Wireless Soul
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Dean Z Guitars

Around Hear: January 2012

Richard Anthony is much more gifted as a songwriter than he is as a singer throughout Connected Part One, an odd but occasionally endearing synth-pop project where 100-percent of the proceeds go to foster-children’s charities. Clearly he’s a noble guy capable of spinning several socially conscious tales, but a limited a range and hit-or-miss vocal effects suggest he’d be best penning tunes for already established artists. (richardanthonymusic.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

You’re never too young for hip-hop. Chica X, the 11-year-old rapper (real name Xiola Tapia), proves this on five new tracks. She drops simple rhymes over slightly muddy electronic beats and synth, just a few notches in quality above what one might reasonably expect at a family talent show. This is no knock on Chica X: she’s got skills, but sophistication, life experience, and better production value is what she needs most. Keep the name in mind so in a few years you can say you read about her here first. (myspace.com/chicaxrox)
– Jason Scales

While Korn’s new album uses dubstep to give its metal a fresh coat of paint, The Coop aren’t so crude when it comes to tinting their proggy, jazzy palette. Internally mapping ventures from electric blues with drum and bass to Euro club synths and Bonnaroo with uncanny ease, rarely do The Coop clunk into a mismatch, and they confidently cut new paths when none appears obvious. That said, tracks like “Space Cakes II” indulge themselves endlessly, usually at momentum’s expense. But it’s generally better to have too many ideas than none. (thecoopmusic.net)
– Steve Forstneger

Eddie Dixon seems to be a kindred spirit of Beck, not necessarily in musical sound but in one-man-band approach to creating music. The multi-instrumentalist ably exhibits his pop music/mad-scientist skills on the nine-song Skirmisher. Although a bit left-of-center in arrangement, the songs have a solid rock backbone made pleasantly quirky with Dixon’s high attention to detail. “Lucky” and “Kidnap Van” showcase this peccadillo with their layers of instrumentation and vocals, which are generally warm if not understated throughout the tracks. (eddiedixon.bandcamp.com)
– Jason Scales

Folksinger/songwriter Mark Dvorak‘s fourth release, Time Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me, features 12 originals, plus three live tracks. Dvorak’s songs about life, time, and age are delicately crafted with a familiar, folksy warmth. His voice conjures the spirit of Buddy Holly while he pours his heart and soul into the music. Various styles are on display here: hints of bluegrass, country & western-tinged songs with banjo and fiddle – good ol’ down-home folk ditties. His reflection on the passing of time is the major theme, though Dvorak shows that you can look back while keeping a watchful, hopeful eye on the future. (markdvorak.com)
– Kelley Simms

Brian Eaton‘s Graphic Nature full-length is a one-man rock show. After spending nearly 20 years producing other bands, Eaton stepped out from the desk to write, perform, and record all the instruments and vocals as well as produce, engineer, and mix his debut. Eaton utilizes a vast range of styles with inspiring lyrics about the struggles of the human condition. Graphic Nature displays the tenacity of the Foo Fighters, the diverse proginess of Porcupine Tree, and the sensible pop qualities of The Fray. Eerie Queensrÿche-ish monster tribal drum rhythms, acoustic guitar, and prog synths open “Sobriety,” and a cover of Seal’s “Crazy” is pulled off surprisingly well, ultimately making it his own. Eaton is a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist with multi-tasking abilities. (brianeaton.com)
– Kelley Simms

When you hit Frank Gondo’s Facebook page, you read that his employer is Gondo, his band. It’s an amusing detail, because were Mr. Gondo not canned from his straight job in this recession, the music could very well be on the backburner. The compression on his recordings inadvertently recalls early Bob Mould, but with cascading drum fills, layered acoustic and electric guitars, and mounting solos, joblessness has led Gondo to explore his inner classic rocker. A thick fuzz on tracks like “Intelligent Design,” however, make him fully modern. (reverbnation.com/gondo)
– Steve Forstneger

Stephen Pearlman, recording under the moniker Haberdashery, could be considered the poor man’s Owl City, though he’s been at it for longer. Pearlman writes and records his own electro/synth pop, and his fifth full-length release Tonight The Angels finds him continuing to channel Erasure as he uses his keyboard to explore themes of love and relationships. While Pearlman does manage to create some sweeping music from his electronics, unfortunately his melodies and choruses aren’t nearly as memorable as his counterparts. (haberdasheryinfo.com)
– Carter Moss

R&B diva Syleena Johnson‘s scored a Grammy nomination and collaborations with Kanye West and R. Kelly, but she’s yet to experience superstardom. Chapter V: Underrated (Shanachie) might not possess the magic she needs given multiple routine soul stompers and basic old-school ballads, but a little duet help from famous friends like Faith Evans, Angie Stone, and Tweet should give the local some additional exposure. (myspace.com/syleenajohnson)
– Andy Argyrakis

Last False Hope is one strange mash-up of musical influences and worldviews. On the band’s debut EP, The Shape Of Bluegrass To Come, the music is hardcore/punk-inspired bluegrass, the vocals are straight from the reject bin of death-metal bands, and the lyrics are cynical and unashamedly anti-God (“Giving Up God For Lent,” “Drag Me To Hell,” “Dying And Diseased”). At least the band helps prove an adage – just because we humans can do something, it doesn’t mean we should. (lastfalsehope.tk)
– Carter Moss

