Live Music Friday, September 11th

Posted by Jason Petros on September 10, 2009
Reviews / No Comments

REGO Record Release party, with Elsinor, Julia Klee, GO and DJ iRon, Friday, September 11, 9 p.m., 17+, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, $10 via Ticketweb

Here’s a little bit about Rego, from their website:

REGO is Rebecca’s musical project after self-releasing a very successful solo EP titled Learning To Be Lonely in the spring of 2007. The EP marked the introduction of Chicago based singer/songwriter Rebecca Rego and expressed her ability to write poignant songs with delicate melodies.

On From The Royal Arcade, Rebecca drops her first name from the title and embarks on larger adaptations of her acoustic songs and themes of adolescence and images of changing seasons. Accompanied by a stellar cast of musicians, REGO is comprised by Rebecca Rego (Vocals/Guitar), Stephanie Whiton (Drums), Michael Biederman (Guitar), Mike Przygoda (Keys/Multi-Instruments) and Renee Serritella (Bass). From the opening track, Astronauts, to the final track Frozen Cars, Rebecca’s sultry vocals are front and center and a clear focus throughout the album. It is the larger tones from the band, however, that blend seamlessly together and change the overall dimensions of the album from a solo folk acoustic sound to a self-actualized band called REGO. The band has combed over this music, with the help of Engineer Producer Ryan Staples. They spent months in his and drummer/wife Stephanie Whiton’s West Town apartment recording/mixing all the final versions of these songs.

Since its inception, REGO has supported such acts as The Bottle Rockets, City & Colour, Death Vessel, The Rosebuds and many more. They have performed at famed Chicago venues such as The Metro, Double Door, Schubas, Lakeshore Theater, and Martyrs. With their upcoming release, REGO hopes to take their sound to all corners of the globe and hopes that it has a place in your own Royal Arcade. 

They are a good band if you are into the alt-country scene – and her voice is very interesting – I’ve reviewed them here.

Seeking: Non-Beatles Lovers

Posted by Jason Petros on September 10, 2009
Reviews / 2 Comments

Hey all – since we are all about independent music here – and since I just read this article from the BBC, it got me to thinking – is there anybody out there who doesn’t like the Beatles?

Every year, around this time, an argument begins circling around literary circles about our current Literary Canon – who’s in, who shouldn’t be in, and why.  So, let’s start our own canon here – a musical canon – not necessarily Chicago-Centric, but world-wide – lets limit the genre by a few things – no world music, no classical music – other than that, everything is fair game from Metal to Country and all the genres inbetween. 

Mine would probably include The Beatles, Led Zepplin, The Ramones, and Marvin Gaye – to name a few.  These are some of the folks I see as really impacting how music is sung, played and heard in my mind.  What do you all think?  Who should be included in our Canon?

Pet Lions – Soft Right Album Review

Posted by Jason Petros on September 09, 2009
Reviews / 7 Comments

Ok, ok, so I guess I can sort of hear the similarities between Pet Lions  and the Strokes.  It’s an inaccurate description, and, in my pet_lionshumble opinion, degrading to a band with much more promise than new wave rockers who never quite lived up to their own acclaim.  These guys make simple pop music – they keep a solid back beat, and they have a great ear for a melody.  Their guitar playing isn’t out of this world, but it serves the songs well, and, as any great band will attest, this is more important than 4 people on stage shredding their instruments to impress the world. 

What’s most interesting about Pet Lions is that I don’t hear anything individually that really stands out – the vocals are not fantastic; the guitars are good – but aren’t virtuoso; the pads are simple one or two notes – but like all my favorite collegiate basketball teams, it is the whole that is greater than the sum of all their parts.  (It won’t make since mathematically – so don’t try) It’s very much like Captain Planet – “with our powers combined….”  What I mean to say is that without one another – and without their serendipitous craigslist creation story; they would not be as fantastic.  I’ll tell you what, I’d love to see them live, and if any of the readers have seen them – feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.

