Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

YP, UP, we all P for YP

| December 9, 2011

Maybe Chicago hip-hop’s always had this much talent, but is just now getting itself heard. YP is the latest to drop a stunning mixtape this year; also in town are Tribes, We Barbarians, and Lindi Ortega.

Paypa, Rockie Fresh, Bo Deal, LEP Bogus Boys . . . the list goes on. YP‘s Still Awake mixtape (free download here) strongly follows up last year’s No Sleep, and features a wide range of local producers who manage to sound consistent. In the absence of a lot of cameos, the South Shore native’s left to bear the weight of most of the tracks, and adjusts well to different beats and tones, like the spooky “Light It Up.” On the single “Who I Be,” the hook credibly evokes Fiasco, while cuts like “Hood Rich” and “Holdin Me Back” breathe fire. (Tuesday@Empty Bottle with G-Side.)

Traditionally, a concert bill gets judged on the sonic consistency of the involved artists with little mind paid to how well the band names mesh. In this instance, lightning has struck twice for the Tribes/We Barbarians tour. It makes you wonder if Spoon and The Knife will ever ride together, or one day Men, Women, and Men Women & Children. That their respective sounds don’t deal in a whole lotta pretense is a bonus. Tribes call the U.K. home, a place where heart-on-sleeve rock can be rare. The We Were Children EP packs anthemic punches as if Bright Eyes were more closely allied with its Desaparecidos spinoff. We Barbarians — Californians — actually sound more British, if the Troubles-infused tones of early U2 can be interpreted that way. Their Headspace EP makes a puzzling choice for a cover song — Talking Heads’ “Strange Overtones” — but mostly affixes its eyes to the back of the room and imagines the rafters in the wall’s place. (Sunday@Schubas.)

Singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega is a bucket of seemingly incompatible characteristics, where somehow being a metropolitan Canadian with a hispanic surname and recording for the same label that distributes Metric makes one a potential country star. But here we are, watching stunned as CMT takes a liking to her, adding to its motley assemblage of Australians, Detroit rockers, and reformed/adult-contempo black men. (Shania Twain’s been absent for awhile; maybe they’ve decided to finally replace her.) This time, however, Nashville is recognizing someone who doesn’t willingly conform, a reputation that at first seems threatened by the appearance of her holiday EP, Tennessee Christmas (Last Gang). “All I Want For Christmas,” however, isn’t the precious Mariah Carey tune, but a bluegrass workout pining for a cowboy. When she does pay tribute to the Volunteer State, she bypasses Nashville and skips west to Memphis, kneeling before the King’s “Blue Christmas.” (Monday@Schubas with Diego Garcia.)

— Steve Forstneger

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