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Local CD Reviews

| August 29, 2008

“Around Hear” is a monthly feature where a stable of IE writers review albums sent to us by local musicians. If you are interested in having your CD (must have a minimum of three songs) reviewed and are Illinois-based, mail it and any other media materials to 657 A W. Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661. Everything that meets the aforementioned guidelines will be reviewed in the order received. This may take several months.

Though he has guitar talent to spare, Jeffery Bravo‘s The Ride depends too much on the instrument. Even when he tries to mix it up with a little Prodigy-esque techno, all the heavy guitar licks overwhelm every other aspect to the point where one wonders why Bravo bothered with the additional instrumentation. (
– Dean Ramos

Scott Darda spends way too much time with his Bob Dylan records. Sooner or later, Zimmy’s disjointed phrasing and aptitude for myth-making meld with the overzealous fan’s own personality, and the results aren’t always pretty. The 22-year-old is the equivalent of that one-man band dude with the marching bass drum protruding from the chest and tambourines strapped to the feet and often sounds as such on his self-released/recorded/engineered debut, As The Possibilicist. Darda blows through societal ills in a circus-styled attempt at rap on “On The Playback” and channels Arlo Guthrie on “Epilogue.” “Blood In The Straw” turns the traditional “Turkey In The Straw” into a screeching anti-government tir-ade. (
– Janine Schaults

Instrumental prog-rock provides the friendly skies for The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers on their latest CD, Totality. As titles like “The Choir Of Eden” and “Aeolian Rhapsody” suggest, guitarists Jimmy and Johnny Ryan, along with their rhythm section, take this stuff seriously, but there’s a lot of variety to be found among the 13 tracks. “Escape Velocity” and the title track provide guitar-driven high energy, while “The Crosses Of Annagh” creates a Celtic fantasy. (
– Terrence Flamm

Chicago quintet The Hidden Mitten delivers a handful of quirky indie rock on its EP, Roma, Roma! From the guitar-driven pop rock of “Marry Up” to the laidback melodic resonance of “Love Jar,” guitarist/vocalist Garrett and company carry an off-kilter yet mostly accessible sound accented by irregular relationship-focused lyrics. The closing song, “See My Girl,” is arguably the most unique of the bunch, beginning as an easygoing piano ballad then building into a multi-layered, distorted guitar jam. (
– Max Herman

The Interiors‘ self-titled, debut CD was almost not meant to be. A serious finger injury to singer/guitarist Chase Duncan may have delayed it, but couldn’t ultimately stop the production of 11 solid alt-rock tracks. “I’m So Happy” takes an optimistic blues-based approach with buzzing and cascading guitar progressions. “Powerlines” illustrates what the band does best: paint broad rock strokes with pulsating drum work, rumbling/wandering bass lines, and vocals delivered with a defiant, Southern rock appeal. The result is well worth the wait it took to heal the partially amputated power-chord maker. (
– Jason Scales

The Johns singer/guitarist Jon Scarpelli sounds in command on Foresight/Poorsight, whether he’s channeling Bono on the shimmering big sound of “Sun For Days” or bringing a fun drawl to the country & western rocker “Can’t Carry No More.” The band’s 11-track CD is well-polished, but too many tracks have the same mournful pedal steel arrangement. It would have been great to hear more catchy rock tracks like “The Defeatist,” which sounds like underrated ’80s U.K. band The Silencers. (
– Terrence Flamm


Given his 17-year, 10-album career with Roots, Stem & Branches, it is not surprising Kofi‘s first solo recording, New Name, serves a most accomplished selection of original roots reggae tunes – with an occasional sidestep to lovers rock (“Well Well”) and nod to Bollywood (“The Spot”). Playing and supporting vocals in this “live studio” recording are spot on, and Kofi shows his artistic mettle by letting vocalist Taketha Cole take the lead on the jaunty “Check She.” (
– David C. Eldredge

