Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Releases - January 29, 2013

At some point during my senior year in college, I managed to acquire a total of 3000 cds. Every Tuesday, regardless of my dwindling bank account, I'd head to my local record store to pick up the new releases.

More often than not, I'd be happy with my purchase, memorizing lyrics and counting the days until their tour came to town. But for every The Colour and The Shape, the Foo Fighter's ambitious second album, there was a Foma, a generic rip-off from one-hit wonders, the Nixons. 

Thankfully, with the emergence of streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, you can avoid my mistakes and spend your cash on important things like beer and laundry. The following three albums are new this week and definitely worth your time, and probably your money too.

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob
The twin sisters from Calgary are back with their seventh studio album and it's not what you would expect. This time around they have traded in their guitars and indie vibe, for an electro-pop feel, sounding more like Kelly Clarkson than Kim Deal. 

The addition of producers Greg Kurstin (P!nk, Kelly Clarkson) and Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Paramore), give Heartthrob a glossy makeover that follows the trend of high energy and shimmering synths. Check out the video for Closer, the first single.

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite - Get Up!
During a recent show in Chicago, Ben Harper spoke fondly of a winter spent learning the blues from some of our city's best musicians. On Get Up!, we get to see how much he actually learned.

Over the course of 10 songs, Ben finds new ways to showcase his voice and expertise on slide guitar, with songs of despair and solace. Inviting electric blues harmonica player, Charlie Musselwhite, wasn't a bad idea either. Charlie has been playing since the 60s, and knows just the right time to give his instrument a stomp, or a whimper.

The lonely, You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend), is the best both artists can offer and a worthy addition to the Stax legacy. The duo is playing a handful of shows, including a date at the Riviera on March 3rd. Tickets are on sale and available now.

Local Natives - Hummingbird
Earlier this month, I gave you a small sample of Local Native's second album, Hummingbird. My guess is that on the strength of Heavy Feet alone, you already picked up the album. If not, don't worry, the entire album will be up for the next two weeks, courtesy of Frenchkiss Records.

On their debut album, Local Natives played the California vibe to perfection, with clear skies and sand almost pouring out of the speakers. On Hummingbird, you get the quite the opposite; late nights and hushed tones. Either way, it sounds good to me.

Local Natives will be in town for a SOLD OUT show at the Vic, Thursday, March 21.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oliver - Mechanical EP [Stream]

Earlier this week, Oliver released their latest offering, the incredibly funky, Mechanical. The LA duo, U-Tern and Oligee, have been at it for a while now, but things seem to be heating up.

After countless remixes and collaborations, including the infectious Disco Nap with A-Trak, the guys are bringing their brand of Nu-Disco to the people, complete with funky synths, electro hooks and thumping bass.

MYB, has been hitting clubs everywhere, including this month's Fool's Gold Radio and Holy Ship. But, my favorite is Control, that break around 1:40 with bouncy keys and hand claps is so perfect.

The Mechanical EP is out now on Fool's Gold Records, and the guys will hit the road with Dillon Francis in March.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pearl Jam Announce Chicago Show

 Pearl Jam announced this morning that they will be taking over the friendly confines of Wrigley Field for a special concert on July 19th. The concert, along with another show in London, Ontario, are being billed as "An Evening With Pearl Jam", with no opening act.

Lead singer, and Evanston native, Eddie Vedder has been a long time fan of the Cubs, even writing the song All The Way, after a meeting with Ernie Banks.

Tickets will go on sale, Saturday, February 9th, at 10 am. Members of Pearl Jam's fan club can enter a drawing to purchase advance tickets, including the fan club only pit section.

The band is currently working on the follow-up to 2009's, Backspacer, and are expected to announce a full tour in the fall.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Freelance Whales - Lincoln Hall, January 19, 2013

Freelance Whales returned to Chicago last night for a sold out show at Lincoln Hall that magnified their sound to immeasurable heights. The indie band from Queens, New York, are currently on tour supporting their latest effort, Diluvia, released in October on Frenchkiss Records.

Since their debut in 2008, the band has often been described as dreamy, chamber pop, which is hard to argue with since lead singer, Judah Dadone's instrument of choice is a banjo. On any given song, you can find the band using glockenspiels, mandolins and xylophones to create layers and waves of sound. 

But don't overlook the electronic element of this band. Some of their strongest songs have synthesizers and effects that can get stuck in your head for days.

