Chicago’s Music Reviews

Men Who Listen – “Men Who Listen” Album Review

Posted by Jason Petros on September 11, 2009
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30698907Men Who Listen are a poor man’s REM.  They are very good at arpeggiated guitar lines, and all the members are obviously accomplished musicians – their timing is right on spot, and all the notes are played perfectly.    The arrangements are quality, especially on the minor key “(Dead & Buried) In Your Love”; where a very nice electric piano creeps it’s way in and out.  All the harmonies hit the sweet spot of thickening up the lead vocal without overpowering it, and at times, you don’t even realize it’s multiple voices singing – just one rope of song, made of separate and equal threads, all gluing everything together.  

Where REM’s Michael Stipe succeeds is where Men Who Listen fall short.  Stipe’s oblique lyrics offered themselves to many different interpretations, but on songs like “Look but Don’t Touch” – MWL go for the obvious and tired: “There she goes walking down the street, the kind of girl you have to meet, but you can’t say a word to her, you’re just a tin can amateur – look, look but don’t touch, (yeah yeah you know you want to yeah)”   Again, everything is perfectly in tune, right on time, succinct and rehearsed – but the perfection of the album is also its downfall – it just doesn’t force the listener to guess about what is going to happen next.  Although pleasant to listen to, there’s no inherent drama in the songs – this is due to the consistency of everything – there are no triumphant highs and no rock bottoms in the music – it stays safely in the middle of the road. 

It’s a good, easy listening rock album that’d be a safe bet to play with the whole family around – nobody’s going to take any offense to the sound, and nobody will complain about the quality – but unfortunately, nobody’s going to take major notice that it’s playing either.

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Face Time Police – the Definition of Deviation

Posted by Jason Petros on June 24, 2009
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As soon as I see something along the lines of “this is a DIY recording” – I immediately prepare my ears for a unprofessional thrashing of recording concepts – bass that’s too loud, close to zero panning, and/or vocals that are too quiet, too loud, don’t use any compression, and are generally pitchy – and that doesn’t even get into the drums. This record surprised me – the recording quality is actually clear – and most of the elements sit in the right place. They describe themselves as “pop macchiato” – and I can’t say I disagree with the assessment. The lead vocals sound a lot like Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong, and the music doesn’t stray too far on the experimental side – songs when they push electronics (Seashells) aren’t overpowered by the studio and contain just enough ‘live’ instruments to keep you from forgetting that it’s a band playing this music, not a DJ. Song to song I can’t say I agree with all the choices – the misguided rap rock ‘Minute Made’ falls on the cheesy side of things, but there’s a rocking slap bassline in it which (kind of) redeems itself – not by much though. It’s cliché chorus is enough to make me cringe: “trippin’ on these girls like they’re giving off ecstasy, I’m about to blow like an airborne hand grenade”…in less than 10 seconds that’s a shout out to 50 cent and Linkin Park – I have a hard time taking that seriously. Overall this is a solid album – and it’s definitely commendable to do a lot of things well, but my advice to FTP would be – pick a genre and stick with it – you can be pretty decent at a lot of things, but most of the time this means you aren’t great at any of them. Songs like None of the Below, Seashells, and Nothing Left to Break all sound like they could be part of a bigger, greater album, but the final two, “Minute Made” and “Of Man and Monster” sound like you all are just showing off your songwriting/arranging chops, and they are good, but they aren’t great and it would serve everyone better to grab an identity and stick with it. I suppose that in a way, this is the point of the album, the Definition of Deviation, but I feel like I’d rather listen to an album straight through than skip over songs that don’t “fit” with the rest – either way, this is a well recorded, great album from a good band; and I’m looking forward to a full length in the near future. You can find them at CDbaby, Itunes, and obviously Myspace.


www.facetimepolice.com

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What’s Happening This Weekend…

Posted by Jason Petros on May 08, 2009
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Here’s some notable things happening this weekend in Chicago, lovingly put together by CIMR:

Friday night there are a few notable acts coming through the area – Rodriguez, of South African fame is back for an American renaissance of sorts – his music articulates the common man’s plight whilst eschewing the typical boy loves girl pop stereotypes – for all you singer/songwriters – this guy is the nitty gritty real deal and I highly recommend this show – it’s at Schubas tonight (Friday, May 08) for $20. Also on Friday night, for all you reggae heads, head on over to Milwaukee and Damen at the Double Door Cold Water Mystic is opening for John Brown’s Body – there’ll be enough delay pedal action that you’ll feel like your body’s leaving imprints behind you as you bob your head through the crowd.

