by Brynn J. Alexander
Although Lollapalooza has brought musicians and fans from all over the world to Grant Park since 2005, a surprisingly small number of those musicians actually hail from Chicago. Now that this year’s lineup for the festival has been announced, it turns out there are six acts from Chicago, and with a range of genres from hip-hop to indie to experimental rock, there’s something here for everyone.
Wild Belle is brother-and-sister due Elliot and Natalie Bergman. They grew up in Chicago, and will be playing songs from their debut album, Isles, at Lollapalooza this year. Their music is a mixture of indie rock with touches of ska and even jazz.
Barely out of high school after graduating early, The Orwells are set to explode this year, already getting attention from MTV and Pitchfork. With several EPs and a full-length album already released, they have plenty of material to entertain audiences this summer.
Chance the Rapper will certainly be one of the crowd favorites this year, as the young artist is making waves through the hip-hop world after being laughed at by his teachers and told that his music would never amount to anything. Chance has already toured with noted acts such as Childish Gambino, and has released several singles to national acclaim.
Fans of concept rock will want to catch Makeshift Prodigy when they play Lollapalooza this year. The Chicago-based band specializes in intense, story-driven songs, with a strong emphasis on the visual aspects of their performance.
Relative veterans Smith Westerns are back this festival season with a third album on the way, and will be rocking crowds this summer at Lolla with their special mixture of Brit-influenced glam rock. Their shows are always high-energy, and local fans will be glad to see them where they belong, on a big stage.
Last but certainly not least, Supreme Cuts will take the stage with their own flavor of hip-hop-influenced EDM and experimental electronica. Describing their sound as “apocalyptic cloud rap,” this duo will appeal to a wide array of electronic music fans, whether you’re into hip-hop or not.
Jenny Dragon recorded their debut album, A Fair Souvenir, at Hi-Style Recording Studio in Chicago on vintage gear dating from the 1940s-1960s. Plenty of information alone to give it a full spin, in my book. But I’ll give you more reasons.
All native Chicagoans, they are not. Just one. And maybe that’s why the blues are just a newt’s eye in the brew. No, The Dragons come from all over the place–California, Virginia, Kansas City, Iowa. The singing duo of Jodi Jean Amble and Sarah Goldstein started in college, in Wisconsin, back in 1997. They formed a sister-like bond. Now, a remarkable part of Jenny Dragon’s story continues down that path–and you can read more about it here. And today, they’ve settled in our fair city. But let’s get back to that brew, yes?
Shake it up and you get a self-described “heavy whimsy”. And unlike most selfies (does that work in this context?), it’s pretty accurate. Take, for example, the heavy subject of America’s history with nuclear testing (heavy), and write some lyrics then put it to a song that’s a little sultry, a little
Jenny Dragon is a new band, but they are not newbies. They are a coming together of veteran musicians. So you get a sophisticated sound that’s not real easy to pin down. When we asked guitarist Brian Sharpe about how they arrived in this unique place, he said, “I think our natural individual musical inclinations and aesthetic started leading us in this direction and we didn’t fight it.” Right. On. Would love to see these guys at the Green Mill on a non-shushing night.
It’s that time to turn it over to you. Bend an ear on “Boom Boom”, below. It’s the whimsical atomic bomb song. And hear more at the Jenny Dragon website.
Here in Chicago, it’s sometimes best to immerse yourself in long, dark winters. To embrace them, rather than fight it. Kind of like the process of getting over a breakup. And that’s where bands like Death Cab, Bright Eyes, The Postal Service, and Chicago’s Two Star—who just released their debut album Lover, Our Lips Have Left Us—come to help get us through.
Two Star is Justen Hamilton (Guitar/Vocals); Steve Smith (Drums); George Watt (Bass); and Vlad Shapochnikov (Keyboard/Vocals). They are unmistakably power pop, and have learned plenty from their predecessors, as all good students do. The hooks are deep and the transitions sharp, while layered vocals and wavy lyrics string a common thread throughout the album.
Get a sense of Two Star by listening to “His & Hers”, below. A couple of elements you’ll hear that you’re not likely to find in most power pop compositions… accordion, and a church organ. And it’s not at all out of place. The rest will be a familiar call to cozy fires and warm memories of spring (or that gal or guy who left you out in the cold).
If you like what you hear, be sure to check out Two Star at Beat Kitchen on Feb. 2, as their record release tour continues. And you can hear the rest of Lover, Our Lips Have Left Us here. Good luck this winter, Chicago.
This year, in stores and coffee shops, I’ve been hearing a lot of Barbara Streisand’s Jingle Bells–hands-down the worst Christmas song of all time. So that put me on a quest to find some rocking Christmas songs to try to erase Ms. Streisand’s abomination from my seasonally fragile mind.
