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Around Hear: October 2011

Local Band Reviews

After kicking off his career as a straight-forward singer/songwriter, Kyle Andrews turns toward the dancefloor (channeled from his bedroom studio) throughout Robot Learn Love. Mirroring the likes of Cut Copy or a subdued Shiny Toy Guns, expect plenty of groove-saturated indie rock over lyrics of romantic longing and arrangements that switch from fluffy to futuristic and intimate. (kyleandrews.bandcamp.com)
–Andy Argyrakis

There’s a nice retro feel to Sun Rooms, the latest excursion from vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz. It’s easy to imagine tunes like “Life” and “Rose Garden” being played in smoky 1960s jazz clubs, and all eight cuts, most of which are original compositions, are engrossing and energizing. Working with bassist Nate McBride and drummer Mike Reed, two other local jazz journeymen, the trio is musically ablaze, performing every number with panache and pizzazz. (jasonadasiewicz.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

The performances are adequate throughout Small Hours, The Rose Colella Trio‘s debut, yet sadly they’re not particularly memorable. Crooning such standards as “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” and “Come Fly With Me,” vocalist Colella and her cohorts (guitarist Dan Effland and bassist Joe Policastro) introduce nothing fresh to the 11 familiar songs. She certainly doesn’t mangle the melodies, but with so many skilled chanteuses in the field there are simply better options. (rosecolellatrio.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Stephen Becker, who performs – with a posse of backup players – as Le Concorde, offers an unexpectedly welcome innocence on his latest recording, the nine-song (plus bonus remix), new wave-inspired House. Each cut is engaging, delivering poppy power on the standout “Who’s Ever Gonna Feel Sorry For Us” and more reflective sentiments, coupled with infectious beats, on compositions like “Sometimes It’s Hard.” All in all, it’s an energetic, entertaining outing. (leconcorde.org)
– Jeff Berkwits

Female-fronted The Congregation delivers a classic/soul/R&B formula with a modern edge on its debut EP, Not For Sleepin’. Gina Bloom’s soulful and soaring vocals are sweetly executed on the seven tracks, bringing to mind Aretha, Tina, and Billie. The band plays tightly and is clearly skilled in its craft. Dirty blues-guitar licks, immense horn sections, jazzy piano interludes, and a righteous rhythm section add to the band’s great dynamics. A catchy, bluesified rendition of the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” complete with a tasty horn section, is splendidly performed. Not For Sleepin’ is a modern attempt at old-fashioned, traditional blues. (thecongregationband.com)
– Kelley Simms

Exploding Star Orchestra is an ideal name for an avant-garde jazz ensemble, and the group’s new release, Stars Have Shapes, is an aptly volatile recording. The 50-minute CD has only four cuts, with two tracks – “Ascension Ghost Impression #2″ and “Three Blocks Of Light” – collectively accounting for almost 80-percent of the running time. Throughout the project, sections of dissonance masterfully mingle with moments of dynamism, showcasing the talents of all 14 members, capably led by cornetist/composer Rob Mazurek. (myspace.com/explodingstarorchestra)
– Jeff Berkwits

Armed with just as much garage rock as power pop and psychedelia, Go Time‘s Hit It could easily be a product of the late 1960s if it wasn’t for the sound quality. Mastered by Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case, The New Pornographers), the instruments pop in all the right places, while there’s plenty of contagious choruses that could’ve easily been in the company of The Zombies one minute and the 13th Floor Elevators the next. (myspace.com/gotimeband1)
– Andy Argyrakis

There are several songs about people coping with life’s challenges on The Love Show, the latest collection of well-crafted Midwestern rock from Dan Hubbard & The Humadors. A husband consoles his wife about their economic woes on the acoustic “We’ll Be Fine,” while the guy in the rocking “Beautiful Bar” finds relief in a few beers. “Don’t Take Me Now” and “All I Want Is You” are prime examples of Hubbard’s gift for creating engaging love songs. (danhubbard.net)
– Terrence Flamm

There’s a great Americana vibe to For Our Friends, the most recent recording from Just Married. Sounding very much like Alison Krauss, singer LiLach Bonanni brings heartfelt sensitivity to tunes like “One More Breath,” with husband Gary adding skillful guitar and percussion. The duo’s roots rock-inspired sound, which, based on their touring schedule seems to also play well in – of all places – Israel, offers nothing really new, but the 10 songs here are practiced and pleasing. (myspace.com/justmarriedtour)
– Jeff Berkwits

People familiar with Jonathan Rundman‘s catchy pop songs may be surprised by the exotic instrumentals he creates with violinist Sara Pajunen as part of the Finnish-American folk duo, Kaivama. Their self-titled debut mixes originals like the ornate “Nonstop” and more energetic “Edina Speedtrap” with traditional folk tunes that evoke images of festive dancing. (kaivama.com)
– Terrence Flamm