The Paul McKinney Group packs a lot of variety into its mini album, The Coachouse Tapes. Inspired by a breakup and starting over, Paul McKinney gets introspective in an upbeat manner on the folk rocker “Make Your Break” and then expectedly gets melancholy on the acoustic, Latin percussion-tinged “Truth Love & Money.” This disc successfully shows the many shades of post-breakup life and only once, on the scattered hokey metal track “Now The West Was One,” does PMG fail to generate a cohesive output. (
– Max Herman

It’s almost impossible to believe, but Blue Rhizome (Imaginary Chicago) was recorded live in one continuous take. The New Quartet expertly and seamlessly glides through avant-garde and jazz fusion (“Fortress Of Solitude”), some thick, caramelized blues (“Interlude: The Blue & The Black”), and some crunchy rock (“Destroy All Monsters”). The improvisational precision is crisp, and balance of musical styles provides a complex lushness. The New Quartet delivers a virtuoso performance so stunning in concept and execution, it must be heard to be believed. (
– Patrick Conlan


Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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Comments (4)

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  1. In response to your review of my album:

    Now, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like my music. But, why would you WRITE a negative review about someone’s art, especially if they’re independent of the status quo gobbledy guck that main stream media perpetually forces down throats? What’s wrong with you? You have no idea what it took for me to complete this project. How long did it take you to conjure up such vivid imagery in this review? If local artists weren’t kind enough to take the time to pour their heart out, make an album, assemble a lovely press package, and mail it to your office, you wouldn’t have anything to review! Maybe this job is an outlet for your negative energy. Maybe it makes you feel good putting down these independent artists. Say what you like. But, the next time you write a review, imagine what YOU would want someone to say about YOUR creations.

    If you want real honey, Honey, go local. If you want real music, go local.

  2. Josh Rouch says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Scott Darda’s album Janine Schaults. Now, I realize its your job to be honest, or whatever passes for honesty these days in the music journalism business, but come on. Really? So what if his music doesn’t fit your archetype of what should be. I’m sure some of your readers (assuming you have some) would dig his album. Darda brings enthusiasm and a refreshing sense of chaos to the scene. Reguardless of how you feel though, I know Scott, and I know he will own your bad review and rise above it. So thanks for trying to hurt the Indy music scene out here in Po-dunk Indiana. Great job. Now go listen to the corporate radio-station you probably get your pay-check from you art hating facist. By the way, more people will definitely be posting in support of Darda, BECAUSE WE SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC! Funny how thats supposed to be your job though….

  3. J.P. says:

    Kudos to you for being fearless and allowing your music to be reviewed Scott, we all know it is very difficult to create something on your own. That being said, I don’t believe it is right to bully a reviewer into saying something good about your music. I have never heard your music, and am therefore exempt from making an opinion, but as a fellow musician, and sometimes reviewer – the only person you are hurting on this board is yourself. There are two ways you can take criticism – the first is to become defensive, as we’ve already seen you do – the second is to take the good away, and learn from the bad – which would benefit all parties – including the local music scene, which you, I, and the Illinois Entertainer all support. Stay positive, and good things will find you.

  4. David says:

    Bottom line: don’t send your music out for review if you’re not prepared to hear crticism of it. Any beginner should know this as it has been published in countless musician’s periodicals and music business sources.

    Thank you to Illinois Entertainer for being willing to review EVERYTHING YOU RECEIVE, which is nearly impossible to find in any other publication these days, and lets not expect every one of those reviews to be positive.

    …and to Josh Rouch, that review was not aimed to hurt anyone or “the scene”. She was simply doing her job and calling it like she heard it – which Scott voulenteered to have done. I understand you were personally offended because someone didn’t share your musical taste (which is ridiculous in and of itself), but attacking Janine’s integrity and ethics as being coporately paid off, an indie scene killer and an art hating facist? Seriously? You’re going to find a lot of people who don’t like you in this world, so my advice is to grow some thicker skin and get over it.