Yes July 26
Riot Fest
Lover's Lane

Around Hear: September 2011

Local Band Reviews

Music-wise, Clara May‘s debut CD, Hush, is a bit all over the place – which is perhaps a reflection of its chief singer/songwriters being first and foremost a filmmaker/corporate executive/grad student and religious/equal-rights activist/author, respectively. And while one can appreciate if not admire the band’s championing themes of social justice, self-esteem, equality, et al in its 10 original songs, the often range-strained/barely trained vocals and predictable arrangements/production undermine its well-intentioned efforts. (claramay.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Despite the varying geographic references on its debut, Broadway Subshop (whose first track is “Trip To L.A.”), Alligator Breath is pure Chicago-garage bred. The band’s sound is all over the map as well, ranging from Black Keys-tinged blues rock to alt-country to retro rock to underground acoustic. Some of the melodies hold some promise, but lyrically and musically, Alligator Breath still needs to find its identity, and figure out how to be more compelling. Expanding the ground forged on the first three tracks would get them headed in the right direction. (alligatorbreath.com)
– Carter Moss

Arctic Sleep has established itself as a first-rate droning/atmospheric rock band with the seven-song, 60-minute CD Earth To Earth, the band’s third nature-themed concept album. Droning, slow-burn instrumentals (like a sludgy version of Pelican) are a strength, with vocals used sparingly and effectively, most notably on “Destroying Angel.” The guitar-driven moods change as slowly as the seasons, with “Mold” blending seamlessly into “Winter Creeper.” (arcticsleep.com)
– Jason Scales

Of the two Nicholases who comprise Brontosaurus, one’s vocals bring to mind the timbre of a young Sting – though never would one liken any of the six songs of debut EP Cold Come To Claim to the reggae-beated pop of The Police. Rather, one might best characterize the duo’s offerings as melodramatic goth ballads whose at first profound-sounding lyrics in reality confound the listener as much as their head-scratching mélange of musical influences too myriad to derive much meaning outside of “eerie.” (brontosaurusmusic.bandcamp.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Brad Cole‘s warm vocals give his alt-country outing Exile a laidback vibe, fully augmented by a host of backing musicians, pedal-steel guitar included. “The Hardest Part” features a mesmerizing mix of guitars and accordion, a testament to Cole’s history as songwriter. “Monster,” with its thudding bassline, stands apart for its blues-rock approach and foreboding lyrics. (bradcolemusic.com)
– Jason Scales

Metal and jazz aren’t natural bedfellows, but the fluidity and heat can make for interesting textures and contrasts. Conflux do an admirable job of blending the two styles on Spark. Jazzy tempos and shimmering, peppery tenor sax mingle with prog-inspired guitar pyrotechnics and nimble rhythms for some improvisational fireworks. That playful synergy is evident in the smoky, robust melody in the aptly titled “Fire Garden,” and pops in surprising twists and off-beat timing shifts in the hop-scotching “Stomping Grounds.” (confluxmusic.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Taking a break from suburban Downmind, The Cosmic Plethora Of Doom (a.k.a. Christopher Morris) crafts a fragile, lo-fi solo debut on Idle Tree. Exploiting cheap recording techniques, Morris and his instruments sit right on top of the mic in a way that makes most demos sound like Auto-Tune’d Euro club hits. Beneath this skin lies an even more delicate framework, with lyrics alternating from the confessional (“Scrabbled Hearts”) to the plainly obtuse (“Where Socrates Meets Psychosis”) as Morris’ voice routinely flouts pitch accuracy. (myspace.com/thecosmicplethoraofdoom)
– Steve Forstneger

The six-piece band Dastardly combines foot-stompin’ country & western instrumentation and elaborate vocal arrangements on their May You Never . . . EP, only to subvert them with reckless tempo changes and bizarre lyrics. The results aren’t always as funny as the band thinks they are, but the Everly Brothers harmonies on “Creepy” and the biting satire on playing the club scene, “Middleground,” are undeniably fun. The haunting “Morning Blue” is the closest these talented jokers come to doing a normal tune. (myspace.com/dastardlytheband)
– Terrence Flamm

Veteran studio singer Josie Falbo gets help from several local musicians while making the most of her debut on Southport Records. Covering traditional jazz, contemporary R&B, gospel, opera, and show tunes, Falbo’s versatility is particularly evident when comparing her sassy take on George and Ira Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” with her reverent rendition of “Ave Maria.” She also performs her own composition, the jazz-flavored “Love Found Me (Just In Time)” with help from Linda Clifford on backup vocals.
(josiefalbo.net)
– Terrence Flamm