The two brothers who comprise local indie-rock duo Love In October began making music together in a tiny bedroom in Sweden and, oddly enough, they allow both geographical influences to permeate their music. Half the tracks off the duo’s third EP (confusingly named Love In October II) are straight-forward indie rock, while the other half are Swedish dance-pop. Yet somehow it comes together and actually makes sense. Most of the songs aren’t compelling enough vocally, but the surprisingly advanced instrumental arrangements are convincing enough to keep the listener engaged. (loveinoctober.bandcamp.com)
– Carter Moss

On the first few cuts of its lushly produced Light & Shade, U.K.-based Magazine Gap (fronted by Chicagoan brothers Tim and Jason Keene) project a sound that brings to mind early Dire Straits crossed with The Hold Steady, before careening off into a more jazzbo, lite-FM vibe. Given the tear-in-throat, Mick “Simply Red” Hucknall vocals of front brother and chief songwriter Tim, the first option is the better choice for the future. (magazinegap.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Do a Google search, and it’s surprising how many Iranian-born flamenco guitarists show up in the results. Top among them is Mehran, who recently released Angels Of Persepolis, a 10-tune excursion exploring the dichotomy of ancient Persia and contemporary Iran. A handful of cuts, most notably “Ahriman (Buleria)” and “Yare Dabestani,” highlight the Mideast connection, but most are fairly straightforward flamenco. On the whole it’s a pleasant platter, but it would have been nice to hear more of a cultural fusion. (angelsofpersepolis.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

The Waking Visions Of Joseph, a 10-track CD from Joseph Messing And The Wisemen, is a revelation. Singer/songwriter Messing, a charismatic frontman, has assembled a tight band to conduct a clinic of alt-country/Americana rock. Seeming inspired by the likes of Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash – given a contemporary spin – the boys can rollick, as on “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” build slow-burn tension a la “Push Push Push” and “Evil Won’t Do,” and tell epic tales of temptation and redemption like “Blakely Farm.” (josephmessing.com)
– Jason Scales

For some two decades, Janice Misurell-Mitchell has been one of Chicago’s pre-eminent new-music artists. Still, the nine tracks on her retrospective, Uncommon Time, are definitely an acquired taste. Most feature the artist performing her own works, with a few, including “Una Voce Perduta: In Memoriam, Ted Shen,” showcasing other players. Though it’s trying to listen to the collection from beginning to end, in bits and pieces it’s tolerable. (jmisurell-mitchell.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Rapper Na Palm (Craig Steven Palm) specializes in booty-shaking, dance-club hip-hop on the expansive, 23-track Dirty Girls Like Dirty Beats. Non-stop partying, dance-floor shenanigans, and sexual conquests dominate, complete with the story of a girl with a “face like an angel and a body built for sin” on the (exploitive or empowering?) “Go Go Girl.” Na Palm’s braggadocio rap style – at times rapid-fire – blends well with his pulsating, and seemingly endless, electronic mix. (napalmlive.com)
– Jason Scales

Hailing from Stone Park, guitar-guru Randy Raatz decided to showcase his talent and passion for the instrument by finding himself a vocalist, forming his own band (aptly named The Randy Raatz Band), and recording together. The two-song Preying For Time isn’t long enough to fully showcase Raatz’s skills, but both tracks do hold a lot of promise. The music has a Santana-meets-Kings Of Leon feel, and fortunately Greg Anthony’s vocals are strong and authentic enough to keep up with his boss’ soulful electric-playing. (myspace.com/raatzx)
– Carter Moss

Save The Clocktower employs various methods for bringing a distinctive edge to each of the lush techno songs on its second release, Carousel. “Drip” opens with a flourish of synthesizer playing, and is infused with Middle Eastern rhythms. “The One Thing” uses vocal distortion similar to Tom Tom Club’s “The Man With The 4 Way Hips” in a sinister tale of stalking, while the shimmering “Far Apart” mixes ethereal voices and a club beat. (myspace.com/clocktowermusik)
– Terrence Flamm

American pop rock woven with a country twang produces a good aroma on the Voodoo Kings‘ six-track third release, Mileage. Songwriting is key to these Chicagoans, led by founder Michael Kranicke. The band stirs up memories of Pure Prairie League, Tom Petty, Afghan Whigs, and Wallflowers. The poppy jingle of “I Don’t Mind,” the slide guitar in “Talk To Me,” and the lush harmonies of “Compromise” bounce along nicely. The Voodoo Kings saves the best for last with “Strong Will Survive.” Its emotive vocals and inspirational piano complete a satisfyingly diverse album. A true taste of the Americana musical pie. (voodookings.com)
– Kelley Simms

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