Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

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Chicago quartet The Hecks have been at it since 2012, starting out as the duo of guitarist Andy Mosiman and Zach Hebert. The band drafted guitarist Dave Vettraino into the fold, a recording engineer who was recording the band’s s/t debut (Trouble In Mind, 2016) & ended up joining the band shortly thereafter. The band’s journey to the end result of “My Star” their second album – has taken them nearly three years in the making.

The new Hecks album is way more fun than anything released by a godchild of Women has any business being. Despite mining the same corner of ’80s pop culture at nearly the same time as Ceremony and Omni, neither of those bands were quite as playful with their homage to new wave, even if that recreational period doesn’t extend all the way to My Star’s repetitive eight-minute closer. The slow build-up of vocals, percussion, synths, and an additional guitar over a single, simple riff across the title-track’s extensive runtime is subtle in a way the rest of the record definitely isn’t, recalling the harsh guitar-rock of their debut.

After recording an initial version of the album in 2017, The Hecks started gigging with new fourth member & keyboardist Jeff Graupner, whose synthesized squiggles added some welcome heft & swagger to the band’s tunes. After reworking & rearranging much of the new material to integrate Graupner, the band scrapped the recordings & rebuilt them from the ground up, incorporating Graupner’s skills at the keys.

Dave V: Vocals / Electric Guitar / Electric Bass Guitar / Engineering
Andy M: Vocals / Electric Guitar / Electric Bass Guitar / Drum Machine / Synthsizer
Jeff G: Vocals / Synthesizer
Zach H: Vocals / Drums / Electric Drums / Drum Machine

“My Star” Trouble In Mind Records, Released on: 2019-10-11

DEHD – ” Letter “

Posted: November 5, 2019 in MUSIC
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’Letter’ is a visual and sonic representation of the physical embodiment of subtle lingering grief and the arc of healing that follows once love has lost and relationship dynamics have shifted. The pain of one party moving on before the other, leaving a feeling of replacement. The empowerment and strength found from non-sexual friendship, from creative pursuits, and from constant, unapologetic self care, self soothing, and acts of self love. A moving on and moving forward that only happens once one has returned truly to oneself. ‘Letter’ is the beginning of the end of an era.

As if Emily Kempf’s throaty vocals weren’t pronounced enough on Dehd’s sophomore album “Water”, the Chicago trio dropped “Letter” as conclusive evidence that her voice is equally fit for fronting a metal ensemble or going solo as a theatrical pop singer of the exclusive tier pioneered by Kate Bush. As if to prep for another winter on the frigid coast of Lake Michigan, the band seems to be closeting their surfboards and infiltrating the icy post-punk scene, the track opening with nearly a minute of ambient synths before a familiar surf-rock guitar gets to work thawing things out.

released October 10th, 2019, Recorded by Jason Balla

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker are both known for their creativity and curious spirits. Rumback is a drummer in high demand in Chicago’s free-jazz circles, and a pillar of the second wave of improvisers in a scene first shaped by the legendary players like Sun Ra and the AACM. Walker draws deeply on other distinctly American styles, bringing a strong sense of folk tradition to his playing that is as arresting as his freewheeling performance style. Walker’s musical explorations are not limited to his own songwriting: the guitarist regularly collaborates in Chicago and now New York with innovators of every genre. Together, Rumback and Walker find common ground in their kinetic, intuitive playing and yearning creative outlook. “Little Common Twist”, their sophomore release as a duo, finds both players at their most adventurous. It compiles instrumental pieces that convey a striking range of emotions, at once introspective and expansive, with a delicate interplay that delights as they move with ease across a spectrum of styles. The recording has a pastoral quality that recalls Van Morrison’s classic album Veedon Fleece, and captures a remarkably dexterous performance by both Charles and Ryley that make this album so expansive and fresh.

