Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Though its title is taken from the Old English term for “the sound of winter,” much of James Elkington’s solo debut bears a distinctly autumnal vibe. With a feel that harks back to the British singer/songwriters of the early ’70s, Wintres Woma ultimately seems to capture the slow seasonal slide from fall’s gentle unbuttoning into an icier, more frigid landscape.

Elkington hails from the U.K. but makes his home in Chicago, where they know a thing or two about winter. He has a varied history that includes fronting indie rockers The Zincs and co-leading art-folk outfit The Horse’s Ha with Freakwater’s Janet Beveridge Bean. But over the past couple of years before beginning work on “Wintres Woma”, he had been working primarily as an accompanist, playing guitar and other instruments with British folk-rock legends like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman, as well as Steve Gunn, Jeff Tweedy, and others.

Elkington’s first solo statement was cut in just five days at Wilco’s sonic headquarters, The Loft in Chicago. It seems to key in on the sensibility of artists like Thompson, Chapman, and their peers, who blurred the lines between folk, rock, and jazz in the ’70s with their nimble guitar work, and combined it with a poetic lyrical bent. The delicate-but-precise acoustic guitar patterns at the core of Wintres Woma sometimes feel like descendents of Nick Drake complex finger-picking latticework, especially when Elkington’s lines are countered by Nick Macri’s fluid stand-up bass on the speedy “Make It Up.”

The only track not written by Elkington, an instrumental take on the traditional Scottish folk song “The Parting Glass,” is so adventurously re-harmonized that it scarcely resembles its source, bringing to mind the trailblazing 1960s acoustic explorations of British guitarist Davey Graham. And the combination of Elkington’s sonorous baritone and virtuosic fretboard forays makes a strong case for him as the spiritual heir to the late U.K. folk legend Bert Jansch.

But for all of Wintres Woma’s links to a scene that was approaching its peak when Elkington was a zygote, the dominant artistic voice here is an unflinchingly singular one. The lyrics, in particular, travel a path that seems entirely their own, with imagery unusual enough to force your synapses into new configurations, and a bittersweetness palpable enough to take you by the tear ducts and squeeze.

“In the drug harbor, friends became verbs, chanting in squares the where and the why,” he sings in “When I Am Slow” atop a folkish guitar melody that could be either minutes or hundreds of years old. “Shut that accordion mouth and stop crying fat wedding-band tears,” he admonishes the subject of “The Hermit Census.” And it’s tough to imagine anyone else managing to slip a line like “entrails were made into garlands to welcome my reign” into a ballad as warmly homey-sounding as the crepuscular, harmonica-laced “Sister of Mine.”

The arrangements on the self-produced album are spare (if not stark) from start to finish, and mostly played by Elkington himself, with occasional assists on violin, viola, percussion, and the aforementioned bass and cello. With Elkington’s intimate, plum wine vocals and tactile guitar work at the core throughout, each track feels like a stylishly scrawled diary entry we’ve somehow wrangled the permission to read.

But whether Elkington is whistling through the graveyard on the ironically perky-sounding “Grief Is Not Coming,” recounting the surreal dream state of “Greatness Yet to Come,” or navigating his way through the nightmarish visions of “Hollow in Your House,” his combination of timeless folk flavorings and an artful modernity blend into a wistful but never forlorn kind melancholy. It’s the kind that steps far enough back from the shifting of the seasons of life to know that the whole thing is just a dream to be played out, a dance to follow through, on the way to becoming one with the true sound of winter.

We couldn’t be more proud to share Deeper‘s sophomore album “Auto-Pain” out today on Fire Talk. Truly love these boys and hope you’ll take some time today to check out the record. The press has been all over it, if you want to dig in more read this excellent feature via Stereogum .

Auto-Pain represents the constant wave of depression felt by many in everyday life. Stemmed from Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, Auto-Pain is a concept meant to be an inverse to soma, a pill in the book which makes everything numb. The idea of auto-pain is to epitomize the desire to return to a connection with thoughts and clarity, which comes at the expense of feeling everything simultaneously. The album artwork features the now-demolished Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago capturing the band’s rounded-off brutalism, and the album title appears in Urdu, a nod to drummer Shiraz Bhatti’s Pakistani heritage. The record was recorded and mixed by Chicago scene luminary Dave Vetraino (Lala Lala, Dehd) and mastered at Chicago Mastering by Greg Obis (Ne-Hi, Melkbelly).

A portion of the proceeds from Auto-Pain will be donated to Hope For The Day an organization that actively works to break the silence surrounding mental health

From Deeper’s Sophomore album “Auto-Pain” out March 27th on Fire Talk Records.


