Tag Archives: Chicago

Friends [JCW]

a0023407904_10Friends by JCW   (Chicago, Illinois)

FRIENDS IS THAT SQUEAKY KIND OF HIP HOP INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC THAT REMAINS DOWNBEAT WHILE OFFERING NOTHING BUT GOOD VIBES. IT’S SLOW MOTION BLUNT RIDE MUSIC. GOOD VIBES BRO. @DINGUSONMUSIC

Flavor {Twin Peaks}

a1068399208_10‘Flavor’ by Twin Peaks   (Chicago, Illinois) *

‘Flavor’ comes straight off of Chicago based Twin Peaks album, Wild Onion. They’re catchy garage rock at it’s finest and make me wish that they were based here in Brooklyn.  Twin Peaks are the type of band I constantly love to see live, a fun band you can sing along to and wake up the next morning with a stiff neck and back from dancing like a lunatic. Wild Onion comes equipped with a whopping 16 tracks and even though I’m normally opposed to that sort of thing, with each song being just as catchy as the last, you’re getting yourself a great deal. @LeahDingus

PRETTY GOOD {COP FONT} (Best New Music)

a0346510349_10PRETTY GOOD by COP FONT   (Chicago, Illinois) *

Heiko Julian can outright attack on a number of mediums, but the rawest and most satisfying efforts of this prodigious character are his sounds.  When listening to this album, Julian’s pop-culture consumption, absorption, will pass fleetingly throughout, while still remaining in touch with his own unique and identifiable bases.  All that is within the realm of this dedicated artist-critic, smooth as he moves through electro trends and non-trends, is in this Cop Font.

His weapon of choice appears to be Logic, an application prone to lack essence due to the commonly staccato formations of the programs’ novice players, his own early work included, a sound he’s left behind, discovering himself in ethereal decay for a more intimate obtrusiveness; a sound that I had always hoped to find in his often well designed lifelessness.  He’s found life here, authentic and panting.

Cop Font’s most recent demo, humbly titled Pretty Good, nonchalantly passing these tracks off as internet fodder, is a high end movement of subtle trick producing and hip hop clipped model pieces.  As if he had been taught to pause for reaction, either in action or conversation, his music finally rebels to allow the room to play a role.  You’re no longer left between key strokes.  If the notes stop pulsing, the room’s still breathing, a vital new element in his more tender moments.  But don’t be so readily lulled: though he’ll break your heart on the tracks that most matter, he’s equally made a headphone party album.

Heiko Julian will keep making music.  He’ll keep writing books.  But with the ease in which this music seems to flow, the sensibilities, and the constant experimentation, I wouldn’t be surprised if very soon something pulls him further in to popular consciouness. [Free Download@teenspleen

Fall 2013 Demo {Split Feet}

a3956233774_10Fall 2013 Demo by Split Feet (Illinois)

Their Facebook cover photo to the contrary, Chicago quartet Split Feet are not witch house. Their aptly titled Fall 2013 Demo is, in fact, a superb example contemporary punk music. Sound-wise, it is also of better quality than many non-demo releases out there. If, like me, Fall 2013 Demo left you wanting more Split Feet, you’re in luck—they have a track on the upcoming punk benefit compilation Beyond Inversion, also featuring Perfect Pussy and Technicolor Teeth. Download Fall 2013 Demo at Split Feet’s Bandcamp. @emilywherever

Single Release: Preacher {Gemini Club}

Gemini-Club-Preacher‘Preacher’ by Gemini Club   (Chicago)

 
 

New single from Gemini Club? Don’t mind if I do. This is not the first time I’ve featured this band on Dingus, and it likely will not be the last. A true DIY, ever-growing success story, Gemini Club are as hard working as they come. Steady touring, recording, dj sets and everything in between has put this band on the map for indie music hustlers. DIG. Go grab your MP3 and give it a heart on Hype Machine. [Free Download] @thinknotsleep

Let’s Get Physical: Unpronounceable Name

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Unpronounceable Name by Mooner   (Chicago, Illinois)

Mooner are a Chicago five piece fronted by brothers Lee and David Ketch. Like a lot of guitar music these days, Mooner seem to have an ear turned towards the 1990s, but they’re not from Brooklyn so I don’t automatically hate them. In fact, their EP Unpronounceable Name is pretty good; I wouldn’t put it out on a label or anything but I would definitely listen to it for free and this is something that I’m giving you the opportunity to do, too. Congrats.