Little Common Twist was recorded over several sessions throughout 2017 and 2018 with producer John Hughes, capturing the duo playing in the moment with minimal overdubs. The guitar and drums duo eschewed each instrument’s traditional roles of rhythm and melody, experimenting with texture and rhythm. Rumback and Walker remarkably paint in both broad, gestural strokes and intricate melodic details. “Half Joking” and “Self Blind Sun” are warm, deep songs that draw on structures from the American primitive guitar songbook. “Idiot Parade” leaps into more explorative territory, Rumback setting an urgent, rolling cymbal groove while Walker paints melodic sonic vapor trails across the sky. “Menehbi” experiments further with abstract forms, atomizing guitar and drums into an ambient haze where loose flourishes from Rumback hint at rhythm and structure, while a steady electronic pulse provides an anchor amidst the fog.


Little Common Twist is the culmination of a creative partnership that has seen Rumback and Walker constantly challenging each other. In stretching the bounds of their interplay even further than before, the duo created their most evocative and expansive work to date, conjuring the afterglow of sun-scorched landscapes and ethereal after-hours ambiance.

Releases November 8th, 2019

With Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Langhorne Slim) at the production helm, Alio stretches well beyond Fort Frances’ Americana roots to unlock the potential that’s been building for the past two years with louder guitars, jubilant horns and dueling rhythm sections. 


If there was any concern that David Berman had lost any of his stunning acuity with language in the 11 years since the last Silver Jews record, the record is set straight right out of the gate: “You see the life I live is sickening/ I spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion/ Day to day, I’m neck-and-neck with giving in/ I’m the same old wreck I’ve ever been.” The musical milieu may be different this time out—lush indie rock that feints frequently toward Americana—but Berman’s knack for weaving evocative narratives shot through with hope, doubt, and self-destruction are as strong as they’ve ever been. The album feels like a gift: when Berman blew up Silver Jews in 2008, he disappeared entirely; the long silence that followed made it seem like things might stay that way. Purple Mountains rewards the patience of his ardent followers with some of his strongest melodic songwriting to date, and also has enough clean hooks and clever barbs to reel in a few new ones.

Centerpiece “Margaritas at the Mall” likens the futility of human existence in the face of a silent God with day-drinking at a shopping center: “See the plod of the flawed individual, looking for a nod from God/ Trodding the sod of the visible, with no new word from God/ We’re just drinking margaritas at the mall/ That’s what this stuff adds up to after all.” The melody in the chorus sounds triumphant; the lyrics are anything but. The album is dusted with traces of pedal steel, barroom piano, and string-like keys, but—as it should be—the centerpiece is always Berman. “If no one’s fond of fucking me/ then maybe no one’s fucking fond of me/ Maybe I’m the only one for me,” he sings wryly in the album’s closing number. Berman may feel alone, but his legion of disciples cheer his return—and hang on every word.


David Berman comes in from the cold after ten long years. His new musical expression is a meltdown unparalleled in modern memory. He warns us that his findings might be candid, but as long as his punishment comes in such bite-sized delights of all-American jukebox fare, we’ll hike the Purple Mountains with pleasure forever.

Released July 12th, 2019

2019 Drag City Inc.

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Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago. after Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek (former members of Smith Westerns) reconnected – first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth.

Whitney have shared another new song from their forthcoming album “Forever Turned Around”, which is out August 30th via Secretly Canadian. It’s called “Valleys (My Love)” and arrives with a new music video from Kamp Grizzly. Directed by Nick Woytuk, it follows a truck driver. Watch it below.

Whitney’s sophomore album features production from Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Hand Habits) and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado (who’s worked with Weyes Blood and Father John Misty). The new single follows “Giving Up.”

Whitney are performing later this year’s at Green Man Festival Brecon Beacons, UK

“Valleys (My Love)” from Forever Turned Around, the new album from Whitney, out August 30th, 2019 on Secretly Canadian

V.V. Lightbody (Vivian McConnell from Chicago bands Santah / Grandkids) is playing music that is self-described as nap-rock. V.V. released her debut LP, ‘Bathing Peach’, in June of 2018. Her songs have cocktail lounge vibes; layered with flutes & lyrics about dried fruit. Think of glitching mermaids with dozing and comfortable songs. 

