Monday, April 2, 2012

We're moving... again.

So, we have been quiet here because we are hard at work at creating the new site, under the new name - Keep an eye here, or on our Twitter (@ChiTownPicks) for when the new site goes live.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Wombats Announce Spring Tour Dates

Criminally addictive indie pop trio, The Wombats have announced dates for their triumphant return to the states. Last time the band was here they were relegated to playing the too-small-for-their-fantastic-album Subterranean. This time around, the band is parlaying the sudden success of the latest single, "Jump Into The Fog", into a headlining appearance at Park West. Given how fantastic This Modern Glitch is, we fully expect their leapfrogging to larger venues to continue.

April 21 Jillian’s                                      Albany, NY
April 23 9:30 Club                                  Washington, DC
April 24 Middle East                                Cambridge, MA
April 26 Webster Hall                              New York, NY
April 27 Stage AE                                   Pittsburgh, PA
April 28 A & R Music Bar                         Columbus, OH
April 30 Park West                                 Chicago, IL
May 1   Fine Line Music Cafe                   Minneapolis, MN
May 2   The Beaumont Club                    Kansas City, MO
May 4   The Black Sheep                        Colorado Springs, CO
May 5   Kilby Court                                Salt Lake City, UT
May 7   Great American Music Hall          San Francisco, CA
May 8   El Rey Theatre                           Los Angeles, CA
May 9   The Casbah                               San Diego, CA

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Week In Shows

Here is our weekly list of recommended shows to catch in, and around, the city. We do not take our recommendations lightly, so you can put all of these down as money well spent on great live bands.

Friday - 3/2
The Twilight Sad @ Empty Bottle
$12 - 10pm - Opening: Young Prisms, Michah P Hinson

Late notice, but the Scottish band's sparse, moody new album is sure to sound fantastic here. As much as we love Empty Bottle, this is a band that should definitely be playing on a larger stage. The dramatic, brooding "Sick" and rumbling "Another Bed" are sure to set the room on fire.

Dia Frampton @ Subterranean
$15 - 8pm - Opening: Andrew Allen

If you are looking for something slightly cheerier to do tonight, last year's runner-up from The Voice is playing a set at Subterranean. Chad is a sucker for reality singing competitions, and Frampton (formerly of indie duo Meg & Dia) has a unique voice that should suit the venue nicely.

Saturday - 3/3
Pet Lions @ Subterranean
$10 - 9pm - Opening: Brighton, MA, Briar Rabbit, Ben Keeler

One of our favorite accidental discoveries over the last several years was stumbling across Pet Lions' "Roman History" on Pandora, only to realize that they are a Chicago band. A few shows and a great debut album later, we are fans. One of Chicago's indie outfits just waiting for the world to notice how great they are, you should definitely catch them while they are still playing the city's more quaint venues like this.

Thursday - 3/8
Yellow Ostrich @ Empty Bottle
$8 - 9:30pm - Opening: 1, 2, 3, Tin Tin Can

With a sophomore album, strange land, releasing earlier in the week, we are not quite sure how the Alex Schaaf project is playing at the smallish venue. The band's debut, The Mistress was a mind-blowing solo bedroom recording from Schaaf, achieved with loops of brilliantly layered sound and vocals. if you have somehow missed out, give it a spin - or better yet, trust us that this is a show not to be missed and catch them at Empty Bottle. It is a matter of time for the Barsuk-signed band to be playing to much larger crowds.

Friday - 3/9
Company Of Thieves @ Metro
$15 - 7pm - Opening: Bailiff, Sidewalk Chalk

Anyone that used to listen to our old podcast will not be shocked that we are recommending a Company Of Thieves show. They are easily one of the best live bands going, and it is great to see them playing a larger room. Catch them at Metro before more people figure out how damn great they are and they end up playing even bigger venues.

Maritime @ Empty Bottle
$10 - 10pm - Opening: Panoramic & True, The Minor Leagues

With two openers and Metro's notorious policy of shoving you out the door as quickly as possible once a show ends, you might have a shot to catch both Company Of Thieves and Maritime on Friday night. The Milwaukee band's latest album, Human Hearts was one of our favorite albums of last year. We can only imagine how fantastic the jogging jabs of "Paraphernalia" and raggedly strummed "Annihilation Eyes" will sound at the great venue.

