Tag: Chicago IL

New Video: Chicago’s Ganser Releases Mischievous and Surreal Visuals for “Satsuma”

Over the past couple of months I’ve written quite a bit about the Chicago, IL-based post-punk act Ganser,  and with the release of their debut EP, This Feels Like Living, the members of the Chicago-based act received attention locally for an art rock-leaning post-punk/noise rock sound influenced by Sonic Youth and Magazine.  Now, as you may recall, the band’s full-length debut Odd Talk is slated for release later this month through No Trend Records, and the album’s material reportedly focuses on communication breakdowns, with the song’s narrators desperately seeking meaning in confusion and messiness, as though they were literally sorting through syllables and signals to find the right words to say what they wanted or needed to say.

“Satsuma,” Odd Talk‘s last official single will further cement their reputation for material that thematically can be grimly absurd yet comedic that points at the complexities and frustrations of human relationships paired with angular guitar chords and propulsive drumming that help evoke a sweaty, heart racing anxiety: the sort in which your thoughts are racing and pinballing within your head; but the difference here is that the song focuses on a weary reservation, on avoiding expectations and their inevitable heartache, of not showing your hand when things are uncertain.

Filmed by the renowned photographer Kirsten Micolli and directed and edited by the band, the recently released video for “Satsuma” follow a woman Kate Ziebart as she wanders a post-blizzard Chicago, who’s compelled to dance through the streets. Throughout the course of the video, the woman’s movement varies between graceful and frantic but she turns the mundane and routine to something altogether strange; in fact, her weirdness seems to be infectious, and everyone she passes begins to start acting as weirdly as she is — although the woman is actually completely unaware of her effect on her surroundings or on anyone else. 

Filmed by the renowned photographer Kirsten Miccoli in a post-blizzard Chicago earlier this year and self-directed and edited by the band, the video follows a woman (Kate Ziebart) as she wanders the city, compelled to dance, as she encounters each member of the band in turn as she goes. After being in Chicago, the video not only strikes me as only being possible in Chicago, it manages to evoke the accusatory and sarcastic nature of the song in a mischievously indirect fashion. 

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If you’ve been following me through my various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve been in Chicago for the past few days for a conference related to my day job — and of course, while in town I’ve been running around to see friends, eat good food, drink good beers and catch as much live music as I could possibly take in. Naturally, while en route here and towards the bars, music venues and restaurants I’ve eaten in, I’ve spent it listening to a variety of music — especially Chicago blues, particularly my favorites, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Check out this (mostly) Windy City-inspired playlist below. (Of course, there will likely be additions as I’m commuting to and fro for the next few days, so feel free to keep checking it.)

New Video: Up-and-Coming Dutch Singer/Songwriter Nana Adjoa Releases Symbolic Visuals for Soulful Single “Honestly”

If you follow me through the various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve had an absolutely epic time during my first two days in the Windy City — and everyone I’ve met has been a wonderful and kind ambassador to their hometown. Man, right now, I feel as though Chicago can’t do me wrong. But on to the business end of things  . . . 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Directed by Bear Damen, the recently released video for “Honestly” features Adjoa and her backing band, as the backing musical act for a surrealistic play; but underneath that are much deeper interpretations — including, the vulnerability of having someone capture your heart, and knowing that with a cruel or thoughtless act, that they can crush it. 

If you follow me through my various social media accounts, you’d know that I’m now in Chicago on a business trip — and for some live music and hanging out with a few people I know in the area. So far, the trip has gone off on a fantastic start; but as you can imagine, I’ll be posting but somewhat sporadically as I’m running around town on various adventures, and will have work functions and so on. But let’s get to some business first . .

I’ve written quite a bit about the Chicago, IL-based psych rock band Secret Colours on this site, and as you may recall that throughout the band’s history they’ve gone through several lineup changes that have left founding member Tommy Evans as the sole original member. And with the band’s newest lineup which features Evans (guitar, vocals), Max Brink (bass) and Matt Yeates (drums), the band sound has been pushed in a slightly different direction as their latest album Dream Dream draws more from Brit Pop, guitar pop and garage rock — while at points, retaining elements of the 60s psych rock sound that first captured the attention of this site and elsewhere. Last year, I wrote about the XTC “Mayor of Simpleton”-like “Changes in Nature” and the 70s AM rock-like “Save Me;” however, the album’s latest single, album title track “Dream Dream” is more of a return to form, with the song being heavily indebted to both 60s psych pop and Brit Pop.