Shapeshifter‘ demonstrates an obvious love for the likes of Tom Petty or maybe a non-racist version of Wilco. The track’s country-tinged guitar pop also reminds me of Big Star transplanted directly into 1997. ‘White Lines‘ would have worked perfectly in the soundtrack to movie where Ethan Embry plays a lovestruck high school loser but unfortunately teenage genre movies died on 9/11 and so you’ll have to get back to me on whether I think this song would have worked in Zero Dark Thirty (counterfactuals y’all). In all seriousness, it’s a pretty sick track and sounds like the Foo Fighters gushing with the spirit of the Counting Crows.

It was on track three, ‘Never Alone‘, that I realized I might be out of my depth with this review vis-a-vis overt references to Christianity. To be honest, I think if you’re going to say “Jesus” in a song you had better be comparing yourself to him a-la Kanye and/or Cheryl Crow, but a track about losing faith in religion (and I guess finding it again? But this time in a person with whom you are doing entirely unbiblical things) is pretty cool, too.

Unpronounceable Name is, again, steeped rather intensely in ’90s nostalgia; ‘Overrated‘ is one of the best Weezer homages I’ve heard in a while (and I’ve heard more than enough), so it really just depends on your opinion of stylistic homages (I think they’re good for lazy weekends, bad for convincing YouTube commenters that contemporary music actually has some creative merit). To Mooner’s credit, the ’90s music that they’re emulating isn’t anything like the 90s music being ripped to pieces by groups like DIIV. God I fucking hate DIIV so much. Listen to Mooner.

get physical if…
-you like Wilco but you’re not a member of the KKK
-you have a playlist called “mallrats soundtrack” that contains no songs from the actual movie

just download if…
-this is all the Jesus you need

I’m going to call this…
Ethan Embry’s hypothetical band in Can’t Hardly Wait

Unpronounceable Name was released like a year ago but that’s how I roll, late as always. I was born two weeks late.

@HemlockShaw

[Feature] To the Marrow: Chicago’s Briar Rabbit

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“I don’t think I could write a top 40 hit,” says Phillip-Michael Scales. As Briar Rabbit, he doesn’t shy away from the word “pop”, although he does affix an unusual prefix to it: “thought-”. The 27-year-old songwriter bolsters his friendly tenor with warm, organic instrumentation, but doesn’t share the alt-country twang that’s come to occupy a good part of Chicago’s DIY music scene. Somewhere among the full-band Americana, nihilist garage rock, and sparse electronica, Briar Rabbit curls into its own locus on the Windy City’s musical map.

Like many who enrich Chicago with their music, Scales is a transplant. Originally from Detroit, he studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music before bouncing back west—this time, just a little further. He still wears Chicago like a badge; the cover of his debut record Briar Rabbit & The Company You Keep depicts Scales standing in front of the city’s iconic four-star flag.

brFrom Your Bones by Briar Rabbit   (Chicago, IL)

His albums boast a full band, but lately Scales has been striking solo on the live circuit. When it’s just him, a guitar, and the crowd, he’s better able to drive his lyrics home, which he feels is essential to the life of Briar Rabbit. “When I play with my band, people come up to me after the show and say that my band sounded good,” says Scales. “When it’s just me, people come up to me and tell me that they loved my lyrics. I can hear people reacting to a single line.”

As a lyricist, Scales balances deft metaphors and surprising turns of phrase with lines as blunt as “sometimes the best teacher is pain”. Rather than slice through emotional knots, he works to untangle them, strand by strand. Songs on The Company You Keep struggle with the conflicting desires to belong and to be alone, the complicated dance of aligning yourself with new surroundings. On his followup EP, Scales sinks his teeth into a lesser-told story.