Chicago band Deeper have just released their new album, “Auto-Pain” and they’ve just shared one last appetizer before we can hear the whole thing. “The Knife” is a jagged post-punk ripper, moody and measured, that comes with a genuinely excellent, equally tense music video set in an auto garage. Following up their 2018 s/t debut, their new album feels leaner and more to the point. The jagged guitar licks and Nic Gohl’s vocals cut right to bone and creates a tension that I am unable shake throughout. Bassist Drew McBride, and drummer Shiraz Bhatti are on point throughout. While they don’t sound anything like The National, the rhythm section reminds me of how it takes me couple of listens of their albums to fully digest what they’re doing and really appreciate it. Deeper were on tour with Montreal’s Corridor when the coronavirus pandemic took hold and they’re now back at home in Chicago.

Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic Brave New World, the timing of this album feels like it was preordained for these crazy times with Chicago’s weather particularly gray and dreary. As the listener I am on edge throughout and sucked into their sphere.

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Mike Bloomfield – is the subject of a new multi-disc anthology produced by Al Kooper, “From His Head to His Heart to His Hands”, released by Columbia/Legacy – is rock’s greatest forgotten guitar hero. From 1965 to 1968, he was nothing less than the future of the blues, charging the primal forms and raw truths of his idols – B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf – with cutting-treble tone, breakneck improvising and incisive, melodic articulation on a machine-gun series of classic records: Dylan’s epochal single “Like a Rolling Stone” and the Highway 61 LP; the Butterfield band’s ’65 debut album and ’66 raga-blues thriller, East-West; and the 1968 Top 20 hit Super Session, a dynamic jamming collaboration with Kooper. In 1966, Eric Clapton, on the verge of his own stardom, called Bloomfield “music on two legs.” But in the Seventies, as Clapton ascended to sold-out arenas, Bloomfield slipped into twilight in San Francisco, working with low-profile bands and making small-label records while wrestling with chronic insomnia and heroin.
Bloomfield – (1943-1981) Born in Chicago, Bloomfield gravitated toward the Blues after playing in high school Rock and Roll bands. He was born to play the Blues, spending time in Chicago’s South Side Blues clubs with black bluesmen such as Sleepy John Estes, eventually performing with Chicago’s finest, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters during the early ’60s. He also met harmonica player, Paul Butterfield and guitarist Elvin Bishop. A grandfather, Max, owned a pawnshop, and Bloomfield got his first guitar there. Born left-handed, he forced himself to play the other way around. “That’s how strong-willed he was,” says Goldberg. “When he loved something so much, he just did it.”

The Butterfield Blues Band was born in 1965 with the addition of keyboardist Mark Naftalin, bassist Jerome Arnold, and drummer Sam Lay. The debut album the eponymous “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band,” was released in October 1965 and met with little success nationally. But more important, Bloomfield played on Bob Dylan’s epic single “Like a Rolling Stone,” and on most of the tracks of Dylan’s 1965 “Highway 61 Revisited,” album. Additionally, he also joined Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in July, along with the balance of Butterfield’s band (sans the leader). and keyboardists Al Kooper and Barry Goldberg. This was Dylan’s historic appearance in which he strapped on a Telecaster, and the band played electric – the first instance of an electric-guitar performance by the folk rocker. Dylan remembered Bloomfield as “the guy that I always miss. . . . He had so much soul. And he knew all the styles.”

“He put tremendous force into what he was doing,” says pianist Mark Naftalin, who played with Bloomfield in the Butterfield band, then on many post-’68 gigs and sessions. “But that’s not the same as ambition. He turned away from possibilities of success ritually.

The Butterfield Blues Band’s second LP “East-West” from 1966 fared much better than its predecessor and has gone on to become a classic. During this period, Bloomfield also contributed guitar on albums by Chuck Berry, James Cotton, and Mitch Ryder. Next, after relocating to San Francisco in 1967, he formed Electric Flag with his long time collaborators Goldberg and Nick Gravenites, and bassist Harvey Brooks and drummer Buddy Miles completed the band. Michael was organic – he played directly from his heart into an amp,” says keyboard player Barry Goldberg, who met the guitarist in high school in Chicago and was in Bloomfield’s psychedelic-R&B big band the Electric Flag. “When he shook a string, it was like Otis Rush. He had the intensity in his soul. He didn’t need anything else.

