Church Rock Epiphany

July 18, 2008

 Well, it’s not necessarily a NEW idea, but it’s still a pretty novel concept.  I recall early tweer-than-fuck Belle & Sebastian holding concerts in churches, and I think Arcade Fire decided to do some of their Neon Bible shows in church too (obvious much?). 

As of recently though, many bands have made the move to use churches as recording spaces rather than venues.  The aforementioned Neon Bible, and B&S’s Lazy Line Painter Jane EP were both recorded exclusively in churches — both to great effect.  Off the top of my head, I The Decemberists also recording Picaresque in a church as well.

 

 (L) Low plays cathedral, (R) Belle & Sebastian flier

Anyway, this is a LONG way to get around mentioning that I just saw Cleveland’s The Muttering Retreats play at South Union Artsyesterday (interview with T.M.A.’s Tim Thornton to be posted soon). Aside from S.U.A. being the first German-language school ever built in Chicago, it also operated as the Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church before South Union Arts took over the space… the highlight of the cathedral is a GIANT NEON CRUCIFIX… more creepy than the one from Se7en.  Jealous much, Arcade Fire?  You shoulda played here.

 

(L) South Union Arts in Chicago, (R) Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible cover art

So yeah, Indie Rock in a church is an interesting experience.  Which is now why I have to mention that both Jenny Lewis and “slowcore” legends Low, will be playing what Oh My Rockness is referring to as “Epiphany” in September.  Epiphany is, indeed, Epiphany Episcopal Church on 201 South Ashland.

Easter Worship 

(L) Epiphany, (R) Jenny Lewis

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2006 Albums of the Year, Late As Usual

January 28, 2007

Top Albums 2006

Ahhhh! It’s the obligatory “end of year list,” and obligatorily posted late, by moi. Okay. I would like to mention that I can only rank albums that I’ve actually listened to. Here’s 10 (+5) albums from 2006 I’ve listened to a lot and have actual insight on:

Preface: In keeping with the concept of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not” I will say that The Arctic Monkeys are good, and that they deserve to make any and every “top 10” list.

1. Hot Chip, Hot ChipThe Warning

Oh Man. You can’t hate on this CD. This is the kind of record that changes people opinion on a “sort” of music. I.E., my friend Jimmy’s 30-something pseudomentor Chad (that’s his real name). Chad said something like… “I really like that ‘Hot. Chip’ song. Even though it’s kind of, ‘dancey’.” Join the club Chadly! The LP is just too catchy, too poppy, too funky, too damn fun to categorically deny because of dudes with keyboards and silly mustaches.

Free mp3: “And I Was A Boy From School”

2. The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America

Everyone’s afraid to put this album at number 1. It SHOULD be. (Hypocrite warning). This is an album I would recommend, without hesitation, to anyone. It’s a straight-ahead rock n roll album… which I thought didn’t exist anymore. I thought every band needed some sort of concept, prepackaged backstory, or clever nod to whatever retro-trend in the band is aping. The Hold Steady has straight-up rock swagger that reminds me most immediately of Guided By Voices. But the content… oh my… the tales Craig Finn talk/sings are wonderful. They’re the kind of personal/universal “‘member when?” youth stories everyone relates to even if you’ve done nothing of the sort: Betting on ponies, drinking, smoking, troubled kids, raging parties, first loves. All of them done in this anthemic, Glory Days-meets-Chuck Klosterman type storytelling. Indifferent to cliché, Finn’s immediate literature reference, “…There are times when I think Sal Paradise was right,” sets a tone for a terrific and shambling LP.

Free mp3: “Killer Parties”

3. Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye

This is a sexin’ album. It’s an album by and for th’ sexin. I didn’t think Junior Boys would be able to top their previous release, Junior Boys – Last Exit, but they did… well… he did… as one half of The J.B. left before this album got made. Yet another reason why the band can’t be mentioned without a casual name-drop of sonic frères’ m83. This stuff blows m83 out of the water. Transcendental, groovy, electronic but deeply soulful, the understated crooning (and sometimes just cool breathing) of hit single  “In The Morning” would have to be my favorite single of the year.