Directed and produced by Katey Meyer and featuring animation by  Becca Christman, the recently released video features the members of the band, playing on a brightly colored set, wearing retro glasses and sunglasses and of course, some prerequisite psychedelic imagery. It’s trippy yet mischievously so.

 

Best known as a member of Charles Bradley‘s backing band The Extraordinaries and Sharon Jones‘ backing band The Dap Kings, Lee Fields‘ backing band The Expressions, Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson and others, the Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since founding the label, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based artists including singer/songwriter, John Fatum, The Rad Trads, Michael Harlen, Patrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Last year, I wrote about a Dala Records split 7 inch single “Breathing Hard (Over You)”/”Honey Bee” featuring Camellia Hartman and its founder Aukstik, with both artists backed by the Dala Records house band, The Soulful Saints. And as you may recall, Hartman is an East Village-born and-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who as a child studied the Suzuki method on violin, bass and guitar at rock ‘n’ roll day camp, trombone in middle school and a cappella in high school.  Hartman’s latest single is the Billy Aukstik penned, “Return the Favor,” which is centered around the East Village-born and -based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s effortless and old-timey soulful vocals and an arrangement featuring twinkling keys, shuffling drums, and a loose, bluesy guitar line and a sultry horn line. Sonically, the song, which draws from Northern Soul production brings to mind the sounds of The Supremes and others, complete with a swooning and aching longing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past couple of months I’ve written quite a bit about the Chicago, IL-based post-punk act Ganser,  and with the release of their debut EP, This Feels Like Living, the members of the Chicago-based act received attention locally for an art rock-leaning post-punk/noise rock sound influenced by Sonic Youth and Magazine.  Now, as you may recall, the band’s full-length debut Odd Talk is slated for release later this month through No Trend Records, and the album’s material reportedly focuses on communication breakdowns, with the song’s narrators desperately seeking meaning in confusion and messiness, as though they were literally sorting through syllables and signals to find the right words to say what they wanted or needed to say.

“Satsuma,” Odd Talk‘s last official single will further cement their reputation for material that thematically can be grimly absurd yet comedic that points at the complexities and frustrations of human relationships paired with angular guitar chords and propulsive drumming that help evoke a sweaty, heart racing anxiety: the sort in which your thoughts are racing and pinballing within your head; but the difference here is that the song focuses on a weary reservation, on avoiding expectations and their inevitable heartache, of not showing your hand when things are uncertain.

The band will be embarking on a tour to support their full-length debut and it includes an album release show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle on April 16, 2018 and two NYC area dates — April 27, 2018 at Alphaville and May 1, 2018 at Saint Vitus. 

Tour Dates
3/09 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall (w/ Ought, Snail Mail)
3/28 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen (w/ Shopping, Tyvek)
4/16 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle (Record Release Show)
4/25 – Detroit, MI – Outer Limits Lounge %
4/26 – Pittsburgh, PA – Howlers %
4/27 – Brooklyn, NY – Alphaville %
4/28 – Philadelphia, PA – Mothership %
4/29 – Providence, RI – Alchemy %
5/01 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
5/02 – Baltimore, MD – Sidebar
5/03 – Richmond, VA – Flora
5/04 – North Carolina TBD
5/05 – Atlanta, GA – 529
5/06 – Memphis, TN – Bar DKDC
% – with Bloody Knives

 

 

Nicki Bluhm is a Lafayette, CA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, who’s perhaps best known for a six year stint as the frontwoman of The Gramblers, a band that featured her now ex-husband Tim Bluhm (with whom she also released two albums), and for recent high-profile collaborations with the likes of Phil Lesh, Infamous Stringdusters, Ryan Adams and others.  Slated for a June 1, 2018 release, the Ross Sprang-produced To Rise You Gotta Fall Bluhm’s first solo album in several years, and the album, which was written over a difficult and life-altering period in which she got divorced and made a spur of the moment move to Nashville, TN — and as a result, the material is a deeply personal chronicle of her state of mind. “These songs are quite personal,” Bluhm says. “They are the conversations I never got to have, the words I never had the chance to say, and the catharsis I wouldn’t have survived without.”