Don’t be dissuaded by the horrible cover art for I Nomoor‘s Imaginemind (Façade). His sophomore effort is a cool collection of funky house beats, skittering percussion, and ethnic influences that inspires swinging hips and reflection. Sweet redemption and effervescent optimism are the themes in the slick, gently throbbing “Believe.” Smooth R&B flavors the spoken-word, left-wing social commentary in “Insanity Blues,” and he keeps the social-conscience fires lit with rhythmic flash in “Séance.” (myspace.com/inomoor)
– Patrick Conlan

Definitely a disc for drinking in (as opposed to drinking to), drummer Sean Jelinek‘s first CD, Common Tones, is a pleasant though in no way pioneering jazz project. “San Germán” is a highpoint, offering a faintly martial drumbeat underneath appealing brass and keyboards. Each of the 10 instrumental melodies is multifaceted and meaningful, though a few of the more lengthy cuts meander. All the same, it’s a noteworthy debut. (seanjelinek.com)
–Jeff Berkwits

The former leader of Denver’s The Kirkpatrick Project is now centered in Chicago and steering solo throughout Naps & Nightmares. Throughout the 10-track collection, Wes Kirkpatrick takes cues from the singer/songwriting stylings of Martin Sexton crossed with the organic, jammy appeal of John Butler Trio, thankfully trading in that latter act’s preference for a laid-back and endearing porch-pop attitude. (myspace.com/weskirkpatrick)
– Andy Argyrakis

Singer/guitarist Dean Milano‘s expressive vocals reflect decades of performing folk music. An author as well as a musician, his tales of loners, truck drivers, and late-night hitchhikers on Something To Think About ring true and often have a dose of humor. “I’m Proud To Be Ignorant” is like shooting fish in a barrel, but Milano crafts sharper satire on “Musical Chairs” and the title track. Throughout the CD, there’s a sense of Milano carrying on a rich tradition. (toys-n-cars.com)
– Terrence Flamm

The six songs of former Kansans/now Chicagoans The Noise FM‘s Enclave carom between sounding like a more restrained, much less proggy Muse and less glam, toned-down Killers – which is a good thing to these ears. If only these six originals were a bit more interesting, a tad less repetitive, and had more lyrics like the third cut’s “Of all the mistakes I made/The best was you.” (thenoisefm.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Obisoulstar looks like you wish Stevie Wonder had sounded at any point during the past 30 years, and the title of SoulRockinRolla seems to mean as much. He gets off to a rocky start with the Kravitz-esque title track, but then he’s on a multi-genre bender that doesn’t shy from ambient electronics, reggae, and synthy funk. The nine-minute halfway marker, “Pisces And Scorpio,” does all it can to rein Obisoulstar in, but, after a quick slow jam, he adds a sister-like coda to Outkast’s “B.O.B” (calling it “High Society”) and then spirals off into space. (obisoulstar.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Chicago-based prog-rock quartet Oro want to start your day out with a bang. Their debut, Novus Oro Donum, is jam-packed with powerful guitars and angst-ridden vocals, but is unfortunately missing memorable melodies. The band have wisely borrowed a few pages from the musical stylings of System Of A Down and Rage Against The Machine, but not nearly enough pages, leaving their music lacking the conviction and substance of either. (myspace.com/oromidwest)
– Carter Moss

Rego is Rebecca Rego and her musical compatriots, and on All These Bones And Us (RWIM) they create a concise EP of simple, fragile beauty. These songs are deliberate and plain (in a good way), with a sparse, acoustic framework accented with light, wispy strings. There’s a weary romanticism percolating through the fragile “Northern Star” and the upper register of her voice glides smoothly against her precise plucking in “Believe.” (rebeccarego.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Cast in the tradition of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and The Everly Brothers, The Sheryl And Tom Duet & Friends sound like they could fit right into a “Happy Days” episode throughout Just Dance. Though the sounds swing between rock, blues, and ballads, the male/female harmonies simply aren’t appealing, sounding either a step out of sync or downright awkward. (sherylandtom.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Uncertain Light (Southport) gathers diverse pieces from composer Kurt Westerberg into a capsule that highlights his versatile and expansive range. Westerberg masterfully arranges the interplay of the tone and timbre of the piano and violin in “Fantasy.” He capitalizes on the resonance and harmonic balance of the DePaul University’s Wind Ensemble, especially the sparkling lilt of the flutes, echoing against rich oboe and rumbling percussion in the “Concerto For Wind Ensemble.” (chicagosound.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Filed Under: Around HearColumnsMonthly

Tags:

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply