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Around Hear: October 2012

The Giving Tree Band

Counterfeit I takes pride in being unconventional on A Glimpse, An Eclipse, right down to using titles like “. . .” and “(r)this.” The band opts for a harder guitar sound than on its first two releases, creating a sonic landscape marked with battlefields, industrial beats, shouted vocals, and abrupt tempo changes. The fast-paced “Smile” evokes Henry Rollins, while the more theatrical “Grey Revolve” sounds like a radio play. (counterfeiti.bandcamp.com)
– Terrence Flamm

While Tenacious D may be the most infamous creators of tongue-in-cheek cock rock, The Divotones definitely give them a run for their money. These prolific jokesters have issued two fresh CDs, Cobra Queen and Test Tube Trauma, each featuring a dozen songs with titles like “Broke Back Mountin’” and “Match Dot Commie.” Though there are a few straight numbers, when it comes to heavy metal crudity these local legends blend humor, hormones, and hard-rocking riffs like no other. (divotones.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Add “wonderfully witty, lo-fi” to Flea Market‘s Facebook profile description that warns listeners to “expect howling guitar, distorted synths, rockin’ beats, psychedelic passage, and hummable melodies.” All this is exemplified on the opening cut (“Interloper”) of its three-song sampler, in which the band strikes this listener as the anti-Adele with its recurring anguished vocal refrain: “You’re tearing me apart”; the great line “You left me like a tip on the table” in the early Cream-like second song “Big Chief”; and the down-and-dirty, ass-shakin’ Mission Of Burma fuzz bomb of “(I’m Scared Of) Russia.” It’s a primitively fun foundation to build on! (facebook.com/fleamarketmusic)
– David C. Eldredge

Rarely does The Grateful Dead elicit lukewarm feelings. Those who drink the Kool-Aid pledge fealty to the traveling circus and those on the opposite side of the fence lambast the unshaven for expecting a miracle. The Giving Tree Band does the impossible on its fourth studio album, Vacilador. The Chicago seven-piece can turn even the most righteous Jerry Garcia critic into a fan with its Appalachian-tinged cover of “Brown Eyed Woman.” The band employs the same vaudeville sheen on “Limbo” that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber gave to “King Herod’s Song” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Dizzying banjo and a propulsive beat make “Dead Heroes” coming ’round the mountain-ready. Levon Helm’s surely smiling down from heaven at this heartfelt, 14-song collection. (thegivingtreeband.com)
– Janine Schaults

With an obvious appreciation for The Replacements, The Clash, and Cheap Trick, Go Time!’s long player Boneshaker regularly straddles the lines of garage rock, punk, and power pop. Though the group’s gritty chops are certainly well-informed, 16 tracks is definitely on the long side with much of the material running together with similarity by the end of this hour. (gotimeband.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Peoria-based Jared Grabb describes his music as “an indie/punk interpretation of country/blues/folk/bluegrass.” And based on his sophomore effort Pulling Weight, that almost nails it. “When Your Eyes Meet Mine” is far too slow to warrant the opening slot (the “indie” part?), but the title track lets the “punk” portion of his sound flow and shows the kind of energy Grabb and his friends are capable of producing. Unfortunately, that energy is never found again on the disc, as most of the rest of it settles for just Grabb’s vocals and simple acoustic plucking. There’s nothing wrong with Grabb’s sound per se, it just does nothing to move you. (jaredgrabb.com)
– Carter Moss

Crossing bits of yesteryear’s astute singer-songwriters with today’s top indie pop troubadours gives Haroula Rose’s EP, So Easy instant cross-generational appeal. The gal with a guitar mirrors everyone from Joni Mitchell or Cat Stevens to fellow local Rachael Yamagata, enchanting with four contemplative originals and gloriously casting Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” as a striking piano ballad. (haroularose.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Humboldt Lagoon is the musical stream of consciousness of singer-songwriter/producer Erik LaVergne. This one-man band avoids the main pitfalls of those who are so singular-minded: his songs, while self-indulgent, don’t overstay their welcome. “Swandive” is a beguiling track of piano and synths while “Plate Tectonics” is psychedelic electronica that plays with frequencies not often heard for intentional effect. Tracks that employ a more traditional vocal style (like the pop ballad “Just Gotta Say”) work better than forced “character” voices, as on “Holy Water.” (humboldtlagoon.com)
– Jason Scales

