Chicago’s Music Reviews

Rego – Live at the Beat Kitchen

Posted by Jason Petros on April 14, 2009
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Rego, named after lead singer/songwriter Rebecca, played an enjoyable set at the Beat Kitchen this past Thursday evening. I did not catch the opening act, so I cannot comment on their play, but the Andrew Bird/Wilco influenced headliner did not disappoint. They were at their best when pushing the groove and rock envelope rather than reducing their sound to a country tinged singer/songwriter backing band. They have an interesting sound, large, but not massive – arrangements typically consisted of bass, drums, acoustic guitar, and lead electric guitar – with accompaniment by a multitude of other instruments, but for the most part, a piano. The music is enjoyable to listen to, and the songwriting is what truly pulls the listener in, and luckily the Beat Kitchen has decent sound – I could actually hear the vocals fairly clearly through a rather tame audience. Although there were some hiccups, notably inside jokes that were lost on the audience and an ill advised old-western sounding (I couldn’t really hear the words, but could see where it was going) story told at the beginning and at the end of one of their last songs (“What a Shame”?). Most interesting to watch was the multi-instrumentalist Mike Przygodo go from accordion, to bowed xylophone – which gave us a sound rarely heard, to guitar (he can truly shred), to keyboards, and then, to top it all off, to mandolin and banjo. The pace of the set went well, but, like I said before, the crowd was much more responsive to those songs that were rough edged and rocky – the rhythm section was right on, with the bass sometimes becoming more active than you usually see in bands similar to Rego and the drummer, Stephanie, pushed and pulled the melody purposefully. The most attractive thing about the band is Rebecca’s voice, which can run the gamut from cute and child like to a banshee’s shriek. She’s a singer’s singer and effortlessly swallows her vowel sounds to emphasize or downplay words of her choosing. This is a band that is slowly pulling itself up and over the rest of the alt-country cloud one finger at a time. They’re first full length album should be coming out this summer, I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

www.rebeccarego.com

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Snowsera – Fictions EP

Posted by Jason Petros on April 08, 2009
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Industry conscious power-pop-punkers Snowsera offer up solid, catchy songs that ride on the coat tails of industry favorites Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco.  Sometimes poorly described as Michael Jackson meets Nirvana, they play power chords happily and the rhythm section does its job pumping through the speakers and your head.  I have seen them do a mean cover of Michael Jackson (at Schuba’s) – so I will concede on that point – but Nirvana is a little more rock and a little less punk than Snowsera.  Their recordings are all stellar – everything is as it should be.  The stand out on their (free) EP, Fictions, is the Smith’s inspired, tremolo wavering, bass infused “Darling” which is the only track that takes a few steps forward, separating them from the rest of the pack instead of moving in lock step with the not-so-recent spat of pop writing misfits in the area.  I half expected more shredding guitars, but the three piece arranges its music thoughtfully and purposefully, not forcing anything and not competing with each other for the lime light.  Good music to listen to with top down. 

 

www.snowsera.blogspot.com

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Screaming Females

Posted by Jason Petros on April 03, 2009
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The Screaming Females currently reside within the loving arms of Don Giovanni records, but they deserve to be on Merge.  I’m going to avoid the obvious linguistic description here – but I will say the name is an extremely well thought out descriptor.  They aren’t catchy, but they are punk.  They scream at you and shred guitar solos – they’re a monstrosity force-feeding their tunes down your throat.  They’re a band that needs to be seen at the Exit, on North Avenue.  The new single, “Bell” can be found all over the internets and if you take the time to see it, you’ll be reminded about how un-punk bands like  Fall Out Boy and All American Rejects are.   Screaming Females aren’t major label fodder and you definitely will not hear them on a popular radio station near you, but if you are a true punk fan, take heed to this band.  With Pixie inflections, the three piece pummels you with a shredding guitar, played by a female none the less – it’s really refreshing to start seeing the opposite sex become guitar heroes and breaking up the eternally fraternal guitar club.   The recordings are top notch and the vocals are reminiscent, in some parts to Sleater-Kinney, while the music – in some parts reminds me of The Pixies.  Frank Black would be proud.  This is music for the sake of music, a primal scream working its way from your gut, and a Fight Club pushing its way to the forefront of your brain.  Look. Listen. Feel. This is the Screaming Females. Their newest record, Power Moves, is out April 14th – you can order it here.  If you are one of the first 100 pre orders, you get a special gift…

http://www.screamingfemales.com/

 

