Hush Now

January 5, 2009

Rather than just talk about a band I would recommend going to see tomorrow night at Schubas, I asked Michael Hush, lead of pop-rockers Five Foot Nine, to tell me his favorite pop culture tidbits from 2008 (Now that it’s over).

Before I get all list-y, the Five Foot Nine play fresh, clever, well-arranged rock that most immediately reminds me of Brooklyn’s Bishop Allen. Both bands combine tasteful guy/gal harmonies, tight rhythm sections, and great sing-along choruses with charm to spare. Local swaggering glam-punk poppers The Handcuffs are also playing.

MP3: Five Foot Nine, “Back to the Tunnels” (file courtesy of Radio Free Chicago)

Here’s were Mike’s Pop Picks of 2008.

Books: as for fiction… Here are 3 novels that I really admired this year

  • Denis Johnson, “Tree of Smoke”
  • Michael Chabon, “Yiddish Policeman’s Union”
  • The Lazarus Project, “Alexander Hemon”

Movies:

Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky

  • The Visitor
  • Frozen River
  • Happy Go Lucky

Music:

  • Los Campesinos
  • Bonny Prince Billy
  • The Hold Steady

Commercial:

  • Probably Holiday Inn Express spot where the geeky marketing dude displays his dope rhyming skills on the corner in NY…

Pop Culture Moment:

  • got to be Grant Park on election night

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volcano!… ‘Splosians!

September 23, 2008

This was originally posted on URChicagos site, but far be it for me to deny my own blog some musical gold:

volcano! at The Empty Bottle Thursday

Lying dormant for nearly three years, experimental rock trio volcano! (note the lowercase “v”) has recently released their second LP, Paperwork.  Their much-acclaimed debut album Beautiful Seizure, released by UK label Leaf, was met in late 2005 with enthusiastic acclaim here and abroad (scoring them an early appearence on oft-imitated music performance site La Blogotheque). The debut album shook; not just the pavement, but the pervading stigma that “art rock” bands can only be one thing or the other – art or rock. volcano!’s sound rectifies this disparity—simultaneously heady and accessible, intricate and forceful, ethereal and dynamic.

volcano!’s fluid creations can shift from jagged guitar squall to delicate instrumentals backed by the atmospherics of multi-instrumentalist Mark Cartwright, their song’s pop structures can quickly devolve into poly-rhythmic improvisation care of percussionist Sam Scranton.  Meanwhile, vocalist/guitarist Aaron With always seems to have a trick up his sleeve, with a lyrical range that wheels from mischievous wordplay, to urgent exclamation to staccato abstraction—often in the same track.

Paperwork is its own little bundle of surprises, as the hilariously titled “Africa Just Wants to Have Fun,” bounces and jabs at celebrity-turned-philanthropists with a nod to guitar-led Afropop—both of which seem all the rage these days.  The album has a bunch more surprises and creative twists, with Scranton mentioning a load of  diverse influences from track-to-track, including the otherworldly psych-pop of Animal Collective to the shameless R&B come-ons of  R. Kelly.

volcano! returned this August to do their first live show in two years, a CD release party for their new full-length. The Chicago-based band will be playing again this Thursday, 9/25, at The Empty Bottle. Check out a Q&A with percussionist Sam Scranton on the UR Chicago Online Exclusives page.

MP3:  volcano! – “Africa Just Wants to Have Fun” (site)(myspace)(facebook)
-Brian Howe Battle


Study: There’s money in Chicago Music. Hood Internet: Chicago Music is money.

June 2, 2008

Originaly posted on UR Chicago Here

A joint effort by the Chicago Music Commission and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Cultural Policy, found both encouraging and not-so-surprising news about the local music biz. Firstly, Chicago “ranks third among metropolitan areas in the overall size of its music industry” behind, surprise-surprise; Los Angeles and New York. Chicago also had lower total revenue (meaning cheaper ticket prices for us, yay.)

The more-interesting news, fleshed out well by Chicago Innerview, is that Chicago books better bands, more often, for (relatively) cheaper ticket prices than any other American city:

…Researchers looked at the number of performances from Billboard magazine’s “Top 100 Artists” and the “Top 100 Artists” from the Village Voice Critics Poll and found that in 2004, Chicago had about 10 more such concerts than New York City. “There’s no other city where those critically acclaimed shows make up a bigger percentage of the total revenue generated,” the study’s co-author Dan Silver states. “So Chicago is really the center of high critical taste.”

A study quantifying the awesomeness of Chicago Music is nice to have, but there’s another way of celebrating the diversity of music in this city, and no, it’s not to re-name streets as Honorable Peter Cetera Parkway, and OkGo Boulevard.

It’s an all-city mashup mixtape of course! Courtesy of The Hood Internet. Though it doesn’t delve too far into the Blues and Gospel history of Chicago, lots of tunes from multiple decades are represented here and pack a serious punch–Twista rhyming over The Sea & Cake, Diverse with Andrew Bird, Dude N Nem N OFFICE, The Cool Kids party-rappin’ over house legend Frankie Knuckles–it’s all here. It’s a tight mix. My personal fav has to be the ’85 Bears shuffling alongside Kanye and Wilco. -Brian