Tag: Chicago IL

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that. We’re collaborating with a talented Brazilian artist named Karla Caprali. She has created the song art, and is working on a powerful visual (animated video) to go with the track. We’re staying hopeful for the future. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.’”

New Video: Brittany Campbell and Phil. Team Up on A Bold Declaration of Queer Love and Desire

Brittany Campbell is a Los Angeles-based R&B artist, animator and actor and activist. Joining the Metropolitan Opera at an early age, Campbell went on to act in and star in a number of Broadway productions including a little one by the name of Hamilton, where she met her girlfriend Candace Quarrels — and formed the R&B and folk duo Mermaid, whose forthcoming full-length album features production by Matt Otto and Sam Hoffman.

Campbell has also released material as a solo artist, releasing her full-length debut, 2018’s Stay Gold, which revealed a songwriter, who could craft earnest, lived-in songs paired with a self-assured vocal range. The Los Angeles-based artist, animator, actor and activist’s creative passion and curiosity led her to become a self-taught animator, who has created videos for supermodel/vocalist Shaun Ross, as well as for her work.

Born Philip Johnson-Richardson, Phil. is a Charlotte-born, New York-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor, who immediately upon finishing his degree in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music joined the cast of the Chicago production of Hamilton, where he eventually starred in the titular role. Since starring in Hamilton, the rapidly rising talent has managed to land a number of prominent acting gigs, appearing in TV shows like Chicago P.D., Proven Innocent, The Other Two and the the horror film Haunt. He was also cast as a series regular in the Sara Bareilles and JJ Abrams created Apple TV+ series Little Voice. And adding to a incredibly busy period, the Charlotte-born, Chicago-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor will be releasing his debut EP Different Cities, an effort that will help to further showcase his talents.

Recently Campbell and Phil. teamed up on the slickly produced and empowering pop anthem “Champion.” Centered around stuttering trap beats, shimmering and layered synth arpeggios, Campbell’s sultry vocals, an inspired guest spot from Phil., who quickly alternates between staccato spitting fire and achingly tender soul crooning and an infectious hook, “Champion” is a sensual and joyous ode to queer love, desire and devotion that was specifically released for National Coming Out Day. “I’ve written a few songs about making love but none that were inspired by making love to a woman,'” Campbell explains. “The song and video is my attempt at capturing some of the feelings it inspires in me. . . the euphoria and joy in making love.”

The brightly colored, intergalactic — and downright trippy — visual for “Champion” captures Black, queer love with a boldness that’s defiant yet tender, as it suggests that for the song’s narrator making love to her girl is a transcendent and otherworldly experience.

New Audio: Chicago’s Slow Pulp Releases a Shimmering and Reflective New Single

Originally formed in Madison, WI and currently based in Chicago, the rising indie act Slow Pulp — Emily Massey (vocals, guitar), Alexander Leeds (bass), Theodore Matthews (drums) and Henry Stoehr (guitar) — will be releasing their highly-anticipated full-length debut Moveys, which features attention-grabbing singles “At It Again,” “Idaho,” and “Falling Apart” Friday through Winspear Records.

Initially taking shape while the members of the band toured with Alex G last year, the band scrapped an album’s worth of material after Emily Massey was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and chronic Mono. What the band eventually worked on and finished wound up being a testament to hard-fought personal growth and persistence during remarkably difficult times: Massey’s parents were in a severe car accident about a week before pandemic-related shutdowns began. And as a result, the album’s material is centered around blistering energy, emotional catharsis and the resourcefulness to complete the album when the world feels like it’s ending.

Moveys fourth and latest single is the slow-burning and shimmering “Montana.” Centered around jangling guitars, gentle blasts of gorgeous and twangy slide guitar, soulful harmonica and Massey’s achingly plaintive vocals. And while being a decidedly, 120 Minutes MTV alt rock, Sunday afternoon sort of single, the track is actually a deeply self-reflective track rooted in personal experience. “This song is about moving beyond defining myself in terms of my mental health. I’ve been working through this over the last couple of years and this song is a reflection of this process and where I am now,” the band’s Emily Massey explains. “‘Montana’ was the first song we finished recording for the album. Henry’s early demo was kind of heavy and distorted, and when we went to play it together for the first time, it came out a lot slower and cleaner. Our friend Willie Christianson wrote and recorded the slide guitar and harmonica parts.”

New Video: Haiku Hands Release a Defiantly Campy and Fierce Visual for “Fashion Model Art”

Last year saw Aussie electro pop act Haiku Hands — Claire Nakazawa, Beatrice Lewis and Mie Nakazawa — embarking on their first ever Stateside tour, which included a series of critically applauded, attention-grabbing sets at SXSW, opening slots for the likes of Japanese punk act CHAI, JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and Sofi Tukker, Chicago-based emcee CupcaKke and footwork producer DJ Taye.