Free mp3: “In The Morning”

4. HeadlightsKill Them With Kindness

“Kind of a new record slipped into a list old safe ones… verrry PUSSY!”. Ha. Guilty. I got this record very late in the year, but, as Last.FM would testify, I’m enjoying very very much. Nothing exciting has come out of champaign, IL since, ohhhh… Braid, until now. I’m a sucker for girl/boy vocals, and this was THE album for me in the last few months. Think Stars (especially Amy Milian-like vocals, minus all the fatalistic/melancholic/depressive lovesickness, then sprinkle with a few exciting influences… occasional Mates of State keyboard fun, some navelgaze dabbling, a track that reminds me a bit of Broken Social Scene, and that standard “We’re twee But We’ll Include One Adorable Techno Track To Show We Can Do It” song. (Ahem, Belle and Sebastian – Electronic Renaissance, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – Topsy Turvy). Check ‘em out.

Free mp3: “Owl Eyes”

5. The Radio Dept.Pet Grief

Tim (The Muttering Retreats) turned me on to these guys. What a fabulous album. It’s this kind of new wave revivalism that makes me despise legwarmers and oversized belts a little less. It’s tough not to “influence pick” on the album, but it wonderfully re-creates a poppy The Jesus and Mary Chain thang in a haze of keyboards and drones and looooooooove.

Free mp3: “Against The Tide”

6. DecemberistsThe Crane Wife

Mad props for jumping to a major label and putting out an uncompromised LP, especially 10+ minute song sagas. Though, Castaways & Cutouts and Her Majesty… are still my personal favorites, Colin Meloy & Co went from your libraries favorite chamber pop band to a synth-soloing Genesis-nodding pop/progrock hybrid — quite a feat. And a little unsettling.

Free mp3: “Sons & Daughters”

7. The PipettesWe Are the Pipettes

I think, technically, this album hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. I don’t care. Good music travels fast. Records labels can’t control product if the fanbase or buzz is large enough. The Pipettes bring back that girl group era to modern-times, a-lah Camera Obscura, but where C.O. delivers wispy lovelorn tunes with some occasional twang, The Pipettes have style, sass, swagger (and handclaps) to spare. The Pipettes – Your Kisses are Wasted on Meis a gem among an album filled with…well… other gems. The only downside is that the “we all have slightly different personalities and dress in polka-dots” seems suspiciously like a marketing ploy, you really can’t hate on these girls. 1 year from now, the re-united The White Stripes will have the Pipettes open for them. I predict it… it will come true.

8. Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganBallad of the Broken Seas

When Isobel left Belle and Sebastian I was 95% sure her success would nearly match that of Looper. I picture, mid-Storytelling tour, Stuart Murdoch turns to Isobel on the tour bus and “Oi, Ah quite like your voice eeen that, buh eeets a bit wyrd, ya know, that one song you du, ‘The Sunrise Song’, eh?” Isobel promptly gives Stu’ the finger, jumps off the bus with a small, adorable, Scottish-looking suitcase, meets Mark Lanegan in a cowboy bar near the airport, and after a weekend in a motel, they decide to record an album. Isobel then flutters her eyes, forgets Mark for 3+ years and gives him a ring when she gets board spooning her cello.

Free mp3: “(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me”

9. TV on the RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain

Good, solid album, and a welcome return after a disappointing debut LP. I feel this one was a bit over buzzed, but it’s still incredible. A good listen, all the way through, the standout being the rollicking, driving assualt of “Wolf Like Me”. It’s SO hard to tell people there’s an indie band who combines, art-punk, trip-hop and Peter Gabriel and have them still pay attention to you. But, the word’s out on them, there will have to be no convincing.

Free mp3: “Wolf Like Me”

10. IslandsReturn to the Sea

Who woulda thunk it??? Especially now that all The Unicorns are dead. Turn the weirdness level down about two-notches, and what appears but yet another fabulous pop band out of Canadia. But to be honest, I kind of miss the previous weirdness levels, but their beginnings of silly instrumentation, deliberately incomplete songs structures, and childish deliveries allowed the .666Unicorns to flank the standard pop-rock formula and conquer all. Now… about Th’ Corn Gang.