None the less, it’s a dancey, rocky, fun album, that will hold your attention throughout – the songcraft is commendable; the arrangements tight, and the dynamics succinct.  The recording quality could be a bit better, but, in all likely hood it’s the electronically shared files more than the engineering contributing to this minor quibble.

As a Quick Heads up…

Posted by Jason Petros on September 08, 2009
Reviews / 1 Comment

Hello all you loyal Chicago’s Independent Music Review readers – I know that we’ve been extremely weak on our reviews as of late.  As a quick update – a few months ago we tried to raise a bit of money so we could revamp the website a bit and maybe take on another writer.  Unfortunately, we did not achieve our goal, so the redesign has been put on the back burner for a bit – and obviously, unless we can recruit a real quality writer who doesn’t mind working for free – it’s going to be a one man show for a while.  I have received a multitude of cd’s and emails in the recent months and am working my way through them one by one.  I’m a pretty fast worker, but this is probably going to take a while.  In order to do so in the most efficient way, I am going to get through the mountain of physical cd’s first, then review the digital downloads sent to me, and then visit individual web pages/myspace pages.  Anyway, I do appreciate all the communication I’ve received and will be posting as many reviews as I possibly can in the upcoming months. Please, tell your friends about us and feel free to leave a donation if possible – every little bit helps!!

In the meantime – please allow me to direct you towards two other quality music blogs that I help out with: – A Indie Rock blog out of Milwaukee, WI – and – a huge music site based out of New York and Chicago. 

Your friendly neighborhood reviewer,


Hotel Eden – A Way Back Home Review

Posted by Jason Petros on September 08, 2009
Reviews / No Comments


With the advent of relatively cheap recording equipment, there has been a complete rebirth in how music is being recorded and distributed these days.  Granted, this may be old news to some – but the DIY industry has come a long way since Fostex 8 track recorders – leading to a proliferation of loop based recording artists.  Anybody can make music – but not everybody can make music well.  You can buy a complete archive of drum sounds for ten dollars on a cd, and with the smallest bit of talent can lay down a guitar riff or piano sound over those stock drums, sing a melody, and voila, you have yourself an EP.  Unfortunately, the relative ease of doing so has, in some ways, lead to the degradation of music as an art form; because for every Passion Pit, there are 35 other bands/individuals that don’t have the slightest clue about arrangement, holding the listener’s interest, the relationship of tension to release, or the importance of dynamics; and this doesn’t even get into EQ, or compression – or other production techniques that would fly under the newbie’s radar. 

Hotel Eden understands the art of creating a song.  Formerly of the Lab Rats, a Columbus, Ohio based beat production team, Kelly Warner has provided us with an interesting collection of songs complete with hip hop break beats, plinky piano lines and well thought out melodies.  He’s a little bit of a throwback to DJ Shadow’s older days with an MPC, though not as gritty – evident in the head nodding beat which unfurls nicely in the first track, “Tell Me Where You’ve Been”.  What makes Warner’s 5 song EP stand out above the rest of the fold is his attention to simplistic detail.  Although working with loops, his moving songcraft keeps you interested in a number of ways – be it a slight change in the melody, a kick drum drop out, or a moving acoustic guitar loop. His handle of dynamics and the obvious foundation in hip hop beat production gives the music a foot hold in a number of different worlds without sounding too trite (Matthew Santos?) or too much like a just a background track.  He has successfully invoked sentiment and urban credibility in this EP, and I applaud him for it. 

“A Way Back Home”, presented by Solar Set Records, is not another electro-pop fake Postal Service album – this is a much more down to earth, urban, and cinematic pop soundscape with an appeal to people of all ages; steeped in the loop based history of music – but as interesting and intrinsic as a full blown band could be.