Building upon a rapidly growing national and intentional profile, the Aussie trio’s highly-anticipated, self-titled full-length debut is slated for a September 10, 2020 release through Mad Decent. Recorded primarily in Melbourne with Joel Ma (a.k.a. Joelistics), the Aussie electro pop trio’s self-titled debut further cements the act’s reputation for being rebellious, experimental and wildly unconventional. While featuring collaborations with Sofi Tukker, Mad Zach, Machine Drum, Mirac, Hermitude‘s Elgusto and Lewis CanCut, the album thematically probes technology, relationships and the absurd — with incisive social commentary. “The record explores an attitude of empowerment, humour and positivity whilst also delving into darker themes and expressions,” the members of Haiku Hands explain. “We aimed to be original in our creative choices, we were influenced by multiple genres and artists but were aiming to create something that sounded new and different.” 

“Fashion Model Art,” the self-titled album’s latest single features a collaboration with Sofi Tukker. Centered around twinkling keys, stuttering beats and handclaps, layers of shimmering synths,  and chanted, non-sequiturs, “Fashion Model Art” is a euphoric and  decidedly 80s inspired house music banger that sounds like a brash and mischievous take on Madonna’s “Vogue” and David Bowie‘s “Fashion.”

“The chorus of ‘Fashion Model Art’ was created on the train coming home from the Sydney Biennale,” the Aussie electro pop act explain in press notes. “It was the moment we swapped from being our composed observant art critiques to our boisterous playful selves. We ended up having half the carriage chanting fashion fashion, model model, art art art art on the train.

“This song celebrates the fashion model art character within ourselves. We revel in the hilarious, tense, fun, ridiculous and utmost seriousness of these moments.

Sofi Tukker jumped on this song after we toured with them for a month in the US.

We ask ourselves, what should we do with our hands?”

“We met Haiku Hands on tour in Australia,” Sofi Tukker says in press notes. “After seeing them literally once live, we immediately asked them to go on tour with us. We’ve been good friends ever since. It was so fun working on this track with them. We love how they build in humor and choreography into their music. ”

Directed by Jasmin Tarasin, the recently released video for “Fashion, Model, Art” is a slick synthesis of high fashion, art and of course, fashion models in a way that’s fiercely and defiantly campy, mischievous, pro womxn and pro queer. “Haiku Hands are in fact a wonderful collide of Fashion, Model, Art in the very best way,” Jasmin Tarasin says. “It was so inspiring to be able to play and create with these women in collaboration with our combined creative community . I enjoyed the process so much and feel that the fun and beauty we found is seen on screen. We had the very best time.”

New Audio: Haiku Hands Team Up with JOVM Mainstays Sofi Tukker on a Club Banger

Last year saw  Aussie electro pop act Haiku Hands — Claire Nakazawa, Beatrice Lewis and Mie Nakazawa — embarking on their first ever Stateside tour, which included a series of critically applauded, attention-grabbing sets at SXSW, opening slots for the likes of Japanese punk act CHAI, JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and Sofi Tukker, Chicago-based emcee CupcaKke and footwork producer DJ Taye. 

Building upon aa rapidly growing national and intentional profile, the Aussie trio’s highly-anticipated, self-titled full-length debut is slated for a September 10, 2020 release through Mad Decent. Recorded primarily in Melbourne with Joel Ma (a.k.a. Joelistics), the Aussie electro pop trio’s self-titled debut further cements the act’s reputation for being rebellious, experimental and wildly unconventional. While featuring collaborations with Sofi Tukker, Mad Zach, Machine Drum, Mirac, Hermitude’s Elgusto and Lewis CanCut, the album thematically probes technology, relationships and the absurd — with incisive social commentary. “The record explores an attitude of empowerment, humour and positivity whilst also delving into darker themes and expressions,” the members of Haiku Hands explain. “We aimed to be original in our creative choices, we were influenced by multiple genres and artists but were aiming to create something that sounded new and different.” 

“Fashion Model Art,” the self-titled album’s latest single features a collaboration with Sofi Tukker. Centered around twinkling keys, stuttering beats and handclaps, layers of shimmering synths,  and chanted, non-sequiturs, “Fashion Model Art” is a euphoric and  decidedly 80s inspired house music banger that sounds like a brash and mischievous take on Madonna’s “Vogue” and David Bowie’s “Fashion.” 

“The chorus of ‘Fashion Model Art’ was created on the train coming home from the Sydney Biennale,” the Aussie electro pop act explain in press notes. “It was the moment we swapped from being our composed observant art critiques to our boisterous playful selves. We ended up having half the carriage chanting fashion fashion, model model, art art art art on the train.

