Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

In and out of focus in a hallucinogenic haze, Bill’s conversations with himself follow a travel-worn map copied over and over again. The picker journeys sonically from familiar to unknown places, a style suspended between the traditional and the avant-garde, expansive and flowing like boiled-over magma. Bill MacKay is a Chicago based guitarist-composer-improviser. He has energized experimental folk, rock, and avant-garde scenes with his radiant songs, and creative and unpredictable approach to the guitar.

Smoke signals, sirens, urgent messages Bill MacKay‘s six-string mastery pulses like a sun with (Sandy) Bull-ish psycho fusions on Fountain Fire, his second solo album for Drag City. The fire in the album title is a continuity in Bill’s life – part of his genealogy, his living history, his astrology and the scorching effect of the over-driven slide throughout the album! Bill melds slide, acoustic and distorted electric tones on Fountain Fire to explore the enigma at the end of a continent, civilizations that precede others, and how we all end up the same. MacKay also throws another element into play: a stark and emotionally-charged vocal number that causes the hair to raise on the listener’s neck with a haunting and eerie beauty. This number, “Try It On,” shows Bill has found a broader plane of expression than he’s ever revealed before, his voice expanding his songwriting into uncharted zones and territories

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releases March 22nd, 2019

Written, performed and produced by Bill MacKay 
Instruments: guitar, bass, piano, voice, percussion, organ, glass slide, requinto

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With clattering piano, Nile Rodgers-esque guitar chunks and a stomping horn section, the new Fort Frances single is a wake-up call for the information age. Atwood Magazine describes the song as “a lyrical journey of endless news cycles and social media feeds; of theoretically ‘massive’ stories that surrender to the next day’s trend overnight; of a deluge of push notifications, emails and texts.”

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Released January 23rd, 2019
Lyrics & music by David McMillin

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Lillie West knows that sometimes you have to look back to move forward. West, who records as Lala Lala on SubPop imprint Hardly Art, has, in her music, confronted the kind of trauma that can inspire self-destruction or, hopefully, self-reflection: a home invasion and subsequent paranoia; toxic relationships; battles with addiction; and the deaths of several close friends, to name a few.

On “Siren 042,” the Chicago-based singer-songwriter collaborates with WHY? founder Yoni Wolf to examine the guilt that trickles in after ignoring your better judgment — the particular sensation of seeing problems or hazards on the horizon but proceeding anyway. “There was a siren ringing in my head,” sings West on the chorus. “But I wasn’t listening, so I did what I did.”

“Siren 042” is written by Yoni Wolf of WHY? and Lillie West of Lala Lala.

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Chicago singer/songwriter Lillie West records as Lala Lala and she’s set to release the follow-up to 2016’s Sleepyhead. Her forthcoming Hardly Art LP, The Lamb, is a stark indie-rock record, informed by a difficult time period of West’s life, which consisted of “home invasion, deaths of loved ones and general violence.” As the album hops between lo-fi pop and scuzzy rock, West’s musings are nuanced and naked in their emotional outpouring. People react to early adulthood in vastly different ways and as West found herself intermingling with addiction and toxic people, she sought rejuvenation through sobriety and these new songs. “Destroyer” sees West trying to finally get passed previous hardship and “Water Over Sex” sees West grappling with her newfound more positive lifestyle. She’s a compelling, relatable narrator, someone who’s in her own head, but takes you on a journey through her clever mind and candid, unglamorous life experiences.

Can an album simultaneously charm and devastate? In the case of Lillie West and her solo project Lala Lala‘s sophomore album, The Lamb, the answer is an emphatic yes.

The record is a multi-dimensional exploration of both the human spirit and music that aims to crush souls. The quiet yet emotionally powerful grunge ballad “Moth” is pure escapism sonically and in its message. Beautifully knee-buckling, “Dove” is the feeling of plunging into the great blue sea. This landscape, however, is drowned with the tears of sorrow and pain, as West says goodbye to someone she dearly loved. On the chiming, dark rocker, “Destroyer”, West is brutally honest. She proclaims without hesitation, “You are the reason my heart broke behind my back”. Beyond the chorus, however, she also explains the many times she was almost her own destroyer. It’s a frightening yet honest revelation from the young artist.

The Lamb is also gorgeously widescreen, such as on the stirring and breathtaking “Dropout”. It is fantasy meeting reality, as West’s asks out loud, “Can you keep a secret? This is not the only one”. The dazzling and breathtaking approach of “Water Over Sex” uncovers the lies West tells herself to protect what she has. As she reveals, “I love my secrets, I’m lucky in making”. Vulnerability strikes on gritty “I Get Cut”, which summarizes the multiple events that have affected West’s life over the past two years.