 

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Danny Echo – Danny Echo CD

Posted by Jason Petros on April 02, 2009
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Here’s the offering:  guitar based indie rock from the music-rich environment of our neighbors to the North.  The music has moments of fleeting familiarity – the beginning of “Killing Me” sounds almost exactly like Radiohead during The Bends era, but then shifts to a Rolling Stones-esque riff before you can realize what the parts remind you of.  Lead singer Danny Echo’s vocals are very strong and have an immediacy that I normally equate with early Billy Corgan.  You can hear this comparison present itself triumphantly in the excellent “Tomorrow Today”.  Four tracks into this self-titled album you get the definite feeling that DE is well versed in 90’s rock, but they manage to keep themselves relevant – it is not just a rehashing of songs you already know, but a modern reimagining of a successful sound.  They are not bereft of strange noises (listen to the bridge in “Giving Up, Giving Up”) – and, speaking of which, the sustaining scream near the end of “Giving Up, Giving Up” is a moment to behold.  Ah, but I digress – the bottom line is that Danny Echo is a professional band with a professional sound – unafraid to mix genre’s (hear the Beatley “It’s Up To You”) but sticking primarily to an analog sound; every time I tried to define this record during the first listen, the next song defied my expectations and I had to immediately seek another way to describe it.  Let’s try this – a kick ass band that, like liquid, takes the form of whatever position it finds itself in.  The beauty of music, and I would argue – the nature of it, is that it can mean many different things to many different people.  I dare you to listen to Danny Echo and not find something you love hiding between these 10 songs.

 

www.dannyecho.com

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Ryan Shields – The Light Between Last Night and Tomorrow

Posted by Jason Petros on March 24, 2009
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Ryan Shields hails from Florida, but has a familiar and eclectic acoustic sound. As you all know, I have a soft spot in my heart for singer/songwriters – but Ryan is talented in the surest sense of the word. He lists his influences at Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, and other surf-folk artists – and they all shine through his tunes, but do not take away from his overall musical pallet. For examples sake: the harmonies on “Tired” are Beach Boy esque, oohing and ahing their way around an easy riff, until a bluesy electric guitar comes in and raises the song out of its acoustic haven – eventually segueing to a backwards acoustic riff – yes, I said backwards acoustic guitar riff. I’m not always enamored as much by songwriters such as this, but his production alone is beauty beholden. The vocals sound natural, not forced, and thanks to his backing band, which includes his brother, every second of every song makes you want to beach yourself in sunshine and sand. I highly, highly recommend checking Ryan out before he gets too popular; trust me kids, you’ll be one of the coolest on the block. Other high points include “Love” and “towns”, the former of which is an homage to his influences – he sounds alot like a male version of Tristan Prettyman – who is delicious in her own right. None the less – college radio, for better or for worse, here comes Ryan Shields.

Review recommends: Love and Tired

www.myspace.com/ryanshieldsandthejanks

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Sparkplug Assasins – Sparkplug Assassins Album

Posted by Jason Petros on March 24, 2009
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The Assassins are self described rockers and on their first, self-titled, debut album, they demonstrate their ability to play loud and in your face. The first noticeable issue I heard was the guitar tones. They are always a few percentage points away from where they should be, a bit too watery here, a bit too crunchy there; and the vocals are just a tad too high in the mix. For example, when the instruments come crashing in on “Ancient Astronomers” I was really hoping to hear the angst personified not only by Dave McCormick’s cracking vocals, but also by the epic eruption of the rest of the band as well. The performance is tight throughout the length of the album and there are no qualms about the style here. They sound like they know themselves and have a commanding energy throughout the album. They are an almost Metallica, without the speedy metal riffs and mixed in with a dash of late 90’s alternative rock. Power screams abound while slow, melodic solo’s crawl around a hard hitting rhythm section. They have a very mainstream rock sound, fans of Metallica and Staind won’t be disappointed.

http://www.garageband.com/artist/sparkplugassassins

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