“This song celebrates the fashion model art character within ourselves. We revel in the hilarious, tense, fun, ridiculous and utmost seriousness of these moments.

 Sofi Tukker jumped on this song after we toured with them for a month in the US.

 We ask ourselves, what should we do with our hands?”

“We met Haiku Hands on tour in Australia,” Sofi Tukker says in press notes. “After seeing them literally once live, we immediately asked them to go on tour with us. We’ve been good friends ever since. It was so fun working on this track with them. We love how they build in humor and choreography into their music. ”

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Ganser Take Us on a TED Talk from Hell in New Visual for “Projector”

Chicago-based post-punk outfit and JOVM mainstays Ganser can trace its origins back to when its founding members Nadia Garofalo (keys, vocals) and Alicia Gaines (bass, vocals) met while attending art school. Bonding over a mutual love of The Residents, outsider communities and the work of John Waters and David Lynch, the duo developed a hands-on DIY craftsmanship that eventually carried over into the band. Each of the band’s members — Garofalo, Gaines, Brian Cundiff (drums) and Charlie Landsman (guitar) — sharing writing duties and collaborating on every aspect of their creative work, including music videos, album art and the visuals, which often accompany their live shows. 

2018’s full-length debut Odd Talk received widespread praise nationally and across the blogosphere with some critics comparing their sound and approach to Sonic Youth and Magazine. Thematically, the album focused on communication breakdowns — namely, the difficulties of being understood, avoidance and intimacy

With the release of 2018’s full-length debut, Odd Talk, the Chicago-based post-punk outfit developed a national profile with the album receiving widespread praise for sound that some critics have compared favorable to Sonic Youth and Magazine paired with incisive lyrics critiquing larger social issues. Odd Talk thematically focused on communication breakdowns, the difficult of being understood, intimacy and avoidance. 

Now, as you may recall the Chicago-based JOVM mainstays’ highly-anticipated sophomore album Just Look at That Sky is slated for a Friday release through Felte Records. Thematically, their sophomore album finds the quartet probing the futility of striving for self-growth during chaos — while evoking an all too familiar manic worry and generalized sense of dread and doom. The album acknowledges that we’re online all the time and inundated with too much information about other people and situations. We’re all a tweet, a status update, an Instagram post or a text exchange away from truly knowing what our followers, friends and loved ones really think about us. And in a larger sense, the world as we know it is dying before our eyes. We can watch the replays every night at 8, 10, 11 — in slow motion. 

So far, I’ve written about two of Just Look at That Sky’s released singles — the tense and explosive album opener “Lucky.” and the atmospheric and brooding “Emergency Equipment and Exits.” The album’s latest single “Projector” is an uneasy song centered around propulsive drumming, angular blasts of guitar and bass paired with Garofalo delivering a psychological study of people desperately trying to hold on to anything when everything is so absolutely insane. 

“It’s what happens when someone becomes so far removed from general society that their thoughts become a Dunning-Kruger Effect echo chamber of pseudo-wisdom and self-affirmations. Connection and perspective gets lost, but that echo becomes louder and often public,” Ganser’s Garofalo says of the song, 

Directed by the members of the band, the recently released video for “Projector” stars the band’s Nadia Garofalo as a painfully awkward and intensely self-aware TED Talk-like speaker, giving a talk on “Pseudo Philosophies for Living in the Current Climate,” and the talk includes the prerequisite PowerPoint slides and video clips. But as the video pulls out at the end, we see that Garofalo’s TED talk speaker has been speaking in front of an empty room — the entire time. 

“We shot this the day after SXSW was cancelled,” the members of Ganser recall in press notes. “We didn’t know what was coming, but we knew it wasn’t going to be good.”

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  

Released earlier this year, McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context. using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  It’s meant to reconnect Scott-Heron with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments the Chicago-born legendary artist’s imitable voice.

Slated for a July 31, 2020 release through his longtime label home. Universal Beings E&F Sides serves as an addendum to the critically applauded 2018 effort of the same name — but while featuring fourteen new organ beat music compositions that were cut from the original sessions and prepared and produced by McCraven as a soundtrack to a documentary on the recording of the original album. (The physical album will see a September 25, 2020 release.)

The Mark Pallman-directed Universal Beings documentary follows McCraven as he travelled to California, Chicago, London and NYC in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and recording of his breakthrough album, taking the viewer through the story of his life, his process and the community of musicians that brought the album’s material to life.

So to build up buzz for the new album and the documentary, McCraven and International Anthem have released Universal Beings Sides E&F‘s first single, the angular and percussive “Mak Attack.” Clocking in a little under two minutes, the breakneck composition is centered around complex and rolling polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and twinkling bursts of keys.  The composition finds the musicians managing to walk a tightrope between chaos and order, free-flowing improvisation and structured composition and as a result, it explodes with a forceful and vital energy.