Free mp3: “Jogging Gorgeous Summer”

Honorable Mentions:
11. Belle and SebastianThe Life Pursuit
Free mp3: “White Collar Boy”

12. Sufjan StevensThe Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album

13. Jenny Lewis With The Watson TwinsRabbit Fur Coat
Free mp3: “Rise Up With Fists”

14. José GonzálezStay In The Shade

15. Camera ObscuraLet’s Get out of This Country
Free mp3: “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”

Mad shoutouts to an indie kids’ savior: The Hype Machine.

And the blogs I stole mp3’s from:
http://skyscraperlife.blogspot.com/
http://www.girlpants.org/  (not making this one up, promise)
http://res1999.blogspot.com/
http://www.michaelmieler.com/blog/ Mike Went West
http://timedoor.textdriven.com Timedoor
http://tracemyface.blogspot.com/ Red Blondehead
http://www.blogotheque.net/sommaire.php3 La Blagotheque


November: Bored People Are Boring – Brian’s Stuff To Do

November 9, 2006

Fri 11/10
Metro 10pm
Hot Chip
London’s Hot Chip is a frontrunner in the dancing-crazy-is-the-new-standing-still rock category. Equal parts digital and organic, the most immediate comparison is with DFA labelmates LCD Soundsystem but while the latter can come off disaffectedly NYC, Hot Chip’s modus operandi is definitely “Get Those Asses Moving”. It’s pop, it’s funk, it’s electronic and it’s just plain fun. Shy Child and Born Ruffians open. (Song Streaming here)

Sat 11/11 12pm to 5pm
SOUTH UNION ARTS MARKET (1352 S. UNION in Chicago)
Do you feel holiday mall shopping sucks the “cool” right out of you. Well, my crafty, “indie”, closet Gilmore Girls fans – I have a solution. Check out the hipper-than-thou S.U.A. Market, which, although still pre-Thanksgiving, is spinning this as a Holiday sales event. Grrrrr. Local vendors will sell a variety of handmade items: clothing, journals, photography, poster art, paper goods and more. Plus some ‘lil sweets sold by TipsyCake. Musical accompaniment by Heligoats, Octagon Island, WE/OR/ME.

Wed 11/15 – 9pm
Subterranean
NORFOLK & WESTERN
Norfolk & Western, the pseudonym of singer/songwriter Adam Selzer, has roped in his amour, Rachel Blumberg (former Decemberists’ drummer), and a handful of other musicians in order to craft intricate, literate arrangements that may rival that of Blumberg’s previous Portland-based “collective”. Chicago-based Darling open.
FREE N&W MP3 here.

Sun 11/19
Beat Kitchen
Bishop Allen
Former Bostonites now Brooklynites, Bishop Allen knows their way around a pop song. Lyrics are clever and sincere, and their sound incorporates early Talking Heads, catchy hooks, sing-songy vocals, Brit-invasion guitar and even a bit of urban twang. 2003’s under-the-radar pop gem Charm School put them on the map, and in the meantime they’ve stayed busy releasing an EP each month this year with what seems like a sure-fire hit on each one. Lots of free tunes on their homepage.

Tue 11/21, 5pm
Val’s Halla Records, Oak Park (239 Harrison St)
Val’s Halla Records Movie Night
This Tuesday, like every Tuesday, is Val’s Halla movie night. The renowned record shop has recently relocated elsewhere in Oak Park to a place that can fit like… more than eight people. Crate dive for some discount vinyl, grab some free promo stickers, and enjoy some music videos and music-themed films. Crank it up to 11.

Fri 11/24, Sat 11/25
Logan Square Auditorium
Andrew Bird
A homecoming of sorts for this original Chicago-bred talent. Logan Square Auditorium hosts a two-night stint for Andrew Bird, known for putting on enthralling and inventive concert performances. Bird’s sets are lush with layered sounds of percussion, orchestral flourishes, his talents on multiple instruments especially the violin, and yes, even his hypnotic whistling skills. All this is complimented by Bird’s penchant for quirky endearing lyricism. His whimsical sound draws easy comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley. There won’t be snacks.