Alabama Shakes @ Lincoln Hall
SOLD OUT - 10pm - Opening: Canasta, Jennifer Castle

Chicago's stellar indie pop outfit, Canasta is what would draw us to this show... if it were not sold out. Keep your eyes peeled here for future shots to catch Canasta's genius live.

Coming Soon
Saturday - 3/10
Adam Krier (AM Taxi) @ Beat Kitchen $10 10pm Opening: swizzlesteve, Kevin Andrew Prchal

Saturday - 3/17
Live Band Karaoke @ Schubas $5 5pm

Monday - 3/19
Fiona Apple @ Lincoln Hall SOLD OUT 8pm

Wednesday - 3/21
A Place To Bury Strangers @ Empty Bottle $12 9:30pm Opening: Apteka, The Big Sleep, DJ bradiy

Thursday - 3/22
Literary Rock & Roll: American Dreamers @ Metro FREE 6:30pm Readings of stories with Canasta providing music

Friday - 3/23
We Were Promised Jetpacks @ Bottom Lounge $15 9pm Opening: Bad Veins, New Cassettes
Delta Spirit @ Metro $17 9pm Opening: Waters (former Port O'Brien)
Rachael Yamagata @ Schubas $15 10pm Opening: Madi Diaz
The Temper Trap @ Lincoln Hall SOLD OUT 10pm

Saturday - 3/24
The Temper Trap @ Lincoln Hall $25 10pm
Rachael Yamagata @ Schubas $15 10pm Opening: Madi Diaz

Sunday - 3/25
Cursive @ Lincoln Hall $18 8pm Opening: Cymbals Eat Guitars, Conduits
Rosie Thomas @ Schubas $13 8pm Opening: Bhi Bhiman

Thursday - 3/29
The Pretty Reckless @ Bottom Lounge $15 6:30pm Opening: The Parlor Mob, The Hollywood Kills

Friday - 3/30
Miniature Tigers @ Schubas $15 8pm Opening: The Chain Gang Of 1974, Geographer, SPEAK

Saturday - 3/31
Ben Kweller @ Lincoln Hall $18 Opening: Sleeper Agent, The Dig

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Album Of The Month

The year might have started a little slow for indie music, but February took off like a rocket with some fantastic albums we are sure you will still be listening to as the calendar flips to 2013. We imagine Album Of The Month to be a close call each time out, but nearly all of the 'Also Worth A Listen' selections here could have just as easily been the pick this month.

Album Of The Month

Cursive: I Am Gemini
From the playfully taunting strut of "The Sun And Moon" to the devilishly jabbing "Warmer, Warmer", Tim Kasher and crew have a blast crafting the tale of two twins separated at birth on the band's seventh studio album. Shifty time changes and Kasher's uniquely splintered vocal delivery remain, with the creaky stomp of "Double Dead" and buzzsaw guitars of "Wowowow" keeping things plenty strange, but the are flourishes of melody around nearly every corner, as with the rumbling groove of "Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton", making this strange gem a more welcoming Cursive album than most.

Also Worth A Listen

Bahamas: Barchords
Canadian singer-songwriter, Bahamas made a name for himself with the delightful, if a tad too placid, debut, Pink Strat. Things do not pick up much in tempo this time around, but he feels a bit more comfortable awash in the strummy mellow cool of his music on the lovely "Lost In The Light" , the drippy blues thump of "Never Again", and playfully bouncy "I Got You Babe".

Band Of Skulls: Sweet Sour
The dual vocalist approach of this blues-kissed UK rock trio returns with a spectacular sophomore album. The slithering guitar and menacing beat of the title-track opens the album with a track that pulls you in hard only to punch you in the gut, with the rest of the album finding you questioning how they are not yet a household name. The eerily alluring harmonies of Emma Richardson and Russell Mardsen add a touch of unexpected sweetness to snarling "You're Not Pretty But You Got It Going On" and turn "Bruises" into a heartbreaker. The antsy layers of sound on tracks like dazzling "Wanderluster" only add to the enticing package.