Opening with Aeolus, the focus was front and center on Judah's ethereal voice and soaring harmonies. Land Features followed with a burst of instruments and frenzy that makes it easy to agree with the flattering comparison to Arcade Fire

The ebb and flow continued with standout track, Follow Through, as the sparkling synth faded and the lyrics, Two Words/I never thought they'd be the ones I'd choose/and I'll always follow through, rang clear as a bell. Not to be outdone, Dig Into Waves, became hypnotic as single notes seemed to build the song from thin air. 

The blips and beeps of Hannah created an immediate shuffle on the floor, with most, if not all, of the audience singing along. Locked Out gave them a chance to expand what is already a brilliant song. The extended outro, complete with horns, teased at what may be up next for this talented band. By the time Starring started, the band had already exceeded expectations and the fans couldn't have asked for more. Well, actually, I would have liked to hear Ghosting, but now I'm just being picky...

The tour continues tonight in Columbus, Ohio, and runs through January. Go see this band and support live music!

1. Aeolus
2. Land Features
3. Generator ^ 2nd Floor
4. Follow Through
5. Spitting Image
6. Generator ^ 1st Floor
7. Dig Into Waves
8. Hannah
9. Location
10. The Great Estates
11. Locked Out
12. DNA Bank
13. Broken Horse
14. Starring

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dave Grohl Presents Sound City

Dave Grohl will make his directorial debut tonight at the Sundance Film Festival with the release of Sound City. The documentary is gushing love letter to Sound City Studios, the legendary California recording studio responsible for an astonishing amount of landmark albums.

The project started when Grohl purchased a recording console shortly after the studio closed in 2011. That console, a custom Neve 8028, sat in Studio A for over 30 years and recorded everything from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours to Nirvana's Nevermind.

Along with the movie, Grohl has made an album with an all-star cast titled, Sound City - Real to Reel. Both the movie and album are available for preorder, with an expected release date of February 1st.

Can't wait that long? Sound City will have a one-night only showing on January 31st in theaters across the US. Chicago people, you're only chance (so far) is the Landmark Century Centre Cinema.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ra Ra Riot - Beta Love [Full Album Stream]

Beta Love, Ra Ra Riot's third album is as baffling an album as you're going to hear this year. Granted every band has the freedom to evolve. However, that would mean putting out something better than you have before. While the album has a few bright spots, most of Beta Love is a hurried experiment that reduces its talented members to well-placed samples.

Ra Ra Riot left every ounce of emotion on their sleeve with their debut, The Rhumb Line, an album that was built on Mathieu Santos' steady bass and sweeping string arrangements. 2010's The Orchard found more of the same, giving cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller even more room to maneuver. Both albums had the right mix of comfort and bliss, with tracks like Each Year and Boy serving as proof that this band could get you moving.

Unfortunately, this is where Beta Love misses the mark. Lead singer, Wes Miles has said that the album was in part inspired by Ray Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near, with the idea that people eventually transcend their human form and become part of technology. With that in mind, you can call this album a complete success; it is absolutely cold to the touch, vacant and breathless.

The rapid-fire drums and 80's synth on Binary Mind lack any emotion at all; sounding more like a long-lost Mega Man level than what we've come to expect. The first single, Beta Love, fares much better with striking strings and a noodling bass line that finds the right balance between the past and future. 

Is It Too Much is the only glance back and my favorite song of the album with busy keys, a hint of guitar, warm strings and human emotion. What I Do For You is a glaring miscue, with trunk-rattling bass and shrieking vocals. Consider yourself lucky that it's the shortest song on the album.

That Much and I Shut Off attempt to salvage the album, but are far too late. Both feature live instruments, inventive synths and soaring refrains with electronic elements filling in the gaps. Had the band and producer, Dennis Herring, followed that path they might have found a stronger album without dismissing the band's signature sound. 

The stream below is for a limited time. I expect Barsuk to remove it when Beta Love is released on Tuesday. Tickets are still available for their show at the Metro on March 1st.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Local Natives - Heavy Feet

Local Natives have released another track from their new album, Hummingbird, scheduled for release on January 29, via Frenchkiss Records. Heavy Feet is a fine example of what the band does well: staggering drums, soaring harmonies and ghostly guitars.

Want more? The band is offering a free download of Breakers, the first single, when you sign up for their mailing list. Vinyl junkies can preorder the deluxe album, on gorgeous, marbled red. Other packages include t-shirts, buttons and signed lithographs.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

Isn't it interesting that the music industry is supposedly dying a slow, painful death, yet every magazine/website runs a post like this? Don't believe everything you read (except this, obviously). Among the thousands of albums that are slated for release this year, these 10 are guaranteed to create a buzz and hopefully entertain.