They appeared together for the first time at the Monterey Pop Festival and released the “A Long Time Comin,” album in 1968, featuring “Killing Floor,’ “Texas,” and “Wine,” among other tasty tracks. The record was seen as uneven, and hostilities between band members and heroin abuse subverted the group. Teaming up with Kooper once again and Steven Stills., The band released the one-off “Supersession,” with one of Bloomfield’s finest moments on the soulful “Albert’s Shuffle,”

The classic example is Super Session, Bloomfield’s only hit record under his own name. Tracks from that album, outtakes and associated live material – arguably some of his most sublime, furiously poetic soloing on record – comprise From His Head‘s second CD. Guitarist Jimmy Vivino, the bandleader on Conan and a lifelong Bloomfield disciple, cites the gleaming tangle of vocal-like phrasing and diamond-hard melodic certainty in “Albert’s Shuffle,” the opener on Super Session, as the peak. “The intro and first chorus are breath taking,” he raves. “And it’s just a Les Paul Sunburst into a Super Reverb amp with that Bloomfield tone – no bass, volume all the way up. And you control it from the guitar.”

But Bloomfield is on only one side of the original LP. He quit the sessions after one night of recording, leaving Kooper a note: “Alan, couldn’t sleep. Went home.” Kooper finished the album with Stephen Stills. “You know what it was in retrospect? Michael wasn’t properly challenged by anyone,” Kooper says now. “Even I didn’t want to take that position. I’d rather be his friend.”

The album was a big hit landing at #12 on the Billboard Album Charts, and resulting in a sequel “Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper”, recorded at Fillmore West. Bloomfield turned to solo. session and backup work for the next 12 years, including guitar on a track of Mother Earth’s “Living With the Animals,” in ’68. He also produced James Cotton’s “Cotton in Your Ears,” sessions in ’69, and contributed to Janis Joplin’s “I Got Dem Ol’ Kosmic Blues Again Mama,” 1969 album – and helped put together the band.

His last major work was on “Fathers and Sons,” on the Chess label reuniting with Butterfield and Lay, backing Chess masters Muddy Waters and pianist Otis Spann. He gave up guitar playing in 1970 because of his addiction but did manage a few more albums in the 1970s, including “Triumvirate,” in 1973 with Dr. John and John Hammond Jr., and a reformed Electric Flag for an album “The Band Kept Playing.” He sat in with Dylan at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on 11/15/80, and continued to play live dates, with an appearance at S.F. State College on 2/7/81 that would be his last.

Sadly, Bloomfield was found dead in his car from a heroin overdose on 2/15/81. His guitar prowess would live on in his wake, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #22 on its list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” in 2003, and he was inducted into Blues Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Ratboys Printer's Devil

Back when they released 2017’s GN, Chicago’s Ratboys were regulars of the DIY/indie/punk world but they were injecting a little alt-country into their sound and they seem poised to be one of DIY/indie/punk’s next breakout bands. Now, three years later, their third album Printer’s Devil just might be the one that does it. Ratboys already seem to be getting more praise and hype than ever, and compared to their first two albums, Printer’s Devil sounds big. They’re channelling the soaring, power pop-tinged alternative rock of the ’90s, sounding kind of like a cross between Weezer and the Gin Blossoms but with a distinct delivery from vocalist Julia Steiner that sets them apart from any one band in particular. They also know how to change things up, with Printer’s Devil finding time for punk speed, folk balladry, atmospheric build-ups, and plenty of the in-between. As ever, Julia’s earworm melodies and the band’s strong vision tie it all together.


Upheaval and change are themes spread throughout the songs on Printer’s Devil, the latest Ratboys LP, released via Topshelf Records. A tangible sonic shift is apparent thanks to a newly-expanded lineup – founding members Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan are now joined by Marcus Nuccio and Sean Neumann on drums and bass. What started as an acoustic duo has finally transformed into a full-scale indie-rock band with a clear identity. Recorded live at Decade Music Studios in Chicago, Printer’s Devil features big-chorus power pop songs like “Alien with a Sleep Mask On” and “Anj” that sound massive and larger than life, alongside intimate folk songs like “A Vision” and devastating alt-country tracks like “Listening,” showcasing once again the group’s signature versatility. Building off their previous albums Ratboys captures the bombastic, electrified fun of their live show in a bottle on Printer’s Devil and showcases their growing chemistry as a tight-knit group.