We lauded Men Who Listen in this space two years ago for its production values and putting the craft of songwriting at the forefront of its music. The same holds true on 2, its four-song follow-up. Yet, once the strong, proggy anthemic opener “As Far As We Can Go” finishes, each successive cut is a notch weaker than its predecessor, leaving the listener a tad disappointed that the fourth and final cut just isn’t up to the brain trust duo’s usual high standards of craftsmanship. (menwholisten.com)
– David C. Eldredge

For the most part, Another Oath, the debut from Many Places, is singer-guitarist Kevin Rieg backed by musicians Nick Godden and Matt Hennessey from the band Honest Engines. Rieg gives his acoustic-based, meandering rock songs an intriguing edge via electronically altered vocals and random noises. At times, Another Oath sounds like a Dave Matthews Band from an alternative universe. “Long Acre Room” and “Black Houses” in particular, have inventive arrangements, while “Brontosaurus” is an easy-going instrumental. (manymanyplaces.com)
– Terrence Flamm

At first blush, February from folk-inspired singer-songwriter Shelley Miller doesn’t sound like anything special. But let it simmer a bit, and before long her expressive lyrics and relatively spare instrumentation become haunting. This recording is a bit rougher around the edges than previous outings, although that just serves to increase the impact of cuts such as “Walk Away” and “Quake.” It’s a 14-song set brimming with raw, yet eloquent emotion. (shelleymiller.net)
– Jeff Berkwits

Nuns With Guns‘ ear-catching name draws attention to its punk/goth/rockabilly/electronica/acoustic/folk music. The band’s debut collection of eclectic songs is the brainchild of Chicago musician/songwriter/photographer Dav Ero. NWG’s sound brings to mind The Damned, The Cure, The Beatles (“Rocky Raccoon”), and the quirkiness of Syd Barrett mixed with Bob Dylan’s earthy poetic prose. Ero’s spoken word poetry speaks of life experiences complete with lyrics delivered in a vivid, narrative storytelling way. An unusual cover of The Beatles’ “For No One” (titled “4 No. 1″ here) features a boxing announcer calling a match. It adds a nice touch to the power struggle inherent in the song’s disintegrating relationship. There’s a friendly and fun Mexican mariachi vibe to “Elsa Benitez.” “The Visitation Of D.B. Frost” is a cross between an acoustic Dylan and Stealers Wheel’s famous phrase from “Stuck In The Middle With You.” Ero delivers a varied and diverse listening experience on this debut. (davero.net)
– Kelley Simms

Michael Anthony Putignano has been playing/singing in power-metal bands since 1985, but through a variety of unfortunate circumstances, he now finds himself playing on his own. His first solo effort, Lost Horizons, attempts to capture the purity and passion of his rock voice. While Putignano obviously has the vocal chops and a strong grasp of musical history, his songs unfortunately come off as cheesy, complete with uninspired lyrics and forgettable riffs. The highlights come in the ballads, where Putignano’s authenticity is allowed to carry the entire song. (maputignano.com)
– Carter Moss

Shift‘s chest-beating punk rock with a melodious and catchy twist fills its debut release, Issues And Addictions. Possessing a blue-collar attitude, yet displaying a commercial pop/rock sensibility, the band delivers 12 tracks of energetic and chant-able anthems. Loaded with great melodies, vocal harmonies, infectious gang chants, bouncy drum beats, and prominent bass lines, the album packs a surprising right hook. (shiftpunk.com)
– Kelley Simms

It’s always a delight to hear well-performed jazz, and Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Rooms is among the finest purveyors of such fare. The trio’s sophomore release, Spacer, is an entrancing effort, with the eponymous leader’s rich vibraphone melding perfectly with Nate McBride’s bass lines and the robust percussion of Mike Reed. Although “Hi Touch” and “Bees” are arguably the standout cuts, all 10 songs are solid. (jasonadasiewicz.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

The Wanton Looks is an all-female garage-rock band that serves as a throwback all the way to The Runaways and even to the not-so-distant mavens The Fastbacks. On a recent self-titled album, the grunge riffs and repetitive vocal harmonies sound straight out of the Pacific Northwest circa 1991 – especially “Get Thru To You.” Twelve tracks clock in at under 40 minutes, requiring the band to compose songs that are brief, punchy, and instantly sing-able. (wantonlooks.com)
– Jason Scales

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