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Around Hear: May 2009

| May 4, 2009

Around Hear


“This fucker sounds just like Tom Waits. Do we need another Tom Waits?” Matt Arbogast, a.k.a. The Gunshy, asks on I Gave Too Much Time To The Wine‘s title track. It’s a fair self-critique, but, as he also points out, “Dylan was Woody” and “there’s a hundred Pogues.” Too Much Time comprises new material and two older EPs and shows how much Arbogast has improved his craft since 2004, though the early material ain’t too shabby, either. As far as Waits soundalikes, you could certainly do worse. (

Trevor Fisher

On The Tide Has Turned, The Assembly construct an album Bloc Party should have made. It’s destined for the dance floor, loaded with hooks, maintains a delightfully dark undercurrent, and features programmed beats balanced with live instrumentation. Fans of The Rapture will likely be entranced by “Optimization”; those preferring an industrialized edge can turn to “If They Exist”; and a goth-tinged cover of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” would even make Dave Gahan proud.(

Andy Argyrakis

Dear Future may hail from tiny Pickneyville, but it strives for a sound anything but small. The band’s sophomore effort, Can’t Wait Any Longer, is all about big: anthemic choruses sweep over instrumentation communicating grand messages. While Dear Future freely borrows from the shoegaze of bands like Film School and the introspective pop of Snow Patrol, it still somehow manages to pull off an original sound. (

Carter Moss

With a visage that recalls McCartney and even sounding like Macca on the skiffle-esque “Sunglass Wardrobe,” most the rest of his 14-song Abstract Man finds Tom Fuller‘s vocals so shrouded by heavily produced classic-rock instrumentation that a certain sense of artifice creeps in. Lyrical lapses such as “Protecting my ass . . . no questions asked” and a cover of best-forgotten “The Air That I Breathe” (made famous by The Hollies) don’t help. But closing acoustic cut “Franklin Street” does hint at better grounded potential for future recovery. (

David C. Eldredge

So many Windy City acts are influenced by Cheap Trick, but very few borrow just a little bit and expand with their own dynamic. Though “Stuck In The Box,” off Holding Mercury‘s Downfall Of An Empire, has echoes of that Rockford legend, modern alt-rock guitars and frontman Matt Hoffer’s rugged delivery never sound derivative. References like The Cars or newcomers Your Vegas aren’t that far behind throughout the melodic ear candy “Standing Eight Count” and “Let It Go,” but once again excel, thanks to inventive framework. ( mercury)

Andy Argyrakis

The Insecurities‘ debut EP, Ban The Kiss Hello: A Social Commentary, has more letters in its title than minutes on its six songs. Each track name contains a philosophical subtitle, a hint of the brainy lyrics contained within. Musically, the quintet gels effortlessly. The piano-infused pop underneath the honest vocals clearly calls to mind shades of Jack’s Mannequin, which is a great vein to settle in and should make the group feel a little more secure about its musical future.(

Carter Moss

JT Nero is an offbeat side-project for JT Lindsay, lead singer for JT And The Clouds. His falsetto yields mixed results on Demons/Demons, a CD of slow, acoustic music. His singing distracts from the appealing melody and doo-wop backup vocals on “How It Runs” and seems forced on the disjointed “Diamond Cutter.” On the plus side, Nero crafts classic soul on the shimmering “The Sun Ain’t Your Friend” and “Who Shot Sam Cooke?” (

Terrence Flamm

Listening to Matt Robinson‘s full-length debut, Everybody Dreams Under Big Trees, it’s obvious he has abundant influences, but whether he can mold them into something of his own isn’t so certain. The singer/songwriter and his band are capable musicians on “Sing Me Do” and “Time Will Only Tell,” but Radiohead and Cat Stevens are best left to Radiohead and Cat Stevens. Nothing sticks out on Big Trees because nothing sounds like Robinson’s own. (

Trevor Fisher

After playing stages (of the theatrical kind) all over Chicagoland, recent high-school grad and Disney-connected Justin Stein just opened Corbin Bleu’s tour. His self-titled debut is perfectly formulaic – borrowing beats from “the other Justin,” infusing enough dance and hip-hop for the boys, and plenty of swooning ballads for the girls. Fortunately, buried beneath all the slick production, Stein appears to have actual vocal talent. (

Carter Moss

Acoustic guitarist Jim Green, also known as The Wandering Endorphin, is a player and songwriter in the Andy McKee/Michael Hedges mold. He creates compelling, mostly instrumental music that combines a bit of pop songwriting with new-age hypnotics. Green’s latest, When The Moon Was Full Of Mystery, is mostly solo acoustic with some light piano, harmonica, and Native American flute backing. The music is smooth, melodic, and full of the kind of chops that make the guitar disappear and let the song move to the forefront. (

Mike O’Cull

The assemblage of sounds by Nick Butcher on Bee Removal is music at its most concrete. Imagine sitting harborside, listening to the steady chimes of a bell buoy, while in the background a vinyl LP skips as your next-door neighbor ceaselessly scans the FM dial. If such is your cup of tea, you’ll want to latch on to one of these 500 limited-edition custom CDs before they disappear. (

David C. Eldredge

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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