The Band:

Guitar, vocals, lyrics – Julia Steiner
Guitar, bass (Tracks 3, 8, 9) – Dave Sagan
Bass – Sean Neumann
Drums, synths – Marcus Nuccio
Drums (Tracks 3, 4, 8, 10), Vibes – Ian Paine-Jesam

Hailed indie-rock duo Ohmme as both a Chicago band to know and an outstanding live act, so you could say we’re pleased to report they’ve announced a new album, the follow-up to their 2018 debut Parts. Fantasize Your Ghost, coming June 5th via Joyful Noise Recordings, is preceded by lead single “3 2 4 3,” which arrives alongside an arresting music video somewhat reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s Us. Stewart and Cunningham are both classically trained musicians and are established players within the Chicago music scene. They are especially involved in performing and working for venues within the local experimental music scene. They’re constant collaborators and have recorded and toured with homegrown acts as varied as Tweedy, Whitney, Chance The Rapper and Twin Peaks.

Cunningham and Stewart are multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriters with a penchant for two instruments in particular. “The band started because we knew we could sing well together and we wanted to make some noise with the guitar,” says Cunningham. Stewart elaborates, “Sima and I are both trained classical pianists and we know many of the sonic spaces keyboards have to offer. Since we were interested in experimenting and creating something different from what we had both done in the past, we chose guitar as our outlet for this band. We wanted to create both new and uncomfortable parameters for ourselves to force us into a different creative space.” These guitar-heavy experiments are sometimes earthy and resounding, at other times shimmering and buzzing—swirling around the duo’s expertly crafted vocals while creating a chaotic bed of harmony. Cunningham’s smoky alto complements Stewart’s higher-register croon, all underpinned by the restrained yet highly inventive polyrhythmic percussion of drummer Matt Carroll. Think Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian-era Dirty Projectors.
Band Members
Macie Stewart
Sima Cunningham

Official Video for “3 2 4 3” by Ohmme off the album ‘Fantasize Your Ghost’ out on Joyful Noise Recordings.

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The growing notoriety and the conception of Beach Bunny’s debut album, “Honeymoon” this Bunny is a Chicago based pop band led by Lili Trifilio, who just graduated from DePaul University. After recently being signed to Mom+Pop Records, whose roster includes Courtney Barnett and Flume, the band released their first studio album, Honeymoon, on Valentine’s Day. During these years she has recorded several projects, found bandmates, toured and played Riot Fest and Lollapalooza, become verified on social media, signed to a major label and gained almost two million monthly listeners on Spotify – yet she remains incredibly humble. Although her bright purple hair and permanent warm smile stand out in a crowd, unless she’s on DePaul’s campus, one wouldn’t know that she is about to blow up into a major pop star.

This cover of a 100 gecs crossover status update: Their songs are being covered in whimsical fashion by pop-punk bands. This is a great thing.

From start to finish, Honeymoon is the bookends to a relationship – the highs of a new beginning and the lows of an unwanted end. But with each song there is a chapter filled with words any lover could highlight, with enough margin space to attach our own memories and feelings.

The album opens up with “Promises” – a song about the lack of closure post-break up. In the following track, “Cuffing Season,” themes smoothly form from these unresolved problems, resulting in the idea of commitment sounding impossible after heartbreak. Even with Trifilio’s trust issues, a motif listeners have heard before in her older tracks, Honeymoon comes with a new sense of ressaurance. Trifilio experiments with new vocal melodies and sounds confident. She is validating her own feelings and sings about setting boundaries.

Halfway through the album, “Rearview” slows things down and focuses on Trifilio’s voice and solo guitar. The band enters at the back end of the song with a thematic build up into the drums emphasizing her lyric, “I hate it when you catch me crying.” “Racetrack” is another minimal track that tugs on nostalgia with its music box-esque piano. The album ends on a high note with  “Cloud 9” – a pop banger that reveals the freedom and euphoria that can come from a happy and healthy relationship. The final words are, “You will always be my favorite form of loving.”

Greetings from Chicago!

We just got back from our glorious EU/UK tour, thanks so much for coming out! We’ve got Lots of tour news to share, so we’ll get right to it.  In case you missed it, the rumors are true — we’re heading back to Australia for a headline tour next month! , we’re also going on tour with Car Seat Headrest in May and June. These dates should be big and we’re excited to get back to all these cities. we have a new video to share with you for “Unfamiliar Sun.”

“Unfamiliar Sun” is a song about navigating life while struggling with depression. It’s about trying to find beauty and love in the day to day, week to week, season to season in an otherwise ugly world. Still, it’s meant to be hopeful. Nobody is or should ever feel truly alone. We want to thank Wyatt Grant for helping visualize this song with his wonderful artwork and his genuine understanding of the messages this song attempts to convey. We would also like to thank the entire Weird Life Film Crew for once again delivering a beautiful finished product and for helping us organize and execute this little project. The world could always use more empathy, don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody you love.