The Great Routine, released in 2011 in honor of Black History Month, adopts the perspective of a black minstrel show performer in the 1800s. In four beautifully crafted songs, Scales tackles the largely (and often deliberately) forgotten popular American entertainment from the inside. Minstrel shows forced black performers to assume degrading caricatures of themselves for white audiences, but they also afforded them the opportunity to be adored. Characters in minstrelsy were like the Disney figures of their time: iconic and beloved by children and adults alike. The paradox of debasing yourself to be loved serves as ripe subject matter for Scales, who sinks into the narrative with sweet, hooky melodies. The record’s title track funnels a spritely beat, sharp electric guitar, and cooing background vocals into its hook, creating a volatile dissonance between content and surface.

The song ‘Coon’ is certainly one whose lyrics prompt a reaction, says Scales. In a country where the phrase “singer-songwriter” instantly brings to mind a white guy wearing an acoustic guitar and maybe a beard, Scales uses the genre to illuminate a complicated episode in America’s racial history. For him, it’s another good, multilayered story—another emotional knot around which Briar Rabbit’s songs flourish.

Scales is anticipating the release of Briar Rabbit’s third record, From Your Bones, due out January 21, 2014. Thematically, the album will explore the relationship of the individual to his settings, the sense of feeling out of place at a day job, of muscling through the work you need to do to survive even if it has nothing to do with you. Scales has been honing in on songcraft, patching together the elements that culminate in Briar Rabbit’s idiosyncratic affect. “If you listen to most of my songs, it’s like taking apart a watch,” he says. Maybe an atomic one; layers of instruments fit together like gears, but the heart of the music lies somewhere in the invisible interplay of Scales’ words and their delivery.

Briar Rabbit might address Scales’ place in the world, but the music also situates the listener. One lyric on From Your Bones reads, “I’ve been waiting for you like a bus in the rain / I’m soaked to the bone, but I’m so glad you came”. It’s a line written for the city by someone immersed in it; as Scales says, “someone living in the suburbs wouldn’t relate to that.” There’s humor in here, too; on the short-form folk jangle ‘Oh My’, Scales sings, “Oh my sweet little atheist / You’re the only proof I got that God exists.”

The stage seems to feel most like home for Briar Rabbit. After playing NXNE and a few chains of Midwestern dates earlier this year, Scales is about to set out on tour again. He’ll start tonight with a single release show at Chicago’s Schubas Tavern, collaborating with a band again to play new music from the forthcoming album. Of all the work that goes into Briar Rabbit, connecting with his audience emotionally in real time is easily what Scales gets the most excited about. “It’s this weird, breathing synergy,” he says of his performances. “It’s like being a really good host.”

Briar Rabbit plays Schubas Tavern with Lying Delilah tonight, 9/5, at 9pm (tickets $10). 

@sashageffen

Hunter {Good Safari}

a1030006141_10Hunter by Good Safari   (Decatur, Illinois)

 

Y’ouch. Good Safari sure do bring the bite with their garage rock album, Hunter. All classically trained musicians, Jake Pearson, Ryan Martini and Jeffery Bensmiller have decided to go the rock and roll route. Rightfully so. You can hear how intricate the songs are written. It goes deeper than just jotting down a few things here and there. These tracks were thought out and written very well. If you’re looking for something that goes above and beyond the usual DIY recording, look no further. You have found it. @LeahLovecat

Single Release: Francs {Benny Francs}

artworks-000048017966-5m2cff-t500x500‘Francs’ by Benny Francs   (Chicago, Illinois)

Hip hop is a tough genre for the DIY.  Perhaps because faithful rap is born on the street.  Sure, you can go the bitches, money, fame route, but I’d like to think that the world is getting sick of that falsity.  Real rap has a soul defined by struggle (in fact nearly all truthful music is born from struggle).  It comes from our declining cities where most are trapped as mice on a spinning wheel aching for a moment of peace and production.  Hip hop is a touch genre for the DIY because those involved in the struggle, often, are not your tech savvy upper class.  But Benny Franc has the flow.  It comes from experience and though this is his first release- you can taste the personality in ‘Francs‘. [Free Download@Dingusonmusic

Let’s Get Physical: Destroy This Place & Hospital Garden split / It’s All Lore

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Split 7″ by Destroy This Place and Hospital Garden   (Chicago, Illinois)

