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Around Hear: December 2009

| December 4, 2009

Local Band Reviews!

The Additives

Should It End, the second release from The Additives, offers inventive keyboard and guitar arrangements that fall somewhere between prog rock and jazz. Unfortunately, Joe Ryan’s talky, off-kilter singing doesn’t go with the flow, especially on some of the more awkwardly phrased lyrics he’s written. Having background vocals on the catchy “Miss Saturday Night” certainly helps, but there should be even more vocal diversity in the band’s approach. (

— Terrence Flamm

Singer/songwriter Jeffrey Altergott could very well be the male version of Aimee Mann on Balloons, thanks to his provocative songwriting (“Everyday Is A Reason”) and organic arrangements (“Dandelion”). Producer Chuck Harling keys into the talented tunesmith’s roots rock/acoustic undertones (especially on the sublime “Something Beautiful”) and brings out a warmth and comfort that also evokes fellow locals Andrew Bird and Neko Case. (

— Andy Argyrakis

You can’t fault a band for wanting to keep the party going and, in that regard, Band Called Catch‘s album will happily fight the barkeep for another round of Miller Lite. Their shuffling, jam-lite pop is earmarked for the Dave Matthews crowd and what it lacks in nuance or originality it battles back with consistency and likability. When you work this hard to be unobtrusive, however, it’s hard to understand “Girl Gone Wild,” an ill-conceived, misogynisitic slam (despite there being a female Catch-mate) that seems to take aim at their target audience. (

— Steve Forstneger

Instrumentally speaking, Celestine‘s Transparent is an excellent album. Husband Michael Barry’s string and keyboard work is absolutely top-notch, especially on tracks like “Keep On Going (God Cares)” and “Long, Long Way From Home.” While Celestine has a remarkable voice, the disc as a whole comes off as extremely heavy handed (even for gospel), which unfortunately sours much of the overall listening experience. (

— Dean Ramos

Early on, Rondi Charleston‘s performance of In My Life‘s title track is transcendent, though by the time she warbles such standards as “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” and “Shall We Dance” her robust voice simply isn’t enough to overcome otherwise uninspired arrangements. Of the 14 jazz cuts, only a handful — most notably the aforementioned Beatles cover and her self-penned “Ancient Steps” — are worthwhile. (

— Jeff Berkwits

Not much goes right on Defective Monk‘s five-track demo, Union 666 Local. The herky-jerky computerized beats, tinny synth, and overall muddy sound are curiously billed as “electro-house-metal” — but none of these genres is done any justice. The vocals need fixing as well. Songs such as “Tramp Stamp” feature a constipated style, only to be followed up by a tone-deaf delivery on “Everyday People.” (

— Jason Scales

Hair metal, hard rock, and humor are all integral elements to The DivotonesThat Gorilla Mine. While its retro, guitar-driven sonics are unmistakably ’80s, frontman Edward Placha’s lyrical vision is considerably more up-to-date and original. And Placha clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously when making tracks as offbeat as “The Little Blue Pill” — a number about being past 40 and needing Viagra to help keep up with his lady’s sexual “appetite.” (

— Max Herman

Former Philadelph-ians Gehenna (a name soon to be changed thanks to a pair of European metal bands vying to be the true Gehenna) might not have purposefully recorded the Silent Cooperative EP to sound like Chicago, but it does. Actually, strongest cut “Vortex Soul” aside, the songs recall the ’90s alt-rock explosion when having a disc mixed like a demo was cool. Luckily for (ex) Gehenna it suits the material: sloppy, no frills, honest. (

— Kevin Keegan

The Injured Parties offer a mix of character studies and offbeat love songs on Fun With A Purpose. Singer/songwriter Larry O. Dean, formerly with Post Office, has a talky vocal approach that’s annoying on some of the slower songs, but his rapid-fire assurances on “For Your Protection” and humorous attention to detail on the catchy “Zingerman’s Deli” help the CD live up to its name. “Beauty Of The Block” is the best of Dean’s slice-of-life acoustic tunes. (

— Terrence Flamm

Rock quintet Kickbend has been kickin’ it live around Chicagoland for nearly 20 years now, so it’s about time the band makes its songs available on a full-length album. Enter Faith, Hope, Love, which is an album searching for an identity. The first half borrows its chords and choruses from Bon Jovi (the lead vocals are eerily similar to Jon Bon himself at times), which isn’t bad, just less glamorous. But halfway through, it veers off into mostly meandering ballads alongside a few almost-bluesy blues tracks. The listener is left slightly satisfied and thoroughly confused. (

— Carter Moss

New wave/glam/goth rockers Kill Hannah return with their fifth album, Wake Up The Sleepers. Saturated with boggy synthesizers and the whispery, ineffectual vocals of frontman Mat Devine for most of the disc, there are, however, standouts like “Tokyo (Dance In The Dust,” “Acid Rain,” and the unfortunately titled “Mouth To Mouth.” “Escape Artistry” in particular — with its L.A. punk leanings — really sets itself apart from what can otherwise be considered an overly calculated, overly produced affair. (

