Handpicked shows for February 2013

Here are some shows you should consider going to this month.

11568Friday, February 8: Jaill @ Beat Kitchen, 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Ten | Tickets
Other acts: Slushy, The Bingers

I’ve been into Jaill about as long as I’ve lived here – three years, coming up – and in that time have seen them just once: at an abbreviated in-store set at Reckless (Wicker Park) last summer. For a Subpop band that calls Milwaukee home, I’m floored by how little these guys visit us lowly Chicagoans. Perhaps their infrequent trips – they seem to drive down about once a year – is their symbolic way of giving us the American Robin. They’re letting us know we’re too tame a city. Or maybe they’re lazy. I do recall a biting remark that skipped off the tongue of their front man, though, that suggested we all drank too much milk prior to their in-store. You know, he was right. We had way less bounce than a mid-week, mid-day crowd should have. For the first time in awhile Jaill plays a proper Chicago venue. I hope the set skews on the That’s How We Burn side.

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Deadbeat — My Eyes Are Bleeding Bits of Gold

82495344-1Band: Deadbeat
Album: My Eyes Are Bleeding Bits of Gold
Release Date: July 22, 2012

The penultimate track on Absinthe & the Dirty Floors’ self-titled LP — “Sonario” (listen: ) — is The Dirty Floors at their most chaotic. Restless guitars and a panic of drums nearly consume it entirely, save for several lulls for Jessica Risker to sing, sometimes scream, hopelessly. She claims “things are going nowhere” and “things are getting nowhere.” She wants “a place to hide,” man, and she seems to find it deep inside her cloak of rock ‘n’ roll. It protects her from the evil she’s alarmed by.

Some time after I included the album on my list of the best local releases of 2012, Jessica reached out to advise me that she saw the list. More to the point she wanted to tell me about her solo project. Over the summer Jessica released an EP under the moniker Deadbeat and wanted to know if I’d like a listen. I told her of course.

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Posted in Deadbeat, Music Review | 2 Comments

Wedding Dress — The Mange

1118683916-1Band: Wedding Dress
Album: The Mange
Release Date: January 2013

Wedding Dress quietly became a favorite new local of mine. I like them a lot. This is noteworthy considering they’ve uploaded just bits, a light sprinkling, of material to the Internet. I also haven’t experienced them live yet, so my high regard of the guys is solely based on the contents of what they might acknowledge as “mini EPs” released within a few months of each other: Dangerous Living and The Mange. Dangerous Living, I wrote several days ago, was good enough to deserve a mention in a follow up to my favorite local releases of the past year list. At two tracks the package wasn’t a true contender for the list at any time, and so an addendum list pairing Dangerous Living with another two-track collection I liked from 2012, Tyler Jon Tyler’s Loyal Caskets, was published. It seemed an appropriate (and convenient) way to write about more music without interfering with my picks.

Which brings me to The Mange, released this month on Bandcamp. At the time of the addendum list I hadn’t yet given it an honest listen. Now that I have I realize the guys already usurped the thing I’d only moments ago lavished with praise. In The Mange it seems Wedding Dress stood at the peak of Dangerous Living’s highs, and then looked up. Pushed up, really. The Mange, made up of the title track and another one, “Ravenous Blood,” exists in some beatific realm in the sky that Dangerous Living couldn’t quite grasp. I caught whiffs of Wedding Dress’ potential heights in Dangerous Living closer “Old Time Thorns,” a tune that challenged the title track’s careful execution by loosening the stiffness. That playful, but attractively soulful attitude spilled into The Mange and then augmented. On the mini EP Wedding Dress is more wayward, sonically. Like they’ve been seasoned in a bath of whimsy.

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Some other good music from 2012

Last week I published my list of the best local releases of 2012. Today I’m writing about a few more that weren’t mentioned then, but were good enough to be cobbled together in a follow up list. I’m not yet done, it seems, with the year that was.

1797571953-1Loyal Caskets 7” by Tyler Jon Tyler
Gossip Wolf pitched a zinger in November when it printed that Tyler Jon Tyler was calling it quits. It was a casual surprise to read at the time considering the three-piece had released new material – packaged as Loyal Caskets – a few months prior. Per the Wolf, though, a new band emerged from the debris of the break up that is parts TJT and Uh Bones. Uh Bones’ self-titled was #3 on my list last week so already I’m looking forward to what’s to come. I saw Tyler Jon Tyler just once before they died at a free February show at the Empty Bottle with the Runnies and Nones. I would have liked another show, to be sure, but it doesn’t appear like I’ll get one. Loyal Caskets was never a real contender for my list because it’s only a pair of songs. Anything less than four or five is hard to justify. The stuff on Loyal Caskets is sweet and unoffensive. It continues in the TJT tradition for being cozy and sunny. TJT warms me in ways that seems nostalgic even though their music didn’t exist at a time that would drum up yesteryear memories.
Buy: 2 dollars | Recommended: 