#10. Depeche Mode - Delta Machine (March 27)
The band that helped usher in the first wave of Electronic Dance Music will release their 13th studio album, and first on Columbia Records in March. At a press conference to announce the album and subsequent world tour, the band described the album as "soulful" and reminiscent of their classics, Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion. For their sake, I sure hope so. I'm not sure they can withstand another uninspired album like 2009's Sounds of the Universe.

#9. Junip - Junip (April 23)
Jose Gonzalez and company look to build on the success of their critically-acclaimed debut Fields, with more soft-spoken lyrics and mesmerizing songs. Fans were given a small sample with an album teaser released late last year featuring the first single, Line of Fire. Look for the entire song to be released this Monday.

#8. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (May 14)
Frontman Ezra Koenig told Q Magazine earlier this year that the band's third album is "darker" and more "organic". He also added that the album felt a bit like the end of a trilogy, with character and themes maturing and changing. The horns on Unbelievers, performed last November on Jimmy Kimmel, were a welcomed surprise. 

#7. Arcade Fire - Untitled (Fall)
Most of the buzz about Arcade Fire's follow up to the Grammy award-winning The Suburbs is due to a very special guest. In December the band's manager, Scott Rodger, confirmed that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy was working with the band, producing at least three tracks. With a rumored 35 songs complete, the only real question is whether it will be a single or double album. A New York show delivered footage of Crucified Again and a legendary, secret show in Montreal under the guise of Les Identiks showcased even more.

#6. Pearl Jam -  Untitled (Summer)
I really expected a new Pearl Jam record in 2012. So much so that I had them on last year's post. But these guys rarely do what people expect. Instead of rushing to complete an album, Eddie Vedder and the boys did everything else instead. The band played Europe and South America, Eddie followed with solo tours in Europe and the US. Bassist Jeff Ament released an album with new band RNDM and guitarist Stone Gossard reunited with his other band, Brad. Focus guys, please.

#5. Atoms For Peace - Amok (February 26)
The birth of Atoms For Peace and their debut album is so honest, you can't help but root for these guys.  As if they have any chance of failing. Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Pepper's Flea, Nigel Goodrich and Mauro Refosco originally got together to play Yorke's solo album, The Eraser. Anyone that was fortunate to see the band live immediately realized the band brought a whole new element to the material and apparently so did Yorke. 

#4. Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork (June)
Initial reports had this album coming out in March, but it now looks like it might be closer to Summer. Anything Josh Homme puts out is worth the wait, but in the case of this album, it is shaping up to be a classic. News of drummer Joey Castillo leaving the band was almost immediately softened when it was announced that Dave Grohl was once again behind the drum kit. Grohl has not recorded with the band since their breakout album, Songs For The Deaf. Other confirmed guests include Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and original bassist, Nick Oliveri. 

#3. Death From Above 1979 - Untitled (TBD)
I cannot overstate the importance of Death From Above 1979's debut album, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. It will forever be a measuring stick for everything and anything rad. In September, singer Sebastian Grainger posted a note on the band's website telling fans that he and Jesse F. Keeler were in fact writing new material. However instead of hashing it out in the studio, they were taking their "little muscle bound babies" and throwing them to the lions to see which ones survived. A Canadian tour followed in October and the band is said to be putting the finishing touches on their first material since 2004. 

#2. Phoenix - Bankrupt! (April)
4 years is a long time to wait for a new album. Especially considering the absolute pandemonium that followed Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Glassnote Records head Daniel Glass told the Huffington Post in December that the album is complete, later adding to Billboard magazine it could be "revolutionary". Singer Thomas Mars has described the new material as "very experimental, very minimalistic." With a release date of April, expect a single within the month. 

#1. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (May 21)
Here's what we know so far. Daft Punk is working on new material; that's about it. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter continue to be the most secretive duo on the planet, despite numerous producers confirming their participation. Disco-Funk producer Niles Rodgers has admitted to working with the band, as well as the legendary Giorgio Moroder. The title and release date is purely speculative, originating from French band Yelle's twitter account with presumed cover art and release date, although that might be the first single. Of course they are also rumored to headline Coachella, but isn't that every year?
Update: Daft Punk have confirmed their new album, Random Access Memories, will be released May 21, on Columbia Records

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2012

The year-end hysteria is complete, if not a little late. A sincere "thank you" to each and every one of you. 2012 was my most productive year yet and you guys rewarded my effort by coming back again and again. I've got a few things up my sleeve for the new year, so let's get started.