With her sweet, soaring croon, Katie Luka exudes a soulful maturity beyond her mere 20 years. Deep, expressive emotion winds through her debut, No Blonde Country. Her languorous interpretation of “God Made Me” allows her to showcase a touching vulnerability while maintaining her strong tone. She makes a slight stumble in her choice to cover The Beatles’ “Let It Be”; her vocal performance is slick and inventive, but she does herself no favors reworking the arrangement and inexplicably including a flashy guitar solo. (katieluka.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Panther Style is in. The band’s 10-track album ¡Emergencia! oozes a cool, hip, urban rock vibe. The four-piece seems inspired by early U2, especially with the snare drum work on “The Instrumental,” or simple verse-chorus-verse structures, like a mid-1990s Sub Pop product, a la The Fastbacks. But the uptempo energy, tight songwriting, and female vocal harmonies are the flash to this style worth emulating. (pantherstylemusic.com)
– Jason Scales

Humor doesn’t get much darker than the morbid tales spun by The Royal Pines on their latest collection of psychedelic/country songs, Come Forth. The energetic “Open Your Face (Drink Alone)” depicts characters who are fun to drink with except for some homicidal tendencies. Frontman Joe Patt’s talky vocals almost evoke Steve Martin, especially on the paranoid punk of “All Wrong,” and the ominous country & western ballad, “The Night Before.” Definitely not for everyone, but often pretty funny. (myspace.com/royalpines)
– Terrence Flamm

Serengeti is the rapper for those who don’t like rap. His bouncy verbal acrobatics hopscotch over the cool grooves and ambient beat puzzles assembled by Advance Base and Yoni Wolf on Family And Friends (Anticon). Geti’s slick syllable surgery slices through the icy, skittering melody and throbbing deep bass in “Ha-Ha.” A glistening melody speckled with shoegazing touches, and M83-style drama is the backdrop for his fast-paced stream-of-conscious rattle in “A.R.P.” This is a more relaxed outing, but his passion and humor still shine through. (anticon.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Sex Unicorn brings all the raw ingredients needed for vintage speed metal to its self-titled EP, including a vocalist who howls and whispers with menace, and a wildly strumming lead guitarist. But the quartet adds a modern edge to its sound on “Riding In Cars With Boys” and serves up an impressively elaborate vocal and keyboards arrangement with “Methlab.” (sexunicorn.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Power trio Simple Simon (a.k.a. The Simons) is back from a 10-year hiatus to deliver its trademark rock ‘n’ roll on Attack. Its nine tracks will leave you out of breath from its crushing drums, shredding axe attack, and brash vocals that bash through repeatedly. This sixth album’s calculated punk vibe mixes with ’70s rock – Thin Lizzy style – for a great combination. It also throws the kitchen sink at you, too: prog-rock influences, stoner rock-isms, layered vocal harmonies, epic-sounding songs, acoustic and lap steel guitar, and some synth bits add to Simple Simon’s diversity. Attack really struts its stuff. Spread the word, “The Simons” are back. (myspace.com/simplesimonchicago)
– Kelley Simms

Armando Perez, operating under the moniker The Single Helix, wields his instrumental wizardry making Odd Czar (Dilligaf) an effervescent blend of trip-hop, crooked folk, and ambient bliss. “190” is airy and anthemic, reaching for the clouds from the same launching pad as The Postal Service. For some dreamy escapes, follow the advice in “Take A Moment To Yourself” and drift away in the perfectly arranged acoustic guitar, strings, and softly harmonizing vocals, or get lost in the hazy thump-and-bump of “The Fire.” (thesinglehelix.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Fans of Bruce Springsteen-inspired ballads will find a lot to like on Dan Tedesco‘s latest effort, Tracks On Fire. The singer/songwriter’s expressive vocals bring an authentic feel to the dramatic piano and guitar arrangements on the title track and songs like “Hold On To Me.” That said, Tedesco might actually be at his best on the more energetic “How Good It Feels” and romantic “Lookin’ For A Girl Like You,” where he adroitly blends melodic pop and country music. (dantedesco.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Promising MC/producer Tizone may have titled his new album The Interpretation, but the tracks aren’t quite so committed to a single view. After an intro cut and opener where he establishes himself back in the game, Tizone switches course into playa/loverman mode for several tunes, and then weaves in and out of personalities for the remainder. It makes for a schizophrenic listen through the 18 songs, and ultimately bears the energetic, wanna-freak-ya side out. (tizoneonline.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Vapor Eyes has mastered the rapid-fire, hard-hitting rhymes fans expect from rap, but on his ambitious new CD, It’s Moving So Fast It’s Standing Still, he also incorporates elements of jazz, ambient, and gospel music. “Terra Incognita” sounds the alarm on global warming while “New Proof Material” delves into street crime. Space-age keyboards and sound bites add to the sense of intrigue on “Hypermart” and “Int3rlood,” while “Caressed By Sin” is smooth and seductive. (vaporeyesdj.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Chuck Maurer’s What Rebel began as a cover band in a west-suburban basement that felt confident to move into originals. Tracks like “Rise Up” and “Time Is Running Out” force derivative riffs and chord changes through a cardboard amplifier, which competes with click-track vocal performances and A/B (sometimes just A/A) rhyme schemes for the single microphone. Clearly this is an act in its infancy – maybe several weeks premature. (reverbnation.com/WhatRebel)
– Steve Forstneger

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