I Think Everything I Say album Review

Posted by Jason Petros on September 04, 2009
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tape-outlineMy first thoughts when listening to I Think Everything I Say’s self-titled album was wow, the vocals are almost dead on for a pre- Dude Ranch Blink 182 – without all the fart and penis jokes.  The music that envelops these sometimes pitchy vocals is straight outta the mid-90’s: it’s alternative rock, with straight forward drumming, arrangements reminiscent of Soundgarden or even Nirvana – glued together with bass playing that stays safely in the box.   After doing a little research on the band, it turns out fellow Rock and Roll critic Jim Derogatis had the same thoughts:

“With roots stretching back to their time at Bradley University in Peoria, guitarists Carl Johnson and Jon Trainor, drummer Zach Dresser and bassist Matt Heston clearly are children of the alternative ’90s: Their trumpeted list of musical heroes includes the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and Third Eye Blind.”

There are some standouts on the record, including the excellent final track, “This is a Hospital for Sinners”, but unfortunately, due to the obvious influences and lack of a true lead singer, I don’t know that these guys are destined for anything more than some garage rock and a couple of gigs at some of the mid-major rock venues in the city.  It’s a good introduction, but I’m waiting on something with a bit more of the grit from their punk side, and a lot less of a bygone era.  You’ve got it in you guys, just push a little harder.

“Sound Off”: Chicago Public Library Announces Music Competition

Posted by Jason Petros on September 04, 2009
On Our Radar / 4 Comments

Chicago Public Library - Sound OffHey all you fantastic CIMR readers – musicians, this one is especially for you!  Check it out, it sounds like an awesome contest – and I have to say that I am personally of the opinion that the more readers and writers we have in this nation; the better off we will all be.


Chicago, IL – The Chicago Public Library (CPL) announced that they will be holding another competition, this time in support of local musicians. The competition hopes to draw attention to the library’s updated music services which include CDs, music downloads, sheet music and concerts. Running from August 27 to September 27, CHIPUBLIB Sound Off invites Chicago musicians to submit original compositions inspired by their hometown city of Chicago. The winners will each perform live at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert – a free, public event held at Pritzker Park in late October. Judges for the competition include Publisher and Editor of Chicago-based Alarm Magazine Chris Force and music & culture critic and author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, Jessica Hopper, among others.
CHIPUBLIB Sound Off is part of Chicago Public Library’s Not What You Think Campaign. “Our ‘Not What You Think’ campaign challenges perceptions and highlights the library’s lesser known free services,” said Ruth Lednicer, CPL’s Director of Marketing. “Given the positive response we received from the design community with our previous contest – CHIPUBLIB.ORG Design Contest – we looked to continue the momentum by engaging Chicago’s vast music community to connect with the diverse population that we serve. We hope that through our efforts more people will become aware of the large catalog of free music we offer. Beyond CDs, we have performance DVDs, music downloads and sheet music ranging from The Beatles to Mariah Carey.”
Joining the panel of judges for the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off did not require a second thought for Chris Force. Started in 1995, Force began Alarm Magazine – a quarterly magazine that prides itself in publishing the best in new music and art – using the library’s resources.  Headquartered in Chicago, carrying a Chicago Public Library card is a “must have” for those who work at Alarm.
“From Robert Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago to new tunes from our favorite local punk bands and folk singers, it’s no wonder that Chicago has inspired hundreds, if not thousands of songs, each with a unique perspective that reflects Chicago’s incredible energy,” said Force. “Chicagoans have a special pride for their city. Why not sing about it? Chicago’s unique energy runs so deep it’s no wonder that musicians as diverse as Rise Against, and even the Rolling Stones have relied on the city as a muse for their songs.”
Submission Guidelines
The judges will choose winners based on song creativity, quality of performance, and original expression embodying the essence of the City of Chicago. All entries must comply with submission criteria posted at
Ten finalists will be selected by the official judging panel, and of those, two winning entrants will receive distinction as the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Winners.
The Grand Prize Winner, determined by the panel of judges, will headline the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert in late October, where they will perform their composition as well as a set featuring their other music. In addition to their headlining status, the Grand Prize Winner will receive a studio package courtesy of Electrical Audio – founded by legendary recording engineer Steve Albini.
The People’s Choice Winner will be selected by online voters who, from September 28 to October 3, view the top 10 submissions at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Vimeo channel and then visit the Not What You Think tumblr blog at for online voting. The People’s Choice Winner will open for the Grand Prize Winner at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert performing their submission as well as a small set of their other music.
For rules and submission guidelines visit For more help, visit your local public library, browse the music sections, or ask the librarian for tips on inspiration.