— Dean Ramos

Despite the billing and guitar pose on its cover, Aaron Koppel Quartet‘s Falling Together Falling Apart puts most of its emphasis on the word “quartet.” Guitarist Koppel leads from the side, making space so his bandmates can further his hard-bop agenda. While his compositions don’t quite latch onto melodies as well as his heroes’, Koppel takes an un-Wes Montgomery approach and doesn’t dizzy you with his solos. He pops in when ready, and steps out of the spotlight with taste and grace. (

— Steve Forstneger

Singer/songwriter Tim Kough depicts a number of characters on his first CD, Dreams & Demons, but needs to hone his skills in telling their stories. “Child’s Play,” a song about abusive parents, is over-the-top in terms of lyrics and vocals, while the tale of “Tin Man Gardenhire” lacks focus. The fun and imaginative love song “Magic Carpet” is much better and “Worst Of You” benefits from David Johnson’s tuneful mandolin playing. (

— Terrence Flamm

Low Rent has played cool, roots-based rock since 1997. Their latest, Dishonesty, was produced by Brendan Fitzpatrick and shows the band in fine form, showering tracks like “Vest Of Blue” and “Silver-Pleated Water” in a loose, Stones-approved style that is instantly appealing. Low Rent shows rock, country, and even alternative influences that all work together to make one very listenable album from start to finish. (

— Mike O’Cull

Withstanding the obnoxiously long title of The Luck Of Eden Hall‘s new album, When The Clock Starts To Wake Up We Go To Sleep, there’s nothing too pretentious about this 13-track effort. This Chicago trio lays down accessible psychedelic rock, informed by ’60s acts like Cream, but also open to modern touches (see the effect and synth-tinged “A Child In A Mine”). Sure the psyche haze can become too clouded at times, but doeses of pop (“Down In Mexico”) help clear the path. (

— Max Herman

Despite being inspired by incidents encountered on their recent Southwest tour, the 10 tunes on Exiles, the latest CD from The Race, seem cold rather than sweltering, detached rather than desolate. There’s a slight cowboy air to a few tracks, especially “Black Boat” and “Ride The High Country,” but the cuts sound like some type of weird, late-1980s Depeche Mode/Nine Inch Nails mash-up. Though well performed, the music is more old-fashioned than Old West. (

— Jeff Berkwits

The plethora of Beatles references throughout Silverbeat‘s Meet At The Jacaranda might pique the interest of Fab Four fans. But considering the mop-top teasers “Beautiful Girls” and “Imagine” (not to be confused with the John Lennon song) sound like they were recorded from a low-budget keyboard with equally amateur production makes the well-intentioned project virtually unlistenable. (Contact:

— Andy Argyrakis

Rebecca Sometimes’ voice seems to be an acquired taste, but fortunately her group, The Sometimes Family, more often than not hit the right notes. Their self-titled, 12-tune debut is likeable enough, with sweet pop songs like “Red Riders” and “Rabbit” bolstered by solid acoustic guitar and flute accompaniment. Still, it’s the bandleader’s pesky pipes that keep the collection from being in any way impressive. (

— Jeff Berkwits

Performing under the pseudonym Static In Verona, Rob Merz has issued a one-two indie-pop punch with both a four-song EP, Life-Sized Replica, and an 11-tune CD, Be Quiet As You Leave. Each is sonically sweet, with “Two O’Clock Lights” the standout track on the shorter project and “Unlucky Stars” the highlight of the lengthier disc. It’s unclear why he separated the two efforts, but together or apart they’re thoroughly entertaining. (

— Jeff Berkwits

Falling somewhere between a roots-rock act and a jam band, Van Ghost‘s Melodies For Lovers is loaded with punchy riffs and grimy grooves. At its best, the group kicks up some serious dust a la Drive-By Truckers or Cracker, though there are also shades of hippie-clad self-indulgence that may turn off straight-up Americana appreciators. (

— Andy Argyrakis

Influenced by the likes of Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd, and Dream Theater, Schaumburg’s Voodoo Monkey Child‘s double-disc Under A Crescent Moon is loaded with progressive-rock tendencies. Though not as refined or packing as much of a production budget as the aforementioned, the musicianship is top-notch and having a female vocalist adds some originality. However, two discs is overkill and could’ve been streamlined to a more succinct, single installment. (

— Andy Argyrakis

Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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  1. Rob Merz says:

    Thanks for the nice review of the Static In Verona discs. To answer your question, the EP is available for FREE on to promote the full-length album (available on CD Baby and iTunes). That’s why they are separate releases.

    Thanks again!

  2. Dom Stasi says:

    Carter, thanks for the review! We would have preferred “slightly confusing yet thoroughly satisfying”…maybe next time!

    The concept of our album is a timeline of the last fifty years in modern music. From the vintage record intro of ‘Gone’ to the futuristic ending of ‘The beat goes on’, the tracks pay homage to those who paved the way for local and indie bands.
    The nods to the likes of blues legends, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and others are intentional.

    Having said that…the CD is available at select Chicagoland Best Buy stores and numerous online stores. We are giving away FREE discs this month to the first ten who add us on MySpace Music and post a comment.

    Happy holidays!