 

This split, by Midwestern pop punk acts Destroy This Place and Hospital Garden, actually manages to sound a lot like a coherent EP that just happens to be by two different bands. Unfortunately, its coherence may be symptomatic of two bands who play it fairly close to the vest with their scuzz-pop sound. Destroy This Place’s ‘Vampire Day’ is a respectable fit of melodic punk much in the vein of early Green Day. There’s a goofy “rock & roll high school” vibe to the song that manages to be more endearing than annoying, thanks in part to complex lyrics that stay away from the giddy juvenilia of so many so-called punk acts.

This is pop music. Yes, it’s run through a scuzzy, proto-punk filter but it’s still committed to the egalitarian idea of pop accessibility. Destroy This Place are loud and emphatically churlish, but in an almost friendly and inviting sort of way. Hospital Garden take a similar approach to the conflation of noisy punk and radio-ready pop, and if it weren’t for two things – the production style and the vocals – Destroy This Place and Hospital Garden might be the same band. Vocals on Hospital Garden’s ‘Magnified’ are clear and distinct, surrounded by totally distorted guitars, though at no point overwhelmed in the mix. There is something almost Anglo-folk to the singing – a weird Peter Gabriel element to the vocals that gives Hospital Garden a slight edge in this split.

Hospital Garden is distinctly weirder than Destroy This Place, though it’s in a very ’90s way – as weird as a band like Blur ever got. Destroy This Place hits a little closer to the new millennium with their sound. Guitars are waterier and left to circle the mix amicably, with solos barely peeking out from under the thick smog of lo-fi appropriation. Hospital Garden are more in your face, though the end result is something a little more MTV than indie listeners (and readers of a DIY music blog) might necessarily be into. Still, this split is worth checking out – especially if you live in a major Midwestern city – to familiarize yourself with two bands who probably put on a very energetic live show.

get physical if…
-you wonder what would happen if Mike Heron fronted Bowling for Soup
-you’re not as pretentious as I implied you might be in the last paragraph of this review
-you didn’t get tired of pop-punk

just download if…
-you’ve been tired of pop-punk since the mid ’90s
-you only listen to “art rock”
- you need pop to be nice

I’m going to call this…
Punk-Engendered Scuzz Pop

 

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It’s All Lore by Uwue   (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

 

It took me a few listens to figure out what Uwue is all about – what the catch was and what the sendup might be. The most confusing and infuriating thing about this group is that there really is none – it is just straightforward piano-based dream pop, something in the vein of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love. But this is not ironic, it is not post-anything; it is genuine and sincere, which can be very off-putting to a music reviewer. This is music that could be described as “twee” without necessarily fulfilling any of the emotional goals set by that particular brand of pop music. It’s melodic ambient piano music with pop vocal sensibilities. It’s very weird without being weird at all.

It’s All Lore’ is instrumentally structured like something that might appear as the in-town music of a videogame (the soundtracks to both Persona 3 and The Sims come to mind). There is an ethereality to it – a definite debt owed to ambient music, but ambient music such as Eno’s micro-compositions for Microsoft, where aspects of new age and garden music are present, and where pianos are audible as pianos and not indistinguishable swells.

The more somber, but much more Bush-esque ‘Silent Wave’ plays off of an almost Sigur Ros-styled arpeggiated enchantment. The song is soothing without having to resort to drones or lullabies, but it is not necessarily all that compositionally distinct. These two tracks are definitely more concerned with setting the mood (one of festive enchantment and springtime bliss) than they are with surprising or exciting. It’s the kind of music that must be lauded for its production and for its clear articulation of form, but which will not – is not meant to – inspire any sort of need for structural processing within the minds of its listeners.

get physical if…
-you like Kate Bush’s “pop” period
-you found this article by Google searching “Sims soundtrack” or “dream pop”
-you think music is allowed to be polite and comforting

 just download if…
-you were the kind of person who killed your Sims by trapping them in the swimming pool until they drowned
-you don’t like music that’s polite…
-and you hate being comfortable

I’m going to call this…
Ambient Garden Pop

@HemlockShaw