Interestingly, while Bluhm’s relocation to Nashville was spur of the moment decision, it actually came from the result of a number of writing sessions in the city. As Bluhm notes, the city was inspiring “because of all the songwriting going on here. When I would come to Nashville on writing trips, it was just percolating . . . it was intoxicating.” Around the same time, Bluhm met with renowned producer, engineer and mixer Matt Ross-Spang, who was in town mixing a record, and as the story goes Ross-Spang and Bluhm hit it off immediately.  “I really needed someone who was going to take the reins and have a vision for the album and he really did,” Bluhm says of meeting Ross-Spang. “My ex-husband had been my musical director, co-writer, and producer on all my records except one and I was looking for someone to step into that leadership roll, which Matt did very gracefully. I was looking for a clean slate; the only baggage I wanted to bring into the studio were the words to the songs I was singing. I wanted it to be a fresh experience; I didn’t want to even have history with anyone in the room that would pull me into old habits or ways of thinking.  So we agreed we’d record in Memphis.”
Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, the sessions revolved around live tracking featuring a backing band of accomplished pros assembled by Ross-Spang featuring Will Sexton (guitar), Ross-Spang (guitars), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion), Al Gamble (Hammond B3), Rick Steff (piano) and Dave Smith (bass), with Reba Russell and Susan Marshall (background singers), Sam Shoup (string arrangements) and various special guests. “We really just recorded live and we didn’t do that many takes of each song,” Bluhm says. “The final versions we ended up with were all one take. It was really refreshing to go analog. It minimized over thinking and second-guessing; forced us all to stay in the moment and play from the heart. . . Throughout the session there was a lot of listening and trusting. Matt really spends time curating his sessions and who he decides to bring in; he knows how to keep the vibe right. What you are hearing is, as Jerry Phillips would say, ‘not perfection but captured moments in time.'”
 
“I had lost my partner in so many ways,” Bluhm continues in press notes, “my musical partner, my life partner, my creative partner, and all of a sudden I was left on my own, to start my own engine. It was really intimidating and scary,” she says “but I had support from my management, my agent, my friends and family, and ultimately I just had this guttural drive that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was on auto-pilot, ready to move forward and take the steps I had to take to keep moving forward. When the album finally comes out it’s going to be like setting a caged bird free.”
Album title track “To Rise You Gotta Fall” is an incredibly self-assured and effortless track that manages to to be clearly indebted to classic Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul while nodding at contemporaries like Goodnight Rhonda Lee-era Nicole Atkins and Natalie Prass, as it reveals a careful attention to craft but with a “you-are-there” immediacy. Along with that, the song’s narrator reveals a resiliency and determination that comes from living a full, messy life full of struggles, heartbreak, loss and so on. As the song and its narrator seem to suggest, life will find a way to kick your ass but it’ll also find a way to move you forward towards where you need to be.
Bluhm will be on tour to first build up buzz for and to support her first solo album in some time and it’ll include a two night stay at Chicago’s Vic Theatre in April and a July 25, 2018 stop at The Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.
 
TOUR DATES:
April 11 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue*
April 12 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre*
April 13 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 14 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 15 – Saint Louis, MO @ The Pageant*
April 17 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Ballroom*
April 18 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark*
April 19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue*
April 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Bijou*
April 21 – Brevard, NC @ Songsmith Gathering
April 22 – Charlotte, NC @ Tuck Fest
May 27 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Meadowgrass Music Festival
May 28 – Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
May 31 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
June 1 – Eagle, CO @ Bonfire Brewing Block Party
June 2 – Taos, NM @ Music on the Mothership
June 3 – Flagstaff, AZ @ Hullabaloo
June 5 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
June 7 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
June 8 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
June 10 – Crystal Bay, NV @ Crystal Bay Club Casino
June 12 – Chico, CA @ Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
June 13 – Arcata, CA @ Humbrews
June 14 – Eugene, OR @ HiFi
June 15 – Portland, OR @ Dog Fir Lounge
June 16 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
July 13 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens
July 14 – Charlotte, NC @ Knight Theater
July 19 – Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
July 20 – Alexandria, VA @ Hamilton
July 22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
July 25 – Floyd, VA @ FloydFest
July 25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
July 29 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley
 
*Nicki solo supporting The Wood Brothers

New Video: Up-and-Coming Finnish Electronic Music Producer and Artist NightStop Releases Creepy Visuals for Brooding Album Single “Under the Killing Moon”