Saturday, Makeshift Prodigy is headlining a 21+ show at Double Door, Manchester Orchestra is playing at Metro, and Headlights, a indie rock pop band from Champaigne, Illinois is opening for Subpop’s newest Swedish wonder, Loney Dear at Schubas.

You’ll find me Saturday at the Double Door or Schubas, and Friday night, if I’m feeling cool enough, I might make an appearance to see Cold Water Mystic.

Support the local music scene and be sure to keep stopping by CIMR!!

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Tadahiko Yokogawa – Volo Interno

Posted by Jason Petros on May 07, 2009
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Let me cut to the chase – the best thing about this album = it’s made with only a laptop and an electric guitar; the worst thing about this album = it’s made with only a laptop and an electric guitar.   Distributed by Chicago record label, Sleepy Mammal Sound, Japanese musician Tadahiko Yokogawa has presented us with an album of Prog-Laptronica – (dibs on the genre name) – which takes you down whichever road you choose.  Some of the record sounds strangely familiar – like a few friends got together with a bag of weed, a newly purchased delay pedal, a black light and went to work.  Despite these long and self indulgent experimental circles of sound, the rest of Volo Interno takes minimalism to heart; sprouting forth and rising above the inspired infinite silence.  Individually, some of the tracks can be grating – the delays and panned ring modulation forcing you off balance, but taken as a whole, they reveal themselves to be a cog in the wheel of a slow moving adventure.  There are swells that rise like anger, but for the most part, Tadahiko errs on the side of chilly indifference, showing that sometimes it’s the most impersonal albums that are able to pull on the strings of our souls.

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Madeline – White Flag Review

Posted by Jason Petros on May 05, 2009
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madelineMadeline’s “White Flag” is American Gothic  – her brush strokes are playful, swallowed vocals, minor key melodies and sleepy beats that move from 2/4 to 4/4 without a missed tap of the foot.  Her palette is the landscape of a modern, romanticized rural America; steeped in tradition, vehemently denying evolution, but sternly and solemnly accepting its own fate.  The album is very pretty, dancing along with downtrodden banjos, acoustic guitars and peaceful traditional country percussion – complete with a brushed snare snaking its way in and out of songs.  Her ability to wrap the sounds of her words is almost Andrew Birdish, but never jumps into his overly pretentious vocabulary – Madeline stays firmly in the rural portions of the dictionary – “you, cannot break my heart, because it’s made of wires, glass, and little icicles, these are not tears I cry, no darling I, I have champagne flowing from my spectacles”.   For those who do not appreciate the abstract, her music is akin to Wilco, The Decemberists (The Crane Wife), and previously reviewed local band, Rego.  The performance on the album is heavy-eyed and lethargic but the music stays interesting enough to hold onto your ears until the end.  There is a creepy undercurrent to Madeline’s tunes, it’s as if she’s hiding something behind her Jenny Lewis-ish vocals – but will never let you in to see it.   I suppose this mystery could be attune to sexual chemistry, evident in my favorite song on the album, “Dirty South (Tie One On)” – but the countrified arrangements remove the sex from the rest of the album, replacing it with a steadfast and square-jawed representation of rural America by a talented songstress who’s not afraid to show you, in all the truth and beauty, who she is. 

 

http://www.madelinesongs.com

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April Top 5 Bands You Should be Listening to…

Posted by Jason Petros on May 05, 2009
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top5

Hello everybody – I want to take a moment and thank everybody for another great month for CIMR.  We’ve made some excellent connections – including, but not limited to – Secondwave Music, Vocalo Radio, and Loud Loop Press.  All of which offer intense support for the local music scene.  Also, much thanks to our Top 5 Bands for April:

Hollus
I Fight Dragons
Danny Echo
Sincerely Iris
Rego
Snowsera

I know, I know, it’s six, but I couldn’t choose and, being a one man army, I have nobody to argue with me – sooo lucky you guys – check these bands out, go to their upcoming shows and/or buy some of their merch – trust me, they’re all worth it!

