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Around Hear: April 2012

| March 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

NTD Records’ HiFi Superstar continue to refine their power-pop hooks on their third long-player, One Hit Wonder. Maturing as songwriters and as tight as a band that performs nearly 150 shows a year, OHW mines the blueprints of early Elvis Costello (“Give Me A Try’), Cheap Trick (“Closer”), and the modern punk-pop of Green Day (“Lucky Day”), as well as cult Anglo bands of the ’70s and ’80s like T.Rex and The Wild Swans. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Paterson and drummer/vocalist Glenn Mikes’ spot-on harmonies add to their strongest collection of music to date. With Billboard and MTV chart entries for past music and seven years of staying power, there’s no one-hit wonders here. (hifisuperstar.com)
— David Gedge

Anti-Crew specializes in cross-genre hip-hop on its 16-track album, Foundation: Expansion Plan. The foursome’s live instrumentation is mixed with smooth rapid-fire raps and melodic crooning, a la Linkin Park, on “After The End.” A 311-ish reggae-and-rock fusion works on “One Time,” “Crucial,” and “Blur.” Showing more range, “Creator” plays up hip-hop bombast with loudspeaker vocal samples, and “Kurt Cobain” is a slick, beat-heavy track. (anticrewmusic.com)
— Jason Scales

Local singer/songwriter/comedian-wannabe John Kuczaj, host of the North Side’s “Acoustic Explosion,” decided it was time to try his hand at recording a full-length album under the moniker Atomic Shop. While his melodies are solid, his vocals leave a lot to be desired. A whole lot. His biggest strength might be in crafting song titles: gems like “I Wish My Girlfriend Was As Dirty As My Car,” “I Accidentally Wrote A Country Song,” and “Boy Band Beatdown” evoke more laughter than their actual lyrics. (atomicshopmusic.com)
— Carter Moss

Something traumatic involving a bicycle, brother, and freezing cold weather must’ve happened to Bedroom Sons‘ prime mover Chris Dertz, since they lie at the heart of each of the four songs in his DIY, from-the-living-room Father EP. In all, somewhat reminiscent of Creed, but fortunately less didactically strident. (facebook.com/bedroomsons)
— David C. Eldredge

Blues/poet Wes Heine’s Cousin Bones lives and breathes Chicago blues. But it also blows that description right out of Lake Michigan on its self-titled release by adding odd and eclectic influences ranging from Delta blues to rock to progressive/psychedelic to country. Heine’s scratchy, Marlboro-and-Jim Beam vocals are complemented by slide guitar, banjo, harmonica, and congas. The 16 lively tracks about getting drunk, getting drunk after giving plasma (“At The Plasma Clinic”), the lack of jobs and money, and the end of the world (again), reflect an accurate model of the current state of the American way and ultimately Cousin Bones’ world. The band often segues into spokenword set to twangy blues licks. Cousin Bones’ DIY approach to old-time blues with modern poetry elements is a fun and sometimes twisted listening experience. (myspace.com/cousinbonesband)
— Kelley Simms

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Doctaryn has the heart of a rocker but the voice and even album cover look of someone who’d fit better in the country scene (with a harmonica and piano to go alongside her acoustic guitar). Comparing her to Wynonna Judd would be kind, considering her vocal range is so limited, while a completely flat cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” does nothing to advance her confusing cause. (reverbnation.com/doctaryn)
— Andy Argyrakis

Drummer/songwriter/producer Paul Edelstein‘s Passion & Perseverance was written and recorded from a drummer’s point of view with no set musical styles or boundaries on its 10 eclectic tracks. The CD is a conglomeration of rock, jazz, pop, prog, metal, blues, folk, and country, and all derive from Edelstein’s back catalog. No singer — and he doesn’t claim to be — but Edelstein’s songwriting skills and drumming prowess outweighs his vocal shortcomings. He proudly goes where most drummers are unable to go. (myspace.com/pauldrum)
— Kelley Simms

There’s plenty of groove throughout the psychedelic blues sounds of High Action on the Circle EP, but the three tracks contained therein are lacking in the hooks department. Though the foursome are certainly proficient instrumentally, they’d be best diving deeper into the catalogs of presumed influences like Santana or The Allman Brothers Band to get the hang of making more memorable material. (myspace.com/highaction1)
— Andy Argyrakis

Borrowing its title from a review in Time Out Chicago, Highball‘s More Hooks, Less Polish easily lives up to the billing. There are plenty of rough-sawn edges to the rip-saw guitars on “Why Did I Pick You,” while the big, jumpy chorus ensures a heavy hook. The rocket-fueled pace of the album leaves no room for filler and each cut explodes right out of the chute. The devilish artwork shows Highball has the right attitude and swagger that perfectly matches its rough-n-tumble tunes. (highballchicago.com)
— Patrick Conlan