Last month, I wrote about the  Jyväskylä, Finland-born and-based, up-and-coming Finnish electronic music producer and artist Ere Ek, who started the 80s cyberpunk soundtrack-inspired project NightStop back in 2012. Since then, Ek has seen a growing profile across Europe and Russia’s tight-knit DIY scene, steadily touring and releasing both cassette and vinyl releases. Now, the Chicago, IL-based label No Trend Records, the label home of Ganser, Absolutely Not and others will be releasing a vinyl edition of NightStop’s most recent effort, Dancing Killer on March 30, 2018 — and as you may recall, although the album has already seen a digital release, Ek included a pulsating John Carpenter meets Umberto-like single “Phantasmagoria,” as a bonus digital track for the album. Interestingly, while that track cemented his reputation for crafting brooding and cinematic retro-futuristic electro pop; however, it may arguably be one of the most dance floor friendly tracks he’s released to date. 

Building upon the buzz surrounding the vinyl release of Dancing Killer, the up-and-coming Finnish electronic music producer and artist recently released the incredibly creepy, stop animation based video for “Under the Killer Moon,” by Tommi Niukkanen. As far as the single, it’s a retro-futuristic and broodingly cinematic track featuring layers of shimmering, arpeggiated synths and thumping beats — and while clearly being indebted to the aforementioned John Carpenter and Umberto, it may also be the most menacing track of the entire album. 

Perhaps best known for lengthy stints in the backing bands for Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, as well as the horn sections of Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson, the incredibly accomplished Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter, composer, producer and vocalist Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded the Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since the label’s founding, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based soul and soul-leaning artists including singer/songwriter, John FatumThe Rad TradsMichael HarlenPatrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Slated for an April 2, 2018 release, Aukstik’s solo debut EP Stay Strong was recorded over the course of two years between two different studios — the first being an East Village-based DIY space, where Aukstik’s only recording gear was a Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, and the second being his new, self-built Bushwick, Brooklyn-based studio Hive Mind Recording. As a result, the listener may hear a subtle yet noticeable change in texture and fidelity throughout the EP; but as Aukstik explains in press notes, “the compositions and arrangements are crafted in a way that make the transitions from song to song smooth and welcoming.” Aukstik adds that the “EP could be considered a concept record by its evolution in sound from track one through nine, as well as the underlying story that can be pieced together as each song goes by.” Unsurprisingly, the EP features contributions from members of Charles Bradley’s Extraordinaires, Antibalas and The Dap Kings — and from the EP’s first single “Oh, Emily,” Aukstik will further cement his reputation for crafting sweeping soul indebted to the late 60s and early 70s; in fact, Aukstik has long employed the use of the Maestro Rhythm King, a 1970s drum machine made popular by Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis. But more important, “Oh, Emily” is a sweetly swooning, old-fashioned love song with an elegant horn line that to my ears makes a subtle nod to The Beatles‘ “Martha, My Dear” — although about an actual human.

 

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New Video: Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based Electro R&B Artist Tolliver Releases Surreal and Symbolic Visuals for Atmospheric EP Single “I Gotchu”

Born to a Baptist pastor father and a gospel singing mother, Tolliver is a Chicago, IL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based electro R&B artist, who began his music carer playing in a number of Stax Records-inspired acts, including the renowned Black Diet, an act that received best new band nods from a number of publications and filmed a nationally syndicated PBS special at the end of 2014. 

Supporting himself as a Mormon gay porn editor, Tolliver’s solo work thematically focuses on release and recovery, breakdowns and getting high; in fact, his solo debut EP Rave Deep was about late night partying, anonymous sex and juking — and his upcoming EP Rites finds the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based artist focusing on the sacred and the profane, and the guilt-filled torments of a man, who had a religious childhood that is currently living in a sin-filled, ungodly present. 

Rites’ latest single “I Gotchu” will further cement Tolliver’s growing reputation for collaborating with and creating a genre-bending sound with the atmospheric and moody single nodding at gospel, neo-soul and jazz centered around deeply confessional lyrics sung with Tolliver’s aching vocals, expressing guilt, shame, and vulnerability within the turn of a phrase.

While feeling like a feverish dream, the video hints at larger religious themes with the first portion of the video shot in inky and moody blacks and dark colors before ending in brilliant light, creating the sensation of redemption.