Here it is. I recommend some or all of them make it into your holiday rotation, for the sake of your own sanity.
Run Rudolph Run
The bellwether of all rocking Christmas songs.
Signature lyric: “Said Santa to a boy, child, ‘What have you been longing for?’
‘All I want for Christmas is a Rock and Roll electric guitar.’”
What do The Kinks really want for Christmas?
Signature lyric: “Father Christmas, give us some money!”
Come On Santa
Relative newcomer to the Christmas rock scene, enjoy this Raveonettes song while you fade out with your evening-ending cocktail.
Signature lyric: “The tree looks beautiful, the lights are in your eyes.”
Christmas in Hollis
I guess you could cast doubt on the rock and roll credentials of this song, but it’s a yuletide classic in every way. And hey, it does rock.
Signature lyric: “Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it,
it’s Christmas time and we got the spirit!”
Merry Christmas (I don’t want to fight tonight)
Pretty much sums up what many people really want for Christmas–peace in the home.
Signature lyric: “I loved you from the start, ’cause Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts.”
Don’t Believe in Christmas
For those who are feeling a little Scrooge-ish, these 60′s garage rockers have you covered.
Signature lyric: “Well mom and dad said we could,
So i did what i should,
I hung my stocking on a wall,
I didn’t get a thing at all,
I dont believe in christmas!”
Certain music can make you feel a certain way. I suppose it’s why we find ourselves attracted to solemn music when we are blue, and upbeat music when we are happy. You might listen to some music to stay in a good mood, or switch it up to get yourself out of a foul mood.
But what if you could actually see how music makes you feel?
That’s the idea behind eMusic’s Aura project, according to eMusic Editor-in-Chief J. Edward Keyes.
“We started thinking about those ideas, and how certain albums have real emotional resonance,” says Keyes. “So the next natural step became, how can we do this in the real world, to show the connection we all have and the reaction we all have to music?”
The solution: Step into the eMusic Electromusical Energy Visualizer (recently showcased at Chicago’s Pitchfork music festival), place your hands on the device, strap on some headphones, and start listening. Then you get a visualization of how that music is making you feel.
Believe it or not, there’s science behind it. The sensors on your hands pick up the electrical vibrations and fluctuations in your body while you listen to the music. Then the aura cameras translate those pulses and reflect it to you, photo-booth style. You can see mine, on the right.
So what did I learn? I like hip hop (specifically A$AP Rocky), because it makes me feel courageous and happy. Beach House, predictably, makes me feel peaceful, while Lower Dens brings out my magical and passionate sides. Copenhagen’s hottest punk band, Iceage, makes me feel ambitious and … loving?
I must say, it was extremely interesting to see and I found the results made rather good sense. So what does Keyes hope will come of all this?
“The idea is just to reinforce that eMusic is a site for people who love music, and develop strong connections with music. I really feel like we’re moving toward a time when music becomes so transient. We have a lot of cool applications for music, but I feel like it lessens that deep strong connection that a lot of us have with it.
“When I was a teenager, you saved your allowance and you bought that one record. You played it and fell in love with it and knew every corner of it. I get a little sad as I feel like we move past that, and music is just a switch you turn on and off.
“One of the things that we want to try to do is bring that back. To say: This should be an important thing. that you have a reaction and a response to, and it becomes a part of who you are.”
We love everything about eMusic’s Aura Project. Anything that helps us grow that deep appreciation–love, actually–for music is A-OK in our book. Head over to the eMusic Aura Project and experience something for yourself. You might be surprised by what you find!
by Nate O’Neil, special contributor.
Latin folk? Experimental classical? It’s hard to assign a genre to the LA-based Duo Del Sol. But we’re not picky around here. If it’s good, we’ll go with it.
The band consists of Chicago native Tom Farrell on guitar and Montevideo, Uruguay native Javier Orman on the violin. For most of their debut EP, Mira, Farrell and Orman play polyphonically yet these two men make the dissenting melodies work in this mostly instrumental project.
In the first track “A Manu,” Farrell plays Latin-style guitar riffs while Orman plays progressions that are very reminiscent of something found on a folk record. The fast progressions and decrescendos found in “A Manu” really make the track. Another great uptempo song on Mira is “Panic That Way.” Essentially, the song progresses like a suspenseful film narrative, possibly a Western horse chase through the Southwest, with Farrell’s rapid performance and Orman’s frenetic violin work.
For a softer tone, you can look to the last track called “Lights Out.” It is a very somber tune that reads like a story of heartbreak with the violin crying out for sympathy. Of all five tracks on the album, “Lights Out” sounds the most conventional. Overall, Mira is a bold musical journey worth taking. If you’re in the Chicago area, you can see them perform at Jerry’s on 1938 W. Division on July 22nd to experience their unique sound live.