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Clean, tidy awards

| February 13, 2012

Was there tension at the Grammys this year? No one felt slighted? With Whitney Houston’s death, was all of the traditional windbagging deemed untoward? Good. We can move on. This week: Sharon Van Etten, The Black Belles, and West 34’s release party.

On her third record, Tramp (Jagjaguwar), Brooklyn denizen Sharon Van Etten continues to bring the pain, delivering the musical equivalent of emotional valium. Songs like “I’m Wrong” and “Leonard” sound so aurally fragile you fear they’ll get pulverized under all the broken-hearted heft, and lines like “You’re the reason I’ll move to the city/Or why I’ll need to leave” clearly drive the point home. Although this is her heaviest-sounding record to date, at times, her haunting vocals and sharp lyrics seem to swallow the accompaniment of her barely-there band.

When the music finally breaks free of its heavenly drone on compositions like “Serpents” and “All I Can” (with a spirited assist from members of Beirut and The National), the effect is like a roof collapsing on itself. It remains unclear as to whether or not the protagonist emerges unscathed. (Thursday&Friday@Lincoln Hall in Chicago with Shearwater.)

— Curt Baran

If you were told that Jack White inked an all-female band to his burgeoning Third Man imprint, 99 times out of a 100 you’d guess that they’d sound and look like The Black Belles. (Wednesday@Empty Bottle with Bleached and Hollows.)

Judging from West 34‘s appearance, the only use they could find for a skinny tie would be to hang the wearer. But, given their name and the title of their first all-original EP Road To Nowhere, the road provides a little something for everyone. The new-wavey keyboard line that gives opener “All I Want Is You” its melody doesn’t sound entirely out of place, especially since most of the five songs can be sourced to late-’70s/early-’80s pop rock. There’s hints of Van Halen in “What You’ve Done To Me,” REO in “Darlin’,” Toto in “Politricks,” and a cross of Alice In Chains and Yes on “The Last Messiah,” all in a drama-free package. (Saturday@Central Auto Rebuilders in Brookfield.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Featured, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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  1. Fred Gade says:

    We appreciate the Illinois Entertainer and have always known it to be a excellent publication that carries national, regional AND LOCAL music news. The local bands want and need entertainment news sources such as the Entertainer. Thank you John Vernon for producing a gem. Thanks to Steve Forstneger for a rockin’ review of our new CD. You guys are the best!!!
    Uncle Freddy
    West 34