The Hudson Branch – Tightrope Walker

Posted by Jason Petros on September 03, 2009
Reviews / 1 Comment

hudsonbranchStaying on that ‘ethereal tip’ as the kids are prone to saying, the previously reviewed group, Hudson Branch has come out with their newest album, Tightrope Walker.  I had an itch for them to bring the energy up a bit on their newest album, and they have successfully turned their backs on my request, but none the less have offered up another ambient-heavy, sad, melody driven pop album that builds upon their latter efforts. 

Tightrope Walker moves exactly where you expect it to, there are no slamming beats or shifting key changes; it is a tightly put together album.  Bass lines are packaged nicely in between two chord guitar riffs, (see Clouds); and the lead singer, Cobey Bienert’s, melodies do their best to wind and weave through the spaces left open.  The result is a finely produced record that limps it’s way into your heart.  It will never push above 140 beats per minute, but I think that is asking a bit much from a band that is so indebted to the slow burning singer/songwriter based bands aforementioned.  All but one of the songs clock in under 5 minutes, and every single one of them is a step into a lush forest of sound, including tasteful horns, pads and solid back-beats. 

hudsonbranchcoverIt’s an attractive package that doesn’t necessarily pop out at you, or grow on you – the melodies are not immediately catchy, and the music is smoldering emotion, not out-right brigade of sap.  They’ve stuck to what they know here, and luckily for us listeners, it’s very easy on the ears. As the commenter had mentioned in my review of Flights, this is another album that is poised to have much success in this transitional season.  As summer signs off and gives way to the fall, keep an eye out for more excellent tunes coming out of our great city.

Flights – Living Bodies

Posted by Jason Petros on September 02, 2009
Reviews / 4 Comments

33038595Flights, an ambient rock band, from Chicago by way of Milwaukee, has been taking copious notes whilst they listen to the likes of Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Death Cab for Cutie, and other Brian Eno-esque musicians. 

They push the envelope between “this is too weird to listen to” and “my parents might enjoy this album”; and they do so successfully.  Piano based, but not afraid to jump into hard guitar jams, or open themselves up to sonic experimentation; they have leap-frogged any Coldplay references.  There are cinematic builds and emotional outlets throughout the music, Winter 1 being a fantastic example.  The play between tension and release, supported by an off putting (but serenely awesome) drum beat sends the listener into an emotional spiral.  It drives and dips, drawing in upon itself and eventually grows and blossoms into a complete being keeping your interest with stereo delays, some drones and a simple jam-band style guitar riff.  Major props for production fellas, you have dually impressed this careful listener. 

At first listen, singer Eric Hillman’s vocals don’t seem to fit, but, like the rest of the album, they grow on you and attach themselves steadfastly, eventually landing, with perfect emotion, in Old Wings.  When he sings, “I squint my eyes at the setting sun, won’t come inside, won’t rest my head, until my work is done.” – you feel it, you understand it, and you believe it.  He is speaking truth here and it’s never been sung with more beauty. 

It’s a quality album, with fantastic production – one that should keep audiences beckoning for more. 

They play tonight (September 2nd)  at the Empty Bottle at 9PM.

CIMR Exclusive – Matt Ryd singing Billie Jean…

Posted by Jason Petros on July 19, 2009
Live Music / No Comments

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