Dr. Dog: Be The Void
The lo-fi bluesy shimmer of opening "Lonesome" and tangled mash of antsy beats and organ on trippy pop tune "That Old Black Hole" pull you into Dr. Dog's latest quickly. The carefree, ramshackle production of these irresistibly catchy tunes works great with their creaky harmonies on tracks like swaying "Get Away" and blippy chimes and naked drums that greet "Heavy Light". If you have never heard of them, but enjoy Wilco's flair for experimental indie pop, you are in for a treat.

fun.: Some Nights
If there is any band in danger of having their harmonies materialize into delicious soft-serve ice cream as they ooze out of the speakers, it is fun. Their sophomore effort again succeeds on the strength of, former The Format frontman, Nate Ruess' vocals, balancing triumph and heartbreak with each soaring note. The steady assault of beats and soaring, gorgeously melodic hooks of tracks like "We Are Young", featured in Chevy's Superbowl commercial this year, is the very definition of power pop. Like their debut, there are a few awkward missteps, but what works here, like the relentlessly cheery title track and the strummy, hopeful stomp of "Carry On", far outweighs what falls flat.

Geographer: Myth
Dream indie popsters, Geographer will melt your soul with their graceful, gorgeous sophomore album. The trio win your heart quickly with the vocals of Michael Deni gracefully oozing through the hypnotic blend of synth and beats on the opening "Life Of Crime", and hold you in breathless anticipation of where they head next with each passing new wave kissed gem. Melodic strummer "The Myth Of Youth", blippy bounce of "Lovers Game", and twirling lead single "Kites" will keep this album in heavy rotation well into Summer.

Heartless Bastards: Arrow
If you like a little country in your rock n roll, or a little rock n roll in your country, the gorgeous fourth album from this fantastic quartet will satisfy your wants. The achy heartbreak in Erika Wennerstrom's vocals weaving through the dancing guitar and bass groove of "Only For You" and the steady cool of "Marathon" show the band's softer side, while the ragged strummer "Parted Ways" and thick swath of guitar on "Late In The Night" show off their more rock edged side. Produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno, consider this proof that Britt Daniel is not the only member of the legendary indie rock outfit that can produce a kick-ass album.

Ben Kweller: Go Fly A Kite
Folky singer-songwriter, Ben Kweller adds a bit more southern rock twang to his sound this time around, proving a welcome change that flushes out the rocking verses and poppy melodic hook of "Mean To Me" well. The piano he has leaned on in recent albums returns on the jangling classic pop of "Jealous Girl" and boppy "Gossip", but the album succeeds largely on the heavier reliance of guitars lending Kweller a bit more of an edge his feel-good tunes.

Audra Mae and The Almighty Sound: Audra Mae And The Almighty Sound
In some ways the debut from Audra Mae's new band sounds like a more flushed-out, country dipped take on Asteroids Galaxy Tour, but that somehow sells the crackling energy and infectiously swaggering confidence of the album short. One listen to twangy gem "My Friend The Devil" or soulful flickering "The Real Thing" and you will be left wondering where Mae has been your whole life.

Anais Mitchell: Young Man In America
The taut, haunting fifth studio album from, folk singer-songwriter, Anais Mitchell is tough to get out of your ears once you hear it. The restless beauty in the achy vocals twisting through the title track, the delightfully splotchy harmonies and drizzled guitar of "Dyin Day", and casually captivating vibe of "Ships" make this the kind of album that sends you instantly searching for her previous work to catch up on what you have been missing. The loose, rhythmic strut of "Smokin The Boys" and steady step of working man blues "Ne'er Do Wells" round out the vibrant, diverse album well.

Shearwater: Animal Joy
The chilling falsetto of Jonathan Meiburg pairs with sparkling acoustic-based arrangements on the Texas indie outfit's latest offering, making for an intense listening experience that demands your attention with its grace and beauty as often as it does with the uptempo strut of tracks like "Immaculate". The way Meiburg quivers through the quaking backing of "Breaking The Yearlings" and the puffy-chested demand on jangling "You As You Were" makes this a magical, breathtaking album.

Tennis: Young & Old
Husband and wife throwback duo, with drummer James Barone joining on their first tour, Tennis had an awful lot of hype behind them when their debut, Cape Dory hit last year. With The Black Keys' Patrick Carney handling production, their sophomore effort sounds much more capable of reaching the towering heights their debut's hype promised. Alaina Moore's classic pop vocals roaring through the shaggy "It All Feels The Same", jangling piano of "Petition", and boppy, sweet winner "Origins" show that just because you find a band overhyped at first does not mean there is true talent there waiting to deliver the goods.