#10. Passion Pit - Gossamer
Earlier this year Pitchfork ran an incredible cover story on "the brilliant and troubled mind" of lead singer, Michael Angelakos. Listen closely to Gossamer and you'll find genuine anxiety wrapped in a nice shiny bow. While they are definitely not the first band to do this, they are currently the best. Every time you sing along to I'll Be Alright, do you even notice the line: I drink a gin and take a couple of my pills, or are you too busy enjoying the music as it flashes past you?

 #9. Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
 In all honesty I'm not sure if I caught up with Animal Collective or if they simply slowed down. On Centipede Hz the guys keep the psychedelic vibe heavy, but give it to you in smaller, more focused bursts of energy. You can make "experimental" music without it turning into a bizarre, long-winded, train wreck. Here's the proof.

#8. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak & Blu
Prior to the release of Blak & Blu, Gary Clark Jr. had already found fans among some of the best guitarist in the world. He's played Eric Clapton's Crossroad Music Festival, Metallica's Orion Festival and was a special guest for the Rolling Stones during their recent US shows. Most of the album finds him deeply rooted in Blues; that is not a complaint. Even more promising are the moments where he takes a few chances. The hip-hop feel of The Life or the soulful croon of Please Come Home should be enough to prove his worth. The blistering cover of Third Stone From The Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say is just icing on the cake and maybe a bit of showing off.

#7. Action Bronson & Party Supplies - Blue Chips
If you say you were listening to Action Bronson before he hooked up this year with Party Supplies, you are lying. Reviews of his early material rarely spoke of anything other than Ghostface Killah comparisons. What a difference a producer makes, huh? Party Supplies didn't bring some leftover beats, they crafted a story and laid out a path for Action Bronson to crush, song after song, verse after verse. For a few months, Steve Wynn and that strolling bass line was the only thing I listened to on my way to the train. Get the entire mix tape for free right here.

#6. Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself
Prior to recording the album, Andrew was asked to submit a few songs for consideration for The Muppets soundtrack.  Ultimately, the songs didn't make the cut, but the reminiscent Lazy Projector takes on a whole different meaning when you consider it was originally written for Kermit the Frog. Whether or not we have Jim Henson to thank for the change is tone is not important. Either way Break It Yourself is Andrew's most accessible album of his career, trading his distant, jargon-filled compositions in for candid, emotional stories.

#5. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...
A 7-year gap between albums is usually the kiss of death, unless you're Fiona Apple. Nothing comes easy for the constantly embattled singer. But it's the struggle that makes for such amazing entertainment and heart wrenching songs. Each one reads like a journal entry, brutally honest and contemplative. When most artists put on a filter to appeal to the masses, Fiona shows off her bruises with pride and appreciation.

#4. Purity Ring - Shrines
Where some people might say that Shrines offered nothing unique or groundbreaking, it succeeds where so many other albums fail; it's entertaining. I'm not concerned about the next "big" thing if it loses sight of the goal. Music is supposed to get your feet tapping, it's supposed to have you humming a tune all day, it's supposed to be infectious. What more do you need?

#3. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Every once in a while something will come out of the West Coast that is cinematic. good kid, m.A.A.d city goes well beyond an album. It's a cautionary tale that has more in common with "Boyz in the Hood" than The Chronic. With Dre and MC Eiht dropping in for a verse or two, you can claim it's Cali all day, but there are some Outkast moments in there too and just enough Chicago love to make it feel universal.

#2. Jack White - Blunderbuss
If you ever want to know how to run a label, take a look at Jack White's Third Man Records. On top of the wide variety of artists, Jack has also become a champion for vinyl with limited releases and refreshing ways to present his product. So it should come as no surprise that his first solo album would be as unique as his Triple Decker Poster, or Balloon Delivered Flexi-Disc. Sixteen Saltines is exactly what you'd expect, but the soft-spoken Blunderbuss or ivory tickling Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy could only come from one man.

#1. Frank Ocean - Channel ORANGE
Frank Ocean got me singing again. No, you won't find me at open mic nights or in the studio. But I can't tell you how many times I hit the high notes of Thinkin Bout You stuck in traffic. At work, I'd find myself singing Pilot Jones, including the embarrassing line: And no I don't want a child/But I ain't been touched in a while. With each listen you'll find another melody more inviting than the last and before you know you're whistling that little break in Forrest Gump. I hope so, or else I have a real problem.