Year X, the latest release from JIP, has the feel of a band performing in a club. Occasionally, singer/guitarist Jim Gwynn’s material can be nondescript, as on “Hard To Change,” but along with bassist/vocalist Spencer Watson and drummer Brent Fatig, he impresses on energetic tracks like “Not Alone,” as well as the more intricate “Night And Day.” Grammy-nominated Tracy Bonham is a guest lead vocalist on “This Song Will Last Forever,” which she co-wrote with Gwynn. (getjip.com)
–Terrence Flamm

Singer/songwriter Dan Krikorian glides through the easy-going Americana of his third release, Windsor Blue, with help from a bevy of studio musicians. “Wait” sets the mood with a toe-tapping country & western arrangement, and Krikorian exudes a folksy charm on “Thief Like That” and the title track. “Quincy” is an elegant love song, while “New York City Day” sports a full-bodied production complete with horns and backup singers. (dankrikorian.com)
–Terrence Flamm

Losing Scarlet is like Evanescence’s and Flyleaf’s angrier older sister, who used to lock them in the closet and scream at them for hours. Frontwoman Jodi has some anger issues behind that sweet face, as she thrusts her passionate melodic vocals over the gut-punching guitar riffs. The eight tracks definitely lack some sonic variety, but if you lament hearing the same formula repeated, it’s not a bad sound to be stuck with. You’ll end up feeling you just got chewed out by a bitter ex-girlfriend — and liked it. (losingscarlet.com)
— Carter Moss

Elgin-based The Love Shots is the first band to attach itself to the term “deathwop.” Labels aside, the band is at least a unique blend of several influences, including doo-wop, early punk, new wave, and alt-rock. All of this makes its debut Crooner tantalizing ear candy, channeling Arctic Monkeys on some tracks, and the Ramones on others — but all of which are well-suited for the next iPod commercial. It’s a stronger and more diverse debut than many bands are able to scrape together, and shows promise. Long live deathwop! (theloveshots.com)
— Carter Moss

Lucrezio‘s Storybook offers a striking convergence of buzzing crackle and glistening pop solitude. Songs like “Take Me Away” and “Tragedy,” which primarily feature Jennifer Lucrezio’s voice and graceful piano, will immediately resonate with Tori Amos’ fans. For our money, however, the more robust tracks have more staying power. “Every Word” is a super-charged rocker with thick, crashing guitars. “Dreamer” is a passionate, emotive ballad, as distant guitar washes over meditative piano and Lucrezio’s soaring vocals, before swelling into epic catharsis. (lucreziomusic.com)
— Patrick Conlan

Joe Moran never dreamed of a music career; he was a union mechanic who suddenly started playing guitar and writing songs for his newborn kids. Years later, his debut effort was birthed. Considering Moran played every instrument (except drums), and wrote and sang every note, Bird Herd represents a solid effort. Moran’s voice is subtle and honest, with hints of Dylan and Petty peeking through. While none of the 11 tracks are especially memorable, together they create a respectable collection of simple melodies and honest but not-too-deep lyrics. (audubonsavant.com)
— Carter Moss

With all the attention that “mall punk” received in its heyday, it’s hard to remember that there were guys spitting out snotty, wild-eyed, old-school punk. The Mushuganas‘ cleverly titled retrospective, Low In The Mid 90s (Premium Beer Can), is a rollicking, schizophrenic collection of B-sides, 7-inch splits, live cuts, and interview snippets. With 32 tracks, it’s a bit overwhelming for single-sitting consumption, but frenetic cuts like “Handsome And Beautiful” and “Her Boyfriend” will keep you coming back. (myspace.com/beercanrecords)
— Patrick Conlan

A bit all over the place — but in a good way — musically, Scientific Map‘s second full-lengther swings from proggy-fusion to almost Hall & Oatesian-flavored pop/rock without missing a beat. Rust Belt Soul is held together mostly by the virtuoso guitar playing of bandleader Matt Hudson and tasty keys of Dave Holloway, and as a happy hacker, how can one not have a soft spot in the heart for a band that titles one of its songs “Vijay Singh?” (imaginarychicago.com)
— David C. Eldredge

Drawing upon classic rock, blues, jazz, funk, and psychedelic influences, Marcus Singletary delivers some broad and competent music on Smokin’. Singletary handles all vocals, guitars, keyboards, and theremin, while bassist Cliff Starbuck and ex-Doobie Brothers drummer Chet McCracken are featured, along with a versatile horn section. Together they lay down some funky grooves and have a solid foundation steeped in a “far out, man” range of influences, including an interesting version of Bob Marley’s “Misty Morning.” (facebook.com/marcus.singletary)
— Kelley Simms

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