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Around Hear: September 2013

| September 1, 2013

Chicago Loud 9

When you’ve got enough band members to field a baseball team, the music could easily go in nine different directions. Fortunately, Chicago Loud 9 avoid that trap on its invigorating, 10-song jazz/rap/rock debut, cLOUD9 LP. It takes a bit to warm to the album’s unique assortment, but by the time tracks like “Almost Let It Get To Me” and “Chill Wait” kick in – both featuring pitch-perfect brass vying with razor-sharp vocals – it’s impossible not to wish for extra innings. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Only a garage punk band hell-bent on having a good time would name its album Goddamn, I’m a Handsome Man! Fortunately, that’s exactly what Chicago-based trio The Fur Coats has in mind, and this four-song EP lives up to the ridiculous title. What each song lacks in musical creativity (no more than two chords per song) and melodic vocals (they’re mostly half-spoken/half-sung), the band makes up for in pure energy and fun. Since they don’t take themselves too seriously, you don’t have to either. Just enjoy the rock ‘n’ roll romp. (
– Carter Moss

It’s a mouthful just describing guitarist Mehran‘s latest project: a flamenco-flavored, almost completely instrumental prog-rock concept album about a utopian society living thousands of miles beneath the surface of the earth. (Whew!) Nonetheless, the nine tunes on Subterranea are surprisingly solid, with memorable melodies and, especially on “Into The Abyss” and “Desert Moon,” extraordinarily atmospheric moments. Despite one misstep (a strained take on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”), it’s a gorgeous excursion.(
– Jeff Berkwits

The Reserve pursue a blend of hard rock and punk on its new EP, Shades Of White, that’s not far removed from Nirvana. Lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Babin and guitarist John Birchfield lead the attack on the energetic but catchy “Chuck” and navigate various tempo shifts on the elaborate “Slide” with help from bassist Steve Somogyi and drummer Kyle Biba. The spooky, fun arrangement on “White Lines” shows yet another side of this inventive band.
– Terrence Flamm

Haters gon’ hate. Much the same way Jason Mraz dismisses anyone too uptight to be down with his gratingly happy-go-lucky pop, Matt Ryd seems unfazed by any artistic expectations heaped upon his singer-songwriting self. Ryd ‘Em Cowboy regurgitates clichés like “don’t know where I’m going/don’t know where I’ve been” under the guise of a lack of self-awareness, but the rather professional nature of these three polished ditties hints at something more contrived. (
– Steve Forstneger

“Goodnight Sun,” the opener on State And Madison‘s 10-track album Tar & Feather, resembles the children’s bedtime classic Goodnight Moon because of its lush lullaby qualities. This tale about a depressing breakup is not for toddlers, but for those who can appreciate nuances of lyrics, vocal delivery, and chiming electric guitars. It establishes the beautifully haunting sound of a band ready for a wider audience. Carefully crafted pop rock songs dominate, showcasing Nickolas Blazina’s engaging crooning abilities (even if some choruses get a bit too repetitive, as on “Dearest Restless”).
– Jason Scales

Stonewave recently crashed into the Chicago rock scene with its eponymous 11-track debut of aggressive, yet melodic, rock channeling early Alice In Chains (the power chords and vocals are a dead giveaway). Throughout the album, the foursome does an excellent job of varying its sound while staying true to its identity as honest, no-thrills rock ‘n’ roll. What the songs (and by extension the songwriting) lack in depth, memorable hooks and passionate vocals more than balance it all out. (
– Carter Moss

Upon first listen, folks could be forgiven for thinking Tensei Two is the score to an old blaxploitation flick. Whether reveling in the trumpet of “Plazzio’s Revenge” or the sly percussion/keyboard interplay of “Low Key,” Simple X and Midas Wells (performing as Tensei) have crafted a haunting six-song jaunt that, through an inspired blend of vintage elements and hints of modern electronica, is a mesmerizing mélange of soul, funk, and jazz. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Given the name, the aggressive sound of Two Ton Anvil isn’t a shock; what is unexpected is the band’s consistent quality. “Loyalty” and “Your Daze” are both standouts, yet all 14 cuts on Coming Home are incredibly powerful. And make sure to listen closely to this formidable foursome’s reasonably faithful cover of The Police’s “Synchronicity II,” in which they insert some fresh Chicago references. Pound for pound, it’s some of the best metal mayhem around. (
– Jeff Berkwits