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Hollus – Joker and the Queen

Posted by Jason Petros on April 24, 2009
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Words I will not use in this review:  revolutionary, raw, and rocking.  These are possibly the most overused and wrought words in rock critic history – and unfortunately, rarely do they convey any meaning about a band or its music.  Anyway, Hollus is a strictly analog band.  You won’t hear any synthesizers, drum machines, or overzealous string arrangements on “Joker and the Queen”.  You are much more likely to hear poetic lyrics mixed with a road worn, Tennessean, Kings of Leon/Band of Horses – guitar- rock with a southern drawl.   Rugged production values add to the mystique here – it isn’t without flaw – but gets the job done and does it well for a self recorded album.  They do sometimes fall into Dave Matthews’ territory – not musically, but within the confines of lyric revelry; as shown on “One More Road” – ‘Getting high just passing the time/Watching girls above/All the time to drink up your wine/I feel sick with love’; but such digressions are forgiven when one begins to understand that Hollus is not a city slicker band trying to make it big in the urban jungle.  Instead, they are rural dreamers, allowing the imprint of their lush, created, environments made up of river beds, foreign fogs and other assorted portraits of a true American landscape to shape their sound.  Blues inflected rock music that dynamically moves between acoustic and electric guitars; blends the real with the surreal; comes together, wrapping us in a cocoon of heartache.  This is Hollus. 

 

www.hollus.net

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On Our Radar: Sincerely, Iris

Posted by Jason Petros on April 23, 2009
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Acoustic Singer/Songwriter Todd Murray is special.  Not the “I eat paste” special – quite the opposite actually – his is the first local, acoustic music I’ve heard that melds folk and blues stylings successfully.  It’s like a fried Twinkie – it really shouldn’t work together, but it does – and it is tasty.  This man knows his way around an acoustic guitar, whether playing lead or rhythm he does so tastefully and in full control.  Todd knows each songs destiny and puts his best foot forward presenting them on his recently recorded effort, Headlight Sonata.  Although some might groan at the thought of some ass clown playing an acoustic guitar around a campfire (again, sigh) – Todd’s music moves, dynamically through different strum patterns, hard and soft exchanges, and some KT Tunstall-like chicka chicka’s to infuse what is normally left for the coffee house set with a new and unique sounding vibe.  When you think of blues/folk you have to conjure bits and pieces of rock and roll history; ie, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Who – these bands knew how to steal successfully.  They took music; new to the mainstream audience, and put into words and melodies that we could all understand.   It takes a special ear and a yearning for what is inside one’s soul to connect with the blues and it takes a wordsmith with an observant mind to put honesty and articulation on top of these attributes.  Now I’m not saying that Toddy Murray is the next Jimmy Page – actually far from it – but what I am saying is that Sincerely, Iris has found a way to create music that bites on these predecessors without sounding whiney or too over the top (see Greg Reed) – or being too steeped in traditional acoustic guitar playing.  His album is missing drums – and that can make or break my comparisons really easily – but for what it is, it accomplishes everything the music is going for.  He’s not afraid to get a little experimental – check out the bridge on “Diggin” – almost sounds like a guest spot from Andrew Bird.  Also be sure to listen to the haunting, minor key song, “Don’t Let the Man Get You Down” – the production value here really surprised me, what sounded like a crappily recorded piano eventually attached to my mind like a Zebra Mussel and in the end had me saying ‘wow, that actually fit really good.’  All in all, with Sincerely, Iris, Todd Murray has tapped into a nice niche, the only question is, can he push it further?  Is he strictly an acoustic guitar guy, or is this album simply an introduction to a stronger more powerful artist, backed by a real band and plugged in?  I’m hoping for the latter. 

www.sincerelyiris.com

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Incredible Shrinking Boy – Timebomb EP

Posted by Jason Petros on April 20, 2009
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Incredible Shrinking Boy took some notes from the Nirvana song-book, especially evident in the first song of their Timebomb EP, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll”.  Alternative styled power chords and charging guitars provide the melodic backdrop for Paul’s unique voice.  It prides me to listen to bands and singers that may lack in classical, “beautiful” tone – but more than make up for it in the feeling and tenacity in their lyrics and the recorded performance.  This is an interesting EP instrumentally – the mixture of electronic pads and rhythmic beds with acoustic guitars and lightly effected vocals come together nicely and pulls it away from any Postal Service comparisons.  The highlight of the EP is “Incapable of Love” – it has enough delay on the lead guitar to make it a ballad that pulls on the heart strings in that U2/Death Cab for Cutie kind of way and its anthemic chorus is a forlorn teens dream come true.  “Made of Steel” has a sneaking synth popping in and out of it, giving the song – although this is also indicative of the entire EP – a cinematic quality – full of depth and density.  It’s been said that a good song equals the sum of words and melody.  A great song is the sum of those parts added with emotion.  It is the emotive quality of The Incredible Shrinking Boy’s music that pushes it over the edge.   Check them out at www.incredibleshrinkingboy.com.