Just a few weeks when we last raved about Chicago’s V.V. Lightbody, yet with the release of her new single this week, we’re more than willing to do so again. The track, Car Alarm, is the latest taste of where V.V.’s music is going following last year’s Bathing Peach.

“Car Alarm” is a somewhat darker affair than the bossa nova shuffle of V.V.’s last single, Baby, Honestly. Discussing the track, V.V. has suggested it came to her in around 10 minutes, combining her, “humid nap rock”, with a more driving quality. There’s a nod to the more 1970’s leaning moments of Angel Olsen’s My Woman, as Car Alarm bounces on a chunky lead guitar riff, even finding room later for a twanging, beast of a solo. Lyrically, it finds V.V. pondering death, yet finding a quiet humour in it, “the thought of me hypothetically trying to contact everyone in my life to let them know that I’m dying made me laugh. The chorus pokes fun at being a selfishly dark artist, taking small human moments and exaggerating them into song”. Another thrilling trip into this songwriting mind, V.V. Light body is a musician on a roll.


Car Alarm is out now via Acrophase Records.

Song and lyrics by V.V. Lightbody (Vivian McConnell)
Guitar & Vocals – V.V. Lightbody 
Lead Guitar – Evan Metz 
Drums – Nate Friedman
Bass – Michael Harmon


On May 28th, 1991 The Smashing Pumpkins released their debut album ‘Gish’. Billy Corgan performed nearly all of the guitar and bass parts on the record.  They had been an active band for the 3 years before the release of this album, playing small shows here and there in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

Upon its release, it was quite positively acclaimed. This was, of course, in May of ’91.

Arriving several months before Nirvana’s Nevermindthe Smashing Pumpkins‘ debut album, “Gish”, which was also produced by Butch Vig, was the first shot of the alternative revolution that transformed the rock & roll landscape of the ’90s. While Nirvana was a punk band, the Smashing Pumpkins and guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan were arena rockers, co-opting their metallic riffs and epic art rock song structures with self-absorbed lyrical confessions. Though Corgan’s lyrics fall apart upon close analysis, there’s no denying his gift for arrangements. Like Brian May and Jimmy Page, he knows how to layer guitars for maximum effect, whether it’s on the pounding, sub-Sabbath rush of “I Am One” or the shimmering, psychedelic dream pop surfaces of “Rhinoceros.”

Such musical moments like these, as well as the rushing “Siva” and the folky “Daydream,” which features D’Arcy on lead vocals, demonstrate the Smashing Pumpkins‘ potential, but the rest of Gish sometimes falls prey to undistinguished songwriting and showy instrumentation.

The album’s sessions, lasting 30 working days, were brisk by Pumpkins‘ standards, largely because of the group’s inexperience.The recording sessions put an intense strain on the band, with bassist D’arcy Wretzky later commenting that she did not know how the band survived it, and Corgan explaining he suffered a nervous breakdown

Regarding the album’s thematic content, Corgan would later say,

The album is about pain and spiritual ascension. People ask if it’s a political album. It’s not a political album, it’s a personal album. In a weird kind of way, Gish is almost like an instrumental album—it just happens to have singing on it, but the music overpowers the band in a lot of places. I was trying to say a lot of things I couldn’t really say in kind of intangible, unspeakable ways, so I was capable of doing that with the music, but I don’t think I was capable of doing it with words.

“Gish” went platinum 8 years after its release. As far as debuts go, this one is a masterpiece. You’ll love this album;

The band:  Jimmy Chamberlin – drums, Billy Corgan – vocals, lead guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, production, James Iha – rhythm guitar, vocals, D’arcy Wretzky – bass, vocals, lead vocals on “Daydream”, layouts

Mavis Staples has never shied away from making a statement, going all the way back to the raw vocal power and unshakeable commitment of The Staple Singers’ 1965 civil rights anthem “Freedom Highway.” The records she’s been making on ANTI for the last 15 years — the overt examples being We’ll Never Turn Back and If All I Was Was Black— have been increasingly oriented toward raising consciousness and, considering Americas’s current state, we need Staples’ fiery forward momentum more than ever.