Despite the trials and tribulations of her not-so-distant past, West still found a way to make them beautiful and stunning. Through her own perseverance, we understand that the human spirit is stronger than one can imagine. We understand that even a lamb can quietly roar.

The Lamb is out now via Hardly Art.

Wilco may have set a high water mark for experimental Americana with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 2004’s A Ghost is Born, but frontman Jeff Tweedy has spent the intervening years slowly inching away from the abstract and obtuse elements of those LPs, in favor of more direct and explicit songwriting. Warm, his first proper album under his own name, marks the exceptional culmination of that approach. Written in the wake of his father’s passing, and as Tweedy enters his 50s, these deeply intimate and skeletal songs consider what it means to remain in the present, what it means to be a link in a family chain, and what it means to appreciate the joys of life even as darkness threatens to swallow us whole.

Rarely has Tweedy conveyed so much emotion with such sparse arrangements. On standout track “How Hard It is for a Desert to Die,” each vivid note of his acoustic guitar carries remarkable emotional heft. On opening track “Bombs Above,” he recounts his battle with opioid addiction in a near-whisper—“I’m taking a moment to apologize,” he sings—backed by knotted guitars and his elder son, Spencer, gently thumping the drums. Even “Let’s Go Rain,” a major-key jangle and the album’s most accessible track, utilizes its sunny melody as a foil for an allegory of total destruction, and the deception makes it all the more chilling.

On “War on War,” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tweedy proclaimed, with then-typical abstraction, that “You have to learn how to die / If you want to want to be alive.” Throughout Warm, he conveys his gratitude for that life with a clarity and solemnity that, finally, brings that sentiment into sharp focus. “I don’t believe in heaven,” he sings on the album’s title track. For Tweedy, heaven, and hell, are right here on earth.

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Campdogzz are a Chicago indie rock five-piece who released their sophomore album, In Rounds earlier this month via 15 Passenger. The band was the first to sign to Cursive’s record label and they came to the Paste Studio to perform three songs: “Raw Bone Ring,” “Run Wild” and “Dry Heat.”

Campdogzz capture the bleak yet spirited heart of the industrial midwest in a five-piece band propelled by driving rhythms, insistent dual guitars set in intriguing arrangements, and the haunting, evocative songs and voice of Tulsa native Jess Price. In a moment, Jess turns a beguiling melody to a darkening storm, rich in portent and meaning.

Campdogzz have earned a devoted following in Chicago and the midwest, with a lineup that has solidified into a potent live band featuring Jess Price (lead vocals, guitar and keyboard); Mike Russell (guitar and backup vocals); Nick Enderle (guitar); Mahmoud Haygood (bass); and Matt Evert (drums). In addition to their own headlining shows and tours (until recently conveyed by a school bus rigged for self-sufficient touring and camping; if you don’t know where to get the best falafel in every American city, you are definitely not a Campdog), the band has opened for Big Thief, Sam Evian, Ohmme, Tim Kasher and others. They were recently seen in the first season of the Netflix series, “Easy,” recorded a popular Audiotree live video session, and self-released “Riders in the Hills of Dying Heaven” in 2015. That early recording has been streamed nearly 2 million times. Now, Campdogzz are poised to come aggravate your blues, bang your head, and remind you where you are on the long road away from home.

Songs:

1. Raw Bone Ring 1:03 2. Run Wild 6:41 3. Dry Heat 12:50

Mike Russell, Jess Price, Nicholas Enderle, Andrew Rolfsen, Chris Dye

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There’s probably a reason why shoegaze never achieved widespread musical acceptance. The swirling, trippy waves of sound over the distant vocals and drums that were often more faint pulse than propulsive pop beat created a genre that would be beloved by few, but never embraced by many. As one of the blessed few who love the shoegaze sound, I was incredibly excited by Lightfoils’ new EP, Chambers, which perfectly captures classic shoegaze sound.

Shoegaze came out of England but Lightfoils comes out of Chicago, but you wouldn’t detect anything particularly American about the band. Singer Jane Zabeth Nicholson’s dreamy vocals are the sonic equivalent of Vasoline over a camera lens, taking an image just slightly out of focus. Her voice is similarly, and beautifully, out of focus, preventing her voice from being tethered to a particular geography.

Instrumentation is also an important part of shoegaze, and Lightfoils deliver there, too. Guitarists Neil Yodnane and Zeeshan Abbasi deploy the feedback, distortion, and tremolo characterizing the ethereal sound, although Lightfoils does play with cleaner guitar sounds in interesting ways.

