s will as they do on The Steepwater Band‘s Live At Double Door. With carefully panned separation between guitar and bass, and room for the vocals to soar – Steepwater sound as if they could be at Texas Jam ’78 and tearing that shit up. (www.steepwater.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Not to be confused with the Lorrie Kountz-led Surrendur Dorothi of years past, the four guys of Surrender Dorothy play a Southern-flavored version of stomping hard rock. Tracks like “Proud Man” and “Midwest Girls” spotlight Chris Barker’s bravado vocals, as well as his and Joseph Barker’s guitar firepower. There isn’t a lot of variety on this self-titled four-song EP, but the band has the chops to broaden its horizons on a full-length effort. (reverbnation.com/surrenderdorothyorelse)
– Terrence Flamm

Not every band could follow a chaotic garage/punk hybrid like “Bacteriostatic” with the Pezband-like power-pop gem, “Love For A Week.” But Warm Ones, led by vocalist/guitarist Tony Sackett, do just that on their impressive debut release, Sprezzatura. They move on to “Small Spies,” which sounds like Paul McCartney singing a duet with a female indie rocker (The 1900s’ Jeanine O’Toole) and romp through the high-speed “Hot Flash.” In short, a band that never runs out of fun ideas. (www.myspace.com/warmones)
– Terrence Flamm

When you trod such well-worn paths as frat-pop, singer/songwriterism, and pop-punk, you really need to hit the nail on the head when you choose how to differentiate yourself. Scott Wesley still has work to do, but by belting with some infectious enthusiasm on Seconds To Years he gives himself a chance. Some tracks, like “Head For The Hills” and “Open Eyes” could be anyone, though the title track – one of the more intimate cuts – flashes a smile and gets him in the door. (www.sonicbids.com/scottwesley)
– Kevin Keegan

Sid Yiddish And The Clean Boys have a running joke that nobody gets on Safari Freak Show Adventure, recorded entirely via Skype at Swing State in Lake Villa. These Boys test the listener with some maddeningly indulgent poetry slamming on a “Sound Text Punk Opera” that mixes second rate themes a la Zappa and The Germs, over an instrumental bed of LSD-inspired instrumentals. It might please Mind Power-era Bad Brains fans, but it’s so musically and intellectually dense, it’s hard to break through without several weeks of repeated listenings. And who has time for that? Yiddish’s second “bonus” CD is an album of instrumental space noise mixed with unrecognizable covers from Bowie and R.E.M. As John Lydon said in 1978, “leave Sid alone.” (myspace.com/2dollarcockroach)
– David Gedge

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