The message is clear from the get-go on We Get By, as the dirty, grinding blues riffs of Staples’ bandleader/guitarist Rick Holmstrom power opening cut “Change.” “What good is freedom if we haven’t learned to be free?” asks Staples, and the band’s gritty rumble underlines her outrage.

Jeff Tweedy produced and wrote her last album, and wasn’t above gently pushing the envelope, but Ben Harper fills the writer/producer role by just letting Mavis be Mavis on We Get By. Harper takes her down a vintage Staple Singers path with the funky “Brothers and Sisters,” and when she sings, “trouble in the land, we can’t trust that man” her intentions aren’t exactly elliptical. The classic vibe is carried forward with Holmstrom’s doomy Pops Staples-style guitar licks on “Heavy on My Mind.”

Staples’ gospel repertoire comes to the fore on the sanctified stomper “Sometime,” when she utilizes simple, gospel-style lyrics to passionately reiterate the need for change. It’s not all current affairs though — for all the biblical allusions, when Mavis sings “Nothing in the world is stronger than my love for you” in blues-rocker “Stronger,” she seems to blur the line between earthly and spiritual. And she allows a peek at her intimate side on when she dips into her sensual side for the slow-burning, love-hungry, “Chance on Me.”


Nearly 80 upon the album’s release, Mavis is the last surviving member of the Staple Singers’ ’70s lineup. But closing out the album by calling for “One More Change,” she makes it plain that her struggle is our struggle, and it goes on.

Illinois songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird is back with his 12th solo album “My Finest Work Yet”, and it might actually live up to its name. These 10 new tracks find Bird doubling down on the heady folk storytelling that we’ve come to expect from him, but in a way that feels more immediate and of the moment than ever before.

Ambiguity, like virtuosic whistling and erudite lyrics, is a hallmark of Andrew Bird’s music, but it’s seemingly absent from the title of his latest album, On which the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter has dubbed “My Finest Work Yet”. The other superlative in the discussion around the 10-track album, is that it’s Bird’s most political or topical work to date, thanks in part to the Lake Forest native being forthcoming about the real-life events that informed tracks like “Bloodless.” But My Finest Work Yet travels further back than the 2016 election,

In addition to raising the question of whether this is his finest work yet, the conversation around the album has also been about it being maybe his most political work to date. My Finest Work Yet certainly explores a lot of divisions in this country.

There are all these songs that have made it across airways that are dealing with anything that’s going on now these are troubled times, And I think what better medium than songwriting to go in deep and figure out what’s really going on and maybe offer suggestions of how to get out of it. So a lot of the songs, from “Archipelago”, “Fallorun” to “Bloodless” they’re dealing with this deal that’s been made that we’re somewhat unwittingly being played by these people that are profiting through algorithms and whatnot on this division, and just amplifying it. And the more they amplify it, the more they seem to benefit from it. It’s just taking things that have always been there, and exploiting them, and making them worse for profit. It has to do with a certain aspect of human nature that’s been around for eons. But it’s just that attraction one has to their enemies—what space, what void in us is being filled by our adversaries? And how that gets our horns locked and we can’t pull them out. And it’s that sort of intimacy, that need that’s being filled by your adversary. What would happen if you just walked away? They’d probably really miss you, you know?

AB: Yeah, I kind of stumbled on that word, “Fallorun.” I kind of ran the two together. I was going through, like, five different possible choruses that were all way too heavy-handed, I think. “Fall of throne.” And then my wife thought I was saying “fall or run,” instead of “Fallorun” And I thought, “That’s actually better than ‘fall of throne.’” And so it is talking about that fight-or-flight instinct. And it’s just sort of addressing that, “What is patriotism?” And the verse is, beyond those first couple lines, “What if Trump were not human, he was just an algorithm that takes all our worst impulses as people and amplifies them and exploits them, turns them on us?” That’s effectively what we’re dealing with. It’s just almost a reflection of ourselves in a way.

“Manifest” is the latest song to be released off the album. AB: Yeah, I guess I was thinking about fossil fuels—just that term is kind of interesting in how it points out that what we pull out of the ground and put into a combustible engine is the result of millions of years of plants and animals dying and being compressed underground and being fossilized. But I also wanted to look at the afterlife for those organic things. There’s still energy contained in that organic matter, and that’s what we’re doing, is spending the last bit of energy of that life form. And from there it becomes vapor, so it’s almost like the ghost of that thing. There’s a certain poetry to all that, as frightening as it is. So that’s mostly what it’s about.

The first line is like, “Coming to the edge of the widest canyon.” I was imagining the Spanish explorers coming to the edge of the Grand Canyon, and in that moment thinking, “Whoa, we just got to the end of it all.” That’s how the song kind of started, but the chorus is talking about the tendrils, the fracking, these things going deep into the ground to find every little bit of fossilized fuel. The video that’s out at the moment is just us in the studio, but there’s an official video coming out in, like, a week and a half that’s an animated thing that kind

“Cracking Codes” feels like one of the “bread and roses” moments on the albums; it’s more personal, AB: Yeah, it sounds more like a love song than anything else on the record. The chorus is about either telling the truth, or just being able to tell if someone is being true—that search for truth relates to everything else on the album. And through it I’m just talking about how even without words two people can, through body language or just even atmosphere that one creates with energy, that you can just tell if someone is really who they say they are. ’Cause it’s quite straightforward. I wrote that song very quickly, and so it hangs together better than anything I’ve written in a long time.

How would you come to realize this is your finest work yet? You have an extensive discography, which means you have a lot to compare. Is it kind of just like a gut feeling in the middle of the night after finishing recording.

Having such an extensive discography makes me saying something like that about myself more okay,

AB: I really liked “Inside Problems,” but that didn’t really make sense for these songs. I was really trying to convey this idea of horns being locked, of a struggle of two wrestlers just starting to make out or something. Two people or sides, just so close and so intimate, yet locked in the struggle. And I couldn’t figure out a way to do that without it being just too much. So I gave up on trying to encapsulate the whole record with a few words, and that process just seemed kind of silly on record No. 14 anyway. So I just went with this somewhat tongue-in-cheek statement.

But that being said, these songs on the album do feel different to me. There was an urgency in the writing of them that felt different, like I had a purpose even though I was still kind of doing what I was always do, which is pay attention to what’s around me and process it.

These songs make up this kind of path to war, from trying to avoid it on “Fallorun” to spouting propaganda on “Proxy War,” and then there’s a call to “Don The Struggle.” Is the album closer, “Bellevue Bridge Club,” intended to bring an end to the conflict?. That song, I’ve been writing for a long time, five or six years. It went through so many versions. As opposed to “Cracking Codes,” which took a half an hour, this one took years. And eventually I scrapped everything in the song except this line, “We’ll be playing bridge in the psych ward with Barbara, Jean, and Sue.” I had the hardest time working backwards and figuring out what makes that line make sense. All I knew is that that was the best line in the song. The original idea was someone coming home from the Great War and seeing horrible things and just wanting to have a boring life, or in this case, suffering, or recovering from shell shock in the psych ward just playing bridge, and wanting to live in a small town.

Something that’s been happening on the last couple records is that I embrace the second voice that enters in my head as I’m writing a song, the one that’s a bit critical of the song. I think it’s a refreshing thing, and usually people don’t choose to put their own self-doubt in the song, they usually try to block that voice out. But I kind of like to embrace ’cause it gives us a break from the first-person narrative that you’re listening to through most of the record. And so that’s where that line comes from.