The opening three cuts on White Mystery‘s third full-length, Telepathy, drip with venom, courtesy of Miss Alex White‘s caterwauling and Francis Scott Key White’s four-limbed assault on the drums. This leads one to expect a full platter of mosh-pit stirring, raging punk rock that one can hear most anywhere by anyone. And then the titian-coifed siblings dramatically ease the tempo on fourth cut, “The Prophecy,” ushering in a level-headed production balance with Francis’ drums retreating back from full-on assault to allow more interplay with his sis’ fretwork. This, in turn, gives the duo a wide range of musical options to explore, which they wisely exploit, resulting in a satisfyingly robust group of songs. Alex’s wonderfully fuzzy guitar turns and double-tracked vocals give “Live To Hunt” a dangerous edge while the duo recall early synth-laced Mission Of Burma (complete with shout-outs to Iggy Pop and Elvis) on “Break A Sweat.” The gingers reach back to an “I Want Candy” beat on “Dirty Hair” and close on the disc’s apogee moment, “San Francisco Dream.” (
– David C. Eldredge

Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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  1. Dozer says:

    Carter Moss,

    In regards to your recent short column blurb review in reference to the Chicagoland based band, Stonewave, the review was pretty positive, as well it should be. Until I read the part in which you made comparison of Stonewave to “early Alice in Chains.” Are you serious???? Did you make this comparison based on the first hard rock band name that entered your mind or a total lack of any music knowledge what-so-ever?

    Before I proceed, I feel it necessary to explain that I am; have been a fan of AIC since day 1. To this day, they still remain one of my favorite bands of all time.

    Now, in regards to you comparing Stonewave to AIC, you couldn’t be more wrong. And by doing so, you have just set an expectation for those that read your article, yet never heard Stonewave as of yet to buy the CD, expecting a sound like “early AIC,” only to find it doesn’t exist. I feel the need to express that buy this extremely irresponsible comparison, YOU have sold the band Stonewave short of their own greatness & originality.

    You also wrote, “What the songs lack in depth, memorable hooks and passionate vocals more than balances it all out.” While at the same time, calling them a “no-frills rock n roll” band. Isn’t that redundant? Did you spend any more than a minute writing this review?

    Not to mention the fact, that once again, you are wrong. This band is filled with memorable hooks. Songs such as: Sign of Life, No More, By your Side; Beautiful, as a few examples. As well as the songwriting & hooks of both By your Side; Beautiful should be radio hits with the exception that Chicago Radio rarely recognizes nor promotes their own unsigned, local bands.

    The Chicago music market is, sadly, a dead market which is a true shame for ALL the great bands that deserve to be noticed.
    I must say, I put a portion of the blame on critics, such as yourself, who listen to a CD (probably once)and then take all of about 5 minutes to write a review that is mid-leading and inaccurate!!!

    If you wonder why I am writing this letter so upset, it’s because, Stonewave is one of my favorite bands of the Chicagoland area. Why? Because of talent; originality. I work with many bands and that’s NOT a statement I make other than a handful of bands. I’ve listened to Stonewave’s CD many times since it came out. I have worked with the band and have become personal friends of the band since the inception of all proceeded mentioned.

    I am NOT defending this band because I know them and truly like them. I am defending this band because your review was completely inaccurate and irresponsible.

    You need to do a better job in the future! These bands work their butts off, for virtually no pay-out but the love of their music. They deserve better and much more accurate attention when it comes to attention (including reviews) in regards to their band and their music and part of that responsibility and blame belongs to you. your based opinion is one thing but your complete lack of accurate statements is another and (as I stated before) takes away proper and accurate attention to the band you write about.

    I expect your response, which I more than welcome, as I’d love to hear how you justify all of this.

    – Dozer Mudshellmusic