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20 Things from Makeshift Prodigy

Posted by Jason Petros on April 15, 2009
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makeshiftprodigyMakeshift Prodigy, a friend of CIMR and one of the better acts coming out of Chicago these days has been previously reviewed by us here.  Their 5 piece hybrid rock band has a little something for all genre lovers – punk inspired rhythm, hip-hop synths, Radiohead effected piano, and rock guitar infused with tasteful, and original sounding riffs.  They’ll be playing at Metro this Saturday, April 18th for an all ages show.  They are headlining and judging from some of the videos on Youtube from their last show, you might want to show up early.  None the less,  the lead singer, Anthony, and lead guitar player, Jake, have been gracious enough to take the time to provide us with 20 things musical they enjoy:

 

20 Things from Makeshift Prodigy: 

Top 5 songs out Right now:

Anthony:

Radiohead – 15 Step

Incubus – Dig

Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

One day as a lion – Wild International

N.E.R.D. – Spaz

 

 

Jake:

Kings of Leon – Sex is on Fire

Killers (new single)

Jason Mraz – Lucky

Katie Perry – Thinking of you

 

 

Top 5 Singers of all time:

Anthony:

This is a tough one due to the differences in pure talent and being innovative… but these work:

                                              

Ray Charles – One of the most unique & credible voices of all time. The people Ray Charles influenced throughout his long-lasting carreer are countless, and alot of our favorite artists wouldn’t have been without Ray’s influence.

 

Nina Simone – Nina Simone was quite possibly THE musical voice of the civil rights movement, her unique tone and powerful voice conveys the pain and beauty that many people we’re unable to channel during this time. Single-handedly changed my opinion on what makes a great singer.

 

Robert Plant – Granted, Robert Plant was also part of arguably THE greatest rock band ever, he was and still remains one of the most innovative and powerful voices throughout music. Led Zeppelin’s range from blues to rock and roll was always perfectly complemented and driven by the wailing and soaring vocals of Robert Plant.

 

Freddie Mercury – The flamboyant and ever present Freddie Mercury’s vocals we’re and forever will be one of the most powerful and moving influences in music history. The vibrato in Freddie’s voice is so strong it’s impossible not to recognize upon listening matched with his stunning stage presence in live performance he seemed unstoppable. However he would indeed be stopped by a losing fight with HIV/AIDS.

 

Janis Joplin – Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Patsy Cline could all be at the top of this list, but the voice that stands out in music more uniquely and untouched to this day is Janis Joplin. It’s not in the most beautiful voice, but the most remarkable tone. The heart and passion that Janis put into her voice was something that will echo throughout history forever. 

 

Jake:

John Lennon (Beatles)

Paul McCartney (Beatles)

Thom Yorke (Radiohead)

Robert Plant (Led Zepplin)

Bono (U2)

 

 

Top 2 unsigned local bands (besides yourself)

Anthony:

Hmm I would have to say Everett Thomas & Owl City

 

Jake:

Empires (Chicago)

American Taxi…i know i know they just got signed

 

 

 Top 3 Places to play in Chicago

Anthony:

The Metro

The Chicago Theatre

Aragon Ballroom

 

Jake:

Top 3 places to play

Metro

Subterreanen

Enclave

 

Top 5 Reasons We should come to the show Saturday

 

Anthony:

If you’re looking for something that is innovative and thought inspiring and  if your want to hear something genuine and out of the ordinary, Impulsive, radiant, passionate, and an unforgettable live experience, then you need to come out. 

 

Jake:

It’s our first Headlining gig @ Metro and we’ll be debuting some new material from our new EP Mathmatica.  Also, the music is far more articulate then we could ever be.  Not to mention hitchhiking is dangerous & Radiohead just isn’t in town.  Besides all of this, would be honored to have you.

 

I’ll definitely be there at the show, if you are there, seek me out, I’ll buy ya a beer while we enjoy an emotionally driven rock show. 

 

www.makeshiftprodigy.com

 

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