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Around Hear: August 2012

| July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

The journey from carpenter to musician only took Joe Pug four years, and it’s already proven to be the right career change. On his sophomore effort, Pug, surrounded by several great musicians, proves he can hang with the singer/songwriter stylings of Dylan and the folk sounds of Wilco. The Great Despiser’s 11 tracks won’t blow you away, but they will wash over you and attempt to seep deep into your soul. If Pug’s songwriting continues to mature and he allows himself to explore new sounds, he could continue to build a bigger music career than any construction project he’s ever done. (joepugmusic.com)
– Carter Moss

Beware My Lovely’s eponymous debut channels ’60s Jefferson Airplane (complete with Grace Slick-sounding vocals!) through more modern mediums like The Dead Weather. The foursome manages to infuse both blues and punk-garage into its rock, without ever fully committing to either. This serves to create compelling songs driven by passionate female vocals and powerful riffs – which is more than enough to compensate for the average lyric-writing. (myspace.com/bewaremylovelyband)
– Carter Moss

There’s no denying Jenny Bienemann’s talents as a soft-spoken vocalist, thumb piano player, and digital looper, though recording Girl Friday during rush hour at the Ogilvie Transportation Center live without any overdubs seems like an uncontrolled variable. In fact, the 11 tracks suffer from such sparse production they sound more like bedroom demos dying to be fleshed out and not something that should be publicly released. (jennybienemann.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

After viewing the cover of Denial Machine’s self-titled debut, I was already thinking Disturbed for some reason. Mastered by famed guitarist/producer James Murphy (Obituary, Death, Testament), its punchy and tight sound propels the band’s aggressive-yet-melodic tunes. Harsh, abrasive vocals and a groove/melodeath/metalcore combination is met with some calculated, layered harmonies. Although the CD is often plagued with homogenized, formulaic modern metal mediocrity, there’s something hopeful and promising about Denial Machine. (facebook.com/denialmachine)
– Kelley Simms

Elephant In The Dark is the third release from Wilmette-based Jay Einhorn, who is a clinical psychologist by day and a singer/songwriter by night. Einhorn claims this release is a “multi-genre” album, but that’s quite a stretch: each of the 14 tracks fall squarely in the country/folk genre, with Einhorn’s old-fashioned serious vocals over acoustic guitar, with the occasional harmonica, piano, and fiddle thrown in. At least he’s trying and staying true to who he is, but his only fans will likely be those who love finding ’70s folk vinyls at Goodwill. (elephantinthedark.com)
– Carter Moss

Farkus‘ sophomore effort, Naked Eye Astronomy, shows the alt-rock quartet continuing to mature and expand its sound. Opener “Taken Down” sounds straight off a mid-’90s episode of MTV’s “120 Minutes,” the second track “Uninvited To Life” borrows its uptempo rock straight from The Offspring, and the third “Who Needs Heaven” is a pure piano-led bar ballad. In just eight tracks the band proves it’s already wise enough to know when to bring the in-your-face rock, when to slow down, and when to just sit back and jam. (farkusmusic.com)
– Carter Moss

Go Long Mule’s Kissing The Gunner’s Daughter is a throwback/rarity in more ways than one: a “concept” album that hearkens back to a more black-and-white wartime executed by a self-described “vaudeville roots rock rag and bones folk revival” band. Such aspirations are to be admired in this day of downloads and, at its upbeat best (as on “Rattlesnakes”), the music has a Mumford & Sons-ish charm. Were that there were more of these charming moments to the conceptual solemnity that marks most of the rest of the music. (golongmule.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Rock/blues quartet Greensugar’s self-titled debut combines a Bad Company swagger with a Southern-rock zest – a la Marshall Tucker Band and the Black Crowes – as displayed on opener “Drown The Angels.” The nine tracks are performed with heart and just the right amount panache without becoming too clichéd. The band’s sound is decorated with a resurgent, retro rock/blues flavor and, though Greensugar isn’t at the highest level within blues/rock circles yet, they show promise. (thegreensugar.com)
– Kelley Simms

Harlan Flo’s self-recorded/produced sophomore outing, Strategy, is eight tracks of bluesy, poppy rock with female/male dual-harmony vocals. The title track’s fat groove and cool jazz flavor is decorated with thick basslines and a snappy snare beat. Surfer rock and Hendrix licks are merged on “Stumble Quick And Run,” while a sultry blues riff and lively layered vocal harmonies, including some female doo-wops, make up “Land Of The Gardens.” Harlan Flo’s catchy choruses and easy-flowing rhythms are met with lightly-covered power chords and twangy blues licks. (harlanflo.com)
– Kelley Simms

Though The JLDJ retains the power to cast you to the floor, clutching your belly and crying out for coherence, albums like He Walks make his dedication to a vision both hard to ignore and commendable. His formulas and instrumentation draw from convention, but his unusual combinations and idiosyncratic mixes have conspired to forge a singular identity. He might not always be listenable, and songs like the title cut and “Cruel And Beautiful” have a beauty that’s singularly peculiar – but they’re indisputably original creations, something many pop artists have neither the sense nor the guts to attempt. (nrrecco@fastmail.fm)
– Steve Forstneger