Rosie Thomas: With Love
It is both appropriate and a shame that this album came out on Valentine's Day. Thomas' latest is so bursting at the seems with love and affection that songs like the fantastically cheery "Over The Moon" are exactly the kind of tunes that induce that ear-to-throat gag reflex in those averse to V-Day. For those not afraid for a little love and hope in their indie, give the tender "2 Birds" and pretty "Where Was I" a shot and see how quickly the album wins you over.

The Twilight Sad: No One Can Ever Know
The third album from Scottish brooding rockers The Twilight Sad places the lads somewhere between The Smiths and Editors with shadowy romantic tunes like "Alphabet" and methodically twittering, sparsely lit "Sick". The album is a stark, mesmerizing listen that is hard to escape, with songs like the murky "Not Sleeping" and humming synth and rumbling bass of "Another Bed" grabbing hold of you tight and refusing to let go.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Album Of The Month

In the future, we will try to trickle album reviews out slowly - but given the busy next few weeks and lack of time to post, we are going to deliver the best January had to offer in one big post. We will check back in with you at some point in February with album reviews (good lord, the new Andrew Bird is amazing!) and concerts worth checking out, but in the meantime we give you this list of albums worth chewing on while we take a couple of weeks off.

Album Of The Month

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
The sophomore album from Swedish folk sister act sounds like, as our Nate Schultz put it, "Mumford And Sons and Jenny Lewis had a baby" - which translates as high praise in our book. Produced by Mike Mogis and featuring a collaboration with Bright Eyes, their second album is a colorful offering full of gorgeous harmonies, wonderful songwriting with hooks that stick long after the tracks have ended. The haunting vocals cutting through the strummed acoustic in the opening verse in the title track gives way to a raggedly melodic hook, pulling you into the album head-first. The pretty harmony in the achy hook of "This Old Routine" and the whine of the lap steel gleaming around the lovely "Emmylou" stand out on an album that consistently delivers the goods, culminating in a collaboration with Bright Eyes on the strummy folk winner "King Of The World".

Also worth a listen

Adam Arcuragi - Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It...
Adam Arcuragi's husky vocals over the tumbling drums and shaggily strummed acoustic of "Oh I See" is all you need to hear to fall for his blessed union of folk and gospel-tinged soul on his latest. Ripe with a backing choir warmly propping up his shaggy soulful vocals, the slow and lonesome "You'd Think Was Easy" and easy-going "... riverrun" are great listens from an album full of them.

Jessie Baylin - Little Spark
While her husband, Kings Of Leon's Nathan Followill, seems increasingly striving to fill stadiums and garner massive radio play, the quaint chill of Baylin's latest finds her retreating to a classic pop sound. The strings floating through sixties-inspired "Hurry Hurry" work wonders with her sweet voice, while the slight country twang in her vocals finds her wrapped lovingly around Nancy Sinatra-esque ballad "Love Is Wasted On Lovers". Baylin sets the mood in a jazz-infected early sixties pop style early, and thankfully never abandons it, resulting in gorgeous winners like "Star Cannon".

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
Throw Lady GaGa, Morrisey, and Nancy Sinatra in a blender and you would have a concoction close to the mellow, stylish chill of Lana Del Rey's intriguing debut. It is definitely an acquired taste best served to those fond of Fiona Apple, with the flowing string-laced backdrops wearing on your nerves by the end, but her macabre delivery is defiantly unique. There is something special going on in the rat-a-tat flow of "Summertime Sadness", the icy cool of her vocals on gangsta-tinged "Off To The Races", and her pouty tones through wonderfully old school "Blue Jeans". One listen to her wonderful melody on "Video Games" and you will know whether this is your thing or not.

Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On?
Four years between albums a lifetime for the prolific alt-folk artist. DiFranco's strummy percussive musicianship fits her stark, matter-of-fact songwriting extremely well on tunes like mellow, motherly "Life Boat" and the album's snarling, banjo-loving title-track; her brilliant cover of a classic folk protest tune popularized by Pete Seeger back in 1967. The lovely acoustic flicker of strings dancing through "Splinter" and reggae-tinged "J" make this the most instantly accessible DiFranco album in a while, sacrificing none of her sharp tongued lyrics.

Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Edwards' fourth album marks a new beginning following her divorce and newfound relationship with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who co-produced it with her. It still lacks the sharp edge barbs that made Failer and Back To Me work so well, but there is still a lot to like here. Vernon's more atmospheric touch lightens things up just a bit, working exceedingly well with her brave vocals on tracks like the tender "A Soft Place To Land", the hopeful shimmer of "Change The Sheets", and the blues-kissed "Mint".

Gotye - Making Mirrors
Living somewhere between the quirky pop cool of Beck and the organ-dipped soul of Mutemath, this Belgian-born Australian artist's third effort is an arresting listen from start to finish. From the jangling keys and carefree vocals of feel-good "I Feel Better" to the percussively strummy "In Your Light", somewhat recalling George Michaels' "Faith" at first, to the grumbling toe-tapper "Easy Way Out", the album is pure indie pop heaven. The quirky, insanely catch first single "Somebody That I Used To Know" is joined by plenty of other unshakable tunes on this loveable album.

Hectic Zeniths - Hectic Zeniths
The work of bedroom producer Adam Morgan Prince, this wonderfully layered piece of instrumental hip-hop is a gorgeous, fascinating listen. The looped piano drizzling through groggy horns and tattered beat of "Then And Now" recalls some of Moby's more engaging moments, while the electrified bass buzzing through the melodic piano chords and antsy strings of "I Might Drown" balances a gooey uptempo groove against creaky strings. Stretching his wings a bit on the synthpop haze of "The Loneliest City", the album definitely leaves you thirsty for more.

Cheyenne Marie Mize - We Don't Need EP
This six-track EP from the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter grabs your attention immediately with the sparse, percussion and vocal only, killer "Wishing Well". Mize's pleading soulful vocals on the first track win you over, but it is her chameleon-like ability to slide from faint hush ("Call Me Beautiful") to cheery and bright ("Going Under") that leaves you in awe of her by the end of the effort.

O'Brother - Garden Window
Produced by Andy Hull, of Manchester Orchestra fame, Atlanta rockers's debut is a fierce first offering. Opening with the thickly distorted guitars hovering over clanking drums and quivering, barely audible vocals on "Malum", leaving you wondering what in the hell the rest of the album has in store given its menacing, murky open. Things clean up a bit for the sparkling "Lo", with the distortion turned down to clear room for the snarled-lip vocals and creaky stabbing guitars. O'Brother are a decidedly guitar-centric band, with Hull lending them some of Manchester Orchestra's sense of tension in the jittery grunge of "Sputnik".

Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend
Living somewhere in the hazy cool between cheery indie pop and mellow shoegazer rock, the entrancing fog of music and waifish vocals drifting through somewhat recall the more psychedelic moments on MGMT's Orcular Spectacular. The textured layers of guitar and beats on "Drifting In And Out" and jittery programmed beats of "Put Me To Sleep" give this atmospheric treasure an irresistibly alluring quality, while the hooks lovingly recall early nineties new wave. The strummed acoustic over the steadily spelunking beat of "Shapeless & Gone" give this fascinating band a unique, instantly loveable sound you want to fall into and never come out.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And..... We're back!

Slowly, but surely, Chi-Town Notes is crawling back to life.  No podcast (for now), but we'll be back to offering up great concert recommendations along with concert and album reviews shortly.  Cheers!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Upcoming Shows - Week Ending May 16th

Friday, May 14th - Subterranean - 9:30pm - $10
Headliner: Hurricane Bells
Openers: King Sparrow, Verona Red

Another show that somehow nearly snuck by us, Hurricane Bells is the folk-rock side-project from Longwave frontman Steve Schiltz. Schiltz wrote, played, recorded, and mixed the album entirely himself with his MacBook and an Mbox. His original plan was to release the album himself, but when a b-side ended up on the New Moon soundtrack, the project caught the attention of Vagrant Records. One listen to any of the album, Tonight Is The Ghost, and it is easy to understand why. Definitely a show worth catching.

Saturday, May 15th - The Vic - 7:30pm - $24
Headliner: Josh Ritter
Opener: Joe Pug

Singer-songwriter, Josh Ritter is back on with a new album, So The World Runs Away. Ritter is a classic songwriter, who can tell a story in the space of a song the way only the classic folk writers could. The sparkling folk and homespun, thoughtful lyrics are a rarity nowadays.