Listen to “Unfamiliar Sun'”on Twin Peaks‘ album “Lookout Low”

Califone - Echo Mine

In the early years of this millennium, Califone were one of the most prolific forces in indie rock. Year after year, the Chicago experimentalists — led by Tim Rutili, previously of bluesy sonic explorers Red Red Meat — would return with a rewarding new collection of tunes at the intersection of folk, noise, post-rock, and whatever else burbled up from their imagination. So it’s wild to realize Califone haven’t released an album in seven years, and it’s exciting to learn they’re about to rectify that.

The group’s last new album was Stitches way back in 2013. Since then, there has been scattered output from the Califone camp: an EP called Insect Courage, a reissue of 2003’s masterful Quicksand/Cradlesnakes with the attendant unreleased bonus tracks, a droning Rutili collaboration with Craig Ross called Guitars Tuned To Air Conditioners that quite literally delivered on the title’s promise. At first glance, their latest release might be perceived as that kind of peripheral excursion: an album that doubles as the original score to a dance performance by Robyn Mineko Williams.

But Echo Mine is also a real-deal Califone album, one that will either remind you why they were so great in the first place or introduce you to a new favorite. Rutili and company continue to come up with fresh spins on their signature sound, perhaps thanks to inspiration from Mineko Williams’ graceful motion. “The movement and the music started together and grew together, like two clear entities,” Rutili explains in a statement. “At times totally intertwined and at other times bouncing off one another, sort of like reflections. But, somehow, always connected and listening.” He continues, “Robyn is an abstract painter. I’m not sure how to explain what she does, but we all felt it deeply while creating this music.”

You don’t need to see the dancing to appreciate what Califone have come up with here. On Echo Mine, they continue to conjure a sound unlike any other, Rutili’s weathered vocals creeping their way through electronic blues-folk songs that sound like a post-apocalyptic cityscape. The label’s triangulation of Low, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Yo La Tengo pretty much nails it — or, as I’ve been telling potential converts for years, imagine a more avant-garde spin on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sound.

More from Rutili:

Ben Massarella, Brian Deck and I worked in a way that felt like a return to home; Brian handling the engineering, electronics, drums and overall sound of the piece, Ben adding percussion, feel, essential textures and colors. I felt like my job was to hover over all of it like a moth. Find melody in everything. Leave openings for everyone to work at the top of their creativity. We made our album, Roomsound, in much the same way (almost 20 years ago). Three of us in the studio, Be humans. Play together as much as possible. A good feel beats perfection every time. Add other musicians to add other voices and other colors, to do the things we can’t do.

Echo Mine is out February 21st on Jealous Butcher Records.

Chicago songwriter and guitarist James Elkington—who has collaborated with everyone from Richard Thompson to Jeff Tweedy to Tortoise—has announced his new album, “Ever-Roving Eye”, out April 3rd, alongside the video for lead single “Nowhere Time” and UK tour dates with Joan Shelley. He recorded his sophomore album at Wilco’s Loft Studio, expanding upon his “beautiful, complex, and assured” (Pitchfork) 2017 debut Wintres Woma, as well as his recent production and arrangement work for the likes of Steve GunnNap Eyes (he produced their upcoming Snapshot of a Beginner), and Joan Shelley.

Casting glances back to British folk traditions as well as toward avant-garde horizons, these brilliant new songs, as accessible as they are arcane, buttress Elkington’s brisk guitar figures and baritone poesy with strings, woodwinds, and backing vocals by Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station.

Ever-Roving Eye is even more elaborate, shrewd, thoughtful, and confessional than its predecessor. Though it sounds like a line culled from a murderous Child ballad, the title has everything to do instead with the slipperiness of satisfaction, and the equal parts virtue and vice that is being your own mule and driver. The album’s lead single/video, “Nowhere Time,” is a call to take up arms against procrastination, and features some of Elkington’s most daring guitar-wrangling. “A more cosmic acquaintance of mine once told me that when your life is going in the direction you want it to, it’s the universe’s way of telling you that you are in the place you’re meant to be,” Elkington says. “Does that sound likely? Not at all, but the song asks the question anyway…” The track’s accompanying video, directed by Tim Harris, features James, Spencer Tweedy on drums, and Nick Macri on upright bass.

James Elkington’s “Ever-Roving Eye” is out April 3, 2020 on Paradise of Bachelors.