Tom Krol has worked as a producer, engineer, and session guitarist for TV commercials, film, and video soundtracks for years. With Primero, which he produced himself, the guitar virtuoso steps out for his own project. Krol’s take on famous classical piece “Prelude To C Minor” by Bach, as well as well-known guitar instrumentals from Triumph’s Rik Emmett (“A Midsummer’s Daydream”) and Rush’s Alex Lifeson (“Broon’s Bane”), are performed clinically and proficiently well, even adding his own flair. Listening to 17 instrumental acoustic guitar tracks takes a certain amount of patience, but Krol seems to engage uninitiated listeners and pulls it off well. (youtube.com/user/tomkrolmusic)
– Kelley Simms

Released months ago, Now Or Neva from gangsta dons L.E.P. Bogus Boys seems to presage this summer’s relentless killings. The set’s boilerplate creep, however, gets interrupted by spliced news clips of innocents cut down in gang crossfire, and instead of being motivated by fame Count and Moonie rap like they’re trying to outrun fate. DJ Green Lantern’s production drops the duo in a pool that isn’t necessarily evocative of Chicago, but they prove they can swim while Meek Mill and Lupe Fiasco look on. (lepbogusboys.com)
– Steve Forstneger

T. Rex and The Kinks have collided in Chicago before, but this time they take a sidetrip through Minneapolis to resurface in local expat Chris Perricelli’s Little Man. Vaingloriously fuzzy ’70s rock typically gets served with a spoonful of irony these days, a disclaimer to protect the artist’s delicate image. The Orbital Amusement EP makes no apologies for its influences, however, actually thickening its sugary anthems to keep them from floating mockingly away. Original? Hardly, but a welcome tonic for nod-along blues. (littlemanmusic.net)
– Steve Forstneger

Kathi McDonald was an Ikette in Las Vegas, appeared on The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, and sang for Big Brother & The Holding Company, while her partner in the blues Rich Kirch logged 13 years in John Lee Hooker’s Coast To Coast Blues Band. Throughout Nothin’ But Trouble, the former’s deep bellied wails meld seamlessly with the latter’s meaty licks, yielding a quintessential modern Chicago blues recording. (teardroprecords.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Its pliable production approach makes Houses amenable to any number of indie-rock enclaves, but that might be more because Pet Lions’ melodies tap the genre’s source code: Thurston Moore. “When I Grow Old” and “Mexican Cigarettes” are an expressway to Daydream Nation, filling out the East Coast surfer vibe with heavily reverbed guitar lines. Houses loses itself toward the close, though the ill-fitting “Trinidad” and “Southern Arms” aren’t incongruous enough to foil the intrigue. (petlions.com)
– Steve Forstneger

With knob-twiddling sonic embellishments to its opening cuts’ sonic assaults on Failure, the latest from Unicycle Loves You initially brings to mind early (and less tinnitus-inducing) Mission Of Burma. But as the outing moves from Side A to Side B and Nicole Vitale takes on more of the vocal leads, the gears shift to a more lyrical, Best Coast-ish conventional indie sound much more subversively attractive to this listener’s ears. (unicyclelovesyou.com)
– David C. Eldredge

High Speed Merry-Go-Round starts to explore a promising theme of self-discovery during incarceration. But ultimately, intense reflection revealed one thing to 30aut6 – they really like Nickelback. Though it shows flashes of brute power in uptempo rockers like “If We Could Stand You,” too much of High Speed is spent in boggy post-grunge swamps, by-the-numbers power ballads, and railing against that age-old foe: “you.” 30aut6 need to blast their way out of self-confinement. (reverbnation.com/30aut6)
– Steve Forstneger

Throughout Vintage Blue’s Strike The Mics, the troupe blends a little bit of funk, folk and good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. The results range between affable to overly whitewashed and bland, sounding several years behind the times while recalling the likes of Blues Traveler or Sister Hazel. Though the guys’ playing chops are certainly sharp, it’s a shame they couldn’t offer up a less exhausted style. (vintagebluemusic.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Young Jesus’ debut bills itself as “the grungy lovechild of Arcade Fire and Alkaline Trio,” and as strange as that sounds, it’s actually accurate. However, that doesn’t mean the group’s alt-rock/folk rumblings and post-punk angst are meant to be played on top of one another, which leaves Home’s lofty intentions disjointed at best and maddening at worst. (facebook.com/youngjesus)
– Andy Argyrakis

Though raised and originally based in New York state, Rediculous spent a disproportionate amount of time promoting and developing Chicago-bred artists. He’s since moved here in time to issue the next installment of his “Masters Of Conversation” series, Punchlines And Parables. Boasting a guestlist from Sadat X to Brooklyn’s up-and-coming Ruste Juxx, Rediculous provides a progressive-hip-hop backdrop that mixes neo-soulfulness with distorted rock textures, all with throwback boom-bap beats. When New Yorkers start flocking this direction, you know Chicago has something brewing. (knowledgegivingbirth.com)
– Steve Forstneger

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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