Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Celebrate the gift of giving to yourself

| December 15, 2011

This is the last weekend to shop for Christmas gifts. Wouldn’t you rather spend it at a concert? Try Foreign Exchange/ex-Little Brother rhymer Phonte, The Sea And Cake, or localboys I Fight Dragons!

Consider Phonte a realist on the mic. As part of the Grammy-nominated soul group The Foreign Exchange and formally of the down-to-earth hip-hop act Little Brother, this North Carolina native hasn’t been known to present life in a grandiose way. Weaving between reflections on relationships, the music industry, and everyday life in modern America, Phonte a.k.a. Phontigallo is an artist that expertly calls it just as it is.

In recent years listeners have become more accustomed to Phonte’s minimalist-styled singing heard on the Nicolay-produced Foreign Exchange albums, but in 2011, he’s returning his focus to hip-hop. With his overdue solo debut, Charity Starts At Home, Phonte’s raps using a concise, unhurried delivery about daily issues of maintaining work ethic (“Good Fight”) and monogamy (“Sendin My Love”) — this is no big baller music. But it’s not necessarily revolutionary, riot-sparking rap either. Phonte’s best at reminding us about what matters in life using common sense. On “Everything is Falling Down,” he ponders, “why rage against the machine, when you can just unplug it?”

With the help of 9th Wonder, Khrysis, and a handful of his regular collaborators, Phonte’s solo debut is solid set of crisp, candid hip-hop. While the tone of Charity Starts At Home remains very real, when Phonte hits the stage, he’s known to sometimes let the comedy flow between songs. Whether roasting his bandmates or joking with the crowd, expect Phonte and 9th Wonder to prove that indie hip-hop can indeed have big personality. (Saturday@Abbey Pub with 9th Wonder, Median, and Proh Mic.)

— Max Herman

Kind of like the turkey industry in spring — What, are you kidding? Everybody eats turkey for Easter! — The Sea And Cake have a ways to go to convince Chicagoans they’re a holiday band. Breezy melodies, the visuals implied by their name — the only cake eaten this time of year is fruitcake, and that’s theoretical — what’s a veteran post-pop band to do? Act as if nothing’s strange. Moonlight Butterfly (Thrill Jockey) — summery, titular imagery aside — is like a holiday gathering: making time for old friends and familiar faces, while keeping an eye on the calendar with thoughts about making changes. Those come in the 10-minute “Inn Keeping,” an unhurried, spacious room where the band outright experiment with their sound — mostly through a mix of organic/electronic sister instruments — and consider what’s ahead. (Saturday@Empty Bottle with Luke Roberts and Brokeback.)

Chiptune, however, with gaming systems a staple of gift-giving for 20 years now: there‘s your symbol of the holidays. Peppy geek-rockers I Fight Dragons come home this weekend in support of their late-October Atlantic release, Kaboom! While 8-bit sounds are a staple of the Dragon ethic, the songs hold them up and not the other way around. (Saturday@Metro with The Protomen and The Kickback.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Featured, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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