The clean tones are in play on “Duende,” which has folk-influenced, almost-Spanish melody emerging from a chorus-laden guitar. Nicholson’s voice hangs over the track like a mist while dueling guitars chime and John Rungger’s drums ever-so-gently push the track along.

“Summer Nights” also has clean tones, built upon a low-key tremolo-y riff that almost phases in and out of time. But not time as in beat, but rather time as in chronology. The song, with its beautiful melodies and crystal-clear drums, gets stronger and more focused over an epic eight minutes, and while it never becomes a straight-ahead rock song, it does become more of a rock song.

Great shoegaze, like My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain, can be liberating. Instead of focusing on notes and beats, the listener becomes wrapped up in sonic textures. It’s not so much about a song, so much as it’s about creating an almost-secret-yet-complete world.

Lightfoils have built a beautiful, sonically gauze-hazed environment in just five songs (and just over half an hour). Listeners who missed the first wave of shoegaze in the 1990s, or simply miss the sound today, should give Lightfoils a chance.

On The Lillywhite Sessions, Ryley Walker and the similarly indebted trio of drummer Ryan Jewell and bassist Andrew Scott Young cover Dave Matthews’ infamously abandoned 2001 art-rock masterpiece of the same name, a record where he and his band indulged a new adult pathos and a budding musical wanderlust. With a delicate rhythmic latticework and vocals that ask you to lean in, Busted Stuff recalls Jim O’ Rourke’s golden Drag City days. Emerging from a wall of distortion, Diggin’ a Ditch becomes a power trio wallop à la Dinosaur Jr, shaking off existential malaise like twenty- something pals writing rock songs in the garage. Walker’s Grace is Gone, the most faithful take here, is a testament to his unflagging love for the music that helped make him a musician.

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This end-to-end interpretation of youthful fascination is a collective reminder that we are all just kids from somewhere, reckoning with our upbringing the best we can. Walker has stepped through the door long ago opened by the Dave Matthews Band to find a world teeming with musical possibilities. On The Lillywhite Sessions, he has, in turn, created his own.

FACS features Noah Leger and Brian Case of Disappears, and Alianna Kalaba. Using minimalism and space, FACS make abstract and modern art rock.

From out the ashes of Chicago’s beloved Disappears comes FACS, a new band that features three of the experimental luminaries four members. Their sound remains hypnotic, dark, and sleek, a sinister futurism that comes in electronic minimalism. The songs are bleak but iridescent, blinding when pointed in the wrong directions and melting with a radiant sort of corrosive post-punk expanse. There’s little of FACS that really feels human on Negative Houses, a record that draws an alien experience from us all, with cold, calculated mesmerization and a triumphantly focused numbness in its clinical precision. It’s a great debut that doesn’t feel at all like a debut, this is merely the next chapter.

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This is one of those albums that have a very unique own sound and it’s getting better and better with every new listening. It‘s the stuff I am finding interesting and could be amomg my favourite releases in 2018!

Jeff Tweedy Previews His First Proper Solo Album with Twang-Tinged Single "Some Birds"

Jeff Tweedy  has shared “Some Birds,” the first single off his forthcoming solo album Warm, due out November. 30th through dBpm Records. The record, recorded at Tweedy’s legendary Chicago studio The Loft, will be his first proper album of entirely new solo work, and will feature liner notes by the acclaimed author George Saunders.

“Some Birds” finds Tweedy up to his old Uncle Tupelo tricks once again. The rusted alt-country of No Depression has, throughout the years, alternately been Tweedy’s boon and bane some of Wilco’s best work occurred when he was running as far away from roots rock as he could. But when he’s on his own, that naturalistic style of songwriting feels, well, natural.

Like Wilco’s collaboration with Billy Bragg, or Tweedy’s own cover of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” off the I’m Not There soundtrack, “Some Birds” just feels right. His reedy voice seems to be made for lap-steel slides and clomping acoustic vamps. That’s not to say he’s gone all “beer, trucks and broken hearts,” though—he’s still got his deadpan wit and an eye for good imagery. “Some birds just sit / useless, like a fist,” he sings to start. “I lean on the wall / like a broom, confused / by the scope it all,” he adds later, his metaphors always dangling for a few moments, leaving you wondering just how a fist is useless, or how a broom can be confused. It’s comfortable but funny, lived-in but not tired.

According to Tweedy, “Some Birds” is “like a lot of songs on Warm, being a confrontation between self and shadow self simultaneously feeling I’m to blame and not to blame, present and gone, and utterly confused, but determined to hold someone accountable.”

Official video for “Some Birds,” the lead single off Jeff Tweedy’s solo album Warm.

Tweedy will be touring this fall in support of his new record. Check out the “Some Birds” video