 

 

New Video: Peel Dream Magazine Releases a Trippy Anachronistic Bit of Dreamy Psych

Joe Stevens is a New York-based singer/songwriter and musician and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed psych rock project Peel Dream Magazine. Deriving its name from the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, one of England’s preeminent tastemakers, the band’s name is meant to evoke a certain strain of independent music. “I wanted to create an outlet for subcultural wanderers. Something you can subscribe to,” Stevens explains. 

Earlier this year, the New York-based psych pop act released their critically applauded sophomore album Agitprop Alterna, an album which draws from a wide set of post-punk, shoegaze and indie pop influences while possessing a self-assured and unique sound. Building upon the attention and momentum they’ve earned earlier this year, Peel Dream Magazine recently released the Moral Panics EP, a companion effort that features previously unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna sessions. Far from outtakes, the EP’s material are songs that can stand on their own — while functioning as a sort of corollary to their sophomore effort. 

The EP’s title is derived from Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics, a pivotal study of the media treatment of the mod movement and the political, societal and cultural fault lines that the media panic embodied. Unsurprisingly, the EP’s material continues Stevens’  and Peel Dream Magazine’s investigations into those frought and areas where art, culture and commerce meet. 

“Verfremdungseffekt,” Moral Panics’ latest single is a fuzzy, half-remembered dream centered around layers of arpeggiated and droning keys, a chugging bass line, shimmering, atmospheric guitars and ethereal vocals — with the end result being a mod-like take on psych rock that superficially sounds as though it could have been released in 1965, 1995, 2015 or — well, yesterday. 

Centered around footage of Stevens and Company performing at Chicago’sSleeping Village and Ottawa’s Cinqhole just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the video is an eerie reminder of the things we all miss and can’t have right now — shows, bars, hanging out and bullshitting with friends. 

Throwback: Happy 81st Birthday Mavis Staples!

Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for  2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”

She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy CenterHonoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Today is the legendary vocalist’s 81st birthday and I personally wanted to wish the national treasure a very Happy Birthday. May there be at least another 80 more!

New Audio: RidingEasy Records Releases a Shimmering Psych Rock Anthem from Indianapolis-based Band ICE

Over this site’s 10 year history — 10 years y’all! — Brown Acid, Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records’ ongoing collaborative proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilations from the 1960s and 1970s have become a regularly occurring biannual feature. Each individual edition of the series is based around RidingEasy Records’ founder Daniel Hall’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation — with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time tracking own songs’ creators. The Brown Acid series proves that there’s a massive amount of heavy psych and proto-metal that has managed to be lost to the sands of time, including Indianapolis-based act ICE, who were prominently featured on Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip.

Formed during the late 1960s, the members of the Indianapolis-based quintet — Barry Crawford (vocals, keys) Jim Lee (lead vocals, bass), Mike Saligoe (drums), John Schaffer (lead guitar) and Richard Strange (rhythm guitar, vocals) — grew up in Indianapolis’ West Side. In a relatively short period of time, the members of ICE became one of the first emerging bands from their hometown to tour across the Midwest, playing a set of originals at high schools, college campuses and small clubs. Eventually the band built up enough of a profile regionally that they wound up opening for nationally touring acts like Three Dog Night, SRC,Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others in arenas and theaters.

Back in 1970, Crawford, Lee, Saligoe, Schaffer and Strange recorded 10 songs of original material at Chicago’s 8-Track Studios. But shortly after the sessions, the band split up. Confusingly, two of tracks recorded during those sessions were eventually as a 45 in 1972   — but under a completely different band name, Zukus! That 45 managed to receive regional airplay: the A side of that 45 was “Running High,” which appeared on the aforementioned Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip. While Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records were going through the process to license “Running High,” they discovered that ICE had an entire album of material, recorded on 2 inch tape that had languished for over 40+ years on a shelf somewhere.

RidingEasy Records then converted the analog tape tracks to digital files and then remixed them to preserve the original vocals and instrumentation. Packaging the material as The Ice Age, the material will see the light of day for the first time in 50 years with the album’s release next week. The album is 10 songs of hard-edged rock with enormous, arena rock friendly hooks that may remind some listeners of the Grand Funk Railroad, The Guess Who, The Move and others.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles: the Steppenwolf and The Guess Who-like “Run To Me,”  and the album’s shimmering The Byrds-like “Gypsy.” Interestingly, the album’s third and latest single “Satisfy” strikes me as being a synthesis between the shimmering psych rock of its immediate predecessor, the soaring and propulsive organ work of Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” and The Doors with a subtle nod to prog rock paired with enormous hooks. Certainly, in an alternate universe, “Gypsy” and “Satisfy” would be in the classic rock canon.