wedding dressDangerous Living by Wedding Dress
Suns’ When We Were Us was a thing of beauty. So much so that I named it the best local release of 2012 last week. Three of their kind – Mike Russell, Clinton Weber and Matt Lemke – are in a new band called Wedding Dress with guys from Maps & Atlases and Joan of Arc. They released their first bit of music on Bandcamp in October and it is promising. I don’t think it’s the bias in me speaking. Wedding Dress is soulful and a little sexy. I like the lead vocal almost as much as I do Dave Sampson of Cains & Abels. Like Loyal Caskets, though, Dangerous Living is just two tracks. A nibble, really. Already the guys released another two-fer they’re calling The Mange. I haven’t had a good chance to listen to it yet, but I like that they’re rolling along.
Buy: Name your price | Recommended: 

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Posted in Best Of, Tyler Jon Tyler, Wedding Dress | 1 Comment

The best local releases of 2012

credit: Suns' Facebook

credit: Suns’ Facebook

The year-end albums post, now in its third edition, happens to be the thing I most look forward to writing all year for CT. Perhaps it’s because the other two have been the site’s most-read pieces. By a lot. It adds a kind of pressure that isn’t a factor when I’m reviewing one album.

More to the point, though, I like the challenge of summarizing the city’s year in music as I experienced it. Combing through the albums I’ve listened to and feel comfortable writing about and then selecting the ones that represent my year is the first step. Well, setting 12 as the magic number is one. Then doing what I just wrote is two. Next is arranging and rearranging and rearranging again how the albums should be ranked. Then the writing, finally.

So many questions rolled through my head: Does it matter at all to Mazes Blazes’ ranking that the album is, perhaps, a comeback album for a band that last released an album in 2009? Is it OK for me to consider Mazes Blazes a comeback album? (I do.) How many years does it take, on average, for an album to solidly be a comeback album, no question? Then there’s Outer Minds, which released a pair of full-lengths in 2012. Should the one I preferred — Behind the Mirror — get a bump for being from a band that released two albums in one year? Does it matter that Outer Minds’ live show is a total terror, and that they were the Empty Bottle’s unofficial house band for playing there like once a month? Then how about Suns, which self-released its first full-length album in December, and whose following is so mighty that the album probably would not have been recorded when it was recorded had it not been for a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter? How about Advance Base and Pony Trash and Absinthe & the Dirty Floors, three bands that made the list without my having seen them live? Should live shows matter in an albums list? (I think so.) Does it matter?

The number one reason I put this list together is to get you, the reader, to give some (though hopefully many) of my picks a listen. I wouldn’t write about an album here if I didn’t want you to listen to it. And hey, if you like what you’ve read and want to support some local artists, go ahead and buy some albums. Links are provided below to every album that made my list. The low is four bucks to a high of 12.

These 12 albums are the best local releases of the year. Are you ready?

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Posted in Absinthe & The Dirty Floors, Advance Base, Archie Powell & The Exports, Best Of, Cains & Abels, Daylight Robbery, Grandeurs, Mazes, Outer Minds, Pony Trash, Radar Eyes, Suns, Uh Bones | 3 Comments

Handpicked shows for December 2012

The Handpicked column has been revived.

Happy Holidays from Chicago Tunes:

advance baseThursday, December 6: Advance Base @ The Burlington, 9 p.m.
Cost: $7 donation
Other acts: Julie Byrne, J Fernandez

New Chicago Tunes favorite Advance Base tops a Thursday evening bill at The Burlington. I recently reviewed their album, A Shut-In’s Prayer, and have been eager since to see how Owen’s minimalism translates inside a Logan Square rock bar. His music’s been wonderful respite in a year where my attention’s been so dominated by much noisier fare. Advance Base is wiped clear of unneeded clamor and is essentially vocal duets with a Rhodes.

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Posted in Advance Base, Archie Powell & The Exports, Bare Mutants, Handpicked, Heavy Times, Mucca Pazza, Outer Minds, Radar Eyes, Suns, The Noise FM, Uh Bones, White Mystery | Leave a comment

Uh Bones — Uh Bones

Band: Uh Bones
Album: Uh Bones
Release Date: June 9, 2012

In no short supply these days are bands restoring the sounds of yore to meet repurposed, sometimes inspired, ends. We’ve probably reached an odd point in music, it seems, when material that is in fact new might just as easy pass for stuff released to the public 40 to 50 years ago.

Such regeneration isn’t unique to the times, of course, but I can’t recall a period when bands worked at it with comparable efficiency.

Though I’ve heard this year a fair amount of music that does this — applied directly or even incidentally — I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed any of it as much as I have Uh Bones. Their unexpected grade of lo-fi garage, compiled here on a four-track EP, could’ve found a neat home somewhere in ’60s fuzz.

Uh Bones is an unfortunate name though. I’d love a primer.

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